Source: Muhammad A Blessing For Mankind by Jamal Badawi
Muhammad (PBUH) (Blessings and Peace be upon him) was born in Makkah, Arabia, on Monday, 12 Rabi’ Al-Awwal (2 August C.E). His mother, Aminah was the daughter of Wahb bin Abd Al-Manaf of the Zahrah family. His father, Abdullah, was the son of Abd Al-Muttalib. His genealogy has been traced to the noble house of Isma’il, the son of Ibrahim (Abraham) (PBUH) (May Peace be upon him) in about the fortieth descent. Muhammad’s father had died before his birth and his mother died when he was about six years old making him an orphan. In accordance with the tradition of noble families of Makkah, he was taken by a foster mother, Halimah, to her village where he lived for a few years. During these years he was taken to Makkah several times to visit his mother. After the death of his mother, he was placed under the custody of his grandfather, Abd Al-Muttalib. When the grandfather died, he was under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. By this time he used to look after sheep around Makkah and used to accompany his uncle on trade journeys to Syria.
In his youth he believed firmly in the Oneness of Allah (God)(SWT). He lived a very simple life and hated vanity and pride. He was compassionate to the poor, widows and orphans and shared their sufferings by helping them. He avoided all vices, which were commonly practiced among young people such as gambling, drinking wine, vulgarity and others. He was well-known as As-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Amin (the trustworthy). He was always trusted as a mediator between two conflicting parties in his homeland, Makkah.
When he was about 25 years old, his uncle urged him to work with the caravan which belonged to a wealthy widow named Khadijah. He accepted and undertook the journey to Syria. He conducted business with such prudence and sense of duty that he returned with larger profit than usual. Khadijah was so impressed by the honest and attractive personality of Muhammad (PBUH) that she offered to marry him which Muhammad (PBUH) accepted. This marriage was a happy one. They had children. Khadijah was so far his only wife until she died at the age of 51.
Muhammad (PBUH) was born amidst a polytheistic (unbeliever) society. He was saddened and sick of the corrupt society around him. He often went to Hira cave in the mountain near Makkah, later known as Jabal An-nur (the mountain of Light) where he meditated and pondered over the prevailing darkness brought about by ignorance. There he often remained deep in thought in communion with the unseen yet All-Pervading God of the Universe. One night, while he was meditating in the Hira cave, the Angel Gabriel (peace be upon him) came to him. The Angel aroused him and his mighty voice reverberated in his ears. He was perplexed and did not know what to do. He was asked to read. He replied: “I cannot read!” The Angel repeated three times asking Muhammad (PBUH) to read, but he replied the same answer. Finally the Angel asked:
[Read in the name of your Lord , who created man from a clot. Read in the name of your God, the Most Bountiful, who taught by means of the pen, and taught man what he did not know.] (Qur’an 96: 1-5)
This was the first revelation received by Muhammad (PBUH). He was 40 years old at that time. The revelation continued to come to him from time to time in a period of 23 years. These series of revelation were arranged according to the divine guidance given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and later collected in the form of a Mushaf (book) the Qur’an (Reading). Most of its verses have clear meaning. Some verses are interpreted in conjunction with other verses and some others were interpreted by the Prophet (PBUH) himself through his words, actions and agreements which are known as his Sunnah (Traditions). The Qur’an and the Sunnah together constitute the guidance and way of life for those who submit their life to Allah (God) (SWT). People who follow this guidance and way of life are guaranteed by Allah (SWT) to be saved in this world and the Hereafter.
