According to the Quran, the last prophet to be sent to mankind by God was Muhammad (pbuh). Muhammad (pbuh) was a descendant of Abraham through his son Ishmael. We have seen how Abraham and Ishmael together had built the Kaba. Ishmael had then chosen to live close to the Kaba, summoning people to the worship of the One God. Within a short space of time, the land he lived in became a stopping place for merchant caravans on their way north, and eventually it grew into a flourishing city known by the name of Makkah.
The descendants of Ishmael e became tribes and spread out across the Arabian peninsula. Some of his descendants, however, had remained in Makkah and were known as the tribe of Quraysh. With the passing of the years, the people of Makkah turned away from the truth that Abraham and Ishmael had once taught. They started worshipping idols which they placed around the Kaba. The other Arab tribes, however, still travelled from all over the peninsula in order to visit the Kaba and to perform the pilgrimage (Hajj).
One of the elders of the tribe of Quraysh was a man called Quraysh, and to him fell the honour of taking charge of the Kaba, of showing hospitality to the pilgrims and of giving the food and drink. Qusayy’s function was passed down to his son until it reached his great-grandson, Abd al-Muttalib. Abd al-Muttalib had a son by the name of ‘Abd Allah whom he loved greatly, when Abd Allah reached the age of manhood, his father chose mina bint Wahb to be his wife. Amina was a most excellent girl of Quraysh and Abd Allah one of the finest young men of the tribe.
The wedding took place, and Abd Allah spent a number of months with his wife. Then he left with a merchant caravan the north. On the return journey, however, he was taken ill and decided to remain behind in Yathrib, a city north of Makkah, until he recovered. But his condition worsened, and shortly a terwards he died.
Amina was deeply sorrowed by the loss of her husband. She also feared for the child she was carrying, a child destined never to see its father. Yet it was the wisdom of God that this very child should grow up to be a prophet.
The time for Amina’s child to be born drew near. Although her heart was filled with sadness, she always felt a great sense of calm, for she had seen in a dream that she would be blessed with a son who would one day be great, and that his name would be Muhammad (pbuh). The child was born, and news of the birth reached ‘Abd al-Muttalib, as he was sitting beside the Karba. He rejoiced greatly birth of his grandson, and began to think of a name for him. Six days passed and still he could not decide what it should be. Then, on the seventh night, he had a dream in which an invisible speaker commanded him to name the child Muhammad (pbuh), as Amina had already dreamt.
Abd al-Muttalib called the elders of Makkah to a gathering, and announced the name of the child. It was a name strange to the Arabs. When Abd al-Muttalib was asked why he had not chosen a name with which they were all familiar, he replied, “I wish him to be praised (mahmüd, from the same root-word as Muhammad) both by God in the heavens and by the people on earth.” Thus the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was enfolded both in his mother’s tenderness and his grandfather’s loving care.
In time, Amina decided to send her son to the desert where the climate was better than in Makkah. Quraysh were accustomed to doing this in order to preserve the health of their children. The young Muhammad (pbuh) travelled in the care of a Bedouin woman, named She was a poor woman of delicate health with a son of her own to feed, but no sooner did she return to her home in desert, carrying with her this precious child, than good fortune rained down upon her and continued to do so for as long as the child remained in her care.
When Muhammad (pbuh) approaching his sixth year, his mother took him to visit one of his uncles in Yathrib. Muhammad (pbuh) spent a happy time with his cousins. But on the journey back to Makkah, Amina fell ill and died. Sadly, Muhammad (pbuh) returned to Makkah accompanied by his mother’s maid,
‘Abd al-Muttalib now became the child’s legal guardian. He looked after him with very special care, favouring him over all is other cousins, and keeping him always at his side. A sign of is favour could be seen when ‘Abd al-Muttalib would receive the tribal elders. He would sit on a carpet by the side of the Kaba and only Muhammad (pbuh) would be allowed to sit there side him.
Unfortunately, two years after the death of Amina, ‘Abd al-Muttalib passed away. The child was now adopted by his uncle Abu Talib, Abu Talib was a man with many children, but it was not long before Muhammad became like a son to him.
Once, when Quraysh were making a to trip to Syria, Abü Talib decided to take his nephew Muhammad along with him. The caravan happened to halt at a place near to the cell of a certain monk, named Babira. Caravans would often pass that way. Yet, on this particular occasion, the monk came ou to inspect the new arrivals, for his curiosity had been aroused by a sight. He had noticed a single raincloud sheltering the caravan throughout all its journey. Then, suddenly he saw it disappear as one of the members of the party moved off to sit beneath a tree.
Now, Balira knew, from his reading of the Scriptures, that a prophet was expected after Jesus e; he also knew that the time for his coming was at hand. He sensed something extraordinary about this caravan, and so he sent word inviting the party to come and take refreshments with him.
One by one, he began to examine them until finally his gaze fell upon Muhammad (pbuh). Watching him carefully all the while, he took him aside and asked questions to which Muhammad (pbuh) replied. Finally, before the caravan went on its way, Bahira urged Abu Talib to take good care of his nephew Muhammad (pbuh) and to be sure to always guard him well.
Muhammad (pbuh) grew to be a young man of good character. He was so honest and truthful that people called him the Trustwor thy (al-Amin). He loved to be alone, and would often leave the city to shepherd the flocks and contemplate the wonders of nature.
At the age of twenty-five, Muhammad (pbuh) married Khadija a wealthy noblewoman of Quraysh. Before this, he had traded abroad on her behalf, and although he was considerably younger than she, he had greatly impressed her with his good character and trustworthy nature. Together they lived in peace and happiness. They had four daughters, Zaynab, Ruqayya, Umma Kulthüm and Fatima A, and also two little boys, who sadly died while still infants.
While Quraysh worshipped idols, Muhammad (pbuh) worshipped God alone, Muhammad (pbuh) hated to see idols inside the Kaba for he knew ancestors. Abraham and Ishmael had built
that his it as a place for the worship of the One God. Muhammad (pbuh) would often journey far out of Makkah, away from its people and the idols, and take shelter in a cave at Mount Hira. There he devoted himself to God. the universe and its and would think about how far his people had gone astray. Sometimes, these periods alone in the cave would endure for many long days and nights, especially in the month of Ramadan. Then he returned home only to take the sparsest supplies of food and drink.
Fifteen years had passed since the marriage of Muhammad (pbuh) and Khadija and Muhammad s was now forty years old. In the Ramadan of his fortieth year, Muhammad (pbuh) made his way as usual to the cave of Mount Hira intending to spend the month of Ramadan there in prayer. During one of the last ten nights of the month, whilst he was in deepest thought, the Archangel Gabriel suddenly appeared before him, Gabriel said to him, ”Read!” Astonished and deeply Muhammad (pbuh) replied, “I am not one who reads,” this the embraced him tightly, then released him and repeated his demand. Muhammad (pbuh) gave the same reply. So Gabriel did as he had done before, and for a third time commanded him to read. Once more, Muhammad (pbuh) repeated, “I am not one who reads.” Then the Archangel lifted up his voice saying:
“Redd in the name of your Lord who created.”
This verse from God marked the beginning of Muhammad’s mission to mankind. Throughout his life he would receive many other verses which together make up the Holy Book Islam, the Quran.