The Birth of Islam (610 AD)

 Most historians believe that Islam originated in Mecca and Medina at the start of the 7th century CE, Muslims, however, believe that it did not start with Muhammad, but that it was the original faith of prophets, such as Jesus, David, Moses, Abraham, Noah and Adam.

Painting of Muhammad

Image source: http://daralahadith.blogspot.com/

In 610 CE, Muhammad began receiving what Muslims consider to be divine revelations. Muhammad’s message won over a handful of followers and was met with increasing opposition from Meccan notables. In 622, a few years after losing protection with the death of his influential uncle Abu Talib, Muhammad migrated to the city of Yathrib (now known as Medina). With Muhammad’s death in 632, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community.


Muhammad, the last prophet

Mohammad, Michel Baudier

Image source: http://archive.jns.org/news-briefs/

Born in Mecca, in western Arabia, Muhammad (ca. 570–632), last in the line of Judeo-Christian prophets, received his first revelation in 610. Muslims believe that the word of God was revealed to him by the archangel Gabriel in Arabic, who said, “Recite in the name of thy Lord …” (Sura 96). These revelations were subsequently collected and codified as the Qur’an (literally “recitation” in Arabic), the Muslim holy book. As the source of Muslim faith and practice, the Qur’an describes the relationship between an almighty and all-knowing God and his creations. The Qur’an also maintains that all individuals are responsible for their actions, for which they will be judged by God, and so it provides guidelines for proper behavior within the framework of a just and equitable society.

Where do the resources come from?

The study of the earliest periods in Islamic history is made difficult by a lack of sources. For example, the most important historiographical source for the origins of Islam is the work of al-Tabari. While al-Tabari was an excellent historian by the standards of his time and place, use of his work as a source is problematic for two reasons. For one, his style of historical writing permitted liberal use of mythical, legendary, stereotyped, distorted, and polemical presentations of its subject matter. Second, al-Tabari’s descriptions of the beginning of Islam post-date the events by a large amount of time, al-Tabari having died in 923.

Painting of Mohammad, 13th-century Persian manuscript

Image source: http://www.zombietime.com/

how to deal with the available sources has led to the development of four different approaches to the history of early Islam. All four methods have some level of support today. Nowadays, the popularity of the different methods employed varies on the scope of the works under consideration. For overview treatments of the history of early Islam, the descriptive approach is more popular. For scholars who look at the beginnings of Islam in depth, the source critical and tradition critical methods are more often followed.

The Islam origins

Islam arose within the context of Late Antiquity. The second half of the sixth century saw political disorder in Arabia, and communication routes were no longer secure. Religious divisions played an important role in the crisis. Judaism became the dominant religion of the Himyarite Kingdom in Yemen after about 380, while Christianity took root in the Persian Gulf. While much of Arabia remained polytheistic, in line with broader trends of the age there was yearning for a more spiritual form of religion. Many were reluctant to convert to a foreign faith, but those faiths provided intellectual and spiritual reference points, and Jewish and Christian loanwords from Aramaic began to replace the old pagan vocabulary of Arabic throughout the peninsula. On the eve of the Islamic era, the Quraysh was the chief tribe of Mecca and a dominant force in western Arabia.

Muhammad timeline

Image source: https://historyoftopfivereligions.wordpress.com/

 

According to tradition, the Islamic prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca around the year 570. His family belonged to the Quraysh. When he was about forty years old he began receiving what Muslims regard as divine revelations delivered through the angel Gabriel, which would later form the Quran. These inspirations enjoined him to proclaim a strict monotheistic faith, to warn his compatriots of the impending Judgement Day, and to castigate social injustices of his city. Muhammad’s message won over a handful of followers and was met with increasing opposition from notables of Mecca. In 622, a few years after losing protection with the death of his influential uncle Abu Talib, Muhammad migrated to the city of Yathrib (subsequently called Medina) where he was joined by his followers. Later generations would count this event, known as the hijra, as the start of the Islamic era.

After Muhammad death: the four Caliphs

After Muhammad died, a series of four Caliphs governed the Islamic state: Abu Bakr (632–634), Umar ibn al-Khattab (Umar І, 634–644), Uthman ibn Affan, (644–656), and Ali ibn Abi Talib (656–661). These leaders are known as the “Rashidun” or “rightly guided” Caliphs in Sunni Islam. They oversaw the initial phase of the Muslim conquests, advancing through Persia, Levant, Egypt, and North Africa.

Muhammad and the four caliphs

Image source: https://www.bradford-delong.com/

Islamic art

Islamic art encompasses the visual arts produced in the Islamic world. It comprises both religious and secular art forms. Religious art is represented by calligraphy, architecture and furnishings of religious buildings, such as mosque fittings, woodwork and carpets. Early development of Islamic art was influenced by Roman art, Early Christian art (particularly Byzantine art), and Sassanian art, with later influences from Central Asian nomadic traditions. Chinese art had a formative influence on Islamic painting, pottery, and textiles. Though the concept of “Islamic art” has been criticised by some modern art historians as an illusory Eurocentric construct, the similarities between art produced at widely different times and places in the Islamic world, especially in the Islamic Golden Age, have been sufficient to keep the term in wide use by scholars.

Shaikh Zada, Bahram Gur in the Turquoise Palace on Wednesday, 1524

Image sources: https://www.metmuseum.org/

Islamic art is often characterized by recurrent motifs, such as the use of geometrical floral or vegetal designs in a repetition known as the arabesque. The arabesque in Islamic art is often used to symbolize the transcendent, indivisible and infinite nature of God. Mistakes in repetitions may be intentionally introduced as a show of humility by artists who believe only God can produce perfection, although this theory is disputed.

Calligraphy

Courtyard of the Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Calligraphic design is omnipresent in Islamic art, where, as in Europe in the Middle Ages, religious exhortations may be included in secular objects, especially coins, tiles and metalwork, and most painted miniatures include some script, as do many buildings. Use of Islamic calligraphy in architecture extended significantly outside of Islamic territories. Two of the main scripts involved are the symbolic kufic and naskh scripts, which can be found adorning and enhancing the visual appeal of the walls and domes of buildings, the sides of minbars, and metalwork. Islamic calligraphy in the form of painting or sculptures are sometimes referred to as quranic art.


Info sources: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/isla/hd_isla.htm             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Islam                                                        https://www.islamicity.org/8017/the-birth-of-islam/                                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_art

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