Arabs before Islam were people who possessed certain distinguished virtues, such as loyalty, boldness and generosity. Arabia had tribal organizations and literary clubs. They were highly eloquent in the Arabic language, making poetry an integrated part their lifestyle. Much of the social, political, and tribal life affairs of Arabia are still delivered in poetic forms. Poetry was the broadcasting media at that time.

The status of women was also extremely undermined, so much was the case that widowed and divorced women were not permitted to remarry. Certain tribes used to bury their daughters alive at birth. Pride and disgrace intruded this criminal attitude toward female babies.

Addressing this odd behavior, God in the Quran questioned the killers saying:

{When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned for what crime she was killed.} (81:8-9)

In Arabia, tribal prejudice was very strong. Everyone firmly believed that each came from the noblest stock. Religion was in a state of pluralism. Each tribe had its own god. The Jews and Christians, on the other hand, were having a waiting match. Each was expecting the awaited prophet “that Prophet,” to come from amongst their people.

Jewish and Christian tribes had settled in the Arabian Peninsula in the locations matching the Old Testament’s description of where the awaited prophet shall be coming from. For example, eleven Jewish tribes settled around the city of Madinah, as well as the Christian tribe of Najran. The Old Testament, Book of Habakkuk, 3:3, prophesied:

“God came from Teman and the holy one from mount Paran, Sila, his glory cover the heaven and earth and the earth was full with his praise.”

According to the Dictionary of the Bible, under the word Teman, page 961, it states: Teman is a large oasis in the north of Medina. Arabia’s social, political and moral aspects demanded a reformer.

Focus on Early History of Islam

In the beginning of 600 CE, when the elders of Makkah renovated the shrine of the Ka’bah, they fell into an argument: Who would have the honor of resetting the sacred divine black stone (a stone from heaven) into the masonry?

It was agreed that the next man to enter the sacred precincts would judge the dispute. First to appear was a young Makkan merchant whose wisdom and honesty had earned him the name Al-Amin or the “Trustworthy”. He was a thin man, strong of bone and muscle and had dark eyes and a lightened face. He called for a cloak to be spread on the ground and with his own hands he placed the black stone on it.

With a noble man from each of Makkah’s leading tribes pulling a corner of the robe, the sacred stone was raised. Then with his hands, the young man sat the stone into its niche where it remains till this day. The man’s name was Muhammad.

Muhammad was born in Makkah in the Arabian Peninsula, into the prominent Quraysh tribe about 570 C.E., both of his parents died young; first his father, Abdu-Allah and then his mother Amina shortly after. He was about six years old at the time of his mother’s death. His father died when he was still in his mother’s womb. His grandfather Abd-al Muttalib, a prominent leader in Makkah, took charge of him.

Upon the death of his grandfather, Muhammad’s guardianship passed to his uncle Abu-Talib, who never converted to Islam but continued to show love and protection for his nephew despite extreme hardships and dangers.

Muhammad, like the rest of the young men in Abu-Talib’s family, had to work. At first he was a shepherd but later he gained respect as a businessman. At 25 he married Khadijah, a 40 year old widow. They lived 23 years together and had four daughters and two sons. All his sons died during early childhood but his daughters lived and got married, only Fatima had descendants.

Muhammad’s Humanistic Character

Muhammad exhibited a trait of kindness and compassion for all people. Regarding this, historians relate to us a revealing story about Muhammad and his servant Zaid ibn Harithah, who was known as the son of Muhammad.

As revealed earlier, Arabia was not civilized and individuals or tribes often raided or robbed others for food and gains, due to droughts and famine. It happened that the young boy, Zaid ibn Harithah was in route with his mother for some business when he was snatched by muggers who, later, sold him in Makkah as a slave. Zaid was purchased and given to Khadijah by her nephew. Khadijah gave Zaid to Muhammad as a marriage gift. Meantime, Zaid’s family was in agony as a result of the loss of their son. His father, Harithah, had composed poetry revealing the agony and sadness without their son, wondering his fate.

