Muhammad In Mecca

This article covers the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in Mecca.

Muhammad was born and lived in Mecca for the first 52 years of his life (570–632 A.D.). Orphaned early in life, he became known as a prominent merchant, and as an impartial and trustworthy arbiter of disputes. He married his first wife, the wealthy 40-year-old widow Khadijah at the age of 25. He would also marry Aisha and many others later in his life.

According to the Muslim tradition, Muhammad began receiving revelations at the age of 40. Some of his peers respected his words and became his followers. Many others, including tribal leaders, opposed, ridiculed, and eventually boycotted his clan, and Muhammad and his followers were harassed, assaulted, tortured, and forced into exile. Several attempts were made on his life. When his uncle and chief protector, Abu Talib, who was the head of the clan of Banu Hashim died, Muhammad migrated to Medina in 622, where he had many followers who agreed to help and assist him.

He remained there until returning to conquer Mecca in December 629 and died there in June 632.

Sources for Muhammad’s life in Mecca

Main articles: Historiography of early Islam 

Academic perspective

The Qur’an is the only primary source for the life of Muhammad in Mecca. Next in importance are the historical works survived by the writers of the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Muslim era.

The text of the Qur’an is generally considered by university scholars to record the words spoken by Muhammad as the search for variants in Western academia has not yielded any differences of great significance. The Qur’an, however, mainly records the ideological and spiritual considerations of Muhammad, and only fragmentary references to the details of Muhammad’s life in Mecca, which makes it difficult to reconstruct the chronological order of the incidents in his or his followers’ lives in Mecca. Modern biographers of Muhammad try to reconstruct the economic, political and social aspects of Mecca and read the ideological aspects of the Qur’an in that context.

The historical works by later Muslim writers include the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature), which provide further information on his life. The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Sirah Rasul Allah (Life of God’s Messenger) by Ibn Ishaq (died 761 or 767 CE). Although the original work is lost, portions of it survive in the recensions of Ibn Hisham (died 833 CE) and Al-Tabari (died 923 CE). Many, but not all, scholars accept the accuracy of these biographies, though their accuracy is unascertainable. Henri Lammens rejected all the accounts of Muhammad’s life in Mecca but later scholars generally agree that Lammens went too far. Studies by J. Schacht and Goldziher have led scholars to distinguish between the traditions touching legal matters and the purely historical ones. According to William Montgomery Watt, in the legal sphere, it would seem that sheer invention could have very well happened. In the historical sphere, however, aside from exceptional cases, the material may have been subject to “tendential shaping” rather than being made out of whole cloth.

Hadith compilations are records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad. It might be defined as the biography of Muhammad perpetuated by the long memory of his companions and community for their exemplification and obedience. The development of hadiths is a vital element during the first three centuries of Islamic history. There had been a common tendency among the earlier western scholars against these narrations and reports gathered in later periods, such scholars regarding them as later fabrications. Leone Caetani considered the attribution of historical reports to Ibn Abbas and Aysha as mostly fictitious while proffering accounts reported without isnad by the early compilers of history like Ibn Ishaq. Wilferd Madelung has rejected the stance of indiscriminately dismissing everything not included in “early sources” and in this approach tendentiousness alone is no evidence for a late origin. Madelung and some later historians do not reject the narrations which have been compiled in later periods and try to judge them in the context of history and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures.

Traditional Muslim perspective

Sunni Islam

For Sunnis, the Qur’an the most widely accepted and famous collection of traditions in Sahih al-Bukhari. Imam Bukhari, the author of the book is said to have spent over 16 years gathering over 1,600,000 traditions and finding the best 7,397 of them. Most of these traditions deal with the life of Muhammad.

Shia Islam

For Shi’is, the words and deeds of their Imams, who are also progeny of Muhammad, are authoritative. These were originally oral but were written down after several generations. Some of these sayings, according to their chain of transmission, are sayings of Muhammad as transmitted through the Shi’i’ Imams.

