Childhood & Early Life
Muhammad was born Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Abd Allah ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim in the city of Mecca in 570 CE in the month of Rabi al-awwal. He hailed from one of Mecca’s highly respected Banu Hashim clan. Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, succumbed to death months before the birth of his son and his mother, Amina, died when he was six years of age. His uncle, Abu Talib, the head of Hashim clan, took him under his custody.
Muhammad embarked on his tour of Syria along with his uncle as a kid of maybe 8 or 9, and gained a new perspective on life. It was on one of these travels that his first tryst with religion and faith happened, through a Christian preacher Bahira, who according to the Islamic beliefs foresaw Muhammad’s future as a prophet of god. Out of the very little of what is known of his early life, it is said that he worked as a merchant in his younger days, before attaining enlightenment.
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The Beginnings & Spread of Islam
Muhammad frequented the cave by the name of ‘Hira’ on the mountain of Nur in order to seek an exit from the troubles of his materialistic world and all the wrongs which persisted in the city of Mecca back in those days. In 610 CE, while inside the cave, he heard a voice, which is widely known as the voice of Gabriel and just then and there, in that moment, the history of the world changed forever. The words of god he received on that first day are known as the very first verses of Quran.
Muhammad got excited and started preaching the revelations to his trusted people and although he did it secretly, the word travelled like wildfire and Muhammad became the subject of widespread hatred. The common people liked what they heard as these new teachings laid down the foundation of Islam, a new religion that didn’t agree with praying to the idols, and the people of Mecca nodded in its favour. When the word reached Mecca’s elite, Muhammad became the subject of hatred on the accusations of spreading anarchy and turning people against their religion.
His uncle, Abu Talib, had become a powerful man in Mecca by then and under his protection, armed with patience and determination, Muhammad kept preaching the teachings to a large number of people. Most of the general population of Mecca worshipped idols and were in strong denial about how a young man challenged their faiths and manipulating people to act on this weird new religion. Many of Muhammad’s followers had to suffer due to their belief in Islam.
Muhammad asked his followers to move to Abyssinia, which was ruled by a Christian king, to save them from brutal torture and death at the hands of Meccans. Quraysh people, the inhabitants of Mecca and strong haters of Islam, offered gifts to the king to ensure the extradition of Muslims, but the king refused the bribe and availed a safe stay for Muslims in his lands.
Haters’ inability to incarcerate Muhammad led to huge tension as Mecca was divided into two groups by then. Those who had faith in Muhammad, and the ones who abhorred him, but Muhammad preached that Islam was a religion of peace, and along with some newly converted Muslims, he went to a mountain in Mecca to seek refuge. He wanted to avoid an armed clash at all costs. His exile was also due to some economical and social sanctions which were put on Muhammad and his followers in Mecca in about 615 CE.
The sanctions were removed 3 years later, but by then, a lot had changed. Muhammad’s first wife died, who he loved deeply, along with his uncle, who was also his protector. Without his uncle, Muhammad’s haters grew strong in determination, but Muhammad was unaffected and kept travelling around to spread Islam. One of his followers was the chief of the city of Yathrib, who pledged that he would protect Muhammad from attacks of Quraysh.
Sometime during this period, Muhammad started travelling, in his mind, to Jerusalem miraculously to meet Moses and Jesus, the event which is famously known as the Night Journey. He had some deep conversations with god, who then told him about the five daily prayers of Islam.
Muhammad stayed in Mecca with his close associates and didn’t fear death, but he constantly urged his followers to go to Yathrib and spread his teachings. Quraysh were intimated by the fast growing Islam, and tried stopping Muslims from fleeing, but all their efforts were in vain. Somehow, Hashim clan protected Muhammad and Quraysh were scared of them, so they thought uniting against Hashim would be the best option if they had to kill Muhammad. This united several Quraysh clans into one, and the plan to assassinate Muhammad in his sleep was drwan.
The assassination attempt was made to kill Muhammad, but was sabotaged by the divine intervention. His followers claimed that god himself told Muhammad about the attempt, and asked him to secretly leave Mecca and head to the city of Yahthrib, which Muhammad did. After the arrival of the prophet, the city was renamed as ‘Al-Madina’ (the illuminated city). The grand event later known as ‘Hijra’, took place in 622 CE, which was about 12 years after the first revelation came to Muhammad.
In Medina, Muhammad had a large mansion built for him, which served as the venue for his followers to offer secret prayers. Medina was mostly inhabited by the Jews, who at first recognized Muhammad as ‘Messenger of God’, but somehow, the relationship soured between the two faiths. Meccans planned attacks on Medina twice, at the battle of Uhud in 625 and again in 627 at Trench, but Muslims managed to win on both the occasions.
In 628, Muhammad embarked on a pilgrimage to Mecca aided by his followers but he was denied entrance and stopped at Al-Hudaybiyyah, but the Muslims were eventually allowed to enter a year later. One of north Medina’s powerful Jewish clans Khaybar waged war against Islam, and Muhammad had to lead his forces against them in the battlefield to crush them.
His return to Medina was followed by his desire to expand Islam and he went to Arabia in the same pursuit. His teachings resonated with Arabs and Syrian towns and they accepted his teachings wholeheartedly, making Islam a powerful force to reckon with. Muhammad returned to Mecca in 632, the pilgrimage is known as the Farewell Pilgrimage and Muhammad spent last few years in Medina, before he died in June 632.
Muhammad succumbed to an illness and post his death, severe disagreements occurred among the Muslims in regards to his succession. Several Arab tribes, who were united under one faith, also became involved in the disputes. Abu Bakr was eventually named his successor, who had been a top associate of Muhammad all his life.