Life of Muhammad 2

This is an excerpt from Ibn Ishaq’s Sira, the first written biography of prophet Muhammad. This piece tells about the prophet’s parents. Please also notice that in pre-Islamic era Arab women were free to propose to men.


Taking ‘Abdullah by the hand Abdu’l-Muttalib went away and they passed – so it is alleged – a woman of B. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr who was the sister of Waraqa b. Naufal b. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza, who was at the Ka’ba. When she looked at him she asked, ‘Where are you going Abdullah?’ He replied, ‘With my father.’ She said, ‘If you will take me you can have as many camels as were sacrificed in your stead.’ ‘I am with my father and I cannot act against his wishes and leave him’, he replied.

‘Abdu’l-Muttalib brought him to Wahb b. ‘Abdu Manaf b. Zuhra b. Kilab b. Murra b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr who was the leading man of B. Zuhra in birth and honour, and he married him to his daughter Amina, she being the most excellent woman among the Quraysh in birth and position at that time. Her mother was Barra d. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. ‘Uthman b. ‘Abdu’1-Dar b. Qusayy b. Kilab b. Murra b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr. Barra’s mother was Umm Habib d. Asad b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Uzza b. Qusayy by Kilab b. Murra b. Ka’b b. Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr. Umm Hablb’s mother was Barra d. ‘Auf b. ‘Ubayd b. ‘Uwayj b. ‘Adly b. Ka’b b.” Lu’ayy b. Ghalib b. Fihr.

It is alleged that Abdullah consummated his marriage immediately and his wife conceived the apostle of God.1 Then he left her presence and met the woman who had proposed to him. He asked her why she did not make the proposal that she made to him the day before; to which she replied that the light that was with him the day before had left him, and she no longer had need of him. She had heard from her brother Waraqa b. Naufal, who had been a Christian and studied the scriptures, which a prophet would arise among this people.

Life of Muhammad 1

This is an excerpt from Ibn Ishaq’s Sira, the first written biography of prophet Muhammad. This piece tells a story from life of Abdu’l-Muttalib, Muhammad’s grandfather.


While Abdu’l-Muttalib was sleeping in the hijr,1 he was ordered in a vision to dig Zamzam. Yazid b. Abu Hablb al-Misrl from Marthad b. ‘Abdullah al-Yazanl from ‘Abdullah b. Zurayr al-Ghafiqt told me that he heard ‘Ali b. Abu Talib telling the story of Zamzam. He said that ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib said: ‘I was sleeping in the hijr when a supernatural visitant came and said, “Dig Tiba”. I said “And what is Tiba?”; then he left me. I went to bed again the next day and slept, and he came to me and said “Dig Barra”; when I asked what Barra was he left me. The next day he came and said “Dig al-Madnuna”; when I asked what that was he went away again. The next day he came while I was sleeping and said “Dig Zamzam”. I said, “What is Zamzam?”; he said:

“Twill never fail or ever run dry,
“Twill water the pilgrim company..
It lies ‘twixt the dung and the flesh bloody,
By the nest where the white-winged ravens fly,
By the nest where the ants to and fro do ply.’

When the exact spot had been indicated to him and he knew that it corre­sponded with the facts, he took a pick-axe and went with his son al-Harith for he had no other son at that time and began to dig. When the top of the well appeared he cried ‘Allah akbar!’ Thus Quraysh knew that he had obtained his object and they came to him and said, ‘This is the well of our father Ishmael, and we have a right to it, so give us a share in it.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, ‘I was specially told of it and not you, and I was the one to be given it.’ They said: ‘Do us justice, for we shall not leave you until we have got a judicial decision in the matter.’ He said: ‘Appoint anyone you like as umpire between us.’ He agreed to accept a woman diviner of B. Sa’d Hudhaym, who dwelt in the uplands of Syria.

So ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, accompanied by some of his relations and a representa­tive from all the tribes of Quraysh, rode away. They went on through desolate country between the Hijaz and Syria until ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib’s company ran out of water and they feared that they would die of thirst. They asked the Quraysh tribes to give them water, but they refused, on the ground that if they gave them their water they too would die of thirst. In his desperation ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib consulted his companions as to what should be done, but all they could do was to say that they would follow his instructions: so he said, ‘I think that every man should dig a hcle for him­self with the strength that he has left so that whenever a man dies his com­panions can thrust him into the hole and bury him until the last man, for it is better that one man should lie unburied than a whole company.’ They accepted his advice and every man began to dig a hole for himself. Then they sat down until they should die of thirst.

After a time ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib said to his companions, ‘By God, to abandon ourselves to death in this way and not to scour the country in search of water is sheer incompetence; perhaps God will give us water somewhere. To your saddles!’ So they got their beasts ready while the Quraysh watched them at work. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib went to his beast and mounted her and when she got up from her knees a flow of fresh water broke out from beneath her feet. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib and his companions, crying ‘Allah akbar!’, dismounted and drank and filled their water-skins. Then they invited the Quraysh to come to the water which God had given them and to drink freely. After they had done so and filled their water-skins they said: ‘By God, the judgement has been given in your favour ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib. We will never dispute your claim to Zamzam. He who has given you water in this wilderness is He who has given you Zamzam. Return to your office of watering the pilgrims in peace.’ So they all went back without going to the diviner.

This is an example of stories that I am going to skip in the future, because they don’t contribute a lot to understanding the prophet’s life and character. I posted it just to give you the taste of these ancient Arab stories.

Concise Muhammad’s Lifestory

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 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.