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Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad



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Muhammad ibn Abdullah (l. 570-632 CE) is venerated today as the Prophet of Islam and the “seal of Prophets” by his followers – the Muslims. Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last – hence the “seal” – of many prophets before him in Judaism and Christianity such as Adam, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jesus Christ, and others. He was an ordinary person from Mecca, who (according to Islamic tradition) received a divine revelation from God and began preaching a new faith in Arabia (between 610-632 CE). Ultimately these revelations would be compiled in the form of a book, the Quran, after his death.

He was met with stiff resistance from the Meccans, although he did manage to gather a few converts. What started as a feeble group of followers soon turned into an empire when he assumed control of the city of Yathrib (Medina) and began expanding his dominion and his faith through conquest and politics. By the time of his death, Muhammad had managed to unite most of the Arabs under the banner of Islam. This empire would be inherited by his successors – the caliphs of the Islamic world: the Rashidun caliphs (the first four are referred to as Rashidun which means “rightly guided”), the Umayyad Dynasty, Abbasid Dynasty, and later the Ottomans. His empire would spread beyond the borders of Arabia, the faith would also spread at first through conquest and later through trade and missionary work, and his initial revelation would become one of the three great monotheistic religions in the world today.

Early Life

Muhammad was born in 570 CE in the city of Mecca of the Hejaz province of Arabia. His clan – Hashim, belonged to a respected tribe – Quraish, his clan (headed by his grandfather – Abd al Mutalib at the time) provided water to the pilgrims traveling to Mecca. Mecca hosted a variety of idols and was considered a sacred site focused around the Ka'aba (which is still considered sacred by the Muslims).

The Arabs referred to Muhammad by the names of “As-Sadiq” (the truthful) and “Al-Amin” (the trustworthy).

Muhammad's father, Abdullah, had died while his mother was still pregnant, and his mother, Aminah, also passed away in 576 CE, when he was just 6 years old. His grandfather, Abd al Mutalib, then took the responsibility of raising him, but he also died two years later. Muhammad's uncle, Abu Talib (Abd al Mutalib's son and successor), then devoted his life to raising his nephew, and it is said that they both loved each other just as a father and a son would. As he grew up, he became an honest caravan trader (rare in those days). The Arabs referred to him by the names of “As-Sadiq” (the truthful) and “Al-Amin” (the trustworthy) and, in fact, it is said that many would give their wealth to him for safekeeping, even after he began preaching a faith in which they did not believe.

Marriage with Khadija

When he was 25 years old, a wealthy widow named Khadija (l. 555-620 CE), sent him with one of her trade caravans for business. She was so impressed by his honesty, that she sent him a marriage proposal, which he accepted. Muhammad was bound in matrimony with his first wife (595 CE), a woman who was 15 years older than him but whose support and companionship would help him in his mission; he would not take any other wife while he was married to her, although this was pretty common in Arabia back then. He later commented about his relationship with his wife:

Allah (God) never gave me a better wife than Khadija. She believed in me at a time when other people denied me. She put all her wealth at my service when other people withheld theirs from me. And what's more, Allah gave me children only through Khadija. (Hadith quoted from Musnad Imam Ahmad 6:118)

The Prophet had two sons and four daughters with Khadija (although Shia Muslims only consider one daughter – Fatima – to be born from this marriage); both of his sons died in infancy. Later in his life, Muhammad did marry other women and had another son, who also died in infancy.

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Declaration of Prophethood

As he reached his late thirties, he began worshipping in a cave named “Hira”, in the mountain “Jabal al-Nour” (Mountain of Light), near Mecca. It is said that one fateful day, in 610 CE, a light appeared before him and claimed to be the angel Gabriel who approached him with the first revelation from God – “Allah”. It is said that Muhammad was initially perplexed and scared, he ran back home, shivering with fear. It was only after his wife comforted him and took him to her cousin Warqa (a Christian scholar), who recognized and told him that he was a prophet, that he realized the responsibility that had been conferred upon him.

Friction with the Meccans

Muhammad began preaching the oneness of God to his family and close friends; the first convert was his wife Khadija and the first male convert was his close friend Abu Bakr (l. 573-634 CE). It was after some time (in 613 CE) that he began preaching openly, and he met resistance from the Meccans. Mecca hosted many idols at the Ka'aba and their economy was mostly based on pilgrims pouring in from all corners of the Arabian Peninsula to worship these idols, whom Muhammad considered false gods. The Meccans went to all lengths, from bribery to physical torture, to stop him, but he would not give in.

Notwithstanding with Muhammad's growing influence, rival Qurayshite clans boycotted the Hashim clan (616-619 CE) to force them into withdrawing their support for Muhammad, which made conditions for Muhammad and his followers (who are referred to as the “Sahaba” by the Muslims) quite difficult but, in the end, the boycott was lifted. Scholar Tamara Sonn elaborates:

Muhammad and his small community were driven from their homes, forced to live in separate quarters on the outskirts of town, and boycotted. Yet they preserved in their commitment to follow the guidance of God. They were instructed to suffer injustice with dignity. (24)

Muhammad faced continual rejection in Mecca and so turned his attention toward the resort town of Taif in 619 CE. He was initially welcomed there but the people rejected his message and, in the end, he was forced to run from the city as a wild mob of street children threw rocks at him, and he barely made it out of the city alive. According to a famous Muslim legend, the angel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad afterwards, asking for his permission to destroy the town, but Muhammad refused, saying that he was sure that they would convert later on.

His optimism was broken by the death of his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadija, in 619 CE (a year remembered as the “Year of Sorrow” by the Muslims). Abu Talib's position was taken by another of Muhammad's uncles – Abu Lahab – who hated him, and lacking any support from his clan, Muhammad was completely vulnerable.

Migration to Medina

Tired of Meccan persecution, some Muslims had already migrated to Abyssinia (Ethiopia) in 615 CE. But for the Prophet and the bulk of his followers, a real opportunity for escaping Meccan oppression came in 621 CE, when some citizens of Yathrib (modern-day Medina) invited the Prophet to their city. Impressed by his message, they wanted the Prophet to act as their ruler. Muhammad and his companions complied and migrated in batches to the city.

With his newly assumed role as the leader of Medina, Muhammad became more than just a preacher; he became a king.

Narrowly escaping an attempt on his life, Muhammad left Mecca with his close friend Abu Bakr and, after a perilous journey with the Meccans chasing them, they entered Medina in 622 CE. This migration (hegira) is so important in Islamic history that the Islamic Lunar Calendar considers this as year 0 AH (After Hegira).

With his newly assumed role as the leader of Medina, Muhammad became more than just a preacher; he became a king. Medina would soon be turned into a strong kingdom with standards of justice and unity never before seen in Arabia. Muhammad revised the law code and unified the city, using a mixture of persuasion and force of arms (since betrayal was never forgiven by Arabs who lived by the code of retribution). Scholar Robin Doak elaborates:

During his 10 years in Medina, Muhammad became more than just a spiritual leader. He put his administrative and political skills to good use, effectively acting as the town's leader… Islam was evolving from a religious movement to a powerful political one. (20)

Muhammad also established a new community worship place – “Al-Masjid an-Nabwi” (the mosque of the Prophet). The regular activities of preaching continued but Muhammad now had two distinct advantages over his former life: political power and an army of devoted supporters.

Battle of Badr & Battle of Uhud

From their newfound base, the Muslims wanted to strike back at their former oppressors; they started raiding Meccan trade caravans. As the Meccan economy suffered, their forces united against the Muslims. This culminated in the Battle of Badr (624 CE), where an army of 1,000 Meccans ran before 313 Muslims, who had been led to victory by their king Muhammad (although Muslims saw this as a favor of God).

The Arabs had a strong sense of pride; had the Meccans not struck back after their defeat at Badr, they would have appeared weak and vulnerable to their neighbors – a fatal situation in Arabia. The following year, in 625 CE, another huge army was dispatched from Mecca, under the leadership of Abu Sufyan. He decided not to lay siege to Medina but to draw out the Muslims in open battle.

His forces camped near the Mountain of Uhud, from where they began harassing their foes; this strategy worked and the Muslim army marched out to face the enemy. Though outnumbered again, the Muslims were expecting another victory. Initially, the battle went well for the Muslims; the Meccans deserted the field and fled in panic, leaving behind their camps with all their supplies.

Seeing the enemy flee and victory just moments away, the rearguard deserted its position to collect war booty from the camps (against Muhammad's strict orders). This presented the Meccans with an opportunity, and their cavalry suddenly struck in a surprise attack on the Muslims. Caught off-guard, the Muslims suffered severe casualties; even Muhammad was injured. The Muslims retreated, but the Meccans did not pursue them. They returned to Mecca, declaring victory.

Battle of Trench

Two years later, the Muslims faced an even greater threat: a confederacy. Muhammad had banished two Jewish tribes, Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir; Islamic sources state that they had breached the Treaty of Medina – a treaty of alliance and non-violence formulated by Muhammad when he first assumed the role of king. These tribes, alongside other Jewish tribes from Khaybar (an oasis near Medina, which was a Jewish stronghold in Arabia), and other minor Arabian tribes allied with the Meccans and marched towards Medina, with the intent of a siege. The Muslims prepared for defense by digging a trench around the city to render the confederate cavalry useless; this strategy was unknown to the Arabs and provided the Muslims with a huge tactical advantage. The siege of Medina, also referred to as the Battle of Trench (627 CE), lasted for around 30 days.

