Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him) was born in Makkah in the year 570AD, at a time when Christianity was not yet fully established in Europe. Since his father died before his birth, and his mother shortly afterwards, he was raised first by his granddad, then his uncle from the respected tribe of Quraysh. As he grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes. The historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Muhammed was of a deeply religious nature, and had long detested the decadence of his society. It became his habit to meditate from time to time in the Cave of Hira’ near the summit of Jabal al-Noor, the ‘Mountain of Light’ near Makkah.
Muhammed was of a deeply religious nature, and at the age of 40, while engaged in a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. The Angel commanded, “Read”, Muhammad could neither read nor write but he began to dictate those inspired words that would revolutionize a large segment of the earth. This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the Qur’an.
As soon as he began to recite the words he heard from Gabriel and to preach the truth which God had revealed lo him, he and his small group of followers suffered bitter persecution which grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijrah, ‘migration’, in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah some 260 miles north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, the Prophet and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam definitively. Before the Prophet died, at the age 63, the greater part of Arabia was Muslim, and within a century of his death Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China
Mahatma Gandhi speaking on the character of Muhammed says in Young India:
“I wanted to know the best of one who holds today undisputed sway over
the hearts of millions of mankind… I became more than convinced that it
was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme
of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet,
the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends
and followers, his intrepidness, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God
and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything ;
before them and surmounted every obstacle.”
W. Montgomery Watt, also speaking about the character of Muhammad commented:
“His readiness to undergo persecutions for his beliefs, the high moral
character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader,
and the greatness of the ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental
integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems
than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly
appreciated in the West as Muhammed.”
(Mohammad At Mecca, Oxford, 1953, p. 52)
Today even after a lapse of fourteen centuries, the life and teachings of Muhammad have survived. They offer the same undying hope for treating mankind’s many ills that they did when he was alive. This is not a claim of Muhammad’s followers but also the inescapable conclusion reached by a critical and unbiased study of human history.