Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Mohammed Part 1

About the famous religious figure Mohammed, biography and history of the Muslim leader.


MOHAMMED (570-632 A.D.)

His father died before he was born, his mother when he was six. Raised by a Bedouin wet-nurse and a kindly uncle, he later married a rich woman and became a prosperous businessman. Though Muslim legend embellishes his birth and childhood with the supernatural, in truth the Prophet Mohammed reached his 40s distinguished by nothing so much as his ordinariness. Then a series of mystical revelations beginning in a cave in Arabia drastically changed his life and the subsequent course of world history.

The religion that grew out of his revelations is called Islam--literally "to submit" to God.

The time was 600 years after the birth of Jesus. Rome had fallen to the barbarians. The known world was dominated by Byzantine Christians and Persian polytheists. Arabia was a sand-swept cultural backwater, a land of camel herders and caravan traders who worshiped rocks, trees, and bits of wood.

Even before Mohammed, religion was big business in Mecca. Local merchants charged pilgrims for the privilege of visiting a cube-shaped temple called the Kaaba. It contained hundreds of idols and the famous black stone--a piece of ancient meteorite that supposedly possessed miraculous properties.

Mohammed grew to manhood in this bustling center of the caravan trade. As an adult he was a powerfully built, handsome man with a thick reddish beard and hair caught up in a huge green turban. He is said to have had piercing black eyes and an almost hypnotically soft but compelling voice. His neighbors regarded him as an ordinary trader, a good husband and father, a prudent and sensible man.

He was also a thinker and an avid learner. He admired what he heard of Jewish and Christian monotheism. And he brooded over the rank commercialism and primitivism of the Kaaba.

One day he retreated to a cave outside of town to meditate and pray for a vision of the true God. He later told his wife that he was sleeping when a voice commanded him to read words that appeared on a brocaded coverlet.

"But I cannot read," he quoted himself as saying, as indeed the simple trader was illiterate. The voice insisted, and in fear Mohammed found himself reciting scripture. Many years after the Prophet's death, the words became the opening lines of the Koran, the holy book of Islam.

Mohammed ran from the cave. Halfway down the mountain he saw the figure of a man standing on the rim of the earth, saying: "O Mohammed, thou art the apostle of God, and I am Gabriel." The angel told Mohammed to "arise and warn" his people, to tell them the true nature of Allah, the Supreme Being.

It seemed to Mohammed to be the consummation of Jewish and Christian writings, the final development of the faith that had begun with Abraham. The trader's wife, Khadija, was his first convert. Later, other members of his family also accepted his call to prophesy.

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