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Dark vignette Al-Masjid AL-Nabawi Door800x600x300.jpg
"Muhammad the Apostle of God"
inscribed on the gates of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina
Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh
(Arabic: مُحَمَّد بِن عَبد الله)

Mecca, Hejaz, Arabia
(present-day Saudi Arabia)
Died8 June 632(632-06-08) (aged 61–62)
Medina, Hejaz, Arabia
(present-day Saudi Arabia)
Resting place
Green Dome at al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina
(present-day Saudi Arabia)

Coordinates: 24°28′03″N39°36′41″E / 24.46750°N 39.61139°E / 24.46750; 39.61139 (Green Dome)
Other names
Years active
583–609 CE as merchant
609–632 CE as religious leader
Notable work
Constitution of Medina
Successor Succession to Muhammad
Muhammad's wives Married
Khadija bint Khuwaylid 595–619
Sawda bint Zamʿa 619–632
Aisha bint Abi Bakr c.623–632
Hafsa bint Umar 624–632
Zaynab bint Khuzayma 625–627
Hind bint Abi Umayya 625–632
Zaynab bint Jahsh 627–632
Juwayriyya bint al-Harith 628–632
Ramla bint Abi Sufyan 628–632
Rayhana bint Zayd 629–631
Safiyya bint Huyayy 629–632
Maymunah bint al-Harith 630–632
Maria al-Qibtiyya 630–632
ChildrenSee Children of Muhammad
Parent(s) Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (father)
Aminah bint Wahb (mother)
Relatives Family tree of Muhammad, Ahl al-Bayt   ("Family of the House")
Arabic name
Personal(Ism) Muhammad
Patronymic(Nasab) Muḥammad ibn Abd Allah ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim ibn Abd Manaf ibn Qusai ibn Kilab
Teknonymic(Kunya) Abu al-Qasim
Epithet(Laqab) Khātim an-Nâbîyīn (Seal of the prophets)
Muhammad Seal.svg
Seal of Muhammad

Muhammad [n 1] (Arabic : مُحمّد, pronounced  [muħammad] ; [n 2] c. 570 CE – 8 June 632 CE) [1] was an Arab political, social and religious leader and the founder of Islam. [2] According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to present and confirm the monotheistic teachings preached previously by Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. [2] [3] [4] [5] He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. [n 3] Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief. He is referred to by many appellations, including Messenger of Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mahamad, Muhamad and many others.

Islam is an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion teaching that there is only one God, and that Muhammad is the messenger of God. It is the world's second-largest religion with over 1.8 billion followers or 24% of the world's population, most commonly known as Muslims. Muslims make up a majority of the population in 50 countries. Islam teaches that God is merciful, all-powerful, and unique, and has guided mankind through prophets, revealed scriptures and natural signs. The primary scriptures of Islam are the Quran, claimed to be the verbatim word of God, and the teachings and normative examples of Muhammad.

Muhammad in Islam Muslims consider him a master, legislator and the last prophet of the prophets in Islam

Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbdul-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, commonly known as Muhammad, is the seal of the Messengers and Prophets of God in all the main branches of Islam. Muslims believe that the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad by God, and that Muhammad was sent to restore Islam, which they believe to be the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Ibrahim, Musa, 'Isa, and other Prophets. The religious, social, and political tenets that Muhammad established with the Quran became the foundation of Islam and the Muslim world.

Prophet person claiming to speak for divine beings

In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.


Born approximately 570 CE (Year of the Elephant) in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was orphaned at the age of six. [6] He was raised under the care of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, and upon his death, by his uncle Abu Talib. [7] In later years he would periodically seclude himself in a mountain cave named Hira for several nights of prayer. When he was 40, Muhammad reported being visited by Gabriel in the cave, [8] [9] and receiving his first revelation from God. Three years later, in 610, [10] Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, [11] proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "submission" ( islām ) to God [12] is the right way of life ( dīn ), [13] and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam. [14] [15] [16]

The ʿām al-fīl is the name in Islamic history for the year approximately equating to 570 CE. According to some Islamic resources, it was in this year that Muhammad was born. The name is derived from an event said to have occurred at Mecca: Abraha, the Abyssinian, Christian ruler of Yemen, which was subject to the Kingdom of Aksum of Ethiopia, marched upon the Ka‘bah in Mecca with a large army, which included one or more war elephants, intending to demolish it. However, the lead elephant, known as 'Mahmud', is said to have stopped at the boundary around Mecca, and refused to enter. It has been theorized that an epidemic, perhaps caused by smallpox, could have caused such a failed invasion of Mecca. The year came to be known as the Year of the Elephant, beginning a trend for reckoning the years in the Arabian Peninsula. This reckoning was used until it was replaced with the Islamic calendar during the times of ‘Umar.

Mecca Saudi Arabian city and capital of the Makkah province

Mecca, also spelled Makkah, is a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia. 70 km (43 mi) inland from Jeddah, in a narrow valley 277 m (909 ft) above sea level, 340 kilometres (210 mi) south of Medina, its population in 2012 was 2 million, although visitors more than triple this number every year during the Ḥajj ("Pilgrimage"), held in the twelfth Muslim lunar month of Dhūl-Ḥijjah.

Abd al-Muttalib grandfather of the prophet Muhammad

Shaybah ibn Hashim, better known as Abd al-Muttalib since he was raised by his uncle Muttalib, was the grandfather of Islamic prophet Muhammad.

The followers of Muhammad were initially few in number, and experienced hostility from Meccan polytheists. He sent some of his followers to Abyssinia in 615 to shield them from prosecution, before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622. This event, the Hijra , marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent fighting with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10,000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The conquest went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. In 632, a few months after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam. [17] [18]

Persecution of Muslims by Meccans

In the early days of Islam at Mecca, the new Muslims were often subjected to abuse and persecution.

Migration to Abyssinia episode in the early history of Islam, in the 630s CE, in which Muhammad and the Sahabah fled from the Quraysh in Mecca to Aksum (present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea)

The Migration to Abyssinia, also known as the First Hegira, was an episode in the early history of Islam, where Prophet Muhammad's first followers fled from the persecution of the ruling Quraysh tribe of Mecca. They sought refuge in the Christian Kingdom of Aksum, present-day Ethiopia and Eritrea, in 9 BH or 7 BH. The Aksumite monarch who received them is known in Islamic sources as the Negus Ashama ibn Abjar. Modern historians have alternatively identified him with King Armah and Ella Tsaham. Some of the exiles returned to Mecca and made the hijra to Medina with Muhammad, while others remained in Abyssinia until they came to Medina in 628.

Kingdom of Aksum Trading nation in the Horn of Africa

The Kingdom of Aksum, also known as the Kingdom of Axum or the Aksumite Empire, was an ancient kingdom centered in what is now Eritrea and the Tigray Region of northern Ethiopia. Axumite Emperors were powerful sovereigns, styling themselves King of kings, king of Aksum, Himyar, Raydan, Saba, Salhen, Tsiyamo, Beja and of Kush. Ruled by the Aksumites, it existed from approximately 100 AD to 940 AD. The polity was centered in the city of Axum and grew from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period around the 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD. Aksum became a major player on the commercial route between the Roman Empire and Ancient India. The Aksumite rulers facilitated trade by minting their own Aksumite currency, with the state establishing its hegemony over the declining Kingdom of Kush. It also regularly entered the politics of the kingdoms on the Arabian Peninsula and eventually extended its rule over the region with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom. The Manichaei prophet Mani regarded Axum as one of the four great powers of his time, the others being Persia, Rome, and China.

The revelations (each known as Ayah , lit. "Sign [of God]") which Muhammad reported receiving until his death form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the verbatim "Word of God" and around which the religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad's teachings and practices ( sunnah ), found in the Hadith and sira (biography) literature, are also upheld and used as sources of Islamic law (see Sharia).

Sunnah, also sunna or sunnat, is the body of literature which discusses and prescribes the traditional customs and practices of the Islamic community, both social and legal, often but not necessarily based on the verbally transmitted record of the teachings, deeds and sayings, silent permissions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, as well as various reports about Muhammad's companions. The Quran and the sunnah make up the two primary sources of Islamic theology and law. The sunnah is also defined as "a path, a way, a manner of life"; "all the traditions and practices" of the Islamic prophet that "have become models to be followed" by Muslims.

Hadith collections of sayings and teachings of Muhammad

Ḥadīth in Islam refers to the record of the words, actions, and the silent approval, of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Hadith have been called "the backbone" of Islamic civilization, and within that religion the authority of hadith as a source for religious law and moral guidance ranks second only to that of the Qur'an. Scriptural authority for hadith comes from the Quran which enjoins Muslims to emulate Muhammad and obey his judgments. While the number of verses pertaining to law in the Quran is relatively few, hadith give direction on everything from details of religious obligations, to the correct forms of salutations and the importance of benevolence to slaves. Thus the "great bulk" of the rules of Sharia are derived from hadith, rather than the Qur'an.

Prophetic biography Wikimedia list article

In Islam, Al-sīra al-Nabawiyya, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, or just Al-sīra are the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad from which, in addition to the Quran and trustable Hadiths, most historical information about his life and the early period of Islam is derived.

Quranic names and appellations

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

The name Muhammad ( /mʊˈhæməd, -ˈhɑːməd/ ) [19] means "praiseworthy" and appears four times in the Quran. [20] The Quran also addresses Muhammad in the second person by various appellations; prophet, messenger, servant of God ('abd), announcer (bashir),[Quran   2:119] witness ( shahid ),[Quran   33:45] bearer of good tidings (mubashshir), warner (nathir),[Quran   11:2] reminder (mudhakkir),[Quran   88:21] one who calls [unto God] ( dā'ī ),[Quran   12:108] light personified (noor),[Quran   05:15] and the light-giving lamp (siraj munir).[Quran   33:46]

Muhammad is the primary transliteration of the Arabic given name مُحَمَّد‎ that comes from the passive participle of the Arabic verb ḥammada (حَمَّدَ), praise, which comes from the triconsonantal root Ḥ-M-D. The word can therefore be translated as "praised, commendable, laudable".

Quran The central religious text of Islam

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims believe to be a revelation from God (Allah). It is widely regarded as the finest work in classical Arabic literature. The Quran is divided into chapters, which are subdivided into verses.

Shahid or Shaheed is a Muslim given name translating to "witness", mostly found in South Asia.

