Muhammad

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Muhammad b. ʿAbd Allah b. ʿAbd al-Muttalib b. Hshim (Arabic: محمد بن‌ عبد اللّه بن‌ عبد المطّلب بن هاشم) is the prophet of Islam—the world's second largest religion. According to traditional Muslim biographers, Muhammad was born c. 570 C.E. in Mecca (Makkah) and died June 8, 632 in Medina (Madinah). Both Mecca and Medina are cities in the Hejaz region of present day Saudi Arabia. He was a merchant in Mecca when, in 610 C.E. at about the age of 40, while meditating in a cave, Muhammad experienced a vision from the angel Gabriel, who commanded him to memorize and recite the verses subsequently collected as the Qur'an.

Although the polytheists of Mecca persecuted him and his followers for many years, neither he, nor his followers gave up following Islam. After thirteen years of preaching in Mecca, he immigrated to Medina. This journey is known as the Hijra, or migration; the event marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. In Medina, he established an ever expanding community of believers, the Muslim ummah.

By the time of his death, Muhammad had managed to unite most of the Arabs under the banner of Islam.

Medinan period[edit | edit source]

The life of Muhammad in the Medinan period can be reconstructed with much more certainty. In addition to a wealth of biographical data in the Qurʿan, we have extensive reports of maghāzī (military expeditions) that Muhammad led or organized and sent out. After the Qurʿan and some of the poetry preserved in the sirah, modern historians regard the maghāzī works as the oldest sources on the life of Muhammad and the foundation of the Medinan portions of the sirah, which are fuller and more trustworthy than the Meccan portions. Also, the Qurʿan and the sirah frequently corroborate each other for the Medinan period.

Narrative form of the Medinan sirah[edit | edit source]

For the period after the hijrah, Ibn Isḥaq includes a detailed “chronological frame narrative” that gives the dates for Muhammad 's military expeditions and for the time he spent in Medina.

Confronting the Meccans[edit | edit source]

Soon after his arrival in Medina, Muhammad, following the Arabian custom at that time, began to send out raziʿahs or raiding parties against Meccan caravans. A wronged party was expected to take goods by force from an oppressor tribe. Muhammad and his followers believed that the Meccans had forced them out of their homes and businesses and thus owed them redress. When a group of Muhammad 's men captured a Meccan caravan at Nakhlah in late 623 or early 624 CE, this gave warning to the Meccans. Thus on their next trip north, in the spring of 624 CE, the Meccans stayed together in Syria until everyone was ready to return home in one great caravan led by Abu Sufyan, a wealthy and powerful leader of Mecca. Muhammad led about three hundred men to intercept this caravan, and the Meccans sent a force three times as large to protect it. Abu Sufyan evaded Muhammad and arrived safely back in Mecca, while Muhammad 's men and the Meccan force encountered each other by chance at Badr, where caravans stopped for water. The two forces engaged in battle and Muhammad 's men defeated the much larger polytheist army, killing about seventy Meccans. The Muslim victory at Badr (mentioned by name in surah3:123) was taken by many as a sign that God was on Muhammad 's side, and this led to a large number of converts.

A year later, in the spring of 625 CE, Abu Sufyan led another Meccan army north to Medina for revenge. The two forces met on the hill of Uhud, just north of the Medinan settlement, and Muhammad and his men suffered a near disaster. After a fatal mistake by a detachment of his archers, Muhammad was injured but able to rally his forces. Abu Sufyan, seeing that about seventy Muslims and their allies had been killed, declared a victory and returned to Mecca (surah3:121–179 addresses the battle of Uhud). Two years later, in the spring of 627 CE, the Meccans, again under the command of Abu Sufyan, made their last attempt to stop Muhammad by force. This time the Muslims dug a trench across exposed areas into the settlement; this was sufficient to deter the Meccans and their allies, who withdrew after about two weeks (33:9–25). By this time Muhammad was in complete control of Medina, and Bedouin tribes in the surrounding area were making alliances with him and becoming Muslims.

