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A Brief Biography of Prophet Muhammad(sas)

[Taken from Introduction to Islam
by Muhammad Hamidullah (Centre Culturel Islamique, Paris, 1969), with
some changes to make it more readable. The changes are marked by pairs
of brackets like around this paragraph. Dr. Hamidullah’s present
address is: 10 E. South Street, Apt 130, Wilkes Barre PA, 18701, USA.]

      IN
the annals of men, individuals have not been lacking who conspicuously
devoted their lives to the socio-religious reform of their connected
peoples. We find them in every epoch and in all lands. In India, there
lived those who transmitted to the world the Vedas, and there was also
the great Gautama Buddha; China had its Confucius; the Avesta was
produced in Iran. Babylonia gave to the world one of the greatest
reformers, the Prophet Abraham (not to speak of such of his ancestors
as Enoch and Noah about whom we have very scanty information). The
Jewish people may rightly be proud of a long series of reformers:
Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and Jesus among others. 2. Two points
are to note: Firstly these reformers claimed in general to be the
bearers each of a Divine mission, and they left behind them sacred
books incorporating codes of life for the guidance of their peoples.
Secondly there followed fratricidal wars, and massacres and genocides
became the order of the day, causing more or less a complete loss of
these Divine messages. As to the books of Abraham, we know them only by
the name; and as for the books of Moses, records tell us how they were
repeatedly destroyed and only partly restored.



Concept of God

3. If one should judge from the relics of the past already brought to light of the homo sapiens,
one finds that man has always been conscious of the existence of a
Supreme Being, the Master and Creator of all. Methods and approaches
may have differed, but the people of every epoch have left proofs of
their attempts to obey God. Communication with the Omnipresent yet
invisible God has also been recognised as possible in connection with a
small fraction of men with noble and exalted spirits. Whether this
communication assumed the nature of an incarnation of the Divinity or
simply resolved itself into a medium of reception of Divine messages
(through inspiration or revelation), the purpose in each case was the
guidance of the people. It was but natural that the interpretations and
explanations of certain systems should have proved more vital and
convincing than others. 3/a. Every system of metaphysical thought
develops its own terminology. In the course of time terms acquire a
significance hardly contained in the word and translations fall short
of their purpose. Yet there is no other method to make people of one
group understand the thoughts of another. Non-Muslim readers in
particular are requested to bear in mind this aspect which is a real
yet unavoidable handicap. 4. By the end of the 6th century, after the
birth of Jesus Christ, men had already made great progress in diverse
walks of life. At that time there were some religions which openly
proclaimed that they were reserved for definite races and groups of men
only, of course they bore no remedy for the ills of humanity at large.
There were also a few which claimed universality, but declared that the
salvation of man lay in the renunciation of the world. These were the
religions for the elite, and catered for an extremely limited number of
men. We need not speak of regions where there existed no religion at
all, where atheism and materialism reigned supreme, where the thought
was solely of occupying one self with one’s own pleasures, without any
regard or consideration for the rights of others.



