Muhammad the Prophet

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Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. Belief that Muhammad is the messenger of God is second only to belief in the oneness of God according to the Muslim profession of faith, the quintessential Islamic creed. Muhammad has a highly exalted role at the heart of Muslim faith. At the same time the Quran and Islamic orthodoxy insist that he was fully human with no supernatural powers. Born ca. 570, he grew up as an orphan. At the age of 25, he married Khadija, and it was at the age of 40 or 43 that he began to have visions and hear mysterious voices. Key ####themes in his early recitations include the idea of the moral responsibility of man who was created by God, and the idea of judgement to take place on the Day of Resurrection. To these are added vivid descriptions of the tortures of the damned in hellfire and the pleasures of the believers in paradise. The religious duties that the Quran imposed on the Prophet and his followers during the Meccan years were few in number: one should believe in God, appeal to him for forgiveness of sins, offer prayers frequently, including long night vigils, assist others (especially those who are in need), free oneself from the love of delusive wealth and from all forms of cheating, lead a chaste life, and not expose new-born girls to die in the desert. When the Meccan merchants discovered that the Prophet attacked on principle the gods of Mecca, they realized that a religious revolution might be dangerous for their fairs and their trade. But during the Meccan years the Prophet had no thought of founding a new religion. His task was only that of a warner, charged with the task of informing the Arabs, to whom no Prophet had been sent before, that the Day of Judgement was approaching. The Jews and Christians must also testify to the truth of his preaching, since the same revelation had been sent down to them previously. It is in this context that the meaning of the repeatedly discussed term “Ummi”, often translated as “illiterate”, is best understood, As applied to the Prophet in Quran VII, 157, the term appears to mean “one who has not previously been given the Book of God”. After the emigration of some of the Prophet’s followers to Abyssinia, a few notables in Mecca were won for the new teaching, but the religious reform of his native city must be regarded as having failed, as also an attempt to establish himself in Ta’if failed. It is at this point that some accounts place the Night Journey to Jerusalem (Isra’) and the Ascension to Heaven (Mi’raj). The Prophet preserved in his search for a new sphere of activity outside of Mecca, and found it in Yathrib (later called Medina). After he had entered into relations with some Medinans who had come as pilgrims to Mecca in 621, the latter began to spread Islam in their native town. After a preliminary conference in al-Aqaba, he was able to conclude at the same place, during the pilgrimage of 622, a formal agreement with a considerable number of Medinans, in which they pledged themselves to take him into their community and to protect him. These negotiations produced great bitterness in Mecca, and the believers slipped away to Medina, the Prophet and Abu Bakr emigrating last (Hijra). They reached Medina on 24 September 622. Slowly at first, and then in larger numbers, the Medinans adopted Islam. During his first year in Medina the Prophet devoted considerable attention to the Jews. His relations with any Christians who may have been in Medina can only be surmised from references in the Quran. In so-called “Constitution of Medina” the Prophet established a formal agreement with all of the significant tribes and families and he revealed his great diplomatic skills in his dealings with the Jews. But they would not accept his claims to a new religion, and the Quran accuses them of concealing parts of their holy scriptures. The Prophet also came to believe that the Christians scriptures did not preserve the actual message and teachings of the prophet Jesus. It was at this point that the nascent Muslim community took on a pronounced national character through the adoption of various elements from ancient Arabian worship. This decisive change in the course of Islam occurred in the second year of the Hijra (July 623-June 624), and was signed by the much discussed “change of the qibla” from Jerusalem to the ancient sanctuary of the Ka’ba in Mecca. The Prophet came forward as the restorer of the religion of Abraham that had been distorted by Jews and Christians. Now the inevitable necessity arose for forcing admission to Mecca, The Prophet sent some of his followers to Nakhla where they succeeded in capturing a Meccan caravan. In 624 the Muslims succeeded in completely routing the fare more numerous Meccan enemy in the battle of Badr. The Jewish tribe of Qaynuqa was forced to leave Medina, while alliances were concluded with a number of Bedouin tribes. At the battle of Uhud in 624, the Prophet was wounded and the Meccans were victorious, but the expected negative consequences of his setback did not materialize in Medina. In 626 Meccans set out with a large army against Medina. He also concluded a ten years’ truce with the Quraysh. In 628 Tradition puts the dispatch of letters from the Prophet to the Muqawqis of Alexandria, the Negus of Abyssinia, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, the Persian king, and a number of others, in which he demanded that they adopt Islam. Early in 629 the Prophet performed the pilgrimage to Mecca and accomplished the reconciliation with his family, the clan of Hashim.

In December 629 he set out against Mecca. Not far from the town he was met by some Quraysh, who paid homage to him and obtained an amnesty for all Quraysh who abandoned armed resistance. Thus the Prophet was able to enter his native city particularly without a struggle, He acted with great generosity demanded only the destruction of all idols in and around Mecca. After that he returned to Median. His forces then routed the Hawazin tribes of central Arabia at Hunayn, but were unable to take Ta’if, which only surrendered in 630. In the same year many embassies came to Medina from different parts of Arabia to submit to the conquer of Mecca on behalf of their tribes. Although the Prophet’s appeal for a campaign against northern Arabia met with little support, he carried through with his plan. The campaign against Tabuk in 630 was indecisive by itself, but the petty Christians and Jewish states in the north of Arabia submitted to him, as did small groups of Bedouins in regions so far away from Medina as Bahrain, Oman and Sought Arabia. In March 632 the Prophet carried through the first truly Islamic pilgrimage, the so-called “Pilgrimage of Islam”. Only a month before his death he began preparations for a great expedition against Transjordan that he intended to lead himself. The Prophet had three sons: Qasem, Abdullah and Taher and four daughters: Zeinab, Ruqayyeh, Umme Kulthum and Fatemeh “P.B.U.H” of Khadija. The Prophet suddenly fell ill and died on 8 June 632. The really powerful factor in his life and the essential clue to his extraordinary success was his unshakable belief from beginning to end that he had been called by God.

Sources

Islamic encyclopedia

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