Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh (Arabic: محمد[2] Muammad; also Mohammed, Muhammed, Mahomet, and other variants)[3][4][5] (c. 570 Mecca - June 8th [citation needed] 632 CE Madina) was the founder of Islam and is regarded by Muslims as the last messenger and prophet of God (Arabic: الله Allah).[6] Muslims do not believe that he was the creator of a new religion, but the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham and others. They see him as the last and the greatest in a series of prophets.[7]

Sources on Muhammad’s life concur that he was born ca. 570 CE in the city of Mecca in Arabia.[8] He was orphaned at a young age and was brought up by his uncle, later worked mostly as a merchant, and was married by age 26. At some point, discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic tradition, it was here at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event, Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him (lit. islām)[9] is the only religion (dīn),[10] acceptable to God, and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other prophets.[11][12][13]

Muhammad gained few followers early on, and was largely met with hostility from the tribes of Mecca; he was treated harshly and so were his followers. To escape persecution, Muhammad and his followers migrated to Yathrib (Medina)[14] in the year 622. This historic event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Medina, Muhammad managed to unite the conflicting tribes, and after eight years of fighting with the Meccan tribes, his followers, who by then had grown to ten thousand, conquered Mecca. In 632, on returning to Medina from his 'Farewell pilgrimage', Muhammad fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of Arabia had converted to Islam.

The revelations (or Ayats, lit. Signs of God), which Muhammad reported receiving till his death, form the verses of the Qur'an,[15] regarded by Muslims as the “word of God”, around which the religion is based. Besides the Qur'an, Muhammad’s life (sira) and traditions (sunnah) are also upheld by Muslims.



15th century illustration in a copy of a manuscript by Al-Bīrūnī, depicting Muhammad preaching the Qur'ān in Mecca.

15th century illustration in a copy of a manuscript by Al-Bīrūnī, depicting Muhammad preaching the Qur'ān in Mecca.[16]

The name Muhammad literally means "Praiseworthy".[17][18] Within Islam, Muhammad is known as Nabi (Prophet) and Rasul (Messenger). Although the Qur'an sometimes declines to make a distinction among prophets, in Surah 33:40 it singles out Muhammad as the "Seal of the Prophets".[19] The Qur'an also refers to Muhammad as "Ahmad" (Surah 61:6) (Arabic :أحمد), Arabic for "more praiseworthy".

Sources for Muhammad's life

Main articles: Historiography of early Islam and Historicity of Muhammad

11th century Persian Qur'an folio page in kufic script

11th century Persian Qur'an folio page in kufic script

From a scholarly point of view, the most credible source providing information on events in Muhammad's life is the Qur'an.[20][21] The Qur'an has some, though very few, casual allusions to Muhammad's life.[21] The Qur'an, however, responds "constantly and often candidly to Muhammad's changing historical circumstances and contains a wealth of hidden data that are relevant to the task of the quest for the historical Muhammad."[22] All or most of the Qur'an was apparently written down by Muhammad's followers after being revealed by the Angel Gabriel while he was alive, but it was, then as now, primarily an orally related document, and the written compilation of the whole Qur'an in its definite form was completed early after the death of Muhammad.[23] The Qur'an in its actual form is generally considered by academic scholars to record the words spoken by Muhammad because the search for variants in Western academia has not yielded any differences of great significance.[24]

Next in importance are the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature), which provide further information on Muhammad's life.[20] The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Ibn Ishaq's Sirah Rasul Allah (Life of God's Messenger). Although the original work is lost, portions of it survive in the recensions of Ibn Hisham (Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, Life of the prophet) and Al-Tabari.[25] According to Ibn Hisham, Ibn Ishaq wrote his biography some 120 to 130 years after Muhammad's death. Many, but not all, scholars accept the accuracy of these biographies, though their accuracy is unascertainable.[21] The hadith collections, accounts of the verbal and physical traditions of Muhammad, date from several generations after the death of Muhammad. Western academics view the hadith collections with caution as accurate historical sources.[26]

There are a few non-Muslim sources which, according to S. A. Nigosian, confirm the existence of Muhammad. The earliest of these sources date to shortly after 634, and the most interesting of them date to some decades later. These sources are valuable for corroboration of the Qur'anic and Muslim tradition statements.[21]


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Before Medina

Main article: Muhammad before Medina


Main article: Family tree of Muhammad

Muhammad traced his genealogy as follows (ibn means "son of" in Arabic; alternate names of people with two names are given in parentheses):

Muhammad was born into the Quraysh tribe. He was the son of Abd Allah, son of Abd al-Muttalib (Shaiba) son of Hashim (Amr) ibn Abd Manaf (al-Mughira) son of Qusai (Zaid) ibn Kilab ibn Murra son of Ka'b ibn Lu'ay son of Ghalib ibn Fahr (Quraysh) son of Malik ibn an-Nadr (Qais) the son of Kinana son of Khuzaimah son of Mudrikah (Amir) son of Ilyas son of Mudar son of Nizar son of Ma'ad ibn Adnan, whom the northern Arabs believe to be their common ancestor. Adnan in turn is said to have been a descendant of Ishmael, son of Abraham.[27]


See also: Year of the Elephant and Mawlid

Muhammad was born into the family of Banu Hashim, one of the better class families of Mecca but the family seems to have not been prosperous during Muhammad's early lifetime.[12][28] Tradition places Muhammad's birth in the Year of the Elephant, commonly identified with 570.[29] Western historians hitherto had accepted the Year of the Elephant to be 570, however according to Watt some new discoveries suggest that the Year of the Elephant might have been 569 or 568.[29] Welch on the other hand holds that the Year of the Elephant should have taken place considerably earlier than 570 and further argues that Muhammad may have been born even later than 570.[12]

