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The word ‘Islam’ simply means submission to god, and a Muslim is one who follows the laws of Islam. The revelation of Islam was given to Muhammad, who is revered by Muslims as the greatest prophet. ‘Muhammad’ is not just a name but a title which means ‘The Praised One’.
The Life of the Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad (Mohammed or Mahomet) was born around AD570 in Mecca, a city of Arabia. Mecca was already a shrine city where the Ka’aba (Cube) was located known as the “house of Allah”. (Allah is the Arabic word for god.) Ka’aba was full of the images of other gods and goddesses which Muhammad later banned.
Muhammad’s father died before he was born and he was a member of the Hashim clan of the powerful Quraysh tribe. Muhammad’s mother, Amina, died when he was only 6. Muhammad went to live with his grandfather, who was the guardian of the Ka’aba. Sadly, 2 years later his grandfather also died and from the age of 8, Muhammad was brought up by his uncle, Abu Talib, who was a merchant along the great camel trade routes.
Prophet Muhammad in his Teenage Years
As a youth, Muhammad grew up during a time of economic unrest and discontent concerning the vast difference between the very rich and the very poor. Pagan worship abounded in Arabia, as there were an estimated 360 gods and goddesses to appease, with over 124,000 prophets known at the time. Muslim historians record that even as a boy Muhammad detested idol worship and lived a morally pure life.
Muhammad’s Adult Life
Muhammad was employed by Khadija, a wealthy widow, to manage her caravan trade. He became known as ‘Al-Amin’, the trustworthy one, and was a prominent member of the trade guild of Mecca.
At the age of 25 he married Khadija and their marriage produced 6 children, although all of them died, except for the youngest daughter – Fatima. Muhammad and Khadija were married for 25 years. Later, after Khadija died, Muhammad endorsed polygamy and married several wives.
At the age of 40, he became very concerned about the state of his fellow countrymen and spent much of his time in meditation on religious matters. During his life, Muhammad had met many Christians priests and Jews. He often sought counsel from a particular ‘Jacobite’ monk who taught Muhammad many aspects of Jewish religious customs.
During the Arabic month of Ramadan, Muhammad often retreated to a cave on the slopes of Mount Hira, 5 kilometers or 3 miles from Mecca. It was during one of these times that Muhammad began to receive revelation and instruction that he believed were from the archangel Gabriel. These revelations form the basis of the Qur’an (Koran). In addition to the Qur’an is the book of ‘Hadiths’. The Hadith is the teaching of Muhammad and is an important part of the life of a Muslim.
The Qur’an (Koran)
Muhammad proclaimed that the (soon to be) Qur’an was the final and superior revelation from the One Supreme God. He banned the worship of idols, and taught that a Muslim’s life must be wholly committed to Allah with ritual washing before the 5 daily times of prayer facing Mecca. Friday became the appointed day for corporate worship at the mosque.
Muhammad died in AD632 in Medina, Saudi Arabia.