THE EXALTED PROPHET MUHAMMAD, THE IDEAL PROPHET
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS:
570 CE : Muhammad, the exalted, born in Makkah. His father, Abdullah dies before the Prophet is born.
576 : Mother Amena dies. Grandfather Abdul Muttalib becomes the guardian.
578 : Grandfather dies. Abu Talib, a paternal uncle, assumes guardianship.
582 : First trading journey to Syria with Abu Talib.
595 : Marriage to Khadijah r.a.
605 : Muhammad (S) helps rebuild Ka'bah after a flood.
610 : Angel Gabriel visits Muhammad (S) - The First Revelation
613 : The Message of Islam begins reaching the community. Persecution of Muslims begins.
615 : The Prophet orders some Muslims to migrate to Ethiopia-Abyssinia.
617 : Persecution increases. The Prophet (S) and his followers are boycotted by Makkans. Many people of the far away town (300 miles North) Madinah embrace Islam and invite the Prophet and his followers to live among them.
619 : Khadijah and Abu Talib die.
622 : The Prophet migrates to Madinah. Islamic State established. New Constitution declared.
622 : The Prophet (S) marries Ayesha r.a.
624 : The Battle of Badr - The Turning Point
626 : The Battle of Uhud
627 : The Battle of the Trench or Clans (Khandaq or Ahzab)
628 : The Treaty of Hudaibiyah
628 : Invitation to Emperors
630 : Conquest of Makkah
632 : Last pilgrimage to Makkah and the Farewell Address
632 : The greatest man departs
YEAR OF THE ELEPHANT 570 CE:
Muhammad (S), the greatest man ever to set foot on earth, was born in Makkah in the year 570 CE commonly referred to as 'Aam-il-Fil (Year of the Elephant). He belonged to Quresh that were the most honored tribe of Arabia for being the custodians of Ka'bah, the holiest shrine in the land.
Muhammad (S), like all Arabs, belonged to the progeny of Ismail a.s. Ibrahim a.s. on Allah's Command, had settled his elder son, teenager Ismail a.s. (Ishmael) to reside permanently in Makkah along with his mother Haajirah. Contrary to the Biblical statement, Hagar was not a bondwoman. She was the daughter of the Egyptian king. Abraham kept traveling between his second wife Haajirah (Hagar) in Makkah and first wife Sarah in Can'aan (Syria-Palestine). Ismail married a woman from the Qahtani Tribe of Jurham and became the ancestor of Musta Ribah (Arabianized Tribes or the Arabs.)
So the Arabs are, interestingly, descendants of a Hebrew father, Ishmael and a Qahtani Jurham mother, Wasiqa. They had twelve sons in their long and happy married life. The Qahtanis are still abundantly found in the Arabian Peninsula. They were a wandering tribe in Southern Arabia who had settled around Makkah before Ismail a. s.
The “Wilderness of Beer-Sheba” of Genesis 21:14, embraces Southern Palestine and Hijaz (roughly, the land between and around Makkah and Madinah). Therefore, the Bible and the Qur’an are in agreement concerning where Hazrat Ismail and his mother Haajirah had settled after moving from Can'aan.
This history also explains why the Qur’an repeatedly asserts that the Arabs had not received any Scripture before the Qur’an. Obviously, the Arabs became a community long after their ancestor, Ishmael had passed on.
THE KINGDOM OF SHEBA:
In Yemen had collapsed in 115 B.C. They were overtaken by the Himairis who ruled until 300 CE when other tribes overtook the control of Yemen. They were in turn defeated by the Christian Kingdom of Ethipoia-Abyssinia when they invaded Yemen in 525 CE. The kingdom appointed Abrahah as the Viceroy of Yemen.
ABRAHAH PLANS TO DEMOLISH KA'BAH:
The Roman and the Abyssinian Christians longed for converting the idolaters of Arabia to Christianity. They also sought control of the trade routes between Arabia, Syria, Persia and the Western Roman Empire. They saw Ka’bah in Makkah as a hindrance to their imperialistic and religious designs. Abrahah, the Viceroy of Yemen, made a smart move. Between 550 and 555 CE he built a gorgeous cathedral Ekklesia in San’aa, Yemen and invited his people and neighboring nations to come for pilgrimage there instead of going to Makkah. But Ekklesia remained unpopular and Abrahah decided to invade Makkah to demolish the Ka’bah and its surroundings.
