Muhammad; (Arabic: محمد) (also Mohammed, Muhammed, Mohamet, and other variants) was the historical founder of the religion of Islam, considered by Muslims to be the last messenger and prophet of God (Arabic: ألله Allah).
Sources on Muhammad’s life concur that he was born in the Year of the Elephant ca. 570 C.E in the city of Mecca in Arabia. In his youth, he was called by the nickname "Al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين ), an Arab name meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and was later sought out as an impartial arbitrator when all the tribes of Mecca were about to fight each other. It was by his clever intervention that he found a way out of the situation and managed to bring peace to the city of Makkah.
Muhammad's father, Abdullah, had died almost six months before he was born, and at the age of six, Muhammad lost his mother Amina and was thus orphaned. The young orphan boy was brought up by his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib. He too passed away two years later leading to his uncle Abu Talib taking over his guardianship.
As a young boy Muhammad was a shepherd. Later he became a trader and gained a reputation for reliability and honesty. That attracted a rich widow Khadijah who ask him to lead her trade caravans. Upon his return she was informed by her confidants that his integrity was impeccable and that he had realized a significant profit for her. She was impressed by what she heard and requested for him to marry her as a forty-year-old widow in 595 C.E. Muhammad was young and after consultation, consented to the marriage which by all accounts was a happy one.
Muhammad often retreated to Mount Hira, near Mecca for meditation and solace. He was known to never indulge in the pagan ways of his people who were prone to drinking, promiscuity, gambling and idol worship. While on one of these retreats, tradition holds that the angel Gabriel appeared and began communicating with him in the year 610 C.E. The angel Gabriel commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses:
Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not.
Upon receiving the first revelation, he was scared. When he returned home he related the event to his wife Khadijah who consoled him. She believed in him and thus became the first convert to Islam. She did so stating as per tradition: "Never! will God disgrace you. You keep good relations with your kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist those in need."
Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa, an old man, who during the pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and knew the Gospel and Hebrew. When they related the incident to Waraqa said "This is the same one who God had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Mohammad was surprised that his people would drive him out, since he belonged to a noble family and was greatly respected in the city of Makkah. However Waraqa informed him that anyone who came with something similar to what he (Muhammad) had brought before him was treated with hostility by his people.
Muhammad's teenage cousin Ali ibn Abi-Talib, close friend Abu Bakr and adopted son Zaid bin Haarith soon followed becoming the first male Muslims.
Around 613, Muhammad began to preach amongst the people of Makkah, most of whom ignored and mocked him, while some others became his followers. As the number of Muhammad's followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Kaaba (the focal point of Arab religious life, which Muhammad threatened with his call to give up Idol worship).
In 619 C.E., known as the "Year of Sorrow", both Muhammad's wife Khadijah and his uncle and guardian Abu Talib died. The relationship between Muhammad's group of followers and Muhammad's own Quraysh clan, which were already bad, worsened further. As the persecution and torture of Mohammads followers became unbearable, Mohammad asked many to migrate to Abyssinia which was ruled by a just Christian King. The Meccan's sent for those who had migrated there and asked for them to be returned by the King Najashi. The King inquired on the Muslims and was responded to by a Muslim who informed him of what Mohammad had mentioned about him being just and then recited some of the verses revealed to Mohammad about Mary the mother of Jesus. Najashi was touched by the verses and declared that the Muslims who wished to stay in Abyssinia would remain under his protection.
By 622 life in Mecca had become so difficult that Muhammad decided to then emigrate to Medina, a large agricultural oasis where there were a number of Muslim converts. Muhammad came to Medina at the invitation of many locals who had started converting to Islam in large numbers. From the very beginning he was designated as a mediator to resolve the feud between the two Arab factions of Medina Aws and Khazraj. He did so and later both factions became a apart of the Muslim community referred to as Ansar (Helpers).
Once the Muslims had found a stable home Islam began to spread increasingly fast throughout the Arabian peninsula. Worried about this the Meccans decided to attack the small powerless Muslim community on numerous occasions. The Majority of these battles were won by the Muslims even they they were always outnumbered and less armed.
In 630, after a series of conflicts Muhammad marched on Mecca with an enormous force, said to number more than ten thousand men. The conquest of Mecca as it became known remained a peaceful one as the Meccans finally gave up and seceded to the Muslims. Most Meccans converted to Islam, and Muhammad forgave even his archest rivals. Subsequently he destroyed all of the idols of Arabian gods in and around the Kaaba. Henceforth the pilgrimage would be a Muslim pilgrimage without idol worship. The capitulation of Mecca and the defeat of an alliance of enemy tribes at Hunayn effectively brought the greater part of the Arabian peninsula under Muhammad's authority. The Muslims were clearly the dominant force in Arabia, and most of the remaining tribes and states hastened to convert to Islam.
In 632 Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with head pain and weakness. He succumbed on Monday, June 8, 632, in the city of Medina. Upon his death Muhammad had seen Islam spread rapidly throughout the Arabian Peninsula and was perched to conquer a large portion of the world. He is buried on the spot he died while laying in the lap of his wife Ayesha in his room adjacent to the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.
- source for the Arabic pronunciation.
- Welch, noting the frequency of Muhammad being called as "Al-Amin"(Arabic: الامين ), a common Arab name, suggests the possibility of "Al-Amin" being Muhammad's given name as it is a masculine form from the same root as his mother's name, A'mina. cf. "Muhammad", Encyclopedia of Islam Online; The sources frequently say that he, in his youth, was called with the nickname "Al-Amin" meaning "Honest, Truthful" cf. Ernst (2004), p.85.
- The Cambridge History of Islam (1977) writes that "It is appropriate to use the word 'God' rather than the transliteration 'Allah'. For one thing it cannot be denied that Islam is an offshoot of the Judaeo-Christians tradition, and for another the Christian Arabs of today have no other word for 'God' than 'Allah'." cf p.32.