The last prophet of God is Hadrat-i Muhammad - upon whom be blessings and peace - who possesses a book and a Shari'ah and in whom Muslims have placed their faith. The Prophet was born fifty three years before the beginning if the hegira calendar in Mecca in the Hijaz amidst the family of Bany Hashim of the Tribe of Quraysh, who were considered the most honored of the Arab families.
His father was called 'Abdallah and his mother, Aminah. He lost both parents at the beginning of childhood and was placed under the care of his paternal grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib, who also soon passed away. At this time the Prophet's uncle, Abu Talib, took charge of him and became his guardian, taking him in to his own house. The Prophet grew up in his uncle's house and even before reaching the age of adolescence used to accompany his uncle on journeys by caravan.
The Prophet had not received any schooling and therefore did not know how to read and write. Yet, after reaching the age of maturity he became famous for his wisdom, courtesy, and trustworthiness. As a result of his sagacity and trustworthiness, one of the women of the tribe of Quraysh, well-known for her wealth, appointed him as the custodian of her possessions and left in his hands the task of conducting her commercial affairs.
The Prophet once journeyed to Damascus with her merchandise and as a result of the ability he displayed was able to make an outstanding profit. Before long she asked to become his wife and the Prophet accepted her proposal. After the marriage, which occurred when he was twenty-five years old, the Prophet began the life of a manager of his wife's fortunes, until the age of forty, gaining meanwhile a widespread reputation for wisdom and trustworthiness. He refused, however, to worship idols, as was the common religious practice of the Arabs of the Hijaz. And occasionally he would make spiritual retreats (khalwah) in which he prayed and discoursed secretly with God.
At the age of forty, in the cave of Hira', in the mountains of the Tihamah region near Mecca, when he was in spiritual retreat, he was chosen by God to become a prophet and was given the mission of propagating the new religion. At that moment the first chapter of the Quran (The Blood-Clot [Surah-i 'alaq] ) was revealed to him. That very day he returned to his house and on the way met his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who after hearing the account of what had occurred declared his acceptance of the faith. After the Prophet entered the house and told his wife of the revelation, she likewise accepted Islam.
The first time the Prophet invited people to accept his message he was faced with a distressing and painful reaction. Of necessity he was forced henceforth to propagate his message in secret for some time until he was ordered again by God to invite his very close relatives to accept his message. But this call was also fruitless and no one heeded it except Ali ibn Abi Talib, who in any case had already accepted the faith. (But in accordance with documents transmitted from the Household of the Prophet and extant poems composed by Abu Talib, Shi'ites believe that Abu Talib had also embraced Islam; however, because he was the sole protector of the Prophet, he hid his faith from the people in order to preserve the outward power he had with the Quraysh.)
After this period, according to Divine instruction, the Prophet began to propagate his mission openly. With the beginning of open propagation, the people of Mecca reacted most severely and inflicted the most painful afflictions and tortures upon the Prophet and the people who had become newly converted to Islam. The severe treatment dealt out by the Quraysh reached such a degree that a group of Muslims left their homes and belongings and migrated to Abyssinia. The Prophet and his uncle, Abu Talib, along with their relatives from the Banu Hashim, took refuge for three years in the mountain pass of Abu Talib, a fort in one of the valleys of Mecca. No one had any dealings or transactions with them and they did not dare to leave their place of refuge.
The idol-worshippers of Mecca, although at the beginning they considered inflicting all kinds of pressures and tortures such as striking and beating, insult, ridicule and defamation on the Prophet, occasionally would also show kindness and courtesy toward him in order to have him turn away from his mission. They would promise him great sums of money or leadership and the rule of the tribe. But for the Prophet their promises and their threats only resulted in the intensification of his will and determination to carry out his mission. Once, when they came to the Prophet promising him wealth and power, the Prophet told them, using metaphorical language, that if they were to put the sun in the palm of his right hand and the moon in the palm of his left hand, he would not turn away from obeying the unique God or refrain from performing his mission.
