The Last Prophet of God: Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad (s) was born in 570 CE in Mecca. His father, Abdullah, died several weeks before his birth in Yathrib (Medinah) where he went to visit his father’s maternal relatives. His mother, Aminah, died while on the return journey from Medina at a place called Abwa when Muhammad (s) was six years old. After the death of his mother, Muhammad (s), was raised by his paternal grandfather Abd al Muttalib. His grandfather loved him and cared for him very much. Before his death, he asked Muhammad (s) uncle, Abu Talib, and family servant Umm-Ayman to look after him. His uncle treated him the same as his grandfather had.
During his childhood, he was a Shepard, just as all the Prophets of God once were. He became a merchant in his young adulthood. He was known as the Amin . The word Amin means honest, reliable, and trustworthy. It signified the highest standard of moral and public life. Abu Daud writes that a merchant promised to meet him at a place to discuss something concerning trade. The merchant forgot to keep his promise and could not reach the place at the time agreed upon. When three days later the merchant passed from the place of their meeting he found the Prophet (s) standing there to fulfill his part of the promise.
When Muhammad (s) was twenty-five years old, a rich merchant widow asked him to take a caravan of merchandise for trade to Syria. Soon after this trip, she proposed to Muhammad (s) through a relative for marriage. Muhammad (s) accepted after he had thought about the situation.
Some western writers who are not familiar with the social set-up of the pre-Islamic Arabs write that after marrying Khadijah r.a., Muhammad (s) living standards changed. This is not true as till his last day there was not a bit of wealth in his life and after him the Caliphs followed a simple and content lives.
The Holy Kabah was filled with three hundred and sixty idols. The original, pristine message of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) 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.
The Arab pagans believed that the idols were their gods. The same idols they created, were now to them as their creator. Muhammad (s) was a man who did not follow any of their ignorance. Since his birth he believed in One God and One God only. The time was coming for God to tell Muhammad (s) that he, Muhammad (s), was a Prophet of God, and the Last one.
Muhammad (s) began to experience powerful inward signs, besides those of which he had already been conscious. When asked about these he spoke of true visions that came to him in his sleep and he said that they were “like the breaking of the light of dawn”. He would go for spiritual retreats to a cave in Mount Hirah. Muhammad (s) would take with him provisions and consecrate a certain number of nights to the worship of God. During these few years it often happened that after he had passed a street the words “Peace be on thee, O Messenger of Allah”, would come from a tree or a stone.
It was the habit of Muhammad (s) to go to the cave of Hirah in the month of Ramadan because this was considered a holy month and Arabians by tradition used to refrain from tribal fights and battles during this month. It was one night towards the end of Ramadan, in his fortieth year, when he was alone in the cave, that there came to him an Angel looking like a man. On this night Muhammad (s) was lying in the Cave of Hirah wearing his robe. He was drowsy, neither awake nor asleep, but rather drowsy when the angel Jibril (a.s.) (Angel Gabriel) masking in a human form woke him up and showed him a piece of cloth. When Muhammad (s) woke up, Jibril (a.s.) brought the silk cloth before his eyes, and said, “Iqraa”, “Read”! The silk cloth had six words inscribed on it and Jibril (a.s.) had light radiating from his body for Muhammad (s) to be able to see it. The pressure of the hands of Jibril (a.s.) caused such pain to Muhammad (s) that he fell faint, however he replied, I cannot read.
Proclaim! (or Read )
In the name
Of thy Lord and Cherisher,
Who created __
(Surah Al-Alaq; V-1) Jibril (a.s.) vanished soon after this revelation. Tibri has quoted KhadijahR.A in his book that according to Muhammad “When that Angel in human form left, I tried to stand up, but my thighs had become weak and I could not stand for long. I had to sit down. After sitting for a while I felt enough strength in my knees to stand up, I left for home, but my shoulders were still trembling. I had hardly gone halfway, when I heard a voice saying, “O Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), thou art the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) of Allah, I am Jibril”. The voice was coming from the skies. I looked up and saw that Jibril was standing in the skies calling, “O Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), thou art the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) of Allah. I am Jibril”.
