"One night, as the sun striped the western horizon with pinks and purples, the group invited Muhammad into their camp to break the day-long fast together. They wanted to know what this man calling himself a Prophet had to say.

"Around a small campfire, the men sat on their heels or on flat rocks. Thirsty and hungry from a day without water or food, they passed several camel skins from one person to the next until each drank his fill. The fire's embers warmed a stew of barley and meat. When the scent wafted through the circle of men, their stomachs churned in hunger: At last it was time to eat.

"Later, as the stars brightened in the darkening sky, Muhammad spoke about the peace found in recognizing our dependence on God, Allah. Reciting the words of the Quran exactly as Gabriel had spoken them to him, he said,

" 'The One Who made for you the earth a cradle, and threaded for you therein ways, and sent down from the heaven water. And therewith We brought forth various kinds of plants. . . . From it We created you, and into it We shall restore you, and from it We shall bring you forth a second time.'

"Every desert dweller relied on God's blessings of earth and water to survive. As Muhammad studied the men's faces, he saw the feeling of islam — surrender to dependence on God — shine in their eyes. Raising his palms toward the sky, he proclaimed,

" 'Truly, God is unfathomable in his wisdom and All-Aware. Allahu Akbar, God is great!'

"Muhammad recited from the Quran until one by one, each man took the Shahada, the statement of belief: 'la ilaha illa Allahu, Muhammadun rasulu Allahi: I believe there is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.' "