Arabia

5.
A perusal of the map of the major hemisphere (from the point of view of
the proportion of land to sea), shows the Arabian Peninsula lying at
the confluence of the three great continents of Asia, Africa and
Europe. At the time in question, this extensive Arabian subcontinent
composed mostly of desert areas was inhabited by people of settled
habitations as well as nomads. Often it was found that members of the
same tribe were divided into these two groups, and that they preserved
a relationship although following different modes of life. The means of
subsistence in Arabia were meagre. The desert had its handicaps, and
trade caravans were features of greater importance than either
agriculture or industry. This entailed much travel, and men had to
proceed beyond the peninsula to Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, Iraq, Sind,
India and other lands. 6. We do not know much about the Libyanites of
Central Arabia, but Yemen was rightly called Arabia Felix.
Having once been the seat of the flourishing civilizations of Sheba and
Ma’in even before the foundation of the city of Rome had been laid, and
having later snatched from the Byzantians and Persians several
provinces, greater Yemen which had passed through the hey-day of its
existence, was however at this time broken up into innumerable
principalities, and even occupied in part by foreign invaders. The
Sassanians of Iran, who had penetrated into Yemen had already obtained
possession of Eastern Arabia. There was politico-social chaos at the
capital (Mada’in = Ctesiphon), and this found reflection in all her
territories. Northern Arabia had succumbed to Byzantine influences, and
was faced with its own particular problems. Only Central Arabia
remained immune from the demoralising effects of foreign occupation. 7.
In this limited area of Central Arabia, the existence of the triangle
of Mecca-Ta’if-Madinah seemed something providential. Mecca, desertic,
deprived of water and the amenities of agriculture in physical features
represented Africa and the burning Sahara. Scarcely fifty miles from
there, Ta’if presented a picture of Europe and its frost. Madinah in
the North was not less fertile than even the most temperate of Asiatic
countries like Syria. If climate has any influence on human character,
this triangle standing in the middle of the major hemisphere was, more
than any other region of the earth, a miniature reproduction of the
entire world. And here was born a descendant of the Babylonian Abraham,
and the Egyptian Hagar, Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, a Meccan by
origin and yet with stock related, both to Madinah and Ta’if.



Religion

8.
From the point of view of religion, Arabia was idolatrous; only a few
individuals had embraced religions like Christianity, Mazdaism, etc.
The Meccans did possess the notion of the One God, but they believed
also that idols had the power to intercede with Him. Curiously enough,
they did not believe in the Resurrection and Afterlife. They had
preserved the rite of the pilgrimage to the House of the One God, the
Ka’bah, an institution set up under divine inspiration by their
ancestor Abraham, yet the two thousand years that separated them from
Abraham had caused to degenerate this pilgrimage into the spectacle of
a commercial fair and an occasion of senseless idolatry which far from
producing any good, only served to ruin their individual behaviour,
both social and spiritual.



Society

9.
In spite of the comparative poverty in natural resources, Mecca was the
most developed of the three points of the triangle. Of the three, Mecca
alone had a city-state, governed by a council of ten hereditary chiefs
who enjoyed a clear division of power. (There was a minister of foreign
relations, a minister guardian of the temple, a minister of oracles, a
minister guardian of offerings to the temple, one to determine the
torts and the damages payable, another in charge of the municipal
council or parliament to enforce the decisions of the ministries. There
were also ministers in charge of military affairs like custodianship of
the flag, leadership of the cavalry etc.). As well reputed
caravan-leaders, the Meccans were able to obtain permission from
neighbouring empires like Iran, Byzantium and Abyssinia – and to enter
into agreements with the tribes that lined the routes traversed by the
caravans – to visit their countries and transact import and export
business. They also provided escorts to foreigners when they passed
through their country as well as the territory of allied tribes, in
Arabia (cf. Ibn Habib, Muhabbar). Although not interested much
in the preservation of ideas and records in writing, they passionately
cultivated arts and letters like poetry, oratory discourses and folk
tales. Women were generally well treated, they enjoyed the privilege of
possessing property in their own right, they gave their consent to
marriage contracts, in which they could even add the condition of
reserving their right to divorce their husbands. They could remarry
when widowed or divorced. Burying girls alive did exist in certain
classes, but that was rare.



