What are the origins of Islam

More than 500 million people, about one-seventh of the world”™s population, are Muslims. The founder of the religion is Mohammed, who, according to Muslims, was the greatest of all the prophets.

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Mohammed was born in AD570 in Mecca. His early years were relatively uneventful as a manager of camel caravans and a keeper of his wife”™s estate. However, one evening in a cave on Mt. Hira, where he often went to pray, he is said to have heard a loud voice telling him to “read.”

Protesting that he could not read, he heard the voice command him again. He was then shown a scroll on which words were emblazoned with fire. Although he had never previously read a word, Mohammed miraculously read the scroll.

He left the cave fearing that he had gone mad, but he heard the voice again. Looking up, Mohammed saw in human form the angel Gabriel, who said to him, “Oh Mohammed! You are Allah”™s messenger, and I am Gabriel.”

This did not yet convince him, the story goes. Later he received another call, which he obeyed. His mission as an apostle of God was to proclaim to his idolatrous people a pure monotheism.

At the outset, his message met with great resistance, which included persecution and exile from his own people. He claimed to receive further revelations from Allah, which proclaimed himself as successor of the prophets, including Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Mohammed eventually viewed himself as the final messenger Allah would send to the world, making him the prophet.

In a.d.622, a group of 150 Muslims left Mecca secretly for the town of Yathrib. Mohammed journeyed to Yathrib later that year, on September 20, the date which begins the Moslem calendar. The city was later renamed Medina in honor of Mohammed”™s eight-year residence there.

At sixty years of age, Mohammed and his army marched upon Mecca in an attempt to claim this as the Holy City of Islam, eventually conquering it against overwhelming odds. Two years later the prophet of Allah died.

The pattern had been set for the followers of Mohammed. The enemies of Allah must be overthrown. Islam quickly spread beyond the Arabian borders, capturing Jerusalem by a.d.636.

By 715, the empire had spread from the Chinese frontier westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Thus Islam began its quest to follow the principles of Allah, and has subsequently grown into one of the world”™s major religions.[i]

Beliefs of Islam

As the Jews believed in the Old Testament and the Christians put their faith in both the Old and New Testaments, the Muslims believe the Quran* is the divine word of God. This book, containing the supposed revelations given to Mohammed, is divided into 114 chapters, or Suras. His followers wrote the Quran shortly after Mohammed”™s death.

To the Muslims, the Quran is God”™s last word to the world. It states that both the Old and New Testaments are likewise divinely inspired, but have been altered by Christians and Jews. In any place where they conflict, the Bible is wrong and the Quran is correct; the Quran is the final authority (Sura 33:40).

Islam”™s basic teaching, called the Islamic creed, consists of six basic beliefs, found throughout the Quran. The favorite creed of Islam is, “There is no God but Allah,” which is recited daily by the faithful Moslem. The unity of God is a basic tenet of the Moslem faith.

Another cherished belief of the Muslims is the belief in angels as messengers of Allah. That concept in Islam differs little from the biblical view.

Muslims also believe that Allah has revealed himself through Scripture, including the Old Testament, the Gospels (though not believing them to be accurate), the Quran, and the traditions not contained in the Quran called the Hadith. Of the above sources, only the Quran is totally trusted by Muslims.

Islam also holds a strong belief in the prophets, Mohammed being the greatest since he was sent to the entire world. Jesus is viewed as a prophet sent only to the Jews.

There is a great emphasis in Islam concerning the Day of Judgment. All men will be judged according to their works. Muslims will enter paradise (though some must first be purged for their sins);non-Muslims will be condemned forever to a pit of fire.

Besides the five basic beliefs, Muslims also have five pillars or observances that follow part of their faith. They are:

1.  The creed or statement of belief: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah.”
2.  The ritual prayers performed five times a day facing Mecca.
3.  Alms giving, offering 1/40 of their income for the needy.
4.  Their observance of Ramadan where they face during the daylight hours.
5.  Their pilgrimage to Mecca required of all Muslims before death.

There is an unofficial sixth pillar known as the holy war. This is used to spread Islam. Finally, Muslims view God as an absolute deity whose will is law. God is unknowable in the personal sense; thus the goal of Islam is to obey Allah, not to know him.[ii]

[i]Josh McDowell, Answers to tough questions: Skeptics ask about the Christian faith[computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1993 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart.

[ii] Josh McDowell, Answers to tough questions: Skeptics ask about the Christian faith [computer file],electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997,c1993 by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart