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Muhammad (1)

Victor M. Eskew


            In a span of twenty-two years, this man set in place a religious and political system that would have a phenomenal influence upon the world.  This man’s name is Muhammad.  It is he who is responsible for the religion of Islam.  To all Muslims, he is known as “the Prophet of God” and “the last Prophet of Allah.”  Muslims view Muhammad as insan-i-kamil, the perfect person (Inside Islam, John Miller & Aaron Kenedi, eds., p. 29).  In order to understand Islam, one must have understanding of its founder.  In this part of our study of Islam, we will look at some the key aspect of his life.

            The name “Muhammad comes from an Arabic root “hamd” and literally means “praised one.”  Since his rise to prominence unto this day, Muhammad is praised many times a day by millions and millions of people.  It is interesting that his name is only found four times in the Qur’an (3:144; 33:40; 47:2; 48:29).

            Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 A.D.  His original name was Ubu’l Kassim.  His father, who died before his birth, was Abdullah.  His mother’s name was Amenah bent Wahb.  Muhammad’s mother died when he was six years old.  His grandfather, Abul Muttalib, died when Muhammad was 8 years old.

            The early years of Muhammad’s life were difficult due to the losses he experienced.  After the death of his father, no one would take him and train him because there was no payment for teaching him.  A woman, however, ultimately entered his life who became Muhammad’s foster-mother.  Her name was Halimah al-Sa’diyah.  She took Muhammad into the desert regions of Saudi Arabia and taught him classical Arabian.  Information about Halimah is scarce.  It would be interesting to know more about the relationship Muhammad had with her.  There was one event that was reported to Halimah that caused her to believe that Muhammad was special.  Muhammad’s step-brother told her that two men in white apparel had opened the chest of Muhammad and taken a portion out to take with them.

            Muhammad was from the Quraish tribe, the dominate tribe of Mecca.  This tribe was supposed to have descended from Adam to Abraham to Ishmael to Muhammad’s tribal ancestor Mudhar.  The Quraish tribe was a powerful merchant tribe that controlled the city of Mecca and the place of worship called the Ka’aba.  The Quraish tribe was polytheistic.  About 360 gods were honored at the Ka’aba.  The main god was Hubal, a moon god.  Hubal is described as a human with his right hand broken off and replaced with a golden hand.  Hubal was a god of divination.  Before his image were seven arrows.  When his followers had questions, they would shuffle the divinatory arrows in order to find out the will of Hubal.  It is interesting to note that Hubal was often referred to by the name of Allah by the pre-Islamic Arabs.

            Muhammad grew into a man whose occupation was that of a caravan leader.  He was known as “The Truthful,” “The Trustworthy,” and “The Honest.”  Because of his character and work ethic, he was hired by a very wealthy merchant woman named Kadijah, a widow who had been married twice.  She was known as “The Princess of Quraysh,” “The Pure One,” and “Kadijah the Great.”  Muhammad did an excellent job in leading her caravans.  He would often return from his business ventures with twice the profits that had been anticipated.  The business relationship that Muhammad had with Kadijah ultimately developed into a marriage relationship.  Muhammad was 25 at the time and Kadijah was forty years old.  This relationship remained monogamous throughout.  Kadijah would become one of Muhammad’s most loyal followers and most outspoken advocates.  She is often called “the first Muslim” and “the first woman Muslim.”  Some refer to her as “the mother of all believers.  Six children were born into this relationship:  two sons, Quasim and Abdullah; and four daughters, Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kalthum, and Fatimah.  It should be noted that some believe that only Fatimah was a biological child of Muhammad.  Kadijah died in 619 A.D.  The year of her death is known as “the year of sorrow.”

            Muhammad would often retreat into a cave on the top of the mountain called Hira to meditate.  It was there that he received his first “revelation” from Allah.  It was the year 610 A.D. and Muhammad was 40 years old.  Muhammad claims that the angel Gabriel appeared to him.  The experience is recorded in the Qur’an (53:4-9).  The actual words revealed to Muhammad at the time are found in Qur’an 96:1-5.


                        “Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created –

                        Created man, out of a clot of congealed blood:

                        Proclaim!  And the Lord is Most Bountiful,-

                        Who taught by the pen-

                        Taught man that which he knew not.”


After the revelation was received, Muhammad returned home.  He was deeply troubled and Kadijah consoled him.  She also took him to her cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, who upon hearing what happened testified to Muhammad’s prophethood and convinced him that the words he received were a revelation from God.

            Muhammad did not receive another revelation until three years later.  It was then he was convinced that Allah had chosen him for a special purpose, that is, to be his Messenger.  It was then that he began to proclaim Islam.  At first, the message was very simple.  First, he proclaimed monotheism, that is, there is only one God.  Second, he announced good news to those who gave ear to Allah and who abandoned evil.  Third, he warned unbelievers about the punishment that would come to them in the last day.

            Muhammad’s message was not well received in Mecca.  Remember, the four tribes in Mecca were polytheistic, worshipping many gods.  Muhammad’s monotheism was not something the Meccans desired.  Muhammad was called both a liar and a madman.  Some called him “a poet possessed.”  There are at least eleven places in the Qur’an wherein the prophet is defended from charges of being demon possessed.  One person who stood by his side was his wife, Kadijah.  She believed without doubt that Muhammad was Allah’s prophet.  Her support both emotionally and financially was invaluable during the early years of Islam’s history.