Muhammad in Islam

For an overview of all perspectives, see Muhammad.

Calligraphic representation of
Muhammad's name
Apostle of God
Born Monday, 12 Rabi' al-Awwal c. 53 BH/ c. 570 CE
Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
Died Monday, 12 of Rabi' al-Awwal c. 11 AH/ 8 June, 632 CE (aged 61 solar, 63 years)
Medina, Hejaz, Arabia
Resting place Green Dome, Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina, Hejaz, Saudi Arabia
Venerated in Islam
Major shrine The Prophetic Mosque
Major works
  • Delivered the Message of the Qur'an
  • Led the Hegira and established the Ummah in Medina

Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn Abdul-Muttalib ibn Hashim (Arabic: محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد المطلب) (c. 570 – 8 June, 632), in short form Muhammad, is considered by Muslims to be the last messenger and prophet sent by God to guide humanity to the right way (Quran 7:157). Muslims believe that Muhammad is the final prophet sent by God; and the Quran, which is the central religious text of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad by God. According to Muslims, he was sent to restore Islam, which they believe to be the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, and other prophets.[1][2][3][4] The religious, social, and political tenets that Muhammad established in the light of Quran became the foundation of Islam and Islamic civilization.[5]

Muslims often refer to Muhammad as Prophet Muhammad, or just The Prophet or The Messenger, and regard him as the greatest of all the prophets.[6][7][8][9] He is seen by Muslims as a possessor of many virtues.[10] As an act of respect Muslims follow the name of Muhammad by the Arabic benediction sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam (Peace be upon him, sometimes abbreviated S.A.W.),[11] a practice instructed by Quran and Hadith. The deeds and sayings in the life of Muhammad – known as Sunnah – are considered a model of the life-style that Muslims are obliged to follow. Recognizing Muhammad as God's true messenger is one of the central requirements in Islam[12] which is clearly laid down in the second part of Shahadah, the Islamic proclamation of faith: "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God". The Quran chiefly refers to Muhammad as "Messenger" and "Messenger of God" (Quran 48:29), and asks people to follow him so as to become successful in this life and the afterlife (Quran 3:132).

Born in about 570 CE into a respected Quraysh family of Mecca, Muhammad earned the title "al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين), meaning "the Trustworthy".[13][14] At the age of 40 in 610 CE, Muhammad is said to have received his first verbal revelation in a cave named Mount Hira, which was the beginning of the descent of the Quran that continued up to the end of his life; and Muslims hold that Muhammad was asked by God to preach the oneness of God in order to stamp out idolatry, a practice overtly present in Arab society.[15][16] Because of persecution of the newly converted Muslims, upon the invitation of a delegation from Medina (then known as Yathrib), Muhammad and his followers migrated to Medina in 622 CE, an event known as Hijra (Hegira).[17][18] A turning point in Muhammad’s life, this Hijra also marks the beginning of Islamic calendar. In Medina Muhammad sketched out the Constitution of Medina specifying the rights of and relations among the various existing communities there, formed an independent Muslim community (Ummah), and managed to establish the first Islamic state.[19] Despite the ongoing hostility of the Meccans, Muhammad, along with his followers, took control of Mecca in 630 CE, treated its citizens with generosity, and ordered to destroy all the pagan idols.[20] In later years in Medina, Muhammad unified the different Arab tribes under Islam,[21] carried out social and religious reforms,[22] and made administrative developments that further consolidated the Islamic community.[23] By the time he died in 632, his teachings had won the acceptance of Islam by almost all the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula.[24]

In the Quran

The name Muhammad written in Thuluth, a script variety of Islamic calligraphy.

The Quran enumerates little about Muhammad’s early life or other biographic details, but it talks about his prophetic mission, his moral excellence, and theological issues regarding Muhammad. According to the Quran, Muhammad is the last in a chain of prophets sent by God (33:40). Throughout the Quran, Muhammad is referred to as "Messenger", "Messenger of God", and "Prophet". Some of such verses are 2:101, 2:143, 2:151, 3:32, 3:81, 3:144, 3:164, 4:79-80, 5:15, 5:41, 7:157, 8:01, 9:3, 33:40, 48:29, and 66:09. Other terms are used, including "Warner", "bearer of glad tidings", and the "one who invites people to a Single God" (Quran 12:108, and 33:45-46). The Quran asserts that Muhammad was a man who possessed the highest moral excellence, and that God made him a good example or a "goodly model" for Muslims to follow (Quran 68:4, and 33:21). The Quran disclaims any superhuman characteristics for Muhammad,[25] but describes him in terms of positive human qualities. In several verses, the Quran crystallizes Muhammad’s relation to humanity. According to the Quran, God sent Muhammad with truth (God’s message to humanity), and as a blessing to the whole world (Quran 39:33, and 21:107). In Islamic tradition, this means that God sent Muhammad with his message to humanity the following of which will give people salvation in the afterlife, and it is Muhammad’s teachings and the purity of his personal life alone which keep alive the worship of God on this world.[26]

The Quran also categorizes some theological issues regarding Muhammad. The most important among them is the edict to follow the teachings of Muhammad. The Quran repeatedly commands people to "follow God and his Messenger (Muhammad)" in verses including 3:31-32, 3:132, 4:59, and 4:69.

