Muhammad (c. 570 – June 8, 632) was a trader later becoming a religious, political, and military leader. However, Muslims do not view Muhammad as the creator of Islam, but instead regard him as the last messenger of God, through which the Qur’an was revealed. Muslims view Muhammad as the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. In Muslim tradition, Muhammad is viewed as the last in a series of prophets. During the last 22 years of his life, beginning at age 40 in 610 CE, according to the earliest surviving biographies, Muhammad reported revelations that he believed to be from God. The content of these revelations, known as the Qur’an, was memorized and recorded by his companions. During this time, Muhammad preached to the people of Mecca, imploring them to abandon polytheism. Although some converted to Islam, Muhammad and his followers were persecuted by the leading Meccan authorities. After 12 years of preaching, Muhammad and the Muslims performed the Hijra (“emigration”) to the city of Medina (formerly known as Yathrib) in 622, after initially trying the Ethiopian Aksumite Empire. There, with the Medinan converts (Ansar) and the Meccan migrants (Muhajirun), Muhammad established his political and religious authority. Within years, two battles had been fought against Meccan forces: the Battle of Badr in 624, which was a Muslim victory, and the Battle of Uhud in 625, which ended inconclusively. Conflict with Medinan Jewish clans who opposed the Muslims led to their exile, enslavement, or death, and the Jewish enclave of Khaybar was subdued. In 628, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah was signed between Mecca and the Muslims and was broken by Mecca two years later. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control. By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless Conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62) he united the tribes of Arabia into a single religious polity.
Caliphate and civil war (632–750)
With Muhammad’s death in 632, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, who was Muhammad’s companion and close friend. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. Abu Bakr’s immediate task was to avenge a recent defeat by Byzantineforces, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an episode known as the Ridda wars, or “Wars of Apostasy”.
His death in 634 resulted in the succession of Umar as the caliph, followed by Uthman ibn al-Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hasan ibn Ali. The first caliphs are known as al-khulafā’ ar-rāshidūn (“Rightly Guided Caliphs“). Under them, the territory under Muslim rule expanded deeply into Persian and Byzantine territories. When Umar was assassinated in 644,the election of Uthman as successor was met with increasing opposition. In 656, Uthman was also killed, and Ali assumed the position of caliph. After fighting off opposition in thefirst civil war (the “First Fitna”), Ali was assassinated by Kharijites in 661. Following this,Mu’awiyah seized power and began the Umayyad dynasty, with its capital inDamascus.
These disputes over religious and political leadership would give rise to schism in the Muslim community. The majority accepted the legitimacy of the three rulers prior to Ali, and became known as Sunnis. A minority disagreed, and believed that Ali was the only rightful successor; they became known as the Shi’a. After Mu’awiyah’s death in 680, conflict over succession broke out again in a civil war known as the “Second Fitna“. The Umayyad dynasty conquered the Maghrib, theIberian Peninsula, Narbonnese Gaul and Sindh. The local population of Jews and indigenous Christians, persecuted as religious minorities and taxed heavily, often aided Muslims to take over their lands from the Byzantines and Persians, resulting in exceptionally speedy conquests.
The Umayyad aristocracy viewed Islam as a religion for Arabs only; the economy of the Umayyad empire was based on the assumption that a majority of non-Muslims (Dhimmis) would pay taxes to the minority of Muslim Arabs. A non-Arab who wanted to convert to Islam was supposed to first become a client of an Arab tribe. Even after conversion, these new Muslims (mawali) did not achieve social and economic equality with the Arabs. The descendants of Muhammad’s uncle Abbas ibn Abd al-Muttalib rallied discontented mawali, poor Arabs, and some Shi’a against the Umayyads and overthrew them with the help of the general Abu Muslim, inaugurating the Abbasid dynasty in 750 and moved the capital to Baghdad.
Abbasid era (750–1258)
Expansion of the Muslim world continued by both conquest and proselytism as both Islam and Muslim trade networks were extending into sub-Saharan West Africa,Central Asia, Volga Bulgaria and the Malay archipelago. The Ghaznavids and Ghurids conquered much of the Indian subcontinent. Many Muslims went to Chinato trade, virtually dominating the import and export industry of the Song Dynasty.