A photograph of the Kaaba in the city of Mecca, circa 1887

A photograph of the Kaaba in the city of Mecca, circa 1887


The Arabian Peninsula was largely arid and volcanic, making agriculture difficult except near oases or springs. Thus the Arabian landscape was dotted with towns and cities near those oases, two prominent of which were Mecca and Medina (then known as Yathrib). Communal life was essential for survival in desert conditions, as people needed support against the harsh environment and lifestyle. The tribal grouping was thus encouraged by the need to act as a unit. This unity was based on the bond of kinship by blood. People of Arabia were either nomadic or sedentary, the former constantly traveling from one place to another seeking water and pasture for their flocks, while the latter settled and focused on trade and agriculture. The survival of nomads (or bedouins) was also partially dependent on raiding caravans or oases; thus they saw this as no crime. Medina was a large flourishing agricultural settlement, while Mecca was an important financial center for many of the surrounding tribes.

In pre-Islamic Arabia gods or goddesses were viewed as protectors of individual tribes and their spirits were associated with sacred trees, stones, springs, and wells. There was an important shrine in Mecca (called the Kaaba) that housed statues of 360 idols of tribal patron deities and was the site of an annual pilgrimage. Aside from these tribal gods, Arabs shared a common belief in a supreme deity Allah (akin to “God” in English, as opposed to “god”) who was however remote from their everyday concerns and thus not the object of cult or ritual. Three goddesses were associated with Allah as his daughters: al-Lat, Manat, and al-Uzza. Some monotheistic communities also existed in Arabia, including Christians and Jews. According to the tradition, Muhammad himself was a descendant of Ishmael, son of Abraham.


Timeline of Muhammad’s Life
Important dates and locations in the life of Muhammad
c. 569 Death of his father, Abdullah
c. 570 Possible date of birth: 12 or 17 Rabi al Awal: in MeccaArabia
c. 577 Death of his mother, Amina
c. 583 His grandfather transfers him to Syria
c. 595 Meets and marries Khadijah
597 Birth of Zainab, his first daughter, followed by: Ruqayyah, Umm Kulthum, and Fatima Zahra
610 Qur’anic revelation begins in the Cave of Hira on the Jabaal an Nur the “Mountain of Light” near Mecca
610 At age 40, Angel Jebreel (Gabriel) was said to appear to Muhammad on the mountain and call him “the Prophet of Allah”
610 Begins in secret to gather followers in Mecca
c. 613 Begins spreading message of Islam publicly to all Meccans
c. 614 Heavy persecution of Muslims begins
c. 615 Emigration of a group of Muslims to Ethiopia
616 Banu Hashim clan boycott begins
619 The year of sorrows: Khadija (his wife) and Abu Talib (his uncle) die
619 Banu Hashim clan boycott ends
c. 620 Isra and Mi’raj (reported ascension to heaven to meet God)
622 Hijra, emigration to Medina (called Yathrib)
623 Battle of Badr
625 Battle of Uhud
627 Battle of the Trench (also known as the siege of Medina)
628 The Meccan tribe of Quraysh and the Muslim community in Medina signed a 10-year truce called the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah
629 Conquest of Mecca
632 Farewell pilgrimage, event of Ghadir Khumm, and death, in what is now Saudi Arabia

See also: Family tree of Muhammad

Muhammad was born in the month of Rabi’ al-awwal. Tradition places the year of Muhammad’s birth as 570, corresponding with the Year of the Elephant, which is named after the failed destruction of Mecca that year by the Aksumite king Abraha who had in his army a number of elephants. Recent scholarship has suggested alternative dates for this event, such as 568 or 569. The precise date of Muhammad’s birth is considered by Sunni Muslims to have been the 12th day of the month of Rabi’-ul-Awwal, while Shi’a Muslims believe it to have been the dawn of the 17th day of the same month (26 April 570).

Muhammad was born into the family of Banu Hashim, one of the prominent families of Mecca, although the family seems to have not been prosperous during Muhammad’s early lifetime. His parents were Abd Allah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, from Banu Hashim, and Aminah bint Wahb, the sister of the then-chief of the Banu Zuhrah. According to Ibn Ishaq, the early biographer of Muhammad, Abdul Muttalib the grandfather of Muhammad named him “Muhammad”, a name quite unknown at that time in the Arabian peninsula.