“When Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) reached home, he looked pale. He was moving slowly towards me taking the support of the wall”. (Sahih Bukhari)
Jibril (a.s.) reappeared three days after this incident. Jibril (a.s.) revealed the 74th Surah, Al-Muddaththir, of the Holy Qur an upon Muhammad (s). The first verses of the Surah says:
1. O thou wrapped up (In a mantle!)
2. Arise and deliver thy warning (Al-Muddaththir; V-1-2)
The verses from Jibril (a.s.) were memorized by the Prophet (s). He was then convinced that the words that he had been listening to had been from Allah (swt) (God in Arabic).
Khadijah then consulted with her cousin Waraqa 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 Gabriel who had come to Moses. He then added that Muhammad (s) is the expected Prophet. Khadijah r.a. accepted the revelation as truth and was the first person to accept Islam. She supported her husband in every hardship, most notably during the three-year boycott of the Prophet s clan by the pagan Quraish. She died at the age of sixty-five in the month of Ramadan soon after the lifting of the boycott in 620 CE.
Jibril visited the Prophet (s) as commanded by Allah (swt) revealing Ayat (meaning signs, loosly refered to as verses) in Arabic over a period of twenty-three years. Allah (swt) could have sent down the Holy Quran all at once and given it to Muhammad (s) to show to others and spread Islam, but Allah (swt) lets mankind do their part in doing good. And He knew that to send down the Revelation this way would be better for all mankind and jinn. For Allah (swt) knows best.
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. Jibril taught the order and arrangement of verses, and the Prophet instructed his several scribes to record verses in that order. Jibril taught Muhammad (s) how to do ablution before prayer and how to pray. Muhammad then taught others. The name Quran appears in the revealed verses. The Quran does not contain even a word from the Prophet. The Quran speaks in the first person, i.e., Allah’s commandments to His creation. Jibril also visited the Prophet throughout his mission informing and teaching him of events and strategy as needed to help in the completion of the prophetic mission. The Prophet s sayings, actions, and approvals are recorded separately in collections known as Hadith.
The mission of Prophet Muhammad (s) was to restore the worship of the One True God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, as taught by Prophet Ibrahim and all Prophets of God, 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 friend Abu Bakr, his cousin Ali, his servant Zayd ibn Harithah, and his wife and daughters. They accepted Islam by testifying that: “There is no Deity (worthy of worship) except Allah (The One True God) and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”
In Muhammad (s) first three years of his mission forty people (included men and women) embraced Islam. The Prophet (s) was directed by a recent revelation to start preaching Islam to everyone. He then began to recite revelations to people in public and invite them to Islam. The Quraish, leaders of Makkah, took his preaching with hostility. The most hostile 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. Muhammad (s) would say no without thinking about it. For this is only something small that are world things given by man. For Muhammad (s) knew that the true gift would be given to him by Allah (swt) at the end. When this did not work, they tried to convince his uncle Abu Talib to accept the best young man of Mecca in place of Muhammad (s) and to allow them to kill Muhammad (s). His uncle tried to convince the Prophet to stop preaching but the Prophet 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 makes Islam prevail or I die.”
The Quraish began to persecute Muslims by beating, torture, boycott of their businesses. Those who were weak, poor or slaves were publicly tortured. The first Martyr of Islam was a Muslim woman by the name of 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 recant they will be allowed freedom of movement. The Prophet was publicly ridiculed and humiliated including frequent throwing of filth on him in the street and while he prayed in the Kabah. In spite of great hardships and no apparent support, the message of Islam kept all Muslims firm in their belief. The Prophet was asked by God to be patient and to preach the message of Quran. He advised Muslims to remain patient because he did not receive any revelation yet to retaliate against their persecutors.
When the persecution became unbearable for most Muslims, the Prophet advised them in the fifth year of his mission (615 CE) to emigrate to Abyssinia (modern Ethiopia) where Ashabah (a Christian) was the ruler. Eighty people, not counting the small children, emigrated 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 the Muslim belief and heard the revelations about Jesus and Mary (peace be upon them both), which appears in Chapter 19, entitled Mary, of the Qur an. The emigrants were allowed freedom of worship in Abyssinia.
