Muhammad Receives Revelations Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Muḥammad, a Meccan merchant, had visions in which God commanded him to preach. Muḥammad considered himself chosen by God to be Prophet to the Arabs. The Qurān, the holy Islamic text in which Muḥammad’s teachings are collected, reveals the word of God, or Allah.

Summary of Event

Muḥammad was the son of ՙAbd Allāh ibn ՙAbd al-Muṭṭalib, who died shortly after Muḥammad’s birth, and his wife, Āminah bint Wahb, but was raised by his uncle, Abū Ṭālib Abū Ṭālib . When Muḥammad was about twenty-five, he married Khadīja Khadīja (Muḥammad’s wife) , a merchant who had inherited her father’s business and wealth. [kw]Muḥammad Receives Revelations (c. 610-632) [kw]Revelations, Muḥammad Receives (c. 610-632) Muḥammad (the Prophet) Islam Arabia;c. 610-632: Muḥammad Receives Revelations[0280] Religion;c. 610-632: Muḥammad Receives Revelations[0280] Muḥammad Khadēja Fāṭimah ՙAlē Abū Bakr Abū Ṭālib

In the year 610, Muḥammad had a vision, the first of many revelations that came to him during the next two decades. In this first vision, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him in the desert north of Mecca. Gabriel, according to Judeo-Christian tradition, had appeared earlier to Daniel and Zacharias as well as to the Virgin Mary in the Annunciation. Before Muḥammad, the Arab world had no prophet comparable to the Judeo-Christian prophets Adam, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. In this first revelation, Muḥammad concluded that God was commanding him to preach to the Arabs. He considered himself the Prophet of the true religion. It was this first revelation that marked the beginning of Islam, from the Arabic word Islam, Muslims, Mosques, meaning “submission to” or “having peace with God.” Islam contends that there is one god, Allah, and that Muḥammad is his Prophet.

The new religion originally was rejected by most Arabs. Muḥammad was shunned by a people—mostly nomadic Bedouins Religion;Bedouins Bedouins;religion —who for centuries had believed in jinn (plural jinni, also rendered jin, djin, and djinn), hidden or mysterious creatures. They had for many centuries attributed various inscrutable events to the jinni. Muḥammad’s teaching that there is but one God to whom all people must submit alienated most Arabs. They felt so strongly about Muḥammad’s teachings that, in the summer of 622, some of them plotted to kill him. Learning of this plot, Muḥammad fled to Yathrib, the only place where his teachings had enjoyed a degree of acceptance. At that time, Muḥammad’s major followers were Khadīja, Khadīja’s daughter Fāṭimah Fāṭimah and her husband ՙAlī ՙAlī (fourth Islamic caliph) , and Abū Bakr Abū Bakr (first Islamic caliph) .

People in Mecca were troubled particularly because the city received substantial income from pilgrims to its renowned shrine, the Kaaba. They feared that the introduction of Muḥammad’s beliefs would threaten the Kaaba’s appeal and would substantially affect one of the city’s major sources of income. The plot to kill Muḥammad most likely was hatched more for financial than religious reasons.

Muḥammad preached that the nations of the world had been punished for disobedience to Allah, the creator of all things, who expected humans to manage his creations, and for their worship of false deities. Early Arabs, who had experienced sandstorms, earthquakes, and plagues, attributed such natural phenomena to the vengeance of their jinni or, as Islam developed, to a displeased Allah. A follower of Islam, a knower of God, is called a Muslim, which in Arabic means “one who submits.”

The religion Muḥammad established through his revelations contained a strict system of rewards and punishments. It clung to the notion that at the end of the world, the dead would be resurrected and judged according to their past deeds. They would be dispatched to heaven or hell according to Allah’s final judgments. Those who had lived according to Islamic principles were promised an afterlife of unimaginable joy and splendor, earned through their earlier behavior. Soldiers of Islam who protected and promoted the faith through jihad Jihad (holy war) received unique benefits after they died. Those unworthy of such posthumous rewards would suffer eternal and excruciating punishment in a terrifying underworld. Muḥammad foresaw through revelation that the world would come to an end with a final judgment. The just would be rewarded, the unjust punished.

Muḥammad, like most people during his lifetime, was probably illiterate. As his revelations proliferated, news of the principles of Islam that resulted from these revelations circulated orally among Arabs. Shortly after Muḥammad’s death, however, his followers collected his pronouncements in a book they called the Qur՚ān Qur՚ān[Quran] (also known as the Koran). It became and remains the holy text of Islam.

