It was in the year 570, after Jesus, that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Arabia, by all accounts, is the cradle of the human race. Hemmed in by red, black and brown mountains about 80 kilometers to the east of the Red Sea stands the city of Makkah. It was then a small merchant town on the ancient “Incense Route” through which passed the great trade caravans between south and north.
However, Makkah, also historically referred to as Baca, was, and remains, important for an altogether different reason. For here lies the Ka’bah, the first house ever built specifically for the worship of God and God alone. More than 1,000 years before the Prophet Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, his ancestor, the Prophet Abraham, aided by his elder son, the Prophet Ishmael, in raising its walls on very ancient foundations.
Close by the Ka’bah lies a well called Zam Zam. Its origin, too, goes back to the Prophet Abraham’s time. It was this well which sprang up miraculously to save the life of the infant Ishmael.
In the words of the Bible:
And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her: “What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Arise, lift up the boy, and hold him in your hand; for I will make him a great nation.” And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. (Genesis 21:17-20)
Or, as the Psalmist sings:
As they pass through the dry Valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the early rain fills it with pools. (Psalms 84:6)
Makkah never had, nor does it have now, any worldly inducement to offer for settlement. It is a barren, desolate spot in the desert. There were springs and wells of abundant water nearby in Taif and a short distance away in Madinah. But it was the first House of God which made Makkah supremely important, a place of attraction for people from all over the world.
By the time Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born, the Ka’bah’s latest guardians, the tribe of Quraysh, had more than 300 idols installed in and around it which they worshipped and took as intercessors besides the One God. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a direct descendant of the Prophet Abraham through the Prophet Ishmael. He belonged to the politically strong and noble clan of Banu Hashim from the tribe of Quraysh. As guardians of the Ka’bah, the House of God and the center of pilgrimage for all Arabia, the Quraysh ranked higher in dignity and power than any other tribe. Banu Hashim held the high office of levying taxes and providing the pilgrims with food and water.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born an orphan. His father, Abdullah, died before he was born. His mother, Aminah, too passed away when he was only six years old. Doubly an orphan, his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, took him into his care. Only two years later, however, the orphaned boy was bereaved of his grandfather as well, leaving him in the care of his uncle, Abu Talib.
After his birth, the infant child was sent to the desert to be suckled and weaned and to spend part of his childhood among one of the Bedouin tribes, Bani Sa‘d ibn Bakr, who live in the southeast of Makkah. This was the usual custom of all the great families in Makkah.
As Muhammad (peace be upon him) grew up, to earn his livelihood he pastured sheep and goats, as did most prophets. He later entered the business of caravan trade common to the Arabs and the business acumen he developed, along with the diligence and honesty he was always known for, earned him the trust of local merchants, who entrusted him to travel with their merchandise and trade on their behalf.
At the age of 25, Muhammad (peace be upon him) married a lady named Khadijah. A widow, Khadijah was 15 years older than him. She was a rich merchant of Makkah, and Muhammad (peace be upon him) had managed some of her trade affairs. It was she who proposed marriage. Khadijah remained his wife and closest friend and companion all her life till her death 25 years later. She bore him six children, of whom four daughters survived.
Until he was 40, Muhammad (peace be upon him) led a life not too unlike that of other Makkan men. What set him apart was his keen sense of morality; his absolute truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity; his sense of justice and compassion for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden; and, above all, his total refusal to worship the idols so adored in the Arabian society. He was popularly acclaimed for these qualities. “The Trustworthy,” “The Honest,” and “The Truthful” were the titles on everybody’s lips for Muhammad, which itself means the Praised One.
At a very young age, Muhammad (peace be upon him) enthusiastically joined a pact of chivalry for the establishment of justice and the protection of the weak and the oppressed made by certain chiefs of Quraysh. He took part in an Oath when they all vowed ‘that henceforth they would stand together as one man on the side of the oppressed against the oppressor until justice was done, whether the oppressed was a man of the Quraysh or one who had come from abroad.’
A testimony to Muhammad’s character was given by his wife Khadijah as she comforted him at the time when the first Revelation came to him. He said later: ‘I fear for my life.’ She replied: ‘By no means! I swear by God that God will never forsake you. You honor your kin, you speak the truth, you bear people’s burdens, you earn for the poor, you entertain guests, and you help against oppressors who take people’s rights.’