Muhammad's birthday is considered by Sunni Muslims to have been the 12th day of the month of Rabi'-ul-Awwal, the third month of the Muslim calendar.[30] Shi'a Muslims believe it to have been the dawn of 17th of the month of Rabi'-ul-Awwal.[31]

Muhammad's father, Abdullah, died almost six months before he was born.[32] In accordance with tribal custom, Muhammad was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert for four or five years where he was wet nursed by Thuwaybah and Halimah bint Abdullah.[citation needed] Shortly after he returned to his mother at the age of six, Muhammad lost his mother Amina to illness and he became fully orphaned.[citation needed] He was subsequently brought up for two years under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. When he was eight years of age, his grandfather also died. Muhammad now came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Hashim clan of Hashim tribe.[29] According to Watt, because of the general disregard of the guardians in taking care of the weak members of the tribes in Mecca in sixth 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 seems to have been declining at that time."[33]

Mecca was a thriving commercial center. There was an important shrine in Mecca (now called the Kaaba) that housed statues of many Arabian gods.[34] Merchants from various tribes would visit Mecca during the pilgrimage season,[34] when all inter-tribal warfare was forbidden and they could trade in safety.[citation needed] While still in his teens, Muhammad began accompanying his uncle on trading journeys to Syria gaining some experience in commercial career; the only career open to Muhammad as an orphan.[33]

Middle years

Little is known of Muhammad during his youth, and from the fragmentary information that we have, it is hard to separate history from legend.[35] It is known that he became a merchant and "was involved in trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea."[36] He was given the nickname "Al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين), meaning "faithful, trustworthy" and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator.[12][8][37] His reputation attracted a proposal from Khadijah, a forty-year-old widow in 595.[36] Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one.

The earliest surviving image of Muhammad from Rashid al-Din's Jami' al-Tawarikh, approximately 1315, depicting the episode of the Black Stone.

The earliest surviving image of Muhammad from Rashid al-Din's Jami' al-Tawarikh, approximately 1315, depicting the episode of the Black Stone.[38]

Ibn Ishaq records that Khadijah bore Muhammad six children: two sons named Al Qasem and Abdullah (who is also called Abdullah Al Tayeb or Abdullah Al Taher), and four daughters: Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima. Muhammad was called Abu Al-Qasim (father of Qasim) after his eldest son Qasim, according to Arab customs. All of Khadija's children were born before Muhammad reported receiving his first revelation. Both of Muhammad's sons died in childhood, with Qasim dying at the age of two.

According to the Muslim tradition, the young Muhammad played a role in the restoration of the Kabba, after parts of it had been destroyed by one of Mecca's frequent flash floods.[39] When the reconstruction was almost done, disagreements arose as to who would have the honor of lifting the Black Stone into place and different clans were about to take up arm against each other. One of the elders suggested they take the advice of the first one who entered the gates of the Haram. This happened to be Muhammad. He spread out his cloak, put the stone in the middle and had members of the four major clans raise it to its destined position. The cloak became an important symbol for later poets and writers.[40]

The Beginnings of the Qur'an

See also: Wahy

The mountain of Hira where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad received his first revelation.

The mountain of Hira where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad received his first revelation.

Muhammad often retreated to Mount Hira near Mecca. Islamic tradition holds that the angel Gabriel began communicating with him here in the year 610 and commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses:[41]

Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not.(Surah 96:1-5)

Upon receiving his first revelations he was deeply distressed. When he returned home he related the event to his wife Khadijah, and told her that he contemplated throwing himself off the top of a mountain.[42] He was consoled and reassured by Khadijah and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Waraqah was immediately enthusiastic, but Khadijah proceeded more cautiously, and was only satisfied that the revelations had indeed come from a good source after the conclusion of a test she had devised to determine that very thing. This was followed by a pause of three years during which Muhammad had gave himself up further to prayers and spiritual practices. When the revelations resumed he was reassured and commanded to begin preaching (Surah 93:1-11).[43]

According to Welch, these revelations were accompanied by mysterious seizures as the reports are unlikely to have been forged by later Muslims.[12] Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.[44]

Early years in Mecca

According to the Muslim tradition, Muhammad's wife Khadija was the first to believe he was a prophet.[45] She was soon followed by Muhammad's ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr, and adopted son Zaid. The Identity of first male Muslim is very controversial.[45]

Around 613, Muhammad began to preach amongst Meccans most of whom ignored it and a few mocked him, while some others 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.[46]

Opposition in Mecca

According to Ibn Sad, the opposition in Mecca started when Muhammad delivered verses that "spoke shamefully of the idols they [the Meccans] worshiped other than Himself [God] and mentioned the perdition of their fathers who died in disbelief."[47] According to Watt, "As the ranks of Muhammad's followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Kaaba, the focal point of Meccan religious life, which 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.

