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
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