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Muhammad (Arabic محمد muḥammad; also Mohammed, Mohamet, and other variants ), 570- 632 C.E., was an Arab religious, political, and military leader who established Islam and the Muslim community ( Ummah, Arabic: أمة) in Mecca to whom he preached. He united the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula into a federation of allied tribes with its capital at Medina.

He is considered a prophet in Islam. Muslims do not regard him as the founder of a new religion, but rather believe him 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 whose messages had become corrupted (only misinterpreted according to the majority of early and some modern scholars ) by people over time. For the last 23 years of his life, beginning at the age of forty, Muhammad reported receiving revelations from God delivered through the angel Gabriel. The content of these revelations, known as the Qur'an, was memorized and recorded by his followers and compiled into a single volume shortly after his death. The Qur'an, along with the details of Muhammad’s life as recounted by his biographers and his contemporaries, forms the basis of Islamic theology.


"Muhammad" in Arabic calligraphy.
"Muhammad" in Arabic calligraphy.

The name Muhammad etymologically means "the praised one" in Arabic. Within Islam, Muhammad is known as "The Prophet" and "The 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) . The Qur'an also refers to Muhammad as "Ahmad" ( 61:6) (Arabic :احمد), Arabic for "more praiseworthy".


Born to ‘Abdu’llah ibn ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, Muhammad initially adopted the occupation of a merchant. The Islamic sources indicate that he was a charismatic person known for his integrity. The sources report that, in his youth, he was called by the nickname "Al-Amin" (Arabic: الامين ), a common Arab name meaning "faithful, trustworthy," and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muhammad would retreat to a cave located at the summit of Mount Hira, just outside Mecca in the Arabian Hijaz. There he fasted and prayed, and would often reflect on the troubles of Arab society that seemed to affect him profoundly. In the year 610, when Muhammad was about forty, he reported being visited in the cave by the Archangel Gabriel who commanded him to recite verses sent by God. According to Islamic belief, these revelations continued for the next twenty-three years, until his death. The collection of these verses is known as the Qur'an. He expanded his mission as a prophet, publicly preaching strict monotheism, preaching against the social evils of his day, and warning of a Day of Judgment when all humans shall be held responsible for their deeds. He did not wholly reject Judaism and Christianity, two other monotheistic faiths known to the Arabs, but said that he had been sent by God in order to complete and perfect those teachings.

Persian illustration depicting Muhammad.- Bibliothèque nationale de France
Persian illustration depicting Muhammad.- Bibliothèque nationale de France

After initially ignoring Muhammad's call, the elites in Mecca, commercially threatened by the growing popularity of his message, persecuted Muhammad and his followers. This continued, and intensified, over more than a decade. The hardships reached a new level for Muhammad after the deaths of his wife Khadija, an early convert to the faith, and his uncle Abu Talib, an important political protector of Muhammad. Eventually, in 622, he was forced to move out of Mecca in a journey known to Muslims as the Hijra (the Migration). He settled in the area of Yathrib (now known as Medina) with his followers, where he was the leader of the first avowedly Muslim community.

Eight years of war between Muhammad and Meccan forces followed, ending with the 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. On returning to Medina he fell ill and died after a few days, on June 8.

Under the caliphs who assumed authority after his death, the Islamic empire expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, much of the Iberian Peninsula, 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.

Western Academic view of Muhammad

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

The traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature) provide further information on Muhammad's life. The earliest surviving written sira (Biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) dates to 150 years after Muhammad, the compilation and (critical) analysis of which took place even later.

Life based on Islamic traditions

Part of a series of articles on


History of Islam

Beliefs and practices

Oneness of God
Profession of Faith
Prayer • Fasting
Charity • Pilgrimage

Major figures

Household of Muhammad
Prophets of Islam
Companions of Muhammad

Texts & Laws

Qur'an Sunnah • Hadith
Fiqh • Sharia • Theology

Major branches

Sunni • Shi'a

Societal aspects

Academics • History
Philosophy • Science
Art • Architecture • Cities
Calendar • Holidays • Women
Leaders • Politics • Islamism

See also

Vocabulary of Islam

Most Muslims, and Western academics who trust Islamic traditions, accept a much more detailed version of Muhammad's life.

Before Medina


Muhammad traced his genealogy as follows:

Muhammad was born into the Quraysh tribe. He is the son of Abd Allah, who is 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 believed to be their common ancestor. Adnan in turn is said to have been a descendant of Ishmael, son of Abraham. (ibn means "son of" in Arabic; alternate names of people with two names are given in parentheses.)

He was also called Abu-Qaasim (meaning "father of Qaasim") by some, after his short-lived first son.


Muhammad was born into an affluent family settled in the northern Arabian town of Mecca. Tradition places it in the Year of the Elephant, commonly identified with 570. Some calculate his birthday as 20 April of that year, while Shi'a Muslims believe it to have been 26 April 570. Other sources calculate the year of his birth to have been 571. Muhammad's father, Abdullah, had died almost six months before he was born and the young boy was brought up by his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his mother Amina and became fully orphaned. "Many years later, when he was exiled by his Meccan opponents, on his first pilgrimage from Medina to Mecca, he stopped at his mother's grave and cried bitterly, bringing tears to the eyes of his companions." When he was eight years of age, his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, who had become his guardian, also died. Muhammad now came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe, the most powerful in Mecca.

Mecca was a thriving commercial centre, due in great part to a stone shrine (now called the Kaaba) that housed statues of many Arabian gods. Merchants from various tribes would visit Mecca during the pilgrimage season, when all inter-tribal warfare was forbidden and they could trade in safety. While still in his teens, Muhammad began accompanying his uncle on trading journeys to Syria. He thus became well-travelled and knowledgeable about foreign ways.

