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Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramhansa Yogananda, know in childhood as Mukunda Ghosh, was born in Gorakhpur in 1893 and was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West.

Early life

As a child he was an adventurous, spirited young man. His family was of an upper caste in India and as an adolescent he had full and clear recollection of events and conversations of his childhood, particularly those that reveal the supernatural and at times awesome experiences he had as a budding enlightened being.

At seventeen, Yogananda became a monk and was initiated by his guru into the “Giri” or mountain branch of the Shankaracharya order, one of India’s largest and most respected yogic lineages. As his spiritual life developed, Yogananda experienced more and more unusual events that today would be classified as paranormal – clairvoyance, levitation, remote viewing, manifestation, remote hearing, astral projections to name a few.

Move to the west

Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and proceeded to travel throughout the United States on what he called his “spiritual campaigns.” Hundreds of thousands filled the largest halls in major American cities to see the yoga master from India.

Yogananda’s initial impact on the western culture was truly impressive but his lasting spiritual legacy has been even greater. His autobiography was first published in 1946, twenty-six years after he was instructed by his Guru to leave India and go to America to spread the teachings of Kriya Yoga. There he lectured widely, wrote books on yoga, and started the Self-Realization Fellowship, an organization dedicated to teaching the art of Kriya yoga to Westerners.

Yogananda’s message was nonsectarian and universal. Before embarking on his mission to the West, he received this admonition from his teacher:

“The West is high in material attainments, but lacking in spiritual understanding. It is God’s will that you play a role in teaching mankind the value of balancing the material with an inner, spiritual life.”

His main teaching: The Path of Self-Realization

The lasting contribution brought by Yogananda to the West is the non-sectarian, universal spiritual path of Self-Realization. Yogananda gave this definition to the term Self-Realization:

“Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.”

As the means of attaining this exalted spiritual state Yogananda initiated his followers into the ancient technique of Kriya Yoga, which he called the “jet-airplane route to God.” The path of Kriya Yoga, which combines the practice of advanced yogic techniques with spirituality in daily life, can be learned through the Ananda Kriya Sangha.

Yogananda continued to lecture and write up to his passing in 1952.

His legacy

Yogananda’s writings document his early life in Calcutta, his college days, his efforts to visit the Himalayas to find a teacher, his meetings with various saints, his finding a guru at age seventeen.

Yoganandas publications helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West. His book “Autobiography of a Yogi” , translated into more than a dozen languages, remains a best-selling spiritual classic to this day.

The Self-Realization Fellowship / Yogoda Satsanga Society of India is a worldwide spiritual organization founded by Paramahansa Yogananda in 1920 and based in Mount Washington in Los Angeles, California. The fellowship’s mission is to foster a spirit of greater understanding and goodwill among the diverse people and nations of the global family and help those of all cultures and creeds to realize and express more fully in their lives the beauty, nobility, and divinity of the human spirit, which mission it intends to fulfil through worldwide service.

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Confucius

Confucius was born June 19th, 551 B.C. at Shang-ping, in China.  He was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history. His own name was Kong, but his disciples called him Kong-fu-tse, (i.e. Kong the Master, or Teacher,) which the Jesuit missionaries Latinized into Confucius.

Early life

His father died when Confucius was only three years of age, but he was very carefully brought up by his mother, Yan-she, and from his earliest years, displayed an extraordinary love of learning, and veneration for the ancient laws of his country.

When only 19, Confucius married, but divorced his wife four years after marriage in order to have more time for study and the performance of his public duties.

The death of his mother, which occurred in his 23rd year, gave occasion to the first solemn and important act of Confucius as a moral reformer. The solemnity and splendour of the burial ceremony with which he honoured her remains, (an old custom which had fallen into disuse,) struck his fellow citizens with astonishment, and they determined for the future to bury their dead with the ancient honours.

Seclusion 

Their example was followed by the neighbouring states, and the whole nation, except the poorest class. Confucius did not end here. He shut himself up in his house to pass in solitude the three years of mourning for his mother, the whole of which time he dedicated to philosophical study.