The great merchants tried (but failed) to come to some arrangements with Muhammad in exchange for abandoning his preaching. They offered him admission into the inner circle of merchants and establishing his position in the circle by an advantageous marriage.[48] Tradition records at great length the persecution and ill-treatment of Muhammad and his followers.[12] Sumayya bint Khubbat, a slave of Abū Jahl and a prominent Meccan leader, is famous as the first martyr of Islam, having been killed with a spear by her master when she refused to give up her faith. Bilal, another Muslim slave, suffered torture at the hands of Umayya ibn khalaf by placing a heavy rock on his chest to force his conversion.[49][50]

Since Muhammad himself was under the protection of Abu Talib, the head of the clan of Banu Hashim, nobody had directly attacked him. According to the tradition, the leaders of Makhzum and Abd Shams, two important clans of Quraysh, declared a public boycott against the clan of Banu Hashim, their commercial rival in order to put pressure on the clan. At this time, Muhammad arranged for some of his followers to emigrate to Ethiopia. The boycott lasted for three years. [51]

Hijra to Ethiopia

Main article: Migration to Abyssinia

In 615, some of Muhammad's followers emigrated to the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum and founded a small colony there under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian king.[12] While the traditions view the persecutions of Meccans to have played the major role in the emigration, William Montgomery Watt, a professor of Islamic studies, states "there is reason to believe that some sort of division within the embryonic Muslim community played a role and that some of the emigrants may have gone to Abyssinia to engage in trade, possibly in competition with prominent merchant families in Mecca."[12]

Last years in Mecca

In 619, the "year of sorrows," both Muhammad's wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died. The relationship between Muhammad's followers and Muhammad's own Quraysh tribe, already bad, further worsened.[52]

Muhammad then tried to establish himself in another important city in Arabia, Ta'if, but his effort failed and further brought him into physical danger. Muhammad returned to Mecca. A Meccan man named Mut'im b. Adi made it possible for him safely to re-enter his native city.[12] Many people were visiting Mecca on business or as pilgrims to the Kabaa. 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).[12] The Arab population of Yathrib were somewhat familiar with monotheism because a Jewish community existed in that city.[12]

The earliest biographies describe Muhammad at this time delivering what Western scholars have dubbed the "satanic verses," which recognized the validity of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters of Allah. Muhammad later retracted the verses saying Gabriel had instructed him to do so.[53][54] Starting in the tenth century, Islamic scholars began to reject the account.[55] The relations between the Muslims and their pagan fellow-tribesmen rapidly deteriorated; while the Quraysh had not previously shown significant opposition to Muhammad and his followers, his denounciation of the Meccan idols provoked hostile reactions. Apart from insults, Muhammad was protected from physical harm due to belonging to the Banu Hashim. This protection did not extend to much of his followers, who were subsequently persecuted by the Meccans.[56] These Muslims would later raid Meccan caravans partly because they believed they had been treated badly.[57]

Isra and Mi'raj

Main article: Isra and Mi'raj

A 16th century Persian miniature painting celebrating Muhammad's ascent into the Heavens, a journey known as the Miraj. Muhammad's face is veiled, a practice in Islamic art of this genre.

A 16th century Persian miniature painting celebrating Muhammad's ascent into the Heavens, a journey known as the Miraj. Muhammad's face is veiled, a practice in Islamic art of this genre.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque congregation building. The site from which Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque congregation building. The site from which Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.

Some time in 620, Muhammad told his followers that he had experienced the Isra and Miraj, a miraculous journey said to have been accomplished in one night along with the angel Gabriel. In the first part of the journey, the Isra, he is said to have travelled from Mecca to "the farthest mosque" (in Arabic: masjid al-aqsa), which Muslims usually identify with the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In the second part, the Miraj, Muhammad is said to have toured heaven and hell, and spoken with earlier prophets, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Ibn Ishaq, author of first biography of Muhammad, presents this event as a spiritual experience while later historians like Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir present it as a physical journey.[58] Those Muslims subscribing to the latter view consider the Foundation Stone under the Dome of the Rock to be the site from which Muhammad ascended to heaven on the Buraq.[citation needed]

Muhammad in Medina

Hijra to Medina

Main articles: Migration to Medina and Muhammad in Medina

A delegation from Medina, consisting of the representatives of the twelve important clans of Medina, invited Muhammad as a neutral outsider to Medina to serve as the chief arbitrator for the entire community.[59][60] There was fighting in Yathrib mainly involving its Arab and Jewish inhabitants for around a hundred years before 620.[59] The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, especially after the battle of Bu'ath in which all the clans were involved, made it obvious to them that the tribal conceptions 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."[59]

By 622, Muhammad then emigrated to Medina, then known as Yathrib, a large agricultural oasis. This Hijra or emigration (traditionally translated into English as "flight") marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, which is why Muslim dates have the suffix AH (After Hijra).[citation needed]

Muhammad came to Medina as a mediator, invited to resolve the feud between the Arab factions of Aws and Khazraj.[citation needed] Medina was also home to a number of Jewish tribes, divided into three major clans: Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadir, and some minor groups.[59] Among the things Muhammad did in order to settle down the longstanding grievances among the tribes of Medina was drafting a document known as the Constitution of Medina (date debated), "establishing a kind of alliance or federation" among the eight Medinan tribes and Muslim emigrants from Mecca, which specified the rights and duties of all citizens and the relationship of the different communities in Medina (including that of the Muslim community to other communities specifically the Jews and other "Peoples of the Book").[59][60]

Beginnings of conflict

The neutrality of this section is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

