Portal: Origins of Islam
Islam arose in 7th century Arabia, and as such its appearance bears the markings of its ancient Arab and Near East milieu.
Islam casts itself as being in the prophetic tradition of Abraham, Moses, Eijah, Isaiah, and Jesus and his disciples. Yet many aspects of the religion either show the influence of or are plainly holdouts from the ancient pagan religion of the Arabs in antiquity.
Many of the features and rituals of contemporary Islam find their precedent not in the Judeao-Christian tradition but rather in pre-Islamic Arabian religion.
The Black Stone is a fixture of Islam's pilgrimage ritual, but already according to the Islamic tradition itself it was a center of ancient pagan religion in Arabia.
The discovery of the magic well of Zamzam is attributed to the prophet Ibrahim in the Islamic tradition, yet in fact the well was a focal point of cultic activity in ancient Arabian pagan religion.
The Jinn, mystical beings which are neither demons nor angels, make an appearance in the Islamic tradition but have no antecedent in the Judeao-Christian tradition, but rather find their origin in pre-Islamic pagan Arabian religion.
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The Early Caliphates
Although not technically part of the "holy history" of Islam which ends with the death of the prophet and the sealing of the holy prophetic example, the years of the Rashidun Caliphs, the Umayyads and the Abassids were absolutely instrumental in the formation of Islam as we now know it. It was during this time that the Uthmanic rescencion of the Qur'an was canonized and all other versions were annihilated; it was in the early years of the Rashidun caliphs that the word "Muslim" came to define the movement as opposseed to the earlier "believer", and it was under the Umayyads and Abassids that the doctrine of the prophetic example was formulated, the Sunnah was assembled and the place of the caliph in the ummah was finally fixed.
Dihya was a Berber queen who fiercely resisted the expanding caliphate to her death.
The caliphate, or success state to the prophet, in orthodox Sunni Islam is seen as the continuation of the rule of the prophet of Allah by his viceroy on earth, and is a divinely ordained institution.
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The Formation of the Qur'an and Classical Arabic
The Qur'an, and with it the classical Arabic language took place during this period. Before the rise of Islam, Arabic did not have one standardized script or grammar, and various dialects were written in various scripts such as Nabatean Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, and many others. The writing of the Qur'an coincided with the crystallization of the modern Arabic script, and the history of the Arabic and its script are deeply interwoven with the history of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an was never put down to writing during the prophet's lifetime, according to the Islamic sources the impetus to put the Qur'an to writing came from the death of many of the Muslims who had memorized it.
Many of the chapters of the Qur'an begin with mysterious combinations of letters whose function remains unclear to this day.