One day, Harithah learned the good news that his son was with Muhammad. Soon he collected a large sum of money from his clan and went to Muhammad to buy back his son. When Harithah met Muhammad, he told him the story of Zaid and that he had collected a large sum of money as a ransom to get him back.

Possibly not to hurt Zaid’s feelings, Muhammad said, “What if I offer you a better solution?”

“Sure, but what could be better than this sum of money?” Harithah replied. Muhammad then said, “We will give Zaid the choice to either go with you or stay with me. If he chooses to go with you, you can take him and I will take no money but if he chooses to stay with me, I would not turn him down.” Harithah said that this is indeed a better solution.

So Muhammad calls upon Zaid, who greeted his father and later was given the choice to go back to his family or stay with Muhammad. Realizing Muhammad’s decency and treatment, Zaid had no difficulty choosing Muhammad over his own family. This was a surprise for his father.

To comfort Harithah and show him Zaid’s freedom, Muhammad took Zaid by the hand to the Ka’bah and announced to Quraysh that Zaid was to be from here on called “Zaid the son of Muhammad.”

Thus, Muhammad’s kind heartedness did not impose on Zaid a mastership order to go back to his family, yet at the same time, assured his biological father that Zaid will be treated by Muhammad like a son, not a servant. Such was Muhammad’s pristine nature.

In fact, during his Prophethood, Muhammad taught that religion is “the way to treat others.”

Archangel Gabriel with the First Revelation “Read”

During the next several years, Muhammad devoted much of his time to contemplation. Often he climbed to a small cave among the rocks of Mount Noor called Hira’, just north of Makkah, to spend time in fasting and meditation.

There, in the year 610, at 40 years of age and although unlettered, a revelation overwhelmed him, a blinding vision that frightened him to his knees. A voice from the sky said:

“O Muhammad, Read!”

He said:

“I cannot read.”

The voice again said: “Read!”

He said:

“I cannot read.”

The third time the voice was more frightening than the previous. It commanded: “Read!”

He said:

“What shall I read?” Then the archangel replied:

{Read, in the name of the Lord who createth, created man from a clot, read and it is thy Lord, the most Bountiful Who teacheth by pen, teacheth man that which he knew not.} (96:1-5)

Troubled, Muhammad returned home to Khadijah. Is it that God has spoken to him and had appointed him His messenger? Or is it that he is losing his senses?

It is an undisputed fact that Khadijah was the first to believe in his appointment as a Prophet, before anyone, even the disturbed Muhammad himself, for he returned to her saying: “Wrap me, wrap me,” and right after he told her what he had experienced and what was said to him, Kadijah responded by saying: “Allah will not disappoint you, you feed the poor, you cloth the needy…”

Meeting with the Christian Monk

Soon after, Khadijah took Muhammad and hastened to her cousin, Waraqah ibn-Nowfal, who refused to worship idols and had become a Christian and who had also translated part of the Old Testament into Arabic. When Muhammad told him what he had seen and heard, he broke into these words: “Holy, Holy! By Him Who dominated Waraqah’s soul, O Khadijah, this must be the great spirit that spoke to Moses. Muhammad must be the Prophet of this nation.”

The next call for Muhammad was:

{O you who lie wrapped in your mantle, arise and Warn. Glorify your Lord. Purify your garments.} (74: 1-3)

Thus, Muhammad became the Prophet who would later transform the face of this globe.
 Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was prophesied in the Judeo-Christian scripture. In this writing, the author selected several points of prophesies quoted from the teachings of the modern Muslim scholar, Dr. Jamal Badawi. According to Dr. Badawi, the event of the First Revelation was prophesied in the Old Testament in great detail. The following is from the Book of Isaiah 29:12:

“And the Book is delivered to him that is not learned saying read this I pray thee and he says I am not learned.”

This astounding similarity between what took place during Muhammad’s appointment and what was prophesied in the Old Testament cannot be attributed to anyone else other than Muhammad. It is incredible how precise this prophecy is. Why is it that Muslims, Jews or Christians have recognized this fact as a common heritage to all their respective religions? It would seem that we have an opportunity to construct a bridge for better understanding and closer ties amongst the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths.

