Muhammad was the end of a long line of Prophets sent by God to guide humanity back to the right path and away from their false gods and evil actions. He was born in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in the year 570 CE. His father died before his birth, and his mother brought him up until he was six when she too passed away, and he was then passed on to his grandfather who too died within a couple of years.
Eventually he was raised by his Uncle Abu Talib: a poor but kindhearted man who loved him like his own son. Abu Talib was a well respected member of the tribe Quraysh, and his family was one of the most prominent. Muhammad is directly descended from Abraham’s son Ishmael (Ibrahim and Ismail in Arabic), who were both Prophets.
Muhammad grew up to be an honest upright man who was fondly called Al-ameen, which means honest, by all those who knew him. He was also very generous which endeared him to the poor of Makkah. His honesty meant that he was highly sought after to arbitrate in disputes that broke out in Makkah.
Muhammad would often assist Khadijah, an older widowed businesswoman, in her trade and business transactions. She noticed his excellent character and pleasing personality, and this enticed her to make a proposal in marriage. Muhammad accepted the proposal and married Khadijah when he was 25 years old, despite her being 15 years his senior. They remained married until Khadijah passed away at the age of 65, and in this time they had 3 boys and 4 girls as children.
Though he had a wonderful family life with Khadijah, the morally lax society around him disturbed him deeply, and it was his practice to go up the nearby Hira mountain to a cave and meditate and ponder over things that troubled him and to seek answers. When he was 40 years old it was on such a retreat he received the first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel (Gibreel in Arabic). This revelation that came down to him over the next 23 years came to form the Quran.
The first revealed verses were: Recite: In the name of your Lord, who created man out of a clot of congealed blood. Recite: Your Lord is most bountiful, he who taught (the use of) the Pen, taught man what he did not know. (Quran 96:1-5)
As would likely happen to anyone who had just been visited by an Angel, the appearance of Gabriel was a shock to his senses, and he was deeply shaken. Muhammad rushed home to his faithful wife and told her all that had happened to him. She comforted him and then took him to see her cousin Waraqah, who was Christian man with great religious knowledge. He confirmed that Muhammad had indeed met the Angel Gabriel, and that he had been chosen to be a Prophet of God.
God’s messages had become corrupted over the years, and Muhammad’s first task was to preach that there was only 1 God, and for people to therefore abandon their idol worship of multiple false Gods. He also warned about the Day of Judgement which all humanity will be judged on for their deeds, and the two resultant paths of Heaven or Hell. Khadijah is widely believed to be the first person to accept the call to Islam from Muhammad, and many other friends and family followed suit thereafter in choosing to become Muslims.
Abandoning idol worship was like stabbing Makkah in the heart with a knife, since much of its economy was based on nearby tribes making a pilgrimage to Makkah to worship their numerous idols. The fear of loss of status and wealth led to persecuting Muhammad and his followers, and eventually driving them out to a neighbouring city called Yathrib (Later renamed to Medina).
Even though he had migrated, the Makkans did not leave Muhammad alone, and there were significant battles fought in the following years between the two sides. Islam continued to spread and the Muslims grew to such numbers that they were able to take over the city of Makkah without bloodshed. Those who had wronged Muhammad were forgiven by him, and he purified the city by destroying the idols that remained there.
Islam was preached far and wide across Arabia, and Muhammad appointed delegates to spread the message further into other countries. After his work was done, God revealed the final words of the Quran: This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion (Quran 5:3)
Muhammad passed away a few months later on the 8th of June 632. The revelations he received from God are memorised and recited by millions of Muslims worldwide today, and his actions and words have been recorded in the Hadiths. He left humanity with a perfect set of instructions on how to live their lives, which is why he was the last of the Prophets. Islam continues to be a dynamic religion, of which is perfectly suited for the 21st century as it was for the 7th century.