The defenders were losing patience as the days went by – and so were the attackers – so the confederates then made a secret alliance with another Medinan Jewish tribe, Banu Qurayza (which was neutral, although still bound by the Treaty of Medina), and the new plan was to attack the Muslims from two fronts. Muhammad was informed of this and sent men to defend that front too. Had the simultaneous attack happened, the Muslims would have been surely defeated, but the Prophet had one last card to play.

Islamic sources report that a respected Arab leader from the confederacy – Nuaym ibn Masud – was secretly a Muslim who was ordered by Muhammad to create divisions between the confederate leaders and Banu Qurayza. The lack of unity, coupled with strong defenses set by the defenders and worsening weather, forced the attackers to retreat; the Muslims had clearly won and with minimal casualties.

The tribe of Banu Qurayza was then brought up on charges of betrayal in violating the peace. Using a verse from the Torah as precedent, a severe sentence was passed by a Muslim judge and approved by Muhammad: all men were killed, women and children alongside, and all property seized. Since then, this event, dubbed as the Massacre of Qurayza, has sparked incessant debate and discussions. What we do know for certain is that had the confederate plot succeeded, the fate of the Muslims would have been no different.

Conquest of Mecca

In 628 CE, when the Muslims wished to go on a pilgrimage (Hajj) to the Ka'aba, they were denied entry by the Meccans who were fearful of their growing power but, instead of conflict, the matter was concluded with the Treaty of Hudaybiyya, which gave the Muslims permission to perform pilgrimage in the following year (which they did – a mini version of it, called umrah) and assured safety for the Meccans as well as the Muslims.

With the matter settled with the Meccans, the Muslims marched towards the Jewish stronghold of Khaybar in 628 CE, whose inhabitants had sided with the Meccans two years earlier. Khaybar was captured by the Muslims, but the locals were allowed to remain in their lands under Muslim control. This trend of keeping local non-Muslims under Muslim overlordship would continue even after Muhammad's death. Non-Muslims, living in Muslim-controlled lands, were considered dhimmi or protected people and had to pay a special tax called the jizya (just as the Muslims paid zakat or alms), although they did enjoy true religious independence. In some cases, they would convert to improve their social status or out of actual devotion, while in other cases, although rarely, forced conversions were also carried out even though Muhammad had clearly instructed his followers against this.

Within two years, the Meccans breached the Treaty of Hudaybiyya when they sided with one Arab tribe (Banu Bakr) against another one (Banu Khuza'a) which was an ally of the Muslims. In 630 CE, the Muslim army approached Mecca; the doors were opened and the city surrendered. Muhammad entered Mecca and offered all people amnesty if they took refuge either in the Ka'aba or Abu Sufyan's house (who had by that time accepted Islam). He then went on to destroy all of the idols in the Ka'aba, officially declaring it as the holy site for Islam. It would be here that he would later on perform his first and last full pilgrimage (or Hajj in 632 CE, before his death; hence it is also known as the farewell pilgrimage in Islamic tradition), and it was also where he announced that the divine revelation – Quran – had been completed.

Death of the Prophet

Another confederacy (of Bedouins) was crushed at the battle of Hunayn (630 CE), and Muhammad had also sent armies to conquer other important regions of Arabia. The city of Taif, from whence he had been forced to flee, submitted to his rule in 631 CE. An attempt to consolidate power over Arab tribes living under Byzantine rule failed with the Muslim defeat at the battle of Mu'tah (629 CE) but it gave Muhammad's successors an idea for their future (successful) endeavors against the Byzantines.

Conclusion

Muhammad was a man of exceptional vision and administrative talent who also commanded armies in battle with incredible skill and charisma without any prior experience. He endured a great deal of hardship to spread his message, which he must have believed was the truth given to him by God, especially since forsaking his path would have meant rewards beyond his wildest dreams, as the Meccans had promised early on when they were trying to silence him.

As was the norm of his time, Muhammad married multiple women, after the death of his first wife. These marriages were mostly meant to cement tribal alliances, and Muhammad treated his wives with utmost respect and love. Polygamy may seem unsuitable in the modern era, but we cannot object to people living according to the norms of their time. Muhammad, though he had no surviving sons (which was considered necessary for one to be remembered and for which he was severely mocked in his time) has nevertheless not been forgotten. Muhammad's name remains to this day one of the most popular Muslim names worldwide, and his message has reached an unprecedented number of believers.

Although non-Muslims object to the Muslim insistence that Muhammad not be rendered in any image, this is important to Muslims who believe that such images equate with the kind of idolatry Muhammad objected to. Not having a visual image of Muhammad allows one to interpret the Prophet in his or her own way and this allows for a more intimate connection with the founder of the faith. Whenever Muslims in the present day hear, speak, read, or write his name, they add “peace be upon him”, as a sign of respect for all he sacrificed in his life to preach the religion of peace.


Muhammad (Muhammad) - The Battle of Uhud

The next battle between the Quraish and the Muslims was the battle of Uhud, a hill about four miles to the north of Medina. The idolaters, to revenge their loss at Badr, made tremendous preparations for a new attack upon the Muslims. They collected an army of three thousand strong men, of whom seven hundred were armed with coats of mail, and two hundred horses. These forces advanced under the conduct of Abu Sufyan and encamped at a village six miles from Medina, where they gave themselves up to spoiling the fields and flocks of the Medinites. The Prophet, being much inferior to his enemies in number, at first determined to keep himself within the town and to receive them there but afterwards, the advice of some of his companions prevailing he marched out against them at the head of one thousand men, of whom one hundred were armed with coats of mail but he had no more than one horse, besides his own, in his whole army. With these forces he halted at Mount Uhud. He was soon abandoned by 'Abdullah Ibn Ubai, the leader of the Hypocrites, with three hundred of his followers. Thus, the small force of the Prophet was reduced to seven hundred.

At Mount Uhud the Muslim troops passed the night, and in the morning, after offering their prayers, they advanced into the plain. The Prophet contrived to have the hill at his back, and, the better to secure his men from being surrounded, he placed fifty archers on the height in the rear, behind the troops, and gave them strict orders not to leave their posts whatever might happen. When they came to engage, the Prophet had superiority at first. But afterward, his archers left their position for the sake of plunder, thus allowing the enemy to attack the Muslims in the rear and surround them. The Prophet lost the day and very nearly lost his life. He was struck down by a shower of stones and wounded in the face by two arrows, and one of his front teeth was broken. Of the Muslims, seventy men were killed, among whom was the Prophet's uncle Hamza. Of the infidels, twenty two men were lost.

The Quraish were too exhausted to follow up their advantage, either by attacking Medina or by driving the Muslims from the heights of Uhud. They retreated from the Medinite territories after barbarously mutilating the corpses of their dead enemies.

Allah's Message to the Believers at the Battle of Uhud

Almighty Allah said: So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers. If a wound (and killing) has touched you, be sure a similar wound (and killing) has touched the others. And so are the days (good and not so good), We give to men by turns, that Allah may test those who believe, and that He may take martyrs from among you. And Allah likes not the Zalimeen (polytheists and wrongdoers).

And that Allah may test (or purify) the believers (from sins) and destroy the disbelievers. Do you think that you will enter Paradise before Allah tests those of you who fought (in His Cause) and (also) tests those who are patient? You did indeed wish for death (Ash-shahadah - martyrdom) before you met it. Now you have seen it openly with your own eyes. Surah 3: 139-143

Allah's Message to the Cowards - Qur'anic

Allah the Exalted also said: We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because they joined others in worship with Allah for which He had sent no authority their abode will be the Fire and how evil is the abode of the Zalimeen (polytheists and wrong-doers). And Allah did indeed fulfill His Promise to you when you were killing them (your enemy) with His Permission until (the moment) you lost your courage and fell to disputing about the order, and disobeyed after He showed you (of the booty) which you love. Among you are some that desire this world and some that desire the Hereafter. Then He made you flee from them (your enemy), that He might test you. But surely He forgave you, and Allah is most Gracious to the believers.

(And remember) when you ran away (dreadfully) without even casting a side glance at anyone, and the Messenger (Muhammad) was in your rear calling you back. There did Allah give you one distress after another by way of requital to teach you not to grieve for that which had escaped you, nor for that which had befallen you. And Allah is Well-Aware of all that you do.

