Nearly four thousand years ago, in the Sumerian town of Ur in the valley of the river Euphrates, lived a young man named Abraham. The people of Ur had once worshipped Allah but as time passed they forgot the true religion and started praying to idols, statues made of wood or clay and sometimes even of precious stones. Even as a small child Abraham could not understand how his people, and especially his father, could make these images with their own hands, call them gods, and then worship them. He had always refused to join his people when they paid respect to these statues. He would leave town to sit alone and think about heavens and the worlds around him.. He was sure his people were doing wrong and so alone he searched for the right way. One clear night as he sat staring at the sky he saw a beautiful shining star, so beautiful that he cried out: 'This must be Allah!' He looked at it in awe for some time, until suddenly it began to fade and then it disappeared. He turned away in disappointment saying: I love not things that set. (Koran vi.77)
On another night Abraham was again looking at the sky and he saw the rising moon, so big and bright that he felt he could almost touch it. He thought to himself: This is my Lord. (Koran vi.78) But it was not long before the moon set as well. Then he said, Unless my Lord guides me, I surely shall become one of the folk who are astray. (Koran vi.78) Abraham then saw the beauty and splendor of the sunrise and decided that the sun must be the biggest and most powerful thing in the universe. But for the third time he was wrong, for the sun set at the end of the day. It was then that he realized that Allah is the Most Powerful, the Creator of the stars, the moon, the sun, the earth and of all living things. Suddenly he felt himself totally at peace, because he knew that he had found the Truth.
When he said unto his father and his folk: What do you worship? They said: We worship idols, and are ever devoted to them.
He said: Do they hear you when you cry? Or do they benefit or harm you? They said: Nay, but we found our fathers acting in this manner.
He said: See now that which you worship, You and your forefathers! Lo! they are (all) an enemy to me, except the Lord of the Worlds. Who created me, and He guides me, And Who feeds me and waters me. And when I sicken, then He heals me. And Who causes me to die, then gives me life (again) And Who, I ardently hope, will forgive me my sin on the Day of judgement. (Koran xxvi.70-82)
One day, while all the townspeople were out, Abraham angrily smashed all the idols with his right hand except for one which was very large. When the people returned they were furious.
They remembered the things Abraham had said about the idols. They had him brought forth before everyone and demanded, 'Is it you who did this to our gods, 0 Abraham?' Abraham replied, "But this their chief did it. Ask them, if they are able to speak". The people exclaimed,"'You know they do not speak".
' 'Do you worship what you yourselves have carved when Allah created you and what you make?' Abraham continued, 'Do you worship instead of Allah that which cannot profit you at all, nor harm you?' (Koran xxxvii.95-6)(Koran xxi.66)
Finally, Abraham warned them, Serve Allah, and keep your duty unto Him; that is better for you if you did but know. You serve instead of Allah only idols, and you only invent a lie. Lo! those whom you serve instead of Allah own no provision for you. So seek your provision from Allah, and serve Him, and give thanks unto Him, (for) unto Him you will be brought back.(Koran xxix. 16-17)
The people of Ur decided to give Abraham the worst punishment they could find: he was to be burnt to death. On the chosen day all the people gathered in the centre of the city and even the King of Ur was there. Abraham was then placed inside a special building filled with wood. The wood was lit. Soon the fire became so strong that the people were pushed back by the flames.
But Allah said: "O fire, be coolness and peace for Abraham". (Koran xxi.69)
The people waited until the fire had completely died down, and it was then that they saw Abraham still sitting there as though nothing had happened! At that moment they were utterly confused. They were not, however, moved by the miracle that had just happened before their very eyes.
Still Abraham tried to persuade his own dear father, who was named Azar, not to worship powerless, un-seeing, un-hearing statues. Abraham explained that special knowledge had come to him and implored his father, 'So follow me and I will lead you on the right path. O my father! Don't serve the Devil.' But Azar would not listen. He threatened his son with stoning if he continued to reject the gods of Ur. He ordered Abraham to leave the city with these words: 'Depart from me a long while.' Abraham said, 'Peace be upon you! I shall ask my Lord's forgiveness for you. Surely He was ever gracious to me.' (Koran xix.43-7)
Imagine how terrible it must have been for him to leave his home,
his family and all that he knew, and set out across the wilderness into the unknown. But at the same time, how could he have remained among people who did not believe in Allah and who worshipped statues? Abraham always had a sense that Allah cared for him and he felt Allah near him as he traveled. At last, after a long hard journey, he arrived at a place by the Mediterranean Sea, not far from Egypt. There he married a noble woman by the name of Sarah and settled in the land of Palestine. Many years passed but Abraham and his wife were not blessed with any children. In the hope that there would be a child, and in keeping with tradition, Sarah suggested that Abraham should marry Hagar, her Egyptian maid. Soon after this took place, Hagar had a little boy named Ishmael. Some time later Allah promised Abraham another son, but this time the mother of the child would be his first wife, Sarah. This second son would be called Isaac. Allah also told Abraham that from his two sons-Ishmael and Isaac-two nations and three messages would be founded and because of this he must take Hagar and Ishmael away from Palestine to a new land.
