At that time the Arabs followed a form of idolatry, eachtribe keeping its own idols at the Ka'bah, the cubicalstructure built originally by Abraham to celebrate theglory of the One God. But the monotheistic message ofAbraham had long become forgotten among the generalpopulation of the Arabian peninsula. The young Muhammad,however, was a believer in the One God all of his lifeand never participated in the idolatrous practices of histribe.
When forty years old, during one of the retreats which hemade habitually in a cave on top of a mountain outsideMakkah, Muhammad first saw the archangel Gabriel whorevealed God's Word to him, the Quran, and announced thatMuhammad is the messenger of God. For the next thirteenyears he preached the Word of God to the Makkans,inviting them to abandon idolatry and accept the religionof Oneness. A few accepted his call but most Makkans,especially those of his own tribe, opposed him violently,seeing in the new religion a grave danger to theireconomic as well as social domination based upon theircontrol of the Ka'bah. But the Prophet continued to callthe people to Islam and gradually a larger number of menand women began to accept the faith and submit themselvesto its teachings. As a result, persecution of Muslimsincreased until the Prophet was forced to send some ofhis companions to Abyssinia where they were protected bythe Christian king.
The Makkan period was also one of intense spiritualexperience for the Prophet and the noble companions whoformed the nucleus of the new religious community whichwas soon to spread worldwide. It was during this periodthat God ordered the direction of prayers to be changedfrom Jerusalem to Makkah. To this day Jerusalem remainsalong with Makkah and Madinah one of the holiest citiesof Islam.
In 622 A. D. the Prophet was ordered by God to migrate toYathrib, a city north of Makkah. He followed the DivineCommand and left with his followers for that city whichhenceforth was known as "The City of the Prophet"(Madinat al-nabi) or simply Madinah. This event was somomentous that the Islamic calendar begins with thismigration (hijrah).
In Madinah, the Prophet established the first Islamicsociety which has served as the model for all laterIslamic societies. Several battles took place against theinvading Makkans which the Muslims won against greatodds. Soon more tribes began to join Islam and within afew years most of Arabia had embraced the religion ofIslam.
After many trials and eventually successive victories,the Prophet returned triumphantly to Makkah where thepeople embraced Islam at last. He forgave all his formerenemies and marched to the Ka'bah, where he ordered hiscompanion and cousin 'Ali to join him in destroying allthe idols. The Prophet reconstituted the rite ofpilgrimage as founded by Abraham. The Prophet thenreturned to Madinah and made another pilgrimage toMakkah. It was upon returning from this last pilgrimagethat he delivered his farewell address. Soon he fell illand after three days died in 632 A. D. in Madinah wherehe was buried in the chamber of his house next to thefirst mosque of Islam.