Birth of the Prophet

10.
It was in the midst of such conditions and environments that Muhammad
was born in 569 after Christ. His father, ‘Abdullah had died some weeks
earlier, and it was his grandfather who took him in charge. According
to the prevailing custom, the child was entrusted to a Bedouin
foster-mother, with whom he passed several years in the desert. All
biographers state that the infant prophet sucked only one breast of his
foster-mother, leaving the other for the sustenance of his
foster-brother. When the child was brought back home, his mother,
Aminah, took him to his maternal uncles at Madinah to visit the tomb of
‘Abdullah. During the return journey, he lost his mother who died a
sudden death. At Mecca, another bereavement awaited him, in the death
of his affectionate grandfather. Subjected to such privations, he was
at the age of eight, consigned at last to the care of his uncle,
Abu-Talib, a man who was generous of nature but always short of
resources and hardly able to provide for his family. 11. Young Muhammad
had therefore to start immediately to earn his livelihood; he served as
a shepherd boy to some neighbours. At the age of ten he accompanied his
uncle to Syria when he was leading a caravan there. No other travels of
Abu-Talib are mentioned, but there are references to his having set up
a shop in Mecca. (Ibn Qutaibah, Ma’arif). It is possible that
Muhammad helped him in this enterprise also. 12. By the time he was
twenty-five, Muhammad had become well known in the city for the
integrity of his disposition and the honesty of his character. A rich
widow, Khadijah, took him in her employ and consigned to him her goods
to be taken for sale to Syria. Delighted with the unusual profits she
obtained as also by the personal charms of her agent, she offered him
her hand. According to divergent reports, she was either 28 or 40 years
of age at that time, (medical reasons prefer the age of 28 since she
gave birth to five more children). The union proved happy. Later, we
see him sometimes in the fair of Hubashah (Yemen), and at least once in
the country of the ‘Abd al-Qais (Bahrain-Oman), as mentioned by Ibn
Hanbal. There is every reason to believe that this refers to the great
fair of Daba (Oman), where, according to Ibn al-Kalbi (cf. Ibn Habib, Muhabbar),
the traders of China, of Hind and Sind (India, Pakistan), of Persia, of
the East and the West assembled every year, travelling both by land and
sea. There is also mention of a commercial partner of Muhammad at
Mecca. This person, Sa’ib by name reports: “We relayed each other; if
Muhammad led the caravan, he did not enter his house on his return to
Mecca without clearing accounts with me; and if I led the caravan, he
would on my return enquire about my welfare and speak nothing about his
own capital entrusted to me.”



An Order of Chivalry

13.
Foreign traders often brought their goods to Mecca for sale. One day a
certain Yemenite (of the tribe of Zubaid) improvised a satirical poem
against some Meccans who had refused to pay him the price of what he
had sold, and others who had not supported his claim or had failed to
come to his help when he was victimised. Zuhair, uncle and chief of the
tribe of the Prophet, felt great remorse on hearing this just satire.
He called for a meeting of certain chieftains in the city, and
organized an order of chivalry, called Hilf al-fudul, with the
aim and object of aiding the oppressed in Mecca, irrespective of their
being dwellers of the city or aliens. Young Muhammad became an
enthusiastic member of the organisation. Later in life he used to say:
“I have participated in it, and I am not prepared to give up that
privilege even against a herd of camels; if somebody should appeal to
me even today, by virtue of that pledge, I shall hurry to his help.”



Beginning of Religious Consciousness

14.
Not much is known about the religious practices of Muhammad until he
was thirty-five years old, except that he had never worshipped idols.
This is substantiated by all his biographers. It may be stated that
there were a few others in Mecca, who had likewise revolted against the
senseless practice of paganism, although conserving their fidelity to
the Ka’bah as the house dedicated to the One God by its builder
Abraham. 15. About the year 605 of the Christian era, the draperies on
the outer wall of the Ka’bah took fire. The building was affected and
could not bear the brunt of the torrential rains that followed. The
reconstruction of the Ka’bah was thereupon undertaken. Each citizen
contributed according to his means; and only the gifts of honest gains
were accepted. Everybody participated in the work of construction, and
Muhammad’s shoulders were injured in the course of transporting stones.
To identify the place whence the ritual of circumambulation began,
there had been set a black stone in the wall of the Ka’bah. dating
probably from the time of Abraham himself. There was rivalry among the
citizens for obtaining the honour of transposing this stone in its
place. When there was danger of blood being shed, somebody suggested
leaving the matter to Providence, and accepting the arbitration of him
who should happen to arrive there first. It chanced that Muhammad just
then turned up there for work as usual. He was popularly known by the
appellation of al-Amin (the honest), and everyone accepted his
arbitration without hesitation. Muhammad placed a sheet of cloth on the
ground, put the stone on it and asked the chiefs of all the tribes in
the city to lift together the cloth. Then he himself placed the stone
in its proper place, in one of the angles of the building, and
everybody was satisfied. 16. It is from this moment that we find
Muhammad becoming more and more absorbed in spiritual meditations. Like
his grandfather, he used to retire during the whole month of Ramadan to
a cave in Jabal-an-Nur (mountain of light). The cave is called
`Ghar-i-Hira’ or the cave of research. There he prayed, meditated, and
shared his meagre provisions with the travellers who happened to pass
by.