These events were an important part of Allah's plan, for the descendants of Ishmael would form a nation from which would come a great Prophet, who would guide the people in the way of Allah. This was to be Muhammad (pbuh), the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). From the descendants of Sarah's child, Isaac, would come Moses and Jesus.
So it was that Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael left Palestine. They traveled for many days until finally they reached the arid valley of Bacca ( later to be called Mecca), which was on one of the great caravan routes. There was no water in the valley and although Hagar and Ishmael only had a small supply of water left, Abraham left them there knowing Allah would take care of them. Soon all the water was gone. The child began to grow weak from thirst. There were two hills nearby, one called Safa and the other Marwah. Hagar went up one hill and looked into the distance to see if she could find any water,
but found none. So she went to the other hill and did the same. She did this seven times. Then sadly she returned to her son, and to her great surprise and joy she found a spring of water bubbling out of the earth near him. This spring, near which the mother and child settled, was later called Zamzam. The area around it became a place of rest for the caravans travelling across the desert and in time grew into the famous trading city of Mecca.
From time to time Abraham traveled from Palestine to visit his family and he saw Ishmael grow into a strong young man. It was during one of these visits that Allah commanded them to rebuild the Ka'bah-the very first place where people had worshipped Allah. They were told exactly where and how to build it. It was to be erected by the well of Zamzam and built in the shape of a cube. In its eastern corner was to be placed a black stone that had fallen to earth from heaven. An angel brought the stone to them from the nearby hill of Abu Qubays.
Abraham and Ishmael worked hard to rebuild the Ka'bah and as they did so they prayed to Allah to send a Prophet from among their descendants. And when Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): 'Our Lord! Receive this from us; Thou, only Thou, art the All-hearing, the All-knowing; Our Lord! And make us submissive unto Thee and of our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and turn toward us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful. Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise. (Koran ii.127-9) When the Ka'bah was completed, Allah commanded Abraham to call mankind to pilgrimage to His Holy House. Abraham wondered how anyone could hear his call. Allah said, 'You call and I will bring them.' This was how the pilgrimage to the Ka'bah in Mecca was established and when Muslims make the pilgrimage today they continue to answer the age-old call of Abraham.
The Children Of Ishmael
Over the years Ishmael's children themselves had children. His descendants increased and formed tribes which spread out all over Arabia. One of these tribes was called Quraysh. Its people never moved away from Mecca and always lived near the Ka'bah. One of the duties of the leader of Quraysh was to look after those who came on pilgrimage to the Ka'bah. The pilgrims would come from all over Arabia and it was a great honor to provide them with food and water.
As time passed, however, the Arabs stopped worshipping Allah directly and started bringing idols back with them from the different countries they visited. These idols were placed at the Ka'bah, which was no longer regarded as the Sanctuary of Allah, as Abraham had intended it. It was, however, still respected by the Arabs. Around this time the well of Zamzam disappeared beneath the sand.
Also at this time, Qusayy, one of the leaders of Quraysh, became ruler over Mecca. He held the keys of the temple and had the right to give water to the pilgrims, to feed them, to take charge of meetings, and to hand out war banners before battle. It was also in his house that Quraysh settled their affairs. After Qusayy's death, his son 'Abdu Manaf, who had become famous during his father's lifetime, took over the leadership of Quraysh. After him came his son Hashim. It is said that Hashim was the first to begin the two great caravan journeys of Quraysh, one in the summer to Syria and the north, and one in the winter to Yemen and the south. As a result, Mecca grew rich and became a large and important centre of trade.
One summer Hashim went north to buy goods to sell in Yemen. On his way he stopped in Yathrib to trade in the market and there he saw a beautiful woman. She was Salma', the daughter of 'Amr ibn Zeid, who was from a much respected family.
Hashim proposed marriage to her and was accepted because he was an honorable and distinguished man.
In time, Salma' gave birth to a beautiful son and as some of his hair was white they called him Shaybah, which in Arabic means grey-haired'.
Mother and son stayed in the cooler, healthier climate of Yathrib, while Hashim returned to Mecca, but he would visit them each time he took his caravan to the north. During one of these journeys, however, Hashim became ill and died. Shaybah, a handsome, intelligent boy, grew up in his uncle's house in Yathrib. He was proud of being the son of Hashim ibn 'Abdi Manaf, the head of Quraysh, guardian of the Ka'bah and protector of the pilgrims, even though he had not known his father, who had died while Shaybah was very young.
At Hashim's death his brother al-Muttalib took over his duties and responsibilities. He traveled to Yathrib to see his nephew, Shaybah, and decided that as the boy would one day inherit his father's place,
the time had come for him to live in Mecca. It was hard for Salma', Shaybah's mother, to let her son go with his uncle but she finally realized that it was for the best. Al-Muttalib returned to Mecca, entering the city at noon on his camel with Shaybah behind him. When the people of Mecca saw the boy they thought he was a slave and, pointing at him, called out 'Abd al-Muttalib', 'Abd' being the Arabic for 'slave'.
