In AD 570 Mohammad ibn Abdullah was born into the family of a
caravan merchant belonging to the Hashimite branch of the ruling
Quraysh tribe that lived in the prosperous Arabian town of Mecca.
In AD 610, at the age of forty, Mohammad began to receive the
first of a series of revelations from God which were transmitted
to him through the angel Gabriel over a period of 22 years. These
directives of moral principles are contained in the Quran (The
Recitation), the sacred scripture of Islam.
The Prophet Mohammad preached against socioeconomic inequities
and denounced polytheism with its thriving pilgrimage business
centered around the Kaaba shrine and numerous religious sites
in the vicinity of Mecca. His vigorous reform messages challenged
the powerful ruling establishment, threatened their economic and
political interests and eventually earned him their bitter enmity.
Forced to leave Mecca in 622, he moved with a group of followers
to the town of Yathrib, later called Medina. Here he established
a Muslim community-state, consolidating both temporal and spiritual
leadership in his person. The migration to Medina is known as
the hijra and the creation of a Muslim community (ummah)
marks the beginning of the Islamic era. The Muslim calendar, based
on a 354-day lunar year, begins in AD 622. From Medina, the Prophet
Mohammad fought a series of successful battles and returned to
Mecca in triumph in AD 630, shortly before his death in 632.
After the Prophet Mohammad's death, the leaders of the Muslim
community chose as his successor or caliph, Abu Bakr,
who was one of the Prophet's earliest followers as well as the
father of Aisha, the youngest and most beautiful of the Prophet's
wives. There were those, however, who favored Ali, the Prophet's
cousin and husband of his daughter Fatima. These supporters of
Ali were known as Shiat-u-Ali (Party of Ali), later to be called
Shia. Ali eventually succeeded as the fourth caliph in AD 656,
but this led to civil war in 661 during which Ali was assassinated.
Ali's son Husayn led a second rebellion in 680 during which he
was killed at the Battle of Karbala which is commemorated by the
Shia each year on the tenth of Muharram. Husayn's death marks
the division of Islam into Sunni and Shia, ending the period in
which the entire Islamic community recognized a single caliph.
name Afghanistan conventional long form Islamic State of
Afghanistan conventional short form Afghanistan local long
form Dowlat-e Eslami-ye Afghanestan local short form Afghanestan former Republic of Afghanistan
- total: 647,500 sq km land: 647,500 sq km water: 0 sq km
- mostly rugged mountains; plains in north and southwest
- arid to semiarid; cold winters and hot summers
- landlocked; the Hindu Kush mountains that run northeast to southwest divide
the northern provinces from the rest of the country; the highest peaks are in
the northern Vakhan (Wakhan Corridor)
- 1,200 km note: chiefly Amu Darya, which handles vessels up to 500 DWT (2001)
Natural hazards - damaging earthquakes
occur in Hindu Kush mountains; flooding; droughts
Courtesy: The Library of Congress - Country Studies
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