Part One : Prophet's Life Before His Prophethood
THE BLESSED BIRTH
Amidst that tumultuous environment of pre-Islamic Arabia, filled with all manifestations of misguidance, perversion and oppression, Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Abdul-Muttalib (s.a.w.) was born.
For some divine purpose, he did not see his father who had passed away while returning from Syria with a caravan. Muhammad (s.a.w.) was, at that time, only an embryo in the womb of his mother Aminah daughter of Wahab, may Allah be pleased with her.(1)
His blessed birth took place in the month of Rabi'ul-Awwal(2) one month or more after the annihiation of the army headed by the elephants which went out to attack the Holy Ka'ba(3). The story is recorded in one whole surah (chapter) in the Qur'an called al-Fil. Thuwaibah, the woman servant of Abu Lahab, suckled him for a few days with her baby Masrooh before the arrival of the wet-nurses from the deserts. It was a long- established habit for the people of Mecca to leave their babies in the care of the desert's wet-nurses so that they were brought up brave eloquent and in touch with the realities of desert life. As was expected, 10 wet-nurses from the tribe of Sa'd bin Bakr, arrived at Mecca and everyone of them found a baby to take care of except Halimah, daughter of Abu Dhu'aib Abdullah. Muhammad (s.a.w.) was offered to her, but due to his being an orphan, which meant little profit for her, she was reluctant to take him.
Being uncertain about what to do, she consulted her husband, who was with her. "I hate to return empty-handed", she told him, "But there is no baby left to me except this orphan." Her husband advised her to take him, for Allah may bless him. No sooner did she place the nipple of her breast into the baby's mouth, her milk began to flow abundantly. Before that her own baby was always half-hungry because of the scarcity of his mother's milk.
The blessedness of the Prophet began to spread all over the neighborhood. The verdure of the meadows greatly increased, as before the area was waterless and barren.
Two years later, Halimah had weaned the baby and brought him back to Mecca to visit his mother and relatives. She told them bow the baby was blessed, and how her life was changed after taking him. Then she returned, accompanied by the baby, to the neighborhood.
DIVINE FOSTERAGE OF THE PROPHET
The interesting point in the early years life of the Prophet (s.a.w) for whoever wants to study his life, is the fact that Allah adopted him, not only in maintaining his health, preparing him for the great role he was to have later.
The books written about the life of the Prophet (s.a.w.) are filled with events that corroborate the fact that he was under the direct care of Allah and this enabled him to shoulder the future responsibility of prophethood.
Imam Ali bin Abi-Talib (a.s.) refers to this point in one of his sermons in Nahj al-Balaghah:
"From the time of his birth, Allah had appointed the archangel among all the angels, to always be with him. And this archangel was leading him towards exemplary qualities and high moral values by night and day..."(4)
Referring to this fact, Imam Muhammad bin Ali al-Baqir was related to have said:
"Allah had appointed the archangel to be with Muhammad, since he was weaned, leading him to the way of graces, the best of morals, and leading him away from evil and vices."(5)
One major trace of the divine care for the Prophet (s.a.w.) was that he was, from early age, a monotheist. He used to unequivocally proclaim his hostility to the idols(6). He used to perform hajj without eating the meat which was slaughtered at the feet of the idols. He would to mention the name of Allah before having his food'(7) and praise Allah when he finished. Muhammad, He was widely known among Arabs to be upright and virtuous. He would keep his word, and for that he was known as "the truthful and the faithful".
UNDER THE GUARDIANSHIP OF HIS GRANDFATHER
The Prophet was five years old when Halimah al-Sa'diyyah brought him back to his family in Mecca. Abdul-Muttalib, his grandfather, showered him with care and fatherly love. He ate with him, spoke with him kindly, sat on his bed, and provided him with special attention and warmth.
It was not out of sentiment that Abdul-Muttalib cared so much for Muhammad (s.a.w) as the son of his deceased son Abdullah, but because he felt deeply that he would be a prominently great man in the future. It was for this reason that he would ask his son Abu-Talib, and Umm-Ayman to look after him and provide him with whatever he needed.