Then after the distress, He sent down security for you. Slumber overtook a party of you, while another party was thinking about themselves (as how to save their ownselves, ignoring the others and the Prophet) and thought wrongly of Allah - the thought of ignorance. They said, "Have we any part in the affair?" Say you (0 Muhammad): "Indeed the affair belongs wholly to Allah." They hide within themselves what they dare not reveal to you, saying: "If we had anything to do with the affair none of us would have been killed here." Say: "Even if you had remained in your homes, those for whom death was decreed would certainly have gone forth to the place of their death," but that Allah might test what is in your breasts and to Mahis to test, to purify to get rid of that which was in your hearts (sins), and Allah is All-Knower of what is in (your) breasts. " Surah 3: 151-154

Muhammad's Orders His Army

Narrated Al-Baraa' Ibn Azib: 'The Prophet appointed Abdullah Ibn Jubair as the commander of the infantry men (archers) who were fifty on the day (of the battle) of Uhud. He instructed them: 'Stick to your place, and don't leave it even if you see birds snatching us, till I send for you and if you see that we have defeated the infidels and made them flee, even then you should not leave your place till I send for you.' Then the infidels were defeated. By Allah I saw the women fleeing lifting up their clothes revealing their leg-bangles and their legs. So, the companions of 'Abdullah Ibn Jubair said: 'The booty! 0 people, the booty! Your companions have become victorious, what are you waiting for now?' Abdullah Ibn Jubair said: 'Have you forgotten what Allah's Messenger said to you?' They replied: 'By Allah! We will go to the people (i.e. the enemy) and collect our share from the war booty.' But when they went to them, they were forced to turn back defeated. At that time Allah's Messenger in their rear was calling them back. Only twelve men remained with the Prophet, and the infidels martyred seventy men from us.

The Prophet and his companions caused the Pagans to lose one hundred forty men, seventy of whom were captured and seventy were killed. Then Abu Sufyan asked three times: 'Is Muhammad present among these people?' The Prophet ordered his companions not to answer him. Then he asked three times: 'Is Ibn Abu Quhafa present amongst these people?' He asked again three times: 'Is Ibn Al-Khattab present amongst these people?' He then returned to his companions and said: 'As for these (men), they have been killed.'

Umar could not control himself and said (to Abu Sufyan): 'You told a lie, by Allah! 0 enemy of Allah! All those you have mentioned are alive, and the thing which will make you unhappy is still there.' Abu Sufyan said: 'Our victory today compensates for yours in the Battle of Badr, and in war (the victory) is always undecided and is shared in turns by the belligerents. You will find some of your (killed) men mutilated, but I did not urge my men to do so, yet I do not feel sorry for their deed.' After that he started reciting cheerfully: '0 Hubal, be superior!' On that the Prophet said (to his companions): 'Why don't you answer him back?' They said: '0 Allah's Messenger! What shall we say?' He said: 'Say, Allah is Higher and more Sublime.' (Then) Abu Sufyan said: 'We have the (idol) Al-Uzza, and you have no 'Uzza.' The Prophet said: (to his companions): 'Why don't you answer him back?' They asked: '0 Allah's Messenger! What shall we say?' He said: 'Say Allah is our Helper and you have no helper."

Various Disbelievers Slander Islam

The moral effect of this disastrous battle was such as to encourage some neighboring nomad tribes to make forays upon the Medinite territories, but most of these were repelled.

The Jews also were not slow to involve in trouble the Prophet and his followers. They tried to create disaffection among his people and slandered him and his adherents. They mispronounced the words of the Qur'an so as to give them an offensive meaning. They also caused their poets, who were superior in culture and intelligence, to use their influence to sow sedition among the Muslims. One of their distinguished poets, called Ka'b, of the Bani An-Nadir, spared no efforts in publicly deploring the ill-success of the idolaters after their defeat at Badr.

By his satires against the Prophet and his disciples, and his elegies on the Meccans who had fallen at Badr, Ka'b succeeded in exciting the Quraish to that frenzy of vengeance which broke out at Uhud. He then returned to Medina, where he continued to attack the Prophet and the Muslims, men and women, in terms of the most obscene character. Though he belonged to the tribe of Bani AnNadir, which had entered into the compact with the Muslims and pledged itself both for the internal and external safety of the State, he openly directed his acts against the commonwealth of which he was a member.

Another Jew, Sallam by name, of the same tribe, behaved equally fiercely and bitterly against the Muslims. He lived with a party of his tribe at Khaibar, a village five days' journey northwest of Medina. He made every effort to excite the neighboring Arab tribes against the Muslims. The Muslim commonwealth with the object of securing safety among the community, passed a sentence of outlawry upon Ka'b and Sallam.

Jewish Tribes Break the Medina Contract

The members of another Jewish tribe, namely Bani Qainuqa, were sentenced to expulsion from the Medinite territory for having openly and knowingly infringed the terms of the compact. It was necessary to put an end to their hostile actions for the sake of maintaining peace and security. The Prophet had to go to their headquarters, where he required them to enter definitively into the Muslim commonwealth by embracing Islam or to leave Medina. To this they replied in the most offensive terms: 'You have had a quarrel with men ignorant of the art of war. If you are desirous of having any dealings with us, we shall show you that we are men." They then shut themselves up in their fortress and set the Prophet and his authority at defiance. The Muslims decided to reduce them and laid siege to their fortress without loss of time. After fifteen days they surrendered. Though the Muslims at first intended to inflict some severe punishment on them, they contented themselves by banishing the Bani Qainuqa.

The Bani An-Nadir had now behaved in the same way as Bani Qainuqa'. The had likewise, knowingly and publicly, disregarded the terms of the Charter. The Prophet sent them a message similar to that which was sent to their brethren, the Qainuqa'. They, relying on the assistance of the Hypocrites' party, returned a defiant reply. After a siege of fifteen days, they sued for terms. The Muslims renewed their previous offer, and the Jews of An-Nadir chose to evacuate Medina. They were allowed to take with them all their movable property, with the exception of their arms. Before leaving Medina, they destroyed all their dwellings in order to prevent the Muslims from occupying them. Their immovable property and arms which they could not carry away with them were distributed by the Prophet with the consent of the Ansar and the Emigrants. A principle was henceforth adopted that any acquisition not made in actual warfare should belong to the state and that its disposal should be left to the discretion of the ruling authorities.

The Division of War Booty - Qur'anic

Almighty Allah said: (And there is also a share in this booty) for the poor emigrants, who were expelled from their homes and their property seeking Bounties from Allah and to please Him. And helping Allah (i.e., helping His Religion) and His Messenger (Muhammad). Such are indeed the truthful (to what they say) - And those who, before them, had homes (in Al-Madina) and had adopted the Faith, - love those who emigrate to them, and have no jealousy in their breasts for that which they have been given (from the booty of Bani An-Nadir), and give them (emigrants) preference over themselves, even though they were in need of that. And whosoever is saved from his own covetousness, such are they who will be the successful. Surah 59: 8-9

Blocking Attacks After the Battle of Uhud

The expulsion of the Bani An-Nadir took place in the fourth year of the hijrah. The remaining portion of this year and the early part of the next were passed in repressing the hostile attempts of the nomadic tribes against the Muslims and inflicting punishment for various murderous forays on the Mdinite territories. Of this nature was the expedition against the Christian Arabs of Dumat Al-Jandal (a place about seven days' journey to the south of Damsacus), who had stopped the Medinite traffic with Syria and even threatened a raid upon Medina. These marauders, however, fled on the approach of the Muslims, and the Prophet returned to Medina after concluding a treaty with a neighboring chief, to whom he granted permission of pasturage in the Medinite territories.


The Prophet Muhammad’s Birth

The Islamic founder’s birth occurred in the year 570 CE, Mecca. He was born to Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and Aminah bint Wahb. Unfortunately, Muhammad never saw his father with his own eyes – his father died before he came into the world. His family background and tree can be traced to the Quraysh tribe.

After the Prophet’s birth, his mother immediately knew that she had given birth to a great son. Aminah shared memories of the day she put the baby Muhammad down on the floor. According to her, the child directed his head towards the sky and gazed at the horizons, prophesizing one God (Allah). A voice then spoke out to her – ” you have given birth to a great one, he shall be called Muhammad”.

Muhammad’s paternal grandfather was called to pay a visit to the newborn. When he arrived, Abdul-Mutalib took the baby to the Kaaba and said some prayers to Allah. The Kaaba is a cube-shaped stone building in Mecca. Upon Muttalib’s return from the Kaaba, the great baby boy was named Muhammad.

Less than 7 years after his birth, Muhammad was fully orphaned when Aminah passed away. His grandfather Muttalib took care of him as a guardian. Fully aware of the child’s great religious future, Muttalib specially treated Muhammad with all the goodness he could afford. It has been said that Muttalib even cared for Muhammad better than his own wards. This was because he had high faith in him.

At about age 8, another disaster struck little Muhammad. His grandfather Muttalib was called to eternal rest. For the rest of his upbringing, Muhammad was then cared for by Abu Talib, Muhammad’s uncle. His uncle was very protective of Allah’s messenger – he stood by him during his trying times until death separated them.


