Life of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH)
Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him), the Master of Prophets, was born in the Bani Hashim family in Makkah on Monday morning, the ninth of Rabi‘ Al-Awwal, the same year of the Elephant event, on the twentieth or twenty-second of April, 571 CE.
Early life of the Prophet Mohammed (SAWS):
His father, Hazrat Abdullah (RA), expired several weeks before his birth in Yathrib (Madinah), where he went to visit his father’s relatives. His mother, Hazrat Amina (RA) expired while on the return journey from Madinah at a place called ‘Abwa’ when he was six years old. He was raised by his paternal grandfather ‘Abd al Muttalib’ until the age of eight, and after his grandfather’s death, he was raised by Abu Talib, his paternal uncle. ‘Abd al Muttalib’s mother, Um-Salma, was a native of Madinah and he was born and raised as a young boy in Madinah. Many years before Mohammed’s (SAWS) birth, ‘Abd al Muttalib was an influential leader of the Arab tribe ‘Quraish’ in Makkah and took care of the Holy ‘Ka’bah’.
Under the guardianship of Abu Talib, Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) began to earn a living as a businessman and a trader. At the age of twelve, he accompanied Abu Talib with a merchant caravan as far as Bosra in Syria. Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) was popularly known as ‘Al-Ameen’ for his perfect character by everyone. The title Al-Ameen means the Honest, the Reliable and the Trustworthy, and it signified the highest standard of moral and public life.
Upon hearing of Prophet Mohammed’s (SAWS) impressive credentials, Khadijah (RA), who was a merchant and a widow, asked Mohammed (SAWS) to take some merchandise for trade to Syria. Soon after this trip when he was twenty-five, Khadijah (RA) proposed marriage to Mohammed (SAWS) through a relative and he accepted the proposal. At that time, Khadijah (RA) was twice widowed and forty years old. Khadijah (RA) and Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) had six children – four daughters and two sons. His first son Qasim (RA) expired at the age of two. Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) was nicknamed Abul Qasim, meaning the father of Qasim. His second son Abdullah (RA) died in infancy. Abdullah was also called affectionately as ‘Tayyab’ and ‘Tahir’ because he was born after Prophet Mohammed’s (SAWS) prophet hood. The four daughters were: Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatimah (RadiAllahu Anhum Ajmaeen).
The Holy Ka’bah was now filled with three hundred sixty idols. The original message of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) was lost, and it was mixed with superstitions and traditions of pilgrims and visitors from distant places, who were used to idol worship and myths. In every generation, a small group of men and women detested the pollution of Ka’bah and kept pure their practice of the religion taught by Prophets Ibrahim (AS) and Ismail (AS). They used to spend some of their time away from this polluted environment in retreats to nearby hills.
The first revelation of the Holy Qur’aan:
Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) was forty when, during his one of many retreats to Mount Hira for meditation during the month of Ramadan, he received the first revelation from the Angel Jibrail (AS). On this first appearance, Jibrail (AS) said to Mohammed (SAWS): “IQRAA,” meaning Read or Recite. Mohammed (SAWS) replied, “I cannot read”. The Angel Jibrail (AS) then embraced him until he reached the limit of his endurance and after releasing said: “Iqraa.” Mohammed’s (SAWS) answer was the same as before. Jibrail (AS) repeated the embrace for the third time, asked him to repeat after him and said:
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created! He created man from that which clings. Recite; and thy Lord is most Bountiful, He who has taught by the Pen, taught man what he knew not.”
These revelations are the first five verses of Surah ‘Alaq’ of the Holy Qur’an. Thus it was in the year 610 CE when the revelation began.
Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) was frightened by the whole experience of the revelation and returned from the cave of Mt. Hira. When he reached his home, tired and frightened, he asked Khadijah (RA): ‘cover me, cover me,’ in a blanket. After his awe had somewhat decreased, Khadijah (RA) asked him about the reason of his great anxiety and fear. She then assured him by saying: “Allah (SWT) will not let you down because you are kind to relatives, you speak only the truth, you help the poor, the orphan and the needy, and you are an honest person”. Khadijah (RA) then consulted with her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal who was an old, saintly man possessing knowledge of previous revelations and scriptures. Waraqa confirmed to her that the visitor was none other than the Angel Jibrail (AS) who had come to Musa (AS). He then added that Mohammed (SAWS) is the expected Prophet. Khadijah (RA) accepted the revelation as truth and was the first person to accept Islam. She demised at the age of sixty-five in the month of Ramadan.