Al-Muttalib told them that Shaybah was not a slave but his nephew who had come to live with them. From that day on, however, Shaybah was always affectionately called Abd al-Muttalib. On the death of al-Muttalib, who died in Yemen where he had gone to trade, 'Abd al-Muttalib took his place. He became the most respected member of his family, loved and admired by all. He was, however, unlike those Arabs who had given up the teachings of Abraham.
The Promise At Zamzam
The well of Zamzam, which disappeared when the Arabs placed idols at the Ka'bah, remained buried under the sand.
The people of Quraysh, thus, had to fetch their water from far away for many years. One day 'Abd al-Muttalib was very tired from doing this and fell asleep next to the Ka'bah. He had a dream in which he was told to dig up Zamzam. When he woke up he was puzzled because he did not know what Zamzam was, the well having disappeared many years before he was born. The next day he had the same dream, but this time he was told where to find the well.
'Abd al-Muttalib had one son at that time, and together they began to dig. The work was so difficult that 'Abd al-Muttalib made an oath to Allah that if one day he were to have ten sons to help him and stand by him, in return he would sacrifice one of them in Allah's honor. After working for three days they finally found the well of Zamzam. Pilgrims have been drinking from it ever since. The years passed by and 'Abd al-Muttalib did have ten sons. They grew into fine, strong men and the time came for him to keep his promise to Allah. He told his sons about the promise and they agreed that he had to sacrifice one of them To see which one it would be,
they decided to draw lots, which was the custom of Quraysh when deciding important matters. 'Abd al-Muttalib told each son to get an arrow and write his own name upon it and then to bring it to him. By doing so, he took them to the Ka'bah where there was a man whose special task was to cast arrows and pick one from among them. This man solemnly proceeded to do this. On the chosen arrow, the name of 'Abd Allah, the youngest and favorite son of 'Abd al-Muttalib, was written. The father, therefore, took his son near the Ka'bah and prepared to sacrifice him.
Many of the Quraysh leaders were present and they became very angry because 'Abd Allah was very young and much loved by everyone. They tried to think of a way to save his life. "Do not do so! Go to the wise old woman of Yathrib and ask her for advice!", someone suggested. 'Abd al-Muttalib, thus, took his son and went to see what she could do.
Some of the Meccans went with them. "How much is the ransom in your tribe?", the woman asked. They told her, 'Ten camels', for at that time if one man killed another, his family would have to give ten camels to the dead man's family in order to keep the peace among them. So the woman told them to go back to the Ka'bah and draw lots between 'Abd Allah and ten camels. If the camels were chosen, they were to be killed and the meat given to the poor. If 'Abd Allah was picked then ten more camels were to be added and the lots drawn again and again until they finally fell on the camels.
'Abd al-Muttalib returned to the Ka'bah with his son and the people of Mecca. There they started to draw lots between 'Abd Allah and the camels, starting with ten camels. 'Abd al-Muttalib prayed to Allah to spare his son and everyone waited in silence for the result. The choice fell on 'Abd Allah, so his father added ten more camels. Again the choice fell on 'Abd Allah, so they did the same thing again and again,
adding ten camels each time. Finally they reached one hundred camels, and only then the lot did fall on the camels. 'Abd Allah was saved and everyone was very happy. 'Abd al-Muttalib however, wanted to make sure that this was the true result so he repeated the draw three times and each time it fell on the camels. He then gave thanks to Allah that He had spared 'Abd Allah's life. The camels were sacrificed and there was enough food for the entire city, even the animals and birds. 'Abd Allah grew up to be a handsome young man and his father eventually chose Aminah, the daughter of Wahb, as a wife for him. It was a good match for she was the finest of Quraysh's women and 'Abd Allah the best of its men. He spent several months with his wife but then he had to leave her and travel with one of the caravans to trade with Syria. On his way back to Mecca from Syria 'Abd Allah became ill and had to stop off in Yathrib to recover. The caravan, however, continued on its way and arrived back in Mecca without him. On hearing of 'Abd Allah's illness,
'Abd al-Muttalib sent another son, al-Hareth, to bring 'Abd Allah back to Mecca, but he was too late.
When he arrived in Yathrib 'Abd Allah was dead. Aminah was heart-broken to lose her husband and the father of the child she would soon give birth to. Only Allah knew that this orphan child would one day be a great Prophet.
The Elephant Refuses To Move
Abrahah, who came from Abyssinia-a country in Africa-conquered Yemen and was made vice-regent there. Later, he noticed that at a certain time of the year large numbers of people would travel from all over Yemen and the rest of Arabia to Mecca. He asked the reason for this and was told that they were going on pilgrimage to the Ka'bah. Abrahah hated the idea of Mecca being more important than his own country, so he decided to build a church of colored marble, with doors of gold and ornaments of silver, and ordered the people to visit it instead of the Ka'bah. But no one obeyed him.
