MUHAMMED ( d.632)

 Battle between Franks and Saracens.



MUHAMMED, the founder of Islam, lived in Arabia during the late 6th and early 7th centuries.

A. During Muhammad's lifetime, Arabia was populated, for the most part, by desert nomads separated into hundreds of warring tribes.

B. Some permanent settlements existed near oases. These settlements included the caravan towns of Medina and Mecca.

C. Although the Arabs were predominantly pagan, worshipping many gods (including one known as Allah), some Christians and Jews lived in Arabia.





II. During his lifetime, Muhammad brought monotheism to a predominantly pagan region and, thereby, united various Arab tribes in a single comnunity of monotheistic faith.

A. Muhammad was born between 570 and 580. He was a merchant from Mecca and lived comfortably, in part because of his marriage to his favorite wife, a wealthy widow.

B. Circa 610, Muhammad began to experience visions. After agonizing soul searching, he decided that these visions were religious revelations given to him by God. After Muhammad's death, his followers recorded the revelations in a written book, the Koran.

C. Muhammad shared his revelations with the inhabitants of Mecca, where the town's wealthier citizens grew hostile to him.

D. In 622, Muhammad left Mecca to take up residence in Medina, where he became the town's leader. This is the year from which the Muslim calendar is reckoned.



The Qaaba, containting the black stone, a muslim relic venerated as part of the Mecca Pilgrimage.  Probably a meteroric rock, much damaged and repaired throughout Muslim history.  Traditions include: (1) it was dropped by an angel; (2)  dates from the time of Adam and Eve; (3) has the power of absorbing sin; (4) veneration by kising is "not idolatry".



E. In 630, he and his followers captured Mecca itself Muhammad died only two years later, in 632.





F. At his death, Muhammad left behind an Arabia substantially united by its newfound belief in Islam,  - the Umma, "believers" - a monotheist religion maintaining that Allah was the only true God, similarities to Judaism and Christianity suggest some context with both religions.





G. Muhammad taught that Islam (meaning "submission"—submission to God) was NOT SO MUCH NEW RELIGION as the ultimate fulfillment of Judaism and Christianity.

1. Through Abraham and Jesus of Nazareth, God had revealed himself to mankind, but those earlier revelations had been partial and incomplete.

2. Muhammad also taught that Abraham had been the first Muslim and that Jesus of Nazareth was a great prophet but not a divine being—rather, Jesus was wholly human.

3. Muhammad claimed to be the last and greatest of God's prophets.



Abstinence from pork

No priests or intermediaries

Religious scholars who comment on religious law

III. Upon the death of Muhammad, Arabs attacked their neighbors and created a vast empire, the House of Islam, reaching from Spain to India. Their speed was astonishing.

[Mohammed forbade Muslims from fighting among themselves]

A. By 651, the Arabs had conquered the Persian Empire and, by the 690s, rnuch of the Byzantine Empire. They failed, however, to capture Constantinople itself. (unsuccessfully besieged in 674 and 717)

B. Arab success was a result of the exhaustion of their rivals, the Arabs' ability to operate in the desert, and the tremendous confidence and enthusiasm that Muhammad had given to the Arabs, whom Allah had chosen to be the recipients of his final revelation.







Both Byzantine and Persian Empires exhausted from constant wars

Byzantine Empire suffering population-devastation from outbreak of bubonic plague

Element of surprise - No one expected divided Arab tribes to challenge empires the size of Persia or Byzantium

Arabs able to function in hostile environment: attacked from desert where no fortifications were found

Arabs would often draw back into familiar desert encouraging attack

Expansion tends to stop when encounter environments radically different from Arabia (i.e. Northern France)

Most important factor was religious zeal overcoming long-standing myth of inferiority.  During the conquest of the Persian Empire, Ambassador remarked:

ONCE, the Arabs were a wretched race, whom you could tread under foot with impunity.  We were reduced to eating dogs and lizards.  But for our glory, God has raised up a prophet among us.


Now the Arab tribes have confidence that God intends them to accomplish great things.








C. During the 8th and 9th centuries, Arab scholars developed the concept of JIHAD to explain and justify the Arab conquests that had taken place following Muhammad's death.

Term originally meant "striving" [against military enemies or temptations] occurs in Quran only four times - does not always refer to military action in early texts.

Theory developed when it appeared that Islam would conquer whole world:


1. According to the 8th- and 9th-century definitions of jihad, it was necessary for the House of Islam to bring Islamic law throughout the entire world, imposing it upon the dar-al-Harb, or House of War (i.e., non-Islamic lands). Muslims must strive to bring the entire world into a single Islamic state [by absorbing the House of War] into a unity that would mirror the perfect unity of the monotheist God.

2. Jihad, therefore, aimed at a political and legal unification, but not at [complete] religious unification. Other monotheists could practice Judaism and Christianity (with certain restrictions) within the House of Islam (must not prosyletize). Christians and Jews (unlike pagans) should not be converted forcibly.  Pagans are to be given the choice of conversion or death.

