Muhammad's Life and Character
An Interesting Fact:
Muhammad (pbuh) was rated No. 1 from 100, as the man from history who had the greatest influence on mankind, in the book “The 100” a.k.a. ‘Top One Hundred’ and ‘Greatest Hundred in History’ by Michael H. Hart, a Historian, Mathematician and Astronomer. (Click HERE to check out a list of the Top 10).
“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in History who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.” Michael H. Hart
Name: Muhammad Ibn Abdullah (A person is usually identified by their lineage, so ‘Ibn’ means ‘son of’).
Born: 12th Rabi ul Awwal 571 A.D.
Demise: 12th Rabi ul Awwal 11 A.H.
Received Prophethood: 609 A.D.
Fathers’ Name: Abdullah Ibn Abdul Muttalib (Banu Hashim Family)
Mothers’ Name: Aminah binte Wahb bin Abd-Manaf (Banu Zuhra Family)
“Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D 569, was born at Makkah, in Arabia the man who, of all men exercised greatest influence upon the Human race… Muhammad…” John William Draper, M.D., LLD., in his book “A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,” London 1875
“People who worry that nuclear weaponry will one day fall in the hands of the Arabs, fail to realise that the Islamic bomb has been dropped already, it fell the day MUHAMMAD (pbuh) was born.” Dr. Joseph Adam Pearson
Muhammad (s)’s father – Abdullah – passed away before he was born. His Mother – Aminah – passed away when he was six years old, and when he was eight, his grandfather – Abdul Muttalib – also passed away. Therefore, he was an orphan. From then on, his Uncle – Abu Talib – took care of him.
Muhammad (s) was illiterate – he could neither read nor write. However, from a very young age, he learnt to do business from his Uncle Abu Talib and soon started trading on his own and grew to become a successful merchant.
The people of Makkah described him as Al-Ameen (the trustworthy) and As-Saadiq (the truthful). He was respected for his fair trade and contribution in restarting the work of Half-ul-Foodhul, which took an active part in bringing about peace and unity among the tribes of Makkah.
Muhammad (s) was involved in preventing a major dispute between the tribes in rebuilding the Ka’ba (which was surrounded by idols at the time), which had been damaged by floods. People trusted him with their belongings, due to his reputation as an honest and well-mannered trader.
“Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him.” Diwan Chand Sharma, a Hindu Scholar in his book “The Prophets of the East,” Calcutta 1935, p. 122
Khadijah bint-e-Khuwalid (r.a.):
Muhammad (s)’s first wife was Khadijah (r.a.) whom he loved very much. She was 40 years old and a widow, when she proposed to him, and he was 25. They had two sons and four daughters. The boys were called: Qasim and Abdullah, and the girls were called: Zainab, Umme Kulthum, Rukayya and Fatima.
Khadijah (r.a.) was the first person to accept Islam and she supported the Prophet (s) throughout his life, however she passed away when he was fifty-one years old.
“It is a boundless favour. He never forgot this good Khadijah. Long afterwards, Ayesha his young favourite wife, a woman who indeed distinguished herself among the Moslems, by all manners of qualities, through her whole long life; this young brilliant Ayesha was, one day, questioning him: “Now am not I better than Khadijah? She was a widow; old, and had lost her looks: You love me better than you did her?” … “No, by Allah!” Answered Mohamed: “No, by Allah! She believed in me when none else would believe. In the whole world, I had but one friend, and she was that!” “Heroes and Hero-Worship,” Carlyle
Prophet-hood and Preaching:
Several years after his marriage, the Prophet (s) received Prophet hood in the Cave of Hira. He began to preach secretly to his family and friends who began to convert to Islam. This continued for three years before the Prophet (s) was commanded by Allah to preach openly. The method of communication between Muhammad (s) and Allah was the Angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) who brought the revelation.
Soon, many other people began to convert, however the people of the Quraish were angry with him, which led to a lot of hardships for the Muslims. Newly converted Muslims suffered at the hands of the Quraish, especially those who were poorer and weaker. A famous example is that of a black slave, Bilal (r.a.) who was made to lie on the scorching hot desert sand with rocks crushing his chest.
Migration and Boycott:
As the situation worsened, the Prophet (s) gave the Muslims permission to migrate to Abyssinia, which was ruled by a very good and trustworthy king called Negus (Najjashi) who later accepted Islam. Meanwhile, a boycott was in place and Muslims were forced to reside in a valley near Makkah called Shu’ab Abu Talib. Sometimes, they stayed without food or water for days and suffered. The boycott lasted from the seventh to the tenth year of Islam.
