Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
© Copyright 2010 All rights reserved.
The Origin of Islam
The king of the South will become strong, but one of his commanders will
become even stronger than he and will rule his own kingdom with great
This verse describes the origin of Islam. The king of the south is Muhammad’s
empire, called the Rashidun Caliphate, which originated in the Arabian Peninsula.
The term, “Caliphate” is the Muslim word for “empire” or “dynasty”. The leader is
called the “caliph”, which literally means “successor to the messenger of God”.
There were four successors to Muhammad in the Rashidun Caliphate: Abu Bakr
(his father-in-law), Umar, Uthman, and Ali (his son-in-law). Many thought that Ali
should have been first so a mob revolted, killed Uthman, and replaced him with Ali.
The “commander” who “became even stronger” was Muawiyah, the governor of
Syria under Uthman. He did not accept Ali’s claim to power and started “his own
kingdom” from Damascus. He fought with Ali for the remaining control and
eventually won. That is a quick summary of this verse but since Islam had such an
impact on the world, throughout history and the rest of Daniel 11, I will discuss
Muhammad and his successors one-by-one.
The Detailed Story:
As I said earlier, the Arabs, who started Islam, have a direct connection with the
Israelites because Abraham was the father of many nations. The connection is
explained in Genesis. Abraham and Sarah had been in Canaan for about ten years
and were still childless. As a result, Sarah convinced Abraham to sleep with her
Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, so they might have a family that way. That was not an
uncommon practice in those days but it was not God’s plan for His chosen nation.
Nevertheless, Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, who was technically first born. Muslims
believe that Muhammad is a direct descendant of Ishmael. Some have disputed that
claim but it doesn’t matter because fourteen years later, Sarah gave birth to Isaac.
Afterwards, God confirmed to Abraham that His everlasting covenant was with Isaac.
(Genesis 17:19) From Isaac’s descendants, Jesus, the Messiah, was born.
Almost six centuries after Jesus, Muhammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in
570 AD. He worked as a merchant and sometimes a shepherd but was discontented
with life in Mecca. He often retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for
meditation and reflection. It was there, at age 40, that he claimed to have received his
first revelations from God. Obviously, Muhammad was familiar with the Bible
because Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are regarded as prophets in Islam. In fact,
Jesus is mentioned in the Koran 25 times. Yet, rather than accepting Jesus as the
Son of God and becoming Christian, Muhammad changed the Bible instead.
Muslims claim that the Bible was corrupted over time and Muhammad corrected it.
However, if God is all-powerful and all-knowing, as Muslims and Christians believe,
why would He allow His “Holy Word” to become corrupted? To the contrary,
examples of Old Testament books, found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, show how
precise they were when making copies. In the last book of the New Testament,
written by John, God warned against adding or subtracting from His Word.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone
adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And
if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from
him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
(Revelation 22: 18-19) Yet, that’s exactly what Muhammad did.
In 622, after preaching in Mecca for about 12 years without much acceptance,
Muhammad had his famous dream or vision. At that time, Muhammad’s tribe was in
control of the Kaaba, a religious shrine containing hundreds of idols. The idols
represented Arabian tribal gods and other religious figures, including Jesus and Mary.
Muhammad said he was resting in the Kaaba when the archangel, Gabriel, brought
him the winged steed, Buraq. They traveled to the temple mount in Jerusalem where
Muhammad led a prayer. Then, he re-mounted Buraq, circled the heavens, and spoke
to earlier prophets such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Then, Gabriel took him to
Allah (God) and according to traditions, Allah told Muhammad that Muslims must
pray fifty times a day. Supposedly, Moses instructed him to go back several times and
ask for reductions. Finally, it was lowered to five times a day. Muhammad’s tribe did
not react well when he told them about his journey and the need to expel all the idols
in the Kaaba. He was ridiculed to the point that he took his family and initial
followers north, to Medina.
Following the migration to Medina, the Muslims turned to murder, theft, and
war to preserve their new religion. Yet, Muhammad did not criticize any of these.
The first converts were the weaker tribes in Medina who were oppressed by leaders
from other clans. The two most powerful leaders taunted and insulted the Muslims
but they were assassinated, which essentially ended the opposition in Medina.
