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Muhammad

Muhammad

Born: c. 570
Mecca, Arabia
Died: 632
Medina, Arabia

Arabian prophet

Muhammad was the founder of the religion of Islam and of a community at Medina that later developed into the Arab Empire.

Call to be a prophet

Muhammad was born after his father's death in Mecca, Arabia, around 570. His grandfather and mother both died when he was a child. As a child, he was unable by Arab custom to inherit anything. He was therefore relatively poor until about 595, when a wealthy woman, Khadija, asked him to go to Syria as a steward (protector, manager) of her trading supplies. After the successful accomplishment of the mission, she offered him marriage. She was a rich widow fifteen years his senior. She and Muhammad had four daughters, and several infant sons who died. From this time onward Muhammad was wealthy, but he began to spend time in solitary reflection on the problems of Mecca, where religious principles were being degraded and general unrest was in the city.

During a period of solitude around the year 610, Muhammad heard a voice as he meditated (focused his thoughts in a manner of prayer). The voice said, "You are the Messenger of God" (this being the title more frequently given to him by Muslims than that of prophet). Muhammad later decided he had heard the archangel Gabriel. He also found certain words "in his heart" (that is, his mind) as he meditated. Friends helped to convince him that he was called to convey messages from God to the Arabs as Moses (c. 1392 c. 1272 b.c.e.) and Jesus Christ (c. 6 b.c.e.c. 30 c.e.) had done to the Jews and Christians. He continued to receive such messages from time to time until his death. They were collected into chapters and make up the Koran (Quran). The Koran, though sent through Muhammad, is held by Muslims to come from God.

Meccan preacher

At first Muhammad told these messages only to sympathetic friends, but from 612 or 613 he stated them publicly. Many people in Mecca, especially younger men, became followers of Muhammad. These members of his new religion of Islam became known as Muslims. In the course of time, however, resistance to Muhammad appeared among the leading merchants of Mecca, and he and his followers were sometimes mistreated. Apparently to escape the mistreatment, approximately eighty of his followers traveled to Ethiopia. About 616, pressure in the form of a boycott (refusal to trade with) was placed on the clan of Hashim to make it cease protecting Muhammad. But until after the death of the head of the clan, Muhammad's uncle Abu-Talib, it was felt that to abandon him would be dishonorable.

The new head, however, found a justified way to leave Muhammad behind, and it became virtually impossible for Muhammad to continue preaching in Mecca. In September 622, after secret negotiations over the previous two years, he settled in the area of Medina, two hundred miles to the north, where seventy of his followers had already gone. This "emigration" (leaving one's living place for another) is the Hijra (Latin, hegira ), on which the Islamic era is based.

First years at Medina

The Arab clans of Medina mostly acknowledged Muhammad's prophethood and entered into association with him and the emigrants (those who leave their country) from Mecca. At first the emigrants depended on Medinese hospitality, but soon small groups of them began to attempt raids on Meccan caravans. Later the Muslims of Medina also joined in. At first the raids had little success, but in March 624 a larger band of just over three hundred, led by Muhammad himself, defeated a supporting force of perhaps eight hundred Meccans with heavy losses. This was a serious blow to Meccan reputation, and the Muslims felt that God was defending Muhammad.

To teach Muhammad a lesson, the Meccans in March 625 invaded the Medinese area with about three thousand men. Many Muslims were killed before they could regain the safety of the hill. Militarily this was not a serious loss for Muhammad, since the Meccans had also suffered casualties and retreated immediately; but the loss shook the belief that God was defending him. Confidence was only gradually restored.