The Quraish made the life of Prophet Muhammad (s) even more difficult by applying total ban on contact with the family of the Prophet (s) (tribes of Bani Hashim and Muttalib). This ban lasted for 3 years, and just before the ban was lifted, the Prophet (s) was contacted by the leaders of Quraish to agree to a compromise under which they should all practice both religions (idoltry and Islam). Hearing this from the Quraish, Muhammad (s) recited a revelation (surah 109 of Al-Quran) and which ends with the words For you your religion and for me mine. The ban was lifted when the people of Quraish discovered that their secret documents on the terms of ban, in the Kabah, had been eaten by worms except for the opening words In your name, O Allah. The Prophet (s) was left with more sorrow when his uncle Abu Talib and his beloved wife Khadijah r.a. had passed away soon after the ban was lifted.
After the death of Khadijah, the Muhammad (s) married a widowed woman, Sawadah (r.a.) who was fifty years of age. Later during the same year, the Prophet (s) in his dream had a divine command, after approval of Sawadah, contracted marriage to Aishah r.a., the dear daughter of his companion, Abu Bakr r.a. She joined Muhammad (s) in Medina, completing the marriage contract. Sawadah and Aishah r.a., were the only wives he had until he was 56 years old.
After the death of Muhammad (s) uncle, Abu Talib, he went to Taif, 50 miles from Mecca to seek their protection. They flatly refused and mocked at him, and they had their children throw stones and rocks at him. Jibril (a.s.) visited the Prophet here suggesting that the angels were ready to destroy the town if he were to ask Allah for the punishment. The Prophet declined, and prayed for future generations of Taif to accept Islam. It was on the return journey of Taif that the verses of Surah Al Jinn (Surah 72) was revealed. It states that the Qur an is a book of guidance to both the Jinns and Humankind.
Soon after the terrible disappointment at Taif, the Prophet (s) experienced the events of al-Israa and al-Miraaj (around 621 C.E.). In al-Israa, Jibril (a.s.) took the Prophet (s) from the sacred mosque near the Kabah to the furthest mosque in Jerusalem (Dome of the Rock) in a very short time in the latest part of the night. Here, Prophet Muhammad (s) met with previous prophets (Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and more, peace be upon them) and he led them in prayer in worship of the One God, Allah (swt). After this, in al-Miraaj, the Prophet (s) was taken up to the heavens to be shown the signs of God. It was on this journey where the 5 daily prayers were prescribed. He was then taken back to Kabah, the whole experience lasting a few hours of a night. Upon hearing this, the people of Mecca mocked at him. However, when his specific description of Jerusalem, other things on the way, and the caravan that he saw on this journey including its expected arrival in Mecca turned out to be true, the mockery of the nonbelievers stopped. The event of Israa and Miraaj is mentioned in the Quran – the first verse of Chapter 17 entitled The Children of Israel.
In 622 C.E., the people of Quraish had a plan on assassinating the Prophet (s). They made a plan where a man from each tribe would go into the house of the Prophet (s) and strike him repeatedly. They planned, but Allah (swt) planned also, and He is the best of planners. Jibril (a.s) warned Muhammad (s) to leave Mecca and migrate to Medina immediately. The Prophet (s), after making arrangements to return the properties entrusted to him by several nonbelievers, left with Abu Bakr r.a. on the night he was to be assassinated. They went south of Mecca to a mountain cave, and after staying their for three nights, they went to Medina (around two hundred and fifty miles from Mecca). When the leaders of Quraish heard of his escape, they put a reward of 100 camels on him, dead or alive. Even though there were tough scouts and the best search party for the search of Muhammad (s), Allah (swt) protected Muhammad (s) from danger and had him arrive to Medina safely and unharmed. The event now is known as Hijra (migration), and the Islamic Calendar starts from this event. . The people of Medina greeted him with great interest in accordance with their pledge made less than a year ago during the annual pilgrimage. One by one those Muslims (men and women) of Mecca who were not physically restrained, and who could make a secret exit, left for Medina leaving behind their properties and homes.