Confucius reflected deeply on the eternal laws of morality, traced them to their source, imbued his mind with a sense of the duties they impose indiscriminately on all men, and determined to make them the immutable rule of all his actions. Henceforth his career is only an illustration of his ethical system.

On the road

He commenced to instruct his countrymen in the precepts of morality, exhibiting in his own person all the virtues he inculcated in others. Gradually his disciples increased, as the practical character of his philosophy became more apparent.

His disciples generally were not the young and enthusiastic, but men of middle age, sober, grave, respectable, and occupying important public situations. This fact throws light both on the character and design of his philosophy. It was moral, not religious, and aimed exclusively at fitting men for conducting themselves honourably and prudently in this life.

Confucius travelled through various states, in some of which he was well received, while in others he was not much appreciated. His later wanderings were very unpropitious: state after state refused to be improved. He was in some instances persecuted; once he was imprisoned and nearly starved, and finally seeing no hope of securing the favourable attention of the mass of his countrymen while alive, he returned in extreme poverty to his native state, and spent his last years in the composition of literary works, by which posterity at least might be instructed.

He died 479 B.C., in the 70th year of his age. Immediately after his death, Confucius began to be venerated and his family was distinguished by various honours and privileges.

The teachings 

While Confucius’ system is termed a religion, it ought rather to be regarded as a method of political and social life, built upon a slight foundation of philosophy. It contains no trace of a personal God, though there are indeed a number of allusions to a certain heavenly agency or power, Shang-te, whose outward emblem is Tien, or the visible firmament.

Confucianism appeals to practical men. It lauds the present world and calls upon all to cultivate such virtues as are seemly in citizens – industry, modesty, sobriety, gravity, decorum and thoughtfulness. It also counsels men to take part in whatever religious services have been established of old.

“There may be some meaning in them, and they may affect your welfare in a way you do not know of. And for the genii and spirits, sacrifice unto them; I have nothing to tell regarding them, whether they exist or not; but their worship is a part of an august and awful ceremonial, which a wise man will not neglect or despise.”

Confucianism, in consequence, almost immediately after the death of its author, became the religion of the state, to which it proved an admirable ally.

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Buddha

The history of Buddhism is the story of one man’s spiritual journey to Enlightenment, and of the teachings and ways of living that developed from it.

Siddhartha Gautama – The Buddha

By finding the path to Enlightenment, Siddhartha was led from the pain of suffering and rebirth towards the path of Enlightenment and became known as the Buddha or ‘awakened one’.

A life of luxury

Opinions differ as to the dates of Siddhartha Gautama’s life. Historians have dated his birth and death as circa 566-486 BCE but more recent research suggests that he lived later than this, from around 490 BCE until circa 410 BCE.

He was born into a royal family in the village of Lumbini in present-day Nepal, and his privileged life insulated him from the sufferings of life; sufferings such as sickness, age and death.

Discovering cruel reality

One day, after growing up, marrying and having a child, Siddhartha went outside the royal enclosure where he lived. When he went outside he saw, each for the first time, an old man, a sick man, and a corpse.

This greatly disturbed him, and he learned that sickness, age, and death were the inevitable fate of human beings – a fate no-one could avoid.

Becoming a holy man

Siddhartha had also seen a monk, and he decided this was a sign that he should leave his protected royal life and live as a homeless holy man.

Siddhartha’s travels showed him much more of the the suffering of the world. He searched for a way to escape the inevitability of death, old age and pain first by studying with religious men. This didn’t provide him with an answer.

A life of self-denial

Siddhartha encountered an Indian ascetic who encouraged him to follow a life of extreme self-denial and discipline. The Buddha also practised meditation but concluded that in themselves, the highest meditative states were not enough.

Siddhartha followed this life of extreme asceticism for six years, but this did not satisfy him either; he still had not escaped from the world of suffering.

The middle way

He abandoned the strict lifestyle of self-denial and ascetism, but did not return to the pampered luxury of his early life. Instead, he pursued the Middle Way, which is just what it sounds like; neither luxury nor poverty.