Just after the Boycott, the Prophet (s)’s wife, Khadijah, and Uncle Abu Talib passed away. Muhammad (s) lost his most faithful and loved ones and he grieved immensely. However, life had to go on, so Muhammad (s) went to Ta’if, a town in the mountain 48km from Makkah, to preach the message of Islam, but he was brutally attacked and stoned by the people. Nevertheless, not a curse or bad wish passed his lips and instead, he prayed for the people of Ta’if to become Muslims.
As the Quraish continued to harass the Muslims, the Prophet (s) was honoured with Mi’raj. Mi’raj means the journey of Muhammad (s) from Makkah to Bait-ul-Muqaddus (Jerusalem) on the Buraq (a winged horse). From there, he went to the Seven Heavens, met all the previous Prophets and was given the gift of Salaah: the five daily prayers.
Madinah and Hijrah:
Some newly converted Muslims promised Muhammad (s) and the other Muslims safety in Madinah, so they all emigrated. This is known as the Hijrah and is when the Islamic Calendar begins.
In Madinah, the Prophet (s) partook in many activities, such as the building of Masjid-e-Nabawi, the Treaty with the Jews and the establishment of the Ummah: Worldwide Muslim Community.
“He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammad, for he had all the powers without its instruments and without its supports.” R. Bosworth Smith in “Mohammad and Mohammedanism,” London 1874, p.92
Battles and No Compulsion in Religion:
“The more I study the more I discover that the strength of Islam does not lie in the sword.” Mahatma Gandhi – the father of Modern India, in “Young India”
The Prophet (s) did not want to resort to violence in any way and as the Quran commands:
“There is no compulsion in religion…” (2:256)
“If it had been your Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will you then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!? No soul can believe, except by the Will of Allah.” (10:99)
The Quran also commands, “Invite all to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For thy Lord knows best who have strayed from His path, and who receive guidance.” (16:125)
“O you who have faith, when you go forth in the way of Allah investigate matters, and do not say to him who offers you peace, “You are not a man of faith.” You desire the ephemeral life of this world, yet with Allah are many bounties. Thus were you before, but now Allah has bestowed His favour upon you. Investigate, therefore, for Allah is well aware of what you do.” (Surah al-Nisaa 4:94)
However, Muslims are allowed to go to war only for self-defence. As the Quran states, “Fight for the sake of Allah those that right against you, but do not attack them first. Allah does not love the aggressors.”
Therefore, the Prophet (s) only resorted to self-defence when his non-Muslim Uncle Abu Jahl marched with the Makkans to Madinah to confront the Muslims. An army of Muslims was created and the Battle of Badr took place (Ramadhan 2 A.H.)
In the Battle of Badr, the Makkans were defeated so they assembled once again for revenge and the Battle of Uhud took place (Shawwal 3 A.H.). In this Battle, Muslims were defeated and so followed the Battle of Ahzab (Trenches) in Zul-Qa’adah 5 A.H., where the Makkans once again attacked and the Muslims assembled for self-defence. In this battle, the Makkans were defeated.
“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated.” Historian De Lacy O’Leary
Treaties and the Spread of Islam:
The Prophet (s) wanted Muslims to be able to perform Hajj: Pilgrimage to Makkah, so he negotiated with the Makkans and the Treaty of Hudaibiyah was drawn up (Zil Qa’adah 6 A.H.). After this, the situation for Muslims eased a little but and Islam spread vastly and quickly. Several more battles such as the Battle of Hunain (Shawwal 8 A.H.) took place and due to the March of Muslims in Tabuk, many people were greatly impressed with the Muslims and converted to Islam.
While the Prophet (s) ruled, he invited neighbouring countries to Islam peacefully via letters to rulers and took many actions in establishing the Islamic State. He sent out five epistles, one to each of the five surrounding countries, inviting them to accept the religion of Islam:
1) The Emperor of Persia
2) The King of Egypt
3) The Negus of Abyssinia
4) The Emperor Heraclius at Constantinople
5) The King of Yemen
However, the Prophet (s) fell ill and gave his Last Sermon, before passing away on the 12th Rabi-ul-Awwal 11 A.H.
…Islam was NOT spread by the sword… (This section may be repeated in another future essay on ‘Compulsion in Religion’ and Islam’s stance on using force to spread its’ message).
Fact: Muslims ruled Spain for 736 years. However, after eight centuries in Spain, the Muslims were totally eliminated from that country so that not even one man was left to give the Adhaan: Call for Prayer. If the Muslims had used force or military, there would not have been any Christians left in Spain to have kicked the Muslims out. As the book ‘Muhammad the Greatest’ by Ahmed Deedat states, “One can blame the Muslims for exploitation if you like, but one cannot charge them with using the sword to convert Spaniards to the Islamic religion.”