The Prophet in Madinah
The Message that Makkah and Taif rejected, found responsive hearts in Yathrib, a small oasis about 400 kilometers to the north of Makkah. Now known as “Madinat ul Rasool“, “the city of the Prophet”, or Madinah, it was destined to be the center of the Divine light that was to spread to all parts of the world for all times to come.
In quick succession, the Prophet (peace be upon him) suffered the terrible loss of Khadijah, his intimate and beloved companion for 25 years, and of Abu Talib, his guardian and protector against the bloodthirsty Makkan foes, and encountered the worst ever rejection, humiliation and persecution at nearby Taif. As the Prophet reached the lowest point in his vocation, God brought him comfort and solace. On the one hand, He took him during the Night of the Ascension to the highest of highs, realities and divinities, face to face with the Unseen. And on the other, He opened the hearts of the people of Yathrib to the Message and mission of Muhammad. Soon after Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) return from Taif and the Night Journey, at the time of the Pilgrimage, six men from Yathrib embraced Islam. They delivered the Message of Islam to as many as they could, and at the time of the next Pilgrimage in the year 621 CE, 12 persons came. They pledged themselves to the Prophet (peace be upon him), that they would worship no god beside God, that they would neither steal nor commit fornication, nor slay their infants, nor utter slanders, nor disobey him in that which is right. The Prophet said: ‘If you fulfill this pledge, then Paradise is yours.’ This time the Prophet sent Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr with them to teach them the Qur‘an and to spread the Message of Islam.
More and more people over the course of a year – tribal leaders, men and women – in Yathrib became Muslims. At the time of the next Pilgrimage, they decided to send a delegation to the Prophet, make a pledge to him, and invite him and all Muslims in Makkah to Yathrib as a sanctuary and as a base for spreading the Divine Message of Islam.
In all, 73 men and two women came. They met the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the outskirts of Makkah at ‘Aqabah. They pledged total allegiance to his message and to uphold that message at the cost of their own wealth, families and lives. When asked what would be theirs if they fulfilled their pledge, the Prophet said: ‘Paradise’. Thus the foundations of the Islamic society, state and civilization were set.
The road was now open for the persecuted and tortured followers of the Prophet to come to the House of Islam that was to be Madinah. He, therefore, instructed them to emigrate, and gradually most of them found their way there.
The Makkan foes could not bear to see the Muslims living in peace. They knew the power of the Prophet’s Message; they knew the strength of those dedicated believers who cared nothing for the age-old Arab customs and ties of kinship, and who, if they had to, would fight for their faith. The Makkans sensed the danger that the Muslims’ presence in Madinah posed for their northern trade caravan routes. They saw no other way to stop all this but to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Hence they hatched a conspiracy: one strong and well-connected young man was to be nominated by each clan, and all of them were to pounce upon and kill the Prophet (peace be upon him) one morning as he came out of his house, so that his blood would be on all the clans’ hands. Thus, the Prophet’s clan would have to accept blood-money in place of revenge.
Informed of the plot by the Angel Gabriel, and instructed to leave Makkah for Madinah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) went to Abu Bakr’s house to finalize the travel arrangements. Abu Bakr was overjoyed at having been chosen for the honor and blessing of being the Prophet’s Companion on this blessed and momentous, sacred and epoch-making journey. He offered his she-camel to the Prophet, but the Prophet insisted on paying its price.
On the fateful night, as darkness fell, the youths selected by the Quraysh leaders to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him) surrounded his house.
Meanwhile, the Prophet (peace be upon him) handed over all the money left by the Makkans with him for safe keeping to his cousin Ali. Ali offered to lie in the Prophet’s bed. The Prophet escaped out of his house past his enemies.
He (peace be upon him) met Abu Bakr at his house, and they both traveled to a nearby cave, the Jabal Tur. When the Quraysh realized that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had evaded them, they were furious. They looked for him everywhere and on all roads; they also offered a reward of 100 she-camels for anybody who would bring them the Prophet, dead or alive.
A tribal chief, Suraqa, sighted the Prophet (peace be upon him) and followed him, hoping to earn the reward. The Prophet, with foes in pursuit and an uncertain future ahead of him in Madinah, told Suraqa: ‘A day will soon come when the Persian Emperor’s golden bracelet will be in Suraqa’s hands.’ Thereafter, Suraqa retreated, and the Prophet (peace be upon him) proceeded towards Madinah.