Middle years

Muhammad became a merchant. He "was involved in trade between the Indian ocean and the Mediterranean Sea." He gained a reputation for reliability and honesty that attracted a proposal from Khadijah, a forty-year-old widow in 595. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one.

Ibn Ishaq records that Khadijah bore Muhammad six children: two sons named Al Qasem and Abdullah (who is also called Al Tayeb and Al Taher) and four daughters. All of Khadija's children were born before Muhammad received 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.

The Shi'a say that Muhammad had only the one daughter, Fatima, and that the other daughters were either children of Khadijah by her previous marriage, or children of her sister.

The Beginnings of the Qur'an

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 the cave of Hira on Jabal al-nur near Mecca. Here The first revelations of the Quran are reported to have been revealed to him by the angel Gabriel around the year 610. Muslim tradition narrates that the angel appeared and commanded him to recite the following verses:

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.

His wife Khadijah and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal were the first to believe that Muhammad was a prophet. They were soon followed by Muhammad's ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr and adopted son Zaid bin Muhammad (later known as Zaid bin Haarith.)

These revelations are reported to have frequently occurred over the next 23 years until his death. According to the tradition, the form of the revelations or messages from God was sometimes hearing the words spoken to him, but mostly he would have found them in his heart. "Muhammad believed he could easily distinguish between his own thinking and these revelations." To people around Muhammad, the most convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations, according to Welch, must have been his mysterious seizures at the moments of inspiration. Welch states that graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, since they are unlikely to have been invented by later Muslims. Muhammad's enemies however accused him as one possessed, a soothsayer, or a magician since these experiences made an impression similar to those soothsayer figures well known in ancient Arabia.

Around 613, Muhammad began to spread his message amongst the people. Most of those who heard his message ignored it. A few mocked him. Others believed and joined him.


The Cambridge History of Islam states that three following groups were forming the early converts to Islam: 1. Younger brothers and sons of great merchants 2. People who had fallen out of the first rank in their tribe or failed to attain it 3. The weak - mostly unprotected foreigners. Although these three groups of course converted because they believed the teaching of the Qur'an was correct, but these groups, The Cambridge History of Islam writes, were all suffering from the selfishness and unscrupulous dealings of the great merchants.

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 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, but Muhammad rejected their offer. Muhammad and his followers were thus persecuted. Some of them fled to the Ethiopian Kingdom of Aksum and founded a small colony there under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian king (called Al-Negashi, or "The King"). see Islam in Ethiopia.

Several suras and parts of suras are said to date from this time, and reflect its circumstances: see for example al-Masadd, al-Humaza, parts of Maryam and al-Anbiya, al-Kafirun, and Abasa.

In 619, both Muhammad's wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died; it was known as aamul hazn ("the year of sorrows"). Muhammad's own clan withdrew their protection of him. During this time Muslims endured ostracism, an economic embargo, poverty, hunger, even beatings and death threats.

Isra and Miraj

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 furthest mosque" (in Arabic: Masjid al Aqsa), identified with the Temple Mount 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.Those Muslims subscribing to the latter view consider the place under the Dome of the Rock the site from which Muhammad ascended to Heaven.

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
570 Legendary unsuccessful Ethiopian attack on 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: Mecca
c 610 Appears as Prophet of Islam: Mecca
c 613 Begins spreading message of Islam publicly: Mecca
c 614 Begins to gather following: Mecca
c 615 Emigration of Muslims to Ethiopia
616 Banu Hashim clan boycott begins
c 618 Medinan Civil War: Medina
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 battle Muslims
625 Expulsion of Banu Nadir
626 Attack on Dumat al-Jandal: Syria
627 Battle of the Trench
627 Destruction of Banu Qurayza
627 Bani Kalb subjugation: Dumat al-Jandal
628 Treaty of Hudaybiyya
c 628 Gains access to Mecca 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 Establishes theocracy: 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

In Medina

1st Hijra

In 615, when a band of Muslims were counseled by the Prophet Muhammad to escape persecution in Mecca and travel to Ethiopia, which was ruled by a pious Christian king. see Islam in Ethiopia. In that year, his followers were fleeing from Mecca's new leading tribe, the reactionary Quraysh, who sent emissaries to bring them back to Arabia, but the King of Ethiopia protected the Prophet and his followers. Since then, the Prophet himself instructed his followers who came to Ethiopia, to respect and protect Ethiopia as well as live in peace with Ethiopian Christians. Accordingly, some scholars state that Ethiopia was the country that saved Islam from its near destruction and termination.

2nd Hijra

By 622, life in the small Muslim community of Mecca was becoming not only difficult, but dangerous. Muslim traditions say that there were several attempts to assassinate Muhammad. Muhammad then emigrated to Medina, then known as Yathrib, a large agricultural oasis where there were a number of Muslim converts. 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).

Muhammad came to Medina as a mediator, invited to resolve the feud between the Arab factions of Aws and Khazraj. He ultimately did so by absorbing both factions into his Muslim community, forbidding bloodshed among Muslims. 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.

There was fighting in Yathrib for around a hundred years before 620. The Jewish tribes allied with other clans and were sometimes on opposing sides. 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." 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. 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, "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).

Muhammad and his followers are said to have negotiated an agreement with the other Medinans, a document now known as the Constitution of Medina (date debated), which laid out the terms on which the different factions, specifically the Jews and other " Peoples of the Book" could exist within the new Islamic State.

The Jewish groups had refused to acknowledge Muhammad as a prophet and in the document only appear second in character. [And] the prestige of his [Muhammad] military successes [later in life] gave him almost autocratic power.