Anticipating the presence of hostile tribes en route, he came up with a 60,000 strong army aided by thousands of horses, camels and thirteen elephants.
I agree with the research of Hamiduddin Farahi, 'Maulana' Amin Ahsan Islahi and Allama G.A. Parwez on what eventually happened. As Abrahah’s army approached Makkah, the Makkans who had been alerted by some travelers beforehand, saw flocks of birds that normally fly over caravans in search for food. The Makkans mounted the hills around and threw stones on the troops. The elephants, and in turn, other rides panicked and trampled the soldiers. This incident took place in 570 CE, the year when the exalted Messenger was born. The event carried such significance that the Arabs marked “Year of the Elephant” (‘Aam-il-Fil) as a point of reference in history.
THE ARABIAN PENINSULA
WHAT MUHAMMAD (S) SAW IN HIS FORMATIVE YEARS
As a little bright youngster, he observed with dismay many wrongs in the society. All of Arabia was divided into warring tribes and there was no rule of law. In the absence of organized government and courts of law, total chaos in political, social, economic and moral arenas was the obvious consequence.
A few elite were extremely wealthy while the vast majority lived in abject poverty and humiliation. These rich people were ruthless in their behavior to the poor. Slavery was rampant therefore, those in power owned slaves and concubines. The laboring slaves were beaten with whips for little or no reason. No one cared for their welfare or emancipation.
STATUS OF WOMEN:
Women were primarily the objects of pleasure and subservience and they were exempted from all human rights. The concubines served their masters and were sexually molested frequently. The free women were expected to obey men, be objects of sensual pleasure for them and pour wine in their company, labor within and outside the home and bear children. Some Arabs respected women especially those who had born children, and possessed knitting, weaving and cooking skills. Some women were hired or forced to sing and dance in public and in social gatherings. The birth of a girl was considered a matter of disgrace so much so that some Arabs buried their daughters alive. Men and women both were immodest. Disrobing in public was considered fashionable and they circled around the Ka'bah naked. As an exception, the wives of tribal leaders enjoyed a high status in the society and their jewelry, garment design, hairstyle, and mode of conduct became a fashion only to be dreamed by the poor majority. These "noble wives" wielded significant influence on their husbands, families and their own tribe. A tribe would be proud of a beautiful, smart, fashionable and artistic woman and she was seen as a prized potential booty by the adversary tribes.
ALCOHOL AND GAMBLING:
Alcohol was rampant and quality drinks were considered as a status symbol. People got drunk, lost self-control and misbehaved; as a result, bloody feuds were a daily occurrence. Gambling was a part of everyday life. One who avoided alcohol and gambling was labeled a berm, meaning outcast. No person would befriend a berm. Men would put their wives as stakes in gambling and betting. If a person lost in gambling or could not pay his debt, he became a slave often along with the women of his family.
THAAR (CHAIN REVENGE):
Tribes fought endless wars in chain revenge on menial issues such as a goat or camel having grazed at someone else's field. Aggression was considered to grant dignity and superiority to a tribe and its leader. Looting and raiding other tribes was considered honorable. There was total disregard for other people's life, honor and property. Seeking revenge was a sacred duty and people took revenge even for their remote ancestors.
A vast majority of the Arabs were pagans. The society as a whole was ridden with superstition. They believed in good and bad omens, wild interpretation of dreams, magic, clairvoyance, evil spirits, demons and witches, evil eye, arrows of good and bad luck, lucky and ominous stars, stones, days and numbers. Each family and tribe had their own special "gods". The fear of unseen creatures was common. Poets, fortune-tellers, soothsayers, diviners, and religious leaders easily exploited them.
MEANS OF LIVELIHOOD:
Raising herds of livestock, camels, goats, sheep, cows, owning date palm trees and orchards, vineyards, parts of oasis, and looting were the common ways of making a living. Barter and trade were popular but honesty was unknown. Usury was rampant making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Big businessmen sent trade caravans to distant lands. The trade caravans were frequently looted. The proud rich wasted a lot of resources. They would kill their camels in competition. If one killed some camels the other would slay twice as many just to impress others.
DIVERSITY OF RELIGIONS:
Although most inhabitants were pagans, it was a diverse, albeit peaceful, society. Jews and Christians in the Arabian Peninsula numbered quite a few thousands. There were among them Sabians (Nature worshipers), those who believed only in Yahya a. s. (John the Baptist), Agnostics, and followers of Deen-e-Hanif (Strict Monotheists that followed the remnants of Hazraat Ibrahim and Ismail's teachings).