Traditional Muslim account of Muhammad

Lineage of Muhammad

Abu Muhammad 'Abd al-Malik bin Hisham wrote: Muhammad was the son of Abdullah, ibn Abdul-Muttalib (whose name was Shayba), ibn Hashim (whose name was 'Amr), ibn Abd Manaf (whose name was al-Mughira), ibn Qusayy (whose name was Zayd), ibn Kilab, ibn Murra, ibn Ka'b, ibn Lu'ay, ibn Ghalib, ibn Fihr, ibn Malik, ibn al-Nadr, ibn Kinana, ibn Khuzayma, ibn Mudrika (whose name was 'Amir), ibn Ilyas, ibn Mudar, ibn Nizar, ibn Ma'ad, ibn Adnan, ibn Udd (or Udad), ibn Ya'rub, ibn Yashjub, ibn Nabit, ibn Isma'il, ibn Ibrahim, the friend of the Compassionate.

The mother of his father Abdulla was Fatima d. 'Amr ibn 'A'idh b. 'Imran b. Makhzum b. Yaqza b. Murra b. Ka' b. Lu'ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr b. Malik b. al-Nadr. His mother was Amina d.(daughter) Wahb b. 'Abd Manaf b.(son) Zuhra b. Kilab b. Murra b. Ka'b b. Lu'ayy b. Galib b. Fihr b. Malik b. al-Nadr. Her mother was Barra d. 'Abdu'l·'Uzza b. 'Uthman b. 'Abdul-Dar b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra. Barra's mother was Umm Habib d. Asad b. 'Abdul-'Uzza b. Qusayy, &c. Umm Habib's mother was Barra d. 'Auf b. 'Ubayd b. 'Uwayj b. 'Adiy b. Ka'b b. Lu'ayy b. Ghalib. [27]

Early years

The birth of Muhammad in the Siyer-i-Nebi.

Muhammad, the son of Abdullah and his young wife Amina, was born in 570 CE[n 1] in the city of Mecca in the Arabian Peninsula. He was a member of the Banu Hashim family, a respected branch of the prestigious and influential Quraysh tribe. It is generally said that Abd al-Muttalib named the child "Muhammad".[28]


Muhammad was orphaned when young. Some months before the birth of Muhammad, his father died near Medina on a mercantile expedition to Syria.[29] When Muhammad was six he accompanied his mother on a visit to Medina, probably to visit her late husband's tomb. While returning to Mecca, Amina died at a desolate place called Abwa, about half-way to Mecca, and was buried there. Muhammad was now taken in by his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, who himself died when Muhammad was eight, leaving him in the care of his uncle Abu Talib. In Islamic tradition, Muhammad's being orphaned at an early age has been seen as a part of divine plan to enable him to "develop early the qualities of self-reliance, reflection, and steadfastness".[30] Muslim scholar Muhammad Ali sees the tale of Muhammad as a spiritual parallel to the life of Moses, considering many aspects of their lives to be shared.[31] The Quran said about Moses: "I cast (the garment of love) over thee from Me, so that thou might be reared under My eye. ... We saved thee from all grief, although We tried thee with various trials. ... O Moses, I have chosen thee for Mine Own service" (20:39-41). Taking into account the idea of this spiritual parallelism, together with other aspects of Muhammad's early life, it has been suggested that it was God under Whose direct care Muhammad was raised and prepared for the responsibility that was to be conferred upon him.[30] Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan argued that Muhammad's orphan state made him dependent on God and close to the destitute – an "initiatory state for the future Messenger of God".[32]

Early life

The birthplace of Muhammad. After his migration, the house was taken and sold by Aqil ibn Abi Talib. In modern times, the house was demolished and converted into a library in 1951

According to Arab custom, after his birth, infant Muhammad was sent to Banu Sa'ad clan, a neighboring Bedouin tribe, so that he could acquire the pure speech and free manners of the desert.[33] There, Muhammad spent the first five years of his life with his foster-mother Halima. Islamic tradition holds that during this period, God sent two angels who opened his chest, took out the heart, and removed a blood-clot from it. It was then washed with Zamzam water. In Islamic tradition, this incident signifies the idea that God purified his prophet and protected him from sin.[34][35]

