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Muhammad’s life

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While the revelations from God became the basis for the Qur’an, Muhammad’s thoughts and deeds were also considered important enough to document as examples of the way to live a life perfectly. For the next hundred or more years, scholars documented these thoughts and deeds as passed through the generations, and attempted to test their veracity. The resulting compilations are what is today known as the Hadith, and they are studied and used as a further basis for a pious living; they are separate from the Qur’an in that they are not revelations received by the Prophet, but can be seen as the way he acted on them. The Qur’an does not specifically refer to Muhammad’s public ministry in Mecca, but the biographical sources record the emigration of Muhammad’s followers to Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia), the boycott of Muhammad’s clan of Hashim, the deaths of his wife Khadijah and his uncle and protector, Abu Talib, the loss of his clan protection, his visit to al-Taif for refuge, and the Hijrah to Medina. The Qur’an portrays Muhammad as fully human with no supernatural powers. His humanness is most apparent in the passages where he is told to be steadfast and patient in times of persecution, disappointment or grief. Although he won many victories over the Meccans and succeeded in converting many of the tribes of Hejaz, the Qur’an records that Muhammad agonized over those who did not believe and remained humble, shy and sincere. He constantly sought forgiveness for his own sins.

The Qur’an, Sirah, and reports of Muhammad’s military expeditions provide extensive information about the Medinan period. His victories over the larger forces of the Meccans were interpreted as signs of God’s favor. By 627 ce Muhammad was in complete control of Medina, and Bedouin tribes in the surrounding area were making alliances with him and becoming Muslims. In the spring of 628 ce Muhammad negotiated a treaty with the Meccans for permission to perform the pilgrimage, or hajj, the following year, along with a ten-year truce. He led the first Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in the spring of 629 ce. When the truce was broken a year later, the leaders of Mecca agreed to surrender the city peacefully to Muhammad. As a result, Muhammad was in command of all of west-central Arabia by 630 ce. In 631 ce, envoys from all over Arabia came to him to surrender. Muhammad regarded the resulting treaties as an acceptance of Islam.

Muhammad served as administrator, legislator, judge, and commander-in-chief as well as teacher, preacher and prayer leader of the Muslim community. For the scholars of Islamic law he is the legislator-jurist who defined ritual observance; for the mystic he is the ideal seeker of spiritual perfection; for the philosopher and statesman he is the role model of both a conqueror and a just ruler; for ordinary Muslims, he is a model of God’s grace and salvation.

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