This was a religious duty on all Muslim rulers who were forbidden to live in peace with non-Muslim nations.  Truces could be signed for periods of only ten years, following which war must be undertaken.

Those who die fighting on behalf of this goal were[/are] regarded as martyrs.

Special tax - Jiziah - is collected from Jews and Christians; in many regions conversion to Islam by Christians and Jews was discouraged to maintain tax revenue.

3. Ironically, the theory of jihad developed as actual Arab expansion subsided.  With slowing of expansion treaties extended beyond ten years, and after early eighth century became "dead letter" but could be revived when necessary, as during Crusades.

4. Islam's early acceptance and Christianity's late acceptance of holy war can best be explained in terms of the historical context in which those two religions emerged.

IV. The expansion of the House of Islam had important consequences for Europe itself.

A. Between 711 and 716, Arabs and North Africans conquered most of Visigothic Spain, leaving only a few small Christian kingdoms in the mountanous and relatively poor north.

B. For a brief period in the early 8thi century, Arabs conquered parts of southern Francia. However, Franks, under the leadership of Charles Martel, a member of the Carolingian family, defeated an Arab army at the Baffle of Poitiers in 732, checking Arab expansion north of the Pyrenees.

C. Arabs conquered Sicily and much of southern Italy in the Wh century. They were finally driven from southern Italy in 915 by an army of Byzantine, papal, and Italian forces.



Adapted from the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

ISLAM (i.e. ‘submission’, usually understood as submission to the will of God), the religion preached by Muhammad (prob. c.570–632), the adherent of which is called a Muslim. Islam is the religion of the majority of the population of the northern half of Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua-New Guinea. There are substantial Muslim minorities in several European countries, Russia and the successor states of the former USSR in the Caucasus and Central Asia, India, and China.

Muslim doctrine is derived from the interpretation of the Koran (or Qur˒ān) and the ‘Sunna’, i.e. ‘established practice’, a body of tradition which records the actions and sayings of the Prophet and the first four ‘Rightly Guided’ caliphs. Muslim law or ‘Sharia’ derives from the reform by early jurists of existing legal practice in line with the Koran and Sunna. Islam contains Arabian, Jewish, Christian, Gnostic, and other elements, and the extent to which these were incorporated during the lifetime of the Prophet in Arabia or during the subsequent three centuries in the lands of the Arab conquests is a matter of scholarly debate. The central dogmas of Islam are the absolute unity of God (Allah) and the prophethood of Muhammad.

The chief Islamic practices are

[1] confession of the unity of God and the mission of Muhammad,

[2] ritual prayer practised five times a day,

[3] alms-giving,

[4] fasting during the month of Ramadan, and

[5] pilgrimage to Mecca.

Among a wide variety of sects, two main branches stand out. Both the Sunnites and the Shiites accept the authority of the Sunna,

but the Sunnites also recognize the possibility of appeal to the ‘Ijma’ (i.e. the consensus of believers) and an interpretative tradition which is regarded as having been closed since the 9th cent. and can no longer be added to. The Ijma is represented and interpreted by the ‘Ulama’ or religious scholars.

The Shiites originally comprised those who recognized the sole right to the caliphate of Ali, the nephew and son-in-law of Muhammad (Shiite from Ar. ‘Shia Ali’, the party of Ali), and they came to believe that the Sunna was not sufficient but must be constantly reinterpreted by an authoritative spokesman of divine will, i.e. Ali and his descendants, the true ‘Imam,’ or by his representatives or ‘Mujtahids’. The number of Imams may be reckoned as seven or twelve according to the sect, and some, including the followers of the Aga Khan, hold that the succession of Imams is perpetual and still operative today.

Mysticism plays a large part in Islam, and the ‘Sufis’ aim, by spiritual and bodily ascesis, at achieving direct apprehension of God and ultimately total submerging of self in the Divine. Since the demise of the Abbasid caliphate in 1258, the Ulama and the Sufis have constituted the main sources of religious authority in Islam.