To insure the peace and calmness, the Prophet (s) proposed a treaty that said how the peoples behavior should and conduct should be in Medina. It was ratified by all Muslims, non-Muslims Arab and Jews. After the migration to Medina, the enemies of Islam increased their assault from all sides. Although the army of the disbelievers was many times greater in size than the Muslims, the victory came to the Muslims with the help of Allah (swt). Allah (swt) had sent down 3000 angels to help the Muslims in this battle. 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 Muhammad (s) married several women during fifty-sixth year up to the sixtieth year of his life. He did not contract any marriage in the last three years of his life, following the revelation limiting the number of wives up to a maximum of four. This is the first time in the history of revealed scriptures that a limit on the number of wives was imposed and the terms of conduct were specified. The Prophet was instructed not to divorce any of his wives after this revelation. All of the ladies he took as wives were either widowed or divorced, except Aishah r.a.
The disbelievers proposed a 10-year treaty with Muhammad (s). The Muslims accepted because in those 10 years of peace between the two factors, they could spread the word of Islam further out to other countries. In these 10 years, more people throughout other countries embraced Islam. Prophet sent letters to several kings and rulers (including the two superpowers – Byzantines and Persians) inviting them to Islam. Negus, the king of Abyssinia, and the Ruler of Bahrain accepted Islam, and Emperor Heraclius acknowledged Muhammad s Prophethood. Among rulers who accepted Islam but without any initiative from the Prophet was Chakrawati Farmas, a Hindu King of Malabar (http://www.muhammad.net). About two years later at the end of 629 CE, the Quraish violated the terms of the Treaty by attacking one of the people who were allied with the Prophet (s). The people who were attacked told the people of Quraish to do something about the ones who did this. Quriash did not care to help, so these people asked Muhammad (s) for help.
The Prophet (s), after confirming the attack and the event that had taken place, marched into Mecca with an army of 3000 Muslims of Medina and Muslims from other Arab communities joining them along the way totaling 10,000 Muslims. Before entering Mecca, he sent word to the citizens saying that anyone who is living in his home, or the home of Abu Sufyan, or in the Kabah would be safe. The army entered Mecca without fighting and the Prophet (s) went directly to the Kabah. He pointed to every idol in the Kabah with his stick and said, “Truth has come and Falsehood will neither start nor will it reappear” [Qur'an 17:81]. One by one the idols fell down. The Kabah was then cleaned from all the three hundred and sixty idols, and was restored to its perfect status of the worship of the 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 clemency 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:
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. (Sahih Bukhari)
The people of Mecca then accepted Islam including the staunch enemies of the Prophet. A few of the staunchest enemies and military commanders had fled Mecca after his entry. However, when they received the Prophet (s) s word of no revenge and no force 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) 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.
Death of Prophet Muhammad (s)
Two months after performing the Hajj (Farewell Pilgrimage), Prophet Muhammad fell ill. He continued to lead the congregation prayers. After one of these prayers he invoked special blessings on the martyrs of Uhud, and then addressed the Muslims:
Upon hearing this Abu Bakr r.a. wept as he understood that the Prophet was talking about himself and that the choice meant his imminent death. The Prophet continued:
I warn you O Muslims to be good to the Ansar (the Helpers, i.e., those residents of Medina who helped the Emigrants from Mecca). They have performed their duty well. Muslims will increase in number but Ansar will dwindle and be as salt in a meal.
Woe to the nations before you who worshiped the tombs of their prophets. I forbid you to do that. O people, the most unselfish of men to me in his companionship is Abu Bakr r.a., and if I were to take from mankind an inseparable friend he would be Abu Bakr r.a. – but the brotherhood of faith is ours until God unite us in His presence. O my dear daughter Fatimah r.a. and O my dear aunt Safiyah r.a., spend your efforts in the way of the hereafter for I will not be able to help you against the Will of Allah.
I go before you and I am your witness. Your meeting with me is at the pool (a lake fed by the celestial river Kawthar where believers will quench their thirst on their entry into paradise.). I fear not for you that you will set up gods beside Allah (The One God); but I fear for you that you will rival one another in worldly gains. (http://www.islaam.com)
Soon after this sermon, his last in the mosque, the Prophet became so weak that he could not move. He then appointed Abu Bakr r.a. to lead the prayers. The Prophet spent the rest of his illness in the apartment of his beloved wife Aishah r.a.. On the early morning of twelfth of Rabi al-Awwal, the prophet s fever abated and he went to the mosque, assisted by Fadl and Thawban, when Abu Bakr r.a. was already leading the prayer. Realizing that the prophet was approaching, Abu Bakr r.a. stepped back without turning his head, but the prophet pressed his hand on his shoulder to let him know to continue. The Prophet sat on the right of Abu Bakr r.a. and completed the prayer while seated. The apparent recovery of the Prophet overjoyed the Muslims. Anas r.a. is reported to have said that I never saw the Prophet s face more beautiful than it was at that hour.
