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November 2, 2011

Muhammad / Mohammed

Muhammad / Mohammed

" Muhammad" is a common male name for Muslims.

Muhammad (also transliterated Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammed, and formerly Mahomet, following the Latin) is revered by Muslims as the final prophet of God. According to his traditional Muslim biographies (called sirah in Arabic), he was born c. 570 in Mecca (or "Makkah") and died June 8, 632 in Medina (Madinah), both cities in northern Arabia. His name is Arabic for "he who is highly praised".

Pious Muslims consider that his work merely clarified and finalized the true religion, building on the work of other prophets of monotheism, and believe Islam to have existed before Muhammad.

Summary of Muhammad
Muhammad is said to have been a merchant who travelled widely. Early Muslim sources report that in 611, at about the age of 40, he experienced a vision. He described it to those close to him as a visit from the Angel Gabriel, who commanded him to memorize and recite the verses later collected as the Qur'an. He eventually expanded his mission, publicly preaching a strict monotheism and predicting a Day of Judgement for sinners and idol-worshippers — such as his tribesmen and neighbors in Mecca. He did not completely reject Judaism and Christianity, two other monotheistic faiths known to the Arabs; he only claimed to complete and perfect their teachings. He soon acquired both a following and the hatred of his neighbors. In 622 he was forced to flee Mecca and settle in Medina with his followers, where he established legal authority as leader of the first avowedly Muslim community. War between Mecca and Medina followed, in which Muhammad and his followers were eventually victorious. The military organization honed in this struggle was then set to conquering the other pagan tribes of Arabia. By the time of Mohammed's death, he had unified Arabia and launched a few expeditions to the north, towards Syria and Palestine.

Under Muhammad's immediate successors the Islamic empire expanded into Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain. Later conquests, commercial contact between Muslims and non-Muslims, and missionary activity spread his faith over much of the globe.

How do we know about Muhammad?

The sources available to us for information about Muhammad are the Qur'an, the sira biographies, and the hadith collections. While the Qur'an is not a biography of Mohammed, it does provide some information about his life. The earliest surviving biographies are the Life of the Apostle of God, by Ibn Ishaq (d. 768), edited by Ibn Hisham (d. 833); and al-Waqidi's (d. 822) biography of Muhammad. Ibn Ishaq wrote his biography some 120 to 130 years after Muhammad's death. The third source, the hadith collections, like the Qur'an, are not a biography per se. They are stories of the words and actions of Mohammed and his companions.

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