Muhammad was mainly a religious leader who made a significant contribution to the growth of Islam in the Saudi Arabia and the Middle East during his time. In 570 CE, Muhammad was born in Mecca where he grew up under Islamic traditions, which shaped his growth during childhood (Peterson 34). Muhammad was the only child of Amina bin Wahb and Abd bin Al-Muttalib.
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Unfortunately, his parents died when he was barely six years, and thus Muhammad grew up under the care of his uncle, Abu Talib. Despite such a humble beginning, Muhammad grew up and became one of the most influential people in human history because he made a significant contribution to the development of Islam. Given that humanity had lost their way and indulged in wickedness, Muslims believed that God would send them a prophet who would come and show them a new way of life.
According to Saleh, while Amina was pregnant, she saw a bright light on her belly and heard a voice, which informed her to dedicate her child to God and name him Muhammad (28). Such a divine revelation did show that Muhammad was a special person in human history because God had prepared him to guide humanity. In this view, this essay examines Muhammad’s life and experiences with a view of highlighting his significance in shaping human history and the growth of Islam.
Early Life of Muhammad
Examination of Muhammad’s life shows that he started from a humble background and gradually became a great person in the Saudi Arabia and across the world. In 570 CE, Amina bin Wahb and Abd bin Al-Muttalib gave birth to Muhammad in Mecca and brought him up under the influence of Islamic traditions. Before his birth, Muslims and other people had predicted that a prophet would be born in the Middle East, who would lead the people.
Saleh examines that Muhammad life is unique because Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and pagans predicted that a great religious leader would arise from the Middle East, and he would be a prophet and a messenger ordained by God (28). Since many people predicted his coming, it indicates that Muhammad was a divine leader. Like Jesus in the Bible, the wise men and magicians predicted that a great leader would emerge from the Middle East who would lead people into new life.
Muhammad grew as an orphan under the care of his uncle because his parents died when he was barely six years old. This means that Muhammad grew up as an orphan and managed to become a great person in the Middle East. During his time, people regarded family lineage as an important parameter of gauging the significance or the status of a person in the society.
As predicted, many people expected that the prophet would arise from a family with noble lineage. Saleh states that Muhammad emanated from a noble lineage of the Quraysh tribe, which was not among the wealthiest tribes (28). Hence, it implies that Muhammad originated from a poor family, which did not have sufficient riches to boost his significance in society.
Under the care of his uncle, Muhammad looked after his uncle’s cattle. As he looked after the cattle, Muhammad demonstrated that he was a hard working young boy during his teenage period. His uncle trusted him and let him to accompany other merchants as they traded with Syria. Other merchants recognized his industriousness and trustworthiness in trade, and thus admired his character.
The industriousness and trustworthiness of Muhammad made him to gain recognition among great merchants. Khadija bint Khawalayd was one of the great merchants who recognized Muhammad and requested him to work for her. Khadija bint Khawalayd was a widow who was the wealthiest trader from a noble family in the Saudi Arabia.
Muhammad worked very hard while trading with merchants from various regions in the Middle East and brought profits that he earned to his mistress. Working for Khadija bint Khawalayd, Muhammad continued to demonstrate industriousness and trustworthiness, which greatly attracted his mistress.
When Khadija bint Khawalayd saw that Muhammad was a hardworking and honest young man, she decided to marry him at the age of 25 while she was at the age of 40. When he married Khadija bint Khawalayd, Muhammad entered into a noble family with great wealth, and thus he started to become a very influential person in the Middle East.
Peterson holds that Muhammad married into a prestigious family, which helped him to pursue is career, dream, and vision in life. As a great merchant in the city of Mecca, Muhammad managed to enter into an elite class where he gained massive influence on the population. The influence that Muhammad had in Mecca due to social, economic, and political class made him gain recognition across the Middle East.
When in the city of Mecca, Muhammad obtained a revelation from God, which showed him iniquities that people performed in Mecca. The traditional idolatry dominated Mecca as people abandoned God and worshiped different idols. The revelation of iniquities and idolatry greatly troubled his heart and compelled him to fast and pray continually in solitary places (Peterson 179). Since Muhammad had never been a religious leader, he found it difficult to communicate his revelations.
