Muhammad was born in about 570 AD in the small town of Mecca, on the coast of the Red Sea of Saudi Arabia. He was the son of an Arab merchant. And when he grew up he had to take up the family business. At that time merchants in Mecca were well off. In Mecca there was a lot of money to be made out of the pilgrims who came from all over the east to visit the Kaabah. Built of three layers of stone, the Kabbah isbelieved to have been built by Ibrahim and his son Ismail.
Muhammad was already known to be very sincere, honest and kind hearted. These traits also left a mark over his business life. he Muhammad was disturbed by the way people around him led their life - specially the spiritual life.
His tribesmen, though Semitic, like the Hebrews, had been riddled by superstitious beliefs, and multiplicity of faiths. They had an assortment of gods, whose images they carved and worshipped with strange kinds of practices. There was no uniformity in the faith. Nor was any discipline in the spiritual life. And Muhammad wanted to change all these.
It is believed that Muhammad was one day visited by the archangel Gabriel who brought message from God, or in his language, Allah. Inspired by Allah, Muhammad decided to give up the business and took to a life of spiritual empowerment. It then devoted himself to prayer, meditation, preaching and helping the poor. He was then around forty.
Muhammad condemned the Arabs for worshipping a host of gods, and told his audiences that Allah was the one and only true God.
At first Muhammad's teachings irritated the Arabs. Yet, undaunted, Muhammad continued with his preaching. The situation turned so worse that his life was at stake. Following this, Muhammad had to leave his native town of Mecca. He journeyed further north to Medina. This emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD is an important milestone in the history of Islam. The year of the emigration is called Hegira. And it is the starting point from which the Muslim Era, called Hegira, is computed.
Medina, however, welcomed his ideas. And Muhammad found a favorable climate for preaching and spreading his teachings. And he acquired a following of disciples. He preached rules of good and kind behavior.
Ten years passed and Muhammad had attracted a sizeable number of diehard followers. This even included a small but devoted corps ready to fight to the death to champion his ideas. And Muhammad's faith became known as the Islamic faith and his followers were called Muslims. Islam spread when Muhammad's teachings were set down in a book called the Quran. This is the most sacred book to the Muslims.
Quran holds all the revelations that Muhammad received from Allah over a period of 23 years. According to Islamic history, after Prophet Muhammad's death, they were compiled under the direction of the first Sunni Caliph Abu Bakr about 1,400 years ago. And this is what we see in the present day's Quran.
Muhammad instructed his followers to destroy all his personal belongings when he died. For, he believed that none but Allah should be venerated. This is why Islam forbids any form of idolism and deity worship.
In course of time Islam acquired believers all over the world. From North Africa to the farthest point of South East Asia. Today, Islam is one of the world's major religions, with followers estimated to be over 600 million. Or, about one fifth of world's total population.