Short Biography of Prophet Muhammad
The Prophet’s Birth
Muhammad, son of Abdullah, son of AbdulMuttalib, of the tribe of Quraysh, was born in Makkah in the year 571 C.E. Hisfather died before he was born, and he was raised first by his grandfather,Abdul Muttalib, and after his grandfather’s death, by his uncle Abu Talib.
As a young boy he travelled with his uncle inthe merchants’ caravan to Syria, and some years later made the same journey inthe service of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. So faithfully he conducted herbusiness, and so excellent was the report of his behaviour, which she receivedfrom her old servant who had accompanied him, that she soon afterwards marriedher young agent; and the marriage proved a very happy one, though she wasfifteen years older than he was. Throughout the twenty-six years of their lifetogether he remained devoted to her; and after her death, when he took otherwives he always mentioned her with the greatest love and reverence. Thismarriage gave him rank among the notables of Makkah, while his conduct earnedfor him the title al-Amin, the “trustworthy.”
One of the most comprehensive and detaileddescriptions we have of the Prophet Muhammad came from a Bedouin woman whowould take care of travellers who passed by her tent. The Prophet once stopped byher with his companions for food and rest. The Prophet asked her if they couldbuy some meat or dates from her but she could not find anything. The Prophetlooked towards a sheep next to the tent. He asked her, “What is wrong with thissheep?” She replied, “The sheep is fatigued and is weaker than the othersheep.” The Prophet asked, “Does it milk?” She replied, “I swear by your motherand father, if I saw milk from it then I would milk it.” He then called thesheep and moved his hand over its udder; he pronounced the name of God andpraised Him. Then he called the woman when the sheep steadied its feet and itsudder filled. He asked for a large container and milked it until it was filled.The woman drank until full as did his companions. Then it was milked for asecond time until the container was full and they left her and continued ontheir journey. After a short while, the husband of the Bedouin woman returnedfrom herding goats. He saw the milk and said to his wife, “Where did you getthis milk from?” She replied, “I swear by God, a blessed man came to us today”He said, “Describe him to me.”
She began; “I saw him to be a man of evidentsplendour. Fine in figure. His face handsome. Slim in form. His head not toosmall, elegant and good looking. His eyes large and black [and] his eye lidslong. His voice deep. Very intelligent. His brows high and arched [and] hishair in plaits. His neck long and his beard thick. He gave an impression of dignitywhen silent and of high intelligence when he talked. His words were impressiveand his speech decisive, not trivial nor trite. His ideas like pearls moving ontheir string. He seemed the most splendid and fine looking man from a distanceand the very best of all from close by. Medium in height, the eye not findinghim too tall nor too short. A tree branch as it were between two others but hewas the finest looking of the three. The best proportioned. His companionswould surround him, when he spoke they would listen attentively to his speech…”
The Makkans claimed descent from Abrahamthrough Ishmail and tradition stated that their temple, the Ka`bah, had beenbuilt by Abraham for the worship of the One God. It was still called the Houseof God, but the chief objects of worship here were a number of idols, whichwere called “daughters” of God and intercessors.
It was the practice of the Prophet to retireoften to a cave in the desert for meditation. His place of retreat was Hira, acave in a mountain called the Mountain of Light not far from Makkah, and hischosen month was Ramadan, the month of heat. It was there one night towards theend of this quiet month that the first revelation came to him when he was fortyyears old.
He heard a voice say: “Read!” He said: “Icannot read.” The voice again said: “Read!” He said: “I cannot read.” A thirdtime the voice, more terrible, commanded: “Read!” He said: “What can I read?”The voice said:
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created
Created man from a clinging substance.
Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous –
Who taught by the pen –
Taught man that which he knew not.”
TheVision of Cave Hira
He went out of the cave on to the hillside andheard the same awe-inspiring voice say: “O Muhammad! Thou art God’s messenger,and I am Gabriel.” Then he raised his eyes and saw the angel standing in thesky above the horizon. And again the voice said: “O Muhammad! Thou art God’smessenger, and I am Gabriel.” Muhammad stood quite still, turning away his facefrom the brightness of the vision, but wherever he turned his face, there stoodthe angel confronting him. He remained thus a long while till at length theangel vanished, when he returned in great distress of mind to his wifeKhadijah. She did her best to reassure him, saying that his conduct had beensuch that God would not let a harmful spirit come to him and that it was herhope that he was to become the Prophet of his people. On his return to Makkahshe took him to her cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a very old man, “who knew theScriptures of the Jews and Christians,” who declared his belief that theheavenly messenger who came to Moses of old had come to Muhammad, and that hewas chosen as the Prophet of his people.