Sources of biographical information


A folio from an early Quran, written in Kufic script (Abbasid period, 8th-9th centuries) Folio from a Koran (8th-9th century).jpg
A folio from an early Quran, written in Kufic script (Abbasid period, 8th–9th centuries)

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam. Muslims believe it represents the words of God revealed by the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad. [21] [22] [23] The Quran, however, provides minimal assistance for Muhammad's chronological biography; most Quranic verses do not provide significant historical context. [24] [25]

Religious text Texts which religious traditions consider to be central to their practice or beliefs

Religious texts, also known as scripture or scriptures are texts which religious traditions consider to be central to their practice or beliefs. Religious texts may be used to provide meaning and purpose, evoke a deeper connection with the divine, convey religious truths, promote religious experience, foster communal identity, and guide individual and communal religious practice. Religious texts often communicate the practices or values of a religious traditions and can be looked to as a set of guiding principles which dictate physical, mental, spiritual, or historical elements considered important to a specific religion. The terms 'sacred' text and 'religious' text are not necessarily interchangeable in that some religious texts are believed to be sacred because of their nature as divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired, whereas some religious texts are simply narratives pertaining to the general themes, practices, or important figures of the specific religion, and not necessarily considered sacred by itself. A core function of a religious text making it sacred is its ceremonial and liturgical role, particularly in relation to sacred time, the liturgical year, the divine efficacy and subsequent holy service; in a more general sense, its performance.

God in Islam Muslim views of divinity

In Islam, God is the absolute one, the all-powerful and all-knowing ruler of the universe, and the creator of everything in existence. Islam emphasizes that God is strictly singular ; unique ; inherently One ; and also all-merciful and omnipotent. God is neither a material nor a spiritual being. According to Islamic teachings, beyond the Throne and according to the Quran, "No vision can grasp him, but His grasp is over all vision: He is above all comprehension, yet is acquainted with all things."

Gabriel angel in Abrahamic religions

Gabriel, in the Abrahamic religions, is an archangel. He was first described in the Hebrew Bible and was subsequently adopted by other traditions.

Early biographies

Important sources regarding Muhammad's life may be found in the historic works by writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Muslim era (AH – 8th and 9th century CE). [26] These include traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad, which provide additional information about Muhammad's life. [27]

The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Ibn Ishaq's Life of God's Messenger written c. 767 CE (150 AH). Although the work was lost, this sira was used at great length by Ibn Hisham and to a lesser extent by Al-Tabari. [28] [29] However, Ibn Hisham admits in the preface to his biography of Muhammad that he omitted matters from Ibn Ishaq's biography that "would distress certain people". [30] Another early history source is the history of Muhammad's campaigns by al-Waqidi (death 207 of Muslim era), and the work of his secretary Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi (death 230 of Muslim era). [26]

Many scholars accept these early biographies as authentic, though their accuracy is unascertainable. [28] Recent studies have led scholars to distinguish between traditions touching legal matters and purely historical events. In the legal group, traditions could have been subject to invention while historic events, aside from exceptional cases, may have been only subject to "tendential shaping". [31]


Other important sources include the hadith collections, accounts of the verbal and physical teachings and traditions of Muhammad. Hadiths were compiled several generations after his death by followers including Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Muhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi, Abd ar-Rahman al-Nasai, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Malik ibn Anas, al-Daraqutni. [32] [33]

Some Western academics cautiously view the hadith collections as accurate historical sources. [32] Scholars such as Madelung do not reject the narrations which have been compiled in later periods, but judge them in the context of history and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures. [34] Muslim scholars on the other hand typically place a greater emphasis on the hadith literature instead of the biographical literature, since hadiths maintain a verifiable chain of transmission (isnad); the lack of such a chain for the biographical literature makes it less verifiable in their eyes. [35]

Pre-Islamic Arabia

Main tribes and settlements of Arabia in Muhammad's lifetime Tribes english.png
Main tribes and settlements of Arabia in Muhammad's lifetime

The Arabian Peninsula was, and still is, largely arid with volcanic soil, making agriculture difficult except near oases or springs. Towns and cities dotted the landscape; two of the most prominent being Mecca and Medina. Medina was a large flourishing agricultural settlement, while Mecca was an important financial center for many surrounding tribes. [36] Communal life was essential for survival in the desert conditions, supporting indigenous tribes against the harsh environment and lifestyle. Tribal affiliation, whether based on kinship or alliances, was an important source of social cohesion. [37] Indigenous Arabs were either nomadic or sedentary. Nomadic groups constantly traveled seeking water and pasture for their flocks, while the sedentary settled and focused on trade and agriculture. Nomadic survival also depended on raiding caravans or oases; nomads did not view this as a crime. [38] [39]

In pre-Islamic Arabia, gods or goddesses were viewed as protectors of individual tribes, their spirits being associated with sacred trees, stones, springs and wells. As well as being the site of an annual pilgrimage, the Kaaba shrine in Mecca housed 360 idols of tribal patron deities. Three goddesses were revered as God's daughters: Allāt, Manāt and al-'Uzzá. Monotheistic communities existed in Arabia, including Christians and Jews. [40] Hanifs  – native pre-Islamic Arabs who "professed a rigid monotheism" [41]  – are also sometimes listed alongside Jews and Christians in pre-Islamic Arabia, although their historicity is disputed among scholars. [42] [43] According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad himself was a Hanif and one of the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham. [44]

The second half of the sixth century was a period of political disorder in Arabia and communication routes were no longer secure. [45] Religious divisions were an important cause of the crisis. [46] Judaism became the dominant religion in Yemen while Christianity took root in the Persian Gulf area. [46] In line with broader trends of the ancient world, the region witnessed a decline in the practice of polytheistic cults and a growing interest in a more spiritual form of religion. [46] While many were reluctant to convert to a foreign faith, those faiths provided intellectual and spiritual reference points. [46]

During the early years of Muhammad's life, the Quraysh tribe he belonged to became a dominant force in western Arabia. [47] They formed the cult association of hums, which tied members of many tribes in western Arabia to the Kaaba and reinforced the prestige of the Meccan sanctuary. [48] To counter the effects of anarchy, Quraysh upheld the institution of sacred months during which all violence was forbidden, and it was possible to participate in pilgrimages and fairs without danger. [48] Thus, although the association of hums was primarily religious, it also had important economic consequences for the city. [48]


Timeline of Muhammad's Life
Important dates and locations in the life of Muhammad
c. 569Death of his father, Abdullah
c. 570Possible date of birth: 12 or 17 Rabi al Awal: in Mecca Arabia
c. 577Death of his mother, Amina
c. 583His grandfather transfers him to Syria
c. 595Meets and marries Khadijah
597Birth of Zainab, his first daughter, followed by: Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima Zahra
610Qur'anic revelation begins in the Cave of Hira on the Jabaal an Nur the "Mountain of Light" near Mecca
610At age 40, Angel Jebreel (Gabriel) was said to appear to Muhammad on the mountain and call him "the Prophet of Allah"
610Begins in secret to gather followers in Mecca
c. 613Begins spreading message of Islam publicly to all Meccans
c. 614Heavy persecution of Muslims begins
c. 615Emigration of a group of Muslims to Ethiopia
616 Banu Hashim clan boycott begins
619The year of sorrows: Khadija (his wife) and Abu Talib (his uncle) die
619Banu Hashim clan boycott ends
c. 620 Isra and Mi'raj (reported ascension to heaven to meet God)
622 Hijra, emigration to Medina (called Yathrib)
623 Battle of Badr
625 Battle of Uhud
627 Battle of the Trench (also known as the siege of Medina)
628The Meccan tribe of Quraysh and the Muslim community in Medina signed a 10-year truce called the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
629Conquest of Mecca
632Farewell pilgrimage, event of Ghadir Khumm, and death, in what is now Saudi Arabia

Childhood and early life

Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, [49] was born in Mecca [50] about the year 570 [8] and his birthday is believed to be in the month of Rabi' al-awwal. [51] He belonged to the Banu Hashim clan, part of the Quraysh tribe, and was one of Mecca's prominent families, although it appears less prosperous during Muhammad's early lifetime. [16] [52] Tradition places the year of Muhammad's birth as corresponding with the Year of the Elephant, which is named after the failed destruction of Mecca that year by the Abraha, Yemen's king, who supplemented his army with elephants. [53] [54] [55] Alternatively some 20th century scholars have suggested different years, such as 568 or 569. [7]

Miniature from Rashid-al-Din Hamadani's Jami al-Tawarikh, c. 1315, illustrating the story of Muhammad's role in re-setting the Black Stone in 605. (Ilkhanate period) Mohammed kaaba 1315.jpg
Miniature from Rashid-al-Din Hamadani's Jami al-Tawarikh , c.1315, illustrating the story of Muhammad's role in re-setting the Black Stone in 605. (Ilkhanate period)

Muhammad's father, Abdullah, died almost six months before he was born. [57] According to Islamic tradition, soon after birth he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as desert life was considered healthier for infants; some western scholars reject this tradition's historicity. [58] Muhammad stayed with his foster-mother, Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two years old. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his biological mother Amina to illness and became an orphan. [58] [59] For the next two years, until he was eight years old, Muhammad was under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather Abdul-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan until his death. He then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Banu Hashim. [7] According to Islamic historian William Montgomery Watt there was a general disregard by guardians in taking care of weaker members of the tribes in Mecca during the 6th century, "Muhammad's guardians saw that he did not starve to death, but it was hard for them to do more for him, especially as the fortunes of the clan of Hashim seem to have been declining at that time." [60]

In his teens, Muhammad accompanied his uncle on Syrian trading journeys to gain experience in commercial trade. [60] Islamic tradition states that when Muhammad was either nine or twelve while accompanying the Meccans' caravan to Syria, he met a Christian monk or hermit named Bahira who is said to have foreseen Muhammad's career as a prophet of God. [61]

Little is known of Muhammad during his later youth, available information is fragmented, making it difficult to separate history from legend. [60] It is known that he became a merchant and "was involved in trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea." [62] Due to his upright character he acquired the nickname "al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين), meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and "al-Sadiq" meaning "truthful" [63] and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator. [9] [16] [64] His reputation attracted a proposal in 595 from Khadijah, a 40-year-old widow. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one. [62]

