This is part of the Medieval European History Metanode.

Before Mohammad, Arabia was inhabited by Bedouins; Mecca was a religious and commercial center. Arabs were polytheists, and they worshipped a black meteorite in a Ka'aba at Mecca.

Mohammad was born in 571 to a middle-class family. He traveled with a caravan, so he had contact with Christianity and Judaism. In 610, Mohammad was sitting in a cave, and the angel Gabriel gave him a message from Allah. He was commanded to write down all of his visions. He did so, and by 615, he had developed a very strict monotheism. He tried to convert the residents of Mecca, but he did not succeed. He was forced to flee Mecca on 16 July 622 becuase of an assassination attempt; this is known as the Hijrah, or the beginning of Islam.

Mohammad fled to Medina, where he was more successful in finding converts. He appealed to the Jews, and acknowledged the Old and New Testaments as coming from Allah. When the local Christians and Jews rejected him, he changed the direction of his prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, marking the beginning of a truly new relgion.

Mohammad and his followers began to hijack caravans, and he distributed the booty equally among his followers; word of this spread, and the number of followers increased dramatically. By 627, Mohammad had driven the Jews out of Medina and converted those who stayed. The Bedouin became keenly interested in this new religion; they saw its potential to united Arabia. In 630, Mohammad marched with an army back to Mecca, and the Meccans surrendered without a fight. He became a religious and political ruler, imposing Islam on his subjects. He also made the Ka'aba in which the meteorite was housed into an object of worship for Moslems; he said it had been built by Abraham and sent by Allah as a symbol of revelation to Mohammad.

The basic duties of Moslems are summed up in the five pillars of Islam. Mohammad's writings are compiled in the Qur'an, which most Moslems agree should be read only in Arabic. He also instituted the idea of the Jihad. Moselms were to convert the entire world, and warfare was an effective means to that end; those who resist conversion could be killed. The incentive to warriors was that, if they died in battle, they went to the highest heaven, a very sensual place. The promise of plunder, combined with the idea of eternal reward, led to many Jihads in the next few centuries, mostly in the Middle East and northern Africa.

When Mohammad died in 622, he did not name a successor and left no sons. His advisors took over, and the next four leaders of Islam are known as the Four Caliphs. Abu Bakr was the first; he was Mohammad's father-in-law, and he laid foundations for future Jihads by organzing the Bedoiun tribes. Umar was next, and he invaded Persia, Syria, Egypt, and northern Africa. After him came Uthman, who conquered even more territory and developed a navy based in Alexandria. He was murdered by Ali, the next Caliph. Ali was the leader of the Shi'ites, and was Mohammad's adopted son. The Shi'ites believe that the other three Caliphs were illegitimate, as opposed to the Sunni Moslems, the sect that includes most Moslems and believes all Four Caliphs to be legitimate. The Moslems caused many problems for Europeans during the Middle Ages, and they were plagued by Europeans as well during the Crusades.

