Muhammad[a] (Arabic: مُحَمَّد; c. 570 – 8 June 632 CE)[b] was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of Islam.[c] According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet divinely inspired to preach and confirm the monotheistic teachings of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.[2][3][4] He is believed to be the Seal of the Prophets within Islam, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.

Inscription proclaiming Muhammad as the messenger of God
"Muhammad, the Messenger of God"
inscribed on the gates of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina
Bornc. 570 CE (53 BH)[1]
Died(632-06-08)8 June 632 (11 AH) (aged 61–62)
Medina, Hejaz, Arabia
Resting place
Green Dome at al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina, Arabia

24°28′03″N 39°36′41″E / 24.46750°N 39.61139°E / 24.46750; 39.61139 (Green Dome)
SpouseSee Muhammad's wives
ChildrenSee Muhammad's children
Parent(s)Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (father)
Amina bint Wahb (mother)
Known forFounding Islam
Other names
RelativesFamily tree of Muhammad, Ahl al-Bayt ("Family of the House")
Arabic name
Personal (Ism)Muḥammad
Patronymic (Nasab)Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭālib ibn Hāshim ibn ʿAbd Manāf ibn Quṣayy ibn Kilāb
Teknonymic (Kunya)ʾAbu al-Qāsim
Epithet (Laqab)Khātam an-Nabiyyīn (Seal of the Prophets)

Muhammad was born in approximately 570 CE in Mecca.[1] He was the son of Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and Amina bint Wahb. His father, Abdullah, the son of Quraysh tribal leader Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim, died a few months before Muhammad's birth. His mother Amina died when he was six, leaving Muhammad an orphan.[5] He was raised under the care of his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, and paternal uncle, Abu Talib.[6] In later years, he would periodically seclude himself in a mountain cave named Hira for several nights of prayer. When he was 40, circa 610 CE, Muhammad reported being visited by Gabriel in the cave[1] and receiving his first revelation from God. In 613,[7] Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly,[8] proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "submission" (islām) to God is the right way of life (dīn),[9] and that he was a prophet and messenger of God, similar to the other prophets in Islam.[10][3][11]

Muhammad's followers were initially few in number, and experienced hostility from Meccan polytheists for 13 years. To escape ongoing persecution, he sent some of his followers to Abyssinia in 615, before he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina (then known as Yathrib) later in 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the tribes under the Constitution of Medina. In December 629, after eight years of intermittent fighting with Meccan tribes, Muhammad gathered an army of 10,000 Muslim converts and marched on the city of Mecca. The conquest went largely uncontested and Muhammad seized the city with little bloodshed. In 632, a few months after returning from the Farewell Pilgrimage, he fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam.[12][13]

The revelations (each known as Ayah literally, "Sign [of God]") that Muhammad reported receiving until his death form the verses of the Quran, regarded by Muslims as the verbatim "Word of God" on which the religion is based. Besides the Quran, Muhammad's teachings and practices (sunnah), found in the Hadith and sira (biography) literature, are also upheld and used as sources of Islamic law.

Sources of biographical information


A folio from an early Quran, written in Kufic script (Abbasid period, 8th–9th centuries)

The Quran is the central religious text of Islam. Muslims believe it represents the words of God revealed by the archangel Gabriel to Muhammad.[14][15][16] The Quran, however, provides minimal assistance for Muhammad's chronological biography; most Quranic verses do not provide significant historical context.[17][18]

Early biographies

Important sources regarding Muhammad's life may be found in the historic works by writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the Muslim era (AH – 8th and 9th century CE).[19] These include traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad, which provide additional information about his life.[20]

The earliest written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Ibn Ishaq's Life of God's Messenger written c. 767 CE (150 AH). Although the original work was lost, this sira survives as extensive excerpts in works by Ibn Hisham and to a lesser extent by Al-Tabari.[21][22] However, Ibn Hisham wrote in the preface to his biography of Muhammad that he omitted matters from Ibn Ishaq's biography that "would distress certain people".[23] Another early history source is the history of Muhammad's campaigns by al-Waqidi (death 207 AH), and the work of Waqidi's secretary Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi (death 230 AH).[19]

Many scholars accept these early biographies as authentic, though their accuracy is unascertainable.[21] Recent studies have led scholars to distinguish between traditions touching legal matters and purely historical events. In the legal group, traditions could have been subject to invention while historic events, aside from exceptional cases, may have been only subject to "tendential shaping".[24]


Other important sources include the hadith collections, accounts of verbal and physical teachings and traditions attributed to Muhammad. Hadiths were compiled several generations after his death by Muslims including Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj, Muhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi, Abd ar-Rahman al-Nasai, Abu Dawood, Ibn Majah, Malik ibn Anas, al-Daraqutni.[25][26]

Some Western academics cautiously view the hadith collections as accurate historical sources.[25] Scholars such as Wilferd Madelung do not reject the narrations which have been compiled in later periods, but judge them in the context of history and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures.[27] Muslim scholars on the other hand typically place a greater emphasis on the hadith literature instead of the biographical literature, since hadiths maintain a traditional chain of transmission (isnad); the lack of such a chain for the biographical literature makes it unverifiable in their eyes.[28]

Pre-Islamic Arabia

Main tribes and settlements of Arabia in Muhammad's lifetime

The Arabian Peninsula was, and still is, largely arid with volcanic soil, making agriculture difficult except near oases or springs. Towns and cities dotted the landscape, two of the most prominent being Mecca and Medina. Medina was a large flourishing agricultural settlement, while Mecca was an important financial center for many surrounding tribes.[29] In the desert, communal life was crucial for survival. Indigenous tribes relied on each other to endure the challenging conditions and way of life. Tribal affiliation, whether through family ties or alliances, played a significant role in fostering social unity.[30] Indigenous Arabs were either nomadic or sedentary. Nomadic groups constantly traveled seeking water and pasture for their flocks, while the sedentary settled and focused on trade and agriculture. Nomadic survival also depended on raiding caravans or oases; nomads did not view this as a crime.[31]

In pre-Islamic Arabia, gods or goddesses were viewed as protectors of individual tribes, their spirits associated with sacred trees, stones, springs and wells. As well as being the site of an annual pilgrimage, the Kaaba shrine in Mecca housed 360 idols of tribal patron deities. Three goddesses were worshipped, in some places as daughters of Allah: Allāt, Manāt and al-'Uzzá. Monotheistic communities existed in Arabia, including Christians and Jews.[d] Hanifs – native pre-Islamic Arabs who "professed a rigid monotheism"[32] – are also sometimes listed alongside Jews and Christians in pre-Islamic Arabia, although scholars dispute their historicity.[33][34] According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad himself was a Hanif and one of the descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham.[e]

The second half of the sixth century was a period of political disorder in Arabia and communication routes were no longer secure.[35] Religious divisions were an important cause of the crisis.[36] Judaism became the dominant religion in Yemen while Christianity took root in the Persian Gulf area.[36] In line with broader trends of the ancient world, the region witnessed a decline in the practice of polytheistic cults and a growing interest in a more spiritual form of religion. While many were reluctant to convert to a foreign faith, those faiths provided intellectual and spiritual reference points.[36]

During the early years of Muhammad's life, the Quraysh tribe to which he belonged became a dominant force in western Arabia.[37] They formed the cult association of hums, which tied members of many tribes in western Arabia to the Kaaba and reinforced the prestige of the Meccan sanctuary.[38] To counter the effects of anarchy, Quraysh upheld the institution of sacred months during which all violence was forbidden, and it was possible to participate in pilgrimages and fairs without danger.[38] Thus, although the association of hums was primarily religious, it also had important economic consequences for the city.[38]


Meccan years

Childhood and early life

Timeline of Muhammad's life
Important dates and locations in the life of Muhammad
Date Age Event
c. 570 Death of his father, Abdullah
c. 570 0 Possible date of birth: 12 or 17 Rabi al Awal: in Mecca, Arabia
c. 577 6 Death of his mother, Amina
c. 583 12–13 His grandfather transfers him to Syria
c. 595 24–25 Meets and marries Khadijah
c. 599 28–29 Birth of Zainab, his first daughter, followed by: Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima Zahra
610 40 Qur'anic revelation begins in the Cave of Hira on the Jabal an-Nour, the "Mountain of Light" near Mecca. At age 40, Angel Jebreel (Gabriel) was said to appear to Muhammad on the mountain and call him "the Prophet of Allah"
Begins in secret to gather followers in Mecca
c. 613 43 Begins spreading message of Islam publicly to all Meccans
c. 614 43–44 Heavy persecution of Muslims begins
c. 615 44–45 Emigration of a group of Muslims to Ethiopia
c. 616 45–46 Banu Hashim clan boycott begins
619 49 Banu Hashim clan boycott ends
The year of sorrows: Khadija (his wife) and Abu Talib (his uncle) die
c. 620 49–50 Isra and Mi'raj (reported ascension to heaven to meet God)
622 51–52 Hijra, emigration to Medina (called Yathrib)
624 53–54 Battle of Badr
625 54–55 Battle of Uhud
627 56–57 Battle of the Trench (also known as the siege of Medina)
628 57–58 The Meccan tribe of Quraysh and the Muslim community in Medina sign a 10-year truce called the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
630 59–60 Conquest of Mecca
632 61–62 Farewell pilgrimage, event of Ghadir Khumm, and death, in what is now Saudi Arabia

Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim[39] was born in Mecca[40] about the year 570,[1] and his birthday is believed to be in the month of Rabi' al-awwal.[41] He belonged to the Quraysh tribe's Banu Hashim clan, which was one of the more distinguished families in the city, although the clan seems to have experienced a lack of prosperity during his early years.[11][f] The name Muhammad means "praiseworthy" in Arabic and it appears four times in the Quran.[42] He was also known as al-Amin (lit.'faithful') when he was young. Historians differ as to whether it was given by people as a reflection of his nature,[43] or was simply a given name from his parents, i.e. a masculine form of his mother's name "Amina."[44] Muhammad acquired the kunya of Abu al-Qasim later in his life after the birth of his son Qasim, who died two years afterwards.[45]

Islamic tradition states that Muhammad's birth year coincided with Yemeni King Abraha's unsuccessful attempt to conquer Mecca.[46] Recent studies, however, challenge this notion, as other evidence suggests that the expedition, if it had occurred, would have transpired substantially before Muhammad's birth.[1][47][48][49][50][44] Later Muslim scholars presumably linked Abraha's renowned name to the narrative of Muhammad's birth to elucidate the unclear passage about "the men of elephants" in Quran 105:1–5.[47][51] The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity deems the tale of Abraha's war elephant expedition as a myth.[48]

Miniature from Rashid-al-Din Hamadani's Jami al-Tawarikh, c. 1315, illustrating the story of Muhammad's role in re-setting the Black Stone in 605 (Ilkhanate period)[52]