Several years later, according to a narration collected by historian Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad was involved with a well-known story about setting the Black Stone in place in the wall of the Kaaba in 605 CE. The Black Stone, a sacred object, was removed during renovations to the Kaaba. The Meccan leaders could not agree which clan should return the Black Stone to its place. They decided to ask the next man who comes through the gate to make that decision; that man was the 35-year-old Muhammad. This event happened five years before the first revelation by Gabriel to him. He asked for a cloth and laid the Black Stone in its center. The clan leaders held the corners of the cloth and together carried the Black Stone to the right spot, then Muhammad laid the stone, satisfying the honour of all. [65] [66]

Beginnings of the Quran

The cave Hira in the mountain Jabal al-Nour where, according to Muslim belief, Muhammad received his first revelation Cave Hira.jpg
The cave Hira in the mountain Jabal al-Nour where, according to Muslim belief, Muhammad received his first revelation

Muhammad began to pray alone in a cave named Hira on Mount Jabal al-Nour, near Mecca for several weeks every year. [67] [68] Islamic tradition holds that during one of his visits to that cave, in the year 610 the angel Gabriel appeared to him and commanded Muhammad to recite verses that would be included in the Quran. [69] Consensus exists that the first Quranic words revealed were the beginning of Surah 96:1. [70] Muhammad was deeply distressed upon receiving his first revelations. After returning home, Muhammad was consoled and reassured by Khadijah and her Christian cousin, Waraka ibn Nawfal. [71] He also feared that others would dismiss his claims as being possessed. [39] Shi'a tradition states Muhammad was not surprised or frightened at Gabriel's appearance; rather he welcomed the angel, as if he was expected. [72] The initial revelation was followed by a three-year pause (a period known as fatra) during which Muhammad felt depressed and further gave himself to prayers and spiritual practices. [70] When the revelations resumed he was reassured and commanded to begin preaching: "Thy Guardian-Lord hath not forsaken thee, nor is He displeased." [73] [74] [75]

Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. From the manuscript Jami' al-tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, 1307, Ilkhanate period. Mohammed receiving revelation from the angel Gabriel.jpg
Muhammad receiving his first revelation from the angel Gabriel. From the manuscript Jami' al-tawarikh by Rashid-al-Din Hamadani, 1307, Ilkhanate period.

Sahih Bukhari narrates Muhammad describing his revelations as "sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell". Aisha reported, "I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over)". [76] According to Welch these descriptions may be considered genuine, since they are unlikely to have been forged by later Muslims. [16] Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages. [77] According to the Quran, one of the main roles of Muhammad is to warn the unbelievers of their eschatological punishment (Quran 38:70, Quran 6:19). Occasionally the Quran did not explicitly refer to Judgment day but provided examples from the history of extinct communities and warns Muhammad's contemporaries of similar calamities (Quran 41:13–16). [78] Muhammad did not only warn those who rejected God's revelation, but also dispensed good news for those who abandoned evil, listening to the divine words and serving God. [79] Muhammad's mission also involves preaching monotheism: The Quran commands Muhammad to proclaim and praise the name of his Lord and instructs him not to worship idols or associate other deities with God. [78]

Recite in the name of your Lord who created—Created man from a clinging substance. Recite, and your Lord is the most Generous—Who taught by the pen—Taught man that which he knew not.

— Quran (96:1–5)

The key themes of the early Quranic verses included the responsibility of man towards his creator; the resurrection of the dead, God's final judgment followed by vivid descriptions of the tortures in Hell and pleasures in Paradise, and the signs of God in all aspects of life. Religious duties required of the believers at this time were few: belief in God, asking for forgiveness of sins, offering frequent prayers, assisting others particularly those in need, rejecting cheating and the love of wealth (considered to be significant in the commercial life of Mecca), being chaste and not committing female infanticide. [16]


The last ayah from the sura An-Najm: "So prostrate to Allah and worship." Muhammad's message of monotheism challenged the traditional order. Surat An-Najm.jpg
The last ayah from the sura An-Najm: "So prostrate to Allah and worship." Muhammad's message of monotheism challenged the traditional order.

According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad's wife Khadija was the first to believe he was a prophet. [80] She was followed by Muhammad's ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr, and adopted son Zaid. [80] Around 613, Muhammad began to preach to the public (Quran 26:214). [11] [81] Most Meccans ignored and mocked him, though a few became his followers. There were three main groups of early converts to Islam: younger brothers and sons of great merchants; people who had fallen out of the first rank in their tribe or failed to attain it; and the weak, mostly unprotected foreigners. [82]

According to Ibn Saad, opposition in Mecca started when Muhammad delivered verses that condemned idol worship and the polytheism practiced by the Meccan forefathers. [83] However, the Quranic exegesis maintains that it began as Muhammad started public preaching. [84] As his followers increased, Muhammad became a threat to the local tribes and rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Ka'aba, the focal point of Meccan religious life that Muhammad threatened to overthrow. Muhammad's denunciation of the Meccan traditional religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka'aba. [82] Powerful merchants attempted to convince Muhammad to abandon his preaching; he was offered admission to the inner circle of merchants, as well as an advantageous marriage. He refused both of these offers. [82]

Have We not made for him two eyes? And a tongue and two lips? And have shown him the two ways? But he has not broken through the difficult pass. And what can make you know what is the difficult pass? It is the freeing of a slave. Or feeding on a day of severe hunger; an orphan of near relationship, or a needy person in misery. And then being among those who believed and advised one another to patience and advised one another to mercy.

— Quran (90:8–17)

Tradition records at great length the persecution and ill-treatment towards Muhammad and his followers. [16] Sumayyah bint Khayyat, a slave of a prominent Meccan leader Abu Jahl, is famous as the first martyr of Islam; killed with a spear by her master when she refused to give up her faith. Bilal, another Muslim slave, was tortured by Umayyah ibn Khalaf who placed a heavy rock on his chest to force his conversion. [85] [86]

In 615, some of Muhammad's followers emigrated to the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum and founded a small colony under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian emperor Aṣḥama ibn Abjar. [16] Ibn Sa'ad mentions two separate migrations. According to him, most of the Muslims returned to Mecca prior to Hijra, while a second group rejoined them in Medina. Ibn Hisham and Tabari, however, only talk about one migration to Ethiopia. These accounts agree that Meccan persecution played a major role in Muḥammad's decision to suggest that a number of his followers seek refuge among the Christians in Abyssinia. According to the famous letter of ʿUrwa preserved in al-Tabari, the majority of Muslims returned to their native town as Islam gained strength and high ranking Meccans, such as Umar and Hamzah converted. [87]

However, there is a completely different story on the reason why the Muslims returned from Ethiopia to Mecca. According to this account—initially mentioned by Al-Waqidi then rehashed by Ibn Sa'ad and Tabari, but not by Ibn Hisham and not by Ibn Ishaq [88] —Muhammad, desperately hoping for an accommodation with his tribe, pronounced a verse acknowledging the existence of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters of Allah. Muhammad retracted the verses the next day at the behest of Gabriel, claiming that the verses were whispered by the devil himself. Instead, a ridicule of these gods was offered. [89] [n 4] [n 5] This episode, known as "The Story of the Cranes," is also known as "Satanic Verses". According to the story, this led to a general reconciliation between Muḥammad and the Meccans, and the Abyssinia Muslims began to return home. When they arrived Gabriel had informed Muḥammad the two verses were not part of the revelation, but had been inserted by Satan. Notable scholars at the time argued against the historic authenticity of these verses and the story itself on various grounds. [90] [91] [n 6] Al-Waqidi was severely criticized by Islamic scholars such as Malik ibn Anas, al-Shafi'i, Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Al-Nasa'i, al-Bukhari, Abu Dawood, Al-Nawawi and others as a liar and forger. [92] [93] [94] [95] Later, the incident received some acceptance among certain groups, though strong objections to it continued onwards past the tenth century. The objections continued until rejection of these verses and the story itself eventually became the only acceptable orthodox Muslim position. [96]

In 617, the leaders of Makhzum and Banu Abd-Shams, two important Quraysh clans, declared a public boycott against Banu Hashim, their commercial rival, to pressure it into withdrawing its protection of Muhammad. The boycott lasted three years but eventually collapsed as it failed in its objective. [97] [98] During this time, Muhammad was only able to preach during the holy pilgrimage months in which all hostilities between Arabs was suspended.

Isra and Mi'raj

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, part of the al-Haram ash-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and built in 705, was named the "farthest mosque" to honor the possible location to which Muhammad travelled in his night journey. Al-Aqsa Mosque by David Shankbone.jpg
The Al-Aqsa Mosque, part of the al-Haram ash-Sharif complex in Jerusalem and built in 705, was named the "farthest mosque" to honor the possible location to which Muhammad travelled in his night journey.

Islamic tradition states that in 620, Muhammad experienced the Isra and Mi'raj , a miraculous night-long journey said to have occurred with the angel Gabriel. At the journey's beginning, the Isra, he is said to have traveled from Mecca on a winged steed to "the farthest mosque." Later, during the Mi'raj, Muhammad is said to have toured heaven and hell, and spoke with earlier prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. [100] Ibn Ishaq, author of the first biography of Muhammad, presents the event as a spiritual experience; later historians, such as Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir, present it as a physical journey. [100]

Some western scholars[ who? ] hold that the Isra and Mi'raj journey traveled through the heavens from the sacred enclosure at Mecca to the celestial al-Baytu l-Maʿmur (heavenly prototype of the Kaaba); later traditions indicate Muhammad's journey as having been from Mecca to Jerusalem. [101] [ page needed ]

Last years before Hijra

Quranic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. It marks the spot Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven. Domeoftherock1.jpg
Quranic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. It marks the spot Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.

