Mohammed, Or Mahomet (Arab., the Praised, or, according to E. Deutsch and Sprenger, the Desired or Promised, in allusion to Ilaggai ii. 7), the founder of the Mussulman religion, born in Mecca, according to some, Nov. 10, 570, according to others April 20, 571, died in Medina, June 8, 632. His Mohammedan biographers say that his birth was accompanied by miracles; the sacred fires of the Par-sees were extinguished, the palace of the Persian king was shaken by an earthquake, the lake Sawa dried up, and many other prodigies took place. His family (Hashem) belonged to the distinguished tribe of Koreish, were hereditary guardians of the Caaba, and were said to be directly descended from Abraham by his son Ishmael; nevertheless his parents were poor. His father Abdallah, a merchant, died two months after his birth. The orphan was confided for a little more than two years to the care of a Bedouin nurse, llalima, who returned him to his mother in consequence of spasmodic fits which she attributed to evil spirits. At the age of six years he lost his mother, and was carried by a female slave to his grandfather Abd-el-Mottalib. Two years later lie lost also his grandfather, and was then adopted by his uncle Abu Taleb, who held the key of the Caaba. With him young Mohammed (in his 9th or 12th year) made journeys through Syria and other countries, and became acquainted with a Christian (probably Kestorian) monk. called by some Bahira, by others Serjis, who predicted his future greatness.
Another uncle, Zobair, he accompanied on a mercantile trip to southern Arabia, and four years afterward was with him in a campaign against the Beni Kinana. In his 25th year he was a shepherd near Mecca, and then joined for a short time the business of a linen trader named Saib, commerce being at that time almost the sole occupation of the higher classes in Mecca, At Hajasha, a market six days' journey S. of Mecca, Mohammed, compelled by poverty, entered the service of a rich widow named Khadijah. Several business journeys which he made for her through Syria and Arabia so pleased her that she determined to marry him. According to the common tradition Khadijah was then 40, and Mohammed a little over 25 years old. After his marriage Mohammed gave up business, and for ten years was chiefly occupied with his family, having by Khadijah four daughters and two sons; both sons died young. From his 35th to his 40th year Mohammed frequently resorted to a solitary cave of Mt. Hara, to give himself up entirely to religious contemplation. There, amid spasmodic convulsions, he had his first vision, in which the angel Gabriel appeared and commanded him to recite what he (the angel) said. Mohammed was troubled as to the nature of his mission, whether it came from an angel or from an evil spirit.
His wife consulted her cousin Waraka, "who was old and blind" and knew the scriptures of the "Jews and Christians," and ho assured her, and afterward Mohammed himself, that "God had chosen him to be the prophet of this people." The revelations continued henceforth without interruption to the end of his life, and were dictated by Mohammed to several secretaries, committed by his adherents to memory, and after his death collected and written down. (See Koran.) His wife was his first convert. During the first three years of his mission only the relatives and friends of Mohammed acknowledged him as a prophet, and the whole number of believers (Moslemin or Moslems) amounted scarcely to 40, among whom were Abubekr and Ali. In the fourth or fifth year of his mission he came forward publicly in compliance with a special message, and proclaimed himself a prophet, but met only with imprecations and ill treatment. To protect him from attempts on his life, he was removed by hi. uncle Abu Taleb to a fortified castle outside of Mecca, where he remained three years. The Koreishites outlawed him and his disciples.
When the interdict, after the expiration of three years, was removed, Mohammed returned to Mecca; and soon after, in the tenth year of his mission, he lost his uncle and protector Abu Taleb, who never acknowledged the mission of his nephew. Three days later he lost his wife Khadijah, during whose lifetime he had not taken other wives; after her death he soon married several, nine of whom survived him. Mohammed was again expelled from Mecca, and also fromTayef; but soon he reentered Mecca, greatly strengthened by his celebrated journey to heaven. His relation of the journey, which he called a dream, increased the wrath of hi. enemies, and caused the defection of some of his adherents. Some pilgrims from Yathreb, belonging to the tribe of Khazrai converted in 621, and on their return propagated his doctrines at home. In 622 73 Moslens from Yathreh appeared at Mecca, 'and concluded with Mohammed a treaty offensive and defensive. In September of the same year, in consequence of a new plot against his life, he tied to Yathreb, whither the Meccan believers, 45 in number, had partly preceded him, and partly soon followed him.
On his way he also converted the tribe Beni Sahm. At Yathreb the new faith was established on a firm basis, and not without reason therefore the era of the Moslems begins with the Might of the prophet, the Hegira. (See Hegira.) Moreover, the name of Yathreb was changed into Medinet en-Nebi, the city of the prophet" (Medina). Mohammed at first endeavored to convert the numerous Jews in Arabia, and made them important concessions; but these he rescinded on their declining to adopt his religion, and became their irreconcilable enemy. During the first year of the Hegira he built a mosque at Medina, instituted religious rites, and proclaimed war against the unbelievers. He commenced this sacred war with attacks on the caravans of pilgrims, which led in 623 to an engagement at Bedr between 314 Moslems and 600 Meccans under Abu Sofian, the chief of Mecca, in which the Moslems were victors. In the following years Mohammed suffered many reverses; he was defeated by the Koreishites in the battle of Mt. Ohod (625), and besieged in Medina (627); and even among his followers a party was stirred up against him. To restore his reputation and influence, he determined to organize a large pilgrimage to Mecca, but was impelled by a dream to start with only 700 men.