Islamic belief holds that God protected Muhammad from involving in any disrespectful and coarse practice. Even when he verged on any such activity, God intervened. Prophetic tradition narrates one such incident in which it is said on the authority of Ibn Al-Atheer that while working as herdsman at early period of his life, young Muhammad once told his fellow-shepherd to take care of his sheep so that the former could go to the town for some recreation as the other youths used to do. But on the way, his attention was diverted to a wedding party, and he sat down to listen to the sound of music only to fall asleep soon. He was awakened by the heat of the sun. Muhammad reported that he never tried such things again.[36][37][38]

Around the age of twelve, Muhammad accompanied his uncle Abu Talib in a mercantile journey to Syria and gained experience in commercial enterprise.[39] On this journey Muhammad is said to have been recognized by a Christian monk, Bahira, who prophesied about Muhammad's future career as a prophet of God.[16][40]

Social welfare

Between 580 CE and 590 CE, Mecca experienced a bloody feud between Quraysh and Bani Hawazin that lasted for four years, before a truce was reached. After the truce, an alliance named Hilf al-Fudul (The Pact of the Virtuous)[41] was formed to check further violence and injustice; and to stand on the side of the oppressed, an oath was taken by the descendants of Banu Hashim and the kindred families, where Muhammad was also a member.[39] In later days of his life, Muhammad is reported to have said about this pact, "I witnessed a confederacy in the house of ‘Abdullah bin Jada‘an. It was more appealing to me than herds of cattle. Even now in the period of Islam I would respond positively to attending such a meeting if I were invited."[42]

Islamic tradition credits Muhammad with settling a dispute peacefully, regarding setting the sacred Black Stone on the wall of Kaaba, where the clan leaders could not decide on which clan should have the honor of doing that. The Black stone was removed to facilitate the rebuilding of Kaaba because of its dilapidated condition. The disagreement grew tense, and bloodshed became likely. The clan leaders agreed to wait for the next man to come through the gate of Kaaba and ask him to choose. The 35-year-old Muhammad entered through that gate first, asked for a mantle which he spread on the ground, and placed the stone at its center. Muhammad had the clans’ leaders lift a corner of it until the mantle reached the appropriate height, and then himself placed the stone on the proper place. Thus, an ensuing bloodshed was averted by the wisdom of Muhammad.[16][43][44]


Muhammad, shown with a veiled face and halo, at Mount Hira (16th-century Ottoman illustration of the Siyer-i Nebi)

Most Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last and final messenger and prophet of God, who began receiving direct verbal revelations in 610 CE. According to religious sources, this incident was preceded by Muhammad's dreams replete with spiritual significance which were fulfilled according to their true import; and this was the commencement of his divine revelation.[16][45] The first revealed verses were the first five ayah of sura Al-Alaq that the archangel Gabriel brought from God to Muhammad in the cave Mount Hira.[46][47] Perplexed by this new experience, Muhammad made his way to home where he was consoled by his wife Khadijah, who also took him to her Christian cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was familiar with scriptures of Torah and Gospel. Islamic tradition holds that Waraka, upon hearing the description, testified to Muhammad’s prophethood.[16][48] It is also reported by Aisha that Waraqah ibn Nawfal later told Muhammad that Muhammad's own people would turn him out, to which Muhammad inquired "Will they really drive me out?" Waraka replied in the affirmative and said "Anyone who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should be alive till that day, then I would support you strongly."[49][50] Some Islamic scholars argue that Muhammad was foretold in the Bible, Jewish scriptures and Hindu scriptures.[51]

Western scholars regard Muhammad as the founder of Islam as a monotheistic faith.[52] Muslims believe that monotheism faith was not created by a human but revealed by God.

Divine revelation

In Islamic belief, revelations are God's word delivered by his chosen individuals – known as Messengers—to humanity.[53] According to Islamic scholar Muhammad Shafi Usmani, God created three media through which humans receive knowledge: men’s senses, the faculty of reason, and divine revelation; and it is the third one that addresses the liturgical and eschatological issues, answers the questions regarding God's purpose behind creating humanity, and acts as a guidance for humanity in choosing the correct way.[45] In Islamic belief, the sequence of divine revelation came to an end with Muhammad.[45]

Muslims believe these revelations to be the verbatim word of God, which were later collected together, and came to be known as Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

Early preaching and teachings

During the first three years of his ministry, Muhammad preached Islam privately, mainly among his near relatives and close acquaintances. The first to believe him was his wife Khadijah, who was followed by Ali, his cousin, and Zayd ibn Harithah. Notable among the early converts were Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn Affan, Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib, Sa`ad ibn Abi Waqqas, Abdullah ibn Masud, Arqam, Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Ammar ibn Yasir and Bilal ibn Rabah. In the fourth year of his prophethood, according to Islamic belief, he was ordered by God to make public his propagation of this monotheistic faith (Quran 15:94).

