Islam in general refers to the religion which God Almighty sent His Prophets to teach mankind: The worship of the One God alone (pure Monotheism) while submitting to God's will in gratitude for being given life and innumerable blessings.
Muhammad son of Abdullah (Peace Be Upon Him) was chosen by God to be the final Prophet sent to mankind. God chose him to be the representative and living example of the final revelation sent to the human race. We all should love and respect him because of how he carried this great responsibility and how he sacrificed his life in order to establish the finality of God Almighty’s guidance to mankind. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is not considered to be divine, but he as all other Prophets, was a human being. However, he is seen as the most perfect of human beings, shining like a diamond amongst coal.
Birth and Prophethood
He was born in Makkah in 570 Common Era among the tribe of Quraish, which was one of the greatest tribes in Arabia and had assumed leadership of Makkah. His Father Abdullah died when he was still in his mother’s womb. His Mother Aminah died when he was 6. He was then raised as an orphan by his grandfather abdul-Muttalib and later by his uncle Abu Talib. The young Muhammad displayed exceptional virtues as a respected truthful young man whom members of various tribes would invite to act as arbitrator in their disputes. He was actually nicknamed years before his Prophethood as “Ameen” which means the honest and trustworthy.
God Almighty protected him from the evils of the Arab way of life such as drinking alcohol, fornication, theft, murder, and so on. He worked as a Shephard with his family in his early years. When he (pbuh) reached 25 years he was working as a trader/merchant for a very special woman named Khadeejah. Khadeejah had been married and widowed twice and she was known for her noble characteristics including intelligence, good character, beauty, and wealth from her being a business owner. She was 40 years old and found an attraction to the honesty and sincerity in the character of the 15 years younger Muhammad. She sent someone to talk to him concerning the subject of marriage. He accepted and they were shortly thereafter married. Khadeejah was the first wife of the Prophet (pbuh) from whom all four daughters of his were born. They were married for 24 years until the sad day when Khadeejah “The Mother of the Believers” passed at age 64.
Back in those days, the Arabs practiced many forms of idolatry, each tribe keeping its own idols at [the Ka'bah.] Sadly, the monotheistic message of Abraham had long become corrupted and forgotten among the general population of the Arabian Peninsula. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), however was a believer in One God and Creator all of his life and never participated in the idolatrous practices of his people. He became bothered with the lifestyle of Makkah; its idol worshipping, superstitions, and indulging in worldly lusts and pleasures. Because of this uneasiness, he made a habit of going into seclusion in the nearby mountains of Makkah fasting and praying to the Almighty seeking a peace of mind. When he would go on these seclusions the trees and rocks would say “Peace be upon you”. Startled he would turn and find nothing but rocks and trees.
The First Revelation
When he reached forty years old, during one of the retreats of spiritual seclusion in the month of Ramadan, Muhammad (pbuh) first saw the Angel Gabriel who revealed to him the first portion of God’s Word to him. He told him what is translated “Read” or “Recite” and Muhammad replied to the same request three times “I can’t read”. Then Gabriel revealed to him the first five verses of [the Qur'an] and announced that he is to be the final Messenger of God to the whole of mankind.
“Read in the name of your Lord, who created (everything). He creates the human being from a small lump of cells clinging to the womb. Read and your Lord is the Most Generous. He is the one who taught man to use the pen. He taught man that which he did not know.” (Qur’an 96:1-5)
After receiving this startling revelation, anyone would be confused and concerned. The Prophet (pbuh) went to his wife shaking from awe. She wrapped him in a blanket and he informed her of the extraordinary events which had taken place. She knew very well about the Prophet’s (pbuh) outstanding morals and character as well as his honesty and trustworthiness. She immediately proclaimed her faith to him saying-
“Never would God allow you to be affected by any evil! Truly you are dutiful to your family, you are concerned with helping others, you give to the needy, you are most hospitable to your guests, and you are known for speaking the truth and supporting others when they speak the truth”.(Bukhari)
She was the first person to believe in the Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh). She had a cousin who was a gnostic Christian and had heard of Angels and revelation before. So they left to ask her Christian cousin Waraqah son of Nowfal about this extraordinary occurrence. They told Waraqah what happened and he replied:
“Indeed you are the final Prophet (pbuh) sent to mankind. Truly it was the Angel Gabrial who has come to you. And be sure that your people will deny you, attack you, expel you from Makkah and try to kill you.” (Bukhari)
The Prophet (pbuh) was amazed at these statements because he was from the tribe of Muttalib of Quraish who were highly respected among the Arabs. Waraqah assured him about these realities. “No Prophet was sent with a message except the people gathered to fight him. And if I live to see that day I will fight them with you.”