Enlightenment

One day, seated beneath the Bodhi tree (the tree of awakening) Siddhartha became deeply absorbed in meditation, and reflected on his experience of life, determined to penetrate its truth.

He finally achieved Enlightenment and became the Buddha. The Mahabodhi Temple at the site of Buddha’s enlightenment, is now a pilgrimage site.

Buddhist legend tells that at first the Buddha was happy to dwell within this state, but Brahma, king of the gods, asked, on behalf of the whole world, that he should share his understanding with others.

The Teacher

Buddha set in motion the wheel of teaching: rather than worshipping one god or gods, Buddhism centres around the timeless importance of the teaching, or the dharma.

For the next 45 years of his life the Buddha taught many disciples, who became Arahants or ‘noble ones’, who had attained Enlightenment for themselves.

His Teachings

The Four Noble Truths

“I teach suffering, its origin, cessation and path. That’s all I teach”, declared the Buddha 2500 years ago.

The Four Noble Truths contain the essence of the Buddha’s teachings. It was these four principles that the Buddha came to understand during his meditation under the bodhi tree.

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering

The Buddha is often compared to a physician. In the first two Noble Truths he diagnosed the problem (suffering) and identified its cause. The third Noble Truth is the realisation that there is a cure.

The fourth Noble Truth, in which the Buddha set out the Eightfold Path, is the prescription, the way to achieve a release from suffering.

The first noble truth

Suffering

Suffering comes in many forms. Three obvious kinds of suffering correspond to the first three sights the Buddha saw on his first journey outside his palace: old age, sickness and death.

But according to the Buddha, the problem of suffering goes much deeper. Life is not ideal: it frequently fails to live up to our expectations.

Human beings are subject to desires and cravings, but even when we are able to satisfy these desires, the satisfaction is only temporary. Pleasure does not last; or if it does, it becomes monotonous.

Even when we are not suffering from outward causes like illness or bereavement, we are unfulfilled, unsatisfied. This is the truth of suffering.

Some people who encounter this teaching may find it pessimistic. Buddhists find it neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but realistic. Fortunately the Buddha’s teachings do not end with suffering; rather, they go on to tell us what we can do about it and how to end it.

The second noble truth

Origin of suffering

Our day-to-day troubles may seem to have easily identifiable causes: thirst, pain from an injury, sadness from the loss of a loved one. In the second of his Noble Truths, though, the Buddha claimed to have found the cause of all suffering – and it is much more deeply rooted than our immediate worries.

The Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is misplaced desire. This comes in three forms, which he described as the Three Roots of Evil, or the Three Fires, or the Three Poisons. 

The three roots of evil

These are the three ultimate causes of suffering:

  • Greed and misplaced desires
  • Ignorance or delusion
  • Hatred and destructive urges

The Buddha went on to say the same of the other four senses, and the mind, showing that attachment to positive, negative and neutral sensations and thoughts is the cause of suffering.

The third noble truth

Cessation of suffering

The Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment. This is the third Noble Truth – the possibility of liberation. The Buddha was a living example that this is possible in a human lifetime.

A Buddhist aims to know sense conditions clearly as they are without becoming enchanted or misled by them.

Nirvana

Nirvana means extinguishing. Attaining nirvana – reaching enlightenment – means extinguishing the three fires of greed, delusion and hatred.

Someone who reaches nirvana does not immediately disappear to a heavenly realm. Nirvana is better understood as a state of mind that humans can reach. It is a state of profound spiritual joy, without negative emotions and fears.

Someone who has attained enlightenment is filled with compassion for all living things.

After death an enlightened person is liberated from the cycle of rebirth, but Buddhism gives no definite answers as to what happens next.

The Buddha discouraged his followers from asking too many questions about nirvana. He wanted them to concentrate on the task at hand, which was freeing themselves from the cycle of suffering. Asking questions is like quibbling with the doctor who is trying to save your life.

The fourth noble truth

Path to the cessation of suffering

The final Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering. This is a set of principles called the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way: it avoids both indulgence and severe asceticism, neither of which the Buddha had found helpful in his search for enlightenment. 

