An early biography of Muhammad by ibn Ishaq/ibn Hisham, which has been translated, and revised.
0-Index Introduction 1- Early Life 2- Khadija 3- Revelation 4- The Helpers 5- Night Journey 6- Permission to wage war 7- Hijra 8- Medina 9- The Qibla 10- Rajam 11- The Trinity 12- First Caravan 13- Badr 14- Uhud 15- Banu Nadir 16- Aisha Sufwan 17- The Trench 18- Banu Qurayza 19- Pilgrimage 20- Khaybar 21- Pilgrimage of Retaliation 22- Conquest of Mecca 23- Hawazin 24- Byzantium 25- Tabuk 26- Last Illness
It is always extremely difficult to be objective about the life of the founder of a great religion - his personality is inevitably blurred by an aura of the miraculous. Early biographers are preoccupied, not with historical fact, but with glorifying in every way the memory of one they believe to have been a Messenger of God or even God Himself. Consequently, there is a rich accretion of myth and miracle, mysterious portents and heavenly signs, of residues from other religious beliefs and traditions, the propaganda, in fact, of an expanding faith. All these will be found in the biography of Muhammad which follows. But behind the legendary Muhammad there lies one of the great figures of history, and, although very little is known about his early years - the first certain date being that of the migration from Mecca to Medina, which took place in AD 622 - it is possible to build up the events of his real, as distinct from his symbolic, life.
Muhammad was born at Mecca about AD 570 into a poor family of the Quraysh tribe. When he was twenty-five years of age he was employed by Khadija, a wealthy widow, to go with one of her trading caravans to Syria. On the successful completion of the journey, Muhammad married Khadij a, who was some fifteen years older than he. Two sons and four daughters were horn of this marriage. The two boys died in infancy, but one of the daughters, Fatima, married Muhammad's cousin Ali, and it is the descendants of Fatima and Ali who are said to be the true heirs of the Prophet.
The community Muhammad was born into was pagan, the gods often being represented by stones. One of the most important places of pilgrimage was the sanctuary of the Kaba, in which was a black stone, at Mecca. Scattered about Arabia at this time were communities of Jews and Christians, whose belief in only one god was to influence Muhammad when he came to state his own religious ideas. How he learned of these beliefs during the fifteen years between the date of his marriage to Khadija and the revelation of the first divine communication is not known, but there were many Arab converts to Judaism and Christianity and, as Muhammad grew more and more dissatisfied with the pagan gods, it is obvious that he must have investigated the religions of those who claimed to worship the one true god.
Muhammad was in the habit of spending periods in meditation on Mount Hira, near Mecca, and there in his fortieth year he is supposed to have received his first revelation from God. The communication terrified him and he spoke of it and of a number of others which followed only to Khadija and a few close friends. But finally he received a command to proclaim publicly what had been revealed to him. Most of his family had scornfully rejected his teaching and his early converts were slaves and people of the lower classes. His preaching soon drew not only mockery but active opposition from the people of Mecca, who believed that his mission threatened their position as guardians of the Kaba a position which brought them great wealth from the pilgrim traffic. The Meccans tried to discredit him, charging him with sorcery and with stealing his ideas from Jews and Christians. From opposition to persecution was but a step. A hundred of his followers emigrated to Abyssinia, and finally Muhammad himself decided to leave Mecca and went to Medina in AD 622. From this year the Muslim Era is dated.
From a persecuted religious teacher in Mecca, Muhammad In Medina became the leader of a religious community and was acknowledged to be the messenger of God. He still, however, had doubters and enemies. The Jews, whom he had hoped would welcome him, were among his bitterest opponents. His assumption of authority at Medina was also resented by some of that city's leading men. Nevertheless, by careful diplomacy and firmness of purpose, he began to create a brotherhood of the faith, transcending all other ties and relationships, even those of father and son. This brotherhood united all Muslims by giving them a common purpose - the defence of the faith - and made God, and His prophet, the final source of law.