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Born Into A Very Noble Family: Prophet Muhammad - PBUH

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Islamic Perspectives - Muslim Journals

Arab News & Information - By Adil Salahi

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah at the beginning of the last third of the sixth century. At that time, the world generally was in a miserable state, as if general collapse was about to overwhelm everything. Nowhere in the world was there a coherent faith or a solid system under which a community and a state could prosper. The two superpowers, the Byzantine and the Persian empires, were on the verge of collapse. In Byzantium, the Christian faith was no longer the guiding light. In fact, its intellectuals were engaged in endless, futile debates about everything real or imaginary. Its power, in land and sea, had weakened. Commanding vast areas of land, it could only maintain its rule by leaving its different provinces in a state of practical autonomy. Muslims were soon to deprive it of most of its provinces in Asia and North Africa.

The Persian Empire was in no better shape. Its religion had been distorted. Monotheism gave way to dualism, with good and evil represented by two different deities that were engaged in a permanent fight, and women were made the vehicle used to spread evil. Moreover, political chaos prevailed, with many instances of rebellion and sedition.

Elsewhere we could see no solid system based on coherent beliefs that satisfied thinking minds, or on a set of moral values that could sustain law and order and establish a proper human society that knows its way to progress.

In Arabia, a tribal society existed that gave affiliation to ones tribe supreme importance. Makkah had a special status, as a result of its religious importance with the Kaaba at its center. Moreover, it enjoyed economic prosperity due to its organization of proper international trade. In fact, most of the wealth of Arabia was concentrated in Makkah, and held by a small group of its noblemen. This led to a life of luxury with its associated vices, such as gambling, drinking, loose sexual morality and exploitation of the poor.

A hierarchy of tribes established itself on the basis of certain values, such as wealth, numbers and military prowess. Yet the top position in that hierarchy indisputably belonged to the Quraysh, as it lived in Makkah and was the custodian of the Kaaba, the temple built by the Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael and consecrated for the worship of God alone.

Within every major tribe there were a number of clans, each clan comprising a number of families. The system meant that loyalty to ones immediate family transcended all claims of loyalty. Yet loyalty moved upward, stage by stage, from a small clan to a larger one, then to the tribe. Among the Quraysh, the Hashimite clan, was considered the most noble, but it was not the richest. Its nobility derived from its direct descent from the Prophet Ishmael and from the fact that for several generations it held custody of the Kaaba and provided food and water to the pilgrims who came from all over Arabia.

The chief of the Hashimite clan was Abd Al-Muttalib, grandfather of Muhammad (peace be upon him), who by the time of the Prophets birth was a very old man. He was not rich by Makkan standards, but was recognized by all as the most noble person in Makkah. His standing was enhanced a couple of decades before the birth of his grandson, when he dug the well of Zamzam in response to a dream he saw on successive nights, giving him its exact location.

Thus, Muhammad was the son of the most noble family in Arabia, where nobility of birth was given a very high degree of importance. Yet he was not born into a rich family where children could be spoilt.

 

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