Islamic Europe

History of the Islamic Religion

At the age of 40 in the year 610AD the Prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah (God) while meditating in a cave near Mecca, in modern day Saudi Arabia. His last revelation which completed the Quran (Koran) came shortly before his death on 8th June 632. Unlike most religions, the facts surrounding the life of Islam’s Prophet are not disputed and practically every aspect of his person and teaching are meticulously documented. Soon after the Prophet’s death a committee gathered and compiled ‘an authorised’ version of the Quran which was ready less than 12 months after his burial. 18 years later the Muslim Caliph (leader) ordered five copies made and circulated them to the centres of Islamic learning. Consequently, today, all copies of the Quran are identical to the one compiled soon after Muhammad’s passing and remarkable two of the original five that were written in 651AD, a mere 19 years after the last Quranic revelation, have survived and can be viewed today.

The Uthman Quran, the world’s oldest is displayed at the library of Tashkent’s Telyashayakh Mosque in Uzbekistan. European Country more info

Another copy is displayed at the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. European Country more info

The Islamic Religion

Islam’s Prophet taught an austere doctrine consistent with the teachings of earlier Jewish and Biblical Prophets. Muhammad is regarded by Islam as the last of all God’s messengers. The religion lays down a simple set of beliefs without the need of a priesthood or elaborate ceremonies. Muslim’s are called to pray five times a day and this can be done anywhere at all following a quick washing, but on Friday’s Muslim men are required to attend mid day group prayers at a Mosque if possible. Islam has five essential doctrines called the Pillars of Islam and some of the religion’s most controversial teachings include;

  • A strictly modest dress code especially for women
  • Prohibition of alcohol, drugs and intoxicants
  • Dietary restrictions including a ban on pork (similar to the Jewish Kosher diet)
  • Permission for men to have up to four wives simultaneously
  • Prohibition of sex outside marriage and homosexuality
  • Prohibition of interest charging on loans and finance
  • Prohibition of representing human and animal images in art

A substantial amount of what the modern world would regard as ‘fun’ is Islamically unlawful. Perhaps this explains why early Islamic society concentrated so heavily on science, mathematics, architecture, poetry, literature, gardening and creating a society that genuinely adored scholarly discussion at a time when Europe was deep in the Dark Ages.

Spread of Islam

During Muhammad’s lifetime he oversaw the creation of the first Muslim state. The inhabitants of Medina, a city 320km north of Mecca, were so impressed by the qualities of Muhammad and his followers they invited him to become their ruler. The day Muhammad began his journey to Medina on Thursday 9th September 622 is Day One of the Islamic Calender. During the Prophet’s lifetime his control spread to surrounding regions. He also wrote several letters to important world leaders inviting them to Islam. The Emperor of Ethiopia accepted the invitation while Heracles the Roman (Byzantine) Emperor gave the invitation several days’ consideration and then rejected it. Remarkably many of these original letters have also survived and are on display.

The passing of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 saw the mantel of authority pass to the Caliph (leader) and the first four Caliphs are known by Sunni Muslims as ‘The Rightly Guided Caliphs’ while Shiite Muslims describe the first three rulers as ‘Usurpers’. However, the early Muslim leaders continued the example of Muhammad and carried his teachings ever forward, sometimes by the sword but more often by peaceful methods. The fine qualities of the early Muslim believers were often welcomed by peoples they encountered. Within decades of Muhammad’s death Islam had spread across northern Africa, reached into central Asia, was knocking on India’s door and had travelled south by ship to the Comoros Islands and beyond.