Origins of Islam

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Islam is the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity. The word Islam means submission to god. Islam originated in Arabia in the 7th Century CE. At that time, Mecca was a major trade centre because of its unique location at the intersection of two great civilisations of the time—the Iranian and the Greek.

The major tribe of Mecca was Quraysh in which Hazrat Muhammad was born to Abdullah and Amina. Muhammad’s father died shortly before his birth. At the time, a desert life was considered healthier for infants, so Muhammad was sent to live with a Bedouin tribal family in the desert for two years. When he was six-year-old, his mother died too and his grandfather took him in.

Unfortunately, in two years, the grandfather too died. Then his paternal uncle took the orphan boy under his care. He was a big trader whose caravans of camels took Indian spices to Europe and European goods to Asia. Despite his uncle’s prosperity, Muhammad led a very simple life, taking care of sheep and camels.

At the age of 12, Muhammad started assisting his uncle. It was common for traders to engage in malpractices, but Muhammad gained a reputation for being scrupulously honest.

He famously said—the wages of a labourer must be paid before his sweat dries. Even while doing business, Muhammad used to ask deep questions of people like—how was the world created? Who created it? Why does the moon change shape, but not the sun? Christians and Jews told him stories from the Old Testament. Muhammad was influenced by these stories and later included them in his teachings. On his off days, Muhammad used to go to a cave called Hira, three miles outside Mecca, and meditate.

One incident shows Muhammad’s approach towards resolving issues. Kaaba was a place of worship in Mecca, where a holy stone was being reinstalled after repairs. The four major tribes of the region started fighting for the privilege of placing the stone back. They decided to ask the first camel rider to enter the city the next morning. That rider was Muhammad. He solved the dispute by placing the stone on a cloth and having the heads of all four tribes carry the cloth by its four corners.

At the age of 40, the angel Gabriel, called Jibril in the Quran, revealed himself to Muhammad and appointed him a prophet of Allah. The first message Muhammad received from Allah was to wake people up. He told his experience to his wife Khadija. She became his first follower and the first Muslim in the world. Thus started a new religion that would later spread to almost all countries of the world.

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