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Islam Chronology

The Life of the Prophet Muhammad



Muhammad was born into the trading society of Mecca in 570. He was a part of one of the dominant tribes, the Qu'raish (Adler, p.184). Mecca was a great trade city and was a stopping place for merchants and businessmen of all races, religions, and countries. In general, it was open to the world. Although Mecca continually struggled for supreme power and went through many leaders, Mecca's strength was the ability of the people to form a common mind for the "common good" (Watt, p.50).

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Not much is known about this man during the first forty years of his life other than the fact that he married a rich widow and later they had a daughter, Fatima, who became the wife of the great warrior, Ali (Ibid., p.186). However, around 610, Muhammad claimed that after meditating in the desert God had revealed many messages to him concerning life. These revelations came from the angel Gabriel, who Muhammad claimed God had used to call him to publish his religion (Guillaume, p.96). Muhammad's revelations were written shortly after his death and they are now called the Qur'an.

After these experiences in the desert, Muhammad claimed to be a prophet of God with the great desire to guide others by God's message. So, he began to preach to those around him in 617 (Ibid., p.100). The people of Mecca at this time were involved in a religion called Ka'aba meaning "black stone," in which they literally worshipped a black stone. Those following this religion believed that many objects, other than the black stone, possessed spirits and power. Therefore, Muhammad's message asserting the lordship of Allah was not well received at first. The people called him a sorcerer and false prophet and claimed that he was possessed (Watt, p.102) and in 622 Muhammad was forced to flee Mecca. He had been condemned by Meccan authorities who held to Ka'aba (Guillaume, p.124). This escape is now called the year of the Hegira ("Flight") and marks the first year on the Muslim calendar (Adler, p.185).

Muhammad found refuge in the rival city of Medina where he was accepted and gathered a fairly large following. Even in Mecca he had some followers and people all over were accepting his message, but, from Medina, he issued a holy war against Mecca. After eight years, Muhammad captured Mecca and became the ruler. He implemented the divine orders he believed he was called to carry out and retained the pilgrimage to Mecca as part of his religious restoration (Watt, p.151).

Muhammad was born poor, but he died known as the founder of the great religion of Islam, and was considered a "poet, an inspired prophet with a fearless heart (Dermenghem, p. 37)." Muhammad died in 632 with the majority of the Arabian Peninsula under Islam, a word which literally means "submission." However, he didn't claim to be a revolutionary or innovator -- but to complete the work of the Jewish Christian prophets (Ibid., p.70).


Adler, Philip J., World Civilizations, (Minneapolis; West Publishing Company, 1996).

Dermenghem, Emile, Men of Wisdom: Muhammad and the Islamic Tradition, (London; Harper and Bros., 1958).

Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad, (London; Oxford University Press, 1955).

Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad at Mecca, (London; Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1953).

Edited by: Anthony J. Gapastione
Researched by: Karah L. Grimes
Written by: Janelle E. Carlsgaard
December 13, 1996

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