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15th century illustration in a copy of a manuscript by Al-Bīrūnī, depicting Muhammad preaching the Qur'ān in Mecca.[1] (more pictures of Muhammad)

Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh (محمّد also spelled Mohammed, Muhammed or Mahomet) (570/571 – June 8, 632 AD) was the founder of the religion of Islam and the conqueror of Arabia.


The Beginnings

Born to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib in what was said to be "the year of the Elephant", his family belonged to the Hashim, a branch of the Quraysh tribe. Unwanted by his mother[2] and fully orphaned at the age of six, he was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib. Muhammad initially adopted the occupation of a shepherd, later becoming a merchant, robber, baron and eventually warlord. Many claim that in his youth, Muhammad was called by the nickname Al-Amin (الامين), meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator.[3] However, historian Alford Welch holds that "Al-Amin" was a common Arab name and further suggest that al-Amin might have been Muhammad's given name, a masculine form [4] from the same root as his mother's name, Āmina (أمينة). Physically, he was described as a "white man",[5] and in later years as a "fat dwarf".[6] In 595 AD, aged twenty-five, Muhammad married his employer Khadijah. She was a wealthy women aged forty, who had three children from two previous marriages. She would eventually bear him two sons (both died in childhood) and four daughters. Khadijah's father Khuwaylid bin Asad was opposed to the idea of his affluent daughter marrying such an "insignificant youth," so the couple used deception. Plying her father with alcohol until he lost his senses, the marriage ceremony went ahead as planned.[7]

The Revelations

Leaving his wife and children behind during the month of Ramadan, the now wealthy Muhammad would often fall back to a cave located at the summit of Mount Hira, just outside Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz, where he fasted and prayed. According to Islamic belief, when he was about forty years old (610 AD) he was visited by the Angel Gabriel (جبريل Jibreel) and commanded to recite verses sent by Allah. These verses would later become what is believed to be the first part of Sura 96. This experience frightened him, and originally thinking he was possessed by a demon, he became suicidal. According to Sahih Bukhari:

Snið:Quote Snið:Random quran quotes After this first 'revelation' no new ones came for a time, but then after a long period they started up again and continued at a steady rate till his death. The collection of these verses is known as the Qur'an.

If the Qur'an is read in chronological order, you will notice over time the revelations changed style from a poetic to a more straight forward and aggressive type in the later years. The messages of the later revelations also changed and abrogated the earlier ones. Typically from the now famous 'no compulsion verse' to the 'verse of the sword'. These alterations followed Muhammad's place in society. What are known as the "early revelation" were recorded in Mecca while Muhammad was weak and had very few followers willing to die for him. The later "Medinan verses" were revealed once Muhammad had gained more followers and became the head of the first Islamic state in Medina.

These revelations continued until his death twenty-three years later. These supposedly divine revelations would sometimes come to him while dressed in Aisha's clothes.[8] How they came to him is described in hadiths:


Preaching in Mecca

He began preaching as a prophet in Mecca, warning of a day of judgement when all humans who have rejected his claims of prophethood would burn for eternity in Hell (جهنم Jahannam).[9] Even during the early days of his self-proclaimed prophethood he was often accused by the Meccans of plagiarising the "ancients fictitious tales."[10] Indeed, as Muhammad was an illiterate man who had come into contact with followers of the Abrahamic faiths before his proclamation of prophethood (e.g. Zaid bin 'Amr bin Nufail),[11] this would explain his imperfect borrowings from the stories he had heard. The elites in Mecca were left unimpressed by what was preached, and this infuriated him. Eventually leading Muhammad to deliver verses that condemned idol worship and the Meccan forefathers who engaged in polytheism.[12] Thus began the opposition of Muhammad in Mecca. While some claim the Meccans persecuted Muslims, there is little evidence that would support this. There had been trouble, most of which were in reaction to Muhammad's antagonism towards the 'idolaters'. As Muhammad's followers remained few in numbers, in an attempt to entice the polytheists into converting to Islam he revealed the now infamous "Satanic Verses". Most likely upon realising how this would impact his status (no longer being the lone intercessor between his followers and Allah), he quickly replaced his previous revelation with the following assault on the Meccan deities:


Muhammad was also criticized for claiming he rode the Buraq (a mythical flying horse-like creature) on an alleged and rather fanciful "Night Journey" to the "nearest heaven" and then back to Mecca in one night.[13] An event which is now celebrated by Muslims every year.[14]

Muhammad in Medina

His emigration

After the death of his uncle Abu Talib, who, although not becoming a Muslim, had protected Muhammad throughout, in 622, Muhammad left Mecca in a journey known to Muslims as the Hijra (هِجْرَة Migration).[9] He, along with his followers, settled in Medina (then known as Yathrib) a large agricultural oasis, where he was the leader of the first Islamic theocracy. He ordered his followers not to contact their relatives who were left behind in Mecca. By severing links between his followers and their non-Muslim relatives, Muhammad furthered his hold on them. This Hijra (traditionally translated into English as "flight") marks the beginning of the (rather crude) Islamic lunar calendar. The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix AH (After Hijra).

