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The Earliest Biography of Muhammad - By Ibn Ishaq

The Earliest Biography of Muhammad - By Ibn Ishaq

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Published by: prowling on Feb 20, 2010
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Sirat Rasoul AllahThe Earliest Biography of Muhammad, by ibn IshaqAn abridged versionIndex
 
18 – Banu Qurayza19 – Pilgrimage20 – Khaybar21 – Pilgrimage of Retaliation22 – Conquest of Mecca23 – Hawazin24 – Byzantium25 – Tabuk26 – Last Illness 
INTRODUCTION
It is always extremely difficult to be objective about the life of the founder of agreat religion - his personality is inevitably blurred by an aura of the miraculous.Early biographers are preoccupied, not with historical fact, but with glorifying inevery way the memory of one they believe to have been a Messenger of God oreven God Himself. Consequently, there is a rich accretion of myth and miracle,mysterious portents and heavenly signs
,
of residues from other religious beliefsand traditions, the propaganda, in fact, of an expanding faith. All these will befound in the biography of Muhammad, which follows. But behind the legendaryMuhammad there lies one of the great figures of history, and, although very littleis known about his early years - the first certain date being that of the migrationfrom Mecca to Medina, which took place in AD 622 - it is possible to build up theevents of his real, as distinct from his symbolic, life.Muhammad was born at Mecca about AD 570 into a poor family of the Qurayshtribe. When he was twenty-five years of age he was employed by Khadija, awealthy widow, to go with one of her trading caravans to Syria. On the successfulcompletion of the journey, Muhammad married Khadij a, who was some fifteenyears older than he. Two sons and four daughters were horn of this marriage.The two boys died in infancy, but one of the daughters, Fatima, married
 
Muhammad's cousin Ali, and it is the descendants of Fatima and Ali who are saidto be the true heirs of the Prophet.The community Muhammad was born into was pagan, the gods often beingrepresented by stones. One of the most important places of pilgrimage was thesanctuary of the Kaba, in which was a black stone, at Mecca. Scattered aboutArabia at this time were communities of Jews and Christians, whose belief in onlyone god was to influence Muhammad when he came to state his own religiousideas. How he learned of these beliefs during the fifteen years between the dateof his marriage to Khadija and the revelation of the first divine communication isnot known, but there were many Arab converts to Judaism and Christianity and,as Muhammad grew more and more dissatisfied with the pagan gods, it isobvious that he must have investigated the religions of those who claimed toworship the one true god.Muhammad was in the habit of spending periods in meditation on Mount Hira,near Mecca, and there in his fortieth year he is supposed to have received hisfirst revelation from God. The communication terrified him and he spoke of it andof a number of others, which followed, only to Khadija and a few close friends.But finally he received a command to proclaim publicly what had been revealedto him. Most of his family had scornfully rejected his teaching and his earlyconverts were slaves and people of the lower classes. His preaching soon drewnot only mockery but active opposition from the people of Mecca, who believedthat his mission threatened their position as guardians of the Kaba - a positionwhich brought them great wealth from the pilgrim traffic. The Meccans tried todiscredit him, charging him with sorcery and with stealing his ideas from Jewsand Christians. From opposition to persecution was but a step. A hundred of hisfollowers emigrated to Abyssinia, and finally Muhammad himself decided to leaveMecca and went to Medina in AD 622. From this year the Muslim Era is dated.From a persecuted religious teacher in Mecca, Muhammad In Medina becamethe leader of a religious community and was acknowledged to be the messengerof God. He still, however, had doubters and enemies. The Jews, whom he hadhoped would welcome him, were among his bitterest opponents. His assumptionof authority at Medina was also resented by some of that city's leading men.Nevertheless, by careful diplomacy and firmness of purpose, he began to createa brotherhood of the faith, transcending all other ties and relationships, eventhose of father and son. This brotherhood united all Muslims by giving them acommon purpose - the defence of the faith - and made God, and His prophet, thefinal source of law.This achieved, Muhammad began to look outward, not only because he wishedto convert all Arabs to his teaching, but also in an attempt to alleviate growingeconomic distress in Medina. Muhammad's first step was to persuade theMedinans that they must attack Mecca. This was, in fact, the first test of the newbrotherhood, for many of those in Medina had relatives in Mecca and to the

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