Revelation

17.
He was forty years old, and it was the fifth consecutive year since his
annual retreats, when one night towards the end of the month of
Ramadan, an angel came to visit him, and announced that God had chosen
him as His messenger to all mankind. The angel taught him the mode of
ablutions, the way of worshipping God and the conduct of prayer. He
communicated to him the following Divine message:


With the name of God, the Most Merciful, the All-Merciful.

Read: with the name of thy Lord Who created,

Created man from what clings,

Read: and thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,

Who taught by the pen,

Taught man what he knew not. (Quran 96:1-5)

18.
Deeply affected, he returned home and related to his wife what had
happened, expressing his fears that it might have been something
diabolic or the action of evil spirits. She consoled him, saying that
he had always been a man of charity and generosity, helping the poor,
the orphans, the widows and the needy, and assured him that God would
protect him against all evil. 19. Then came a pause in revelation,
extending over three years. The Prophet must have felt at first a
shock, then a calm, an ardent desire, and after a period of waiting, a
growing impatience or nostalgia. The news of the first vision had
spread and at the pause the sceptics in the city had begun to mock at
him and cut bitter jokes. They went so far as to say that God had
forsaken him. 20. During the three years of waiting. the Prophet had
given himself up more and more to prayers and to spiritual practices.
The revelations were then resumed and God assured him that He had not
at all forsaken him: on the contrary it was He Who had guided him to
the right path: therefore he should take care of the orphans and the
destitute, and proclaim the bounty of God on him (cf. Q. 93:3-11). This
was in reality an order to preach. Another revelation directed him to
warn people against evil practices, to exhort them to worship none but
the One God, and to abandon everything that would displease God (Q.
74:2-7). Yet another revelation commanded him to warn his own near
relatives (Q. 26:214); and: “Proclaim openly that which thou art
commanded, and withdraw from the Associators (idolaters). Lo! we defend
thee from the scoffers” (15:94-5). According to Ibn Ishaq, the first
revelation (n. 17) had come to the Prophet during his sleep, evidently
to reduce the shock. Later revelations came in full wakefulness.



The Mission

21.
The Prophet began by preaching his mission secretly first among his
intimate friends, then among the members of his own tribe and
thereafter publicly in the city and suburbs. He insisted on the belief
in One Transcendent God, in Resurrection and the Last Judgement. He
invited men to charity and beneficence. He took necessary steps to
preserve through writing the revelations he was receiving, and ordered
his adherents also to learn them by heart. This continued all through
his life, since the Quran was not revealed all at once, but in
fragments as occasions arose. 22. The number of his adherents increased
gradually, but with the denunciation of paganism, the opposition also
grew intenser on the part of those who were firmly attached to their
ancestral beliefs. This opposition degenerated in the course of time
into physical torture of the Prophet and of those who had embraced his
religion. These were stretched on burning sands, cauterized with red
hot iron and imprisoned with chains on their feet. Some of them died of
the effects of torture, but none would renounce his religion. In
despair, the Prophet Muhammad advised his companions to quit their
native town and take refuge abroad, in Abyssinia, “where governs a just
ruler, in whose realm nobody is oppressed” (Ibn Hisham). Dozens of
Muslims profited by his advice, though not all. These secret flights
led to further persecution of those who remained behind.