Muhammad’s earliest teachings were marked by his insistence on the oneness of God (Quran 112:1), the denunciation of polytheism (Quran 6:19), belief in the Last judgment and its recompense (Quran 84:1–15), and social and economic justice (Quran 89:17–20).[5] In a broader sense, Muhammad preached that he had been sent as God’s messenger;[54] that God is One who is all-powerful, creator and controller of this universe (Quran 85:8–9, Quran 6:2), and merciful towards his creations (Quran 85:14);[55] that worship should be made only to God;[54] that ascribing partnership to God is a major sin (Quran 4:48); that men would be accountable, for their deeds, to God on last judgment day, and would be assigned to heaven or hell (Quran 85:10–13); and that God expects man to be generous with their wealth and not miserly (Quran 107 :1–7).[56]


Quba Mosque, the first mosque in the history of Islam, at the outskirts of Medina. It was founded by the Islamic prophet Muhammad when he emigrated to Medina
The inside view of Quba Mosque

Muhammad’s early teachings invited vehement opposition from the wealthy and leading clans of Mecca who feared the loss not only of their ancestral paganism, but also of the lucrative pilgrimage business.[57] At first, the opposition was confined to ridicule and sarcasm but later morphed into active persecution[58] that forced a section of newly-converts to migrate to neighboring Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia).[59][60] In Mecca, as Muhammad was gaining new followers, including notable figures like Umar ibn Al-Khattāb, and Hamza, the Quraysh tribe became perturbed. Unable to deal with this status quo, the Quraysh proposed to adopt a common form of worship, which was denounced by the Quran.[61] Because of bright prospect of success in Medina,[62][63][64] Muhammad and his followers migrated there around September 622 CE.[62][65]

Persistent hostility of Quraysh

The place where the people of Medina welcomed Muhammad when he came from Mecca

Before the arrival of Muhammad, the clans of Medina had suffered a lot from internal feuds and had planned to nominate Abd-Allah ibn Ubaiy as their common leader with a view to restoring peace. The arrival of Muhammad rendered this design unlikely, and from then Abd-Allah ibn Ubaiy began entertaining hostility towards Muhammad. Soon after Muhammad’s settlement in Medina, Abd-Allah ibn Ubaiy received an ultimatum from the Quraysh directing him to fight or expel the Muslims from Medina, but was convinced by Muhammad not to do that.[16][66][67] Around this time, Sa'ad ibn Mua'dh, chief of Aws, went to Mecca to perform Umrah. Because of mutual friendship, he was hosted and escorted by a Meccan leader, Umayyah ibn Khalaf, but the two could not escape the notice of Abu Jahl, an archenemy of Islam. At the sight of Sa’ad, Abu Jahl became angry and threatened to stop their visit to Kaaba as his clan had sheltered the Muhammad. Sa'ad ibn Mua'dh also threatened to hinder their trading caravans.[16][67]

Thus, there remained a persistent enmity between the Muslims and the Quraysh tribe.[68] The Muslims were still few and without substantial resources, and fearful of attacks.[16][69]

Causes of and preparation for fighting

Following the emigration, the Meccans seized the properties of the Muslim emigrants in Mecca.[70] The Quraysh leaders of Mecca persecuted the newly converted Muslims there, and they migrated to Medina to avoid persecution, abandoning their properties. Muhammad and the Muslims found themselves in a more precarious situation in Medina than in Mecca.[16][71] Mecca offered them the opposition and persecution of the Quraysh while in Medina. Besides the ultimatum of the Quraysh they had to confront the designs of the hypocrites, and had to be wary of the pagans and Jews also.[72] The trading caravans of Quraysh, whose usual route was from Mecca to Syria, used to set the neighboring tribes of Medina against the Muslims, which posed a great danger to the security of Muslims of Medina [73] given that war was common at that time.

In view of all this, the Quran granted permission to the persecuted Muslims to defend themselves: "Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged, and God indeed has the power to help them. They are those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they affirmed: "Our Lord is God"" (Quran 22:39-40). The Quran further justifies taking defensive measures by stating that "And if God had not repelled some men by others, the earth would have been corrupted. But God is a Lord of Kindness to (his) creatures" (Quran 2:251). According to Quranic description, war is an abnormal and unenviable way which, when inevitable, should be limited to minimal casualty, and free from any kind of transgression on the part of the believers:

Fight in the cause of God with those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors.
Quran, Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 190[74]
... tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter; but fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith. But if they cease, God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
Quran, Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 191-2[75]
And fight them on until there is no more Tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practice oppression.
Quran, Sura 2 (Al-Baqara), ayah 193[76]
Every time they kindle the fire of war, God doth extinguish it; but they (ever) strive to do mischief on earth. And God loveth not those who do mischief.
Quran, Sura 5 (Al-Ma’ida), ayah 64[77]

Thus, to ensure the security of the Ansars and Muhajirun of Medina, Muhammad resorted to the following measures:

  1. Visiting the neighboring tribes to enter into non-aggression treaty with them to secure Medina from their attacks.[78][79]
  2. Blocking or intercepting the trading caravans of the Quraysh to compel them into a compromise with the Muslims. As these trading enterprises were the main strength of the Quraysh, Muhammad employed this strategy to reduce their strength.[16]
  3. Sending small scouting parties to gather intelligence about Quraysh movement, and also to facilitate the evacuation of those Muslims who were still suffering in Mecca and could not migrate to Medina because of their poverty or any other reason.[73] It is in this connection that the following verse of the Quran was revealed: "And why should you not fight in the cause of God and for those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: "Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from Thee one who will protect; and raise for us from Thee one who will help!"" (Quran 4:75).

