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An overview of Islam

The religion of Islam has many millions of adherents throughout the world. Islam, the correct name for religion of Mohammed, is the infinitive of the Arabic verb “to submit”; while ‘Moslem’ the correct term for one who follows that religion is the present participle of the same verb. Within a century of the death of its founder, the Moslem empire stretched from the South of France through Spain, North Africa, Central Asia to China. Some decades ago it appeared that in many parts of the world Islam was a dying religion but of late there has been a tremendous revival of interest in what is really a religio-political system, as the laws of Islam are civil and religious. Today we still hear of ‘the world of Islam’. The place where this ‘world’ was born and developed was Arabia, often referred to as the “Cradle of Islam”. The religion of Islam centres around Mohammed, the “prophet of Arabia”.

Sixth century Arabia

Arabia—“the island of the Arabs”—is the world’s largest peninsula bounded by the Red Sea on one hand, the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates on the other; while the southern side protracted toward the Strait of Ormuz is washed by the Indian Ocean. Along the western side, a chain of lofty mountains follows the coastline at times, receding to form a broad margin of lowland called the Teharra. Between the sea and the crest of this range is the mountainous region of the Hejaz in which lies the two cities of Mecca and 280 miles north of it Medina. A large amount of trade passed through the peninsula and across the Steppes of Arabia. These trade routes were long and perilous, hence the necessity for caravans traveling at fixed periods and by determined routes. The Arabs themselves had little knowledge of or interest in anything beyond their own merchandise and their own deserts. The people lived in widely scattered tribes with no form of central government. The distinctive feature has ever been the independence of the tribe, the family, the individual. Personal hostilities and tribal wars occurred incessantly. Blood feuds were frequent; even when united by blood or interest they seemed ever ready on some insignificant thing to separate and abandon themselves to implacable hostility.