The loss of his loved ones did not leave Muhammad without love and affection. His uncle and guardian Abu Talib loved him dearly and treated him as kindly as did Abd al Muttalib, his deceased grand-father. In fact Abu Talib loved him so much that in many matters he gave Muhammad prece¬dence over his own children. The basis for this love by Abu Talib was Muhammad's character, not only was he intelligent, he was also upright, kind and truthful. Although Muhammad was twelve years old, Abu Talib did not take him along on his travels as he thought it would be too ardu¬ous for the young boy, and thus Muhammad stayed home.
MEETING WITH BAHIRA THE MONK
However, after Muhammad persuaded his uncle to take him with on a trip, he finally relented and took Muhammad on his first trip to Sham. Whilst in Basra in the south¬ern part of Sham, Muhammad met a Christian monk called Bahira. It was report¬ed later that Bahira recognised in Muhammad signs that he was to be a prophet, and warned Abu Talib that the Jews may wish to harm him.
LEARNING ABOUT LIFE IN THE DESERT
Muhammad learnt a lot about nature in the desert; he studied the stars under the clear sky and breathed in the pure desert air. He listened intently to the Arabs discussing their history and experiences. In Sham he was fascinated with the luscious green grass expanses. The dryness of the desert was also good for his health. For the first time he came into contact with Christians, Jews and fire-worshippers. He listened to adherents of these religions intently and analysed what they were saying, always asking him¬self if they were espousing the truth. This was the last trip which Abu Talib undertook, as it did not yield good financial gain. He thereafter remained at his home¬town caring for his many children. Muhammad also developed a love for poet¬ry and would spend hours Iistening to poems and recitations. The elequence of the poets fascinated Muhammad and made a deep impression on his learning process. The one aspect with which Muhammad agreed in the Christian and Jewish doctrine was their disagreement with the pagan belief of idol worshipping. Thus at a young age he started to grapple with issues reserved mainly for adult life. He did not accept the rest of the Christian and Jewish doctrine and knew that somewhere out there the truth had to be uncovered. His main focus in this period wish a search for the truth and the inner meaning of life. He had a very strong yearning to learn and discover and would sit for hours in the desert and ponder over these issues. It was during this period that Muhammad came to be called al Almeen, the truthful, as a result of his honest and truthful character.
MUHAMMAD'S FIRST EXPIERIENCE WITH WAR
After their return from the trip to Sham, a war broke out in the holy month, called the war of Fijar. Abu Talib taught Muhammad the art of battle and how to bear arms. The war carried on for a period of about four years and ended with the warring parties signing a peace treaty. After the war, the tribe which had the least casualties paid blood money to the other in relation to the difference in the number of victims. In this instance it was the Quraish who paid the other tribe as it had the fewer casualties. During this war Muhammad was between the ages of 15 and 20 years. Historical accounts of the war were that Muhammad's part therein was mainly to collect arrows for later use. There were also, however, reports that Muhammad also fired some of the arrows he collected. It was recorded that in later years Muhammad said that he regret¬ted shooting arrows and thus partaking in this war. This was an indication of his peace-loving nature and that he would only resort to violence when the occasion war¬ranted it. In order to prevent future hostili¬ties, the parties entered into an alliance called the Alliance of Fudul.
TENDING THE HERDS
During his time as a herdsman, Muhammad had lots of time and opportunity to think and contemplate the wonders of life and what man's purpose on earth was. He came to realize that the world around him was integrated in the world within him. It was the air outside that he inhaled, the moon guided his travels and the rising sun awoke him in the morning. The wonders of nature were well ordered and worked in unison -night always followed day and when it was dark the stars became visible, everything seemed to have a defined purpose. There had to be some controlling force or else the synchronised way in which the world functioned would cease. In Makka file inhabitants took part in social activities like listening to poetry, dancing, drinking wine and revelry. Many of the herdsmen travelled to Makka to par¬take in these activities. One night Muhammad decided to go to Makka, but he never reached there. On the way he passed a wedding ceremony in progress. He went closer to hear the activities at the ceremony, but whilst doing so fell fast asleep. When he awoke he returned to his duties as herds¬man. A similar incident happened a while later when on his way to Makka. His atten¬tion was drawn by the sound of music, and when he went closer to listen to the music he again fell asleep. It was as if he was being protected by a superior force from indulging in the iniquitous activities prevalent in Makka.
