Muhammad ibn Abdullah

From WikiIslam, the online resource on Islam
Jump to: navigation, search
15th century illustration in a copy of a manuscript by Al-Bīrūnī, depicting Muhammad preaching the Qur'ān in Mecca.[1] (more pictures of Muhammad)

Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh (محمّد also spelled Mohammed, Muhammed or Mahomet) (570/571 – June 8, 632 AD) was the founder of the religion of Islam and the conqueror of Arabia.

The Beginnings

Born to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib in what was said to be "the year of the Elephant", his family belonged to the Hashim, a branch of the Quraysh tribe. Unwanted by his mother[2] and fully orphaned at the age of six, he was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib. Muhammad initially adopted the occupation of a shepherd, later becoming a merchant, robber, baron and eventually warlord. Many claim that in his youth, Muhammad was called by the nickname Al-Amin (الامين), meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator.[3] However, historian Alford Welch holds that "Al-Amin" was a common Arab name and further suggest that al-Amin might have been Muhammad's given name, a masculine form [4] from the same root as his mother's name, Āmina (أمينة). Physically, he was described as a "white man",[5] and in later years as a "fat dwarf".[6] In 595 AD, aged twenty-five, Muhammad married his employer Khadijah. She was a wealthy women aged forty, who had three children from two previous marriages. She would eventually bear him two sons (both died in childhood) and four daughters. Khadijah's father Khuwaylid bin Asad was opposed to the idea of his affluent daughter marrying such an "insignificant youth," so the couple used deception. Plying her father with alcohol until he lost his senses, the marriage ceremony went ahead as planned.[7]

The Revelations

Leaving his wife and children behind during the month of Ramadan, the now wealthy Muhammad would often fall back to a cave located at the summit of Mount Hira, just outside Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz, where he fasted and prayed. According to Islamic belief, when he was about forty years old (610 AD) he was visited by the Angel Gabriel (جبريل Jibreel) and commanded to recite verses sent by Allah. These verses would later become what is believed to be the first part of Sura 96. This experience frightened him, and originally thinking he was possessed by a demon, he became suicidal. According to Sahih Bukhari:

...But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet (Mohammad) became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah's Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before.
Random Quotes from the Qur'an Book icon.png
"Homosexuals do what is shameful and are punished"

"(We also sent) Lut (as a messenger): behold, He said to his people, "Do ye do what is shameful though ye see (its iniquity)? Would ye really approach men in your lusts rather than women? Nay, ye are a people (grossly) ignorant! But his people gave no other answer but this: they said, "Drive out the followers of Lut from your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!" Then We saved him and his household save his wife; We destined her to be of those who stayed behind. And We rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): and evil was the shower on those who were admonished (but heeded not)! - Qur'an 27:54 (read more)

After this first 'revelation' no new ones came for a time, but then after a long period they started up again and continued at a steady rate till his death. The collection of these verses is known as the Qur'an.

If the Qur'an is read in chronological order, you will notice over time the revelations changed style from a poetic to a more straight forward and aggressive type in the later years. The messages of the later revelations also changed and abrogated the earlier ones. Typically from the now famous 'no compulsion verse' to the 'verse of the sword'. These alterations followed Muhammad's place in society. What are known as the "early revelation" were recorded in Mecca while Muhammad was weak and had very few followers willing to die for him. The later "Medinan verses" were revealed once Muhammad had gained more followers and became the head of the first Islamic state in Medina.

These revelations continued until his death twenty-three years later. These supposedly divine revelations would sometimes come to him while dressed in Aisha's clothes.[8] How they came to him is described in hadiths:

Narrated 'Aisha: (the mother of the faithful believers) Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's Apostle "O Allah's Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?" Allah's Apostle replied, "Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ' off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says." 'Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).