23.
The Prophet Muhammad [was instructed to call this] religion “Islam,”
i.e. submission to the will of God. Its distinctive features are two:



bullet
A
harmonius equilibrium between the temporal and the spiritual (the body
and the soul), permitting a full enjoyment of all the good that God has
created, (Quran 7:32), enjoining at the same time on everybody duties
towards God, such as worship, fasting, charity, etc. Islam was to be
the religion of the masses and not merely of the elect.

bullet
A
universality of the call – all the believers becoming brothers and
equals without any distinction of class or race or tongue. The only
superiority which it recognizes is a personal one, based on the greater
fear of God and greater piety (Quran 49:13).



Social Boycott

24.
When a large number of the Meccan Muslims migrated to Abyssinia, the
leaders of paganism sent an ultimatum to the tribe of the Prophet,
demanding that he should be excommunicated and outlawed and delivered
to the pagans for being put to death. Every member of the tribe, Muslim
and non-Muslim rejected the demand. (cf. Ibn Hisham). Thereupon the
city decided on a complete boycott of the tribe: Nobody was to talk to
them or have commercial or matrimonial relations with them. The group
of Arab tribes called Ahabish, inhabiting the suburbs, who were allies
of the Meccans, also joined in the boycott, causing stark misery among
the innocent victims consisting of children, men and women, the old and
the sick and the feeble. Some of them succumbed yet nobody would hand
over the Prophet to his persecutors. An uncle of the Prophet, Abu
Lahab, however left his tribesmen and participated in the boycott along
with the pagans. After three dire years, during which the victims were
obliged to devour even crushed hides, four or five non-Muslims, more
humane than the rest and belonging to different clans proclaimed
publicly their denunciation of the unjust boycott. At the same time,
the document promulgating the pact of boycott which had been hung in
the temple, was found, as Muhammad had predicted, eaten by white ants,
that spared nothing but the words God and Muhammad. The boycott was
lifted, yet owing to the privations that were undergone the wife and
Abu Talib, the chief of the tribe and uncle of the Prophet died soon
after. Another uncle of the Prophet, Abu-Lahab, who was an inveterate
enemy of Islam, now succeeded to the headship of the tribe. (cf. lbn
Hisham, Sirah).



The Ascension

25. It was at thIs time that the Prophet Muhammad was granted the mi’raj
(ascension): He saw in a vision that he was received on heaven by God,
and was witness of the marvels of the celestial regions. Returning, he
brought for his community, as a Divine gift, the [ritual prayer of
Islam, the salaat], which constitutes a sort of communion between man
and God. It may be recalled that in the last part of Muslim service of
worship, the faithful employ as a symbol of their being in the very
presence of God, not concrete objects as others do at the time of
communion, but the very words of greeting exchanged between the Prophet
Muhammad and God on the occasion of the former’s mi’raj: “The
blessed and pure greetings for God! – Peace be with thee, O Prophet, as
well as the mercy and blessing of God! – Peace be with us and with all
the [righteous] servants of God!” The Christian term “communion”
implies participation in the Divinity. Finding it pretentious, Muslims
use the term “ascension” towards God and reception in His presence, God
remaining God and man remaining man and no confusion between the twain.
26. The news of this celestial meeting led to an increase in the
hostility of the pagans of Mecca; and the Prophet was obliged to quit
his native town in search of an asylum elsewhere. He went to his
maternal uncles in Ta’if, but returned immediately to Mecca, as the
wicked people of that town chased the Prophet out of their city by
pelting stones on him and wounding him.



