Chapter 10 The Rise of Islam

God is great! God is great! Come to salvation, come to prayer! There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God! Five times a day in countries throughout the world, these words ring out, summoning people to pray. An estimated 950 million people1 answer the call, including more than 4 million in the United States.2 These are the followers of the Prophet Muhammad, an Arab merchant who began to preach a message of religious renewal to the people of the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century.  He called it Islam, which means "submission" to the Will of God. 

By the time of his death in 632, Muhammad had converted most of the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula to Islam, teaching that they should submit to the will of the one true God (Allah, in Arabic) and obey all His laws. Those who did so, Muhammad also taught, constituted a new community of believers, all of whom should treat each other as brothers and sisters. Inspired by the message of the new faith, after Muhammad's death his followers erupted out of the Arabian peninsula on a campaign of military conquest and expansion. Under the banners of the new faith, they created a new world empire. In less than 200 years, Islamic civilization stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of China, and from southern Europe to the middle of Africa. Throughout this vast expanse of territory, Islam brought together the cultural achievements of all its diverse peoples in a burst of creativity. Under the inspiration of Islam, a brilliant new civilization flourished for over a thousand years.  



Birth of Muhammad c.570 ; 622  the hijra, migration to Mecca, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar; 632  Muhammad's death and the beginning of the Caliphate; 661the Umayyad dynasty begins with new capital at Damascus; 711-716 Muslim Arabs and Berbers conquer Spain; 732 defeat in the battle of Tours marked the end of the Arab advance into northern Europe; 750 "revolution" ushers in Abbasid dynasty which moves the capital to newly built Baghdad; 786-809 reign of Caliph Harun al-Rashid the height of Abbasid empire; 1253 Mongol invasion destroys Baghdad and puts an end to the Caliphate.