Preaching in Mecca

He began preaching as a prophet in Mecca, warning of a day of judgement when all humans who have rejected his claims of prophethood would burn for eternity in Hell (جهنم Jahannam).[9] Even during the early days of his self-proclaimed prophethood he was often accused by the Meccans of plagiarising the "ancients fictitious tales."[10] Indeed, as Muhammad was an illiterate man who had come into contact with followers of the Abrahamic faiths before his proclamation of prophethood (e.g. Zaid bin 'Amr bin Nufail),[11] this would explain his imperfect borrowings from the stories he had heard. The elites in Mecca were left unimpressed by what was preached, and this infuriated him. Eventually leading Muhammad to deliver verses that condemned idol worship and the Meccan forefathers who engaged in polytheism.[12] Thus began the opposition of Muhammad in Mecca. While some claim the Meccans persecuted Muslims, there is little evidence that would support this. There had been trouble, most of which were in reaction to Muhammad's antagonism towards the 'idolaters'. As Muhammad's followers remained few in numbers, in an attempt to entice the polytheists into converting to Islam he revealed the now infamous "Satanic Verses". Most likely upon realising how this would impact his status (no longer being the lone intercessor between his followers and Allah), he quickly replaced his previous revelation with the following assault on the Meccan deities:

Have ye seen Lat. and 'Uzza, And another, the third (goddess), Manat? What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female? Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair! These are nothing but names which ye have devised,- ye and your fathers,- for which Allah has sent down no authority (whatever). They follow nothing but conjecture and what their own souls desire!- Even though there has already come to them Guidance from their Lord!
Qur'an 53:19-23

Muhammad was also criticized for claiming he rode the Buraq (a mythical flying horse-like creature) on an alleged and rather fanciful "Night Journey" to the "nearest heaven" and then back to Mecca in one night.[13] An event which is now celebrated by Muslims every year.[14]

Muhammad in Medina

His emigration

After the death of his uncle Abu Talib, who, although not becoming a Muslim, had protected Muhammad throughout, in 622, Muhammad left Mecca in a journey known to Muslims as the Hijra (هِجْرَة Migration).[9] He, along with his followers, settled in Medina (then known as Yathrib) a large agricultural oasis, where he was the leader of the first Islamic theocracy. He ordered his followers not to contact their relatives who were left behind in Mecca. By severing links between his followers and their non-Muslim relatives, Muhammad furthered his hold on them. This Hijra (traditionally translated into English as "flight") marks the beginning of the (rather crude) Islamic lunar calendar. The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix AH (After Hijra).

Medina was home to a number of Jewish tribes, divided into three major clans: Banu Qainuqa, Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadir, and some minor groups.[15] Among the things Muhammad did was draft a document known as the Constitution of Medina (date debated), "establishing a kind of alliance or federation" among the eight Medinan tribes and Muslim emigrants from Mecca, which specified the rights and duties of all citizens and the relationship of the different communities in Medina.[15]

At war with the Meccans

An illustration of Muhammad at the Ka'aba, by Nakkaş Osman (1595)
(more pictures of the Ka'aba)

In March of 624, Muhammad led some three hundred Jihadists in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Meccans successfully defended the caravan, but then decided to retaliate and marched against Medina. On March 15, 624 near a place called Badr, the Meccans and the Muslims clashed. Though outnumbered more than three times (one thousand to three hundred - majority of Muslim historians put the exact total at 313) in the battle, the Muslims met with success, killing at least seventy Meccans and taking seventy prisoners[16] for ransom; only fourteen Muslims died.[17] This marked the real beginning of Muslim military battles. Among the prisoners was Al Nadir, a storyteller and poet who had mocked him. He was not allowed to be ransomed by their clans and was executed on Muhammad's orders.[18] Muhammad also ordered twenty-four Meccans to be thrown into the well of Badr,[19] and mocked the dead.[20]

A further four years of continuous war between Muslim and Meccan forces followed, culminating later in a Muslim victory and the conquest of Mecca. The Muslims subsequently removed and destroyed everything they considered idolatrous from the Ka'aba, while Muhammad recited verses from the Qur'an. The townspeople either accepted Islam or were expelled. In March 632,[21] Muhammad led the pilgrimage known as the Hajj (حج).

