Part One: Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) Today 

One in every five persons on this earth firmly believes that the Prophet Muhammad is the last Messenger of God. He was a Muslim and there are more than 1.3 billion such Muslims today. [Editor's Note: 1.6 billion as of 2010]

Not only individuals but entire countries take pride in declaring their allegiance to him. There are 54 such Muslim states today, ranging from those as large as Indonesia and Bangladesh, with populations of 200 and 125 million respectively, to those as tiny as the Maldives or Brunei with populations of 230,000 and 260,000. Even in non-Muslim countries, large Muslim populations constitute significant minorities; as much as 120 million in India and 20 million in China. Indeed, within the last half century, Islam, the religion brought by the Prophet Muhammad, has become the second largest religion in most European countries, as also in America and Canada. 

Black and white, red and yellow, followers of the Prophet Muhammad come from all human races. Whether in Asia or Europe, Africa or America, in every nook and cranny of this globe, you are sure to find Muslims. They live in the most advanced, sprawling megalopolis as well as in the most primitive nomadic tent, village, hamlet, and even in the bush.


As now so always, down the centuries, across the planet, from end to end, billions and billions of men and women have lived all their lives, loving the Prophet and trying to follow in his footsteps, as no one else has been so loved and followed. They have lived and died, believed and acted, married and raised families, worshipped and ruled, made war and peace, even eaten and dressed, walked and slept, just as he did or taught them to do. 


Indeed, never in history has a man influenced mankind, even beyond his death, so deeply and so pervasively as he has. He brings light and peace to countless hearts and lives. They love him more dearly than their own selves. In him they find their greatest source of inspiration and guidance. He is the ultimate norm and the perfect example for them. Faith in him is their mainstay and he is their chief source of support and comfort in all personal vicissitudes and tribulations. To him they also look to lead them through social and political turmoil. He has always inspired them to greater and greater heights of spiritual and moral upliftment and civilizational achievements. And still does. 


In short, they believe that through him, a human like themselves, God has spoken to them, and guided him to live amongst them, setting an example and a model for all times to come. Even today he motivates and induces whole populations to yearn and strive to shape their private lives, politics and policies according to his teachings. 

Who, then, is this man Muhammad?


Part Two: Early Life in Makkah

It was in the year 570, after Jesus, that Muhammad was born in Makkah, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Arabia, by all accounts, is the cradle of the human race. All the oldest human remains so far found come from the area of its location. 


Hemmed in by red, black and brown volcanic hills about 80 kilometers to the east of the Red Sea, stands the city of Makkah. It was then a small merchant town on the ancient ‘incense’ route through which passed the great trade caravans between south and north. 


However, Makkah was, and remains, important for an altogether different reason. For here lies the Ka‘bah, the first House’ ever set up for mankind to worship their only God. More than 1,000 years before the Prophet Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, his ancestor, the Prophet Abraham, aided by his elder son the Prophet Ishmael, raised its walls on very ancient foundations. 


Close by the Ka‘bah lies the well called Zam Zam. Its origin, too, goes back to the Prophet Abraham's time. It was this well which sprang up miraculously to save the life of the infant Ishmael. 


In the words of the Bible: 


And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said to her: 'What ails you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Arise, lift up the boy, and hold him in your hand; for I will make him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy; and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. (Genesis 21: 17-20) 


Or, as the Psalmist sings: 


As they pass through the dry Valley of Baca, it becomes a place of springs; the early rain fills it with pools. (Psalms 84: 6) 


Makkah never had, nor does it have now any worldly inducement to offer for settlement. It is a barren, desolate place, where even grass does not grow! There were springs and wells of abundant water nearby in Taif and a short distance away in Madinah. But it was the first House of God, architecturally an unremarkable cube, but spiritually and civilizationally the most remarkable fountain and spring of life - which made it supremely important, a place of attraction for people from all over the world. Forever, therefore, Makkah has been a great centre of pilgrimage. 


