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Islam, like Chiristianity and Judaism, traces its ancestry to the patriarch, Abraham.

Isma'il was said to be the son of Abraham and an Egyptian slave, Hagar.

When Abraham's wife, Sarah, also bored him a son (Isaac), Abraham took Isma'il and Hagar to the desert valley of Mecca in Arabia to spare them Sarah's jealousy.

The sacred book of Islam, the Holy Qur'an, received as a series of revelations to Muhammad, relates that Abraham and Ishamael together built the holiest sanctuary in Islam, the Ka'bah.

It was thought to be the site of Adam's original place of worship

According to Islamic tradition, the region sank into historical oblivion as it turned away from Abraham's monotheism. For many centuries, the events of the rest of the world passed it by, aside from contact through trading caravans. Then in to a poor clan of the most powerful of the trives in the area was born a child named Muhammad (the praised one)

His father died before he was

born, and after the death of his mother and then his grandfather, Muhammad becomes the ward of his uncle, who put him to work as a shepherd.

Allah (God) is the focus in Islam, the sole authority, not Muhammad.

Muhammad's life story

is important to Muslims, for his character is considered a model of the teachings in the Qur'an. The stories of Muhammad's life and his sayings are preserved in a vast, not fully authenticated literature called the Hadith

The Hadith reports on the Porphet's Sunnah, which are his saying and actions.

When He was a teenager, on a trip to Syria with his uncle, Muhamad was noticed by a Christian monk who identified marks on his body indicating his status as a prophet.

As a young man, Muhammad managed caravans for a beautiful, intelligent, and wealthy woman named Khadijah. When she was forty and Muhammad was twenty-fve, she offered to marry him.

Khadijah became Muhammad'sstrongest supprter during the difficult and discouraging years of his early mission.

With Khadijah's understading of his spiritual propensities, Muhammad began to spend periods of time in solitary retreat. These retreats were not uncoomon in his lineage. They wre opportunities for contemplation, away from the world.

When Myhammad was forty years old, he made a spiritual retreat during the month of Ramadan. An angel in human-like form, Gabriel, reportedly came to him and insisted that he recite. Three times Muyhammad demurred that he could not, for was unlettered, and three times the angel forcefully commanded him. IN desperation, Mehammad at last cried out. "What sahh I recite?" and the angel began dictating the first words of what became the Qur'an.

Muhammad returned home, deeply shaken, Khadijah conforted him and encouraged him to overcome his fear of the responsibilities and ridicule of prophethood.

The revelations continued intermittently, asserting the theme that it was tone One God who spoke and who called people to Islam,

Islam means complete, trusting surrender to God.

According to tradition, Muhammad described the form of these revelations thus, revelation sometimes comes like the sound of a bell; that is the most painful way. When it ceases I have remembered what was said. Sometimes it is an angel who talks to me like a human, and I remember what he says.

After three years, Muhammad was instructed by the revelations to preach publicly. He was ridiculed and stoned by the Qurayshites, the aristocrats of his tribe who operated the Ka'bah as a pilgrimage center and organized profitable trading caravans through Mecca.

While Muhammad was somewhat protected by the influend of his uncle, his follwers were subject to persecution.

A dark-skinned Abyssian slave, Bilal, became the first muezzin ( one who calls the people to prayer from a high place), illustrating the Prophet's discarding of racial and social class distinction.

Finally, Muhammad and his followes were banished for three years to a desolate place where they struggled to survive by eating wild foods.

The band of Muyslims were asked to return to Mecca, but he persecution by the Quraushites continued

Muhammad's fiftieth year, the "Year of Sorrow", was the worst of all: he lost his beloved wife Khadijah and his protective uncle. With his strongest backers gone, persecution of the Prophet increased.

At the height of his trials, Muhammad experienced the Night of Ascension. He is said to have ascended through the seven and thence into the Divine Proximity. There he met former prophets and teachers from Adam to Jesus, saw paradise and hell, and received the great blessing of the Dvine Presence.

Pilgrims to Mecca from Yathrib, an oasis to the north, recognized Muhammad as a prophet.

They invited him to come to their city to help solve its social and political problems. Still despised in Meca as a potential threat by the Qurayshites, Muhammad and his followers left Mecca secretly. Their move to Yathrib, later called Medina (city of the Prophet) was not easy.

This hijrah, migration, of Muslims from Mecca to Medina took place in 622 CE. The muslms era is calculated from thei beginning of the year in which this event took place, for it marked the change from persecutation to appreaciation of the Prophet's message.

In Medina, Muhammad drew up a constitution fo the city of Medina that later served as a model for Islamic social administration.

The departure of Muslims from Mecca was viewed with hostility ad suspicion by the leaders of Mecca. Their assumption was that Medina had become a rallying point fo the enemies to attack and destroy Mecca. To forestall this, Mecca declared war on Medina, and a period of open confict between the two cities followed.

Muhammad himself directed the first raid against a Maccan caravan on its return journey. The battle between Muslim emigrants and Meccans took place at Badr near Medina; the small group of Muslims were victorious.

Enraged by the Islamic victory, Mecca made a surprise attack against Medina and routed the Muslims, injuring Muhammad and scattering the Islamic forces.

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