Al-Azhar Magazine April 1973
Muhammad the Prophet was born on the 12th of Rabi’Awwal (the 29th of august, 570 A.D). In accordance with the customs of the Arabs, the child was confided during infancy to a Bedouin woman of the tribe of Bani-Saad, and upon being returned by her to his mother Amina he was brought up with tenderest care.
His father, Abdullah, had died before he was born, in the course of a journey to Yathrib (Madina), in the 25th year of his age. He was bereft of his mother when only 6 years of age. The doubly orphaned child was thus brought up by his grandfather Abdul Muthalib. Towards the year 579 A.D he lost his grandfather also. On his deathbed Abdul Muthalib had confided to hi uncle Abu Talib the charge of his brother’s child, in the house of Abu Talib Muhammad passed his early life
His early life was not free from the burden of labour, for had often to go into the desert to watch the flocks of his uncle. Abu Talib, like his father and grandfather, carried on considerable trade with Syria and Yemen. He transported t Damascus, to Baara, and other places in Syria the dates of Hijaz, and perfumes of Yemen, and in return brought back with Products of the Byzantine Empire.
Muhammad accompanied his uncle and guardian on one of his mercantile journeys to Syria. During this period it was opened before him the scene of religious Degradation, and social misery prevalent in the world. Silently and humbly, with many thoughts in his mind, the solitary orphan boy grew from childhood to youth.
It is recalled that with all his affection for people, he seemed far removed from them, in his ways of life and mode of thoughts. The lawlessness prevailed among the people of Arabia, the sudden outbursts of causeless and meaningless quarrels among the tribes, and the immorality of the people, naturally caused feelings of intense horror and disgust in his mind.
In the 25th year of his age, he travelled one more into Syria as an agent of the noble lady of Quraish, Khadija. The nobility and the ability with which he discharged his duties impressed the lady Khadhija. Inspite of the disparity of age between Muhammad and Khadija, a marriage was arranged between them. The marriage proved a very happy one, thought she was 15 years older than he was.
This marriage gave him rank among the nobles of Mecca. Throughout the 26 years of their life together he remained devoted to her. There always existed the tenderest devotion on both sides. This marriage provided him with the rest and freedom from daily duties which he needed in order to prepare his mind for his great task, and beyond that it gave him a loving heart, that was the first to believe in his mission, and that was ever ready to console him in his despair.
Khadija bore him seven children- 3sons and 4 daughters- but the sons all died in infancy. The daughters long survived. The next 15 years after his marriage was a silent record of spiritual communion, preparation and looking inward. Muhammad, rich by his alliance with Khadhija, and Abbas, the brother of AbuTalib, were the most opulent citizens of Mecca.
When the Prophet was 35 years old the people of Mecca wanted to rebuild the Ka’ba, because it had been damaged by the floods which covered the valley of Mecca at that time. The tribes of Mecca co-operated with each other to rebuild the Ka’ba, because it was an honour for them, and all the Arab tribes. All the Arab people respected those of Mecca and regarded them ass the people who looked after the House of God. When they started building they came to the place where they had to replace Al-Hajar Al –Aswad, the Black stone. From this moment the arguments started, who could have the honour of patting the stone in its place? Each tribe wanted to have this honour. They started arguing, and almost led to a fight. Some of them called for a fight, and blood bath threatened Mecca. The wise leaders of the tribes recognised this as an extremely dangerous situation and they wondered what they could do to prevent this tragedy
One of the leaders suggested that they should accept the judgement of the first man to enter the place. This suggestion was readily accepted, because nobody wanted this threat to continue; they were afraid of the consequences, as they might well be killed. They all stood with their eyes facing towards the way which led to the Ka’ba. Then they saw the Prophet Muhammad coming towards them. At that time Muhammad had not claimed to a prophet but he was the most highly respected man in Mecca and renowned for his honesty and trustworthiness. For this reason they used to call him Al- Sadiq, Al- Amin- The trustworthy, the truthful- and when they saw him coming all of them cried with one voice “ Al-Sadiq, Al- Amin” in a tone of appreciation. And they all felt happy and at peace in their minds and they felt sure no harm would now befall any of them, and that whatever Muhammad’s decision it would be accepted by all.
