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Muhammad united the tribes of Arabia into a singular Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life. With Muhammad’s death, disagreement broke out over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s friend and collaborator. Others added their support and Abu Bakr was made the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad’s companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated the successor by Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm. Abu Bakr’s immediate task was to make an expedition against the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman Empire) forces because of the previous defeat, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an episode referred to by later Muslim historians as the Ridda wars, or “Wars of Apostasy”
The pre-Islamic Middle East was dominated by the Byzantine and Sassanian empires. The Roman-Persian Wars between the two had devastated the inhabitants, making the empires unpopular amongst local tribes. Furthermore, most Christian Churches in the lands to be conquered by Muslims such as Nestorians, Monophysites, Jacobites and Copts were under pressure from the Christian Orthodoxy who deemed them heretics. Within only a decade, Muslims conquered Mesopotamia and Persia, Roman Syria and Roman Egypt and established the Rashidun empire.
Early reforms under Islam
According to William Montgomery Watt, for Muhammad, religion was not a private and individual matter but rather “the total response of his personality to the total situation in which he found himself. He was responding [not only]â€¦ to the religious and intellectual aspects of the situation but also to the economic, social, and political pressures to which contemporary Mecca was subject. Bernard Lewis says that there are two important political traditions in Islam – one that views Muhammad as a statesman in Medina, and another that views him as a rebel in Mecca. He sees Islam itself as a type of revolution that greatly changed the societies into which the new religion was brought.
Historians generally agree that Islamic social reforms in areas such as social security, family structure, slavery and the rights of women and children improved on the status quo of Arab society. For example, according to Lewis, Islam “from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents”. Muhammad’s message transformed the society and moral order of life in the Arabian Peninsula through reorientation of society as regards to identity, world view, and the hierarchy of values. Economic reforms addressed the plight of the poor, which was becoming an issue in pre-Islamic Mecca. The Qur’an requires payment of an alms tax (zakat) for the benefit of the poor, and as Muhammad’s position grew in power he demanded that those tribes who wanted to ally with him implement the zakat in particular.HYPERLINK “#cite_note-167″
Muhammad and slavery
The Qur’an considers emancipation of a slave to be a highly meritorious deed, or as a condition of repentance for many sins. Therefore Muhammad was the owner of slaves, whom he bought usually to free, including concubines (although this claim is disputed) , a wetnurse, and one slave he bought, freed and adopted as his son (Zayd).
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See also: Islamic views of Muhammad, Naat, Depictions of Muhammad, Islamic music, Qawwali, Islamic view of miracles, and List of films about the Prophet Muhammad
TopkapÄ± Palace gate with Shahadah and his seal. The Muslim Profession of faith, the Shahadah, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad – “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger.”
Persian manuscript miniature depicting Muhammad, from Rashid-al-Din Hamadani’s Jami al-Tawarikh, approximately 1315, illustrating the episode of the Black Stone.
Following the attestation to the oneness of God, the belief in Muhammad’s prophethood is the main aspect of the Islamic faith. Every Muslim proclaims in the Shahadah that “I testify that Muhammad is a messenger of Allah”. The Shahadah is the basic creed or tenet of Islam. Ideally, it is the first words a newborn will hear, and children are taught as soon as they are able to understand it and it will be recited when they die. Muslims must repeat the shahadah in the call to prayer (adhan) and the prayer itself. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.
Muslims have traditionally expressed love and veneration for Muhammad. Stories of Muhammad’s life, his intercession and of his miracles (particularly “Splitting of the moon”) have permeated popular Muslim thought and poetry. The Qur’an refers to Muhammad as “a mercy (rahmat) to the worlds” (Qur’an 21:107). The association of rain with mercy in Oriental countries has led to imagining Muhammad as a rain cloud dispensing blessings and stretching over lands, reviving the dead hearts, just as rain revives the seemingly dead earth (see, for example, the Sindhi poem of Shah Ê¿Abd al-Latif). MuhammadHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad’s_birthday”‘HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad’s_birthday”s birthday is celebrated as a major feast throughout the Islamic world, excluding Wahhabi-dominated Saudi Arabia where these public celebrations are discouraged. Muslims experience Muhammad as a living reality, believing in his ongoing significance to human beings as well as animals and plants. When Muslims say or write the name of Muhammad or any other prophet in Islam, they usually follow it with Peace be upon him (Arabic: sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam) like “Muhammad (Peace be upon him)”
According to the Qur’an, Muhammad is only the last of a series of Prophets sent by Allah for the benefit of mankind, and thus commands Muslims to make no distinction between them and to surrender to one God Allah. QurHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”‘HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”an 10:37-37 states that “…it (the Qur’an) is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book – wherein there is no doubt – from The Lord of the Worlds.”. Similarly QurHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”‘HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”an 46:12-12 states “…And before this was the book of Moses, as a guide and a mercy. And this Book confirms (it)…”, while QurHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”‘HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qur’an”an 2:136-136 commands the believers of Islam to “Say: we believe in God and that which is revealed unto us, and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.”