The major hadith collections were compiled. The Ja’fari jurisprudence was formed from the teachings of Ja’far al-Sadiq while the four Sunni Madh’habs, the Hanafi,Hanbali, Maliki and Shafi’i, were established around the teachings of Abū Ḥanīfa, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Malik ibn Anas and al-Shafi’i respectively. Al-Shafi’i also codified a method to establish the reliability of hadith. Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir completed the most commonly cited commentaries on the Quran, the Tafsir al-Tabari in the 9th century and the Tafsir ibn Kathir in the 14th century, respectively. Philosophers Al-Farabi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) sought to incorporate Greek principles into Islamic theology, while others like Al-Ghazzali argued against them and ultimately prevailed.
Caliphs such as Mamun al Rashid and Al-Mu’tasim made the mutazilite philosophy an official creed and imposed it upon Muslims to follow. Mu’tazila was a Greek influenced school of speculative theology called kalam, which refers to dialectic. Many orthodox Muslims rejected mutazilite doctrines and condemned their idea of the creation of the Quran. In inquisitions, Imam Hanbal refused to conform and was tortured and sent to an unlit Baghdad prison cell for nearly thirty months.The other branch of kalam was the Ash’ari school founded by Al-Ash’ari. Some Muslims began to question the piety of indulgence in a worldly life and emphasized poverty, humility and avoidance of sin based on renunciation of bodily desires. Ascetics such as Hasan al-Basri would inspire a movement that would evolve intoSufism. Beginning in the 13th century, Sufism underwent a transformation, largely because of efforts to legitimize and reorganize the movement by Al-Ghazali, who developed the model of the Sufi order—a community of spiritual teachers and students.
Islamic civilization flourished in what is sometimes referred to as the “Islamic Golden Age“. Public hospitals established during this time (called Bimaristan hospitals), are considered “the first hospitals” in the modern sense of the word, and issued the first medical diplomas to license doctors of medicine. The Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine, founded in 859, as the world’s oldest degree-granting university. The doctorate is argued to date back to the licenses to teach in law schools. Standards of experimental and quantification techniques, as well as the tradition of citation, were introduced to the scientific process. An important pioneer in this, Ibn Al-Haytham is regarded as the father of the modern scientific method and often referred to as the “world’s first true scientist.” The government paid scientists the equivalent salary of professional athletes today. Discoveries include gathering the data used by Copernicus for his heliocentric conclusions and Al-Jahiz’s proposal of the theory of natural selection. Rumi wrote some of the finest Persian poetry and is still one of the best selling poets in America. Legal institutions introduced include the trust and charitable trust (Waqf).
The first Muslims states independent of a unified Muslim state emerged from the Berber Revolt (739/740-743). In 836, the capital was moved to Samarra by Caliph Al-Mu’tasim and it was returned to Baghdad in 892. In 930, the Ismaili group known as the Qarmatians unsuccessfully rebelled against the Abbassids, sacked Mecca and stole the Black Stone. By 1055 the Seljuq Turks had eliminated the Abbasids as a military power but continued the caliph’s titular authority. The Mongol Empire finally put an end to the Abbassid dynasty, killing its last Caliph at the Battle of Baghdad in 1258.
Fall of Abbasids to end of caliphate (1258–1924)
Expansion continued with independent powers moving into new areas. An alliance of European Christian kingdoms mobilized to launch a series of wars, known as theCrusades, aimed at recapturing the Holy Land, though initially successful, was reversed by subsequent Muslim generals such as Saladin, who recaptured Jerusalem in 1187. In Europe, the Crimean Khanate was one of the strongest regional powers in Europe until the end of the 17th century. In the 13th and 14th centuries theOttoman Empire conquered the Balkans, parts of Greece, Constantinople and reached as far as the gates of Vienna in 1529. Under Ottoman rule, many people in theBalkans became Muslim.
While cultural styles used to radiate from Baghdad, the Mongol destruction of Baghdad led Egypt to become the Arab heartland while Central Asia went its own way and was experiencing another golden age. The Safavid dynasty of Persia made ties with India andPersian poetry rose to new heights while Arabic poetry was in state of decline. The Muslims in China who were descended from earlier immigration began to assimilate by adopting Chinese names and culture while Nanjing became an important center of Islamic study.
