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Wikipedia: Muhammad
Muhammad
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Muhammad (محمد in Arabic) (Also: Mohammad, Mohammed; the spelling Mahomet is no longer used) was born circa 570 in Mecca (Makkah) and died June 8, 632 in Medina (Madinah). His full name was Abu al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Abd al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim. He is considered the last prophet of God by the Islamic religion and he was also a unifier of some Arabian tribes.

A Muslim often says "peace be upon him" (alternatively translated as "May God bless him and grant him peace") or "sallalahu aleyhi wasallam" (ﷺ - abbreviated as PBUH or SAW) after mentioning or writing Muhammad's or any other prophet's name.

Biography

Timeline of Muhammad
Important dates and locations
around Muhammad's life
   

c. 570 CE
570 CE
570 CE
576 CE
578 CE
c. 583 CE
c. 595 CE
610 CE
c. 610 CE
c. 613 CE
c. 614 CE
c. 615 CE
616 CE
c. 618 CE
619 CE
c. 620 CE
622 CE
c. 622 CE
622 CE
c. 622 CE
c. 623 CE
624 CE
c. 624 CE
625 CE
c. 625 CE
626 CE
c. 627 CE
627 CE
627 CE
c. 627 CE
c. 627 CE
628 CE
c. 628 CE
628 CE
629 CE
629 CE
630 CE
c. 630 CE
c. 630 CE
630 CE
c. 631 CE
c. 632 CE
632 CE
632 CE
c. 632 CE
c. 632 CE
 

Possible birth (April 20) : Mecca
End of ancient South Arabian high culture.
Abyssinian unsuccessful attack Mecca
Mother dies
Grandfather dies
Takes trading journeys : Syria
Meets and marries Khadijah
Reportedly "Receives message" : Mecca
Appears as Prophet of Islam : Mecca
Begins public preaching : Mecca
Begins to gather following : Mecca
Emigration of Muslims : Abyssinia
Banu Hashim clan boycot begins
Medinan Civil War : Medina
Banu Hashim clan boycot ends
Converts tribes to Islam : Medina
Takes leadership of Yathrib tribe
Preaches against Kaaba pantheon : Mecca
Makkans attack Muhammad (Hijrah)
Confederation of muslims and other clans
Constitution of Medina
Battle of Badr (Quraysh) : Badr
Muslims win against Quraysh : Mecca
Makkans defeat Muhammad : Uhud
Expulsion of Banu Nadir Jewish tribe
Attacks Dumat al-Jandal : Syria
Opponents unsuccessful siege : Medina
Battle of the Trench
Destruction of the Jewish Banu Qurayza
Bani Kalb subjugation : Dumat al-Jandal
Unites Islam : Medina
Treaty of Hudaybiyya
Muslims gain access to Mecca shrine (Kaba)
Conquest of the Jewish oasis : Khaybar
First hajj pilgrimage
Attack on Byzantine empire fails : Mu'ta
Attacks and bloodlessly captures Mecca
Battle of Hunayn
Siege of al-Ta'if
Establishes theocracy : Mecca
Subjugates Arabian peninsula tribes
Attacks the Ghassanids : Tabuk
Farewell hajj pilgrimage
Dies (June 8) : Medina
Tribal rebellions throughout Arabia
Abu Bakr (khalifa) reimposes theocracy
     

Early years

Muhammad was born after his father Abd Allah had died. April 20, 570 is sometimes given as his birthdate. Muhammad was born to the equivalent of a middle-class family. He was first placed under the care of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib who was a former leader of the prestigious Hashim clan (which was part of the tribe of Quraysh). Because the climate of Mecca had a reputation for unhealthiness, Muhammad was given as an infant to a wet nurse from a nomadic tribe and spent some time in the desert. (This was a common practice among the Makkan middle and upper class.) When he was 6 Muhammad's mother Amina died and when he was 8 his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib also died. Muhammad now came under care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Hashim clan, of the Quraysh tribe - the most powerful in Mecca.