Muhammad's wife Khadijah and uncle Abu Talib both died in 619, the year thus being known as the "Year of Sorrow". With the death of Abu Talib, leadership of the Banu Hashim clan passed to Abu Lahab, a tenacious enemy of Muhammad. Soon afterward, Abu Lahab withdrew the clan's protection over Muhammad. This placed Muhammad in danger; the withdrawal of clan protection implied that blood revenge for his killing would not be exacted. Muhammad then visited Ta'if, another important city in Arabia, and tried to find a protector, but his effort failed and further brought him into physical danger. [16] [98] Muhammad was forced to return to Mecca. A Meccan man named Mut'im ibn Adi (and the protection of the tribe of Banu Nawfal) made it possible for him to safely re-enter his native city. [16] [98]

Many people visited Mecca on business or as pilgrims to the Kaaba. Muhammad took this opportunity to look for a new home for himself and his followers. After several unsuccessful negotiations, he found hope with some men from Yathrib (later called Medina). [16] The Arab population of Yathrib were familiar with monotheism and were prepared for the appearance of a prophet because a Jewish community existed there. [16] They also hoped, by the means of Muhammad and the new faith, to gain supremacy over Mecca; the Yathrib were jealous of its importance as the place of pilgrimage. Converts to Islam came from nearly all Arab tribes in Medina; by June of the subsequent year, seventy-five Muslims came to Mecca for pilgrimage and to meet Muhammad. Meeting him secretly by night, the group made what is known as the " Second Pledge of al-'Aqaba ", or, in Orientalists' view, the "Pledge of War". [103] Following the pledges at Aqabah, Muhammad encouraged his followers to emigrate to Yathrib. As with the migration to Abyssinia, the Quraysh attempted to stop the emigration. However, almost all Muslims managed to leave. [104]


Timeline of Muhammad in Medina
c. 622Emigrates to Medina (Hijra)
623 Caravan Raids begin
624 Al Kudr Invasion
624 Battle of Badr: Muslims defeat Meccans
624 Battle of Sawiq, Abu Sufyan captured
624Expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa
624 Invasion of Thi Amr, Muhammad raids Ghatafan tribes
624Assassination of Khaled b. Sufyan & Abu Rafi
625 Battle of Uhud: Meccans defeat Muslims
625Tragedy of Bir Maona and Al Raji
625 Invasion of Hamra al-Asad, successfully terrifies enemy to cause retreat
625Banu Nadir expelled after Invasion
625 Invasion of Nejd, Badr and Dumatul Jandal
627 Battle of the Trench
627 Invasion of Banu Qurayza, successful siege
628 Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, gains access to Kaaba
628Conquest of the Khaybar oasis
629First hajj pilgrimage
629Attack on Byzantine Empire fails: Battle of Mu'tah
629Bloodless conquest of Mecca
629 Battle of Hunayn
630 Siege of Ta'if
631Rules most of the Arabian peninsula
632Attacks the Ghassanids: Tabuk
632Farewell hajj pilgrimage
632Death, on June 8 in Medina

The Hijra is the migration of Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. In June 622, warned of a plot to assassinate him, Muhammad secretly slipped out of Mecca and moved his followers to Medina, [105] 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of Mecca. [106]

Migration to Medina

A delegation, consisting of the representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina, invited Muhammad to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire community; due to his status as a neutral outsider. [107] [108] There was fighting in Yathrib: primarily the dispute involved its Arab and Jewish inhabitants, and was estimated to have lasted for around a hundred years before 620. [107] The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, especially after the Battle of Bu'ath in which all clans were involved, made it obvious to them that the tribal concept of blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. [107] The delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow-citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves. [16]

Muhammad instructed his followers to emigrate to Medina, until nearly all his followers left Mecca. Being alarmed at the departure, according to tradition, the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad. With the help of Ali, Muhammad fooled the Meccans watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town with Abu Bakr. [109] By 622, Muhammad emigrated to Medina, a large agricultural oasis. Those who migrated from Mecca along with Muhammad became known as muhajirun (emigrants). [16]

Establishment of a new polity

Among the first things Muhammad did to ease the longstanding grievances among the tribes of Medina was to draft a document known as the Constitution of Medina, "establishing a kind of alliance or federation" among the eight Medinan tribes and Muslim emigrants from Mecca; this specified rights and duties of all citizens, and the relationship of the different communities in Medina (including the Muslim community to other communities, specifically the Jews and other "Peoples of the Book"). [107] [108] The community defined in the Constitution of Medina, Ummah , had a religious outlook, also shaped by practical considerations and substantially preserved the legal forms of the old Arab tribes. [16]

The first group of converts to Islam in Medina were the clans without great leaders; these clans had been subjugated by hostile leaders from outside. [110] This was followed by the general acceptance of Islam by the pagan population of Medina, with some exceptions. According to Ibn Ishaq, this was influenced by the conversion of Sa'd ibn Mu'adh (a prominent Medinan leader) to Islam. [111] Medinans who converted to Islam and helped the Muslim emigrants find shelter became known as the ansar (supporters). [16] Then Muhammad instituted brotherhood between the emigrants and the supporters and he chose Ali as his own brother. [112]

Beginning of armed conflict

Following the emigration, the people of Mecca seized property of Muslim emigrants to Medina. [113] War would later break out between the people of Mecca and the Muslims. Muhammad delivered Quranic verses permitting Muslims to fight the Meccans (see sura Al-Hajj, Quran 22:39–40). [114] According to the traditional account, on 11 February 624, while praying in the Masjid al-Qiblatayn in Medina, Muhammad received revelations from God that he should be facing Mecca rather than Jerusalem during prayer. Muhammad adjusted to the new direction, and his companions praying with him followed his lead, beginning the tradition of facing Mecca during prayer. [115]

Permission has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. Those who have been evicted from their homes without right—only because they say, "Our Lord is Allah." And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.

— Quran (22:39–40)

In March 624, Muhammad led some three hundred warriors in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Muslims set an ambush for the caravan at Badr. [116] Aware of the plan, the Meccan caravan eluded the Muslims. A Meccan force was sent to protect the caravan and went on to confront the Muslims upon receiving word that the caravan was safe. The Battle of Badr commenced. [117] Though outnumbered more than three to one, the Muslims won the battle, killing at least forty-five Meccans with fourteen Muslims dead. They also succeeded in killing many Meccan leaders, including Abu Jahl. [118] Seventy prisoners had been acquired, many of whom were ransomed. [119] [120] [121] Muhammad and his followers saw the victory as confirmation of their faith [16] and Muhammad ascribed the victory as assisted from an invisible host of angels. The Quranic verses of this period, unlike the Meccan verses, dealt with practical problems of government and issues like the distribution of spoils. [122]

The victory strengthened Muhammad's position in Medina and dispelled earlier doubts among his followers. [123] As a result, the opposition to him became less vocal. Pagans who had not yet converted were very bitter about the advance of Islam. Two pagans, Asma bint Marwan of the Aws Manat tribe and Abu 'Afak of the 'Amr b. 'Awf tribe, had composed verses taunting and insulting the Muslims. [124] They were killed by people belonging to their own or related clans, and Muhammad did not disapprove of the killings. [124] This report, however, is considered by some to be a fabrication. [125] Most members of those tribes converted to Islam, and little pagan opposition remained. [126]

Muhammad expelled from Medina the Banu Qaynuqa, one of three main Jewish tribes, [16] but some historians contend that the expulsion happened after Muhammad's death. [127] According to al-Waqidi, after Abd-Allah ibn Ubaiy spoke for them, Muhammad refrained from executing them and commanded that they be exiled from Medina. [128] Following the Battle of Badr, Muhammad also made mutual-aid alliances with a number of Bedouin tribes to protect his community from attacks from the northern part of Hejaz. [16]

Conflict with Mecca

"The Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim Army at the Battle of Uhud", from a 1595 edition of the Mamluk-Turkic Siyer-i Nebi The Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim Army at the Battle of Uhud, from the Siyer-i Nebi, 1595.jpg
"The Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim Army at the Battle of Uhud", from a 1595 edition of the Mamluk-Turkic Siyer-i Nebi

The Meccans were eager to avenge their defeat. To maintain economic prosperity, the Meccans needed to restore their prestige, which had been reduced at Badr. [129] In the ensuing months, the Meccans sent ambush parties to Medina while Muhammad led expeditions against tribes allied with Mecca and sent raiders onto a Meccan caravan. [130] Abu Sufyan gathered an army of 3000 men and set out for an attack on Medina. [131]

A scout alerted Muhammad of the Meccan army's presence and numbers a day later. The next morning, at the Muslim conference of war, a dispute arose over how best to repel the Meccans. Muhammad and many senior figures suggested it would be safer to fight within Medina and take advantage of the heavily fortified strongholds. Younger Muslims argued that the Meccans were destroying crops, and huddling in the strongholds would destroy Muslim prestige. Muhammad eventually conceded to the younger Muslims and readied the Muslim force for battle. Muhammad led his force outside to the mountain of Uhud (the location of the Meccan camp) and fought the Battle of Uhud on 23 March 625. [132] [133] Although the Muslim army had the advantage in early encounters, lack of discipline on the part of strategically placed archers led to a Muslim defeat; 75 Muslims were killed including Hamza, Muhammad's uncle who became one of the best known martyrs in the Muslim tradition. The Meccans did not pursue the Muslims, instead, they marched back to Mecca declaring victory. The announcement is probably because Muhammad was wounded and thought dead. When they discovered that Muhammad lived, the Meccans did not return due to false information about new forces coming to his aid. The attack had failed to achieve their aim of completely destroying the Muslims. [134] [135] The Muslims buried the dead and returned to Medina that evening. Questions accumulated about the reasons for the loss; Muhammad delivered Quranic verses 3:152 indicating that the defeat was twofold: partly a punishment for disobedience, partly a test for steadfastness. [136]

Abu Sufyan directed his effort towards another attack on Medina. He gained support from the nomadic tribes to the north and east of Medina; using propaganda about Muhammad's weakness, promises of booty, memories of Quraysh prestige and through bribery. [137] Muhammad's new policy was to prevent alliances against him. Whenever alliances against Medina were formed, he sent out expeditions to break them up. [137] Muhammad heard of men massing with hostile intentions against Medina, and reacted in a severe manner. [138] One example is the assassination of Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf, a chieftain of the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir. Al-Ashraf went to Mecca and wrote poems that roused the Meccans' grief, anger and desire for revenge after the Battle of Badr. [139] [140] Around a year later, Muhammad expelled the Banu Nadir from Medina [141] forcing their emigration to Syria; he allowed them to take some possessions, as he was unable to subdue the Banu Nadir in their strongholds. The rest of their property was claimed by Muhammad in the name of God as it was not gained with bloodshed. Muhammad surprised various Arab tribes, individually, with overwhelming force, causing his enemies to unite to annihilate him. Muhammad's attempts to prevent a confederation against him were unsuccessful, though he was able to increase his own forces and stopped many potential tribes from joining his enemies. [142]

