Knowing prophet Muhammad’s lifestory is important for understanding the nature of Islam.
This excerpt from Bill Warner’s book The Foundations of Islam is the best concise version of Sira ( Muhammad’s biography) I’ve ever come across.
THE PLOT OF THE SIRA
The plot of Mohammed, the plot of the Sira, can be understood this way. Imagine that we took the Sira, the life of Mohammed, and we made it into a two hour movie. If we did that we would find that the first three minutes of the movie was quite peaceful. We would then have 36 minutes of arguing and fights and then there would be 84 minutes of war, rage, enslavement, a war against all Kafir society.
At the very beginning of the Sira, long before Mohammed’s birth, we get a history of Mohammed’s tribe, the background to Mohammed’s birth. Now the Sira reports that there were many miraculous events surrounding his birth. He had a perfect lineage that went all the way back to Adam.
We also learn that Mecca was a pilgrimage city and a center of religion. Mohammed’s family and tribe were involved in the business of religion since Mecca was a pilgrimage site. There was money to be made because there were services to be performed and goods that the pilgrims needed to buy. So for a long time before Mohammed, Mecca was a religious center and his clan or tribe was involved in the business of religion.
Mohammed was orphaned at three different times. His mother died soon after his birth, and then his father died and then his adoptive uncle also died.
When he was in his early twenties, Mohammed became a foreman of a caravan that traded between Syria and Mecca which was owned by a woman named Khadija. Khadija, a widow, asked Mohammed to be her husband and he accepted. Khadija was older, but the marriage seemed to be happy and they had children.
Then in his early forties Mohammed started having visions and hearing words. He called these experiences “revelations,” and claimed that an angel was giving him the direct words of the only god of the universe. At first, worrying that he might be crazy, Mohammed was quite shy about this information and only told his own family. However, he continued to receive revelations and gradually expanded his sphere of influence by tell¬ing more people.
Finally, he took his message to the Meccan community. Initially, they received him quite well. After all, Mecca was in the business of religion. People in Arabia were polytheist and polytheists are, by definition, quite tolerant, because they’re used to the idea of many gods.
But then Mohammed became more and more argumentative. He condemned the Meccans’ parents to hell. He insisted that not only was he right but all other religions were wrong, causing dissension. Then Mohammed said that the Meccans’ ancestors who had died before Mohammed’s revelations were now burning in hell.
Since the Arabs were very much oriented towards their ancestors, this caused a lot of ill will about Mohammed, who was very insistent. He pressed his case every day at the Kabbah, which was a religious and community center. He became more and more querulous and unpleasant.
After 13 years in Mecca, he had only 150 followers. When his uncle and protector died, Mohammed was asked to take his followers and leave. He then journeyed to Medina where half the population was Jewish. There had been no Jews in Mecca who knew how to contradict Mohammed’s revelations from his archangel about the true story of Abraham, Adam, Isaac, Moses, and Noah. According to Mohammed’s revelation, the Jewish scriptures were corrupted.
When Mohammed got to Medina, the rabbis told Mohammed that he was not a prophet. Mohammed was not easily crossed on the subject of religion and three years later the Jews of Medina were annihilated.
Mohammed was now in the midst of jihad and was quite successful in every way. His men prospered as more and more people joined Islam. Mohammed became more violent and for the last nine years of his life, he was involved in a violent incident an average of once every six weeks. By the time he died, every Arab was a Muslim and Mohammed did not have any enemies left alive.