While living with his uncle, Muhammad began tending flocks on the outskirts of Mecca to earn his living. His uncle also took him on many commercial journeys. These journeys exposed Muhammad to cultural diversity and varying religious traditions. Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, died almost six months before he was born. According to tradition, soon after his birth, Muhammad was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as the desert life was considered healthier for infants. Because he was fatherless, wetnurses refused to take him, fearing that it would not be profitable to take care of an orphan. However, he was accepted by Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, a wetnurse who had found no child to take care of. Muhammad stayed with his foster mother, Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two or three years old. One day, according to his wetnurse Halima, Muhammad was visited by two men, who opened up his chest and washed his heart. Troubled, Halima and her husband returned Muhammad to his mother. He lived with his mother in Mecca for three years until she took him to Yathrib to visit some relatives (uncles from the mother’s side), and she died on the way back. Now orphaned, Muhammad, aged 6, was passed into the custody of his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib, who was eighty years old. According to traditional accounts, Muhammad was very close to his grandfather, as had been his father before him. However, two years later, his grandfather died. Muhammad then came under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new leader of the Hashim clan of the Quraysh tribe. In 6th-century Arabia, there was a general disdain for guardians who took care of the weaker members of the tribes in Mecca. Although Muhammad’s guardians saw that he did not starve to death, it was hard for them to do more for him, especially as the fortunes of the clan of Hashim seem to have been declining at that time.

According to tradition, when Muhammad was either nine or twelve years old, he went with his uncle Abu Talib on a business journey to Syria. There he met Bahira in the town of Bosra. When the caravan was passing by his cell, the monk invited the merchants to a feast. They accepted the invitation, leaving the boy to guard the camel. Bahira, however, insisted that everyone in the caravan should come to him. Then a miraculous occurrence indicated to the monk that Muhammad was to become a prophet. According to one version, those were the stigmata that Bahira found on young Muhammad. Other variants of the story say that it was a miraculous movement of a cloud or unusual behavior of a branch that kept shadowing Muhammad regardless of the time of the day. The monk revealed his visions of Muhammad’s future to the boy’s companion, warning him to preserve the child from the Jews (in Ibn Sa’d’s version) or from the Byzantines (in al-Tabari’s version).


See also: Hilf al-Fudul

As an orphan, Muhammed had few options when it came to making a living. He was obliged to help support other members of his family and so after accompanying his uncle on trading journeys to Syria, he became a merchant and was involved in trade between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. He became known as “Al-Amin” (الامين), meaning “Trustworthy” and was sought out as an impartial arbitrator of disputes.


Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, a widowed merchant at Mecca, heard about Muhammad and asked him to manage her commercial operations in Syria. When Muhammad returned from an extraordinarily successful commercial trip, Khadija proposed to him through her friend Nafisa. Tradition reports that Khadija was forty years old.

Muhammad consented to the marriage, which by all accounts was a happy one. Khadija was not only Muhammad’s wife but also his friend and confidante and later his moral support. After his wedding, Khadija gave Muhammad the slave boy Zayd ibn Harithah. Ibn Ishaq records that Khadijah bore Muhammad six children: a boy named Qasim, who lived only two years, then four girls Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Um Kulthum, Fatimah, and finally a boy named Abdullah, who also died at two. According to some Shi’a scholars, Fatimah was Muhammad’s only daughter. The combination of the death of Abdullah, and his desire to relieve his uncle Abu Talib of the burden of a large family, as Abu Talib was already in great financial difficulty, led Muhammad to take his uncle’s son Ali into his own home. Muhammad also adopted Zayd, giving him the name “Zayd ibn Muhammad” (meaning Zayd son of Muhammad). However, owing to the adoption revelation from Allah, later verses were revealed stating clearly that a child, especially after adoption, could not be treated as a natural son by marriage or inheritance. Consequently, the adopted child had to retain the name of his or her biological father. Therefore, Zayd could not be known as the son of Muhammad, but as the son of his father, Haritha, and be known as Zayd ibn Haritha.

In Quran: 33:40 40. Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allâh and the last of the Prophets. And Allâh is Ever All-Aware of everything. 