Fact: “Muslims were the masters of India for a thousand years, but eventually when the sub-continent received independence in 1947, the Hindus obtained three-quarters of the country and the Muslims: the balance of one quarter. Why? Because the Muslims did not force Islam down the Hindu’s throats!” (‘Muhammad the Greatest’ by Ahmed Deedat).
Fact: INDONESIA: It is a fact that over a hundred million Indonesians are Muslim, yet no conquering Muslim army ever landed on any of its over two thousand islands.
Fact: MALAYSIA: The overwhelming number of its people in this country is Muslims yet no Muslim soldier had landed there either.
Fact: AFRICA: The majority of the people on the East Coast of Africa as far down as Mozambique, as well as the bulk of the inhabitants on the West coast of the continent are Muslims, but history does not record any invading hoards of Muslims from anywhere. What sword? Where was the sword?
…Sword of Mercy and Compassion…
“They (Muhammad’s critics) see fire instead of light, ugliness instead of good. They distort and present every good quality as a great vice. It reflects their own depravity… The critics are blind. They cannot see that the only ‘sword’ Muhammad welded was the sword of mercy, compassion, friendship and forgiveness – the sword that conquers enemies and purifies their hearts. His sword was sharper than the sword of steel.” Pandit Gyanandra Dev Sharma Shastri, at a meeting in Gorakhpur (India), 1928
How Successful was Muhammad (s) as a Prophet…
“Mohammad was the most successful of all religious personalities.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition
“There are more professing Christians in the world than professing Muslims, but there are more practising Muslims in the world than practising Christians.” R.V.C. Bodley (the American) in “The Messenger: The Life of Mohammad.” USA, 1969
“I have studied him – the wonderful man – and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the saviour of humanity.” George Bernard Shaw, in “The Genuine Islam,” Vol. 1, No. 81936
“The creed of Muhammad is free from the suspicions of ambiguity and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God.” Gibbon in his “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”
…as a Theorist, Organiser and Leader/Politician…
“Among leaders who have made the greatest impact through the ages, I would consider Muhammad, Jesus Christ, maybe Lenin, possibly Mao.” James Gavin, United States army man and retired lieutenant general.
“Leaders must fulfil three functions: No. 1: The leader must provide for the well-being of the lead… No. 2: The leader or would-be leader must provide a social organisation in which people feel relatively secure… No. 3: That this leader must provide his people with one set of beliefs… Perhaps the greatest leader of all times was Muhammad, who combined all three functions. (And) To a lesser degree, Moses did the same…” Jules Masserman, United States psychoanalyst and professor of the Chicago University
“By a fortune absolutely unique in his history, Muhammad is a threshold founder of a nation, of an empire, and of a religion.” R. Bosworth-Smith in “Mohammad and Mohammedanism,” 1946
…as a Man?
“He was an enthusiast in that noblest sense when enthusiasm becomes the salt of the Earth, the one thing that keeps men from rotting whilst they live. Enthusiasm is often used despitefully, because it is joined to an unworthy cause, or falls upon barren ground and bears no fruit. So was it not with Muhammad. He was an enthusiast when enthusiasm was the one thing needed to set the world aflame, and his enthusiasm was noble for a noble cause. He was one of those happy few who have attained supreme joy of making one great truth their very life-spring. He was the messenger of the one God; and never to his life’s end did he forget who he was, or the message, which was the marrow of his being. He brought his tidings to his people with a grand dignity sprung from the consciousness of his high office, together with a most sweet humility, whose roots lay in the knowledge of his own weakness.” Mr Stanley Lane
“I doubt whether any man whose external conditions changed so much ever changed himself less to meet them.” R.V.C. Bodley in “The Messenger,” London 1946, p.9
Muhammad (s) has been criticised and accused of claiming to be a Magician and whatnot. The “pigeons and peas” theory was invented by Grotius, but when questioned as to what proof there was, he said there was no proof at all. As Thomas Carlyle responded, “The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped around this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only.” And in response to Carlyle, people claimed that he (Carlyle) was bribed by the Arabs. But who bribed all the other people who agreed with him?
What some non-Muslims have to say:
“Of all the world’s great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad.” William Montgomery Watt, in his book Muhammad: Prophet and Statesmen. He argues that Muhammad should be judged by the standards of his own time and country rather than “by those of the most enlightened opinion in the West today.”
“Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Warrior, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational Beliefs, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measures, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?” Lamartine, Historie de la Turquie, Paris 1854, Vol. II pp.276-277