Migration to Madinah

27.
The annual pilgrimage of the Ka’bah brought to Mecca people from all
parts of Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad tried to persuade one tribe after
another to afford him shelter and allow him to carry on his mission of
reform. The contingents of fifteen tribes, whom he approached in
succession, refused to do so more or less brutally, but he did not
despair. Finally he met half a dozen inhabitants of Madinah who being
neighbour of the Jews and the Christians, had some notion of prophets
and Divine messages. They knew also that these “people of the Books”
were awaiting the arrival of a prophet – a last comforter. So these
Madinans decided not to lose the opportunity of obtaining an advance
over others, and forthwith embraced Islam, promising further to provide
additional adherents and necessary help from Madinah. The following
year a dozen new Madinans took the oath of allegiance to him and
requested him to provide with a missionary teacher. The work of the
missionary, Mus’ab, proved very successful and he led a contingent of
seventy-three new converts to Mecca, at the time of the pilgrimage.
These invited the Prophet and his Meccan companions to migrate to their
town, and promised to shelter the Prophet and to treat him and his
companions as their own kith and kin. Secretly and in small groups, the
greater part of the Muslims emigrated to Madinah. Upon this the pagans
of Mecca not only confiscated the property of the evacuees, but devised
a plot to assassinate the Prophet. It became now impossible for him to
remain at home. It is worthy of mention, that in spite of their
hostility to his mission, the pagans had unbounded confidence in his
probity, so much so that many of them used to deposit their savings
with him. The Prophet Muhammad now entrusted all these deposits to
‘Ali, a cousin of his, with instructions to return in due course to the
rightful owners. He then left the town secretly in the company of his
faithful friend, Abu-Bakr. After several adventures, they succeeded in
reaching Madinah in safety. This happened in 622, whence starts the
Hijrah calendar.



Reorganization of the Community

28.
For the better rehabilitation of the displaced immigrants, the Prophet
created a fraternization between them and an equal number of well-to-do
Madinans. The families of each pair of the contractual brothers worked
together to earn their livelihood, and aided one another in the
business of life. 29. Further he thought that the development of the
man as a whole would be better achieved if he co-ordinated religion and
politics as two constituent parts of one whole. To this end he invited
the representatives of the Muslims as well as the non-Muslim
inhabitants of the region: Arabs, Jews, Christians and others, and
suggested the establishment of a City-State in Madinah. With their
assent, he endowed the city with a written constitution – the first of
its kind in the world – in which he defined the duties and rights both
of the citizens and the head of the State – the Prophet Muhammad was
unanimously hailed as such – and abolished the customary private
justice. The administration of justice became henceforward the concern
of the central organisation of the community of the citizens. The
document laid down principles of defence and foreign policy: it
organized a system of social insurance, called ma’aqil, in cases of too
heavy obligations. It recognized that the Prophet Muhammad would have
the final word in all differences, and that there was no limit to his
power of legislation. It recognized also explicitly liberty of
religion, particularly for the Jews, to whom the constitutional act
afforded equality with Muslims in all that concerned life in this world
(cf. infra n. 303). 30. Muhammad journeyed several times with a view to
win the neighbouring tribes and to conclude with them treaties of
alliance and mutual help. With their help, he decided to bring to bear
economic pressure on the Meccan pagans, who had confiscated the
property of the Muslim evacuees and also caused innumerable damage.
Obstruction in the way of the Meccan caravans and their passage through
the Madinan region exasperated the pagans, and a bloody struggle
ensued. 31. In the concern for the material interests of the community,
the spiritual aspect was never neglected. Hardly a year had passed
after the migration to Madinah, when the most rigorous of spiritual
disciplines, the fasting for the whole month of Ramadan every year, was
imposed on every adult Muslim, man and woman.