This society was devoid of a government and any rules or standards of conduct. Immorality and corruption was an accepted part of life. "Might is Right", was the order of the day to solve all disputes. These were the circumstances when the exalted Prophet would herald the greatest Mission ever.
Muhammad, the Ideal Prophet, was born in Makkah on 20th April 570 CE. Makkah is a town in today's western Saudi Arabia. Bani Hashim, a branch of the Quresh tribe, were a noble and honored people among whom he was born. His grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, was the chief of his tribe and the chief of Makkah as well. Abdul Muttalib was in charge of the Ka'bah which is the symbolic First House of Monotheism. It was built by Prophet Ibrahim and his son Ismail, about 2000 BC.
THE PARENTS, THE GRAND OLD MAN OF MAKKAH AND THE LITTLE ORPHAN:
The chief, Abdul Muttalib had 10 sons. Abdullah was the youngest. The family arranged his marriage to a beautiful, gentle, and intelligent young lady. Her name was Amena bint Wahab. Abdullah means the servant of Allah and Amena means someone who is at peace and provides peace. Both were about 20 years old at the time of their marriage. Soon after, Abdullah went to a business trip to Syria. While returning home, he became ill and died in Madinah at the home of his maternal grandparents. Amena was devastated, but she had excellent support from her illustrious husband's family.
Muhammad was born after his father's untimely death. His mother and family members took very good care of him. But another misfortune struck when he was only 6 years old. His loving mother died of a brief febrile illness, possibly sun-stroke. She was in the middle of Madinah and Makkah returning with Abdul Muttalib after visiting her deceased husband's grave in Madinah. Prophet Muhammad was at a great disadvantage from the beginning. Fortunately, his grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, was a very kind and caring personality.
In Makkah, there were no schools in those days. The young boy had no siblings and few like-minded youngsters. We may wonder how such a smart child spent his time! The summers were too hot with outdoors temperature in the desert rising as high as 116, and it got feezing cold in winters. Mud and wood houses and big shady trees afforded the only respite from harsh weather. There was no library, no mode of learning or teaching. Only 23 people in Makkah knew how to read or write.
NO VEHICLES, NO LAMPS:
Older nations had wheel-carts three to four thousand years before the Prophet's time. The people of Egypt and the Indus Valley (now in Pakistan) used wheelbarrows, bullock carts, chariots and horse carriages. In Arabia, however, no one had a vehicle. People used donkeys, ponies, horses, mules and camels for traveling. Of course, there were no media. Poetry, stories, and gossip were the sole means of communication. It is hard to conceive, but people of Arabia did not use any sort of lamps at night.
THE LITTLE BRIGHT MUHAMMAD IN THE DARK ENVIRONMENT:
It was in this environment that the Prophet (S) was learning about life. The smart, peaceful child created his own resources and never wasted his time. Some may wonder why the little boy Muhammad is called Prophet. The reason is that all prophets were born as such although commissioned to the Divine Office later. The Qur’an states that they were chosen individuals, hence, none can become a prophet by striving to do so. Muhammad (S) was commissioned to prophethood and received the first Message from Allah in his 40th year but he was a prophet by birth.
The young, bright, orphan boy was raised in Makkah and in the desert around the town. Very early in his life, he learned to ride the bareback ponies, mules, horses and camels. There were no swimming pools in those days but rainwater did collect in natural ponds. So the little boy learned how to swim. He also kept busy by taking the sheep and goats of his family and neighbors out for grazing. He also liked to play with his bow and arrow in the safety of the desert. Running after the arrows, herding animals, riding and swimming, all kept him very fit. Herding livestock made him feel very responsible. No one at that time had the faintest idea that this brilliant, lovely child would one day become the greatest leader of mankind.
As he grew, the clear days and nights of the desert offered a vast view of Nature. Allah teaches us through the Qur’an but we also learn from His other Book - the Universe around us. Muhammad closely observed the wonders of Nature around him. He understood that there is great discipline in the Universe. The sun rose in the East and set in the West everyday. The moon and the stars appeared at night. Seasons changed in regular sequence. Seeds grew into plants. He knew in his heart that there could be only One Creator and Sustainer to keep such remarkable order and discipline in the Universe. He was surrounded by adults and children who worshipped the sun, the moon, the stars, rocks, idols and trees. There were hundreds of idols in the Ka'bah. They thought that the angels were the daughters of God. Jews and Christians in Arabia assigned children to God such as Osiris and Jesus, respectively. Even as a child, Muhammad never worshipped any of these false gods.