Economically uprooted and with no available profession besides that of arms, the Muslim migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans for their livelihood, thus initiating armed conflict between the Muslims and Mecca.[61][62] Muhammad delivered Qur'anic verses permitting the Muslims to fight the Meccans (see Qur'an 22:39-40)[63] These attacks provoked and pressured Mecca by interfering with trade, and allowed the Muslims to acquire wealth, power and prestige while working toward their ultimate goal of inducing Mecca's submission to the new faith.[64][65] In March of 624, Muhammad led some three hundred warriors in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Muslims set an ambush for the Meccans at Badr.[66] Aware of the plan, the Meccan caravan eluded Muslims. Meanwhile a force from Mecca was sent to protect the caravan. The force did not return home upon hearing that the caravan was safe. The battle of Badr began in March of 624.[67] Though outnumbered more than three to one, the Muslims won the battle, killing at least forty-five Meccans and taking seventy prisoners for ransom; only fourteen Muslims died. They had also succeeded in killing many of the Meccan leaders, including Abu Jahl.[68] Muhammad himself did not fight, directing the battle from a nearby hut alongside Abu Bakr.[69] In the weeks following the battle, Meccans visited Medina in order to ransom captives from Badr. Many of these had belonged to wealthy families, and were likely ransomed for a considerable sum. Those captives who were not sufficiently influencal or wealthy were usually freed without ransom, but after this battle Muhammad decided that anyone who went unransomed would be killed.[70][71] Muhammad ordered the immediate execution of two men without entertaining offers for their release.[72] One of the men, Uqba ibn Abu Mu'ayt, had written verses about Muhammad, and the other had said that his own stories about Persians were as good as the tales of the Qur'an.[73]

The raiders had won much booty, and the battle helped to stabilize the Medinan community.[74] Muhammad and his followers saw in the victory a confirmation of their faith. [12] Muhammad also moved against critics in Medina, ordering the assassination of first the poetess Asma bint Marwan, then the poet Abu Afak.[75] "After these events we may assume that there was little overt opposition to Muhammad among the pagans," Watt states.[76] Muhammad expelled from Medina the Banu Qaynuqa, one of the three main Jewish tribes. He also made mutual-aid alliances with a number of Bedouin tribes to protect his community from attacks from the northern part of Hijaz.[12]



Timeline of Muhammad

Important dates and locations in the life of Muhammad

c. 569

Death of his father, `Abd Allah

c. 570

Possible date of birth, April 20: Mecca


Death of Mother


Death of Grandfather

c. 583

Takes trading journeys to Syria

c. 595

Meets and marries Khadijah


First reports of Qur'anic revelation

c. 610

Appears as Prophet of Islam

c. 613

Begins spreading message of Islam publicly

c. 614

Begins to gather following in Mecca

c. 615

Emigration of Muslims to Ethiopia


Banu Hashim clan boycott begins

c. 618

Medinan Civil War


Banu Hashim clan boycott ends


The year of sorrows: Khadijah and Abu Talib die

c. 620

Isra and Miraj


Emigrates to Medina (Hijra)


Battle of Badr: Muslims defeat Meccans


Expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa


Battle of Uhud: Meccans defeat Muslims


Expulsion of Banu Nadir


Attack on Dumat al-Jandal (Syria)


Battle of the Trench


Destruction of Banu Qurayza


Subjugation of Dumat al-Jandal


Treaty of Hudaybiyya

c. 628

Gains access to Meccan shrine Kaaba


Conquest of the Khaybar oasis


First hajj pilgrimage


Attack on Byzantine empire fails: Battle of Mu'tah


Attacks and bloodlessly captures Mecca

c. 630

Battle of Hunayn

c. 630

Siege of Taif


Conquest of Mecca

c. 631

Rules most of the Arabian peninsula

c. 632

Attacks the Ghassanids: Tabuk


Farewell hajj pilgrimage


Death (June 8): Medina

Conflict with Mecca

The attack at Badr committed Muhammad to total war with Meccans, who were now anxious to avenge their defeat. To maintain their economic prosperity after the battle of Badr, the Meccans needed to restore their prestige, which had been lost at Badr.[77] The Meccans sent out a small party for a raid on Medina to restore confidence. The party retreated immediately after a surprise and speedy attack but with minor damages; there was no combat.[78] Later in the same year, Muhammad led three expeditions against the tribe of Sulaym who had close relations with Mecca and another tribe who had sent a strong force to help the Meccans with the aim of deterring them from supporting Mecca. [79] Subsequently, the Meccans sent out a caravan by a route well east of Medina, but Muhammad found out and raided it.[80] A few days later in the year 625, the Meccan leader Abu Sufyan marched on Medina with three thousand men.[81] They were accompanied by some prominent women of Mecca, such as Hind bint Utbah, the wife of Abu Sufyan, who had lost family members at Badr. These women came and provided encouragement in keeping with Bedouin custom, calling out the names of the dead at Badr who must be avenged.[82] Urged on by younger Muslims spirited by the victory at Badr and against the opinion of Muhammad, Abdallah ibn Ubayy and some other senior men to last out the attack inside the town, Muhammad led his force outside and fought the Battle of Uhud on March 23, that ended in a Muslim defeat, with 75 Muslims killed. However, the Meccans failed to achieve their aim of destroying the Muslims completely.[83] The Meccans did not occupy the town however and withdrew to Mecca because they could not attack on Muhammad's position again for military loss, low morale and possibility of Muslim resistance in the town. There was also hope that Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy leading a group of Muslims in Medina could be won over by diplomacy.[84] Following the defeat, Muhammad's detractors in Medina said that if the victory at Badr was proof of the genuineness of his mission, then the defeat at Uhud was to be taken as a sign of the opposite.[85] Muhammad subsequently delivered verses [Qur'an 3:133] and [Qur'an 3:160] which provided answers to these attacks.[86]

In attempting to quash the opposition of the Muslims in Medina, Abu Sufyan established alliances with Bedouin tribes to secure sufficient support. Muhammad also contracted alliances with some groups and attacked others, increasing the wealth of himself and his followers with booty.[87] He expelled the Jewish Banu Nadir, confiscating their land and a large amount of military gear.[88] On some of the raids against outlying tribes, the Muslims captured women. One of the women captured from the Banu al-Mustaliq tribe, Juwayriyya, Muhammad married. She had agreed to this marriage after her captor refused to ransom her.[89]

