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Muhammad ibn ĎAbd Allāh (Arabic: محمد ) (also Mohammed,  Mohamed, Muhamad)Muhammed, Mahomet) (circa 570  - June 8th  632 CE) was the founder of Islam. He is regarded by Muslims as the last messenger (rasool)  and prophet (Nabi) 

According to Muslim belief, Muhammad did not create a new religion. He was rather the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Solomon, Jesus and others. They see him as the last and the greatest in a series of prophets. Islam thus lays claim to the legitimacy of both Christianity and Judaism.

Muhammadís early life is shrouded in obscurity. Nearly all of his life story is derived from the narrative in the Quran. The first non-Muslim sources attesting to his existence appear about 634, two years following his death.  He was born in Mecca, Arabia, about 569 or 570 CE, into the clan of the Banu Hashim of the Quraysh tribe, one of the more prosperous families of Mecca but the family seems to have not been prosperous during Muhammad's early lifetime.  His father died before he was born apparently and he was brought up by his uncle. He worked as a merchant, and was married by age 26.

Muhammad's first wife, Khadijah, bore  six children: two sons, Al Qasem and Abdullah (who is also called Abdullah Al Tayeb or Abdullah Al Taher), and four daughters: Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima. All of Khadija's children were born before Muhammad reported receiving his first revelation. Both of Muhammad's sons died in childhood, with Qasim dying at the age of two.

Mecca was the center for worship of the Kaaba stone, an idolatrous cult. According to Muslim tradition Muhammad got his first revelation from God at age 40. Muhammad often went on retreat in Mount Hira near Mecca. Islamic tradition claims that the angel Gabriel began communicating with him here in 610 CE. The angel commanded Muhammad to recite verses that were later part of the Quran.  

At first he preached only to his wife and family, but at age 43,  Muhammad started preaching the revelations publicly. He proclaimed that there is one God, and that "Islam" - surrender to God-- is the only true religion. He declared himself a prophet and messenger of God, similar to  Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other prophets. Monotheism was not popular with the merchants of Mecca, since they would lose the rich trade brought by the cult of the Kaaba stone if the new faith took hold. Muhammad gained few followers early on, and was, not surprisingly, greeted  largely with hostility. He and his followers were treated harshly.

As the ranks of his followers grew, Muhammad, became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Kaaba, the focal point of Meccan religious life.  Muhammadís denunciation of the Kaaba religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka'aba. Tradition records at great length the persecution and ill-treatment of Muhammad and his followers. Sumayya bint Khubbat, a slave of Abū Jahl and a prominent Meccan leader, is famous as the first martyr of Islam, She was  killed  by her master when she refused to give up her faith. Bilal, another Muslim slave, suffered torture at the hands of Umayya ibn khalaf by placing a heavy rock on his chest to force his conversion.

Muhammad himself was under the protection of Abu Talib, the head of the clan of Banu Hashim. Therefore, nobody had  attacked him directly. However, the leaders of Makhzum and Abd Shams, two important clans of Quraysh, declared a public boycott against the clan of Banu Hashim, their commercial rival, in order to put pressure on the clan. The boycott lasted for three years.  In 615, some of Muhammad's followers emigrated to the Ethiopian Kingdom, Aksum. They founded a small colony there under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian king. It is not clear if this Hijra was due to persecution, or reflected a split in Islam or a desire to found new colonies.   

In 619, both Muhammad's wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died. Relations between Muhammad's followers and Muhammad's own Quraysh tribe, worsened. Muhammad then tried to establish himself in Ta'if, but this failed and Muhammad had to return to Mecca. 

About 620 CE, Muhammad related that he had experienced the Isra and Miraj, a miraculous journey said to have been accomplished in one night along with the angel Gabriel. In the first part of the journey, the Isra, he is said to have travelled from Mecca to "the farthest place of worship" (or most extreme mosque) (in Arabic: masjid al-aqsa), usually identified with the  Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. In the second part, the Miraj, Muhammad supposedlytoured heaven and hell, and spoken with earlier prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Though earlier Muslim historians considered these to be metaphorical or spiritual journeys, later authorities insisted that they were actual occurrences. 