By the time Muhammad was born, the Ka‘bah’s latest guardians, the tribe of Quraysh, had more than 300 idols installed in and around the Ka‘bah to be worshipped as lords, gods and intercessors besides the One God. Muhammad was a direct descendant of the Prophet Abraham through the Prophet Ishmael. He belonged to the financially poor but politically strong and noble clan of Banu Hashim from the tribe of Quraysh. As guardians of the Ka‘bah, the House of God and the centre of pilgrimage for all Arabia, the Quraysh ranked higher in dignity and power than any other tribe. Hashim held the high office of levying taxes and providing the pilgrims with food and water. 


Muhammad was born an orphan. His father, Abdullah, died before he was born. His mother, Aminah, too, passed away when he was only six years old. Doubly an orphan, his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, took him into his care. Only two years later, however, the orphaned boy was bereaved of his grandfather as well, leaving him in the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. 


After his birth, the infant child was sent to the desert to be suckled and weaned and to spend part of his childhood among one of the Bedouin tribes, Bani Sa‘d ibn Bakr, who live in the southeast of Makkah. This was the usual custom of all the great families in Makkah. 


As Muhammad grew up, to earn his livelihood he pastured sheep and goats, as have done most prophets. His uncle and guardian, Abu Talib, also took him along with him on his travels with the trade caravans to greater Syria. He, thus, gained experience in trading. Because of his great honesty and diligence and the business acumen he showed in trading, he was soon being sought after to take charge of other people's merchandise, i.e. for those who could not travel themselves, and to trade on their behalf. 


At the age of 25, Muhammad married a lady named Khadijah. A widow, Khadijah was 15 years older than Muhammad. She was a rich merchant of Makkah, and Muhammad had managed some of her trade affairs. It was she who proposed marriage. Khadijah remained his wife and closest friend and companion all her life till her death 25 years later. She bore him six children, of whom four daughters survived. 


Until he was 40, Muhammad led a very uneventful life, showing no signs of the Prophet in the making that he was suddenly to be. What set him apart from his compatriots was his absolute truthfulness, trustworthiness and integrity, his sense of justice and compassion for the poor, oppressed and downtrodden, as well as his total refusal to worship any idol or do anything immoral. He was popularly acclaimed for these qualities. Al-Amin, the Trustworthy, the Honest, al-Sadiq, the Truthful, were the titles on everybody's lips for Muhammad, which itself means the Praised One. 


At a very young age, Muhammad enthusiastically joined a pact of chivalry for the establishment of justice and the protection of the weak and the oppressed made by certain chiefs of the Quraysh. He took part in the Oath when they all vowed 'that henceforth they would stand together as one man on the side of the oppressed against the oppressor until justice was done, whether the oppressed were a man of the Quraysh or one who had come from abroad.’ 


In later years, at Madinah, Muhammad used to say: 'I was present in the house of Abd Allah ibn Jud'an at so excellent a pact that I would not exchange my part in it for a herd of red camels, and if now in Islam, I were summoned to a similar pact, I would gladly respond.’ 


A testimony to Muhammad's character was given by his wife Khadijah as she comforted him at the time when the first Revelation came to him. He said later: ‘I fear for my life. ‘She replied: ‘By no means! I swear by God that God will never lose you. You join ties of relationship, you speak the truth, you bear people's burdens, you earn for the poor, you entertain guests, and you help against the vicissitudes which affect people's rights.’ 


Muhammad’s wisdom was also acknowledged by all. Once, while repairing the Ka‘bah, various clans of the Quraysh disputed violently as to who should have the honour of placing the Black Stone in its place. As they were about to unsheathe their swords and go to war, they made the Prophet their arbitrator and he brought them peace. He placed the Black Stone on his cloak and asked all the clan chiefs to hold its edges and raise it, and then he placed the Black Stone in its appointed spot with his own hands.


The Prophet at Madinah

by Khurram Murad

Part Three: The Prophet at Madinah 


The Message that Makkah and Taif rejected, found responsive hearts in Yathrib, a small oasis about 400 kilometers to the north of Makkah. Now known as Madinatun Nabi, the city of the Prophet, or Madinah Munawwara, the radiant city, it was destined to be the centre of the Divine light that was to spread to all parts of the world for all times to come. 


