Muhammad(sa) was the prophet of Islam and the one to whom the final religion was revealed by God. He was born in a noble family in 570CE in Makkah, Arabia and he was a descendant of Prophet Abraham(as). The word ‘Muhammad’ literally means ‘praiseworthy’.
Life before Prophethood
His father, Abdullah, died a few months before his birth and his mother, Amena, died when he was just six years old. He was then cared for by his grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, who also died two years later. Muhammad(sa) was then looked after by his uncle Abu-Talib.
Despite these hardships, Muhammad(sa) grew up to be an honest, dignified, truthful, and intelligent person. He also helped his uncle with his trade, sometimes accompanying him on his travels to other lands.
Muhammad(sa) led a pious and simple life. He was well-known for his willingness to help others and his conduct earned him the titles of As-Siddique (meaning the most truthful) and Al-Amin (meaning the most trustworthy).
When he was twenty-five years old Muhammad(sa) married a respectable widow named Khadija who was fifteen years his senior. She was so impressed by the noble character of Muhammad(sa) that she placed at his disposal her wealth and slaves – whom he set free. Muhammad(sa) also distributed much of the property among the poor.
Prophet Muhammad(sa) used to spend his time in the remembrance of Allah. Often he would meditate in a cave called Hir’a that lay a few miles away from Makkah. When he was forty years old he had a vision in which Angel Gabriel appeared and conveyed to him the first revelation from Allah in the following words:
‘Recite in the name of your Lord Who created, created man from an adhesive clot. Recite, and your Lord is the Noblest, Who taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not.’ (Holy Qur’an Ch.96: vs. 2-6)
Muhammad(sa) was so overawed by this experience that he rushed home and related it to his wife Khadija(ra), who then took Muhammad(sa) to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal who was a Christian hermit. On hearing what had happened Waraqa said,
‘The angel who has descended on you is, I am sure, the same angel who previously descended on Moses.’
He was evidently referring to the prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:18 (‘I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.’) foretelling the arrival of a great prophet. This, in fact, marked the beginning of the mission of Muhammad(sa) as an apostle of Allah.
The verses noted above are the first verses of the Holy Qur’an that was revealed to Muhammad(sa). Over the next twenty three years the entire Holy Qur’an was revealed to him and to this day it remains completely unchanged.
Prophet Muhammad(sa) denounced the worship of false deities and preached the Unity of Allah. He said that Allah alone was worthy of worship and nothing else was equal to Him. Muhammad(sa) helped the poor, liberated slaves and established equal rights of women. He told his followers to be patient during hardship and to pray to Allah. His mission was to eradicate evil and iniquity and to establish goodness and piety in the world.
Struggles and Successes
The idolaters of Makkah would not listen to Muhammad(sa) and opposed him tooth and nail. He and his followers were persecuted in every way. They were subjected to all sorts of indignities, and the Muslim slaves were treated particularly badly. After thirteen years of persecution at the hands of the Makkans Muhammad(sa) was directed by Allah to migrate to Madinah, nearly 260 miles north of Makkah.
However, even there the Makkans did not let him live in peace. They fought a number of battles against him, but were defeated. Muhammad(sa) only fought in defence and when victorious he declared a general amnesty to his enemies.
When Makkah was finally conquered by Muhammad(sa) it was done peacefully without any battle. Furthermore, Muhammad(sa) was extremely forgiving and magnanimous towards his enemies.
He invited the whole world to Islam but also granted everyone freedom to practice their own faith under the protection of Islam.
His life is indeed remarkable for within its span of some sixty two years, the whole gamut of human experiences seems to have been played out, from poverty to riches, from failure to success, from friend-lessness to unquestioned power, from persecution to kingly authority.
He was resigned to being an orphan, was an affectionate adopted child, an honest trader, a kind father, a loving husband, a caring neighbour, a great warrior and general, a just judge and law-giver, an enlightened statesman, a faithful friend and above all a prophet and the preacher of the Word of Allah.
He passed away in 622 CE leaving behind a very pious and righteous community of believers who continued his mission to spread Islam in all parts of the world despite heavy odds. Today there are more than one billion Muslims in the world.
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