The next major event was the siege of Medina by ten thousand Meccans and allies in April 627. Muhammad protected the central part of the area by a trench that tricked the cavalry. After two weeks Meccans and their allies retreated. In March 628 the Meccans settled the Treaty of al-Hudaybiya with him. The treaty was a triumph for Muhammad. In the following months many nomadic (having to do with moving from area to area) tribesmen and a few leading Meccans joined Muhammad and became Muslims. When the treaty was criticized in January 630, Muhammad was able to march on Mecca with ten thousand men. Muhammad entered Mecca in triumph. Two weeks later two thousand joined Muhammad's army in opposing a concentration of tribesmen east of Mecca and shared in the victory of Hunayn.

New religion

By 630 the religion of Islam had become firmly rooted. In the earliest parts of the Koran, it emphasized God's goodness and power and called on men to acknowledge this in worship. It also stated the reality of the Day of Judgment, when men would be assigned to paradise or hell depending on their attitude toward God, their generosity with their wealth, and similar points. These matters were significant to the tensions of Mecca, which were seen as arising from the merchants' overconfidence in their wealth and power. The Koran contained attacks on idols (symbols of objects to be worshipped) and a resolve that "there is no deity but God."

The religious practices of the Muslims included communal worship or prayers several times a day touching the ground with the forehead in acknowledgement of God's majesty. They also gave alms (money to the poor). At Medina the fast (not eating any food) from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan (sacred ninth month of the Islamic calendar) was introduced; and when circumstances made it possible, some of the ceremonies of the traditional pilgrimage (holy journey) to Mecca became a duty for Muslims.

Years of triumph

Beyond Medina a system of alliances was gradually built up with the nomadic Arab tribes. As Muhammad grew stronger, he came to insist that those wanting an association should become Muslims. After the conquest of Mecca and the victory at Hunayn in January 630, he was the strongest man in Arabia, and delegations came from tribes seeking alliance with him. When he died on June 8, 632, he was in effective control of a large part of Arabia.

Muhammad's personality and achievement

Muhammad is said to have been a fast walker, of sturdy build, with a prominent forehead, a hooked nose, large brownish-black eyes, and a pleasant smile. He showed great charm in his dealings with people and, when appropriate, gentleness and even tenderness. Medieval Europe (5001500), however, on the defensive against Arab armies and Islamic culture, came to look on him as a monster or demon.

At times Muhammad was indeed harsh to those in his power, but this was not out of keeping with the times. His marital relationsat his death he had nine wives and one concubine (a kept woman without marriage)must also be judged in the framework of the times. A political purpose can be traced in all of his marriages. For his time he was a man seeking positive change for his people.

Politically Muhammad's greatest achievement was to create the framework that made possible the uniting of the Arab tribes. He also won over his chief Meccan opponents, and their administrative skills were later invaluable in conquering and ruling many provinces. The growth of the Arab Empire, and with it the religion of Islam, was made possible by favorable circumstances; but the opportunity would not have been grasped but for Muhammad's gifts as visionary, statesman, and administrator.

For More Information

Andrae, Tor. Mohammed: The Man and His Faith. New York: Scribner, 1936. Reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2000.

Pirenne, Henri. Mohammed and Charlemagne. London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1939. Reprint, Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2001.

Watt, W. Montgomery. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1953.

Watt, W. Montgomery. Muhammad at Medina. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1956.

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"Muhammad." UXL Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Muhammad

Muhammad c. 569-632

BIBLIOGRAPHY

In the Islamic tradition, Muhammad is a messenger of God and the seal of the prophets. Muslims consider the prophethood of Muhammad as the final act of a monotheistic Gods revelations to humanity, which had earlier been transmitted through the biblical prophets, including Jesus and Moses.

According to classical Islamic sources, Muhammad was born in Mecca around 569. His family belonged to the Hashemite branch of Quraysh, the dominant tribe in Mecca, then a major site of pagan pilgrimage in Arabia as well as a major center of caravan routes. The citys dominant religion was Arab paganism, although some monotheists influenced by Abrahamic traditions also resided there. His father, Abdullah, died before Muhammad was born, so the infant was placed primarily in the care of a foster mother in addition to his grandfather and his mother, Amina, both of whom died within his eighth year, leaving the care of the orphan to his uncle.

