Christians Common Questions About Islam - MUHAMMAD
3- Who was the Prophet Muhammad?
Muhammad is the name of the man who (Muslims believe) received a revelation from God, and in accordance with this revelation laid the foundation of Muslim belief and practice. He is also called "an-nabi", which means "the Prophet".
4- Of what nationality was he?
Muhammad was a native of Arabia, a Semite by race, a "white man", though of dark complexion. Tradition says that he was of medium height, his head was strong, his beard thick, his feet and his hands were rough; his bony frame indicated vigour, his face was ruddy. He is also said to have had black eyes, straight hair and smooth cheeks. He dyed himself with henna.
5- When and where did Muhammad live?
Muhammad was born about the year 570 of the Christian era (A.D.). At that time North Africa, Europe, the Middle East and part of Asia including India and China, constituted the well-traveled "civilized world", and it was within this region, at Mecca in Central Arabia, that Muhammad was born. He died in the year 632 A.D. His life's work was done, therefore, in the 7th Century after Christ, and about 800 miles to the south of Jerusalem.
6- What were the names of his father and mother?
Muhammad belonged to one of the Quraish families, that of Banu Hashim. His grandfather was Abd-al-Muttalib, his father was Abdu'llah, his mother was Amina, daughter of Wahib.
7- What do you know of the life of Muhammad?
Muhammad was an orphan from very early childhood. He was placed under the guardianship of his grandfather, and was entrusted to some Bedouin until weaning, then to one of his uncles, Abu Tali'o. During this last period Muhammad joined his cousin Ali, who was later to become one of his close collaborators and even his son-in-law. (Q.77).
As a young man of great honesty and a serious reputation, he entered the service of a rich widow, Khadija, who conducted an important business concern. In the service of Khadija Muhammad made repeated journeys as far as to Palestine and probably to Jerusalem. On his return from one of these journeys, Khadija's admiration for her employee led her to marry him. Soon after, Muhammad was drawn towards spiritual retreats. He went alone to a cave far from the markets and crowds in order to meditate. He already hated the kind of idolatry which he saw displayed in his town. One day he was convinced by a kind of vision that he was called to reform his people. Tradition tells that the angel Gabriel (Jibril) appeared to him and gave him the command to preach. "But what must I preach?" replied Muhammad. "Preach in the name of Thy Lord, who created man…" replied the Angel (96, 'Alaq 1-5).
Not long afterwards Muhammad began to proclaim that the day of judgment was near, that each man must live justly and honestly in gratitude for the goodness of God; each must render an account of his life, and woe to him who does not prepare to meet his God. This vision occurred in the year 610; after twelve years of preaching at Mecca the opposition became so fierce that Muhammad with his 60 followers emigrated to the city of Yathrib, some 280 miles north of Mecca. This emigration (Hijra)* took place on the 24th September 622. Yathrib was later renamed Medina ("the City"), and Muhammad lived there up to his death on the 8th June 632.
This period at Medina (622-632) was very important for Muhammad. During the first years he was settling down gradually and organising his community. Some of the townspeople showed themselves friendly to him, and he called them the Helpers (Ansar). Others did not like the arrival and growing authority of this stranger, and he called these the Hypocrites (Munafiqun). Soon the Muslims began to attack the Meccans, especially by raiding their caravans. No doubt the emigrants who had lost their homes and possessions in Mecca were in economic need; but the primary aim was to free Mecca and its holy places from the power of the idolaters (see Q.70).
A succession of victories made Muhammad a feared and respected chief. Many submitted to him; some in sincere faith, others in order to benefit from his protection and to live at peace. After a battle interrupted by long parleys and ending in a surprise attack, Muhammad captured the very city of Mecca, demolished pagan altars, and reformed the pagan pilgrimage so that it might express the worship of the One God. A little later, on his return from a pilgrimage, he got a fever and died.
8- Where was he buried?
Muhammad was buried where he had been living at Medina. Up until today many pilgrims, after their visit to Mecca, go to see the tomb of the Prophet at Medina.
9- What religions existed in Arabia before Muhammad?
As in traditional African religions, the Arabs before Muhammad regarded certain springs, trees and stones, as the abode of good or evil spirits. Their religious practice was directed towards gaining the protection and support of the good spirits and defending themselves from the misdeeds of the evil spirits. Some of the Arabs also venerated the stars. Among the many divinities there was one called Allah, the creator of the worlds. At Medina and elsewhere there were important Jewish communities.
By this time the Christian faith had spread through Northern Europe, and had reached Asia, India and China. There were Christian kingdoms in Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. But there were few Christians in the region of Mecca and Medina, and these were mainly foreigners.
10 Did Muhammad know the Gospel?
Muhammad had no direct access to the Bible, which was perhaps just beginning to be translated into Arabic at that time but was not widely available in that language. The Christians whom Muhammad is likely to have met were largely ignorant of the Bible, and based their faith rather on the false "Apocryphal Gospels"; and the Qur'an itself says that Jews (? And Christians) who spoke to Muhammad about their scriptures, misrepresented them to him (4, Nisa, 48/46; 3, Ali 'Imran, 72/78).
So it is generally agreed by Muslims and non-Muslims that Muhammad did not obtain any clear knowledge of the Gospel from the Bible or from Christian informants. But Muslims believe that God revealed directly to Muhammad what the teaching of the previous prophets had been, and that God gave Muhammad the same message in perfected form. So Muslims will answer , "Yes, Muhammad knew the Gospel".
Non-Muslims, observing that what the Qur'an says about Jesus and the Gospel is substantially different from the teaching of the Bible are compelled to answer, "No, Muhammad did not know the Gospel, he was misinformed by the ignorant Christians whom he met. (See also Q. 23 & 80).
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