Muhammad is the prophet and founder of Islam.
Who Was Muhammad?
Muhammad is the prophet and founder of Islam. Born in Mecca in 570, most of his early life was spent as a merchant. At age 40, he began to have revelations from Allah that became the basis for the Koran and the foundation of Islam. By 630 he had unified most of Arabia under a single religion. As of 2015, there are over 1.8 billion Muslims in the world who profess, “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
The Life of Muhammad
Muhammad was born around 570, AD in Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia). His father died before he was born and he was raised first by his grandfather and then his uncle. He belonged to a poor but respectable family of the Quraysh tribe. The family was active in Meccan politics and trade.
Many of the tribes living in the Arabian Peninsula at the time were nomadic, trading goods as they crisscrossed the dessert. Most tribes were polytheistic, worshipping their own set of gods. The town of Mecca was an important trading and religious center, home to many temples and worship sites where the devoted prayed to the idols of these gods. The most famous site was the Kaaba (meaning cube in Arabic). It is believed to have been built by Abraham (Ibrahim to Muslims) and his son Ismail. Gradually the people of Mecca turned to polytheism and idolatry. Of all the gods worshipped, it is believed that Allah was considered the greatest and the only one without an idol.
In his early teens, Muhammad worked in a camel caravan, following in the footsteps of many people his age, born of meager wealth. Working for his uncle, he gained experience in commercial trade traveling to Syria and eventually from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean. In time, Muhammad earned a reputation as honest and sincere, acquiring the nickname “al-Amin” meaning faithful or trustworthy.
In his early 20s, Muhammad began working for a wealthy merchant woman named Khadihah, 15 years his senior. She soon became attracted to this young, accomplished man and proposed marriage. He accepted and over the years the happy union brought several children. Not all lived to childhood, but one, Fatima, would marry Muhammad’s cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, whom Shi’ite Muslims regard as Muhammed’s successor.
The Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad was also very religious, occasionally taking journeys of devotion to sacred sites near Mecca. On one of his pilgrimages in 610, he was meditating in a cave on Mount Jabal aI-Nour. The Angel Gabriel appeared and relayed the word of God: “Recite in the name of your Lord who creates, creates man from a clot! Recite for your lord is most generous….” These words became the opening verses of sūrah (chapter) 96 of the Qur'an. Most Islamic historians believe Muhammad was initially disturbed by the revelations and that he didn’t reveal them publicly for several years. However, Shi’a tradition states he welcomed the message from the Angel Gabriel and was deeply inspired to share his experience with other potential believers.