Mecca was a desert city-state whose main distinction was the Kaaba, reputedly built by Abraham, the traditional patriarch of the Jews. Most of Makka's inhabitants were idol worshippers. The city functioned as a commercial centre with no natural resources of its own, visited by many foreign traders. By all accounts Muhammad played a very active role in the civic life of his city. His uncle Zubair founded the order of chivalry known as the Hilf al-fudul, which assisted the oppressed of the city, local inhabitants and foreign visitors. Muhammad participated as an enthusiastic member.

Muhammad assisted in some dispute resolution, most notably when the Ka'aba became damaged in a flood, and the Makkan leaders all wanted the honour of fixing the sacred Black Stone in place when it was rebuilt. Muhammad became known as Al-Ameen, "the trustworthy" because of his spotless reputation in all his dealings. Muhammad was the judge chosen to solve the problem; his solution consisted of spreading a white sheet on the ground, placing the Black Stone in the middle, and asking the tribal leaders to carry it to its site by holding the corners of the sheet. Muhammad himself then fixed the stone in its place.

As a teenager Muhammad began accompanying his uncle on trading journeys to Syria. He thus became well-travelled and familiar with many foreign ways.

Middle years

About 595, on a trading journey, Muhammed met Khadijah, a rich widow then 40 years old. The young Muhammad (then 25) so impressed Khadijah that she offered him marriage. The marriage proved an important turning point in Muhammad's life. By Arab custom minors did not inherit, so Muhammad had received no inheritance from either father or grandfather, but by his marriage he obtained a large fortune. The sira records that Khadija bore Muhammad 6 children. Although Muhammad had no children with his later wives (the reasons for this remain unclear), he did have a son with his Coptic slave girl Mary (Marya). This son, called Ibrahim, died in infancy.

Later years

In last third of his life Muhammad began to regard himself as a prophet. In 610 CE, Muhammad (now aged 40) reported that while he sat in a cave in the hills outside Mecca mediating, the angel Gabriel gave him a message from God. He was commanded to memorize all of his visions. Islamic historiography holds that since he was illiterate he could not write them down. He did so, and after reluctantly revealing his experiences to his wife Khadijah, he began to gain followers by the force and quality of the words he recited. He gathered sympathetic friends who accepted his claim to be a prophet and joined him in common worship and prayers. By 615 CE, he had developed a large following in Mecca.

Founding of Islam

Muhammad had a reflective turn of mind and routinely spent nights in a cave near Mecca in meditation and thought. About 610, while meditating. Muhammad reportedly had a vision of the angel Gabriel and heard a voice saying to him "You are the Messenger of God". (From this time until his death, Muhammad reportedly received frequent revelations. Sometimes while receiving these messages, it is noted, Muhammad would sweat and enter a trance state.) Muhammad was disturbed by this vision of Gabriel, but his wife Khadijah reassured him. Around 613 CE Muhammad began preaching publicly. By proclaiming his message publicly Muhammad gained followers that included the sons and brothers of the richest men in Mecca. The religion he preached came to be known as Islam. Both the Quran and Muhammad's sayings indicate that Muhammad from an early stage viewed Islam as an universal religion and not merely restricted to the Arab community.

As the ranks of his followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes, especially the Quraysh, his own tribe, which had the responsibility of looking after the Kaba, which at this time was home to the several thousand 'idols' that people worshipped as gods.

Rejection

As Muhammad preached against this pantheon, he became deeply unpopular with the rulers, and his followers suffered from repeated attacks to person and property. Tradition holds that some Makkans launched vigorous and brutal attempts to persecute the new Muslims: forcing them to lie on burning sand, placing huge boulders on their chests, and pouring red-hot iron over them. Many died, but none renounced their new faith. Muhammad himself was not the target of this oppression since his family was simply too powerful. This environment became intolerable, and Muhammad advised his followers to go to Abyssinia.

