The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born around 570 A.D. He would grow up and become the founder of Islam. He was born into a family who was part of the Quraysh Clan which was the ruling tribe in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Mecca was the site of the Ka’bah, an ancient shrine said to have been built by the Prophet Abraham (pbuh). Mecca was an important 6th century trade center and it was dominated by several powerful merchant families. The Quraysh were one of those merchant clans.
The father of Muhammad was named Abd Allah ibn’Abd al-Muttalib and he died before Muhammad was born. His mother was named Aminah and she died when Muhammad was only six years old. Thus, Muhammad became an orphan and was handed over to his grandfather and grandmother to be cared for. His grandfather was head of the Hashim Clan. When his grandfather later died the young boy was given over to his uncle to be raised. His uncle was named Abu Talib.
It was customary for a child to be sent to live for a year or so with a Bedouin family and thus it was with Muhammad as well. This had important implications for the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He learned to endure the hardships of the barren desert as a boy dwelling among the Bedouin. He acquired a taste for Arabic and he learned patience and forbearance from the herdsmen. They lived a relatively solitude lifestyle which Muhammad came to appreciate and understand as he grew older.
Around 590 A.D. the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was in his twenties and he entered into the service of a widow whose name was Khadijah as a merchant. As a merchant Muhammad was actively engaged with the various trader caravans in the north of Arabia. Muhammad came to love and admire Khadijah and later married her making her his wife. Together they had two sons neither of which survived. They also had four daughters. Muhammad traveled widely and frequently during this time in his life and by the time he reached his forties he had begun to seek solitude in a cave on Mount Hira which is outside Mecca. It was while in this cave that Muhammad received the first revelations. It began one day when he was in the cave and heard a voice speak to him. That voice was the voice of the Archangel Gabriel who commanded him to “Recite! In the Name of thy Lord who created, created man from a clot of blood.”
Muhammad pleaded with the angel Gabriel three times concerning his feeling of inability to recite but each time the angel repeated his command. Eventually, Muhammad began to recite the words which are now known as the first 5 verses of the 96th Sura (chapter) of the Holy Qur’an. These 5 verses proclaim God the One Creator of All Things and the Source of alll True Knowledge and Wisdom. Muhammad told no one about this experience except his wife and his close friends. The revelations continued admonishing him to proclaim what he was hearing to all people about the Oneness of God. As Muhammad began to preach more and more people began to listen to him and chose to follow him. Most of his first followers were slaves and the poor. Later, however, some of the most important men in Mecca began to follow him and listen to his preachings.
Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) preachings were not without opposition as not everyone believed he had any revelations at all. Some said he was mad. Others accused him of being a liar and charlatan. Even some people in his own clan rejected his teachings as did some of his own family. Many of the rich merchants did everything they could to silence him as Muhammad spoke of one God while the Meccans worshiped many pagan gods at the time. Muhammad persisted in preaching his message despite the opposition, however, which only served to sharpen his sense of mission and his understanding of how Islam differed greatly from the paganism of the time in Mecca. Further, this opposition only made him more determined to tell everyone about the One True God, Allah, and the revelations made to him that are now contained in the Islamic holy book known as the Holy Qur’an.
Belief in One God was paramount to Islam and still is today. The Qur’an stresses that God is unique and one and it warns those who deny this truth with impending judgment and punishment. It proclaims His unbounded Compassion to those who submit themselves to Him and His Will. “Islam” means “submission to God” and a “muslim” is “one who submits himself to God.”
The Qur’an also affirms the Judgment Day that is forthcoming when God will be the Judge and judge all things weighing the balance of faith and works of each and every person. He will reward the faithful with Paradise and He will punish the unbelievers with Hell Fire. The Qur’an and Muslims absolutely reject polytheism and Islam emphasizes humbleness, moral responsibility, compassion, and wisdom. Thus it possed a great challenge to the pagan Meccans who worshiped many gods at the time.
The Meccans were very worldly and many were very arrogant. Eventually they would submit to Islam, however, and Arabia became the center of the new faith that today is one of the three great world religions and is quickly growing around the world.