20 Interesting Facts About Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad’s personality is not just admirable but exemplary. His personality reflects his great humility and approach ability as a person, despite his high-ranking status as the indisputable leader of the Muslims. Although followers of other religions don’t necessarily consider him a prophet, he is still revered by Muslims as a Prophet of God. Muhammad was an inspirational leader who formed one of the major religions in the world. Let’s explore some interesting facts about Prophet Muhammad: image: islamforchristians.com

1. Prophet as a camel boy!

Prophet Muhammad was born an orphan as his father died before his birth, and his mother died when he was just 6 yrs old in Mecca. The 6-year-old was left on the margins and worked as a camel boy on the trade convoys to Damascus. He was a descendant of the Prophet Ismail, the son of Prophet Ibrahim.
Source: britannica.com, image: pinimg.com

2. His wife proposed him for marriage

At the age of 25 years, he married Khadija who was a widow of 40 yrs. Since Khadija was his employer, she proposed to him. It was a monogamous marriage that lasted 24 years until her death. All his later marriages were a diplomatic alliance to secure his base as a leader. It’s worth noting that he had five children with Khadija, he had none with any of his later wives.
Source: britannica.com, image: indianetzone.com

3. An Easygoing Family Man

Unlike most men who expect the lady of the house to do all the household work, without helping them to make their task easier, Prophet Muhammad would assist in the housework, and even used to fix his clothes himself.
Source: buzzle.com

4. First reaction to becoming a prophet

When Gabriel first appeared to Muhammad, he was terrified and fled as he thought he was being attacked by an evil spirit. In 610 when he had his first Quranic revelation, he was extremely terrified. He experienced an intense pain and even thought of dying. He thought it was impossible that someone like him could be a prophet.
Source: huffingtonpost.com, image: wikimedia.org

5. Mythical journey to heaven and back

Prophet Muhammad is believed to have completed a mythical journey to heaven and back in one night described as Isra and Mi’raj. Isra is the first part of the journey, in which he rode the winged horse known as Buraq to a mosque and had a discussion with other prophets- Jesus, Moses, etc., and Mi’raj is the second part of the journey in which he rode to heaven and spoke to God.
Source: Wikipedia, image: wikimedia.org

6. The sacred verses!

Prophet Muhammad continued to have revelations throughout his life until before his death in 632, so he kept adding to the Quran his whole life. The last additions came just a few months before his death.
Source: britannica.com, image: wikimedia.org

7. He led an early form of Occupy Wall Street

Mecca being a center of pilgrimage and trade was like a seventh-century bull market flooded with corrupt and arrogant elites of Mecca. Prophet Muhammad was against this, and he demanded social and economic justice. This provoked intense opposition from the city’s rulers. Though the intent was to reform, however, those in power saw it as a call for revolution.
Source: huffingtonpost.com

8. League of virtuous

Prophet Muhammad along with various other Meccans created an alliance to establish fair commercial dealing known as Hilf al-Fudul. The alliance plays an important role in Islamic ethics because of Muhammad’s role in its formation.
Source: Wikipedia

9. Established the Constitution of Medina

The Charter of Medina, also known as the Constitution of Medina, was outlined by the Prophet Muhammad in 622 CE shortly after his arrival at Medina. It constituted an agreement between the various groups of Muslims, Jewish, pagans, and Christians in Medina, declaring them to constitute “one nation.” The charter formed the basis of an Islamic state in Medina.
Source: Wikipedia

10. The arbitrator

The sacred black stone at Kaaba

Prophet Muhammad at the age of 35 helped settle the delicate issue between two clans regarding the resetting of the sacred Black Stone in Kaaba. He got the leaders of both clans to hold ends of the cloth, and himself carried the Black Stone in that cloth.
Source: Wikipedia, image: sacred-destination.com

11. He acknowledged his own fallibility

Prophet Muhammad had the courage and integrity to acknowledge his mistakes publicly. This is evident from the now infamous case of “the Satanic verses,” when Muhammad, hoping to mend the rift with his tribe, pronounced a verse in which he acknowledged the Meccan gods to be the intercessors of Allah but he took it back the very next day when he realized that there is only one supreme god.
Source: Wikipedia

12. The attempts on the life of the Prophet

There were frequent attempts on Prophet Muhammad’s life and his surviving from these countless attempts on his life is considered to be the evidence that testifies his prophethood. It is also said that apart from the countless attempts on Prophet’s life while he was alive, there was also an attempt long after his departure. Two Europeans wanted to abduct the body of Prophet but failed and were executed after that.
Source: quran-m.com

13. Tried to bring racial equality

The Prophet tried to remove racial biases present in the society by his personal examples. His closest companions’ Bilal bin Riba and Salman Farsi were former slaves. The Prophet in his last sermon declared “a white has no superiority over black, nor does a black over a white, except by piety and good action.”
Source: Wikipedia

14. Advocated women’s rights

The reforms which the Prophet Muhammad instituted in the 7th century did not exist even in the West until the early 20th century. These include ending the ‘honor’ killings, taking a woman’s approval before her marriage, providing women’s right to own private property, and also get a unilateral divorce if the husband is abusive. He also advocated re- marriages for a widow or divorcee women. The Prophet supported women education too and declared that “learning is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman” and that “he who gives the best upbringing and education to his daughters shall enter paradise.”
Source: islamic-study.org, image: wikimedia.org

15. Not a supporter of wars

Prophet permitted war only to establish religious freedom or for self-defense. The Prophet forbade retaliation in any kind even at the time of persecution and ill-treatment of him and his followers in Mecca. He was against the holding of slaves except as prisoners captured during conflicts and his humane treatment of prisoners during a conflict was exemplary: no women, children, hermits or other non-combatants were to be harmed and that prisoners or slaves were to be fed the same food and clothed the same clothes as the Muslims themselves.
Source: islamic-study.org

16. Died without a successor

Prophet Muhammad left the world without designating a successor. His final illness lasted 10 days, and many considered it important that in the absence of a son, Prophet should make his wishes unequivocally clear but he never did so. Ironically, some believe it to be the reason behind the divisiveness between Sunni and Shiite that exists today.
Source: Wikipedia


Prophet Muhammad (570-632)

Islamic prophet Muhammad, was born in Mecca about 570 AD. He belonged to the tribe of the Quraysh, who had long been guardians of the Kaaba. In the early ages, Muhammad lost his parents and obliged to earn his own living. Firstly Muhammad served as a shepherd on the hills around of Mecca. This occupation, though lowly, gave Muhammad the love of solitude and helped to cherish in his soul that appreciation of nature which later found expression in so many of his utterances. While still a youth, Muhammad became a camel-driver and he twice crossed the deserts with caravans to Syria.

On this journey Muhammad made many connections with the different people and picked up much useful information. However Muhammad did not receive a regular education. At the age of twenty five he married Khadijah, daughter of the rich merchant Khuwaylid ibn Asad. Khadijah, brought Muhammad wealth and consideration. Muhammad seems always to have been a deeply religious man. As he grew older, Muhammad thoughts more and more centered on religious themes.

Muhammad could not harmonize the idolatry of the Arabs with that belief in the unity of God which he himself had reached. In his distress Muhammad would withdraw into the wilderness. In the wilderness Muhammad spent much time in fasting and practices solitary. One day, so he declared, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him and bade him preach a new religion to the Arabs. According to tradition of Islam this was a Muhammad’s first revelation. It was very simple, but in its simplicity lay its strength: “La ilaha ilia Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah” which means “There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is the prophet of God”. Muhammad made his first converts in his wife, his children, and the closest number of friends. After that Muhammad becoming courageous and he began to preach publicly in Mecca. In spite of his eloquence, obvious sincerity, and attractive personality, he met a discouraging reception.

Some slaves and poor freemen became Muhammad followers, but most of the inhabitants of Mecca regarded him as a madman. Muhammad’s disciples, called Muslim, were bitterly persecuted by the Quraysh, who resented the prophet’s attacks on idolatry and feared the loss of their privileges at the Kaaba. Finally Muhammad and his converts took refuge in Medina, where some of the inhabitants had already accepted his teachings. This was the famous Hegira or Hijrah (Flight of the prophet) took placed in 622 AD. At Medina Muhammad occupied a position of high honor and influence. The people welcomed Muhammad gladly and made him their chief magistrate.

As his adherents increased in number, Muhammad began to combine fighting with preaching. Muhammad’s military expeditions against the Arab tribes indicates that was very successful. Soon after moving Muhammad’s and his follower from the Mecca to Medina, in Medina coming traders of Mecca. These traders robes inhabitants in Medina and they caravans. This conflict escalate in to open war between Mecca and Medina. At the battle of Badr 624 AD Muhammad and his followers defeated the merchants of Mecca . Muhammad finally entered into Mecca six years later in 630 AD. Many of the conquered Bedouins enlisted under Muhammad’s banner and at length captured Mecca for the prophet. He treated its inhabitants leniently, but threw down all the idols in the Kaaba.

