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Victor M. Eskew
Muhammad is the founder of Islam. It is essential to have some knowledge of his life, if a person is going to understand the Muslim religion. In our last installment, we began our study of this caravan leader turned prophet. In that article, we looked at his early years, his marriage to Kadijah, and his early revelations. Let’s continue looking into some the aspects of Islam’s prophet.
There are two supposed proofs that vindicate Muhammad as a prophet. One of them is the Qur’an, which we will study later. The other is his journey to Heaven, which is said to have happened in 620 A.D. There were two stages of this journey. The first stage is called “The Isra,” the journey form Mecca to Jerusalem. The second stage is called “The Mi’raj,” the actual ascent into Heaven. This journey is mentioned in Chapter 17 of the Qur’an, known as “surat l-isra” or “The Night Journey.” The chapter opens with these words: “Glory to (Allah) Who did take his servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless – in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).”
The Isra began at the Kaaba. Muhammad was there praying when the angel Jibral (Gabriel) appeared to him. He brought Muhammad the mystical steed of the prophets name Buraq. The name Buraq means “lightning.” This animal is not mentioned in the Qur’an, but he is referred to in several hadiths. Buraq is described as a white beast, larger than a donkey and smaller than mule. Some believe that his face was that of a handsome man. Muhammad mounted Baraq and was transported to the “Farthest Mosque,” that is, the mosque in Jerusalem. After tethering Baraq to the Western wall, he led other prophets including Adam, Moses, and Jesus in prayer. This part of the journey and all that transpires is very important to the Muslims. In an article entitled: “Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension to Heaven,” the spiritual significance is set forth.
“In conclusion, it should be noted that the Prophet’s Night Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem,
immediately preceding his Ascension, was apparently meant to show that Islam is not a new
doctrine but a continuation of the same divine message which was preached by the prophets
of old, who had Jerusalem as their spiritual home. This view is supported by Traditions
(quoted in Fath at-Bari VII, 158), according to which the Prophet(P), during his Night Jour_
ney, also offered prayers at Yathrib (now called Medina), Sinai, Bethlehem, etc. His encoun_
ters with other prophets, mentioned in this connection, symbolize the same idea. The well-
known Traditions to the effect that on the occasion of his Night Journey the Prophet(P) led
a prayer in the Temple of Jerusalem, in which all other prophets ranged themselves behind
him, expresses in a figurative manner the doctrine that Islam, as preached by the Prophet
Muhammad(P), is the fulfillment and perfection of mankind’s religious development, and that
Muhammad(P) was the last and the greatest of God’s message-bearers”
(www.bismikaallahuma.org, “Prophet Muhammad’s Night Journey and Ascension to Heaven”).
To summarize the above quote, the writer tells us that Muhammad’s Night Journey connects Islam to Judaism and Christianity and shows that Islam is the final progression in God’s divine plan.
The second portion of Muhammad’s journey is called “The Mi’raj,” which means “ladder” or “ascension.” This part of the journey involves Muhammad’s ascension into Heaven wherein he sees and speaks with Allah. Part of Allah’s instructions involved the number of daily prayers that Muslims are to pray. The first number given by Allah was fifty. Moses, however, spoke with Muhammad and told him that this would be too difficult for man and urged Muhammad to ask Allah for a reduction. The final number was set at five. After this encounter with Allah, Muhammad was taken back to Mecca by Baraq that same night.
This event is considered one of the most important in the history of Islam. It is celebrated as a holiday by the Muslims. The celebration is called Lailat al Miraj. “On the Islamic calendar, Lailat al Miraj (also known as Isra and Mi’raj, al Isra’ wal Miraj or Laylat al Maraj) is generally observed on the 27th day of the month of Rajab” (“Lailat Al Miraj: The Basics, www.huffingtonpost.come, 6/28/2011).
In 620 A.D. another important event in Muhammad’s history happened. It was about one year after his journey to Heaven. It is called “The Hijra.” The word “hijra” means “exodus.” It was at this time that Muhammad and his followers were forced to leave Muhammad’s hometown of Mecca. Muhammad had been warned that some of the leaders in Mecca were plotting his assassination. After midnight, he escaped through their ranks and his himself in a cave for three days. On the fourth day, he made his way to Yathrib and lodged in the home of a distinguished citizen of the town named Abu Ayyub. Muhammad erected a mosque in the city and was asked to be the chief arbitrator for the entire community. The name of the city was eventually changed to Medina meaning “the city of the Prophet.” Mecca is the second most holy place of Islam, Mecca being the first and Jerusalem the third. After Muhammad’s death, he was buried in Medina.
Kadijah died after being married to Muhammad for twenty-five years. Following her death, Muhammad married eleven other women: Sawada Bint Sam’a, Aiisha Bint Abukr, Hafsa Bint ‘Umar, Zaynab Bin Khuzayma,
Ummay Salma Hind Bint Abi Umayya, Zaynab Bint Jahsh, Juwayria Bin Al-Hiritha, Umm Habiba Ramla Bint Bint Abi Sufyan, Safya Bint Huyayya, Maymuna Bint Al-Haritha, and Maria al-Qibtiyya. These women have been called “The Mothers of the Believers” in Islam.
In addition to the practice of polygamy, these marriages involved adultery and pedophilia. Aiisha was Muhammad’s third wife. She was only six years old when they married. He consummated the marriage when she was only nine. Zaynab was originally the wife of Muhammad’s adopted son. Muhammad asked him to divorce her so he could marry her, but the son refused. When he son denied him his wife, Muhammad had a revelation from Allah that commanded Zaid to give her up and decreed that there was no evil in a man taking his daughter-in-law for his adopted son (See Sura 33:37-38). Muslims try to downplay the sinfulness of these marriages. In fact, they want all to believe that Muhammad’s treatment of these women is an example for all to follow. “The marriages provided the women with pious and sheltered lives in the simple household of the Prophet. It is the Prophet’s treatment of his wives with fairness, gentleness and respect – that has laid the basis for the treatment of women in Islam” (Inside Islamm Miller and Kenedi, eds., “Muhammad,” Akbar S. Ahmed, 38).
After Muhammad had departed from Mecca, the citizens of that city seized his property. As a response, the Muslims began to raid Meccan caravans. One of the most important battles waged in the early years of Islam was the Battle of Badr. In this battle, 70 “pagans” died and 70 were captured. “This battle laid the foundation of the Islamic State and made the Muslims a force to be reckon with by the dwellers of the Arabic Peninsula” (“The Battle of Badr, www.al-islam.org).
In 628, a truce was made between the Muslims and Meccans. It was the “Truce of Hudaybiyyah.” It lasted two years. It was violated by the Meccans when they sided with one of the enemies of the Muslims. In 630, Muhammad marched against Mecca with an enormous force and took the city with few casualties. The city was rid of idol worship and the Kaaba became the house of Allah.
Following his pilgrimage back to Mecca, Muhammad gave what is known as “The Farewell Sermon.” The sermon is “the summary and completion announcement of Islam.” March 9th is celebrated as “World Islam Day” and gives honor to this final sermon of Muhammad. A few months after this sermon, Muhammad fell ill and suffered with head pain and weakness. He died on Monday, June 8, 632 at the age of 62. It was a sudden, unexpected death for which the Muslims were not prepared. Just prior to his passing, he disposed of his earthly wealth consisting of seven coins. His final words are said to be: “Rather, God on high and paradise.”