The Rise and Spread of Islam Review for AP World History
Review questions for this study guide can be found at:
The World of Muhammad
The Arabian peninsula into which Muhammad was born in 570 was a hub of ancient caravan routes. Although the coastal regions of the peninsula were inhabited by settled peoples, the interior region provided a homeland for nomadic tribes called Bedouins. Located in the interior of the peninsula was the city of Mecca, which served both as a commercial center and as the location of a religious shrine for the polytheistic worship common to the nomadic peoples of the peninsula. Pilgrims were in the habit of visiting Mecca and its revered shrine, the Ka'aba, a cubic structure that housed a meteorite. The merchants of Mecca enjoyed a substantial profit from these pilgrims.
Muhammad, an orphan from the merchant class of Mecca, was raised by his grandfather and uncle. He married a wealthy local widow and businesswoman named Khadija. About 610, Muhammad experienced the first of a number of revelations that he believed came from the archangel Gabriel. In these revelations he was told that there is only one God, called "Allah" in Arabic. (Allah was one of the gods in the Arabic pantheon.) Although the peoples of the Arabian peninsula had already been exposed to monotheism through Jewish traders and Arabic converts to Christianity, Muhammad's fervent proclamation of the existence of only one god angered the merchants of Mecca, who anticipated decreased profits from pilgrimages if the revelations of Muhammad were widely accepted. In 622, realizing that his life was in danger, Muhammad and his followers fled to the city of Yathrib (later called Medina), about 200 miles northwest of Mecca. Here Muhammad was allowed to freely exercise his role as prophet of the new faith, and the numbers of believers in the new religion grew. The flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina, called the hijrah, became the first year in the Muslim calendar.
In Medina, Muhammad oversaw the daily lives of his followers, organizing them into a community of believers known as the umma. The well-being of the umma included programs concerning all aspects of life, from relief for widows and orphans to campaigns of military defense.
In 629, Muhammad and his followers journeyed to Mecca to make a pilgrimage to the Ka'aba, now incorporated as a shrine in the Islamic faith. The following year they returned as successful conquerors of the city, and in 632, they again participated in the hajj. In 632, Muhammad died without appointing a successor, an omission that would have a profound effect on the future of Islam.
The Teachings of Islam
The term Islam means "submission," while the name Muslim, applied to the followers of Islam, means "one who submits." Muhammad viewed his revelations as a completion of those of Judaism and Christianity and perceived himself not as a deity but as the last in a series of prophets of the one god, Allah. He considered Abraham, Moses, and Jesus also among the prophets of Allah. According to the teachings of Islam, the faithful must follow a set of regulations known as the Five Pillars. They include:
- Faith. In order to be considered a follower of Islam, a person must proclaim in the presence of a Muslim the following statement: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet."
- Prayer. The Muslim must pray at five prescribed times daily, each time facing the holy city of Mecca.
- Fasting. The faithful must fast from dawn to dusk during the days of the holy month of Ramadan, a commemoration of the first revelation to Muhammad.
- Alms-giving. The Muslim is to pay the zakat, or tithe for the needy.
- The hajj. At least once, the follower of Islam is required to make a pilgrimage to the Ka'aba in the holy city of Mecca. The faithful are released from this requirement if they are too ill or too poor to make the journey.
The revelations and teachings of Muhammad were not compiled into a single written document until after his death. The resulting Quran, or holy book of the Muslims, was completed in 650. In addition, the sayings of Muhammad were compiled into the books of the Hadith. After the death of Muhammad the shariah, or moral law, was compiled. In addition to addressing issues of everyday life, the shariah established political order and provided for criminal justice.