Muhammad the Prophet

Islam            Session six

 

Item #3, bullet #3 of Outline:  Muhammad the Prophet

 

In our previous brief biography of Muhammad we left him 40 years old and married for 15 years to a wealthy widow.   For years Muhammad had frequently visited a cave near Mecca in order to meditate.  Now, in the year 610 AD Muhammad received his first revelation from Allah.

 

According to Muhammad, while meditating, he was visited by the Archangel Gabriel acting as the agent of Allah.  The archangel delivered a message from Allah which eventually became Sura 96 of the Koran.  This revelation which begins with: “Proclaim in the name of the Lord . . . . . . . .”; was considered to be Allah’s commissioning Muhammad to be His Messenger.  Thus began Muhammad’s  call to be the Prophet of Islam.  Over the next 12 years Muhammad was to receive a total of 114 revelations from  Allah.

 

The words of Allah in the Koran and the words and deeds of Muhammad in the The Sunnah (more about them a little later) work to elevate Muhammad above any other man (but he is not divine).  The term, “Allah and His Messenger”, occurs numerous times in the Koran as if They were “hand-in-glove” as the irrefutable source of Islamic edict and wisdom.  This is illustrated by reference to a few Suras from the Koran as follows:

  • Sura 24:46-47     “We believe in Allah and the Messenger, and we obey.”
  • Sura 24:54            “Obey Allah and obey the messenger.”
  • Sura 4:80              “Whosoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys Allah …”
  • Sura 4:59              “O believers, obey Allah, and obey the Messenger …”  (Above 4 citations from #3, P. 23)

 

Muhammad is above criticism, and the penalty for insulting “The Prophet” is death (Koran 5:33).  We see this in action today in various countries where Muslims are asserting their “rights” and demonstrating with placards which proclaim, “Behead (or death to) those who insult The Prophet.”

 

Sura 48 affirms Allah’s appointment of The Messenger and describes Muhammad’s attitude toward unbelievers in these words:  “Muhammad is Allah’s apostle.  Those who follow him are ruthless to the unbelievers but merciful to one another.” (Koran 48:29)

 

Gregory M. Davis, in his book, “Religion of Peace?”. . . , ably summarizes Islam’s view of Muhammad:

 

     “Islam teaches that Muhammad is the ideal man.   Muhammad is in no way considered divine, nor is he worshipped, but he is the model par excellence for all Muslims in how to conduct their lives.   Muhammad’s personal teachings and actions, which make up the Sunnah (more about that later) or “way” of the Prophet, embody the Islamic ideal of a good and holy life.  Details about the Prophet . . .  are indispensable knowledge for any faithful Muslim.”

Muhammad’s initial attempts to win converts were confined to his family with limited success.  Three years after receiving his first revelation he “went public” and outside of his family gathered a few, but very enthusiastic, followers.  However, the leaders of Mecca rebuked him and his position that Allah should replace all of the more than 300 idols revered by the various tribes.

 

For 9 years, Muhammad labored in a sea of hostility and ridicule with limited success in the area of Mecca; during which his wife died and he searched for a more hospitable place  to promote Islam.  In 622 AD he was encouraged by some Muslim residents of Yathrib (later, Medina) to move to Yathrib.  Muhammad assessed the situation and decided to move himself and his followers to Medina.  On September 24, 622 AD Muhammad arrived in Medina, and that date was accepted as the beginning of the history of Islam.

 

The ensuing decade from 622 AD to Muhammad’s death in 632 AD is a critical period in the development and spread of Islam.  During that time frame Muhammad’s following increased from a small band of constantly persecuted and harassed followers with no military capability to a military force with a religious mission that conquered virtually all of Arabia.

 

It is significant that Muhammad’s mode of operation, dictated by the revelations he received, changed from one of tolerance toward other religions to that of total intolerance.  While in Mecca he received 90 revelations (which became suras in the Koran) which touched on various aspects of society and personal conduct and none of which advocated violence against unbelievers, although some did warn of dire consequences because of their unbelief.  For example:

  • Sura 109: 1-6  ” . . .To you be your religion, and to me my religion.”
  • Sura 52: 45-47  “So leave them alone . . . for those who do wrong, there is a punishment beyond that.

But most of them know not.”

  • Sura73: 10-11  “And have patience with what they say, . . . and bear with them for a little while.”
  • Sura 29:46  “And dispute ye not with People of the Book (Jews and Christians), . . . Our Allah and your

Allah is one; . . .”

 

Within 3 years, Muhammad became the virtual ruler of Medina.  As he became more powerful the revelations became more belligerent and his desire for revenge against the Meccans who had persecuted him and his followers became an obsession.

 

We will continue with Muhammad the Prophet next session.