The Islamic Story of Muhammad starts with a very poor man named Abd al-Muttalib, who would later become the Prophet Muhammad’s grandfather, in Makkah in early 6th Century AD. Abd al-Muttalib had a dream that a crow was picking up stones with its beak, and when all the stones were gone water gushed forth. He had a good feeling about this dream and went to the spot where the crow was and started digging. After a while water gushed out like in his dream; this was the Zamzam well. He turned the well into a business, and the people in the desert town started to respect him and held him in the highest esteem as water was a precious resource. Abd al-Muttalib became rich from the well and had ten to fifteen sons. Abd al-Muttalib married one of his sons, Abdullah, to a woman name Aminah.
Abdullah and Aminah are the parents of the Prophet. While Aminah was pregnant with Muhammad, Abdullah contracted an illness and died. Aminah was then left as a widow with a child to take care of by herself. Muhammad was born in 570 AD in Makkah.
When Muhammad was either four or five years old, wet nurses from the Banu S ’ad tribe came to take children to raise for a couple years, as was the custom in those times. When it was time to leave all the women had children, except Halima Sadia and Muhammad did not have a wet nurse. None of the women wanted Muhammad when they found out that he had no father, they expected to be paid by the father. Halima told her husband she did not want to go home without a child and asked if they could take little Muhammad. Her husband agreed and they took Muhammad with them. While living with Halima, the Prophet was happy and flourishing, as was everything else in Halima’s household, she was overjoyed by this and knew it was because of Muhammad.
When Muhammad was six years old his Aminah decided to take him to Yathrib(now known as Madinah) to visit his uncles. The Prophet and Aminah enjoyed the pleasant climate and the company of their relatives for a month before heading back Makkah. Unfortunately, on the way back Aminah became ill and died before they reached home. Muhammad continued on home with his mother’s maid, Barakah. When he reached home his loving grandfather adopted him as his own.
Muhammad lived with his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, for two years before he died. When Muhammad was born his grandfather name him Muhammad because it meant “the praised one”. He knew that his grandson had great potential and was destined for greatness. Abd al-Muttalib was never shy to show his love and pride for Muhammad. Abd al-Muttalib took care of Muhammad for two years before dying at the age of 85.
The Prophet lived with Abu Talib for seventeen years. At the young age of 12 Muhammad started to show interest in the trading that Abu Talib was doing. One day when Abu Talib was heading off on one of his trading journeys to Busra, Syria, Muhammad asked if he could come along. Abu Talib seeing his interest in trading agreed to take him along. While in Busra a Christian scholar spotted Muhammad as the last prophet from certain signs. He invited Muhammad and Abu Talib to dinner and informed them that Muhammad was the last prophet. He also warned that other people might notice and try to harm Muhammad. Abu Talib hearing this hurriedly finished his trading and rushed home with his nephew’s safety in mind.
When Abu Talib was not going on trading journeys the young Prophet would take the peoples sheep and let them graze up in the hills. While up there he liked to be close to nature and think about life. Later on in life he told his followers that every prophet in history was a shepherd once.
When Muhammad was fifteen years old a war broke out in Makkah between the Banu Qays tribe and the Quraysh tribe. This war was known as the Harb al-Fujar. The aftermath of the war left destruction and the peacefulness in Makkah was gone because it occurred during the sacred months.
The war changed everything, people used to come in thousands to see the Kabbah and many would come to trade. The Makkans stopped being honorable and truthful, this gave the once holy city a bad name. The Makkans agreed that they needed to fix their reputation and decided to rekindle an old pact called the Alliance of Fudul. This pact would help the oppressed people rise up by pressuring the oppressors. They thought that this would improve their reputation and help the Makkans have a better character. The Prophet was there to witness the signing of the pact, he was about twenty at that time.
When the Prophet reached young manhood he already had a reputation of being a honest and hardworking, this attracted Khadija and she hired him to sell her goods in Syria. She sent her servant Maysarah to help the Prophet on his trading expedition Khadija was amazed that she had gotten so many goods and so much money, she never got this much before.
After the trading trip Khadija told her friend, Nafisa, about Muhammad. Seeing how much Khadija liked Muhammad, Nafisa suggested that the two get married. Khadija was a widow and Muhammad was of marriageable age. Khadija liked the idea and agreed to let Nafisa be the go-between. Nafisa asked Muhammad why he did not marry, he told her that he could not financially support a family yet. Nafisa asked him if he would marry if that duty was lifted from him. He asked how that would be possible. She said that it was easy, Khadija wanted to marry him. Muhammad was pleasantly surprised, he held Khadija in the highest esteem. He agreed to the marriage proposal as long as his uncle, Abu Talib, agreed. Abu Talib liked this marriage proposal and agreed. The marriage was confirmed and the ceremony was fixed.