During this period, Muhammad's wife Aisha was accused of adultery. Chief among her accusers was Muhammad's rival Ibn Ubayy. Muhammad was initially unsure whether or not she was guilty. He sought advice and counsel; his son-in-law Ali made a disparaging remark about Aisha.[90] Soon after verse [Qur'an 24:11] was revealed, which exonerated Aisha, and stated that those who had falsely accused her would receive eighty lashes.[91] This completed Ibn Ubayy's loss of political influence; he had been losing stature for some time.[92]

Further assassinations had relieved Muhammad of the problems of influential enemies, and the expulsion of the Banu Nadir and neutralization of Ibn Ubayy secured his control of Medina.[93] Abu Sufyan had not been idle, however, and had mustered a force much larger than the one Muhammad could command. In April 627, Abu Sufyan led this army in an attack on Medina. In the Battle of the Trench, he could not overcome the defenders who had fortified the city by erecting a large embankment from dirt they had unearthed in the creation of a large ditch. Abu Sufyan's troops were unprepared for the fortifications they were confronted with, and after an ineffectual siege, the coalition decided to go home.[94]

Jewish tribes of Medina

Main article: Muhammad and the Jews

The neutrality of this section is disputed.
Please see the discussion on the talk page.

After his migration to Medina, Muhammad's attitude towards Christians and Jews changed. Norman Stillman states:

During this fateful time, fraught with tension after the Hidjra [migration to Medina], when Muhammad encountered contradiction, ridicule and rejection from the Jewish scholars in Medina, he came to adopt a radically more negative view of the people of the Book who had received earlier scriptures. This attitude was already evolving in the third Meccan period as the Prophet became more aware of the antipathy between Jews and Christians and the disagreements and strife amongst members of the same religion. The Qur'an at this time states that it will "relate [correctly] to the Children of Israel most of that about which they differ" ( XXVII, 76).

Jewish opposition "may well have been for political as well as religious reasons".[95]On religious grounds, the Jews were skeptical of the possibility of a non-Jewish prophet,[96] and also had concerns about possible incompatibilities between the Qur'an and their own scriptures.[96][97] The Qur'an's response regarding the possibility of a non-Jew being a prophet was that Abraham was not a Jew. The Qur'an also stated that it was "restoring the pure monotheism of Abraham which had been corrupted in various, clearly specified, ways by Jews and Christians".[96] According to Peters, "The Jews also began secretly to connive with Muhammad's enemies in Mecca to overthrow him."[98]

After each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery (see Surah 2:100) and attacked it. After Badr, Muhammad besieged the Banu Qaynuqa and forced their surrender. He wanted to put all the men to death, but was convinced not to do so by Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who was an old ally of the Qaynuqa.[99] Instead, he expelled them from Medina with their families and possessions. After Uhud, he did the same to the Banu Nadir. After the Battle of the Trench in 627, the Muslims accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans, then beheaded the adult male members of the Banu Qurayza. The females and children were sold as slaves. [100]

Two types of explanations are given for Muhammad's treatment of the Jews of Medina: theological and political. The theological explanation given by some Arab historians and biographers is that:"the punishment of the Medina Jews, who were invited to convert and refused, perfectly exemplify the Quran's tales of what happened to those who rejected the prophets of old." Others offered a political explanation.[101] F.E. Peters, a western scholar of Islam, states that Muhammad's treatment of Jews of Medina was essentially political being prompted by what Muhammad read as treasonous and not some transgression of the law of God.[98] Peters adds that Muhammad was possibly emboldened by his military successes and also wanted to push his advantage. Economical motivations according to Peters also existed since the poorness of the Meccan migrants was a source of concern for Muhammad.[102] Peters argues that Muhammad's treatment of the Jews of Medina was "quite extraordinary", "matched by nothing in the Qur'an", and is "quite at odds with Muhammad's treatment of the Jews he encountered outside Medina."[98]

Truce of Hudaybiyya

Main article: Treaty of Hudaybiyya

Although Muhammad had already delivered Qur'anic verses commanding the Hajj,[103] the Muslims had not performed it due to the enmity of the Quraysh. In the month of Shawwal 628, Muhammad ordered his followers to obtain sacrificial animals and to make preparations for a pilgrimage (umra) to Mecca, saying that God had promised him the fulfillment of this goal in a vision where he was shaving his head after the completion of the Hajj.[104] According to Lewis, Muhammad felt strong enough to attempt an attack on Mecca, but on the way it became clear that the attempt was premature and the expedition was converted into a peaceful pilgrimage.[105] Andrae disagrees, writing that the Muslim state of ihram (which restricted their freedom of action) and the paucity of arms carried indicated that the pilgrimage was always intended to be pacific.[106] Upon hearing of the approaching 1,400 Muslims, the Quraysh sent out a force of 200 cavalry to halt them. Muhammad evaded them by taking a more difficult route, thereby reaching al-Hudaybiyya, just outside of Mecca.[107]

Negotiations commenced with emissaries going 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 responded by calling 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 Good Pleasure" (Arabic: بيعة الرضوان , bay'at al-ridhwān) or the "Pledge under the Tree." News of Uthman's safety, however, allowed for negotiations to continue, and a treaty scheduled to last ten years was eventually signed between the Muslims and Quraysh.[108] The main points of treaty were the following:

