The Prophet (pbuh) was born in the year 571 C.E. into the tribe of Quraish [held noble by all Arabs], in Makkah [the religious capital of the Arabian Peninsula].
The Arabs would perform pilgrimage to Makkah and circumambulate the Ka’bah which was built by Prophet Abraham and his son, Prophet Ishmael, may God praise them both.
The Prophet (pbuh) was an orphan. His father passed away before he was born, and his mother died when he was six years old. He was taken under the care of his grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, and when he died, his uncle, Abu Talib, took charge of him. His tribe, as well as others, worshipped idols made from stone, wood and even gold. Some of these idols were placed around the Ka’bah. People believed that these idols could ward off harm or extend benefit.
The Prophet (pbuh) was a trustworthy and honest person. He never behaved treacherously, nor did he lie or cheat; he was known amongst his people as ‘Al-Ameen’, or ‘The Trustworthy’. People would entrust him with their valuables when they wanted to travel. He was also known as ‘As-Sadiq’ or ‘The Truthful’ for he never told a lie. He was well-mannered, well-spoken, and he loved to help people. His people loved and revered him and he had beautiful manners. God, the Exalted, says:
Indeed you are of a great moral character. [68:4]
The famous Scottish historian and writer, Thomas Carlyle (d. 1885) wrote in his book: ‘Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History’:
“But, from an early age, he had been remarked as a thoughtful man. His companions named him “Al Amin, The Faithful.” A man of truth and fidelity; true in what he did, in what he spoke and thought. They noted that he always meant something. A man rather taciturn in speech; silent when there was nothing to be said; but pertinent, wise, sincere, when he did speak; always throwing light on the matter. This is the only sort of speech worth speaking! Through life we find him to have been regarded as an altogether solid, brotherly, genuine man. A serious, sincere character; yet amiable, cordial, companionable, jocose even – a good laugh in him withal: there are men whose laugh is as untrue as anything about them; who cannot laugh. A spontaneous, passionate, yet just, true-meaning man! Full of wild faculty, fire and light; of wild worth, all uncultured; working out his life – takes in the depth of the Desert there.”
The Prophet (pbuh) liked to seclude himself in the Cave of Hira before he was commissioned as a prophet. He would stay there many nights at a time.
He (pbuh) never partook in any falsehood; he never drank intoxicants, nor did he ever bow to a statue or idol, take an oath by them or offer to them an offering. He was a shepherd over a flock of sheep which belonged to his people. The Prophet (pbuh) said:
‘Every prophet commissioned by God was a shepherd over a flock of sheep.’ His companions asked him: ‘Even you, O Messenger of God?’ He said: ‘Yes, I would take care of a flock of sheep for the people of Makkah.’ (Bukhari 2143)
At the age of forty, the Prophet (pbuh) received divine revelation when at the cave of Hira. The Mother of the believers, A’ishah10 said:
The first thing that God’s Messenger (pbuh) received while in the Cave of Hira in Makkah were good visions [dreams]. Every time he had a dream, it would come true and clear like the split of the dawn. Later on, God’s Messenger (pbuh) began to love being alone in meditation. He spent lengthy periods for days and nights to fulfill this purpose in the cave before returning back to his family. He would take a supply of food for his trip. When he came back to his wife Khadeejah11 he would get a fresh supply of food and go back to the same cave to continue his meditation.
The Truth came to him while he was in the Cave of Hira. The Angel Gabriel came to Muhammad (pbuh) and commanded him to read. Muhammad (pbuh) replied, “I cannot read!” Gabriel embraced Muhammad (pbuh) until he could not breathe, and then let him go saying, “O Muhammad! Read!” Again, Muhammad (pbuh) replied, “I cannot read!” Gabriel embraced Muhammad (pbuh) for the second time. He then ordered him to read for the third time, when he did not he embraced him tightly until he could not breathe, and then released him saying, “O Muhammad!
“Recite with the Name of Your Lord Who has created (all that exists). He has created man out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96:1-3)
The Messenger of God (pbuh) returned home trembling. He entered his home and told Khadeejah: “Cover me up, cover me up!” Khadeejah covered Muhammad (pbuh) until he felt better. He then informed her about what happened to him in the Cave of Hira. He said, “I was concerned about myself and my well-being.” Khadeejah assured Muhammad (pbuh) saying:
By God! You don’t have to worry! God, the Exalted, will never humiliate you! You are good to your kith and kin. You help the poor and needy. You are generous and hospitable to your guests. You help people who are in need.