Muhammad's father, Abdullah, died almost six months before he was born.[53] According to Islamic tradition, soon after birth he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as desert life was considered healthier for infants; some western scholars reject this tradition's historicity.[54] Muhammad stayed with his foster-mother, Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two years old. At the age of six, Muhammad lost his biological mother Amina to illness and became an orphan.[54][55] For the next two years, until he was eight years old, Muhammad was under the guardianship of his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, of the Banu Hashim clan until his death. He then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Banu Hashim.[6]

In his teens, Muhammad accompanied his uncle on Syrian trading journeys to gain experience in commercial trade.[56] Islamic tradition states that when Muhammad was either nine or twelve while accompanying the Meccans' caravan to Syria, he met a Christian monk or hermit named Bahira who is said to have foreseen Muhammad's career as a prophet of God.[57]

Little is known of Muhammad during his later youth as available information is fragmented, making it difficult to separate history from legend.[56] He reportedly became a merchant and "was involved in trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea."[58] His reputation attracted a proposal in 595 from Khadijah, a successful businesswoman. Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one.[58]

In 605, the Quraysh decided to roof the Kaaba, which had previously consisted only of walls. A complete rebuild was needed to accommodate the new weight. Amid concerns about upsetting the deities, a man stepped forth with a pickaxe and exclaimed, "O goddess! Fear not! Our intentions are only for the best." With that, he began demolishing it. The anxious Meccans awaited divine retribution overnight, but his unharmed continuation the next day was seen as a sign of a heavenly approval. According to a narrative collected by Ibn Ishaq, when it was time to reattach the Black Stone, a dispute arose over which clan should have the privilege. It was determined that the first person to step into the Kaaba's court would arbitrate. Muhammad took on this role, asking for a cloak. He placed the stone on it, guiding clan representatives to jointly elevate it to its position. He then personally secured it within the wall.[59][60]

Beginnings of the Quran

The cave Hira in the mountain Jabal al-Nour where, according to Muslim belief, Muhammad received his first revelation

Muhammad began to pray alone in a cave named Hira on Mount Jabal al-Nour, near Mecca, for several weeks every year.[61][62] According to Islamic tradition, in 610 CE, when he was 40 years old, the angel Gabriel appeared before him during his visit to the cave. The angel showed him a cloth with Quranic verses on it and instructed him to read. When Muhammad confessed his illiteracy, Gabriel choked him forcefully, nearly suffocating him, and repeated the command. As Muhammad reiterated his inability to read, Gabriel choked him again in a similar manner. This sequence took place once more before Gabriel finally recited the verses, allowing Muhammad to memorize them.[63][64][65] These verses later constituted Quran 96:1-5.[66]

The experience terrified Muhammad, but he was immediately reassured by his wife Khadija and her Christian cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal.[67] Khadija instructed Muhammad to let her know if Gabriel returned. When he appeared during their private time, Khadija conducted tests by having Muhammad sit on her left thigh, right thigh, and lap, inquiring Muhammad if the being was still present each time. After Khadija removed her clothes with Muhammad on her lap, he reported that Gabriel left at that very moment. Khadija thus told him to rejoice as she concluded it was not a Satan but an angel visiting him.[68][69][67]

Muhammad's demeanor during his moments of inspiration frequently led to allegations from his contemporaries that he was under the influence of a jinn, a soothsayer, or a magician, suggesting that his experiences during these events bore resemblance to those associated with such figures widely recognized in ancient Arabia. Nonetheless, these enigmatic seizure events might have served as persuasive evidence for his followers regarding the divine origin of his revelations. Some historians posit that the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition in these instances are likely genuine, as they are improbable to have been concocted by later Muslims.[70][71]

A 16th-century Siyer-i Nebi image of angel Gabriel visiting Muhammad

Shortly after Waraqa's death, the revelations ceased for a period, causing Muhammad great distress and thoughts of suicide.[65][g] On one occasion, he reportedly climbed a mountain intending to jump off. However, upon reaching the peak, Gabriel appeared to him, affirming his status as the true Messenger of God. This encounter soothed Muhammad, and he returned home. Later, when there was another long break between revelations, he repeated this action, but Gabriel intervened similarly, calming him and causing him to return home.[72][73]

Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.[74] The early Quranic revelations utilized approaches of cautioning non-believers with divine punishment, while promising rewards to believers. They conveyed potential consequences like famine and killing for those who rejected Muhammad's God and alluded to past and future calamities. The text also stressed the imminent final judgment and the threat of hellfire for skeptics.[75] According to Muslim tradition, Muhammad's wife Khadija was the first to believe he was a prophet.[76] She was followed by Muhammad's ten-year-old cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, close friend Abu Bakr, and adopted son Zaid.[76]

Opposition in Mecca

Around 613, Muhammad began to preach to the public.[8][77] Initially, he had no serious opposition from the inhabitants of Mecca, who were indifferent to his proselytizing activities, but when he started to attack their beliefs, tensions arose.[78][79][80][81] The Quraysh challenged him to perform miracles, such as bringing forth springs of water, but he declined, reasoning that the regularities of nature already served as sufficient proof of God's majesty. Some later satirised his lack of success by wondering why God had not bestowed treasure upon him. Others called on him to visit Paradise and return with tangible parchment scrolls of the Qur'an. But the Qur’an claims that its very existence in the world is already an extraordinary proof.[82][83]

According to Amr ibn al-As, several of the Quraysh gathered at Hijr and discussed how they had never faced such serious problems as they were facing from Muhammad. They said that he had derided their culture, denigrated their ancestors, scorned their faith, shattered their community, and cursed their gods. Some time later, Muhammad came, kissing the Black Stone and performing the ritual tawaf. As Muhammad passed by them, they reportedly said hurtful things to him. The same happened when he passed by them a second time. On his third pass, Muhammad stopped and said, "Will you listen to me, O Quraysh? By Him (God), who holds my life in His hand, I bring you slaughter." They fell silent and told him to go home, saying that he was not a violent man. The next day, a number of Quraysh approached him, asking if he had said what they had heard from their companions. He answered yes, and one of them seized him by his cloak. Abu Bakr intervened, tearfully saying, "Would you kill a man for saying God is my Lord?" And they left him.[84][85][86]

The Quraysh attempted to entice Muhammad to quit preaching by giving him admission to the merchants' inner circle as well as an advantageous marriage, but he refused both of the offers.[87] A delegation of them then, led by the leader of the Makhzum clan, known by the Muslims as Abu Jahl, went to Muhammad's uncle Abu Talib, head of the Hashim clan and Muhammad's caretaker, giving him an ultimatum:[88]

"By God, we can no longer endure this vilification of our forefathers, this derision of our traditional values, this abuse of our gods. Either you stop Muhammad yourself, Abu Talib, or you must let us stop him. Since you yourself take the same position as we do, in opposition to what he’s saying, we will rid you of him."[89][90]

Abu Talib politely dismissed them at first, thinking it was just a heated talk. But as Muhammad grew more vocal, Abu Talib requested Muhammad to not burden him beyond what he could bear. To which Muhammad wept and replied that he would not stop even if they put the sun in his right hand and the moon in his left. When he turned around, Abu Talib called him and said, "Come back nephew, say what you please, for by God I will never give you up on any account."[91][92]

While a group of Muslims were praying in a ravine, some Quraysh ran into them and blamed them for what they were doing. One of the Muslims, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, then took a camel's jawbone and struck a Quraysh, splitting his head open, in what is reported to be the first blood shed in Islam.[93][94]

The initial persecution by the Meccans has been described by modern historians as "mostly mild",[95][96][97] being constrained by the clan system, the main guarantee of security within Mecca.[95] By ensuring that any inter-clan violence would be considered an attack on the honour of the whole clan, the threat of retributive action largely prevented instances of serious violence against professed Muslims, who were instead principally subject to economic sanctions and verbal insults.[95][96][98] The most notable instances of bodily violence against Muslims in this period were against slaves, famously Bilal ibn Rabah and Amir ibn Fuhayra, who lacked clan protection.[95] The Qur'an does not mention the persecution, with this material being found in instead in the prophetic biography.[99]

Quraysh delegation to Yathrib

The leaders of the Quraysh sent Nadr ibn al-Harith and Uqba ibn Abi Mu'ayt to Yathrib to seek the opinions of the Jewish rabbis regarding Muhammad. The rabbis advised them to ask Muhammad three questions: recount the tale of young men who ventured forth in the first age; narrate the story of a traveler who reached both the eastern and western ends of the earth; and provide details about the Spirit. If Muhammad answered correctly, they stated, he would be a Prophet; otherwise, he would be a liar. When they returned to Mecca and asked Muhammad the questions, he told them he would provide the answers the next day. However, 15 days passed without a response from his God, leading to gossip among the Meccans and causing Muhammad distress. At some point later, the angel Gabriel came to Muhammad and provided him with the answers.[100][101]

In response to the first query, the Qur'an tells a story about a group of men sleeping in a cave (Qur'an 18:9–25), which scholars generally link to the legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus. For the second query, the Qur'an speaks of Dhu al-Qarnayn, literally "he of the two horns" (Qur'an 18:93–99), a tale that academics widely associate with the Alexander Romance.[102][103] As for the third query, concerning the nature of the spirit, the Qur'anic revelation asserted that it was beyond human comprehension. Neither the Jews who devised the questions nor the Quraysh who posed them to Muhammad converted to Islam upon receiving the answers.[101] Nadr and Uqba were later executed on Muhammad's orders after the Battle of Badr, while other captives were held for ransom. As Uqba pleaded, "But who will take care of my children, Muhammad?" Muhammad responded, "Hell!"[104][105][106][107]

Migration to Abyssinia and the incident of Satanic Verses

In 615, fearful that his followers would be seduced from their religion,[108] Muhammad sent some of them to emigrate to the Abyssinian Kingdom of Aksum and found a small colony under the protection of the Christian Ethiopian emperor Aṣḥama ibn Abjar.[11] Among those who departed were Umm Habiba, the daughter of one of the Quraysh chiefs, Abu Sufyan, and her husband.[109] The Quraysh then sent two men to retrieve them. Because leatherwork at the time was highly prized in Abyssinia, they gathered a lot of skins and transported them there so they could distribute some to each of the kingdom's generals. But the king firmly rejected their request.[110]

While Tabari and Ibn Hisham mentioned only one migration to Abyssinia, there were two sets according to Ibn Sa'd. Of these two, the majority of the first group returned to Mecca before the event of Hijra, while majority of the second group remained in Abyssinia at the time, and went directly to Medina after the event of Hijra. These accounts agree that persecution played a major role in Muhammad sending them there. According to historian W. M. Watt, the episodes were more complex than the traditional accounts suggest, he proposes that there were divisions within the embryonic Muslim community, and that they likely went there to trade in competition with the prominent merchant families of Mecca. In Urwa's letter preserved by Tabari, these emigrants returned after the conversion to Islam of a number of individuals in positions such as Hamza and Umar.[111]