At the age of six, his mother Aminah, took him with her, accompanied by Umm-Ayman, to visit his uncles from the tribe of Uday bin al-Najjar in Madinah. After one month they decided to return to Mecca. But, en route to Mecca, his mother, Aminah, passed away. She was laid to rest at al-Abwa', a village halfway between Mecca and Madinah. Umm-Ayman resumed the journey alone, and in Mecca she was devoted to him as his mother was, while his grandfather looked after him as if he were his son. But, it was not long before Abdul-Muttalib died. The Prophet was, at the time, eight years old.
UNDER THE CARE OF ABU TALIB
Abu Talib,(8) his uncle, took him and treated him very kindly. He even gave him precedence over his sons. Muhammad (s.a.w.) would sleep in the bed of his uncle, sit next to him, eat with him, and go out with him.
As soon as he came of age, Muhammad (s.a.w.) began to work to earn his living. First, he became a shepherd. Jabir bin Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, related that he was with the Prophet (s.a.w.) with other Muslims, picking al- Kabath (a kind of fruit). The Prophet (s.a.w.) said:
"Pluck the black ones. They are sweetest. I used to gather it while pasturing my sheep".
"You were pasturing the sheep, O Messenger of Allah?", we asked him.
"Yes", he replied, "every prophet was at sometime a shepherd".(9)
Allah, the Most High, was able to spare His Prophet (s.a.w.) the tiresome task of working. He willed to set the Prophet (s.a.w.) as an example for the people so that nobody would rely on anybody else for earning his living.
Islam stressed the importance of work. The Prophet (s.a.w.) is reported to have said:
"Cursed be who throws his burdens on other people".(10)
"Worship is of seventy kinds, the best of which is earning one's living righteously".
"An excellent help to guard against evil is wealth."(11)
At the age of twenty-five he went to Syria on a mercantile mission on behalf of Khadij ah the daughter of Khuwailid, may Allah be pleased with her. Khadijah was the best among the women of Quraish. She was the richest, the noblest and the most beautiful among them. She was called "the chaste", and the mistress of Quraish. She would hire men to work in trade for her in return for a fixed percentage of the profit.
When the Prophet (s.a.w.) became to be widely known for his faithfulness and the smoothness of his manners, she offered him money to go to Syria and promised him a good share in the profits, more than any share given to any man before him.
He set out for Syria, leading a big caravan. Maisarah, her slave, went with him. They sold articles and bought merchandise and returned with profuse sums of money. Fascinated by the Prophet, Maisarah began to tell Khadijah of his attributes. She was attracted to him, for his high-mindedness, righteousness, faithfulness and kindness and decided that he would be her husband. She preferred him to the rich dignitaries of the Quraish who promised her immeasurably great riches. For that purpose, she sent Nafisah the daughter of Munabbih to talk to him about it.
"What makes you refrain from getting married?", Nafisah asked him. "I have no money", he replied.
"If you were given that, and were asked to marry a beautiful, rich, honest and noble woman, would you accept the offer? "
"What is the name of the woman?" "Khadijah!". "How could I manage it?"
"Leave everything to me", she promised him.
The Prophet (s.a.w.) then sent his uncle Abu Talib(12), to ask Khadijah's hand to marriage. As her father was dead by then, Abu Talib broached the subject to her uncle. Both parties agreed, and so the marriage took place. The Prophet (s.a.w.) was twenty-five years old, at the time. As for Khadijah, historians have disagreed about ,her age. But they agreed that they got married(13) after the Prophet's (s.a.w.) return from Syria.
The newlyweds moved to the house of Khadijah, and achieved the most perfect union, perfumed with love, loyalty and mercy. Amid hardships and troubles, she helped him, encouraged him and alleviated his worries.
Apart from her love for him, she was a chaste women with deep insight, she managed their affairs patiently and skillfully. She was, furthermore, the first ever to believe in his message.(14) For the sake of his call, she spent all her riches. He loved her as she loved him. He did not marry any other women until after she died.
Whenever he remembered her, he praised her and mentioned her good deeds to his wives, so much so that 'A'ishah' said: "I never felt envious of any of the Prophet's wives, except of Khadijah, whom I did not see."
She, further, added: "Whenever the Messenger of Allah slaughtered a sheep, he ordered his attendants to distribute the meat among the friends of Khadijah. One day I made him angry by saying mockingly 'Khadijah!', he said to me: 'I was given her love by Allah'" (15)
A'ishah also reported: "The Messenger of Allah would hardly leave the house without mentioning Khadijah in good words. One day he mentioning her and so I felt deeply envious and blurted out; she was nothing but an old woman. Allah has replaced her with better than her.'
