It was with the assistance of Ishmael that Abraham later built the Kabah, Islams holiest sanctuary, in Mecca. It is now the destination of pilgrims during the hajj (Fisher. 2005). Muhammad married at the age of twenty-five to Khadijah, a forty-year-old businesswoman who owned the caravans which he was managing at the time. His wife later became his main source of support when he was experiencing difficulties during the early years of his mission. Muhammad recounted an incident which happened when he was forty years old.
As his story went, an angel appeared to him when he was in a cave in Mt. Hira during one of his spiritual retreats and told him to recite something. Because he was illiterate, he reportedly refused three times. However, the angel insisted and when Muhammad, at last, relented, the angel gave him the words that would later become the Qurans first words. That was the first of a series of revelations, the exact words of which had been: Proclaim! (or Recite! ) In the name Of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created Created man, out of A (mere) clot
Of congealed blood: Proclaim! And thy Lord Is Most Bountiful,- He Who taught (The use of) the Pen,- Taught man that Which he knew not (Fisher, 2005). That first revelation undoubtedly referred to the creation. It was followed by more revelations which occurred intermittently. Muhammad described the revelations as follows: Revelation sometimes comes like the sound of a bell; that is the most painful way. When it ceases I have remembered what was said. Sometimes it is an angel who talks to me like a human, and I remember what he says.
Initially, Muhammad only shared what was revealed to him with his wife and the few people who believed him. However, after three years had elapsed, he was instructed to start preaching to the public what he had received from the revelations (Fisher, 2005). Although he succeeded in winning converts to Islam, his group was persecuted by the Qurayshites (the aristocrats) in spite of the protection provided by his influential uncle, and exiled to an isolated place where they were forced to eat the leaves of trees and the wild foods they could gather in order to survive.
The persecution persisted even after his band of Muslim converts was allowed to go back to Mecca after three years. The darkest period in Muhammads life was when he turned fifty. It was called the Year of Sorrows because his wife and his uncle who was protecting him died. The Islamic tradition explained that it was approximately during that period of hardship that the Night of Ascension occurred.
It was claimed to be the occasion when Muhammad was supposed to have ascended into heaven and met the earlier prophets like Adam, Abraham, and Jesus Christ in Divine proximity, observed what hell and paradise were, and was later blessed by the Divine Presence (Fisher, 2005). As a consequence of the persistent Qurayshite persecution that they experienced in Mecca, however, Muhammad and his Muslim followers decided to leave Mecca and head for Medina in 622 CE. Their migration, which was referred to as the hijrah, is now considered as the beginning of the Muslim era. (Risher, 2005).