others went to a city about 250 milesnorth of Mecca, which became knownas Medina. Muhammad himself wasamongst those who went to Medina.He was warmly welcomed by thecitizens, who were longing for a strongleader to unite them.The year of Muhammad’s migration(
) from Mecca to Medina was 622.The
was such a turning point inMuhammad’s career that it waschosen to mark the beginning of theIslamic calendar (see page 6). Many Muslims view the
as the ﬁrst of a series of clearly deﬁned stages intheir political quest to establish anIslamic state modelled on the exampleof Muhammad’s; for such Muslims,migration can be the ﬁrst part of theprocess of Islamisation.Muhammad soon became the supremeruler of Medina – effectively statesman,legislator and judge. In 623 he begansending his followers out to raid thetrading caravans from Mecca, and withina few months he was leading theseraids himself. Many tribes convertedto Islam to avoid being attacked by theMuslim armies. The military powerof the Muslim community in Medinaincreased. The Meccans surrendered tothem and Muhammad entered Mecca victoriously, destroyed the pagan idolsin its sanctuary (the
) and turned itinto a centre of Islam.By the time Muhammad died in 632 theMuslim armies had conquered virtually the whole of the Arabian Peninsula,although the degree of Islamic control varied from place to place. After hisdeath, his successors continued hisprogramme of military expansion.
How the faith developed
Muhammad continued to receive“revelations” after he moved toMedina. However the content of these“revelations” and of his preaching wassomewhat different from what he hadpreached in Mecca.For example, in Mecca Muhammadhad preached that Muslims should befriendly towards Jews and Christians,even recognising the validity of theirfaiths. He had told Muslims to faceJerusalem when they prayed. InMedina he became increasingly hostiletowards Jews and Christians and toldhis followers that they should now faceMecca when they prayed.It was during his time in Medina thatMuhammad established Friday as theday for corporate worship and introducedthe annual month of fasting. He alsotaught that the Qur’an was God’s ﬁnalrevelation to humankind, and superior toall previous revelations.
The most important Islamic scriptureis the Qur’an, a compilation of the“revelations” received by Muhammadover a period of 23 years. Muslimsbelieve that the words of the Qur’an areengraved in Arabic on a stone tablet inheaven and that therefore there can beonly one version of the Qur’an. Modernscholarship has shown that there werein fact many different versions of theQur’an in circulation in the ﬁrst 20 years after Muhammad’s death. CaliphUthman (died 656) decided to suppressall but one version, but variantssurvived into the twentieth century incertain parts of the world.The Qur’an is roughly the same lengthas the New Testament. It consists of 114
(chapters). The ﬁrst
is a short prayer addressed to God, which Muslims recite daily. The restare messages from God to his peopleand are arranged in descending orderof length, with
2 being thelongest. The
have names as wellas numbers, for example, the Moon,Noah, and the Elephant. The Qur’anhas many references to Jews andChristians and also to Bible charactersincluding Christ himself. Most of thefeatured Bible stories are repeated ina distorted form, however, and Christ’sdeity, Sonship and cruciﬁxion areexplicitly denied in the Qur’an.Because the
are arranged by length(not by date or by content) the Qur’ancannot be understood by simply readingit from beginning to end. There arealso other reasons why the meaning of the book is hard to discover. The oldestmanuscripts were written in a Kuﬁcscript that showed only the consonants.The result was as ambiguous as if all the vowels and punctuation were removedfrom an English text. Furthermore theQur’an is very contradictory because of the way in which Muhammad’s attitudeand teaching changed after he emigratedfrom Mecca to Medina. Muslim scholarsgenerally teach that, in cases of conﬂict,a later verse abrogates (cancels out) anearlier verse. But the scholars do notagree on the chronological order of allthe verses. For many Muslims it is therecitation of the words in Arabic thatmatters; understanding the meaning of the words recited is not considered vital.There are many different Englishtranslations of the Qur’an, some of which arrange the
in a differentorder from the Arabic. Another sourceof confusion is that the way the
are broken down into numbered versesis not the same in every translation. So when looking up a reference, it may benecessary to check a few verses beforeor a few verses after the verse number
An early Kuﬁc script of the Qur’an