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Jaez: Okay, first of all, I'm not a "guy." Don't go around assuming things like that. "Sue" is a woman's name, after all. Second of all, don't argue semantics with a confirmed post-modernist. Words are power. Words mean what people want them to mean. Some Muslims use the word jihad to mean one thing, and others use it to mean another. Who are we to decide which is "correct"? Lastly (sigh), I don't hate Muslims. I don't think they are thieves or brigands or evil people. I'm sure some of them are, the same way I'm sure some Christians and some Jews and some Buddhists and Sikhs and Hindus and Zoroastrians are.
    From where SueZVudu ended off : the Fourth Caliph (Khalîf) rose to power in spite of great protest as people saw him as more scholar and poet than a political leader and his supporters the Shî'a (partisans) were suddenly pitched in civil war with the more orthodox Sunni ('Followers of the Path'). This led the schism and splinter of Islam, and those two groups quickly divided into still smaller sectarian groups. The Shî'a believed the new Imam was himself divine, and that the soul of the Prophet Muhammed passed through each (much like the Pope of the Catholic Church is considered infallible). One of the key tools in the growth of Isma'îlianism (a branch of the Shî'a) who followed the line of the seventh Imam (and so were also called 'Seveners') was the use of their devotees (fid'is) to convert or eliminate opponents as a final act of dedication to the grand master. The Syrian term for the followers was the hashshashin, or hashish takers, and when the Crusaders stumbled into their territory in the Levant, that term was taken as assassin, who were soon feared throughout the Middle East and beyond for their silence and severity.
    In order to survive the reprisals of their sworn enemies, the Isma'îlî began the practice of taqîya (the ritual concealment of belief as religious practice)1 which by the 10th c. was considered obligatory along most trade routes, pilgram paths and cities in the Arab world. As Burton later explains it was 'the systematic concealment of anything that concerns their faith, history and customs', and this was practiced to the point of art among the Sunnis. However the peace of this polite compromise of concealment did not last. By the 13th c., the Holoku Khan, a Moslem mongol prince, declared open war upon the Shî'a heresy and his armies overran the Fida'is fortresses in Persia. The Central Isma'îlî stronghold at Alamüt was captured and some 12,000 slaughtered. The Seveners in Syria were likewise hunted and exterminated out of fear of their unseen practices and revenge. The struggle between these two groups within Islam continues unabated today.2 The Iran - Iraq War of the 1980s were fought along these same lines of doctrine (though again, religious rhetoric often conceals a more profane, political motive, as with every conflict).
Sources:
1. The challenge of fundamentalism : political Islam and the new world disorder / Bassam Tibi Berkeley : University of California Press, 1998.
2. Muslim kingship : power and the sacred in Muslim, Christian and pagan polities / Aziz Al-Azmeh. London ; New York : I.B. Tauris, 1997.

Notes:
1 Would that the frighteningly devout fundamentalist movements today (of all creeds) had the foresight, grace and general social manners to do the same, and not be so painfully obvious. Clearly 10th century Arabia was a uniquely civilized time.
2 Like the Catholics & Protestants in Northern Ireland, or the orthodox and liberal Sikhs in Southeast Asia, these religious splits begin largely over politics rather than doctrine, and only acquire a theological tone after some time (usually as a pretext to further violence).
"The basic duties of Moslems are summed up in the five pillars of Islam. Mohammad's writings are compiled in the Qur'an, which most Moslems agree should be read only in Arabic. He also instituted the idea of the Jihad, or Holy War. Moselms were to convert the entire world, and warfare was an effective means to that end; those who resist conversion could be killed. The incentive to warriors was that, if they died in battle, they went to the highest heaven, a very sensual place. The promise of plunder, combined with the idea of eternal reward, led to many Jihads in the next few centuries, mostly in the Middle East and northern Africa."

What a load of horse crap. As a muslim I find the idea of Jihad as represented here appalling. The guy obviously didn't do his research, and has a pathetic knowledge of Islamic history at best. Sheesh.

The purpose of Jihad has never been, and never will be conversion. Islam is the only religion on the planet that has ever acknowledged that other religions might be valid in their worship of God. Jihad was originally used as a spiritual method to struggle against the temptations of everyday life, and later, as a struggle against oppressive forces in the outside world. My goodness, the above write up makes muslims sound like a bunch of thieves, liars, and fanatics, all of which we reject totally. I will write a more complete node with a DECENT version of islamic history taken from reliable sources later, but for now, shame on you two! Read up on muslims, jihad, and other islamic things else where...!


Here is the promised re-writeup:

Before Mohammad, Arabia was inhabited by Bedouins; Mecca was a religious and commercial center. Arabs were polytheists, and they worshipped a host of idols in the Ka'aba at Mecca. They had a number of unsavoury habits such as continual tribal warfare, and the burying alive of unwanted infant girls.

