As a result of the persecutions against Muslims in Mecca, the new religious group moved to Medina, a town about 200 miles north of Mecca. This occurred in 622 C.E.; the move is known as the Hijra or migration, and marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
The residents of Medina had invited Muhammad and the other Muslims to come to their town for protection, and Muhammad proceeded to set up a highly organized city-state there. Medina was a diverse town of Arabs, Jews, Christians, and others, and Muhammad set about drawing up a constitution for the city, one of the first in the world. The constitution set out the city's governing structure, recognized freedom of religion, outlined explicit ethical principles of defense and foreign policy, and arranged a system of social insurance. But the Meccans were not about to let Muhammad and his followers go so easily. The inhabitants of Mecca organized three battles over 3 years beginning in 624 C.E. The Battle of Badr took place in the field of Badr outside Medina between 1,000 Meccan warriors and 313 ill-equipped Muslims. The Muslims quickly won the battle. Seventy Meccans were killed and 70 were later released from capture. One year later, 3,000 Meccans engaged 700 Muslims at the bottom of Mount Uhad in the Battle of Uhad. The Muslims almost lost this battle when a group of archers left their post on Mount Uhad disobeying strict orders not to move when they thought the battle was turning out to be an easy victory for the Muslims. The Battle of Uhad ended in truce, and the Meccans swore to return the following year. Finally, what is sometimes called the Battle of the Trench occurred the following year; it was not really a battle because none of the 10,000- strong force of Meccans and their allies could cross the defensive trench the Muslims had excavated around Medina. Ultimately, Muhammad persuaded the Meccans to sign a peace treaty, the Treaty of Hudaybia, after which Muhammad was able to devote time to spreading his message outside Medina, including in neighboring countries.
The Meccans continued to violate the treaty they had agreed to with the Muslims until 630 C.E. when Muhammad told them to choose to either respect the treaty or nullify it. The Meccans chose the latter, and woke up one morning to find 10,000 Muslims surrounding their city. The Meccans surrendered without incident, and Muhammad treated the people, including those who had committed heinous acts against members of his own family, with great mercy, leaving their ultimate fate to God.
Muhammad gave his farewell sermon 10 years after the Hijra, and after making the pilgrimage to Mecca in 631 C.E. In this sermon delivered to 124,000 Muslims, Muhammad reaffirmed the central practices of Islam and admonished them to follow God and adhere to his message spoken through his prophet. Muhammad died the next year at the age of 63.
After the Prophet Muhammad died, the next four elected leaders or Caliphs of the Muslim community are regarded by the vast majority of Muslims as the rightly guided Caliphs. These in order were Abu Bakr, Umar, Othman, and Ali. Unfortunately, both Othman and Ali were murdered because of dissension in the community. After Ali was killed, the Muslim community split and a number of various Muslim groups, schools, kingdoms, and countries were eventually formed and reformed.
Muslims proclaim that the Qur'an is the message of God to all peoples revealed to the Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. The word Qur'an literally means "reading" or "recitation." The Qur'an was revealed to Muhammad over a period of 23 years, and is believed by Muslims to be the literal word-for-word message of God spoken in clear Arabic speech. Therefore, translations of the Qur'an into Arabic are not authoritative because they can never be precisely the same as that which was revealed in Arabic. There are 114 surahs or chapters in the Qur'an, arranged approximately from longest to shortest. The whole Qur'an is slightly shorter in length than the Christian New Testament. Although the Qur'an includes some narratives, it is not a story or a series of narratives but a complex interconnected text of rhythmic prose. Its language and style are inimitable, and indeed a number of skilled Arabic poets have failed in attempts to imitate the rhythmic prose of the Qur'an. The Qur'an has been systematically memorized and written down from the time of its revelation. The written fragments and oral memorizations were finally standardized and duplicated in their present form by a scholarly group commissioned to the task by Othman, the third rightly guided Caliph between 644 and 656 C.E. within 20 years of Muhammad's death. Muslims insist that these master copies have been painstakingly reproduced to this day.
In addition to the Qur'an, Muslims look to the Hadith for guidance. The Hadith are the recorded sayings, traditions, and actions of the Prophet Muhammad himself. The Hadith carry great authority for Muslims, but they are not as authoritative as the Qur'an because they are not the direct revelation of God.
ISLAMIC IDEAS AND PRACTICE
Islam is called a monotheistic religion by religious studies scholars, meaning that Muslims believe in one supreme divine being much like Jews and Christians. It is misleading to think of Islam as simply a "faith" or "belief," although these are convenient labels in North America for religions generally. But more importantly, Islam is a practice, the action of submitting one's life to God. More accurately, the practices of Islam are intimately bound up into the beliefs and ideas of Islam, and vice versa.