Muhammads first forty years of life were relatively undistinguished. He reportedly made a living as a merchant and participant in Meccas long-distance caravans, and his most profitable missions were carried out on behalf of an older female employer, Khadija, whom he eventually married. While before the revelations he was never recognized as anything but an ordinary member of the community, as a merchant he developed a reputation for honesty and integrity. At age forty, following years of periodic seclusion and meditation, Muhammad received his first revelations from God through the archangel Gabriel, the medium through which, according to Muslim tradition, the entire Quran was revealed to Muhammad.

Several years of proselytizing in Mecca generated a small number of recruits to the new faith, but Muhammads claim to being a messenger of God was rejected by the citys larger pagan community. Muhammads teachings had a clear affinity to Jewish and Christian ideas permeating Arabia at that time, his main nemesis being the dominant pagan religion. Around 622 Muhammad and his band of followers, seeing no more prospects in Mecca and being subject to increasing harassment, migrated to Medina (then Yathrib), where they established the first self-governing Muslim community. That community consisted at first of two distinct groups: the Meccan Muslims who came with Muhammad, or al-muhajirun (the emigrants); and a larger group of local Medinian faithful who had been Islamized before Muhammads migration to the city, known as al-ansar (the backers). Medina became Muhammads headquarters until his death. The mosque of Medina, built around his tomb, is the second-holiest shrine for Muslims worldwide.

Muhammads migration (Hijra ) to Medina allowed him not only to establish an independent Muslim community but also to elaborate further features of such a community. In Medina it became increasingly evident that Islam was becoming a trans-tribal religion, and Muhammad frequently found himself acting as a trans-tribal statesman and arbitrator as well as prophet. Hostility to Mecca is evident in that part of his biography, since his home city had, according to the Qurʾan, rejected a faith that was intended to safeguard it from danger in the world. Many skirmishes and battles are recorded throughout that period between the Muslims of Medina and the pagans of Mecca. Under Muhammad, the Muslims, especially al-muhajirun, sought to undermine Meccas trade routes and also gain access to Meccas haram (sanctuary), which was holy to all pagan Arabs but also to Muslims, who traced its construction to Abraham and saw it as integral to the history of monotheism.

During the Medinian part of Muhammads life Islam was spreading in Arabia, but Muhammad remained focused on Mecca until he conquered the city in 630 in a bloodless campaign. He confirmed the holy status of the now-Islamized city. The originally pagan haram of Mecca was sanctified as a Muslim sanctuary and a Muslim pilgrimage site, and the pagan objects of worship within it were destroyed.

Muhammad died in Medina in 632, shortly after performing his last pilgrimage to Mecca, and at a time when Muslim communities had sprung up throughout Arabia. He left no instructions as to how the community should be ruled after him, leaving the task to the elders of the community. After deliberations they chose Abu Bakr, Muhammads close companion and one of the earliest believers, as the first caliph in Islam.

Muhammad counts as one of the most influential men in history. In the Qurʾan he is presented as a mere human person with no divine qualities and no supernatural powers, and he is not credited with miracles. His role is presented as one of bearing witness to his people and as a conveyor of Gods final and true revelation; with the teachings of Muhammad, God acquires a highly abstract character. The tradition further highlights Muhammads illiteracy, which in the context of the highly refined, poetic language of the Quran establishes all the more the books divine origin.

Muhammad combined in his career several roles prophet, statesman, warrior, legislatorand through that combination managed to establish an enduring trans-tribal community in Arabia that, after his death, became the model for a universal Muslim community. The corpus of sayings attributed to him, or hadith, along with the traditions around his life, constitute the sunnah, which is generally considered second to the Quran as source of Muslim tradition and also provides Muslims with an exemplary model of proper Muslim life and composure.