Siege of Medina

The Masjid al-Qiblatayn, where Muhammad established the new Qibla, or direction of prayer Masjid al-Qiblatain.jpg
The Masjid al-Qiblatayn, where Muhammad established the new Qibla, or direction of prayer

With the help of the exiled Banu Nadir, the Quraysh military leader Abu Sufyan mustered a force of 10,000 men. Muhammad prepared a force of about 3,000 men and adopted a form of defense unknown in Arabia at that time; the Muslims dug a trench wherever Medina lay open to cavalry attack. The idea is credited to a Persian convert to Islam, Salman the Persian. The siege of Medina began on 31 March 627 and lasted two weeks. [143] Abu Sufyan's troops were unprepared for the fortifications, and after an ineffectual siege, the coalition decided to return home. [144] The Quran discusses this battle in sura Al-Ahzab, in verses 33:9–27. [84] During the battle, the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza, located to the south of Medina, entered into negotiations with Meccan forces to revolt against Muhammad. Although the Meccan forces were swayed by suggestions that Muhammad was sure to be overwhelmed, they desired reassurance in case the confederacy was unable to destroy him. No agreement was reached after prolonged negotiations, partly due to sabotage attempts by Muhammad's scouts. [145] After the coalition's retreat, the Muslims accused the Banu Qurayza of treachery and besieged them in their forts for 25 days. The Banu Qurayza eventually surrendered; according to Ibn Ishaq, all the men apart from a few converts to Islam were beheaded, while the women and children were enslaved. [146] [147] Walid N. Arafat and Barakat Ahmad have disputed the accuracy of Ibn Ishaq's narrative. [148] Arafat believes that Ibn Ishaq's Jewish sources, speaking over 100 years after the event, conflated this account with memories of earlier massacres in Jewish history; he notes that Ibn Ishaq was considered an unreliable historian by his contemporary Malik ibn Anas, and a transmitter of "odd tales" by the later Ibn Hajar. [149] Ahmad argues that only some of the tribe were killed, while some of the fighters were merely enslaved. [150] [151] Watt finds Arafat's arguments "not entirely convincing", while Meir J. Kister has contradicted[ clarification needed ] the arguments of Arafat and Ahmad. [152]

In the siege of Medina, the Meccans exerted the available strength to destroy the Muslim community. The failure resulted in a significant loss of prestige; their trade with Syria vanished. [153] Following the Battle of the Trench, Muhammad made two expeditions to the north, both ended without any fighting. [16] While returning from one of these journeys (or some years earlier according to other early accounts), an accusation of adultery was made against Aisha, Muhammad's wife. Aisha was exonerated from accusations when Muhammad announced he had received a revelation confirming Aisha's innocence and directing that charges of adultery be supported by four eyewitnesses (sura 24, An-Nur). [154]

Truce of Hudaybiyyah

"In your name, O God!
This is the treaty of peace between Muhammad Ibn Abdullah and Suhayl Ibn Amr. They have agreed to allow their arms to rest for ten years. During this time each party shall be secure, and neither shall injure the other; no secret damage shall be inflicted, but honesty and honour shall prevail between them. Whoever in Arabia wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with Muhammad can do so, and whoever wishes to enter into a treaty or covenant with the Quraysh can do so. And if a Qurayshite comes without the permission of his guardian to Muhammad, he shall be delivered up to the Quraysh; but if, on the other hand, one of Muhammad's people comes to the Quraysh, he shall not be delivered up to Muhammad. This year, Muhammad, with his companions, must withdraw from Mecca, but next year, he may come to Mecca and remain for three days, yet without their weapons except those of a traveller; the swords remaining in their sheaths."

—The statement of the treaty of Hudaybiyyah [155]

Although Muhammad had delivered Quranic verses commanding the Hajj, [156] the Muslims had not performed it due to Quraysh enmity. In the month of Shawwal 628, Muhammad ordered his followers to obtain sacrificial animals and to prepare for a pilgrimage ( umrah ) to Mecca, saying that God had promised him the fulfillment of this goal in a vision when he was shaving his head after completion of the Hajj. [157] Upon hearing of the approaching 1,400 Muslims, the Quraysh dispatched 200 cavalry to halt them. Muhammad evaded them by taking a more difficult route, enabling his followers to reach al-Hudaybiyya just outside Mecca. [158] According to Watt, although Muhammad's decision to make the pilgrimage was based on his dream, he was also demonstrating to the pagan Meccans that Islam did not threaten the prestige of the sanctuaries, that Islam was an Arabian religion. [158]

The Kaaba in Mecca long held a major economic and religious role for the area. Seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for prayer (salat). The Kaaba has been rebuilt several times; the present structure, built in 1629, is a reconstruction of an earlier building dating to 683. Kaaba Masjid Haraam Makkah.jpg
The Kaaba in Mecca long held a major economic and religious role for the area. Seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for prayer (salat). The Kaaba has been rebuilt several times; the present structure, built in 1629, is a reconstruction of an earlier building dating to 683.

Negotiations commenced with emissaries traveling to and from Mecca. While these continued, rumors spread that one of the Muslim negotiators, Uthman bin al-Affan, had been killed by the Quraysh. Muhammad called upon the pilgrims to make a pledge not to flee (or to stick with Muhammad, whatever decision he made) if the situation descended into war with Mecca. This pledge became known as the "Pledge of Acceptance" or the "Pledge under the Tree". News of Uthman's safety allowed for negotiations to continue, and a treaty scheduled to last ten years was eventually signed between the Muslims and Quraysh. [158] [160] The main points of the treaty included: cessation of hostilities, the deferral of Muhammad's pilgrimage to the following year, and agreement to send back any Meccan who emigrated to Medina without permission from their protector. [158]

Many Muslims were not satisfied with the treaty. However, the Quranic sura "Al-Fath" (The Victory) (Quran 48:1–29) assured them that the expedition must be considered a victorious one. [161] It was later that Muhammad's followers realized the benefit behind the treaty. These benefits included the requirement of the Meccans to identify Muhammad as an equal, cessation of military activity allowing Medina to gain strength, and the admiration of Meccans who were impressed by the pilgrimage rituals. [16]

After signing the truce, Muhammad assembled an expedition against the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, known as the Battle of Khaybar. This was possibly due to housing the Banu Nadir who were inciting hostilities against Muhammad, or to regain prestige from what appeared as the inconclusive result of the truce of Hudaybiyya. [131] [162] According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad also sent letters to many rulers, asking them to convert to Islam (the exact date is given variously in the sources). [16] [163] [164] He sent messengers (with letters) to Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire (the eastern Roman Empire), Khosrau of Persia, the chief of Yemen and to some others. [163] [164] In the years following the truce of Hudaybiyya, Muhammad directed his forces against the Arabs on Transjordanian Byzantine soil in the Battle of Mu'tah. [165]

Final years

Conquest of Mecca

A depiction of Muhammad (with veiled face) advancing on Mecca from Siyer-i Nebi, a 16th-century Ottoman manuscript. The angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail, are also shown. Siyer-i Nebi 298a.jpg
A depiction of Muhammad (with veiled face) advancing on Mecca from Siyer-i Nebi, a 16th-century Ottoman manuscript. The angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail, are also shown.

The truce of Hudaybiyyah was enforced for two years. [166] [167] The tribe of Banu Khuza'a had good relations with Muhammad, whereas their enemies, the Banu Bakr, had allied with the Meccans. [166] [167] A clan of the Bakr made a night raid against the Khuza'a, killing a few of them. [166] [167] The Meccans helped the Banu Bakr with weapons and, according to some sources, a few Meccans also took part in the fighting. [166] After this event, Muhammad sent a message to Mecca with three conditions, asking them to accept one of them. These were: either the Meccans would pay blood money for the slain among the Khuza'ah tribe, they disavow themselves of the Banu Bakr, or they should declare the truce of Hudaybiyyah null. [168]

The Meccans replied that they accepted the last condition. [168] Soon they realized their mistake and sent Abu Sufyan to renew the Hudaybiyyah treaty, a request that was declined by Muhammad.

Muhammad began to prepare for a campaign. [169] In 630, Muhammad marched on Mecca with 10,000 Muslim converts. With minimal casualties, Muhammad seized control of Mecca. [170] He declared an amnesty for past offences, except for ten men and women who were "guilty of murder or other offences or had sparked off the war and disrupted the peace". [171] Some of these were later pardoned. [172] Most Meccans converted to Islam and Muhammad proceeded to destroy all the statues of Arabian gods in and around the Kaaba. [173] [174] According to reports collected by Ibn Ishaq and al-Azraqi, Muhammad personally spared paintings or frescos of Mary and Jesus, but other traditions suggest that all pictures were erased. [175] The Quran discusses the conquest of Mecca. [84] [176]

Conquest of Arabia

Conquests of Muhammad (green lines) and the Rashidun caliphs (black lines). Shown: Byzantine empire (North and West) & Sassanid-Persian empire (Northeast). Muslim Conquest.PNG
Conquests of Muhammad (green lines) and the Rashidun caliphs (black lines). Shown: Byzantine empire (North and West) & Sassanid-Persian empire (Northeast).

Following the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad was alarmed by a military threat from the confederate tribes of Hawazin who were raising an army double the size of Muhammad's. The Banu Hawazin were old enemies of the Meccans. They were joined by the Banu Thaqif (inhabiting the city of Ta'if) who adopted an anti-Meccan policy due to the decline of the prestige of Meccans. [177] Muhammad defeated the Hawazin and Thaqif tribes in the Battle of Hunayn. [16]

In the same year, Muhammad organized an attack against northern Arabia because of their previous defeat at the Battle of Mu'tah and reports of hostility adopted against Muslims. With great difficulty he assembled 30,000 men; half of whom on the second day returned with Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy, untroubled by the damning verses which Muhammad hurled at them. Although Muhammad did not engage with hostile forces at Tabuk, he received the submission of some local chiefs of the region. [16] [178]

He also ordered the destruction of any remaining pagan idols in Eastern Arabia. The last city to hold out against the Muslims in Western Arabia was Taif. Muhammad refused to accept the city's surrender until they agreed to convert to Islam and allowed men to destroy the statue of their goddess Al-Lat. [179] [180] [181]

A year after the Battle of Tabuk, the Banu Thaqif sent emissaries to surrender to Muhammad and adopt Islam. Many bedouins submitted to Muhammad to safeguard against his attacks and to benefit from the spoils of war. [16] However, the bedouins were alien to the system of Islam and wanted to maintain independence: namely their code of virtue and ancestral traditions. Muhammad required a military and political agreement according to which they "acknowledge the suzerainty of Medina, to refrain from attack on the Muslims and their allies, and to pay the Zakat, the Muslim religious levy." [182]

Farewell pilgrimage

Anonymous illustration of al-Biruni's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, depicting Muhammad prohibiting Nasi' during the Farewell Pilgrimage, 17th-century Ottoman copy of a 14th-century (Ilkhanate) manuscript (Edinburgh codex). Maome.jpg
Anonymous illustration of al-Bīrūnī's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries , depicting Muhammad prohibiting Nasī’ during the Farewell Pilgrimage, 17th-century Ottoman copy of a 14th-century (Ilkhanate) manuscript (Edinburgh codex).

