His journey from Mecca to Medina marked the beginning of the Islamic era

A video titled 'Innocence of Muslims' released this year defaming Islam and its founder Prophet Mohamed had angered Muslims across the globe.

Though the video as such had been banned in India by YouTube following a request from the Centre, parts of it could still be watched in the same website through other videos related to it.

The video and the consequent reaction brings into focus the need to take a look at the life of the founder of one of the world's youngest but most widely professed religion. Nevertheless, to borrow the words of Fred M. Donner, an American scholar of Islam, it must be clarified at the outset that "little is known with certainty about the Prophet's early life."

In his essay on the political history of the Islamic Empire, the scholar points out that even the year in which the Prophet was born is not known for sure.

Though Prophet Mohamed was widely believed to have been born in the small Arabian town of Mecca around 570 A.D., traditional accounts differed on the exact date of his birth.

Then, Mecca was the site of an important pagan shrine Kaaba, a cubicle now draped with black cloth and around which millions of Muslims perform circumambulation as part of their mandatory pilgrimage termed as Haj.

It is the end of the pilgrimage season that marks the celebration of Id-ul-zuha known by its most popular name Bakrid. In the sixth century, major scriptural religions of the world had not made much inroad into Mecca.

Polytheism was the norm among the tribes living there and Mohamed himself was born in the Hashim clan, one of the many smaller sections of the Quraysh tribe that dominated Mecca and served as a guardian of the cult of Hubal centered on the Kaaba.

He was orphaned at an early age and was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib, the head of the Hashim clan.

The Prophet was in the habit of spending time in isolated spots for prolonged periods of meditation and in about 610 A.D. he began to have religious experiences in the form of visions and sounds that presented themselves as revelations from Allah, meaning God.

He was initially terrified by the revelations.

The sonorous utterances continued unceasingly and, in due course of time, he began to accept the message as well as his role as God’s messenger.

The life after that was full of turbulence as his attempts to convey the message of God came as a blunt repudiation of the polytheistic beliefs of the pagan cults in the region.

His own tribesmen turned against him and he had to face a very difficult time convincing them.

The Prophet migrated to Yathrib, now called Medina (meaning the Prophet’s city), situated about 400 kilometres from Mecca in 622 A.D.

The journey from Mecca to Medina marked the beginning of the Islamic era. It was during his stay for about 10 years in Medina that Islam spread far and wide.

He returned to Mecca around 630 A.D and died within two years thereafter. After his death, the religious denomination was led by a series of Caliphs with the first being none other than the Prophet’s father-in-law Abu Bakr. It was the subsequent caliphs who pursued the mission of combating evil and spreading the Prophet’s message of monotheism.