Question: Who is Mohammad (Muhammad) and what did he do?
Muslims believe that Mohammad (also spelled as "Muhammad") (peace be upon him) is the last and final Messenger of God to be sent to humanity. He was sent to complete the mission of the previous Messengers (including Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others) of calling people to believing in God and following the guidance and teachings of God. Muslims regard Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) as their highest role model and they aim to follow in his footsteps in all of their actions. This is why Muslims hold Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in very high regard, and are seriously hurt when anyone tries to belittle him.
Mohammad (pbuh) was born in the city of Makkah in Arabia in the year 570 AD. He was an orphan, having lost his father even before his birth, and was therefore raised by his grandfather and his uncle. Although he was from a noble family and tribe, as an orphan he had a difficult childhood. He later started to work as a trader, and through his dealings with the people was known to be extremely honest and trustworthy. In fact, he was nicknamed "the trustworthy" by the people of Makkah. At the age of 25, Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) got married to his wife Khadija.
Mohammad (pbuh) always detested his people's way of life. He did not approve of their idol worship, nor did he approve of the lifestyle that included drunkenness and illicit relations between men and women. Therefore, Mohammad (pbuh) regularly went away from the city to the desert to contemplate life and to seclude and distance himself from the actions and lifestyle of his people. At the age of 40, Mohammad (pbuh) started to receive revelations from God through the angel Gabriel.
These revelations were the word of God, conveyed to Mohammad (pbuh) through the angel Gabriel. Mohammad (pbuh) was told by God that he was chosen as a Messenger to his people, and that the revelations he was receiving were the holy Qur'an and they were a messege from God to all of humanity. He was also instructed to deliver the message to his people, and to teach and guide them. The revelations continued for 23 years until shortly before the death of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh).
Although Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) was known by his people as "the trustworthy", many of them refused to believe in him when he started to teach his message to the people. The leaders of Makkah and the rich classes rejected the message not because they did not believe that Mohammad (pbuh) was saying the truth, and not because they did not believe that the Qur'an was the word of God. In fact, many of them later admitted that they had a feeling in their hearts that it was the truth. However, they rejected the message in order to protect their wealth and power.
Mohammad (pbuh) taught people that all humans are equal, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or tribe. He taught slaves that they had rights and that they were equal to their masters. He taught that the rich must pay a portion of their wealth to the poor. Mohammad (pbuh) was a revolutionary, fighting for freedom. His mission was to free humanity from worshipping false idols, to free the poor from the stranglehold of the rich and to free people from the oppression imposed on them by priests of false religions.
All of these teachings scared those who were in power at the time. The leaders were afraid that they will lose their positions of power and leadership, which they had gained based only upon the false pretense that their tribe or family was superior to all others. The rich were afraid that they will have to share their wealth with the poor, even though they had collected this wealth by taking advantage of the poor. The masters were afraid that their slaves would start to ask for their rights. The priests were afraid of losing their unjust hold on people's lives, which they were using to enrich themselves.
Mohammad (pbuh) and his followers, the Muslims, were persecuted severely. They were subjected to torture, imprisonment, expulsion, economic and social boycotts. Many of them were killed because of their beliefs. But they remained patient and steadfast, and they held onto their new religion of Islam. Mohammad (pbuh) continued to teach his message to the people in secret and in public. After 13 years of enduring these conditions, the Muslims emigrated to Al-Madinah, a city more than 400 km (260 miles) north of Makkah. The Muslims established the first Muslim nation in Al-Madinah, and were able to practice their religion freely for the first time.
As the Muslims began to gain more followers and establish their power in Al-Madinah, their old enemies in Makkah became very uneasy. They saw that the balance of power was switching in favour of the Muslims as Arab tribes started to accept Islam. They attacked the Muslims and after several battles, the Muslims gained the upper hand. The Muslims then sent a large and well equipped army to Makkah to end the attacks once and for all. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) instructed his army not to harm anyone who did not engage them in fighting. Upon seeing the strength of the Muslim army, the people of Makkah surrendered without much fighting. The Muslims entered Makkah once again, this time in a position of power.
The Muslim army captured many prisoners, including many of those who had persecuted, tortured and killed Muslims for 13 years before they emigrated to Al-Madinah. The prisoners were gathered in front of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). He asked them: "What do you think I will do to you?" Knowing how they had treated Mohammad (pbuh) and his followers, the prisoners were afraid that their fate would be death as a punishment for their crimes. However, in an attempt to ask for leniency, one of them replied: "You are a kind brother and nephew to us", reminding Mohammad (pbuh) that they were his people and many of them were from the same tribe as Mohammad (pbuh). Mohammad (pbuh) replied to them: "You are all free to go!"
After this point, the spread of Islam became even faster. Arab tribes began to come to Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) one by one to declare their Islam. Within ten years, Islam had spread throughout Arabia and became one of the main powers in the Middle East. Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) passed away at the age of 63, leaving behind a message and a legacy that has survived to our day.
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) accomplished his mission of delivering the message to humanity. He has left us with the holy Qur'an (the word of God) and the Sunnah (the teachings of Mohammad (pbuh)). Through his sacrifices and those of his followers, Islam today is the largest and fastest growing religion in the world. One out of every five people in the world is a Muslim. It is for this reason that Michael H. Hart (an astrophysicist born in New York City in 1932), in his 1978 book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History", ranked Mohammad (pbuh) as the single most influential person in the history of the world.