Tabari also, among many others,[112] recorded that Muhammad was desperate, hoping for an accommodation with his tribe. So, while he was in the presence of a number of Quraysh, after delivering verses mentioning three of their favorite deities (Quran 53:19–20), Satan put upon his tongue two short verses: "These are the high flying ones / whose intercession is to be hoped for." This led to a general reconciliation between Muhammad and the Meccans, and the Muslims in Abyssinia began to return home. However, the next day, Muhammad retracted these verses at the behest of Gabriel, claiming that they had been cast by Satan to his tongue and God had abrogated them. Instead, verses that revile those goddesses were then revealed.[113][h][i] The returning Muslims thus had to make arrangements for clan protection before they could re-enter Mecca.[11][114]

This Satanic verses incident was reported en masse and documented by nearly all of the major biographers of Muhammad in Islam's first two centuries,[115] which according to them corresponds to Quran 22:52. But since the rise of the hadith movement and systematic theology with its new doctrines, including the isma, which claimed that Muhammad was infallible and thus could not be fooled by Satan, the historical memory of the early community has been reevaluated. And as of the 20th century AD, Muslim scholars unanimously rejected this incident.[112] On the other hand, most European biographers of Muhammad recognize the veracity of this incident of satanic verses on the basis of the criterion of embarrassment. Historian Alfred T. Welch proposes that the period of Muhammad's turning away from strict monotheism was likely far longer but was later encapsulated in a story that made it much shorter and imputed Satan as the culprit.[111]

In 616, an agreement was established where all other Quraysh clans were to enforce a ban on the Banu Hashim, prohibiting trade and marriage with them.[116] Nevertheless, Banu Hashim members could still move around the town freely. Despite facing increasing verbal abuse, Muhammad continued to navigate the streets and engage in public debates without being physically harmed.[98] At a later point, a faction within Quraysh, sympathizing with Banu Hashim, initiated efforts to end the sanctions, resulting in a general consensus in 619 to lift the ban.[117][111]

Attempt to establish himself in Ta'if

After the deaths of Khadija, Muhammad's wealthy wife, who had provided him with financial and emotional support,[118] and Abu Talib, his guardian, Muhammad's position became increasingly hopeless.[111] He went to Ta'if to try to establish himself in the city and gain aid and protection against the Meccans,[119][120] but he was met with a response: "If you are truly a prophet, what need do you have of our help? If God sent you as his messenger, why doesn’t He protect you? And if Allah wished to send a prophet, couldn’t He have found a better person than you, a weak and fatherless orphan?"[121] Realizing his efforts were in vain, Muhammad asked the people of Ta'if to keep the matter a secret, fearing that this would embolden the hostility of the Quraysh against him. However, instead of accepting his request, they threw him with stones, injuring his limbs.[122]

On Muhammad's return journey to Mecca, news of the events in Ta'if had reached the ears of Abu Jahl, and he said, "They did not allow him to enter Ta'if, so let us deny him entry to Mecca as well." Knowing the gravity of the situation, Muhammad asked a passing horseman to deliver a message to Akhnas ibn Shariq, a member of his mother's clan, requesting his protection so that he could enter in safety. But Akhnas declined, saying that he was only a confederate of the house of Quraysh. Muhammad then sent a message to Suhayl ibn Amir, who similarly declined on the basis of tribal principle. Finally, Muhammad dispatched someone to ask Mut'im ibn 'Adiy, the chief of the Banu Nawfal. Mut'im agreed, and after equipping himself, he rode out in the morning with his sons and nephews to accompany Muhammad to the city. When Abu Jahl saw him, he asked if Mut'im was simply giving him protection or if he had already converted to his religion. Mut'im replied, "Granting him protection, of course." Then Abu Jahl said, "We will protect whomever you protect."[123]

Isra' and Mi'raj

Quranic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock. It marks the spot Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.[124]

It is at this low point in Muhammad's life that the accounts in the Sira lay out the famous Isra' and Mi'raj. Nowadays, Isra' is believed by Muslims to be the journey of Muhammad from Mecca to Jerusalem, while Mi'raj is from Jerusalem to the heavens.[125] There is considered no substantial basis for the Mi'raj in the Quran, as the Quran does not address it directly.[126]

Quranic verse 17:1 recounts Muhammad's night journey from a revered place of prayer to the most distant place of worship. The Kaaba, or holy enclosure, in Mecca is widely accepted as the starting point, but there is disagreement among Islamic traditions as to what constitutes "the farthest place of worship." Some modern scholars maintain that the earliest tradition saw this faraway site as a celestial twin of the Kaaba, so that Muhammad's journey took him directly from Mecca through the heavens. A later tradition, however, refers to it as Bayt al-Maqdis, which is generally associated with Jerusalem. Over time, these different traditions merged to present the journey as one that began in Mecca, passed through Jerusalem, and then ascended to heaven.[127]

The dating of the events also differs from account to account. Ibn Sa'd recorded that Muhammad's Mi'raj took place first, from near the Kaaba to the heavens, on the 27th of Ramadan, 18 months before the Hijrah, while the Isra' from Mecca to Bayt al-Maqdis took place on the 17th night of the Last Rabi’ul before the hijrah. As is well known, these two stories were later combined into one. In Ibn Hisham's account, the Isra' came first and then the Mi'raj, and he put these stories before the deaths of Khadija and Abu Talib. On the other hand, al-Tabari only included the story of Muhammad's ascension from the sanctuary in Mecca to "the earthly heaven". Tabari placed this story at the beginning of Muhammad's public ministry, between his account of Khadija becoming "the first to believe in the Messenger of God" and his account of "the first male to believe in the Messenger of God."[125]


Having lost all hope of winning converts among his fellow townspeople, Muhammad limited his efforts to non-Meccans who attended fairs or made pilgrimages.[128] In 620, his uncle al-Abbas, who had not yet converted to Islam, introduced him to political elite of the Banu Khazraj and Banu Aws in Medina and coordinated a meeting at Aqaba.[129] The two clans had been in conflict against one another for years, with each trying to court the support of the Jewish tribes in the area.[130] In order to readjust their political relationship, they sought a political leader from outside,[125] and considered Muhammad, with his authority based on religious claims, would be in a better position to act as an impartial arbiter than any resident of Medina.[131] Seven or eight men of them then sat at Aqaba listening intently to what he had to say.[128]

After a year, they returned with five more people and converted to Islam. Muhammad promised them that Islam would pave the way for them to live harmoniously with the Jews.[128] Following his failure in Taif, Muhammad acted with prudence and sent an agent to accompany the group back to Medina, ostensibly to spread his religious teachings.[131] The next year, they returned to Aqaba with 73 men and two women.[132]

Then Muhammad himself spoke to those people:

I invite your allegiance on the basis that you protect me as you would your women and children.[133]

In which they agreed. After that, Muhammad commanded the Muslims in Mecca to migrate to Medina.[134] This event is known as the Hijrah which basically means severing of kinship ties.[135][136] Some Muslims were held back by their families from leaving but in the end there were no Muslims left in Mecca.[137] Twentieth-century Pakistani Muslim scholar Fazlur Rahman said that the Muslims were expelled from Mecca and their property seized.[138]

Being alarmed at the departure, according to tradition, the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad. With the help of Ali, Muhammad fooled the Meccans watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town with Abu Bakr.[139] By 622, Muhammad emigrated to the flourishing agricultural oasis of Medina. The Meccan Muslims who undertook the migration with him were called the muhajirun, while the Medinans who accepted Islam and aided the emigrants were dubbed the ansar.[11]

Medinan years

Medina, located over 200 miles to the north of Mecca, is a lush oasis.[140] According to Muslim sources, the city was established by Jews who had survived the revolt against the Romans.[141] While agriculture was far from being the domain of the Arab tribes, the Jews were outstanding farmers, cultivating the land in the oases.[141] There were reportedly around 20 Jewish tribes residing in the city, with the three most prominent being Banu Nadir, Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Qurayza.[142] In time, Arab tribes from southern Arabia migrated to the city and settled down alongside the Jewish community.[141] The Arab tribes consisted of Banu Aws and Banu Khazraj, both collectively known as Banu Qayla.[143] Before 620, there had been fighting among the two Arab tribes for almost a hundred years,[140] with each of them attempting to court the assistance of the Jewish tribes,[130] causing the latter sometimes also had to fight each other.[140]

According to the 19th-century orientalist Julius Wellhausen, when Muhammad arrived in the city in 622, the Jewish tribes were allied with the two Arab tribes as subordinates. However, 21st-century historian Russ Rodgers disagrees. He argues that during Muhammad's second pledge of Aqaba, members of the two Arab tribes stated that they had to break certain alliances with the Jews due to the nature of the pledge. Rodgers infers from this that it was the two Arab tribes who held a subservient or, at most, an equal position to the Jews, since otherwise, the Jews would have been drawn into the covenant.[144][undue weight? ]

Constitution of Medina

Ibn Ishaq, following his narration of the hijrah, maintains that Muhammad penned a text now referred to as the Constitution of Medina and divulges its assumed content without supplying any isnad or corroboration.[145] The appellation is generally deemed imprecise, as the text neither established a state nor enacted Quranic statutes,[146] but rather addressed tribal matters.[147] While scholars from both the West and the Muslim world agree on the text's authenticity, disagreements persist on whether it was a treaty or a unilateral proclamation by Muhammad, the number of documents it comprised, the primary parties, the specific timing of its creation (or that of its constituent parts), whether it was drafted before or after Muhammad's removal of the three leading Jewish tribes of Medina, and the proper approach to translating it.[145][148]

Beginning of armed conflict

Subsequent to obtaining a divine instruction to battle the polytheists, Muhammad dispatched his followers to perform raids on the Quraysh's trading caravans. Certain Meccan followers of his were reluctant to partake, as it would mean attacking their own tribespeople. This vexed Muhammad, resulting in the revelation of Quran verse 2:216, among others, which asserts that fighting is good and has been made obligatory for them.[149] After several months of failures, Muhammad managed to achieve his first successful raid, at Nakhla, during a month that the pagans forbade themselves from shedding blood.[150][151] When the bountiful plunder was being brought back to him in Medina,[149] Muhammad was met with censure from the locals. He contended that his followers had misconstrued his command, and he postponed taking his one-fifth portion of the spoil until a verse was ultimately revealed, legitimizing the attack.[152][153][154][155]

Permission has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory. Those who have been evicted from their homes without right—only because they say, "Our Lord is Allah." And were it not that Allah checks the people, some by means of others, there would have been demolished monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of Allah is much mentioned. And Allah will surely support those who support Him. Indeed, Allah is Powerful and Exalted in Might.

