Muhammad (also spelled Mohammed or (archaic) Mahomet) (A.D. 570-632), was the founder of Islam, one of the world's major religions.
Regarded by Muslims as Allah's final and greatest prophet, Muhammad claimed in Allah's revelations, via the angel Gabriel, that Judaism and Christianity had grown corrupt, and that Muhammad was to restore the religion God intended. However, common criticisms of Mohamned are: his marriage to a nine-year-old girl was inappropriate; his authorization of the beating of disobedient wives given in the Quran is unacceptable; and he was a vengeful, man of war (Mohammed said, “If God gives me victory in Quraysh [Muhammad’s own tribe in Mecca] in the future, I will mutilate 30 of their men.”).
In accordance with the Islamic hadith, it is considered proper to add an honorary phrase of "sallalahu aleyhi wasallam" (or "SAW"), meaning "peace be upon him" (or "PBUH"), after speaking Muhammad's name.
Representations of the Prophet are well known from early on, but not very common. While some Muslims hold beliefs that it is against Islam to make images of the Prophet, others have more relaxed attitudes, and among Shia Muslims, such pictures are common, and much liked.
Life of Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad was descended from Abraham through his son Ismael who, under God's orders, was left in the Arabian desert with only a little food and water. The spot where this occurred is now called Mecca; today, over 3 million Muslims annually re-enact the frantic running of Ismael's mother Hager as she looked for water, in which Ismael hit the ground with his foot causing water to flow forth. Still flowing today, the spring is known as the Well of Zam Zam.
Muhammad was orphaned at the age of six, as his father Abdullah died before he was born and his mother, Aminah, died soon after. This left him with his grandfather Abdul Muttalib, who died when he was six. He was then raised by his uncle Abu Talib (son of Abdul Muttalib), a powerful man among the Quraysh tribe who loved Muhammad more than anyone. Muhammad grew up, never taking part part in pagan rituals. He despised the actions, and began a tradition of fasting in the caves of Mecca every annual pilgrimage; the pagans at the time believed in Allah, and the Hajj, from the times of Ismael, but they later added more gods to the one god Allah. Lexically speaking, Allah comes from the word Ilah in Arabic, with the definite article Al placed in front, making it "Al-Llah", translating as "The One God". This is why Islam was tolerated from the start by most — Muhammad never introduced a new God but instead spoke of the God of Abraham, Jesus, and Moses.
Muhammad was respected in Medina as he would frequently solve disputes. He was nicknamed Al-Amin, or The Truthful One, and was well loved by all. He was never known to lie, cheat, or steal, though those were all common practices by the pagans of his time. Everyone, including his enemies like Abu Jahl, had acknowledged his lineage to noble prophets such as Ismael and Abraham, and this was never disputed.
When he was about 40 years old, Muhammad's supposed early revelations from the Angel Gabriel spoke of a need to return to the monotheism of Abraham; however, Muhammad was unsure of himself upon seeing what seemed to be the Angel Gabriel and rushed to his house, terrified. He told his wife Khadija of the events, and she assured him that God wouldn't let this happen to such a humble man. Khadija later went on to see her uncle, a Christian scholar who, after reviewing his religious texts (note that these texts are not the texts of today, as the Christians of Mecca and the Arabs were not Pauline or Roman Christians), claimed Muhammad was the next prophet. This as well as the Jews in Medina, who were also expecting a new prophet, albeit a prophet from the Jewish tribe; Muhammad's prophet-hood was an unpleasant surprise to many of them and hence they rejected him. In this way Muhammad saw himself at an early age as reviving an ancient faith, a perceived correction to Christianity and Judaism, and restoring his people to what he saw as their rightful position as the true founders and heirs of monotheism. In these revelations, submission to the will of God — Allah — was critical. Muhammad's fledgling religion continued to develop throughout his life, through periodic revelations often relating directly to events currently facing his new faith.