Restoration of Kaaba

According to tradition, Muhammad played a role in the restoration of the Kaaba, after parts of it had been destroyed by one of Mecca’s frequent flash floods. When the reconstruction was almost done, disagreements arose among the clan leaders as to who would have the honor of lifting the sacred Black Stone into place. The disagreements increased to the point where the clans were about to take up arms against each other when one of the elders suggested they take the advice of the next person who entered the gates of the Haram. This happened to be Muhammad. He spread out his cloak, put the stone in the middle, and had members of the four major clans raise it to its destined position. Then he took it in his own hands and fitted it in its place. The cloak became an important symbol for later poets and writers because of this event and what happened later as described in the Hadith of the Cloak.

The Beginnings of the Qur’an

Main article: Muhammad’s first revelation
See also: Wahy

At some point, Muhammad adopted the practice of meditating alone for several weeks every year in a cave on Mount Hira near Mecca. Islamic tradition holds that in one of his visits to Mount Hira, the angel Gabriel began communicating with him in the year 610 and commanded Muhammad to recite the following verses of Surah Alaq, the 96th Surah of the Quran:

Proclaim! (or read!) in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created- Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (the use of) the pen,- Taught man that which he knew not. (Qur’an 96:1–5)

According to some traditions, upon receiving his first revelations Muhammad was deeply distressed, but the spirit moved closer and told him that he had been chosen as a messenger of God. Muhammad returned home and was consoled and reassured by his wife Khadijah and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal. Shia tradition, on the other hand, maintains that Muhammad was neither surprised nor frightened at the appearance of Gabriel but rather welcomed him as if he had been expecting him. The initial revelation was followed by a pause of three years during which Muhammad gave himself up further to prayers and spiritual practices. When the revelations resumed he was reassured and commanded to begin preaching: Your lord has not forsaken you nor does he hate [you] (Qur’an 93:1–11).

According to Welch, these revelations were accompanied by mysterious seizures, and the reports are unlikely to have been forged by later Muslims. Muhammad was confident that he could distinguish his own thoughts from these messages.


Muhammad’s mission involves preaching monotheism: The Qur’an demands Muhammad to proclaim and praise the name of his Lord and instructs him not to worship idols apart from God or associate other deities with God. According to the Qur’an, one of the main roles of Muhammad is to warn the unbelievers of their eschatological punishment (Qur’an 38:70, Qur’an 6:19). Sometimes the Qur’an does not explicitly refer to the Judgment day but also provides examples from the history of some extinct communities and warns Muhammad’s contemporaries of similar calamities (Qur’an 41:13–16).

Early preaching

Muhammad first told his message to his wife, his cousin Ali, his adopted son Zayd, his nursemaid Um Ayman, and his friend Abu Bakr, all of whom accepted it. Abu Bakr, who used to purchase slaves to set them free in accordance with Muhammad’s principle of equality, attracted a large number of converts. Nevertheless, the converts remained small, and Muhammad concentrated on quietly building a small, but spiritually strong, community.

Around 613, the Qur’an then commanded Muhammad to “admonish your nearest kinsmen”(Quran 26:214), initiating the phase of public preaching. One day he climbed Mount As-Safa and called out to the tribal chiefs. After receiving assurances that the chiefs, who reportedly never heard Muhammad tell lies, would believe him, he declared the Oneness of God. Later Muhammad organized dinners in which he conveyed and advocated the substance of his message. At these events, Muhammad met fierce opposition from one of his uncles, Abu Lahab.

Most Meccans ignored it and a few mocked him, while some others became his followers. According to Ibn Sad, in this period the Quraysh “did not criticize what he said… When he passed by them as they sat in groups, they would point out to him and say “There is the youth of the clan of Abd al-Muttalib who speaks (things) from heaven.” According to Welch, the Qur’anic verses at this time were not “based on a dogmatic conception of monotheism but on a strong general moral and religious appeal”. Its key themes include the moral responsibility of man towards his creator: the resurrection of the dead, God’s final judgment followed by vivid descriptions of the tortures in hell and pleasures in paradise; the wonders of nature and everyday life, particularly the phenomenon of man, as signs of God to show the existence of a greater power who will take into account the greed of people and their suppression of the poor. Religious duties required of the believers at this time were few: belief in God, asking for forgiveness of sins, offering frequent prayers, assisting others, particularly those in need, rejecting cheating, and the love of wealth (considered to be significant in the commercial life of Mecca), being chaste and not to kill new-born & under-aged girls.