Thus, the revelation started by an enlightenment expressing word, “Read” and the revelation that formed the Holy Quran continued for the next twenty-three years. During this time, the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad in stages and as demanded by the relevant events and circumstances happening. At times he received only a single small Surah and at others, Surahs (chapters) of one or more verses. The Holy Quran expressed this as:

{(It is) a Qur’an which We have divided (into parts from time to time) in order that thou might recite it to men at intervals: We have revealed it by stages.} (17:106)

Again, looking at the Old Testament, there is similarly another perfectly fit prophecy of the description above for the awaited “Prophet”. In the Book of Isaiah 28:10 which says:

“For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.”

During the time the Revelation was actually delivered to Prophet Muhammad, he used to utter the words that are being revealed to him and he was worried about losing or forgetting part of it:

{Move not your tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste therewith.} (75:16)

For a matching description to this Quranic verse from the scripture, the Book of Isaiah 28:11:

“From for with a stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to his people.”

Stammering is to speak or say with involvement, pauses and rapid repetition of syllables and sounds, as from excitement. It is amazing how accurate and meticulous this description is and to be told hundreds of years before it actually took place.

Muhammad’s Prophethood came as a result of a divine plan to bless the nations of the world by raising a Prophet through the descendants of Prophet Ishmael, son of Abraham, patriarch of the monolithic religions. According to the Old Testament, God promised Prophet Abraham He would bless his nation. Read below Verse 18, Chapter 18, Book of Deuteronomy:

“I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” The Bible’s Last Prophet, page 12.

Torture and the Muslim Migration to Abyssinia

The laws and injunctions brought by the Prophet had angered the leaders of Makkah who feared losing their businesses, leaderships and influences. In 12 years, Muhammad was able to convert a few hundred people to Islam with extraordinary patience and despite Quraysh’s insults and ill-treatment.

During these years Muslims were harassed, tortured and killed in Makkah. Muhammad gave orders for some of his followers to migrate secretly to Yathrib, a city north of Makkah and for others to go to Ethiopia, where there was news of a just Christian king, King Negus. Others, including the Prophet and his clan, were driven out of their homes into the desert where they suffered hunger and hardship for almost three years.

Muslim’s Dialogue with the Christian King of Abyssinia

Quraysh was so upset about the migration of the Muslims that they confiscated their homes, wealth and belongings in retaliation. Furthermore, Quraysh sent a delegation to King Negus of Abyssinia carrying precious gifts with hopes of extraditing the Muslims back to Makkah for punishment and humiliation. The two appointed ambassadors, Amr ibn Al-As and Abdullah ibn Abu-Rabiah presented the King Negus and his patriarchs their gifts and said:

“O King! A number of ignoble plebeians from Makkah have taken refuge in your country. They have turned away from the religion of their people and have not joined your religion. They follow a new religion known neither to us nor to you, which they have created. The leading noblemen of Makkah, who are their parents, uncles and relatives, have sent us to you to ask for their return.”

Negus then sent for the refugees to hear their plea. When the refugees came before the king, he said:

“What is this new religion which caused you to separate from your people?”

Jafar ibn Abu-Talib, the Prophet’s cousin rose and said:

“O King, we were in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshiping idols, eating carrion and committing injustices, the strong amongst us exploited the weak. Then God sent us a Prophet, one of our own people, whose lineage, truthfulness, loyalty and purity are well known to us. He called us to worship God alone, he commanded us always to speak the truth, to remain true to trust and to keep the promise to avoid fornication, perjury and false witness.”

Thereupon, the king asked:

“Will you show me some of the revelation which your Prophet claims?”

Jafar ibn-Abu Talib said yes and began to recite the verses from Chapter Mary where the infant Jesus spoke from the cradle. The Quranic verses on the birth of Prophet Jesus are:

{Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them… Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary, (it is) a statement of truth about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter He only says to it “Be” and it is.} (19:16…35)

When the patriarchs heard these words, they were pleasantly surprised and told the King:

“These words must have sprung from the same fountain head as the words from which our master Jesus Christ’s have sprung.” Negus then said: “Go fourth in my kingdom, I shall not extradite you.”