The Battle of Badr

A key battle in the early days of Islam, the Battle of Badr was the first large-scale engagement between the nascent Islamic community of Medina and their opponent Quraysh of Mecca where the Muslims won a decisive victory. The battle has some background. In 2 AH (623 CE) in the month of Rajab, a Muslim patrolling group attacked a Quraysh trading caravan killing its elite leader Amr ibn Hazrami. The incident happening in a sacred month displeased Muhammad, and enraged the Quraysh to a greater extent.[16][80] The Quran however neutralizes the effect saying that bloodshed in sacred month is obviously prohibited, but Quraysh paganism, persecuting on the Meccan converts, and preventing people from the Sacred Mosque are greater sins (Quran 2:217). Traditional sources say that upon receiving intelligence of a richly-laden trading caravan of the Quraysh returning from Syria to Mecca, Muhammad took it as a good opportunity to strike a heavy blow on Meccan power by taking down the caravan in which almost all the Meccan people had invested.[81][82] With full liberty to join or stay back, Muhammad amassed some 313 inadequately-prepared men furnished with only two horses and seventy camels, and headed for a place called Badr. Muslim scholar Shibli Nomani however rejects the notion that Muslim force set out from Medina to attack the Quraysh trading caravan that led to the Battle of Badr. After a detailed analysis on the issue, he, in his book Sirat-un-Nabi, opines that the Quraysh intention to avenge Hazrami’s murder, coupled with a rumor of Muslim attack on Quraysh caravan, led to the battle. In case of clear Quranic account of any incident, says Numani, no other account can be more reliable in Islamic belief. Now that the Quran says about one section of Muslims force "Even as your Lord caused you to go forth from your house with the truth, though a party of the believers were surely averse; ... (and they went forth) as if they were being driven to death while they saw it" ( 8:5-6), it proves that they were going to face a large, well-armed force, and not just a trading caravan. The Quran further says about the Quraysh force "And be not like those who started from their homes insolently and to be seen of men, and to hinder (men) from the path of God" (8:47) which indicates the Quraysh approach to invade Medina. Shibli Nomani thus concludes that Muslims of Medina went out to face the Quraysh force of Mecca that led to the Battle of Badr.[16]

The Quraysh with all its leading personalities except Abu Lahab marched with a heavily-equipped army of more than one thousand men with ostentatious opulence of food supply and war materials.[81][83] The battle occurred on 13 March 624 CE (17 Ramadan, 2 AH) and resulted in a heavy loss on the Quraysh side: around seventy men, including chief leaders, were killed and a similar number were taken prisoner. Islamic tradition attributes the Muslim victory to the direct intervention of God: he sent down angels that emboldened the Muslims and wreaked damage on the enemy force.[81]

Treason, attacks, and siege

The defeat at the battle of Badr provoked the Quraysh to take revenge on Muslims. Meanwhile, two Quraysh men – Umair ibn Wahb and Safwan ibn Umayya – conspired to kill Muhammad; the former went to Medina with a poisoned sword to execute the plan but was detected and brought to Muhammad. It is said that Muhammad himself revealed to Umair his secret plan and Umair, upon accepting Islam, began preaching Islam in Mecca.[84][85] The Quraysh soon led an army of 3,000 men and fought the Muslim force, consisting of 700 men, in the Battle of Uhud. Despite initial success in the battle, the Muslims failed to consummate victory due to the mistake of the strategically posted archers. The predicament of Muslims at this battle has been seen by Islamic scholars as a result of disobedience of the command of Muhammad: Muslims realized that they could not succeed unless guided by him.[86]