Abrahah became angry and decided to destroy the Ka'bah.
He prepared a large army led by an elephant and set off towards Mecca. When the Meccans heard that he was coming they became very frightened. Abrahah's army was huge and they could not fight it. But how could they let him destroy the Holy Ka'bah? They went to ask the advice of their leader, 'Abd al-Muttalib. When Abrahah arrived outside Mecca, 'Abd al-Muttalib went to meet him. Abrahah said, 'What do you want?' Abrahah had taken Abd al-Muttalib's camels, which he had found grazing as he entered Mecca, so 'Abd al-Muttalib replied, 'I want my camels back.' Abrahah was very surprised and said, 'I have come to destroy your Holy Ka'bah, the holy place of your fathers, and you ask me about some camels?' 'Abd al-Muttalib replied calmly, 'The camels belong to me; the Ka'bah belongs to Allah and He will protect it.' Then he left Abrahah and went back to Quraysh and ordered them to leave Mecca and wait for their enemies in the mountains.
In the morning Abrahah prepared to enter the town.
He put armor on his elephant and drew up his troops for battle. He intended to destroy the Ka'bah and then return to Yemen. At that moment, however, the elephant knelt down and refused to get up, no matter how much the soldiers tried to get it to move by beating it.
But when they turned its face in the direction of Yemen it immediately got up and started off. In fact, it did the same in any other direction, but as soon as they pointed it towards Mecca it knelt down again. Suddenly, flocks of birds appeared from over the sea. Each bird carried three stones as small as peas and they dropped them on Abrahah's army. The soldiers suddenly fell ill. Even Abrahah was hit by the stones and fled in fear with the rest of his army back to Yemen, where he later died. On seeing their enemy flee the Arabs came down from the mountains to the Ka'bah and gave thanks to Allah.
After this, Quraysh gained great respect and became known as 'the people of Allah',
and the year in which these events took place, 570A.D, was named the 'Year of the Elephant'. In that year Allah had saved the Ka'bah and he would soon bring forth a Prophet from among Quraysh. In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful: "Hasn't thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant? Did He not bring their stratagem to naught, And send against them swarms of flying creatures, Which pelted them with stones of baked clay, And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)? (Koran cv.1-5)
The Prophet Is Born
One day, while travelling north, one of the Arab tribes from Mecca met a hermit in the desert. Some of the men stopped to speak with him. Hermits were known to be wise and the Arabs often asked their advice. The hermit asked where they had come from. When they replied that they were from Mecca, he told them that Allah would soon send a prophet, who would come from their people. They asked the name of this prophet and the hermit answered that his name would be Muhammad and that he would guide them to a new way of life.
Meanwhile in Mecca, Aminah, although saddened by the loss of her husband, felt especially well and strong as she awaited the birth of her baby. During this time she dreamt of many things. On one occasion it was as if a great light were shining out of her, and on another she heard a voice telling her that she would have a boy and that his name would be Muhammad. She never forgot that voice but she told no one about it.
On Monday, the twelfth day of Rabi al-Awwal in the Year of the Elephant, Aminah gave birth to a son. Allah sends man many signs when one of His chosen Prophets is born and on that twelfth day of Rabi al-Awwal in the year 570 A.D, many such signs were seen. Some were seen by Jewish scholars who had read in their scriptures of a coming Prophet. One of these learned men in Yathrib, for instance, saw a brilliant new star he had never seen before as he studied the heavens that night. He called the people around him and,
pointing the star out to them, told them a Prophet must have been born. That same night another Jew was passing by the meeting place of the leaders of Quraysh in Mecca. He asked them if a baby boy had just been born and told them that if it were true, this would be the Prophet of the Arab nation.
Aminah sent news of the birth to her father-in-law, 'Abd al-Muttalib, who was sitting near the Ka'bah at the time. He was very happy and began at once to think of a name for the boy. An ordinary name would not do. Six days came and went and still he had not decided. But on the seventh day, as he lay asleep near the Ka'bah, 'Abd al-Muttalib dreamt that he should give the baby the unusual name of Muhammad, just as Aminah herself had dreamt. And the child was called Muhammad (pbuh), which means 'the Praised One'. When 'Abd al-Muttalib told the leaders of Quraysh what he had named his grandson, many of them asked, 'Why did you not choose the sort of name that is used by our people?' At once he replied, 'I want him to be praised by Allah in the heavens and praised by men on earth
A Time With Halimah
Like many other women in Mecca, Aminah decided to send her son away from the city for his early years to the desert where it was more healthy. Women from the desert used to come to Mecca to collect the new babies and they would then keep them until they developed into strong children, for which they were well paid by the parents.
