From Birth to Adulthood
Description: A glimpse at the life of the Prophet prior to revelation.
The Prophet’s Birth
It was in the year 571 of the Christian Era that Prophet Muhammad r was born, in Makkah, a city in present day Saudi Arabia. His father, ‘Abdullah, was a great-great-grandson of Qusay, the founder of Makkah, and belonged to the Hashimite family of Quraysh. His mother, Aminah, was a descendent from Qusay’s brother. Returning with a caravan from Syria and Palestine, ‘Abdullah stopped to visit relatives in an oasis to the north of Makkah, fell ill and died there, several months before his son’s birth.
It was customary to send the sons of Quraysh into the desert to be suckled by a wet-nurse and spend their early childhood with a Bedouin tribe. Apart from considerations of health, this represented a return to their roots, an opportunity to experience the freedom that accompanies the vastness of the desert. Prophet Muhammad r was accepted by Halimah, and spent four or five years with this Bedouin family, tending the sheep as soon as he was old enough to walk and learning the ways of the desert.
When he was six, not long after he had rejoined his mother, she took him on a visit to Yathrib, where his father had died. He she herself fell ill with one of the fevers prevalent in the oasis, dying on the journey home. Muhammad r now came under the guardianship of his grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, chief of the Hashimite clan. When the boy was eight years old, Abdul-Muttalib died, and thus he entered the care of the new Hashimite chieftain, his uncle Abu Talib.
In his early years, the Prophet r worked as a merchant, and soon made a reputation for himself. Among the substantial fortunes of Makkah was that of the twice widowed Khadijah. Impressed by what she heard of Muhammad r, who was now commonly known as al-Ameen, ‘the trustworthy’, she employed him to take her merchandise to Yemen and Basra. Even more impressed by his competence, when this task was completed, she sent a proposal for marriage. By this time Prophet Muhammad r was twenty-five, and Khadijah was forty years old. Khadijah presented her husband with a young servant, Zayd, who was then freed by Muhammad r. When Zaid’s relatives came to ransom him, his affection ran so deep for his benefactor that he chose to remain with the Messenger of Allah r.
Prophet Muhammad r was by now a man of substance, respected in the community, admired both for his generosity and his good sense. His future seemed assured. In due course, having re-established the prosperity of his clan, he would become one of the more influential elders of the city and end his life, perhaps, as his grandfather had done, reclining in the shade of the Ka’bah and recollecting long years well spent in worldly terms. Yet his spirit was uneasy and became increasingly so, as he approached middle age.
The Makkans claimed descent from Ibrahim u through Isma’il u, and their temple, the Ka’bah, had been built by Ibrahim u for the worship of the One true God. It was still called the House of God, but the chief objects of worship came to be a number of idols placed inside, sculptural depictions of deities they believed to be the daughters of God which acted as intercessors. The few who felt disgust at this idolatry which had prevailed for centuries longed for the religion of Ibrahim u. Such seekers of the truth were known as Hunafa, a word originally meaning “those who turn away” from idol-worship. These Hunafa did not form a community, but rather each sought the truth by the light of their own inner consciousness. Muhammad, the son of ‘Abdullah was one of these.
Edited by the Prophet of Mercy team.