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Muhammad's life before prophethood (before he was 39 years old)

A general summary of the Messenger of Allah’s biography before his prophethood

If we study the Messenger of Allah’s biography before his prophethood, we are able to notice that his upbringing resulted in him having honourable qualities and noble merits that prepared him for the honour of prophethood. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was the best of his people with regards to his manners, and the most patient, the most modest, and the one who was the farthest from committing obscene and immoral acts which demean men. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was also the most helpful of his people, the best neighbour, the most respectful to people, and the most righteous in all his dealings with others.

His wife Khadijah even described him, saying, «He (the Messenger of Allah) used to keep good relations with his relatives, assume responsibilities for those who can not do so for themselves, give to the poor, was hospitable to his guests, and helped those afflicted by calamities» [related by Al-Bukhari].

Moreover, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was the most truthful of his people and the most trustworthy.

Even one of his greatest enemies, An-Nasr ibn Al-Harith of Bani Abdul-Dar, testified to this when he said, "Muhammed was youth from your tribe, one which you used to like the most, and who was the most truthful and most trustworthy among you. This was the case until your saw him going grey at his temples and he started to say what he says; then you started to say, ‘Sorcerer…No, by Allah, he is not a sorcerer’ [The Prophet’s Biography by Ibn Hesham]. They said that when they had met to decide what to say about the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) to the Arabs who were going to come to do Hajj, in order to agree on a reasonable allegation to say against the Messenger of Allah.

When Heraclius, the Emperor of Rome, asked Abu Sufyan, "Did you used to accuse him of lying before he said what he now says?" Abu Sufyan replied, "No." And so Heraclius said, "One who used to not lie about people will not lie about Allah" [related by Al-Bukhari].

No doubt, the Messenger of Allah, since he was born, was given great attention and care from Allah (Glorified is He). Prophets were fashioned by Allah and His all-encompassing ability and power, and were surrounded by His protection, care and attention. He (Glorified is He) also protected them from the sins that the rest of the people commit.

All of this is what Allah willed for His prophets for them to be a role model for the people to follow, and to prepare them to be fully ready to receive revelation. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was given his share of this preparation since the time of his birth; he was born a poor orphan who did not inherit anything from his father. Prophets did not yearn for worldly pleasures and did not busy themselves with worldly comforts, and this has to be the case for such noble men. This is because if they were rich, worldly matters would preoccupy them and make them busy with worldly pleasures instead of working for eternal happiness. Moreover, this was due to Allah’s great wisdom in order for the prophets to be an example for those who follow them on how to refrain from yearning and rushing after worldly delights.

Similarly, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to look after sheep when he was a youth, and every prophet used to take care of sheep (related by Nisa’i in Sunan Al-Kobra], as a hadith related by Al-Bukhari also states. This was for a very wise reason, This is because if a person cares for sheep and goats, which are the weakest of animals, his heart becomes compassionate and kind, due to showing kindness to the animals, and he also learns to be patient and be able to withstand wrong actions. Moreover, he has to acquire the ability to withstand the difficulties encountered when the animals keep dispersing and wandering away from the herd. When such a person then cares for mankind, he will have already acquired the ability to control any natural hardness or oppressive intentions that may be in his heart, and this would make him have the best character possible.

In his youth, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) then started another type of work. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) started to partake in trade. As a result, he travelled to different places and dealt with many different groups and types of people.

No doubt, such work gives a person experience in dealing with people and in how to understand the nature and manners of different individuals. Moreover, it enables the people to come to know about the trader through their financial transactions with him. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) became known as a successful merchant who was well-known for his truthfulness and trustworthiness. Since he was a successful trader, he must have known the methods used by traders in buying and selling.

This point was clear when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) once passed by a merchant who was displaying food. The food looked as though it was in a good condition, but when the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) put his hand into the food, he said, «‘It is wet. Oh owner of the food, what is this?’ The merchant replied, ‘Rain fell on it, Oh Messenger of Allah.’ Therefore the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said, ‘You should have put it on the top of the food for the people to see it? Whoever cheats is not from me’» [related by Muslim].

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) distanced himself from all the vices and sins which were common at his time; he did not drink alcohol although it was a very well-known habit of his people. Moreover, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) did not eat from any animal that was slaughtered for the idols, and he did not celebrate the idols’ festivals; rather, from a young age he stalwartly avoided this false type of worship, as there was nothing he hated more than this.

Before the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was sent as a Messenger, he began to like to stay alone by himself. Consequently, he used to stay alone on one of the mountains of Mecca, worshipping his Lord and contemplating the greatness of the heavens and earth.

This made him very spiritual and purified his heart and mind for him to be not interested in anything but Allah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to use this time of silence to contemplate about this worldly life, the problems and state of the people, and the false beliefs they had. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) also used the time to ponder about the creation of the heavens and the earth and try to discover the truth of life. This continued until the pure spirit, Gibrael, came to him with the revelation.