Among the women who traveled to Mecca to fetch a new baby at the time Aminah's son was born, was a Bedouin woman called Halimah. With her was her husband and baby son. They had always been very poor but this year things were harder than ever because there had been famine. The donkey that earned Halimah on the journey was so weak from hunger that he often stumbled. Halimah's own baby son cried all the time because his mother could not feed him properly. Even their she-camel did not give them one drop of milk. Halimah did not know what to do.
She thought to herself, 'How can I possibly feed another baby when I haven't got enough milk even for my own son?'
At last they reached Mecca. All the other women of the tribe to which Halimah belonged, the Bani Sa'd, found a child to take back with them, but not Halimah. The only baby left was Muhammad (pbuh). Usually the father paid the wet-nurse but Mohammed's father was dead. So no one wanted to take him, even though he was from one of the noblest families of Quraysh. Halimah did not want to take him either, but she did not want to be the only woman to go back to her tribe without a baby to bring up. She asked her husband whether she should take Muhammad (pbuh) or not. He advised her to do so, adding, 'Perhaps Allah will bless us because of him.' They started on the return journey and as soon as Halimah began to feed Muhammad (pbuh) her milk suddenly increased and she had enough for him as well as her baby son. When they were back home, everything began to change.
The land became green,
and the date palms , one of their main sources of food, gave lots of fruit. Even the sheep and their old she-camel began to give plenty of milk.
Halimah and her husband knew that this good fortune had come because they had the new baby, Muhammad (pbuh), whom they had come to love as if he were their own son.
When Muhammad (pbuh) was two years old, Halimah took him back to his mother. She pleaded with Aminah, however, to let her keep him for a little longer, and to her great joy the mother agreed. During his time with Halimah's family in the desert, Muhammad (pbuh) played with her children and together they would take the sheep out to graze. At other times, however, Halimah would often find him sitting alone. It is said that on one occasion, two angels came to Muhammad (pbuh) and washed his heart with snow. In this way Allah made his heart pure for He intended Muhammad (pbuh) to be greater than any man ever born and to become the Seal of the Prophets.
in the Name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful
"Did We not expand thy breast for thee And eased thee of thy burden Which weighed down thy back; And exalted thy fame? So truly with hardship comes ease, Truly with hardship comes ease. So when thou art relieved, still toil And strive to please thy Lord. (Koran xciv.1-8)
When Halimah finally took Muhammad (pbuh) back to Aminah, he was a healthy, strong boy. Later he would look back with joy on the time he had spent with Halimah, and he always thought of himself as one of the Bani Sa'd.
The Orphan's Childhood
Muhammad (pbuh) returned to live with his mother in Mecca when he was about three years old. Three years later Aminah decided to take her son to visit his uncles in Yathrib. She told her maid, Barakah, to prepare everything they would need for the long journey, and then they joined one of the caravans going there. They stayed in Yathrib a month and Muhammad (pbuh) enjoyed the visit with his cousins. The climate there was very pleasant and he learned to swim and to fly a kite.
On their way back to Mecca, however, Aminah became ill and died. She was buried in the village at al-Abwa not far from Yathrib. Muhammad (pbuh) returned sadly to Mecca with his mother's maid He was now six years old and had lost both his father and mother. He was then adopted by his grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib, who loved him dearly and kept him by his side at all times. It was the custom of 'Abd al-Muttalib to sit on a blanket near the Ka'bah. There he was always surrounded by people who had come to speak to him. No one was allowed to sit on the blanket with him, however, except his grandson Muhammad (pbuh), which shows how close they were to each other. Many times 'Abd al-Muttalib was heard to say: 'This boy will be very important one day.'
Two years later 'Abd al-Muttalib became ill and Muhammad (pbuh) stayed by him constantly. 'Abd al-Muttalib told his son, Abu Talib, to adopt Muhammad (pbuh) after his death, which he did. Abu Talib had many children of his own,
but Muhammad (pbuh) immediately became part of his family and the favorite child. The time came for Quraysh to prepare a caravan to go to Syria. Abu Talib was going with them and he took Muhammad (pbuh) along. It was Mohammed's first journey to the north. After days of travel, the caravan arrived at a place near Syria where the Romans used to come to trade with the Arabs. Near this marketplace lived a monk called Bahira'. His cell had been used by generations of monks before him and contained ancient manuscripts.
Bahira' saw the caravan in the distance and was amazed to see that over it was a large white cloud. It was the only cloud in a clear blue sky and it appeared to be shading one of the travelers. The monk was even more surprised to see that the cloud seemed to follow the caravan but disappeared when the person it was shading sat down under a tree. Bahira' knew from the scriptures that a prophet was expected to come after Jesus and it had been his wish to see this prophet before he died.
Realizing that what he had just seen was a miracle, he began to think that his wish might, after all, come true.
