Early Development of Islam

Early Development of Islam

In AD 570 Mohammad ibn Abdullah was born into the family of a caravanmerchant belonging to the Hashimite branch of the ruling Quraysh tribe thatlived in the prosperous Arabian town of Mecca. In AD 610, at the age of forty,Mohammad began to receive the first of a series of revelations from God whichwere transmitted to him through the angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years.These directives of moral principles are contained in the Quran (TheRecitation), the sacred scripture of Islam.

The Prophet Mohammad preached against socioeconomic inequities and denouncedpolytheism with its thriving pilgrimage business centered around the Kaabashrine and numerous religious sites in the vicinity of Mecca. His vigorousreform messages challenged the powerful ruling establishment, threatened theireconomic and political interests and eventually earned him their bitter enmity.

Forced to leave Mecca in 622, he moved with a group of followers to the townof Yathrib, later called Medina. Here he established a Muslim community-state,consolidating both temporal and spiritual leadership in his person. Themigration to Medina is known as the hijra and the creation of a Muslimcommunity (ummah) marks the beginning of the Islamic era. The Muslimcalendar, based on a 354-day lunar year, begins in AD 622. From Medina, theProphet Mohammad fought a series of successful battles and returned to Mecca intriumph in AD 630, shortly before his death in 632.

After the Prophet Mohammad's death, the leaders of the Muslim community choseas his successor or caliph, Abu Bakr, who was one of the Prophet'searliest followers as well as the father of Aisha, the youngest and mostbeautiful of the Prophet's wives. There were those, however, who favored Ali,the Prophet's cousin and husband of his daughter Fatima. These supporters of Aliwere known as Shiat-u-Ali (Party of Ali), later to be called Shia. Alieventually succeeded as the fourth caliph in AD 656, but this led to civil warin 661 during which Ali was assassinated. Ali's son Husayn led a secondrebellion in 680 during which he was killed at the Battle of Karbala which iscommemorated by the Shia each year on the tenth of Muharram. Husayn's deathmarks the division of Islam into Sunni and Shia, ending the period in which theentire Islamic community recognized a single caliph.

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