Some academic historians attribute the change of qibla, the Muslim direction of prayer, from the site of the former Temple in Jerusalem to the Kaaba in Mecca, which occurred during this period, to Muhammad's abandonment of hope of recruiting Jews as allies or followers. According to Muslims, the change of qibla was seen as a command from God both reflecting the independence of the Muslims as well as a test to discern those who truly followed the revelation and those who were simply opportunistic. This change happened once the idols in Kaaba were removed and destroyed. Minou Reeves, Fellow of the Institute of Linguists at London, states that the change in qibla or the change in the fasting day from Ashura, corresponding to Yom Kippur, to Ramadan, only shows that Islam was instituted progressively and the claim that "Muhammad made up the religion as he went along, to suit the circumstances" is unjustified.


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

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. It should be noted that Islamic scholars question narratives regarding looting the caravan on the basis of the Qur'anic version of the account. 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. This marked the real beginning of Muslim military achievement.

Rule consolidated

To his followers, the victory in Badr apparently seemed a divine authentication of Muhammad's prophethood. Muhammad and his followers were now a dominant force in the oasis of Yathrib (Medina).

After Khadija's death, Muhammad had 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).

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).

Continued warfare

In 625 the Meccan general Abu Sufyan marched on Medina with three thousand men. The ensuing Battle of Uhud took place on March 23 and ended in a stalemate. The Meccans had lost too many men to pursue the Muslims into Medina.

In April 627, Abu Sufyan led another strong force against Medina. But Muhammad had dug a trench around Medina and successfully defended the city 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.

Muhammad and the Jewish tribes of Medina

In the course of Muhammad's proselytizing in Mecca, he viewed Christians and Jews (whom he referred to as " People of the Book") as natural allies, sharing the core principles of his teachings, and anticipated their acceptance and support. Muslims, like Jews, were at that time praying towards Jerusalem. Muhammad was very excited to move to Medina, where the Jewish community there had long worshiped the one God.

Many Medinans converted to the faith of the Meccan immigrants, but the Jewish tribes did not. Much to Muhammad's disappointment, they rejected his status as a prophet. Their opposition "may well have been for political as well as religious reasons". According to Watt, "Jews would normally be unwilling to admit that a non-Jew could be a prophet." Mark Cohen adds that Muhammad was appearing "centuries after the cessation of biblical prophecy" and "couched his message in a verbiage foreign to Judaism both in its format and rhetoric." As Muhammad taught that his message was identical to those of previous prophets (such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus), the Jews were furthermore in the position to make some Muslims doubt about his prophethood; the Jews, according to Watt, could argue that "some passages in the Qur'an contradicted their ancient scriptures". Mark Cohen states that "Muhammad could only have appeared to [Jews] as an impostor whose... message bore but a skewed resemblance to biblical and rabbinic Judaism." On political reasons, Esposito writes that "the Jewish tribes, which had long lived in Medina and had political ties with the Quraysh ... cooperated with (Muhammad's) Meccan enemies." Watt states that many of the Jews had close links with Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy , "the potential prince of Medina" who "is said that but for the arrival of Muhammad, had not become" the chief arbitrator of the community. The Jews may have hoped for greater influence if Ubayy had become a ruler. Watt writes that the Islamic response to these criticisms was:

The Qur'an, met these intellectual criticisms by developing the conception of the religion of Abraham. While the knowledge of Abraham came from the Old Testament and material based on that, Abraham could be regarded as the ancestor of the Arabs through Ishmael. It was also an undeniable fact that he was not a Jew or Christian, since the Jews are either to be taken as the followers of Moses or as the descendants of Abraham's grandson, Jacob. At the same time Abraham had stood for the worship of God alone. The Qur'an therefore claimed that it was restoring the pure monotheism of Abraham which had been corrupted in various, clearly specified, ways by Jews and Christians.

Watt states that the charge of altering the scripture may mean no more than giving false interpretations to some passages, though in later Islam it was taken to mean that parts of the Bible are corrupt. Muslims were also arguing that there was nothing surprising in Muhammad's rejection by Jews, as that had had occurred to other prophets mentioned in Jewish scripture. Watt claims that the Quran "also went on to criticize Jewish exaggerations of their claim to be the chosen people" and argued against the supposed claim of the Jews of Medina "that they alone had a true knowledge of God" (Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters, p.14). The Qur'an also criticized the Jews for believing that Ezra is the Son of God, a claim unattested either in Jewish or other extra-Qur'anic sources. (Kate Zebiri, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an, The Qur'an and Polemics) David Waines opines that the Qur'an is mirroring contemporary popular beliefs many of which probably bordered on heresy. (David Waines, An Introduction to Islam, p.27) Michael Cook considers the charge of considering Ezra as the Son of God to be petty or obscure. (Michael Cook, Muhammad, p.34)

In the Constitution of Medina, Muhammad demanded the Jews' political loyalty in return for religious and cultural autonomy. However, after each major battle with the Medinans, Muhammad accused one of the Jewish tribes of treachery (See 2:100). 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 Jews of Banu Qurayza were accused of conspiring with the Meccans; Qurayza men were beheaded, women and children enslaved, and their properties confiscated. Watt writes that some of the Arab tribe of Aws wanted to honour their old alliance with Qurayza, are said to asked Muhammad to forgive the Qurayza for their sake as Muhammad had previously forgiven the Nadir for the sake of Abd-Allah ibn Ubayy. Muhammad met this feeling by suggesting that the fate of Qurayza should be decided by one of their Muslim allies and thereby avoiding any likelihood of blood-feud. A suggestion to which the Jews agreed. Muhammad appointed Sa'd ibn Mua'dh, a leading man among Aws, who passed execution sentence against Qurayza. Watt states that there is no need to suppose that Muhammad brought pressure on Sa'd ibn Mua'dh: Those of the Aws who wanted leniency for Qurayza seems to have been regarded Qurayza unfaithful only to Muhammad and not to Aws; the old Arab tradition required support of an ally, independent of the ally's conduct to other people. But Sa'd didn't want to allow tribal allegiance to come before the Islamic allegiance.