THE FANCY DRESS SHOW:
One day, when he was a teenager, youngsters promised to take him to a nice place. In fact, it was an immodest fancy dress and dancing show on stage. Muhammad did not waste any time. He turned back home alone and never went to any shows again.
When others wasted their time in vain talk and senseless play, Muhammad the exalted, was helping people. He helped the elderly, the sick and the widows with their needs. He even milked their cows and goats and fed any hungry animals. He always did his own chores and even repaired his own shoes. Everyone in town loved him. They called him Ameen (Trustworthy) and Sadiq (Truthful).
GRANDFATHER AND UNCLE:
The grand old man of Makkah, Abdul Muttalib died at the age of 82. Muhammad (S) was about 8 years old at that time. A son of Abdul Muttalib, Abu Talib raised Muhammad (S) from then on.
When the exalted Prophet was born, he was named Muhammad by his celebrated grandfather. This was a very special name since no one ever had this name before. People asked Abdul Muttalib, "Why a brand new name?" He responded, "I want this child to be praiseworthy." Muhammad means the praised one.
When Muhammad (S) was 12 years old his uncle Abu Talib, started taking him with trade caravans to Syria. Makkah was an important business center in those days. Camel and horse caravans frequented between Yemen, Makkah, Madinah and Syria.
Even when the Ideal Prophet was very young, he had exceptional qualities. He respected elders and was very kind to children. He realized that time made up life, so he never wasted it. Rather, he was learning new skills everyday. Later on he would remark, "One whose two successive days go in an identical state has lost worthy opportunities." Unlike other youngsters, he did not indulge in vain sport or talk. He would rather serve the community day and night. There were no banks or safe deposits in those days. People of Makkah deposited their valuables with the teenager Muhammad because he was trustworthy. They knew him as a young man of life upright. He shunned intoxicants, gambling, violence, and bad company.
NOT A "BERM": But no one thought of him as a berm (a nerd), because:
He had a decent sense of humor and enjoyed good poetry. He was an extremely good listener and spoke softly, slowly, and clearly. He was a man of word and people could depend on him. He used to draw great lessons from history and shared them with others. Muhammad (S) took deep and sincere interest in human, animal and plant life. He was extremely environment conscious and did exemplary community service. No one ever saw Muhammad (S) losing his temper. Overall, he had a matchless nobility of character. The Prophet would later tell the people of Makkah, "I have spent a lifetime in your midst. Don't you reflect?" It is amazing to note that even his enemies could find no fault in him throughout his life.
THE PEACE DEAL:
When he was about 25 years old, Muhammad, the exalted, helped formulate a very important document. He sat down with the influential leaders of the town. Keeping in mind the insecurity of that society, they reached the following conclusions:-
01. Travel must be made safe.
02. Tribal raids must be halted.
03. The poor must be helped.
04. The weak must be protected. Most tribes of Makkah agreed with the idea.
Their leaders signed this historical document, Halaf-il-Fudhool (The Vow of Bounty, also named as such since three of those tribal leaders were named Fadhl) and hung it on the door of Ka'bah.
BRITISH KNIGHTS FOLLOW SUIT IN THE 16TH CENTURY:
It is interesting to note that 1000 years later the United Kingdom adopted this historical document. In the 16th century Britain, any person becoming a knight had to pledge his allegiance to the above mentioned four rules. [“Islamic Review” – Lord Allanson Headley]
AN IMPORTANT TRUCE:
During Muhammad's (S) youth, the Ka'bah was damaged by a flood. The local chiefs helped repair it. Now, the 'sacred' black stone had to be placed in its corner. Traditionally, this black stone is a meteorite. It had been used as a mark for pilgrims to walk around the Ka'bah. Every tribe wanted the honor of fixing it. Heated arguments took place and violence was about to break out. Then one of the leaders suggested finding a judge to resolve the matter. It was decided that whoever entered the Ka'bah first thing in the morning would be the judge. The next morning, the first man to enter happened to be none else but Muhammad (S). The leaders screamed with joy, "Here is Ameen, here is Sadiq!" Muhammad (S) peacefully obviated a sure bloody feud. He laid his shawl on the floor, placed the black stone in the middle, and then he asked the chief of each tribe to hold the shawl at and between each corner. They walked together to the assigned corner thus. Muhammad (S) then lifted the black stone and placed it where it belonged. A bloody and highly destructive battle had been avoided to the joy of all.