When the Prophet (PBUH) called the people to the way of Allah, not many people listened to his call. Most of them were members of his family and from the low class society. Among them were Khadijah, Ali, Zayd and Bilal. When he intensified his mission (da’wah: Call to Islam) by publicly announcing the religion he preached, he won more followers but at the same time had to face many challenges from the nobles and leaders who found their position being threatened and jeopardized. They stood together, under the pretext of defending the religion of their ancestors, to fight the new religion. The morale of the few people who embraced Islam was heightened when a small group of the respected people of Makkah joined the religion. Notable among them were `Uthman bin `Affan, Zubair bin Al-`Awwam, `Abd Ar-Rehman bin `Awf, Talhah bin `Ubaydullah, Sa’d bin Abi Waqqas, Arqam bin Abi Arqam, `Ubaydullah bin Harith, Sa’id bin Zayd, `Amr bin Nufail, Fatimah (the wife of Nufail), Asma binti Abu Bakr, `Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Ja’far bin Abi Thalib (May Allah be pleased with them) and many others. Before this group, Abu Bakr was the first among the earlier followers that impressed the Prophet (PBUH) very much. The Prophet (PBUH) said about him: “I never invited anyone to the faith who did not display any hesitation in embracing it except Abu Bakr. When I had offered Islam, he showed no hesitation at all in accepting it.” As the result of these challenges from the Makkan unbelievers, some Muslims were subjected to torture, persecutions, isolations and boycotts. The Prophet (PBUH) had to be patient and had to look for the protection of Muslims. He asked Negus, King of Ethiopia to allow Muslims to migrate to his country. Negus welcomed the Muslims emigrants in his territory and refused to hand them over to the Makkan unbeliever rulers.
By the end of the Makkan period, the Prophet (PBUH) lost two people who were dear to him. They were his most affectionate uncle, Abu Talib, and his faithful and loving wife, Khadijah. After their deaths, the Makkans felt free to do what they wanted to impose to the Prophet and his followers. In many Makkah was the Ka’bah (the Holy Mosque), which was built by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) centuries before as a holy place to worship Allah (SWT), the One. But in the course of time, the place had been converted by unbelievers to the worship of objects other than Allah (SWT). People added to it many tradition of their own.
They used to visit this place for a few months in a year for pilgrimage. They came from all parts of Arabia, representing various famous tribes. The pilgrimage, inspite of its religious bearing, constituted for the Arabs a yearly festival where people met and indulge in their cultural activities. The Prophet (PBUH) took this opportunity to spread Islam. Among those who were interested in his call, were a group of people from Yathrib (Madina) in the North of Arabia. They met secretly with the Prophet (PBUH) and a few Muslims from Makkah in a village called `Aqabah. After becoming Muslims, they took an oath of allegiance to protect Islam, the Prophet and the Makkan Muslims. The following year, the group of Muslims from Yathrib came again to Makkah. They met the Prophet (PBUH) at the same place where they previously met. This time, `Abbas bin Abd Al-Muttalib, the Prophet’s uncle who was himself not a Muslim yet, was present at the meeting. They invited the Prophet (PBUH) and the Muslims from Makkah to emigrate to Yathrib. They promised to treat them as true brothers and sisters. A long dialogue was held between the Muslims of Yathrib with the Prophet’s uncle to make sure that they really wanted to welcome the Makkan Muslims in their town. The Prophet (PBUH) agreed at the end to emigrate to the new land. Upon knowing that, the Muslims had planned to leave Makkah, the Makkan unbelievers tried to stop the immigration but the first group had already migrated to Yathrib. The Makkans had fear that the movement to Yathrib would give the Muslims a new base to spread Islam. Within two months nearly all Muslims of Makkah, except the Prophet, Abu Bakr, Ali and a few helpless people had migrated. The Makkans then decided to kill the Prophet (PBUH). They made a plan for this purpose, but Allah (SWT) had made another plan over them, to quote the Qur’an. With various tactics and a good planning, the Prophet finally arrived peacefully in Yathrib, which was later known as Madinat Ar-Rasul (The city of the Prophet).
In Madinah the Prophet (PBUH) was able to work freely in spreading Islam. The followers of Islam increased day after day. But the threat by the Makkans did not stop. A few physical confrontations with the Makkans were ensued. Sometimes the battles were won by the Muslims, and sometimes by the Makkans. The Prophet (PBUH) also engaged in battles with the Byzantine and Persian powers that were jeopardizing the existence of Islam from the north and the east. But confrontation with the Makkans stopped for a while after the treaty of Hudaibiyah had been signed between the Muslims and the unbeliever Makkans. During the Madinah period, the Muslims also established treaties with the Jews of Madinah and the tribes around the city. The Jews broke the treaty, which led to their expulsion out of the Arabian peninsula. In Madinah, the Prophet (PBUH) succeeded in establishing Islam as a way of life in its true meaning. He was not only giving guidance on purely religious matters such as salat (prayers), zakat (almsgiving), Saum (fasting) and Hajj (pilgrimage) and examples in these matters, but also provided Muslims with rules and laws covering social, economic, political fields.