In 632, at the end of the tenth year after migration to Medina, Muhammad completed his first true Islamic pilgrimage, setting precedent for the annual Great Pilgrimage, known as Hajj . [16] On the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah Muhammad delivered his Farewell Sermon, at Mount Arafat east of Mecca. In this sermon, Muhammad advised his followers not to follow certain pre-Islamic customs. For instance, he said a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. [183] He abolished old blood feuds and disputes based on the former tribal system and asked for old pledges to be returned as implications of the creation of the new Islamic community. Commenting on the vulnerability of women in his society, Muhammad asked his male followers to "be good to women, for they are powerless captives (awan) in your households. You took them in God's trust, and legitimated your sexual relations with the Word of God, so come to your senses people, and hear my words ..." He told them that they were entitled to discipline their wives but should do so with kindness. He addressed the issue of inheritance by forbidding false claims of paternity or of a client relationship to the deceased and forbade his followers to leave their wealth to a testamentary heir. He also upheld the sacredness of four lunar months in each year. [184] [185] According to Sunni tafsir, the following Quranic verse was delivered during this event: "Today I have perfected your religion, and completed my favours for you and chosen Islam as a religion for you" (Quran 5:3). [16] According to Shia tafsir, it refers to the appointment of Ali ibn Abi Talib at the pond of Khumm as Muhammad's successor, this occurring a few days later when Muslims were returning from Mecca to Medina. [186]

Death and tomb

A few months after the farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with fever, head pain, and weakness. He died on Monday, 8 June 632, in Medina, at the age of 62 or 63, in the house of his wife Aisha. [187] With his head resting on Aisha's lap, he asked her to dispose of his last worldly goods (seven coins), then spoke his final words:

O Allah, to Ar-Rafiq Al-A'la (exalted friend, highest Friend or the uppermost, highest Friend in heaven). [188] [189] [190]


According to Encyclopaedia of Islam , Muhammad's death may be presumed to have been caused by Medinan fever exacerbated by physical and mental fatigue. [191]

Academics Reşit Haylamaz and Fatih Harpci say that Ar-Rafiq Al-A'la is referring to God. [192] He was buried where he died in Aisha's house. [16] [193] [194] During the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) was expanded to include the site of Muhammad's tomb. [195] The Green Dome above the tomb was built by the Mamluk sultan Al Mansur Qalawun in the 13th century, although the green color was added in the 16th century, under the reign of Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. [196] Among tombs adjacent to that of Muhammad are those of his companions (Sahabah), the first two Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, and an empty one that Muslims believe awaits Jesus. [194] [197] [198] When bin Saud took Medina in 1805, Muhammad's tomb was stripped of its gold and jewel ornaments. [199] Adherents to Wahhabism, bin Saud's followers destroyed nearly every tomb dome in Medina in order to prevent their veneration, [199] and the one of Muhammad is said to have narrowly escaped. [200] Similar events took place in 1925 when the Saudi militias retook—and this time managed to keep—the city. [201] [202] [203] In the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, burial is to take place in unmarked graves. [200] Although frowned upon by the Saudis, many pilgrims continue to practice a ziyarat—a ritual visit—to the tomb. [204] [205]

Madina Haram at evening.jpg
Al-Masjid an-Nabawi ("the Prophet's mosque") in Medina, Saudi Arabia, with the Green Dome built over Muhammad's tomb in the center

After Muhammad

Expansion of the caliphate, 622-750 CE.
Muhammad, 622-632 CE.
Rashidun caliphate, 632-661 CE.
Umayyad caliphate, 661-750 CE. Map of expansion of Caliphate.svg
Expansion of the caliphate, 622–750 CE.
   Muhammad, 622–632 CE.
   Rashidun caliphate, 632–661 CE.
   Umayyad caliphate, 661–750 CE.

Muhammad united several of the tribes of Arabia into a single Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life. With Muhammad's death, disagreement broke out over who his successor would be. [18] Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, Muhammad's friend and collaborator. With additional support Abu Bakr was confirmed as the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated the successor by Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm. Abu Bakr immediately moved to strike against the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman Empire) forces because of the previous defeat, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an event that Muslim historians later referred to as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy". [206]

The pre-Islamic Middle East was dominated by the Byzantine and Sassanian empires. The Roman–Persian Wars between the two had devastated the region, making the empires unpopular amongst local tribes. Furthermore, in the lands that would be conquered by Muslims many Christians (Nestorians, Monophysites, Jacobites and Copts) were disaffected from the Eastern Orthodox Church which deemed them heretics. Within a decade Muslims conquered Mesopotamia, Byzantine Syria, Byzantine Egypt, [207] large parts of Persia, and established the Rashidun Caliphate.

Islamic social reforms

According to William Montgomery Watt, religion for Muhammad was not a private and individual matter but "the total response of his personality to the total situation in which he found himself. He was responding [not only]... to the religious and intellectual aspects of the situation but also to the economic, social, and political pressures to which contemporary Mecca was subject." [208] Bernard Lewis says there are two important political traditions in Islam—Muhammad as a statesman in Medina, and Muhammad as a rebel in Mecca. In his view, Islam is a great change, akin to a revolution, when introduced to new societies. [209]

Historians generally agree that Islamic social changes in areas such as social security, family structure, slavery and the rights of women and children improved on the status quo of Arab society. [209] [210] For example, according to Lewis, Islam "from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents".[ which? ] [209] Muhammad's message transformed society and moral orders of life in the Arabian Peninsula; society focused on the changes to perceived identity, world view, and the hierarchy of values. [211] [ page needed ] Economic reforms addressed the plight of the poor, which was becoming an issue in pre-Islamic Mecca. [212] The Quran requires payment of an alms tax (zakat) for the benefit of the poor; as Muhammad's power grew he demanded that tribes who wished to ally with him implement the zakat in particular. [213] [214]


A hilya containing a description of Muhammad, by Hafiz Osman (1642-1698) Hilye-i serif 5.jpg
A hilya containing a description of Muhammad, by Hâfiz Osman (1642–1698)

In Muhammad al-Bukhari's book Sahih al-Bukhari, in Chapter 61, Hadith 57 & Hadith 60, [215] [216] Muhammad is depicted by two of his companions thus:

Allah's Messenger was neither very tall nor short, neither absolutely white nor deep brown. His hair was neither curly nor lank. Allah sent him (as an Apostle) when he was forty years old. Afterwards he resided in Mecca for ten years and in Medina for ten more years. When Allah took him unto Him, there was scarcely twenty white hairs in his head and beard.


The Prophet was of moderate height having broad shoulders (long) hair reaching his ear-lobes. Once I saw him in a red cloak and I had never seen anyone more handsome than him.


The description given in Muhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi's book Shama'il al-Mustafa, attributed to Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hind ibn Abi Hala is as follows: [217] [218] [219]

Muhammad was middle-sized, did not have lank or crisp hair, was not fat, had a white circular face, wide black eyes, and long eye-lashes. When he walked, he walked as though he went down a declivity. He had the "seal of prophecy" between his shoulder blades ... He was bulky. His face shone like the moon. He was taller than middling stature but shorter than conspicuous tallness. He had thick, curly hair. The plaits of his hair were parted. His hair reached beyond the lobe of his ear. His complexion was azhar [bright, luminous]. Muhammad had a wide forehead, and fine, long, arched eyebrows which did not meet. Between his eyebrows there was a vein which distended when he was angry. The upper part of his nose was hooked; he was thick bearded, had smooth cheeks, a strong mouth, and his teeth were set apart. He had thin hair on his chest. His neck was like the neck of an ivory statue, with the purity of silver. Muhammad was proportionate, stout, firm-gripped, even of belly and chest, broad-chested and broad-shouldered.

The "seal of prophecy" between Muhammad's shoulders is generally described as having been a type of raised mole the size of a pigeon's egg. [218] Another description of Muhammad was provided by Umm Ma'bad, a woman he met on his journey to Medina: [220] [221]

I saw a man, pure and clean, with a handsome face and a fine figure. He was not marred by a skinny body, nor was he overly small in the head and neck. He was graceful and elegant, with intensely black eyes and thick eyelashes. There was a huskiness in his voice, and his neck was long. His beard was thick, and his eyebrows were finely arched and joined together.

When silent, he was grave and dignified, and when he spoke, glory rose up and overcame him. He was from afar the most beautiful of men and the most glorious, and close up he was the sweetest and the loveliest. He was sweet of speech and articulate, but not petty or trifling. His speech was a string of cascading pearls, measured so that none despaired of its length, and no eye challenged him because of brevity. In company he is like a branch between two other branches, but he is the most flourishing of the three in appearance, and the loveliest in power. He has friends surrounding him, who listen to his words. If he commands, they obey implicitly, with eagerness and haste, without frown or complaint.

Descriptions like these were often reproduced in calligraphic panels ( hilya or, in Turkish, hilye), which in the 17th century developed into an art form of their own in the Ottoman Empire. [220]


The tomb of Muhammad is located in the quarters of his third wife, Aisha. (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina) Mrs Aisha room.jpg
The tomb of Muhammad is located in the quarters of his third wife, Aisha. (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina)

Muhammad's life is traditionally defined into two periods: pre-hijra (emigration) in Mecca (from 570 to 622), and post-hijra in Medina (from 622 until 632). Muhammad is said to have had thirteen wives in total (although two have ambiguous accounts, Rayhana bint Zayd and Maria al-Qibtiyya, as wife or concubine [222] [223] ). Eleven of the thirteen marriages occurred after the migration to Medina.

