Biography of Messiahs and Prophets Mohammed Part 2
About the famous religious figure Mohammed, biography and history of the Muslim leader.
MESSIAHS AND PROPHETS
MOHAMMED (570-632 A.D.)
The priests of the Kaaba and the Meccan business establishment were not so accommodating. Mohammed was scorned and abused in the marketplace. He was pelted with stones when he tried to preach outside the Kaaba. As he made inroads upon members of the ruling families, his opponents plotted his assassination.
Mohammed fled north with his followers to the town of Yathrib. (The Islamic era dates from 622, the year of the flight, usually called the Hegira.) There they were welcomed by both Arabs and Jews. They renamed the town Medina, "City of the Prophet." It became their base of operations for the next six years. From Medina the Mohammedans regularly raided richly laden caravans en route to Mecca. Sometimes the Prophet himself led the attacks, and was wounded on at least one occasion. His followers were encouraged in battle by his doctrine of jihad, or holy war. War against unbelievers was blessed in the eyes of Allah, he counseled. Those who die with sword in hand will go quickly to a heaven of sumptuous delights.
In 630 A.D., after marshaling an impressive show of force outside Mecca, he reentered the city of his birth as the uncontested religious and political leader of the Arab people. Mecca was declared the second Holy City of Islam. He smashed all the idols in the Kaaba, with one exception; he incorporated the meteoric black stone into the new religion and authorized its worship.
Mohammed spent the last two years of his life ruling over a benevolent theocracy. The same man who could be utterly ruthless in battle governed with justice and generosity. He mitigated slavery and humanized the harsher elements of Arab tribal law. He established order and settled all civil disputes by evoking divine revelation.
For himself he chose a simple, unassuming life. He was frequently seen mending his own clothes, sweeping out his hut, or milking a goat in the front yard. After the death of his wife, Khadija, he was tended in his later years by a harem of nine wives and two concubines. At the age of 63 he died quietly, his head in the lap of his favorite wife, Aisha.
At the time of his death, Islam was still a local phenomenon. It was little known or noticed outside Arabia. But within a few years, Mohammed's followers rode forth in his name to conquer half of Byzantine Asia, most of North Africa, and parts of Europe. Eventually the Muslim Empire stretched the length of the Eurasian land mass, from the Ganges to the Pyrenees. Culturally and intellectually; Islam was the single most unifying force in the world of the Middle Ages.
Today one life in seven is guided by the teachings of Mohammed. And the ancient prohibition against depicting the Prophet in art or drama still carries some potency. For three days in March, 1977, a band of Hanafi Muslims, an offshoot sect of black Americans, terrorized downtown Washington, D.C., in part to protest the showing of a film entitled Mohammed, Messenger of God. One bystander was shot to death and dozens were held captive, and 12 Hanafi Muslims were eventually convicted of assorted charges including conspiracy to commit assault and second-degree murder. Ironically, the film was heavily financed by Arab money and managed to tell the story of Mohammed without ever showing an actor in that role.
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