The monk sent an invitation to the Meccans to come and eat with him. The Arabs were surprised because they often passed by and Bahira' had never invited them before. When the group was all together for the meal, the monk said, 'Is this everyone?' 'No', someone said, 'a boy was left watching the camels.' Bahira' insisted that the boy should join them. The boy was Muhammad (pbuh). When he arrived Bahira' said nothing, but watched him all through the meal. He noticed many things about his appearance which fitted the description in the old manuscripts. Later on he took him aside and asked Muhammad (pbuh) many questions. He soon found out how he felt about the idols in the Ka'bah. When Bahira tried to make him swear by them, as the Arabs used to do, Muhammad (pbuh) said, 'There is nothing in this world that I hate more'. They talked together about Allah and about Mohammed's life and family. What was said made Bahira certain that this was indeed the Prophet who would come after Jesus.
Then the monk went to Abu Talib and asked him how he was related to Muhammad (pbuh). Abu Talib told him that Muhammad (pbuh) was his son. Bahira replied that this could not be so because the boy was destined to grow up an orphan, and he ordered Abu Talib to watch over Muhammad (pbuh) with great care. There are many stories told about Mohammed's youth. Some tell of how he used to take the family's sheep to graze and was always kind to them. While they grazed he would sit thinking about the mysteries of nature. Unlike those around him, he never worshipped the idols and never swore by them.
He also wondered why people were always struggling for power and money, and this saddened him and made him feel lonely, but he kept his feelings to himself. He was a quiet, thoughtful boy, and rarely played with other boys of his age. On one occasion, however, Muhammad (pbuh) went with some of the boys to a wedding in Mecca.
When he reached the house he heard the sounds of music and dancing but just as he was about to enter he suddenly felt tired and, sitting down, fell asleep. He didn't wake up until late the next morning and thus missed the celebrations. In this way Allah prevented him from doing anything foolish for He was keeping Muhammad (pbuh) for something much more important.
The Prophet's Marriage
By the time Muhammad (pbuh) was twenty-five he was famous for his honesty. He was respected by everyone, even the elders of Mecca. The purity of his nature increased with the years. It seemed he had an inner knowledge that other people did not have. He believed in one God-Creator of the world-and he worshipped Him with all his heart and with all his soul. Muhammad (pbuh) was the finest of his people, the most kind, truthful and reliable person in Mecca. He was known among Quraysh as 'the trustworthy' (al-Amin) because of the good qualities Allah had given him. He spent many quiet hours in a cave in Mount Hira, not far from Mecca,
thinking about Allah. Among Quraysh was a respected and wealthy woman named Khadijah. She was involved in trade and on hearing of Mohammed's reputation, sent for him and asked him to take her goods and trade with them in Syria. Muhammad (pbuh) agreed and left for Syria with one of Khadijah's caravans. With him went her slave, Maysarah, and they spent a great deal of time talking together. Maysarah soon came to admire Muhammad (pbuh). He thought he was quite different from all the other men of Quraysh.
Two unusual events took place during this journey which puzzled Maysarah very much. The first happened when they stopped to rest near the lonely home of a monk. Muhammad (pbuh) sat under a tree while Maysarah was busy with some work. The monk came up to Maysarah and asked, 'Who is the man resting under the tree?' 'One of Quraysh, the people who guard the Ka'bah', said Maysarah. 'No one but a Prophet is sitting beneath this tree', replied the monk. The second event occurred on the journey back to Mecca. It happened at noon,
when the sun is at its hottest. Maysarah was riding behind Muhammad (pbuh) and as the sun grew hotter he saw two angels appear above Muhammad (pbuh) and shield him from the sun's harmful rays. The trading was very successful and Muhammad (pbuh) made more profit for Khadijah than she had ever received before.
When they arrived back in Mecca Maysarah told Khadijah everything about the trip and what he had noticed about Mohammed's character and behavior.
Khadijah was a widow in her forties and as well as being rich and highly respected she was also very beautiful.
Many men wanted to marry her but none of them suited her. When she met Muhammad (pbuh), however, she thought he was very special. She sent a friend to ask Muhammad (pbuh) why he was not married. Muhammad (pbuh) said that it was because he had no money, to which the friend replied: 'Supposing a rich, beautiful and noble lady agreed to marry you?' Muhammad (pbuh) wanted to know who that could be. The friend told him it was Khadijah.
Muhammad (pbuh) was very happy, because he greatly respected Khadijah. He went with his uncles, Abu Talib and Hamzah, to Khadijah's uncle, and asked his permission to marry her. The uncle gave his permission and soon after, Muhammad (pbuh) and Khadijah were married.
Their marriage was a joyful one and Muhammad (pbuh) and Khadijah were well suited. Their life together, however, was not without some sadness. They were blessed with six children, two sons and four daughters. Sadly their first born, a son called Qasim, died shortly before his second birthday, and their last child, also a son, only lived for a short time. Happily, their four daughters-Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatimah-all survived.
For a few years Muhammad (pbuh) lived a calm and quiet life as a merchant in Mecca. His wisdom benefited many people. One such time was when Quraysh decided to rebuild the Ka'bah. It was a difficult decision for them because they had to knock it down before rebuilding it and the people were afraid that Allah might be angry with them for knocking down His sanctuary.