His sexual partners

Main Article: Muhammad and Women

Following the death of his (at that time) only wife Khadijah, Muhammad felt sexually liberated. He began to practice polygamy and became known as a womanizer.[22] After an initial protest from her father,[23] he married Aisha when she was only six years old. She was the daughter of his friend Abu Bakr (who would later emerge as the first leader of the Muslims after Muhammad's death). In Medina, he married Hafsah, daughter of Umar (who would eventually become Abu Bakr's successor). Eventually he would go on to marry (and house independently) a total of fifteen women,[24] and own numerous concubines, including his Coptic slave, Mariyah. According to the famous Sunni scholar Ibn al-Qayyim:

Mohammed had many male and female slaves. He used to buy and sell them, but he purchased more slaves than he sold, especially after God empowered him by His message, as well as after his immigration from Mecca. He once sold one black slave for two. His name was Jacob al-Mudbir. His purchases of slaves were more than he sold. He was used to renting out and hiring many slaves, but he hired more slaves than he rented out.[25]

His changing attitude towards the Jews

A few years after his migration, Muhammad's attitude towards the Christians and Jews changed. Having encountered rejection from the Jewish scholars in Medina, he became very much an anti-Semite. The Jews were rightly skeptical of the compatibility between the Qur'an and their own scriptures, and while many in Medina converted to Islam, very few were from the large Jewish populations. This was the start of the long history of persecution and subjugation of Jews at the hands of Islam.

After each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery (see Qur'an 2:100) and attacked it. After Badr and Uhud, the Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir, respectively, were expelled from Medina, and much of their possessions were confiscated by Muhammad.[26] After the Battle of the Trench in 627, the Muslims accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans, then wiped them out.[27] The women and young children were taken captive by Muslims to be sold in slave markets,[28][29] and the men and boys who had begun to grow pubic hair were beheaded.[30] Muslim historian Ibn Ishaq describes the incident:

Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka`b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, 'Will you never understand? Don't you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!' This went on until the apostle made an end of them.[31]
Tabari VIII:35/Ishaq:464

One of the explanations given by some Arab historians and biographers for Muhammad's appalling treatment of the Jews of Medina is that "the punishment of the Medina Jews, who were invited to convert and refused, perfectly exemplify the Qur'an's tales of what happened to those who rejected the prophets of old."[32]

The Death of the Prophet

In the year 632, Muhammad became infirm with severe head pain and weakness. He died on June, 8th, 632 at the age of 62 or 63. Muhammad was poisoned by a Jewish woman, following the conquest of Khaibar, where he took Safiyah as a wife, and ordered the torture and beheading of her husband Kinana, the chief of the Jews at Khaibar. He spent his last day with the young Aisha, who was considered to be his favorite wife. At the time of his death, Ali (who would later become the fourth caliph of Islam) reported that Muhammad's penis was erect.[33] He was buried in his house near the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

And beyond

Under the caliphs who assumed authority after his death, and through the use of Jihad (as instructed by Muhammad at the Farewell Sermon), the Islamic empire expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, southern Spain, and Anatolia. Later violent conquests (which eventually prompted the crusades), commercial contact between Muslims and non-Muslims, and missionary activity spread Islam over much of the Eastern Hemisphere, including parts of China and South-east Asia.