To escape growing persecution, Muhammad and his followers migrated to Yathrib (Medina) in the year 622. Muhammad had been invited there by Jewish and other tribes to adjudicate their disputes. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, and Muslim years are designated A.H., after the Hijra. In Medina, Muhammad  united the warring tribes for a while. 

From their base in Medina, the Muslims took to raiding Meccan caravans. In 624, they won the battle of Badr and took much booty. Now secure in Medina, Muhammad expelled the Banu Qaynuqa, one of the three main Jewish tribes, and ordered the  assassination of  the poetess Asma bint Marwan and then the poet Abu Afak, who had been critical of his rule. Subsequently, after each major battle, Muhammad destroyed a different one of the Jewish tribes that had welcomed him and his followers to Medina. After Uhud, he expelled the Banu Nadir, and following the Battle of the Trench in 627, the Muslims accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans. They beheaded the adult male members of the Banu Qurayza, and sole the women and children as slaves.

The Muslims and the Meccans continued to do battle over the next few years, concluding a truce in 628, the Hudna of Hudaibiyeh. The Muslims who had gathered for batter then turned on the nearby Jewish town of Khaybar and sacked it. In 630, the Muslims violated the treaty of Hudaibeyeh, claiming that the Meccans had violated it, and invaded and captured Mecca. Returning from his "farewell pilgrimage to Mecca in 632, Muhammad fell ill and died. He was buried in Medina. According to Muslim tradition, his gravesite was originally the home of his wife, Aisha.

Approximate timeline of Muhammad's life

569 Death of Muhammad's father, `Abdallah

570 Birth of Muhammad in April

576 Death of Muhammad's mother

578 Death of Muhammad's grandfather

595 Muhammad's  marries Khadijah

610 First reports of Qur'anic revelation

613 Begins spreading message of Islam publicly

614 Begins to gather following in Mecca

615 Emigration of Muslims to Ethiopia

616 Start of Banu Hashim clan boycott

618 Civil war in Medina

619 End of Banu Hashim clan boycott

619 Death of Khadijah, Muhamad's wife.

620 Isra and Miraj journeys

622 The Hijra: Muhammad and his followers emigrate to Medina

624 The battle of Badr: Muslims defeat Meccans; expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa Jews

625 Battle of Uhud: Meccans defeat Muslims; expulsion of Banu Nadir  Jews

626 Attack on Dumat al-Jandal (Syria)

627 Battle of the Trench; destruction of Banu Qurayza Hews

627 Subjugation of Dumat al-Jandal

628 Treaty of Hudaybiyya; Muhammad and the Muslims are permitted to visit Mecca and the Kaaba shrine

628 Capture of the Jewish town of Khaybar

629 First hajj pilgrimage to Mecca

629 Attack on Byzantine empire fails: Battle of Mu'tah

630 Muslims attack and capture Mecca

630 Battle of Hunayn

630 Siege of Taif

632 Muslims attack the Ghassanids: Tabuk

632 Muhammad dies about June 8 in Medina

Synonyms and alternate spellings: Mohamed, Mohammed, Mahomet, Muhamad.

Further Information: See  History of Islam and the Arabs Islam Qur'an

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Encyclopedia of the Middle East

Note - This encyclopedia is a work in progress. It is far from complete and is being constructed and improved all the time. If you would like to contribute articles or expansions of existing articles, please contact news (at) mideastweb.org.  Suggestions and corrections are welcome. The concise version of this dictionary is at our Middle East Glossary.

Spelling - Spelling of words in Middle-Eastern languages is often arbitrary. There may be many variants of the same name or word such as Hezbollah, Hizbolla, Hisbolla or Husayn and Hussein. There are some conventions for converting words from Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew There are numerous variant renderings of the same Arabic or Hebrew words, such as "Hizbollah," "Hisbulla" etc. It is not possible to find exact equivalents for several letters. 

Pronunciation - Arabic and Hebrew vowels are pronounced differently than in English. "o" is very short. The "a" is usually pronounced like the "a" in market, sometimes as the "a" in "Arafat."  The " 'A " is guttural.  " 'H "- the 'het ('Hirbeh, 'Hebron, 'Hisbollah') designates a sound somewhat similar to the ch in "loch" in Scots pronunciation, but made by touching the back of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The CH should be pronounced like Loch, a more assertive consonant than 'het.

The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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