History of Islam (notes)
Here is the quick copy of the notes I used for teaching on 1/12/2011, "The History of Islam."
Short History of Islam
- Muslim means “one who seeks wholeness, or one who submits to God.”
- Islam is an infinitive form of the same term and means “to seek wholeness.”
The Life of Mohammad
1) In the sixth century AD, north of the Arabian Peninsula two great powers were locked in a seesaw power struggle. The Christian Byzantine kingdom, successors of the Roman Empire controlled the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa and the lands of Palestine. To the northeast lay the Zoroastrian Persian kingdom. Both the Byzantine and Persian kingdoms had client Arab tribes allied to their cause of trade and conquest.
The Arabian Peninsula became a land of refuge for those seeking escape from both of these empires. Heretic Christian sects like the Nestorians, and Jewish tribes escaping the oppressive Byzantines found refuge in the protective deserts and cities of the Peninsula.
2) Arabia was divided into tribes and cities. Each city had gods and goddess. Once a year the tribes and cities of Arabia would meet in the city of Mecca during an event known as the Hajj. In Mecca, the Ka’aba (Cube), a large cube shaped building housed 360 idols from all the tribes of Arabia. The Ka’aba was the center of Arabian religious life. Here all the warring tribes would put aside their differences as they circled the Ka’aba. From the Ka’aba they would proceed to the other shrines outside of Mecca during this five day religious event. The Hajj was a tradition that Arabs of the peninsula remembered going back hundreds of years.
3) Muhammad was born about A.D. 570 in Mecca. His family was the keepers of the Ka'aba, a stone used for pagan sacrifice. His father died before he was born, his mother when he was six. His grandfather cared for him for two years until he also died. Muhammad spent the rest of his childhood with his uncle. Muhammad never participated in the pagan activities of Meccan life.
4) At the age of 12, young Mohammed was taken on a caravan-trading venture to Syria and experienced the world outside of Arabia for the first time. Here Islamic tradition informs us that a Christian monk named Buhaira, proclaimed Mohammad as the last prophet and warned him about the Jews. For the next 13 years little is known of Mohammad’s life except that he was involved in caravan trading.
5) As a young man Mohammad married a wealthy widowed woman (Khadijah) who owned a caravan company. She was15 years his senior. He was married only to her for 25 years until she died when Mohammad was 50. It was not until after her death that he began to take multiple wives. Because he married into wealth Mohammad had plenty of time to meditate. He spent much of the next 15 years of his life in meditation.
7) His uncle introduces him to a clan Arabs known as the Hanefites. Hanefites were Arabs who rejected idol worship and were searching for the true religion. They looked to the religion of the Jews and Christians as being close to the goal. The Hanefites abandoned their idols and would retreat to the caves of Mecca in meditation and prayer.
8) At age 40 Mohammed had his first vision in the year 610 AD. He was in a cave on Mt. Hera and thought he was demon possessed. He went to his wife Khadijah and told her about the event. She consulted with her uncle Waraca, a Hanefite who converted to Christianity, who assured them Mohammed vision was from God. Waraca declared Mohammed was a prophet to the Arab peoples, Waraca died 2 years later never becoming a Muslim.
9) Mohammed proclaimed Allah as the one true god and rejected the idol worship of Mecca. Khadijah, his wife, was Mohammed first convert to Islam. Few listened to Mohammed’s message and animosity grew against him as he confronted the idol worshippers and preached his religion to Mecca. Abu Talib his uncle and his tribe the Hasims protected him during this early Meccan period. In 619 Khadijah and Abu Talib died. Abu Talib headed the Hasim clan, which Mohammed was a member. The new leader of the Hasim tribe his uncle Abu Lahab refused to protect Mohammed. During the next 3 years Mohammed would fear for his life. He sought refuge and protection in nearby cities.
10) Then in 621 during the Hajj, Arab tribes from the city of Yatrob later to be called Medina, came for the annual pilgrimage. They met Mohammed and thought him to be a prophet and invited him to their city to bring peace and settle disputes between the warring tribes. These men secretly convert to Islam. Yatrob was founded by three Jewish tribes and the idea of monotheism was familiar to its Arab tribesmen. The Arabs of Medina had been told by Jewish tribesmen about the coming Messiah who would one day conquer the world including the Arabs. The Arab tribes hoped to find this individual before the Jews. Meeting Mohammed they thought he was the one. Men from Medina on pilgrimage to Mecca secretly convert to Islam believing Mohammad to be the Messiah.
11) As Mohammad's revelations were resisted his visions grew from being more inviting to being more militant, making people believe by the edge of the sword. Mohammad's visions also grew more contradictory to the Hebrew Scriptures, but his most controversial vision is one in which he claimed to go from earth to heaven meeting all the great prophets including Moses and Jesus. It was at this point that the leaders of Mecca decided to assassinate Mohammad as a way to put an end to his growing sect.