The Battle of Uhud was followed by a series of aggressive and treacherous activities against the Muslims in Medina. Tulaiha ibn Khuweiled, chief of Banu Asad, and Sufyan ibn Khalid, chief of Banu Lahyan, tried to march against Medina but were rendered unsuccessful. Ten Muslims, recruited by some local tribes to learn the tenets of Islam, were treacherously murdered: eight of them being killed at a place called Raji, and the remaining two being taken to Mecca as captives and killed by Quraysh.[16][87] About the same time, a group of seventy Muslims, sent to propagate Islam to the people of Nejd, was put to a massacre by Amir ibn Tufail's Banu Amir and other tribes. Only two of them escaped, returned to Medina, and informed Muhammad of the incidents.[16][88] Around 5th AH (627 CE), a large combined force of at least 10,000 men from Quraysh, Ghatafan, Banu Asad, and other pagan tribes was formed to attack the Muslims mainly at the instigation and efforts of Jewish leader Huyayy ibn Akhtab, and it marched towards Medina. The trench dug by the Muslims and the adverse weather foiled their siege of Medina, and they left with heavy losess. The Quran says that God dispersed the disbelievers and thwarted their plans (33:5). The Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza, who were allied with Muhammad before the Battle of the Trench, were charged with treason and besieged by the Muslims commanded by Muhammad.[89][90] The Banu Qurayza eventually surrendered and all the men, apart from a few who converted to Islam, were beheaded, while the women and children were enslaved.[89][90][91][92][93]


Around 6 AH (628 CE) the nascent Islamic state was somewhat consolidated when Muhammad left Medina to perform pilgrimage at Mecca, but was intercepted en route by the Quraysh, who however made a treaty with the Muslims. Though the terms of the Hudaybiyyah treaty were apparently unfavorable to the Muslims of Medina, the Quran declared it as a clear victory (48:1). Muslim historians mention that through the treaty the Quraysh recognized Muhammad as their equal counterpart and Islam as a rising power,[94] and that the treaty mobilized the contact between the Meccan pagans and the Muslims of Medina resulting in a large number of Quraysh conversion into Islam after being attracted by the Islamic norms.[16]

Around the end of the 6 AH and the beginning of the 7 AH (628 CE), Muhammad sent letters to various heads of state asking them to accept Islam and to worship only one God.[95] Notable among them were Heraclius, the emperor of Byzantium; Khosrau II, the emperor of Persia; the Negus of Ethiopia; Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt; Harith Gassani, the governor of Syria; and Munzir ibn Sawa, the ruler of Bahrain. In the 6 AH, Khalid ibn al-Walid accepted Islam who later was to play a decisive role in the expansion of Islamic empire. In the 7 AH, the Jewish leaders of Khaybar – a place some 200 miles from Medina – started instigating the Jewish and Ghatafan tribes against Medina.[16][96] When negotiation failed, Muhammad ordered the blockade of the Khaybar forts, and its inhabitants surrendered after some days. The lands of Khaybar came under Muslim control. Muhammad however granted the Jewish request to retain the lands under their control.[16] This year Muhammad and the Muslims performed their pilgrimage to Mecca and left the city after three days.

Next year, Banu Bakr tribe, an ally of the Quraysh, attacked the Muslims' ally tribe Banu Khuza'a, and killed several of them.[97] The Quraysh openly helped Banu Bakr in their attack, violating the terms of Hudaybiyyah treaty. Of the three options now advanced by Muhammad, they decided to cancel the Hudaybiyyah treaty.[98] Muhammad started taking preparation for Mecca campaign. On November 29, 630 (the 6th of Ramadan, 8 hijra),[99] Muhammad set out with 10,000 companions, and stopped at a nearby place from Mecca called Marr-uz-Zahran. When Meccan leader Abu Sufyan came to gather intelligence, he was detected and arrested by the guards. Umar ibn al-Khattab wanted the execution of Abu Sufyan for his past offences, but Muhammad spared his life.[16][100] On December 11, 630 (18th of Ramadan 8 hijrah), he entered Mecca almost unresisted, and declared a general amnesty for all those who had committed offences against Islam and himself. He then destroyed the idols – placed in and around the Kaaba – reciting the Quranic verse "Say, the truth has arrived, and falsehood perished. Verily, the falsehood is bound to perish" (Quran 17:81). Biographers and critics have commended Muhammad's generosity to his long-standing enemies in Mecca. William Muir commented, "The magnanimity with which Mahomet treated a people who had so long hated and rejected him is worthy of all admiration."[101]

In Islamic thought

Artifact of Muhammad's letter to the Muqawqis, ruler of Egypt- actual document on the right with transcription on the left- Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul

Final prophet

Main article: Khatam an-Nabiyyin

Muhammad is regarded by Muslims as the final prophet sent by God for the benefit of mankind.[1][25][102][103][104] The Quran uses the designation Khatam an-Nabiyyin (33:40) which is translated as Seal of the Prophets. The title is generally regarded by Muslims as meaning that Muhammad is the last in the series of prophets beginning with Adam.[105][106][107] The belief that a new prophet cannot arise after Muhammad is shared by both Sunni and Shi'i Muslims.[108][109] Believing Muhammad is the last prophet is a fundamental belief in Islamic theology.[110][111]

