short biography of the Prophet Muhammad

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A short biography of the Prophet Muhammad.

According to most authors, Muhammad is believed to have been born between 569 and 570 AD. His father had recently passed and as was the tradition back then, immediately after birth, he was passed on to a Bedouin foster who would nurture him while in the deserts. Since his father Abdullah has passed away, his father named him Muhammad which, according to Haykal, “was not familiar among the Arabs but it was known” (p. 54). While in the deserts, he was cared for his foster mother and is interestingly said to have been suckling only one breast, leaving the other for his foster brother. After this period of care under his foster mother was over, he was returned to his maternal mother Aminah, who introduced him to his uncles at Madinah. The objective was for him to be taken to see his late father’s tomb. Unfortunately, he lost his mother on the journey back home. In Mecca, another piece of sad news awaited him, in the form of his grandfather’s sudden demise.

This spate of unfortunate occurrences left young Muhammad in a very confused and desperate state. Reprieve came in the form of his humble and poor uncle, Abu-Talib. This left Muhammad with no options other than to start fending for additional resources at an early age. He took up the role of a shepherd for his neighbors’ stock, something he did diligently and with total resolve. He felt he needed bigger challenges but according to Haykal (1994),  “even when Muhammad was twelve years old, he did not take him along on his trade trips thinking he was too young for desert travel” (p. 59). But Muhammad having been long hardened by the early life in the desert environment under his foster mother, so still continued to insist on the prospect of accompanying his uncle. Finally, Abu-Talib yielded and let him come along, for his first trip at age ten to Syria.

By the time Muhammad was in his mid twenties, he had cultivated an immensely appealing social image among his peers and elders, being known for diligence, hard work, loyalty and integrity. He proved himself in these respects during the Fijar wars, when he stood by his uncle during wars that were fought during the holy months. In addition, he learnt the arts of war and how to bear arms since the Fijar wars were followed by alliances of Fudul; a period if confrontations and violence between Quraysh and their aggressors. It was also during one of these trips that the first indicator of Muhammad’s great calling was realized. As the trade caravan took refuge in Bostra, a town in Syria, there happened to be a monk named Bahira in town who lived the life of a hermit and was well versed in the Christian faith. Rodinson (2002) states their encounter with Muhammad as follows:

“When Bahira saw the envoy of Allah, he watched him very closely, and noted the details of his person…When the party had finished eating and were about to take their leave, he questioned the envoy of Allah about the things he felt when he was awake or asleep. The envoy of Allah answered him. Bahira found all this according to the description he had in his possession. Then he examined his back and found the seal of prophesy between his shoulders” (p. 47). This elated his uncle who rushed back to Mecca with his nephew.

Muhammad having cultivated a wealth of knowledge in trade and commerce found favor in the eyes of a wealthy widow named Khadijah. She employed him to take trade trips with her wares to Syria and as such, was pleased with his performance based on his profit margins. She developed a liking for this young man and eventually offered her hand in marriage. Their matrimony proved a success in all respects, as evidenced by Khadijah’s bearing of five more children and his trade trips to Oman and Yemen. Here he met with merchants from as far as Pakistan and India, also forming a trade partnership of sorts with another good merchant named Sa’ib. As much as he developed both in status and wealth, Muhammad never forgot the oppressed. This is demonstrated by his joining a order of chivalry, in favor of the oppressed and in retaliation to a Yemeni trader’s satirical poem for what he termed as unfair terms of trade.

From a religious point of view, times before Islam were characterized by widespread idolatry. Muhammad did not engage in the worship of these idols, choosing instead to concentrate on his commercial endeavors. During the period that followed the burning and subsequent destruction of the Kaaba, all offered to assist in its reconstruction, and this is noted as a defining moment in the religious consciousness of Muhammad. When the time came for the restoration of the ‘black stone’, a crucial artifact dating back probably to Abraham’s time according to faith, conflict broke out. Everyone wanted to be the one to handle this important artifact, but Muhammad devised an ingenious way to avoid the bloodshed that was imminent. In demonstrating unity from a religious perspective as he did by making it possible for everyone to participate via their chiefs, he became religiously more conscious. This is considered as a precursor to Allah’s revelation of his will to Muhammad.

