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The prophet Muhammad was a man with a mission—to tell people about God. His teachings founded a new religion, Islam. The followers of Muhammad and Islam are called Muslims. Today, Islam is one of the world’s largest religions, with almost 1 billion followers.


Muhammad was born about ad 570 in Mecca, a trading center in Arabia (now Saudi Arabia). He was thoughtful and serious by nature. Because Muhammad was so respected, he was sometimes called al-Amin. This means “the trusted one” in the Arabic language. Muhammad worked as a merchant, traveling long distances to trade.


On his travels, Muhammad met people from many faiths and discussed religious ideas with them. He also took time away from busy, noisy Mecca, to pray and meditate (think deeply) in a cave. While he was there, he experienced religious visions, or revelations. He came to believe he had been chosen as a prophet to preach God’s message to the world.


Muhammad spoke to the people of Mecca. He told them to destroy their old idols and worship Allah, the one true God. He said God was all-powerful, but loving and merciful. He said that God had sent earlier prophets, such as Moses and Jesus, but that now there wouldn’t be any more.

Muhammad’s preaching won converts but also made enemies. In ad 622 he fled from Mecca to a distant city, Medina, and set up a Muslim community there. After years of fighting, the Muslims from Medina conquered Mecca. Its citizens became Muslims. Quickly, Islam spread through Arabia and beyond.


Muhammad taught Muslims to pray five times a day, give to charity, fast during the month of Ramadan, and go on pilgrimages to Mecca. He told them that all Muslims were equal, whatever their race, class, or color. He said Muslims should live at peace with Jews and Christians because they worshiped the same God.

Muhammad died in ad 632. To guide believers, his revelations were written down in the Qur’an. Muslims believe it is the word of God. Muhammad’s own words were treasured as Hadith (“sayings”), and his way of life was honored as Sunna (“good example”).

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