Muslim veneration for Muhammad

Muhammad is held in high veneration by the Muslims,[112] and is sometimes considered by them to be the greatest of all the prophets.[6][7][8] But Muslims do not worship Muhammad as worship in Islam is only for God.[8][113][114] Muslim understanding and reverence for Muhammad can largely be traced to the teachings of Quran which emphatically describes Muhammad’s exalted status. To begin with, the Quran describes Muhammad as al-nabi al-ummi or unlettered prophet (Quran 7:158), meaning that he "received his religious knowledge only from God".[115] As a result, Muhammad’s examples have been understood by the Muslims to represent the highest ideal for human conduct, and to reflect what God wants humanity to do. The Quran ranks Muhammad above previous prophets in terms of his moral excellence and the universal message he brought from God for humanity. The Quran calls him the "beautiful model" (al-uswa al-hasana) for those who hope for God and the last day (Quran 33:21). Muslims believe that Muhammad was sent not for any specific people or region, but for all of humanity.[116][117]

Muslims venerate Muhammad in various ways:

Sunnah: A model for Muslims

For more than thirteen hundred years Muslims have modeled their lives after their prophet Muhammad. They awaken every morning as he awakened; they eat as he ate; they wash as he washed; and they behave even in the minutest acts of daily life as he behaved.
 S. A. Nigosian

In Muslim legal and religious thought, Muhammad, inspired by God to act wisely and in accordance with his will, provides an example that complements God's revelation as expressed in the Quran; and his actions and sayings – known as Sunnah – are a model for Muslim conduct.[120] The Sunnah can be defined as "the actions, decisions, and practices that Muhammad approved, allowed, or condoned".[121] It also includes Muhammad's confirmation to someone's particular action or manner (during Muhammad's lifetime) which, when communicated to Muhammad, was generally approved by him.[122] The Sunnah, as recorded in the Hadith literature, encompasses everyday activities related to men's domestic, social, economic, political life.[121] It addresses a broad array of activities and Islamic beliefs ranging from the simple practices like, for example, the proper way of entering into a mosque, and private cleanliness to the most sublime questions involving the love between God and humans.[123] The Sunnah of Muhammad serves as a model for the Muslims to shape their life in that light. The Quran tells the believers to offer prayer, to fast, to perform pilgrimage, to pay Zakat, but it was Muhammad who practically taught the believers how to perform all these.[123] In Islamic theology, the necessity to follow the examples (the Sunnah) of Muhammad comes from the ruling of the Quran which it describes in its numerous verses. One such typical verse is "And obey God and the Messenger so that you may be blessed" (Quran 3:132). The Quran uses two different terms to denote this: ita’ah (to obey) and ittiba (to follow). The former refers to the orders of Muhammad, and the latter to his acts and practices.[124]

Muhammad as lawgiver

In Islamic Sharia, the Sunnah of Muhammad is regarded a vital source for Islamic law, next in importance only to the Quran.[125][126] Additionally, the Quran in its several verses authorizes Muhammad, in his capacity as a prophet, to promulgate new laws. The 7:157 verse of the Quran says, "those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they find written down in the Torah and the Injil, and who (Muhammad) bids them to the Fair and forbids them the Unfair, and makes lawful for them the good things, and makes unlawful for them the impure things,... So, those who believe in him, and honor him, and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him (Muhammad) – they are the ones who acquire success." Commenting on this verse, Islamic scholar Muhammad Taqi Usmani says, "one of the functions of the Holy Prophet (saaw) is to make lawful the good things and make unlawful the impure things. This function has been separated from bidding the fair and forbidding the unfair, because the latter relates to the preaching of what has already been established as fair, and warning against what is established as unfair, while the former embodies the making of lawful and unlawful".[127] Taqi Usmani recognizes two kinds of revelations – the "recited" one which is collectively known as Quran, and the "unrecited" one that Muhammad received from time to time to let him know God's will regarding how human affairs should be – and concludes that Muhammad's prophetic authority to promulgate new laws had its base on the later type. Therefore, in Islamic theology, the difference between God's authority and that of his messenger is of great significance: the former is wholly independent, intrinsic and self-existent, while the authority of the latter is derived from and dependent on the revelation from God.[128][129]

Muhammad as intercessor

Muslims see Muhammad as primary intercessor and believe that he will intercede on behalf of the believers on Last Judgment day.[130] Islamic tradition narrates that after resurrection when humanity will be gathered together and they will face distress due to heat and fear, they will come to Muhammad. Then he will intercede for them with God and the judgment will start.[131] Hadith narrates that Muhammad will also intercede for the believers who for their sins have been taken to hell. Muhammad’s intercession will be granted and a lot of believers will come out of hell.[132] In Islamic belief, intercession will be granted on conditions: the permission of God, God's being pleased with the intercessor, and his being pleased with the person for whom intercession is made.[133] In Islamic tradition, the facility of getting Muhammad's intercession has been linked, to some extent, to Darood – sending blessing upon Muhammad that generally reads "May God give him blessing and peace".[130]