After the submission of Mecca most of the Arabs abandoned idolatry and accepted the new religion. Muhammad did not long enjoy his position in Arabia. He died in 632, at Medina, where he was buried and where his tomb is still visited by Muslims. His followers could scarcely believe that their great prophet had gone away from them forever. They were ready to worship him as a god, until old Abu Bekr, Muhammad’s father-in-law, rebuked them with the memorable words:

“And now, he who worships Muhammad (Peace be upon him) Muhammad is dead now. But he who worships Allâh, He is Ever Living and He never dies. Allâh says: ‘Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is no more than a Messenger, and indeed (many) Messengers have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed, will you then turn back on your heels (as disbelievers)? And he who turns back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allâh, and Allâh will give reward to those who are grateful.’” [Quran 3:1]

Tomb of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in Aisha’s room (Medina, Saudi Arabia)

The character of Muhammad has been variously estimated. Muslim writers make him a saint but Christian writers, until recent times, have called him an “imposter.” It is known that he had simple habits, who, even in the days of his prosperity, lived on dates, barley bread, and water, mended his woolen garments, and attended to his own wants. He was mild and gentle, a lover of children, devoted to his friends, and forgiving toward his foes. He seems to have won the admiration of all with whom he came in contact.
Muhammad was also deeply impressed with the consciousness of his religious mission that he was ready to give up wealth and an honorable position and face for years the ridicule and hatred of the people of Mecca. His faults – deceitfulness, sensuality – were those of the Arabs of his time.


The Stature and Physical Characteristics of the Messenger of Allâh (SAW)

§1. Abû Rajâ’, Qutaybah bin Sa’îd informed us from Mâlik bin Anas from Rabî’ah bin Abû ‘Abdur-Rahmân that he heard Anas bin Mâlik (RA) saying,

The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither very tall, such that he would be clearly noticed, nor was he short. He was not extremely white and neither was he very brown. His hair was neither very curly nor completely straight.
Allâh commissioned him towards the end (ra’s) of his fortieth year. He remained in Mecca for ten years and in Madînah for ten years. Allâh caused him to pass away at the turn of his sixtieth year and there were not to be found [as much as] twenty white hairs on his head and beard.

  • The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither very tall, such that he would be clearly noticed, nor was he short

«Q» Meaning that he was of medium height. His being short has been categorically negated but only his being so tall as to be clearly noticed has been negated, in this lies an indication that he (SAW) was indeed of medium height but leaning towards being described as tall and this is what has been reported about him (SAW) by al-Bayhaqî. There is no contradiction between this and the forthcoming description that he (SAW) was of medium stature because such a statement is relative. This understanding is strengthened by the report of al-Barâ’a, ‘he (SAW) was of medium stature but closer to being described as tall.’ al-Bayhaqî and ibn ‘Asâkir mention that, ‘none would be perceived to be taller than he (SAW), sometimes two tall men would stand on either side of him and he would seem taller than them, yet when they parted he would seem to be of medium height.’ Ibn Saba’, al-Khasâ’is, mentions that when he (SAW) sat, his shoulder was higher than all those sitting around him. It is said in explanation to this, ‘perhaps it was that none could be perceived to be physically above him just as none was spiritually and morally above him.’

«Q» This description does not contradict the affirmation of his having a brownish complexion mentioned in the next hadîth. [Ibn Hajr] al-’Asqalânî said, ‘from all the various reports on this it becomes clear that the whiteness that has been negated from him (SAW) is that whiteness that has no tinge of red and the brownness [affirmed for him] is redness that is mixed with white.«M» This is proven by the narration of Anas in ad-Dalâ’il, ‘he was white, a whiteness going towards brown.’ As for his being described in some narrations to be extremely white, such as in the report of Bazzâr from Abû Hurayrah, ‘he was extremely white’ and the report of at-Tabarânî from Abû at-Tufayl, ‘I have not forgotten the extreme whiteness of his face,’ these are understood to refer to the luster, sheen and glitter of his skin under the light of the sun as shown by the hadîth, ‘it was as if the sun were following its course across, and shining from, his face.’

«M»Meaning that his (SAW) hair was in a state in between being very curly and completely straight and the best of affairs are those that are in between the two extremes. az-Zamakhsharî said, ‘the predominate course amongst the Arabs is to have curly hair and among the non-Arabs, straight hair.’ Allâh has blessed His Messenger (SAW) with the best of virtues and qualities and has combined in him all that He has scattered amongst the different races.

«M»Allâh commissioned him as a Prophet and Messenger, sent to the entirety of the worlds of Jinn and Man, this by agreement of the Muslim nation and is known in the religion by necessity, whoever rejects this becomes a disbeliever. He was also sent to the Angels in the view of the researching scholars ( muhaqqiqûn), however some have objected to this. «Q» It is said that he was born on Monday, revelation came to him on Monday, he migrated to Madînah on Monday, he arrived at Madînah on Monday and passed away on Monday. The commentators have stated that the meaning of the ra’s of his fortieth year is its last part [and not the turn] due to the opinion of the majority of the historians and biographers that he was commissioned after having entered his fortieth year. at-Tîbî said, ‘ ra ‘s here is metaphorically used to refer to the end of the year [and not its beginning] in the same way as one says, “ ra’s of the verse” i.e. its last part.’ As for the usage of the word forty then it could either refer to the entry into the fortieth year or the year which is added to the thirty-ninth, both usages are common. However the specification that occurs through mention of the word ‘year’ in this hadîth lends weight to the first possibility. al-Hâfidh al-’Asqalânî said, ‘[understanding it to mean the turn of the fortieth year] would mean that he was commissioned in the month of his birth which is Rabî’ al-Awwal, however he was commissioned in the month of Ramadân and therefore his age would be forty and a half or thirty nine and a half. Those who mentioned forty as his age did so by ignoring the addition or subtraction. However both al-Mas’ûdî and ibn ‘Abdu-l-Barr mention that the correct opinion was that he was commissioned in Rabî’ al-Awwal, so according to this view he (SAW) would have just turned forty. It is also postulated that he was commissioned when he was forty years and ten days or forty years and twenty days old. Qâdî ‘Ayâd relates an irregular [and hence weak] report from ibn ‘Abbâs and Sa’îd bin al-Musayyab that he (SAW) was commissioned at the turn of his forty-third year.’

«Q»The nation is agreed that he (SAW) stayed in Mecca for thirteen years, «M»therefore one could say that those who narrated ten years, rounded down and left off mention of the additional three, or one could say that the narration of those who mention thirteen years is stronger.

«M»meaning after the Hijrah. He (SAW) remained there for ten years, there is no difference concerning this, until the people entered into the religion in droves, until Allâh perfected the religion for him and his nation and completed his favour upon them.

«Q»This implies that he passed away at the age of sixty, however the strongest opinion is that he was sixty-three and it is said sixty-five. These ages are reconciled by stating that those who stated sixty-five included the year of his birth and death. Those who mentioned sixty-three did not and those who mentioned sixty rounded down. «M»This point is not contradicted by the statement ‘turn of his sixtieth year’ because what is meant here is the beginning of his sixties.

«M»Rather there were less as proven by the narration of ibn Sa’d [from Anas (RA)], ‘there were only seventeen white hairs on his head and beard.’ There is no contradiction between this and the report of ibn ‘Umar (RAA), ‘he had approximately twenty white hairs’ because this just talks about an approximation. In the report of ibn Hibbân and al-Bayhaqî from ibn ‘Umar (RAA) there occurs, ‘his white hairs were approximately twenty all towards the front.’ As for the hadîth of ‘Abdullâh bin Busr, ‘his white hairs did not exceed ten’, he was talking about the hairs on the front of his beard, and hence the remainder is understood to be on his temples. «Q»As for what is mentioned in one narration by way of negating white hairs for him (SAW), what is meant is a negation of plentitude not a negation in totality. A more detailed discussion concerning his (SAW) age and white hairs follows in the relevant chapters if Allâh wills.

§2. Humayd bin Mas’adah al-Basrî nararted to us ‘Abdu-l-Wahhâb ath-Thaqafî narrated to us from Humayd from Anas bin Mâlik (RA) that he said,

The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was of medium stature, neither tall nor short, of a goodly build. His hair was neither curly nor completely straight. He had a brownish complexion and when he walked he leant forward [walking briskly].

«Q»This does not contradict the previous description of his skin as has already been explained. However it is said that this contradicts the ensuing description that he ‘was white skinned as if moulded of silver.’ Some have reconciled this by saying that the brownish complexion applied to that part of the skin that was exposed to the sun and that that part of his skin which was concealed by his garments was white. However this reconciliation has been refuted because of the narration that mentions his neck being white as if it was made of silver, the neck is normally exposed to the sun. It is possible that this comparison hold true when considering the luster and sheen of his skin under the light of the sun and the smoothness of his skin.

§3. Muhammad bin Bashshâr – al-’Abdî – narrated to us Muhammad bin Ja’far narrated to us Shu’bah narrated to us from Abû Is`hâq that he heard al-Barâ’a bin ‘Azib (RA) saying,

The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) had slightly curly hair and was of medium stature (rajil marbû’) with broad shoulders. His hair was thick, reaching his earlobes and he wore a red hulla. I have never seen anything more beautiful than he.

«Q»Some reports mention that his hair reached below his ears and above his shoulders, others mention half way down his ears, others mention to his ears, others mention to his shoulders and others mention to his shoulder blades. Qâdî ‘Ayâd reconciled these by saying that these descriptions all related to different times. Therefore when he (SAW) delayed cutting his hair, it would grow to his shoulders, when he cut his hair, it would reach his ears, or half way down his ears or to his earlobes.
and he wore a red hulla
A detailed discussion follows in the chapter dealing with his (SAW) clothes.