The Eight-fold Path

The eight stages are not to be taken in order, but rather support and reinforce each other:

1) Right Understanding.- The Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly, but to practice them and judge for themselves whether they were true.

2) Right Intention.- A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.

3) Right Speech.- Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip and abusive speech.

4) Right Action.- Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.

5) Right Livelihood.- Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm, such as exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.

6) Right Effort.- Cultivating positive states of mind; freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states and preventing them arising in future.

7) Right Mindfulness.- Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings and states of mind.

8) Right Concentration.- Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.

The eight stages can be grouped into Wisdom (right understanding and intention), Ethical Conduct (right speech, action and livelihood) and Meditation (right effort, mindfulness and concentration).

The Buddha described the Eightfold Path as a means to enlightenment, like a raft for crossing a river. Once one has reached the opposite shore, one no longer needs the raft and can leave it behind.

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Jesus

Jesus was born in 2-6 BCE in Bethlehem, Judea. Little is known about his life, but he is the central figure of Christianity and whom most Christian denominations worship as God the Son incarnated.

The Bible

Most of Jesus’ life is told through the four Gospels of the New Testament Bible, known as the Canonical gospels – more a theological document with allegorical intent than a biography – written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are written to engender faith in Jesus as the Messiah and the incarnation of God, who came to teach, suffer and die for people’s sins.

There is very little written about Jesus’ early life. The Gospel of Luke recounts that a 12-year-old Jesus had accompanied his parents on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and became separated. He was found several days later in a temple, discussing affairs with some of Jerusalem’s elders.

Throughout the New Testament, there are trace references of Jesus working as a carpenter while a young adult. It is believed that he began his ministry at age 30 when he was baptized by John the Baptist, who upon seeing Jesus, declared him the Son of God.

Love

Jesus taught about love. He said, “Love with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Love your neighbour as yourself. There is nothing more important than this.”

One of Jesus’ most famous and difficult teachings is to love not just our friends and family, but also our enemies. Jesus explained that there is nothing special or extraordinary in loving those who love us back – even wicked people do as much. He said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” 

Forgiveness

Jesus taught that people must forgive those who have wronged them and that it is not enough to forgive only once – we must forgive every time we are wronged. Jesus said, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Judging Others 

Jesus warned not to judge others. Jesus said, “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Wealth and Poverty

Jesus taught to be faithful and generous in our giving to others who are in need. He never said that it was a sin to be wealthy, but he did teach that having wealth would make it very difficulty for people to lead a spiritual life since the wealthy may become too attached to their possessions.

The point of this teaching is that people must not become too focused on what they have in this world. We are here for a but a short time, so we must remain focused on things that are important – loving and serving.

Jesus’ impact

Whatever one thinks about the historicity of the events described in the Gospels, and there are many different views, one thing is not in doubt: Jesus had an overwhelming impact on those around him. The Gospels speak regularly of huge crowds following Jesus. Perhaps they gathered because of his reputation as a healer. 

Perhaps they gathered because of his ability as a teacher. Whatever the cause, it seems likely that the authorities’ fear of the crowd was a major factor leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. In a world where there was no democracy, mobs represented a far greater threat to the Romans’ rule than anything else.

Yet in spite of Jesus’ popularity during his lifetime, the early Christian movement after Jesus’ death was only a small group with a tiny power base in Jerusalem, a handful of Jesus’ closest followers who stayed loyal to Jesus’ legacy because they were convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, that he had died for everyone’s sins, and that he was raised from the dead. It was a movement that received its greatest boost when the most unlikely figure joined it, the apostle Paul.

Famously converted on the road to Damascus, Paul travelled tens of thousands of miles around the Mediterranean spreading the word of Jesus and it was Paul who came up with the doctrine that would turn Christianity from a small sect of Judaism into a worldwide faith that was open to all.