The Banu Qurayza incident has generated much controversy in the centuries since, and is therefore worth examining more closely here. Watt writes that "during the siege of Medina, Muhammad became anxious about their conduct and sent some of the leading Muslims to talk to them [the Jewish tribes]; the result was disquieting. Though Qurayza does not appear to have committed any overt hostile act and been overtly correct in their behaviour, they had almost certainly[probably ] been involved in negotiations with the enemy and would have attacked Muhammad in the rear had there been an opportunity. " Marco Scholler believes the Banu Qurayza were "openly, probably actively," supporting Meccans and their allies. Finally, Welch states that Muslims "discovered, or perhaps became suspected" that the Jews were conspiring with the enemy." A minority of academic scholars reject the incident holding that Ibn Ishaq, the first biographer of Muhammad, supposedly gathered many details of the incident from descendants of the Qurayza Jews themselves. These descendants allegedly embellished or manufactured details of the incident by borrowing from histories of Jewish persecutions during Roman times. Watt, however, finds this argument "not entirely convincing."

The motivation for Muhammad's actions was political rather than racial or theological. John Esposito writes that the massacre of traitors was common practice, "neither alien to Arab customs nor to that of the Hebrew prophets." Watt writes that in Arab eyes, the massacre "wasn't barbarous but a mark of strength, since it showed that the Muslims were not afraid of blood reprisals."

In Watt's view, the "Jews had opposed Muhammad to the utmost of their abilities and they were utterly crushed." Watt speculates that had Jews come to terms with Muhammad instead of opposing him, they had become partners in the Arab Empire and Islam a sect of Jewry. They could have secured very favourable terms with him, including religious autonomy. A great opportunity that was lost.

The truce of Hudaybiyya

Although verses ( 2:196- 2:210) about the performing of Hajj had already come, 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. Muhammad therefore decided to perform the Haj 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. But the Quraish were determined to offer resistance to Muslims and they posted themselves outside Mecca, closing all access to the city. . 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. They have agreed to lay down the burden of war for ten years
  2. Muhammad, should not perform Hajj this year
  3. They may come next year to perform Hajj (unarmed) but shall not stay in Mecca for more than three days
  4. Any Muslim living in Mecca cannot settle in Medina, but Medinan Muslims may come and join Meccans (and will not be returned).

Many Muslims were not satisfied with the terms of the treaty. However, on the way to Medina, God revealed to the Prophet a new chapter of the Qur'an named "Al-Fath" (The Victory) 48:1- 48:29. The new Revelation left no doubt in Muslims' minds that the expedition from which they were now returning must be considered a victorious one. . With the passage of time, it became more and more apparent why the Qur'an had declared the truce a victory. 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.

Muhammad's letters to the Heads of State

After the truce signed by the Hudaybiyya, Muhammad is said to have sent letters to many rulers of the world, demanding they convert to Islam. 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.

After the conquest

The truce of Hudaybiyya had been in force for two years. . 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. A clan of the Bakr made a night raid against the Khuz'aah, killing a few of them . 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 . After the fighting Muhammad offered Meccans following three conditions.

Muhammad advancing on Mecca, with the angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail (16th century Ottoman illustration of the Siyer-i Nebi)
Muhammad advancing on Mecca, with the angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail (16th century Ottoman illustration of the Siyer-i Nebi)
  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. 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. .

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.

Unification 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.


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, at the age of sixty-three. He is buried in the Muhammad's tomb in the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

Muhammad as a military leader

For most of the sixty-three years 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.

Family life

Muhammad was first married to Khadijah at the age of 25 with whom he lived in happiness and fidelity during the prime of his life for 25 years. The death of Khadijah, his dear wife with whom he shared his every hope and fear seemed inconsolable and some of his friends advised him to marry again to reduce his grief but he was reluctant to do so. 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. It had already been agreed that Aisha should marry another man, whose father, though still pagan, was friendly to the Muslims. By common consent, however, this agreement was set aside and Aisha was betrothed to Muhammad.' As was common among Arabs and particularly among nobles and leaders of the Arabian society, later Muhammad married more wives mostly because of social and political motives, to make for a total of eleven, of whom nine or ten were living at the time of his death. "As was customary for Arab chiefs, many were political marriages to cement alliances." For example, as Watt in Encyclopedia of Islam states, Muhammad's marriage to Aisha to 'must have seen ... a means of strengthening the ties between himself and Abu Bakr, his chief follower.' "Others were marriages to widows of his companians who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection. Remarriage was difficult in a society that emphasized virginity." However these motivations should not obscure the fact that Muhammad was attracted to his wives and enjoyed his wives. Muhammad gave much emphasis to the importance of family and was concerned for his wives. He also viewed sex as "a gift from God to be enjoyed within the bonds of marriage" Muhammad, by all indications, "did not behave like a traditional head of household." Some of Muhammad's companians were "shocked by the way he allowed his wives to stand up to him and answer him back. Muhammad regularly helped with household chores, mended his own cloths, preparing his food and took his wives’ advice seriously. On one occasion Umm salamah, the most intelligent of his wives, helped him to prevent a mutiny." Sometimes his wives were of worry, for example when Muhammad found them quarrelling about "the division of booty after a raid, he threatened to divorce them all unless they lived more strictly in accordance with Islamic values ( 33:28-29)"

Among Muhammad's wives, the status of Maria al-Qibtiyya is disputed; she may have been a slave, a freed slave, or a wife.