About the tenth year of his prophecy, when the Prophet left the mountain pass of Abu Talib, his uncle Abu Talib, who was also his sole protector, died as did also his devoted wife. Henceforth there was no protection for his life nor any place of refuge. Finally, the idol-worshippers of Mecca devised a secret plan to kill him. At night they surrounded his house from all sides with the aim of forcing themselves in at the end of the night and cutting him to pieces while he was in bed. But God, the Exalted, informed him of the plan and commanded him to leave for Yathrib. The Prophet placed Ali in place of himself in his bed and at night left the house under the Divine protection, passing amidst his enemies, and taking refuge in a cave near Mecca. After three days when his enemies, having looked everywhere, gave up hope of capturing him and returned to Mecca, he left the cave and set out for Yathrib.
The people of Yathrib, whose leaders had already accepted the message of the Prophet and sworn allegiance to him, accepted him with open arms and placed their lives and property at his disposal. In Yathrib for the first time the Prophet formed a small Islamic community and signed treaties with the Jewish tribes in and around the city as well as with the powerful Arab tribes of the region. He undertook the task of propagating the Islamic message and Yathrib became famous as Madinat al-rasul (the city of the Prophet).
Islam began to grow and expand from day to day. The Muslims, who in Mecca were caught in the mesh of the injustice and inequity of the Quraysh, gradually left their homes and property and migrated to Medina, revolving around the Prophet like moths around a candle. This group became known as the immigrants (muhajirun) in the same way that those who aided the Prophet in Yathrib gained the name of helpers (ansar).
Islam was advancing rapidly but at the same time the idol-worshippers of Quraysh, as well as the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz, were unrestrained in their harassment of the Muslims. With the help of the hypocrites (munafiqun) of Medina who were amidst the community of Muslims and who were not known for their holding any particular positions, they created new misfortunes for the Muslims every day until finally the matter led to war. Many battles took place between the Muslims and the Arab polytheists and Jews, in most of which the Muslims were victorious. There were altogether over eighty major and minor battles. In all the major conflicts such as the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar, Hunayn, etc., the Prophet was personally present on the battle scene. Also in all the major battles and many minor ones, victory was gained especially through the efforts of Ali. He was the only person who never turned away from any of these battles. In all the wars that occurred during the ten years after the migration from Mecca to Medina less than two hundred Muslims and less than a thousand infidels were killed.
As a result of the activity of the Prophet and the selfless effort of the muhajirun and ansar during this ten-year period, Islam spread through the Arabian Peninsula. There were also letters written to kings of other countries such as Persia, Byzantinum and Abyssinia inviting them to accept Islam. During this time the Prophet lived in poverty and was proud of it. He never spent a moment of his time in vain. Rather, his time was divided in to three parts: one spent for God, in worshipping and remembering Him; a part of himself and his household and domestic needs; and a part for the people. During this part of his time, he was engaged in spreading and teaching Islam and its sciences, administrating to the needs of Islamic society and removing whatever evils existed, providing for the needs of the Muslims, strengthening domestic and foreign bonds, and similar matters.
After ten years of stay in Medina the Prophet fell ill and died after a few days of illness. According to existing traditions the last words on his lips were advice concerning slaves and women.
It was demanded of the Prophet, as it had been of other prophets, that he produce a miracle. The Prophet himself also confirmed the power of prophets to produce miracles as has been asserted clearly by the Quran. Many miracles by the Prophet have been recounted, the transmission of some of which is certain and can be accepted with confidence. But the enduring miracle of the Prophet, which is still alive, is the sacred book of Islam, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran is a sacred text consisting of six thousand and several hundred verses (ayah) divided in to one hundred and fourteen large and small chapters (surah). The verses of the Holy Quran were revealed gradually during the twenty-three-year period of prophecy and mission of the Prophet. From less than one verse to a whole and complete chapter were revealed under different circumstances, both at day and night, on journeys or at home, in war or peace, during days of hardship or moments of rest.
