(map of the religious sites of Mecca from 1787)
On this day in 630 AD the prophet Muhammad (pbuh), founder of Islam, led an army of 10,000 men to conquer Mecca, Saudi Arabia. At the time of Muhammad’s birth in Mecca in 570, the city was ruled by the pagan Quraysh tribe. In 610, Muhammad is said to have begun recieving divine revelations from God through the Archangel Gabriel. He then began to preach this new religion which focussed on one god: Allah. This posed a challenge to the paganism of the Quraysh tribe, who persecuted Muhammad and his followers. This conflict lasted for years, with the two frequently clashing in battle, until 628 when they negotiated the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in which the Quraysh promised to cease fighting and to allow the Muslims into Mecca for pilgrimage.
However the Quraysh did not hold to this Treaty and in 630 slaughtered a group of Muslims. Therefore, Muhammad gathered his army of 10,000 and marched to Mecca; the city swiftly surrendered. Muhammad then declared amnesty for the people of Mecca, but destroyed the pagan imagery and ‘Islamized’ the area to devote it to the worship of the one God. He also decreed that no non-Muslim was to be allowed into the city.
Muhammad declared Mecca the holiest site in Islam, and made it the centre of Muslim pilgrimage. A pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muhammad died in 632, but the faith he had begun spread rapidly, and soon became one of the leading world religions.