Mohammed(m*hm"md) n. ['The praised one'.]
Syn. -- Muhammad, Mahomet, Mahmoud.
Mohammed (or Mahomet (ma*hom"et)) was born at Mecca, Arabia, about 570: died at Medina, Arabia, June 8, 632. He was the founder of Mohammedanism, or Islam ('surrender,' namely, to God). He was the posthumous son of Abdallah by his wife Amina, of the family of Hashim, the noblest among the Koreish, and was brought up in the desert among the Banu Saad by a Bedouin woman named Halima. At the age of six he lost his mother, and at eight his grandfather, when he was cared for by his uncle Abu-Talib. When about twelve years old (582) he accompanied a caravan to Syria, and may on this occasion have come for the first time in contact with Jews and Christians. A few years later he took part in the "sacrilegious war" (so called because carried on during the sacred months, when fighting was forbidden) which raged between the Koreish and the Banu Hawazin 580-590. He attended sundry preachings and recitations at Okatz, which may have awakened his poetical and rhetorical powers and his religious feelings; and for some time was occupied as a shepherd, to which he later refers as being in accordance with his career as a prophet, even as it was with that of Moses and David. When twenty-five years old he entered the service of the widow Khadijah, and made a second journey to Syria, on which he again had an opportunity to come in frequent contact with Jews and Christians, and to acquire some knowledge of their religious teachings. He soon married Khadijah, who was fifteen years his senior. Of the six children which she bore him, Fatima became the most famous. In 605 he attained some influence in Mecca by settling a dispute about the rebuilding of the Kaaba. The impressions which he had gathered from his contact with Judaism and Christianity, and from Arabic lore, began now strongly to engage his mind. He frequently retired to solitary places, especially to the cave of Mount Hira, north of Mecca. He passed at that time (he was then about forty years old) through great mental struggles, and repeatedly meditated suicide. It must have been during these lonely contemplations that the yearnings for a messenger from God for his people, and the thought that he himself might be destined for this mission, were born in his ardent mind. During one of his reveries, in the month of Ramadan, 610, he beheld in sleep the angel Gabriel, who ordered him to read from a scroll which he held before him the words which begin the 96th sura (chapter) of the Koran. After the lapse of some time, a second vision came, and then the revelations began to follow one another frequently. His own belief in his mission as apostle and prophet of God was now firmly established. The first convert was his wife Khadijah, then followed his cousin and adopted son Ali, his other adopted son Zeid, and Abu-Bekr, afterward his father-in-law and first successor (calif). Gradually about 60 adherents rallied about him. But after three years' preaching the mass of the Meccans rose against him, so that part of his followers had to resort to Abyssinia for safety in 614. This is termed the first hejira. Mohammed in the meanwhile continued his meetings in the house of one of his disciples, Arqaan, in front of the Kaaba, which later became known as the "House of Islam." At one time he offered the Koreish a compromise, admitting their gods into his system as intercessors with the Supreme Being, but, becoming conscience-stricken, took back his words. The conversion of Hamza and Omar and 39 others in 615-616 strengthened his cause. The Koreish excommunicated Mohammed and his followers, who were forced to live in retirement. In 620, at the pilgrimage, he won over to his teachings a small party from Medina. In Medina, whither a teacher was deputed, the new religion spread rapidly. To this period belongs the vision or dream of the miraculous ride, on the winged horse Borak, to Jerusalem, where he was received by the prophets, and thence ascended to heaven. In 622 more than 70 persons from Medina bound themselves to stand by Mohammed. The Meccans proposed to kill him, and he fled on the 20th of June, 622, to Medina. This is known as the hejira ('the flight'), and marks the beginning of the Mohammedan era. This event formed a turning-point in the activity of Mohammed. He was thus far a religious preacher and persuader; he became in his Medinian period a legislator and warrior. He built there in 623 the first mosque, and married Ayesha. In 624 the first battle for the faith took place between Mohammed and the Meccans in the plain of Bedr, in which the latter were defeated. At this time, also, Mohammed began bitterly to inveigh against the Jews, who did not recognize his claims to be the "greater prophet" promised by Moses. He changed the attitude of prayer (kibla) from the direction of Jerusalem to that of the Kaaba in Mecca, appointed Friday as the day for public worship, and instituted the fast of Ramadan and the tithe or poor-rate. The Jewish tribe of the Banu Kainuka, settled at Medina, was driven out; while of another Jewish tribe, the Banu Kuraiza, all the men, 700 in number, were massacred. In 625 Mohammed and his followers were defeated by the Meccans in the battle of Ohud. The following years were filled out with expeditions. One tribe after another submitted to Mohammed, until in 631 something like a definite Mohammedan empire was established. In 632 the prophet made his last pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the "farewell pilgrimage," or the pilgrimage of the "announcement" or of "Islam." In the same year he died while planning an expedition against the frontier of the Byzantine empire. Mohammed was a little above the middle height, of a commanding figure, and is described as being of a modest, tender, and generous disposition. His manner of life was very simple and frugal. He mended his own clothes, and his common diet was barley-bread and water. But he enjoyed perfumes and the charms of women. His character appears composed of the strongest inconsistencies. He could be tender, kind, and liberal, but on occasions indulged in cruel and perfidious assassinations. With regard to his prophetic claims, it is as difficult to assume that he was sincere throughout, or self-deceived, as that he was throughout an impostor. In his doctrines there is practically nothing original. The legends of the Koran are chiefly drawn from the Old Testament and the rabbinical literature, which Mohammed must have learned from a Jew near Mecca, though he presents them as original revelations by the angel Gabriel, See Koran.
[Century Dict. 1906]
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