 

 

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Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was a philosopher of ancient China and is attributed with the writing of the “Tao-Te Ching,” (tao—meaning the way of all life, te—meaning the fit use of life by men, and ching—meaning text or classic). His association with the Tào Té Chīng has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of philosophical Taoism. 

 

Early life

Lao Tzu was born around the year 604 B.C. in Louyang (nowadays Ho-nan province), China to the name Li Erh. The honorific name Lao Tzu (translated the old sage or master) was given to him later on in life when he worked for the King of Zhou as the keeper of the imperial archives.

During his time as the keeper of these royal scrolls, Lao Tzu studied the archive’s books avidly. Being keeper of archives and sacred books, Lao Tzu gained a great deal of knowledge over time which he used in his wisdom and philosophy. Some of the topics he would have most likely been knowledgeable in were astrology and divination.

He was a peer of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.), and he is reported to have given an interview to Confucius when he came to Loyang seeking information on the Chou ritual.

The birth of the Tao

In Lao’s understanding that came from self-teaching himself with the scrolls accumulated over centuries in the library, he saw that he would get no satisfaction in life staying where he was.  He felt depressed by what he had seen over his time working for the king, such as men refusing to follow the path of natural goodness. Upon reaching eighty years of age, unhappy with the dishonest political situation, Lao Tzu decided to go into retirement.

He set out for the western border of China going towards Tibet on a water buffalo leaving civilisation behind. As he was passing through the Hanku Pass west of Loyang, the gate-keeper, knowing that he would not return, persuaded him to record the principles of his philosophy for posterity.  Lau Tzu decided for three days to compose a book of all his wisdom. The result was the eighty-one sayings of the “Tao-Te Ching” meaning The Book of the Way. This ancient Chinese text is the world’s most translated classic next to the Bible.

Almost everything known about Lao-tzu comes from the Historical Records of Ssu-ma Ch’ien. There’s no further indication concerning the life of the sage in the West; he simply gets out of sight the minute he passes the boundary of the state of Ch’u disappearing into the wilderness.

His Teachings

Lao Tzu’s wise counsel attracted followers, but he refused to set his ideas down in writing. He believed that written words might solidify into formal dogma. Lao Tzu wanted his philosophy to remain a natural way to live life with goodness, serenity and respect. Lao Tzu laid down no rigid code of behaviour. He believed a person’s conduct should be governed by instinct and conscience.

Lao Tzu believed that human life, like everything else in the universe, is constantly influenced by outside forces. He believed “simplicity” to be the key to truth and freedom. Lao Tzu encouraged his followers to observe, and seek to understand the laws of nature; to develop intuition and build up personal power; and to use that power to lead life with love, and without force.

Quotes from the Tao Te Ching

–       “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realise that you have enough, you are truly rich.”

–      “If you understand others you are smart.

         If you understand yourself you are illuminated.

         If you overcome others you are powerful.

        If you overcome yourself you have strength.

        If you know how to be satisfied you are rich.

       If you can act with vigor, you have a will.

       If you don’t lose your objectives you can be long-lasting.

       If you die without loss, you are eternal.”

 

–       “A leader is bestWhen people barely know he exists

         Of a good leader, who talks little,

         When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,

         They will say, “We did this ourselves.”

 

 –       “He is free from self- display, and therefore he shines;”

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Muhammad

Born in about 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was a humble and deeply spiritual leader who unified Arabia into a single religious polity under Islam.  He is believed by Muslims to be a messenger and prophet of God, and by most Muslims as the last prophet sent by God for mankind. Muslims consider him to be the restorer of an uncorrupted original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and other prophets.

Muslims believe that Islam is a faith that has always existed and that it was gradually revealed to humanity by a number of prophets, but the final and complete revelation of the faith was made through the Prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE.

Early life

His father, Abdullah, died almost six months before Muhammad was born. According to Islamic tradition, soon after Muhammad’s birth he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as the desert life was considered healthier for infants.

Muhammad stayed with his foster-mother and her husband until he was two years old. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his biological mother to illness and he became fully orphaned.  For the next two years, he was under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather but when Muhammad was eight, his grandfather also died.

