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7th Grade Social Studies / Lesson 7 - Rise of Islam

What will we be learning in this unit?
  • How did Muhammad become the prophet of Islam?
  • What are the teachings of Islam?
  • How did Islam help shape the way of life of its believers?


   The Prophet Muhammad
  • Islam emerged in the Arabian Peninsula, part of southwestern Asia. Its deserts and trade centers helped shape the early life of Muhammad. 
  • The Arabian Peninsula is mostly desert, but farming is possible through irrigation or in scattered oases. An oasis is a fertile area in a desert, watered by a natural well or spring.


The Prophet Muhammad
  • Many Arab clans occupied Arabia at the time of Muhammad. Nomadic herders, called Bedouins, used camels to cross the scorching desert in search of seasonal pasturelands. Raids for scarce grazing land led to frequent warfare. The Bedouins would form the backbone of the armies that conquered a huge empire in the 600s and 700s. Bedouins traded with other Arabs who had settled in oasis towns. One of these was Mecca.


The Prophet Muhammad
  • Mecca was a bustling market town at the crossroads of two main caravan routes. One route linked southern Arabia to Syria and Palestine on the Mediterranean coast. The other route crossed from Mesopotamia to eastern Africa. Mecca was also a thriving pilgrimage center. Arabs came to pray at the Kaaba, an ancient shrine that Muslims today believe was built by the prophet Abraham. In Muhammad's time, though, the Kaaba housed statues of many local gods and goddesses. The pilgrim traffic brought good profits to the local merchants.


The Prophet Muhammad
  • Muhammad was born in Mecca about 570. In his youth, he worked as a shepherd among the Bedouins. Later, he led caravans across the desert and became a successful merchant. When he was about 25, Muhammad married Khadija, a wealthy widow who ran a prosperous caravan business. By all accounts, he was a devoted husband and a loving father to his daughters. 
  • Muhammad was troubled by the idol worship and moral ills of society. When he was about 40, he went to a desert cave to meditate. According to Muslim belief, he heard a voice saying, "Recite!" Muhammad replied, "What shall I recite?" The voice explained: "Recite in the name of your God, the Creator, who created man from clots of blood."


The Prophet Muhammad
  • Muhammad understood that it was the voice of the angel Gabriel calling him to be the messenger of God. But Muhammad was terrified and puzzled. How could he, an illiterate merchant, become the messenger of God? But Khadija encouraged him to accept the call. She became the first convert to the faith called Islam, from the Arabic word for "submission." Muhammad devoted the rest of his life to spreading Islam. He urged Arabs to give up their false gods and submit to the one true God. In Arabic, the word for god is Allah.


The Prophet Muhammad
  • At first, few people listened to the teachings of Muhammad. His rejection of the traditional Arab gods angered Meccan merchants who feared neglecting their idols and disrupting the pilgrim trade. In 622, faced with the threat of murder, Muhammad and his followers left Mecca for Yathrib, a journey known as the hijra. Later, Yathrib was renamed Medina, or "city of the Prophet," and 622 became the first year of the Muslim calendar.


The Prophet Muhammad
  • The hijra was a turning point for Islam. In Medina, Muhammad was welcomed by Muslim converts, not only as God's prophet, but also as ruler and lawgiver. As his reputation grew, thousands of Arabs adopted Islam. From Medina, Muslims launched attacks on Meccan caravans and defeated the Meccans in battle. 
  • Finally, in 630, Muhammad returned in triumph to Mecca, where he destroyed the idols in the Kaaba. In the next two years, Muhammad worked to unite the Arabs under Islam. Muhammad died in 632, but the faith that he proclaimed continued to spread. Today, Islam is one of the world's major religions.


   Teachings of Islam
  • Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is monotheistic, based on belief in one God. The Quran, the sacred text of Islam, teaches that God is all-powerful and compassionate. It also states that people are responsible for their own actions: "Whoever strays bears the full responsibility for straying." According to the Quran, each individual will stand before God on the final judgment day to face either eternal punishment in hell or eternal bliss in paradise. Muslims recognize no official priests who mediate between the people and God.


