EVERY Muslim is required to know and study the life of prophet Muhammad (SAW). Allah (SWT) has commanded us to know more about his life experiences and how he became a Muslim.

There are over 50 verses in the Qur’an that tells us to take him as our role model. The Quran reminds us, “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad (SAW) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.” Qur’an [33:21]

We also believe that Muhammad is the last prophet God has sent into humankind. He brought the divine message of the Qur’an. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam belong to the Abrahamic traditions. These three religions bring the same message of Love of God and Love of Neighbor. In the spirit of inter religious dialogue, we all need to know who was the last prophet of Islam.

Muhammad was born in Makkah in the year 570. He was an orphan at young age. His father died before his birth and his mother died shortly thereafter. He was raised by his uncle who was from the respected tribe of Quraysh. He was raised illiterate, unable to read or write, and remained till his death.

The Quraysh were powerful merchant tribe that controlled Mecca and its Ka'aba. According to Pre-Islamic and Islamic tradition they descended from Ishmael (the first son of Abraham (AS). Before his mission as a prophet, they belong to the pre-islamic period called Jahiliyyah.

Jahiliyyah is an Islamic concept of “ignorance of divine guidance” or “the state of ignorance of the guidance from God” or “Days of Ignorance” referring to the barbaric condition in which Arabs found themselves.

As Muhammad (SAW) grew up, he became known to be truthful, honest, trustworthy, generous, and sincere. He was so trustworthy that they called him the Trustworthy. He was very religious, and he had long disagreed with the idolatry practices of his society.

By the age of 25, he married a wealthy widow, Khadija, and began managing Khadija’s caravans. It was not until around the year 610, or when we has at the age of 40 that his prophethood came into being. Muhammad had the habit of retiring for personal meditation and spiritual cultivation to a cave near Mecca. Historians recorded that he would pack enough provisions for a day’s retreat, after which he would return home for more.

His place of retreat was Hira, a cave in a mountain called the Mountain of Light, and his chosen month was Ramadhan, the month of heat. It was there one night toward the end of this quiet month that the first revelation came to him.

The Qur’an narrates his experience in this manner: “He heard a voice say: ‘Read!’ He said: ‘I cannot read.’ The voice again said: ‘Read!’ He said: ‘I cannot read.’ A third time the voice, more terrible, commanded: ‘Read!’ He said: ‘What can I read?’ The voice said: ‘Read: In the name of thy Lord Who createth. Createth man from a clot. Read: And it is thy Lord the Most Bountiful. Who teacheth by the pen, teacheth man that which he knew not.’”

For the first two to three years of his mission, he preached to his family and his intimate friends, while the people of Mecca as a whole regarded him as one who had become a little mad. The first of all his converts was his wife Khadijah, the second his first cousin Ali, whom he had adopted, the third his servant Zayd, a former slave. His old friend Abu Bakr also was among those early converts.

As soon as he began to recite the Quran and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered persecution from unbelievers. Their group begun to question the status quo in Mecca. They question the barbaric practices of their tribe. They were persecuted fiercely that in the year 622 Allah gave them the command to leave Mecca and proceed to Madinah. This emigration from Mecca to the city of Madinah, some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Hijrah or the Muslim calendar.

The Prophet's entry into Madinah brought guidance for a new phase for the divine message. Islam gaining fresh followers began to assert its strength and soon started to spread out over the four corners of the Arabian Peninsula.

After several years in Madinah, Muhammad (SAW) and his followers were able to return to Mecca, where they forgave their enemies. Before he died, at the age of sixty-three, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula had become Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to half of the world and as far East as China.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, and brave human being. In all his actions and dealings with his fellow human beings, he was ever mindful and fearful of God.

He became one of the most influential and respected religious leader in history. Doctor Jonathan Brown, a Muslim scholar, once said “It is always interesting to try to understand how he was able to inspire Muslims in so many ways without ever having claimed to be divine in any sense. The Prophet’s humanness has enabled his admirers and followers to believe and behave in practical, down-to-earth ways while serving Allah in ways indicated by Muhammad in his teachings and general behavior.”

I hope and pray that our youth today will see prophet Muhammad (SAW) as their role model. He is far different from any of the leaders and followers of the terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iran and Syria, Al Qaeda, and the rest. Muslims must study Islam and the life of the prophet with all their heart.