1.8 Introduction to the Life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)
Birth and early life
Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was the man who was sent by Almighty God, Allah, as the final Prophet to the whole of mankind. He was born in Makkah in what is now Saudi Arabia around 570 CE. His father, Abdullāh died before he was born, and his mother died before he was six, so he was first brought up by his paternal grandfather `Abdul-Muttalib, then after his death, he was raised by his paternal uncle Abu Tālib. Abu Tālib was an important man in Makkah because he was the head of one of the most important clans. A clan was a group of families that were all related to each other. A group of clans made up a tribe. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was born into the Hāshim clan which was part of the Quraysh tribe. This was the ruling tribe of Makkah. Muhammad was the last and the best of all the Prophets of Allah. The name Muhammad means “the praised”.
Makkah was surrounded by desert. Desert conditions are very harsh, so life is only possible where there is water. Makkah had a source of water that was uncovered a few thousand years earlier when the wife of the Prophet Ibrāhīm (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) called Hājar settled in Makkah with her baby son, the Prophet Ismā`īl (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). This water source is known as the well of Zamzam.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) entered the family business and became a trader. He built up a reputation for being trustworthy, truthful and honest, so much so that he was given the nickname, Al-Amīn (The Trustworthy). He made good profits on his trading trips abroad. In 595 CE, when he was 25, he married Khadījah (may Allah be pleased be pleased with her), a wealthy lady, and he started a family with her. He was pleased with her, with his children and his trade.
The most concerning matter in Makkah was the fact that the people were worshipping other than Allah. They would call upon these idols, beseech them and supplicate to them – they took them as gods besides Allah. It is not that they denied the existence of the Lord and Creator, Allah. Indeed they believed in Him, they recognised that He was the Creator, the Sustainer, the giver of life and the bringer of death and the One who sent the rain and brought out the crops from the Earth. However alongside this they believed that the idols were objects of worship that brought them closer to Allah in rank. Allah said about the people of Makkah:
“And those who take helpers (gods) besides Allah say: ‘We do not worship them except that they bring us closer to Allah in rank.’” (Qur’an 39:3)
They Makkans claimed: “These idols are only intercessors between us and Allah.” The Prophet never agreed with this and found their acts to be an abomination against the Creator of the Heavens and Earth.
It was known that the Ka`bah was built as the first Mosque by the Prophet Ibrāhīm and his son, the Prophet Ismā`īl for the worship of Allah alone. Indeed, the Hāshimī clan and therefore Muhammad himself (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) were the direct descendants of these two Prophets. But over the centuries they had left the worship of the One God, Allah, and started worshipping many gods in the form of idols. The people of Makkah had erected 360 idols in and around the Ka`bah, and they would go around it, whilst naked, clapping and chanting.
So Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was commissioned as a Prophet, and a Messenger to call them and the rest of mankind to worship only Allah – and to abandon the worship of all other gods beside Him, whether stone idols, the saints, prophets or angels. The Qur’an states:
“And I did not send any Messenger before you O Muhammad except that I inspired him to say: None has the right to be worshipped but I (Allah), so worship Me alone.” (21:25)
Furthermore, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) did not agree with the beliefs of the Christians in their worship of the Prophet Jesus (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) nor with the Jews in their beliefs that allowed them to change the commands of God. Muslims refer to the time before Revelation as “Jāhiliyyah” translated as “the days of ignorance”. This means that they were devoid of guidance, devoid of Revelation, drowned in polytheistic practices and evil deeds without any sense of morality. The world as a whole after the revelation cannot be referred to as Jāhilyyah because the guidance of the Qur’ān and Sunnah will remain till the Last Hour.
The social situation
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) was troubled by the way of life and the social condition of the people of Makkah. Some people saw themselves as superior to others. They oppressed the weak and indulged in racism and tribalism. Drunkenness, fornication, infidelity, gambling and violence were all common-place in Makkah. The weak and poor were down-trodden and women were treated very badly and had few rights. A particularly despicable act that is mentioned in Qur’an and Hadith was that the Quraysh would bury their first-born daughters alive out in the desert because they were ashamed in front of their tribes for having daughters!! Allah severely reprimanded them for this in the Qur’an and promised to take them to account for this unimaginable act of cruelty upon indefensible children.
- Start your own dateline for the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). There are a few dates mentioned on this sheet, find them and note briefly their significance.
- Muslims call the time before the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received revelation at “Jāhiliyyah” which means “the days of ignorance”. Why do you think that time is called “Jāhiliyyah”?
- What does the Qur’an say was the worst sin committed by the Quraysh?
- Why would the Quraysh bury their daughters alive? Go to Surah at-Takweer in the Qur’an and read the first half of the Surah.
I initially compiled these worksheets for my students at the Redstone Academy (aged between 13 and 16 years), Moseley Road, Birmingham, UK who are working towards their General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). I felt that others who do not attend the school can also benefit from these topics since they are presented in simple bitesize chapters. I have relied upon GCSE text books and adapted them for my classes.