How was the Qur’aan revealed after the first verse:
Jibrail (AS) visited the Prophet (SAWS) as commanded by Allah revealing Ayat (verses) in Arabic over a period of twenty-three years. The revelations that he received were sometimes a few verses, a part of a chapter or the whole chapter. Some revelations came down in response to an inquiry by the nonbelievers. The revealed verses were recorded on a variety of available materials (leather, palm leaves, bark, shoulder bones of animals), memorized as soon as they were revealed, and were recited in daily prayers by Muslims. Jibrail (AS) taught the order and arrangement of verses, and the Prophet (SAWS) instructed his several scribes to record verses in that order. Once a year, the Prophet (SAWS) used to recite all the verses revealed to him up to that time to Jibrail (AS) so that he can authenticate the accuracy of recitation and the order of verses. All the revealed verses (over a period of 23 years and ending in 632 CE) were compiled in the book which is our Qur’an. The Qur’an does not contain even a word from the Prophet (SAWS). The Prophet’s sayings, actions, and approvals are recorded separately in collections known as Hadith.
The Prophetic Mission:
The mission of Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) was to restore the worship of the One True God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, as taught by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) and all Prophets of Allah (SWT), and to demonstrate and complete the laws of moral, ethical, legal, and social conduct and all other matters of significance for the humanity at large.
The first few people who followed this message were: his cousin Ali (RA), his servant Zayd ibn Harith (RA), his friend Hazrat Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA) and his Wife and daughters.
In the first three years of his mission forty people (men and women) accepted Islam. This small group comprised of youth as well as older people from a wide range of economic and social background. He then began to recite revelations to people in public and invite them to Islam. The Quraish, leaders of Makkah, took his preaching with anger. The most unfriendly and closest to the prophet was his uncle Abu Lahab and his wife. Initially, they and other leaders of Quraish tried to bribe him with money and power including an offer to make him king if he were to abandon his message. When this did not work, they tried to convince his uncle Abu Talib to allow them to kill Mohammed (SAWS). His uncle tried to persuade him to stop preaching but the Prophet (SAWS) said: “O uncle, if they were to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand to stop me from preaching Islam, I would never stop. I will keep preaching until Allah (SWT) makes Islam prevail or I die.”
The persecution (torture) against Muslims:
The Quraish began to persecute Muslims by beating, torture and boycott of their businesses. Those who were weak, poor or slaves were publicly tortured. The first person to die by this means was a Muslim woman by the name Umm Ammar (the mother of Ammar Ibn Yasir). The Muslims from well-to-do families were physically restrained in their homes with the condition that if they repent, they will be allowed freedom of movement. The Prophet (SAWS) was publicly ridiculed and humiliated including frequent throwing of filth on him in the street and while he prayed in the Ka’bah. In spite of great hardships and no apparent support, the message of Islam kept all Muslims firm in their belief. The Prophet (SAWS) was asked by Allah (SWT) to be patient and to preach the message of Qur’an. He advised Muslims to remain patient because he did not receive any revelation yet to revenge against their persecutors.
Migration to Abyssinia:
When the persecution became unbearable for most Muslims, the Prophet (SAWS) advised them in the fifth year of his mission (615 CE) to migrate to Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) where Ashabah (Negus, a Christian) was the ruler. Eighty people, not counting the small children, migrated in small groups to avoid detection. No sooner had they left the Arabian coastline, the leaders of Quraish discovered their flight. They decided to not leave these Muslims in peace, and immediately sent two of their envoys to Negus to bring all of them back. However, Negus allowed them to stay under his protection after he investigated Muslim belief and heard the revelations about Isa (AS) and Mariam (AS), which appears the Holy Qur’an. The emigrants were allowed freedom of worship in Abyssinia.
The Quraish then made life even more difficult for the Prophet (SAWS) by implementing total ban on contact with the Prophet’s family (Bani Hashim and Muttalib). The ban lasted for three and it left the Prophet with more personal sorrow when he lost his beloved wife Khadijah (RA) and uncle Abu Talib soon after the ban was lifted.
After Khadijah’s (RA) death in 620 CE, the Prophet married Sawdah (RA) who was fifty years old. She and her husband had immigrated to Abyssinia in the early years of persecution. After her husband died, she came back to Makkah and sought Prophet’s shelter. The Prophet, recognizing her sacrifices for Islam, extended his shelter by marrying her. Later in the same year, the Prophet upon receiving the divine command in a dream, after approval of Sawdah, got married to A’ishah, the daughter of his dear companion Abu Bakr (RA). Sawdah and A’ishah (RA) were the only wives until he was fifty-six years old.
Journey from Taif and the ascend to Miraaj:
After the death of his uncle Abu Talib, the Prophet (SAWS) went to Taif to spread the word of Islam. They flatly refused and mocked at him, and severely injured him by inciting their children to throw stones at him. Jibrail (AS) visited the Prophet here suggesting that the angels were ready to destroy the town if he were to ask Allah for the punishment. Nevertheless, the Prophet declined and prayed for future generations of Taif to accept Islam.
