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“Muhammad” in a new genre of Islamic calligraphy started in the 17th century by Hafiz Osman.[1]


A 16th-century Ottoman illustration depicting Muhammad at the Kaaba. Muhammad's face is veiled, a practice followed in Islamic art since the 16th century.
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A 16th-century Ottoman illustration depicting Muhammad at the Kaaba. Muhammad’s face is veiled, a practice followed in Islamic art since the 16th century.[1]

Part of a series on the
Islamic prophet Muhammad

Muhammad (Arabic: محمد Muḥammad; also Mohammed, Muhammed, Mahomet, and other variants)[2][3][4] is regarded by Muslims as the last messenger and prophet of God (Arabic: الله Allah).[5] He is considered to be the historical founder of the religion of Islam.

Sources on Muhammad’s life concur that he was born ca. 570 CE in the city of Mecca in Arabia.[6] 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)[7] is man’s religion (dÄ«n),[8] and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, and other prophets.[9][10][11]

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)[12] 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 AD, 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 had continued receiving till his death, form the verses of the Qur’an,[13] regarded by Muslims as the “word of God”, around which the religion is based. Besides the Qur’an, Muhammad’s life (sira) and traditions (hadith) are also upheld by Muslims, who consider him to be the “Perfect Man”, whose example (sunnah) is to be followed in all aspects of life.




  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Overview
  • 3 Sources for Muhammad’s life
  • 4 Life based on Islamic traditions
    • 4.1 Before Medina
      • 4.1.1 Genealogy
      • 4.1.2 Childhood
      • 4.1.3 Middle years
      • 4.1.4 The Beginnings of the Qur’an
      • 4.1.5 Opposition in Mecca
      • 4.1.6 Hijra to Ethiopia
      • 4.1.7 Last years in Mecca
      • 4.1.8 Isra and Miraj
    • 4.2 Muhammad in Medina
      • 4.2.1 Hijra to Medina
      • 4.2.2 Beginnings of conflict
      • 4.2.3 The conflict with Mecca
      • 4.2.4 Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Medina
      • 4.2.5 The truce of Hudaybiyya
      • 4.2.6 Muhammad’s letters to the Heads of State
    • 4.3 Conquest of Mecca
      • 4.3.1 Conquest of Arabia
      • 4.3.2 Death
    • 4.4 Muhammad as a military leader
    • 4.5 Family life
    • 4.6 Companions
  • 5 Muhammad the reformer
  • 6 Miracles in the Muslim biographies
  • 7 Traditional views of Muhammad
    • 7.1 Seal of the prophets
    • 7.2 Depictions of Muhammad
    • 7.3 Muslim veneration of Muhammad
    • 7.4 Christian and Western views of Muhammad
    • 7.5 Other religious traditions in regard to Muhammad
  • 8 Criticism of Muhammad
  • 9 See also
  • 10 Notes
  • 11 References
    • 11.1 Encyclopedias
  • 12 Further reading
  • 13 External links



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-BÄ«rÅ«nÄ«, depicting Muhammad preaching the Qur’ān in Mecca.[14]

The name Muhammad literally means “Praiseworthy”.[15] [16] Within Islam, Muhammad is known as Nabi (Prophet) and Rasul (Messenger). Although the Qur’an sometimes declines to make a distinction among prophets, in verse 33:40 it singles out Muhammad as the “Seal of the Prophets” (33:40).[17] The Qur’an also refers to Muhammad as “Ahmad” (61:6) (Arabic :أحمد), Arabic for “more praiseworthy”.


Born to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, Muhammad initially adopted the occupation of a shepherd, and later became a merchant. In his youth, he was called by the nickname “Al-Amin” (Arabic: الامين), meaning “faithful, trustworthy”[18] and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator.[10][6][19] During the month of Ramadan, Muhammad would retreat to a cave located at the summit of Mount Hira, just outside Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz, where he fasted and prayed. According to Islamic belief, when he was about forty years old (610 CE) he was visited by Angel Gabriel and commanded to recite verses sent by God. These revelations continued until his death twenty-three years later. The collection of these verses is known as the Qur’an.

He expanded his mission as a prophet, publicly preaching strict monotheism, condemning the social evils of his day, and warning of a Day of Judgment when all humans shall be held responsible for their deeds.[6]

After ignoring Muhammad’s preaching, the elites in Mecca, feeling threatened by his message, harassed Muhammad and persecuted his followers.[citation needed] This continued and intensified over more than a decade.[citation needed] The hardships reached a new level for Muhammad after the deaths of his wife Khadija and his uncle Abu Talib, who, although not becoming a Muslim, had protected Muhammad throughout. Eventually, in 622, Muhammad left Mecca in a journey known to Muslims as the Hijra (the Migration).[6] He settled in the area of Yathrib (now known as Medina) with his followers, where he was the leader of the first Muslim community.