When they explained the problem he requested them to bring a piece of cloth and he chose four men, one from each tribe. He then placed the stone on the cloth and asked each of the four men to take one corner. The four men then shared the carrying the stone until they came near to the wall, and the prophet then took the stone in his hands and put in its place in the wall. By making this decision he was able to prevent the ‘blood-bath’ and peace prevailed in Mecca. This too, was the first day the people realised the outstanding wisdom of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and he came to be regarded as the most revered person in Mecca.
It was his practice to retire with his family for a month of every year to a cave in the desert for meditation. His place was the cave on the Mount of Hira, and his chosen month was Ramadan. One night towards the end of his quite month that the first revelation came to him, when he was 40 years old. The Angel came to him and said: “O Muhammad! You are the messenger of God and I am the Angel Gabriel. Then he embraced him strongly and said: “Read”. The Prophet answered” ‘I cannot read”. Then the Angel embraced him again and said : “Read”. The Prophet answered:” I am unable to read”. The Angel embraced him strongly for the third time and said:”Read in the name of thy Lord who created. Created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is the Most Generous. He taught man by the pen. Taught man what he knew not” (96:1-5)
This was a shock for Muhammad(peace be upon him), and he was amazed. He turned his face away but wherever he turned the voice came to him and he saw the Angel. He could not understand how such a thing could have happened to him, and he left the cave and returned quickly to his home. But on the way the Angel appeared to him and the voice of the Angel filled his ears. He was afraid and when he reached his house his wife knew he was worried and he asked her to bring plenty of blankets as he was so cold. Perspiration flowed from his face. When he had become calm and his wife was beside him, he wondered what happened to him. His wife asked him to explain what had happened as she wanted to remove this worry from his mind.
When he told her, she told him not to worry, and she reminded him that Allah will never disgrace those who help the weak and give money to the poor and spend their lives helping others, as Muhammad had always done. Then he slept, the Prophet wife had an uncle called Waraqa Ibn Nawfal. He was an old man and he was one of those who rejected idolatry and was looking for an ideal religion. He had read the Old and the New tTestament and he followed Christianity. He therefore had a knowledge of Prophethood and revelation. From his knowledge he had come to know the religious men of the “people of the Book” and knew from them that they were expecting a Prophet to come.
Khadija took the Prophet to him and when the Prophet told him what happened, Waraqa said “By Allah, you are the Prophet for whom we have been waiting. I hope I shall live until your people drive you out.” The prophet asked him; “will they drive me out”. And Waraqa explained that no-one had ever told his people such things without being driven out. Waraqa promised that if he lived he would do everything he could to help Muhammad.
The first believers
Muhammad (peace be upon him) started to speak to his close friends and his own family. Khadija, his was the first woman to accept Islam, and Abu Bakr the first man. Ali Ibn Abi Talib, his cousin was the first boy to accept Islam and Zaid was the first servant to accept Islam. The number started to increase slowly through the personal contact of the Prophet and his close friend Abu Bakr, but when he received the verse “ warn your close relatives”, it was a sign to inform the people of Mecca of his cause.
The Prophet climbed a hill called Al-Safa and started call out: ‘ O people of Mecca! With a loud voice. They were sitting around Ka’ba. When they heard his voice they came and gathered round him. He said: “ What would you say if I informed you that there is an army coming to attack you from the mountains? They answered : “ We never knew you to tell lies”. Then he said: “ I am the manifest warner, and I am the Prophet of God to you, and therefore I call you to worship God alone and not worship Idols”
It was the first time that the Prophet has made a public announcement of his call, but the people were astonished at the information he gave to them, because he had never told a lie, and yet what he asked them was extraordinary. One of his uncles, Abu Lahab, got annoyed and spoke to him harshly.
