1.      Islam = “surrender” or “submission” to god.  Muslim, “one who surrenders [to God],” comes from the same root.  

a.       Relationship w/ God: name of God -- air in/air out.  Spirit comes from God and returns to God, soothing relationship

b.      Life is submission to God, even birth and death.  Muslims enjoined to make all actions acts of worship.  All people are born Muslims.  Humanity’s proper response to God is to surrender to his will, carry out God’s commands fully and faithfully.  

1.      These commands touch on nearly every aspect of life.  Islam is distinctive in that  the commands of God have been thought to extend to the political arena.  Politics, behavior, and theology intertwined.

2.      Thus, the history of Islam is entwined with the history of the Muslim empire, it’s legal system, and other matters frequently thought of as secular.  An entire civilization grounded in what it believes to be the commands of God.

c.       Define Islam as: theology, culture, law, practice

2.      Diversity of Muslims -- sects, cultures, lifestyles, lack of racial emphasis (first person to recite adhan was a black slave)

a.       Founded seventh century C.E. by Muhammad in Arabia. Over 1.2 billion adherents, more than 20% of world's population. Second largest and fastest growing religion on the planet. Over 6 million in US

b.      Largest number of Muslims in Indonesia


Early History:

Arabia on the eve of Islam

1.      Relative isolation from the rest of the world.

a.       Inhabitants (Bedouins) took camels, sheep, and goats from oasis to oasis, occasional trade. Nomadic

b.      Kinship groups = tribes - clans. Individual identified by ancestry, kinship. 

c.       Personal honor connected to honor and power of tribe and clan.

d.      No central government: restraint on conflict and misbehavior = blood feud. Killing > avenge that death > tribal war (sometimes for generations)

2.      Religion: a supreme god; many minors gods associated with natural features - rocks, trees, springs, stars; lesser spirits who can trick, inspire, or inform human beings.

3.      Mecca = major pilgrimage center.  Cube-shaped shrine at center, Ka'bah. Allah was lord of the Ka'bah.  Not most popular; some 360 others.

4.      Patterns and values of nomadic life still present; add influence of urban commerce > breakdown in tribal solidarity > economic individualism, unbalanced concentration of wealth > oppression of weaker members of society (widows, orphans, poor, slaves).

a.       In Mecca: Abyssinian Christians, Arabicized Jews, polytheistic Bedouins, others.

Early History: Life of Muhammad (570-632 C.E.)

1.      Born into Hashim clan of Quraysh tribe (dominant and wealthy in Mecca); Father died before his birth, mother died when M was 6.  Grandfather died 2 years later, uncle Abu-Talib

a.       Married at 25 to Khadija, devoted to her

b.      Muslim biographers’ portrayal: Deeply troubled as youth.  Orphan, doesn’t fit.  Looking for values other than wealth and power, unsatisfied with Bedouin religion, trying to transcend tribal differences

c.       Began going into caves in mountainside for solitary meditation. Sat for hours

                                                   i.      40 yrs old, early revelations - ceased, self-doubt - began again

                                                 ii.      Continued for 20 yrs: uncontrolled, oblivious, left will verbal messages

                                                iii.      Angel of revelation: Gabriel (jabril)

                                               iv.      Collected in the Qur'an

2.      After much time, M told to warn people of Mecca, tell them of good news

a.       “O you wrapped in your cloak, arise and warn!"

b.      Time is running out, divine judgment about to descend upon people.

Medina and Mecca

1.      M was Commanded to "arise and warn people" > preaching

a.       Undermined economic and religious power of Quraysh clan

b.      Opposition: could not assassinate; protected by his clan, Abu-Talib.  Tried to buy him off, torture slaves, commercial boycott

2.      Wife and uncle die > unprotected > alliance with people of (Yathrib) Medina.

a.       Flight to Medina (hijra, now 1st day of lunar year), 250 miles north of Mecca

b.      Growing community of Islam, based on common faith > government, economy, army

c.       Raids against Meccan caravans (623), decisive battle (624)

d.      First holy war (jihad), just war: demonstrating God's sovereignty, irresistible power > expand. Influence

                                                   i.      Definition of jihad = ‘struggle,’ such as individual’s struggle in the path of God and in the example of the prophet.  Difficulties and complexities of a good life.  Fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, creating a just society.

                                                 ii.      “Lesser jihad:: military conflict.  Under specific circumstances, not meant to be the aggressor, no justification of forced conversion

                                                iii.      Win Mecca by diplomacy: pilgrimage to Mecca = service to God; purge pre-Islamic, polytheistic symbols and reinterpret every aspect.





  1. Islam
  2. Muslim
  3. Abu-Talib
  4. Khadija
  5. Mecca
  6. Medina
  7. Hijra
  8. Jihad