Muhammad ibn Abdullah

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Born Muhammad ibn Abdullah
c. 570
Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia (present day Saudi Arabia)
Died 8 June 632 (aged c. 62)
Green Dome at al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina
Other names Rasul Allah (Messenger of God)
Spouse Khadija bint Khuwaylid

Sawda bint Zamʿa

Aisha bint Abi Bakr

Hafsa bint Umar

Zaynab bint Khuzayma

Hind bint Abi Umayya

Zaynab bint Jahsh

Juwayriyya bint al-Harith

Ramla bint Abi Sufyan

Rayhana bint Zayd

Safiyya bint Huyayy

Maymunah bint al-Harith

Maria al-Qibtiyya

Notable works Constitution of Medina

Muhammad (Arabic: مُحمّد‎; pronounced [muħammad]; c. 570 – c. 8 June 632) was the founder of Islam.[1] According to Islamic scripture, he was a prophet and God's messenger, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previous Abrahamic religions. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in the main branches of Islam.

Born to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, his family belonged to the Banu Hashim clan, a branch of the Quraysh tribe. Given away by his mother to be raised among Bedouins[2] and fully orphaned at the age of six, he was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Fatimah bint Asad.[3] Muhammad initially adopted the occupation of a shepherd, later becoming a merchant, baron and eventually a religious ruler and military leader.

The name "Muhammad" (محمد) comes from the root حمد (ha meem daal) which means "praise". The derived word "Muhammad" is a passive participle of the form II version of the basic verb and it means "the praised one". A word from the same root is also used in the Islamic saying (that is also in the Quran) al-hamdu li-llah (الحمد لله, "all praise is to god").

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.[4] 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 [5] from the same root as his mother's name, Āmina (أمينة).

Muhammad faced some opposition in his homeland from Meccan polytheists and gained very few followers initially.[6] To escape ongoing persecution he left Mecca for Medina in 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina.[7] In 629, after years of intermittent wars with Meccan tribes, Muhammad invaded Mecca with 10,000 men and won the city.[8]

Muhammad continued to report receiving revelations until his death, in the form of ayat (verses) of the Qur'an. Muslims regard the Qur'an as the literal, verbatim "Word of God", around which the religion is based. Besides the Qur'an, other canonical scriptures include Muhammad's Sunnah (life teachings), which are found in the hadith and sira (biography) literature, as written down following oral transmission some two centuries after Muhammad's death. All three of these sources are upheld and used as sources of Shariah (Islamic law).[9]


Early life and childhood

Muhammad was born to villagers of the Banu Hashim clan, a branch of the Qurayshi tribe, and one of Mecca's prominent families. He was reported to have been born in "the year of the Elephant." Although some scholars disagree by one or two years.[10] Muhammad's father died before he was born and was given away by his mother after birth to be raised among Bedouin Arabs (allegedly a common practice at the time).[11] He was given to Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb and her husband until he reached 2 years old. At six his mother also passed away, leading Muhammad into orphanage.[12] For the following two years he lived with her paternal grandfather Abdul-Muttalib until his death. He then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib who had became the leader of the Hashim tribe.[10]

First marriage

In 595 AD, aged twenty-five, Muhammad married his first wife and employer Khadijah. She was a wealthy women, some years older than him, who had three children from two previous marriages. She would eventually bear him two sons (both died in childhood) and four daughters.[13] Khadijah's mother was a third cousin of Muhammad's mother.[14][15] According to some sources, Khadijah's father, Khuwaylid bin Asad, whose sister was Muhammad's great grandmother,[16] was opposed to the idea of his affluent daughter marrying such an "insignificant youth." Thus, Khadijah executed a plan to get her father drunk enough to accept the marriage.[17]

Muhammad in Mecca


The begginings of the Qur'an were conceived as Muhammad began to leave his wife and children to pray alone in a cave several weeks each year.[18][19] 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.[20] These verses would later become what is believed to be the first part of Sura 96.[21] This experience frightened him, and originally thinking he was possessed by a demon, he became suicidal and repeatedly attempted to jump off of a cliff. According to Sahih Bukhari[22] 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.[23]

Read in chronological order some scholars note over time the revelations change in style from a poetic to a more straight forward and aggressive form in the later years.[24] The messages of the later revelations also changed and abrogated the earlier ones. Typically from the place of the now famous 'no compulsion verse' to direction of 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 had only a few followers. The later "Medinan verses" were revealed once Muhammad had gained more followers and became the head of the first Islamic state in Medina.[24]