This collaboration of the Christian king with the Muslims was not only a cause for victory for them, but a sign of the true and actual relationship between Muslims and Christians during the life of the Prophet of Islam.

What is more revealing about the Christian/Muslim relationship during this time is that some of those Muslims who were under the protection of the Christian king, had fought along with his Christian soldiers against certain rebellions within the king’s land. It behooves us, Muslims, Christians and Jews, to come forth and rediscover such bonds for mutual and peaceful co-existence.

The Siege on the Prophet and His Clan

In its campaign of violence against Muslims, the Quraysh tribe imposed a boycott on the Prophet and his clan and forced them out to an arid and dry valley known as the Abu-Taleb Valley. This was in the eighth year after Muhammad’s first revelation. The siege went on for twenty-eight long months.

During this time the family of the Prophet or members of his clan were not allowed to deal, trade, buy, sell, or socialize with the Quraysh tribe. The siege took its toll on the Prophet and his family. As a result, they had to eat grass, insects, roots and shrubbery. Due to the harsh conditions imposed on them, some of his family became ill.

The Prophet’s Uncle, Abu Taleb died as a result shortly after the boycott was removed and shortly after that, his wife Khadijah also perished. Their deaths were a direct result of the long years suffering malnutrition and the hardship being in exile brought.

Christian and Muslim Alliance

A significant Christian/Muslim alliance took place when Prophet Muhammad was in exile. In coordination with Ja’ffar ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet, and King Negus of Abyssinia, a Christian/Muslim delegation of thirty-three people was sent to visit the Prophet in exile and investigate the condition of the Muslims and the ill treatment they were exposed to by Quraysh.

When the delegation met the Prophet they were overwhelmed with the wisdom and the verses of the Quran he recited to them. Quraysh leaders insulted the Christian delegation for showing sympathy to the Prophet and his family. However, the delegation abstained from returning Quraysh’s insult and for this occasion, Allah revealed:

{Those to whom We sent the Book before this, they do believe in this (Revelation); and when it is recited to them, they say: We believe therein, for it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed we have been Muslims (bowing to God’s Will) from before this. Twice will they be given their rewards, for that they have preserved, that they avert evil with good and that they spend in charity out of what We have given them. And when they hear vain talk, they turn away there from and say: To us our deeds, and to you yours.} (28:52-5)

Although Quraysh showed anger towards the Christian delegation on the outside, the act of a foreign investigation into their internal affairs and exposing their inhumane treatment of their own people, was a hidden concern that possibly led to the removal of the siege.

Moved either by the fear of an intervention of a foreign power or by the awakening of their conscientious, several leaders of Quraysh, Hisham ibn Amr, Zuhair ibn Umayah, Mut’im ibn ‘Addi, and Buhtury ibn Hihsam agreed amongst themselves to “stop the fool act of the boycott” and planned to call the rest of Quraysh leaders into a public meeting at the Ka’bah for the purpose of ending the boycott. The meeting was a success and the removal of the boycott was achieved.

Indeed, the act of the Christian delegation of Abyssinia in visiting the Prophet cannot be perceived as anything other than an act of alliance with the Prophet and Muslims, in times of hardship and oppression.

Muhammad’s Journey to al Ta’if

Having lost his wife and uncle, Muhammad’s exposure to Quraysh’s harassment and assaults grew greater. In old Arabia, the governing law was that everyone is protected by belonging to a clan, the stronger the clan the better the protection.

For Muhammad, both of his parents died when he was young and his guardianship was moved to his grandfather, at first, then when his grandfather died it moved on to his uncle Abu Taleb. Now that he lost his uncle and wife, he lost most of the protection of his clan.

Being tired of Quraysh’s assaults and rejection, Muhammad started looking for another chance to spread his cause outside of Makkah. The Prophet made a decision to go to al Ta-‘if, 93 miles southwest of Makkah in the hope of finding a stronger collaboration from its people. It must have been horribly painful for Muhammad to have made such a decision. He knew that if he left the city his life would be endangered by the lawless Arabia, and that if he had to return to Makkah he would have to find a new clan to protect him, which might not be possible.