Most of the people of Makkah who had acclaimedhim as the trustworthy (al-Amīn) and the trustful (as-Sādiq) could not bring themselves to believe in him. Norcould most of the Jews and Christians who had for so long been living inexpectation of his arrival. Not that they doubted his truthfulness or integritybut they were not prepared to turn their whole established way of living upsidedown by submitting to his simple but radical message. He would tell them;
When I recite the Qur’ān, I find the followingclear instruction: God is He who has created you, and the heavens and theearth, He is your only Lord and Master. He is your only Lord and Master.Surrender your being and your lives totally to Him Alone, and worship and serveno one but Him. Let God be the Only God.
The words I speak, He places in my mouth, and Ispeak on His authority, Obey me and forsake all false claimants to humanobedience. Everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to God; no person hasa right to be master of another person, to spread oppression and corruption onearth. An eternal life beyond awaits you; where you will meet God face to face,and your life will be judged; for that you must prepare.
This simple message shook the very foundationsof Makkan society as well as the seventh-century world. That world, as today,lived under the yoke of many false gods, kings and emperors, priests and monks,feudal lords and rich businessmen, soothsayers and spell-binders who claimed toknow what others knew not, and who all lorded over the human being.
The Prophet’s message challenged them all,exposed them all and threatened them all. His immediate opponents in Makkahcould do no better than brand him unconvincingly as a liar, a poet, soothsayerand a man possessed. But, how could he who was illiterate, he who had nevercomposed a single verse, who has shown no inclination to lead people, suddenlyhave words flowing from his lips so full of wisdom and light, morally so uplifting,specifically so enlivening, so beautiful and powerful, that they began tochange the hearts and minds and lives of the hearer? His detractors andopponents had no answer. When challenged to produce anything even remotelysimilar to the words Muhammad claimed he was receiving from God, they could notmatch God’s words.
Stages ofthe Call
First privately, then publicly, the Prophetcontinued to proclaim his message. He himself had an intense, livingrelationship with God, totally committed to the message and mission entrustedto him. Slowly and gradually, people came forward and embraced Islām. They camefrom all walks of life – chiefs and slaves, businessmen and artisans, men andwomen – most of them young. Some simply heard the Qur’ān, and that was enoughto transform them. Some saw the Prophet, and were immediately captivated by thelight of mercy, generosity and humanity that was visible in his manner andmorals, in his words and works and also in his face.
The opposition continued to harden and sharpen.It grew furious and ferocious. Those who joined the Prophet were tortured ininnumerable ways; they were mocked, abused, beaten, flogged, imprisoned andboycotted. Some were subjected to severe inhuman tortures; made to lie onburning coal fires until the melting body fat extinguished them, or weredragged over burning sand and rocks. Yet such was the strength of their faiththat none of them gave it up in the face of such trials and tribulation.
TheFlight to Abyssinia
However, as the persecutions became unbearable,the Prophet advised those who could, to migrate to Abyssinia. It turned outthat there, the Christian king gave the Muslims full protection despite thepleading of the emissaries sent by the Quraysh chiefs. This was the firstemigration of Islām.
In the meantime, the Prophet and his Companionscontinued to nourish their souls and intellect and strengthen their characterand resolve for the great task that lay ahead. They met regularly, especiallyat a house near the Ka’bāh called Dār al-Arqam, to read and study the Qur’ān,to worship and pray and to forge the tied of brotherhood.
Years passed and the people of Makkah would notgive their allegiance to the Prophet’s message nor showed any sign of anyeasing in their persecution. At the sametime, the Prophet lost his closest companion, his wife Khadijah, as well as hisuncle Abu Tālib, his chief protector in the tribal world of Makkah. The Prophetnow decided to carry his message to the people of the nearby town of Tā’ifknown for its wealth. In Tā’if, too, the tribal leaders mocked and ridiculedhim and rejected his message. They also stirred up their slaves and youth toinsult him, mock him and pelt stones at him. Thus he was stoned until he bledand was driven out of Tā’if, and when God placed at his command the Angel ofMountains to crush the Valley of Tā’if if he so wished, he only prayed for themto be guided. Such was the mercy and compassion of the one who is the ‘mercyfor all the worlds.’
This year is known by historians as the ‘Yearof Sorrow’ due to the grief which the Prophet suffered as a result of all theseworldly setbacks. However, as the Qur’ānstates that after hardship there is ease, the Prophet was to be blessed with anamazing journey culminating with a meeting with Almighty God himself.
One night the Prophet was awoken and taken, inthe company of the Angel Gabriel, first to Jerusalem. There he was met by allthe Prophets, who gathered together behind him as he prayed on the Rock at thecentre of the site of Masjid Aqsa, the spot where the Dome of the Rock standstoday. From the Rock, led by the Archangel, he ascended through the sevenheavens and beyond. Thus he saw whatever God made him see, the heavenly worldswhich no human eye can see, and which were the focus of this message and mission.It was also during this journey God ordained on the believers the five dailyprayers.
