Origin and Expansion of Islam Part I

Origin and Expansion of Islam 1

Islam [Arabic “devotion” (to God)], term for the monotheistic world religion founded by Mohammed between 622 and 632 in Medina (first community order), to which (2010) around 1.55 billion people (around 22, 5% of the world’s population).

According to howsmb.com, Islam is represented by two main schools: the Sunnis (almost 86% of all Muslims) and the Shiites (around 13%). Today’s world religion emerged through the prophetic work of Mohammed from around 610 in Mecca and from 622 in Medina in the west of the Arabian Peninsula. The term Islam is already included in the Koran and means complete surrender to the one God (Allah). The followers of Islam refer to themselves as Muslims (female form: Muslims). The name “Mohammedan”, which has been used in Europe for a long time, is rejected by Muslims as a foreign name. In a broader sense, the word Islam (or Islamic) is also used to denote the cultures and societies it has shaped.

Conscious (i.e. not by birth) accession to Islam occurs through the uttering of the testimony of faith in front of Muslim witnesses; associated with it are the observance of the most important religious duties, v. a. daily prayer (Arabic salad), but also the adoption of an Islamic name and, in men, the circumcision of the penile foreskin.

The Islamic community arose from around 613 under the leadership of Mohammed in Mecca in a polytheistic environment. At first she was tolerated, but as she grew she was persecuted. After the Muslims’ exodus (Arabic Hidjra) from Mecca to Medina in 622, a community developed through the demarcation from the Jews there as well as from polytheists and in the ultimately victorious dispute with the Meccans, a community that believed in one God and recognized Muhammad as prophetic leaders above their continuing tribal ties. Mohammed also became a political ruler. State structures emerged only gradually, v. a. with the expansion and establishment of the Caliphate Empire since 634 (Calif). The social and legal norms of the Islamic community were largely based on Arabic customary law, but were modified in individual questions of family, inheritance and criminal law and were also included in the Koran.

Islam originated in the landscape of Hidjas in the west of the Arabian Peninsula, where the cities of Mecca and Medina (then Jathrib) are located. At the beginning of the 7th century, the religious conditions on the Arabian Peninsula were diverse. Most of the tribes worshiped numerous gods and goddesses and performed rituals such as sacrifices and pilgrimages (e.g. to Mecca). At the same time there were Jews, Christians (including Jewish Christians) and Manicheans among the Arabs, whose oral narratives spread biblical ideas on a large scale. While Mecca was a center of Arab tribal polytheism with Allah as the high god, there were significant Jewish communities in the oases in the northwest of the Arabian Peninsula and in Yemen, and Christian communities in Yemen as well.

Mohammed experienced the divine calling to be a prophet around 610 and appeared in public since around 613. On the one hand he proclaimed the message of the merciful Creator God and on the other hand he warned of the near end and divine judgment. This eschatological dimension was new and particularly memorable in its directness. At the same time he referred to knowledge of basic teachings and stories of the Bible as well as the Jewish and Christian tradition, as they were disseminated orally and probably also familiar to his listeners. A lack of success, growing hostility in the leading circles and a lack of social support in Mecca led to the emigration (hidjra) of Muhammad in 622and his followers who remained in Mecca after Jathrib (Medina), after numerous followers had already gone into exile in Christian Ethiopia. The following of Mohammed in Jathrib soon grew, but the hoped-for approval from the Jewish tribes failed to materialize and resulted in their expulsion and extermination. This and military victories improved the material situation of the community, which was initially very complicated. At the same time, Mohammed demonstratively distanced himself from Jewish religious practices and geared himself more towards Mecca: the direction of prayer was reversed from Jerusalem to Mecca, the fasting in Ramadan was introduced, and the pilgrimage to Mecca was retained as the central ritual. Mecca was taken in 630. Mohammed was recognized as a leader by more and more Arab tribes; Jewish and Christian settlements submitted to him and retained their religion and self-government in exchange for taxes.

Origin and Expansion of Islam 1