— Quran (22:39–40)

Two months hence, a grand Quraysh trade caravan, representing the investments of all Meccans, traveled home from Gaza. Upon hearing the news, Muhammad swiftly mobilized his followers to intercept it at Badr.[156] Alerted to Muhammad's intentions, Abu Sufyan, who led the caravan, hastily dispatched messengers to Mecca for aid. Roughly 950 men journeyed to Badr in response. After the caravan narrowly escaped through a risky route, some reinforcements opted to withdraw,[157] while others remained and camouflaged their camp behind a hill.[158] Muhammad, upon discovering their presence through their water carrier, strategically covered all wells with sand, reserving one for his forces. This bold maneuver compelled the lingering Meccans to engage in battle for water.[159][158]

The battle commenced with individual duels between warriors from both sides, leading to the deaths of several prominent Meccans, including Abu Jahl,[160] Muhammad's most bitter adversary. The conflict then escalated into a chaotic melee.[161] Although not participating in the combat, Muhammad inspired his followers with the promise of paradise if they died fighting. Many of the Quraysh reluctant in killing their own kin, and just prior to midday, they succumbed to panic and ran away.[162] The battle concluded with the Quraysh suffering 49 to 70 losses, while the Muslims had 14 casualties.[163] The Muslims obtained considerable war spoils and a number of prisoners. Umar desired that all of them be slain, yet Muhammad resolved that ransom must be requested first, and afterwards, they could execute any for whom no one was willing to pay.[162]

Upon his return to Medina, Muhammad immediately worked to solidify his authority. He instructed the removal of Asma bint Marwan, who had criticized him in poetry.[164] One of his followers executed her while she slept with her children, the youngest still nursing in her arms. Upon learning of the deed, Muhammad lauded the act as a service to God and his Messenger.[165][164][166] Shortly after, he called upon his followers to end the life of the centenarian poet Abu Afak.[164] Simultaneously, Muhammad employed poets like Hassan ibn Thabit to circulate his propaganda among the tribes. When inquired if he could shield Muhammad from his foes, Ibn Thabit is reported to have extended his tongue and claimed there was no defense against his verbal prowess.[164]

Conflicts with Jewish tribes

The Masjid al-Qiblatayn, where Muhammad established the new Qibla, or direction of prayer

In the early stages of his time in Medina, Muhammad was optimistic that the Jewish people would acknowledge him as a Prophet and strove to obtain converts from their community.[167] However, his efforts were unsuccessful and even faced ridicule, as the Jews perceived inconsistencies between the Quran and their own scriptures. Consequently, the Quran accused the Jews of hiding and modifying parts of their holy texts. The Jewish criticism and refusal presented a danger to his prophetic claims, and, as a result, the views of Muhammad and the Quran towards them worsened.[168][169][170] This then led to the reorientation of the Muslim prayer direction, the qibla, from Jerusalem to the Kaaba.[171]

Following the Battle of Badr, Muhammad revealed his intention to expel the Jews from the land.[172][173][174][dubious ] Once the ransom arrangements for the Meccan captives were finalized, he initiated a siege on the Banu Qaynuqa,[175] regarded as the weakest and wealthies of Medina's three main Jewish tribes.[176][177] Muslim sources provide different reasons for the siege, including an altercation involving Hamza and Ali in the Banu Qaynuqa market, and another version by Ibn Ishaq, which tells the story of a Muslim woman being pranked by a Qaynuqa goldsmith.[177][178] Regardless of the cause, the Banu Qaynuqa sought refuge in their fort, where Muhammad blockaded them, cutting off their access to food supplies. After roughly two weeks, they capitulated without engaging in combat.[176][177]

At first, Muhammad planned to annihilate the surrendered tribe, but Abdullah ibn Ubayy, a Khazraj chieftain who had embraced Islam, stepped in. Previously, the Qaynuqa had protected him during multiple conflicts. Ibn Ubayy implored Muhammad to show leniency, but Muhammad turned away without responding. Undeterred, Ibn Ubayy grasped Muhammad's cloak, causing his face to darken with anger and demanding his release. Ibn Ubayy persisted, refusing to let go until Muhammad consented to treat the Qaynuqa well. Consequently, Muhammad spared their lives, stipulating that they must depart Medina within three days and relinquish their property to the Muslims, with Muhammad retaining a fifth.[176][177][179]

Having dealt with the Qaynuqa, Muhammad moved on to another personal matter. His staunch critic, Ka'b ibn Ashraf, a wealthy half-Jewish man from Banu Nadir, had just come back from Mecca after producing poetry that mourned the death of the Quraysh at Badr and aroused them to retaliate.[180][181] Muhammad asked his followers, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b, who has hurt God and His apostle?"[182][183] Ibn Maslama offered his services, explaining that the task would require deception. Muhammad did not contest this. He then gathered accomplices, including Ka'b's foster brother, Abu Naila. They pretended to complain about their post-conversion hardships, persuading Ka'b to lend them food. On the night of their meeting with Ka'b, they murdered him when he was caught off-guard.[181][184][182]

Meccan retaliation

"The Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim Army at the Battle of Uhud", from a 1595 edition of the Mamluk-Turkic Siyer-i Nebi

In 625, the Quraysh, wearied by Muhammad's continuous attacks on their caravans, decided to take decisive action. Led by Abu Sufyan, they assembled an army to oppose Muhammad.[175][185] Upon being alerted by his scout about the impending threat, Muhammad convened a war council. Initially, he considered defending from the city center, but later decided to meet the enemy in open battle at Uhud hill.[186] As they prepared to depart, the remaining Jewish allies of Abdullah ibn Ubayy offered their help, which Muhammad declined.[187] Despite being outnumbered, the Muslims initially held their ground but lost advantage when some archers disobeyed orders.[175] As rumors of Muhammad's death spread, the Muslims started to flee, but he had only been injured and managed to escape with a group of loyal adherents. Satisfied they had restored their honor, the Meccans returned to Mecca.[175][188]

Some time later, Muhammad found himself needing to pay blood money to Banu Amir. He sought monetary help from the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadir,[189][190][191] and they agreed to his request.[190] However, while waiting, he departed from his companions and disappeared. When they found him at his home, according to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad disclosed that he had received a divine revelation of a planned assassination attempt on him by the Banu Nadir, which involved dropping a boulder from a rooftop. Muhammad then initiated a siege on the tribe,[192][193] during which he also commanded the felling and burning of their palm groves.[194] After a fortnight or so, the Banu Nadir capitulated.[195] They were directed to vacate their land and permitted to carry only one camel-load of goods for every three people.[196] From the spoils, Muhammad claimed a fertile piece of land where barley sprouted amongst palm trees.[197]

Raid on the Banu Mustaliq

Upon receiving a report that the Banu Mustaliq were planning an attack on Medina, Muhammad's troops executed a surprise attack on them at their watering place, causing them to flee rapidly. In the confrontation, the Muslims lost one man, while the enemy suffered ten casualties.[198] As part of their triumph, the Muslims seized 2,000 camels, 500 sheep and goats, and 200 women from the tribe.[199] The Muslim soldiers desired the captive women, but they also sought ransom money. They asked Muhammad about using coitus interruptus to prevent pregnancy, to which Muhammad replied, "You are not under any obligation to forbear from that..."[200][201] Later, envoys arrived in Medina to negotiate the ransom for the women and children. Despite having the choice, all of them chose to return to their country instead of staying.[200][201]

Assassination of Khaybar leaders and the Banu Uraynah affair

Muhammad's northward raids of Medina had by now caused significant opposition. Many, including Abu Rafi, one of Khaybar's key chieftains, were part of this resistance.[202] He was then killed in his room by the Muslims at night.[203] Sometimes later, Khaybar people selected Usayr ibn Razim as their emir.[204] Muhammad extended an invitation for him to come to Medina for a settlement. He agreed, but during the journey, the Muslims killed him along his companions by surprise. Muhammad praised the commandos’ leader for his work when he came back to Medina.[205][206][204]

Around this particular time, eight men from the Banu Uraynah tribe sought to embrace Islam. They conveyed their discomfort with the city's climate to Muhammad. As a solution, he ordered them to drink the urine and milk of his camels. However, they opted to steal the camels, killing the caretakers in the process. Upon their capture, Muhammad had their eyes gouged out and their limbs cut off. They were then left to die in the desert.[207][208]

Battle of the Trench

Realizing that their victory at Uhud had failed to substantially weaken Muhammad's position as he continued to orchestrate raids on their trade caravans, the Quraysh finally saw the imperative of capturing Medina, a move they had previously neglected.[175] This decision, according to Muslim sources, was partly influenced by some leaders of the Banu Nadir, who were distressed over the loss of their lands.[209][175] However, that account may simply have been Muslim propaganda.[210] Aware of their limited warfare skills as city merchants, the Quraysh initiated extensive negotiations with various Bedouin tribes, amassing a force believed to number around 10,000 men.[175] Informed early by his allies in Mecca, Muhammad ordered his followers to fortify Medina with trenches, on the advice of Salman the Persian.[211] The Jews of Banu Qurayza contributed to this effort by assisting in the digging and lending their tools to the Muslims.[212][213][211] The approaching Quraysh and their allies, unfamiliar with trench warfare, were drawn into a protracted siege. Muhammad exploited this situation, using covert negotiations with the Ghatafan tribe to create discord among his enemies. As the weather deteriorated, morale among the Quraysh and their allies waned, leading to their withdrawal.[175] The siege saw minimal casualties, with five on the Muslims side and three among the besiegers.[214]

Massacre of the Banu Qurayza

On the exact day the Quraysh forces and their allies withdrew, Muhammad, while bathing at his wife's abode, received a visit from the angel Gabriel, who instructed him to attack the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza.[215][216][217] Islamic sources recount that during the preceding Meccan siege, Abu Sufyan, the Quraysh leader, incited the Qurayza to attack the Muslims from their compound, but they demanded 70 hostages to ascertain Quraysh's commitment to their plans, as proposed by Muhammad's secret agent Nu'aym ibn Mas'ud. Abu Sufyan refused their requirement.[218] Nevertheless, later accounts claim that 11 Jewish individuals from the Qurayza were indeed agitated and acted against Muhammad, but no evidence substantiates such an attack, and the tradition had every reason to dramatise the incident as a justification for the subsequent massacre.[219][216]

Muhammad besieged the tribe, alleging they had taken sides against him, which they firmly refuted.[220] As the situation turned dire, they proposed to leave their land but asked to be allowed to take movable goods, the load of a camel per person. Muhammad refused. They then offered to leave without taking anything, but Muhammad rejected this as well. He insisted on their unconditional surrender.[221][220] The Qurayza subsequently requested to confer with one of their Aws allies who had embraced Islam, leading to the arrival of Abu Lubaba. When asked about Muhammad's intentions, he gestured towards his throat, indicating an imminent massacre. He immediately regretted his indiscretion and tied himself to one of the Mosque pillars as a form of penance.[222][221]