In quick succession, the Prophet had sufferedthe terrible loss of his wife Khadijah, his intimate and beloved companion for25 years, and of Abu Tālib, his guardian and protector against the bloodthirstyMakkan foes, and encountered the worst ever rejection, humiliation andpersecution at nearby Tā’if. As the Prophet reached the lowest point in hisvocation, God bought him comfort and solace. On the one hand, spiritually, Hetook him during the Night of Ascension to the Highest of Highs, realities andDivinities, face to face with the Unseen. And on the other, materially, heopened the hearts of the people of Yathrib to the message and mission ofProphet Muhammad.
The message that Makkah and Tā’if rejected,found responsive hearts in Yathrib, a small oasis of about four hundredkilometres to the north of Makkah. Now known as Madīnah tunnabī (the city ofthe Prophet), or Madīnatun Munawwarah (the radiant city), it was destined to bethe centre of the Divine light that was to spread to all parts of the world forall time to come.
The Menof Madīnah (Yathrib)
Soon after Prophet Muhammad’s return from Tā’ifand the Night Journey, at the time of the pilgrimage, six men from Yathribembraced Islām. They delivered the message of Islām to as many as they could,and at the time of the next pilgrimage in the year 621 C.E., 12 people came.They pledged themselves to the Prophet, that they would make no god besidesGod, that they would neither steal nor commit fornication, nor slay their infants,nor utter slanders, nor disobey him in that which is right. The Prophet said;‘If you fulfil this pledge, then Paradise is yours.’ This time the Prophet sentMus’ab ibn ‘Umayr with them to teach them the Qur’ān and Islām and to spreadthe message of Islām.
More and more people over the course of a year– tribal leaders, men and women – became Muslims. At the time of the nextpilgrimage, they decided to send a delegation to the Prophet, make a pledge tohim, and invited him and all Muslims in Makkah to Madīnah as a sanctuary and asa base for spreading the Divine message of Islām. In all, 73 men and two womencame. They met the Prophet at Aqabah. They pledged to protect the Prophet asthey would protect their own women and children, and to fight against all men,red and black, even if their nobles were killed and they suffered the loss ofall their possessions. When asked what would be their return if they fulfilledtheir pledge, the Prophet said; ‘Paradise.’ Thus the beginning was made, thefoundations of the Islāmic society, state and civilisation were set.
The road was now open for the persecuted andtortured followers of the Prophet to come to the Land of Islām, which was to beMadīnah. Gradually most of the believers found their way to Madīnah. TheirMakkan foes could not bear to see the Muslims living in peace. They knew thepower of the Prophet’s message, they knew the strength of those dedicatedbelievers who cared about nothing for the age-old Arab customs and ties ofkinship, and who if they had to, would fight for their faith. The Makkanssensed the danger that the Muslims’ presence in Madīnah posed for theirnorthern trade caravan routes. They saw no other way to stop all this but tokill the Prophet.
Plot toMurder the Prophet
Hence they hatched a conspiracy; one strong andwell-connected young man was to be nominated by each clan, and all of them wereto pounce upon and kill the Prophet one morning as he came out of his house, sothat his blood would be on all the clans’ hands. Thus, the Prophets’ clan wouldhave to accept blood money in place of revenge. Informed of the plot by theAngel Gabriel, and instructed to leave Makkah for Madīnah, the Prophet went toAbu Bakr’s house to finalise the travel arrangements. Abu Bakr was overjoyed athaving been chosen for the honour and blessing of being the Prophet’s companionon this blessed, momentous, sacred and epoch-making journey. He offered hisshe-camel to the Prophet, but the Prophet insisted on paying its price.
On the fateful night, as darkness fell, theyouths selected by the Quraysh leaders to kill the Prophet surrounded hishouse. They decided to pounce on him when he came out of his house for the dawnprayer. Meanwhile, the Prophet handed over all the money left by the Makkanswith him for safe-keeping to Ali. Ali offered to lie in the Prophet’s bed. TheProphet slipped out of his house, threw a little dust in their direction, andwalked past his enemies, whose eyes were still on the house. He met Abu Bakr athis house, and they both travelled to a nearby cave. When the Quraysh realisedthat the Prophet had evaded them, they were furious. They looked for himeverywhere to no success and then announced a reward of 100 she-camels foranybody who would bring them the Prophet, dead or alive. A tribal chief,Surāqah, sighted the Prophet and followed him, hoping to earn the reward. TheProphet, with bloodthirsty foes in pursuit and an uncertain future ahead of himin Madīnah, told Surāqah; A day will soon come when Kisra’s golden braceletswill be in Surāqah’s hands. Thereafter, Surāqah retreated, and the Prophetproceeded towards Madīnah.
Fourstages of the Prophets life in Makkah
The Makkan period can be summarized in fourstages:
- The first stage began with his appointment as a Messenger and ended with the proclamation of Prophethood three years later. During this period the Message was given secretly to some selected persons only but the common people of Makkah were not aware of it.