Aisha was the only virgin wife of Muhammad. Watt states that she 'cannot have been more than twelve years old when the marriage was consummated, while Spellberg writes that Aisha's youth might have been deliberately emphasized by scholars during the Abbasid caliphate to reject Shi'a political claims for the descendants of Ali ibn Abi Talib.

Muhammad had children by only two of these unions. Khadijah is said to have borne him four daughters and a son; only one daughter, Fatima, survived her father. 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. Asma Barlas, states that Muhammad "was far more progressive than his peers on the issue of children's position in the community."

William Montgomery Watt states:

He seems to have been specially fond of children and to have got on well with them. Perhaps it was the yearning of a man who saw all his sons die as infants. Much of his paternal affection went to his adopted son Zayd. He was also attached to his younger cousin 'Ali ibn-Abi-Talib, who had been a member of his household for a time... For a time a grand-daughter called Umamah was a favourite. He would carry her on his shoulder during the public prayers, setting her down when he bowed or prostrated, then picking her up again. On one occasion he teased his wives by showing them a necklace and saying he would give it to the one who was dearest to him; when he thought their feelings were sufficiently agitated, he presented it not to any of them, but to Umamah...He was able to enter into the spirit of childish games and had many friends among children. He had fun with the children who came back from Abyssinia and spoke Abyssinian.

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. Two of his wives - Khadîjah and Zaynab bint Khuzayma - died during his lifetime. Only Khadijah and Maria al-Qibtiyya bore him many children.

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. Sunni's believe he had four daughters with Khadîjah.

Shi'a accept Fatimah to be Muhammad's only surviving child , while some Sunni question that .

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 , and another mentioning one called Abdullah who was also called Tahir and possibly also called Tayyab . 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 his prophethood but died during his residence in Mecca. All the other sons died before his prophethood.

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


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

Islamic law transformed the nature of society and family. Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, believes that the advent of Islam in a sense was a revolution which only partially succeeded after long struggles due to tensions between the new religion and very old societies in the countries that the Muslims conquered. He thinks that one such area of tension was a consequence of what he sees as the egalitarian nature of Islamic doctrine. Islam from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents."

John Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, sees Muhammad as a reformer who did away with many of the terrible practices of the pagan Arabs. He states that Muhammad's "insistence that each person was personally accountable not to tribal customary law but to an overriding divine law shook the very foundations of Arabian society... Muhammad proclaimed a sweeping program of religious and social reform that affected religious belief and practices, business contracts and practices, male-female and family relations.". Esposito holds that the Qur'an's reforms consist of 'regulations or moral guidance that limit or redefine rather than prohibit or replace existing practices.' He cites slavery and women's status as two examples.

Social security and family structure

William Montgomery Watt, a scholar of Islamic studies, states that Muhammad was both a social and moral reformer in his day and generation. He asserts that Muhammad created a "new system of social security and a new family structure, both of which were a vast improvement on what went before. By taking what was best in the morality of the nomad and adapting it for settled communities, he established a religious and social framework for the life of many races of men."


Bilal, a freed slave, was the first Muezzin
Bilal, a freed slave, was the first Muezzin

The Qur'an makes numerous references to slavery, regulates it and thus implicitly accepts it ( 2:178, 16:75, 30:28). Bernard Lewis states, "Slavery existed in all the ancient civilizations of Asia, Africa, Europe, and pre-Columbian America and had been accepted and even endorsed by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as other religions of the world." Lewis, however, states that Islam brought two major changes to ancient slavery which were to have far-reaching consequences. "One of these was the presumption of freedom; the other, the ban on the enslavement of free persons except in strictly defined circumstances," Lewis continues. The position of the Arabian slave was "enormously improved": the Arabian slave "was now no longer merely a chattel but was also a human being with a certain religious and hence a social status and with certain quasi-legal rights."

In Muslim lands, in contrast to the ancient and colonial systems, slaves had a certain legal status and had obligations as well as rights to the slave owner, Bernard Lewis states. Lewis speculates that it was for this reason that "the position of the domestic slave in Muslim society was in most respects better than in either classical antiquity or the nineteenth-century Americas." The pressure from the European opponents of slavery on the Ottoman empire to abolish slavery was not because of the situation of slaves in Muslim lands (as it was no worse than, and even in some cases better than, that of the free poor) but because the processes of acquisition and transportation of slaves to Muslim lands often imposed appalling hardships although "once the slaves were settled in Islamic culture they had genuine opportunities to realize their potential. Many of them became merchants in Mecca, Jedda, and elsewhere." Lewis states that the practice of slavery in the Islamic empire represented a "vast improvement on that inherited from antiquity, from Rome, and from Byzantium." Although slavery was not abolished, Annemarie Schimmel asserts that as the reforms seriously limited the supply of new slaves, slavery would be theoretically abolished with the expansion of Islam.

Women's rights

Majid Khadduri, professor and director of Middle East Studies at the School for Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, writes that under the Arabian pre-Islamic law of status, women had virtually no rights. Islamic law, however, provided women with a number of rights. John Esposito, professor of Islamic Studies at Georgetown University, states that the reforms affected marriage, divorce, and inheritance. Women were not accorded with such legal status in other cultures, including the West, until centuries later. Under the Arabian pre-Islamic law, no limitations were set on men's rights to marry or to obtain a divorce. Islamic law, however, restricted polygamy ( 4:3) 'Women were given inheritance rights in a patriarchal society that had previously restricted inheritance to male relatives.' Annemarie Schimmel, Professor of Oriental Studies and Sufism at Harvard university, states that "Compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work" The Oxford Dictionary of Islam states that the general improvement of the status of Arab women included prohibition of female infanticide, and recognizing women's full personhood. The dowery was paid to woman herself rather than her family. Women were also granted the right to live in the matrimonial home and receive financial maintenance during marriage and a waiting period following the death and divorce. "In the earliest centuries of Islam, the position of women was not bad at all. Only over the course of centuries was she increasingly confined to the house and was forced to veil herself." The Quran and Muhammad's example were more favorable to the security and status of women than history and later Muslim practice might suggest. For example, the Qur'an doesn't require women to wear veils; rather, it was a social habit picked up with the expansion of Islam. In fact, since it was impractical for working women to wear veils, "A veiled woman silently announced that her husband was rich enough to keep her idle."