Struggle Against Intolerance and Unbelief

32.
Not content with the expulsion of the Muslim compatriots, the Meccans
sent an ultimatum to the Madinans, demanding the surrender or at least
the expulsion of Muhammad and his companions but evidently all such
efforts proved in vain. A few months later, in the year 2 H., they sent
a powerful army against the Prophet, who opposed them at Badr; and the
pagans thrice as numerous as the Muslims, were routed. After a year of
preparation, the Meccans again invaded Madinah to avenge the defeat of
Badr. They were now four times as numerous as the Muslims. After a
bloody encounter at Uhud, the enemy retired, the issue being
indecisive. The mercenaries in the Meccan army did not want to take too
much risk, or endanger their safety. 33. In the meanwhile the Jewish
citizens of Madinah began to foment trouble. About the time of the
victory of Badr, one of their leaders, Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf, proceeded to
Mecca to give assurance of his alliance with the pagans, and to incite
them to a war of revenge. After the battle of Uhud, the tribe of the
same chieftain plotted to assassinate the Prophet by throwing on him a
mill-stone from above a tower, when he had gone to visit their
locality. In spite of all this, the only demand the Prophet made of the
men of this tribe was to quit the Madinan region, taking with them all
their properties, after selling their immovables and recovering their
debts from the Muslims. The clemency thus extended had an effect
contrary to what was hoped. The exiled not only contacted the Meccans,
but also the tribes of the North, South and East of Madinah, mobilized
military aid, and planned from Khaibar an invasion of Madinah, with
forces four times more numerous than those employed at Uhud. The
Muslims prepared for a siege, and dug a ditch to defend themselves
against this hardest of all trials. Although the defection of the Jews
still remaining inside Madinah at a later stage upset all strategy, yet
with a sagacious diplomacy, the Prophet succeeded in breaking up the
alliance, and the different enemy groups retired one after the other.
34. Alcoholic drinks, gambling and games of chance were at this time
declared forbidden for the Muslims.