  1. The two parties and their allies should desist from hostilities against each other[109]
  2. Muhammad, should not perform Hajj this year[109]
  3. They may come next year to perform Hajj (unarmed) but shall not stay in Mecca for more than three days[109]
  4. Any Muslim living in Mecca cannot settle in Medina, but Medinan Muslims may come and join Meccans (and will not be returned).[citation needed]

Many Muslims were not satisfied with the terms of the treaty. However, the Qur'anic sura "Al-Fath" (The Victory) (48:1-29) assured the Muslims that the expedition from which they were now returning must be considered a victorious one.[110] The Muslims did benefit following the treaty; the men of Mecca and Medina could now meet in peace and discuss Islam. Hence, during the following two years the community of Islam more than doubled.[111][Quotation from source requested on talk page to verify interpretation of source] Some opposition among the more enthusiastic Muslims to this apparently inconclusive result was deflected by an attack on the Jewish oasis of Khaybar.[112]

According to Muslim tradition, after the signing of the truce, Muhammad sent letters to many rulers of the world, asking them to convert to Islam.[113][114][115] Hence he sent messengers (with letters) to Heraclius of the Byzantine Empire (the eastern Roman Empire), Chosroes of Persia, the chief of Yemen and to some others.[113][114]

Conquest of Mecca

Main articles: Conquest of Mecca and Muhammad after the conquest of Mecca

The Kaaba in Mecca held a major economic and religious role for the area, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for Salat

The Kaaba in Mecca held a major economic and religious role for the area, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for Salat

The truce of Hudaybiyya had been enforced for two years.[116][117] The tribe of Khuz'aah had a friendly relationship with Muhammad, while on the other hand their enemies, the Banu Bakr, had an alliance with the Meccans.[116][118] A clan of the Bakr made a night raid against the Khuz'aah, killing a few of them.[116][118] The Meccans helped their allies (i.e., the Banu Bakr) with weapons and, according to some sources, a few Meccans also took part in the fighting.[116] After this event, Muhammad sent a message to Mecca with three conditions, asking them to accept one of them. These were the following[119]

  1. The Meccans were to pay blood-money for those slain among the Khuza'ah tribe, or
  2. They should have nothing to do with the Banu Bakr, or
  3. They should declare the truce of Hudaybiyya null.

The Meccans replied that they would accept only the third condition.[119] However, soon they realized their mistake and sent Abu Safyan to renew the Hudaybiyya treaty, but now his request was declined by Muhammad. Muhammad began to prepare for a campaign.[120]

In 630, Muhammad marched on Mecca with an enormous force, said to number more than ten thousand men. With minimal casualties, Muhammad took control of Mecca.[121] He declared an amnesty for past offences, except for ten men and women who had mocked and made fun of him in songs and verses.[122] Most Meccans converted to Islam, and Muhammad subsequently destroyed all of the statues of Arabian gods in and around the Kaaba, without any exception. Henceforth the pilgrimage would be a Muslim pilgrimage and the shrine was converted to a Muslim shrine.[citation needed]

Conquest of Arabia

The capitulation of Mecca and the defeat of an alliance of enemy tribes at Hunayn effectively brought the greater part of the Arabian peninsula under Muhammad's authority. However, this authority was not enforced by a regular government, as Muhammad chose instead to rule through personal relationships and tribal treaties. The Muslims were clearly the dominant force in Arabia, and most of the remaining tribes and states hastened to convert to Islam.[citation needed]


The Al-Masjid al-Nabawi is Islam's second most sacred site; the Green dome in the background stands above Muhammad's tomb

The Al-Masjid al-Nabawi is Islam's second most sacred site; the Green dome in the background stands above Muhammad's tomb

In 632, Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with head pain and weakness. He succumbed on Monday, June 8, 632, in the city of Medina. He is buried in his tomb (which previously was in his wife Aisha's house) which is now housed within Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.[123]

Marriages and children

Main article: Muhammad's family

Muhammad's life is traditionally defined into two epochs: pre-hijra (emigration) in Mecca, a city in northern Arabia, from the year 570 to 622, and post-hijra in Medina, from 622 until his death in 632. All but two of his marriages were contracted after the [migration to Medina].

He married 11 or 13 women depending upon the differing accounts of who his wives were. At the age of 25, Muhammad married Khadijah which lasted for 25 years.[124] This marriage is described as "long" and "happy," and he relied upon Khadija in many ways.[125][126] Muhammed did not enter into marriage with another woman during his marriage with Khadija. After her death, friends of Muhammad advised him to marry again, but he was reluctant to do so.[126][127] It was suggested to Muhammad by Khawla bint Hakim, that he should marry Sawda bint Zama, a Muslim widow, or Aisha. Muhammad is said to have asked her to arrange for him to marry both. Later, Muhammad married additional wives, most of them widows, to make for a total of eleven, of whom nine or ten survived him. Scholars such as Watt and Esposito hold that most of the marriages aimed at strengthening political ties (according to the Arabian custom) or providing a livelihood to widows (it was hard for widows to remarry in a culture that emphasized virgin marriages).[128][129]

The status of several of Muhammad's wives is disputed by scholars. Maria al-Qibtiyya may have been a slave, a freed slave, or a wife.[citation needed] Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad. She stayed in her parents' home until the age of nine, when the marriage was consummated.[130]

Only two of Muhammad's wives bore him children. Khadijah is said to have borne him four daughters and two sons, though only one daughter, Fatima and her children survived her father. Maria al-Qibtiyya bore him a son, but the child died when he was ten months old. Some say that his daughter Zainab, mother to a daughter called Amma or Umama, survived him as well.[citation needed] Shi'a Muslims dispute the number of Muhammad's children, stating that he had only one daughter, and that the other "daughters" were step-daughters.

