Muhammad and the Birth of Islam: Unraveling the History and Teachings

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Chapter 10 of Islam of “Living Religions” by Mary Fisher talks about how Islam is viewed by society and how Islam came about. Reading this chapter from the point of view of the author who is not Muslim made me feel like she was with the way she wrote about the religion. She starts the chapter by talking about how the media stereotypes Muslims and how movies like Aladdin portray Muslims, in a negative way. She then talks about how people do not really know where Islam is really populated. They would automatically connect Islam to the Middle East when in fact Indonesia has the majority of Muslims and do Asia. Islam is one of the largest religions in the world and it is the fastest-growing religion in the United States. In this chapter, we learn how Islam came about and how the media portrays religion and the people who follow it.

The Life and Legacy of Prophet Muhammad

Muhammad is viewed by Muslims as the final prophet in a series of prophets who introduced monotheism. The Qur'an, the most sacred book of Islam as revealed to Muhammad, traces the origins of the faith with the Egyptian slave Hagar to the patriarch Abraham and his brother. Together, Abraham and Isma'il built the Ka'bah, the most sacred sanctuary of Islam. Abraham's monotheism was not upheld, and ultimately Muhammad was sent to restore it. Muhammad, as a young man, went to work for a rich woman called Khadijah, and the two married when Khadijah was forty and Muhammad was twenty-five. With the guidance of Khadijah, Muhammad devoted himself gradually to religious contemplation. The angel Gabriel came to him when Muhammad was forty years old and told him to recite. Thus, the Qur'an revelation started. Muhammad was called upon to preach publicly after initially sharing the revelations only with close relatives and friends and met with great opposition. Bilal was captured by the Abyssinian prostitute, his captors claiming he worshiped the old gods. He declined, becoming the first muezzin. For several years, Muhammad and his followers were forced to leave Mecca but were then invited back. However, they were still oppressed. Simultaneously, Muhammad's uncle and Khadijah died. That was when Muhammad experienced the Night Journey. That was when he traveled to Jerusalem to the highest levels of heaven, meeting God and the prophets before him. After the migration to Medina, Muhammad developed a constitution there which later became the basis for Islamic social administration. Meccan leaders feared Muhammad was a threat, and the two cities were in conflict. The Muslims have been badly defeated after an initial success. When then after Muhammad made amends with them. The Qur'anic revelations illustrate the fundamental religious unity of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and the true monotheism of Abraham has been distorted by Jews and Christians.

In 630 CE, with such energy, Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca so that they were not be questioned. The Ka'bah, which Muslims believe to have been founded on the original place of worship of Adam by Abraham and Ishmael, was purged of idols. Many Meccans have been converted to Islam. Muhammad returned to Medina, where he launched efforts to further spread Islam. Muhammad made a final pilgrimage to the Ka'bah in 632 CE in order to demonstrate the proper form of worship. Recognizing that at the end of his life, he gave instructions to his followers. After his death in 632 CE, his close friend Abu Bakr was elected to become the first caliph (successor to the prophet). That was the beginning of the controversy between Sunnis and shia’as. Shia’as believe that Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali should have been the first Caliph. The revelations of the Qur’an are for the need of Muslims to fight oppression and corruption and to create morality in the world.

The Holy Qur'an

The holy book for Muslims is the Qur’an. Like how the Torah is for Jews and the bible is for Christianity. Fisher says the Qur’an contains the revelations Muhammad received, that confirm God’s unity. She said the authorized written version of the Qur’an was established around 650 CE. It can be noted that the Qur'anic verses have multilayered meanings. Jewish and Christian characters also appear in the Qur'an, since Judaism's religious past and Christianity are considered part of Islam. It is said that the prophets of those religions carried the same message, but humans contributed to the word of God and corrupted it. While Muslims reverence Jesus as a prophet, they do not accept the notion of being able to forgive sin or atone for the sins of others, because only God can do so. The Qur'an is the final and complete translation of all the prophets ' teachings. God is called in the Qur'an by the Arabic name of Allah.