«M»This statement, along with proving the great beauty of the Messenger of Allâh (SAW), also goes to show al-Barâ’a’s complete faith because believing him (SAW) to be so is one of the branches of having complete love for him.

§4. Mahmûd bin Ghaylân narrated to us Wakî’ narrated to us Sufyân ath-Thawrî narrated to us from Abû Is`hâq from al-Barâ’a bin ‘Azib (RA) that he said,

I have never seen a person having a full head of hair, wearing a red hulla, who looked better than the Messenger of Allâh (SAW). He had hair that reached his shoulders and his shoulders were broad. He was neither short nor tall.

§5. Muhammad bin Ismâ’îl narrated to us Abû Nu’aym narrated to us al-Mas’ûdî narrated to us from ‘Uthmân bin Muslim bin Hurmuz from Nâfi’ bin Jubair bin Mut’im from ‘Alî bin Abû Tâlib (RA) that he said,

The Prophet (SAW) was neither tall nor short. His hands and feet were heavy and thick [but not calloused]. He had a large head, large bones and a long line of fine hair extending from his chest to navel. When he walked, he leant forward as if descending a slope. I have not seen anyone, before him or after him, who was comparable to him.

§6. Sufyân bin Wakî’ narrated to us my father narrated to us from al-Mas’ûdî the likes of this with this isnâd.

§7. Ahmad bin ‘Abdah ad-Dabbî al-Basrî narrated to us, as did ‘Alî bin Hujr and Abû Ja’far Muhammad bin al-Husayn – i.e. ibn Abî Halîmah ‘Isâ bin Yûnus narrated to us from ‘Umar bin ‘Abdullâh the servant of Ghufrah Ibrâhîm bin Muhammad – one of the sons of ‘Alî bin Abû Tâlib (RA) – narrated to me that when ‘Alî (RA) described the Messenger of Allâh (SAW) he would say,

The Messenger of Allâh (SAW) was neither extremely tall nor extremely short, rather he was of a medium stature amongst the people. His hair was neither curly nor completely straight, rather inbetween. He did not have a very fleshy face, neither was it completely round, rather it was only slightly so. He was white skinned, having a reddish tinge. His eyes were large with jet black pupils and his lashes, long. His joints were large as was his upper back. He did not have hair all over his body but had a line of fine hair extending from his chest to his navel. When he walked, he would walk briskly as if descending a slope. When he turned, he would turn his whole body and between his two shoulders was the Seal of Prophethood.
He was the Seal of the Prophets, the most giving of hearts, the most truthful of them, the best of them in temperament and the most sociable of them. Whoever unexpectedly saw him would stand in awe of him and whoever accompanied him and got to know him would love him. Those who described him would say, ‘I have never seen anyone, before him or after him, who was comparable to him.’

«Q»This description also holds true for someone who has hair on parts of his body and hence does not contradict the description that he (SAW) had hair on his shins, forearms and a line of hair from chest to navel.

«Q»Meaning that he walked with strength of purpose, lifting each foot clearly off the ground, not like those who walk with an air of ostentation – walking in small steps like women.

«Q»Meaning that he did not steal any glances. It is said that it means that he did not turn his head left or right when looking at something because this is the mannerism of those frivolous and thoughtless, having no sense of purpose instead he would turn his whole body to one who addressed him, showing his complete concern to what he was saying and would turn his whole body away upon finishing. Therefore when he was talking to someone or other such things, he would turn his entire body to him and not just turn his head as this is the manner of the arrogant. This last meaning is the clearest due to the ensuing description that most of the time he would merely glance at things [i.e. when not addressing them].

«Q»Meaning he would never miserly withhold any of the effects of this world or any knowledge concerning his Lord. His generosity did not come about through effort, neither was it hard upon him, rather it naturally arose due to the purity of his soul and gentleness of spirit. It is also said that it means that he had the largest heart, i.e. his heart never held back or grieved him. This is supported by the report of ibn Sa’d with this isnâd with the words, ‘the most giving of people and the largest of heart.’ It is also said that it means that he had the best of hearts, i.e. he was free of all lowly traits and how could this be otherwise when Jibrîl cut open his heart, took out of a morsel of flesh, placed it in a golden tray and washed it with Zamzam water.

«Q»In some texts the wording is ‘the best of them in lineage’ and both descriptions hold true of him (SAW).

«M»due to his exceptional descriptions, his heavenly sense of gravity, dignity, and appearance and deluge of spirituality.

«M»to the point that that he became more beloved to him than his father, his child and indeed the whole of mankind. This was due to the clear manifestation and existence of all that would necessitate love such as perfect morals and manners, sweeping compassion and kindness, innate humility and his captivating hearts and uniting them. Ibn al-Qayyim said while explaining the difference between arrogance ( kibr) and carrying oneself with an air of dignity and self-respect ( mahâbah), ‘dignity and self-respect arise from a heart that is filled with the glorification of Allâh, with love of Him and magnification of Him. When the heart is filled with this it becomes inundated with light, tranquility descends upon it, one is clothed with the garments of gravity, dignity and inspiring awe, and his face displays a sense of sweetness and pureness. Hearts love him and stand in awe of him, they are drawn to him and are comforted by his presence. His speech is light, his entrance is light, his leaving is light and his actions are light. When he is quiet, a sense of dignity and gravity overcomes him, and when he speaks, he captures heart, ear and sight. As for arrogance then it arises from self-conceit and transgression from a heart that is filled with ignorance and oppression. Servitude leaves such a person and displeasure descends upon him. When he looks at people, he looks askance, when he walks amongst them, he struts. He deals with them as one who gives himself preference in all things rather than giving them preference. He does not commence by giving people the salâm, and if he replies to a salâm, he acts as if he has granted them a great favour. He does not display a cheerful face to them and his manners do not accommodate them. Allâh has protected His beloved from all of these vile mannerisms.’


Who is Prophet Muhammad?

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Description: God’s Mercy to mankind.

  • ByAisha Stacey (© 2009 IslamReligion.com).
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Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, is the man beloved by more than 1.2 billion Muslims. He is the man who taught us patience in the face of adversity, and taught us to live in this world but seek eternal life in the hereafter. It was to Prophet Muhammad that God revealed the Quran. Along with this Book of guidance God sent Prophet Muhammad, whose behavior and high moral standards are an example to us all. Prophet Muhammad’s life was the Quran. He understood it, he loved it and he lived his life based on its standards. He taught us to recite the Quran, to live by its principles and to love it. When Muslims declare their faith in One God, they also declare their belief that Muhammad is the slave and final messenger of God.

When a Muslim hears Muhammad’s name mentioned they ask God to send blessings upon him. Prophet Muhammad was a man, a human being just like any other man, but it is his love for humanity that sets him apart. Muslims love Prophet Muhammad, but it is his love for us, that makes him a man like no other. He longed for Paradise not only for himself but also for all of us. He wept tears not for himself but for his Ummah [1] , and for humanity. He was often heard to cry "O God, my Ummah, my Ummah".

Muslims also believe in the same Prophets mentioned in Jewish and Christian traditions, including Noah, Moses, Abraham and Jesus, and they believe that all prophets came with the same message – to worship God alone, without partners, sons or daughters. There is a difference, however, between all other prophets and Prophet Muhammad. Before Muhammad, prophets were sent to particular people in particular places and periods. Muhammad however, is the final Prophet and his message is for all of humankind.

God tells us in the Quran that He did not send Prophet Muhammad except as a mercy for humankind. "And we have sent you O Muhammad, not but as a mercy for humankind and all that exists." (Quran 21:107) God did not say Muhammad was sent to the people of Arabia, or to men, or to the people of the 7 th century. He made it clear that Prophet Muhammad was a prophet like no other, one whose message would spread far and wide and be applicable in all places for all times. Muslims love him, respect him and follow him. They hold him in such regard that for many it is emotionally painful to see or hear their beloved mentor ridiculed or disrespected.

Throughout history and around the world non-Muslims have shown great respect and honour to Prophet Muhammad and he is considered influential in both religious and secular matters. Mahatma Ghandi described him as scrupulous about pledges, intense in his devotion to his friends and followers, intrepid, fearless, and with absolute trust in God and in his own mission. Prophet Muhammad taught Islam as a way of life, founded an empire, laid down a moral code and instituted a code of law focusing on respect, tolerance and justice.

What is it about Prophet Muhammad that inspires such devotion? Is it his gentle and loving nature, his kindness and generosity or is it his ability to empathise with all of humanity? Muhammad was a selfless man who devoted the last 23 years of his life to teaching his companions and followers how to worship God and how to respect humanity. Prophet Muhammad was acutely aware of just how much responsibility had been thrust upon him by God. He was careful to teach the message just as God had prescribed and warned his followers not to adulate him the way Jesus, son of Mary was praised. [2]

Muslims do not worship Prophet Muhammad they understand that he is only a man. However, he is a man worthy of our utmost respect and love. Prophet Muhammad loved humanity so much that he would weep out of fear for them. He loved his Ummah with such deep and profound devotion that God remarked on the depth of his love for us in Quran.

"Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad) is anxious over you (to be rightly guided, to repent to God, and beg Him to pardon and forgive your sins, in order that you may enter Paradise and be saved from the punishment of the Hell-fire), for the believers he is full of pity, kind, and merciful." (Quran 9:128)

Prophet Muhammad taught us to love God and to obey Him. He taught us to be kind to each other, to respect our elders, and care for our children. He taught us that it was better to give than to receive and that each human life is worthy of respect and dignity. He taught us to love for our brothers and sisters what we love for ourselves. Prophet Muhammad taught us that families and communities are essential, and he pointed out that individual rights although important are not more important than a stable, moral society. Prophet Muhammad taught us that men and women are equal in the sight of God and that no one person is better then another except in respect to his or her piety and devotion to God.

Who is Prophet Muhammad? Quite simply he is the man who will stand before God on the day of Requital and beg God to have mercy on us. He will intercede for us. Muslims love him because he is the slave and messenger of God, he is a mercy to humankind and his gentleness, and devotion to humanity is unprecedented.

[1] The translation of the Arabic word Ummah is nation. However, it means more than a country with borders, it is a fellowship of men women and children united in their love for One God and their admiration for Muhammad, the Prophet of God.


Prophet Muhammad - History

Muhammad was Islam’s founder and prophet. He was born in April of the year AD 570 in the city of Mecca. Life was fierce on the Arabian Peninsula desert tribes fought over scarce resources. High birth rates were necessary for survival. Child marriage was the norm. Females had no say in the affairs of society males used them for child-rearing, homemaking and sexual pleasure. The eye-for-eye tooth-for-tooth law of retribution prevailed. Blood feuds were common. Polygamy and idol worship were pervasive Arabs in the region worshiped hundreds of different gods and goddesses. Visitors could worship their personal idols at the Ka’bah, a black cube-shaped structure in the heart of Mecca.

Arabs of that era were tolerant of all religions Jews and Christians coexisted peacefully with their Arab neighbors.

Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraysh, was the wealthy ruling family of Mecca. It was responsible for maintaining the Ka’bah, which housed 360 different idols. The Quraysh exacted access fees from worshippers and sold religious artifacts. Muhammad’s father’s name, “Abdullah,” means “slave of Allah.” Allah was the moon god and chief idol of the Quraysh tribe. Allah’s symbol, the crescent moon, later became the universal symbol for Islam. Muhammad was still in his mother’s womb when his father died. Muhammad’s mother died when he was six and he was given over to the care of his paternal grandfather. His grandfather died when Muhammad was eight and he was given over to his uncle, Abu Talib.

As a boy, Muhammad tended sheep until he began traveling with his uncle Abu Talib, a caravan trader. Muhammad surely met people of diverse faiths in Arabia, Syria and Yemen.

Working in the caravan trade, Muhammad earned a reputation for fairness and excellent business practices. On several trading ventures he earned a good profit for a wealthy widow named Khadija. She was 40 years old, four times divorced and had children. She asked Muhammad to marry her. The year was AD 595 and Muhammad was twenty-five years old. Khadija gave him two sons, but both died in early childhood. She also gave him four daughters, all of whom lived to adulthood.

One day, when Muhammad was forty, he claimed the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a dream and told him, “Read! (or Proclaim!) in the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood. Proclaim! And your Lord is Most Bountiful, – He Who taught (the use of) the Pen, – Taught men that which he did not know.” Muhammad awoke from this dream thinking he had gone insane. He ran to Khadija for comfort and guidance. She covered him with a blanket and calmed him down. She told him that rather than being insane he was a prophet. Muhammad believed her and began preaching on the streets of Mecca. The year was AD 610 and it marked the founding of Islam.

As Muhammad’s visions continued he steadily elevated himself from Messenger to Apostle of Allah, then to last in the line of biblical prophets, then second only to Allah. He claimed Gabriel’s revelations to him were word-for-word, directly from Allah, and that Gabriel was the same angel who announced to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus. Not one of Muhammad’s family, friends or associates ever claimed to have seen this angel. Nevertheless, Muhammad continued reciting his ‘revelations’ on the streets of Mecca and wherever he traveled.

Muhammad forbade images of any living thing in his home—saying that no man should ever attempt to imitate Allah’s creations. He hated poets and artists he promised artists they would burn in hell until the living beings in their paintings came to life. Many of Muhammad’s idiosyncrasies gradually, over centuries, became part of Islamic doctrine.

When Muhammad began preaching against the idols in the Ka’bah, his tribe, the Quraysh, began causing trouble for him. They insulted him and threatened him. Quraysh poets made fun of him.

Muhammad continued to preach that he was the Prophet and Messenger of Allah—the Creator, the One True God, all-powerful, invisible and unknowable. Although he had offered money and gifts to illiterate pagans if they would accept his claims, after thirteen years he had only 150 converts. Religious Islam failed.

In 619, Muhammad’s wife Khadija and his uncle Abu Talib both died. Within a month of Khadija’s death, Muhammad had married a widow named Sauda and had become engaged to Aisha, the six-year-old daughter of his father-in-law, Abu Bakr. He consummated the marriage when Aisha was nine, and she became his favorite wife.

Muhammad refused to stop his preaching against the idols in the Ka’bah, and Quraysh persecutions became more intense. They spit on him, threw animal intestines on him, harassed his followers and threatened to beat him. Finally, they plotted to assassinate him. Muhammad learned of the plot and in June 622, he and a small band of followers fled Mecca and migrated 200 miles north to Yathrib, present-day Medina.

Two Arab tribes in Yathrib had been engaged in a blood feud for years. Muhammad, having a reputation for fairness, was asked to settle the feud. He did so and in the process gained quite a following. He was soon asked to adjudicate disputes among local tribesmen, and he agreed.

As Muhammad’s power and influence increased, his “revelations from Allah” became increasingly timely and convenient. Allah began to grant special favors to satisfy the desires of his prophet. For example, after Muhammad had married Allah’s permissible number of four wives but lusted for more, Allah revealed that the prophet could have as many wives as he wanted (Qur’an 33:50-51).

According to Islamic tradition, Allah never increased his original limit of four wives for any Muslim other than Muhammad. However, the Qur’an encourages Muslim married and unmarried men to follow the example of Muhammad, who would convert, enslave or kill captured infidel men—and rape, enslave or sell captive widows, orphans and young girls. Today, Islamic jihadists still use these barbaric tactics.

Muhammad had never mentioned jihad during his thirteen years of preaching in Mecca. Only after migrating to Medina and becoming a political leader and powerful military commander did Muhammad order his followers to attack and plunder nomadic tribes. Many of his victims were illiterate Bedouins. Desert resources were becoming scarcer, and it was clear that only the larger and stronger tribes would survive. Weaker tribes soon surrendered. Muhammad’s growing army was thereby strengthened because every tribe protected itself with fighting men. Muhammad began claiming for his own the most beautiful females captured in battles, and sometimes took them into his tent immediately after his men had murdered their husbands and fathers. Militant Islam was succeeding.

It will never be known just how many of Muhammad’s contemporaries believed he was receiving revelations from the “Creator of the Universe.” Obviously, some balked at fighting because Muhammad soon claimed this revelation: “Allah will forgive the sins of those killed while fighting and give them immediate entry into paradise.” He said Allah will also forgive the sins of those wounded while fighting and receive them into paradise when they die. Muhammad promised Allah would give slain or wounded fighters thrones, servants, fruits, wine and beautiful virgins of like age for their eternal pleasure. In addition, Muhammad promised recruits that fellow Muslims would care for their families if they were killed or wounded.

Having established his hold over the Arab tribes in and around Medina, Muhammad turned his attention to the Jews. He believed they would support his cause and become powerful assets.

At that time, AD 622, Jews comprised half of Yathrib’s population. Jewish craftsmen were well-known for the quality of their knives and swords and profited from their sale. The Jews were also excellent farmers. They were wealthy, well-respected and lived peaceably with their Arab neighbors.

Given their wealth and enduring theology, he expected them to become persuasive missionaries for Islam. He hoped they would debate other Jews and even help him convert the Quraysh in Mecca.

As long as Muhammad thought Jews might become his allies, Allah’s revelations were favorable to them. Muhammad began telling stories about biblical prophets they had known since childhood. More Jews came to hear him preach. Muhammad continued to flatter them, trying to win them over. However, the Jews soon detected discrepancies in Muhammad’s stories and began to challenge him. Muhammad, not accustomed to being questioned, arrogantly stuck to his misconceptions. The Jews, of course, did not back down from what they knew to be true. They began to ridicule Muhammad’s false proclamations and mock his every mistake. Then, not surprisingly, Muhammad claimed to receive revelations from Allah saying the Jews were corrupt, deceitful and evil. He began to claim more hateful and forceful revelations. For example, “Slay them wherever you find them….” (Qur’an 2:191) and “…strike terror into the hearts of the enemies” (Qur’an 8:60).

Muhammad then claimed to have received revelations that Allah despises Jews. Muhammad commanded his soldiers to dig a trench in the middle of town. He had the Jewish men and boys with pubic hair led out to the trench in groups of five or six and forced to kneel. Then Muhammad’s soldiers cut off their heads and pushed their bodies into the trench. Muhammad and his 12-year-old bride, Aisha, sat and watched all 800 die in a single day. He then divvied up the murdered Jewish men’s property, possessions, wives and children with his soldiers as spoils of war, keeping 20 percent for himself.