After a 25-day siege, the Banu Qurayza surrendered.[223] The Muslims of Banu Aws entreated Muhammad for leniency, prompting him to suggest that one of their own should serve as the judge, which they accepted. Muhammad assigned the role to Sa'd ibn Muadh, a man nearing death due to wounds from the previous Meccan siege.[222][224] He pronounced that all the men should be put to death, their possessions distributed among Muslims, and their women and children taken as captives. Muhammad declared, "You have judged according to the very sentence of God above the seven heavens."[222][223] Consequently, 600–900 men of Banu Qurayza were executed. The women and children were distributed as slaves, with some being transported to Najd to be sold. The proceeds were then utilized to purchase weapons and horses for the Muslims.[225][226][227][228]

Incidents with the Banu Fazara

After a few months rest following the annihilation of the Qurayza, Muhammad prepared to conduct numerous operations. The sources no longer frequently report him receiving word of impending attacks against the Muslims in Medina, suggesting that Muhammad, recognizing his newfound strength, felt capable enough to discard any pretenses and directly confront potential rivals.[229] Several tribes, finding no other defensive option, eventually joined the Muslims, understanding from Muhammad's clear decree that Muslims could only raid non-Muslims, thus the most efficient way to avoid the raids was to join the raiders.[230]

During this period, Muhammad organized a caravan, presumably stocked with recent spoils, to conduct trade in Syria. Zayd ibn Harithah was tasked with guarding the convoy. However, when they journeyed through the territory of Banu Fazara, whom Zayd had raided in the past, the tribe seized the opportunity for revenge, attacked the caravan, and injured him. Upon his return to Medina, Muhammad decided that a punitive expedition was necessary. Zayd led this operation, successfully capturing Umm Qirfa, the esteemed Fazara matriarch. As punishment, Zayd ordered Qays ibn al-Musahhar to execute her. He did so by tying each of her legs to separate camels, which were then driven in opposite directions, leading to her brutal death.[231][232]

Treaty of Hudaybiyya

The Kaaba in Mecca long held a major economic and religious role for the area. Seventeen months after Muhammad's arrival in Medina, it became the Muslim Qibla, or direction for prayer (salat). The Kaaba has been rebuilt several times; the present structure, built in 1629, is a reconstruction of an earlier building dating to 683.[233]

Early in 628, following a dream of making an unopposed pilgrimage to Mecca, Muhammad embarked on the journey. He was dressed in his customary pilgrim attire and was accompanied by a group of followers.[234] Upon reaching Hudaybiyya, they encountered Quraysh emissaries who questioned their intentions. Muhammad explained they had come to venerate the Kaaba, not to fight.[235] He then sent Uthman, Abu Sufyan's second cousin, to negotiate with the Quraysh. As the negotiations were prolonged, rumors of Uthman's death began to spark, prompting Muhammad to call his followers to renew their oaths of loyalty. Uthman returned with news of a negotiation impasse. Muhammad remained persistent. In the end, the Quraysh sent Suhayl ibn Amr, an envoy with full negotiation powers. Following lengthy discussions, a treaty was finally enacted,[236] with terms:

  1. A ten-year truce was established between both parties.
  2. If a Qurayshite came to Muhammad's without his guardian's allowance, he was to be returned to the Quraysh; yet, if a Muslim came to the Quraysh, he would not be surrendered to Muhammad.
  3. Any tribes interested in forming alliances with Muhammad or the Quraysh were free to do so. These alliances were also protected by the ten-year truce.
  4. Muslims were then required to depart back to Medina, however, they were permitted to make the Umrah pilgrimage in the coming year.[236][235]

Invasion of Khaybar

Roughly ten weeks subsequent to his return from Hudaybiyya, Muhammad expressed his plan to invade Khaybar, a flourishing oasis about 75 miles north of Medina. The city was populated by Jews, including those from the Banu Nadir, who had previously been expelled by Muhammad from Medina. With the prospect of rich spoils from the mission, numerous volunteers answered his call.[237][238] To keep their movements hidden, the Muslim military chose to march during the nighttime. As dawn arrived and the city folks stepped out of their fortifications to harvest their dates, they were taken aback by the sight of the advancing Muslim forces. Muhammad cried out, "Allahu Akbar! Khaybar is destroyed. For when we approach a people's land, a terrible morning awaits the warned ones."[239] After a strenuous battle lasting more than a month, the Muslims successfully captured the city.[240] The loss in the confrontation was 15–17 Muslims and 93 Jews.[241]

The spoils, inclusive of the wives of the slain warriors, were distributed among the Muslims.[242] Muhammad claimed Safiyya bint Huyayy, a beautiful 17-year-old girl, from among the captives.[243] Following the battle, her husband, Kinana ibn al-Rabi, was put through torture by Muhammad's decree for declining to reveal his tribe's hidden wealth, and subsequently beheaded.[244][243][245] Her father and brother had been executed during the massacre of the Banu Qurayza.[246] Overwhelmed by her beauty, Muhammad had sex with her the very night, contradicting his own mandate that his followers should wait for the captives' next menstrual cycle to begin before having intercourse.[243][247][248]

Following their defeat by the Muslims, some of the Jews proposed to Muhammad that they stay and serve as tenant farmers, given the Muslims' lack of expertise and labor force for date palm cultivation. They agreed to give half of the annual produce to the Muslims. Muhammad consented to this arrangement with the caveat that he could displace them at any time. While they were allowed to farm, he demanded the surrender of all gold or silver, executing those who secreted away their wealth.[249][250] Taking a cue from what transpired in Khaybar, the Jews in Fadak immediately sent an envoy to Muhammad and agreed to the same terms of relinquishing 50% of their annual harvest. However, since no combat occurred, the rank and file had no claim to a portion of the spoils. Consequently, all the loot became Muhammad's exclusive wealth.[251][252]

At the feast following the battle, the meal served to Muhammad was reportedly poisoned. His companion, Bishr, fell dead after consuming it, while Muhammad himself managed to vomit it out after tasting it.[251][253] The perpetrator was Zaynab bint al-Harith, a Jewish woman whose father, uncle, and husband had been killed by the Muslims.[243] When asked why she did it, she replied, "You know what you've done to my people... I said to myself: If he is truly a prophet, he will know about the poison. If he's merely a king, I'll be rid of him."[251][243] One account suggests Muhammad forgave her, but in other more accepted reports, she was killed thereafter.[251] Muhammad suffered illness for a period due to the poison he ingested, and he endured sporadic pain from it until his death.[254][255]

Fulfilled umrah and the Battle of Mu'tah

A year after the treaty of Hudaybiyya, Muhammad took some of his followers to perform the umrah in Mecca.[256] The Quraysh moved out of the city for the nearby mountain and allowed the Muslims to complete the ritual.[257] Taking the opportunity of his stay, Muhammad married Maymunah bint al-Harith, a 27-year-old sister of the wife of his uncle al-Abbas.[258] On the fourth day, when his allotted time by the treaty was over, Muhammad offered the Quraysh to join his wedding feast he was planning to hold in the city, but they refused and told him to depart immediately.[259]

Upon returning to Medina, Muhammad launched four raids on tribes in the vicinity. Two of these ended in defeat, while the remaining two yielded plunder. Muhammad then directed his army to move northwards, towards the frontier of the Byzantine Empire.[259] Although outnumbered, the Muslim army advanced to confront their adversaries, with victory or martyrdom as their aim. The two parties clashed at Mu'tah and it ended in defeat for the Muslims. Zayd ibn Haritha, Muhammad's adopted son, died as a commander at the battle.[260] Khalid ibn Walid, who had now embraced Islam, gathered the surviving Muslims to retreat.[261]

Final years

Conquest of Mecca

A depiction of Muhammad (with veiled face) advancing on Mecca from Siyer-i Nebi, a 16th-century Ottoman manuscript. The angels Gabriel, Michael, Israfil and Azrail, are also shown.

After amassing a powerful alliance, Muhammad once more set his sights on his hometown, Mecca. He leveraged his covert agent, Budayl ibn Warqa, to fan the flames of discord between Banu Bakr, supported by the Quraysh, and Banu Khuza'ah, his ally.[262] Taking the ensuing conflict as a casus belli, Muhammad led his forces towards Mecca.[263] Upon nearing the city, he ordered the creation of individual fires to magnify the perceived size of his army. He sent al-Abbas, his uncle, to warn the Meccan chief Abu Sufyan that if they were to invade the city, it could result in the slaughter of the Quraysh, including himself.[264] Abu Sufyan then went to meet Muhammad and converted to Islam. He subsequently went back to the city and told the citizens that their lives and property would be safe as long as they did not resist and remained in their homes, went to the Kaaba, or stayed with him.[265]

Muhammad sent out his forces with a short list of six men and four women to be killed on sight. Among those targeted was his former scribe, Abdullah ibn Sa'd ibn Abi Sarh.[266] While transcribing the Quranic verses from Muhammad's dictation, Abdullah filled a brief pause by Muhammad by vocalizing his own version of the rest of the verse. Absentmindedly, Muhammad instructed him to include it.[267] He also professed to have intermittently modified the substance of the Quran's dictation, which Muhammad failed to detect. These factors led him to abandon Islam and return to Mecca. Later, during the conquest, Abdullah, in the company of his foster brother Uthman, implored Muhammad for mercy, which was eventually given. However, as they left, Muhammad rebuked his companions, "I was silent for a long time. Why did not one of you kill this dog?" When inquired why he did not signal, Muhammad irritably retorted, "One does not kill by signs." After Muhammad's death, Abdullah became a top official in the Islamic state.[266][268]

Ibn Khatal al-Adrami, another apostate, was not as fortunate. He authored verses critical of Muhammad and had two girls sing them at a party he held. Amid the conquest, he desperately clung to the Kaaba's curtain. Muhammad, upon hearing this, ordered his execution nonetheless. One of the songstresses was later found and similarly executed.[266][268] In sum, only three out of the ten targets were located and eliminated. The remainder were able to secure a form of pardon for their past deeds and were allowed to join the ranks of Islam.[269] In their advances, the Muslim forces faced only little resistance from one sector of Mecca, which was effortlessly defeated by Khalid ibn al-Walid.[270] Eventually, Muhammad visited the Kaaba and had it cleared of all idols and images, except, reportedly, the paintings of Abraham, Jesus, and Mary.[270][268] All of Mecca's residents were then gathered and made to pledge their allegiance to him and convert to Islam.[270]

Subduing the Hawazin and Thaqif and the expedition to Tabuk

Conquests of Muhammad (green lines) and the Rashidun caliphs (black lines). Shown: Byzantine empire (North and West) & Sassanid-Persian empire (Northeast).