Islam is seen as the aboriginal religion, from which both Judaism and Christianity are deviations. At several periods of history God has sent prophets, the first of whom was Adam, and the last Muhammad: Abraham, Moses and Jesus are all recognized. God made a covenant with Abraham, awarding his descendants through Hagar’s son Ishmael (i.e. the Arabs) the status of a chosen people. Muhammad’s mission was to lead the Arabs and, perhaps, all mankind, back to the aboriginal ‘religion of Abraham’. In Muslim belief, Jesus, though born of a virgin, is created and not begotten; his crucifixion was only apparent (cf. Docetism). In the E., Christian writers, e.g. St John of Damascus, reacted promptly to the rise of Islam with anti-Muslim polemic, but others were conciliatory, e.g. Timothy I (780–823), Patriarch of the Church of the East, author of so-called Parable of the Pearl, a Syriac apology for Christianity in the form of a debate with the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi (775–85). W. scholars first took an interest in Islam and Arabic learning in 10th-cent. Spain, e.g. Gerbert of Aurillac (Sylvester II), and in 11th- to 13th-cent. Spain and S. Italy, mathematical, astronomical, and medical texts were translated from Arabic. But it was not until the Crusades that W. scholars took an interest in Islam itself. The translations of Islamic texts, sponsored by Peter the Venerable and others, and the commentaries that they provoked constituted the principal source of informed knowledge of Islam. From the 12th cent., Islamic logic and metaphysics, e.g. the writings of Avempace, Averroes, and Avicenna, exercised a profound influence on W. philosophers and theologians, e.g. R. Bacon and St Thomas Aquinas, and the universities of Bologna, Oxford, Paris, Rome, and Salamanca all had chairs of Arabic. During the Renaissance, with the rise of the Ottoman empire and its expansion into Europe, this peaceable interest waned.

The Arab conquests of the 7th–8th cent. subjected large communities of Christians (and Jews) to Muslim rule. Unlike pagans, they were recognized as ‘people of the book’ and incorporated into the Muslim State as ‘dhimmis’, who in return for payment of the ‘jizya’, part tribute and part penal tax, were awarded protected status and permitted to retain their own religion and laws. The dhimmis have usually suffered a varying degree of fiscal, legal, and social oppression, and more rarely violent persecution. The survival of the E. Churches under Muslim rule attests to the success of this regime, and contrasts with the failure of medieval Christian Spain and Sicily to incorporate their subject communities of Muslims. Modern Arab states have usually treated Christian minorities with a tolerance predicated on the equality of all religions, but this is threatened by the recent upsurge of revivalist Islam and the return of sharia law, e.g. in Iran and Sudan.

Christian missions have never had a significant impact upon Islam. In the 13th cent., the Mendicant Orders organized missions to Islam, and St Francis preached to the Ayyubid sultan al-Kamil in 1219. In modern times missionary activity has been resumed by both Protestant and RC bodies.

M. G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam (3 vols., Chicago and London [1974]); P. M. Holt and others (eds.), The Cambridge History of Islam (2 vols, Cambridge, 1970); A. Hourani, A History of the Arab Peoples (1991); I. M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies (Cambridge, 1988). The Encyclopaedia of Islam (ed. M. T. Houtsma and others, 4 vols and suppl., Leiden, 1913–38; 2nd edn., ed. H. A. R. Gibb and others, 1960 ff.). R. Roolvink, Historical Atlas of the Muslim Peoples (Amsterdam, 1957); H. [N.] Kennedy, An Historical Atlas of Islam (Leiden, 2002). M. Ruthven, Islam in the World (Harmondsworth, 1984); F. Rahman, Islam (1966; 2nd edn., Chicago, 1979). I. Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien (2 vols., 1889–90; Eng. tr., 1967–71); J. Schacht, An Introduction to Islamic Law (Oxford, 1964); J. van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra: Eine Geschichte des religiösen Denkens im frühen Islam (6 vols., 1991–7). A. Schimmel, The Mystical Dimensions of Islam (Chapel Hill, NC, 1975); G.-C. Anawati and L. Gardet, Mystique musulmane (Études musulmanes, 8; 1961); J. S. Trimingham, The Sufi Orders in Islam (Oxford, 1971). M. [A.] Cook, Muhammad (Past Masters; Oxford, 1983); W. M. Watt, Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman (1961). M. [A.] Cook, The Koran: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2000). The Patr. Timothy’s ‘Parable of the Pearl’ is pr. (facsimile of the Syriac text), with Eng. tr. and introd., by A. Mingana and J. R. Harris in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 12 (1928), pp. 137–298. H. Busse, Die theologischen Beziehungen des Islams zu Judentum und Christentum: Grundlagen des Dialogs im Koran und die gegenwärtige Situation (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Grundzüge, 72; Darmstadt [1988]; Eng. tr., Islam, Judaism, and Christianity: Theological and Historical Affiliations, Princeton, NJ [1998]). R. Bell, The Origin of Islam in its Christian Environment (1926); H. Speyer, Die biblischen Erzählungen im Qoran (Gräfenhainichen, 1931; repr. Hildesheim, 1961). N. Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image (Edinburgh, 1960); id., The Arabs and Mediaeval Europe (1975; 2nd edn., 1979); R. W. Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass., 1962). B. Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches toward the Muslims (Princeton, NJ [1984]); A. Hourani, Islam in European Thought (Cambridge, 1991). B. Braude and B. Lewis (eds.), Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire: The Functioning of a Plural Society (2 vols., New York and London, 1982).



RC Roman Catholic, Roman Catholicism.

Patr. Patriarch.


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