Muhammad as Shepherd

The life of a shepherd is often quiet and lonely. A shepherd could spend days alone with his thoughts, not seeing or talking to any other people.

As a boy and young man, Muhammad worked as a shepherd. He watched flocks of sheep in the hills outside Mecca, protecting them from attackers, both human and animal.

Later Muhammad became a successful merchant. But he was also a deeply moral man who thought about the ills of society. In his forties, Muhammad began to spend time alone in a cave in the mountains thinking. On one of his visits to the cave he had a vision. An angel appeared and told Muhammad that he was the appointed prophet of Allah, or God.

How do you think Muhammad’s early days as a shepherd contributed to his ability to spend time alone thinking?

New Idea

Muhammad believed that there was only one God, Allah. When he began preaching the message of Allah, he met with opposition.

The society in which Muhammad lived was polytheistic – that is, it believed in many gods. Mecca, where he lived, was a religious centre. There were 360 shrines to different gods in Mecca; the city received considerable income from pilgrims to these shrines.

Write of some other time when a new idea was not accepted at first. It could be an event in your own life or something from history or current events.

The Hegira

Muhammad, Islam’s most important prophet, became an outcast in his home city, because people in Mecca disapproved of Muhammad’s messages and religion. People in another city, Yathrib, asked Muhammad to leave Mecca and become their leader.

Knowing the opposition he faced in Mecca, Muhammad accepted their invitation. Threatened with violence in Mecca, Muhammad and his followers made their way secretly to Yathrib. This emigration is known as the Hegira. The Islamic calendar begins with the Hegira, which was July 16, 622, in the Western calendar.

In Yathrib, Muhammad became a successful politician. Yathrib became known as Medinat al-Nabi, or City of the Prophet, then simply Medina.

Within ten years of his flight to Medina, Mecca surrendered to Muhammad. By the time he died, in June 632 C.E., Muhammad had united the disparate peoples of the Arabian Peninsula into one nation.

Describe what it must be like to be forced to flee your home, like Muhammad.

The Ascension of Muhammad

After eleven years outside Mecca, Muhammad, Islam’s founder, experienced an Ascension, in which he journeyed to heaven.

After praying, Muhammad was approached by the angel Gabriel. They mounted a winged steed called the buraq and traveled to Jerusalem, where the spirits of many prophets appeared. Muhammad led them in prayer. Then he remounted the buraq and ascended with Gabriel to heaven.

Muhammad said that heaven was difficult to describe. He said it was a combination of lights and sounds and flowing energy.

What does the word heaven mean to you? What do you imagine heaven looks like?

The Five Pillars of Islam

Islam includes five major principles known as the Five Pillars of Islam. These pillars are Shahadah, declaring one’s faith in Allah; salat, daily prayer; zakat, giving to charity; saum, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; and Hajj, making a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca

Many different cultures and religions have pillars or underlying principles that set them apart. Think of a group, religion, or other organization that has specific pillars. Explain these pillars and show how they make the group unique.