The institution of marriage, characterized by unquestioned male superiority in the pre-Islamic law of status, was redefined and changed into one in which the woman was somewhat of an interested partner. 'For example, the dowry, previously regarded as a bride-price paid to the father, became a nuptial gift retained by the wife as part of her personal property' Under Islamic law, marriage was no longer viewed as a "status" but rather as a "contract". The essential elements of the marriage contract were now an offer by the man, an acceptance by the woman, and the performance of such conditions as the payment of dowry. The woman's consent was imperative. Furthermore, the offer and acceptance had to be made in the presence of at least two witnesses.

William Montgomery Watt, Professor (Emeritus) of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh, believes that Islam is still, in many ways, a man’s religion. However, he states that Muhammad, in the historical context of his time, can be seen as a figure who testified on behalf of women’s rights and improved things considerably. Watt explains the historical context surrounding women's rights at the time of Muhammad: "It appears that in some parts of Arabia, notably in Mecca, a matrilineal system was in the process of being replaced by a patrilineal one at the time of Muhammad. Growing prosperity caused by a shifting of trade routes was accompanied by a growth in individualism. Men were amassing considerable personal wealth and wanted to be sure that this would be inherited by their own actual sons, and not simply by an extended family of their sisters’ sons. This led to a deterioration in the rights of women. At the time Islam began, the conditions of women were terrible - they had no right to own property, were supposed to be the property of the man, and if the man died everything went to his sons." Muhammad, however, by "instituting rights of property ownership, inheritance, education and divorce, gave women certain basic safeguards."

Haddad and Esposito state that 'although Islam is often criticized for the low status it has ascribed to women, many scholars believe that it was primarily the interpretation of jurists, local traditions, and social trends which brought about a decline in the status of Muslim women. In this view Muhammad granted women rights and privileges in the sphere of family life, marriage, education, and economic endeavors, rights that help improve women's status in society.' However, 'the Arab Bedouins were dedicated to custom and tradition and resisted changes brought by the new religion.' Haddad and Esposito state that in this view 'the inequality of Muslim women happened because of the preexisting habits of the people among whom Islam took root. The economics of these early Muslim societies were not favorable to comfortable life for women. More important, during Islam's second and third centuries the interpretation of the Qur'an was in the hands of deeply conservative scholars, whose decisions are not easy to challenge today. The Qur'an is more favorable to women than is generally realized. In principle, except for a verse or two, the Qur'an grants women equality. For example, Eve was not the delayed product of Adam’s rib (as in the tradition for Christians and Jews); the two were born from a single soul. It was Adam, not Eve, who let the devil convince them to eat the forbidden fruit. Muslim women are instructed to be modest in their dress, but only in general terms. Men are also told to be modest. Many Muslims believe the veiling and seclusion are later male inventions, social habits picked up with the conquest of the Byzantine and Persian Empires.'

Gerhard Endress, professor of Islamic Studies at Ruhr University, states: "The social system ... build up a new system of marriage, family and inheritance; this system treated women as an individual too and guaranteed social security to her as well as to her children. Legally controlled polygamy was an important advance on the various loosely defined arrangements which had previously been both possible and current; it was only by this provision (backed up by severe punishment for adultery), that the family, the core of any sedentary society could be placed on a firm footing."

Social reforms

Dale Eickelman, Professor of Anthropology and Human Relations, writes in Encyclopedia of the Qur'an that:

Writing in 1960s, sociologist Robert Bellah (Beyond belief) argued that Islam in its seventh-century origins was, for its time and place, "remarkably the high degree of commitment, involvement, and participation expected from the rank-and-file members of the community." Its leadership positions were open, and divine revelation emphasized equality among believers. Bellah argues that the restraints that kept the early Muslim community from "wholly exemplifying" these modern principles underscore the modernity of the basic message of the Qur'an, which exhorted its initial audience in seventh-century Arabia to break through the "stagnant localisms" of tribe and kinship. In making such statements, Bellah suggests that the early Islamic community placed a particular value on individuals, as opposed to collective or group responsibility (q.v.), so that efforts by contemporary Muslims to depict the early Islamic community as an egalitarian and participant one are not unwarranted.

Frederick M. Denny, Professor of Islamic Studies and the History of Religions, concludes his article on Community and Society in the Qur'an (cf. Encyclopedia of the Qur'an) by the following remark about the idea of Muslim community (umma), developed by the Qur'an:

Surely the most enduring and influential qur'anic idea of community is that of umma and so flexible is it in specific social, religious, and political terms that it can be embraced across a wide range of concerns by Muslims without their losing a general sense of common cause and consensus concerning the big question of belief and the proper conduct of life both individually and communally. Indeed, the umma idea has enabled Muslims to endure serious setbacks as in the times of western colonialism when political power was at a lower point in many Muslim regions. What is more, the umma ideal does not require a unified political order among Muslims in order to be realized and activated... Whenever one looks in the spreading Muslim populations of today..., the Qur'anic formulations and models of social and communal life of Muslims predominate and provide an ever fresh and innovative approach to defining what is meant to be Muslim and how to live in a pluralistic world alongside other communities and societies, whether religious or secular in nature.

