Muhammad ibn ‘AbdullāhMuhammad pronounced (also spelled Muhammed orMohammed) (ca. 570/571 Mecca [مَكَةَ ]/[ مَكَهْ ] – June 8, 632), was the founder of the religion of Islam [ إِسْلامْ ] and is regarded by Muslims as a messenger and prophet of God Arabic: الله‎ Allāh), the greatest law-bearer in a series of Islamic prophets and by most Muslims the last prophet as taught by the Qur'an 33:40–40. Muslims thus consider him the restorer of an uncorrupted original monotheistic faith (islām) of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesusand other prophets. He was also active as a diplomat, merchant, philosopher, orator, legislator, reformer, military general, and, according to Muslim belief, an agent of divine action.

Born in 570 in the Arabian city of Mecca, he was orphaned at an early age and brought up under the care of his uncle Abu Talib. He later worked mostly as a merchant, as well as a shepherd, and was first married by age 25. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him (lit. islām) is the only way acceptable to God, and that he himself was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as other Islamic prophets.

Muhammad gained few followers early on, and was met with hostility from some Meccan tribes; he and his followers were treated harshly. To escape persecution first Muhammad sent some of his followers to Abyssinia before he and his remaining followers in Mecca migrated to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in the year 622. This event, the Hijra, marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar, which is also known as the Hijri Calendar. In Medina, Muhammad united the conflicting tribes, and after eight years of fighting with the Meccan tribes, his followers, who by then had grown to ten thousand, conquered Mecca. In 632, a few months after returning to Medina from his Farewell pilgrimage, Muhammad fell ill and died. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam; and he united the tribes of Arabia into a single Muslim religious polity.

The revelations (or Ayat, lit. "Signs of God")—which Muhammad reported receiving until his death—form the verses of the Qur'an, regarded by Muslims as the “Word of God” and around which the religion is based. Besides the Qur'an, Muhammad’s life (sira) and traditions (sunnah) are also upheld by Muslims. They discuss Muhammad and other prophets of Islam with reverence, adding the phrase peace be upon him whenever their names are mentioned. While conceptions of Muhammad in medieval Christendomand premodern times were largely negative, appraisals in modern history have been far less so. Besides this, his life and deeds have been debated and criticized by followers and opponents over the centuries. He is revered as a respected true prophet and Manifestation of God in the Baha'i Faith but followers of Judaism and Christianitygenerally reject his prophethood.

Sources for Prophet Muhammad's life
Prophet Muhammad at the Ka'ba, The Life of the ProphetTopkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul(Inv. 1222/123b), illustration byNakkaş Osman [c. 1595].
Main articles: Historiography of early Islam and Historicity of Muhammad

Being a highly influential historical figure, Muhammad's life, deeds, and thoughts have been debated by followers and opponents over the centuries, which makes a biography of him difficult to write.

The Qur'an

Muslims regard the Qur'an as the primary source of knowledge about the historical Muhammad. The Qur'an has a few allusions to Muhammad's life. The Qur'an responds "constantly and often candidly to Muhammad's changing historical circumstances and contains a wealth of hidden data."

Early biographies

Next in importance are the historical works by writers of the third and fourth century of the Muslim era. These include the traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him (the sira and hadith literature), which provide further information on Muhammad's life.

The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Ibn Ishaq's Life of God's Messengerwritten ca. 767 (150 AH). The work is lost, but was used verbatim at great length by Ibn Hisham and Al-Tabari.

Another early source is the history of Muhammad's campaigns by al-Waqidi (death 207 of Muslim era), and the work of his secretaryIbn Sa'd al-Baghdadi (death 230 of Muslim era).

Many scholars accept the accuracy of the earliest biographies, though their accuracy is unascertainable. Recent studies have led scholars to distinguish between the traditions touching legal matters and the purely historical ones. In the former sphere, traditions could have been subject to invention while in the latter sphere, aside from exceptional cases, the material may have been only subject to "tendential shaping".

In addition, the hadith collections are accounts of the verbal and physical traditions of Muhammad that date from several generations after his death. Hadith compilations are records of the traditions or sayings of Muhammad. They might be defined as the biography of Muhammad perpetuated by the long memory of his community for their exemplification and obedience.

Western academics view the hadith collections with caution as accurate historical sources. Scholars such as Madelung do not reject the narrations which have been compiled in later periods, but judge them in the context of history and on the basis of their compatibility with the events and figures.

Finally, there are oral traditions. Although usually discounted by historians, oral tradition plays a major role in the Islamic understanding of Muhammad.