Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah was the founder of the religion of Islam and the last prophet of God according to Islamic belief. He was born in Mecca in 570 CE and, after being orphaned, was raised by his uncle and became a merchant. He received his first divine revelation at age 40 and began preaching in Mecca three years later. His teachings against the polytheistic tradition that had made Mecca a pagan pilgrimage destination earned him enough hostility to force him to migrate to Medina in 622, marking the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Medina, Muhammad gained 10,000 followers, united the area’s conflicting tribes, and took control of Mecca. He succeeded in uniting the many tribes of Arabia into a single state governed by Islamic teaching under his leadership. He died in 632 shortly after returning to Medina from his only pilgrimage to Mecca, which became a destination for obligatory Muslim pilgrimage.
By founding Islam, Muhammad united the Arab world of his day both spiritually and politically, allowing Islam and Arab culture to spread rapidly across the Middle East, North Africa, and much of Asia. Islam has become the world’s second largest religion after Christianity and has played a central role in defining the cultures and, in many cases, political systems where it has taken root. Along with the oneness of God, the prophethood of Muhammad is central to Islamic dogma, as proclaimed in the Shahadah. Hadith—reports on the sunnah (sayings and habits) of Muhammad—are an important non-scriptural source of guidance to Muslims. Muslims hold Muhammad particularly dear among all the prophets in whom they believe for being God’s final prophet and the one who restored the uncorrupted monotheism God intended for humanity.