Islam was established by a respected merchant, Muhammad, who, as a young adult, frequently meditated in a cave near his home in Mecca, in what is now western Saudi Arabia.
Mt. Hira, where Muhammad said Gabriel appeared
Islam teaches that, in the year 610, when Muhammad was about forty, he was visited in a cave by the Angel Gabriel who commanded him to recite verses sent by Allah. (Christian legend says Gabriel will blow his horn to announce Judgement Day.) These verses, now called the Qur'an (recitation), were revealed to Muhammad over a period of about twenty-three years and formed the basis of the religion which he founded, Islam.
Note: If revelations in a cave by the Angel Gabriel seem to be an unlikely basis for a global "true" religion, bear in mind the origins of some other popular faiths:
- Christianity was founded by Saul, a persecutor of Jesus' followers, most of whom were Jews. Saul, who had never met Jesus, said that Jesus appeared to him - at least two generations after the crucifixion - in a blinding flash of light that knocked him senseless off his horse. Saul wrote of Jesus as existing strictly on a spiritual plane, not on the earth. The Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - were actually written well after any adult who was alive in Jesus' time would have died.
- Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., who said Jesus appeared to him, as well as God the Father, and an angel named, "Moroni." Smith dictated The Book of Mormon by gazing at a "seer stone" he had placed in a hat which yielded divine translations of "reformed Egyptian" scriptures which he said had been engraved on gold plates. This was the same "seer stone" he had previously used in "fortune telling" episodes that had resulted in his arrest and conviction.
Upon successfully convincing family members that he was a prophet, Muhammad began preaching his verses in public. After being persecuted for his teachings, Muhammad and his followers fled from Mecca to Medina where they formed a community of people who devoted themselves to life according to the tenets of Muhammad's revelations. Some Jewish tribes in the vicinity converted to Islam. Those that refused were expelled from the community.