Khadeejah took her husband Muhammad (pbuh) to a cousin of hers named Waraqah bin Nawfal bin Asad bin Abdul Uzza. This man became a Christian during the pre-Islamic times, known as the Era of Ignorance. He was a scribe, who wrote the Scripture in Hebrew. He was an old man who became blind at the latter part of his life. Khadeejah said to her cousin,
“O cousin, listen to what your nephew [i.e. Muhammad pbuh] is about to tell you!” Waraqah said: “What is it you have seen, dear nephew?”
The Messenger of God (pbuh) informed him of what he had seen in the Cave of Hira. Upon hearing his report, Waraqah said,
“By God! This is the Angel Gabriel who came to Prophet Moses, may God praise him. I wish I would be alive when your people will drive you out of Makkah!” The Messenger of God (pbuh) wondered: “Are they going to drive me out of Makkah?!” Waraqah affirmed positively saying, “Never has a man conveyed a Message similar to what you have been charged with, except that his people waged war against him – if I am to witness this, I will support you.”
Waraqah lived only a short period after this incident and passed away. Revelation also stopped for a while.’ (Bukhari #3) The chapter of the Qur’an quoted in the hadeeth12 above marks the beginning when he was commissioned as a Prophet. God, the Exalted, then revealed to him:
O you (Muhammad pbuh) enveloped (in garments); Arise and warn! And your Lord (Allah) magnify! And your garments purify! (74:1-4)
This chapter of the Qur’an marks the beginning when he was commissioned as a Messenger.
With the revelation of this chapter of the Qur’an, the Prophet (pbuh) began calling his nation to Islam openly. He began with his own people. Some of them refused adamantly to listen to him, for to them, he was calling to a matter which they had never witnessed before.
The religion of Islam is a complete way of life, which deals with religious, political, economical and social affairs. Furthermore, the religion of Islam did not only call them to worship God alone and to forsake all idols and things they worshipped; rather, it prohibited them from things they considered pleasurable, such as consuming interest and intoxicants, fornication, and gambling. It also called people to be just and fair with one another, and to know that there was no difference between them except through piety. How could the Quraish [the most
noble tribe amongst the Arabs] stand to be treated equally with the slaves! They did not only adamantly refuse to accept Islam; rather, they harmed him and blamed him, saying that he was crazy, a sorcerer and a liar. They blamed him with things they would dare not have before the advent of Islam. They incited the ignorant masses against him, harmed him and tortured his companions. Abdullah b. Masood, a close companion of the Prophet said:
While the Prophet (pbuh) was standing up and praying near the Ka’bah, a group of Quraish were sitting in their sitting place, one of them said: “Do you see this man? Would someone bring the dirt and filth and bloody intestines from the camels of so and so, and wait till he prostrates, and then place it between his shoulders?” The most wretched amongst them volunteered to do it, and when the Prophet (pbuh) prostrated, he put the filth between his shoulders, so the Prophet (pbuh) stayed in prostration. They laughed so hard that they were about to fall on each other. Someone went to Fatimah who was a young girl, and informed her of what had happened. She hurriedly came towards the Prophet (pbuh) and removed the filth from his back, and then she turned around and she cursed the Quraishites who were sitting in that sitting. (Bukhari #498)
Muneeb al-Azdi, a companion of the Prophet (pbuh) said:
I saw the Messenger of God in the Era of Ignorance saying to people: “Say there is no god worthy of being worshipped except Allah if you would be successful.” There were those who spat in his face, those who threw soil in his face, and those who swore at him until midday. When [once] a certain young girl came with a big container of water, he washed his face and hands and say: “O daughter, do not fear that your father will be humiliated or struck by poverty.” (Mu’jam al-Kabeer # 805)
Abdullah b. Amr al-Aas, a companion of the Prophet (pbuh) was asked about some of the evil the pagans did to the Prophet (pbuh), to which he replied:
[Once a pagan] approached the Prophet (pbuh) while he was praying near the Ka’bah and twisted his garment around his neck. Abu Bakr13 hurriedly approached and grabbed his shoulder and pushed him away saying: “Do you kill a man because he proclaims Allah as his Lord, and clear signs have come to you from your Lord?” (Bukhari 3643)
These incidents did not stop the Prophet (pbuh) from calling to Islam. He preached this message to the many tribes that came to Makkah for Hajj14. A few believed from the people of Yathrib (a small city north of Makkah), known today as Madeenah, and they pledged to support him and help him if he chose to migrate there. He sent with them Mus’ab b. Umair to teach them the tenets of Islam. After all the hardships that the Muslims of Makkah faced from their own people, God granted them the permission to migrate to Madeenah. The people of Madeenah greeted them and received them in a most extraordinary manner. Madeenah became the capital of the new Islamic state, and the place from which the call to Islam was spread far and wide.
