Overview of the Life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
“Indeed God conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves, reciting unto them His verses (the Qur’an), and purifying them, and instructing them the Book and the Wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error.” (Qur’an, 3:164)
The Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 CE. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six years old. He was raised by his grandfather and then taken under the custody of his Uncle Abu Talib. In his youth and adult life, he was famous for his fidelity, integrity and trustworthiness. It wasn’t long before he earned the nick name Al-Ameen, the trustworthy. In his teenage years he worked as a shepherd and spent a lot of time in the open desert away from the vices of the society. In his twenties, he worked in trade. He met Khadijah and married her when he was twenty-five upon her proposal. She was a forty-year-old widow.
He led an ethical but ordinary life through his adult life. He never worshiped idols and always believed in one God. He practiced the religion of Abraham, as he knew it. Every year, in his thirties, he started to retreat to a cave at Mt Hira for worship and reflection. At the age of forty (in the year 610 CE) he was appointed as a prophet of God through Archangel Gabriel at Mt Hira. The Prophet Muhammad’s mission thereafter is characterised in three distinctive phases.
1. Meccan period: Muhammad started to convey the message of God’s unity to a polytheistic society. The first people to accept Islam were, in general, slaves, poor people & youth. People were struck by Muhammad’s perfect character and the eloquence of the Qur’an and the profound realities it articulated. When Islam started to gather noticeable following, Meccan leaders started to persecute and torture Muslims & the Prophet Muhammad. Some Muslims migrated to a neighbouring Christian country – Abyssinia. In the last three years of his struggle in Mecca, all Muslims and the tribe of the Prophet were subjected to an economic embargo. The Meccan period lasted thirteen years and only about 200 people converted.
2. Migration to Medina – Treaty of Hudaybiyah with Meccans: A breakthrough came when six people from Medina, a city of about 450 km to the north of Mecca, accepted Islam. A year later, seventy-three people became Muslim. Muslims from Medina saw Muhammad as an arbitrator for a city which had been plagued by tribal infighting. All Muslims from Mecca migrated to Medina in 622. Muhammah put together the first 52-article constitution in human history. A new Muslim society and polity was established in Medina. Muhammad signed peace treaties with all major tribes to show that he was a messenger of peace and to protect the fledging Muslim community. Three major battles were fought between Mecca and Medina upon the aggression of Meccans. Muslims won decisively in the first, while they just lost the second. The third was a successful defence of Medina, which was sieged by a major coalition of Meccans and Arabian tribes. Eventually, a ten-year treaty was signed between Mecca and Medina in 628. At that time, Muslims numbered about three thousand.
3. Treaty of Hudaybiyah – Death of Muhammad: This treaty was a turning point for Muslims. In the peaceful atmosphere, many willingly converted to Islam. When Mecca broke the treaty, the Muslim army conquered Mecca at 630 without any resistance. Mass conversions followed the conquest. After 23 years of struggle, all of the Arabian Peninsula was Muslim. At no point in the process were people forced into the religion. At the Farewell Pilgrimage he gave a speech that could be considered the first Human Rights declaration in history to about 130,000 people. Muhammad passed away on 632 CE at the age of 63.