Mohammad was born in 571 to a middle-class family. He was known as Al-Ameen, "the trustworthy" because of his spotless reputation. He was illiterate. He traveled with many caravans as an administrator whose responsibility was to see that the caravan arrived safely and with all goods intact. In 610, Mohammad was sitting in a cave, and the angel Gabriel gave him a message from Allah. He was commanded to memorize all of his visions, as he was illiterate he could not write them down. He did so, and after reluctantly revealing his experiences to his wife Khadijah, he began to gain followers by the force and quality of the words he recited. By 615, he had developed a large following in Mecca. His basic message was one of tolerance, kindness, belief in one god, respect for morality above and beyond tribal links, and prayer. As the ranks of his followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes, especially the Quraysh his own tribe whose responsibility it was to look after the Kaba, which at this time was home to the several thousand idols that people worshipped as gods. As Mohammed preached against this pantheon he became deeply unpopular with the rulers and his followers suffered from repeated attacks to person and property. Eventually there was an assassination attempt. He was forced to flee Mecca on 16 July 622 ; this is known as the Hijrah, and it is the date that marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Mohammad went to Medina, and the time known as Yathrib where he was invited to become ruler of the town by a large group of residents. He declared a welfare state, collected taxes for the needy, organised town defences against numerous raiding parties from Mecca and beyond, and agreed numerous trade agreements. He built mosques, and established a religous culture based on personal respect for other religions (the town also contained Christians and Jews).

After the repeated raid attempts on the town, Mohammad and his followers began to raid the raiders' caravans, in retaliation and he distributed the treasure equally amongst his followers. By 627, Mohammad had united Medina under Islam with protected privileges for the Jews and Christians who lived there. Word of the new religion, with the peace and prosperity it brought spread by trade. The Bedouin became keenly interested in this new religion; they saw its potential to bring peace and plenty to their wandering tribes, and after much negotiation they became allies with Mohammed and after much contact with the town and muslims they gradually converted. At this stage the revelations that had been coming to Mohammed were almost complete, and he was told that he was to return to Mecca and reclaim the Kaba. With negotiation and assent of the elders of the Quraysh he made an unarmed pilgrimage to the Kaba. This continued for a while but then the agreement broke down, and war was declared. But there was no bloodshed.In 630, 20 years after being forced to flee, Mohammad marched with an army of 10,000 followers back to Mecca, and the Meccans surrendered without a fight. He became a religious and political leader of the city. He destroyed all the idols in the Kaba, and gave a general amnesty to all his enemies in the town.

The basic duties of Muslims are summed up in the five pillars of Islam. These are Shahada, Salah, Zakat, Ramadan and Hajj. OR in english: The Creed, Prayer, Alms-Giving, Month of Fasting, and Pilgrimage to Mecca. The Quran, Allah's revelation to humanity was memorized by his followers and written down during his lifetime. It is believed to be the word of God, sacred and unalterable. As such only the original arabic version of it is regarded as the Quran and translations are seen as poor shadows of the original's meaning. He also instituted the idea of the Jihad, or Holy War. The struggle with one's self for mastery of the soul, and the struggle with the world to achieve justice and lasting peace in the face of oppresion and suffering. If a person dies in the middle of Jihad, he is sent to heaven straight away, which is a great incentive to do good no matter what other people say.

When Mohammad died in 622, he did not name a successor and left no sons. His advisors took over, and the next four leaders of Islam are known as the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs. Abu Bakr was the first as he was the oldest and seen as the wisest; he was Mohammad's father-in-law, and he laid foundations for the years ahead uniting the tribes of Arabia under Islam.. Umar was next, and he conquered Persia, Syria, Egypt, and northern Africa. After him came Uthman, who conquered even more territory and developed a navy based in Alexandria. Within three generations the muslims had gone from being a group of wandering camel-herders to being in charge of the largest empire the world has ever known. When Uthman died, Ali became Caliph. Ali was a descendant of Mohammed and there were people who believed that he should have been the first Caliph because of his relation with the prophet. This was rejected by the majority of Muslims who said that the best person for the task of leader should be chosen. Anyway his supporters were known as Shi'a ul Ali, (of Party of Ali) or Shi'a for short. The Shi'a believe that the other three Caliphs were illegitimate because they were unrelated to the prophet. Both sides agreed that this was only a political difference and worhip side by side without difficulty even in present day. .

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