The Muslim world was generally in political decline, especially relative to the non-Islamic European powers. Large areas of Islamic Central Asia were seriously depopulated largely as a result of Mongol destruction. The Black Death ravaged much of the Islamic world in the mid-14th century. This decline was evident culturally; while Taqi al-Din founded an observatory in Istanbul and the Jai Singh Observatory was built in the 18th century, there was not a single Muslim country with a major observatory by the twentieth century. The Reconquista, launched against Muslim principalities in Iberia, succeeded in 1492 and Muslim Italian states were lost to the Normans. By the 19th century the British Empire had formally ended the last Mughal dynasty. The Ottoman era ended afterWorld War I and the Caliphate was abolished in 1924.
Reform and revival movements during this period include an 18th century Salafi movement led by Ibn Abd al-Wahhab in today’s Saudi Arabia. Referred to as Wahhabi, their self designation is Muwahiddun (unitarians). Building upon earlier efforts such as those by the logician Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim, the movement seeks to uphold monotheism and purify Islam of laterinnovations. Their zeal against idolatrous shrines led to the destruction of sacred tombs in Mecca and Medina, including those of the Prophet and his Companions. In the 19th century, the Deobandi andBarelwi movements were initiated.
Modern times (1924–present)
Contact with industrialized nations brought Muslim populations to new areas through economic migration. Many Muslims migrated as indentured servants, from mostly India and Indonesia, to the Caribbean, forming the largest Muslim populations by percentage in the Americas. The resulting urbanization and increase in trade in sub-Saharan Africa brought Muslims to settle in new areas and spread their faith, likely doubling the Muslims population between 1869 and 1914. Muslim immigrants, many as guest workers, began arriving, largely from former colonies, into several European nations in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly France and the UK.
New Muslim intellectuals are beginning to arise, and are increasingly separating perennial Islamic beliefs from archaic cultural traditions. Liberal Islam is a movement that attempts to reconcile religious tradition with modern norms of secular governance and human rights. Its supporters say that there are multiple ways to read Islam’s sacred texts, and stress the need to leave room for “independent thought on religious matters”. Women’s issues receive a significant weight in the modern discourse on Islam because the family structure remains central to Muslim identity. Also of issue is the assimilation of Muslim communities andIslamophobia in host countries. Andrew Rippin states that while Muslims believe that Islam stands for both men and women, the social reality suggests otherwise. Christopher Hitchens states that Islam is “dogmatic,” and “the fact remains that Islam’s core claim – to be unimprovable and final – is at once absurd.” Such claims have been challenged by many Muslim scholars and writers including Fazlur Rahman Malik, Syed Ameer Ali, Ahmed Deedat, Yusuf Estes and Tariq Ramadan.
Secular powers such as Chinese Red Guards closed many mosques and destroyed Qurans and Communist Albania became the first country to ban the practice of every religion. In Turkey, the military carried out coups to oust Islamist governments and headscarves were, as well as in Tunisia, banned in official buildings. About half a million Muslims were killed in Cambodiaby communists whom, it is argued, viewed them as their primary enemy and wished to exterminate them since they stood out and worshipped their own god. However, Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood advocate Islam as a comprehensive political solution, often in spite of being banned. Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani, along with his acolyte Muhammad Abduh, have been credited as forerunners of the Islamic revival. In Iran, revolution replaced secular regime with an Islamic state. In Turkey, the Islamist AK Party has democratically been in power for about a decade, while Islamist parties are doing well in elections following the Arab Spring. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), consisting of Muslim countries, was established in 1969 after the burning of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Islam began to revive not only inCentral Asia but also in Russia.
Piety appears to be deepening worldwide. Orthodox groups are sometimes well funded and are growing at the expense of traditional groups. In many places, the prevalence of the Islamic veil is growing increasingly common  and the percentage of Muslims favoring Sharia laws has increased. With religious guidance increasingly available electronically, Muslims are able to access views that are strict enough for them rather than rely on state clerics who are often seen as stooges. Some organizations began using the media to promote Islam such as the 24-hour TV channel, Peace TV. Perhaps as a result of these efforts, most experts agree that Islam is growing faster than any other faith in East and West Africa.
Source : wikipedia