Soon after return from Ta’if, the prophet experienced the events of al-Israa and al-Miraaj (621 CE). In the Al-Israa, Jibrail (AS) took the Prophet from the sacred Mosque near Ka’bah to the furthest (al-Aqsa) mosque in Jerusalem in a very short time. Here, Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) met with previous Prophets Ibrahim (AS), Musa (AS), Isa (AS) and others. Then he led them in prayer. After this, in Al-Miraj, the Prophet was taken up to heavens to show the signs of Allah. It was on this journey that five daily prayers were prescribed. He was then taken back to Ka’bah, the whole experience lasting a few hours of a night. Upon hearing this, the people of Makkah did not believe him. However, when his specific description of Jerusalem and the caravan that he saw on this journey including its expected arrival in Makkah turned out to be true, the ridicule of the nonbelievers stopped. The event of Israa and Miraaj is mentioned in the Qur’an.
The Hijrah (Migration):
In 622 CE, the leaders of the Quraish decided to assassinate the Prophet (SAWS) and they developed a plan in which one man was chosen from each of the Quraish tribes and they were to attack the Prophet simultaneously. Jibrail (AS) informed the Prophet (SAWS) of the plan and instructed him to leave Makkah immediately. The Prophet (SAWS), after making arrangements to return the properties entrusted to him by several nonbelievers, left with Abu Bakr (RA) in the night he was to be assassinated. They went south of Makkah to a mountain cave of Thawr and after staying three nights they traveled north to Yathrib (Madinah) about two hundred fifty miles from Makkah. Upon discovery of his escape, the leaders of Quraish put up a reward of one hundred camels. In spite of all their best scouts and search parties, Allah (SWT) protected the Prophet (SAWS) and he arrived safely in Quba, in Madinah. This event is known as the ‘Hijra’ (migration) and the Islamic calendar begins with this event. The people of Aws and Khazraj in Madinah greeted him with great enthusiasm. One by one those Muslims of Makkah who were not physically restrained, and who could make a secret exit, left for Madinah leaving behind their properties and homes.
Treaty of Hudaibiyah:
To insure the peace and tranquility, the Prophet (SAWS) proposed a treaty defining terms of conduct for all inhabitants of Madinah. It was agreed by all – Muslims, non-Muslim Arabs and Jews. After his emigration to Madinah, the enemies of Islam increased their assault from all sides. The Battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq (Trench) were fought near or around Madinah. In these battles until the year 627 CE, the nonbelievers with encouragement from Jews and other Arabian tribes attacked the Prophet (SAWS) and the Muslim community. The Muslims while defending their city and religion lost many men, which resulted in many widowed Muslim women and numerous orphaned children. In these circumstances, Prophet Mohammed (s) married several women during fifty-sixth year up to the sixtieth year of his life. All of the ladies he took as wives were either widowed or divorced, except A’ishah.
Two of his wives, Juwayriah and Safiyah, were prisoners of war. Both belonged to the family of the chief of their tribes and were set free by the Prophet (SAWS); they then gladly accepted Islam and were pleased to become the Prophet’s wives. The Prophet’s marriages provided security to women who would have otherwise remained unmarried, unprotected, or felt humiliated. His marriages were also a means of transmitting important teachings of Islam. The Prophet’s wives, called the “Mothers of the Believers,” showed themselves as examples of proper Muslim womanhood. All his wives, especially ‘Aishah, transmitted many ahadith (sayings, deeds, and actions) from Prophet Mohammed (s).
A year after the Battle of Khandaq (Trench), the Prophet and fifteen hundred of his companions left for Makkah to perform the annual pilgrimage (628 CE). They were barred from approaching the city at Hudaybiyah, where after some negotiations a treaty was signed allowing for them to come next year. This treaty gave chance to the Muslims to expand Islam. Many people from all regions of Arabia came to the Prophet to investigate the teachings of Islam, and a large number of people accepted Islam within a couple of years. The Prophet sent many of his companions (who memorized the Qur’an by heart) to new communities to instruct them about the practice of Islam.
About two years later at the end of 629 CE, the Quraish violated the terms of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah by a surprise attack on Bani Khuza’ah tribe, who were allied with the Prophet. They then sent a message to the Prophet for help.