There were three main groups of early converts to Islam: younger brothers and sons of great merchants, people who had fallen out of the first rank in their tribe or failed to attain it, and the weak, mostly unprotected foreigners. The oligarchy of the Quraysh rejected the ideas that Muhammad preached since they would have to surrender their privileges. The Quraysh also did not accept Muhammad as a prophet since he came from a clanless powerful than his opponents’.

Muhammad, however, wanted to attract the influential to support his cause. In one attempt to win over the leaders of the Quraysh he was disrupted by a blind man. Muhammad, anxious that he may lose the opportunity to convey his message, turned away from the blind man. The Qur’an, however, rebuked Muhammad for turning away from the blind man.


Conservative opposition arose to Muhammad’s speeches. According to Ibn Sad, the opposition in Mecca started when Muhammad delivered verses that “spoke shamefully of the idols they (the Meccans) worshiped other than Himself (God) and mentioned the perdition of their fathers who died in disbelief.” According to Watt, as the ranks of Muhammad’s followers swelled, he became a threat to the local tribes and the rulers of the city, whose wealth rested upon the Kaaba, the focal point of Meccan religious life, which Muhammad threatened to overthrow. Muhammad’s denunciation of the Meccan traditional religion was especially offensive to his own tribe, the Quraysh, as they were the guardians of the Ka’aba.

Some of the ranking and influential leaders of the Quraysh tried and failed to come to some arrangements with Muhammad in exchange for abandoning his preaching. They offered him admission into the inner circle of merchants and established his position in the circle by an advantageous marriage, but Muhammad refused. During this period, Muhammad urged his followers to be pacifists, commanding them to “deal gently with the infidels”.


Main article: Persecution of Muslims by Meccans

The relations between the Muslims and their pagan fellow-tribesmen rapidly deteriorated. Muhammad’s denunciation of the Meccan idols provoked hostile reactions. Muhammad was mainly protected from physical harm due to belonging to the Banu Hashim. However, an attempt was made on his life by Uqba ibn Abu Mu’ayt who strangled Muhammad with a garment, until he was pushed away by Abu Bakr. In another attempt, Abu Jahl, one of the tribal leaders, attempted a planned murder, as he tried to smash Muhammad in the head with a rock.

A few Western scholars have said that there are records of persecution and ill-treatment of Muhammad’s followers. At first, the more traditional Quraysh taunted Muslims and interrupted their prayers.

The Quraysh was however reluctant to physically hurt Muhammad since it would open up a blood feud between Muhammad and Abu Talib’s clan, and the clan that hurt Muhammad. Brazenly initiating such a blood feud would also undercut the legitimacy and moral authority of tribal chiefs in general.

Migration to Axum

Main articles: Migration to Abyssinia and Second migration to Abyssinia
See also: Second and third deputation with Abu Talib

In 615, at a time when his followers were suffering open violence, Muhammad arranged for his followers to emigrate to the Kingdom of Aksum and found a small colony there under the protection of the Christian king. While the traditions view the persecutions of Meccans to have played a major role in the emigration, William Montgomery Watt, a professor of Islamic studies, states “there is reason to believe that some sort of division within the embryonic Muslim community played a role and that some of the emigrants may have gone to Abyssinia to engage in trade, possibly in competition with prominent merchant families in Mecca.”

Conversion of Umar

Umar ibn al-Khattab initially reacted to Muhammad’s preaching by ardently opposing it. He seems to have been a devout pagan, angered by Muhammad’s preaching which had led to divisions within Meccan society. He eventually decided to kill Muhammad, whom he held responsible for the divisions.