Confronting the Jews[edit | edit source]

After each of the three battles mentioned above, one of the main Jewish clans was expelled from Medina. The primary reason was their failure to support Muhammad, marked by their collaboration with his enemies in Medina and their conspiracy with the Meccans. After the battle of Badr, the clan of Qaynuqaʿ was forced to leave Medina, and some of the emigrants (muhajirun), Muhammad 's followers from Mecca who had made the hijrah, took over their marketplaces and soon controlled trade within the settlement. The clan of al-Naḍir was expelled after the battle of Uhud; they owned rich groves of palm trees that were distributed among Muhammad 's poor emigrant followers and others (surah59:2–10). The treatment of the third and last Jewish clan, the Qurayẓah, was much harsher because of evidence of a conspiracy during the battle of the trench in which they made plans to attack Muhammad 's forces from the rear. If this fifth-column plot had been carried out, it could have ended his career. After a siege of their strongholds, they surrendered and Muhammad put them on trial, appointing a judge from an Arab tribe that was allied to them. The verdict was that all the men of the clan were to be executed and the women and children were to be sold as slaves (surah33:26–27). In this one action of his career, Muhammad followed the customs and expectations of his day rather than his usual magnanimous treatment of his foes after battles and intrigues.

Muhammad 's last years and his death[edit | edit source]

In the spring of 628 CE, guided by a vision, Muhammad led a huge group of Muslims on the 270-mile journey from Medina to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage ceremonies. They camped at al-Hudaybiyah on the edge of the haram, the sacred territory that surrounds Mecca. There Muhammad negotiated a treaty in which he agreed not to press his claim to complete the pilgrimage ceremonies that season, while the Meccan leaders promised to open the city to the Muslims the following year. They also agreed to a ten-year truce during which neither side would attack the other. In the spring of 629 CE, Muhammad led the first Muslim pilgrimage, an ʿumrah or “lesser pilgrimage” to Mecca. Later that year, a clan allied to the Meccans attacked a clan allied to Muhammad, thus breaking the treaty. Abu Sufyan and other Meccan leaders rushed to Medina to dissuade Muhammad from attacking their city, and they apparently agreed to surrender Mecca to him peacefully. Late in 629 CE Muhammad and his forces set out for Mecca, and early in 630 CE his native city surrendered to him without a fight.

Just weeks after the surrender of Mecca, with Muhammad now in command of all of west-central Arabia, a large confederation of tribes from south and east of Mecca made one last attempt to stop him by force. Muhammad 's 12,000 men fought an army twice that size at Hunayn (mentioned by name in the Qurʿan, 9:25), and once again the Muslims and their allies defeated a much larger force of polytheists. After dividing up the spoils, Muhammad and his followers from Medina returned home, where he consolidated his position.

In late 630 CE, he undertook his largest and last military expedition, with a force said to number 30,000 men, to TAbuk, near the Gulf of Aqaba. Muhammad encountered no army, but this show of force demonstrated his intention to challenge the Byzantines for control of the northern part of the caravan route from Mecca to Syria. Ibn Ishaq and al-Waqidi record twenty-seven expeditions, including pilgrimages to Mecca and the expulsions of the three Jewish clans, that Muhammad led himself, but they say he actually fought in only nine. In addition to these, he organized and sent out more than fifty other expeditions. (For a complete list of these expeditions, see Watt, 1956, pp. 339–343.)

The following year, 631 CE, is called the “Year of Deputations.” Envoys from tribes all over Arabia traveled to Muhammad 's headquarters in Medina and surrendered to him. Some tribes may have seen these treaties as normal Arabian tribal alliances, but Muhammad regarded them as including acceptance of Islam. The year 632 CE began on a sad note for Muhammad with the death of his young son Ibrahim. Later that spring the Prophet led to Mecca the largest number of Muslim pilgrims ever assembled during his lifetime on what came to be called his “Farewell Pilgrimage.” On the return trip to Medina, Muhammad contracted a fatal illness and knew his days were numbered.

Naming Imam Hussain[edit | edit source]

After Al-Hussein was born, the great angel Gabriel descended to the Prophet and revealed to him to give the new baby the name, Al-Hussain. When Gabriel descended to the Prophet, scores of angels accompanied him to congratulate and console the Prophet for Hussain’s birth and expected martyrdom. Prophet Muhammad named him “Hussain” by the order of Allah. Hussain is the Arabic equivalent of Shubayr in Hebrew. Shubayr was the name of the second son of Haroun/Aaron, the successor of Musa/Moses.

Prophet’s Knowledge of Imam Hussain’s Martyrdom[edit | edit source]

1: Ibn Saad (an eighth century historian) narrates from Ash-Shabi that Imam Ali while on his way to Siffin passed through the desert of Karbala. He stopped and wept bitterly. When asked regarding the cause of his weeping, he commented that one day he visited the Holy Prophet and found him weeping. When he asked the cause, the Apostle of Allah replied, " O' Ali, Jibrael has just been with me and informed me that my son Hussain would be martyred in Karbala, a place near the bank of the river Euphrates. This moved me so much that I could not help weeping."

