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MUHAMMAD'S CAREER

Muhammad was born in Mecca on the 12th of Rabi' al-Awal, in the year 570 of the Christian era. His father, Abdullah, son of Abdul Muttalib of the clan of Bani Hashim of the tribe of Quraish, died before his birth. According to the custom of the nobility of Quraish tribe, the child when only eight days old was handed to a bedoum nurse called Halima from the tribe of Bani Sa'ad, to be brought up by her in the healthy atmosphere of the desert. At the age of five, Muhammad returned to the care of his mother, Amina, the daughter of Wahb, the chief of the clan of Bani Zahra, but she died a year later. His grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, the chief of Bani Hashim and the leader of the Meccans, in whose loving care he was, died when he was eight and Muhammad was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib, who was to prove his shield and protection when some thirty years later his preaching brought upon him the enemity of the Meccans. Abu Talib was a merchant of modest means, and when Muhammad grew up he assisted his uncle in his business. At the age of 12, he accompanied his uncle in a merchant's caravan to Syria.

To the young, vigorous and fresh mind of Muhammad, who had no school learning, the glimpses into the contrasts and similarities of the beliefs, customs and civilisations of diverse countries and peoples, must have opened up glorious vistas and left lasting impressions. Later, Abu Talib's business began to dwindle and Muhammad earned his living as a shepherd. Thoughtful by nature, this occupation gave him full scope to contemplate the universe and commune with the creation.

Arabia at this time was in a state of religious chaos and political dissolution. The Arabs were stepped in ignorance and perpetually at war with one another ; they were mostly nomadic except for those tribes living in the few cities scattered through the land, the Holy City of Mecca being inhabited by the different clans of the tribe of Quraish. Apart from a few Jewish settlements in the north-west, a few Christian tribes on the Syrian border and in the extreme south-west, and a few individuals known as Hanifs who held a monotheistic faith, the whole population of Arabia worshipped idols, stars, stones and fetishes. The idolatry of his people, their immorality, and the terrible treatment of the poor and the weak set Muhammad's mind and soul aflame with intense horror and righteous disgust, In the solitude of the desert and hills where he tended his sheep Muhammad reflected on all these questions. He had now reached the age of twenty one, and had conducted himself with such rectitude and nobility of character that he was called "Al-Amin'', the Trusty.

The war of the "Fijjar", which was started by the murder of a member of the Hawazin tribe, and lasted for four years, made the leaders of the Meccans reflect on the dire results which lawlessness had brought upon them. Muhammad and the other leading members of his clan Bani Hashim and their relations Bani Al-Muttalib and the leaders of the clans of Bani Zuhra and Bani Taym formed themselves into a league pledged to defend the weak and champion the oppressed, freeman and slave alike, and to vindicate their rights against tyranny and aggression. This league, known as Hilf Al-Fuzool, exercised such efficient protection that for a long time the mere threat of its intervention was sufficient to repress lawlessness and afford redress to the helpless. Muhammad was very proud of his membership of this chivalrous league, and used to say

"I would not have the riches of the earth in exchange for my membership of it".

Muhammad was content with his lot as a shepherd, but his uncle, Abu Talib, desired something better for him, and obtained him employment with a rich widow, Khadija, the daughter of Khuwailid, son of Asad, and thus Muhammad found himself at the age of 25 in charge of a caravan conveying merchandise to Syria. On Muhammad's return, Khadija was so pleased with his successful management of her business, and was so attracted by his nobility of character, reports about which she heard from her old servant who had accompanied him, that she sent her sister to offer the young man her hand. Muhammad had felt drawn to Khadija, and so matters were soon arranged and, though Khadija was by fifteen years his senior, their twenty six years of married life were singularly happy.

Muhammad continued to work as a merchant ; and his fair-dealings further enhanced his reputation as Al-Amin. In the year 605 of the Christian era, a dispute arose during the reconstruction of the Ka'aba which threatened to plunge the different clans of the Quraish tribe into war, but the sagacious arbitration of Muhammad saved the situation and settled the dispute to everyone's satisfaction. He continued to take an ever-increasing interest in public affairs and to exert himself in the service of the poor, the helpless and the weak. Many were the slaves who owned their freedom to Muhammad, and many were the widows and orphans who lived on his generosity. When Khadija made a gift to him of a slave called Zaid, who had been presented to her by her nephew, he immediately set the slave free. Though he was now a free man, Zaid insisted on remaining in Muhammad's household as his personal servant, and Muhammad rewarded his devotion by adopting him as his son.

