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.
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.