Muhammad was the Prophet of Islam and a central figure of the religion. Muslims across the world consider him as the last of the prophets of God. He had an immense effect on the shape of events that followed him in Arab world and across. Before Muhammad, Arabs were a fractured society, divided in clans and tribes and involved in perpetual feuds and skirmishes.
Muhammad successfully united Arabia into a single polity where Quran (the holy scripture of Muslims) and his own teachings and practices became the basis of Islamic faith. He had the most powerful legacy of all Middle age personalities, as the Muslim faith and existence in and around Middle East continues to exist with varying degrees of strength. Muhammad’s efforts and leadership transformed incoherent Arab tribes into a force to reckon with.
Early Life: Muhammad was born in 570 AD in the city of Mecca. He belonged to the Banu Hashim clan of powerful Quraysh tribe. His family was one of the most noble and prominent families of Mecca. Tragedy struck Muhammed even before he was born as his father Abdullah died six months before his birth. Immediately after birth, he was sent to live with a Bedouin family of Mecca as per the custom of the time, where he lived till the age of two. Muhammad was six years old when he lost his mother as well. For the next two years he was under the care of his grandfather, Abdul Mutalib.
When Muhammad was eight years old, his grandfather also died and he came under the care of his doting uncle, Abu Talib, who was also the leader of Banu Hashim. Muhammad participated in trade with his uncle during his teen years and embarked on several trading trips to Syria with him. He had earned respect of his peers for his honesty and truthfulness. In 595, impressed with his reputation, a wealthy widow of Mecca, Khadija proposed marriage to Muhammad which he accepted despite the age difference.
Conversion to Christianity and Life as a Preacher: According to historians, Muhammad began to pray alone in cave Hira on Mount Jabal Al Noor near Mecca for weeks every year. During one such night, in 610 Archangel Gabriel appeared to Muhammad in the cave and asked him to recite certain verses. These verses became part of Quran as well.
This was the beginning of a series of divine revelations that followed later. As per the traditions, three years after the first revelation, Muhammad was instructed by God to start preaching Islamic faith to others.
Preaching and Opposition in Mecca: Muhammad’s wife, Khadija was the first one to believe his claim of being a prophet. She was followed by Muhammad’s ten year old cousin Ali, close friend Abu Bakr and adopted son, Zaid. Other than his close associates, Muhammad met stiff resistance from his clan and people of Mecca. His sermons condemned idol worshipping and polytheism.
It is reported that Muhammad and his followers were harshly treated and persecuted for their beliefs by Meccans. In 615, Muslims migrated to Ethopia for a small period to escape persecution but later returned to Mecca. Banu Hashim protected Muhammad and his followers against further persecution but when Khadija and Abu Talib died in 619, the leadership of Banu Hashim fell in the hands of Abu Lahab, a sworn enemy of Muhammad. As a result even Banu Hashim ceased to provide any protection to Muslims. Muhammad found refuge for his followers in the city of Medina where people were welcoming and receptive to his teachings. In 622, warned of a murder plot against him, Muhammad and his followers secretly slipped out of Mecca and migrated to Medina. In Medina, Muhammad established a new polity and strengthened the relations between immigrants and people of Medina through the landmark Treaty of Medina.
Muslims then engaged in wars against pagans of Mecca and fought several battles against them. The two sides later agreed on truce and signed Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. Two years after the truce, Meccans violated the conditions and as a result the truce was declared null and void. In 630, Muhammad ordered a campaign to conquer Mecca along with 10,000 followers. Muslims conquered the city with minimal bloodshed and Muhammad announced amnesty for all except a few.
Later Life and Death: In 632, Muhammad joined the farewell pilgrimage of Mecca. This was his first Islamic pilgrimage (Hajj) and he taught his followers the rituals of hajj. A few months after the pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill with high fever and severe weakness.
A few days later, he eventually met his maker at the age of sixty three in Medina and was buried in the Mosque of Prophet. He was succeeded by his close friend Abu Bakr. Muslim caliphate later made important inroads in the Byzantine and Sassanid empires and expanded Muslim influence across the region..