Place of Birth and Childhood
the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, was born in the year 571 (according to the gregorian calendar) in the tribe of quraish [which was held noble by all arabs] in makkah [which was considered the religious capital of the arabian peninsula].
the arabs would perform hajj in makkah, and circumambulate around the ka'bah which was built by prophet ibrahim and his son prophet ismael, may allah exalt their mention.
the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, was an orphan. his father passed away before he was born, and his mother died when he was six years old. his grandfather, abdul-mutalib, took care of him, and when he died, his uncle, abu talib, took care of him. his tribe and the other tribes 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, may allah exalt his mention, 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. allah, the exalted, says:
(indeed you are of a great moral character.) [68:4]
thomas carlyle said 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, may allah exalt his mention, 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, may allah exalt his mention, did not practice falsehood; he did not drink any intoxicants, nor did he bow to a statue or idol, or 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, may allah exalt his mention, said:
'every prophet commissioned by allah was a shepherd over a flock of sheep.' his companions asked him: 'even you, o messenger of allah?' he said: 'yes, i would take care of a flock of sheep for the people of makkah.' (bukhari 2143)
when prophet muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, turned forty, he received divine revelation; he was at the cave of hira. the mother of the believers, a'ishah, with whom allah is pleased, said:
'the first thing that allah’s messenger, may allah exalt his mention, 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, allah’s messenger, may allah exalt his mention, 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 khadeejah, with whom allah is pleased, 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 jibreel, may allah exalt his mention, came to muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, and commanded him to read. muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, replied, ”i cannot read!“ jibreel, may allah exalt his mention, embraced muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, until he could not breathe, and then let him go saying: ”o muhammad! read!“ again, muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, replied: ”i cannot read!“ jibreel, may allah exalt his mention, embraced muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, 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 let him go saying: ”o muhammad!
(recite with the name of your rubb! who created, created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: proclaim! and your rubb is most bountiful.) [96:1-3]
the messenger of allah, may allah exalt his mention, returned home trembling. he entered his home and told khadeejah: “cover me up, cover me up!“ khadeejah, with whom allah is pleased, covered muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, 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, with whom allah is pleased, assured muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, saying: “by allah! you don’t have to worry! allah, 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, with whom allah is pleased, took her husband muhammad, may allah exalt his mention, to a cousin of hers named waraqah bin nawfal bin asad bin abdul uzza. this man became a christian during 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, with whom allah is pleased, said to her cousin, ”o cousin, listen to what your nephew [i.e. muhammad , may allah exalt his mention, ] is about to tell you!“ waraqah said: ”what is it you have seen, dear nephew?“ the messenger of allah, may allah exalt his mention, informed him of what he had seen in the cave of hira. upon hearing his report, waraqah said, ”by allah! this is the angel jibreel, may allah exalt his mention, who came to prophet musa, may allah exalt his mention. i wish i would be alive when your people will drive you out of makkah!“ the messenger of allah, may allah exalt his mention, 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 hadeeth above marks the beginning when he was commissioned as a prophet. allah, the exalted, then revealed to him:
(o you (muhammad (may allah exalt his mention) enveloped (in garments); arise and warn! and your rubb (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, may allah exalt his mention, began calling his people to islam openly. he began with his own people. some of them refused adamantly to listen to him because he was calling them to a matter which they had not witnessed before.
the deen of islam is a complete way of life, which deals with religious, political, economical and social affairs. furthermore, the deen of islam did not only call them to worship allah 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 noblest tribe amongst 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 a crazy person, a sorcerer and a liar. they blamed him with things they would not dare to have blamed him with before the advent of islam. they incited the ignorant masses against him, and harmed him and tortured his companions. abdullah b. masood, with whom allah is pleased, said:
'while the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, 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 , may allah exalt his mention, prostrated, he put the filth between his shoulders, so the prophet , may allah exalt his mention, stayed in prostration. they laughed so hard that they were about to fall on each other. someone went to fatimah, with whom allah is pleased, who was a young girl, and informed her of what had happened. she hurriedly came towards the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, 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 said: 'i saw the messenger of allah 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, and those who threw soil in his face, and those who swore at him until midday. whenever a certain young girl came with a big container of water, and he would wash 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)
urwah b. az-zubair said, 'i asked abdullah b. amr al-aas to tell me of the worst thing the pagans did to the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, and he said:
'uqbah b. mu'ait approached the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, while he was praying near the ka'bah, and he twisted his garment around his neck. abu bakr, with whom allah is pleased, hurriedly approached and grabbed uqbah's shoulder and pushed him away saying: 'do you kill a man because he proclaims allah as his rubb, and clear signs have come to you from your rubb?' ' (bukhari 3643)
these incidents did not stop the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, from giving da'wah. he called the many tribes that came to makkah for hajj to islam. a few believed from the people of yathrib, which is known today as madinah, and they pledged to support him and help him if he chose to go with them to madinah. he sent with them mus'ab b. umair, with whom allah is pleased, who taught them islam. after all the hardships that the muslims of makkah faced from their own people, allah allowed them to migrate from their city to madinah. the people of madinah greeted them and received them in a most extraordinary manner. madinah became the capital of the islamic state, and the point from which the da'wah was spread.
the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, settled there and taught people qur'anic recitation and islamic jurisprudence. the inhabitants of madinah 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 spend all they had in his path. the society was strong and its people were rich in terms of iman (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 deen of allah, no distinction was made among them except through piety. after the quraish learnt of the prophet's da'wah and that it had spread, they fought with the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, in the first battle in islam, the battle of badr. this battle took place between two groups which were unequal in preparations and weapons. the muslims were 314; whereas, the pagans were 1000 strong. allah gave victory to the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, and the companions. after this battle, many battles took place between the muslims and the pagans. after eight years the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, was able to prepare an army 10,000 strong. they headed towards makkah and conquered it, and with this he defeated his people, who had harmed him and tortured his companions in every way. they had even been forced to leave their property and wealth behind and flee for their lives. he decisively defeated them, and this year was 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 deen of allah in multitudes, then exalt him with praise of your rubb and ask forgiveness of him. indeed, he is ever accepting of repentance.) [110:1-3]
he then 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, may allah exalt his mention, said: 'go - you are free to do as you wish.' (baihaqi #18055)
this was one of the main reasons why many of them accepted islam. the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, then returned to madinah. after a period of time, the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, meant to perform hajj, so he headed towards makkah with 114,000 companions and performed hajj. this hajj is known as 'haj'jatul-wa'daa' or the 'farewell pilgrimage' since the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, never performed another hajj, and died shortly after he performed it.
the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, died in madinah on the 12th day of rabi ath-thani in the 11th year of hijrah. the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, was buried in madinah as well. the muslims were shocked when they learnt of his death; some companions did not believe it! umar, with whom allah is pleased, said: 'whoever says that muhammad is dead, i will behead him!' abu bakr, with whom allah is pleased, then gave a speech, and read the words of allah:
(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 allah at all; but allah will reward the grateful.) [3:144]
when umar, with whom allah is pleased, heard this verse he stopped saying what he was saying, since he was very keen on applying the rules of allah. the prophet, may allah exalt his mention, was 63 years old.
he stayed in makkah for forty years, before being commissioned as a prophet. after being commissioned as a prophet; he lived there for another 13 years in which he called people to tawheed (true monotheism). he then migrated to madinah, and stayed there for ten years. he continuously received the revelation there, until the qur'an and the deen of islam were complete.
george bernard shaw 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 - ’ (1)
(1)encyclopedia of seerah, for afzalur rahman.