Here are some facts about Islam.
- Has about 1.3 billion followers worldwide
- Founded in about 610 C.E. by the prophet Muhammad
- Five Pillars of Islam: declaration of faith, prayer, charity, fasting, pilgrimage to Mecca
- Monotheistic (a belief in one God, Allah)
- Holy city is Mecca, Saudia Arabia
- Holy book is the Qur’an (Koran)
- Followers worship in mosques; their spiritual leaders are called imams.
Write an informational paragraph about this widespread religion.
Muhammad, the founder and most important prophet of Islam, was born in 570 C.E. in the town of Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula.
His father died a few days before Muhammad was born. When he was six, his mother died, and he was given into his grandfather’s care. When Muhammad was eight, his grandfather also died. His uncle then took over raising Muhammad.
How might life experiences like these affect someone?
Stories say that when Muhammad’s mother was pregnant, a voice said to her, “You are pregnant with the lord of this people. When he is born, say, ‘I put him in the care of the One from the evil of every envier.’; then call him Muhammad.”
The name Muhammad means “highly praised.” Muhammad did, indeed, grow up to be highly praised. When his name is spoken or written, it is customary for Muslims, followers of Islam, to utter the blessing “peace be upon him.”
Today, more boys in the world are given the name “Muhammad” than any other name.
Why do you think the name “Muhammad” is so popular today?
Muhammad, Islam’s founder, had many roles in life: husband, father, shepherd, merchant, hermit, exile, leader, prophet, soldier.
Think about the kinds of personal traits a person would need to succeed in all these different roles. List as many of them as you can.
The world into which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, was born was chaotic. The Arabian Peninsula was an important trading centre.
The cities of Arabia acted independently. Different cities often raided trading caravans bringing goods to another city. Even within one city, different tribes carried on blood feuds.
To rise in society, a man needed the protection of a powerful tribe. Women had no rights; they were little more than possessions of their fathers and husbands.
Muhammad was a deeply moral man, who thought a great deal about ethical issues. How do you think an ethical person might have looked at the society of the day?
The life of a shepherd is often quiet and lonely. A shepherd could spend days alone with his thoughts, not seeing or talking to any other people.
As a boy and young man, Muhammad worked as a shepherd. He watched flocks of sheep in the hills outside Mecca, protecting them from attackers, both human and animal.
Later Muhammad became a successful merchant. But he was also a deeply moral man who thought about the ills of society. In his forties, Muhammad began to spend time alone in a cave in the mountains thinking. On one of his visits to the cave he had a vision. An angel appeared and told Muhammad that he was the appointed prophet of Allah, or God.
How do you think Muhammad’s early days as a shepherd contributed to his ability to spend time alone thinking?
When Islam’s founder, Muhammad, was a young man, he became a merchant. He worked for a wealthy businesswoman named Khadijah. Khadijah was impressed with Muhammad’s honesty, generosity, and gentleness. She and Muhammad were married.
Muhammad and Khadijah had four daughters and two sons. After fifteen years of marriage, Muhammad became aware that something was missing in his life, and he began to retreat to a mountain cave.
Have you ever felt something was missing in your life or felt the need to spend time alone? Describe the experience.
Muhammad believed that there was only one God, Allah. When he began preaching the message of Allah, he met with opposition.
The society in which Muhammad lived was polytheistic – that is, it believed in many gods. Mecca, where he lived, was a religious centre. There were 360 shrines to different gods in Mecca; the city received considerable income from pilgrims to these shrines.
Write of some other time when a new idea was not accepted at first. It could be an event in your own life or something from history or current events.
Muhammad, Islam’s most important prophet, became an outcast in his home city, because people in Mecca disapproved of Muhammad’s messages and religion. People in another city, Yathrib, asked Muhammad to leave Mecca and become their leader.
Knowing the opposition he faced in Mecca, Muhammad accepted their invitation. Threatened with violence in Mecca, Muhammad and his followers made their way secretly to Yathrib. This emigration is known as the Hegira. The Islamic calendar begins with the Hegira, which was July 16, 622, in the Western calendar.
In Yathrib, Muhammad became a successful politician. Yathrib became known as Medinat al-Nabi, or City of the Prophet, then simply Medina.
Within ten years of his flight to Medina, Mecca surrendered to Muhammad. By the time he died, in June 632 C.E., Muhammad had united the disparate peoples of the Arabian Peninsula into one nation.
Describe what it must be like to be forced to flee your home, like Muhammad.
After years of being harassed, Muhammad and his followers went to a town called Yathrib. According to Islam, two tribes from Yathrib, the Auws and Khazraj, approached Muhammad and invited him to govern their town, which was prone to civil war. Muhammad needed a place where his followers could live in peace, without fear of persecution, so he agreed. The city was soon called Medina. Muhammad wrote a charter for its citizens and established a peace.
What does this tell us about Muhammad?