The Reconciliation

35.
The Prophet tried once more to reconcile the Meccans and proceeded to
Mecca. The barring of the route of their Northern caravans had ruined
their economy. The Prophet promised them transit security, extradition
of their fugitives and the fulfillment of every condition they desired,
agreeing even to return to Madinah without accomplishing the pilgrimage
of the Ka’bah. Thereupon the two contracting parties promised at
Hudaibiyah in the suburbs of Mecca, not only the maintenance of peace,
but also the observance of neutrality in their conflicts with third
parties. 36. Profiting by the peace, the Prophet launched an intensive
programme for the propagation of his religion. He addressed missionary
letters to the foreign rulers of Byzantium, Iran, Abyssinia and other
lands. The Byzantine autocrat priest – Dughatur of the Arabs – embraced
Islam, but for this, was lynched by the Christian mob; the prefect of
Ma’an (Palestine) suffered the same fate, and was decapitated and
crucified by order of the emperor. A Muslim ambassador was assassinated
in Syria-Palestine; and instead of punishing the culprit, the emperor
Heraclius rushed with his armies to protect him against the punitive
expedition sent by the Prophet (battle of Mu’tah). 37. The pagans of
Mecca hoping to profit by the Muslim difficulties, violated the terms
of their treaty. Upon this, the Prophet himself led an army, ten
thousand strong, and surprised Mecca which he occupied in a bloodless
manner. As a benevolent conqueror, he caused the vanquished people to
assemble, reminded them of their ill deeds, their religious
persecution, unjust confiscation of the evacuee property, ceaseless
invasions and senseless hostilities for twenty years continuously. He
asked them: “Now what do you expect of me?” When everybody lowered his
head with shame, the Prophet proclaimed: “May God pardon you; go in
peace; there shall be no responsibility on you today; you are free!” He
even renounced the claim for the Muslim property confiscated by the
pagans. This produced a great psychological change of hearts
instantaneously. When a Meccan chief advanced with a fulsome heart
towards the Prophet, after hearing this general amnesty, in order to
declare his acceptance of Islam, the Prophet told him: “And in my turn,
I appoint you the governor of Mecca!” Without leaving a single soldier
in the conquered city, the Prophet retired to Madinah. The Islamization
of Mecca, which was accomplished in a few hours, was complete. 38.
Immediately after the occupation of Mecca, the city of Ta’if mobilized
to fight against the Prophet. With some difficulty the enemy was
dispersed in the valley of Hunain, but the Muslims preferred to raise
the siege of nearby Ta’if and use pacific means to break the resistance
of this region. Less than a year later, a delegation from Ta’if came to
Madinah offering submission. But it requested exemption from prayer,
taxes and military service, and the continuance of the liberty to
adultery and fornication and alcoholic drinks. It demanded even the
conservation of the temple of the idol al-Lat at Ta’if. But Islam was
not a materialist immoral movement; and soon the delegation itself felt
ashamed of its demands regarding prayer, adultery and wine. The Prophet
consented to concede exemption from payment of taxes and rendering of
military service; and added: You need not demolish the temple with your
own hands: we shall send agents from here to do the job, and if there
should be any consequences, which you are afraid of on account of your
superstitions, it will be they who would suffer. This act of the
Prophet shows what concessions could be given to new converts. The
conversion of the Ta’ifites was so whole hearted that in a short while,
they themselves renounced the contracted exemptions, and we find the
Prophet nominating a tax collector in their locality as in other
Islamic regions. 39. In all these “wars,” extending over a period of
ten years, the non-Muslims lost on the battlefield only about 250
persons killed, and the Muslim losses were even less. With these few
incisions, the whole continent of Arabia, with its million and more of
square miles, was cured of the abscess of anarchy and immorality.
During these ten years of disinterested struggle, all the peoples of
the Arabian Peninsula and the southern regions of Iraq and Palestine
had voluntarily embraced Islam. Some Christian, Jewish and Parsi groups
remained attached to their creeds, and they were granted liberty of
conscience as well as judicial and juridical autonomy. 40. In the year
10 H., when the Prophet went to Mecca for Hajj (pilgrimage), he
met 140,000 Muslims there, who had come from different parts of Arabia
to fulfil their religious obligation. He addressed to them his
celebrated sermon, in which he gave a resume of his teachings: “Belief
in One God without images or symbols, equality of all the Believers
without distinction of race or class, the superiority of individuals
being based solely on piety; sanctity of life, property and honour;
abolition of interest, and of vendettas and private justice; better
treatment of women; obligatory inheritance and distribution of the
property of deceased persons among near relatives of both sexes, and
removal of the possibility of the cumulation of wealth in the hands of
the few.” The Quran and the conduct of the Prophet were to serve as the
bases of law and a healthy criterion in every aspect of human life. 41.
On his return to Madinah, he fell ill; and a few weeks later, when he
breathed his last, he had the satisfaction that he had well
accomplished the task which he had undertaken – to preach to the world
the Divine message.

42.
He bequeathed to posterity, a religion of pure monotheism; he created a
well-disciplined State out of the existent chaos and gave peace in
place of the war of everybody against everybody else; he established a
harmonious equilibrium between the spiritual and the temporal, between
the mosque and the citadel; he left a new system of law, which
dispensed impartial justice, in which even the head of the State was as
much a subject to it as any commoner, and in which religious tolerance
was so great that non-Muslim inhabitants of Muslim countries equally
enjoyed complete juridical, judicial and cultural autonomy. In the
matter of the revenues of the State, the Quran fixed the principles of
budgeting, and paid more thought to the poor than to anybody else. The
revenues were declared to be in no wise the private property of the
head of the State. Above all, the Prophet Muhammad set a noble example
and fully practised all that he taught to others.

Acknowledgment: This page was downloaded from

http://cwis.usc.edu:80/dept/MSA/fundamentals/prophet/profbio.html

and reformatted for www.muhammad.net

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