Descendants of Muhammad are known as sharifs شريف (plural: ِأشراف Ashraaf) or sayyid.

In the Islamic prayer, Muslims end with the second tashahhud asking God to bless Muhammad and his descendants just as Abraham and his descendants were blessed.

Children of Khadijah:


·         Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad

·         Qasim ibn Muhammad


·         Ruqayyah bint Muhammad

·         Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad

·         Zainab bint Muhammad

·         Fatima Zahra

Children of Maria:

·         Ibrahim ibn Muhammad


Main articles: Sahaba and Salaf

The term Sahaba (companion) refers to anyone who meets three criteria: to be a contemporary of Muhammad, to have heard Muhammad speak on at least one occasion, and to be a convert to Islam. Companions are considered the ultimate sources for the oral traditions, or hadith, on which much of Muslim law and practice are based. The following are a few examples in alphabetic order:

Muhammad the reformer

Main article: Early reforms under Islam

According to William Montgomery Watt, for Muhammad, religion was not a private and individual matter but rather “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."[131]

Bernard Lewis says that there are two important political traditions in Islam - one that views Muhammad as a statesman in Medina, and another that views him as a rebel in Mecca. He sees Islam itself as a type of revolution that greatly changed the societies into which the new religion was brought.[132]

Historians generally agree that Islamic social reforms in areas such as social security, family structure, slavery and the rights of women and children improved on what was present in existing Arab society.[132][133][134][135][136] 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"[132]

Muhammad's message transformed the society and moral order of life in the Arabian Peninsula through reorientation of society as regards to identity, world view, and the hierarchy of values.[137]

Economic reforms addressed the plight of the poor, which was becoming an issue in pre-Islamic Mecca.[138] The Qur'an requires payment of an alms tax (zakat) for the benefit of the poor,[139] and as Muhammad's position grew in power he demanded that those tribes who wanted to ally with him implement the zakat in particular.[140]

Miracles in the Muslim biographies

Main article: Islamic view of miracles

While, according to historian Denis Gril, the Qur'an does not overtly describe Muhammad performing miracles,[141] and Muhammad did not claim to have done so,[12] Muslim tradition credits Muhammad with several supernatural events.[142] For example, many Muslim commentators and some western scholars have interpreted the Surah 54:1-2 to refer to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh when they had begun to persecute his followers.[141][143] This tradition has inspired many Muslim poets, especially in India.[12]

Modern Muslim biographies of Muhammad more often portray him as a progressive social and political reformer, successful military leader and model of human virtue.[144] According to Carl Ernst, Muslims began to de-emphasize superhuman views of Muhammad following the growth of scientific rationalism in Muslim countries.[145] Daniel Brown adds that Muslims of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, faced with social and political turmoil and the challenge of reforming Islamic law, began looking to Muhammad's life for examples which might more practically address these problems.[144]

Traditional views of Muhammad

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. The Qur'an refers to Muhammad as "a mercy (rahmat) to the worlds" [Qur'an 21:107].[12] The association of rain with rahmat (mercy) in Oriental countries has led to imagination of Muhammad as a rain cloud dispensing blessing 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).[12] The story of ascension of Muhammad to heaven (mi'radj) is described in much details by poems in Turkey, India, Africa and other countries. The folk traditions contain miracles attributed to Muhammad not mentioned in the Qur'an (such as trees bowing before Muhammad, or a cloud protecting him from the sun).[12]

Muslims, especially Sufi Muslims, regard Muhammad as God's last messenger, and al-insan al-kamil, meaning, the "perfect man".[146] There are legends telling of how the whole world was filled with light at Muhammad's birth.[12]

Seal of the prophets

Wazir Khan Mosque (16th century) Fresco painting with floral designs surrounding the words "Allah" and "Muhammad" in blue. Inscribed inside the names are Qur'anic verses; the one inside the word "Allah" is the Ayat-ul-Kursi and the one inscribed inside the word "Muhammad" asserts that Muhammad is the last prophet.

Wazir Khan Mosque (16th century) Fresco painting with floral designs surrounding the words "Allah" and "Muhammad" in blue. Inscribed inside the names are Qur'anic verses; the one inside the word "Allah" is the Ayat-ul-Kursi and the one inscribed inside the word "Muhammad" asserts that Muhammad is the last prophet.

Topkapi Palace gate with Shahadah and his seal. The Muslim Profession of faith, the Shahada, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad - "There is no god (ʾilāh) but God(Allāh), and Muhammad is His Messenger."

Topkapi Palace gate with Shahadah and his seal. The Muslim Profession of faith, the Shahada, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad - "There is no god (ʾilāh)[147] but God(Allāh), and Muhammad is His Messenger."

Muslims believe Muhammad to be the last in a line of prophets of God (Arabic Allah) and regard his mission as one of restoring the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham and other prophets of Islam that had become altered by man over time.[11][12][13] The Qur'an specifically refers to Muhammad as the "Seal of the Prophets", which is taken by most Muslims to believe him to be the last of the prophets.[148][19] Welch however holds that this Muslim belief is most likely a later interpretation of the Seal of the Prophets.[12] Carl Ernst considers this phrase to mean that Muhammad's "imprint on history is as final as a wax seal on a letter".[19] Wilferd Madelung states that the meaning of this term is not certain.[149]

Depictions of Muhammad

Main article: Depictions of Muhammad

Muslims differ as to whether or not visual depictions of Muhammad are permissible. The position of the four main Sunni Muslim Maddhabs is that, to prevent idolatry and shirk, visual depictions of Muhammad are forbidden; some non-maddhab groups, such as the Salafi movement, take a similar line.[150]

The Shia and others have historically taken a much less restrictive view, allowing depictions praising Muhammad, while a school of Sufi'ism uses calligraphy of the name of Muhammad, Ali, Hussein and other important people in Muslim History to create their images.[151]

Muslim veneration of Muhammad

See also: Muslim veneration for Muhammad, Naat, Depiction of Muhammad, Islamic music, and Qawwali

Muhammad's name, engraved in gold, adorns the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Originally a Christian church, it was converted into a mosque after the Fall of Constantinople.