The Holy Quran in many of its verses introduces itself in unambiguous language as a miracle. It invited the Arabs of that day to rivalry and competition in composing writings of comparable truth and beauty. The Arabs, according to the testimony of history, had reached the highest stages of eloquence and elegance of language, and in the sweetness of language and flow of speech they ranked foremost among all people. The Holy Quran claims that if it be thought of as human speech, created by the Prophet himself or learned through instruction from someone else, then the Arabs should be able to produce it’s like or ten chapters like it, or a single one of its verses, making use of whatever means were at their disposal to achieve this end. The celebrated Aram men of eloquence claimed that in answer to this request that the Quran was magic and it was thus impossible for them to produce it’s like.
Not only does the Quran challenge and invite people to compete with its eloquence and elegant language, but also it occasionally invites rivalry from the point of view of its meaning and thus challenges all the mental powers of men and jinn, for the Quran is a book containing the total program for human life. If we investigate the matter carefully, we will discover that God has made this vast and extensive program which embraces every aspect of the countless beliefs, ethical forms and actions of mankind and takes in to account all of their details and particularities to by the Truth (haqq) and to be called the religion of the truth (din-i haqq). Islam is a religion whose injunctions are based on the truth and the real welfare of mankind, not the desires and inclinations of the majority of men or the whims of a single, powerful ruler.
At the foundation of this vast program is placed the most cherished word of God which is belief in His Unity. All the principles of the sciences are deduced from the principle of Unity (tawhid). After that, the most praiseworthy human ethical and moral virtues are deduced from the principles of the religious sciences and included in the program. Then, the countless principles and details of human action and individual and social conditions of man are investigated, and the duties pertaining to them which originate from the worship of the One are elaborated and organized. In Islam the relation and continuity between the principles (usul) and their applications (furu') are such that each particular application in whatever subject it may be, if it is brought back to its source, returns to the principle of Unity or tawhid, and Unity if applied and analyzed becomes the basis for the particular injunction and rule in question.
Of course, the final elaboration of such an extensive religion with such unity and interconnection, or even the preparation of an elementary index for it, is beyond the normal powers of the best authorities on law in the world. But here we speak of a man who in a short span of time was placed amidst a thousand difficulties concerning life and property, caught in bloody battles and faced with internal and external obstacles and furthermore placed alone before the whole world. Moreover, the Prophet had never received instruction nor learned how to read and write. He had spent two-thirds of his life before becoming a prophet among a people who possessed no learning and had had no taste of civilization. He passed his life in a land without water or vegetation and with burning air, among a people who lived in the lowest social conditions and were dominated by neighboring political powers.
Besides the above, the Holy Quran challenges men in another way. This book was revealed gradually, during a period of twenty-three years, under totally different conditions in periods of difficulty or comfort, war or peace, power or weakness, and the like. If it had not come from God but had been composed and expounded by man, many contradictions and contrasts would be observed in it. Its ending would of necessity be more perfect than its beginning, as is necessary in the gradual perfection of the human individual. Instead, the first Meccan verses are of the same quality as the Medinan verses and there is no difference between the beginning and the end of the Quran. The Quran is a book whose parts resemble each other and whose awe-inspiring power of expression is of the same style and quality throughout.
The sealing of prophethood has always been regarded as one of the fundamental components of belief in Islam; it negates the possibility of the emergence of any Messenger after the Prophet of Islam.
In any discussion of Islam, we cannot overlook the role played in it by the sealing of prophethood with the Prophet Muhammad.
What Muslim is there who does not immediately think of the Prophet's aspect as seal whenever he calls him to mind, or who has any doubt that the Quran is the final revealed message of God?
No religion is known to us that like Islam proclaims the sealing of revelation, nor any heavenly personality who has claimed eternal validity for his message.
More than fourteen centuries have passed since the rise of Islam, and throughout this period the Prophet of Islam has always been regarded as the Seal of the Prophets. He perfected existing laws, and with the rich content of his own logical and thorough program of action, he demonstrated the ultimate value inherent in all the prophetic missions.