A man told Umar, while Umar was en route to his planned assassination of Muhammad, that he should deal with his sister who had secretly converted to Islam. He then rushed to his sister’s place and heard her reciting the Qur’an. He considered the words beautiful and noble and immediately converted to Islam. He made his conversion public instantly, even to the most hostile Quraysh. The effect of Umar’s conversion was that Muslims could now pray openly at the Ka’ba, as the pagans were reluctant to confront Umar, known for his forceful character.

Three questions

What is the story of the young men who left their people long ago? According to Muslim tradition, the Quraysh sought to discredit Muhammad theologically after failing to stop him by other means. They sent a delegation to Yathrib to consult with the Jewish tribes. The Jews, who had far greater experience with prophets, supplied three diagnostic questions to be asked to Muhammad:

  • Who was the traveler who had reached the ends of the then-known world?
  • What is a description of the Holy Spirit?

They advised that if Muhammad was unable to answer those questions, he was a fraud. Islamic tradition states that Muhammad said he will answer the questions tomorrow, without saying “Insha-Allah” (Arabic for “if God wills”), which resulted in Muhammad not receiving a revelation with the answers for 15 days. An admonition is also contained in the part of the Qur’an (18:23–24) that was revealed along with the answers to the questions posed by Quraysh at the behest of the local Jews. After two rather embarrassing weeks of silence, Muhammad finally answered the questions (in accordance with the Qur’an):

  • These young men are the “Seven Sleepers of Ephesus” and further description was delivered as Surah Kahf.
  • The traveler was “Dhul-Qarnayn”, whose journeys are also delivered as Surah Kahf.
  • This question can’t be answered since the Holy Spirit exceeds human understanding.

Though the answers were considered satisfactory, the Quraysh did not convert to Islam.


Main article: Meccan banishment of the Hashemites

According to tradition, two important clans of Quraysh declared a public boycott against the clan of Banu Hashim, their commercial rival, in order to put pressure on the clan to withdraw its protection from Muhammad. The terms imposed on Banu Hashim, as reported by Ibn Ishaq, were “that no one should marry their women nor give women for them to marry; and that no one should either buy from them or sell to them, and when they agreed on that they wrote it in a deed.” The boycott lasted for two or three years but eventually collapsed mainly because it was not achieving its purpose, and because the boycott had caused extreme privation and the sympathizers within the Quraysh finally united to annul the agreement.

Events leading up to the Hijra

“The Year of Grief (Am-ul-Hazn)”

Main article: Year of Sorrow
See also: Muhammad’s visit to Ta’if

In 619, the “year of sorrows”, both Muhammad’s wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died.

With the death of Abu Talib, the leadership of the clan of Banu Hashim was passed to Abu Lahab who was an inveterate enemy of Muhammad. Soon afterwards Abu Lahab withdrew the clan’s protection from Muhammad. This placed Muhammad in mortal danger since the withdrawal of clan protection implied that the blood revenge for his killing would not be exacted. Muhammad then tried to find a protector for himself in another important city in Arabia, Ta’if, but his effort failed and further brought him into physical danger. Muhammad was forced to return to Mecca. A Meccan man named Mut’im ibn Adi and the protection of the tribe of Banu Nawfal made it possible for him safely to re-enter his native city.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque congregation building, the site from which Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque congregation building, the site from which Muhammad is believed by Muslims to have ascended to heaven.

Isra and Mi’raj

Main article: Isra and Mi’raj

Some time in 620, Muhammad told his followers that he had experienced the Isra and Miraj, a supernatural journey said to have been accomplished in one night along with the angel Gabriel. In the first part of the journey, the Isra, he is said to have travelled from Mecca to “the farthest mosque” (Masjid al-Aqsa), which Muslims usually identify with as the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. In the second part, the Miraj, Muhammad is said to have toured heaven and hell, and spoken with earlier prophets, such as Ibrahim, Musa, and Isa.

Ibn Ishaq, the author of the first biography of Muhammad, presents this event as a spiritual experience while later historians like Al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir present it as a physical journey. Some western scholars of Islam hold that the oldest Muslim tradition identified the journey as one traveled through the heavens from the sacred enclosure at Mecca to the celestial Kaʿba (heavenly prototype of the Ka’ba), but later traditions identified Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to the abode of the sanctuary (Bayt al-Maqdis) in Jerusalem.

