History of Islam: Pre-Revelation

Birth and Early Life

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was born in Mecca (Makkah) on the 12th day of the Islamic calendar month, Rabi’ Al-Awwal, in 570 CE. His mother Aminah, was the daughter of Wahb in Abdu Manaf, and his father Abdullah was the son of Abdul Mutallib. His genealogy has been traced approximately to the fortieth degree to Ishmael, the son of Abraham. His father, Abdullah died before his birth.

As was common in Arab culture to provide children with the skills and strength needed to survive in the Arab desert, he was sent to live in the desert with his wet nurse Halima Sadia. Around the age of 5 or 6 his mother took him to Yathrib, a town around 500 miles north of Mecca to visit relatives and visit his father’s grave. Upon their return to Mecca, Aminah fell ill and died. Halima returned with Muhammad to Mecca and placed him under the care of his grandfather, Abdul Mutallib.

Mecca was Arabia’s pilgrimage center and Abdul Muttalib was its most respected leader. He controlled many important pilgrimage dealings and presided over the Meccan Council of Elders. Upon his grandfather’s death around the age of 7 or 8, Muhammad was placed under the care of his paternal uncle, Abu Talib, where he remained in protection for many years.

It is important to note that many scholars have written about the difficult upbringing Muhammad had and the Qur’an also reiterates this in “Did He not find you an orphan and give shelter (to you)? And find you unguided (by God’s Messengership) and guide (you)? And find you in want and make you self-sufficient?” (93: 6-8).

Even in his teens, Muhammad was known as El-Amin, the trusted one. He worked as a shepherd in an effort to help provide for his uncle, who was of modest means and often times traveled with Abu Talib during trade caravans. When other merchants recognized his sound character, they began to call him, the trusted one.

Muhammad Meets Khadijah bint Khwalid

In his early twenties Muhammad was hired by Khadijah bint Khwalid, a successful and wealthy businesswoman in Mecca. Born into a male-dominant society, Khadijah earned two prestigious titles of Ameerat Quraish, the princess of the Quraish, and at-Tahira, the pure one. Not only did she come from a line of noble tribal leaders, but Khadijah was also a prominent leader in her professional life.

After Muhammad returned from his first business trip for Khadijah, she asked her servant, whom she sent with him about his conduct on the trip. The servant told her that he was kind and gentle and did not treat the servant harshly as many have done in the past. As they traveled in the heat of the desert, the servant also noticed a cloud followed them the entire time, providing them shade from the scorching sun in the desert. Not only this, but he returned to Mecca with a substantial profit and concealed none of it for his personal gain, leaving all that was due to Khadijah, something that impressed Khadijah as many in the past had cheated her.

Muhammad Weds Khadijah bint Khuwalid

So impressed by his character, Khadijah proposed marriage to Muhammad and they were married. Muhammad was 25 at the time and Khadijah was his elder of 15 years at the age of 40. They were married for 25 years before Khadijah passed and their marriage bore 6 children; two sons that both died during infancy, and four daughters. She and Muhammad lived together in a peaceful and prosperous home.

Khadijah was a rock of support for Muhammad and was the first person to accept Islam after his prophecy was revealed to him in the cave of Hira. This will be discussed in further detail later, but when Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) received the very first revelation, he ran home afraid and concerned, Khadijah told him, “Do not worry,” she said, “for by Him who has dominion over Khadijah’s soul, I hope that you are the Prophet of this nation. God-Almighty would never humiliate you, for you are good to your relatives, you are true to your word, you help those who are in need, you support the weak, you feed the guest and you answer the call of those who are in distress.”