Upon learning that Mecca had fallen to the Muslims, the Banu Hawazin gathered their entire tribe, including their families, to fight.[271] They are estimated to have around 4,000 warriors.[272][273] Muhammad led 12,000 soldiers to raid them, but they surprised him at Wadi Hunayn.[274] The Muslims overpowered them and took their women, children and animals.[275] Muhammad then turned his attention to Taif, a city that was famous for its vineyards and gardens. He ordered them to be destroyed and besieged the city, which was surrounded by walls. After 15–20 days of failing to breach their defenses, he abandoned the attempts.[276][277]

When he divided the plentiful loot acquired at Hunayn among his soldiers, the rest of the Hawazin converted to Islam[278] and implored Muhammad to release their children and women, reminding him that he had been nursed by some of those women when he was a baby. He complied, but held onto the rest of the plunder. Some of his men opposed giving away their portions, so he compensated them with six camels each from subsequent raids.[279] Muhammad distributed a big portion of the booty to the new converts from the Quraysh. Abu Sufyan and two of his sons, Muawiyya and Yazid, got 100 camels individually.[280][281] The Ansar, who had fought bravely in the battle, but received close to nothing, were unhappy with this.[282][283] One of them remarked, "It is not with such gifts that one seeks God's face." Disturbed with this utterance, Muhammad retorted, "He changed color."[280]

Roughly 10 months after he captured Mecca, Muhammad took his army to attack the wealthy border provinces of Byzantine Syria.[284][285] Several motives are proposed, including avenging the defeat at Mu'tah and earning vast booty.[286][287] Because of the drought and severe heat at that time, some of the Muslims refrained from participating. This led to the revelation of Quran 9:38 which rebuked those slackers.[288] When Muhammad and his army reached Tabuk, there were no hostile forces present.[289] However, he was able to force some of the local chiefs to accept his rule and pay jizya. A group under Khalid ibn Walid that he sent for a raid also managed to acquire some booty including 2,000 camels and 800 cattle.[290]

The Hawazin's acceptance of Islam resulted in Taif losing its last major ally.[291] After enduring a year of unrelenting thefts and terror attacks from the Muslims following the siege, the people of Taif, known as the Banu Thaqif, finally reached a tipping point and acknowledged that embracing Islam was the most sensible path for them.[292][293][294]

Farewell pilgrimage

Anonymous illustration of al-Bīrūnī's The Remaining Signs of Past Centuries, depicting Muhammad prohibiting Nasī' during the Farewell Pilgrimage, 17th-century Ottoman copy of a 14th-century (Ilkhanate) manuscript (Edinburgh codex)

On February 631, Muhammad received a revelation granting idolaters four months of grace, after which, the Muslims would attack, kill and plunder them wherever met.[295][296]

During the 632 pilgrimage season, Muhammad personally led the ceremonies and gave a sermon. Among the key points highlighted are said to have been the prohibition of usury and vendettas related to past murders from the pre-Islamic era; the brotherhood of all Muslims; and the adoption of twelve lunar months without intercalation.[297][298] He also reaffirmed that husbands had the right to discipline and strike their wives without excessive force if they were unfaithful or misbehaved. He explained that wives were entrusted to their husbands and, if obedient, deserved to be provided with food and clothing, as they were gifts from God for personal enjoyment.[299]

Death and tomb

The death of Muhammad. From the Siyer-i Nebi, c. 1595.

After praying at the burial site in June 632, Muhammad suffered a dreadful headache that made him cry in pain.[300][301] He continued to spend the night with each of his wives one by one,[302] but he fainted in Maymunah's hut.[303] He requested his wives to allow him to stay in Aisha's hut. He could not walk there without leaning on Ali and Fadl ibn Abbas, as his legs were trembling. His wives and his uncle al-Abbas fed him an Abyssinian remedy when he was unconscious.[304] When he came to, he inquired about it and they explained they were afraid he had pleurisy. He replied that God would not afflict him with such a vile disease, and ordered all the women to also take the remedy.[305] According to various sources, including Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammad said that he felt his aorta being severed because of the food he ate at Khaybar.[306][255] On June 8, 632, Muhammad died. In his last moments, he reportedly uttered:

"O God, forgive me and have mercy on me; and let me join the highest companions."[307][308][309]

— Muhammad

Historian Alfred T. Welch speculates that Muhammad's death was caused by Medinan fever, which was aggravated by physical and mental fatigue.[310]

Muhammad was buried where he died in Aisha's house.[11][311][312] During the reign of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I, al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet) was expanded to include the site of Muhammad's tomb.[313] The Green Dome above the tomb was built by the Mamluk sultan Al Mansur Qalawun in the 13th century, although the green color was added in the 16th century, under the reign of Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.[314] Among tombs adjacent to that of Muhammad are those of his companions (Sahabah), the first two Muslim caliphs Abu Bakr and Umar, and an empty one that Muslims believe awaits Jesus.[312][315][316]

When Saud bin Abdul-Aziz took Medina in 1805, Muhammad's tomb was stripped of its gold and jewel ornamentation.[317] Adherents to Wahhabism, Saud's followers, destroyed nearly every tomb dome in Medina in order to prevent their veneration,[317] and the one of Muhammad is reported to have narrowly escaped.[318] Similar events took place in 1925, when the Saudi militias retook—and this time managed to keep—the city.[319][320][321] In the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, burial is to take place in unmarked graves.[318] Although the practice is frowned upon by the Saudis, many pilgrims continue to practice a ziyarat—a ritual visit—to the tomb.[322][323]

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi ("the Prophet's mosque") in Medina, Saudi Arabia, with the Green Dome built over Muhammad's tomb in the center

After Muhammad

Expansion of the caliphate, 622–750 CE:
  Muhammad, 622–632 CE.
  Rashidun caliphate, 632–661 CE.
  Umayyad caliphate, 661–750 CE.

With Muhammad's death, disagreement broke out over who his successor would be.[12][13] Umar ibn al-Khattab, a prominent companion of Muhammad, nominated Abu Bakr, Muhammad's friend and collaborator. With additional support Abu Bakr was confirmed as the first caliph. This choice was disputed by some of Muhammad's companions, who held that Ali ibn Abi Talib, his cousin and son-in-law, had been designated the successor by Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm. Abu Bakr immediately moved to strike against the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman Empire) forces because of the previous defeat, although he first had to put down a rebellion by Arab tribes in an event that Muslim historians later referred to as the Ridda wars, or "Wars of Apostasy".[j]

The pre-Islamic Middle East was dominated by the Byzantine and Sassanian empires. The Roman–Persian Wars between the two had devastated the region, making the empires unpopular amongst local tribes. Furthermore, in the lands that would be conquered by Muslims many Christians (Nestorians, Monophysites, Jacobites and Copts) were disaffected from the Eastern Orthodox Church which deemed them heretics. Within a decade Muslims conquered Mesopotamia, Byzantine Syria, Byzantine Egypt,[324] large parts of Persia, and established the Rashidun Caliphate.


The tomb of Muhammad is located in the quarters of his third wife, Aisha (Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, Medina).

Muhammad's life is traditionally defined into two periods: pre-hijra (emigration) in Mecca (from 570 to 622), and post-hijra in Medina (from 622 until 632). Muhammad is said to have had thirteen wives in total (although two have ambiguous accounts, Rayhana bint Zayd and Maria al-Qibtiyya, as wife or concubine[k][325]). Eleven of the thirteen marriages occurred after the migration to Medina.

At the age of 25, Muhammad married the wealthy Khadijah bint Khuwaylid who was 40 years old.[326] The marriage lasted for 25 years and was a happy one.[327] Muhammad did not enter into marriage with another woman during this marriage.[328][329] After Khadijah's death, Khawla bint Hakim suggested to Muhammad that he should marry Sawdah bint Zam'ah, a Muslim widow, or Aisha, daughter of Umm Ruman and Abu Bakr of Mecca. Muhammad is said to have asked for arrangements to marry both.[330]

According to traditional sources, Aisha was six or seven years old when betrothed to Muhammad,[330][331][332] with the marriage not being consummated until she reached the age of nine or ten years old.[l] She was therefore a virgin at marriage.[331]

After migration to Medina, Muhammad, who was then in his fifties, married several more women.

Muhammad performed household chores such as preparing food, sewing clothes, and repairing shoes. He is also said to have had accustomed his wives to dialogue; he listened to their advice, and the wives debated and even argued with him.[340][341][342]

Khadijah is said to have had four daughters with Muhammad (Ruqayyah bint Muhammad, Umm Kulthum bint Muhammad, Zainab bint Muhammad, Fatimah Zahra) and two sons (Abd-Allah ibn Muhammad and Qasim ibn Muhammad, who both died in childhood). All but one of his daughters, Fatimah, died before him.[343] Some Shi'a scholars contend that Fatimah was Muhammad's only daughter.[344] Maria al-Qibtiyya bore him a son named Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, but the child died when he was two years old.[343]

Nine of Muhammad's wives survived him.[325] Aisha, who became known as Muhammad's favourite wife in Sunni tradition, survived him by decades and was instrumental in helping assemble the scattered sayings of Muhammad that form the Hadith literature for the Sunni branch of Islam.[330]

Muhammad's descendants through Fatimah are known as sharifs, syeds or sayyids. These are honorific titles in Arabic, sharif meaning 'noble' and sayed or sayyid meaning 'lord' or 'sir'. As Muhammad's only descendants, they are respected by both Sunni and Shi'a, though the Shi'a place much more emphasis and value on their distinction.[345]

Zayd ibn Haritha was a slave that Khadija gave to Muhammad. He was bought by her nephew Hakim bin Hizam at the market in Ukaz.[346] Zayd then became the couple's adopted son, but was later disowned when Muhammad was about to marry Zayd's ex-wife, Zaynab bint Jahsh.[347] According to a BBC summary, "the Prophet Muhammad did not try to abolish slavery, and bought, sold, captured, and owned slaves himself. But he insisted that slave owners treat their slaves well and stressed the virtue of freeing slaves. Muhammad treated slaves as human beings and clearly held some in the highest esteem".[348]


Islamic tradition

Following the attestation to the oneness of God, the belief in Muhammad's prophethood is the main aspect of the Islamic faith. Every Muslim proclaims in Shahadah: "I testify that there is no god but God, and I testify that Muhammad is a Messenger of God". The Shahadah is the basic creed or tenet of Islam. Islamic belief is that ideally the Shahadah is the first words a newborn will hear; children are taught it immediately and it will be recited upon death. Muslims repeat the shahadah in the call to prayer (adhan) and the prayer itself. Non-Muslims wishing to convert to Islam are required to recite the creed.[349]

In Islamic belief, Muhammad is regarded as the last prophet sent by God.[350][351] The Quran affirms that the only miracle given to Muhammad was the Quran itself,[126][352] and offers various reasons for why he was unable to perform any other miracles when his enemies requested them.[82][83] However, later writings such as hadith and sira attribute several miracles or supernatural events to Muhammad after his death.[352] One of these is the splitting of the moon, which according to a report from Muhammad's cousin Ibn Abbas, was in fact a lunar eclipse, but this event was transformed into a literal splitting of the moon in later interpretations.[83]

