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Muhammad is sometimes addressed by designations deriving from his state at the time of the address: thus he is referred to as the enwrapped (Al-Muzzammil) in Quran 73:1 and the shrouded (al-muddaththir) in Quran 74:1.The earliest surviving written sira (biographies of Muhammad and quotes attributed to him) is Ibn Ishaq's Life of God's Messenger written c. Although the work was lost, this sira was used at great length by Ibn Hisham and to a lesser extent by Al-Tabari.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.Muslim scholars on the other hand typically place a greater emphasis on the hadith literature instead of the biographical literature, since hadiths maintain a verifiable chain of transmission (isnad); the lack of such a chain for the biographical literature makes it less verifiable in their eyes.According to Islamic tradition, soon after birth he was sent to live with a Bedouin family in the desert, as desert life was considered healthier for infants; some western scholars reject this tradition's historicity.Muhammad stayed with his foster-mother, Halimah bint Abi Dhuayb, and her husband until he was two years old.Medina was a large flourishing agricultural settlement, while Mecca was an important financial center for many surrounding tribes.
Tradition places the year of Muhammad's birth as corresponding with the Year of the Elephant, which is named after the failed destruction of Mecca that year by the Abraha, Yemen's king, who supplemented his army with elephants.
Tribal affiliation, whether based on kinship or alliances, was an important source of social cohesion.
Indigenous Arabs were either nomadic or sedentary, the former constantly travelling from one place to another seeking water and pasture for their flocks, while the latter settled and focused on trade and agriculture.
Recent studies have led scholars to distinguish between traditions touching legal matters and purely historical events.
In the legal group, traditions could have been subject to invention while historic events, aside from exceptional cases, may have been only subject to "tendential shaping".