These revelations continued until his death twenty-three years later. According to Sahih Bukhari, these divine revelations would sometimes come to him while he was having sex with his child bride, Aisha.[25] Sahih Bukhari also describes how the revelations appear, describing them sometimes as the "ringing of a bell" and "sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man".[26]

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).[27] Even during the early days of his self-proclaimed prophethood he was often accused by the Meccans of imperfectly plagiarising the "ancients' fictitious tales."[28] This accusation was often coupled with remarks stemming from Muhammad's background as 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).[29] The elites in Mecca were left unimpressed by what was preached. Eventually, Muhammad delivered verses that condemned idol worship and the Meccan forefathers who engaged in polytheism.[30] Muhammad's opposition in Mecca came as a reaction to his antagonism of 'idolaters'. As Muhammad's followers remained few in numbers, he revealed verses that pleased his pagan contemporaries.[31] These verses are now considered the infamous "Satanic Verses". Muhammad, declared the existence of three Meccan goddesses and associated them as the daughters of Allah. Muhammad later retracted the verses, claiming that the verses were whispered by the devil himself.[31][32][33][34]

The Verses in the Quran 53:19-23 read:

"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!"[35]

Muhammad was also criticized for claiming he rode the Buraq (a mythical flying horse-like creature) on a "Night Journey" to the "nearest heaven" and then back to Mecca in a single night.[36] An event which is now celebrated as a sort of annual Islamic holy day.[37]

Muhammad in Medina


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).[27] 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. Muhammad here commanded the severing of links between his followers and their non-Muslim relatives. This Hijra (traditionally translated into English as "flight") marks the beginning of the 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.[38] 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.[38]

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 converts 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[39] for ransom; only fourteen Muslims died.[40] This marked the 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.[41] Muhammad also ordered twenty-four Meccans to be thrown into the well of Badr as a sign of disgrace.[42][43]

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 at this point either accepted Islam or were expelled, with few exceptions. In March 632,[44] Muhammad led the pilgrimage known as the Hajj (حج).


Main Article: Muhammad and Women

Following the death of his (at that time) only wife Khadijah, Muhammad began to practice polygamy and became known as a womanizer.[45] After an initial protest from Aisha's father, Muhammad's best friend and companion Abu Baker,[46] Muhammad, then in his 50s, married her at 6 years old. 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,[47] and according to Sunni scholar Ibn al-Qayyim, owned numerous concubines, including his Coptic slave, Mariyah.[48]

Attitude towards Jews

A few years after his migration, having encountered rejection from the Jewish scholars in Medina, Muhammad's attitude towards the Christians and Jews changed. The Jews were 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 the persecution and subjugation of Dhimmis (non-muslim second class citizens).[49]

After each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery and attacked it.[50][51] After Badr and Uhud, the Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir, respectively, were expelled from Medina, and much of their possessions were confiscated by Muhammad.[52] After the Battle of the Trench in 627, Muhammad accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans, then wiped them out.[53] The women and young children were taken captive by Muslims to be sold in slave markets,[54][55] and the men and boys who had begun to grow pubic hair were beheaded.[56] 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."[57] al-Tabari VIII:35/Ishaq:464

One of the explanations given by some Arab historians and biographers for Muhammad's 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."[58]


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 sex slave and then 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.[59] He was buried in his house near the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