Muhammad continued to see visions and dreams, which revealed to him about the state of apostasy in the city of Mecca. Muhammad went into the wilderness where he meditated further about his visions and dreams. After three years, Muhammad started to publicize visions and dreams that God gave him in the wilderness. The first prophetic revelation took place in the wilderness when Muhammad was in a cave.
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According to Saleh, when Muhammad was in a cave, angel Gabriel visited him and commanded him to read a verse in the Quran (32). The experience of the visiting angle shocked Muhammad because he realized that the visions and dreams he has been experiencing for several years were from God.
As the angel Gabriel commanded Muhammad to read a book, Muhammad was unable because he was illiterate. Illiteracy prevented Muhammad from reading the book that angle Gabriel brought to him. However, his illiteracy later confirmed that Muhammad was indeed a prophet that God had chosen to lead His people from idolatry into righteousness.
When Muhammad encountered angel Gabriel, he became more determined than ever to exterminate the idolatry and evil in Mecca, which had permeated into the Arabian society. Saleh describes the vision of Muhammad in the cave that it was so overwhelming and remarkable as its main purpose was to convince Muhammad about his mission of leading humanity into righteousness (33).
In this view, the first revelation of Muhammad indicates that Muhammad was a divine leader. Moreover, it shows that God bestowed literacy ability to Muhammad so that he could read the Quran and teach people the right way of life that God wants them to follow. Thus, the capacity to recite the Quran despite his literacy ability shows that Muhammad had supernatural powers.
Muslims strongly believe that Muhammad was born around 570 CE at the time when diverse prophecies had indicated his coming. Although there is no ample evidence in the Quran about his date of birth, other books provides 570 CE as his date of birth in the Arabian city, Mecca. He was born to a poor family living in the desert and further lost his parents at a tender age. His uncle, Abu Talib, brought him up in the same city.
At an early age, he portrayed a strong personality of independence and desire to do things in his own way. The personality of self-reliance and industriousness did set Muhammad apart from his peers, and propelled his recognition by his uncle and the merchants who interacted with him. Despite being a young merchant, he was still a shepherd as he looked after his uncle’s sheep and camels (Saleh 23). The personality of self-reliance and industriousness convinced his mistress to marry him at the age of twenty-five.
Moreover, his personality of self-reliance made him to live a unique lifestyle and perform things independently. This is evident because Muhammad went into a solitary place as he fasted, prayed, and meditated in caves. Since he appeared unique and independent, people who were very close to him understood his personality and always allowed him to do things his own way, which illustrates that they admired his way of life and doing things (Peterson 41).
He continued to carry out his prayers in seclusion at the age of about forty, and he first came across the first God’s revelation in his life. He continued to have the revelations for a long time, but he did not reveal them to anybody until three years later. Muhammad kept the revelations secret because he was meditating on how he could reveal to the people. Hence, the personality of self-reliance enabled Muhammad to give his revelations in a timely manner for people to understand.
Despite the fact that Muhammad grew up in a humble background, he had influential personality, which made him a legendary Muslim leader. Rubin (53) notes that Muslims believe that Muhammad was a prophet of God as well as a messenger, but they suppose that he was the strongest and the most influential among prophets. In the Muslim community, Muhammad is an influential icon just like Jesus is to the Christian community.
According to Saleh, Muslims and Christians predicted the coming of Muhammad as a prophet from the Middle East. Muslims believe that his birth happened in 570 CE, and his parents named him Abu al-Qasim Muhammad, which is translated as Muhammad. Even though God used many prophets to deliver messages to his people, Muhammad is believed to have been the last and the most influential, as evidenced by his initiation of the Quran writing.
Non-Muslims refer to Muhammad as the founder of the Islamic religion, but Muslims believe that he was not the founder of the Islamic religion, but rather he was a follower, and thus an Islam. In addition, Muslims took him as a restorer of the unaltered faith of Adam, Abraham, and other prophets like Elijah and Jesus (Peterson 61). Therefore, the influential personality of Muhammad made him to become a great religious leader in Mecca.