From that time onward, the Prophet started to call people to accept Islam, openly, at the same time the people of Quraish started to inflict more and more harm upon him; he continued his call and did not give any attention to the harm he suffered from people.
The Ascension of the Prophet
There is a chapter in the Holy Quran called Al-Isra. In the beginning of the chapter Allah says : “ Glory be to Allah who took His servant by night from the inviolable place of worship to the far distant place of worship, the neighbourhood whereof We have blessed, that We might show him of Our tokens! Lo! He, only He is the Hearer, the Seer.”
This is about the journey from Mecca to Jerusalem, and other journey, from Jerusalem to Heaven. It is mentioned in detail and some verses of the Holy Quran in ‘Surat an Najm’ refer to this event.
But we have to know why this event took place at this particular time in the life of the Prophet, and what was the significance of it, and exactly what happened during that night. It is related that during the space of the year the Prophet lost his uncle, Abu Talib, who used to protect him from the aggression of the people of Mecca, and also his wife, Khadija, who was a good wife to him, and who used to smooth for him the various difficulties he had to face from the people outside the house. The loss of these two persons in one year of sorrow. After the death of Abu Talib the people of Quraish harassed the Prophet more and more, and when he went home he did not find anyone to make it easy for him as Khadija used to do.
Journey to Taif
It was a hard time for the Prophet, and it semmed there was no helper or protector in Mecca. Therefore he decided to go to the town of ‘Taif’, in which the tribe of Thaqif lived, to call them to Islam, hoping that he would find a helper from among them. He started the journey from Mecca to Taif with his servant Zaid, and the Prophet kept his journey secret, because he didn’t know if the people of Taif would accept his call or not. When he arrived in Taif he began meeting the heads of the Tribes, discussing with them the matter of belief, and inviting them to the religion of Islam. But unfortunately their response was not good, and he had to bear the hardship of receiving their refusal. He asked them to keep his discussion with them a secret in order to keep the people of Mecca from knowing about this failure in Taif.
But they would not agree to this, and their words to him were very impolite. One man swore by Allah that if the Prophet spoke the truth, then he was their superior and should not speak to them, because discussion between them would be unsuitable. But if, on other hand, the Prophet was a liar, then he was the interior of the tribesmen, and it was not suitable for the tribesmen to keep the company of such an inferior.
His Experience in Taif
When the Prophet ( peace be upon him) began to leave the town, the people ordered their slaves and naughty children to line the street on either side of his way and to stone him as he walked, until the blood flowed and covered his heels. His servant, Zaid, tried to protect him, but was unable. After the Prophet left the town he was in a most unhappy state, and sat down under the shade of some trees.
These trees were on the boundary of a vineyard which belonged to two men from Quraish, whose names were Otbah and Shaibah, sons of Rabia. These two saw what hap happened to the Prophet, and felt pity for him, and sent a slave of theirs to him with a bunch of grapes. When the Prophet started to eat he said “ Bismillah Al-Rahman Al-Rahim (in the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate)”. The slave was astonished to hear those words, and said, ‘ Sir this was a custom not used by the people of this region’. The Prophet asked him which country do you come from? The man answered, ‘ I come from Ninawa’. The Prophet said ‘ it is the town of the righteous man , Younos Ibn Matt’. ‘How do you know Younos? the man said. “He is my brother”, said the Prophet. He was a prophet, and I am a Prophet also.
The man knelt down and kissed the hands of the Prophet. His masters were most surprised to seem behaving in this way. When they questioned him about the conversation with the Prophet, and heard his answer, they warned him not be affected by the ways of Muhammad (peace be upon him ).
Then the Prophet raised his hand praying to God : “ O my lord! You are my God, and the God of those who are weak, to whom you leave me, to an enemy, giving him control of my affairs, to a foreigner. I ask You, by the light of Your face, by which the darkness becomes shining and by which the whole earth and the heavens stand in order to give me Your help, so long as I know You are not angry with me, I don’t care what people do against me”.
