Mecca was a metropolis for trading and Muhammad and his wife, Khadija, were large investors in the business. It is stated by various historians that Muhammad was known to utilise the trading scene both for business and to discuss and debate religion and tradition with the visitors of Mecca. Whether they were atheist, monotheist, or polytheist, Muhammad engaged them in many debates.
Towards his forties, he would spend days and weeks in a cave in Mount Hira where he meditated and prayed. No one was allowed into his solace except his wife, Khadija, and cousin, Ali. Whoever you believe was the first muslim – Ali, Zayd ibn Harith, or Abu Bakr – Khadija was among them. When he reached 40, he was visited by the angel Gabriel whilst he was in the cave of Mount Hira.
The first message from God was;
“Recite in the name of your Lord who created”
Excerpt From: Sahih International Quran.com
Afterwards, there was a three year period of silence where no more messages from God came. In this period, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gathered a small following of thirty or so people. It was a small and poor group that was of no concern for the governors of Mecca and were therefore not payed any mind during this time.
It is strongly corroborative of Mohammed’s sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were his bosom friends and the people of his household, who, all intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail to have detected those discrepancies which more or less invariably exist between the pretensions of the hypocritical deceiver and his actions at home.
Excerpt From: John Davenport. “Apology for Mohammed and the Koran.”
Three years passed before God decided it was time for the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) proclamation of his Prophethood. Here, there is a sharp degree of variation between different interpretations and I advise people to look into it themselves. Some sources are 1. Heroes and Hero Worship by Thomas Carlyle, 2. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, 3. Apology for Muhammad and The Koran by John Davenport, 4. Muhammad At Mecca by William Montgomery Watt.
“And warn thy tribe, thy nearest kin”
It is reported that when this verse was revealed, the Prophet addressed his kin directly by name, including his daughter Fāṭimah, his uncle ʿAbbās, and his aunt Ṣafiyyah, and his tribe, the Quraysh, in more general terms, saying, “Purchase your souls from God! I can avail thee naught against God”. In a version of the story favored by Shiite sources, the Prophet asked a gathering of his nearest relatives who among them would be his supporter, helper, and trustee; only his young cousin ʿAlī, who was still a boy, rose to respond. In some accounts, the Prophet’s words to his family and relatives come over the course of three consecutive nights during which he invited them to partake of a meal. In other accounts, the Prophet ascends the hill Ṣafā to deliver his warning, asking his kin (usually the number given is approximately forty) if they would believe him if he told them that an army was just about to come from around the mountain; when they reply in the affirmative, he then warns them of the coming of the Hereafter.
Excerpt From: Seyyed Hossein Nasr. “The Study Quran.” iBooks.
During this time as well, the ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) occurred. Whether it was a physical or spiritual journey is disputed but it is accepted that one night the Prophet was transported on a heavenly creature called Al-Buraq to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. There he led all the prophets that had been before him in prayer before he ascended to heaven where he saw the seven heavens and spoke to God.
Within this period both Abu Talib and Khadija died, afterwards the Prophet (PBUH) married his friend’s daughter Aisha. She is said to have been a strong woman that held speeches in public and participated in wars.
Not long after, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) proclaimed his prophethood and the new religion of the true one God. Now the Qurayshi started to take notice of him and thus began the persecution. Although they dared not harm his body because he was the nephew of the great Abu Talib and Hamza The Valiant, they tormented him in other ways. They would disrupt his prayers at the Ka’ba and Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) followers were severely physically abused to denounce their new God. Worst was the abuse of slaves, the poor, and people without ties to great and known families in the city. But even Abu Bakr was reported to have suffered humiliation and torture. A limit was reached and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised his followers to migrate to Abyssinia.
Fifteen or so of his followers migrated to Abyssinia where a kind Christian king ruled, this was to be the first Hijra (flight). The second Hijra was five years later and with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who fled the city of Mecca on the same night his assassination had been planned.
This marks the first day of our calendar, Rabi’ Al Awal (The First Spring), and on the 26th day it is believed that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) reached Yathrib (modern day Medina).
Prophet Muhammad – A Brief Biography by Al-Balagh Foundation
The Life of Muhammad The Prophet by Allamah Sayyid Sa’eed Akhtar Rizvi
The Study Quran by Seyyed Hossein Nasr
Women and Gender In Islam by Leila Ahmed
Apology For Muhammad And The Koran by John Davenport