In quick succession, the Prophet suffered the terrible loss of Khadijah, his intimate and beloved companion for 25 years, and of Abu Talib, his guardian and protector against the bloodthirsty Makkan foes, and encountered the worst ever rejection, humiliation and persecution at nearby Taif. As the Prophet reached the lowest point in his vocation, God brought him comfort and solace. On the one hand, spiritually He took him during the Night of the Ascension to the highest of highs, realities and divinities, face to face with the Unseen. And on the other, materially, he opened the hearts of the people of Yathrib to the Message and mission of Muhammad. Soon after Muhammad’s return from Taif and the Night Journey, at the time of the Pilgrimage, six men from Yathrib embraced Islam. They delivered the Message of Islam to as many as they could, and at the time of the next Pilgrimage in the year 621 CE, 12 persons came. They pledged themselves to the Prophet, that they would make no god beside God, 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 fulfill this pledge, then Paradise is yours.’ This time the Prophet sent Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr with them to teach them the qur‘an and Islam and to spread the Message of Islam. 


More and more people over the course of a year - tribal leaders, men and women - in Yathrib became Muslims. At the time of the next Pilgrimage, they decided to send a delegation to the Prophet, make a pledge to him, and invite him and all Muslims in Makkah to Yathrib as a sanctuary and as a base for spreading the Divine Message of Islam. 


In all 73 men and two women came. They met the Prophet at ‘Aqabah. They pledged to protect the Prophet as they 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 of all their possessions. When asked what would be theirs if they fulfilled their pledge, the Prophet said: 'Paradise'. Thus, the beginning was made, the foundations of the Islamic society, state and civilization were set. 


The road was now open for the persecuted and tortured followers of the Prophet to come to the House of Islam, that was to be Madinah. He, therefore, instructed them to emigrate, and gradually most of them found their way to Yathrib. 


Their Makkan foes could not bear to see the Muslims living in peace. They knew the power of the Prophet’s Message, they knew the strength of those dedicated believers who cared nothing for the age-old Arab customs and ties of kinship, and who if they had to would fight for their faith. The Makkans sensed the danger that the Muslims’ presence in Madinah posed for their northern trade caravan routes. They saw no other way to stop all this but to kill the Prophet. 


Hence they hatched a conspiracy: one strong and well-connected young man was to be nominated by each clan, and all of them were to pounce upon and kill the Prophet one morning as he came out of his house, so that his blood would be on all the clans’ hands. Thus, the Prophet’s clan would have to accept blood-money in place of revenge. 


Informed of the plot by the Angel Gabriel, and instructed to leave Makkah for Madinah, the Prophet went to Abu Bakr's house to finalize the travel arrangements. Abu Bakr was overjoyed at having been chosen for the honour and blessing of being the Prophet’s Companion on this blessed and momentous, sacred and epoch-making journey. He offered his she-camel to the Prophet, but the Prophet insisted on paying its price. 


On the fateful night, as darkness fell, the youths selected by the quraysh leaders to kill the Prophet surrounded his house. They decided to pounce on him when he came out of his house for the dawn Prayers. 


Meanwhile, the Prophet handed over all the money left by the Makkans with him for safe keeping to Ali. Ali offered to lie in the Prophet's bed. The Prophet slipped out of his house, threw a little dust in their direction, and walked past his enemies, whose eyes were still on the house. 


He met Abu Bakr at his house, and they both traveled to a nearby cave, the Jabal Thur. When the quraysh realized that the Prophet had evaded them, they were furious. They looked for him everywhere and on all roads; they also offered a reward of 100 she-camels for anybody who would bring them the Prophet, dead or alive. 


A tribal chief, Suraqa, sighted the Prophet and followed him, hoping to earn the reward. The Prophet, with bloodthirsty foes in pursuit and an uncertain future ahead of him in Madinah, told Suraqa: ‘A day will soon come when Kisra’s golden hand bracelet will be in Suraqa’s hands.’ Thereafter; Suraqa retreated, and the Prophet proceeded towards Madinah. 


This was HIjrah, the emigration - a small distance in space, a mighty leap in history, an event that was to become a threshold in the shaping of the Islamic Ummah. This is why the Muslims date their calendar from Hijrah, and not from Hira or from the birth of the Prophet. 