MUHAMMAD'S PERIODS OF CONTEMPLATION
Muhammad did not have much time for worldly pleasures and wealth. He spent his time searching for the truth. He owned nothing more than was required for his sur¬vival, a trait that remained till his death. His philosophy was never to eat until he was hungry, and to stop eating when he felt he could still eat some more. He led a Spartan life-style and was very conscious of healthy living. Muhammad spent hours pondering on the reason for the existence of humanity and the truth about life.
MUHAMMAD MEETS KHADIJAH
As Muhammad's guardian Abu Talib had many children to feed from his meagre income, he decided to find a better paying job for Muhammad from a wealthy and honorable businesswoman, Khadijah, the daughter of Khuwaylid. Khadijah was in search of an employee who could represent her in the market place where her products were sold. Should such employee prove suc¬cessful he would earn a portion of the prof¬its the sales yielded. Having been married twice to wealthy men, Khadijah had become very wealthy. Many noblemen had applied for the job, but were unsuccessful. When Abu Talib became aware that Khadijah was sending a caravan to Sham, he approached Khadijah to employ Muhammad on this trip. At this time Muhammad was twenty five years old. As Abu Talib was Khadijah's uncle it made his approach easier. After discussions she decid¬ed to hire Muhammad at a rate twice she was prepared to hire anyone else.
REPRESENTING KHADIJAH AT THE MARKET
Muhammad was accompanied by Maysarah the slave of Khadijah. Whilst on this trip Muhammad vividly recalled his first trip with his uncle to Sham. During his stay in Sham Muhammad met with many priests and monks and discussed their religion and beliefs. In this way he developed a good understanding of other religions. Muhammad was very competent at the task of selling the wares of his employer and made large profits in the process. He was very hard working and took his work serious¬ly. Muhammad also bought all the items that were required of him. When he returned to Khadijah after the successful business ven¬ture she listened intently to his report. After years of listening to, and discussing poetry, he was very adept at expressing himself. Khadijah's admiration grew for Muhammad when Maysarah reported that Muhammad treated her very kindly on the trip
MUHAMMAD'S MARRIAGE TO KHADIJA
As their relationship developed, Muhammad and Khadijah increasingly looked each other with affection and respect. Soon the affection turned to love. Khadijah made the. first approach by telling her friend Nufaysah that she loved Muhammad and wished to marry him. When Nufaysah asked Muhammad why he did not marry her he replied by saying that he was not of the financial means to enter into marriage. When asked if such requirement was waived by a wealthy woman, whether he would reconsider his position, he enquired who such person could be. Nufaysah stated that the person she was referring to was Khadijah At this stage Muhammad was not aware that Khadijah loved him enough to want to be his wife. Although he loved Khadijah he did not entertain the idea of marrying her because of their employment relationship and the fact that he was not of the financial means to marry. He was also acutely aware that she had spurned the marriage proposals of many wealthy men. When Nufaysah offered to act as a go-between Muhammad agreed. After discussions Khadijah agreed on a date and time when Muhammad could send his uncles to approach her for her hand in marriage. Once the formalities were complied with, her uncle Omar ibn Asad gave her away at the wedding since her father had since died. As part of the formalities Muhammad gave Khadijah twenty five young camels. After the ceremony Muhammad moved into the house of Khadijah. The marriage of Muhammad to Khadijah opened a new and important chapter in his life.
