The word Islam means "submission to God". The Holy Quran describes Islam as an Arabic word Deen (way of life). The followers of Islam are called Muslims. The literal meaning of Muslim is "one who surrenders" or "submits" to the will of God. In order to understand Islam, the basic portrayal of belief in Quran must be considered. According to Quran, those who submit to one God are Muslims. Aisha Y. Musa writes in his article, Jews in the Quran: An Introduction that, "Islam is the religion of all the prophets from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses, Jesus and Mohammad. (10:71-72, 84; 2:128-133; 5:110-112)." Quran also declares that all the prophets who came before Mohammad and their followers were all Muslims.
The origin of Islam dates back to the creation of the world. All the prophets who came to this world preached the same message of believing in one God and to accept them as His messenger. The prophets were also blessed with a manifestation of divine will or truth. Likewise, Prophet Mohammad was also a messenger of God. He revealed the truth and the way of life through the Holy Quran.
Before the birth of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him), the Arab society believed in multiple Gods. Although the Arabs believed in the unity of God, but they also claimed that God has entrusted His duties to various gods, goddesses and idols. For this purpose, they had more than 360 idols. They considered angels as the daughters of God. They were ignorant of social values. They were nomadic people who were dependent on cattle for their living. There was no government or law. All power existed with the rich. The society was full of barbarity and brutality. Tribes fought with each other over trivial matters for centuries. A slight argument over horses or water could lead to the slaughtering of thousands of innocent people.
It was the birth of Prophet Mohammad in 570 A.D in the city of Makkah which brought a revolution to the entire fate of the nomadic Arabs. He became famous among the people of Makkah at a very early age because of his allegiance and reliability. He was widely known as Al-Ameen (honest, trustworthy.)
At the age of 40, when Mohammad was meditating at Mt. Hera, he received a revelations from God. The angel Gabriel said to him, "Iqra" which means "to read". Mohammad replied "I cannot read". Gabriel embraced and released him. Then the first five verses of God was revealed to him which said, "Recite in the name of your Lord who created! He created man, out of a (mere) cloth of congealed blood. Recite; and thy Lord is most bountiful. He who had taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not." (96:1-5)
Mohammad started proclaiming the message of believing in one God. The people who once called him "Trustworthy" and "Honest" boycotted and plotted to kill him. In 622 A.D., due to worsening living conditions and social isolation, Prophet Mohammad migrated to Medina along with his followers. This flight was known as Hijrah and marks the beginning of the Muslims calendar. Mohammad's message spread rapidly and the number of followers increased in Medina. During the next few years, a series of battles were fought between various tribes of Makkah and the Muslims of Medina. In 628 A.D, the Treaty of Hudaibiyah was signed between the two parties. Truce was declared for 10 years. The treaty was broken in 629 A.D by the non-Muslims of the Makkans. Mohammad moved towards Makkah with 10,000 men and the battle was won without a single bloodshed. Mohmmad died in 632 A.D , at the age of 63 in the city of Medina. Mohammad's death brought a huge catastrophe among Muslims. People could not believe that Mohammad had left them forever. Many of the followers were perplexed and distraught, and claimed him to be still living. At that time Mohammad funeral, Abu Bakr, who was the most respected of all the followers affirmed that, "O people, those of you who worshipped Mohammad, Mohammad has died. And those of you who worshipped God, God is still living."
Abu Bakr was chosen as the first Caliph (leader). Before his death in 634 A.D., Umar ibn ul Khattab was appointed as his successor. During the ten years of his rule, Muslims conquered 22 hundreds thousands miles of area. Mesopotamia and parts of Persia were taken from the Sassanids Empire (Iranian Dynasty), and Egypt, Palestine, Syria, North Africa and Armenia from the Byzantine Empire. He was devoted and committed to his people and established an empire of peace, justice and dignity. The teachings of Islam started to spread through love. The principle of equality among all the people irrespective of race, color, caste, and creed won the hearts of the people. Within a few years, a lot of people accepted the message of Islam. By the tenth century, Islam dominated the half of the world known at that time.
Mohammad Ali writes in his article, "The condition of Arabs before the advent of the Holy Prophet and the Transformation He Wrought in Them," says that "From such debasing idolatry, the holy Prophet uplift the whole of Arabia in a brief span of twenty years . . . is not this the mightiest miracle that the world has ever witnessed ? . . . It was this fallen humanity whom the Holy prophet raised to the highest level of moral rectitude."
Mahatma Gandhi, in his unique style, says "Some one has said that Europeans in South Africa dread the advent Islam - Islam that civilized Spain, Islam that took the torch light to Morocco and preached to the world the Gospel of brotherhood. The Europeans of South Africa dread the Advent of Islam. They may claim equality with the white races. They may well dread it, if brotherhood is a sin. If it is equality of colored races then their dread is well founded."
Sarojini Naidu explains his point in Ideals of Islam by saying that "It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: 'God Alone is Great'... I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother."
Professor Hurgronje writes "the fact is that no nation of the world can show a parallel to what Islam has done towards the realization of the idea of the League of Nations ".
2009 Who is the real Alexander the Great? Jang News, January 1.
Rao ,K. S. Ramakrishna
1978 Mohammad the Prophet. Electronic Document, http://www.mesmarty.com/2008/11/islam-and-hazrat-muhammad-saww-in-the-eyes-of-non-muslim-scholars/, accessed January 6, 2009
Sahib, Mohammad Ali
The Condition of the Arabs Before the Advent of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and the Transformation He Wrought in Them. Electronic Document, http://aaiil.org/text/pbuh/art/others/arabcond.shtml#3, accessed January 6, 2009.
1918 Ideals of Islam, Madras, Video Speeches and Writing, p.169
1989 Jews in the Quran : An Introduction. Electronic Document,http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/jews_in_the_quran_an_introduction/, accessed January 6, 2009
Information taken from: (WWW.MNSU.EDU)