- The second stage lasted for two years after the proclamation of his Prophethood. It began with opposition by individuals: then it took the shape of antagonism, ridicule, derision, accusation, abuse and false propaganda then gangs were formed to persecute those Muslims who were comparatively poor, weak and helpless.
- The third stage lasted for about six years from the beginning of the persecution to the death of Abu Talib and Khadijah in the tenth year of Prophethood. During this period the persecution of the Muslims became so savage and brutal that many of them were forced to migrate to Abyssinia while social and economic boycott was applied against the remaining Believers.
- The fourth stage lasted for about three years from the tenth to the thirteenth year of Prophethood. This was a period of hard trials and grievous sufferings for the Prophet and his followers. Life had become unendurable at Makkah and there appeared to be no place of refuge even outside it. So much so that when the Prophet went to Tā’if, it offered no shelter or protection. Besides this, on the occasion of Hajj, he would appeal to each and every Arab clan to accept his invitation to Islām but was met with blank refusal from every quarter. At the same time, the people of Makkah were holding counsels to get rid of him by killing or imprisoning or banishing him from their city. It was at that most critical time that God opened for Islām the hearts of the People of Yathrib where he migrated at their invitation.
TheHijrah (622 C.E.)
This was the year the Prophet migrated fromMakkah to Madīnah - a small distance in space, a mighty leap in history, anevent that was to become a threshold in the shaping of the Islāmic Ummah. Thisis why the Muslims date their calendar from the Hijrah and not from start ofrevelation or from the birth of the Prophet.
In Qubah, 10 kilometres outside Madīnah, theProphet made his first stopover. Here he built the first Masjid. Here he alsomade his first public address; ‘Spread peace among yourselves, give away foodto the needy, pray while people sleep – and you will enter Paradise, the houseof peace.’
Three days later, the Prophet entered Madīnah.Men, women, children, the entire populace came out on the streets andjubilantly welcomed him. Never was there a day of grater rejoicing andhappiness. ‘The Prophet has come! The Prophet has come!’ sang the littlechildren.
The first thing the Prophet did after arrivingin Madīnah was to weld the Muhājirs or Emigrants and the hosts, called theAnsār or Helpers into one brotherhood. Still today this brotherhood remains thehallmark of the Muslims. One person from the Emigrants was made the brother ofone from among the Helpers – creating a bond stronger than blood. The Helpersoffered to share equally all that they possessed with their new brothers.
So, the Muslims were forged into a close-knitcommunity of faith and brotherhood, and the structure of their society wasbeing built. The first structure was also raised. This was the Masjid, thebuilding dedicated to the worship of One God – called Masjid al-Nabi, the Prophet’sMasjid. Since then the Masjid has also remained the hallmark of the Muslims’collective and social life, the convenient space for the integration of thereligious and political dimension of Islām, a source of identification, awitness to Muslim existence.
At the same time, steps were taken and requiredinstitutions built to integrate the entire social life around the centre andpivot of the worship of One God. For this purpose, five daily prayers incongregation were established. Ramadhān, fasting every day from dawn to sunsetfor an entire month, was also prescribed. Similarly, to establish ‘giving’ asthe way of life, Zakāh, a percentage of one’s wealth to be given in the way ofGod, was made obligatory.
The Jewsand Hypocrites
In the first year of his reign at Madīnah theProphet made a solemn treaty with the Jewish tribes, which secured to themrights of citizenship and full religious liberty in return for their support ofthe new state. But their idea of a Prophet was one who would give them dominion,not one who made the Jews who followed him, brothers of every Arab who mighthappen to believe as they did. When they realised that they could not use theProphet for their own ends, they tried to shake his faith and his Mission andto seduce his followers, behaviour in which they were encouraged secretly bysome professing Muslims who considered they had reason to resent the Prophet’scoming, since it robbed them of their local influence. In the Madīnan sūrahsthere is frequent mention of these Jews and Hypocrites.
The Prophet’s first concern as ruler was toestablish public worship and lay down the constitution of the State: but he didnot forget that Quraysh had sworn to make an end to his religion, nor that hehad received command to fight against them till they ceased from persecution.After twelve months in Madīnah several small expeditions went out, led eitherby the Prophet himself or other migrants for the purpose of reconnoitring andof dissuading other tribes from siding with Quraysh. One of the other purposesof those expeditions may have been to accustom the Makkan Muslims to engagewith enemy forces. For thirteen years they had been strict pacifists, and it isclear, from several passages of the Qur’ān, that many of them disliked the ideaof fighting and had to be inured to it.
TheCampaign of Badr
In the second year after Hijrah, the Makkanmerchants’ caravan [which had the confiscated possessions of what the Muslimshad left in Makkah] was returning from Syria as usual by a road which passednot far from Madīnah. As its leader Abu Sufyan approached the territory ofMadīnah he heard of the Prophet’s plan to capture the caravan. At once he senta camel-rider towards Makkah, who arrived in a worn-out state and shouted franticallyfrom the valley to Quraysh to hasten to the rescue unless they wished to loseboth wealth and honour. A force of a thousand strong was soon on its way toMadīnah: less, it would seem, with the hope of saving the caravan than with theidea of punishing the raiders, since the Prophet might have taken the caravanbefore the relief force started from Makkah.