This was the emigration – a small distance in space, a mighty leap in history, an event that was to become a threshold in the shaping of Islamic History. This is why the Muslims date their calendar from emigration, and not from the birth of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
In Qubah, 10 kilometers outside Madinah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) made his first stopover. Here he built the first mosque. Here he also made his first public address: ‘Spread peace among yourselves, give away food to the needy, pray while people sleep — and you enter Paradise, the house of peace.’
Three days later, the Prophet (peace be upon him) entered Madinah. Men, women, children, the entire populace came out on the streets and jubilantly welcomed him. Never was there a day of greater rejoicing and happiness.
The first thing the Prophet (peace be upon him) did after arriving in Madinah was to join those who emigrated and their hosts, called “the Helpers” into one brotherhood. Still today this brotherhood remains the hallmark of the Muslims. One person from the Emigrants was made the brother of one from amongst the Helpers. The Helpers offered to share equally all that they possessed with the Emigrants.
So the Muslims were forged into a close-knit community of faith and brotherhood, and the structure of their society and community was being built. The first structure was also raised. This was the Mosque, the building consecrated to the worship of One God. Since then the Mosque has also remained the hallmark of the Muslims’ collective and social life, the convenient space for the integration of the religious and political dimensions of Islam, a source of identification, a witness to Muslim existence.
At the same time, steps were taken and the required institutions built to integrate the entire social life around the center and pivot of the worship of One God. For this purpose, five daily Prayers in congregation were established.
Ramadhan, fasting every day from dawn to sunset for an entire month, was also prescribed. Similarly, to establish ‘giving’ as the way of life, zakat, a percentage of one’s wealth to be given in the way of God, was made obligatory
In the beginning of Islam the Muslims used to pray with their faces turned towards Jerusalem. But soon this direction to which the Muslims faced in Prayer was changed from Jerusalem to Makkah. This historic episode signaled the formation of a new Muslim community, charged with Divine trust and the mission of God’s guidance, replacing the earlier Jews and Christians, and following the most ancient message of Abraham, turning towards the most ancient House of God, built by him.
Attack by the Makkans
The Prophet (peace be upon him), after arriving in Madinah, first formed an alliance with the Jews. Next, he approached all the nearby tribes and tried to persuade them to make an alliance or at least enter into a no-war pact. Many did. Thus the small group evicted from Makkah assumed strategic importance.
The Makkans who had earlier planned to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him), were now determined to annihilate this nascent community of Islam. Having failed in all other ways they decided on a military solution.
A heavily armed Makkan force marched towards Madinah in the second year after the emigration, on the pretext of protecting their trade caravan. The Prophet (peace be upon him), despite his community’s small number and lack of arms, decided to face their threat boldly. On the 17th of Ramadhan, at Badr, the two forces met and fought a battle in which 313 Muslims defeated the 1,000-strong Makkan army.
Seventy of the Makkan chiefs who had been most active and vehement in persecuting the Muslims were killed; many others were taken prisoner, later to be released for ransom. For the first time, prisoners of war were treated humanely and kindly; they were fed and housed in the same way as their captors ate and lived.
In the third year after the emigration, a 3,000-strong Makkan force again marched onto Madinah, both to avenge the defeat at Badr and to make another attempt to annihilate the Muslims; 700 of them were mailed and 200 mounted. The Muslims numbered only 700. The two sides met just outside Madinah near the mountain of Uhud. The initial Muslim victory was, however, reversed; the Muslim contingent posted to protect the rear violated the Prophet’s instructions and abandoned its position. The Quraysh attacked from behind, and victory was turned into defeat, resulting in the death of about 65 Muslims.
The Makkans now planned to make a final assault on Madinah to settle the matter once and for all. All Bedouin tribes, Jews, and hypocrites within Madinah joined forces with them. In the fifth year after the emigration, 10,000 of them advanced on Madinah. It was impossible to fight them on the open battlefield, or defend Madinah which was without walls. The Muslims therefore defended themselves by digging trenches all round Madinah. After laying siege to Madinah for 25 days, due to inner dissension, lack of supplies, cold weather and high winds, the Makkan army was forced to withdraw. This was the turning point in the history of confrontation with the Makkans. Madinah was never to be attacked again.