At last one of the wise old men of Quraysh decided to begin, then everybody followed him. They worked until they reached down to the first foundation that Abraham had built. As soon as they began to remove the stones of this foundation, however, the whole of Mecca began to shake.
They were so afraid that they decided to leave these stones where they were and build on top of them. Each tribe brought stones and they built the Ka'bah up until they reached the place where the black stone was to be set. They then began to argue about who should have the honor of carrying the black stone and lifting it to its place in one of the corners of the Ka'bah.
They almost came to blows but fortunately one of the men offered a solution. He suggested that they should be guided by the first person to enter the place of worship. They all agreed and as Muhammad (pbuh) was the first to enter everyone was pleased, because they all trusted him.
They told him the cause of the argument and he asked them to bring a large cloak. They did as he asked, and after spreading the cloak on the ground he placed the black stone in the centre of it. Then he asked a man from each tribe to hold one edge of the cloak and together to raise it to the height where the stone should be set. When this was done, he took the stone off the cloak and put it into place himself. This story shows how all Quraysh respected and trusted Muhammad (pbuh) and how, by his wisdom and good sense, he was able to keep the peace.
The Coming of The Archangel Gabriel
Muhammad (pbuh) believed that there was only one Allah, Creator of the sun, the moon, the earth, the sky, and of all living things, and that all people should worship only Him. Muhammad (pbuh) would often leave the crowded city and go to the cave in Mount Hira'. He liked to be alone there, away from all thoughts of the world and daily life, eating and drinking little. In his fortieth year, Muhammad (pbuh) left Mecca to spend Ramadan,
the traditional month of retreat, in the cave. In the second half of Ramadan, Allah began to reveal His message for mankind through Muhammad (pbuh). This first Revelation occurred as follows. The Archangel Gabriel came to Muhammad (pbuh) in the cave and commanded him to 'Read'. Muhammad (pbuh) replied 'I cannot read.' At this the Archangel took Muhammad (pbuh) in his arms and pressed him to him until it was almost too much to bear. He then released him and said again 'Read.' 'I cannot', replied Muhammad (pbuh), at which the Archangel embraced him again. For the third time the Archangel commanded Muhammad (pbuh) to read, but still he said he could not and was again embraced. On releasing him this time, however, the Archangel Gabriel said:
"Read: In the Name of thy Lord who createth, Createth man from a clot. Read: And thy Lord is the Most Generous Who teacheth by the pen, Teacheth man that which he knew not. (Koran xcvi.1-5) Muhammad (pbuh) repeated these verses, just as the Archangel had said them.
When the Archangel was sure Muhammad (pbuh) knew them by heart, he went away. Now that he was alone Muhammad (pbuh) could not understand what had happened to him. He was terribly afraid and rushed out of the cave. Perhaps the cave was haunted? Perhaps the devil had taken a hold of his mind? But he was stopped by a voice from heaven which said; '0 Muhammad (pbuh) you are the Messenger of Allah, and I am Gabriel.' He looked up at the sky and wherever he turned he saw the Archangel Gabriel.
In a state of confusion he returned home to Khadijah. When his wife saw him she became very worried as he began to shiver, as though in a fever. He asked her to wrap him in blankets, which she did. After a while he recovered sufficiently to tell her what had happened at Hira'. Khadijah believed all that he told her and with great respect said: 'Be happy, 0 son of my uncle and be confident. Truly I swear by Allah who has my soul in His hands, that you will be our people's Prophet.' Muhammad (pbuh),
the Messenger of Allah, was eased by her faith in him, but after all that had happened he was exhausted and felt fast asleep.
Khadijah left the Prophet (pbuh) sleeping and went to see her cousin, Waraqah Ibn Nawfal, to ask him what he thought about all that had happened. Waraqah was a very wise man who had read many books and had become a Christian after studying the Bible. He told Khadijah that Muhammad (pbuh) had been chosen by Allah to be His Messenger. Just as the Archangel Gabriel had come to Moses before and had ordered him to guide his people, so, too, would Muhammad (pbuh) be the Prophet of his people. But Waraqah warned that all the people would not listen to the Prophet and some would mistreat his followers. He must, however, be patient because he had a great message for all the world. From that day on, the Archangel Gabriel came often to the Prophet (pbuh) and the verses he taught him, the message from Allah to man, were later written down, and are known to us as the Holy Koran
The First Muslims
e early days.
After that momentous day in the month of Ramadan, Revelation came again and again to the Prophet (pbuh). He understood now what he had to do and prepared himself for what was to come. Only a strong and brave man, helped by Allah, can be a true prophet because people often refuse to listen to Allah's message. Khadijah was the first to believe the Prophet (pbuh) and accept as true what he brought from Allah. Through her, Allah made things easier for the Prophet (pbuh). Khadijah strengthened him, helped him spread his message, and stood up to the people who were against him.