In Qubah, 10 kilometers outside Madinah, the Prophet made his first sojourn. Here he built the first mosque. Here he also made his first public address: 'Spread peace among yourselves, give away food to the needy, pray while people sleep --- and you enter Paradise, the house of peace.’ 


Three days later; the Prophet entered Madinah. Men, women, children, the entire populace came out on the streets and jubilantly welcomed him. Never was there a day of greater rejoicing and happiness. ‘Come is the Prophet! Come is the Prophet!’, sang the little children. 


The first thing the Prophet did after arriving in Madinah was to weld the Emigrants (called Muhajirs) and the hosts, called the Helpers (or Ansar) into one brotherhood. Still today this brotherhood remains the hallmark of the Muslims. One person from the Emigrants was made the brother of one from amongst the Helpers. The Helpers offered to share equally all that they possessed with the Emigrants. 


So the Muslims were forged into a close-knit community of faith and brotherhood, and the structure of their society and polity was being built. The first structure was also raised. This was the Mosque, or Masjid, the building consecrated to the worship of One God called Masjid al-Nabawi, the Prophet’s Mosque. Since then the Masjid has also remained the hallmark of the Muslims’ collective and social life, the convenient space for the integration of the religious and political dimensions of Islam, a source of identification, a witness to Muslim existence. 


At the same time, steps were taken and the required institutions built to integrate the entire social life around the centre and pivot of the worship of One God. For this purpose, five daily Prayers in congregation were established. 


Ramadan, fasting every day from dawn to sunset for an entire month, was also prescribed. Similarly to establish ‘giving’ as the way of life, zakat, a percentage of one’s wealth to be given in the way of God, was made obligatory 


As long as there was no different instruction from God, the Muslims followed the practices observed by the Jews and Christians. Hence, they used to pray with their faces turned towards Jerusalem. But soon this direction to which the Muslims faced in Prayer was changed from Jerusalem to Makkah. This historic episode signalled the formation of a new Muslim community, charged with Divine trust and the mission of God’s guidance, replacing the earlier Jews and Christians, and following the most ancient message of Abraham, turning towards the most ancient House of God, built by him.



Attack by the Makkans and Society Building


Part Four: Attack by the Makkans 


The Prophet, after arriving in Madinah, first formed an alliance with the Jews. Next, he approached all the nearby tribes and tried to persuade them to make an alliance or at least enter into a no-war pact. Many did. Thus the small group evicted from Makkah assumed strategic importance. 


The Makkans who had earlier planned to kill the Prophet, were now determined to annihilate this nascent community of Islam. Having failed in all other ways they decided on a military solution. 


A heavily armed Makkan force marched towards Madinah in the second year after Hijrah, on the pretext of protecting their trade caravan. The Prophet, despite his community’s small number and lack of arms, decided to face their threat boldly. On the 17th of Ramadan, at Badr, the two forces met and fought a battle in which 313 Muslims defeated the 1,000-strong Makkan army. 


Seventy of the Makkan chiefs who had been most active and vehement in persecuting the Muslims were killed; many others were taken prisoner, later to be released for ransom. For the first time, prisoners of war were treated humanely and kindly; they were fed and housed in the same way as their captors ate and lived. 


In the third year after Hijrah, a 3,000-strong Makkan force again marched on Madinah, both to avenge the defeat at Badr and to make another attempt to defeat the Muslims; 700 of them were mailed and 200 mounted. The Muslims numbered only 700. The two sides met just outside Madinah near the Uhud Mountain. The initial Muslim victory was, however; reversed; the Muslim contingent posted to protect the rear; violated the Prophet’s instructions and abandoned its position. The Quraysh attacked from behind, and victory was turned into defeat, resulting in the deaths of about 65 Muslims. The Makkans, however; failed to pursue their advantage and clinch victory 


The Makkans now planned to make a final assault on Madinah to settle the matter once and for all. All Bedoum tribes, Jews, and hypocrites within Madinah joined forces with them. In the fifth year after Hijrah, 24,000 of them advanced on Madinah. It was impossible to fight them on the open battlefield, or defend Madinah which was without walls. The Muslims therefore defended themselves by digging ditches all round Madinah. After laying siege to Madinah for 25 days, due to inner dissension, lack of supplies, cold weather and high winds, the Makkan army was forced to withdraw This was the turning point in the history of confrontation with the Makkans. Madinah was never to be attacked again. 