The Makkans tried to tempt Muhammad to give up his mission by offering him political power. As Muhammad's following grew attempts were made to get him to disband or modify his religion. He was offered a large share in trade and marriage with some of wealthiest families but he rejected all such offers. Makkans ultimately demanded that Abu Talib hand over his nephew to be killed. When he refused, commercial pressure was brought against Muhammad's tribe and his supporters. Eventually an assassination attempt took place. After the death of his uncle and of Khadija, Muhammad's own clan withdrew their protection of him. He was abused, stoned, thorns and rubbish were thrown on him. However, no attempt succeeded in taking his life. He was forced to flee Mecca in 622; this is known as the Hijrah, and this date marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.

Hijrah

In 622 Muhammad and his Meccan followers left Mecca for Medina where he had gained many converts. The Medinans apparently hoped that Muhammad would unite them and prevent incidents such as the 618 Medinan Civil War in which many had lost their lives. A document known as the Constitution of Medina (circa 622-623) established a confederation between Muhammad's Makkan followers and the eight Arab clans of Mecca. Muhammad was referred to as "the Prophet" but was not given any political authority.

Medina

In Medina a few emigrant Muslim Makkans, with the approval of Muhammad, set out in normal Arab fashion on razzias ("raids") hoping to loot Mecca on their way to Syria. About the same time Muhammad changed the direction of the Qibla from Jerusalem to Mecca. In March of 624 Muhammad led about 300 men on a razzia to attack a Makkan caravan led by Abu Sufyan, the head of the Umayyah clan. The caravan managed to escape but Abu Jahl (the head of the Makhzum clan), who had previously opposed Muhammad and organized a boycott against Muhammad's Hashim clan, was leading a supporting force of around 800 men and wanted to teach Muhammad a lesson.

On March 15, 624 near a place called Badr, the two forces clashed. Despite being outnumbered 800 to 300 in the battle the Muslims met with success, killing at least 45 Makkans, including Abu Jahl, and taking 70 prisoners; whereas only 14 Muslims died. To the Muslims this appeared as a divine vindication of Muhammad's prophethood, and he and all the Muslims were greatly elated. Following this victory Medinans who had satirized Muhammad were assassinated and a hostile Jewish clan was expelled. Virtually all the remaining Medinans converted and Muhammad became de facto ruler.

Several important marriage alliances also occurred. Of Muhammad's daughters, Fatima married Ali (later fourth caliph) and Umm Kulthum married Uthman (the third caliph). Muhammad himself, already married to Aisha daughter of Abu Bakr (first caliph) now also married Hafsah daughter of Umar (second caliph). On March 21, 625 Abu Sufyan hoping for revenge entered Medina with 3,000 men. On the morning of March 23 battle began. The battle produced no obvious winner or looser, though the Makkans claim victory. For two years after the Battle of Uhud both sides prepared for a decisive encounter. In April 627 Abu Sufyan led a great confederacy of 10,000 men against Medina. The Jews of Medina had to participate in the fighting to protect the city of Medina, as they had agreed in the Medina Charter. The Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza did not participate in the fighting and they made an agreement with Abu Sufyan to attack the Muslims from the rear after he had entered the city. Some people among the "Muslims" also had made such an agreement under the leadership of Abd Allah ibn Ubayy, they were later referred to as the "those that professes beliefs and opinions that one does not hold " (or one who pretends to pious) (munafiqun).

Between the strong forces of Abu Sufyan and the forces of Banu Qurayza - which would consist of all their men of fightinging age - and the forces of the munafiqun the Muslims would have been massacred if Abu Sufyan had been successful. Islam would have ceased to exist.