Emissaries Entertained in Madinah
It was in Madinah that the Prophet (PBUH) received envoys and emissaries from various tribes and nationals, asking matters of various sorts, demanding dialogues, negotiations etc. Among the emissaries were an envoy representing the Christian community in Najran (South Arabia). The Prophet (PBUH) welcomed them, entertained them as honoured guests and even allowed them to conduct their religious service in his city. It was a good occasion to share each other’s views on matters of religion. Some members of the envoy were deeply impressed by the treatment they received from the Muslims, thus leading them to embrace Islam.
Liberation of Makkah
The treaty of Hudaibiyah gave the Muslims a big opportunity to exemplify the true Islam in personal conduct and in relations with peoples and communities. But the peace did not stay long due to the attitude of the Makkan tribal chiefs who broke the treaty. Soon the Prophet (PBUH) marched very quietly to Makkah in the 8th year of the Hijrah (emigration) to Madinah. The Makkans gave no resistance and by the whole city surrendered to the Prophet (PBUH). He announced a general amnesty for all his enemies and treated all citizens of the city with generosity. A verse of the Qur’an was revealed on the occasion:
[ When the help of Allah and victory comes, and you see the people enter the religion of Allah in crowds. So glorify the Name of your Lord and beg His forgiveness. He, verily accept repentance.] (Qur’an 110: 1-3)
After the liberation of Makkah all the remaining hostile tribes in Arabia began to realize the reality of Islamic faith. People had seen the noble teachings of Islam. Good examples of forgiveness, tolerance, justice, fairness, steadfastness and other qualities as exemplified by the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions had left an impression in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people who became Muslims.
In time the whole Arabia had become the land of Islam. The Prophet (PBUH) intended to perform the Hajj (pilgrimage). He announced his intention to the Muslims in Madinah and the surrounding areas and asked them to join him. This was in fact the only Hajj performed by him during his life time. On this occasion he taught those who were present with him and to the whole world about the Hajj and the divine message that Allah had entrusted him to all mankind. At the last gathering with the Ummah (nation) during the Hajj season, the Hajj of Wada’ (Farewell) a sermon was delivered by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at the valley of Arafat about 81 or 82 days before his death. It contained the very fundamentals of Islam. Seated on his camel, he spoke with a clear tone and asked who heard his speech to convey it to those who were not present there. Among others he said: “O people, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether, after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today. O people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. Allah has forbidden you to take usury, therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hopes that he will be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things. O people, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in mildness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to commit adultery. O people, listen to me in earnest, worship Allah (SWT), say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadhan, and give your wealth in zakat. Perform hajj if you can afford to. You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over the other except by piety and good deeds. Remember, one day you will appear before Allah (SWT) and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not go astray from the path of righteousness after my death. O people, no Prophet or Messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born. Listen well, therefore, O people, and understand my words, which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness O’ Allah, (SWT) that I have conveyed Your message to Your slaves.”The importance of this sermon can be seen from the Prophet’s perception that this occasion may be the last one during his lifetime. He felt that this was the right time to summarize the principles of Islam to his fellow brothers and sisters. By the perfection of this religion, it means that there’s no need for humanity, and for the Muslims in particular, to look for another alternative way of life. As long as one holds fast to the two things left behind by the Prophet (the Qur’an and the Sunnah), one will never go astray.
About two months after returning from Makkah for Pilgrimage, the Prophet (PBUH) became ill but he was still able to perform his prayers in the mosque and give directives to the companions. His health was deteriorating day by day. At the last moment he asked Abu Bakr to lead the prayers in the mosque, Every member of his family and every companion was worried about his health. It was on Monday, 12th Rabi’Al-Awwal, the year 11A.H., when he passed away at the age of sixty three years. Many people did not believe that he had passed away. They thought that the Messenger of Allah would live forever. It was Abu Bakr, who had the feeling, since the Farewell Pilgrimage that the death of the Prophet (PBUH) was coming near, He convinced the congregation that the Prophet (PBUH) had actually passed away. Abu Bakr said to the congregation that if they worshipped Muhammad, Muhammad had died , and if they worshipped Allah (SWT), He lives forever. Then he recited from the Qur’an: “Muhammad (PBUH) is nought but a Messenger like the Messengers who had surely passed away before him: will you, then, if he dies or be slain, turn round on your heels?”