Six years of continuous war between Muslim and Meccan forces followed, culminating later in the bloodless Muslim victory and conquest of Mecca. The Muslims subsequently removed everything they considered idolatrous from the Kaaba. Most of the townspeople accepted Islam. In March 632, Muhammad led the pilgrimage known as the Hajj.[10] On returning to Medina he fell ill and died after a few days, on June 8.[20]

Under the caliphs who assumed authority after his death, the Islamic empire expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, southern Spain, and Anatolia. Later conquests, commercial contact between Muslims and non-Muslims, and missionary activity spread Islam over much of the Eastern Hemisphere, including China and Southeast Asia.[citation needed]

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.[21][22] The Qur’an has some, though very few, casual allusions to Muhammad’s life.[22] 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.”[23] All or most of the Qur’an was apparently written down by Muhammad’s followers after being revealed by the Angel Grabriel 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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[21] 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.[26] 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.[22] 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.[27]

There are few non-Muslim sources which, according to S. A. Nigosian, all confirm the existence of Muhammad. The earliest of these sources date back after 634 CE 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.[22]

Life based on Islamic traditions

Allah – Oneness of God
Muhammad · Prophets of Islam
Profession of Faith · Prayer
Fasting · Charity · Pilgrimage
History & Leaders
Timeline of Muslim history
Ahl al-Bayt · Sahaba
Rashidun Caliphs · Shia Imams
Texts & Laws
Qur’an · Sunnah · Hadith
Fiqh · Sharia · Kalam · Tasawwuf
Major branches
Sunni · Shia
Culture & Society
Academics · Art · Science · Philosophy
Architecture · Mosques · Calendar
Festivals · Demographics · Politics
Women · Children · Animals
See also
Criticism of Islam · Islamophobia
Glossary of Islamic terms


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 is 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 (Quraish) 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.[28]


See also: Year of the Elephant and Mawlid

Muhammad was born into an affluent family that had settled in the northern Arabian town of Mecca.[citation needed] 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.[10]

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 wetnursed 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


The earliest surviving image of Muhammad made in 1315. According to the Muslim tradition, during the youth of Muhammad in one of Mecca's frequent flash floods parts of Kaaba had been destroyed.  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 enters the gate. Muhammad appeared and spread his cloak and asked the members of the four major clans to raise the cloak where he himself could put it in place. The cloak became an important symbol for later poets and writers. The image  is taken from Tabriz, Persia and can be found in Rashid al-Dins Jami' al-Tawarikh (


The earliest surviving image of Muhammad made in 1315. According to the Muslim tradition, during the youth of Muhammad in one of Mecca’s frequent flash floods parts of Kaaba had been destroyed.[35] 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 enters the gate. Muhammad appeared and spread his cloak and asked the members of the four major clans to raise the cloak where he himself could put it in place. The cloak became an important symbol for later poets and writers.[36] The image is taken from Tabriz, Persia and can be found in Rashid al-Dins Jami’ al-Tawarikh (“The Universal History” or “Compendium of Chronicles“), held in the University of Edinburgh.[37]

There is not much known of Muhammad during his youth and from the fragmentary information that we have, it is hard to separate history from legend.[38] It is known that he became a merchant. He “was involved in trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.”[39] He gained a reputation for reliability and honesty that attracted a proposal from Khadijah, a forty-year-old widow in 595.[39] Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one.

Ibn Ishaq records that Khadijah bore Muhammad six children: three sons named Al Qasem, Abdullah (who is also called Al Tayeb and Al Taher) and Ibrahim, and four daughters. He was also called Abul 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. His son Qasim died at the age of two. The four daughters are said to be Zainab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima.[citation needed]

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:[40]

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.[41]

Upon receiving the first revelation, he was scared. When he returned home he related the event to his wife Khadijah. 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.[42][43]

According to the historian Welch, revelations were accompanied by mysterious seizures as it is unlikely to be forged by Muslims.[10] Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.[44]

Opposition in Mecca

According to Muslim tradition, Khadijah, Muhammad’s wife, was the first to believe that he was a prophet.[45] He was soon followed by Muhammad’s ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr and adopted son Zaid (later known as Zaid bin Haarith.) 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]