Muhammad and the Quran
Muhammad played a central role in the writing of the Quran because he received verbal revelation in the caves where he was fasting, praying, and meditating. When Muhammad experienced divine revelation about the apostasy in Mecca, he went into the wilderness and entered into the cave where he fasted and prayed constantly for several years.
Saleh argues that the verbal revelations that Muhammad received while in the caves was called Quran because they formed the basis of the Quran teachings (34). According to the Islamic beliefs, during one of his praying sessions, the archangel Gabriel appeared to him in the year 610 and revealed God’s message to him. In the revelation, God commanded Muhammad to recite some verses, which was later written in the holy book of the Quran.
Gabriel argues that since verbal revelations that God gave to Muhammad were written immediately, it implies that the Quran contains accurate revelations that God wants humanity to hear (2). This means that Muhammad left a great legacy to Muslims and Islamic religion because he acted as a messenger and a prophet that God used in delivering messages to the humanity
Since Muhammad obtained verbal revelations, Muslims believe that he contributed significantly to the information in the Quran. Going back to his early life, his character of isolating himself from other people’s activities and going to the caves in the mountains played a major role in the development of the Quran. The Quran contains the revelations that Muhammad experienced while he prayed in the caves at the age of forties.
Gabriel says that Muhammad had adopted the habit of fasting and praying regularly, as he often visited the caves in the mountains near Mecca (23). During the period of three years when Muhammad deeply meditated about the revelations and the apostasy that he saw in Mecca, the angel Gabriel approached him and commanded him to read a book (Saleh 25). Later Muhammad learnt that the angel wanted him to recite some verses in the Quran.
The revelations that Muhammad experienced did shock him because he kept wondering how he could approach Meccans and warn them about an impending judgment if they do not leave idolatry. Muhammad could not help thinking that people would dismiss his claims and refer to him as an evil person. The fear of revealing the revelations explains why he took three years before publicly proclaiming about the true God and his revelation on the mountain.
Muslims believe that the three-year period of silence that Muhammad took was a period of spiritual growth, which eventually ended when God commanded him to continue preaching. Hence, he initiated the writing process of Quran where his warning of unbelievers related to what he preached. Muhammad warned the Meccans that God was going to judge them if they do not turn away from the iniquities and idolatry, which had dominated their society.
Since the warnings that Meccans received are in the Quran, they confirm that Muhammad’s revelations were meant to edify people (Peterson 68). However, critics argue that the Quran does not have accurate revelations because it took a period of more than three years for Muhammad to reveal, which means that the revelations were prone to manipulations.
According to the Quran, the name Muhammad refers to someone who is praiseworthy and is present four times. However, the Quran recognizes him a prophet and a messenger, which God sent to bring good tidings and warnings to his people. The Quran refers to him as the prophet, the messenger of God, or rather the announcer of God.
However, the Quran says that God made some of his servants to excel above others and to that effect, Muhammad is the seal of all other prophets, and hence, the praiseworthy. Hence, his personality has made him to become praiseworthy in the Holy book, which he initiated its writing through his revelations.
In this view, Muslims regard the Quran as a sacred book that details revelations that God gave to Muhammad when he fasted and prayed earnestly in the caves (Peterson 56). However, the Quran does not have the historical background of the life of Muhammad like in the case of bible having the history of Jesus Christ in the Christian faith. However, there are historical sources that talk about the history of Muhammad.
Preaching about the Revelations
After meditating for years about his visions and dreams, Muhammad decided to take the message to the people. At the age of about 40, Muhammad proclaimed about God and his anointment as a prophet and a messenger of God, and changed his lifestyle. He left the old way of life in which he was a merchant and a shepherd, and started preaching and prophesying to humanity (Peters 297).
His conversion was not a surprise to the people close to him, and thus they followed him with less resistance, as he commenced his mission. However, some tribes in his home region of Mecca met him with hostility as they attempted to persecute him.
They argued that prophets of God could not have come from his tribe and that he was opposing the principles of the ruling elites through his preaching, which could result in public anarchy. However, Muhammad did not bow to the threats. His determination propelled him to continue preaching and prophesying about God while unshaken in the face of threats. Comparing his life to that of Jesus Christ, there are numerous similarities, as Jesus too had to flee to Egypt together with his parents to escape persecution from King Herod.
