Applied Sciences


A. Place Names (Setting)

*Makkah or Mecca [MACK-ah] – an ancient city in the Arabian Peninsula. Makkah was an important religious center that housed the Ka’bah. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkah had become an important caravan city on the trade route from Yemen to Syria as well as a religious shrine.

Jabal al-Nur – Literally, “Mountain of Light” – a small mountain outside Makkah with a cave where Muhammad would often go to worship and meditate. Muhammad related that he received the first revelation of the Qur’an from God while in the cave of this mountain.

Yathrib [YUTH-rib] – the city in Arabia north of Makkah to which Muhammad and Muslims from Makkah migrated to escape religious persecution. Yathrib was renamed Madinat an-Nabi, or the “City of the Prophet.”

*Madinah or Medina [ma-DEE-nah] – also Madinat al-Nabi, or “City of the Prophet” – a city north of Makkah, formerly known as Yathrib. The people of Madinah welcomed the persecuted Muslim refugees from Makkah and accepted Muhammad as their leader.

Hudaybiyyah – the place where Muhammad made a peace treaty with the Makkans. Muhammad led his companions to Makkah to make the pilgrimage to the Ka’bah, but the Makkans prevented them from entering the city. The treaty with the Makkans allowed the Muslims to return the following year, and both agreed to peace for ten years. The Makkans eventually broke the treaty, leading to the Muslims’ peaceful takeover of Makkah.

*Ka’bah [KAA-bah] – a cube-shaped building in Makkah. The Qur’an states that the Ka’bah was the first house of worship dedicated to the One God. According to the Qur‘an, Abraham and his son Ishmael built the Ka’bah. Muslims all over the world face in the direction of the Ka’bah during prayer.

B. Individuals and Groups

*Quraysh [kur-AYSH] – the tribe into which Muhammad was born and which ruled Makkah. The Makkan Quraysh fought Muhammad until they were defeated in 630 C.E., but as Muslims, they continued to play important roles in Muslim history.

*Muhammad [moo-HUM-med] – according to the Qur’an, he was the last prophet, or God’s messenger to humankind. Prophets before Muhammad include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Muhammad was born into the tribe of Quraysh at Makkah in about 570 CE.

*Khadijah [kha-DEE-jah] – first wife of Muhammad, a wealthy widow who was older than Muhammad. She was the first person to accept Islam after the revelation, and the wife who bore him four daughters.

Arbitrator – a person who settles a dispute between two or more persons or groups. Muhammad was invited to Yathrib as an arbitrator to bring peace to the warring tribes in Yathrib.

Ansar [an-SAR] – literally, “the Helpers” – they were Muslims of Yathrib who welcomed and aided the Muslim refugees from Makkah, who fled religious persecution.

Muhajirun [mu-ha-JIROON] – literally, “the Immigrants” – Muslims who migrated to Yathrib to escape religious persecution by the Quraysh at Makkah.

*Sahabah [sa-HAA-bah] (implicit) – literally, “the Companions” – a title given to Muslims who saw, heard or knew Muhammad. Because they shared in the development of the Muslim community, the Sahabah are considered models of piety and character for Muslims. Through their knowledge and love of the Prophet, they recorded his words and deeds (the hadith), and transmitted the Qur’an to later generations after Muhammad’s death.

Ahl al-Kitab [AHL al-kee-TAAB] – “People of the Book” – a term used in the Qur’an to describe those who believe in One God and in the revealed scriptures from God, such as the Torah and the Bible.

*Tribe – a group of people who share common ancestors, language and traditional claims to territory. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkan society was organized according to relationships among clans and tribes.

*Clan – a family group that is a sub-group of a tribe, claiming descent from a single common ancestor. At the time of Muhammad’s birth, Makkan society was organized according to relationships among clans and tribes.

*Ummah [OOM-mah] – the worldwide community of Muslims. The total number of Muslims in the world today is over 1.2 billion.

C. Important Events in Early Muslim History

Isra’ and Mi’raj (“Night Journey and Ascension”) [iss-RAA, me-RAAJ] –Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem and his ascension to the Heavens.According to the Qur’an and the recorded words of Muhammad (hadith), Angel Gabriel took Muhammad to Jerusalem during one night, through the Heavens and into the presence of God, and returned him to Makkah in the same night.