To the traitors inside Medina it must have come as a surprise when the 10,000 men strong force of Abu Sufyan was unable to cross a trench that was dug around Medina under the order of Muhammad, as the Persian scribe Salman e-Farsi had suggested to him. After the retreat of Abu Sufyan and his forces, the Muslims directed their attention towards the groups that had committed treason to the Charter of Medina. The Munafiqun quickly crumbled and their leader Abd Allah ibn Ubayy pledged allegiance to Muhammad. The Muslims then besieged the Banu Qurayza which had been intriguing against them. They were given the oppurtunity to chose Muhammad as an arbitrator, but instead the Banu Qurayza chose Saad ibn Muadh, the leader of their former allies, the Aus.

Saad had been deadly wounded in the battle against Abu Sufyans forces and he invoked the rules of the Jews own scriptures the Torah, ordering the execution of the active forces of the tribe which would consist of all their grown men. The non-combatant women and children were allowed to live, though having no men to be supported by and the Muslim community not having the resources to support them, they were sold into captivity.

By 627 CE, Muhammad had united Medina under Islam with protected privileges for the Jews and Christians who lived there. Word of the new religion, with the peace and prosperity it brought spread by trade. The Bedouin became keenly interested in this new religion; they saw its potential to bring peace and plenty to their wandering tribes, and, after much negotiation, they became allies with Muhammad. Also, after much contact with the town and Muslims, some gradually converted. At this stage the reported revelations that had been coming to Muhammad were almost complete, and he was told that he was to return to Mecca and reclaim the Kaba.

Mecca

Muhammad put economic pressure on the citizens of Mecca; but aimed primarily to gain their willing adherence to Islam. In March 628 he set out to perform a pilgrimage in Mecca with 1,600 men accompanying him. The Makkans however halted Muhammad at al-Hudaybiyah on the edge of their territory. After some days the Makkans made a treaty with Muhammad. With negotiation and assent of the elders of the Quraysh he made an unarmed pilgrimage to the Kaba. Hostilities were to cease and the Muslims were allowed to make a pilgrimage to Mecca in the following year. The treaty was further cemented by Muhammad's marriage to Habiba daughter of Abu Sufyan (Muhammad's former enemy).

This continued for a while but then the agreement broke down, and war was declared. In November 629, however, allies of the Makkans attacked an ally of Muhammad, leading Muhammad to denounced of the treaty of al-Hudaybiyah. After secret planning, Muhammad marched on Mecca in January 630 with 10,000 men. But no bloodshed occurred. Abu Sufyan and other leading Makkans formally submitted. Muhammad promised a general amnesty with some people specifically excluded. When he entered Mecca there was virtually no resistance. Though he did not insist on their becoming Muslims, most Makkans converted. In Mecca, Muhammad destroyed the idols in the Kaaba and various small shrines.

In 630 CE, 20 years after being forced to flee, Muhammad marched with an army of 10,000 followers back to Mecca, and the Makkans surrendered without a fight. He became a religious and political leader of the city. He destroyed all the idols in the Kaba, and gave a general amnesty to all his enemies in the town.

Unification of Arabia

After the hijrah Muhammad began to establish alliances with nomadic tribes. At first these were probably non-aggression pacts, but as his strength grew he made a condition that the allied tribe should become Muslim. While Muhammad was in Mecca he received word of a large concentration of hostile tribes and he set out to confront them. A battle took place at Hunayn in which the enemy was defeated. Muhammad was viewed by some as the strongest man in Arabia and most tribes sent delegations to Medina seeking alliance. Before his death, rebellions occurred in one or two parts of Arabia but the Islamic state had sufficient strength to deal with this.

Muhammad went to Medina (at that time known as "Yathrib") where he was invited to become arbiter between the two rivaling tribes of Medina (the Aws and Khasraj). He declared a welfare state, collected taxes for the needy, organised town defences against numerous raiding parties from Mecca and beyond, and entered numerous trade agreements. Muhammad built mosques, and established a religious culture based on respect for other religions and their freedom to practise (the town also was home to a number of Christians and Jews). He is credited with creating the first constitution.