In his first preaching known to the Muslims, he insisted on the oneness of God the creator and noted that humans should submit fully to His perfect will, as it is pleasing to Him. In addition, Muhammad proclaimed himself a messenger and a prophet of the true God, which he professed, but noted that he was the same as other Islamic prophets that existed before him (Gabriel 12).
The closest people known to him did not hesitate to believe him due to his unique personality, which he had developed from early childhood. In addition, he was known to be a sober person who was also humble and he lived according to his standards. Hence, to them, he could not have lied about the revelations and the proclamation of the true God. In this view, Muhammad appears infallible regarding the revelations that he preached.
Islamic traditionalists believe that the closest persons to Muhammad were the first to believe in his revelations and that he was a God chosen prophet. The first persons must have been Khadija and Ali ibn Abi Talib, who are believed to have comforted him during his depressed moments.
Others are believed to have been Zaid, his adopted son, and closest friend, Abu Bakr, with whom they spent much time shepherding. The little support that he got from his family and close friends enabled him to begin the public preaching in Mecca where many opposed him violently (Peters 297).
Interestingly, Islamic history holds that the first followers of Muhammad were mostly the poor people, young family members of great merchants with whom they had traded, and people who had failed to attain the highest ranks of their tribal ruling. His preaching condemned idolatry, which was the norm of the inhabitants of Mecca. However, Meccans felt insulted because they were unwilling to leave their religious tradition of polytheism and recognize God as one.
With time, his followers increased rapidly to the point where he divided them into sub-groups and sent them to foreign missions across different regions. The rapid increase of his followers threatened the local merchants and the ruling elites, who then tried to convince him to abandon his new faith, which he refused. Rubin states that the ruling elites summoned Muhammad and “accused him of series of transgressions against their most sacred religious and moral values” (53).
When they saw that Muhammad would not abandon his mission, the residents of Mecca started persecuting some of his followers, which threatened his life and made him flee to Medina, where he continued to preach and win more followers.
However, the increased cases of persecution in Mecca did not stop him from preaching the good tidings and condemning idolatry. His followers continued to increase because most of them realized that Muhammad was God’s messenger, and thus inspired by his consistent teachings, which were in line with the Quran teachings.
Muhammad’s Message to Meccans
In his mission, Muhammad warned the Meccans about the pending judgment if they do not turn away from the idolatry and practice righteousness. The warning message was timely because Meccans had become an apostate community in the Saudi Arabia.
Although most of the people in Mecca despised Muhammad as a junior person who came from a small tribe that is not noble, they did not bother to take his teachings seriously. In this view, Muhammad warned them against impending judgment if they do not turn away from the evil and the idolatrous practices. Rubin states that, during Muhammad’s Meccan mission, “he employed tactics of warning and good tidings that are designed to support the Quranic monotheistic campaign” (40).
The twofold mission of warning about judgment and promising mercy to the believers earned Muhammad enemies and followers alike. In this view, Muhammad endeared himself to the Quran teachings as he warned the unbelievers of the coming judgment while promising the believers of the great rewards that God has stored for them. Hence, Muhammad was a prophet who warned the people about the consequences of polytheism, idolatry, and apostasy, as depicted in the Quran.
In Mecca, people claimed that Muhammad performed miracles, which proved that he had supernatural powers that came from God. The splitting of the moon is one of the alleged miracles that attracted diverse criticism from unbelievers in Mecca. Rubin states that moon splitting occurred prior to Hijra, which shows that Muhammad is a divine messenger with supernatural powers (52).
While some critics regard the splitting of the moon as an eclipse, others regard it as a natural occurrence that has nothing to do with the miracles of Muhammad. When the Meccans realized that Muhammad had supernatural powers, they requested him to perform some miracles. For example, Meccans told him to resurrect their ancestors so that they could believe him.
