Contrary to popular understanding, Islam did not start in Arabia and Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam. Arab history is just a small part of Islamic history. Let me explain.
From the Quranic standpoint Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam. He was the seal, the final one, the prophet who came to conclude a long string of messengers from the very beginning of human history (Quran 33:40). In fact, the Prophet himself declared that he follows the belief of Abraham at Quran 16:123 (Also refer 2:135, 3:95 and 4:125).
The Quran declares Islam’s inclusive history by suggesting that it is Allah – not Prophet Muhammad – who named Muslims, Muslim (those who have surrendered themselves to God); long before the birth of the Prophet. (Quran 22:78)
Based on the Quran, almost all of the history books on Islam, whether written by Muslims or Non-Muslims, that usually record Islam with the coming of Prophet Muhammad and making the Prophet as the founder of Islam run contrary to the Quranic stance. Many even erroneously call Muslims Mohammedans!!! The Quran specifically said at 3:144 that the Prophet is just an apostle like the many that had passed away before him.
At best these history books are relating the history of the Arab people and how the Arabs impacted the world and built an empire based on their ‘new faith’, Islam. The Quran’s version of the history of mankind is inclusive and universal. It started with Adam, the first civilized homo sapiens - one who is endowed with the power of conceptual thoughts and language: our ability to talk and define reality (Quran 2:31). Islam’s history as far as the Quran, is world history, not only the history of the Arabs. (Here is where the historian Albert Habib Hourani got it right by calling his book “A History of the Arab Peoples”.)
The Quran is not a history book but the Quran tell stories of the past. Interestingly though, the Quran has an uncanny way to make the past as though it is ours. In many verses when dealing with old events, the Quran tell us the story in a style as though those events are our own – be it the creation of the universe or old civilizations. The stories, become our story. (There are so many examples, here’s a few – Quran 1: 7, 12:7, 10:13-18, etc.)
How does the Quran do that? The Quran brings back historical events to the current - compressing hundreds if not thousands or millions of years to the present-day and make us feel and get closer to the happenings. In other words, the Quran engaged us as if these events exist within our own memories. We become ONE with the history of the world – be they good or bad. The Quran makes all of history belong to us. We thus become connected with forlorn people no matter who they are or where they were from. As such, we are linked to world history – not just our community’s history - the history of every child of Adam (Quran 17:70)
However, as I stated earlier, today, Islamic history seems to be confined to Arab history. This myopic view of Islam is tragic and has cause Muslims to be exclusive, sectarian and constricted, unlike the Muslims from the 7th to 14th century – known as the Golden Age where the Muslims read, studied, learn and relate to the history of all over the known world. A most magnificent renaissance.
I hope this post can help you attune to the Quranic version.
All emphasis are mine to help readers focus on a particular message.
1. And He imparted unto Adam the names of all things; then He brought them within the ken of the angels and said: "Declare unto Me the names of these [things], if what you say is true." - Quran 2:31
2. AND WHENEVER thy Sustainer brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: "Am I not your Sustainer?" - to which they answer: "Yea, indeed, we do bear witness thereto!" [Of this We remind you,] lest you say on the Day of Resurrection, "Verily, we were unaware of this"; - Quran 7:172
3. O CHILDREN OF ADAM! Whenever there come unto you apostles of your own, conveying My messages unto you, then all who are conscious of Me and live righteously - no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve; Quran 7:35
4. And who could be of better faith than he who surrenders his whole being unto God and is a doer of good withal, and follows the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false - seeing that God exalted Abraham with His love: 4:125
5. Say: "God has spoken the truth: follow, then, the creed of Abraham, who turned away from all that is false, and was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God."- Quran 3:95
6. And strive hard in God’s cause with all the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has elected you [to carry His message] and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to religion, [and made you follow] the creed of your forefather Abraham. It is He who has named you in bygone times as well as in this [divine writ] – “those who have surrendered themselves to God”, so that the Apostle might bear witness to the truth before you, and that you might bear witness to it before all mankind. Thus, be constant in prayer, and render the purifying dues, and hold fast unto God. He is your Lord Supreme: and how excellent is this Lord Supreme, and how excellent this Giver of Succour! Quran 22:78
7. Verily, We have sent thee with the truth, as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner: for there never was any community but a warner has [lived and] passed away in its midst. - Quran 35:24
8. NOW every community has had an apostle; and only after their apostle has appeared [and delivered his message] is judgment passed on them, in all equity; and never are they wronged. Quran 10:47
9. [And as for thee, O Prophet,] nothing is being said to thee but what was said to all [of God’s] apostles before thy time. Behold, thy Sustainer is indeed full of forgiveness - but He has also the power to requite most grievously! Quran 41:43
10. AND MUHAMMAD is only an apostle; all the [other] apostles have passed away before him: if, then, he dies or is slain, will you turn about on your heels? But he that turns about on his heels can in no wise harm God - whereas God will requite all who are grateful [to Him].- Quran 3:144