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A Short History Of Islam

The teachings of Islam were handed down to humankind through Mohammed who is wid
ely regarded as the last, so far, in the line of Middle Eastern prophets. The fi
rst was Abraham of Judaism renown, then there was Jesus for Christianity and the
n came Mohammed. Mohammed was born in about 570 AD in Mecca, western Saudi Arabi
a and passed away 62 years later in 632 in Medina.
The Koran, or the 'Recitation' in English, consists of 144 chapters and was reve
aled to Mohammed by God. These doctrines were written down by his secretaries du
ring the course of 23 years.
Like its predecessor religions, Islam is a monotheistic religion and its narrati
ve includes stories or references to Abraham, Moses (and the Ten Commandments) a
nd Jesus, but does not accept Christianity's declaration of his divinity.
Another major variance from the Middle Eastern religions before it, is that Jews
trace their lineage through Abraham's son Isaac, whereas Muslims trace their hi
story through Abraham's son Ishmael by another wife.
The root of the word Islam - 's-l-m' - means 'peace' and 'submission' (to God).
A Muslim's association with God is determined by the 'Five Pillars of Islam'. Th
ese five pillars are: Shahadah (profession of faith); public and collective pray
er five times daily; charity to the poor; fasting throughout the holy month of R
amadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest of places to Muslims, at least one
time in their lifetime.
Islam has stringent dietary laws, notably about eating pork, and prohibitions ag
ainst promiscuity, stealing, gambling and deceit. Muslims worship in Mosques and
the services are led by Imams. The most critical time to pray is at midday on a
Friday, which is the Muslim Sabbath.
The vast majority of Muslims are Sunnites, who are the traditionalists, and the
remainder are Shi'ites or 'partisans'. This could roughly be likened to the rela
tionship between Judaism and Christianity. The distinctions between the two sect
s in the both religions have caused untold misery over the centuries and there i
s no sign of it stopping any time soon.
There is considerably more known about Mohammed than about Jesus. Mohammed was b
rought up by his uncle and at the age of 25 he became a trader. At the age of 40
, in 610, an angel instructed him to spread the word of God. He was not welcomed
in Mecca but the authorities invited him to quell the city of Medina in 622, wh
ich he accomplished.
His condition for accepting this task was that the people accept the word of God
. This they did - this move is known as the Hegim and it is the date from which
Muslims record contemporary history - like the Western world uses the birth of J
esus.
By 632 Mohammed was dead, but by then the overwhelming majority of Arabs were Mu
slims. For one reason or another, Islam spread east and west from Saudi Arabia t
aken usually by Arab traders almost certainly. Islam never actually got a footho
ld in Europe (except Spain) but it did move East fairly extensively.
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