The Beginning of Prophethood and Challenges
After marrying Khadija, Muhammad had the chance to live like a nobleman. Eventually the Prophet dropped all his everyday activities to go out to a mountain called Jabal al-Nur. At the top of the mountain there was a cave known as the Cave of Hira. In 610 AD, when the Prophet was 40 years old, he went to the cave as usual to contemplate life. This certain day that he went to the cave was during the month of Ramadan, but no one knew yet. Archangel Jibril (or Gabriel in English) appears to the Prophet and tells him to read. The Prophet protested saying that he could not read. Archangel Jibril taught him Sura al-Alaq (meaning The Clot). These words were the first of the Revelation.
This experience left the Prophet confused and surprised, he thought that he was becoming ill or going insane. But in those words all his questions about life had been answered. When the Prophet came home he was shaking and scared. Khadija was there to comfort him and put him to sleep. Once he was asleep she went to her cousin’s house.
Her cousin, Waraqah, was a very spiritual man and Khadija trusted his judgement. She told Waraqah about what Muhammad had said he experienced. Waraqah said that if what she said was true, that angel must have been the same one that visited Prophet Musa(Moses) and Prophet Isa(Jesus).
Khadija took Muhammad to Waraqah one day and Muhammad told him what he had seen in that cave that day. Waraqah immediately understood, Muhammad would be the prophet of their nation. Waraqah realized how special Muhammad was and promised to help him in his mission. Waraqah, unfortunately, passed away soon after.
The Prophet started to understand the meaning of what Archangel Jibril had told him. He also realized how big his responsibility was. Muhammad started doing dawah(inviting people to Islam) within his family. His wife, Khadija, was the first convert. Then his little cousin, Ali who was only ten years old at the time converted. Then Khadija’s old slave that had been freed, Zayd ibn Haritha, and all four of the Prophet’s daughters Zaynab, Umm Kulthum, Ruaqayyah, and Fatima, and his childhood friend Abu Bakr. Now all of the Prophet’s household was Muslim. With the help of Abu Bakr, the number of Muslims grew into a small community.
One of the new converts named Arqam ibn al-Arqam lived far away from the rest of the houses of the Quraysh, making it the perfect place for the Muslims to meet. His house became the first training center of Islam. The people would meet and pray or recite whatever portions of the Quran that had been revealed at that time. The Prophet would tell his followers to write and memorize the Quran. He would also explain each verse so that the followers could understand what they were reciting. Because the house was so far away from the others the Quraysh had no knowledge of what was going on.
Once a year people would gather in Makkah for Hajj. This was the perfect time for the Prophet to try to bring people into Islam. He would call to people, but many were stuck in the old ways, others were scared their tribe would leave them. In those times if you did not have a tribe you would be constantly struggling to survive.
The Prophet’s tribe, the Quraysh, did not like his preachings. They did not support him and started to mock him. When they realized that he was not fazed they started to torture him and his followers. Some days the Prophet would come home so injured that the next morning he could not get up to pray. When the Muslims would pray in public and they would prostrate, people will attack them from behind. One of the Prophet’s uncles, Abu Lahab, was one of the worst opposers of his message. Abu Lahab and his wife Jamila made life very hard for the Prophet. They would throw stones at him and put thorns on the path when the Prophet would walk home.
The Quraysh tried everything to stop the Prophet from preaching. The Quraysh tortured and abused the Prophet and his followers, many died by the Quraysh. But the Prophet never stopped and kept on preaching patiently. The Quraysh realized that Muhammad was protected by his uncle Abu Talib. They told Abu Talib to stop his nephew from preaching this “false religion”. Abu Talib was scared for his nephew’s safety and begged him to stop. But Muhammad refused, he told his uncle that even if they put the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left he would never stop his work. Abu Talib admired his nephew’s bravery and supported his decision.
One of the converts, Sumayyah, was the slave of Abu Jahl, one of the Prophet’s opposers. When he found out that she had joined Islam he became furious and demanded that she abandon the faith. Sumayyah refused, angering Abu Jahl. He took some ropes and tied her to a pole and started flogging her. Abu Bakr had freed many slaves that had accepted Islam and he tried to save Sumayyah, but Abu Jahl refused to sell her. Finally, Abu Jahl had enough of Sumayyah and took her into the public square. He asked her, in front of the people, if she would leave Muhammad’s religion. She once again refused and Abu Jahl hit her with his spear, killing her instantly. At that moment Sumayyah became the first martyr of Islam.
The Prophet realized that his tribe will not protect him and goes to a nearby city to ask for protection and help. The inhabitants of the city turned him away and pelted rocks at him.
The Prophet knows that it is not safe for him or his followers in Makkah anymore. He told his followers that they should go to Ethiopia, known as Habsha then. In Ethiopia there was a Christian king who was right and just.
