Lecture for 1st year medical students on 23rd December 2000 by Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr.




Very little is known about the ancient Arabs (al Arab al baidat). The Qur’an gave us a glimpse of their life when it described the people of aad and thamud the ruins of whose civilization can still be seen today. The so called pure Arabs (al arab al ‘aribat) were the offspring of Ya’arub bin Yushjub bin Qahtan. Also called Qahtanian Arabs they originally lived in Yaman and migrated to other parts of the peninsula. The arabised arabs (al ‘arab al musta’arabat) were the progeny of Ismail son of Ibrahim (PBUH). Ibrahim had settled his family consisting of his infant son and his mother Hagir in Makka. Ismail married from the Jurhum tribe and the products of this union are the arabised arabs whose tribes spread out all over Arabia. Many other ethnic groups became Arabized when they entered Islam and adopted the Arabic language.



Several types of government existed in the Arabian peninsula before Islam. In Yaman where agriculture allowed development of an advanced civilization, there were kings and centralized governments. The eastern part of the peninsula was in the Persian sphere of influence. Arabs living on the northern borders of the peninsula came under Byzantine influence and control. There was no strong central government in the Hejaz. The city of Makka established by Ibrahim and his son Ismail was an exception. Being a religious and trade center, it had a city government whose control changed hands often. The rulers of Makka were informally recognized as leaders of all Arabs because of the religious importance of the Kaaba.



Ibrahim and Ismail had introduced monotheism in Makka and it spread to other parts of the peninsula. However, as always happens in periods of decline, the pure creed became corrupted later with the worship of idols. Soothsayers, fortune-tellers, and astrologers were believed. Despite this religious confusion, some vestiges of the Abrahamic faith persisted: respect for the kaaba, observation of the pilgrimage, the vigil at Arafat, and offering sacrifices. However these rites were still adulterated by superstitions. Christianity had entered the peninsula from the Byzantine empire to the north and the Abyssinia in the south. Arabs living on the borders of Persia practiced magianism (worship of the sun). Sabianism is an ancient religion that survived in parts of Iraq to the present day. Jews escaping Byzantine persecution settled in the peninsula and converted a few Arabs to their religion. Jews were generally not good missionaries of their religion because of their feeling of racial superiority over the Arabs.



The economic life was very fragile since the peninsula had very few resources. Most Arabs were nomadic bedouins moving around the desert in search of water and pasture for their animals. A few settled in cities were traders. Few worked in industry. Hunger and poverty were the order of the day for most people. The Arabian peninsula is a barren land. Its people were not able to develop a sophisticated material civilization. They however compensated by developing a spirit of independence and self-reliance since their land was inaccessible to foreigners and invaders. The Arabian peninsula was however not completely isolated. Trade routes linking Yaman in the south with Syria in the North as well as east-west routes traversed its desolate landscape and maintained a form of contact with the outside world.



Arab society was characterized by ethnocentricity with the tribe and clan being the center of identity. Tribal pride was very strong and was a frequent cause of war. Inter-tribal wars were common often for trivial reasons. Sexual promiscuity was common. Baby girls were often killed because they were thought a burden and could not contribute to military or economic efforts. Despite the difficult material conditions, pre-Islamic Arabs had some noble qualities of hospitality, karam, coming to the rescue of others, najdat, keeping convenants (    ), a sense of honor (    ), hatred of injustice (    ), strong will (   ), courage (    ), patience and perseverence (    ). These qualities made them suitable raw material for building an Islamic civilisation. It is for that reason the Omar Ibn al Khattab in his testament before his death said: uswiikum bi al a’araan khayran fa innahum aslu al ‘aran wa maadat al islam (treat the Bedouins well because they are the origin of the Arabs and are the raw material of Islam.




The account of the most important dated events in the life of the prophet has been preserved for us in the books of hadith and seerat (KS 477: Bukhari K63 B28 & B45; Bukhari K64 B85, Bukhari K66 B1, Muslim K43 H113-123, Tirmidhi K46 B4, Muwatta K49 H1, Ibn Saad J1 Q1 p126 & p151, Ibn Saad J2 Q2 p81-83, Ibn Saad J3 Q1 p.3, Ahmad 1:228, 230, 236, 249, 266, 277, 279, 290, 294, 296, 312, 363, 370, 371; Ahmad 3:130, 157; Tayalisi H 1477, 2751, Hisham p 415). The Qur’an is also a valuable source of 100% authentic material on siirat.



The prophet was from the hashimite family. His great grand-father was Abdul al Muttalib was of the great chieftains of Makka. Abdullah, the son of Abdul al Muttalib was married to Amina bint Wahab and produced the prophet (PBUH). In the month of Muharram 50 or 55 days before the birth of the prophet, the Abyssinian ruler of Yaman, Abraha, had invaded Makka with a large army consisting of elephants. He wanted to destroy the kaaba but Allah protected His house and Abraha and his army were defeated. The prophet was born an orphan; his father had died 2 months before while in Madina. Abdullah left very little wealth for his son: 5 camels, a small number of goats, and a servant.