Did the Prophet ever intend to raid thecaravan? In Ibn Hisham, in the account of the Tabuk expedition, it is statedthat the Prophet on that one occasion did not hide his real objective. Thecaravan was the pretext in the campaign of Badr; the real objective was theMakkan army.
He had received command to fight hispersecutors, and with the promised of victory, he was prepared to ventureagainst any odds, as was well seen at Badr. But the Muslims, ill-equipped forwar, would have despaired if they had known from the first instance that theywere to face a well-armed force three times their number.
The army of Quraysh had advanced more thanhalf-way to Madīnah before the Prophet set out. All three parties – the army ofQuraysh, the Muslim army and the caravan – were heading for the water of Badr.Abu Sufyan, the leader of the caravan, heard from one of his scouts that theMuslims were near the water, and turned back to the coast-plain leaving theMuslims to meet the army of Quraysh by the well of Badr.
Before the battle, the Prophet was prepared,still further to increase the odds against him. He gave leave to all thenatives of Madīnah (The Ansār) to return to their homes un-reproached, sincetheir oath did not include the duty of fighting in the field; but the Ansārwere only hurt by the suggestion that they could possibly desert him at a timeof danger. The battle went at first against the Muslims, but against the oddswith a much weaker army they were victorious.
The victory of Badr gave the Prophet newprestige among the Arab tribes; but thenceforth there was the feud of bloodbetween Quraysh and the Islāmic State in addition to the old religious hatred.Those passages of the Qur’ān which refer to the battle of Badr give warning ofmuch greater struggles yet to come.
In fact in the following year, an army of threethousand came from Makkah to destroy Madīnah. The Prophet’s first idea wasmerely to defend the city, a plan of which Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the leader of“the Hypocrites” (‘Muslims by name only’), strongly approved. But the men whohad fought at Badr and believed that God would help them against any oddsthought it a shame that they should linger behind walls.
TheBattle on Mount Uhud
The Prophet, approving of their faith and zeal,gave way to them, and set out with an army of one thousand men toward Mt. Uhud,where the enemy were encamped. Abdullah ibn Ubayy was much offended by thechange of plan. He thought it unlikely that the Prophet really meant to givebattle in conditions so adverse to the Muslims, and was unwilling to take partin a mere demonstration designed to flatter the Muslims. So he withdrew withhis men, a fourth or so of the army.
Despite the heavy odds, the battle on Mt. Uhudwould have been an even greater victory than that at Badr for the Muslims butfor the disobedience of a band of fifty archers whom the Prophet set to guard apass against the enemy cavalry. Seeing their comrades victorious, these menleft their post, fearing to lose their share of the spoils. The cavalry ofQuraysh rode through the gap and fell on the exultant Muslims.
The Prophet himself was wounded and the cryarose that he was slain, till someone recognised him and shouted that he wasstill living; a shout to which the Muslims rallied. Gathering round theProphet, they retreated, leaving many dead on the hillside.
On the following day the Prophet again venturedforth with what remained of the army, with the intention that the Quraysh mighthear that he was in the field and so might perhaps be deterred from attackingthe city. The stratagem succeeded, thanks to the behaviour of a friendlyBedouin, who met the Muslims and conversed with them and afterwards met thearmy of Quraysh. Questioned by Abu Sufyan, he said that Muhammad was in thefield, stronger than ever, and thirsting for revenge for yesterday’s affair. Onthat information, Abu Sufyan decided to return to Makkah.
The reverse which they had suffered on Mt. Uhudlowered the prestige of the Muslims with the Arab tribes and also with the Jewsof Madīnah. Tribes which had inclined toward the Muslims now inclined towardthe Quraysh. The Prophet’s followers were attacked and murdered when they wentabroad in little companies. Khubayb, one of his envoys, was captured by adesert tribe and sold to Quraysh, who tortured him to death in Makkah publicly.
The Jews, despite their treaty, now hardly concealedtheir hostility. They even went so far in flattery of Quraysh as to declare thereligion of the pagan Arabs superior to Islām. The Prophet was obliged to takepunitive action against some of them. The tribe of Banu-Nadheer werebesieged in their strong towers, subdued and forced to emigrate. The Hypocriteshad sympathized with the Jews and secretly egged them on.
The Warof the Trench
In the fifth year of the Hijrah the idolatersmade a great effort to destroy Islām in the War of the Clans or War of theTrench, as it is variously called; when Quraysh with all their clans and thegreat desert tribe of Ghatafan with all their clans, an army of ten thousandmen rode against Madīnah. The Prophet (by the advice of Salman the Persian)caused a deep trench to be dug before the city, and himself led the work ofdigging it.