From the beginning, theJews were given full rights of citizenship, yet they still committed acts of treason and treachery. Some had to be expelled; some were killed as a result of judgements given by an arbitrator appointed by them. However, subsequent generations of Jews were never held responsible for the misdeeds of the Jews of Madinah, as they were in Christendom for 2,000 years, for the crucifixion of Jesus. Instead, the Muslims always treated them justly and kindly. 


The next year; the sixth after Hijrah, the Prophet and 1,400 Companions journeyed to Makkah to perform umrah, the lesser Pilgrimage, in accordance with several traditions of the time. They were unarmed. The Quraysh chiefs, against all established and accepted traditions, refused them admission. However; the Quraysh were now so low in morale and strength that they had to sign a peace treaty with the Prophet, the Hudaybiyah Treaty. 


Though the terms appeared highly unfavourable, even humiliating, for the Muslims, they made tremendous gains by virtue of this Treaty. They who were driven out of Makkah and attacked thrice, were now recognized as an equal force, to be treated respectfully, taken seriously. Peace provided an opportunity for the wavering and the neutral, even the hostile, to witness Islam at first hand, and many sensed the imminent victory of Islam. The result was that many Makkans and Arab tribes either embraced Islam or made peace with the Prophet. 


As soon as the Hudaybiyah Treaty was signed, the Prophet sent letters to various neighbouring Arab and non-Arab rulers, including Chosroes of Iran and Heraclitus of the Byzantine Empire. He invited them to Islam, and assured them that he did not covet their kingdoms or riches. They could retain both, but only if they surrendered themselves to serve and worship the One God. 


The Quraysh, however, soon broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyah. It was, thus, time to deal with their continuing hostility. The Prophet marched to Makkah, and captured the town. The fall of Makkah witnessed unparalleled acts of mercy forgiveness and generosity. Not a single drop of blood was shed. Everybody who remained indoors was granted security of life and property. The Prophet forgave all who had been his bitterest foes all his life, who had persecuted him and planned to kill him, who had driven him out of Makkah, and who had marched thrice to Madinah to defeat the Muslims. 


The neighbouring Byzantine Empire now prepared to attack and destroy the Muslim community in Madinah. However, when the Prophet marched to Tabuk on the northern border, his determination, courage and timely response made the enemy lose heart and withdraw. Society Building 

Throughout those years, when the Prophet was surrounded by hostile forces and ultimately triumphed over them, he continued to purify the souls and uplift the morals of his followers and lay the foundations of a just and compassionate family, society and state. His mission was now complete: he had created a new man, and changed the lives of multitudes of men and women by bringing them in total surrender to their Creator. He had created a new society: one based on justice. In his own life example, and in the Qur’an, mankind was given the light and way of a godly life. 


It is remarkable that this entire epoch-making revolution which transformed not only Arabia but all of mankind for all time to come and which heralded the birth of the most brilliant civilization in the world cost no more than 750 lives, mostly opponents, in the various battles. Yet the Prophet is sometimes maligned as a man of violence by those who have exterminated thousands of people in pursuit of their civilizational ideals. 


The Prophet performed his only Hajj in the tenth year after migration to Madinah. In the Plain of Arafat, he gave a sermon of unsurpassable beauty and lasting value: ‘No man has any right to lord over other men; all men are equal, whatever their origin, colour or nationality.’ 


A few months later; in the eleventh year after Hijrah, the Prophet Muhammad died. He was buried in the house in which he had lived in Madinah. 


The Prophet possessed a character of exquisite beauty and charm. He was merciful, kind and compassionate. He loved children and taught kindness to animals. He spoke softly, never abused anyone, forgave even his worst enemies. He lived a very simple life. He repaired his own shoes and clothes. He lived frugally, sometimes for days no food was cooked in his household. 

Such is Muhammad. According to every standard by which human greatness can be measured he was matchless; no man was ever greater!

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by Khurram Murad