 Teachings of Islam
  • All Muslims accept five basic duties, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. The first is a declaration of faith. "There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God." Muslims believe that God had sent other prophets, including Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, but that Muhammad was the last and greatest prophet. The second pillar is daily prayer. After a ritual washing, Muslims face the holy city of Mecca to pray. Although Muslims may pray anywhere, they often gather in houses of worship called masjids or mosques. The third pillar is giving charity to the poor. The fourth is fasting from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan. The fifth pillar is the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. All Muslims who are able are expected to visit the Kaaba at least once in their lives.


Teachings of Islam
  • Some Muslims look on jihad , or effort in God's service, as another duty. Jihad has often been mistakenly translated simply as "holy war." In fact, it may include acts of charity or an inner struggle to achieve spiritual peace, as well as any battle in defense of Islam.


Teachings of Islam
  • To Muslims, the Quran contains the sacred word of God as revealed to Muhammad. It is the final authority on all matters. The Quran not only teaches about God but also provides a complete guide to life. Its ethical standards emphasize honesty, generosity, and social justice. It sets harsh penalties for crimes such as stealing or murder.
  • Muslims believe that, in its original Arabic form, the Quran is the direct, unchangeable word of God. Because the meaning and beauty of the Quran reside in its original language, converts to Islam learn Arabic. This shared language has helped unite Muslims from many regions.

 


  Teachings of Islam
  • Muslims profess faith in the same God as that worshiped by Jews and Christians. The Quran teaches that Islam is God's final and complete revelation, and that the Torah and Bible contain partial revelation from God. To Muslims, Jews and Christians are "People of the Book," spiritually superior to polytheistic idol worshipers. Although some later Muslims overlooked Muhammad's principle of tolerance, in general, the People of the Book enjoyed religious freedom in early Muslim societies.


A Way of Life
  • Islam is both a religion and a way of life. Its teachings help shape the lives of Muslims around the world. Islamic law governs many aspects of daily life, and Islamic traditions determine ethical behavior and influence family relations.


A Way of Life
  • Over time, Muslim scholars developed an immense body of law interpreting the Quran and applying its teachings to daily life. This Islamic system of law, called the Sharia, regulates moral conduct, family life, business practices, government, and other aspects of a Muslim community. Like the Quran, the Sharia helped unite the many peoples who converted to Islam. 
  • Unlike the law codes that evolved in the west, the Sharia does not separate religious matters from criminal or civil law. The Sharia applies the Quran to all legal situations.


A Way of Life
  • Before Islam, the position of women in Arab society varied. In some communities, women took a hand in religion, trade, or warfare. Most women, however, were under the control of a male guardian and could not inherit property. Furthermore, among a few tribes, unwanted daughters were sometimes killed at birth. 
  • Islam affirmed the spiritual equality of women and men. "Whoever does right, whether male or female," states the Quran, "and is a believer, all such will enter the Garden." Women therefore won greater protection under the law. The Quran prohibited the killing of daughters. Inheritance laws guaranteed a woman a share of her parents' or husband's property. Muslim women had to consent freely to marriage and had the right to an education. In the early days of Islam, some Arab women participated actively in public life.


A Way of Life
  • Though spiritually equal, men and women had different roles and rights. For example, the amount of an inheritance given to a daughter was less than that given to a son. A woman could seek a divorce, but it was harder for her to get one than for a man. 


A Way of Life
  • As Islam spread, Arabs sometimes absorbed attitudes from the peoples they conquered. In Persian and Byzantine lands, Arabs adopted the practice of veiling upper-class women and secluding them in a separate part of the home. There, they managed the affairs of the household but seldom ventured out. Still, as in other cultures, women's lives varied according to region and class. Veiling and seclusion were not so strictly followed among lower-class city women. In rural areas, peasant women continued to contribute to the economy in many ways.