This is a story about a city. The name of the city is Makkah al-Mukarramah, but sometimes it is called Makkah or Mecca. This city is in Saudi Arabia. It is a city thousands of years old.
This is also the story of a man. His name was Muhammad. Shortly before Muhammad was born in the city of Makkah, his father died. Before Muhammad was six years old, his mother died. Then Muhammad lived with his grandfather for two years until his grandfather also died. After that, he lived with his uncle. While Muhammad was still young, his uncle died, too, but other members of Muhammad’s tribe took care of him until he became an adult, got a job, married, and started a family.
Muhammad’s tribe was one of the largest in Makkah. Makkah was Muhammad’s family home, but it was also his faith home. The people who lived there believed that the city was founded by the prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael. They believed their city was holy.
The ka’ba was a holy building in town where thousands of people would come to pray. Some of them believed and prayed to only one god, but most of them prayed to several gods. Statues representing these gods surrounded the ka’ba. Muhammad’s people prayed to their gods at the ka’ba, and Muhammad did, too.
Various people praying to many different gods at the ka’ba was part of everyday life for Muhammad. He witnessed it all the time.
One day, Muhammad heard what he could only explain as the voice of God speaking to him. Muhammad was instructed to be a prophet or teacher to people everywhere that there was only one God. And so, he began to teach.
Many people did not want to hear what Muhammad said. They wanted to continue to worship the gods the same way they always had, and not change. They threatened Muhammad and his followers.
Muhammad could have chosen to keep quiet, but he did not. He saw the world differently now. He believed he had a right and a responsibility to speak what he saw as the truth because God had told him to do so. It was important to him that this city, that was the faith home to many, be a home to what he believed was the one true faith.
Muhammad had to leave Makkah because it was dangerous for him there. He moved to Medina and his followers grew. They called their faith Islam and they acknowledged Islam’s connection to the prophets of Judaism and Christianity, who also prayed to only one god.
Even though he had many followers in his new home of Medina, who practiced Islam in a beautiful temple (or mosque, as they are called in Islam), Muhammad was not content. He believed that God wanted him to bring the faith of Islam to Makkah.
In 630 AD, he returned to Makkah and brought Islam to the city he had always considered his faith home. It is still the predominant faith in Makkah. It has also spread to many other places, and is now practiced by 1.2 billion people. It is the second largest religion in the world.