However, Muhammad did not succumb to their demands, but instead continued preaching the good tidings that God had sent him to spread in Mecca and around the world. As Meccans remained stubborn, Muhammad prayed and asked God to cause drought in Mecca, and “the famine, which causes a smoke like haze that dims the eyes” apparently occurred after Muhammad ended his prayer (Rubin 51).
The drought that befell Mecca during the time of Muhammad was attributable to his supernatural powers, which Muhammad had acquired from God. Thus, the miracle of moon splitting and drought are some of the miracles that Muslims claim to demonstrate that Muhammad had supernatural powers, and thus was a God’s messenger who came to warn people and preach good tidings.
Muhammad Migrated to Medina
Owing to numerous challenges, Muhammad decided to migrate to Medina in 622 CE and escape persecution. However, before his migration to Medina, Muhammad had gained numerous followers, and thus sent some of them to Abyssinia for a preaching mission. Since his father was buried in Medina, Muhammad took the opportunity of commemorating his father to become a peace messenger and mediated peace talks among the warring communities of Medina.
As God inspired his mission, Muhammad continued to preach and prophesy despite the death threats and other challenges, Muhammad spread prophetic messages to all people as he carried out his mission even to regions beyond Mecca. Muhammad’s zeal inspires Muslims because the manner in which he executed his mission to the God’s people. The migration journey of Muhammad is very significant to Islamic faith, as the Islamic calendar recognizes it as the Hijra, a period that marks the beginning of a new Islamic year (Saleh 27).
In addition, Medina was also not a peaceful region for his mission due to tribal intolerance, but he worked tirelessly in mediating peace talks among warring tribes and bringing peace to Medina. His ability to bring the tribes together offered him a great opportunity to preach and prophesy the will of God to the people, which increased the number of his followers.
After gaining more followers in Medina, Muhammad felt inspired to get back home and preach to people based on the belief that he could overcome the ruthless reaction of the tribes through battles. The tribes of Mecca worshiped idols and this practice had contributed to the heightened hostility of the people towards the prophets of God. Hence, Muhammad wanted to eliminate apostasy, destroy the idols, and preach the message of one and only God to his people (Peterson 89).
On getting back to Mecca together with his followers, tribes of Mecca opposed and fought them continually in a fierce battle, which they retaliated and continued to fight for over eight years. By the eighth year of fighting, Muhammad’s followers had grown to thousands of people in Mecca, which enabled them to take control of Mecca in a peaceful conquest.
Thereafter, Muhammad destroyed the idols that the tribes of Mecca worshiped. He also proclaimed the God’s message to his people without experiencing any form of resistance. He later returned to Medina after staying in Mecca for about ten years, but unfortunately, he fell ill and died unexpectedly.
Examination of the life and significance of Muhammad depicts that he was not only a religious leader, but also a God’s messenger and a prophet. Although Muhammad started from humble family background, his struggles across life made him to be a great person who shaped human history. Muhammad grew as an orphan from a humble background, but later became one of the members of noble and rich families when he married Khadija bint Khawalayd.
While in Mecca, Muhammad received revelations, which compelled him to preach against apostasy that had dominated the city of Mecca. In his teachings, Muhammad warned people against an impending judgment and implored them to shun evil and idolatry. The verbal revelations became the cornerstone of the Quran because Muslims believe that they are pure and unadulterated revelations from God.
However, Meccans turned against him and his teachings as they attempted to persecute him. Then, Muhammad migrated to Medina where he gained more follows and established an Islamic community, which cherished the Quran’s teachings. Overall, examination of Muhammad’s life, experiences, and his significance shows that he has made a significant contribution to the development of Islamic religion and the Quran.
Gabriel, Richard. Muhammad: Islam’s First General. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma, 2011. Print.
Peters, Francis. “The Quest of the Historical Muhammad.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 23.3 (1991): 291-315. Print.
Peterson, Daniel. Muhammad, Prophet of God. Michigan: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2007. Print.
Rubin, Uri. “Muhammad’s Message in Mecca: Warnings, Signs, and Miracles.” The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad. Ed. Jonathan Brockopp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 39-60. Print.
Saleh, Walid. “The Arabian Context of Muhammad’s Life.” The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad. Ed. Jonathan Brockopp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 21-38. Print.