The Expansion of Islam
Muhammad (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi
Wassalam's) new faith was not widely accepted in his hometown of Mecca. Therefore, he and his followers moved
to Medina which means "City of the Prophet (PBUH)." This movement is known as the Hijirat or "the flight".
It marks the turning point in Islam and serves as the beginning date on Islamic calendars.
At first, Muhammad (Salalah
Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam) was sympathetic to both Christians and Jews, but after their rejection of his teaching, he
turned from Jerusalem as the center of worship for Islam to Mecca. He realized he must return to Mecca, and he did, conquering
the city. Islam quickly spread throughout the area.
When Muhammad (Salalah Aleyhi
Wa~Alehi Wassalam) died, he left no document appointing a successor. Some people thought that one of the original converts
who had taught with Muhammad (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam), some wanted a member of a powerful political
family in the area, and others felt that 'Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi
Wassalam) had been divinely designated as successor. An early believer, Abu Bakr was appointed, but died within two
Eventually, a power struggle developed as
different groups of Muslims believed their method of establishing a successor were the best. The largest argument was over
whether the successor should be elected or chosen through heredity. This controversy produced the main body of Islam known
as the Sunnis (followers of the prophet's way) and other numerous sects including the Shi'a and the Sufis. The Sunnis are
the majority in Islam today.
The Shi'a are the group of Muslims who believe
that the successorship should remain within Muhammad (Salalah Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam's) family,
and that leaders are spiritually chosen, not politically chosen. They carry with them the pain of Muhammad (Salalah
Aleyhi Wa~Alehi Wassalam's) son-in-law, 'Ali, who was murdered by Mu'awiya in order to obtain power. Today, the
Shi'a dominate Iran.
The Sufis are a group who believes that
orthodox Islam is too mechanical and impersonal. This group of Islamic mystics seek for direct personal experience of the
Nationalism in the Arab world since the
rise of Israel as a political power has kept Islam strong. It is a rapidly spreading religion because of its cultural and
political appeal and its universal message of peace, temperance and the brotherhood of man.