The Sunnah: Traditions
In addition to the Quran, Islam relies upon traditions--what Mohammed said and did. After Mohammed's death, more than 600,090 separate anecdotes about him were current, and several great scholars undertook the job of checking them for historical validity. More than 597,090, were rejected. The remainder, called the Hadith, are accepted by all Muslims.
Much of Islam's common sense comes from them. For example, one dark night Mohammed had to escort his wife home from the mosque. On the way he saw two men giggling in the shadows, so he called them to him, lifted his wife's veil and said, See, it is my wife with whom I walk. When the strangers protested that they trusted him, he said: I was not worried about your trust of me. I did not want your faith to be affected by your suspicions.
Once a Jew came to the Prophet and protested that Mohammed's chief assistant had outraged Jews by claiming that Mohammed was more exalted than Moses . The Prophet said to his assistant: "You should not have said this. The feelings of other people must be respected."
Also some of the profoundest elements of Muslim faith and culture derive from these traditions. Every Muslim, In beginning a meal or entering upon any other task, repeats "In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Beneficent." This Is the opening verse of the Quran. Muslims greet each other with the traditional salutation peace be on you. The whole ritual of congregational prayer is taken from the traditions, including the well-known call to worship.
Some of these Traditions have influenced Western behavior. On one occasion, Mohammed saw a donkey being branded on the face. When asked why this was being done, the herdsmen said; "The Romans taught us this to prevent theft." Mohammed reflected a moment and said: "An animal's face is the most sensitive part of its body. If you must brand, then do it on the flanks, where the flesh is thicker." And the custom spread.
As a successful general, Mohammed left many traditions regarding decent conduct in war. "Faithfully carry out all covenants and agreements. Avoid treachery and do not disfigure the enemy dead. Do not slay children, women, old men or persons dedicated to the service of religion. Do not destroy sacred objects, orchards or crops."
Throughout the Traditions Mohammed appears as a saintly man, one whom devout people of all religions would have recognized immediately as deeply concerned about the nature of God. He preached that slaves should be set free, that fathers should not kill unwanted baby girls, that those oppressed by society inherit the earth, that peace is better than war, that justice prevails. There is much proof that Mohammed hoped for the day when all who shared a common belief in Allah would exist together in peace. It is well documented that, on one occasion, when a deputation of Christians visited him, he said, when time for prayers arrived, "Conduct your service here in the mosque. It is a place consecrated to God."
No other religion in history spread so rapidly as Islam. By the time of Mohammed's death (A.D. 632) Islam controlled a great part of Arabia. Soon it triumphed in Syria, Persia, Egypt, the lower borders of present Russia and across North Africa to the gates of Spain. In the next century its progress was even more spectacular.
"The West has widely believed that this surge of religion was made possible by the sword. But no modern scholar accepts that idea, and the Quran is explicit in support of freedom of conscience. The evidence is strong that Islam welcomed the peoples of many diverse religions, so long as they behaved themselves, Mohammed constantly taught that Muslims should cooperate with the "people of the Book" (Jews and Christians).