Then Revelation ceased for a time. The Prophet (pbuh) was upset and unhappy, thinking that Allah had left him, or that he might have angered Allah in some way so that Allah no longer thought him worthy of His message. However, the Archangel Gabriel came back to him and brought this surah, or chapter, of the Koran:
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
"By the morning hours,
And by the night when it is stillest, Thy Lord hath neither forsaken thee nor doth He hate thee, And verily the Last will be better for thee than the First. And verily thy Lord will give unto thee so that thou wilt be content. Did He not find thee an orphan and protect thee? Did He not find thee wandering and guide thee? Did He not find thee destitute and enrich thee? Therefore the orphan oppress not, Therefore the beggar drive not away, And as for thy Lord's blessing, declare it". (Koran: xciii.1-11)
The Prophet (pbuh) began to speak secretly of Allah's message to those Who were close to him and whom he could trust. At that time Mecca was going through hard times. There was very little food to be had. Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, who had taken care of him after his grandfather's death, was finding it very difficult to feed his large family.
The Prophet (pbuh) said that he and another uncle, al-'Abbas, who was a rich man,
would each bring up one of Abu Talib's children in order to help him. The Prophet (pbuh) took 'Ali and his uncle took Ja'far.
One day, when the Prophet (pbuh) was outside the city, the Archangel Gabriel appeared to him. The Archangel kicked the side of a hill and a spring of water began to flow out. He then began to wash himself in the running water to show the Prophet (pbuh) the ritual ablution to be made before prayer. Then the Archangel showed him all the positions of Muslim prayer-the various movements and things to be said with each movement. The Prophet (pbuh) returned home and taught all these things first to Khadijah and then to his followers. Since then Muslims have continued to purify themselves before prayer by performing the ritual ablution and have followed the same movements and prayers first performed by the Prophet (pbuh). To begin with, though, only the Prophet (pbuh) and his wife knew of these things. Then one day 'Ali entered the room and found the Prophet (pbuh) and Khadijah praying.
He was puzzled and asked what they were doing. The Prophet (pbuh) explained to him that they were praising Allah and giving thanks to Him. That night 'Ali stayed up thinking about all that the Prophet (pbuh) had said; he had great admiration and respect for his cousin. Finally he came to a decision and the next day he went to the Prophet (pbuh) and told him that he wanted to follow him. Thus Khadijah was the first woman to embrace Islam, the teachings which the Prophet (pbuh) brought from Allah, and 'Ali was the first young man. Shortly after they were joined by Zayd ibn Harithah, a slave, freed and adopted by the Prophet (pbuh).
The Prophet (pbuh) began to leave Mecca with Ali in order to pray. One day Abu Talib happened to pass by and when he saw them he stopped and asked them what they were doing. The Prophet (pbuh) told him that they were praying and following the same religion as Abraham. He explained that, like Abraham, he had been ordered to guide the people to Allah's truth. Abu Talib looked at his son,
'Ali, and said: 'Muhammad (pbuh) would never make you do anything that was wrong. Go with him.
But I cannot leave the religion I now follow and which was followed by my father.' Then he turned to the Prophet (pbuh), saying, 'Even so, I promise you, Muhammad (pbuh), that no one will hurt you as long as I am alive.' And with that Abu Talib went on his way. At about this time the news of Muhammad (pbuh) being the Prophet reached an honest, wise, and respected merchant of Mecca called Abu Bakr. He knew Muhammad (pbuh) well and believed he could never lie, so he went to find out for himself if the story were true. The Prophet (pbuh) told him that he had indeed been sent by Allah to teach everyone to worship the one true Allah. On hearing this from the Prophet's own lips Abu Bakr knew it to be the truth and became a believer instantly. Later the Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have said that everyone he ever invited to accept Islam showed signs of disbelief and doubt, except Abu Bakr; when he was told of it he did not hold back or hesitate.
Because of his wisdom, honesty, and kindness people had always turned to Abu Bakr for advice. He was, therefore, a man of some influence and through him many people came to Islam. Among these was Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas as, the uncle of Aminah, the Prophet's mother. The night before Abu Bakr came to visit him and tell him about Islam, Sa'd Ibn Abi Waqqas dreamt that he was walking in darkness. As he walked he saw the moon and when he looked at it he saw 'Ali, Abu Bakr, and Zayd, the Prophet's freed slave, beckoning to him to come and join them. When Abu Bakr told him about the Prophet's religion, he understood the meaning of his dream and went at once to the Prophet (pbuh) and declared himself a Muslim. He understood that to be a Muslim means to submit oneself to Allah's Will and to serve only Him. Another person brought to Islam by Abu Bakr was Bilal. One night Abu Bakr went to the house of Umayyah ibn Khalaf, one of the most important men of Quraysh. Umayyah was out and Abu Bakr found only Umayyah's slave,
Bilal, at home. Abu Bakr talked to the slave about Islam and before he left, Bilal, too, had become a Muslim. The number of people following the Prophet (pbuh) began to grow. Sometimes they would all go out of the city to the mountains around Mecca to hear him recite the Koran and to be taught by him. This was all done very secretly and only a very few people knew about Islam in those early days.