Born in AD 570 in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Muhammad was a member of the Hashim clan of the powerful Quraysh tribe. During much of Muhammad’s lifetime pagan idol worship abounded in Arabia. An estimated 360 gods and goddesses were adored by the Arabs in Mecca, which was a major centre of trade and idolatry in the region. Muslim historians think that even as a boy Muhammad detested idol worship and lived a morally pure life.
Muhammad is revered by all Muslims as the last and greatest prophet. In Islam, Muhammad is considered the ideal man and final prophet. Muhammad is in no way considered divine, nor is he worshiped (at least, he should not be, although practices differ in each nation), but he is the model for all Muslims concerning how they should conduct themselves. No images of Muhammad are permitted (in order to prevent idolatry). His name actually means “The Praised One.”
According to Islamic scholars, at the age of 40, Muhammad began to receive revelations and instruction from the archangel Gabriel (Gibrail in Arabic). These revelations formed the basis of the Qur’an. Muhammad proclaimed that his revelations were the final and superior message from the One Supreme God, although at the beginning Muhammad even doubted that he was a prophet. He banned the worship of idols and established civil and religious order in Medina and eventually Mecca. Muhammad died of natural causes in AD 632 in Medina, Saudi Arabia.
His Relations with Jews and Christians
During his life, Muhammad met many people who were at least nominal Christians. He also learned many religious ideas and customs from Jewish clans that were living in the region of Mecca and Medina. Muhammad’s role as prophet was not accepted by the Jews, leading to serious conflict. Interestingly, Jewish and Christian ideas, practices and history are present in the Qur’an, although they are often quite different.
Muhammad’s non-Qur’anic declarations, his personal habits and actions serve as a guide for all Muslims. The eyewitness accounts and other stories about his life are called Hadiths. The Hadiths help Muslims discern what is good and right.