2: Anas bin Harith narrates that : One day the Holy Prophet ascended the pulpit to deliver a sermon to his associates while Imam Hussain and Imam Hasan were sitting before him. When the sermon concluded, he put his left hand on Imam Hussain and raising his head towards Heaven, said: "O my Lord! I am Muhammad Thy slave and Thy Prophet, and these two are the distinguished and pious members of my family who would fortify my cause after me. O my Lord! Gabriel has informed me that my son Hussain will be killed.O my Lord, bless my cause in Hussain's martyrdom, make him the leader of the martyrs, be Thou his helper and guardian and do not bless assassins.'

3: Through successive chain of authorities reaching Shaikh Abul Qasim Ja’far bin Qawlawayh Qummi, who relates with his chain of authorities from Imam Ali that, one day the Holy Prophet Muhammad came to visit us. I brought some food for him which Umm Ayman had brought as a gift for us viz. a tray of dates, a cup of milk and a bowl of butter so that he may partake of it. When he finished eating I arose to pour water on his hands to wash it. When he finished washing it, he rubbed the wet hands on his blessed face and beard.

Then he went to the place of worship in the corner of the room and went into prostration and started weeping for a long time. Then he raised his head and none from among us had the courage to go near him and inquire. Hussain arose and went and sat upon the thigh of the Prophet of Allah, and put his head to his chest and placed his jaw on his head and said, “O dear father! Why do you weep”? The Prophet replied,

“I looked at you all and was happy and contented to an extent as I was never ever so much pleased before. Then Jibra’eel descended and reported to me that you all will be martyred, and your graves will be far away from one another. Hence I thanked Allah for what will befall (you all) and asked goodness for you.”

Hussain said,

“Then O father! who will look after our graves and come to visit them in spite of such distance”?

To which the Prophet replied,

“Those people among my nation (ummah) will come to visit your graves, who intent seeking my pleasure and goodwill. And hence I will go to assist them on the station of accounting (in Qiyamah), and hold their hands and relieve them from the fear and hardships of that day.”

4: Through the successive chain of authorities reaching Shaikh Mufid, who in his Irshad relates from Awza’ee, from Abdullah bin Shaddad, from Ummul Fazl bint Haris, who says that, one day I went to the presence of the Holy Prophet Muhammad and said, “O Prophet of Allah! Tonight I saw a very bad dream.” The Prophet inquired as to what it was. I said that it was very hard upon me, to which he again asked me to relate it to him. I said, “I saw that a piece of your body cut off and fell in my lap.” The Prophet replied,

“It is fine, for verily my Fatima will soon deliver a boy and you will be her midwife then.”

Hence Imam Hussain was born and lay in my lap as the Prophet had predicted. One day I took him to the presence of the Prophet. Suddenly I looked at his eyes and saw them filled with tears. I asked, “May my parents be your ransom O Prophet of Allah! What has happened to you”? He replied,

“Jibra’eel came to me and reported that the people from among my nation (ummah) will kill this son of mine, and he has brought red colored sand (from the earth of the place of his martyrdom).”

. 5: Through my successive chain of authorities reaching Shaikh Mufid, who relates in his Irshad that one day the Holy Prophet Muhammad was seated and Imam Ali, Fatima, Imam Hasan, and Imam Hussain were sitting around him. The Prophet addressed them and said,

“What will be your state when all of you will be killed and your graves will lie scattered”?

Imam Hussain said,

“Will we die a natural death or will we be martyred”?

The Prophet replied,

“O my dear son! You will be killed with oppression and cruelty, and your brother (Hasan) too will be killed with tyranny and cruelty, and your offspring will be scat­tered over the land.”

Hussain asked, “Who will kill us, O Prophet of Allah”?

He replied, “The worst among men”,

Then Imam Hussain inquired, “Then will anyone come to visit us (our graves) after our death”?

The Prophet an­swered,

“Yes my dear son! A group of people from among my community will come to visit your graves seeking my pleasure. Then on the day of Qiyamah, near the station of accounting, I will go to them and catching hold of their hands will save them from it’s terrors and sorrows.”

Some Sayings of Prophet about Imam Hussain[edit | edit source]

  • “Hussain is of myself and I am of Hussain. O' Allah be pleased with those who please Hussain and hate those who hate Hussain”
  • “Hassan and Hussain are masters of youth in Paradise.”
  • One day, when the Holy Prophet was in prostaration (sajda) during a prayer, Imam Hussain then climbed on his back. The Holy Prophet remained in prostration untill Imam Hussain came down himself.

Sources[edit | edit source]