There was a noble widow, a highly successful businesswoman in Makkah. Her name was Khadijah bint Khawailid. She used to send trade caravans to Syria and her business was flourishing. She heard of a man in Makkah, whose name was Muhammad. What a wonderful name -'The praised one!' And the Makkans seldom called him by his first name. They referred to him by his titles "As-Sadiq" and "Al-Ameen." Khadijah requested this trustworthy and truthful man to lead her caravan. She sent her servant Maiysarah, to accompany him. The long trip turned out to be very successful and profitable. Maiysarah was incessantly showering laurels on Muhammad (S). He told Khadijah r. a. how intelligent, patient, hard working, and honest Muhammad (S) was. The prosperous, noble and honored lady of Makkah was very impressed. She sent in a proposal for marriage through a lady friend. The young Prophet and his uncle Abu Talib gladly accepted. Khadijah was 40 and Muhammad (S) 25 at the time of their marriage.
THE CALL TO PROPHETHOOD
Like other prophets, Muhammad, the exalted, was chosen by God. The time was right. The place was perfect.
Human beings had advanced in learning through the ages, and civilizations had developed with time. The earlier prophets were given messages for their times and their nations. Then, humanity grew up enough to receive the Final Message - The Final Word of God, for all, for all times. The time was so right that it could not have been more suitable. The Message to the Last Prophet could now be preserved, every word of it. This Word would remain modern for all times. Books and writings could be easily saved on parchment and widely published in the 7th century.
No place could be better than Makkah to receive the Last Word of God. The city of Makkah was a center of trade caravans. It already had the widely revered First Symbolic House of Monotheism. The Ka'bah had been built by Prophet Ibrahim 2,500 years before. Being the loftiest and earliest Symbol of True Monotheism, it is a constant reminder to people that all humankind is One Community just as their Creator is One. The people of Makkah were respected in Arabia because they took care of the Sacred House. Makkah in the vast desert expanse was far removed from other civilizations. The people of the town were rugged and shrewd since they had to survive in very formidable natural and lawless environment. Very importantly, they had never been ruled by foreign powers, and therefore, they had all the qualities of a free nation. They were bold, strong and straightforward. They always kept their word and would lay down their lives for it. If a tribe violated the amnesty given to someone by the other, one shout could fetch them to the battlefield. Dying in bed was a matter of shame for them while giving life in battle was highly regarded.
Only a few people in Makkah knew how to read and write. So, they relied on their memory for history and knowledge. Consequently, they had very sharp memories. It appears that according to Divine Plan, they had been grooming and perfecting their Arabic language making it fit to receive Allah's Final Revelation. Poets, story-tellers, genealogists, and good narrators enjoyed special distinction in the Arab society. Many of these qualities made Makkah the best place in the world to receive the Final Message.
We have briefly examined the good and the bad in Arabian society. Prophet Muhammad (S) knew that his society needed a drastic change. He used to do a lot of thinking about it never knowing until the Day of Revelation that the Noble Task would be eventually assigned to him.
29:48 For, (O Prophet) you were never able to read a book or Scripture before this (Qur’an), nor could you write anything with your own hand. Or else, they who try to disprove the Truth might have some cause to doubt it.
Sometimes, he went out of the town to find solitude. Until this day, there exists the Mountain of Light (Jabl-in-Noor), a few miles from Makkah. This mountain has a little cave called Hira. It is about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide. The Prophet (S) used to spend an occasional day there, contemplated and prayed for guidance. He would then come back to town, and continue business as usual. He helped his community more than ever. The Qur’an keeps the legend in proper perspective by stating that Allah found him searching for Guidance and He granted it.
93:7 And He found you looking for guidance, and showed you the way.
WHEN MUHAMMAD (S) IS COMMISSIONED, 4/16/610:
It can be stated without exaggeration that April 16th, 610 CE was the most significant day in all human history. He was still under 40 on that epoch making day of 25th Ramadhan, April 16th, 610 CE. On this day, the unseen Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet with the first Message from Allah. As soon as he shared his experience with his noble wife, Khadijah, she immediately accepted the Revelation. She said from her heart, "You are loyal to your family, truthful and trustworthy. You always help the poor and needy, take care of the widows and orphans, are hospitable to your guest and comfort the grieved. Allah will never let you be unsuccessful."