Attacking Jewish communities proved so lucrative that Muhammad and his military commanders continued this practice. Fighting, conquering and plundering was established as Islam’s primary means of expansion for the next 1,200 years.

The safety of belonging to a large and powerful tribe and the expectation of receiving substantial war booty attracted more desert Arabs to side with Muhammad.

Muhammad’s thirst for land and power continued to grow with each successful attack on nearby tribes and villages. He established rules of warfare that are still in use today: he would ask a tribe to convert to Islam and give pagans two choices—convert or die. He would give Christians and Jews three choices—convert, die or become a slave to a Muslim overlord and pay an impoverishing tax (the jizya) while being humiliated. Muhammad would execute on the spot those who refused to convert or accept his offer of slavery.

Accounts of Muslim military exploits fill volumes. Muhammad led the first Islamic attack on the world in January AD 624. Six years later, in AD 630, he led his army to conquer Mecca. For the rest of his life he led military campaigns to conquer more territory. Before his death he had conquered the entire Arabian Peninsula and laid plans to conquer lands beyond. On his deathbed, he ordered the expulsion of Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula. The year was AD 632.


Seminar Five: Communities of Interpretation

21 Oct

Summary

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We can trace much of the diversity in the Muslim world to religious, philosophical, and political tensions that arose in the centuries after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. Sunni and Shi’a communities, for example, were divided by disagreements on the succession of leadership after Muhammad, while the rise of a Sufi counterculture was in part a reaction to the un-Islamic lifestyles of political leaders. The early Muslim communities struggled over the authority and legitimacy of community leaders, the relationship between political and religious leadership, and the correct interpretation of the Quran and Muhammad’s life.

One of the most decisive problems for early Muslims concerned authority and leadership. By the end of Muhammad’s life, most of the Arab tribes had formed a united community of believers (ummah), with Muhammad acting as their leader both in religious and political matters. But Muhammad was the Seal of the Prophets the authority of his successor, therefore, would not be based on prophethood. It was up to the early Muslims to determine the nature and function of leadership in their communities. When Muhammad died in 632, many members of the ummah felt that the Prophet had not designated a successor, and by general consensus Muhammad’s father-in-law Abu Bakr was elected the first successor (calpih). Others believed that Muhammad had appointed his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn Ali Talib as his successor, and believed that Ali, as a member of Muhammad’s immediate family, was best qualified to guide the ummah. Ali’s supporters were known as the Shiat Ali, “the Partisans of Ali”, and agitated for Ali to become the caliph. In 680, the struggle between supporters of the early caliphs and the Shi’a culminated in the battle of Karbala where Ali’s son Husayn was murdered by the army of Yazid. The martyrdom of Husayn was considered a grave injustice by all Muslims, but was a profound tragedy for the Shi’a. The commemoration of Husayn’s martyrdom remains central to Shi’a religious identity.

In addition to the problems of succession and leadership, Muslims also debated how the teachings of the Quran and other scripture should be applied in practice. The Quran provided guidance on many aspects of religious and social life, but some felt that it did not contain clear instruction on all possible religious and legal questions. To clarify the Quran’s practical teachings, Muslims relied on sunnah, the customs and practices of the Prophet as recorded in Hadith, extra-quranic quotations and eyewitness reports of Muhammad’s behavior. Scholars traveled throughout the Muslim world collecting Hadith, while carefully scrutinizing their authenticity. Only those Hadith which were transmitted by an unbroken chain of reliable sources were deemed acceptable. All members of the ummah strove to adopt the message of the Quran and emulate Muhammad, who was celebrated as the uswa al-hasana (the most beautiful model).

The Quran and sunnah, the most authoritative guides to religious and social life, were the primary sources for shari’ah, the path of right conduct and behavior as revealed by God. Scholars studied the Quran and hadith in order to clarify shari’ah. Several schools of jurisprudence were formed, each with its own method for arriving at legal rulings. Although all rulings were based on scripture, the ambiguity of the primary sources on certain issues required the use of systematic reasoning, based on methods sanctioned by each school. Some jurists, and later theologians and philosophers, developed sophisticated intellectual methods, some drawing from traditions of ancient Greek philosophy others became uncomfortable with the application of potentially fallible human reason to religious law and theology, and argued for a literal application of the Quran and sunnah. Four major schools of Sunni jurisprudence were to emerge from these debates. Each school attracted its own followers, and at times there were bitter rivalries between schools. Muslims sought the opinions and guidance of religious scholars, the ulama, marking them as authorities on religious matters. Political leaders also patronized the ulama, establishing endowments for centers of learning. In areas where political authority was less centralized, the ulama fulfilled a number of leadership roles, and took on a degree of political power as well.

The Shi’a developed their own approaches to jurisprudence. While the rulings of Shi’a jurists did not deviate significantly from those of the Sunni schools, their approach to authority was quite unique. The Shi’a refused to accept the legitimacy of the early caliphs, remaining loyal to the descendants of Ali, whom they called Imams, spiritual leaders. As a descendant of Muhammad’s immediate family, each Imam was believed to inherit special insight and authority in the practice of scriptural interpretation. As such, the Imam was considered to be an essential intermediary between God and the Shi’a community. In addition to hadiths of the Prophet, the Shi’a collected similar traditions from the Imams, extending the sources of shari’ah beyond those accepted by the Sunni jurists. A dispute over the succession of the seventh Imam led to a further division among Shi’a, creating the Twelver and Ismaili communities.

With the success and territorial expansion of political dynasties, government officials began to accumulate unprecedented wealth and power, and at times their lifestyles were considered at odds with shari’ah. Following the model of Muhammad’s simple lifestyle, some Muslims, called Sufis, renounced worldly gains and turned to lives of poverty and ascetic practice. Sufis explored mystical and symbolic interpretations of Islamic rituals and scriptures to uncover their deeper significance. Most Sufis had extensive training in Islamic law and its guidelines for ritual and social behavior, but strove to apply shari’ah to their inner lives as well. They formulated a personal, emotional vision of Islam, internalizing the meaning of the Quran and Muhammad’s life. The spiritual accomplishments of the Sufis attracted followers and students, and Sufi brotherhoods gradually spread beyond local political loyalties. A Sufi master’s teachings and conduct could become the source of inspiration for followers. This spiritual allegiance would continue even after a master’s death, with followers making pilgrimages to his tomb.

It should be clear that while early Muslims were unified in their belief in the Quran and sunnah, they came to interpret the meaning of Islam in diverse ways. All Muslims agreed on the authority of the Quran, but they actively debated the authority of political and religious leaders, the limits of human reason, and the compatibility of spiritual and worldly aspirations.

Guiding Questions

  1. At the heart of many of the sectarian movements among Muhammad’s followers was the problem of establishing legitimate leadership. How did the early Muslims make sense of the shift in the leadership from Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets to his successors who could not claim the authority of prophethood? What were the Sunni and Shi’a solutions to this problem? How did the qualifications for legitimate rule differ according to these communities with respect to education, family and tribal identity, spirituality, wealth, and politics?
  2. The readings for this session describe different approaches to scriptural, religious, and political authority. What were the important sources of authority for each sectarian movement? In the case where more than one source of authority was accepted, how were these sources reconciled? Think about the role of hierarchical structures of authority. Do you see similarities between authority in Shi’a and Sufi traditions, especially in their concepts of religious leadership?
  3. Ernst distinguishes between philosophical ethics based on reason and religious ethics based on revelation (p. 110). How does this distinction relate to the early schools of Islamic law and theology, especially the Mutazilites, Asharites, and People of Hadith? What was the role of reason and revelation in establishing Shari’ah and practicing philosophy? Why did some jurists argue the necessity of reason to interpret the Quran and Sunnah?
  4. Ernst argues that “the concept of what is called Western civilization should . . . include Islam” on the grounds of Muslim philosophers’ active engagement with ancient Greek thinkers. After centuries of neglect, European philosophers rediscovered Greek philosophy and translated the works of Plato and Aristotle, as well as the original works of Muslim philosophers, from Arabic into Latin. Greek philosophy, widely considered the foundation for Western philosophy, was preserved and developed by Muslims. Still, Muslim philosophers are rarely acknowledged for this work. Ernst calls this “one of the great areas of selective amnesia about the nature of Western civilization.” How is this selective amnesia “an argument for European superiority”? What are the implications of including Islam in the concept of Western civilization?

Summary

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We can trace much of the diversity in the Muslim world to religious, philosophical, and political tensions that arose in the centuries after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. Sunni and Shi’a communities, for example, were divided by disagreements on &hellip


Further Reading

For more Muslim perspectives about Sharia please visit Sharia101.org.
Please also read Rose Wilder Lane’s Discovery of Freedom. She is the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, of Little House on the Prairie fame. She considered Prophet Muhammad, Prophet Abraham, and the American Revolution to be the three major sources of freedom in the world.
Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time, by Karen Armstrong, published by HarperCollins
Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, by Martin Lings, published by Inner Traditions


Watch the video: Muhammad ﷺ (August 2022).