The army of the clans was stopped by thetrench, a novelty in Arab warfare. It seemed impassable for cavalry, whichformed their strength. They camped in sight of it and daily showered theirarrows on its defenders. While the Muslims were awaiting the assault, news camethat Banū Quraythah, a Jewish tribe from Madīnah which had till thenbeen loyal, had gone over to the enemy. The case seemed desperate. But thedelay caused by the trench had dampened the zeal of the clans, and one who wassecretly a Muslim managed to sow distrust between Quraysh and their Jewishallies, so that both hesitated to act. Then came a bitter wind from the sea,which blew for three days and nights so terribly that not a tent could be keptstanding, not a fire lighted, not a pot boiled. The tribesmen were in uttermisery. At length, one night the leader of Quraysh decided that the tormentcould be borne no longer and gave the order to retire. When the Ghatafan awokenext morning they found Quraysh had gone and they too took up their baggage andretreated.
Punishmentof Banū Quraythah
On the day of the return from the trench theProphet ordered war on the treacherous Banū Quraythah, who, conscious oftheir guilt, had already taken to their towers of refuge. After a siege ofnearly a month they had to surrender unconditionally. They only begged that theymight be judged by a member of the Arab tribe of which they were adherents. TheProphet granted their request. But the judge, upon whose favour they hadcounted, condemned their fighting men to death, their women and children toslavery.
Early in the sixth year of the Hijrah theProphet led a campaign against the Bani al-Mustaliq, a tribe who were preparingto attack the Muslims.
In the same year the Prophet had a vision inwhich he found himself entering the holy place at Makkah unopposed, thereforehe determined to attempt the pilgrimage. Attired as pilgrims, and taking withthem the customary offerings, a company of fourteen hundred men journeyed toMakkah. As they drew near the holy valley they were met by a friend from thecity, who warned the Prophet that Quraysh had put on their leopards-skins (thebadge of valour) and had sworn to prevent his entering the sanctuary; theircavalry was on the road before him. On that, the Prophet ordered a detourthrough mountain gorges and the Muslims were tired out when they came down atlast into the valley of Makkah and encamped at a spot called Al-Hudaybiyah;from here he tried to open negotiations with Quraysh, to explain that he cameonly as a pilgrim.
The first messenger he sent towards the citywas maltreated and his camel hamstrung. He returned without delivering hismessage. Quraysh on their side sent an envoy which was threatening in manner,and very arrogant. Another of their envoys was too familiar and had to bereminded: sternly of the respect due to the Prophet. It was he who, on his returnto the city, said: “I have seen Caesar and Chosroes in their pomp, but neverhave I seen a man honoured as Muhammad is honoured by his comrades.”
The Prophet sought some messenger who would imposerespect. Uthman was finally chosen because of his kinship with the powerfulUmayyad family. While the Muslims were awaiting his return the news came thathe had been murdered. It was then that the Prophet, sitting under a tree inAl-Hudaybiyah, took an oath from all his comrades that they would stand or falltogether. After a while, however, it became known that Uthman had not beenmurdered. A troop which came out from the city to molest the Muslims in theircamp was captured before they could do any hurt and brought before the Prophet,who forgave them on their promise to renounce hostility.
Then proper envoys came from Quraysh. Aftersome negotiation, the truce of Al-Hudaybiyah was signed. For ten years therewere to be no hostilities between the parties. The Prophet was to return toMadīnah without visiting the Ka’bāh, but in the following year he might performthe pilgrimage with his comrades, Quraysh promising to evacuate Makkah forthree days to allow of his doing so. Deserters from Quraysh to the Muslimsduring the period of the truce were to be returned; not so deserters from theMuslims to Quraysh. Any tribe or clan who wished to share in, the treaty asallies of the Prophet might do so, and any tribe or clan who wished to share inthe treaty as allies of Quraysh might do so.
There was dismay among the Muslims at theseterms. They asked one another: “Where is the victory that we were promised?” Itwas during the return journey from al-Hudaybiyah that the sūrah entitled “TheConquest” (sūrah 48) was revealed. This truce proved, in fact, to be thegreatest victory that the Muslims had till then achieved. War had been abarrier between them and the idolaters, but now both parties met and talkedtogether, and the religion spread more rapidly. In the two years which elapsedbetween the signing of the truce and the fall of Makkah the number of revertswas greater than the total number of all previous reverts. The Prophettravelled to Al-Hudaybiyah with 1400 men. Two years later, when the Makkansbroke the truce, he marched against them with an army of 10,000.
TheCampaign of Khaybar
In the seventh year after the Hijrah, theProphet led a campaign against Khaybar, the stronghold of the Jewish tribes inNorth Arabia, which had become a hornets’ nest of his enemies. The forts ofKhaybar were reduced one by one, and the Jews of Khaybar became thenceforthtenants of the Muslims until the expulsion of the Jews from Arabia in the‘Caliphate of Umar.’ On the day when the last fort surrendered Ja’far son ofAbu Talib, the Prophet’s first cousin, arrived with all who remained of theMuslims who had fled to Abyssinia to escape from persecution in the early days.