Whenever the iniquities of his people oppressed him, Muhammad retired to the solitude of a cave in Mount Hira outside Mecca. There his soul soaroing aloft, tried to peer into the mysteries of creation, of life and death, of good and evil, to find order out of chaos. Solitude became a passion with him, and every year he would retire to the cave for the whole month of Ramadan, to mediate and commune with the Invisible Power which fills the Universe. It was on one of these occasions, when he was forty years of age, that Muhannad received the Call. One night, in the solitude of the cave whilst lying absorbed in his thoughts, Muhammad was commanded by a mighty Voice to go forth and preach. Twice the Voice called and twice he ignored the Call. The Voice called for the third time and revealed to him the first verse from the Quran. Alarmed by the experience, Muhammad rose trembling, and hastened home to seek rest and solace for his troubled mind and tortured soul in Khadija's tender care, and she calmed and comforted him. When he had recovered sufficiently, he sought the solitude of the hills to soothe the anguish of mind when the Angel of Allah appeared to him and recalled him to his duty to mankind, Awe-stricken, he hurried back into his house and asked to be wrapped in warm garnments. Khadija did her best to reassure him, saying that his conduct through life had been such that Allah would not let a harmful spirit come to him. She consulted her kinsman, Waraqa ibn Nofal, an old man of over 90 years who knew the Scriptures of the Jews and the Christians, and he declared that the heavenly message which came to Moses of old had come to Muhammad, and that he was chosen as a Prophet of Allah. The very thought of being chosen out of all mankind with such a Mission profoundly disturbed Muhammad's humble and devout mind. Khadija, his wife, was the first to accept the truth of his Mission, and then he communicated his experience to his cousin Ali, his adopted son Zaid, and his intimate friend Abu Bakr ; these persons, who knew him best and had lived and worked with him and noted all his movements, and the sincerity of his character, became his first converts. For a year or two Muhammad preached among his immediate friends and relatives, and made several converts, but the Meccans as a whole regarded him with difference as one who had become a little mad. Struggling in his mind with doubts as to the divinity of his Mission, and in a state of great depression, Muhammad was lying covered up in blankets when he heard the Divine Voice calling upon him to arise and preach. "O thou who wrappest thyself up, arise and warn". Conviction now replaced doubt, and Muhammad arose and girded himself for the work to which he had been called. Standing alone, he proclaimed the glory of Allah, publicly denounced the idolatry of his people and their evil ways, and called them to Allah and the better life. Warning the people, the Quran said : "See you not that Allah has made subservient to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth, and granted to you his favours complete outwardly and inwardly ? And among men is he who disputes concerning Allah without knowledge or guidance or Book giving light. And when it is said to them, Follow that which Allah has revealed, they say : Nay', we follow that wherein we found our fathers. What ! Though the devil calls them to the chastisement of the burning Fire ! And whoever submits himself to Allah and does good to others, he indeed takes hold of the firmest handle. And Allah's is the end of affairs. And however disbelieves, let not his disbelief grieve thee. To Us is their return, when We shall inform them of what they did. Surely Allah is Knower of what is in the breasts. We give them to enjoy a little, then We shall drive them to a severe chastisement. And if thou ask them who created the heavens and the earth, they will say . Allah Say Praise be to Allah! Nay, most of them know not. To Allah belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. Surely Allah is the Self-Sufficient, the Praised. And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea with seven more seas added to it (were ink), the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely Allah is Mighty, wise. Your creation or your raising is only' like a single soul. Surely Allah is Hearing, Seeing''.

Quraish tribe were the guardians of the Ka'aba, the holy place to which all Arabs made pilgrimage, and it was a source of great prestige and profit to their city, Mecca. they were, therefore, seriously alarmed and assumed active hostility towards Muhammad, who was now publicly preaching against the worship of the idols in the Ka'aba, which ranked first among the vested interests. At the season of the pilgrimage, men were posted on all the roads to warn the tribes against the madman who was preaching against their gods. The early converts of Muhammad, who were mostly humble folk, were subjected to great oppression, and in spite of his rank, Muhammad himself would have been killed if Quraish tribe had not been deterred by the fear of blood vengeance from his powerful clan, Bani Hashim. The Meccans, persecution waxed higher as Muhammad's converts increased in number and influence. They tried a compromise, offering to accept Muhammad's religion if he would agree to their idols being worshipped as intercessors to the God of Muhammad. When this negotiation failed, a deputation was sent to Muhammad's uncle, Abu Talib, offering Muhammad riches and power as ran inducement to stop preaching, and threatening that unless he did so Abu Talib would bear the consequences with him. Muhammad was informed of what had happened, and his uncle begged him to cease his attempts to convert the Meccans, and thus put an end to constant trouble. Muhammad said:

"Though they gave me the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left to turn me back from my undertaking, yet will I not pause till the Lord carry His cause to victory, or till I die for it."

Muhammad turned away to leave, but his uncle said to him:

"Go in peace, son of my brother, and say what thou wilt, for I will on no condition abandon thee."

This attempt having failed, the Meccans sent otba ibn Rabi'a to Muhammad direct. "Dear kinsman", said Otba, "thou art distinguished by thy qualities and thy descent. But now thou hast sown division among our people and created dissention in our families; thou denouncest our gods and goddesses, thou dost tax our ancestors with impiety. We have a proposition to make to thee. Think well before refusing it. If thou wishest to acquire riches by taffair, we will collect for thee a fortune larger than is possessed by any of us; if thou desirest honour and dignity, we shall make thee our chief and we shall not do a thing without thee; if thou desirest domination we shall make thee our king." Muhammad recited a portion from the Quran proclaiming the glory of Allah, denouncing the wickedness of idolatry and calling on mankind to worship Allah alone and lead a good life. Then he said to otba: "Thou hast heard."