It was clear there was no help at all from anyone on earth for the Prophet. When he came near to Mecca the news of the failure of his journey had got there before him, and he couldn’t enter Mecca without first sending a message to a man called Al-Mutin ibn Adwi, asking him to be his protector, as was the custom of the Arab tribes at that time.
Abu Bakr the Siddiq
It was in this situation that the Journey from Mecca to Jerusalem and from Jerusalem to heaven took place, to give spiritual aid to the Prophet, and to assure him that Allah was with him always, even if there was no one to help him from the creation; and at the same time. Through this journey he saw many signs to show him more aid: as the Holy Quran says: “To show him from among Our signs”.
This journey took place during part of one night and was over before the dawn broke. One the next day, when the Prophet informed the people of Mecca about his journey they become enraged and they accused the Prophet Muhammad, calling him a liar, and they tried to use the strangeness of this event as proof to persuade people to give up the religion. They even tried to influence Abu Bakr (may Allah bless him ) with this.
They asked, “Do you know what your friend has said’. ‘What did he say?’ said Abu Bakr. He claims that he went to Jerusalem during the night and returned before dawn’ they said; ‘A journey of one month each way! How can this be done in a few hours of the night?’ “If he said so, then he is telling the truth’. Abu Bakr replied.
The people of Mecca were astonished. ‘ Do you believe him, then ? they asked. “why not ?” Abu Bakr said. “I would believe more that that about him. I believe that the revelation came from heaven”.
13 years in Mecca
The prophet had spent 13 years in Mecca calling its people to Islam, using every means he had tohelp them accept his call. But for their part, they used every means to stop him from continuing his call, they hurt him and they persecuted hi followers. They even killed some of them. They wanted to kill him, too but they did not try as they were afraid of his family. But when they could find no other way to stop him they had a meeting in a house in Mecca to discuss a way to stop Muhammad from calling people to his religion.
During that discussion one of them suggested putting him in prison and leaving him to die, without food or water. The others did not agree with this, arguing that some of his followers would help him to escape, he might persuade the guards to let him go free, his influence on people was so profound. Another proposal was they should drive him out of their country and let him do what he liked elsewhere. But the members of the meeting rejected this idea, also , saying that his words influenced people so greatly that he would soon find other tribes to accept his call and would establish a strong army with thousands of soldiers and everyone would join him.
Then the third suggestion was made. They would choose one man from each tribe in Mecca and each of them would have a sharp sword. They would be ordered to go to Muhammad and all of them would share in his killing. His family would be given the ransom for his life and would not be able to fight every tribe represented by the assassinators. This suggestion was accepted. They quickly started to put this plan into action and chose the young men would take part in the plot and the arrangements were made for certain time and date. Before this, Muhammad had advised most of his companions to go to Medina. His friend Abu Bakr did not go, as Muhammad asked him to wait behind. Perhaps they could find another companion and leave together.
Hijra to Madinah
When the decision to kill the Prophet was made by the people of Mecca he was warned of it through a revelation from God. God ordered him to leave Mecca and go to Medina on the night they planned to kill him. The Prophet started to prepare for this journey and he went to Abu Bakr one day at noon and informed him what they were to do. He instructed him to arrangements for the journey and to find someone who had experience of the desert.
They day before the night of departure the Prophet called his cousin Ali Ibn Abi Talib amnd asked him to sleep in his house that night place of the Prophet. He also instructed him to return to his followers put all their trust in Muhammad, and for this reason anyone who had some thing very precious and wanted to keep it safe place would ask Muhammad to take care of it. The Prophet wanted to stand by his duty and return all these things and so had to choose a member of his family to do it.
That night the Prophet went to bed as usual and during the night these young men came and took their places, standing outside his front door, their hands placed on their swords. They were ready to kill the Prophet as soon as he came out; they knew of his regular habit of leaving his house late at night to go to the Ka’ba to pray until dawn.