Medina was home to a number of Jewish tribes, divided into three major clans: Banu Qainuqa, Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadir, and some minor groups.[15] Among the things Muhammad did was draft a document known as the Constitution of Medina (date debated), "establishing a kind of alliance or federation" among the eight Medinan tribes and Muslim emigrants from Mecca, which specified the rights and duties of all citizens and the relationship of the different communities in Medina.[15]

At war with the Meccans

Mynd:Muhammad and kaaba.jpg
An illustration of Muhammad at the Ka'aba, by Nakkaş Osman (1595)
(more pictures of the Ka'aba)

In March of 624, Muhammad led some three hundred Jihadists in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Meccans successfully defended the caravan, but then decided to retaliate and marched against Medina. On March 15, 624 near a place called Badr, the Meccans and the Muslims clashed. Though outnumbered more than three times (one thousand to three hundred - majority of Muslim historians put the exact total at 313) in the battle, the Muslims met with success, killing at least seventy Meccans and taking seventy prisoners[16] for ransom; only fourteen Muslims died.[17] This marked the real beginning of Muslim military battles. Among the prisoners was Al Nadir, a storyteller and poet who had mocked him. He was not allowed to be ransomed by their clans and was executed on Muhammad's orders.[18] Muhammad also ordered twenty-four Meccans to be thrown into the well of Badr,[19] and mocked the dead.[20]

A further four years of continuous war between Muslim and Meccan forces followed, culminating later in a Muslim victory and the conquest of Mecca. The Muslims subsequently removed and destroyed everything they considered idolatrous from the Ka'aba, while Muhammad recited verses from the Qur'an. The townspeople either accepted Islam or were expelled. In March 632,[21] Muhammad led the pilgrimage known as the Hajj (حج).

His sexual partners

Main Article: Muhammad and Women

Following the death of his (at that time) only wife Khadijah, Muhammad felt sexually liberated. He began to practice polygamy and became known as a womanizer.[22] After an initial protest from her father,[23] he married Aisha when she was only six years old. She was the daughter of his friend Abu Bakr (who would later emerge as the first leader of the Muslims after Muhammad's death). In Medina, he married Hafsah, daughter of Umar (who would eventually become Abu Bakr's successor). Eventually he would go on to marry (and house independently) a total of fifteen women,[24] and own numerous concubines, including his Coptic slave, Mariyah. According to the famous Sunni scholar Ibn al-Qayyim:


His changing attitude towards the Jews

A few years after his migration, Muhammad's attitude towards the Christians and Jews changed. Having encountered rejection from the Jewish scholars in Medina, he became very much an anti-Semite. The Jews were rightly skeptical of the compatibility between the Qur'an and their own scriptures, and while many in Medina converted to Islam, very few were from the large Jewish populations. This was the start of the long history of persecution and subjugation of Jews at the hands of Islam.

After each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery (see Snið:Quran) and attacked it. After Badr and Uhud, the Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir, respectively, were expelled from Medina, and much of their possessions were confiscated by Muhammad.[25] After the Battle of the Trench in 627, the Muslims accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans, then wiped them out.[26] The women and young children were taken captive by Muslims to be sold in slave markets,[27][28] and the men and boys who had begun to grow pubic hair were beheaded.[29] Muslim historian Ibn Ishaq describes the incident:


One of the explanations given by some Arab historians and biographers for Muhammad's appalling treatment of the Jews of Medina is that "the punishment of the Medina Jews, who were invited to convert and refused, perfectly exemplify the Qur'an's tales of what happened to those who rejected the prophets of old."[30]

The Death of the Prophet


In the year 632, Muhammad became infirm with severe head pain and weakness. He died on June, 8th, 632 at the age of 62 or 63. Muhammad was poisoned by a Jewish woman, following the conquest of Khaibar, where he took Safiyah as a wife, and ordered the torture and beheading of her husband Kinana, the chief of the Jews at Khaibar. He spent his last day with the young Aisha, who was considered to be his favorite wife. At the time of his death, Ali (who would later become the fourth caliph of Islam) reported that Muhammad's penis was erect.[31] He was buried in his house near the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

And beyond

Under the caliphs who assumed authority after his death, and through the use of Jihad (as instructed by Muhammad at the Farewell Sermon), the Islamic empire expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, southern Spain, and Anatolia. Later violent conquests (which eventually prompted the crusades), commercial contact between Muslims and non-Muslims, and missionary activity spread Islam over much of the Eastern Hemisphere, including parts of China and South-east Asia.


  • [[[:Snið:Reference archive]] The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion] - Free PDF version of Robert Spencer's best-seller
  • [[[:Snið:Reference archive]] Unmasking Muhammad: The Malignant Narcisist & His Grand Delusion Allah] - A free 295 page eBook

External Links

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