religion was founded by Mohammed in the early 600s. Mohammed's followers
believe him to have been the last messenger of God, completing the
work of earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
in the city of Mecca on the Arabian peninsula about 570, Mohammed
began in 610 to proselytize for Islam. Islam proclaimed one God and
the unity of all people regardless of their tribal affiliation. Opposition
in his native Mecca forced Mohammed to remove his base to the city
of Medina [then called Yathrib] and even for one period into Abyssinia.
As support for Islam flourished, Mohammed assumed secular leadership
a period of hostility punctuated by warfare, Mohammed in 630 succeeded
to the leadership of Mecca as well. Mohammed died two years later
in Medina, but the spread of Islam continued unabated, first in the
Arab world and then beyond. The emergence of Islam, with its emphasis
on the unity of Muslims, dramatically increased the political strength
of its followers. The consequences for the Byzantine [Eastern Roman]
Empire were immediate, and the implications
for Sicily and all of Europe were lasting and profound.