The Muslim profession of faith, the Shahadah, illustrates the Muslim conception of the role of Muhammad: "There is no god except the God; Muhammad is the Messenger of God", in Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey.
Calligraphic rendering of "may God honor him and grant him peace", customarily added after Muhammad's name, encoded as a ligature at Unicode code point U+FDFA[353]

The Sunnah represents actions and sayings of Muhammad (preserved in reports known as Hadith) and covers a broad array of activities and beliefs ranging from religious rituals, personal hygiene, and burial of the dead to the mystical questions involving the love between humans and God. The Sunnah is considered a model of emulation for pious Muslims and has to a great degree influenced the Muslim culture. The greeting that Muhammad taught Muslims to offer each other, "may peace be upon you" (Arabic: as-salamu 'alaykum) is used by Muslims throughout the world. Many details of major Islamic rituals such as daily prayers, the fasting and the annual pilgrimage are only found in the Sunnah and not the Quran.[354]

Muslims have traditionally expressed love and veneration for Muhammad. Stories of Muhammad's life, his intercession and of his miracles have permeated popular Muslim thought and poetry. Among Arabic odes to Muhammad, Qasidat al-Burda ("Poem of the Mantle") by the Egyptian Sufi al-Busiri (1211–1294) is particularly well-known, and widely held to possess a healing, spiritual power.[355] The Quran refers to Muhammad as "a mercy (rahmat) to the worlds"[356][11] The association of rain with mercy in Oriental countries has led to imagining Muhammad as a rain cloud dispensing blessings and stretching over lands, reviving the dead hearts, just as rain revives the seemingly dead earth.[m][11] Muhammad's birthday is celebrated as a major feast throughout the Islamic world, excluding Wahhabi-dominated Saudi Arabia where these public celebrations are discouraged.[357] When Muslims say or write the name of Muhammad, they usually follow it with the Arabic phrase ṣallā llahu ʿalayhi wa-sallam (may God honor him and grant him peace) or the English phrase peace be upon him.[358] In casual writing, the abbreviations SAW (for the Arabic phrase) or PBUH (for the English phrase) are sometimes used; in printed matter, a small calligraphic rendition is commonly used ().

Appearance and depictions

Various sources present a probable description of Muhammad in the prime of his life. He was slightly above average in height, with a sturdy frame and wide chest. His neck was long, bearing a large head with a broad forehead. His eyes were described as dark and intense, accentuated by long, dark eyelashes. His hair, black and not entirely curly, hung over his ears. His long, dense beard stood out against his neatly trimmed mustache. His nose was long and aquiline, ending in a fine point. His teeth were well-spaced. His face was described as intelligent, and his clear skin had a line of hair from his neck to his navel. Despite a slight stoop, his stride was brisk and purposeful.[359] Muhammad's lip and cheek were ripped by a slingstone during the battle of Uhud.[360][361] The wound was later cauterized, leaving a scar on his face.[362]

However, since the hadith prohibits the creation of images of sentient living beings, Islamic religious art mainly focuses on the word.[363][364] Muslims generally avoid depictions of Muhammad, and instead decorate mosques with calligraphy, Quranic inscriptions, or geometrical designs.[363][365] Today, the interdiction against images of Muhammad—designed to prevent worship of Muhammad, rather than God—is much more strictly observed in Sunni Islam (85%–90% of Muslims) and Ahmadiyya Islam (1%) than among Shias (10%–15%).[366] While both Sunnis and Shias have created images of Muhammad in the past,[367] Islamic depictions of Muhammad are rare.[363] They have mostly been limited to the private and elite medium of the miniature, and since about 1500 most depictions show Muhammad with his face veiled, or symbolically represent him as a flame.[365][368]

Muhammad's entry into Mecca and the destruction of idols. Muhammad is shown as a flame in this manuscript. Found in Bazil's Hamla-i Haydari, Jammu and Kashmir, India, 1808.

The earliest extant depictions come from 13th century Anatolian Seljuk and Ilkhanid Persian miniatures, typically in literary genres describing the life and deeds of Muhammad.[368][369] During the Ilkhanid period, when Persia's Mongol rulers converted to Islam, competing Sunni and Shi'a groups used visual imagery, including images of Muhammad, to promote their particular interpretation of Islam's key events.[370] Influenced by the Buddhist tradition of representational religious art predating the Mongol elite's conversion, this innovation was unprecedented in the Islamic world, and accompanied by a "broader shift in Islamic artistic culture away from abstraction toward representation" in "mosques, on tapestries, silks, ceramics, and in glass and metalwork" besides books.[371] In the Persian lands, this tradition of realistic depictions lasted through the Timurid dynasty until the Safavids took power in the early 16th century.[370] The Safavaids, who made Shi'i Islam the state religion, initiated a departure from the traditional Ilkhanid and Timurid artistic style by covering Muhammad's face with a veil to obscure his features and at the same time represent his luminous essence.[372] Concomitantly, some of the unveiled images from earlier periods were defaced.[370][373][374] Later images were produced in Ottoman Turkey and elsewhere, but mosques were never decorated with images of Muhammad.[367] Illustrated accounts of the night journey (mi'raj) were particularly popular from the Ilkhanid period through the Safavid era.[375] During the 19th century, Iran saw a boom of printed and illustrated mi'raj books, with Muhammad's face veiled, aimed in particular at illiterates and children in the manner of graphic novels. Reproduced through lithography, these were essentially "printed manuscripts".[375] Today, millions of historical reproductions and modern images are available in some Muslim-majority countries, especially Turkey and Iran, on posters, postcards, and even in coffee-table books, but are unknown in most other parts of the Islamic world, and when encountered by Muslims from other countries, they can cause considerable consternation and offense.[367][368]

Islamic social reforms

According to William Montgomery Watt, religion for Muhammad was not a private and individual matter but "the total response of his personality to the total situation in which he found himself. He was responding [not only]... to the religious and intellectual aspects of the situation but also to the economic, social, and political pressures to which contemporary Mecca was subject."[376] Bernard Lewis says there are two important political traditions in Islam—Muhammad as a statesman in Medina, and Muhammad as a rebel in Mecca. In his view, Islam is a great change, akin to a revolution, when introduced to new societies.[377]

Historians generally agree that Islamic social changes in areas such as social security, family structure, slavery and the rights of women and children improved on the status quo of Arab society.[377][n] For example, according to Lewis, Islam "from the first denounced aristocratic privilege, rejected hierarchy, and adopted a formula of the career open to the talents".[which?][377] Muhammad's message transformed society and moral orders of life in the Arabian Peninsula; society focused on the changes to perceived identity, world view, and the hierarchy of values.[378][page needed] Economic reforms addressed the plight of the poor, which was becoming an issue in pre-Islamic Mecca.[379] The Quran requires payment of an alms tax (zakat) for the benefit of the poor; as Muhammad's power grew he demanded that tribes who wished to ally with him implement the zakat in particular.[380][381]

European appreciation

Muhammad in La vie de Mahomet by M. Prideaux (1699). He holds a sword and a crescent while trampling on a globe, a cross, and the Ten Commandments.

Guillaume Postel was among the first to present a more positive view of Muhammad when he argued that Muhammad should be esteemed by Christians as a valid prophet.[11][382] Gottfried Leibniz praised Muhammad because "he did not deviate from the natural religion".[11] Henri de Boulainvilliers, in his Vie de Mahomed which was published posthumously in 1730, described Muhammad as a gifted political leader and a just lawmaker.[11] He presents him as a divinely inspired messenger whom God employed to confound the bickering Oriental Christians, to liberate the Orient from the despotic rule of the Romans and Persians, and to spread the knowledge of the unity of God from India to Spain.[383] Voltaire had a somewhat mixed opinion on Muhammad: in his play Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophète he vilifies Muhammad as a symbol of fanaticism, and in a published essay in 1748 he calls him "a sublime and hearty charlatan", but in his historical survey Essai sur les mœurs, he presents him as legislator and a conqueror and calls him an "enthusiast".[383] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in his Social Contract (1762), "brushing aside hostile legends of Muhammad as a trickster and impostor, presents him as a sage legislator who wisely fused religious and political powers".[383] Emmanuel Pastoret published in 1787 his Zoroaster, Confucius and Muhammad, in which he presents the lives of these three "great men", "the greatest legislators of the universe", and compares their careers as religious reformers and lawgivers. He rejects the common view that Muhammad is an impostor and argues that the Quran proffers "the most sublime truths of cult and morals"; it defines the unity of God with an "admirable concision". Pastoret writes that the common accusations of his immorality are unfounded: on the contrary, his law enjoins sobriety, generosity, and compassion on his followers: the "legislator of Arabia" was "a great man".[383] Napoleon Bonaparte admired Muhammad and Islam,[384] and described him as a model lawmaker and conqueror.[385][386] Thomas Carlyle in his book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, & the Heroic in History (1841) describes "Mahomet" as "A silent great soul; he was one of those who cannot but be in earnest".[387] Carlyle's interpretation has been widely cited by Muslim scholars as a demonstration that Western scholarship validates Muhammad's status as a great man in history.[388]

Ian Almond says that German Romantic writers generally held positive views of Muhammad: "Goethe's 'extraordinary' poet-prophet, Herder's nation builder (...) Schlegel's admiration for Islam as an aesthetic product, enviably authentic, radiantly holistic, played such a central role in his view of Mohammed as an exemplary world-fashioner that he even used it as a scale of judgement for the classical (the dithyramb, we are told, has to radiate pure beauty if it is to resemble 'a Koran of poetry')".[389] After quoting Heinrich Heine, who said in a letter to some friend that "I must admit that you, great prophet of Mecca, are the greatest poet and that your Quran... will not easily escape my memory", John Tolan goes on to show how Jews in Europe in particular held more nuanced views about Muhammad and Islam, being an ethnoreligious minority feeling discriminated, they specifically lauded Al-Andalus, and thus, "writing about Islam was for Jews a way of indulging in a fantasy world, far from the persecution and pogroms of nineteenth-century Europe, where Jews could live in harmony with their non-Jewish neighbors".[390]

Recent writers such as William Montgomery Watt and Richard Bell dismiss the idea that Muhammad deliberately deceived his followers, arguing that Muhammad "was absolutely sincere and acted in complete good faith"[391] and Muhammad's readiness to endure hardship for his cause, with what seemed to be no rational basis for hope, shows his sincerity.[392] Watt, however, says that sincerity does not directly imply correctness: in contemporary terms, Muhammad might have mistaken his subconscious for divine revelation.[393] Watt and Bernard Lewis argue that viewing Muhammad as a self-seeking impostor makes it impossible to understand Islam's development.[394][395] Alford T. Welch holds that Muhammad was able to be so influential and successful because of his firm belief in his vocation.[11]