The Meccans' fury now knew no bounds. Muhammad, the respected citizen of rank and high descent, Al-Amin of his people, was henceforth subjected to insults, to personal violence, and to the bitterest persecution, and his converts were most relentlessly oppressed. Feeling deeply grieved at the sad plight of his followers, Muhammad advised them in the fifth year of his Mission to leave the country and seek refuge from the persecution of the idolators among the Christian people of Abyssinia. Muhammad and a few stalwart followers remained in Mecca and suffered untold misery and opression, but still their number continued to increase. Quraish tribe, in their exasperation, outlawed Muhammad, and asked his clan to forgo their right of avenging his blood. Though unbelievers, and participators in the persecution, the proud clansmen refused to give up the right at the bidding of the Meccans who thereupon boycotted them. Muhammad, the small band of his followers, and Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib, suffered such terrible hardships that the better minds among the Meccans grew weary of the social ostracism of old friends and neighbours, and, after three years, towards the end of 619 of the Christian era, the ban was lifted. Bani Hashim and Bani Al-Muttalib were now free to follow their vocations, but opposition to Muhammad became ever more implacable.

A year later, Muhammad lost his uncle and protector, the noble Abu Talib, and his beloved wife, Khadija, in whose love and devotion he had found comfort, solace and encouragement. The death of Abu Talib removed the last check on the Meccan's violence. Defenceless, in continual peril of his life, more than once it seemed all over with Muhammad, more than once his life turned on a straw. Persecution grew fiercer and fiercer, and Muhammad, seeking refuge in the neighbouring city of Taif, met with great hostility and barely escaped with his life . But a turning point in his career was at hand. In a party of pilgrims from the prosperous city of Yathrib, Muhammad made several converts. After the Pilgrimage, the men of Yathrib returned to their city with a Muslim teacher, and in the following year, at the time of pilgrimage, seventy three Muslims from Yathrib came to Mecca to vow allegiance to the Prophet and invited him to go to their city. Muhammad took council with his Meccan followers, and it was decided that they should emigrate to Yathrib. They left gradually and unobtrusively. Muhammad remaining to the last. Their departure was soon discovered by Quraish, Who decided to slay Muhammad before he too escapes; for although they hated the idea of Muhammad preaching in their midst, they dreaded still more the spread of his influence if he escaped from Mecca. The Meccans, therfore, cast lots, and chose forty men, one from each clan, who took a solemn vow to kill Muhammad; they were to strike simultaneously so that the murder could not be avenged by blood feud on any one clan. But on the night they were to kill him, Muhammad, with Abu Bakr, left Mecca and, eluding his pursuers over a long distance of desert and rocks, he reached Yathrib. This event is called the Hijra, or emigration. It marks the greatest crisis in the history of Muhammad's Mission, and the Muslim calendar is named after it

Muhammad was now free to preach, and his followers increased rapidly; but the Meccans who had sent an embassy to distant Abyssinia demanding the extradition of the Muslims who had sought refuge there, were not going to allow Muhammad's movement to take root in Yathrib, henceforth to he known as Madina. They organised three great expeditions against the city, but all were beaten back. It was not until the eighth year after the Hijra that the Muslims were able to put an end to this war by gaining a bloodless victory over Mecca. The Meccans, who had relentlessly oppressed Muhammad and his followers for twenty one years, expected dire vengeance, but in the hour of their defeat they were treated with the greatest magnanimity. "Go, you are free!" were the words in which Muhammad gave them general amnesty. The Prophet removed all the idols which were in the Ka'aba, saying. "The Truth has come and falsehood vanished", and the Muslim call to prayer was heard in this ancient sanctuary. The Surrender of Mecca was followed by the submission of the surrounding tribes, and the acknowledgement of Muhammad's spiritual and temporal leadership over the whole of Arabia.

During the ninth year of the Hijra, deputations came from all parts of Arabia to swear allegiance to the Prophet, and to bear the Quran. Islam now spread by leaps and bounds, and the conversion of the Arabs was complete. In the tenth year, Muhammad went to Mecca as a pilgrim, and he felt it was for the last time because of the Revelations which he received. On his return to Madina, he fell ill of a mortal fever. It lasted for fifteen days, but he continued to lead the prayers until three days before his death, when he deputed Abu Bakr. At early dawn on the last day of his earthly life, Muhammad came out from his room beside the mosque and joined the public prayers, but later in the day he died. The end came peacefully; murmuring of pardon and the company of the righteous in Paradise, the preacher of Islam breathed his last, at the age of 63, on Wednesday, the 12 the Rabi' Awal in the eleventh year after the Hijra.

 
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