Muhammad and the Quran

To Muslims, the Quran is the verbatim word of God which was revealed, through Gabriel, to Muhammad[134] who delivered it to people without any change (Quran 26:192-195, 53:2-5). Thus, there exists a deep relationship between Muhammad and the Quran. Muslims believe that as a recipient of the Quran, Muhammad was the man who best understood the meaning of the Quran, was its chief interpreter, and was granted by God "the understanding of all levels of Quran's meaning".[135] In Islamic theology, if a report of Muhammad’s Quranic interpretation is held to be authentic, then no other interpretative statement has higher theoretical value or importance than that.[126]

In Islamic belief, though the inner message of all the divine revelations given to Muhammad is essentially the same, there has been a "gradual evolution toward a final, perfect revelation".[136] It is in this case that Muhammad's revelation excels the previous ones as Muhammad’s revelation is considered by the Muslims to be "the completion, culmination, and perfection of all the previous revelations".[136] Consequently, when the Quran declares that Muhammad is the final prophet after which there will be no future prophet (33:40), it is also meant that the Quran is the last revealed divine book.

Muhammad and the first Muslim state

In Medina, Muhammad’s first focus was on the construction of a mosque, which, when completed, was of an austere nature.[137] Apart from being the center of prayer service, the mosque also served as a headquarters of administrative activities. Adjacent to the mosque was built the quarters for Muhammad’s family. As there was no definite arrangement for calling people to prayer, Bilal ibn Ribah was appointed to call people in a loud voice at each prayer time, a system later replaced by Adhan believed to be informed to Abdullah ibn Zayd in his dream, and liked and introduced by Muhammad.

The Emigrants of Mecca, known as Muhajirun, had left almost everything there and came to Medina empty-handed. They were cordially welcomed and helped by the Muslims of Medina, known as Ansar (the helpers). Muhammad made a formal bond of fraternity among them[138] that went a long way in eliminating long-established enmity among various tribes, particularly Aws and Khazraj.[139]

After the arrival of Muhammad in Medina, its people could be divided into four groups:[140][141]

  1. The Muslims, emigrants from Mecca and Ansars of Medina.
  2. The hypocrites; they nominally embraced Islam, but actually were against it.
  3. Those from Aws and Khazraj who were still pagans, but were inclined to embrace Islam.
  4. The Jews; they were huge in number and formed an important community there.

In order to establish peaceful coexistence among this heterogeneous population, Muhammad invited the leading personalities of all the communities to reach a formal agreement which would provide a harmony among the communities and security to the city of Medina, and finally drew up the Constitution of Medina, also known as the Medina Charter, which formed "a kind of alliance or federation" among the prevailing communities.[65] It specified the mutual rights and obligations of the Muslims and Jews of Medina, and prohibited any alliance with the outside enemies. It also declared that any dispute would be referred to Muhammad for settlement.[142]


Artistic impression of moon splitting by God after a prayer of the Islamic Prophet

Several miracles are said to have been performed by Muhammad.[143] Muslim scholar Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti, in his book Al Khasais-ul-Kubra, extensively discussed Muhammad's various miracles and extraordinary events. Traditional sources, indicate that Sura 54:1-2 refers to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh.[144][145]

Isra and Mi'raj

The Isra and Mi'raj are the two parts of a "Night Journey" that, according to Islamic tradition, Muhammad took during a single night around the year 621. It has been described as both a physical and spiritual journey.[146] A brief sketch of the story is in Sura (chapter) 17 Al-Isra of the Qur'an,[147] and other details come from the hadith. In the journey, Muhammad travels on Buraq to "the farthest mosque" where he leads other prophets in prayer. He then ascends to heaven where he speaks to God, who gives Muhammad instructions to take back to the faithful regarding the details of prayer.

According to traditions, the Journey is associated with the Lailat al Isra and Mi'raj, as one of the most significant events in the Islamic calendar.[148]

Miracles during the Battle of the Trench

On the eve of the Battle of the Trench when the Muslims were digging a ditch, they encountered a firmly embedded rock that could not be removed. It is said that Muhammad, when apprised of this, came and, taking an axe, struck the rock that created spark upon which he glorified God and said he had been given the keys of the kingdom of Syria. He struck the rock for a second time in a likewise manner and said he had been given the keys of Persia and he could see its white palaces. A third strike crushed the rock into pieces whereupon he again glorified God and said he had been given the keys of Yemen and he could see the gates of Sana. According to Muslim historians, these prophesies were fulfilled in subsequent times.[149][150]

Visual representation

While much of Islam was aniconistic during most of its history, there are rich traditions of visual representation of Muhammad, mainly in the form of paintings and illustrations in religious or hagiographical texts. Religious figures rarely have their face shown. Such figures are often shown with their head veiled in sheets embroidered with Quranic text.


See also


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