Within hours, the Prophet lost his consciousness. He opened his eyes again an hour later saying to Aishah r.a.: No Prophet is taken by death until he has been shown his place in Paradise and then offered the choice to live or to die. Among the last words he said were:
With the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered his favor, the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous, most excellent for communion are they. (http://www.islaam.com)
The news of the Prophet s death was so hard upon close companions and Muslims that some of them refused to believe that he had passed away. (At the close of his death, he looked youthful as if in his forties and his face always shown a great radiance). Upon hearing this, Abu Bakr r.a. who was later to become the first caliph went to the mosque and delivered one of the noblest speeches:
O People! If Muhammad is the sole object of your adoration, then know that he is dead. But if it is Allah (The One God) you Worshiped, then know that He does not die.
He then recited the following verse from the Qur’an, 3:144, which was revealed after the Battle of Uhud:
Muhammad is no more than an Apostle: many were the Apostles that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.
The Prophet was buried the next day at the same place where he died. The place of his burial was decided by his saying as related by Abu Bakr r.a.: Allah does not cause a prophet to die but in the place where he is to be buried.
Prophet lived a most simple, severe 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 man, as he performed his duties in many roles all at once as head of state, chief justice, commander-in-chief, arbitrator, instructor and family man. He was the most devoted man at night. He used to spend one- to two-thirds of every night in prayer and meditation (Qur’an 73:20). All of his children died before his death except Fatimah r.a. who died six months after his death. All of the Prophet s wives (known as Ummul Momineen, mother of the faithful) passed their widowhood during the remaining period of their lives.
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, few ammunition and a piece of land that he had made a gift during his life time. Among his last words were: We the community of Prophets are not inherited. Whatever we leave is for charity.
The Prophet s actions and words were remembered and later recorded (known as Hadith), so that Muslims in future generations to the end of time could try to act and speak as he did. He has served as an example for all Muslims in all periods to modern times. He will remain a model example for all of humanity. (Muhammad: His Life)
We now come to know the Prophet (s) from the time of his birth to the time of his death. After his death, the first caliphate took place came to be known, which was Muhammad (s) best friend, companion, and father-in-law, Abu Bakr r.a. The death of the Prophet Muhammad (s) was just the beginning of Islam. Now, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today and is the second biggest religion in the world.
Muhammad (s) was a man and a messenger of Allah (The One God). He is the last of the prophets sent by Allah to guide man to the right path, Adam was the first Prophet. The Quran mentions 25 prophets by name and provides a great insight of their mission, struggle and their communities. The Quran clears prophets from charges leveled against them in previous Scriptures. The Quran also mentions four previously revealed scriptures, which are: Suhoof (Pages) of Ibrahim (Abraham), Taurat (’Torah’) as revealed to Prophet Moses, Zuboor (’Psalms’) as revealed to Prophet David, and Injeel (’Evangel’) as revealed to Prophet Jesus (pbuh). Islam requires belief in all prophets and revealed scriptures (original, non-corrupted) as part of the Articles of Faith. Muhammad (s) is greatly respected as the model of Quranic behavior. Muslims mention his name by adding “peace be upon him,” a phrase used with the name of all prophets. All sincere Muslims try to follow the Quran and the Prophet s example to minute details. The account of every aspect of his life has been preserved (numerous daily accounts including his family life). Prophet Muhammad (s) has served as an example for all Mankind in all periods to modern times. He will remain a model example for all of humanity.
At the end of his mission, the Prophet 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 Quran and the Messenger of Allah with utmost sincerity, and supported him with every thing they had. They faithfully carried the message of Islam after the Prophet, and within ninety years the light of Islam reached Spain, North Africa, the Caucasus, northwest China and India. The message that Prophet Muhammad (s) worked so hard to convey from a small city in the middle of a barren desert, has now reached every corner of the world.