Meanwhile, the Meccans seized the property that the Muslims left behind. In
retaliation, the Muslims began raiding the caravans from Mecca. They deliberately
initiated armed conflict and Muhammad delivered Koranic verses permitting them to
do so. (Koran 22: 39-40) Battles continued for eight years until the Muslims defeated
the Meccans in 630. Muhammad died two years later but by that time, most of the
Arabian Peninsula had submitted to the new religion of Islam.
Muhammad’s only living child was a daughter, Fatimah, who had two sons, but
Muhammad failed to appoint a successor. A group of followers suggested that his
father-in-law, Abu Bakr, take over as “caliph”. Others thought that Muhammad’s
son-in-law, Ali, was the only logical choice. After all, he was father to Muhammad’s
only two grandsons. Supposedly, Abu Bakr assumed command while Ali and Fatimah
were busy with Muhammad’s burial. Afterwards, a group went to their house and
forced them to swear allegiance to Bakr. Fatimah died a few months later, possibly
from an injury sustained in the resistance.
Despite the early objections, Abu Bakr was vital to the continuance of Islam.
In pre-Islamic Arabia, it was common practice for the allegiances to different tribal
leaders to end with the death of that leader. Thus, many tribes stopped paying the
Zakat (religious levy) that Muhammad had imposed on them. Abu Bakr was
instrumental in insisting that they had not submitted to just a simple, human leader
but they had joined the Muslim religious community, which he was now head.
That started the Ridda Wars but Abu Bakr was successful in reuniting the Arab tribes
with the help of his best general, Khalid. After that, Bakr heard how easily some of
the tribes had raided Persian towns in southern Iraq. He responded by moving
Khalid’s armies north where they conquered Iraq, Syria, and parts of Persia.
Bakr also helped in preserving Muhammad’s teachings by collecting parts of the
Koran in written form.
The second caliph, Umar, was never in question because he was named as
successor by Abu Bakr. During his reign, the Rashidun Caliphate grew to its peak of
power by defeating all of the Sassanid Empire and much of the Byzantine Empire, the
last two winds. In addition to his military success, Umar is known for having met a
rabbi from Yemen named Kaab Ahbar. The rabbi converted to Islam and led Umar to
the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which the Muslims now controlled. They uncovered
a rock where they believed Muhammad ascended to heaven in his dream and also the
Ark of the Covenant had been placed. Right or not, Umar built a fence around the
rock before he returned home.
The third caliph, Uthman, was chosen by committee. His greatest accomplishment
was ordering all the versions of the Koran, oral and written, to be collected so a
definitive version could be compiled. After that, his government was accused of
mishandling some finances. As a result, some rebels laid siege on his house and killed
him. Whether the allegations could be proven or not, the rebels were probably a
group who wanted Ali to be caliph anyway.
In 656, Ali became the forth caliph when selected by another committee. As I said,
he was father of Muhammad’s only two grandsons, Hasan and Husayn. In order to
manage the military better, Ali moved the capital from Medina to Kufa, a city on the
Euphrates, about 100 miles south of Baghdad. Besides that, his five-year reign was
plagued by disputes with Muawiyah, the “powerful commander”, in verse 5.
Muawiyah was the governor of Syria under Uthman and he started his own kingdom
from Damascus called the Umayyad Caliphate. The empire was named after his
great-grandfather because that was his relation to Muhammad, making them second
cousins. Anyway, he controlled the northern kingdom from Damascus while Ali ruled
the southern kingdom from Kufa. They fought numerous battles until Ali was
assassinated in 661, ending the Rashidun Caliphate.
The assassination of Ali created a division in Islam, which still exist today.
Essentially, Muawiyah started the Sunni division of Islam, which makes up about
85% of Muslims, who believe that anyone can serve as caliph. On the other hand,
the Shiites believe that only Muhammad’s family should have become caliph.
They still consider Ali to be the first rightful caliph. The Shiites also believe that
certain descendants of Muhammad, known as Imans, have special spiritual and
political positions in Islam. The largest sect of Shiites, called the Twelvers, believe
that there were only twelve Imans in history and the last one will return someday.
That belief is discussed in verse 36 because it concerns end times. It’s not surprising
that the hostilities between Sunni and Shiite play a major role in Biblical end times.
Jesus said, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
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The Rashidun Caliphate
Page 3 on Daniel 11
click chart to enlarge
Daniel 11 Explained
Condensed “one page” Commentary