Early Life in Mecca

Muhammad was born around 569–570 C.E. in Mecca, modern-day Saudi Arabia, into a respected tribe, the Quraish. His grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, was a monotheistic believer who named his newborn grandson Muhammad, “the praised one,” a name that was not common among the Arabs at that time.

In the Qur'an, Muslims are commanded to “send blessings on the Prophet and salute him with respect” (Qur'an 33:56). When mentioning Muhammad's name, Muslims always offer a phrase of blessing: Sallallahu alayhi wa sallam (peace be upon him). This is often abbreviated in writing as saws or pbuh.

As an infant, Muhammad was entrusted to the care of a Bedouin foster mother, as was the custom of the people of Mecca, so that he could start out life in the healthy desert environment, away from the vices and bad habits of the city. Muhammad stayed with his foster mother until the age of three, when he returned to his mother, Aminah. His father, Abdullah, had died shortly before Muhammad's birth.

Shortly after returning to his mother's care, Muhammad traveled with her to the city of Yathrib to visit the grave of his father. On the journey back, Aminah fell ill and died. Muhammad was completely orphaned at six years of age. His affectionate grandfather took over his care, but he too died, only two years later. At the age of eight, Muhammad was at last entrusted to the care of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib.

Abu Talib was a generous and gentle man, and he offered Muhammad full protection and support. However, he was not a rich man, and young Muhammad had to earn his own livelihood. Muhammad served first as a shepherd to some neighbors, then as an assistant to his uncle's trade caravans and merchant activities.

Muhammad's Marriage to Khadijah

As Muhammad grew older, he became known in the community as a person of integrity and honesty. A wealthy businesswoman in Mecca, named Khadijah, heard about Muhammad's trade skills and mild manners, and she was impressed. She often hired men to take goods to Syria and conduct business on her behalf, and she decided to consign some goods over to him to take to Syria by caravan.

When Muhammad returned, Khadijah was pleased with his hard work and dedication. Although she was a widow who was several years his senior, the two decided to marry. Muhammad was twenty-five years old; Khadijah was forty.

During the prime of his life (age twenty-five to fifty), Muhammad was married only to Khadijah and did not take on additional wives or concubines as other men of his rank often did. Throughout his life, he spoke very highly of her, and their relationship was a model for Muslim couples to follow. It was only after her death that he married again.

The couple would remain happily married until Khadijah's death twenty-five years later. Muhammad and Khadijah had two sons, both of whom died in infancy, and four daughters: Zainab, Ruqaiyah, Um Kulthum, and Fatima.

Good Reputation and Success

Muhammad's reputation in Mecca grew, and he became known as Al-Amin, the honest and trustworthy one. People would often come to him to arbitrate business or personal disputes. In one instance, several tribal leaders were arguing over who would have the honor of moving the special Black Stone back to its place, after some construction and repair work had been done on the Ka'aba.

The argument almost degenerated into a blood feud, but at that moment Muhammad entered the area. The tribal chiefs agreed to let Muhammad arbitrate. In his wisdom, Muhammad found a solution that pleased them all. He laid a blanket over the ground, placed the Black Stone upon it, and allowed each of the tribal leaders to carry a corner of the blanket. Together, they moved the Black Stone back to its place. The tribal elders were satisfied, and Muhammad's reputation for trustworthy and effective mediation continued to grow.

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