They had been absent from Arabia for fifteenyears. It was at Khaybar that a Jewess prepared for the Prophet poisoned meat,of which he only tasted a morsel without swallowing it, and then warned hiscomrades that it was poisoned. One Muslim, who had already swallowed amouthful, died immediately, and the Prophet himself, from the mere taste of it,derived the illness which eventually caused his death. The woman who had cookedthe meat was brought before him. When she said that she had done it on accountof the humiliation of her people, he forgave her.
In the following year the Prophet’s vision wasfulfilled: he visited the holy place at Makkah unopposed. In accordance withthe terms of the truce the idolaters evacuated the city, and from thesurrounding heights watched the procedure of the Muslims. At the end of thestipulated three days the chiefs of Quraysh sent a reminder to the Prophet thatthe time was up. He then withdrew, and the idolaters reoccupied the city.
In the eighth year of the Hijrah, hearing thatthe Byzantine emperor was gathering a force in Syria for the destruction ofIslām, the Prophet sent three thousand men to Syria under the command of hisfreed slave Zayd. The campaign was unsuccessful except that it impressed theSyrians with a notion of the reckless valour of the Muslims. The three thousanddid not hesitate to join battle with a hundred thousand. When all the threeleaders appointed by the Prophet had been killed, the survivors under thecommand of Khalid ibn al-Walid, who, by his strategy and courage, managed topreserve a remnant and return with them to Madīnah.
TruceBroken by Quraysh
In the same year Quraysh broke the truce byattacking a tribe that was in alliance with the Prophet and massacring themeven in the sanctuary at Makkah. Afterwards they were afraid because of whatthey had done. They sent Abu Sufyan to Madīnah to ask for the existing treatyto be renewed and, its term prolonged. They hoped that he would arrive beforethe tidings of the massacre. But a messenger from the injured tribe had been beforehim, and his embassy was fruitless.
Then the Prophet summoned all the Muslimscapable of bearing arms and marched to Makkah. The Quraysh were overawed. Theircavalry put up a show of defence before the town, but were routed withoutbloodshed; and the Prophet entered his native city on horseback with his headhumbled before God as conqueror. The inhabitants expected vengeance for theirpast misdeeds. The Prophet proclaimed a general amnesty. Only a few knowncriminals were proscribed, and most of those were in the end forgiven. In theirrelief and surprise, the whole population of Makkah hastened to swearallegiance. The Prophet caused all the idols which were in the sanctuary to bedestroyed, saying: “Truth has come; darkness has vanished away;” and the Muslimcall to prayer was heard in Makkah.
In the same year there was an angry gatheringof pagan tribes eager to regain the Ka’bāh. The Prophet led twelve thousand menagainst them. At Hunayn, in a deep ravine, his troops were ambushed by theenemy and almost put to flight. It was with difficulty that they were ralliedto the Prophet and his bodyguard of faithful comrades who alone stood firm. Butthe victory, when it came, was complete and the booty enormous, for many of thehostile tribes had brought out with them everything that they possessed.
The tribe of Thaqif was among the enemy atHunayn. After that victory their city of Tā’if was besieged by the Muslims, andfinally reduced. Then the Prophet appointed a governor of Makkah, and himselfreturned to Madīnah to the boundless joy of the Ansār, who had feared lest, nowthat he had regained his native city, he might forsake them and make Makkah thecapital.
In the ninth year of the Hijrah, hearing thatan army was again being mustered in Syria, the Prophet called on all theMuslims to support him in a great campaign. The far distance, the hot season,the fact that it was harvest time and the prestige of the enemy caused many toexcuse themselves and many more to stay behind without excuse. Those defaultersare denounced in the Qur’ān. But the campaign ended peacefully. The armyadvanced to Tabuk, on the confines of Syria, and then learnt that the enemy hadnot yet gathered.
Although Makkah had been conquered and itspeople were now Muslims, the official order of the pilgrimage had not beenchanged; the pagan Arabs performing it in their manner, and the Muslims intheir manner. It was only after the pilgrims’ caravan had left Madīnah in theninth year of the Hijrah, when Islām was dominant in North Arabia, that theDeclaration of Immunity, as it is called, was revealed (sūrah 9). The Prophetsent a copy of it by messenger to Abu Bakr, leader of the pilgrimage, with theinstruction that Ali was to read it to the multitudes at Makkah. Itsdeclaration was that after that year, Muslims only were to make the pilgrimage,exception being made for such of the idolaters as had a treaty with the Muslimsand had never broken their treaty nor supported anyone against them. Such wereto enjoy the privileges of their treaty for the term thereof, but when theirtreaty expired they would be as other idolaters. That proclamation marks theend of idol-worship in Arabia.