At the age of 25, Muhammad married the wealthy Khadijah bint Khuwaylid who was 40 years old. [224] The marriage lasted for 25 years and was a happy one. [225] Muhammad did not enter into marriage with another woman during this marriage. [226] [227] After Khadijah's death, Khawla bint Hakim suggested to Muhammad that he should marry Sawda bint Zama, a Muslim widow, or Aisha, daughter of Um Ruman and Abu Bakr of Mecca. Muhammad is said to have asked for arrangements to marry both. [154] Muhammad's marriages after the death of Khadijah were contracted mostly for political or humanitarian reasons. The women were either widows of Muslims killed in battle and had been left without a protector, or belonged to important families or clans with whom it was necessary to honor and strengthen alliances. [228]

According to traditional sources Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad, [154] [229] [230] with the marriage not being consummated until she had reached puberty at the age of nine or ten years old. [154] [229] [231] [232] [233] [234] [235] [236] [237] She was therefore a virgin at marriage. [229] Modern Muslim authors who calculate Aisha's age based on other sources of information, such as a hadith about the age difference between Aisha and her sister Asma, estimate that she was over thirteen and perhaps in her late teens at the time of her marriage. [238] [239] [240] [241] [242]

After migration to Medina, Muhammad, who was then in his fifties, married several more women.

Muhammad performed household chores such as preparing food, sewing clothes, and repairing shoes. He is also said to have had accustomed his wives to dialogue; he listened to their advice, and the wives debated and even argued with him. [243] [244] [245]

Khadijah is said to have had four daughters with Muhammad (Ruqayyah bint Muhammad, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, Zainab bint Muhammad, Fatimah Zahra) and two sons (Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad and Qasim ibn Muhammad, who both died in childhood). All but one of his daughters, Fatimah, died before him. [246] Some Shi'a scholars contend that Fatimah was Muhammad's only daughter. [247] Maria al-Qibtiyya bore him a son named Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, but the child died when he was two years old. [246]

Nine of Muhammad's wives survived him. [223] Aisha, who became known as Muhammad's favourite wife in Sunni tradition, survived him by decades and was instrumental in helping assemble the scattered sayings of Muhammad that form the Hadith literature for the Sunni branch of Islam. [154]

Muhammad's descendants through Fatimah are known as sharifs , syeds or sayyids . These are honorific titles in Arabic, sharif meaning 'noble' and sayed or sayyid meaning 'lord' or 'sir'. As Muhammad's only descendants, they are respected by both Sunni and Shi'a, though the Shi'a place much more emphasis and value on their distinction. [248]

Zayd ibn Haritha was a slave that Muhammad bought, freed, and then adopted as his son. He also had a wetnurse. [249] According to a BBC summary, "the Prophet Muhammad did not try to abolish slavery, and bought, sold, captured, and owned slaves himself. But he insisted that slave owners treat their slaves well and stressed the virtue of freeing slaves. Muhammad treated slaves as human beings and clearly held some in the highest esteem". [250]


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Muslim tradition

Following the attestation to the oneness of God, the belief in Muhammad's prophethood is the main aspect of the Islamic faith. Every Muslim proclaims in Shahadah : "I testify that there is no god but God, and I testify that Muhammad is a Messenger of God." The Shahadah is the basic creed or tenet of Islam. Islamic belief is that ideally the Shahadah is the first words a newborn will hear; children are taught it immediately and it will be recited upon death. Muslims repeat the shahadah in the call to prayer ( adhan ) and the prayer itself. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed. [251]

In Islamic belief, Muhammad is regarded as the last prophet sent by God. [252] [253] [254] [255] [256] Quran   10:37 states that " (the Quran) is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book—wherein there is no doubt—from The Lord of the Worlds.". Similarly Quran   46:12 states "...And before this was the book of Moses, as a guide and a mercy. And this Book confirms (it)...", while 2:136 commands the believers of Islam to "Say: we believe in God and that which is revealed unto us, and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered."

The Muslim profession of faith, the Shahadah, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad: "There is no god except the God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." (Topkapi Palace) Sahadah-Topkapi-Palace.jpg
The Muslim profession of faith, the Shahadah, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad: "There is no god except the God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God." (Topkapı Palace)

Muslim tradition credits Muhammad with several miracles or supernatural events. [257] For example, many Muslim commentators and some Western scholars have interpreted the Surah 54:1–2 as referring to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh when they began persecuting his followers. [258] [259] Western historian of Islam Denis Gril believes the Quran does not overtly describe Muhammad performing miracles, and the supreme miracle of Muhammad is identified with the Quran itself. [258]

According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad was attacked by the people of Ta'if and was badly injured. The tradition also describes an angel appearing to him and offering retribution against the assailants. It is said that Muhammad rejected the offer and prayed for the guidance of the people of Ta'if. [260]

The Sunnah represents actions and sayings of Muhammad (preserved in reports known as Hadith), and covers a broad array of activities and beliefs ranging from religious rituals, personal hygiene, and burial of the dead to the mystical questions involving the love between humans and God. The Sunnah is considered a model of emulation for pious Muslims and has to a great degree influenced the Muslim culture. The greeting that Muhammad taught Muslims to offer each other, "may peace be upon you" (Arabic: as-salamu 'alaykum ) is used by Muslims throughout the world. Many details of major Islamic rituals such as daily prayers, the fasting and the annual pilgrimage are only found in the Sunnah and not the Quran. [261]

Calligraphic rendering of "may God honor him and grant him peace", customarily added after Muhammad's name in writing. The phrase is encoded as a ligature at Unicode code point U+FDFA.
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. Mohamed peace be upon him.svg
Calligraphic rendering of "may God honor him and grant him peace", customarily added after Muhammad's name in writing. The phrase is encoded as a ligature at Unicode code point U+FDFA. .

The Sunnah contributed much to the development of Islamic law, particularly from the end of the first Islamic century. [263] Muslim mystics, known as sufis, who were seeking for the inner meaning of the Quran and the inner nature of Muhammad, viewed the prophet of Islam not only as a prophet but also as a perfect human being. All Sufi orders trace their chain of spiritual descent back to Muhammad. [264]

Muslims have traditionally expressed love and veneration for Muhammad. Stories of Muhammad's life, his intercession and of his miracles (particularly "Splitting of the moon") have permeated popular Muslim thought and poetry. Among Arabic odes to Muhammad, Qasidat al-Burda ("Poem of the Mantle") by the Egyptian Sufi al-Busiri (1211–1294) is particularly well-known, and widely held to possess a healing, spiritual power. [265] The Quran refers to Muhammad as "a mercy (rahmat) to the worlds" (Quran 21:107). [16] The association of rain with mercy in Oriental countries has led to imagining Muhammad as a rain cloud dispensing blessings and stretching over lands, reviving the dead hearts, just as rain revives the seemingly dead earth (see, for example, the Sindhi poem of Shah ʿAbd al-Latif). [16] Muhammad's birthday is celebrated as a major feast throughout the Islamic world, excluding Wahhabi-dominated Saudi Arabia where these public celebrations are discouraged. [266] When Muslims say or write the name of Muhammad, they usually follow it with the Arabic phrase ṣallā llahu ʿalayhi wa-sallam (may God honor him and grant him peace) or the English phrase peace be upon him . [267] In casual writing, the abbreviations SAW (for the Arabic phrase) or PBUH (for the English phrase) are sometimes used; in printed matter, a small calligraphic rendition is commonly used ().


Muhammad's entry into Mecca and the destruction of idols. Muhammad is shown as a flame in this manuscript. Found in Bazil's Hamla-i Haydari, Jammu and Kashmir, India, 1808. Muhammad destroying idols - L'Histoire Merveilleuse en Vers de Mahomet BNF.jpg
Muhammad's entry into Mecca and the destruction of idols. Muhammad is shown as a flame in this manuscript. Found in Bazil's Hamla-i Haydari, Jammu and Kashmir, India, 1808.

In line with the hadith's prohibition against creating images of sentient living beings, which is particularly strictly observed with respect to God and Muhammad, Islamic religious art is focused on the word. [268] [269] Muslims generally avoid depictions of Muhammad, and mosques are decorated with calligraphy and Quranic inscriptions or geometrical designs, not images or sculptures. [268] [270] Today, the interdiction against images of Muhammad—designed to prevent worship of Muhammad, rather than God—is much more strictly observed in Sunni Islam (85%–90% of Muslims) and Ahmadiyya Islam (1%) than among Shias (10%–15%). [271] While both Sunnis and Shias have created images of Muhammad in the past, [272] Islamic depictions of Muhammad are rare. [268] They have mostly been limited to the private and elite medium of the miniature, and since about 1500 most depictions show Muhammad with his face veiled, or symbolically represent him as a flame. [270] [273]

The earliest extant depictions come from 13th century Anatolian Seljuk and Ilkhanid Persian miniatures, typically in literary genres describing the life and deeds of Muhammad. [273] [274] During the Ilkhanid period, when Persia's Mongol rulers converted to Islam, competing Sunni and Shi'a groups used visual imagery, including images of Muhammad, to promote their particular interpretation of Islam's key events. [275] Influenced by the Buddhist tradition of representational religious art predating the Mongol elite's conversion, this innovation was unprecedented in the Islamic world, and accompanied by a "broader shift in Islamic artistic culture away from abstraction toward representation" in "mosques, on tapestries, silks, ceramics, and in glass and metalwork" besides books. [276] In the Persian lands, this tradition of realistic depictions lasted through the Timurid dynasty until the Safavids took power in the early 16th century. [275] The Safavaids, who made Shi'i Islam the state religion, initiated a departure from the traditional Ilkhanid and Timurid artistic style by covering Muhammad's face with a veil to obscure his features and at the same time represent his luminous essence. [277] Concomitantly, some of the unveiled images from earlier periods were defaced. [275] [278] [279] Later images were produced in Ottoman Turkey and elsewhere, but mosques were never decorated with images of Muhammad. [272] Illustrated accounts of the night journey (mi'raj) were particularly popular from the Ilkhanid period through the Safavid era. [280] During the 19th century, Iran saw a boom of printed and illustrated mi'raj books, with Muhammad's face veiled, aimed in particular at illiterates and children in the manner of graphic novels. Reproduced through lithography, these were essentially "printed manuscripts". [280] Today, millions of historical reproductions and modern images are available in some Muslim-majority countries, especially Turkey and Iran, on posters, postcards, and even in coffee-table books, but are unknown in most other parts of the Islamic world, and when encountered by Muslims from other countries, they can cause considerable consternation and offense. [272] [273]

