AD 570-610 - The Prophet Muhammed Early Years
The name Mohammad, also spelled Muhammad and Mohammed, means "the much praised one". The Prophet’s full name was Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib. Muhammad was born about AD 570; possibly he began his mission as a prophet in 610; that he was compelled to retire from Mecca to the neighboring city of Medina in 622, the date of the Hijra, the Muslim era; and that he died in the year of the Hijra 11, AD 632. While the story of his life was greatly embrodiered with mythmaking, the general outline of his biography does not appear to be in dispute, nor is there any case made that he was a literary fabrication rather than a real person [a claim that cannot be made for some other founders of religions].
As in the case of any historical question, the consideration of the person and life of Muhammad must be considered under two aspects. First, what really was that life; what really was that person and that individuality? Secondly, what did people come in time to think of them, and what do they think of them now? Even Muslims, in their religious research, have realized the necessity of reaching again the historical facts in the case. There was, for instance, a distinct tendency in one part of the Muslim Church — the reforming, or, in a sense, Puritanic part — to keep laboring to return to the faith of Muhammad himself, as distinguished from later theories and accretions. So far back, for instance, as the life and work of Ibn Taymiya, a theologian who died in AD 1328 (AH 726), this tendency appears strongly, and he was simply a prominent carrier-on of the attitude of the Hanbalite, the irreconcilable school.
In the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, the same drift was represented by the Wahhabite movement, which threatened at one time to spread over and affect the whole Muslim world. Later, this tendency was not guided so much by the old Puritanic and Hanbalite principles as it is by the penetration of modern thought into some part, at least, of Muslim life.
Muhammad was born at Makkah. In his sixth year, Muhammad was taken by his mother to al-Madinah, but on the return journey she fell sick, and died. Left an orphan, and had to find his own way through the world. That way was evidently a hard one. It left in him a sense of wrong, a sense that the world is a cruel world for those who cannot protect or take care of themselves. This developed in two ways. It developed, on the one hand, into a strong sense of the evil of the world, and, on the other hand, into a strong feeling that in any religion great stress must be laid upon the helping of the poor, the oppressed, the orphan, the widow. This sense of evil in the world is rather difficult to distinguish because it does not seem to have struck him so much in the form of a personal sense of sin—although traditions have come down that speak somewhat in those terms—but it is rather a sense of the world as a whole being wrong before God; of the whole race of mankind needing help, needing grace, needing acceptance at the hand of God.
When Muhammad was twelve years old, he was taken by his uncle on a mercantile journey to Syria, and proceeded as far as Basra. The expedition lasted for some months. It was on this journey that Muhammad was brought in contact with the profession of Christianity in Syria. He must have also passed through many Jewish settlements. After this journey, tho youth of Muhummad seems to have been passed uneventfully.
Between the years AD 580-590. the sacrilegious war broke out between the Quraish and Ihe Banii Hawazin, which lasted for nc.-irly ten years. In two of the contests, Muhammad, though only a lad, accompanied his uncles in their local wars. They were called "sacrilegious" because they were carried on during the sacred months, when fighting was forbidden.
When Muhammad had reached his twenty-fifth year, he entered the service of Khadijah, a rich widow of Makkah of the Quraish tribe. Muhammad was placed in charge of the widow's merchandise, and he again travelled the same route which he had traversed thirteen years before with his uncle. His journey again extended as far as Busra, a city about sixty miles to the east of the river Jordan. He visited Aleppo and Damascus, and was doubtless brought in frequent contact with both Jews and Christians. Muhammad having proved himself faithful in the commercial interests of his mistress, was soon rewarded with her hand in marriage. When Muhammad married her she was a widow of forty years of age.
Muhammad obtained some reputation among his fellow men, by taking a prominent part in the resuscitation of an old league, called the Federation of the Fuzul, formed in tocient times for the repression of acts of lawlessness within the walls of Makkah. A new compact was formed between four or five of the chief families of Makkah for the protection of the weak and oppressed. In his thirty-fifth year, he settled by his decision a grave difficulty, which had sprung up during the reconstruction of the Ka'bah, regarding the placing of the sacred stone. The stone was placed on a cloth, and each tribe shared in the honor of raising it, by taking hold of the cloth.
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