Travels and marriage

He then came under the care of his uncle. While still in his teens, Muhammad accompanied his uncle on trading journeys to Syria gaining experience in commercial trade, the only career open to Muhammad as an orphan.  Little is known of Muhammad during his later youth, and from the fragmentary information that is available, it is difficult to separate history from legend. It is known that he became a merchant and “was involved in trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.”

Due to his upright character he acquired the nickname “al-Amin” meaning “faithful, trustworthy” and “al-Sadiq” meaning “truthful” and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator.  At age 25, his reputation attracted a proposal in 595 from Khadijah, a 40-year-old widow who was 15 years older than he. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one.

Being in the habit of periodically retreating to a cave in the surrounding mountains for several nights of seclusion and prayer, he later reported that it was there, at age 40, that he received his first revelation from God.

The revelations

Muhammad adopted the practice of praying alone for several weeks every year in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca. During one of his visits to Mount Hira, one night the angel Gabriel appeared to him in the year 610 and commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses:

Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created-

Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood:

Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,-

He Who taught (the use of) the pen,-

Taught man that which he knew not.

Muhammad began to recite these words which he came to believe were the words of God. After returning home, Muhammad was consoled and reassured by his wife and her Christian cousin. Upon receiving his first revelations, he was deeply distressed and resolved to commit suicide. He also feared that others would dismiss his claims as being possessed.

The initial revelation was followed by a pause of three years during which Muhammad further gave himself to prayers and spiritual practices. When the revelations resumed he was reassured and commanded to begin preaching: “Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased”

The great migration (Hijrah)

Muhammad’s popularity was seen as threatening by the people in power in Mecca, and in September, 622 after being warned of a plot to assassinate him, Muhammad secretly slipped out of Mecca, moving with his followers from Mecca to Medina a large agricultural oasis 320 kilometres north of Mecca. This journey is called the Hijrah (migration) and the event was seen as so important for Islam that 622 is the year in which the Islamic calendar begins.

Conflict with Mecca

Following the emigration, the Meccans seized the properties of the Muslim emigrants in Mecca. Economically uprooted and with no available profession, the Muslim migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans, initiating armed conflict with Mecca. Muhammad delivered Quranic verses permitting the Muslims to fight the Meccans.

On 11 February 624, Muhammad received a revelation from God that he should be facing Mecca rather than Jerusalem during prayer. As he adjusted himself, so did his companions praying with him, beginning the tradition of facing Mecca during prayer.

In the siege of Medina, the Meccans exerted their utmost strength towards the destruction of the Muslim community. Their failure resulted in a significant loss of prestige.

The return to Mecca

In 630, Muhammad had gained so may followers that he marched on Mecca with an enormous force, said to number more than ten thousand men. With minimal casualties, Muhammad took control of Mecca and declared an amnesty for past offences. Most Meccans converted to Islam and Muhammad subsequently had destroyed all the statues of Arabian gods and personally spared paintings and frescos of Mary and Jesus, but other traditions suggest that all pictures were erased.

From this time on he was generally accepted by the faithful as the true final Prophet of God.

Death

A few months after the farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with a fever, head pain, and weakness. Muhammad continued to lead his community both spiritually and in earthly matters until his death on Monday, June 8, 632, in Medina, at the age of 63, in the house of his wife Aisha where he was buried.

The Quran

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam and Muslims believe that it represents the words of God revealed to Muhammad through the archangel Gabriel. The Quran basically teaches what is right and wrong in the Muslim faith. It dictates the 5 pillars of Islam, it tells the stories of the various prophets throughout history (including Jesus), and offers explanations and insight into the Islamic faith. It is, for many -if not most- Muslims, the “rulebook” of life.

The Quran was intended to teach the path to a pious, peaceful and just life and the importance of good social conduct, prayer, the creation of mankind, the treatment of children and relations between husband and wife. The text addresses human fraternity and unity indicating that all mankind is one and rejects racial superiority, dissension and the infinite divisions of humankind into tribes, races, and groups on the basis of language, colour and regions.

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