Medieval Christians

The earliest documented Christian knowledge of Muhammad stems from Byzantine sources. They indicate that both Jews and Christians saw Muhammad as a false prophet. [281] Another Greek source for Muhammad is Theophanes the Confessor, a 9th-century writer. The earliest Syriac source is the 7th-century writer John bar Penkaye. [282]

According to Hossein Nasr, the earliest European literature often refers to Muhammad unfavorably. A few learned circles of Middle Ages Europe primarily Latin-literate scholars had access to fairly extensive biographical material about Muhammad. They interpreted the biography through a Christian religious filter, one that viewed Muhammad as a person who seduced the Saracens into his submission under religious guise. [16] Popular European literature of the time portrayed Muhammad as though he were worshipped by Muslims, similar to an idol or a heathen god. [16]

In later ages, Muhammad came to be seen as a schismatic: Brunetto Latini's 13th century Li livres dou tresor represents him as a former monk and cardinal, [16] and Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto 28), written in the early 1300s, puts Muhammad and his son-in-law, Ali, in Hell "among the sowers of discord and the schismatics, being lacerated by devils again and again." [16]

European appreciation

Muhammad in La vie de Mahomet by M. Prideaux (1699). He holds a sword and a crescent while trampling on a globe, a cross, and the Ten Commandments.
Muhammad in La vie de Mahomet by M. Prideaux (1699). He holds a sword and a crescent while trampling on a globe, a cross, and the Ten Commandments.

After the Reformation, Muhammad was often portrayed in a similar way. [16] [283] Guillaume Postel was among the first to present a more positive view of Muhammad when he argued that Muhammad should be esteemed by Christians as a valid prophet. [16] [284] Gottfried Leibniz praised Muhammad because "he did not deviate from the natural religion". [16] Henri de Boulainvilliers, in his Vie de Mahomed which was published posthumously in 1730, described Muhammad as a gifted political leader and a just lawmaker. [16] He presents him as a divinely inspired messenger whom God employed to confound the bickering Oriental Christians, to liberate the Orient from the despotic rule of the Romans and Persians, and to spread the knowledge of the unity of God from India to Spain. [285] Voltaire had a somewhat mixed opinion on Muhammad: in his play Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophète he vilifies Muhammad as a symbol of fanaticism, and in a published essay in 1748 he calls him "a sublime and hearty charlatan", but in his historical survey Essai sur les mœurs, he presents him as legislator and a conqueror and calls him an "enthusiast." [285] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Social Contract (1762), "brushing aside hostile legends of Muhammad as a trickster and impostor, presents him as a sage legislator who wisely fused religious and political powers." [285] Emmanuel Pastoret published in 1787 his Zoroaster, Confucius and Muhammad, in which he presents the lives of these three "great men", "the greatest legislators of the universe", and compares their careers as religious reformers and lawgivers. He rejects the common view that Muhammad is an impostor and argues that the Quran proffers "the most sublime truths of cult and morals"; it defines the unity of God with an "admirable concision." Pastoret writes that the common accusations of his immorality are unfounded: on the contrary, his law enjoins sobriety, generosity, and compassion on his followers: the "legislator of Arabia" was "a great man." [285] Napoleon Bonaparte admired Muhammad and Islam, [286] and described him as a model lawmaker and a great man. [287] [288] Thomas Carlyle in his book Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (1840) describes Muhammad as "[a] silent great soul; [...] one of those who cannot but be in earnest". [289] Carlyle's interpretation has been widely cited by Muslim scholars as a demonstration that Western scholarship validates Muhammad's status as a great man in history. [290]

Ian Almond says that German Romantic writers generally held positive views of Muhammad: "Goethe’s 'extraordinary' poet-prophet, Herder’s nation builder (...) Schlegel’s admiration for Islam as an aesthetic product, enviably authentic, radiantly holistic, played such a central role in his view of Mohammed as an exemplary world-fashioner that he even used it as a scale of judgement for the classical (the dithyramb, we are told, has to radiate pure beauty if it is to resemble 'a Koran of poetry')." [291] After quoting Heinrich Heine, who said in a letter to some friend that "I must admit that you, great prophet of Mecca, are the greatest poet and that your Quran... will not easily escape my memory", John Tolan goes on to show how Jews in Europe in particular held more nuanced views about Muhammad and Islam, being an ethnoreligious minority feeling discriminated, they specifically lauded Al-Andalus, and thus, "writing about Islam was for Jews a way of indulging in a fantasy world, far from the persecution and pogroms of nineteenth-century Europe, where Jews could live in harmony with their non-Jewish neighbors." [292]

Modern historians

Recent writers such as William Montgomery Watt and Richard Bell dismiss the idea that Muhammad deliberately deceived his followers, arguing that Muhammad "was absolutely sincere and acted in complete good faith" [293] and Muhammad's readiness to endure hardship for his cause, with what seemed to be no rational basis for hope, shows his sincerity. [294] Watt, however, says that sincerity does not directly imply correctness: in contemporary terms, Muhammad might have mistaken his subconscious for divine revelation. [295] Watt and Bernard Lewis argue that viewing Muhammad as a self-seeking impostor makes it impossible to understand Islam's development. [296] [297] Alford T. Welch holds that Muhammad was able to be so influential and successful because of his firm belief in his vocation. [16]

Other religions

Bahá'ís venerate Muhammad as one of a number of prophets or "Manifestations of God". He is thought to be the final manifestation, or seal of the Adamic cycle, but consider his teachings to have been superseded by those of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahai faith, and the first Manifestation of the current cycle. [298] [299]


Criticism of Muhammad has existed since the 7th century. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), Muhammad was decried by his non-Muslim Arab contemporaries for preaching monotheism, and by the Jewish tribes of Arabia for his unwarranted appropriation of Biblical narratives and figures and attacks on the Jewish faith. [300] According to modern critics Norman Stillman (1979), Andrew G. Bostom (2008) and Ibn Warraq (pseudonym, 2007), Muhammad was also criticised for proclaiming himself as "the last prophet" without performing any miracle nor showing any personal requirement demanded in the Hebrew Bible to distinguish a true prophet chosen by the God of Israel from a false claimant; for these reasons, they gave him the derogatory nickname ha-Meshuggah (Hebrew : מְשֻׁגָּע‬, "the Madman" or "the Possessed"). [301] [302] [303]

During the Dark and Middle Ages various Western and Byzantine Christian thinkers considered Muhammad to be a perverted, deplorable man, a false prophet, and even the Antichrist, as he was frequently seen in Christendom as a heretic or possessed by the demons. Some of them, like Thomas Aquinas, criticised Muhammad's promises of carnal pleasure in the afterlife. [304] [305] [306] [307] [308] [304] [305]

Modern religious [309] [310] and secular [311] [312] [313] [314] criticism of Islam has questioned Muhammad's sincerity in claiming to be a prophet, his morality, his ownership of slaves, [315] [316] [317] his treatment of enemies, his polygynous marriages [318] and his treatment of doctrinal matters. Muhammad has been accused of mercilessness (such as during the invasion of the tribe in Medina [319] [320] ) and his marriage to Aisha, whose age at marriage has been variously reported as between six and nineteen years old. [321] [322] [323]

See also


  1. Full name: Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāšim (Arabic : ابو القاسم محمد ابن عبد الله ابن عبد المطلب ابن هاشم, lit: Father of Qasim Muhammad son of Abd Allah son of Abd al-Muttalib son of Hashim)
  2. Classical Arabic pronunciation
  3. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community considers Muhammad to be the "Seal of the Prophets" (Khātam an-Nabiyyīn) and the last law-bearing Prophet but not the last Prophet. See:
    • Simon Ross Valentine (2008). Islam and the Ahmadiyya Jama'at: History, Belief, Practice. Columbia University Press. p. 134. ISBN   978-1-85065-916-7.
    • "Finality of Prophethood | Hadhrat Muhammad (PUBH) the Last Prophet". Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011.
    There are also smaller sects which believe Muhammad to be not the last Prophet:
  4. The aforementioned Islamic histories recount that as Muhammad was reciting Sūra Al-Najm (Q.53), as revealed to him by the Archangel Gabriel, Satan tempted him to utter the following lines after verses 19 and 20: "Have you thought of Allāt and al-'Uzzā and Manāt the third, the other; These are the exalted Gharaniq, whose intercession is hoped for." (Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt were three goddesses worshiped by the Meccans). cf Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume p. 166
  5. "Apart from this one-day lapse, which was excised from the text, the Quran is simply unrelenting, unaccommodating and outright despising of paganism." (The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, Jonathan E. Brockopp, p. 35)
  6. "Although, there could be some historical basis for the story, in its present form, it is certainly a later, exegetical fabrication. Sura LIII, 1–20 and the end of the sura are not a unity, as is claimed by the story, XXII, 52 is later than LIII, 2107 and is almost certainly Medinan; and several details of the story—the mosque, the sadjda, and others not mentioned in the short summary above do not belong to Meccan setting. Caetani and J. Burton have argued against the historicity of the story on other grounds, Caetani on the basis of week isnads, Burton concluded that the story was invented by jurists so that XXII 52 could serve as a Kuranic proof-text for their abrogation theories."("Kuran" in the Encyclopaedia of Islam , 2nd Edition, Vol. 5 (1986), p. 404)

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The Invasion of Banu Qurayza took place in the Dhul Qa‘dah during February and March of 627 AD.

According to Islamic tradition, the invasion of Banu Qaynuqa, also known as the expedition against Banu Qaynuqa, occurred in 624 AD. The Banu Qaynuqa were a Jewish tribe expelled by the Islamic prophet Muhammad for breaking the treaty known as the Constitution of Medina by pinning the clothes of a Muslim woman such that when she tried to move, her clothes tore and she was stripped naked. A Muslim killed a Jew in retaliation, and the Jews in turn killed the Muslim man. This escalated to a chain of revenge killings, and enmity grew between Muslims and the Banu Qaynuqa, leading to the siege of their fortress. The tribe eventually surrendered to Muhammad, who initially wanted to capture the men of Banu Qaynuqa but ultimately yielded to Abdullah ibn Ubayy's insistence and agreed to expel the Qaynuqa.


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