Islam is one of the major religions in the world preaching monotheism like Judaism as well as Christianity. However, in comparison to both these religions, Islam is a relatively younger religion and was founded by a man who is still considered as the most influential personality of the world. His name is Muhammad and according to Karen Armstrong, he is the Prophet of our time. Born in Mecca during 570 A. D. Muhammad founded one of the most influential religions in the world and as such radically changed the shape of the world as the subsequent conquests by the followers of Islam formed one of the largest empires in the world.
(Armstrong, 2006). However, a brief account of his biography would indicate that he was a man of immense character and value and was regarded as one of the finest men in Mecca, even before he started to preach the new religion. From an early period of his life, he strongly felt the existing rift into the society of Mecca where the gap between rich and poor was widening and as such the people of Mecca were diverting from the true path.
The increased concentration of wealth and power into few hands made existing condition of the poor of Mecca more miserable, and he always strived hard to bring a social change into the very fabric of the Mecca’s society. Karen Armstrong writes on page no 39 regarding this in following manner: “He had accurately diagnosed the malaise that particularly rife among the younger generation, who felt ill at ease in the aggressive market economy. The Quraysh has introduced class distinctions that were quite alien to the muruwah ideal. ”(P39).
His initial reaction to these problems in Mecca society was passive one as he often attempted to meditate in a nearby cave. He continued to meditate in that cave and one day during his retreat, he received his first divine message proclaiming him the Prophet of God with the duty to preach one God. His proclamation as the Prophet of God advocating monotheism made the people of Mecca to turn into his enemies because they were preaching many gods and this new message was in direct conflict with their existing beliefs. However, there was growing resent within the Mecca’s society as many believed that the stone gods may not help them.
Karen Armstrong points out it as follows. “the gods of Arabia gave their worshippers no moral guidance; even though they found the rituals spiritually satisfying, some of the Quraysh were beginning to find these stone effigies inadequate symbols of divinity”(p41). Muhammad’s message was not received very well despite such resent against the existing gods. The people of Mecca did not accept his idea of monotheist religion that there is only one God and no one should be preached but him. This message was new to the people of Mecca who rejected the idea outright and started to oppose him on every front.
He not only faced social isolation but also witnessed harsh economic sanctions placed against his family and his followers. They also faced the continuous threat of war and annihilation at the hands of potentially more powerful enemy. He, however, successfully withstood such pressures and migrated to a nearby town of Medina which became the seat of his religious as well as political ambitions. From here onwards, he could create a small society of Muslims who shared not only their wealth but also significantly contributed towards creating a society which was based on equality and justice.
Karen Armstrong very vividly points out this on page 117 as follows: “As chieftain of Ummah, Muhammad could not implement his moral and social reforms in a way that had been impossible in Mecca. His goal was to create a society of hilm. Those who kept the faith were not simply believers. Their faith must be expressed in practical actions: they must pray, share their wealth and in matters that concerned the community consult among themselves to preserve the unity of the ummah” (p117-118).
From Medina, he was not only able to achieve his religious objectives of preaching a new religion but also succeeded in achieving his political objectives also as it was from here that the foundations of the new and first Islamic community and government was laid. This community subsequently converted itself into one of the most successful and powerful empires of the world bringing in many social, economic, religious as well as political changes not only into the Arab society but into other societies also.
Muslims were largely considered as revivers of the modern sciences in the world also as the subsequent history of Islam indicate that cities like Baghdad, Basra as well as Cordoba was the seats of scientific movement in Islam. Muhammad’s followers now account for almost one fourth of the world population and the religion which he founded is still considered as the religion which is fast becoming the largest religion of the world.
1. Armstrong, K. (2006). Muhammad- Prophet of Our time. London: Harper Press.