in 610 C.E on a night refered to by Muslim as the “Night of power and Excellence”,an arabian called muhammad(a meccan business man heard a voice commanding him to “recite”.
This voice was the Angel Gabriel who communicated the word of God (Allah) to the Prophet Muhammad over a period of 22 years. This recital from Allah was recorded and is the Muslim Holy Scripture called the Qur’an. Muhammad is considered by Muslims to be God’s human instrument (in receiving and reporting his revelations) and the model or ideal for all believers (some refer to it as the “living Qur’an”). Muhammad’s wife Khadija is the first Muslim convert.
Muhammad’s new religious message proved threatening to the existing polytheistic, Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian religions present in Arabia at the time. Muhammad preached social justice for the poor and most vulnerable of society (women, children, and orphans). He summoned the people of Arabia to strive and struggle (jihad) to improve and change their communities – to live a life based on religious belief and not on tribal loyalties.
He stayed in Mecca for until 622 C.E. when, faced with more and more pressure and threats, Muhammad and 200 of his followers moved to the town of Medina. This move is referred to by Muslims as the hijra. This move or hijra is seen as significant and marks the first year of the Muslim calendar and the creation of the first Islamic community. The move to Medina marked a time when the Muslim community fortunes improved.
As the Muslim society grew and developed, the conflict with Mecca continued with several battles. The conclusive battle proved to be the “Battle of the Ditch” (627 C.E.) which resulted in a power shift in favour of Muhammad. In 628 C.E., a truce was made between the warring factions and gained the right to make pilgrimages. Ultimately this lead to Muhammad establishing a very strong leadership in Medina and his followers conquered Mecca and consolidated Muslim rule over the rest of Arabia through both diplomacy and military means.
The Prophet Muhammad died in Medina in 632 C.E., not long after the Arab Islamic state was established. After his death a series of Caliphs (designated successors to Muhammad) emerged as political leaders and defenders of the faith.
Much later in the development of Islam, it split into two major movements – Sunni (orthodox) and Shiite.
Sunni Muslims placed emphasis on fundamentals. Sunni Muslims did not attempt to achieve unanimity of questions of doctrine; they opted for a broadly accepted set of theological principles. Due to this acceptance of broad theological principles the Sunni Muslims of today are culturally and religiously diverse. The Sunni Muslims account for 90% of the Muslims in the world today.
Shiite Muslims is the only distinct major sect other than Sunni to have survived today. Shiite Muslims place a large emphasis on the role of religious leaders. This sect developed as a political faction rather than a religious movement during bitter internal disputes during the seventh century. The Shiite’s view of early Islamic history varies greatly from the Sunni Version. Sunnis accept the first four caliphs as legitimate successors to Muhammad; Shiites do not. For Shiite Muslims, how human leadership is carried out in the faith is fundamental, they accept a doctrine relayed by a figure called the Imam (a figure also recognised by the Sunni). An Imam is a learned scholar of the Qur’an (not clergyman). Shiite Islam is the Official religion of Iran, and is the form of worship practice by communities of believers in India, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas, it accounts for roughly 10% of the Muslim Community today.