This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.Mecca was a cosmopolitan city. It was both a center of pagan worship as well as a center of merchandising and trade. At the center of Mecca was the the Cabal, a holy house, which brought large numbers of people for the purpose of worship; many of them with their idols in tow. It was also a center of trade and Muhammad, himself, was a tradesmen and was married to a rich woman in the city who was herself a merchant. Among those who filled Mecca were those from various Christian and Jewish sects.
"The Christians belonged mostly to the various heretical sects which were expelled from the Roman empire during the violent doctrinal controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries. We find there traces of Arians, Sabellians, Ebionites, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monophysites, Marianites, and Collyridians or worshippers of Mary… But it was a very superficial and corrupt Christianity which had found a home in those desert regions, where even the apostle Paul spent three years after his conversion in silent preparation for his great mission. (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Chapter 41. The Home, and the Antecedents of Islâm.)"It was from these people that Muhammad would learn of the teachings of Moses and Jesus, although, in many ways, imperfectly and incorrectly. There was also in Mecca was a growing subculture dedicated to restoring an Abrahamic form of religion. They called themselves, the Hunafa.
"But there were -and always had been -a few who maintained the full purity of Abrahamic worship. They alone realised that far from being traditional, idol worship was an innovation -a danger to be guarded against. It only needed a longer view of history to see that Hubal was no better than the golden calf of the son's of Israel. These Hunafa',' as they called themselves, would have nothing to do with the idols, whose presence in Mecca they looked on as a profanation and a pollution." (Muhammad, his life based on the earliest sources, Chapter 6 The Need for a Prophet)Khadijah, Muhammad's first wife was a first cousin to one of the more prominent Hunafa named Waraqah. Waraqah was known as a man who "could read and had made a study of the scriptures and 'of theology." (Muhammad, his life based on the earliest sources, Chapter 6 The Need for a Prophet) It is even believed that, at least for a time, Muhammad considered himself to be a Hunafa.
"It is made certain by recent research that there were at the time and before the call of Mohammed a considerable number of inquirers at Mecca and Medina, who had intercourse with Eastern Christians in Syria and Abyssinia, were dissatisfied with the idolatry around them, and inclined to monotheism, which they traced to Abraham. They called themselves Hanyfs, i.e. Converts, Puritans. One of them, Omayah of Tâif, we know to have been under Christian influence; others seem to have derived their monotheistic ideas from Judaism. Some of the early converts of Mohammed as, Zayd (his favorite slave), Omayab, or Umaijah (a popular poet), and Waraka (a cousin of Chadijah and a student of the Holy Scriptures of the Jews and Christians) belonged to this sect, and even Mohammed acknowledged himself at first a Hanyf. Waraka, it is said, believed in him, as long as he was a Hanyf, but then forsook him, and died a Christian or a Jew. (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Chapter 41. The Home, and the Antecedents of Islâm.)"It was from these contacts, along with those he meat in his profession as a tradesman, that Muhammad received his foundation in monotheism, the faith of Abraham, the teachings of Moses, and the Christian faith. Unfortunately, as we will see later, much of what he learned was second-hand, incomplete, and, in many ways, incorrect.
More to come...