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.

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.