The basic teachings of Muhammad emphasized Islam as a trans-tribal fellowship, a harmonious community whose inner peace was safeguarded through regulated legal relations that closely mirrored the contractual outlook of the merchant class. Muhammad also mandated and expanded earlier techniques of wealth redistribution through elevating almsgiving to a religious duty. While presenting Islam as the last chapter in the history of monotheism, Muhammad also operated in a territory that was far removed from imperial or great power centers. Central western Arabia in Muhammads time was becoming increasingly connected to world trade routes, but being situated deep in the desert, remained independent of the great powers of the time. The context in which Muhammad operated, therefore, provided for the emergence of a new type of political community, one that was not based on imperial politics but rather on overcoming and reworking Arab tribal traditions and integrating various classes and social groups under the banner of a new religion that gave them a sense of common and universal identity, binding contractual relations, and solidaristic practices and attitudes.

SEE ALSO Islam, Shia and Sunni; Muslims

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bamyeh, Mohammed A. 1999. The Social Origins of Islam: Mind, Economy, Discourse. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rodinson, Maxime. 1980. Muhammad. Trans. Anne Carter. New York: Pantheon.

Watt, W. Montgomery. 1980. Muhammad, Prophet and Statesman. London and New York: Oxford University Press.

Mohammed A. Bamyeh

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Muhammad (prophet of Islam)

Muhammad (məhăm´əd) [Arab.,=praised], 570?–632, the name of the Prophet of Islam, one of the great figures of history, b. Mecca.

Early Life

Muhammad was the son of Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his wife Amina, both of the Hashim clan of the dominant Kuraish (Quraysh) tribal federation. Muhammad was orphaned soon after birth, and was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib. When he was 24, he married Khadija, a wealthy widow and merchant, much his senior; his position in the community became that of a wealthy merchant. Muhammad had no other wife in Khadija's lifetime. Khadija's daughter Fatima was his only child to have issue.

Call to Prophecy

When he was 40, Muhammad felt himself selected by God to be the Arab prophet of true religion. The Arabs, unlike other nations, had hitherto had no prophet. In the cave of Mt. Hira, N of Mecca, he had a vision in which he was commanded to preach. Thereafter throughout his life he continued to have revelations, many of which were collected and recorded in the Qur'an. His fundamental teachings were: there is one God; people must in all things submit to Him; in this world nations have been amply punished for rejecting God's prophets, and heaven and hell are waiting for the present generation; the world will come to an end with a great judgment. He included as religious duties frequent prayer and almsgiving, and he forbade usury.

Enemies and Converts

In his first years Muhammad made few converts but many enemies. His first converts were Khadija, Ali (who became the husband of Fatima), and Abu Bakr. From about 620, Mecca became actively hostile, since much of its revenues depended on its pagan shrine, the Kaaba, and an attack on the existing Arab religion was an attack on the prosperity of Mecca. While he was gaining only enemies at home, Muhammad's teaching was faring little better abroad; only at Yathrib did it make any headway, and on Yathrib depended the future of Islam. In the summer of 622 Muhammad fled from Mecca as an attempt was being prepared to murder him, and he escaped in the night from the city and made his way to Yathrib. From this event, the flight, or Hegira, of the Prophet (622), the Islamic calendar begins.

Muhammad spent the rest of his life at Yathrib, henceforth called Medina, the City of the Prophet. At Medina he built his model theocratic state and from there ruled his rapidly growing empire. Muhammad's lawgiving at Medina is at least theoretically the law of Islam, and in its evolution over the next 10 years the history of the community at Medina is seen.

Medina lies on the caravan route N of Mecca, and the Kuraishites of Mecca could not endure the thought of their outlawed relative taking vengeance on his native city by plundering their caravans. A pitched battle between Muhammad's men and the Meccans occurred at Badr, and the victory of an inferior force from the poorer city over the men of Mecca gave Islam great prestige in SW Arabia. More than a year later the battle of Uhud was fought but with less fortunate results. By this time pagan Arabia had been converted, and the Prophet's missionaries, or legates, were active in the Eastern Empire, in Persia, and in Ethiopia.

