The History of Muhammad and Islam


This is the second in a series of posts about Islam. For more articles in this series, click on the links at the end of this article.

Muhammad: From Birth to Marriage

In the year 570 A.D., a boy named Muhammad was born in the Arabian Peninsula in the city of Mecca. His family belonged to the Quraish tribe which was the dominant tribe in Mecca, and controlled the Kaaba which was a major worship site for pagans. 

His grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, was the protector of Kaaba. His father, Abdullah ibn Abdul-Muttalib, died before his birth. His mother, Aminah Bint Wahb, died when he was almost six. He was then raised by his merchant uncle, Abu Talib ibn Abdul-Muttalib, who took him on several trips during which he came in contact with Jews and Christians who did not worship rightly. 

Muhammad was hired as a manager by a wealthy businesswoman named Khadijah, whom he later married in 595 A.D. He was 25; she was 40. They had four daughters and two sons, both of whom died in infancy. He later had another son from another wife, and this son also died in infancy, so Muhammad was left without male heirs.

Muhammad was known to be pious, honest, and wise. He would regularly spend long periods alone meditating. It is postulated that Khadijah’s family was Christian and influenced him toward monotheism. 

The Birth of Islam

In 610, in the month of Ramadan, the angel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Muhammad and commanded him to recite (or read: ikra’a), to which he replied that he was illiterate, which was true. He could neither read nor write. Gabriel repeated the command several times and seemingly Muhammad then spoke a few words which constitute the first five verses of Sura (chapter) 96 and, as such, the beginning of the Quran

At first, he thought it was a satanic encounter, but his wife, Khadijah, and her cousin, Waraqa, assured him that it was a divine revelation and that he was called to be a prophet. Waraqa ibn Nawfal was a Nestorian priest. Nestorianism was a heresy that believed the human and divine natures of Christ are entirely separated.

Muhammad kept receiving said revelations until his death. They took various forms, including the ringing of bells and seizures. They were later transmitted orally, then were collected into one book to be considered the final revelation: the Quran

In the year 613, Muhammad began to preach in the city of Mecca messages of reform, urging people to forsake idolatry because of the coming judgment. “There is one God (Allah); submit to him and his messenger (Muhammad). Do good works. There will be rewards for the faithful.”

Important Converts

Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, was his first convert. 

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was the first convert outside Muhammad’s family. He would be his future father-in-law (father of Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha), and later the first khalifa (successor, steward) until his death from an illness in 634.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab was initially hostile to Muhammad and was on a journey to kill him, but he converted to Islam in 616, and became an important protector. His daughter, Nafsa, would marry Muhammad, and Umar would later become the second khalifa beginning in 634. He was assassinated in 644.

Uthman ibn Affan was an early convert and later the third khalifa, from 644 until his assassination by rebels in 656. He was a companion of Muhammad and married two of his daughters.

Ali ibn Abi Talib was Muhammad’s cousin, son of his uncle, Abu Talib, and also his son-in-law after he married Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima. He is said to be the first male to accept Islam. He was the fourth khalifa from 656 until his assassination in 661, but is regarded by Shia Muslims as the first and rightful successor of Muhammad.

Zaid Ibn Harithah was a slave to Khadijah, and she offered him as a gift to Muhammad after their marriage. He loved him and adopted him as his son.

All these converts played a very important role in the life of Muhammad, and had a deep impact on Islam that still continue until today, especially the division between Sunni Islam and Shia Islam.

For more articles in this series on Islam, click on the links below:

Part 1 | 3

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