Muhammad was born in 570, in the Arabian city of Mecca. In this lesson we are going to examine the life of the man considered the “Seal of the Prophets” by Muslims.
|Oxford Islamic Studies Online|
I. The Religious World of Muhammad
In 6th century Arabia there were four primary religious traditions:
A. Arab paganism.
1. Most Arabs were polytheists.
2. The center of pagan worship was a cubical structure called the Kaaba, located in Mecca.
a. It contained 360 idols, one for each day of the year.
b. In the southeast corner there was a black stone, probably a meteorite, which Muslims later came to believe was placed there by Abraham.
3. A powerful tribe called the Quraysh were the caretakers of the Kaaba.
1. Judaism spread into Arabia through trade and migration, particularly in Yemen and a city called Yathrib (later called Medina).
2. It shared much with Arab popular religion, including traditions about . Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses.
1. Some Arab tribes were Christian (particularly in the north).
2. Many took unorthodox views of Jesus, and either deemphasized his deity or humanity.
1. Hanif is Arabic for “to turn away from,” and refers to those who turned away from idols and toward monotheism.
2. This belief was growing, especially in western Araboa, in the time of Muhammad.
II. The Early Life of Muhammad
A. Birth and childhood.
1. Muhammad was born in 570, into the Quraysh tribe in Mecca, but was quickly orphaned.
2. He was raised at first by his grandfather, and later by his uncle, Abu Talib.
B. Early adulthood.
1. Traditions emphasize Muhammad’s success as a merchant. He was nicknamed al-Amin, “the trustworthy one”.
2. At age 25 he married Khadija, a 40 yr old widow for whom he worked. His monogamous relationship with a woman 15 years his elder was remarkable for that day and time.
III. The Beginning of the New Faith
A. Muhammad’s first visions.
1. In 610 while meditating on Mt. Hira Muhammad heard a voice say “Recite!”
2. His first thought about the experience was to kill himself, and he worried that he was insane or under demonic influence.
3. He confided in Khadija, who in turn mentioned these experiences to her cousin, Waraqa, who was a Christian. He assured her Muhammad was a prophet.
4. His message developed into a denunciation of paganism and a call to return to the truth faith in one God.
B. The first converts.
1. Khadija was the first to accept message, but there is great debate among Muslims over who was next.
2. Most likely his cousin Ali, Abu Talib’s son, was next to believe. Muhammad became very close to him, and he married Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima.
3. Other early converts included a dear friend and wealthy merchant,
C. Reaction in Mecca.
1. The Meccans were not sympathetic to Muḥammad's divinely dispensed “warning” of God's impending judgment; as caretakers of the Kaaba the last thing the Quraysh could afford was monotheism.
2. This was a painful time personally for Muhammad who lost his wife and uncle.
3. Reaction to his preaching was so hostile that in 622 Muhammad was forced to leave.
4. A city called Yathrib invited this new holy man to migrate north to helo mediate various disputes among tribes. This migration, called the Hijra in Arabic, marks the start of the Muslim calendar.
IV. The Ascension of Islam
A. Life in Yathrib.
1. Muhammad forged a series of agreements, called the Constitution of Medina, to unite the various tribes and factions in Yathrib. It provided a political agreements for the Jewish and Arab tribes to form one community (ummah).
2. Eventually Yathrib called to be celebrated as Medinat an-Nabi, “The City of the Prophet.”
3. Muslims regard Medina as model of Islamic government.
B. Battles with the Meccans.
1. Conflict erupted with the people of Mecca due to Muhammad’s success in the time honored practice of raiding their caravans on the way to Mecca.
2. In 624 the Meccans attempted to protect an enormous caravan from Syria but were soundly defeated by Muhammad’s much smaller force at the Battle of Badr.
3. A year later, in 625, Muhammad was nearly killed in the Battle of Uhud, but escaped.
4. In the spring of 627 the Meccans made one final effort to defeated Muhammad, but in the Battle of the Trench the outnumbered forces of the prophet used a large ditch to successfully defend themselves.
5. During this time relations with the Jewish tribes deteriorated as several of them supplied aid to the Meccans. Some were ordered to leave Medina, and the men of one tribe were sentenced to death.
C. The triumphal return to Mecca.
1. The Meccans eventually decided to make peace with Muhammad, agreeing to the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah in 628.
2. When a clan allied to the Meccans attacked allies of Muhammad in 629, this broke the treaty.
3. Muhammad marched on Mecca in 630, and his native city surrendered without a fight.
4. One of the first things Muhammad did upon capturing Mecca was to enter the Kaaba and destroy the 360 idols.