By contrast with other schools of religious thought, the validity of which was restricted to a certain time or place, Islam represents a comprehensive summation of all prophetic messages, and it recognizes no boundaries, whether spatial or temporal.
The Quran itself also depicts the brilliant visage of Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, as the one by means of whom the gate of prophethood has been closed.
How can we solve the apparent contradiction between the need for Prophets as the condition for the vitality of human existence, on the one hand, and the permanent sealing of prophethood, on the other? How can we reconcile the principle of the immutability of the ordinances of Islam with the principle of social development and the everlasting search for new concepts and norms?
Industrial and technological developments have turned the human being in to a creature always desiring novelty, and wishing to connect every aspect of his life to new principles and institutions.
How can such a human being organize his social life and development on the basis of a religion that originated more than fourteen centuries ago and summons the human being to recognize a series of fixed and unchanging values? Having expounded the doctrine of the sealing of prophethood, Islam itself provides the answers to these questions.
One of the reasons for the sending of new Prophets was the corruptions and distortions that had crept in to the teachings and books of their predecessors, with the result that they lost their efficacy in the guidance of the human being.
But once the human being reaches a stage in his growth where he can preserve the norms and teachings of religion from corruption or change and propagate them in their authentic form, the most fundamental reason for the sending of new Prophets disappears.
The age in which the Prophet of Islam made his appearance thus differs completely from the ages in which earlier Prophets had emerged: the human being had reached a level of intellectual maturity which permitted the sealing of prophethood.
The attainment of maturity by society, the rise of science and learning, and the human being's acquisition of the ability to preserve and propagate heavenly religion - all this meant that an essential precondition for the sealing of prophethood had been met. It was now possible for the duty of propagating religion and guiding people to be entrusted to scholars and learned persons.
From now on, it was up to the human being to preserve his historical heritage and spiritual achievements and to protect the final revelation from corruption by seeking aid in the Quran itself and drawing on his cultural and social maturity. Instead of the responsibility being placed on a single individual, the message was now entrusted to a collectivity. As the Quran says: There should be a group among you who summon to virtue and enjoin good upon them and restrain them from evil. (3:104)
In his social development, the human being reaches a stage where he no longer stands in need of repeated surgical intervention and is instead ready for a form of permanent prophethood where human beings shape their own destiny on the basis of clear vision, correct choice and reflection on the contents of revelation.
Under such conditions, a social and intellectual order is needed that will free the thoughts and acts of human beings from the wearying and stultifying burden of attachment and give shape and direction to their constant exertions in the realm of both thought and action. The eternal miracle that is the Noble Quran sets forth the main principles of such a system by following which human being is able to advance.
Among all the heavenly books the Quran is the only one to have withstood the ravages of time so that we have in our possession a complete and uncorrupted text clearly reflecting its abundantly creative teachings. The Quran itself proclaims: We it is Who have sent down this Quran and We it is Who will protect it. (15:9) This verse indicates that the most important reason for the sending of new Prophets no longer obtains.
In addition, we should be aware that belief in all the Prophets signifies belief in a continuous historical process, one which began with history itself and the origins of human society has expressed itself in a struggle between truth and falsehood and will continue until the final triumph of the former over the latter. In each age, the Prophets have advanced the awareness and maturity of human beings in accordance with the circumstances and capacities of society.
Differences with respect to certain laws and ordinances do not touch on the fundamental principles and nature of religion because this apparent lack of harmony relates to subsidiary matters, not fundamental concern connected with the very nature of religion.
To correct deviations in thought and belief is possible, in fact, only if a variety of programs of action, each congruent with a set of objective realities, are adopted. If an apparent lack of harmony can be observed in the methods followed by the Prophets in the course of their continuous efforts, this has no connection with their fundamental aim. There is no contradiction among their missions with respect to the principal goal - changing and forming anew the thoughts of human beings who had lost touch with reality and were living in darkness, both culturally and socially.