4b – Prophet Muhammad

“Whoever saw him for the first time was awed by him, and whoever mingled with him and got to know him loved him.” Thus was the Prophet Muhammad described by one of his close companions. Even today, some 1,400 years later, one who comes to know of the Prophet cannot fail to be impressed by this man who, from humble beginnings and in the face of persecution, brought about such a profound change in the world. Today, over a billion people, spanning scores of nationalities, colors and languages, consider themselves followers of his religion, and uphold the system of spiritual devotion and morals taught by him. All this is the fruit of the simple message that was the core of his preaching, “There is no god but God.” Surely, everyone ought to be acquainted with his life and teachings.

Birth and Early Youth

Allah’s final prophet and messenger, Muhammad, was born in the sixth century after Christ (ca. 570 C.E.) in the Arabian city of Makkah, among the Arab tribe of Quraysh. The Arabs as a whole trace their bloodline to Abraham’s son Ishmael. Quraysh was an especially prestigious tribe, for they were in charge of the holy sanctuary of the Ka`bah, which had been built by Abraham and Ishmael. However, the pure monotheism of Abraham had by now degenerated into idolatry. People from all over Arabia would still make pilgrimage to the Ka`bah, but for idolatrous worship.

Muhammad’s father, `Abdullah, had died before he was born, and his mother, Aaminah, died when he was just six years old. His grandfather, `Abdul-Muttalib took care of him for the next two years. When `Abdul-Muttalib, too, died, the eight-year old Muhammad passed into the custody of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib. He thus grew up as an orphan. The Makkan society was not particularly literate, and he did not receive an education. In his early youth, he worked as a shepherd, and later became an employee of a prosperous trader-woman named Khadijah. The young Muhammad came to earn a reputation for honesty and trustworthiness, and was nicknamed Al-Amin (The Trustworthy) by his people. The wealthy Khadijah was so impressed by him that she asked to marry him. He accepted, although she was 40 years old and so 15 years his senior. The marriage lasted twenty-five years, until Khadijah’s death, and he did not marry any other women during this time. Read more

4a – The Messengers

Prelude: Human Messengers

Allah, in His wisdom and mercy, sent us messengers to direct us to what is beneficial.  These messengers were men at various times and in various communities whom Allah inspired with guidance for their people.  It is a blessing that they were human beings, like us, such that people could relate to them and interact with them. If the prophets and messengers had instead been angels (see: Qur’an, 6:9, 17:95), the same benefit could not have been accomplished.

“Certainly did Allah confer [great] favor upon the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from themselves, reciting to them His verses and purifying them and teaching them the Book and wisdom, although they had been before in manifest error.” [Qur’an, 3:164]

Messengers direct us to what is beneficial, remind us, and provide a basis for regulating public life. They convey and explain, guide and warn, and typically also cultivate and lead a society. (Q[4:165]) One who wishes to draw nearer to Allah should therefore follow the prophets and those who emulate their way.  In general, all the messengers are examples for us to follow[1]:

“They (the prophets) are those whom Allah has guided, so follow their guidance.” [Qur’an, 6:91] Read more