Criticism of Muhammad has existed since the 7th century, when Muhammad was decried by his non-Muslim Arab contemporaries for preaching monotheism, and by the Jewish tribes of Arabia for his perceived appropriation of Biblical narratives and figures and proclamation of himself as the "Seal of the Prophets".[396][397]

During the Middle Ages, various Western and Byzantine Christian thinkers criticized Muhammad's morality, and labelled him a false prophet or even the Antichrist, and he was frequently portrayed in Christendom as being either a heretic or as being possessed by demons.[398][399][400][401]

Modern religious and secular criticism of Islam has concerned Muhammad's sincerity in claiming to be a prophet, his morality, his marriages, his sex life, his ownership of slaves, his treatment of his enemies, his handling of doctrinal matters, and his psychological condition.[398][402][403][404]


The Sunnah contributed much to the development of Islamic law, particularly from the end of the first Islamic century.[405] Muslim mystics, known as sufis, who were seeking for the inner meaning of the Quran and the inner nature of Muhammad, viewed the prophet of Islam not only as a prophet but also as a perfect human being. All Sufi orders trace their chain of spiritual descent back to Muhammad.[406]

Other religions

Followers of the Baháʼí Faith venerate Muhammad as one of a number of prophets or "Manifestations of God". He is thought to be the final manifestation, or seal of the Adamic cycle, but consider his teachings to have been superseded by those of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Baháʼí faith, and the first manifestation of the current cycle.[407][408]

Druze tradition honors several "mentors" and "prophets",[409] and Muhammad is considered an important prophet of God in the Druze faith, being among the seven prophets who appeared in different periods of history.[410][411]

See also



  1. ^ He is referred to by many appellations, including Muhammad ibn Abdullah, Messenger of God, The Prophet Muhammad, God's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam, and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mohammed, Mahamad, Muhamad, Mohamed and many others.
  2. ^ Goldman 1995, p. 63, gives 8 June 632 CE, the dominant Islamic tradition. Many earlier (primarily non-Islamic) traditions refer to him as still alive at the time of the Muslim conquest of Palestine.
  3. ^ According to Welch, Moussalli & Newby 2009, writing for the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World: "The Prophet of Islam was a religious, political, and social reformer who gave rise to one of the great civilizations of the world. From a modern, historical perspective, Muḥammad was the founder of Islam. From the perspective of the Islamic faith, he was God's Messenger (rasūl Allāh), called to be a "warner," first to the Arabs and then to all humankind."
  4. ^ See Quran 3:95
  5. ^ See:
    • Louis Jacobs (1995), p. 272.
    • Turner (2005), p. 16.
  6. ^ See also Quran 43:31 cited in EoI; Muhammad.
  7. ^ See:
    • Emory C. Bogle (1998), p. 7.
    • Rodinson (2002), p. 71.
  8. ^ The aforementioned Islamic histories recount that as Muhammad was reciting Sūra Al-Najm (Q.53), as revealed to him by the Archangel Gabriel, Satan tempted him to utter the following lines after verses 19 and 20: "Have you thought of Allāt and al-'Uzzā and Manāt the third, the other; These are the exalted Gharaniq, whose intercession is hoped for." (Allāt, al-'Uzzā and Manāt were three goddesses worshiped by the Meccans). cf Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume p. 166.
  9. ^ "Apart from this one-day lapse, which was excised from the text, the Quran is simply unrelenting, unaccommodating and outright despising of paganism." (The Cambridge Companion to Muhammad, Jonathan E. Brockopp, p. 35).
  10. ^ See:
  11. ^ See for example Marco Schöller, Banu Qurayza, Encyclopedia of the Quran mentioning the differing accounts of the status of Rayhana
  12. ^ [330][331][333][334][335][336][337][338][339]
  13. ^ See, for example, the Sindhi poem of Shah ʿAbd al-Latif
  14. ^ See:


  1. ^ a b c d e Conrad 1987.
  2. ^ Welch, Moussalli & Newby 2009.
  3. ^ a b Esposito 2002, pp. 4–5.
  4. ^ Esposito 1998, p. 9,12.
  5. ^ "Early Years". 18 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Watt 1974, p. 7.
  7. ^ Howarth, Stephen. Knights Templar. 1985. ISBN 978-0-8264-8034-7 p. 199.
  8. ^ a b Muhammad Mustafa Al-A'zami (2003), The History of The Qur'anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments, pp. 26–27. UK Islamic Academy. ISBN 978-1-872531-65-6.
  9. ^ Ahmad 2009.
  10. ^ Peters 2003, p. 9.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Buhl & Welch 1993.
  12. ^ a b Holt, Lambton & Lewis 1977, p. 57.
  13. ^ a b Lapidus 2002, pp. 31–32.
  14. ^ Nasr, Seyyed Hossein (2007). "Qurʾān". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 5 May 2015. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
  15. ^ Living Religions: An Encyclopaedia of the World's Faiths, Mary Pat Fisher, 1997, p. 338, I.B. Tauris Publishers.
  16. ^ Quran 17:106
  17. ^ Clinton Bennett (1998). In search of Muhammad. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0-304-70401-9. Archived from the original on 30 September 2015.
  18. ^ Peters 1994, p. 261.
  19. ^ a b Watt 1953, p. xi.
  20. ^ Reeves (2003), pp. 6–7.
  21. ^ a b S.A. Nigosian (2004), p. 6.
  22. ^ Donner (1998), p. 132.
  23. ^ Holland, Tom (2012). In the Shadow of the Sword. Doubleday. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-7481-1951-6. Things which it is disgraceful to discuss; matters which would distress certain people; and such reports as I have been told are not to be accepted as trustworthy – all these things have I omitted. [Ibn Hashim, p. 691.]
  24. ^ Watt 1953, p. xv.
  25. ^ a b Lewis (1993), pp. 33–34.
  26. ^ Jonathan, A.C. Brown (2007). The Canonization of al-Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon. Brill Publishers. p. 9. ISBN 978-90-04-15839-9. Archived from the original on 18 October 2017. We can discern three strata of the Sunni ḥadīth canon. The perennial core has been the Ṣaḥīḥayn. Beyond these two foundational classics, some fourth-/tenth-century scholars refer to a four-book selection that adds the two Sunans of Abū Dāwūd (d. 275/889) and al-Nāsaʾī (d. 303/915). The Five Book canon, which is first noted in the sixth/twelfth century, incorporates the Jāmiʿ of al-Tirmidhī (d. 279/892). Finally, the Six Book canon, which hails from the same period, adds either the Sunan of Ibn Mājah (d. 273/887), the Sunan of al-Dāraquṭnī (d. 385/995) or the Muwaṭṭaʾ of Mālik b. Anas (d. 179/796). Later ḥadīth compendia often included other collections as well. None of these books, however, has enjoyed the esteem of al-Bukhārīʼs and Muslimʼs works.
  27. ^ Madelung 1997, pp. xi, 19–20.
  28. ^ Ardic 2012, p. 99.
  29. ^ Watt 1953, pp. 1–2.
  30. ^ Watt 1953, pp. 16–18.
  31. ^ Loyal Rue, Religion Is Not about God: How Spiritual Traditions Nurture Our Biological, 2005, p. 224.
  32. ^ Ueberweg, Friedrich. History of Philosophy, Vol. 1: From Thales to the Present Time. Charles Scribner's Sons. p. 409. ISBN 978-1-4400-4322-2.
  33. ^ Kochler (1982), p. 29.
  34. ^ cf. Uri Rubin, Hanif, Encyclopedia of the Qur'an.
  35. ^ Robin 2012, pp. 297–299.
  36. ^ a b c Robin 2012, p. 302.
  37. ^ Robin 2012, pp. 286–287.
  38. ^ a b c Robin 2012, p. 301.
  39. ^ Muhammad Archived 9 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 February 2017.
  40. ^ Rodinson, Maxime (2002). Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. Tauris Parke Paperbacks. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-86064-827-4. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  41. ^ Esposito 2003.
  42. ^ Jean-Louis Déclais, Names of the Prophet, Encyclopedia of the Quran.
  43. ^ Esposito 1998, p. 6.
  44. ^ a b Buhl & Welch 1993, p. 361.
  45. ^ Rodinson 2021, p. 51.
  46. ^ Marr J.S., Hubbard E., Cathey J.T. (2014): The Year of the Elephant. doi:10.6084/m9.figshare.1186833 Retrieved 21 October 2014 (GMT).
  47. ^ a b Reynolds 2023, p. 16.
  48. ^ a b Johnson 2015, p. 286.
  49. ^ Peters 2010, p. 61.
  50. ^ Muesse 2018, p. 213.
  51. ^ (Gibb et al. 1986, p. 102)
  52. ^ Ali, Wijdan (August 1999). "From the Literal to the Spiritual: The Development of the Prophet Muhammad's Portrayal from 13th Century Ilkhanid Miniatures to 17th Century Ottoman Art" (PDF). Proceedings of the 11th International Congress of Turkish Art (7): 3. ISSN 0928-6802. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 December 2004.
  53. ^ Meri, Josef W. (2004). Medieval Islamic civilization. Vol. 1. Routledge. p. 525. ISBN 978-0-415-96690-0. Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 3 January 2013.
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  55. ^ Watt 1960.
  56. ^ a b Watt 1974, p. 8.
  57. ^ Abel 1960.
  58. ^ a b Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History (2005), v. 3, p. 1025.
  59. ^ Glubb 2001, p. 79-81.
  60. ^ Wensinck & Jomier 1990, p. 319.
  61. ^ Emory C. Bogle (1998), p. 6.
  62. ^ John Henry Haaren, Addison B. Poland (1904), p. 83.
  63. ^ Peterson 2007, p. 51.
  64. ^ Klein 1906, p. 7.
  65. ^ a b Wensinck & Rippen 2002.
  66. ^ Rosenwein 2018, p. 148.
  67. ^ a b Brown 2003, p. 73.
  68. ^ Phipps 2016, p. 37.
  69. ^ Rosenwein 2018, p. 146.
  70. ^ Buhl & Welch 1993, p. 363.
  71. ^ Peterson 2007, p. 53–4.
  72. ^ Murray 2011, p. 552.
  73. ^ Rāshid 2015, p. 11.
  74. ^ Watt, The Cambridge History of Islam (1977), p. 31.
  75. ^ Brockopp 2010, p. 40–2.
  76. ^ a b Watt 1953, p. 86.
  77. ^ Ramadan 2007, pp. 37–39.
  78. ^ Buhl & Welch 1993, p. 364.
  79. ^ "Muhammad | Biography, History, & Facts | Britannica". 24 May 2023. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  80. ^ Lewis 2002, p. 35–36.
  81. ^ Gordon 2005, p. 120-121.
  82. ^ a b Phipps 2016, p. 40.
  83. ^ a b c Brockopp 2010, p. 45–6.
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  85. ^ Deming 2014, p. 68.
  86. ^ Ibn Kathir & Gassick 2000, p. 342–3.
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