The faith caught on slowly, winning only a few converts in Mecca (the first being his wife, Khadija). In 622 A.D, under increased pressure and ostracism from elders in Mecca, Muhammad began the hijra, an organized exodus of his followers from Mecca to the city of Medina. Muslims date the formation of their religion to the hijra itself, even beginning their dating system at this point.
Muhammad was first introduced to the people of Medina; when frequent wars broke out between Jewish tribes and Arab tribes, Muhammad was sent for as a mediator between the two. Most Jews spoke highly of Muhammad, accepting him as the next Prophet, although some disliked that he was not of the decent of Moses or Bani Israel. When Muhammad came to Medina, most problems were resolved, and it was hailed as a success. One important battle which shed light on Muslim-Jewish tensions was The Battle of the Trench: Although there was a pact called The Constitution of Medina, one that gave all religions freedom,= and protective status under the Muslims, from Muslims or invaders, one Jewish tribe (Bani Qurayza) didn't help defend the city. However, they allowed in Huyayy ibn Akhtab, a man exiled by Muhammad because of a dispute between Bani Qurayza and Bani Nadir, who encouraged Bani Qurayza to attack the Muslims and help the invaders so Muhammad would be defeated once and for all. Their plot was found out, though, and the pact was broken. This incident led to the execution of approximately 700 Jewish men from the tribe.
The execution was described as follow by Ibn Ishaq:
Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. Among them was the enemy of Allah Huyayy b. Akhtab and Ka`b b. Asad their chief. There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900. As they were being taken out in batches to the apostle they asked Ka`b what he thought would be done with them. He replied, 'Will you never understand? Don't you see that the summoner never stops and those who are taken away do not return? By Allah it is death!' This went on until the apostle made an end of them. Huyayy was brought out wearing a flowered robe in which he had made holes about the size of the finger-tips in every part so that it should not be taken from him as spoil, with his hands bound to his neck by a rope. When he saw the apostle he said, 'By God, I do not blame myself for opposing you, but he who forsakes God will be forsaken.' Then he went to the men and said, 'God's command is right. A book and a decree, and massacre have been written against the Sons of Israel.' Then he sat down and his head was struck off.
After Muhammad's Death
Muhammad's death at an early age caused the splintering of his religion into new sects, over the question of succession. The groups called themselves the Sunnis and the Shi'as. Many attribute this split to the high degree to which authority was centered in the powerful character of Muhammad himself: without his powerful personality, the movement could not survive intact., however this depiction is not accurate in some lights. The Shi'as came into the picture much later than the death of Muhammad, and were first a nuisance group thought to be started by a Jew by the name of Abdullah ibn Saba who was burned at the stake by Abu Bakr for proclaiming Ali was God. Note that Ali disagreed with the punishment, because fire is a punishment only for Allah.
The failure or splintering of movements, such as personality cults, built around a charismatic leader is a recurring sociological problem, often studied by psychologists, and referred to as the problem of the routinization of charisma.
Obama's opinion about presenting Muhammad in a non-favorable light
On September 25, 2012, in his address to United Nations General Assembly, Barack Hussein Obama said that "The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam." This outrageous comment, yet another evidence that Barack Hussein Obama is almost certainly the first Muslim president of the United States, was predictably ignored by the lamestream media, but rightly highlighted by Conservative commentators.
- Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion (AHKR), University of Bergen.
- Guillaume, p. 461-464
- Guillaume, p. 461-464
- Bernard Lewis, What Went Wrong
- Maximillian Weber, Theory of Social and Economic Organization, in the chapter "The Nature of Charismatic Authority and its Routinization," see also Len Oakes, "Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities"
- FOX News: Transcript: Obama address to U.N. General Assembly (September 25, 2012)
- FOX News: Media ignore Obama attack on ‘those who slander the Prophet of Islam’ (September 26, 2012)
HIR | Muhammad's massacre of the Jewish tribe Banu Qurayzah