The conquest of Makkah:
The Prophet, after confirming all the reports of the attack and subsequent events, marched to Makkah with an army consisting of three thousand Muslims of Madinah and Muslims from other Arab communities that joined him on the way totaling ten thousand Muslims. Before entering the city he sent word to citizens of Makkah that anyone who remained in his home, or in Abu Sufyan’s home, or in the Ka’bah would be safe. The army entered Makkah without fighting and the Prophet went directly to the Ka’bah. He magnified Allah for the triumphant entry in the Holy city. The Prophet pointed at each idol with a stick he had in his hand and said, “Truth has come and Falsehood will neither start nor will it reappear” [Qur’an 17:81]. And one by one the idols fell down. The Ka’bah was then cleansed by the removal of all three hundred sixty idols, and it was restored to its pristine status for the worship of One True God (as built by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail).
The people of the city expected general slaughter in view of their persecution and torture of Muslims for the past twenty years. While standing by the Ka’bah, the Prophet (s) promised mercy for the Makkans, stating: “O Quraish, what do you think that I am about to do with you?” They replied, “Good. You are a noble brother, son of a noble brother.” The Prophet forgave them all saying:
“I will treat you as Prophet Yousuf (AS) treated his brothers. There is no scolding against you. Go to your homes, and you are all free.”
The Prophet also declared:
Allah made Makkah holy the day He created heavens and earth, and it is the holy of holies until the Resurrection Day. It is not lawful for anyone who believes in Allah and the last day to shed blood therein, nor to cut down trees therein. It was not lawful to anyone before me and it will not be lawful to anyone after me.
The people of Makkah then accepted Islam including the enemies of the Prophet. A few of the enemies and military commanders had fled Makkah after his entry. However, when they received the Prophet’s assurance of no retaliation and no compulsion in religion, they came back and gradually the message of Islam won their hearts. Within a year (630 CE), almost all Arabia accepted Islam. Among the Prophet’s close companions were Muslims from such diverse background as Persia, Abyssinia, Syria and Rome. Several prominent Jewish Rabbis, Christian bishop and clergymen accepted Islam after discussions with the Prophet (SAWS).
The great change in Arabia alarmed the two superpowers, Byzantines and Persians. Their Governors, particularly the Byzantines, reacted with threats to attack Madinah. Instead of waiting, the Prophet (SAWS) sent a small army to defend the north most border of Arabia. In the remaining life of the Prophet, all of the major battles were fought on the northern front. The Prophet (SAWS) did not have a standing army. Whenever he received a threat, he called the Muslims and discussed with them the situation and gathered volunteers to fight any aggression.
The Prophet (SAWS) performed his first and last pilgrimage in 632 CE. One hundred twenty-thousand men and women performed pilgrimage that year with him. The Prophet (SAWS) received the last revelation during this pilgrimage. Two months later, Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) fell ill and after several days he departed on Monday, 12 Rabi al-Awwal, the eleventh year after Hijra (June 8, 632 CE) in Madinah. He is buried in the same place where he departed.
A retrospect in the life of Prophet Mohammed (SAWS):
Prophet Mohammed lived a most simple and modest life. He and his family used to go without cooked meal several days at a time, relying only on dates, dried bread and water. During the day he was the busiest person, as he performed his duties in many roles all at once as head of state, chief justice, commander-in-chief, arbitrator, instructor and a family person. He was the most devoted one at night. He used to spend one to two-thirds of every night in prayer and meditation. The Prophet’s possession consisted of mats, blankets, jugs and other simple things even when he was the virtual ruler of Arabia. He left nothing to be inherited except a white mule (a gift from Muqawqis), few ammunition and a piece of land that he had made a gift during his life time. Among his last words were: “We the communities of Prophets are not inherited. Whatever we leave is for charity.”
Mohammed (SAWS) was a true and final messenger of Allah (SWT). He is the last of the prophets sent by Allah to guide man to the right path. All sincere Muslims try to follow the Qur’an and the Prophet’s example to minute details. The account of every aspect of his life has been preserved. Prophet Mohammed (SAWS) has served as an example for all Muslims in all periods to modern times. He will remain a model example for all of humanity.
At the end of his mission, the Prophet (SAWS) was blessed with several hundred thousand followers (men and women) of Islam. Thousands prayed with him at the mosque and listened to his sermon. Hundreds of sincere Muslims would find every opportunity to be with him following five daily prayers and at other times. They used to seek his advice for their everyday problems, and listened attentively to the interpretation and application of revealed verses to their situation. They followed the message of the Qur’an and the Messenger of Allah with utmost sincerity, and supported him with everything they had. The most excellent among them are Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, Ali, Talha, Zubair, ‘Abdur Rahman ibn Auf, S’ad bin Abi Waqqas, S’ad bin Zaid, Abu ‘Ubeidah, Hasan, Hussain, (Radiallahu Alaihim Ajmaeen) and several dozen others. They faithfully carried the message of Islam after the Prophet (SAWS), and within ninety years the light of Islam reached Spain, North Africa, the Caucasus, northwest China and India.