Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

Islam: Origins and Development

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Islam: Origins and Development Islam emerged in the Middle East in the 600s C.E., centuries after Judaism and Christianity. It grew rapidly, however, and soon became one of the world’s major religions.

Islam was taught by Muhammad, who was born in Mecca, in Arabia, in around 570 C.E. At the time, Mecca was an important trade center and pilgrimage site. A shrine in the heart of Mecca, called the Ka’bah, was filled with statues of local gods and spirits.

Muhammad became a successful and respected merchant. As the years passed, however, he was increasingly drawn to spiritual matters. One day in about 610 C.E., according to Islamic teachings, Muhammad was meditating in a cave when an angel appeared before him and revealed the word of Allah, or God. The angel told him he had been chosen as Allah’s prophet, or messenger.

Around 613 C.E., Muhammad began to preach in Mecca. He called on Arabs to worship the one, true God. In Arabic, the word Islam means “to submit.” Muhammad’s followers became known as Muslims, meaning “those who submit to God.”

Many local leaders saw Islam as a threat to their power and prestige, however, and began to persecute the Muslims. In 622, Muhammad and his followers left Mecca and traveled to the city of Medina. There, his teachings continued to gain a following among the Arab tribes. By 630, the Muslims were strong enough to retake Mecca and establish Islam as the dominant faith of Arabia. They destroyed the statues of gods in the Ka’bah and turned it into a holy shrine of Islam.

Muhammad died in 632. But the Muslim leaders who followed continued to win converts and expand the religion. By 750, Islam had moved beyond Arabia to become the main religion of the Middle East and North Africa. It also spread to Spain, Central Asia, and India.

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