The Meccans prevented him from entering the city, but at last concluded a truce for ten years, with the promise that the following year he would be admitted to the city as a pilgrim. To divert the discontent of his fellow pilgrims, he led them against several Jewish tribes, and on the whole was successful; yet a Jewess, Zainab, to avenge the death of her relatives, prepared for him a poisoned lamb, which, as he believed, destroyed his health. At this time the plans of Mohammed for the spreading of his religion assumed a wider scope. He sent written demands to the Persian king Ckosroes II., the Abyssinian king, the emperor Heraclius, the governor of Egypt, and the chiefs of several Arab tribes. Some received his ambassadors courteously, but Chos-roes tore up Mohammed's letter, while the people of Muta killed his envoy. In a war undertaken to avenge this murder the troops of Mohammed fought a desperate battle at Muta, in which Khaled, a new convert, highly distinguished himself, and was consequently termed by Mohammed "the Sword of God." He punished the Meccans, who had broken faith with him, and compelled them to acknowledge him as a sovereign and a prophet.
The possession of Mecca decided the victory of the new religion in Arabia, and notwithstanding temporary reverses, the subjection of a majority of the inhabitants of Arabia to Mohammed's rule and religion became complete. Ho returned to Medina, where in the ninth year of the Hegira he received deputations from various tribes who announced their submission. He proclaimed a holy war against the Byzantine empire, which proved a complete failure, and he was obliged to return to Medina amid the reproaches of the soldiers. In the following year Mohammed made his last pilgrimage to Mecca at the head of at least 40,-000 pilgrims. The rites of this pilgrimage.have ever since been regarded as the standard rule for pilgrimages. Three months after his return to Medina he was taken seriously ill. He called his wives together, and requested that he might be allowed to remain in the house of Ayesha, his favorite, which adjoined the mosque. He himself announced in the mosque the approach of his death. During the last days of his life he liberated his slaves, caused seven denars to be distributed among the poor, and prayed: " God support me in the agony of death." He expired in the arms of Ayesha. After a long dispute respecting the place of his interment, he was buried in the house in which he died.
This spot lies now within the enlarged mosque. His only surviving child was Fatima, the wife of Ali, and the ancestress of all the sherifs or nobles of the Mohammedan world. - Mohammed is said to have been of middle stature, and to have had a strong beard and thick hair, a noble mien, a brown and lively complexion, brilliant eyes, white teeth, and a modest bearing. He possessed natural eloquence, a keen intellect, an overwhelming fluency, and great courage. Conjugal love he regarded as one of the great incentives to devotion. The wish to have a son to succeed him has been alleged as the reason why he took so many wives. In his infancy as well as in after life he was afflicted with epileptic attacks, which at first were considered by himself and by his enemies to bo the effect of demoniacal possession. The same spasmodic convulsions accompanied him while he received his revelations. Mohammed was acquainted with the doctrines of both Jews and Christians, but charged them with having corrupted their Scriptures. He attributed to both of them opinions which they do not hold, but most of these statements may rest on the authority of the apocryphal books of the ancient Christian church.
Before the 12th century it was hardly understood in the West that Mahomet was a man, and not a pretended divinity, and still earlier he was known as Mapho-met, Baphomet, or Bafum, and believed to be a false god to whom human sacrifices were offered. Later it was common among Christian writers to represent him as a conscious impostor. This opinion has now but few representatives. - Among the Mohammedan biographies of the prophet, those of Wakidi, Ibn Ishak, and Tabari are the most important, and some of them have been translated into French, German, and other languages. Among the best European and American biographies of Mohammed are those of Marracci (Padua, 1G98), Gagnier (Amsterdam, 1732), Hanimer- Purgstall (Leipsic, 1837), Weil (Stuttgart, 1843), George Bush (New York, 1832), Washington Irving (1850), A. Sprenger (Allahabad, 1852; German, Berlin, 1861-'o; 2d ed., 1869 et seq.), Muir (London, 1858), Arnold ("Ishmael, or a Natural History of Islamism," 1859), and Nol-deke (Hanover, 1803). See also Essai sur Vhis-toire des Arabes avant Vhlamwne pendant Vepoque de Mahomet, etjusqu'd la reduction de toutes les tribus sous la lot musulmane, by Caus-sin de Perceval (3 vols., Paris, 1847-'8); Ma-homet et les origines de l'Mamisme, by Ernest Benan, included in his Etudes d'h istoire rell-gieuse (Paris, 1857; 7th revised ed., 1804); an English biography of Mohammed with critical commentaries by Moulvi Syed Ameer Ali, an oriental lawyer residing in London (1873); the essay "Islam" in "Literary Remains of Emanuel Deutsch" (1874); and "Mohammed and Mohammedanism," by R. Bosworth Smith (1874).