Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a wise and well-respected man who was born in Makkah in the year 570 C.E. His early years were marked by the deaths of his parents. Since his father died before his birth, his uncle, Abu Talib, raised him. As Muhammad (peace be upon him) grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. His reputation and personal qualities also led to his marriage, at the age of 25, to Khadeejah, a widow whom he had assisted in business. He became an important and trusted citizen of Makkah. Historians describe him as calm and meditative.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) never felt fully content to be part of a society whose values he considered to be devoid of true religious significance. It became his habit to retreat from time to time to the cave of Hira, to meditate near the summit of Jabal al-Nur (the "Mountain of Light") near Makkah.

At the age of 40, while engaged in one such meditative retreat, Muhammad (peace be upon him) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. This revelation, which continued for 23 years, is known as the Qur'ān, the faithful recording of the entire revelation of God. The first revelation read:

"Recite: In the name of your Lord Who created man from a clot (of blood). Recite: Your Lord is Most Noble, Who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know." (Al-Qur'ān, 96:1-5)

The first to accept his message was Khadeejah, whose support and companionship provided necessary reassurance and strength. He also won the support of some of his relatives and friends. Three basic themes of the early message were:

    • the majesty of the one, unique God and the futility of idol worship,

    • the threat of judgment, and

    • the necessity of faith, compassion and morality in human affairs.

All these themes represented an attack on the crass materialism and idolatry prevalent in Makkah at the time. So when he began to proclaim the message to others, the Makkans rejected him. He and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year 622 C.E., God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijrah (migration), in which they left Makkah for the city of Madeenah, some 260 miles to the north, marked the beginning of a new era and thus the beginning of the Muslim calendar. During his suffering, Muhammad (peace be upon him) drew comfort from the knowledge revealed to him about other prophets, such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, each of whom had also been persecuted and tested.

After several years and some significant battles, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. By the time he died, at the age of 63, the greater part of Arabia had accepted Islam, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread as far west as Spain and as far east as China. It was clear that the message was not limited to Arabs; it was for the whole of humanity.

Muhammad's sayings (and information about his life in general) have been recorded in great detail. Some examples of his sayings (Hadeeth) are as follows:

"To pursue knowledge is obligatory on every believing man and woman." [Ibn Mājah]

"Removing a harmful thing from the road is charity." [Bukhāri, Muslim]

“The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals and the best among them are those who are best to their spouses.” [Musnad Ahmad, Tirmidhi]

“None of you believes (completely) until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." [Bukhari, Muslim]

“The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Show mercy to those on earth, and God will show mercy to you.” [Tirmidhi, Abu Dawood]

“Smiling at your brother is charity...” [Tirmidhi]

“A good word is charity.” [Bukhāri, Muslim]

“Whoever believes in God and the Last Day (the Day of Judgement) should do good to his neighbour.” [Bukhāri, Muslim]

“God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.” [Muslim]

“Pay the worker his wage before his sweat dries.” [Ibn Mājah]

Although Muhammad (peace be upon him) is deeply loved and revered by Muslims as the final messenger of God, he is not an object of worship and his teaching was that only God alone is worthy of worship.