As he believed firmly in his position as last of the prophets and as successor of Jesus, Muhammad seems at first to have expected that the Jews and Christians would welcome him and accept his revelations, but he was soon disappointed. Medina had a large Jewish population which controlled most of the wealth of the city, and they steadfastly refused to give their new ruler any kind of religious allegiance. Muhammad, after a long quarrel, appropriated much of their property, and his first actual conquest was the oasis of Khaibar, occupied by the Jews, in 628. The failure of several missions among the Christians made him distrustful of Christians as well as Jews.

His renown increased, and in 629 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca without interference. There he won valuable converts, including Amr and Khalid (who had fought him at Uhud). In 630 he marched against Mecca, which fell without a fight. Arabia was won. Muhammad's private life—the fact that he had nine wives—has received a vast, and perhaps disproportionate, amount of attention. His third wife, Aishah, was able and devoted; he died in her arms June 8, 632.

Legends and Veneration

The traditions concerning Muhammad's life, deeds, and sayings are contained in the hadith. Islamic dogma stresses his exclusively human nature, while presenting him as infallible on matters of prophecy. He is considered by most Muslims to have been sinless, and is regarded as the ultimate subject of emulation. Many believe that he will intercede for the Muslim community on the day of judgment. Muhammad is probably the most common given name, with variations including the W African Mamadu and the Turkic Mehmet. He was known to medieval Christianity as Mahomet.

Bibliography

See biographies by T. Andrae (tr. 1936, repr. 1971), W. M. Watt (1953), M. Hamidullah (1959), M. Rodinson (tr. 1971), M. Lings (1983), K. Armstrong (1992 and 2006), and L. Hazleton (2013); see also A. Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger (1985).

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Muhammad

Muhammad (c.570–632) Arab prophet and inspirational religious leader who was the last and chief prophet of Islam. He was born in Mecca. At the age of 25, he began working as a trading agent for Khadijah, a wealthy widow of 40, whom he married. For 25 years, she was his closest companion and gave birth to several children. Only one brought him descendants – his daughter Fatima, who married his cousin, Ali. In c.610, Muhammad had a vision while meditating alone in a cave on Mount Hira. A voice three times commanded him to ‘recite’, and he felt his body compressed until he could hardly breathe. Then he heard the words of the first of many revelations that came to him in several similar visions over the next two decades. The revelations came from Allah, or God, and Muhammad's followers believe that they were passed to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel. At the core of his new religion was the doctrine that there is no God but Allah and His followers must submit to Him – the word islam means ‘submission’. Muhammad gained followers but also many enemies in Mecca. In 622 he fled to Yathrib (Medina). Muslims, later took this Hejira as initiating the first year in their calendar. Muhammad won more followers and organized rules for the proper worship of Allah and for Islam. Muhammad made war against his enemies and conquered Mecca in 630. Most of the Arab tribes allied with him. In Medina, he married Aishah, the daughter of Abu Bakr, one of his strongest supporters. Muhammad is considered an ideal man, but he never claimed supernatural powers, and is not held to be divine. His tomb is in the Holy Mosque of the Prophet, Medina.

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Muhammad

Muhammad (c.570–632), Arab prophet and founder of Islam. He was born in Mecca, where c.610 he received the first of a series of revelations which, as the Koran, became the doctrinal and legislative basis of Islam. His sayings (the Hadith) and the accounts of his daily practice (the Sunna) constitute the other main sources of guidance for most Muslims.

In the face of opposition to his preaching he and his small group of supporters were forced to flee to Medina in 622; this flight, known as the Hegira), is of great significance in Islam, and the Islamic calendar (which is based on lunar months) is dated from ad 622 (= 1 ah). (See also Mahomet.)

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"Muhammad." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 14 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Muhammad

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