Historian Denis Gril believes that the Qur’an does not overtly describe Muhammad performing miracles, and the supreme miracle of Muhammad is finally identified with the Qur’an itselfHowever, Muslim tradition credits Muhammad with several supernatural events. For example, many Muslim commentators and some Western scholars have interpreted the Surah 54:1-2 as referring to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh when they began persecuting his followers.
European and Western views
Medieval Christian view of Muhammad
This illustration is taken from La vie de Mahomet, by M. Prideaux, published in 1699. It shows Muhammad holding a sword and a crescent while trampling on a globe, a cross, and the Ten Commandments (in contrast to this portrayal, the Ten Commandments are largely compatible with Islam).
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The Renaissance fresco in San Petronio Basilica illustrates the negative view of Islam held by Europeans in the middle ages. Muhammad is depicted being tortured in Hell.
The learned circles of Middle Ages Europe – primarily Latin-literate scholars – had fairly extensive, concrete biographical knowledge about the life of Muhammad, though they interpreted that information through a Christian religious lens that viewed Muhammad as a charlatan driven by ambition and eagerness for power, and who seduced the Saracens into his submission under a religious guise. Popular European literature of the time lacked even this knowledge, and portrayed Muhammad as though he were worshipped by Muslims in the manner of an idol or a heathen god Some medieval Christians believed he died in 666, alluding to the number of the beast, instead of his actual death date in 632 others changed his name from Muhammad to Mahound, the “devil incarnate” Bernard Lewis writes “The development of the concept of Mahound started with considering Muhammad as a kind of demon or false god worshipped with Apollyon and Termagant in an unholy trinity. A later medieval work, Livre dou Tresor represents Muhammad as a former monk and cardinal DanteHYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri”‘HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dante_Alighieri”s Divine Comedy (Canto XXVIII), puts Muhammad, together with Ali, in Hell “among the sowers of discord and the schismatics, being lacerated by devils again and again.
After the reformation, Muhammad was no longer viewed by Christians as a god or idol, but as a cunning, ambitious, and self-seeking impostor. Guillaume Postel was among the first to present a more positive view of Muhammad Boulainvilliers described Muhammad as a gifted political leader and a just lawmaker Gottfried Leibniz praised Muhammad because “he did not deviate from the natural religion” Thomas Carlyle defines Muhammed as “A silent great soul, one of that who cannot but be earnest”. Edward Gibbon in his book The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire observes that “the good sense of Mohammad despised the pomp of royalty.” Friedrich Martin von Bodenstedt (1851) described Muhammad as “an ominous destroyer and a prophet of murder. Later Western works, many of which, from the 18th century onward, distanced themselves from the polemical histories of earlier Christian authors. These more historically-oriented treatments, which generally reject the prophethood of Muhammad, are coloured by the Western philosophical and theological framework of their authors. Many of these studies reflect much historical research, and most pay more attention to human, social, economic, and political factors than to religious, theological, and spiritual matters.
It was not until the latter part of the 20th century that Western authors combined rigorous scholarship as understood in the modern West with empathy toward the subject at hand and, especially, awareness of the religious and spiritual realities involved in the study of the life of the founder of a major world religion According to Watt and Richard Bell, recent writers have generally dismissed the idea that Muhammad deliberately deceived his followers, arguing that Muhammad “was absolutely sincere and acted in complete good faith” Watt says that sincerity does not directly imply correctness: In contemporary terms, Muhammad might have mistaken his own subconscious for divine revelation. Watt and Lewis argue that viewing Muhammad as a self-seeking impostor makes it impossible to understand the development of Islam. Welch holds that Muhammad was able to be so influential and successful because of his firm belief in his vocation. Muhammad’s readiness to endure hardship for his cause when there seemed to be no rational basis for hope shows his sincerity.
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