Islam is a religion that is much in the news of late. It is a faith that dates back to the early 7th century and is based upon the teachings of the prophet, Muhammad, who lived from circa 570 – 8th June 632. The Prophet was from the Arabian peninsula, having been born in Mecca. He was orphaned at a young age and ended up living with his uncle’s family.
At the age of 25, Muhammad married a rich widow who was his employer at the time. It was Khadijah who made the marriage proposal in what must be regarded as an early and impressive act of feminism. Khadijah was the first to believe Muhammad’s stories about his visions of the arch-angel, Gabriel, and was therefore the first follower of Muhammad. Their monogamous marriage was said to have been a happy one which lasted for 25 years, during which they had 6 identified children (some sources claim 7 or 8). The male children died in infancy. It is recorded that the first wife of Muhammad had 15 children in total with three sons and nine daughters surviving. After the death of Khadijah, Muhammad practiced polygamy, taking 12 wives, although some scholars debate if two of them were officially married to the Prophet or were instead regarded as concubines.
Muhammad had 4 daughters (although followers of the Shia faith claim 3 of them were adopted) and three sons in total. Only one child, a boy, was born to another other than Khadijah. Maria al-Qibtiyya, or Maria the Copt, was an Egyptian slave who bore the Prophet just one son. The baby’s death was said to have broken Muhammad’s heart. All of the Prophet’s male offspring died as either child or baby. None of his daughters lived beyond their thirties.
As with all major religions, there are various interpretations of the teachings of the founder. Schisms have wracked Islam from the earliest times and continue to this day. Islamic fundamentalists would appear to ignore the life of the Prophet and the way in which he respected women. It should also be pointed put that although Muhammad fought wars out of necessity, he was not regarded as either bloodthirsty or a warlord.
It is also worth noting that it was the Prophet Muhammad who banned the practice of female infanticide across the Arab world. Before the rise to power of Muhammad, this vile practice of newborn slaughter cost the lives of innumerable female babies, murdered by parents too poor to pay a dowry. Female infanticide still takes place in India today. By banning such a murderous approach to the most innocent of life, the Prophet Muhammad saved the lives of millions of female babies, a fact often overlooked when commenting upon his life and works.
The following presentation gives us a brief introduction into this fascinating and topical faith.