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.[47] Tradition records at great length the persecution and ill-treatment of Muhammad and his followers.[10] Sumayya bint Khubbat, a slave of AbÅ« Jahl 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.[48][49]

Hijra to Ethiopia

Main article: Migration to Abyssinia

In 615 AD/CE, 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.[10] 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.”[10]

Last years in Mecca

In 619, the “year of sorrow”, both Muhammad’s wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died. The relationship between Muhammad’s group of followers and Muhammad’s own Quraysh clan, which were already bad, worsened still further.[50] The controversial Satanic verses incident, if it happened, happened at this time.[51] Muhammad had become more and more hopeless at this time, and the Qur’an consoles him that “if it had been thy Lord’s will, they would all have believed,- all who are on earth! wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe! “[52] and that “(Allah has knowledge) of the (Prophet’s) cry, “O my Lord! Truly these are people who will not believe! But turn away from them, and say “Peace!” But soon shall they know! “[53]

Muhammad then attempted to establish himself in another important city in Arabia, Ta’if, but his effort failed and further brought him into physical danger. Muhammad returned back to Mecca. A Meccan man named Mut’im b. Adi provided safety for him so that he could re-enter his native city.[10] Muhammad used the opportunity provided by a large number of tribes visiting Mecca for bussiness or pilgrimage rituals at the Kabaa to look for a new home for himself and his followers. After several unsuccessful negotiations, he found hopes with some men from Yat̲h̲rib (later called Medina).[10] The Arab population of Yathrib were somewhat familiar with the monotheistic ideas because of existence of a Jewish community in that city.[10]

Isra and Miraj

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 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.[54] 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 Buraq.[citation needed]

Muhammad in Medina

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
576 Death of Mother
578 Death of Grandfather
c. 583 Takes trading journeys to Syria
c. 595 Meets and marries Khadijah
610 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
616 Banu Hashim clan boycott begins
c. 618 Medinan Civil War
619 Banu Hashim clan boycott ends
619 The year of sorrows: Khadijah and Abu Talib die
c. 620 Isra and Miraj
622 Emigrates to Medina (Hijra)
624 Battle of Badr: Muslims defeat Meccans
624 Expulsion of Banu Qaynuqa
625 Battle of Uhud: Meccans defeat Muslims
625 Expulsion of Banu Nadir
626 Attack on Dumat al-Jandal (Syria)
627 Battle of the Trench
627 Destruction of Banu Qurayza
627 Subjugation of Dumat al-Jandal
628 Treaty of Hudaybiyya
c. 628 Gains access to Meccan shrine Kaaba
628 Conquest of the Khaybar oasis
629 First hajj pilgrimage
629 Attack on Byzantine empire fails: Battle of Mu’tah
630 Attacks and bloodlessly captures Mecca
c. 630 Battle of Hunayn
c. 630 Siege of Taif
630 Conquest of Mecca
c. 631 Rules most of the Arabian peninsula
c. 632 Attacks the Ghassanids: Tabuk
632 Farewell hajj pilgrimage
632 Death (June 8): 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.[55][56] There was fighting in Yathrib involving its Arab and Jewish inhabitants for around a hundred years before 620.[55] The recurring slaughters and disagreements over the resulting claims, especially after the great 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.”[55]

By 622, Muhammad then emigrated to Medina, then known as Yathrib, a large agricultural oasis where there were a number of Muslim converts.[citation needed] By breaking the link with his own tribe, Muhammad demonstrated that tribal and family loyalties were insignificant compared to the bonds of Islam, a revolutionary idea in the tribal society of Arabia. 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] He ultimately did so by absorbing both factions into his Muslim community, forbidding bloodshed among Muslims.[citation needed] However, Medina was also home to a number of Jewish tribes, divided into three major clans: Banu Qainuqa, Banu Qurayza and Banu Nadir, and some minor groups.[55] 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”).[55][56]

Beginnings of conflict

Relations between Mecca and Medina rapidly worsened (see surat al-Baqara). Meccans confiscated all the property that the Muslims had left in Mecca.[citation needed] In Medina, Muhammad signed treaties of alliance and mutual help with neighboring tribes. Mecca declared its hostility and status of war with the Muslims.