CHILDREN BORN TO MUHAMMAD AND KHADIJAH
Muhammad and Khadijah settled into a happy married life in the town and Muhammad still acted as her representative in her business dealings. The two loved each other dearly and were faithful and devoted to each other. Khadijah was a lov¬ing and unselfish companion whilst Muhammad was kind and considerate towards her. The couple had six children in all, two sons called al Qasim and Abdullah, and four daughters called Zaynab, Ruqayyah, Umm Khulthum and Fatimah. Muhammad loved his children dearly and was a kind and pro¬tective father. However, Muhammad spent very little time with his sons as al Qasim and Abdullah died as infants. These deaths must have been devastating for Muhammad who had at an early age lost his parents and grandfather. Shortly after the death of his sons Muhammad saw a boy by the name of Zayd ibn Harithah being sold as a slave. He asked Khadijah to purchase the boy and Muhammad adopted him as his son. Zayd’s name was then changed to Zayd ibn Muhammad. This could have been Muhammad's way of dealing with the loss of his sons. Muhammad dearly loved his daughters and had a very close relationship with them. Later in life he ensured that they married good husbands. Zaynab married the son of Khadijah's sister Ruqayyah and Umm Khulthum married the sons of his uncle Abu Lahab, respectively Utbah and Utaybah. His youngest and favourite daughter Fatima married Muhammad's cousin Ali. Zayd lived with Muhammad as his son and became a close companion and follower. Muhammad's existence was char¬acterised by peace and security, whilst enjoying a happy family life.
Muhammad was of medium height and build and was handsome. He had thick black hair, a wide forehead, heavy eyebrows, large black eyes, a fine nose, long eye lashes, good teeth, a thick beard, light skin, broad shoulders and thick palms and feet. He always appeared to be deep in thought and walked with a firm and confident gait. He did not speak much and was a good listener. His personality was such that he always spoke the truth, was kind and friendly to all, but at the same time being strong willed. He had strong will-power and once lie had com¬menced on a course of action lie saw his endeavours through to its conclusion. He took part in light-hearted talk and enjoyed laughing, but did not tolerate idle talking. Khadijah and Muhammad agreed that he would take over running the business in order to free her for her duties as a wife and mother. Despite his life of contemplation and searching for the truth he fully partook in the social life of the people of Makka. During this period the Ka'bah was destroyed by a flood and eventually rebuilt on a strong foundation of granite.
MUHAMMAD'S WAY OF RESOLVING DISPUTES
A dispute arose in Makka as to who would place the black stone in the structure of the Ka'bah. The dispute almost led to a civil war between the Quraish and the Abd al Dar tribe. Abu Umayyah, leader of Abd al Dar stated that the first person to walk through the gate of al Suffah should be the arbitrator to resolve the dispute. When they saw it was Muhammad who first walked through the gate after the announcement, both par¬ties to the dispute readily accepted Muhammad as arbitrator since he was well known for his honesty. They all agreed to abide by Muhammad's decision. Muhammad resolved the dispute in the following manner. He called for a robe onto which he placed the stone once the robe was spread on the ground. He requested the elders of each tribe to hold the ends of the robe and carry the stone to the construction site. When they arrived at the place where the stone was to be inserted, Muhammad lifted the stone and placed it in its position himself. Everyone accepted this act and the dispute was thus resolved. In this way Muhammad averted a civil war and much bloodshed by tact and wisdom. Thereafter the Quraish completed the task of rebuild¬ing the Ka'bah. After its completion Hubal the idol and the other treasures were placed therein.
