Islam arose in 6th Century C.E (Common Era) Arabia. The region was a melting pot of religious beliefs. There were pockets of Judaism and Christianity but, for the most part, they were overshadowed by the cults of the tribal gods that indulged in some barbaric practices.
Muhammad (pbuh), Islam's Prophet, was born in Mecca on the Arabian peninsula in what is now Saudi Arabia, in 570 C.E. Raised in a trading family, at the age of 25 he married an older widow who had employed him as a trading agent.
At the age of 40, during one of his periodic meditative retreats in a nearby cave, he began to experience visions and auditory revelations. The angel Gabriel appeared to him with a book and commanded him to "Read". Initially, he shared the messages with his family and friends. But over time, he began to meet daily with a growing circle of people to share the message of Peace (Islam).
A major part of Muhammad's (phuh) mission was devoted to ending the vicious cycle of murder and warfare perpetrated by pre-Islamic tribes engaged in bitter blood feuds. As might be expected, Muhammad's (pbuh) message faced opposition forcing him to flee to the neighboring city of Medina, a town 400 km north of Mecca. This event, the Hijrah (emigration) marks the beginning of the Islamic era and its dating.
Eventually, following a period of intense conflict, Muhammad (pbuh) and his followers returned to Mecca. Muhammad (pbuh) died in Medina in 632 and left no male heir. Islam is an Arabic word. It means peace, greeting, obedience, loyalty, allegiance and submission to the will of the Creator of the universe. The name of the Creator of the universe is Allah, an Arabic word which means God Almighty. Allah, the one and only God, has 99 names and numerous attributes. He is the Merciful, the Protector, the Mighty, the Forgiver, the Provider, the Loving, the Wise, the All-Knowing, the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing, the First, the Last, the Eternal.
Muslims believe that Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen by Allah (God) as the final prophet and messenger to humanity to deliver his message of Peace (Islam). They do not worship Muhammad (pbuh), only Allah. Muhammad (pbuh) was both a Prophet and a statesman.
This message was recorded in the Qur'an, the Islamic Scripture. It is considered the exact words of Allah revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) through Gabriel over a period of 23 years. The language of the Qur'an is Arabic. It contains 114 Suras or chapters. It is read and recited according to a set of rules and regulations. In order to read the Qur'an, a Muslim must be clean and in a state of cleanliness. In addition, the sayings and practical guidance offered by Muhammad (pbuh) were compiled and collected shortly after he died. Known as Hadiths, together with the Qur'an, they provide Muslims with a comprehensive and practical guide to daily living.
The Qur'an teaches that people are called to live in peace and submission to Allah and within one's self, with other people, the environment and the cosmos. Therefore, the goal of life is to worship Allah, obey His commandments by striving to go to Heaven and escape Hell in the life hereafter.
Muslims trace their beginnings back to the Prophet Adam, who is also recognized by both Jews and Christians. Muslims recognize Abraham to be the founder of the three monolithic faiths - Islam, Judaism and Christianity. They also believe Abraham established a house of worship in Mecca. This house, the Ka'bah, is believed by Muslims to be the first one devoted to the worship of one God.
It is believed that Allah sent different messengers to humanity throughout history, all with similar teachings. But over time, people misunderstood and misinterpreted them. Nevertheless, Muslims believe in the prophets commonly revered in Judaism and Christianity, including Noah, Issac, Jacob, and David. They also regard Jesus as a prophet but, unlike Christians, do not consider him divine.
Muslims also respect the original Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The followers of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are sometimes referred to as "the People of the Book". Muslims do not believe in religious coercion. People must be allowed to follow their own beliefs.
Muslims also believe in angels and a Day of Judgment. Islam teaches that people must work out their salvation through the guidance of Allah. Muslims must combine their beliefs with practice in their daily lives.
Islam provides guidance on how to conduct oneself in private and public affairs. It teaches one how to be an effective member of one’s family and community and larger society. To live by Islam is to live in harmony with all of creations.