Listen to this story
Islam is a monotheistic religion that emerged out of Judaism and Christianity. So, among certain sects of the Abrahamic faiths, it is said that there is a divine lineage of prophets, including Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. In line with this, Muhammad began receiving his revelations in the year 610. Then, the final prophet began to preach in Mecca, slowly building up a following as he implored those around him to abandon polytheism.
The thing is that although some of his neighbors did convert to Islam, the local authorities often persecuted Muhammad and the Muslims for their beliefs. Members of the ancient Meccan high society felt that Muhammad was destabilizing their established social order by preaching about monotheism and racial equality. He was upsetting the balance of power they had put in place by reaching out to the impoverished and the enslaved, inspiring them with hope. This absolutely infuriated the greedy, nepotistic families that ran everything.
Then, in the year 618, Muhammad’s uncle died. This was terribly significant because he had been a rather influential man in Mecca, which left Muhammad as an outcast. So, in 620 the prophet went to a sacred site known as the Kaaba to pray for help, as a pariah. At that point, he received a vision and began to commune with the souls of the former prophets, like Abraham. After that, God showed him Paradise and told him to pray five times a day. The problem was that the Muslims were effectively being exiled from Mecca. This got so bad that it eventually led to a mass migration to Medina in 622.
Of course, being the nobleman that he was, Muhammad waited for the other Muslims to get to Medina first before he fled from Mecca himself. Then, the night before he was set to leave, a son from each of the seven ruling families came to murder the prophet in his sleep. However, being smarter than they were, he was already gone by the time they arrived. So, the elites dispatched trackers to hunt him down and bring him back, dead or alive. Then, with nowhere else to turn, Muhammad hid in a cave with his traveling companion and prayed for safety.
Having made it through the whole ordeal without so much as a scratch on him, the prophet quickly amassed a huge congregation of Medinan converts and Meccan migrants, making them all officially part of the Muslim community, or ummah. Then, he went a step further and established his political authority by formulating the Constitution of Medina. This was very historically significant because prior to the unification of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula under Islam, Arabs had been semi-nomadic polytheists who lived as self-governing societies and often raided their surrounding territories in continuous conflict. However, the prophet Muhammad set out to change all of that.
In the year 630, he marched 10,000 loyal soldiers from Medina to Mecca and rode straight to the Kaaba and began systematically destroying several hundred different idols to the various gods and goddesses of the time, leaving only the spiritual site itself. Then, he rededicated the sacred space to Islam in the name of Allah. Since then, Muslims have been making pilgrimages to the new holy land. To this day, devout adherents set out at least once in their lifetime to behold the Great Mosque, which contains the ancient monument. The act is one of the five fundamental pillars of the Islamic doctrine, along with fasting, charity, prayer, and faith.
In addition to this, when the prophet Muhammad died in the year 632, his most devout followers became responsible for writing down the holy scriptures that make up the Quran. To Muslims, the religious text is a record of the voice of God, as told to the archangel Gabriel, then to the prophet Muhammad, and finally to his scribes. They compiled his recitations verbatim in a manuscript shortly after Muhammad’s death, having piously committed the words to memory during his life. This is why Muslims consider the Quran to be the unaltered revelation of the one and only Supreme Being, which they call Allah.
As one might suspect, following the loss of their prophet, disagreement broke out over who should succeed Muhammad as head of the Muslim community. The prophet did not nominate a successor, because he wanted to leave the issue to be resolved by the ummah itself, on the basis of a Quranic principle of consultation known as shura. In the end, Abu Bakr who was Muhammad’s father-in-law was appointed to be the first political successor, known as a caliph. This also brought about the first Islamic theocracy or caliphate.
The first few caliphs who directly succeeded the prophet, as leaders of the Muslim community, were chosen through the process of shura, just as the prophet had wanted. However, tensions soon rose when the fourth caliph was nominated in 656. As the prophet’s son-in-law, Ali Ibn Abi Talib is considered among the Shia denomination to be the first rightful heir to the Islamic Empire. Meanwhile, the Sunni Muslims maintain that Abu Bakr was properly elected as the original successor in 632.
As part of this, throughout the medieval period, three major caliphates existed. First, the Rashidun Caliphate lasted from 632 until 661. This ended the rule of the “four rightly guided caliphs”. Second, the Umayyad Caliphate existed until the year 750. Third, there was the Abbasid Caliphate which held power during the golden age of Islam, from 750 to 1258. Following that, the fourth major caliphate was established by the Ottoman Empire in 1517, granting them authority all the way up until 1924.
Almost a century after the Ottoman Caliphate ended, modern Muslim reformationists are now trying to separate perennial Islamic beliefs from archaic cultural traditions. At the same time, there are those who long to return to the old tradition and continue on with a new caliphate. This has become of increasing global concern, for several different reasons. In 2017, Islam has become the world’s second-largest religion behind Christianity, and it is now the fastest-growing. As a result, Muslims currently make up about twenty-four percent of the global population. They also make up a majority of the population in roughly fifty out of the nearly two hundred countries of the modern world.
Islam is very much on the rise these days, particularly in countries where fertility rates are the highest, like in Africa for instance. As another example, Muslims are beginning to dominate more and more of Asia, as Hindus and Buddhists get pushed aside. As a consequence of this, India will soon house the most Muslims in the world, in spite of officially remaining a Hindu nation. All of this will have significant impacts on the religious landscape of the world as a whole, such that the teachings of Muhammad will inevitably become the most predominant form of faith in the future.
At the current rate of development, by the year 2050, nearly a hundred million Christians will convert to Islam worldwide. Eventually, the global Muslim population will equal that of the Christians, having about three billion adherents in each camp. As this continues to progress, Islam should surpass Christianity as the major world religion no later than 2075. Meanwhile, the Quran will replace the Bible as the most widely read book, with billions of copies in circulation. Then, in 2110, nearly a third of the human race will be Muslim, celebrating 1,500 years of traditional submission to the will of God. Someday there will even be mosques on Mars.