Pledges at Aqabah

Main article: Second pledge at al-Aqabah

Many people were visiting Mecca on business or as pilgrims to the Kabaa. Muhammad took this opportunity to look for a new home for himself and his followers. After several unsuccessful negotiations, he found hope with some men from Yathrib (later called Medina). The Arab population of Yathrib was somewhat familiar with monotheism because a Jewish community existed in that city.

Following the pledges at Aqabah, Muhammad encouraged his followers to emigrate to Yathrib. As before, with the migration to Abyssinia, the Quraysh attempted to stop the emigration. However, almost all Muslims managed to leave.

Failed assassination

Main article: (Hegira or Hijrah)

The day of the scheduled assassination, Muhammad asked his friend Abu Bakr, whom he had asked to stay behind, to make preparations for departure. He also asked his cousin Ali to stay behind to settle outstanding financial obligations. Muhammad slipped from his home the night of the planned assassination. Ali had worn Muhammad’s cloak, leading the assassins to think Muhammad had not yet departed. By the time the assassins came to know of this, Muhammad had already departed.

To further trick his enemies, Muhammad travelled south for a few days instead of north to Yathrib (Medina). After a few days he took a relatively untrammeled path to the Red Sea. From there, he followed the coastline up to Yathrib, arriving outside the town proper on Monday, 27 September 622.

Ali survived the plot, but risked his life again by staying in Mecca to carry out Muhammed’s instructions: to restore to their owners all the goods and properties that had been entrusted to Muhammad for safekeeping. Ali then went to Medina with his mother, Fatima binte Asad, and Muhammed’s daughter, Fatimah, as well as two other women.

Return visits

Further information: Muhammad in Medina

While in Medina, Muhammad’s following became larger and stronger, defeating his Quraysh foes at the Battle of Badr and Battle of the Trench, evicting the enemy Banu Nadir tribe, expelling and then annihilating the enemy Banu Qaynuqa tribe.

Further information: Conquest of Mecca

In 628 CE, the Meccan tribe of Quraysh and the Muslim community in Medina signed a 10-year truce called the Treaty of Hudaybiyah under which Arab tribes were given the option of joining one or the other of the parties, who would come to their aid should any of their allied tribes face aggression. After the Quraysh-allied Banu Bakr tribe attacked and killed many of the Muslim-allied Banu Khuza’a, Muhammad gathered a large army to attack the Quraysh and take Mecca from them. The large Muslim army entered Mecca on Monday, 11 December 629 (18 Ramadan 8 hijrah) and after only a small skirmish took control of the city.

The “opening” of Mecca resulted in many long-time opponents of Muhammad (such as Abu Sufyan) converting to Islam. At the Kaaba, idols were destroyed. (17:81) and Muhammad proclaimed “there is no God but Allah. He has no associate. He has made good His promise that He held to his bondman and helped him and defeated all the confederates.”

As a reflection of Muhammad’s mercy, only ten enemies of Islam were ordered to be killed: Ikrimah ibn Abi-Jahl, Abdullah ibn Saad ibn Abi Sarh, Habbar bin Aswad, Miqyas Subabah Laythi, Huwairath bin Nuqayd, Abdullah Hilal and four women who had been guilty of offences against Muslims. Moreover, some of these were spared when they converted to Islam.

Muhammad’s return was followed by several battles which led to Muslims conquering the rest of Arabia, and a final return to Mecca in 632 where he completed his first true Islamic pilgrimage and made his Farewell Sermon at Mount Arafat. His return marked the end of the tenth year of Muslims’ migration to Medina, and his pilgrimage set the precedence for the annual Great Pilgrimage, known as Hajj. In his “Farewell Sermon”, at Mount Arafat east of Mecca on the 9th of Dhu al-Hijjah, Muhammad advised his followers not to follow certain pre-Islamic customs and generally exhorted Muslims to follow the teachings that he had set forth in the Quran and sunnah.

Muhammad returned to Medina and died in June 632, a few months after the farewell pilgrimage.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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