*Hijrah [HIJ-rah] – the migration of Muslim refugees from Makkah to Yathrib seeking religious freedom. This migration happened in 622 CE and marks the beginning of the Islamic, or hijriyah, dating system, abbreviated as A.H., meaning Anno Hijriya.

Constitution of Madinah – a document Muhammad formed as arbitrator to unify the different warring groups in Yathrib under his leadership. The document states that each group in Yathrib must respect each other’s rights and share in the responsibility of defending the city.

*Pilgrimage, or Hajj [huj] – pilgrimage to Makkah is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and the duty of every Muslim believer. Pilgrims perform rites that reenact the life of Abraham, his wife Hajar, and their son Ishmael over 4,000 years ago. It is required of every Muslim who is able, to go at least once in a lifetime.

D. Islamic Beliefs

*Islam, [is-LAHM] – literally, “seeking a state of peace” – the religion of belief in One God, revealed through the prophets from Adam through Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, whose final prophet is Muhammad. Islam is the name given in the Qur’an, and refers to the state of peace achieved through submission to God. A Muslim is a follower of Islam.

*Allah [al-Lah]– literally, “the God” – this name means the one God, who is all-Powerful and who created everything in the universe. Allah is also called Rabb, the Lord of Abraham and all other prophets. In the Arabic language, Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also use the term Allah for God. The Qur’an lists 99 attributes, or names of God.

Qur’an [kur-AAN] – the holy book of Islam, which Muslims believe is a divinely revealed scripture sent to Muhammad from God through the Angel Gabriel in the Arabic language. The Qur’an is the source of guidance in a Muslim’s daily life, and a source of knowledge about God and His creation. Muslims only consider the Qur’an authentic as read and recited in Arabic but translations may express its meaning as an aid to understanding, not as a substitute for the original scripture.

Akhirah [AA-khi-RA] – life after death. An important theme in the Qur’an is that after life in this world, every human will be judged by God for the good and bad they did on earth, and receive just reward or punishment for their deeds.

Resurrection – raising from the dead. The Qur’an teaches that every human being will be brought back to life after they die to be judged by God on the Day of Judgment.

*Monotheism – the belief that there is only one God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are known as the three monotheistic faiths.

Jibreel [jib-REEL] – also known as “Gabriel” – the Angel who brought revelation to each of the prophets, or God’s messengers. Muslims believe that Gabriel brought revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad over a period of 23 years.

Hadith [hah-DEETH] – the recorded tradition of the words and deeds of Muhammad, transmitted by his companions and later compiled into authoritative collections during the 8th and 9th centuries CE.

E. Muslim Practices

Khutbah [KHUT-bah] – a public sermon or speech held every Friday in the masjid before the midday prayer.

*Salah [sa-LAAH] – the five daily prayers, second of the Five Pillars of Islam.These obligatory or required prayers are offered at dawn, at noon, in mid-afternoon, at sundown, and after twilight.

Hijab [hee-JAAB] – a term used for the head covering worn by Muslim women.Literally, “a condition of modesty,” it also means the public appearance of women wearing loose-fitting clothing that reveals only her hands and face.

*Jihad [ji-HAAD] – literally, “making an effort,” “striving,” or “struggling” – Jihad can mean the effort to improve oneself and resist doing bad deeds, a struggle against injustice, or limited warfare for a just cause.

*Five Pillars – five basic acts of worship required of every able-bodied Muslim.They are (1) shahada, testifying to belief in one God and Muhammad’s prophethood, (2)salah, performing five daily prayers, (3) zakah, paying the poor due, (4) siyam, fasting in the month of Ramadan, (5) performing the hajj, or pilgrimage to Makkah once in a lifetime.


Muhammad was born to Aminah and Abdullah, son of Abd al-Muttalib in 570 C.E.

Muhammad was a shepherd as a young boy and went on several trading caravans to Syria with his uncle Abu Talib.

Khadijah, a wealthy widow who employed traders, asked Muhammad to take her goods to Syria and sell them. Khadijah was so impressed by Muhammad’s fine character that she proposed marriage to him. Khadijah and Muhammad had four daughters and two sons, who both died in infancy.