"No by Allah," he said indignantly; "Allah did not replace her with those who better than her, she had faith in me when the people rejected my call. She believed me when the people charged me with falsehood. She consoled me with her wealth when the people deprived me theirs, and Allah gave me, by her sons and daughters."(16)
Diligence and toil were characteristics of his life from an early age. His marriage with Khadijah, may Allah be pleased with her, gave his life some rest and comfort. The kindness and true love Khadijah showered on the Prophet (s.a.w.) compensated him for the fatherly love and motherly kindness which he was deprived of, during childhood.
During that phase of his blessed life, the first signs of prophethood began to surface. It was for this reason that he was preparing himself by restoring to the cave of Hira during certain days. He would remain there, worshipping and mediating for a whole month every year. He would remain there far away from the pre-Islamic perversions and the corrupt city atmosphere. Muhammad was on the threshold of bearing the divine message.
He went on with his meditations and worship till he became 40 years old. Then, the holy revelation shone on his soul and heart delivering the first statement of the seal of divine messages:
"Read in the name of your Lord Who created..."
Holy Qur'an (96:1)
It is worth mentioning here that the divine books announced the good news of the advent of the message of Allah (s.a.w.). The Jewish Christian scholars were aware of this fact, but they were swept with the fanaticism of jealousy and prejudice when the truth arrived, but no one could have any doubts about this new reality.
The Qur'an mentions what they would tell the tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj in this respect:
"And when there came to them a Book, confirming what was with them, and aforetimes they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved, but when there came to them (Prophet) that which they did not recognize, they disbelieved in him; so Allah's curse is on the unbelievers."
Holy Qur'an (2:89)
And so good news of the coming of the Prophet (s.a.w.) became widespread. The main topic of popular discussion was this. The Christian monks and Jewish rabbis were already reading in their divine books of the coming of a new Prophet who would fill the world with light, guidance and bless.
SOCIAL STATUS Prior to his rise to prophethood, during the previous 1520 years, his social status was high. He was known to be well-mannered, high-minded, truthful and trustworthy.
The power was clearly mainfested during the rebuilding of the Holy Ka'ba. After it caught fire, the Ka'ba was flooded with sweeping torrents. Great damage was done and the tribe of Quraish made their minds to rebuild it, al-Walid bin al-Mughirah, accompanied by a number of the Quraishis, went to Jidda and bought the timber of a ship that had wrecked on its shore. The wood was bought to make the roof of the Ka'ba. A carpenter, Baqum by name and a slave of Sa'id bin al-Aws, was charged with rebuilding the Ka'ba.
All the clans of the Quraish took part in the process. But, finally, when the time came to put the black stone in its place a difference arose among them over who should win the honour of putting it in its place. Every clan of the Quraish eagerly wanted to do that.
The difference grew to a .quarrel and had not Abu Umayyah bin al- Mughirah, the eldest among them, suggested the first one to enter the Ka'ba from the door of Bani Shaibah arbitute on the matter the situation would have gotten out of hands. They imptiently awaited the man. Before long Muhammad (s.a.w.) came into the Ka'ba. Upon seeing him, they unanimously agreed, " This is the trustworthy. We accept him as the arbitrator. This is Muhammad." When they told him of the problem he ordered them to bring him a piece of cloth. He spread it on their ground, then placed the Black stone on it. "Let every group hold the cloth then carry it up," lie told them. He, then, carried it, with his blessed, and restored the stone to its place.
PACT OF AL-FUDUL
Shortly after the tragical war of al-Fujjar a pact was signed between the warring Arab tribes.(17) The agreement did achieve a victory for the wronged parties. All the sides agreed on the principle of warding off wrongs, and cooperating to back what was right and defend the oppressed The Prophet (s.a.w.) praised the pact in these words:
"If I were given red camels, I would not have been more pleased than to be a participant in their pact at the house of ibn Jada'an.(18) The tribes of Hushim, Zahrah and Taym agreed forever to be on the side of the oppressed. If I were invited now, I would respond affirmatively. It was the pact of al-Fudul."(19)