Before we go any further in this study, a couple of things need to be mentioned. First, there are variant English spellings for many Arabic terms used in Islam. For example: Muslim or Moslem, or Koran and Quran, etc. I have tried to be consistent in my spelling throughout this study. I may not match the spelling you find in other works, however.
Second, all the quotations listed from the Koran in this study come from the 1999 Dawood translation. The numbering of verses in the Koran is not consistent from one translation to another. To find a reference, you may need to read a few verses before and after the one cited. Also, there are differences in the actual wording of translations. Sometimes these differences are significant. Some English translations are known to not be true to the Arabic, especially if doing so would be offensive to Westerners. I have endeavored not to use any passages where a serious question about the proper translation exits.
Islam is the religion. Muslim is one who practices Islam. The word “Islam,” means “submit,” not “peace;” that is “salaam.” The word “Muslim” means “one who submits.” Muslims don’t like to be called Mohammedans since, they claim, they don’t follow Muhammad. However, they do see Muhammad as an example of the ideal Muslim, a model for all to learn from and copy.
The following is not an exhaustive history of Islam by any means. It is meant to be an overview of the major events surrounding the beginning of the religion. Many other historical facts will be brought out later when we look at specific teachings and practices of Islam. Other facts will be brought out when we look at whether or not Islam is a peaceful religion.
To understand the rise of Islam, we must begin with Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac. Sara became impatient for a son so she gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham. Once Hagar became pregnant, she and Sara did not get along. As a result, Hagar fled from Sara. As she fled, the Angel of the Lord met her and told her the following:
“11 You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12 Re will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers,” Gen. 16:11-12 (MV).
Later, Sara gave birth to Isaac. But Sara found Ishmael mocking Isaac, so she asked Abraham to cast Ishmael and Hagar out.
God told him to listen to Sara but also promised to make a great nation of Ishmael.
“12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he [is] thy seed.” Gen. 21:12-13.
Later, the Bible records an interesting fact about what kind of man Ishmael and his descendants became.
“16 These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. 17 Altogether, Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. 18 His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the border of Egypt, as you go toward Asshur. And they lived in hostility toward all their brothers.” Gen. 25:16¬18 (NIV).
To be continued in future articles.