In 610 C.E., on a retreat to a cave on Jabal al-Nur (Mountain of Light) outside of Makkah, Muhammad received the first verses of the Qur’an from God, according to Muslim beliefs. Frightened, Muhammad left the cave and went home to Khadijah, who comforted and reassured him, and accepted the truth of what he said.

A verse told Muhammad to preach the message of the Qur’an to his family and members of his clan. Only his cousin Ali, who was 13 at the time, responded.

Muhammad began preaching to the people of Makkah, telling of a Day of Judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the promised afterlife.

In the year 617, the Quraysh, unable to convince Muhammad to stop preaching, banished the Muslims and their supporters to a dry valley and refused to trade with them. Muhammad’s uncle, Abu Talib, lost his business and the Muslims nearly starved. Abu Bakr, once a wealthy trader, lost everything. In 619, Muhammad’s wife Khadijah died, and then Muhammad also lost his protector, Abu Talib.

In the year 620, the most remarkable spiritual event of Muhammad’s life occurred – the Night Journey called Isra’ and Miraj–in which Muslims believe Muhammad was transported to Jerusalem and then to Heaven. Muslims believe that God gave Muhammad the order for Muslims to pray the five daily prayers on this night journey.

The Muslims were offered asylum in a city north of Makkah called Yathrib (later, Madinah). The migration of the Muslims to Yathrib, in 622, is called the Hijrah. Hearing of a plot to kill Muhammad, he and Abu Bakr escaped to Madinah together, and received a joyful reception.

Muhammad purchased land for the first masjid, or house of worship, and established a mutual defense and cooperation pact among the tribes of Madinah, with himself as the leader of the city. This document was called the “Constitution of Madinah.” Muhammad paired immigrants from Makkah with the Muslims from Madinah in a relationship of brotherhood.

Muslims believe Muhammad was sent a verse from the Qur’an allowing the Muslims to fight against those who had turned them out of their homes because of their beliefs. The first battle between the Muslims from Madinah and the Quraysh from Makkah took place at Badr in 624 C.E. The Muslim army of about 250 defeated the Makkan army of more than a thousand fighters, according to historical accounts.

A year after the Battle of Badr, the Makkans sent an army to get revenge for their defeat. This battle was called the battle of Uhud. With many losses on both sides, the two sides withdrew in a stalemate.

The third major battle between the Quraysh and the Muslims was the Battle of the Trench, in which the Quraysh and their allies besieged Madinah. The Bani Qurayzah, a Jewish tribe in Madinah, sided with Quraysh and broke their treaty with the Muslims. When the Makkans finally left amid storms and the desertion of their allies, the Muslims turned to attack the Bani Qurayzah for siding with the attack against Madinah.

After the Battle of the Trench, in 628, Muhammad decided to lead a pilgrimage to Makkah. The Muslims camped at Hudaybiyyah, just outside Makkah, where they were halted by Quraysh. The Makkans didn’t want to let the Muslims make the pilgrimage but entered into a peace treaty with Muhammad. The treaty at Hudaybiyyah called for ten years of peace between the Muslims and the Makkans, and allowed the Muslims to make their pilgrimage the following year.

A year after the treaty at Hudaybiyyah, Muhammad and his companions completed their pilgrimage. Muhammad asked Bilal ibn Rabah, a former slave and among the earliest Muslims, to give the call to prayer from the top of the Ka’bah. This angered the Makkans, who were camped in the hills outside Makkah until the Muslims completed their pilgrimage. They couldn’t believe that a former slave stood on top of their sacred house.

The Makkans broke their treaty with the Muslims by attacking a tribe allied with the Muslims. Muhammad immediately marched on Makkah and took the city peacefully in 630 C.E.

Muhammad returned to Madinah after the conquest of Makkah. He made a final pilgrimage to Makkah, also called the Farewell Pilgrimage, to define the rites of the pilgrimage. He also gave his farewell address where he told Muslims to treat each other humanely.

Muhammad became ill with a strong fever. On June 8th, 632, Muhammad died. Abu Bakr, the leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad’s death, reminded the grieving Muslims that Muhammad was only human, and that they should worship God and not Muhammad.

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