A small group of Muslims started moving to Ethiopia, this happened in the fifth year after the beginning of the revelation of the Quran. The first group of Muslims that secretly left Makkah consisted of 11 men and five women, including the Prophet’s daughter Ruqayyah and her husband Uthman ibn Affan. When the Makkans found out that they escaped they sent horse out to arrest them, but the Muslims were already gone.
A bigger group of Muslims escaped soon afterwards. When the Makkans found out that another group escaped they decided to bribe Kind Negus, king of Ethiopia, to hand over the Prophet and the Muslims. But the king refused after hearing the Prophet preach. He knew that the Prophet was telling the truth and was a prophet like Prophet Jesus.
The Journey to Heaven
In 620 AD, Muhammad was 10 years into his prophethood had a very unique experience. In the Quran it is referred to as al-Isra. This incident took place after the death of Khadija, the Prophet’s first wife.
One night, the Prophet was sleeping and Angel Jibril and some other angels had come to the house and woke him up. The angels took the Prophet to the well of Zamzam and washed him with the water. Then they brought him a small animal that was similar to a mule, this creature is known as al-Buraq, it was white in color. Al-Buraq flew up into the sky and brought the Prophet to Jerusalem. The distance between Makkah and Jerusalem was 2,500 km. The Prophet prayed at Al-Masjid al-Aqsa, which still stands today. Angel Jibril then offered the Prophet two cups, one with milk and one with wine. The Prophet accepted the one with milk, to which Angel Jibril said, “You preferred to be true to your nature. If you had taken the cup with wine, you would have gone against your own nature.”
Angel Jibril took the Prophet with him and flew towards the sky. When they reached the First Sky, Angel Jibril called out to the angel that was there on duty. The angel asked who was with Jibril and if that person was invited. Angel Jibril said that the Prophet Muhammad was with him and that he was invited. The angel opened a door and let them in.
The Prophet passed through all the skies meeting many prophets that came before him. In the First Sky he met Prophet Adam. In the Second Sky he met Prophet Isa (Jesus) and Prophet Yahya (John). In the Third Sky he met Prophet Yusuf (Joseph). In the Fourth Sky he met with Prophet Idris. In the Fifth Sky he met Prophet Harun (Aaron). In the Sixth Sky he met Prophet Musa (Moses). In the Seventh Sky the Prophet met with Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham).
After going through all the skies the Prophet saw a splendid light. This was the Light of Allah (God). God revealed some important commandments at that moment. These commandments were the five daily prayers Muslims must do, the last portion of the sura al-Baqarah, and verses 27-39 of sura al-Isra.
After this the Prophet returned to Earth and entered Jerusalem. All the prophets were gathered. It was already dawn which meant that it was time to pray Fajr. The Prophet led all the other prophets in prayer. This was symbolic, the line of Prophets started with Prophet Adam and will end with Prophet Muhammad.
The Prophet then woke up in the exact place he fell asleep that night. He told the people of Makkah his experience but they did not believe him. They needed proof and asked the Prophet what Jerusalem looks like. The Prophet had forgotten and asked God for help. Angel Jibril appeared and held a map (that was only visible to the Prophet) in front of Muhammad. The Prophet answered all their questions, but they still did not believe him.
The Migration to Medina and the Last Ten Years of his Life
Eventually, Muhammad and the remaining Muslims in Mecca were forced to leave due to the resistance they were receiving. They migrated to Yathrib in 622 AD. There were Jewish tribes who had long ago settled in and around Yathrib. Gradually, the Muslim nation expanded renaming it to Medina in honor of Muhammad’s prophethood. Medina means “The Luminous City”.
The Jewish tribes started to feel threatened by the Muslims’ presence. They started to fight with the Muslims which resulted in them being exiled. The Jews then asked the Meccans to become their allies and help defeat Muhammad. The Meccans agreed to help and fought with the Jews in the Battle of Badr, The Battle of the Trench, and the Siege of Medina. Each time Muhammad won.
In 629 AD, Muhammad led his people back to Mecca, for Hajj (pilgrimage). The Meccans did not allow them that year, but signed a 10-year treaty with Muhammad to allow him to come the following year. A year later (630 AD), the Meccans broke the treaty. By this time Muhammad had all the manpower he needed and made the Meccans surrender to him.
The Muslims then took over Mecca and destroyed all the idols in and around the Kaaba. Muhammad forgave all Meccans who conspired against him and other Muslims, and included them as equals in the Ummah (the Muslim community).
Muhammad gave his last sermon in March 632 AD during that year’s Hajj. In June 632 AD, the Prophet died at the age of 61 in Medina after 23 years of preaching Islam.
The Prophet’s mission on Earth was to spread the message of the Oneness of God as had previous prophets like Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Solomon, David, etc. The Prophet Muhammad was the last prophet God sent down to us. He left a guide in the form of the Quran and a model of himself. After him, us humans would have to figure out the rest ourselves until the return of Jesus.