During this period Muhammad spent long periods alone in meditation and spent the whole month of Ramadaan in a cave known as Hira. He pondered on the fact that the idols which were stationed in the Ka'bah had never done anything tangible, in fact they could not even create an insect like a fly. He asked the question: What was life if it were here today and gone tomorrow? Where does life begin and where does it end? Was man in the world merely by acci-dent or was there a greater plan in place? Clearly the idols could not answer these questions, and neither did he find answers thereto in other religions like Christianity and Judaism. Muhammad follow and observed all known laws at that time, but did not follow a specific doctrine. Every month of Ramadaan Muhammad would return to Hira for periods of meditation, fast and prayer. After three years Muhammad started to see visions in his dreams. What he saw was that the absolute truth was that there was one God who created the universe and all that was in it. This God was compassionate and merciful and held people responsible for the deeds. There was a heaven and a hell and people would be rewarded for their good deeds and punished for their evil deeds. Those who worshipped other gods other than the supreme God would dwell in hell forever. When he got this vision Muhammad was scared and confused. he thought that he was losing his mind, In his state of confu¬sion he turned to his wife Khadijah, and it was she who reassured him that he was not losing his senses but that it was a vision sent by God. She reassured him that he was not capable of lying as he was al Ameen. He took solace in her kind words and confidence. It was Khadijah's support and understanding that got him through this difficult period.
MUHAMMAD RECEIVES THE MESSAGE
Whilst asleep in the cave of Hira on a partic¬ular day Muhammad was approached by an angel holding a sheet in its hand. The angel then instructed Muhammad to read, to which Muhammad replied: "What shall I read? When Muhammad heard the command it was as if he was being throttled and swiftly released. He lost his breath and was in a state of shock. When there was no response from Muhammad the angel repeat¬ed its command. Again Muhammad felt as if he was being suffocated and could only answer the same words he uttered earlier. For the third time the angel repeated its com¬mand for Muhammad to read, and again Muhammad asked what he should read. After his third response the angel said the following: "Read in the name of your Lord, Who created man of a clot of blood. Read! Your Lord is most gracious. It is He who taught man by the pen that which he does not know." After Muhammad recite this verse the angel disappeared. Sonic reporters of the Prophet's [PBUH] traditions state hat before the angel issued the command to read, it tried to calm his fear by saying words of assurance to Muhammad.
After this encounter Muhammad was more confused and fearful than he experi¬enced with his earlier dreams. He was trem bling with awe after realising what had just occurred. He asked himself over and over who the being could have been who had instructed him to read. Muhammad was confused and even fearful that he was losing his mind. When he looked into the sky to search for an answer, he saw the angel in the form of a human being floating across the sky. For a few brief moments he tried to evade the figure but it followed him every¬where and eventually the figure disappeared. Khadijah was getting anxious at Muhammad's long absence in the cave. She went in search of him at the cave but could not find him there. Later Muhammad returned home in a perplexed and confused state. He immediately related to Khadijah what had happened and asked her to try and explain the meaning of the event. He also disclosed his fear that he thought he may have become possessed. It was his faithful wife who finally set his fears aside and calmed him. She was joyous when she told him that without doubt he had been chosen as a Prophet to lead the people. Khadijah uttered the following soothing words to Muhammad: "Joy to my cousin. Be firm. By him who dominates Khadijah's soul I pray and hope that you will be the Prophet of this nation. By God, He will not let you down. You will be kind to your kin; your speech will all be true; you will rescue the weary; entertain the guest and help the truth to prevail." These words reassured Muhammad and he was able to fall into a peaceful sleep.
When he awoke the next morning he was filled with a passion to deliver the message for which he was chosen. He knew he had to deliver the message by persuasion and not force, that his argument should be gen¬tle and convincing. He knew the task ahead of him would be difficult and fraught with obstacles, but he also knew that God was on his side, and he would he guided all the way.
Muhammad's lifestyle of honesty and integrity is an example for all to follow. Even as a young child he was trustworthy and honest, earning him the name al Ameen. As a simple herdsman he spent many hours meditating about the meaning of life and avoided, sometimes as if by divine guidance, the many pitfalls of life. However, his happy and contented life also had many sad moments, like the loss of his parents and his sons. His wife Khadijah not only played an important role as his com¬panion, but also in helping him get through the difficult period of receiving the revela¬tion. She had total faith in Muhammad and reassured him that he had been chosen as a Prophet.