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This chapter, it tells us the basic teachings of the Islamic religion are very straightforward and that in the Qur’an it tells Muslims how to follow the religion the right way. To confirm that you are Muslim you have to say the Shahadah (confirming the ones of God). The Shahadah is saying “There is no God but God himself and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.” This statement is said to a Muslim newborn to confirm that he/she is Muslim. This statement is also said at the time you feel like you are about to die to confirm you died as a Muslim. After saying the Shahadah you surrender fully to God. Two of the biggest sins a Muslim can do is shirk, believing in another divinity other than God. The other sin is kufr, being ungrateful to God, and being an atheist.

A belief that Muslims must believe in is the unseen life. Muslims must believe in angels who are non-physical beings who serve God but are not worshipped. Just like angels, they also believe in jinn. They know Satan to be originally a jinn, but when he refused to bow down before Adam he was cursed to live by tempting humanity away from God. Another belief that Muslims bust believes in is the Day of Judgment, which is the last day of this world. Where everyone would get resurrected and then judged for their actions in this world. It would show who would go to hell and Heaven for the rest of eternity.

The Five Pillars of Islam and Jihad

In Islam, there are pillars to which they must follow. The 5 main pillars are the Shahada confirming the oneness of God. The 5 daily prayers to which Muslims must do on a daily basis. Zakat is donating a certain percentage of one’s income to charity every year. Fasting which Muslims during the month of Ramadan are obligated to fast, not being able to eat or drink anything from sunrise to sunset, for 30 days. The last pillar is Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Each Muslim is expected at least once in their lifetime.

An issue between who became the first Caliph caused a split in Islam that caused to have Sunni Muslims and Shia’a Muslims. This issue was the successor of Muhammad when he died was Abu Bakr, his best friend. What caused the split was the Shia’a’s believed Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law Ali should’ve been the first Caliph. Sunni’s stress the authority of the Qur'an and the Hadith and Sunna. Our interpretation is that Muhammad did not name a successor, but rather left it to the Muslim family. Being familiar with Islamic law may be helpful; they may have some knowledge of the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, or maybe the use of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia. It is often noted that shari'ah gave women rights that they did not have until the 19th century in the West. Muhammad and his close relatives were dedicated to the memory of Shi'a Muslims. The ' Ashura festival in the Muharram month commemorates the martyrdom of Husain, when Shi'as may engage in processions of mourning. Self-discipline may be included in Sufi practice. Sufi teachers spoke, sang, and wrote about a fervent love of God finding in the beloved a fana or total annihilation. This experience of deep union led some Sufis to make statements that were considered blasphemous by the authorities. Sufi murshids and shaykhs supported their initiates with education. Spiritual lines were formed by Sufi orders or tariqas, recognizing that barakah had been transferred from one shaykh to another.

Muslims credit the divine will's power to build a peaceful, God-conscious society which is the reason behind Islam's rapid success. Monotheistic adherents of religions revealed, for example, Christians and Jews have been designated or protected as dhimmis. In the reign of caliphs following the era of Muhammad, the caliphate's focus sometimes tended toward worldly matters rather than spiritual life. Islam is America's fastest-growing religion and maybe the country's second-largest religion. The Nation of Islam was one of the most prominent African-American Muslim groups.

In politics and the media, the idea of jihad, which literally means 'striving,' is often mistranslated as 'holy war.' The Grand Jihad is the fight to do good over the lower selves. The Lesser, External Jihad is God's way of protection over the forces of evil, the Muslim community's protection. Muhammad is considered the real Muhahid's model. There are different views within Islam as to what form could take the lesser jihad. Jihadis are not allowed to harm women, children, or unarmed civilians, and may not destroy property willfully. The Qur'an, it does not allow terrorist strategies. There have been hate crimes against Muslims in the West since the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, following bombings in Europe and England. Several Western governments have tried to ban the head coverings of Muslim women in public schools. There is also an opinion that the war on terror has an underlying agenda of abusing Muslims ' oil-rich lands. At the same time, both Muslims and non-Muslims are trying to grasp the balance of religion and politics.


In conclusion reading, this chapter by Mary Fisher opened my eyes to how people who are not Muslim write about Islam and how she wrote it in an unbiased way. Being a Muslim I also learned things I was not aware of by reading this chapter. You could tell Fisher did her research before writing this chapter. The facts were all right and she also showed in her text how Muslims are viewed in the media and politics in the world. We learned how Islam came about from the last prophet Muhammad to how now Islam is portrayed by others and still, the largest followed religion in the world.     

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