The Yearof Deputations
The ninth year of the Hijrah is called the Yearof Deputations, because from all parts of Arabia deputations came to Madīnah toswear allegiance to the Prophet and to hear the Qur’ān. The Prophet had become,in fact, the Ruler of Arabia, but his way of life remained as simple as before.He personally controlled every detail of organisation, judged every case andwas accessible to every suppliant. In the last ten years he destroyed idolatryin Arabia; raised women from the status of a cattle to legal equity with men;effectually stopped the drunkenness and immorality which had till thendisgraced the Arabs; made men in love with faith, sincerity and honest dealing;transformed tribes who had been for centuries content with ignorance into apeople with the greatest thirst for knowledge; and for the first time inhistory made universal human brotherhood a fact and principle of common law.And his support and guide in all that work was the Qur’ān.
In the tenth year of the Hijrah, the ProphetMuhammad went to Makkah as a pilgrim for the last time – his “pilgrimage offarewell” as it is called – when from Mt. ‘Arafat he preached to an enormousthrong of pilgrims. He reminded them of all the duties Islām enjoined uponthem, and that they would one day have to meet their Lord, who would judge eachone of them according to his work. He said:
“O People,listen well to my words, for I do not know whether, after this year, I shallever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you verycarefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
O People,just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard thelife and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrustedto you to their rightful owners. Treat others justly so that no one would beunjust to you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He willindeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (riba),therefore all riba obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital,however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity….
…. Bewareof the devil, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that hewill ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following himin small things.
O People,it is true that you have certain rights over your women, but they also haverights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only underGod’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to thembelongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well andbe kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. It is yourright that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, aswell as never to be unchaste...
O People,listen to me in earnest, worship God (The One Creator of the Universe), performyour five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, andgive your financial obligation (zakāh) of your wealth. Perform Hajj if you canafford to.
All mankind are from Adam and Eve - an Arab has no superiority over anon-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has nosuperiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except bypiety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to everyMuslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall belegitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was givenfreely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember,one day you will appear before God (The Creator) and you will answer for yourdeeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
O People,no prophet or messenger will come after me and no new faith will be born.Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. Iam leaving you with the Book of God (the Qur’ān) and my Sunnah (practices), ifyou follow them you will never go astray.
All thosewho listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again;and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to medirectly. Be my witness O God, that I have conveyed your message to yourpeople.”
Illness andDeath of the Prophet
It was during that last pilgrimage that thesūrah entitled ‘Victory’ (sūrah 110) was revealed, which he received as anannouncement of approaching death. Soon after his return to Madīnah he fellill. The tidings of his illness caused dismay throughout Arabia and anguish tothe folk of Madīnah, Makkah and Tā’if, the hometowns. At early dawn on the lastday of his earthly life he came out from his room beside the masjid at Madīnahand joined the public prayer, which Abu Bakr had been leading since hisillness. And there was great relief among the people, who supposed him wellagain.
When, later in the day, the rumour grew that hewas dead. Umar threatened those who spread the rumour with dire punishment,declaring it a crime to think that the Messenger of God could die. He wasstorming at the people in that strain when Abu Bakr came into the mosque andoverheard him. Abu Bakr went to the chamber of his daughter Aisha, where theProphet lay, having ascertained the fact, kissed the Prophet’s forehead andwent back into the mosque. The people were still listening to Umar, who wassaying that the rumour was a wicked lie, that the Prophet who was all in all tothem could not be dead. Abu Bakr went up to Umar and tried to stop him by a whisperedword. Then, finding he would pay no heed, Abu Bakr called to the people, who,recognizing his voice, left Umar and came crowding round him. He first gavepraise to God, and then said: “O people! Lo! As for him who worshippedMuhammad, Muhammad is dead. But as for him who worships God, God is Alive anddies not.” He then recited the verse of the Qur’ān:
“Muhammad is not but a messenger. [Other]messengers have passed on before him. So if he was to die or be killed, wouldyou turn back on your heels [to unbelief]? And he who turns back on his heelswill never harm God at all; but God willreward the grateful.” (Qur’ān 3:144)
“And,” says the narrator: an eye-witness, “itwas as if the people had not known that such a verse had been revealed till AbuBakr recited it.” And another witness tells how Umar used to say: when “I heardAbu Bakr recite that verse my feet were cut from beneath me and I fell to theground, for I knew that God’s messenger was dead, May God bless him!” The finalmessenger sent to humanity died at the age of 63 years old in the 10thyear of the Hijrah (migration) – 632 C.E.
Such is Prophet Muhammad. According to everystandard by which human greatness can be measured he was matchless; no personwas ever greater.
Source: A.B.al-Mehri. Edited from following sources –
- M. Pickthall, Introduction – The Glorious Qur’ān
- K. Murrad, Who is Muhammad?
- M. Mawdudi, Tafhim al-Qur’ān
Please login to leave review.