Muhammad's name, engraved in gold, adorns the walls of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Originally a Christian church, it was converted into a mosque after the Fall of Constantinople.

It is traditional for Muslims to illustrate and express love and veneration for Muhammad. This is observed in a number of different ways. When Muslims say or write Muhammad's name, they usually follow it with Peace be upon him or its Arabic equivalent, sallalahu alayhi wasallam, and for Shias this is extended to Peace be upon him and his descendants. In English this is often abbreviated to "(pbuh)", "(saw)" and "pbuh&hd" for Shias, or even just simply as "p". The Quran gave him the title Apostle of God (Arabic: Rasul-Allah or Rasulallah), which has also been used by Muslims, as well as the title "Prophet". Concerts of Muslim, and especially Sufi, devotional music include songs praising Muhammad. There are religious songs Nasheeds which regularly praise Muhammad.

Conversely, criticism of Muhammad is often equated with blasphemy[citation needed], which is punishable by death in Pakistan.[152]

Christian and Western views of Muhammad

Main article: Christian view of Muhammad

While Muslim writers have tended to speak highly of Muhammad, Western tradition has at times been critical of him.[153][154]

Popular image of Muhammad in medieval times

In the 12th century, Chansons de geste that mentioned Muhammad presented him as an idol to whom Muslims prayed for aid in battle.[12][155] Some medieval Christians said he had died in 666, alluding to the number of the beast, instead of 632;[156] others changed his name from Muhammad to Mahound, the "devil incarnate".[157] Bernard Lewis writes "The development of the concept of Mahound started with considering Muhammad as a kind of demon or false god worshipped with Apollyon and Termangant in an unholy trinity."[158] To discredit Islam, Muhammad was represented as an idol or one of the heathen gods during the first and second Crusade.[12]

Later medieval representations

From the middle of the 13th century, mentions of Muhammad in vernacular chivalric romance literature begin to appear. A poem represents Muhammad as "someone in bondage. Through his cleverly contrived marriage to the widow of his former master, he not only attains his freedom and wealth but also knows how to cover up his epileptic attacks as phenomena accompanying visitations of angels and to pose as a new messenger of God's will through deceitful machinations."[12] From this period is Scala Mahomete, a translation of an Arabic text, largely without Christian evaluations.[12] In a polemical tone, Livre dou Tresor represents Muhammad as a former monk and cardinal.[12] Dante's The Divine Comedy (Canto XXVIII), puts Muhammad, together with Ali, in Hell "among the sowers of discord and the schismatics, being lacerated by devils again and again."[12]

Early modern times

After the reformation, Muhammad was no longer viewed as a god or idol, but as a cunning, ambitious, and self-seeking impostor.[159][12]

Guillaume Postel was among the first to present a more positive view of Muhammad.[12] Boulainvilliers described Muhammad as a gifted political leader and a just lawmaker.[12] Leibniz praised Muhammad because "he did not deviate from the natural religion".[12]

Modern times

Friedrich Bodenstedt (1851) describes Muhammad as "an ominous destroyer and a prophet of murder"[12]

According to Watt and Richard Bell, recent writers have generally dismissed the idea that Muhammad deliberately deceived his followers, arguing that Muhammad “was absolutely sincere and acted in complete good faith”.[160] Watt says that sincerity does not directly imply correctness: In contemporary terms, Muhammad might have mistaken for divine revelation his own unconscious.[161]Although Muhammad's image in the west is much less unfavorable than in the past, prejudicial folk beliefs remain.[162]

Watt and Lewis argue that viewing Muhammad as a self-seeking imposter makes it impossible to understand the development of Islam.[163][164] Welch holds that Muhammad able to be so influential and successful because of his firm belief in his vocation.[165] Muhammad’s readiness to endure hardship for his cause when there seemed to be no rational basis for hope shows his sincerity.[166]

Other religious traditions in regard to Muhammad

  • The Druze, who accept most but not all Qur'anic revelations, also consider him a prophet.
  • Bahá'ís venerate Muhammad as one of a number of prophets or "Manifestations of God", but consider his teachings to have been superseded by those of Bahá'u'lláh.


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In Islam, a rasul ( رسول) (Arabic: "messenger," plural rusul) is a prophet sent by God ("Allah" in Arabic) with a revelation. According to the Qur'an, God has sent many prophets (anbiyaa, sing. nabi) to mankind. Twenty-five are mentioned by name in the Qur'an (see Prophets of Islam), but according to the hadiths of the prophet Muhammad, there have been over 124,000 prophets in total sent all over the Earth to preach and spread the message of Islam. Of these, the Qur'an names five as rasul: Ismail (Ishmael), Daud (David), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad.[1] But it is also mentioned in the Quran that God has sent many revelations [aside from the five mentioned].

The Greek: aγγελος, angel meaning "messenger" has the meaning of a supernatural being. Islam does not consider the five "messengers" to be supernatural beings. The Arabic word for angelic supernatural beings is Malā’ikah (ملائكة).


  1. ^ University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts. Retrieved on 2007-01-03.

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