Economic reforms

Michael Bonner, Professor of Medieval Islamic History at the University of Michigan, writes on poverty and economics in the Qur'an that the Qur'an provided a blueprint for a new order in society, in which the poor would be treated more fairly than before. This "economy of poverty" prevailed in Islamic theory and practice until 13th and 14th century. At its heart was a notion of property circulated and purified, in part, through charity, which illustrates a distinctively Islamic way of conceptualizing charity, generosity, and poverty markedly different from "the Christian notion of perennial reciprocity between rich and poor and the ideal of charity as an expression of community love." The Qur'an prohibits bad kind of circulation (often understood interest or usury) and asks for good circulation ( zakat [legal alms giving]). Some of the recipients of charity appear only once in the Qur'an, and others—such as orphans, parents, and beggars—reappear constantly. Most common is the triad of kinsfolk, poor, and travelers. Unlike pre-Islamic Arabian society, the Qur'anic idea of economic circulation as a return of goods and obligations was for everyone, whether donors and recipients know each other or not, in which goods move, and society does what it is supposed to do. The Qur'an's distinctive set of economic and social arrangements, in which poverty and the poor have important roles, show signs of newness. The Qur'an told that the guidance comes to a community that regulates its flow of money and goods in the right direction (from top down) and practices generosity as reciprocation for God's bounty. In a broad sense, the narrative underlying the Qur'an is that of a tribal society becoming urbanized. Many scholars have characterized both the Qur'an and Islam as highly favorable to commerce and to the highly mobile type of society that emerged in the medieval Near East. Muslim tradition (both hadith and historiography) maintains that Muhammad did not permit the construction of any buildings in the market of Medina other than mere tents; nor did he permit any tax or rent to be taken there. This expression of a "free market"—involving the circulation of goods within a single space without payment of fees, taxes, or rent, without the construction of permanent buildings, and without any profiting on the part of the caliphal authority (indeed, of the Caliph himself ) —was rooted in the term sadaqa, "voluntary alms." This coherent and highly appealing view of the economic universe had much to do with Islam's early and lasting success. Since the poor were at the heart of this economic universe, the teachings of the Qur'an on poverty had a considerable, even a transforming effect in Arabia, the Near East, and beyond.

Literary reforms

Wadad Kadi, Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Chicago university and Mustansir Mir, Professor of Islamic studies at Youngstown State University state that:

Although Arabic, as a language and a literary tradition, was quite well developed by the time of Muhammad's prophetic activity, it was only after the emergence of Islam, with its founding scripture in Arabic, that the language reached its utmost capacity of expression, and the literature its highest point of complexity and sophistication. Indeed, it probably is no exaggeration to say that the Qur'an was one of the most conspicuous forces in the making of classical and post-classical Arabic literature.

The main areas in which the Qur'an exerted noticeable influence on Arabic literature are diction and themes; other areas are related to the literary aspects of the Qur'an particularly oaths (q.v.), metaphors, motifs, and symbols. As far as diction is concerned, one could say that qur'anic words, idioms, and expressions, especially "loaded" and formulatic phrases, appear in practically all genres of literature and in such abundance that it is simply impossible to compile a full record of them. For not only did the Qur'an create an entirely new linguistic corpus to express its message, it also endowed old, pre-Islamic words with new meanings and it is these meanings that took root in the language and subsequently in the literature...

Other reforms

Islam reduced the devastating effect of blood feuds, which was common among Arabs, by encouraging compensation in money rather than blood. In case the aggrieved party insisted on blood, unlike the pre-Islamic Arab tradition in which any male relative could be slain, only the culprit himself could be slain.

The Cambridge History of Islam states that the nomadic structure of pre-Islamic Arabia had the serious moral problem of the care of the poor and the unfortunate. "Not merely did the Qur'an urge men to show care and concern for the needy, but in its teaching about the Last day it asserted the existence of a sanction applicable to men as individuals in matters where their selfishness was no longer restrained by nomadic ideas of dishonour."

Islam, in an effort to protect and help vargants, orphans and destitute made regular almsgiving — zakat — obligatory for Muslims. This regular alms-giving developed into a form of income tax to be used exclusively for welfare.

Hossein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, states the following about the social reforms of Islam in pre-Islamic Arabian society

Islamic social teachings also include support and help for those who have been oppressed or deprived in one way or another. In the reform that Islam carried out in Arabian society, it sided with the poor, and, like Christ, who said, "Blessed are the poor," the Prophet said, "Poverty is my pride." Of course, in both instance poverty means, above all, spiritual poverty, but also on the material level the Prophet, like Christ, lived in simplicity and was closer to the poor and weak than the wealthy and the powerful. Although the Prophet said that wealth is like a ladder with which one can either ascend to Heaven or descend to hell, he always emphasized that the poor must be helped and respected regardless of their lack of worldly provisions.

Miracles in the Muslim biographies

The Dome of the Rock, built atop the Jewish Temple Mount, marks the spot from which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to Paradise.
The Dome of the Rock, built atop the Jewish Temple Mount, marks the spot from which Muslims believe Muhammad ascended to Paradise.

The pre-modern Muslim biographies of Muhammad envisions Muhammad as a cosmic figure, invested with superhuman qualities. Modern Muslim biographies of Muhammad however portray him as a progressive social reformer, a political leader and a model of human virtue. The view of these modern biographies is that Muhammad's real miracle, as Daniel Brown states modern historians would probably agree, 'was not a moon split or a sighing palm tree, but the transformation of the Arabs from marauding bands of nomads into world conquerors.'

Carl Ernst believes that this main shift in the treatment of Muhammad has been a response to the stridently negative depictions of Muhammad created by European authors. Daniel Brown adds two more reasons: First, Muslims in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were faced with social and political turmoil. The desire for the restoration of the Muslim community encouraged them to view Muhammad as a model for social and political reform. And lastly, 'the ongoing challenge of reforming or reviving Islamic law perpetuated concern for the life of Muhammad as a normative model for human behaviour.' Ernst states that this main shift reflects the growth of bourgeois scientific rationalism in Muslim countries.