The next year, the sixth after the emigration, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and 1,400 Companions journeyed to Makkah to perform Umrah, the lesser Pilgrimage to the Ka’bah. They were unarmed. The Quraysh chiefs, against all established and accepted traditions, refused them admission. However, the Quraysh were now so low in morale and strength that they had to sign a peace treaty with the Prophet, the Hudaybiyah Treaty.
Though the terms appeared highly unfavorable, even humiliating, for the Muslims, they made tremendous gains by virtue of this Treaty. They, who were driven out of Makkah and attacked thrice, were now recognized as an equal force, to be treated respectfully, taken seriously. Peace provided an opportunity for the wavering and the neutral, even the hostile, to witness Islam first hand, and many sensed the imminent victory of Islam. The result was that many Makkans and Arab tribes either embraced Islam or made peace with the Prophet (peace be upon him).
As soon as the Hudaybiyah Treaty was signed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) sent letters to various neighboring Arab and non-Arab rulers, including Chosroes of Persia and Heraclitus of the Byzantine Empire. He invited them to Islam, and assured them that he did not covet their kingdoms or riches. They could retain both, but only if they surrendered themselves to serve and worship the One God.
The Quraysh, however, soon broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. It was, thus, time to deal with their continuing hostility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) marched to Makkah, and captured the city. The fall of Makkah witnessed unparalleled acts of mercy forgiveness and generosity. Not a single drop of blood was shed. Everybody who remained indoors was granted security of life and property. The Prophet (peace be upon him) forgave all who had been his bitterest foes all his life, who had persecuted him and planned to kill him, who had driven him out of Makkah, and who had marched thrice to Madinah to defeat the Muslims.
The neighboring Byzantine Empire now prepared to attack and destroy the Muslim community in Madinah. However, when the Prophet marched to Tabuk on the northern border, his determination, courage and timely response made the enemy lose heart and withdraw. Society Building
Throughout those years, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was surrounded by hostile forces and ultimately triumphed over them, he continued to purify the souls and uplift the morals of his followers and lay the foundations of a just and compassionate family, society and state. His mission was now complete: he had changed the lives of multitudes of men and women by bringing them in total surrender to their Creator and created a new society; one based on justice. In his own life example, and in the Qur’an, mankind was given the light and way of a godly life.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) performed his only Pilgrimage in the tenth year after the emigration to Madinah. In the Plain of Arafat, he gave a sermon of unsurpassable beauty and lasting value: ‘No man has any right to lord over other men; all men are equal, whatever their origin, color or nationality.’
A few months later, in the eleventh year after the emigration, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died. He was buried in the house in which he had lived in Madinah.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) possessed a character of exquisite beauty and charm. He was merciful, kind and compassionate. He loved children and taught kindness to animals. He spoke softly, never abused anyone, and forgave even his worst enemies. He lived a very simple life. He mended his own shoes and clothes. He lived frugally, sometimes for days no food was cooked in his household.
Such is Muhammad (peace be upon him). According to every standard by which human greatness can be measured he was matchless; no man was ever greater!
This is MuQeet.
Author. Educator. Soft Skill Trainer. Freelancer. Editor.
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I am trying to sprinkle some drops from the oceanic life and noble teachings of the greatest man in human history, who is also the most revered, the most honoured, the most loved, the most remembered, the most influential, the most praiseworthy, the most successful, supreme trail-blazer of humanity.....
Invoking salutations and blessings upon the Last and Final Messenger is enjoined upon Muslims!
"Certainly, Allah and His Angels do send greetings upon the Prophet, O those who Believe, you too, send sincere greetings and salutations upon him". (Al Qur'an 33:56) Sal-lal-laahu 'Ala Muhammad, Sal-lal-laahu 'Alaihi Wasallam
“The Sunnah is like the Ark of Noah. Whoever embarks on it reaches salvation and whoever refuses, is drowned”. Imam Malik
"LAA ILAAHA IL-LAL-LAAH, MUHAMMADUR RASOOLULLAH". This no ordinary declaration is in fact the most revolutionary statement on earth! A soul-stirring, earth-shaking proclamation! That which makes falsehood shiver in its shoes! That which sends shock waves to the oppressor's heart! A conscious proclamation that transforms ruffians into finest gems of highest quality! A proclamation that brings utmost satisfaction to the believer's heart! This concise declaration is the Manifesto of Islam, the Marrow of all teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) who spoke words of surgical precision, whose simple yet splendid belief and teachings brought about a spectacular revolution in the history of all times! -- MuQeet