In March of 624, Muhammad led some three hundred warriors in a raid on a Meccan merchant caravan. The Meccans successfully defended the caravan, but then decided to teach the Muslims a lesson and marched against Medina. On March 15, 624 near a place called Badr, the Meccans and the Muslims clashed. Though outnumbered more than three times (one thousand to three hundred – majority of Muslim historians put the exact total at 313) in the battle, the Muslims met with success, killing at least forty-five Meccans and taking seventy prisoners for ransom; only fourteen Muslims died.[57] This marked the real beginning of Muslim military battles.

To his followers, the victory in Badr appeared to be divine authentication of Muhammad’s prophethood. Muhammad and his followers were now a dominant force in the oasis of Yathrib (Medina).[citation needed]

After Khadija’s death, Muhammad married Aisha, the daughter of his friend Abu Bakr (who would later emerge as the first leader of the Muslims after Muhammad’s death). In Medina, he married Hafsah, daughter of Umar (who would eventually become Abu Bakr’s successor).[citation needed]

Muhammad’s daughter Fatima married Ali, Muhammad’s cousin. According to the Sunni, another daughter, Umm Kulthum, married Uthman. Each of these men, in later years, would emerge as successors to Muhammad and political leaders of the Muslims. Thus, all four caliphs were linked to Muhammad by marriage. Sunni Muslims regard these caliphs as the Rashidun, or Rightly Guided. (See Succession to Muhammad for more information on the controversy on the succession to the caliphate).[citation needed]

The conflict with Mecca

In 625 the Meccan leader Abu Sufyan marched on Medina with three thousand men. Urged on by younger Muslims fired up by the victory at Badr and against the advice of Abdallah ibn Ubayy 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 (According to Watt however it was not a Muslim defeat from a military standpoint. The Meccans, thinking themselves of having Arabia under their control, had aimed to destroy Muslims completely. But they completely failed to achieve this aim. They killed 75 Muslims for the loss of 77 of their own in Badr.[58]) However, the Meccan did not occupy the town 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.[59] In April 627, Abu Sufyan led another strong force against Medina, but couldn’t overcome the defenders in the Battle of the Trench.

Following the Muslims’ victory at the Battle of the Trench, the Muslims were able, through conversion and conquest, to extend their rule to many of the neighboring cities and tribes.[citation needed]

Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Medina

Main article: Muhammad and the Jews

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 claims 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”.[60]On religious grounds, the Jews were skeptical of the possibility of a non-Jewish prophet,[61] and also had concerns about possible incompatibilities between the Qur’an and their own scriptures.[61][62] 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 claimed that it was “restoring the pure monotheism of Abraham which had been corrupted in various, clearly specified, ways by Jews and Christians”.[61] According to Peters, “The Jews also began secretly to connive with Muhammad’s enemies in Mecca to overthrow him.”[63]

After each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery (see 2:100) and attacked it. After Badr and Uhud, the Banu Qainuqa and Banu Nadir, respectively, were expelled “with their families and possessions” from Medina. After the Battle of the Trench in 627, the Muslims accused the Jews of Banu Qurayza of conspiring with the Meccans, then wiped them out.[64]

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.[65] 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.[63] 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.[66] 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.”[63]

The truce of Hudaybiyya

Main article: Treaty of Hudaybiyya

Although Muhammad had already delivered verses (2:1962:210) about the performing of Hajj, Muhammad and Muslims did not perform it due to the enmity of the Quraish. It was the month of Shawwal 6 A.H. when Muhammad saw in a vision that he was shaving his head after the Hajj.[67][68] Muhammad therefore decided to perform the Hajj in the following month. Hence around the 13th of March, 628 with 1400 Companions he went towards Mecca without the least intention of giving battle.[69] But the Quraish were determined to offer resistance to Muslims and they posted themselves outside Mecca, closing all access to the city.[69] In order to settle the dispute peacefully, Muhammad halted at a place called Hudaybiyya. Hence after series of talks a treaty was signed. The main points of treaty were the following:

  1. The two parties and their allies should desist from hostilities against each other[70][71]
  2. Muhammad, should not perform Hajj this year[70][72]
  3. They may come next year to perform Hajj (unarmed) but shall not stay in Mecca for more than three days[70][72]
  4. Any Muslim living in Mecca cannot settle in Medina, but Medinan Muslims may come and join Meccans (and will not be returned).[73]

Many Muslims were not satisfied with the terms of the treaty. However, the Qur’anic sura “Al-Fath” (The Victory) 48:148:29 assured the Muslims that the expedition from which they were now returning must be considered a victorious one.[74][75] 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.[76][77][78]

Muhammad’s letters to the Heads of State

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.[79][80][81] 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.[79][80]

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.[82][83] 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.[82][84] A clan of the Bakr made a night raid against the Khuz’aah, killing a few of them.[82][84] 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.[82] After this event, Muhammad sent a message to Mecca with three conditions, asking them to accept one of them. These were the following[85]

  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.[85] 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.[86]

In 630, Muhammad marched on Mecca with an enormous force, said to number more than ten thousand men. 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 (what was his house) adjacent to Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.[citation needed]

Muhammad as a military leader

Main article: Muhammad as a general

For most of his life, Muhammad was a merchant, then a religious leader. He took up the sword late in his life. He was an active military leader for ten years.

