The Middle East in the 6th Century
Muhammad received his first revelation in 610 AD, at that time he was living in Mecca, married to a wealthy widow. Mecca was a prosperous trade city, located in the western part of Arabian Peninsula in a region called Hijaz.
The Quraysh tribe merchants ruled Mecca at the time and they soon became reluctant to accept the morally inclined, monotheistic teachings of Muhammad. Moreover, the new teaching endangered the prominence of Mecca's shrine Ka'ba that was a great center of cult worship, annual pilgrimage and of course a valuable source of revenue. Muhammad was challenging the traditional religious, social and economic structure of the city and, not surprisingly, he was forced to leave it.
In 622, he immigrated with a group of followers to Medina, an oasis town some 200 miles (322 km) north of Mecca. This emigration, called hijrah , was a turning point in development of Islam. For less than ten years Muhammad literally build a small state in Medina and became a prominent leader in Arabia. This transformation was achieved, as professor William Cleveland mentions in his history of Middle East ( A History of Middle East , Westview Press, 2004), through a combination of warfare, negotiation, and preaching. Once subdued Medina, Muhammad turned to Mecca, first disrupting caravan trade, and later, in 630, attacking the city with 10 000 men. Mecca fell under the power her former exile. (read more)