For the next thirteen years the Qur’an was revealed to him and he preached the Word of God to the Makkans, inviting them to abandon idolatry and become monotheists. A few accepted (calculations range between 80 to 200) his call. Yet most Makkans, particularly those of his own tribe of Quraish, opposed him violently. They saw in the new religion a grave danger to their economic as well as social domination based upon their control of the Makkah and especially the Ka’bah. The new Muslims were tortured, sanctioned economically, and even killed all because they said that God is One and that we should abandon a sinful life in submission to God alone. Regardless, the Prophet (PBUH) continued to call the people to Islam and gradually a larger number of men and women began to accept the faith and submit themselves to its teachings.
An interesting event happened after some of the nobles of Quraish accepted Islam, namely Umar ibn al-Khattab and Hamza ibn abdul-Muttalib. The Quraish gathered and decided that since Muhammad is from the Quraish and he is of noble lineage that they will use this to save their lifestyle and control of Makkah. They decided to go to the Prophet (pbuh) and offer him dominion of Makkah as the king of the Quraish. They promised him all he could desire if he would just simply give up his message. But in their ignorance, they didn’t realize his faith and sincerity. He told them:
“If you put the Sun in my right hand and the moon in my left I will never leave the call of my Lord.”(i.e. If you offered me everything in the world)
The Makkan period revelations consisted of defining true monotheism, correcting the peoples corrupt beliefs, calling to accountability for our sins, describing the reality of life after death (i.e. the Day of Judgment, Heaven, and Hell), calling to good morals and ethics, teaching us about the previous Prophet’s and clearing their name of some of the fallacies ascribed to them, describing the creation of the heavens and the earth as well as all the blessings God has given us in it.
In 622 A. C. after being humiliated, tortured, and attacked as well as enduring direct assassination attempts at the Prophet, peace be upon him, God sent the command for the Muslims to migrate to Yathrib, a city north of Makkah. This was after the Prophet (pbuh) sent a small delegation headed by Mus’ab ibn Umair (a young man in his 20′s) to call the people of Yathrib to Islam. Mus’ab single handedly convinced the major tribe heads to accept Islam by reciting the Qur’an to them and explaining it as God’s Messenger (pbuh) had. The Prophet (pbuh) followed the Divine Command and left with his followers for that city which was to be called from then on “The City of the Prophet” (Madinat al-nabi) or simply Madinah. This event was so momentous that the Islamic calendar begins with this migration (Hijrah). In Madinah, the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions established the first Islamic State which should serve as the model for all later Islamic societies, yet sadly enough all Muslim societies today are run much differently than the way the Prophet and the righteous [Caliphs] did in thier day. This sad reality has lead to weakness, ignorance, poverty, and injustice among Muslim communities.
In Makkah, Umar ibn al-Khattab asked the Prophet why the Muslims don’t assemble an army and take revenge upon the Pagans who had oppressed them. The Prophet (pbuh) told him that this is not the time for such an idea. After the Prophet and his companions settled in Madinah, the Pagans of Makkah began plotting to attack the Muslims. Muslim informants from Makkah warned Madinah of this plot. After Praying for God’s guidance, the command came from the Heavens for the Muslims to defend themselves and secure the sacred ground of Madinah. So they set out to an area called Badr between Makkah and Madinah for the sake of God as an army and intercepted the Pagans who were 1000+ and heavily armed. The Muslims were 300+ with mostly swords and spears and little armor. In the end, the faith of the believers was more powerful and Divine Assistance took place. After this there were 2 more major battles which consisted of the Pagans coming to surround Makkah with 3000+ men at the mountain of Uhud and later the Jewish tribes gathered 4000 soldiers joining forces with the Pagans of 6000+ surrounding Madinah. All of these attacks on the believers were unsuccessful in stopping Islam and God’s Messenger.