See Also

  • Muhammad - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Muhammad


External Links


  1. Bibliothèque nationale de France Le Prophète Mahomet L'art du livre arabe
  2. Katib al Waquidi p. 20
  3. Esposito(1998), p.6
  4. Alford Welch - cf. "Muhammad","Encyclopedia of Islam"
  5. "....My father said, "I heard Ibn 'Umar reciting the poetic verses of Abu Talib: And a white (person) (i.e. the Prophet) who is requested to pray for rain and who takes care of the orphans and is the guardian of widows."...." - Sahih Bukhari 2:17:122
  6. "....When Ubaydullah saw him, he said: This Muhammad of yours is a dwarf and fat. The old man (i.e. AbuBarzah) understood it....." - Sunan Abu Dawud 40:4731
  7. LIFE OF MAHOMET. Volume II. Chapter 2,WIlliam Muir, [Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861], pg. 24
  8. "...He [Muhammad]went around to her and she spoke to him. He said to her, “Do not injure me regarding 'A'isha. The revelation does not come to me when I am in the garment of any woman except 'A'isha.” She said, "I repent to Allah from injuring you, Messenger of Allah.”..." - Sahih Bukhari 2442
  9. 9.0 9.1 Encyclopedia of World History (1998), p. 452
  10. "Such things have been promised to us and to our fathers before! they are nothing but tales of the ancients!" - Qur'an 23:83
  11. "....Allah's Apostle said that he met Zaid bin 'Amr Nufail at a place near Baldah and this had happened before Allah's Apostle received the Divine Inspiration...." - Sahih Bukhari 7:67:407
  12. F. E. Peters (1994), p.169
  13. "....The Prophet said, "The animal's step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal's sight. I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven....." - Sahih Bukhari 5:58:227
  14. A Night Journey through Jerusalem - Khadija Bradlow - Times Online, August 18, 2007
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Cambridge History of Islam (1977), p. 39
  16. "....On the day (of the battle) of Badr, the Prophet and his companions had caused the 'Pagans to lose 140 men, seventy of whom were captured and seventy were killed....." - Sahih Bukhari 4:52:276
  17. Glubb (2002), pp.179-186.
  18. Jake Neuman - God of Moral Perfection; A Stark Message from God for All Mankind - (2008) Blackwell, p. 211
  19. "....he [Muhammad] commanded more than twenty persons, and in another hadith these are counted as twenty-four persons, from the non-believers of the Quraish to be thrown into the well of Badr....." - Sahih Muslim 40:6870
  20. "Narrated Ibn 'Umar: The Prophet looked at the people of the well (the well in which the bodies of the pagans killed in the Battle of Badr were thrown) and said, "Have you found true what your Lord promised you?" Somebody said to him, "You are addressing dead people." He replied, "You do not hear better than they but they cannot reply." - Sahih Bukhari 2:23:452
  21. Alford Welch, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of Islam
  22. "....Layla’s people said, "’What a bad thing you have done! You are a self-respecting woman, but the Prophet is a womanizer. Seek an annulment from him.’ She went back to the Prophet and asked him to revoke the marriage and he complied with [her request]...." - al Tabari vol.9 p.139
  23. "....The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said "But I am your brother."...." - Sahih Bukhari 7:62:18
  24. al-Tabari vol.9 p.126-127
  25. "Zad al-Ma'ad" - part 1, page 160
  26. "....The Banu [tribe] Qaynuqa did not have any land, as they were goldsmiths [and armor-makers]. The Messenger of God took many weapons belonging to them and the tools of their trade...." (Tabari, vol. 7, p. 87)
  27. Esposito (1998), pp.10-11
  28. Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (Author). Al-Faruqi, Ismail Raji (Translator). (2002). The Life of Muhammad. (p. 338). Selangor, Malaysia: Islamic Book Trust.
  29. "...Then the apostle sent for Sa'd bin Zayd al-Ansari brother of bin Abdul-Ashhal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons...." - Ibn Ishaq: 693
  30. "...Narrated Atiyyah al-Qurazi: I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair..." - Sunan Abu Dawud 38:4390
  31. Guillaume, Alfred, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah. Oxford University Press, 1955. ISBN 0-1963-6033-1; p. 461-464.
  32. F.E.Peters(2003), p.77
  33. "....Abulfeda mentions the exclamation of Ali, who washed his body after his death, "O prophet, thy penis is erect unto the sky!" (in Vit. Mohammed. p. 140)....." - Edward Gibbon, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire", Vol. 9 Footnote 175