Muhammad, the founder and most important prophet of Islam, was born in 570 C.E. in the town of Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula.

His father died a few days before Muhammad was born. When he was six, his mother died, and he was given into his grandfather’s care. When Muhammad was eight, his grandfather also died. His uncle then took over raising Muhammad.

How might life experiences like these affect someone?

Muhammad as Seeker

When Islam’s founder, Muhammad, was a young man, he became a merchant. He worked for a wealthy businesswoman named Khadijah. Khadijah was impressed with Muhammad’s honesty, generosity, and gentleness. She and Muhammad were married.

Muhammad and Khadijah had four daughters and two sons. After fifteen years of marriage, Muhammad became aware that something was missing in his life, and he began to retreat to a mountain cave.

Have you ever felt something was missing in your life or felt the need to spend time alone? Describe the experience.

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.

Muhammad as Political Leader

After years of being harassed, Muhammad and his followers went to a town called Yathrib. According to Islam, two tribes from Yathrib, the Auws and Khazraj, approached Muhammad and invited him to govern their town, which was prone to civil war. Muhammad needed a place where his followers could live in peace, without fear of persecution, so he agreed. The city was soon called Medina. Muhammad wrote a charter for its citizens and established a peace.

What does this tell us about Muhammad?

Allah Prescribes Prayer

During Muhammad’s Night Journey to heaven, he was led into the presence of Allah. Allah said that Muslims were to pray fifty times each day.

On Muhammad’s way back to Earth, he met with Moses, who asked, “What has Allah told your followers to do?”

Muhammad answered that Allah wanted the faithful to pray fifty times a day. Moses urged Muhammad to return to Allah and ask Him to reduce the number of prayers, as Muhammad’s followers would not be able to pray that many times.

So Muhammad went back to Allah, and Allah reduced the number of prayers to forty each day. Moses insisted that this was still too much, and sent Muhammad back to Allah.

This happened several times; each time, Allah reduced the number of prayers, until the requirement stood at five prayers a day. Moses insisted that this was still too much, as he had tried to get people to pray in the past, and they could not accomplish this.

Muhammad replied, “I have already returned to my Lord till I am ashamed. I am satisfied, and I submit.”

What do these events tell you about the prophets and their followers?

The Qur’an

The Islamic holy book is known as the Qur’an, or Koran. The word Qur’an means “recitation.” It records Muhammad’s revelations from Allah.

Until about 650 C.E., the Qur’an existed only in oral form. Muhammad shared his revelations with his followers, who memorized his words. Then about twenty years after Muhammad’s death, all the revelations ere gathered together in written form.

Some Muslims objected to writing down Muhammad’s revelations. They said that if Muhammad had wanted these revelations committed to writing, he would have asked his followers to do this during his lifetime. Other leaders felt that it was essential. Their view prevailed, and the written Qur’an was prepared.

What reasons can you think of for writing down the revelations of Muhammad? List as many reasons as you can.

Visual Representations

Muslims do not believe that Allah or the prophets should be visually represented. According to Islam, representations are misleading and even disrespectful. If Muhammad is shown in a painting, his face is hidden by a veil. Usually a flame is shown burning around his head; this is the flame of prophethood.

Why might representations of Allah and the prophets actually lead people away from Allah?