Muḥammad, through the revelations he received, established the five fundamental pillars of Islam Pillars of Islam, five fundamental (arkan al-Islam). They are Shahadah, the belief that Allah is the one and only God; al-salat, the daily ritual of five prayers recited at specified hours as Muslims prostrate themselves facing Mecca; al-zakah, or charitable giving; al-sawm, fasting during Ramadan; and al-hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca expected of all Muslims at least once in their lifetimes.

Although followers of Islam are expected to make at least one trip to Mecca Mecca;pilgrimages to before they die, many make such pilgrimages year after year. Fasting takes place during Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, when Muslims are expected to refrain every day for the entire month from eating between sunrise and sunset. The specified times at which Muslims pray are dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after darkness has fallen. In Arab countries, calls to prayer are broadcast in the streets through loudspeakers.

Muslim leaders (caliphs) are both religious and social leaders. They do not actively proselytize. They do, however, focus on influencing society morally and politically. In the Arab world, where Islam is most prevalent, the Qur՚ān is essentially the law of the land. Islam, more than any other world religion, is a religion of the book. It regards the Qur՚ān as the word of God as dictated through revelations to Muḥammad, his earthly representative and his Prophet. Although Islam does not repudiate the teachings of Moses or Jesus, both of whom it considers prophets, it regards the Qur՚ān as the revision, correction, and completion of all religious documents that preceded it, including the Torah and the Bible.

Islam distinguishes clearly between creatures and the Creator. The role of the Muslim is to worship and venerate Allah. Muslims do not come to Allah requesting favors. Rather, they pray to Allah in a spirit of adoration and thanksgiving for all that he, as the Creator, has provided for them. They do not question the veracity of what Muḥammad has revealed through his revelations. They regard revelation to be statements of Allah’s will rather than Allah’s disclosure about himself. Shortly after the Qur՚ān was transformed into written form, it was supplemented by the Sunna or sayings and deeds of Muḥammad, brought together as the Hadith Hadith . Branches of Islam, such as the Sunni, the Shīՙite, and Sufism, interpret the Qur՚ān differently and are often at odds with each other.

Significance

Although it was the last of the world’s three great religions to develop, Islam has had an enormous impact on the world, particularly in the Middle East, in North Africa, and in such countries as Albania, Turkey, Russia, and Indonesia. It is the majority religion in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco. Each of these countries varies in how strictly it observes the dictates of the Qur՚ān.

In 1990, there were an estimated 935 million Muslims in the world, with few in the Americas but with large concentrations in the countries of the Middle East, Asia, North Africa, and parts of northeast Europe. The religion has grown since 1990. The number of practicing Muslims was reported to be 1.1 billion when the new millennium dawned, with 804 billion in Asia and 307 billion in Africa.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. A carefully researched comparative study of the world’s three major religions. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Esposito, John L., ed. The Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. This reader-friendly, comprehensive resource is valuable for those who wish to look up specific information about aspects of Islam. Chronology, bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Esposito, John L.. What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. A lucid explanation of Islam geared to the general reader. The short section on the origin of Islam is particularly relevant. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Glubb, John Bagot. The Life and Times of Muḥammad. 1970. Reprint. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001. This sympathetic work by a British writer, who for some time was the commander of the Arab Legion in Jordan, is of interest partly for its depiction of Arabian life and customs and for its reconstruction of desert battles. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Green, Joey, ed. Jesus and Muḥammad: The Parallel Sayings. Berkeley, Calif.: Seastone, 2003. This text presents quotations from the New Testament and the Qur՚ān that demonstrate similarities between Christianity’s core values and the tenets of Islam. Topics include love, God, jihad, faith, wisdom, law, and charity. Bibliography and an index of quotations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rogerson, Barnaby. The Prophet Muḥammad: A Biography. London: Little, Brown, 2003. Presents a biographical account of the life of Muḥammad. Chapters discuss his early life, the cities of Mecca and Medina, Arabia, his first revelations, and more. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Rubin, Uri, ed. The Life of Muḥammad. Brookfield, Vt.: Ashgate, 1998. A comprehensive account of the Prophet from a variety of perspectives, exploring the social, political, and religious angles of his life. Part of the Formation of the Classical Islamic World series. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Waardenburg, Jacques. Islam: Historical, Social, and Political Perspectives. New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2002. Places Islam in historical, social, and political context, revealing its continuing social impact worldwide. Bibliography, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wadud, Amina. Qur՚ān and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. The author’s unique reading of the Qur՚ān sheds light on the role of women and relations between women and men presented in the book of Islam. Chapters explore the biases of earlier interpretations and its effects on tradition and Islamic culture and society, equality between men and women, and more. Includes a list of women mentioned in the Qur՚ān, a bibliography, and an index.

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