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The Prophet Muhammad (570-632), the founder of the Islamic faith, was born in Mecca. His title in Arabic is Rasulullah (Rasul-Allah), meaning “The Apostle of Allah.” A member of the noble, wealthy, politically and commercially important tribe of the Quraysh, he belonged to the prestigious Banu Hashim branch, which was entrusted with the maintenance of the ancient, Pagan pilgrimage site of the Kaaba. This was a key position, because the reverence of the stone of Kaaba made Mecca the meeting place of the scattered Arabic tribes, and as such, a bustling center of trade. Unfortunately, Muhammad was born after the death of his father, and he also lost his grandfather and his mother as a very young child. Thus, completely orphaned, he was not allowed to share in his family’s fortune. From the earliest time of his life, he resented the social injustice meted out by the keepers of the Kaaba. Being poor, in spite of his prestigious ancestry, he had to work for his living.
In those lawless and violent days, armed guards had to accompany the caravans of merchants. As a young man, Muhammad was employed as a leader of such a guard. In this position, he was so successful that his employer, a rich widow named Khadija, fifteen years his senior, offered him her hand in marriage. He was twenty-five years old at this point, and, accepting the proposal, became quite wealthy.
Khadija and Muhammad were distant cousins; according to Muslim tradition, they both descended from Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his Egyptian wife, Hagar. Muhammad and Khadija had a happy marriage. Their daughter, Fatimah is regarded “one of the four perfect women in all the history of mankind.”
The Birth Of Islam
The Muslim’s version of the story of Ishmael, contrasted with the Bible