According to Clark (2011), “at around 610AD” while at the age 40, Angel Gabriel visited him during his annual retreat for Ramadan. The message was that God had chosen him as His messenger for all mankind. In addition, the angle taught him how to pray, observe ablutions and worship God. Deeply disturbed, he rushed back home to his wife who assured him that God having observed his good deeds and ways would protect him from all evil. This episode was followed by a period of shock and uncertainty for Muhammad, during which society mocked him after news of this revelation spread out. However damning this mockery was, Muhammad dedicated himself to prayer and worship as he had been showed by the angel. This period of about three years was followed by a second revelation of assurance in which God assured Muhammad and instructed him further. His instructions touched on idolatry and evil deeds, and culminated in the order for Muhammad to start preaching. This marked the beginning of Islam.

Prophet Muhammad began his mission by spreading the new teachings of Allah to family and close friends. After some time, this new teachings spread and started a conflict between these new converts and traditionalist who were keen to preserve the old rites and religious beliefs. These religious tensions eventually led to new converts being victimized and tortured, leading to the prophet’s advice that they take refuge in Abyssnia. However, the pagan leaders would have none of this. They issued an ultimatum for the boycotters, whose conditions stipulated that they would be totally excommunicated if they didn’t renounce this new faith and return to Mecca. This ultimatum was ignored by Muhammad’s followers, who choose to bear the hardships than renounce Islam. The death of town chief and Muhammad’s uncle Abu-Talib’s wife, who had been subject to visions, as well as the occurrence of one of Muhammad’s predictions about white ants devouring the boycott pact document, led to its lifting. This meant Muhammad and his followers had gotten reprieve.

The period following Prophet Muhammad’s ascension, a vision depicting his rise to heaven, was marred by acts of brutality and ignorance towards him. He found refuge in Medinah, where his main priority was to reorganize the believers and start a spirited campaign to spread Islam. Meccan pagan leaders followed him to Medinah, initially with ultimatums and later on using military means. Muhammad defeated them, but faced a second challenge when Medinah’s Jews started their own uprising against him by joining forces with Mecca. Taking advantage of of his winning the war that followed, Prophet Muhammad launched religious campaigns into Iran and Palestine, and later into other far off lands. Later he visited Mecca to fulfill his religious obligation at the Kaaba, and addressed more than 140, 000 Muslims from all over Arabia. On his way back to Medinnah, he died as result of illness.

The system of Hadith.

Stefon (2009) decribes hadith as “ a record of the traditions or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, revered and received as a major source of religious law and moral guidance” (p. 62). These are generally a collection of the prophet’s narrations, concerning what he did and/or said. They play an integral role in Islam, since it is through hadith, Prophet Muhammad is said to have shaped the way Islam’s followers behavior and patterns of life.

The importance of hadith to Islam and Muslims as a whole is enhanced by the fact that Muhammad not only taught, but practiced what he taught in his life. He founded a state which he himself headed, maintained order within his estates and peace, as well as settling disputes and litigation among his subjects. He was a married man, in which he left behind the ideal example of a marriage and family as well. One crucial observation from all these, is that he never portrayed himself as above the law that he administered.

As a messenger of Allah, he took it upon himself to ensure the preservation of Allah’s will, in form of the Holy Quran, as well as his own narrations. This preservation was so meticulous that some have viewed him as an egoist. His actions also led to differences between the Quran and hadith.The differences are evidenced in the various documents Prophet Muhammad ordered done.

Official documentation forms a large part of hadith. From the time he and his early converts were subjected to torture by pagan leaders in Mecca, the prophet authorized or wrote himself letters of recommendation addressed to Negus, others written before the Hijrah, to the written constitution he endowed Medinah with after exiling there. This constitution outlined the rights of both the leadership and their subjects. Afterwards, he ordered a written census of every Muslim inhabitant of the town.

During wars and campaigns, treaties would be signed between Muhammad’s converts and many Arabian tribes. These too form a large of official documentation that exemplifies the hadith. Other related examples relate to this were missionary letters to leaders of Abyssinia, Negus, Iran and Byzantium. Military activity was meticulously recorded as was any loot and booty. Sale and liberation of slaves was also done on comprehensive records, three good examples by Muhammad himself as well as legal notifications.

During his time o.............

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