Special circumstances surrounded the childhood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and these undoubtedly had a bearing on his character. His parents’ marriage lasted only a brief period. His father, Abdullah, was the youngest of Abd Al-Muttalib’s 10 sons. He was to be sacrificed in fulfillment of a pledge Abd Al-Muttalib had made long before his birth. However, he was ransomed for an offering of 100 camels. When this was done, he got married, but stayed only a brief period with his wife, Aminah, before joining a trade trip to Syria. On the way back he died.
Aminah herself died when Muhammad (peace be upon him) was six years of age, and Abd Al-Muttalib followed her two years later. Thus, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was deprived of both parents and grandfather by the time he was eight years old. Thus he experienced being an orphan, cared for by relatives who were kind, particularly his uncle Abu Talib who treated him as his own son.
What all this meant was that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a young boy of noble descent in a society that attached much importance to family, tribal lineage, and loyalty. However, he was of limited means. As we see later in his life, this was the spur for him to endeavor to be independent at an early age. He was nevertheless brought up by kind people: his wet nurse, mother, grandfather, as well as his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Fatimah. He also experienced life in the desert when he was with his wet nurse. Most hard was the loss of his mother when he was traveling with her in the desert. Then as a teenager, he worked as a shepherd, tending sheep.
Then as a young man, he traveled with a trade caravan to Syria, working as an agent for his future wife, Khadijah. We learn that he was exemplary in his attending to his work, faithful to his trust, with a keen eye to ensure that his mission was profitable for his employer, and useful to him. Thus he combined noble descent with a good upbringing, a serious approach to life with honesty and faithfulness to trust, and varied life experience with high moral values. We also learn that he never engaged in loose pleasures, as young men often do in all types of society.
We have various reports speaking of events that accompanied his birth, which people read as indicating his future role as God’s messenger. These reports cannot be confirmed. We do not, however, attach much importance to them because they were not clear enough to those who might have witnessed them so as to understand their significance. It is true that Muhammad’s birth signaled the end of confused ideas about God and the establishment of the true faith that would remain available to mankind for the rest of human life. Yet this was not indicated by some miraculous events accompanying his birth. It was made clear in the divine revelations he was to receive forty years later when the angel Gabriel told him that it was God’s choice to be His last messenger to mankind.
When we look at the situation of mankind at the time, we recognize that the world was in great need of a message from God to set its life on the right course. And when we look at Muhammad’s early years, we realize that his difficult childhood was part of his preparation for his future role. He was the one most suited to deliver God’s message, and his preparation for that task was a continuous process that was soon to yield its fruits.