Nearly all hardline Islamic fundamentalist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and ISIS are adamant that all things in life should perfectly emulate the way and life of the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest Muslim companions. These present-day movements believe that recreating society as close to that of 7th century Arabia is the way that God has called Muslims to live while here on earth, and by doing so one can prepare themselves and work towards the reward of eternal life in al-Janna
7th century Arabia was mainly a pagan Arab environment which was in contact with small enclaves of Judaism and Christianity. Before Islam, polytheistic beliefs and practices were rampant in Mecca, which was a center of trade and pilgrimage, and had a shrine, the Ka'ba, which housed thousands of idols and statues. The Ka'ba was the center of a pagan cult which worshiped sacred stones, astral deities, and so on, with this worship coming to its culmination during the yearly pilgrimage to Mecca, which brought thousands of Arabs together to worship these idols and statues.
While it is true that in some ways Mecca was becoming an economic and commercial powerhouse, the situation in the city was actually not very stable. The tribal equilibrium of the desert, where the poor in each encampment were looked after by the group, had broken down in the city, where commerce and money reigned supreme. What once were communities and tribes that flourished under egalitarian and communally-based economic principles were now a large group of individuals fighting each other in a manner that exemplified cut-throat capitalism at its finest.
There was also a growing spiritual unrest throughout Arabia at this time. As descendants of the father of the world's great monotheistic faiths, Abraham, through his son Ishmael, they felt abandoned by God for not sending them a prophet or scripture in their own language. They believed they were seeking to worship the same God the Jews and Christians worshiped, yet they were unable to fully submit to and worship this God without the instructions and guidance which the Jews and Christians had received through God sending them prophets and scriptures in their own languages. Due to this sense of abandonment by God, their pagan beliefs and polytheism proliferated in an out-of-control fashion. In some ways, Mecca had become 7th century Arabia's Nineveh, and was in desperate need of a prophet.
It was in this Meccan society of paganism, idolatry, cut-throat capitalism and gross general discord that Muhammad was born around 570. His father 'Abd-Allah died before he was born, and his mother Amina died when he was six. As an orphan, he was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, the father of Ali (who later married Fatima, Muhammad's daughter and fathered a son, Hussein). Throughout his teenage years, Muhammad accompanied his uncle Abu Talib on trading journeys from Mecca to Syria during which he came into contact with various Jews and Christians, some of whom greatly influenced his views and understanding of Judaism and Christianity.
Muhammad was a deeply religious man known for taking regular retreats to a cave on Mount Hira during which he would spend days, and sometimes even weeks, in prayer and fasting. It was on the night of 17 Ramadan, 610, during a long retreat in a cave on Mount Hira, that Muhammad awoke to what was the first Qur'anic revelation, which consisted of what became the first five verses of chapter 96 of al-Qur'an:
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Recite: In the name of your Lord who created, created man from a clot.
Recite: And your Lord is the Most Generous, He who taught by the pen what man never knew.
Muhammad was greatly frightened by this experience and went so far as to question his own sanity. He would continue to have these experiences, during which he sensed a presence visiting and speaking to him in his own language, Arabic, and revealing revelations to him, which would later become the Qur'an. During the first two years Muhammad had these experiences he for the most part kept silent about them, only confiding in his wife Khadija and her Christian cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal, both of whom were convinced these revelations were from God. After their encouragement, Muhammad felt empowered enough to begin orating, and in 612 he began to preach the message of Islam, submission to God.
Muhammad taught the Arabs no new doctrines about God, as the vast majority of the primary tribe in Arabia at the time, the Quraysh, were already convinced the God of the Jews and the Christians had created the world and would judge humanity in the last days. As such, Muhammad did not believe that he was founding a new religion; he believed that he was solely acting as God's mouthpiece in bringing the monotheistic faith of the Jews and the Christians to the Arabs in their own language. The Qur'an repeatedly points out that Muhammad had not come to cancel out or abrogate the older religions, their prophets, their scriptures, or to start a new faith. His message was one of corroborating the scriptures and monotheistic beliefs of the Jews and Christians, as we see confirmed in many Qur'anic passages.
Yet somehow, 1400 years later, this "return to a society which emulates that of Arabia during the time of Muhammad and the earliest Muslims,"
which radical Islamic fundamentalist groups preach as the sole way Muslims should live, has been grossly perverted. Where Muhammad preached a message of tolerance and respect for all religions, modern day Islamists are preaching a message of intolerance and hate towards others. Where Muhammad preached a message of gender-equality, today's Islamists preach a message where God has ordained taking women -- and young girls -- as sex-slaves. Where Muhammad preached a message that true jihadists are those men and women who wage personal, holy-war on themselves by striving to live pure and holy lifestyles before God, Islamists now preach a message that jihadists are sent to kill as many innocent people as they can by blowing themselves up.
Modern day Islamist leaders' exhortation to Muslims to return to the way and life of Muhammad and his earliest followers is indeed a call from God. Unfortunately, these modern day Islamist preachers and so-called theologians are incapable of understanding true Islamic spiritualty and theology; or, because true Islamic spiritualty and theology does not serve their sick and twisted purposes, they refuse to preach the message Muhammad orated and advocated for to his earliest followers and to Muslims throughout the centuries in the Qur'an, which says:
Do not argue with the followers of the earlier revealed scriptures, except towards those of them who do wrong, you should say in the best manner possible: "We believe in what has been revealed to us, and in what has been revealed to you; for our God and your God is one and the same, and to Him do we submit." (Qur'an 29:46)