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Family life

Main article: Muhammad’s marriages

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.[87] This marriage is described as “long” and “happy,” and he relied upon Khadija in many ways.[88][89] After her death, friends of Muhammad advised him to marry again, but he was reluctant to do so.[89][90] 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, to make for a total of eleven, of whom nine or ten survived him. Scholars such as Esposito and Watt hold that most of the marriages had political or social motives.[91][92]

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] While there is some debate about the age of Aisha (Ayesha), most references, including the Bukhari Hadith, put the marriage age at 5 or 6 and consummation of the marriage at the age of 9.[93][94][95]

Muhammad had children by only two wives. Khadijah is said to have borne him four daughters and a son; only one daughter, Fatima and her children survived her father, see Shia. 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. Maria al-Qibtiyya bore him a son, but the child died when he was ten months old.

Descendants of Muhammad are known as sharifs شريف (plural: ِأشراف Ashraaf) or sayyid. Many rulers and notables in Muslim countries, past and present have professed such descent, with various degrees of credibility, such as the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, the Idrisids, the current royal families of Jordan. In various Muslim countries, there are societies of varying credibility that authenticate claims of descent.[citation needed]

There is some dispute between Shia scholars regarding the genealogy of the four daughters of Khadija on whether they were born to Khadijah from her marriage to Muhammad, an earlier marriage, or if they were in fact the daughters of a widowed and dead sister of Khadija. Sunnis believe he had four daughters with Khadîjah. Shi’a accept Fatimah to be Muhammad’s only surviving child,[citation needed] while some Sunni question that.[citation needed]

There is also a difference of opinion regarding whether he had two or four sons. The conflict arises from some reports on the sons of Khadijah mentioning two sons called Tahir and Tayyab,[citation needed] and another mentioning one called Abdullah who was also called Tahir and possibly also called Tayyab.[citation needed] Ibrâhîm was the only child borne to him by Maria during his residence in Medina and the last to be born. Abdullâh was born after he declared himself a prophet but died during his residence in Mecca. All his other sons died before his claims of prophecy.

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:

  • Abdullah ibn Abbas
  • Abu Bakr
  • Abu Dharr
  • Ali ibn Abi Talib
  • Ammar
  • Bilal
  • Hamza
  • Al-Miqdad
  • Sa’d
  • Zayd
  • Salman the Persian
  • Talha
  • Umar
  • Uthman
  • Zubair

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.”[96]

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.[97]

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.[97][98][99][100][101] 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”[97]

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.[102]

Economic reforms addressed the plight of the poor, which was becoming an issue in pre-Islamic Mecca.[103] The Qur’an requires payment of an alms tax (zakat) for the benefit of the poor,[104] and as Muhammad’s position grew in power he demanded that those tribes who wanted to ally with him implement the zakat in particular.[105]

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,[106] and Muhammad did not claim to have done so,[10] Muslim tradition credits Muhammad with several supernatural events.[107] For example, many Muslim commentators and some western scholars have interpreted the Qur’anic verses 54:1-2 to refer to Muhammad splitting the Moon in view of the Quraysh when they had begun to persecute his followers.[106][108] This tradition has inspired many Muslim poets, especially in India.[10]

Modern Muslim biographies of Muhammad more often portray him as a progressive social and political reformer, successful military leader and model of human virtue.[109] According to Carl Ernst, Muslims began to deemphasize superhuman views of Muhammad following the growth of scientific rationalism in Muslim countries.[110] 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.[109]

2 thoughts on “Muhammad

  1. Interesting I had never actually read anything about Islam and had no idea how it started. I wonder if Mohammad wrote the Curran himself or others wrote it while he was alive or after his death. Makes me want to know more about it.

  2. I did not realize the Qur’an was written more than a year after the death of Muhammad. After reading your article I was also surprised to see there are a few similarities between some of the christian and Muslim belief’s.

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