Islam arose in Arabia in the 7th century CE
with a strictly unitary view of God. Muslims-adherents of Islam hold the Qur'an to be the ultimate authority,
as revealed through the teachings of the prophet Muhammad. Less well-known Abrahamic religions, originally
offshoots of Shi'a Islam, include the Bahá'í Faith and Druze.
For Muslims, Abraham (Ibrahim) is a prophet,
the "messenger of God" to whom Allah gave revelations (Quran 4:163). Abraham built the Kaaba with his first
son, Isma’il – a symbol seen on every mosque. Islam considers Abraham to be the "first Muslim" - the first
monotheist. Islam holds that it was Ishmael, rather than Isaac, whom Ibrahim was instructed to
Muhammad was born an orphan in Mecca (~570-580
A.D) first raised by his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, and then by his uncle, Abu Talib. He lived in humble
circumstances, but later achieved wealth and position at the age of twenty-five by an advantageous marriage to a
wealthy widow, Khadija, who was fifteen years his senior. Her money provided him with the independence needed
to investigate and appraise the religious situation in Arabia. What compelled Muhammad to undertake his
world-shaking career will always remain shrouded in mystery. What is clear is that he was disturbed and
disgusted by the idolatry of his contemporaries and their lack of devotion to Allah, the true
Muhammad's lack of success in finding followers
in Mecca led him to search for a new, more promising horizon. In 622 Muhammad made his famous Hijra
(migration) to Yathrid (Medina), a city 250 miles northeast of Mecca that had originally been settled by Jewish
tribes. The Hijra is so pivotal that 622 marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. By 630 Muhammad
returned to Mecca to become its leader, a feat accomplished more through negotiation than by
As so happens with epic events (religious,
intellectual or political), the spark of Muhammad’s revelations became less prophetic and religious and more
regulatory and secular. Islam, the religion and church, became a community and a state, with Muhammad as the
lawgiver, the supreme judge, the commander in chief, and the ruler.
In 632 Muhammad died leaving the whole of the
Arabian Peninsula embracing Islam.
Islam is a monotheistic faith whose essential
core of belief is the unity of Allah, a wholly transcendent God. In a religious context, Islam means
"voluntary submission to God". Allah’s messager, the prophet Muhammad, is wholly human having not claim to
divinity. Islamic faith requires belief in the uniqueness of God, the truthfulness of the Prophet's Mission,
the divine origin of the Koran, a hierarchy of angels, and the Last Day of Judgment.
The Pillars of Islam are five basic acts in
Islam, considered obligatory for all believers:
1) The Shahadah (Islamic Creed: the belief in the oneness of God and acceptance
of Muhammad as God's prophet).
2) Perform the five daily prayers (salat)
1. Fajr - 10-15 minutes before sunrise.
2. Dhuhr - after true noon.
3. Asr – afternoon.
4. Maghrib - after sunset until dusk.
5. Isha'a - dusk until dawn.
3) Give alms (zakat - giving a fixed portion of one's wealth to charity,
typically the poor and needy).
4) Fasting during the month of Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic
5) Pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj) at least once in a lifetime.
Belief in angels is fundamental to the faith of
Islam. The Arabic word for angel, mal’ak, means "messenger", like its counterparts in Hebrew (malakh) and Greek
(angelos). According to the Qur'an, angels do not possess free will, and worship God in total
obedience. Angels' duties include communicating revelations from God, glorifying God, recording every
person's actions, and taking a person's soul at the time of death. They are also thought to intercede on man's
Belief in the "Day of Resurrection", Yawm al-Qiyāmah, is also crucial for Muslims.
They believe the time of Qiyāmah is preordained by God but unknown to man. The trials and tribulations preceding
and during the Qiyāmah are described in the Qur'an and the hadith. The Qur'an emphasizes bodily resurrection, a
break from the pre-Islamic Arabian understanding of death. On Yawm al-Qiyāmah, Muslims believe all mankind
will be judged on their good and bad deeds. The Qur'an lists several sins that can condemn a person to hell, such
as disbelief and dishonesty, however, the Qur'an makes it clear God will forgive the sins of those who
repent. Good deeds, such as charity and prayer, will be rewarded with entry to heaven. Muslims view heaven as
a place of joy and bliss, with Qur'anic references describing its features and the physical pleasures to
come. Mystical traditions in Islam place these heavenly delights in the context of an ecstatic awareness of
Given Islam’s later 7th-century beginnings, its
religious literature draws heavily on Christian and Jewish sources. Both the Koran and Tradition contain a
great deal of material that indicates a strong Talmudic and Apocalyptic influence. Islamic legal system shows
influence from the Roman-Byzantine legal system, whereas philosophy, the sciences, medicine, mathematics,
chemistry, physics, and astronomy, bear the direct impress of Greek thought.
Notwithstanding, Arab culture has left its
permanent mark in Western culture:
• Astronomy: nadir, zenith.
• Chemistry: alchemy, alcohol, alembic, alkali, antimony, tutty.
• Medicine: julep, soda, syrup.
• Mathematics: Arabic numerals 1-9,
together with the vital 0 (sifr, cyper). Trigonometry, algebra and geometry are in considerable measure Arab
In “The Millennium” issue, Life magazine (Fall,
1997) listed the 100
Events of the 2nd Millennium.
Important Arabic events include:
• Ibn-Rushd translates Aristotle
• Mansa Musa’s pilgrimage to Mecca (1324)
In “Top 100 People of the Millennium”, Life
magazine ranked the top 100
people into six categories.
In the category of 'Thinkers', Arabic
• Ibn-Sina of Avicenna (980-1037). Wrote medical encyclopedia; translated
into Latin in Spain and superseded other medical textbooks.
• Ibn-Khaldun. Wrote of Muslim history; 14th century Tunisian
In the category of 'Creators', Arabic
• Jalal Ad-Din Rumi. Composed passionate love poems; helped to spread