12) Mohammad flees from Mecca to Medina, this flight is known as Hijra. His protection during this flight is used by Muslims to confirm Allah's protection of their prophet, they use it to point to the validate of their faith. While in Medina Mohammad gains popularity, grows a military, and it is here that his visions become even more militant in nature.
13) He grew in military might gaining control of much of the Arabian peninsula, yet his business floundered and he lost financial support through the caravan trade. Justifying himself as an attacker of those who rejected Allah, he would attack caravans for not only control but for wealth. The more victory the more confidence he gained that his agenda was justified. He grew more merciless and demanded that anyone who criticized him or rejected Allah must die. There are many stories of the cruelties of Mohammad during these years. In anything he did he felt justified because he was fighting for Allah. He came to believe that one of the ways he experienced forgiveness was by fighting Jihad for Allah.
14) A historical sidenote here is Mohammad’s many wives. Although he practiced ethics slightly better than the tribal leaders of the time, Mohammad certainly had a questionable relationship with women. He married his first wife out of love and remained true to her for 25 years until her death. After her death he married 10 other women and took 2 concubines. Of his wives one was 9, one was his cousin, and yet another was his daughter in law.
15) In 628 Mohammad signs a peace treaty with the leaders of Mecca allowing him to pilgrimage there. In 630 the truce was broken and several allies of Mohammad are killed. Mohammad marches 10,000 men to Mecca slaughtering any who resist. His rival converts to Islam, pagans gods are destroyed and Ka’aba is established as the center of Islam. After destroying all the idols Mohammad declares that there is only one god.
The Development of Islam Post-Mohammad
Abu-Bakr (632 - 634)
- He was Mohammad’s father in law, justified his visions as from God early one. One of Mohammad’s first converts.
- He continued Jihad
- Secured the Arabic peninsula from revolt
- Preserved Mohammad’s message with the first written version of the Quran
- fulfilled Mohammad’s vision in conquest in that “no two religions are to exist in the Arab Peninsula.”
- Conquered Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Persia. Jerusalem also submitted to Muslim control.
- Wrote “laws of mercy” for Christians and Jews in the land. Yet in the laws of mercy there are restrictions that Christians cannot build new places of worship, cannot renovate old ones, that Muslims can confiscate them, and that they could be destroyed in conquered lands.
- The laws also stipulated that anyone who did not adhere to the laws would not be protected and could be killed.
Uthman (644 - 56)
- Killed Umar
- Codified the Quran into its current form.
- Was hated
- Killed while reading the Quran and his body left unburied for days
Ali (656 - 61)
- Cousin of Mohammad
- Aishah, widow of Mohammad resisted, caused civil war
- Followers of Ali were called Shiites and traditional Muslims were called Sunnis.
- Assasinated in 661
Expansion under Jihad (661-1095)
- during this period Islam gained great expansion and wealth
- Dome of the Rock built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to show superiority over Judaism
- The Great Mosque of Damascus built in Syria to replace the Cathedral Church of St. John to show superiority over Christianity
The Battle of Tours (732)
- Islam had already expanded through North Africa and Spain and was headed for France. If France fell Italy was next, which at the time was the center of Western Christianity. Charles Martel (The Hammer) halted the invasion at Tours.
The Crusades (1095 - 1291)
- Pope Leo IV (847) had declared that Christians who fought infidels would be granted eternal life. (It was essentially a form of Christian Jihad).
- Subsequent popes affirmed Leo’s declaration
- In 1064 7,000 Christians were ambushed on the way to worship in Jerusalem and slaughtered
- Out of vengeance the Crusades began
- Christians became every bit as brutal as the Muslims
- Result was that Christianity diminished and Islam grew in strength
- The Crusades were a cataclysmic theological and tactical mistake
1298 - 1515
Rise of the Mongolian empire diminishes Islam even though by the 14th century Islam was the official religion of the empire
1515 - 1919
- the Ottomans defeat the Christian Byzantine Empire and capture Constantinople
- Constantinople is renamed Istanbul
- Spain was regained in control of the Catholic church (late 1400’s)
- The Russians fight the Turks for control of the Balkans (late 1700’s)
- Arab and Muslim expansion ends with WWI (1914-18).
- War has always been the main vehicle for Muslim expansion not evangelism
- In the minds of many Muslims the Crusades never ended. Western culture continues to be seen as a corrupting threat to the Muslim world.
- In 1524 Anabaptist Balthasar Hubmaier wrote in his book “On Heretics and Those Who Burn Them”, Turkish Muslims “cannot be overcome by our doing, neither by sword or by fire, but alone with patience and supplication, whereby we patiently await divine judgment. - he was put to death for his views.
The Cross and the Crescent, Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind by Phil Parshall
Unveiling Islam, Ergun and Emir Caner
Islam and the Bible, David Godmann
PDF copy of notes
PDF copy of notes