The prophet was born in Makka in the year 571 CE. He was sent to be nursed in the desert as was the custom among Arabs who wanted their children to taste the rough life of the desert and thus grow up strong like the bedouins. At the age of 5 he was returned to Makka. His mother soon passed away. His grandfather Abdul Mutalib passed away when the prophet was 8 years and his uncle Abu Talib took care of him. Muhammad participated actively in the life of his community. As a teenager he was present in the sacrilegious wars, harb al fujuur, between Quraish and Banu Kinana. He also attended the pact for peace and justice, hilf al fudhool, that followed the fighting. He worked as a shep-herd for bani Sa’ad. At the age of 25 he went to Syria to trade on behalf of a rich widow, Khadijah bint Khuwailad. She was so impressed by his character and honesty that she married him. She bore him 2 boys and 4 girls. The boys died in their infancy. Muhammad was loved and trusted by all people in Makka. He used to meditate and think deeply about all he saw around him.  He kept away from idolatry, superstition, and the life of sin then common among youths in Makka. He had good manners, was modest, and truthful.




The revelation of the Qur’an started while the prophet was meditating in the cave of Hira. There was a pause in the revelation then it resumed. With the revelation of surat al mudathir, the mission of Muhammad entered into its public phase. He called the Quraish to the new religion.



The Makkan period of the mission lasted 13 years. The prophet called people to Islam in secret. The dawa was public from the 4th to the 10th year. From the 10th year onwards the dawa was proclaimed outside Makka, a situation that continued until the migration to Madina. The earliest converts in Makka were from the prophet’s family or his closest associates. He used to meet and teach them in secret. Even in its secret phase the Quraish became nervous about the new religion. They rightly concluded that a religion that calls for monotheism would upset the social and religious structure then prevalent in Makka and that many would lose their privileges. The Quraish adopted various strategies to confront the new movement. They tried to convince Abu Talib to stop his nephew from attacking the old Makkan religion to no avail. They discouraged Arab pilgrims coming to Makka from listening to Muhammad. They then resorted to propaganda tactics of ridiculing the prophet and his message by calling him mad or possessed by a jinn. They made many false allegation against him and Muslims. When all was to no avail they tried to make Muhammad compromise and soften some of his teachings which he refused. When all these approaches failed to check the spread of Islam they resorted to open persecution. 



When persecution became more severe the Prophet ordered some of his companions to migrate to Abyssinia. A Quraish delegation sent to bring them back was rebuffed by the Negus of Abyssinia. Meanwhile the Muslim ranks were strengthened by the conversion of Hamza Ibn Abd al Muttalib and Omar Ibn al Khattab, recognised strong leaders among the Quraish. The Quraish resorted to other measures like trying to negotiate the prophet out of his mission or persuading his uncle Abu Talib to give up protecting him. When all this failed, a social and economic boycott was declared against banu Hashim, the family of the prophet. In exasperation the leaders of Quraish decided to eliminate the prophet physically. The prophet also experienced personal tragedy in the 10th year of prophet-hood due to the death of his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Khadijat. The Muslims were able to withstand all persecution because of their firm belief in Allah, their love for their leader Muhammad (PBUH), glad tiding of paradise, the continuous revelation of the Qur’an that reassured them.



In the month of shawal of the 10th year of prophet-hood, the prophet went on a dawa mission to Taif where he found no response but further persecution. On his return to Makka he visited several Arab tribes that had come for pilgrimage and called them to Islam. Some responded to the call. In the 11th year of prophethood the prophet contacted pilgrims from Madina who readily accepted his message. The following year more Madanese came and made the first ‘Aqabat pledge. The prophet sent Mus’ab bin Omayr with them to Madina to teach and call others to Islam. The next year over 70 Madanese came and the second ‘Aqabat pledge was concluded. The ‘Aqabat pledges were to obey, follow and protect the prophet.



After the second ‘Aqabat pledge the prophet gave leave to his companions to migrate to Madina. They migrated secretly while the Quraish did all they could to stop or hinder them. The Quraish became very anxious at the turn of events. They met in their assembly and made a decision to kill the prophet. He managed to escape and with his companion Abu Bakr travelled to Madina in difficult circumstances. They arrived at Quba on the outskirts of Madina on 8th Rabiu al awal of the 14th year of prophet-hood. After a few days he reached Madina on 12th Rabiu al awal and set about organizing the new community that would become the first Islamic state.




