, Research Paper
The Nature and Role of Muhammad the Prophet in Islam
Born in approximately 571 AD, Muhammad is the most important and influential leader of the Islamic religion. His ability to influence people into believing his experiences helped the Islamic faith become what it is today. There are millions of people in this world whose lives have some how been effected by this man in one way or another. He has played a significant part in the development of Islam, and the happenings throughout his lifetime have caused changes and divisions to this faith.
There is little that is factually known about Muhammad s life prior to the revelations he received from the Angel Gabriel in 609 AD. His birth name is not even known for certain. However, there are some concrete facts regarding his childhood. He grew up as an orphan and was raised by one of his uncles in the Hashim clan1. At the age of twenty-five, he married a wealthy women, Khadija, who was fifteen years older than he2. It is said that he was an unusually honest man, and many stories in the Hadith tell of his destiny to become a prophet3.
During his marriage to Khadija, Muhammad frequently went to meditate at Mount Hira, which was located only a few miles north of Mecca4. On one occasion, Muhammad received the first of many of God s revelations from Mount Hira. This event would change the world forever. These messages Muhammad received from the Angel Gabriel in 609 AD, would eventually be written down by some of Muhammad s followers. Muhammad s followers, known as the Companions, are the ones who were responsible for writing down the message Muhammad had received from God5. They wrote this down because it is believed that Muhammad was illiterate6. These written down revelations would eventually form the Islamic Bible, the Quran.
After Muhammad had received these messages from God, he began to preach to the people of Mecca but with little success. About five years after his first revelation, Muhammad and some Muslim followers immigrated to Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia)7. They moved here to avoid some of the resistance and persecution that they were experiencing in Mecca. This is believed by some people to be his first Hijra.8 However, this does mark the beginning of the spread of the Islamic faith.
The reason for the resistance to people believing what Muhammad was saying is that he did not perform any miracles. He was the prophet of Allah, but he was still just a man. He could not heal people, perform miracles, make water appear from the ground, or any other acts that a non-human being could not do. Non-believers also wanted him to tell them what heaven and hell were like, but he could not do that either9. This may have attributed to him leaving the city of Mecca to go to Medina to preach.
In 622, Muhammad made his historical pilgrimage to the city of Medina. This pilgrimage, known as the Hijra, is significant for many reasons. It marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar and a time when the Islamic faith and Muhammad s popularity grew rapidly. This move severed the link between the Muslims and the people of the city of Mecca10. After his arrival in Medina, Muhammad soon became the cities greatest political and religious leader.
About a year and a half after arriving in Medina, the Muslims and the Prophet were not getting along with the Jews that also inhabited the city. The Jews did not accept Muhammad as a prophet, so after several battles the Jews left the city of Medina. This is significant for the Islamic religion. After these battles, the direction Muslims faced during prayer changed from facing the north towards Jerusalem to the east towards Mecca11.
In the year 629 AD, after the peaceful surrender of Mecca to Muhammad, he and many of his followers made their first pilgrimage back to Mecca. With the surrendering of Mecca to Muhammad, he then controlled most of the Arabian territory12. He was in command of many men, and this resulted in the capturing of lands to be converted to the Islam faith. Islam was beginning to rapidly spread throughout the Middle East.
The five pillars of the Islamic religion were a result of Muhammad s experiences and revelations told to him by Allah. His return pilgrimage to Mecca in 629 AD, caused acceptance of the hajj by all Muslims13. Muhammad prayed regularly and gave to the poor, which also led into the development of the salat and zakat pillars. The five pillars that were told to Muhammad eventually became the five pillars of the Islamic faith. All good Muslims follow these five pillars.
In 632 AD, Muhammad died after catching a fatal disease on a return trip from Mecca14. It is said that his prophetic mission to the people of the world was complete. He was sent as the Seal Prophet of God to abolish idolatry and restore monotheism to the world. The Muslims believe that he is the only prophet of God and there will be no other prophet or further revelations sent from God15. He had started the Islamic religion and it continues to be one of the most dominant religions in the world today.
Muhammad did not name a successor to his most powerful position. Abu Bakr, a close friend and Companion of Muhammad, was the Caliph (political and religious leader) that took over his position. Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali were the next four individuals to hold the position of Caliph after the death of Muhammad. This is where a controversy exists between Muslims, and causes a major division in the Islamic religion. There are two groups that emerge from this disagreement of who truly is a Caliph and who is not, they are the Sunni and the Shi ite. The Sunni, which consists of 80 to 85 percent of all Muslims, believe all four of these men are true Caliphs. The Shi ites believe that only the last man, Ali, is the true Caliph to emerge after the death of Muhammad. This disagreement about who are true Caliphates, will lead to controversy and wars between the Muslim nation16.
Muhammad, The Supreme Prophet of God, was a man that changed the world. He had a great effect on the nations of the Middle East, and the people of his time. In only a short period of time, he drew these people s attention towards a religion that has survived for thousands of years and will continue on into the future.
1. Welch, Alford T. Muhammad: The Life of the Prophet, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Volume 3. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. pg. 153-164.
2. Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. pg. 11-29.
3. Welch, pg.154.
4. Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. pg. 3-19.
5. Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East. New York: Touchstone Book, 1995. pg. 51-84. (Including Notes from Class).
6. Welch, pg. 155.
7. Watt, W. Montgomery. What is Islam? New York: Frederick A Praeger, 1968. pg. 93-112.
8. Welch, pg. 156.
9. Welch, pg. 156.
10. Watt, pg. 101
11. Welch, pg. 157.
12. Welch, pg. 158.
13. Lewis, pg. 52.
14. Lewis, pg. 53.
15. Lewis, pg. 53.
16. Lewis, pg. 82.
1. Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. pg. 3-19.
2. Lewis, Bernard. The Middle East. New York: Touchstone Book, 1995. pg. 51-84. (Including Notes from Class).
3. Rahman, Fazlur. Islam. Second Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979. pg. 11-29.
4. Watt, W. Montgomery. What is Islam? New York: Frederick A Praeger, 1968. pg. 93-112.
5. Welch, Alford T. Muhammad: The Life of the Prophet, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Volume 3. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995. pg. 153-164.