Miracles of Hijra
It is related that when the Prophet wanted to leave the house God caused these men to feel so tired that they went to sleep while standing in their positions and Muhammad( peace be upon him ) came out without their knowledge reciting the verses : “ Ya Sin . By the wise Quran. You are truely among the Messengers, on a straight path; the sending down of the Al-Mighty, the All-Wise, that you might warn a people whose fathers were warned, so they are heedless. The word has been realised against most of them, yet they do now believe. Surely, We have put on their necks fetlers up to the chin, so their heads are raised and We have covered them so thy do not see”. (36: 1-9)
And after he had left they noticed the time has passed and thought he had not yet come out of his house, as usually did. They were worried and looked through the keyhole. They saw someone sleeping in the bed. They decided to wait until daybreak as they didn’t know what had happened. When the sun rose they saw the person asleep on the bed was not Muhammad and they were filled with rage and went around looking for him everywhere, realising that their plot had failed. Then they started to search outside Mecca, offering a reward of one hundred camels to anyone who could find the Prophet, alive or not.
The prophet went to his friend Abu Bakr, who was waiting for him. When he reached his house, Abu Bakr made arrangements with his family and his workmen, and he and Muhammad left together. They went to the cave outside Mecca on the way to Medina. This cave was called the Cave of Thaur. When they reached there, he told his friend that they would spend some time in this cave. They went in and stayed there for three days. Abu Bakr asked a shepherd there to graze his sheep around the cave during the day and to come and stay there at night to inform him of the news from the people of Mecca. This shepherd let his sheep move around the cave until they had removed the footprints of the Prophet and his companion and, during the night, he gave them milk and food and informed them of what the people of Mecca were saying about them.
During their stay in the cave, the people of Mecca came to the mouth of the cave, looking for them. Abu Bakr told the Prophet: “ O Prophet, if one of them looked at his feet, they would see us!”; But the Prophet answered :’Don’t worry Abu Bakr, no harm will come to those whom God with”. And there was spider’s web at the mouth of the cave that a bird came and put two of her eggs there. When the people saw the web and the eggs they did not look inside the cave as some one remarked: “this was here before Muhammad was born”.
When the people of Mecca left, Muhammad and his companion stayed for three more days and then went on their way. On their way to Madina something extra ordinary happened. One whose name was Surakah Ibn Malik, heard about the reward of one hundred camels and when someone told him that three men had been seen in the desert, he knew it must be the Prophet and his friends. Then he got up on his horse and followed them. When he approached them his horse’s forelegs sank into the sand and when he tried to lift the horse up couldn’t lift the horse up he couldn’t until the Prophet had gone ahead. The Suraka cried : “ O Muhammad, ask God to free my horse and I shall not follow you”.
But when his horse got up, the 100 camels made him forget his promise. He started again to follow them, but again when he approached the horse’s hooves began to sink in the sand. Surakah again called to Prophet , promising not to follow him, but again he did so, and the same thing happened the third time, Surakah fell from back of his horse. He swore before the Prophet that this time he really would not follow the Prophet.
The Prophet continued on his way to Medina. On their way they felt hungry and thirsty. They passed a tent in the desert, with a Bedouin woman there. They asked if she had something to drink. She apologised to them as she had nothing at all, apart from a very weak and old goat and this didn’t give milk. When the Prophet touched the udder, however, it gave plenty of milk and they drank as much as they wished, leaving a lot for the woman and her husband. After they had left the woman was astonished to find that continued to give plenty of milk. The woman and her husband always remembered this Blessed day when this Blessed man came to their tent whom she didn’t know.
The Prophet in Medina
News of the Prophet reached the people of Yathrib, and spread through the town, and he was expected there before his arrival. They all wanted to be the first to see him. This was a feast day among the people of Yahtrib, when they saw the Prophet was with them.
The Prophet entered the city of Yathrib, on Friday 16th Rab Awwal (2nd july 622 A.D) From that day the Prophet settled in Medina, and because of the importance of that it is regarded as the beginning of the Hijra Year.
(to be continued)