In al Ta-‘if, the Prophet was turned down by the city’s three leaders. One leader said to him:

“If God sent you, I will tear down the hangings of the Ka’bah.” The second leader told him:

“Couldn’t God find anyone else other than you to send?”

The third leader refused to meet with the Prophet but sent his servant with this message:

“I do not need to speak to you, for if you are a messenger from God as you claim, then you are too great of a person for me to address and, if you are a liar, it is not befitting for me to speak to you.”

Knowing the consequences if he returned to Makkah, Muhammad appealed to them to conceal the news of rejection from Quraysh or to allow him to stay amongst them. His plea was also rejected. Instead of expected kindness, they turned loose their children to follow him and threw stones at him until his head was severely cut. He bled until blood came out of his shoes.

Just outside town in a vineyard, he and his servant rested and prayed these words:

“O my God, unto You I complain of my weakness, of my helplessness and of my lowliness before men. O Most Merciful of the merciful, You are Lord of the weak. And You are my Lord. Into whose hands will You entrust me? Unto some far off stranger who will ill-treat me? Or unto a foe whom You have empowered against me? I care not if Your wrath is not on me…”

Upon this supplication, the Angel of Mountains came to Prophet Muhammad asking his permission to close the two mountains on the people of Ta-‘if but despite his deepest wounds of rejection, Muhammad replied: “No, God may bring from their offspring people who may testify to the oneness of God and worship Him.”

The Prophet was magnanimous. His zeal for peace and forgiveness indeed overpowered his personal anger and self-wounds. Testifying to this fact, God revealed:

{And indeed you are of a great moral character.} (68:4; 21:107)

Now, Muhammad had no other choice but bear the pain of rejection and humiliation and to return to Makkah. The next task for him was to find protection in Makkah. He sent his servant Zaid with the names of several tribal leaders in the hope that one of them will accept the request. Only one, Al-Mut’im ibn ‘Addi, who was an Idolater accepted the protection of the Prophet.
For the next three years Muhammad was under the protection of a disbeliever. As expected from the Prophet, who was sent to teach wisdom and rationality, he had to deal with the new circumstances differently. Now he would no longer speak low of their idols, nor would he introduce himself to Quraysh in the way and frequency he used to. Instead, he channeled his efforts to the people who visit Makkah, especially during the pilgrimage season. And this flexibility in approach seemed to be fruitful.

For example, he met with some people from the city of Yathrib who were favorable to his call and accepted Islam. The few converted Yathribian Muslims went back to their people and converted more. In the next pilgrimage season, twelve of them met secretly with the Prophet and made a covenant with him to act and live up to the highest of standards. He asked his companion Muss’ab ibn Umair to go with them and be his Ambassador in Yathrib.

In Yathrib, the Prophet’s ambassador and the twelve Yathribian Muslims were successful in introducing Islam in the city. In the next year’s pilgrimage to Makkah seventy Yathribian Muslims met again, secretly with the Prophet and made a pact with him to live morally and honestly and give him protection. The Prophet had them select twelve representatives from amongst themselves, possibly reflecting their corresponding tribes, to report to Muss’ab. Under this leadership, the Yathribian Muslim community soon became a significant power.

Now the scale of the relative power between the Quraysh tribe and the Muslims had begun to shift in favor of the Muslims.

The Miraculous Journey into Heaven (Isra’ and Mi’raj)

Eleven years after the first revelation, the miraculous Journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem and his ascension to the seven heavens took place. In this remarkable journey, Muhammad met with his brother prophets; Abraham, Moses, Jesus and all other prophets sent by God and led them in a prayer in Jerusalem.

From Jerusalem he ascended to the seven heavens, again meeting with the Prophets. It was here he received the Muslim duties of the five daily prayers.

Muhammad’s meeting with all the prophets demonstrates the close ties and common grounds between Islam, Christianity and Judaism as well as other revealed religions.

To be continued…

By Faysal Burhan