Demise and afterwards

Shortly prior to his death Muhammad delivered a famous final admonition to his followers known as the Prophet's Final Sermon [1]. His death in June 632 at Medina, at 63, provoked a major crisis among his followers. Indeed this dispute eventually led to the division of the Islam between the Shia and Sunni sects. The Shia believe that the prophet introduced Ali ibn Abu Talib as his successor, in a public sermon in his last haj in a place called Ghadir Khom, while the Sunni believe he did not.

Assessment

Muhammad's basic message emphasised belief in one God, respect for morality above and beyond tribal links, and prayer. Islamic history records that Muhammad was illiterate, though some scholars argue that Muhammad probably received some form of education, and point to his successful career as a merchant. When he grew up, he travelled with many caravans as an administrator whose responsibility was to see that the caravan arrived safely and with all goods intact. He did this throughout most of his working life.

The Quran was probably written down during his lifetime. The Quran states that Muhammad recited the entire Quran during his farewell pilgrimage to Mecca in 632, implying that it had an established order if not actually redacted onto parchment/paper.

In politics, Muhammad's greatest contribution was as the first unifier of the Arab peoples. Following directly in his tradition of seeking knowledge with disciplined methods, Muslims revived and also challenged Greek philosophy (see early Muslim philosophy).

As a direct result, they also instituted what we now call the scientific method and formal citation (see ijtihad, isnad, sonah) and a science of history. All of this constituted a direct outcome of Muhammad's focus on truth, literacy, knowledge and documentation - and ethics as the basis of education. This led ultimately to the legal practice of fiqh.

Muslims also introduced an array of innovations, most notable including anatomy, algebra, the decimal numeral system and papermaking, to Europe and the Middle East.

Despite some military and marital behaviour troubling to modern minds, any negative influences may be largely due to Muslims copying behaviors that Muhammad himself disavowed, often due to hadiths that at least some sources discredit. These impacts are certainly more difficult to assess. To what extent the current state of the Islamic World can be attributed to Muhammad as a person or leader is highly debatable, and probably even more absurd then blaming Napoleon for the current state of the European Union. One might say that Muhammad's influence was like that of Napoleon, of Marx and of Confucius in combination, and not be too far wrong.

Although his political and historical influence is and remains profound, the most lasting legacy of Muhammad remains of course as his role as the prophet of Islam. He himself carefully separated his role as prophet from that as political leader - the Quran is not in any way to be confused with his own sayings (Ahadith) or actions (sira). His failings, as he himself said, were his own, and his achievements he credited to God. He consistently discouraged anyone from seeing him as divine. In the words of Abu Bakr, his life-long companion, who addressed the crowd outside the mosque in Medina immediately after his death:

"O people, verily, whosoever worshipped Muhammad know that Muhammad is dead. But whosoever worshipped God, know that God is alive".

And in a hadith (like all such) attributed to Muhammad himself:

"When a person dies, his deeds come to an end, except in respect of three matters which he leaves behind: a continuing charity, knowledge from which benefit could be derived and righteous offspring who pray for him".

By his own standards, the continuing traditions of social justice in the Islamic World, of methods and knowledge of science, history and medicine as they evolved in the modern world (thanks to his profound influence driving Muslims to literacy and inquiry), and the prayers of over one billion Muslims, many of whom pray for him five times a day (or attach "peace be upon him" after each mention of his name), render Muhammad arguably the most influential man in all history, an honour often reserved for Jesus in the West. Even those historians who have deplored his influence and considered it to have retarded the growth of its chief rival faith, Christianity, express grudging admiration for the man.

See also

External links

References

  • Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on Earliest Sources, Inner Traditions International, Limited, 1987, trade paperback , 368 pages, ISBN 0892811706
  • Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, Islamic Book Service, 1995, paperback, ISBN 1577311957, translation of an Arabic original


  

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