The Prophet (pbuh) settled there and taught people how to recite the Qur’an and the rulings of the religion. The inhabitants of Madeenah were greatly moved and touched by the Prophet’s manners. They loved him more than they loved their own selves; they would rush to serve him, and they would spend all they had in the path of Islam. The society was strong and its people were rich in Faith, and they were extremely happy. People loved each other, and true brotherhood was apparent amongst its people. All people were equal; the rich, noble and poor, black and white, Arab and non-Arab – they were all considered as equals in the religion of God, no distinction was made among them except through piety. After the Quraish learnt that the Prophet’s call had spread, they fought him in the first battle in Islam, the Battle of Badr. This battle took place between two groups unequal in preparations and weapons. The Muslims numbered 314; whereas, the pagans were 1000 strong. God gave victory to the Prophet (pbuh) and the Companions. After this battle, a number of battles took place between the Muslims and the pagans. After eight years, the Prophet (pbuh) was able to prepare an army 10,000 strong. They proceeded towards Makkah and conquered it, and with this Muhamamad (pbuh) overcame the people who had harmed and tortured him and his Companions with every conceivable cruelty. In their fleeing for their lives, they had even been forced to leave their property and wealth behind. The year of this decisive victory is called ‘The Year of the Conquest.’ Allah, the Exalted, says:
When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest, and you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes, then glorify the Praises of your Lord and ask His forgiveness. Indeed, He is the One Who accepts the repentance and Who forgives. [110:1-3]
Upon the conquest, the Prophet (pbuh) gathered the people of Makkah and said to them:
“What do you think I will do to you?” They answered: “You will only do something favorable; you are a kind and generous brother, and a kind and generous nephew!” The Prophet (pbuh) said: “Go – you are free.” (Baihaqi #18055)
This incredible act of forgiveness caused many to accept Islam. The Prophet (pbuh) then returned to Madeenah. After a period of time, the Prophet (pbuh) intended to perform Hajj, so he headed towards Makkah with 114,000 Companions and performed Hajj. This Hajj is known as ‘Hajjatul-Wadaa’ or the ‘Farewell Pilgrimage’ since the Prophet (pbuh) never performed another Hajj, and died shortly after he performed it.
On the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah at Mount Arafat, the Prophet (pbuh), delivered his farewell sermon. After praising Allah, he said:
O People! Lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
O People! Just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember, you will indeed meet your Lord and He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury; therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. Beware of Satan for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in great things, so beware of following him in small things.
O People! It is true that you have certain rights with regards to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Al-lah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right, then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not take as intimate friends those whom you do not approve of as well as to never be unchaste.
O People! Listen to me in earnest; worship Allah, perform your five daily prayers, fast the month of Ramadhan, give alms and perform the pilgrimage (i.e. Hajj) if you can afford to. All mankind is from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab; or for a white over a black, nor for a black over a white; except through piety. Know that every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim and that the Muslims are one community. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim that belongs to another unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware! Do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O People! No prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people! And understand the words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, if you follow them you will never go astray: the Book of Allah (i.e. the Qur’an) and my Sunnah. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed Your Message to Your People.’
The Prophet (pbuh) died in Madeenah on the 12th day of Rabi al-Awal in the 11th year of Hijrah and was buried there as well. The Muslims were shocked when they learnt of his death; some Companions did not believe it. Umar said: ‘Whoever says that Muhammad is dead, I will behead him!’ Abu Bakr then addressed the Muslims and read the words of God:
Muhammad is not but a Messenger. Other messengers have passed away before him. So if he was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels to unbelief? And He who turns back on his heels will never harm God at all; but God will reward the grateful. [3:144]
When Umar heard this verse, he stopped saying what he was saying, since he was very keen on applying the rules of God. The Prophet (pbuh) was 63 years of age when he died.
The Prophet (pbuh) stayed in Makkah for forty years before being commissioned as a Prophet. After being commissioned as a Prophet; he lived there for another thirteen years, in which he called people to the pure monotheistic belief of Islam. He then migrated to Madeenah, and stayed there for ten years. He continued to receive revelation there, until the Qur’an and the religion of Islam were complete.
The famous playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw (d. 1950) said:
I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phases of existence which make itself appeal to every age – I have prophesized about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today. Medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Muhammadanism in the darkest colours. They were, in fact, trained to hate both the man Muhammad and his religion. To them, Muhammad was an anti-Christ. I have studied him, the wonderful man, and in my opinion, far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of humanity.15
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A wife of the Prophet (pbuh).
Khadeejah was the first wife of the Prophet.
The narration of a statement, deed, tacit approval, or characteristic of the Prophet.
The closest companion to the Prophet (pbuh) and the first Caliph of Islam after his death.
Pilgrimage to Makkah.
Encyclopedia of Seerah, by Afzalur Rahman.
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