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Video transcript

- [Teacher] I'm now going to give an overview on the beginnings of Islam. And regardless of whether you are a part of an Islamic culture, you are a practicing Muslim, or you believe in the Islamic traditions, it's valuable to learn about the beginnings of Islam because, today, nearly one-fourth of the world's population either is a practicing Muslim or has grown up in an Islamic tradition. Now, the beginnings of Islam really are centered on the life and the revelations of the Muslim prophet, Muhammad. Now, the term, Islam, means surrender and, as we'll see, a lot of the revelations of Muhammad are about surrendering to God, about the oneness of God, about not worshiping idols. And to put Muhammad in perspective, on a timeline, I have other significant biblical figures, here, and these are important not just to get a reference towards Christianity and Judaism, but because, according to Islamic tradition, Islam is built on top of the teachings of Abraham, or the teachings of Moses and the Torah, and the teachings of Jesus. Muslims believe that the Quran is the Final Testament, so to speak. To get some context, Muhammad was born is 6th Century Arabia, and 6th Century Arabia was an interesting place. In many other videos, we've talked about various empires around the Mediterranean, around the Mesopotamia and Persia. And even on this map, in the time of Muhammad, you see significant empires, the Byzantine Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire. You have Sasanid Persia. But Arabia was never really consolidated, or ruled, by a formal, or most of Arabia, by a formal government or a formal empire. The rule of law in most of Arabia, and the world in which Muhammad was born into, was a tribal world where you were protected by your tribe and it was really the laws of vendetta and revenge that kept certain things in check, but also would lead to a lot of wars and a lot of violence. And within Arabia, there were many folks who are Bedouins, who were nomadic people, who traveled through the desert allowing their livestock to graze on whatever suitable land they found, but you also had settled people in places like Mecca. You had people who'd settled and started agriculture around oases. Remember, most of the Arabian Peninsula is really desert. And, Muhammad was born into a fairly, or a very prominent family in Mecca. He was born to the Quraysh tribe, and the Quraysh tribe was essentially in control of Mecca, and Mecca was a very powerful city to control because it was a religious center for the region. This is the Kaaba, which exists today, and is the center of Islamic worship. And, at the time, it housed hundreds of idols which were important to the various tribes and people of Arabia at the time. And so, you can imagine as they did the pilgrimage towards Mecca to worship their idols, it also benefited the economy of Mecca in a significant way. And not only was Muhammad born into this powerful tribe, he was born into one of the most powerful clans within that tribe, and within one of the most powerful houses within that clan. But even though he was born into this very powerful family, clan, and tribe, his early life was quite difficult. His father died right before he was born. His mother dies at the age of six years old, and, then, his grandfather, who then takes custody of him, and by most accounts, he doesn't get a lot of privileges. When you're a member of a tribe, you're essentially orphaned. The tribe is doing, essentially, just the base necessities to keep you alive. But then his grandfather dies when he is eight years old, and he becomes, he goes under the custody of his uncle, Abu Talib. Now, as he grows older, he does learn a skill. He essentially becomes a merchant. He goes on trading journeys with his uncle, Abu Talib, to places like Syria. And, as he does that, according to Islamic tradition, he gets a very favorable reputation. He gets these titles like, Al-Amin, the trustworthy one, or Al-Sadiq, the truthful. Now, he continues doing that until the age of 25. At 25 years old, something very interesting happens. A very wealthy widow, arguably one of the wealthiest people in all of Mecca, who runs a vast trading enterprise, Khadija, who is 40 years old, she employs Muhammad and, apparently, is so impressed by his honesty, by his ability to be trustworthy, that she propose to him, and, remember, she's 40. This would be her third marriage, and he is 25, and he accepts the proposal. Now, this is significant because as we'll see in this video and the next, Khadija is the first one to follow Muhammad, or believe in Muhammad's revelations. So, he continues to work with his wife, arguably work for his wife, and, then, in 610, he's now 40 years old, he is praying in a cave on the outskirts of Mecca, and while he's praying, he is purported to get his first revelation from God, according to Islamic traditions. And that first revelation, and this is the mountain where it is purported to happen, the Mountain of Light, Jabal an-Nour. This is the cave, Cave Hira. The first revelation is, "Proclaim, in the name of thy Lord "and Cherisher, Who created man, "out of a clot of congealed blood. "Proclaim, and thy Lord is most bountiful, "who taught by the pen, "taught man that which he knew not." And so Muhammad, according to Islamic accounts, he's kind of very concerned by this. He does not view himself as a preacher. He does not view himself as someone who should be a prophet, and he goes to Khadija, and he's worried, and Khadija takes him to her Christian cousin, who reassures Muhammad, who tells Muhammad that he believes that he is a prophet in the tradition of Abraham and Moses. And so, that, to some degree, makes Muhammad feel a little bit better, and he doesn't have some revelations for awhile, and he becomes concerned. But then, he eventually starts to have many, many revelations, but he keeps it to himself, at first. But, roughly three years later, he starts to publicly preach these revelations. So, these revelations which really talk about the oneness of God. There's no God but God. It's very appealing especially to some of the economically lower strata, but you could also imagine, it's very, very threatening to the establishment of Mecca. You have to remember, the establishment of Mecca, it revolves around the worship of these idols, and now you have this guy of the Quraysh tribe, the tribe that worships Hubal, the tribe that is in charge of Mecca, that benefits from all these people worshiping these various idols. He's know saying that, "Idol worship is a sin." He's saying that there's not God but God, that all of these idols are false idols. And so, the Quraysh tribe, Muhammad's own tribe, begins to significantly persecute the early Muslims. So much so, that many of the early Muslims have to migrate from Mecca to the Kingdom of Axum, which was ruled by a Christian king, who protects them the Quraysh tribe. This is now modern-day Ethopia, or Eritrea. And so, things are not going well for these early Muslims. They're being targeted by the Quraysh tribe. They're being killed. They're being tortured. And then, things get even worse for Muhammad. In 619, you have the death of his wife, Khadija. And, just to get a sense of how powerful Khadija was to Muhammad, we have this quote that we get from the Hadith, which are accounts of Muhammad's life and sayings, and it tell us, "God Almighty never granted me anyone better "in this life than her. "She accepted me when people rejected me, "she believed in me when people doubted me, "she shared her wealth with me when people deprived me, "and God granted me children only through her." This is, once again, according to the sayings or the life of Muhammad as accounted for by one of the Hadith. And not only did his wife, who up to that time was his only wife, die and was a significant figure, but in that same year, his uncle also dies. So, you can imagine this year, 619, often referred to as the Year of Sorrows, it's a fairly low point for Muhammad. He's been preaching for about, or he's been getting these revelations and preaching for around nine years, now, and things are not looking good.