Many critics doubt Muhammad's sincerity. According to William Muir, Muhammad in mecca was a man of good faith, but after the hijra, he says, "There [in Medina] temporal power, aggrandisement, and self-gratification mingled rapidly with the grand object of the Prophet's life, and they were sought and attained by just the same instrumentality." Muir accuses Muhammad of manufacturing messages from heaven. Other criticism is over Muhammad's marriages, especially his marriage with Aisha, when she was nine years old. Many critics of Mohammad use this marrage to say that Mohammad a "pervert."


The Oxford dictionary of Islam writes:

Muhammad served as administrator, legislator, judge, and commander-in-chief as well as teacher, preacher, and prayer leader of the Muslim community. For the scholars of Islamic law he is the legislator-jurist who defined ritual observance; for the mystic he is the ideal seeker of spiritual perfection; for the philosopher and statesman he is the role model of both a conqueror and a just ruler; for ordinary Muslims, he is a model of God's grace and salvation.

Historical impact

After Muhammad, a rapid creation of an empire under the Umayyads established a new polity from the Atlantic to the Indus River. Within a few decades after his death, his successors had united all of Arabia under an Islamic empire, which essentially became the successor to the Sassanid, Byzantine, and ultimately Roman empires. With a historically unprecedented swiftness, they conquered present-day Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Armenia, and most of North Africa. By 750, Islam was as fully established as the two great earlier monotheistic belief systems, Judaism and Christianity, and had become the world's greatest military power. The rest of North Africa came under Muslim rule, as well as most of the Iberian Peninsula, much of Central Asia, and Sindh (in present day Pakistan). As of 2006, Islam is estimated to be the religion of 1.3 billion people.


Muhammad was survived by his daughter Fatima and her children, see Shia. Some say that his daughter Zainab, mother to a daughter called Amma or Umama, survived him as well.

Descendants of Muhammad are known by 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, Many Scholars of Iran and Iraq. In various Muslim countries, there are societies of varying credibility that authenticate claims of descent.

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.

Views on Muhammad

Seal of the Prophets
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." As shown on the Flag of Saudi Arabia
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." As shown on the Flag of Saudi Arabia

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 corrupted by man over time. 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 and greatest of the prophets. Scholars such as Welch however hold that this Muslim belief is most likely a later interpretation of the Seal of the Prophets. Carl Ernst considers this phrase to mean that Muhammad's "imprint on history is as final as a wax seal on a letter". Wilferd Madelung states that the meaning of this term is not certain.

Islamic view

Muslim beliefs concerning Muhammad upon some aspects can vary widely between the sects of Islam. This article focuses on the more common beliefs about Muhammad. For how different sects differ in their views see : Islamic views of Muhammad.

More traditions
Image made in 1315 of Pre-Prophethood Muhammad re-dedicating the Black Stone at the Kaaba. 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.
Image made in 1315 of Pre-Prophethood Muhammad re-dedicating the Black Stone at the Kaaba. 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.
  • Muslims tradition narrates miracles during his time growing up in the desert as an infant during the period when Muhammad was placed in the care of a Bedouin wet nurse - Halima Sadia.
  • After he returned to Mecca, he is said to have been beloved by all around him because he was such a polite and honest child.
  • As a youth, he was called upon to solve a vexing political problem for his Meccan neighbors. They were rebuilding the Kaaba and feuding over which clan should have the honour of raising the Black Stone into place. Muhammad suggested that the heads of each clan raise the Black Stone on a cloth, so that all had the honour of lifting it. Muhammad then put the stone into its place.
  • As a young man and a merchant, Muhammad was known to be trustworthy and honest. The other Meccans called him "Al-Amin", the trustworthy one or the honest one. After he proclaimed his prophethood, however, his neighbors turned against him.

Depictions of Muhammad

Oral and written descriptions are readily accepted by all traditions of Islam, while Muslims differ as to whether or not visual depictions of Muhammad are permissible: Some Muslims believe that to prevent idolatry and shirk, or ascribing partners to Allah, visual depictions of Muhammad and other prophets of Islam should be prohibited. Other Muslims believe respectful depictions should be allowed . Both sides have produced Islamic art — the aniconists through calligraphy and arabesque, the pictorialists through book illustration and architectural decoration . Negative portrayal of Muhammad, whether spoken, written, drawn, or filmed, may be taken as a great offense by Muslims, see Muslim veneration for Muhammad.

Muslim veneration of Muhammad

It is traditional for Muslims to illustrate and express love and veneration for Muhammad. This is observed in a number of different ways. Most notably, 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 more obvious 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, which is punishable by death in Pakistan. The position of the four main Sunni Muslim Maddhabs is that Islam prohibits depicting the prophet Muhammad in art; some non-maddhab groups, such as the Salafi movement, take a similar line. The Shia and others have historically taken a much less restrictive view of such depictions, allowing them if they are to praise 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 images of the people.

Other religious traditions in regard to Muhammad

  • According to some scholars, vague hints of Muhammad's upcoming prophecy are foretold in the Christian Bible. Among those scholars is Ahmed Deedat. A more detailed mention of Muhammad can be found in the Gospel of Barnabas, the earliest version of which has been traced to the late 16th Century. In addition, another reputed gospel, found in Egypt, the Didache gospel, also foretells the coming of prophet Muhammad (meaning the teachings of the twelve Apostles). Article in Arabic
  • 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.
  • The Sikh holy text refers to Muhammad as a holy man, but does not elevate him to the status of a Sikh Guru.

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