Muhammad was an Arab religious and social leader, and the founder of Islam. According to Islamic beliefs, he was a prophet sent to preach and confirm the central concept of the entire Muslim faith--that God is One and Single.
The Black Stone
In the year of 570, Muhammad was born in Mecca to one of the city's most prominent families. His father died six months before his birth, and stayed in the desert with his foster-mother and her husband until he was two years old. At the age of six, his mother Amina fell ill, and he became an orphan. Muhammad continued to be passed around until he came under the care of his warrior uncle.
As leader of the Banu Hashim, his uncle saw that Muhammad did not starve to death, but hardly gave him any more, as the rations of the clan were sparce at that moment.
As a teen, Muhammad began accompanying his uncle in trade negotiations to become familiar with the merchant industry. It is said that on one of these journeys, Muhammad comes into contact with a Christian hermit who foresees that young teen's role as a direct messenger of God.
Little else is known about Muhammad's later youth. It's certain that he became a merchant and was involved with trade. He had a good reputation as an impartial, honest man, and this attracted a proposal from a 40-year-old widow by the name of Khadijah. Muhammad consented to the marriage, and it was by all sources known as a happy one.
Toward the latter half of Muhammad's young adult life, something happened to him that may have changed his life's path. The Black Stone, a sacred object, was removed during renovations to a great Mosque-- the Kabba. Before the process, the Meccan leaders could not agree about which clan should remove the stone. So, they decided to ask the next man who passed through the gate, and that man was the 35-year-old Muhammad. Muhammad removed the stone with a cloth, and when all was finished, returned it again, satisfying the honor of God.
At the age of 40, Muhammad began to prey alone in a cave on Mount Jabal al-Nour, near Mecca, for several weeks at a time. In the year of 610, it is said that the angel Gabriel appeared to him, and commanded him to recite verses that would later come together to compose the Quran.
In some sects of the Islam tradition, it is reported that Muhammad was reluctant to take on his spiritual mission, and he went home distressed after seeing Gabriel, comforted by his wife and her Christian cousin. In other areas, Muhammad is said to have been ecstatic with the news of his mission.
Either way, Muhammad was silent for the next three years, dedicating himself to prayers and spiritual practice.
Muhammad described his revelations as being revealed like the ringing of a bell. He was confident that he could distinguish between these messages and his own thoughts.
According to the Quran, one of the main roles of Muhammad was to warn unbelievers of their punishment come the end of time. He praised believers and scorned those who did not abide by the way of God. The Quran commands to proclaim the name of the Lord and refrain from worshiping all else, including other deities.
The key themes of the Quran include the responsibility that man has toward his creator, the resurrection of the dead, and God's final judgement day, followed by vivid descriptions about the tortures of hell and the pleasures of heaven. However, the actual duties required of the Quran's followers were few from absolute belief, forgiveness, frequent prayers, helping those in need, and rejecting cheating and the love of wealth. Notice the similarities in these epiphanies to those of the Buddha and Jesus of Nazareth.
The following years after Muhammad's initial revelation proved different than the latter half of the life of most religious leaders. Muhammad found himself in a fair bit of conflict and war, and at the very end of this series of battles that encompass his religion and followers, he is about to lay siege to his home city of Mecca. Allied with a nearby tribe, Muhammad sends a messenger to the city to make them aware that they must choose between three decisions: pay in blood for their wrong doings, forgive his friendly clan, or declare a truce.
The Meccans replied that they preferred to shed blood. Yet, they soon realized their mistake and sent a messenger to renew their treaty with the friendly tribe that protected Muhammad, which he declined. Clearly here, something switched inside of Muhammad's character. No longer is he preaching forgiveness and helping those in need, but his insistence upon absolute praise caused him to overlook the other aspects of his faith and become overwhelmed with cementing his position of power. This is the ultimate difference between Jesus of Nazareth and Muhammad.
Despite his past ways, Muhammad may have made up for the blood on his hands near the end of his life. Muhammad completed his first true Islamic pilgrimage, setting precedent for the annual Great Pilgrimage.
Soon after this, Muhammad delivered his farewell sermon. In this sermon, Muhammad urged his followers not to follow any customs that were not pre-Islam. This is a good thing, as many of the customs degraded women, children and all of society.
Muhammad preached against blood-feuds and disputes, claiming that a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black a white other than their piety and the good actions they take. These are values that we won't see in western society until thousands of years later.
Muhammad asked his male followers to be good to women, albeit it in a rather sexist way. "Be good to women," he said. "For they are powerless captives in your household. You took them in God's trust, and legitimated your sexual relations with the word of God, so come to your sense people, and hear my words..." He continued to tell them that they are entitled to discipline their wives, but they must do so in a respectful manner.
A Different Connection
A few months after his final speech, Muhammad fell ill and suffered for several days with fever and weakness. He died on 632 at the age of 62 or 63.
With his head resting on his wife's lap, Muhammad spoke his final words. "Exalted friend, highest friend in heaven."
The Story of
The life of the religious leader of one of the world's most popular religions was a difficult one. At an early age, Muhammad experienced death on a scale that not many of us can understand. Still, this did not lead to a particularly strange life. Up until the age of 40, Muhammad was just as normal as everyone else.
This strange shift in the leader's life is evidence that something significant did occur in Muhammad's psyche. Perhaps it was a mental breakdown, or perhaps it was an angel's visitation. Either way, Muhammad preached a central message of forgiveness and love, yet one that was clouded by ultimate praise. Even his final words were plagued by the his ultimate devotion.
But is that any different from us? What will be your final words?
In a world that treated women and children horribly and was burdened by war, Muhammad did a lot to stand up for basic human rights. His final speech shows another distinct change in his mind--a change for the good. On his final days, the warring Muhammad, a man who had killed, fought, and lost, preached a message of love and forgiveness.
Though one's words are often far from action, a message of love never goes unrewarded.