Islamic teaching maintains that Mohammed is the direct descendant of Abraham through Ishmael. He is the Last Prophet; with him the “cast” is broken. Some Muslims believe an Imam, Mahdi, will come back to save the world after Jesus defeats al Dajja, the anti-Christ. Muslims call themselves “People of the Book” to be included with the Jews and the Christians as the descendants of Abraham, followers of One God. Muslims believe that Jesus - born in the desert under a date tree that bent over to feed his mother - accomplished great deeds but they do not believe that he was the “Son of God", or that he was crucified.
Mohammed was a trustworthy worker and noticed by a wealthy widow, Khadijah, who hired him to take her caravans to Syria. Though she was fifteen years older they married and had a happy, monogamist life for twenty-five years until she died. Most likely the long silent journeys across the desert and meeting people from different cultures gave him the opportunity to widen his horizons and think things through. He was unable to accept the religion of the Arab culture populated with numerous gods and had come to the conclusion that there could be only one God.
According to legend Mohammed was in the habit of going up a mountain to meditate when one day the Angel Gabriel, after presenting himself, told him God had a message. Terrified, he ran down, with the angel at his heels, to his wife. She said there was only one way to find out if the vision was truly angelic or demonic. She bared her breasts and took her husband in her arms. Gabriel turned his head, and they were reassured. Mohammed went to the mountain regularly where he was told to keep his people, the Arab tribes, from adoring idles. Later his visions would come at odd moments. He took his task to heart and was relentless. He would not let folks alone and interrupted their prayers. A group of people found his words made sense and followed Mohammed to Medina after the citizens of Mecca sent him packing in 622.
In Medina the Jewish community wasn’t too thrilled to see him but he stayed, and regrouped. In 630 he set out for Mecca with ten thousand soldiers, having allied with various nomadic tribes. He stopped the last night just west of the city and, to make it look like the Muslim army had more soldiers, told all the men to light a fire. The next day he told them not to attack unless attacked. The strategy was to advance from all sides, for several reasons: to scatter the soldiers defending Mecca, to have a backup plan in case one side was not successful, and to keep the Quresh from fleeing. A small band of Quresh radical anti-Muslims started a skirmish but it was short-lived, twelve Quresh were killed in the clash. The Muslims occupied Mecca with two casualties. Islam became the official religion.
Mohammed died in 632 and though it was agreed that lineage should not be the automatic choice as leader, one side insisted that Mohammed had chosen his nephew Ali, whom he had adopted after his brother died. One day he allegedly put the child on his shoulders and said something like “this boy is the future of Islam.” He could have said the same thing about any child but many took this to be one of several indications that Ali was the chosen one. The other side believed the Prophet would have made it known officially to avoid litigation.
It was finally decided that Abu Bakr, the father of Mohammed’s wife Aisha, should be the first calif. The elders had not been impressed with Ali's answers when questioned on his ability to lead. Ali seemed to have accepted the decision because of his young age and inexperience, but he was intelligent and it didn’t sit well with people who thought he was the Prophet's first choice. Abu Bakr was assassinated two years later. It doesn't look like the intense disputes between Sunni and Chiite were instigated by the core group of calif close to Mohammed. It looks more like their followers were the perpetrators.
Aisha was married to Mohammed at a very young age and became the Prophet's close friend. After his death she continued to advance her husband's reforms, emphasizing cleanliness and a healthy lifestyle by observing the rules of Islam, and advised the first four calf in assembling the original Hadith.
The observance of Muslim prayers is an opportunity to be objective at regular intervals. The prayer actually begins while we cleanse the body, before assembling for the main discourse. The movements are in some ways similar to the Surya Namaskara (Salute to the Sun). They loosen and stretch ligaments down the back all the way to the toes that are turned under when kneeling, a sign of respect and humility so God can’t see the soles of our feet. The ritual ends standing, arms raised, relaxed. We turn our head to the right and to the left, and thank our angels. Fifteen minutes five times a day every day, a body stays clean and in shape.
The ritual of fasting to reach a higher state of awareness is practiced everywhere. Muslims fast one month a year from dawn to dusk, not even a drop of water, starting around ten years old. If not ready, well or pregnant one should not fast during Ramadan. The population, and above all the soldiers, had to be accustomed to deprivation and still perform. The lifetime discipline gave Muslim armies a huge advantage over their adversaries.
The word "Allah" comes from pre-Islamic culture to identify the creator-god over all the others.
Mohammed was born in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) in 570. His father died before his birth, and his mother shortly after. He was raised by his uncle from the Quraysh tribe.
Mohammad received his first revelation from God when he was forty through the Angel Gabriel. The revelations continued twenty-three years. They were assembled by the second and third calif and called the Qur'an, or The Recitation.
In 622 he and his followers moved to Medina, some 260 miles to the north. The date marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.