Arabia becomes Muslim
Throughout these battles and especially afterwards when it became apparent that divine forces are protecting the Believers, more tribes began to join Islam and within a few years most of Arabia had embraced Islam. The Believers showed perseverance through the relentless efforts of the Pagans and Jews to attack Islam and the Muslims. After the Pagans broke a peace treaty (which was initiated by Muhammad (PBUH) by killing a group of Muslims, the Prophet was commanded by God to go to Makkah with an army of 10,000 in order to finally return Makkah back to its roots of monotheism and free it from paganism and oppression until the Day of Judgment.
After hundreds of Muslims were tortured and killed by the Polytheist Makkans the question arises, Did the Prophet take revenge and massacre these people now that he has the chance? No! He forgave all his former enemies and declared anyone who doesn’t bear arms safe and under the protection of the new rule. After all of what the media tries to portray God says-
“And we have not sent Muhammad, except as a Mercy to the universe.”(Qur’an 21:107)
He then marched to the Ka’bah, where he ordered his companions to join him in destroying all the idols and He (pbuh) asked [Bilal] to climb on top of the Ka’ba and call for the Prayer. Upon this great event most pagans embraced Islam realizing the Prophet’s Mercy and seeing how he had in just over 20 years gone from an accused mad sorcerer with virtually no followers to a respected and deeply revered Prophet backed solely by the word of God and those who joined him in it. Who else could he be except who he says he is?
The Prophet (PBUH) then returned to Madinah and made his pilgrimage to Makkah the next year where he declared in front of over 100,000 believers
“We have put the ways of ignorance behind us now; we must drop all ties with usury. There is to be justice and no one should ever be oppressed in this Holy Land again; all men are equal regardless of black or white, rich or poor, Arab or non-Arab. The thing that distinguishes us from one another is piety; there shall be no more paganism in the Arabian Peninsula. We must be respectful, loving, gentle and just in dealing with our women knowing we will be called to account for how we dealt with our mothers, wives, and daughters on the Day of Judgment.”(Tabari)
During this time the verse was revealed to him-
“Today I have completed your guidance for you and perfected my blessing upon you and I have chosen for submission to My will as your way of life”(Qur’an 5:3)
The Legacy of Prophethood is Sealed
Soon after this he fell ill and after almost three months, He died in 632 C. E. in Madinah where he was buried in the chamber of his house next to the first mosque of Islam which is named after Him May God’s Peace and Mercy be upon Him. Amazingly, through 23 years, over a hundred assassination attempts and a few battles he did not die. Yet when the finality of God’s message came he passed within a few months. This is exactly what we should expect for the Final Messenger to mankind.
The Qur’an itself emphasizes that God has chosen in the Prophet (pbuh) an example for Muslims to follow and that obeying him is the same as obeying God. The Prophet (pbuh) only spoke regarding guidance as God guided him to say.
“And God is the One who chose from among the illiterates a Messenger who will recite to them the verses of the Qur’an. And he will purify their hearts and teach them the Book and its wisdom” (Qur’an 62:2)
The book of God is known as the Qur’an and the wisdom is contained in what we call the Sunnah, which is a compilation of authentically recorded Hadiths -narrations handed down by a few generations word for word. The scholars then agreed to collect all these available Hadiths which consist of the Prophet’s sayings, actions, his description physically and morally, and situations in which he approved of certain actions. These Hadiths have been collected into hundreds of books and classified into authentic, weak, and fabricated based upon many factors. The Sunnah contains the living example of the Prophet (pbuh) and the practical application of God’s revelation. When asked by some of the students of the Prophet’s companions-
“How was the general manner of the Prophet (PBUH)?”
Aisha the widow of the Prophet and Mother of the Believers said “His Manner was the Qur’an”(Bukhari)
(His every action was guided by and in accordance with the Qur’an)