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The Prophet is Born

The Prophet is Born October 19, 2021

 

 

 

My google calendar announced to me that today, the 19th of October is the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.

I’m pretty sure no one actually knows the date of his birth. And some muslim sects disapprove a few strongly any such observation. But most do, and the celebration is called Mawlid. There are a couple of possible dates, but one is broadly accepted across sect, the 12th day of the third month in the Islamic calendar. As the calendar is lunar, it floats around the solar calendar, and my search says the celebration for our year 2021 began yesterday and concludes today.

So…

Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim was born in Mecca around the year 570.

Even though we don’t know precisely when he was born we probably know more about him than any of the founders real or putative of the Axial religions. For good and ill. His biography becomes fodder for polemicists of various sorts.

For my purposes here, I’m concerned with him as the founder of the second largest religion (or family of religious traditions) in the world. A tradition that might well overtake the world’s largest, Christianity, by the turn of the next century.

Most of us, I think, are familiar with the broad outlines of his life. His father died before he was born. His mother died when he was six. As one scholar noted, his extended family made sure he didn’t starve to death. But there’s not a lot of evidence of much more than that. There is a legend that while working on a caravan at maybe twelve, perhaps a bit younger, a Christian monk named Bahira met him and declared he would become a prophet.

He was seen as trustworthy, hard working, and smart. A major turn in his life was marrying a successful businesswoman, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid in 595. He was 25, she was 40. She did the wooing. Despite their age difference, the marriage appears to have been a love match. And he remained monogamous until her death 25 years later.

He became a respected and wealthy merchant.

He also was haunted by the spiritual quest. And regularly retired to a cave on Mount Jabal al-Nour to pray. In the year 619 the Angel Gabriel appeared to him and ordered him the “recite.” Gradually these recitations would be gathered together as the Koran (It is shorter than the New Testament, a brief book all by itself. I strongly recommend a read).

Wikipedia summarizes the eventual book and with it the core teachings of Islam:

The key themes of the early Quranic verses included the responsibility of man towards his creator; the resurrection of the dead, God’s final judgment followed by vivid descriptions of the tortures in Hell and pleasures in Paradise, and the signs of God in all aspects of life. Religious duties required of the believers at this time were few: belief in God, asking for forgiveness of sins, offering frequent prayers, assisting others particularly those in need, rejecting cheating and the love of wealth (considered to be significant in the commercial life of Mecca), being chaste and not committing female infanticide.

He told his wife about his visions, and she became his first convert. Gradually he gathered a band of believers. There were conflicts within the city and his followers began to experience persecutions. Some of his followers migrated to Ethiopia. And then he and the rest of his followers fled to the neighboring city of Medina.

This migration took place in 622, and is now counted as the first year of the Islamic calendar.

From there he would return to Mecca with an army and, well, Islam began to spread. Within the next ten years his armies would conquer all of the Arabian peninsula, and with that converting the population.

The prophet died in June, 632. He was either 62 or 63. Shortly before his death he delivered the Khutbatu I-Wada, his farewell sermon.

I found this text at several places on the web. I can’t figure out the translator for the version I post, but if someone let’s me know, I’ll credit.

I believe it is a very good summary of his teachings.

The Text of the Prophet’s Final Sermon

O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.

O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. God has Judged that there shall be no interest, and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn Abd’al Muttalib shall henceforth be waived…

Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under a trust from God and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with any one of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.

O People, listen to me in earnest, worship God, perform your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and offer Zakat. Perform Hajj if you have the means.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and it may be that the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed your message to your people.”


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