The prophet started by building a mosque. He started creating brotherhood between the migrants from Makka, muhajirun, and the helpers in Madina, ansar. He promulgated the Madina charter or constitution that defined the relations among all groups in the city: immigrants, helpers, and the Jews , and the polytheists. A treaty of co-operation and non-aggression was concluded with the jews. Migration to Madina did not bring respite and peace to the prophet and the Muslims. They had to go to battle to defend their religion. The first decisive battle in the history of Islam was that of Badr in which a Muslim army of about 300 poorly equipped troops defeated a Quraishi army of about 1300. The next major military encounter was the battle of Uhud in which Muslims initially had an advantage but disobeyed the orders of the commander with the result that 70 of them were killed. The third major military action was the invasion of Madina by a Quraishi-led coalition of Arab tribes in the 5th year of hijra. The Muslims dug a trench around the city to keep away the invaders. Soon the invaders disagreed among themselves and the bad weather made it difficult to maintain their siege. 



In 6 AH the prophet and his companions traveled to Makka peacefully for the purpose of umrat. The Quraish refused him to enter the city. After prolonged negotiations, the Hudaybiyat treaty was signed by which Muslims would be allowed to come to Makka the next year. This treaty was a land-mark since for the first time Islam was given political recognition. After the treaty Islam spread very rapidly in the peninsula. On his return from hudaybiyyat the prophet sent messengers to Abyssinia, Egypt, Persia, Byzantine, Bahrain, Yamamah, Syria (Ghassani kings), and Yaman calling their rulers and people to Islam. With the southern border made secure as a result of the Hudaybiyyat treaty the prophet turned his attention to the north. Khaibar was conquered in Muharram 7 AH to eliminate any security threats from the northern border. The mu’tat expedition of 8 AH was a new phase in the growth of the nascent state; it was the first challenge to the superpowers that surrounded the peninsula: Persia and Byzantine. The prophet marched on Makka in the year 8 AH with a large army of 10,000 troops. The city was conquered peacefully. The kaaba was cleansed of all idols and Makka regained its true status as the religious capital of Islam. With the conquest of Makka virtually the whole Arabian peninsula accepted Islam. Islam had become an unstoppable momentum.



There were two superpowers in West Asia at that time: Byzantine, al rum, and Persia, furs. The next phase of the Islamic mission was to challenge them and eventually break their hegemony over the people of West Asia and North Africa thus creating conditions of freedom of choice of religion. Abu Bakr led the pilgrimage in the year 9 AH. Soon people embraced Islam in large numbers. Many tribal delegations came to see the prophet in Madina and swear their allegiance. In the year 9 AH a large army was dispatched to conquer Tabuk to the north in territory controlled by the Byzantines. This was in response to the mobilization, by the Byzantines and their Ghassan Arab allies, of a big army for a pre-emptive strike against Muslims before the latter grew stronger. Once in Tabuk the Byzantine armies did not have the stomach to fight, they scattered in their territory and a treaty was concluded by which tribute would be paid to Muslims..



In the year 10 AH the prophet performed the farewell pilgrimage. While at Arafat he delivered a famous speech called the farewell address, khutbat al widai, in which he enunciated many cardinal principals of Islam. On return to Madina the prophet fell ill and soon passed away. The prophet had a dual responsibility. The mission of prophethood and messenger ended with the death of the prophet. However his other responsibility as political leader of the community continued. It was therefore necessary to appoint a khalifat.




Muhammad was the only messenger who witnessed complete success of his mission in his lifetime. By the time he died Islam was well established in the peninsula and was on its way to spreading outside the peninsula.



Forgiving: The prophet forgave the bedouin who had wanted to kill him (KS 478: Bukhari K56 B84 and B87; Ahmad 3:311, 364, 390; Waqidi p.99, 356. The prophet did not kill the woman who tried to kill him by poisoning (KS 479: Bukhari K51 B28; AbuDaud K38 B6; Waqidi p 280; Ibn Saad J2 Q1 p.78).


Humble and austere life: riding a donkey (KS 481). He could spend a month or two eating nothing in his house except dates and water (KS 481). He wore rough-woven clothes (KS 481). His furniture was simple (KS 481)



The prophet was kind and considerate towards his women folk. He did domestic work (KS 482)



The prophet was an example in taking care of community welfare. As head of state he said that whoever left a debt he (the prophet) would be responsible for it and whoever left any property it is for the inheritors (KS 479 Bukhari K65 S33 B1, Bukhari K69 B15, Bukhari K85 B4 & B15 & B25, Muslim K23 H14-H18, AbuDaud K22 B9, Ibn Majah K23 B9, Darimi K18 B54, Ahmad 2:287 & 290 & 318 & 334 & 356 & 450 & 453 & 464 & 527 3:215 & 296 & 310 & 337 & 371, 4: 131 & 133, 6:74 & 151, Tayalisi H1150 & 2338 & 2524.



The prophet was sent to all people (KS 488) to bring glad tidings. He is rated as the most influential person in history



The prophet taught cleanliness of the environment



The prophet taught kindness to animals



The prophet taught and practiced the essential equality of all humans. He raised the status of women. He also started a process of emancipating slaves.

Professor Omar Hasan Kasule Sr. December 2000