Topics discussed in this essay:
The name of the religion Islam is derived from the Arabic word "salam,"
which is often interpreted as meaning "peace." However "submission" is a preferred translation. A Muslim is a follower of Islam. "Muslim" is an
Arabic word that refers to a person who submits themselves to the will of God.
Many Muslims are offended by the phrases "Islamic terrorist" or "Muslim terrorist,"
which have been observed so often in the media; they are viewed as oxymorons. That is, if one is a terrorist, one cannot be a Muslim; if one is a Muslim, one cannot be a terrorist.
Most religious historians view Islam as having been founded in 622 CE by
Prophet.* He lived from about 570 until 632 CE, when he died unexpectedly).
The religion started in Mecca, when Muslims believe that the angel Jibril (a.k.a. Jibreel; Gabriel
in English) read the first revelation to
Muhammad. (Mohammed and Muhammed are
alternative spellings for his name.) Islam is the youngest of the world's very
religions -- those with over 300 million members -- which include Christianity,
Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism. *Muslims traditionally
acknowledge respect for Muhammad, Jesus and other prophets by adding the phrase "peace be upon him" or an abbreviation "(pbuh)" after
However, many -- if not most of the followers of Islam -- believe that:
||Islam existed before Muhammad was born,
||The origins of Islam date back to the creation of the world, and
||Muhammad was the last and by far the greatest of a series of Prophets.
an Arabic word which means "the One True God" in Arabic. Christians who speak Arabic refer to their deity "Yahwea," as "Allah."
An alternative spelling
for "Muslim" that is occasionally used is "Moslim"; it is not
recommended because it is often pronounced "mawzlem": which sounds like an
Arabic word for "oppressor". Some Western writers in the past have referred to
Islam as "Mohammedism"; this is deeply offensive to many Muslims, as its usage
can lead some to the concept that Muhammad the Prophet was in some way divine.
About Muhammad, as believed by most Muslims:
Unlike other great religious leaders, like the Buddha, Moses, and Yeshua of
Nazareth (Jesus Christ), Muhammad was born relatively recently, in the late 6th
century CE, about the year 570. Omid Safi, assistant professor of religion and
philosophy at Colgate University, commented that Muhammad was probably the first
religious leader to rise up in the "full glare of history." 4
Many unusual events have been recorded about Muhammad's
birth and childhood:
His mother said "When he was born, there was a light that
issued out of my pudendum and lit the places of Syria."
Also at the time of his birth, "...fourteen galleries of
Kisra's palace cracked and rolled down, the Magians' sacred fire died
down and some churches on Lake Sawa sank down and collapsed."
||His foster family had many experiences of amazingly good luck while
he was in their care.
The angel Jibril visited the him when he was a young child, ripped his
chest open, removed his heart, extracted a blood clot from it, and
returned him to normalcy. 5
While still young, he was sent into the desert to be raised by a foster
family. This was a common practice at the time. He was orphaned at the age of 6 and subsequently raised by his uncle. As a child, he worked as a shepherd. He was taken on a caravan to Syria
by his uncle at the age of 9 (or 12; sources differ). Later, as a youth, he was employed as a
camel driver on the trade routes between Syria and Arabia. As an adult, Muhammad managed caravans
on behalf of merchants. He met people of different religious beliefs on his travels, and
was able to observe and learn about Judaism, Christianity and the various indigenous Pagan
religions in the area.
After he married, he was able to spend more time in meditation. At the age of 40, (circa 610
CE), he was visited in Mecca by the angel Gabriel. He developed the conviction that he had
been ordained a Prophet and given the task of converting his countrymen from their pagan,
polytheistic beliefs and what he regarded as moral decadence, idolatry, hedonism and
He met considerable opposition to his teachings. In 622 CE he moved north to Medina due
to increasing persecution. The trek is known as the Hegira. Here, he was
disappointed by the rejection of his message by the Jews. Through religious
discussion, persuasion, military activity and
political negotiation, Muhammad became the most powerful leader in Arabia, and Islam became
firmly established throughout the area.
By 750 CE, Islam had invaded China, India, and countries along the Southern shore of the
Mediterranean including Spain. By 1550 they had besieged Vienna. Wars resulted, expelling
Muslims from Spain and Europe. Since their trading routes were mostly over land, they had
not developed extensive sea trade (as, for example, the English and Spaniards did). As a
result, the old world's occupation of North America in the 16th century CE was left to Christians.
Currently, Muslims are concentrated from the West coast of Africa to the Philippines.
The country of Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims. In Africa, in particular, they are increasing in numbers, largely at the expense of
Christianity, in the Northern section.
Many do not look upon Islam as a new religion. They feel that it is in reality the
faith taught by the ancient Prophets, Abraham, David, Moses and Jesus. They view Muhammad's role as
the last of the Prophets was to formalize and clarify the faith and to purify it by
removing foreign ideas that had been added in error.
This topic continues in Part 2
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Jihad explained," by the Institute of Islamic Information
and Education at:
Abdur Rahman I. Doi. Sharia, "The Islamic Law," Ta Ha Publishers,
(1984), Page 21.
"Shaykh 'Abdul-'Azeez Aal ash-Shaykh says attacks are an 'oppression,
injustice and tyranny...' ," 2001-SEP-17, at:
"Muhammad and the power of religious imagery," Religion Link,
2006-FEB-08, at: http://www.religionlink.org/
"His birth," at:
http://www.geocities.com/ This site is no longer online.
Copyright © 1995 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants
on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2017-DEC-05
Author: B. A. Robinson