See Also

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

External Links


  1. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on 11 February 2017. The Prophet of Islam was a religious, political, and social reformer who gave rise to one of the great civilizations of the world. From a modern, historical perspective, Muḥammad was the founder of Islam. From the perspective of the Islamic faith, he was God's Messenger (rasūl Allāh), called to be a "warner," first to the Arabs and then to all humankind. Alford T. Welch, Ahmad S. Moussalli, Gordon D. Newby (2009). "Muḥammad". In John L. Esposito.
  2. Katib al Waquidi p. 20
  3. A Restatement of the History of Islam & Muslims. pp. 165–166. Razwy, Sayed Ali Asgher.
  4. Esposito(1998), p.6
  5. Alford Welch - cf. "Muhammad","Encyclopedia of Islam"
  6. The Life of Muhammad, p. 145. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah. Translated by Guillaume, A. (1955).
  7. Serjeant, R. B. (1978). "Sunnah Jāmi'ah, pacts with the Yathrib Jews, and the Tahrīm of Yathrib: analysis and translation of the documents comprised in the so-called 'Constitution of Medina'". Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. 41 (1): 1–42. doi:10.1017/S0041977X00057761
  8. Akram 2007, p. 61.
  9. "British & World English: sharia". Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved 4 December 2015.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Watt (1974), p. 7.
  11. Medieval Islamic civilization. 1. Routledge. p. 525. ISBN 978-0-415-96690-0. Archivedfrom the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013. Meri, Josef W. (2004).
  12. Watt, "Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb Archived 3 February 2014 at the Wayback Machine.", Encyclopaedia of Islam.
  13. "15 Important Muslim Women in History" 11 March 2014.
  14. Haq, S.M. Ibn Sa'd's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, vol. 1. p. 54.
  15. The Women of Madina. Ta-Ha Publishers. p. 9.
  16. Muhammad ibn Saad, Tabaqat vol. 1. Translated by Haq, S. M. Ibn Sa'd's Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, p. 54. Delhi: Kitab Bhavan.
  17. LIFE OF MAHOMET. Volume II. Chapter 2,WIlliam Muir, [Smith, Elder, & Co., London, 1861], pg. 24
  18. Emory C. Bogle (1998), p. 6
  19. John Henry Haaren, Addison B. Poland (1904), p. 83
  20. Brown (2003), pp. 72–73
  21. Wensinck, A.J.; Rippen, A. (2002). "Waḥy". Encyclopaedia of Islam. 11 (2nd ed.). Brill Academic Publishers. p. 54. ISBN 90-04-12756-9.
  22. ...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. Sahih Bukhari 9:87:111
  23. Uri Rubin, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  24. 24.0 24.1 Voices of Islam: Voices of tradition (2007) Vincent J. Cornell Page 77
  25. "...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
  26. 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). Sahih Bukhari 1:1:2
  27. 27.0 27.1 Encyclopedia of World History (1998), p. 452
  28. "Such things have been promised to us and to our fathers before! they are nothing but tales of the ancients!" - Quran 23:83
  29. "....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
  30. F. E. Peters (1994), p.169
  31. 31.0 31.1 Then God sent down the revelation. 'By the star when it sets! Your companion has not erred or gone astray, and does not speak from mere fancy…' [Q.53:1] When he reached God's words, "Have you seen al-Lāt and al-'Uzzā and Manāt, the third, the other?' [Q.53:19-20] Satan cast upon his tongue, because of what he had pondered in himself and longed to bring to his people, 'These are the high-flying cranes and their intercession is to be hoped for.' When Quraysh heard that, they rejoiced. What he had said about their gods pleased and delighted them, and they gave ear to him. The History of al-Tabari, Volume VI, Muhammad at Mecca, Translated by W. Montgomery and M. V. McDonald page 108
  32. The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad (2010), p. 35
  33. The aforementioned Islamic histories recount that as Muhammad was reciting Sūra Al-Najm (Q.53), as revealed to him by the Archangel Gabriel, Satan tempted him to utter the following lines after verses 19 and 20: "Have you thought of Allāt and al-'Uzzā and Manāt the third, the other; These are the exalted Gharaniq, whose intercession is hoped for." (Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt were three goddesses worshiped by the Meccans). cf Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume p. 166
  34. Apart from this one-day lapse, which was excised from the text, the Quran is simply unrelenting, unaccommodating and outright despising of paganism." (The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, Jonathan E. Brockopp, p. 35)
  35. Quran 53:19-23
  36. "....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
  37. A Night Journey through Jerusalem - Khadija Bradlow - Times Online, August 18, 2007
  38. 38.0 38.1 The Cambridge History of Islam (1977), p. 39
  39. "....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
  40. Glubb (2002), pp.179-186.
  41. Jake Neuman - God of Moral Perfection; A Stark Message from God for All Mankind - (2008) Blackwell, p. 211
  42. "....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
  43. "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
  44. Alford Welch, Muhammad, Encyclopedia of Islam
  45. "....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
  46. "....The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for 'Aisha's hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said "But I am your brother."...." - Sahih Bukhari 7:62:18
  47. al-Tabari vol.9 p.126-127
  48. 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. "Zad al-Ma'ad" - part 1, page 160
  49. The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects the kafirs dishonours the Muslims… The real purpose of levying jiziya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam. Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624), letter No. 163
  50. Is it not [true] that every time they took a covenant a party of them threw it away? But, [in fact], most of them do not believe. Quran 2:100
  51. Fred Donner - Muhammad and the Believers - (2010) Belknap Press of Harvard University Press
  52. "....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)
  53. Esposito (1998), pp.10-11
  54. Haykal, Muhammad Husayn (Author). Al-Faruqi, Ismail Raji (Translator). (2002). The Life of Muhammad. (p. 338). Selangor, Malaysia: Islamic Book Trust.
  55. "...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
  56. "...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
  57. 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.
  58. F.E.Peters(2003), p.77
  59. "....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