Social Life in the Age of Bliss

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would make the most of every opportunity to spread literacy. The ransom fee, for instance, he placed on the literate prisoners of Badr was that they each teach ten Muslim children how to read and write. The schools in which this learning was offered by teachers both Muslim and non-Muslim were called Kuttab.[1] Many kuttab were launched during that period to teach children to read and write, as well as the basics of Islam.[2]

The Companions had also turned their houses into schools. As the Suffa training offered in the Mosque of Medina could not meet the excess demands, schools referred to as Daru’l-Qura were opened in some houses in the town. Practically, Mahrama ibn Nawfal’s –Allah be well-pleased with him- entire house was turned into a Daru’l-Qura, where Abdullah ibn Ummi Maktum –Allah be well-pleased with him- stayed as guest to undertake the teaching responsibilities.[3]

The Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- had once placed a captive from the Hawazin tribe under the custody of Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- so that he could teach the man some selected chapters of the Quran. (Ibnu’l-Asir, Usdu’l-Ghabah, VII, 105; Ibn Hajar, al-Isabah, IV, 292)

Their Trade Ethics was Exceptional

Jarir ibn Abdullah –Allah be well-pleased with him- wanted to purchase a horse from the bazaar. He saw a horse he liked, which the owner said he was prepared to let go for five-hundred dinars. But Jarir –Allah be well-pleased with him- told the man he could offer six-hundred dinars and even increase the price up to eight-hundred; as the horse was a pure-bread and worth more than the owner knew.

“Why on earth are you increasing the price” asked the astounded owner “when you can buy the horse for a lot cheaper?”

“…For we promised the Messenger of Allah” Jabir solemnly replied “that we would never cheat in trade.”[4]

Both the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and the righteous caliphs who followed, kept the market under close surveillance, closing all the paths to unfair revenue. To prevent the emergence of a financially dominant class, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- prohibited traders from monopolizing strategic spots in the market, and even had the tent of a trader, who failed to comply, torn down.[5]

Their Brotherhood was Legendary

Given the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was unable to see one of his brethren of religion for three days, he would ask about his wellbeing. If on a journey, he would pray for his wellbeing. If he was at home or ill, he would make sure to pay him a visit.[6]

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- later established ‘a pact of brotherhood’ in Medina, between the local Ansar and the immigrant Muhajirun, who had abandoned all their wealth and belongings in Mecca for the sake of their religion. This momentous sacrifice was complemented by a sacrifice of almost equal caliber. Each immigrant family was boarded in the house of a Medinan. The Companions who were declared brothers were thus to work together and share what they earned.

The Ansar even donated their excess land to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, with the wish that he divide them amongst the Muhajirun. Still discontented, the Ansar went so far as to insist the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- to:

“…divide our date fields amongst our immigrant brothers as well!”

“That cannot be”, the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- said, upon which the Ansar then made the following proposal to the Muhajirun:

“Then you undertake the work of watering and taking care of the trees and we will split the harvest!” With the approval of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, both sides agreed to the deal. (Bukhari, Harth, 5)

Recalling the below incident is Jabir -Allah be well-pleased with him-:

“Upon collecting the dates, the Ansar would divide them into two heaps, piling more on one side than the other. Then placing some date leaves over the smaller pile to make it look more sizable than the other, they would tell the Muhajirun to take whichever pile they preferred. And they, wishing for their Ansari brothers to take the greater pile, would choose the supposedly smaller pile, through which they would end up with most of the dates. The Ansar would have their wishes fulfilled by sparing for their own the smaller pile. This generous deed of the Ansar continued until the capture of Khaybar.” (Haythami, X, 40)

The Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- once invited the Ansar ahead of the Muhajirun to distribute the lands of Bahrain. Yet, with their usual selflessness, they urged:

“Please, do not give us anything, Messenger of Allah, until you have given the Muhajirun double the land you have in mind for us!” The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- thereupon said:

“Since, Ansar, you do not wish to take anything (for preferring your brethren over yourselves), then remain patient (with the tribulations of the world) until you reunite with me by the Pool of Kawthar. For there will soon come a time, after me, when others will be preferred over you.” (Bukhari, Manaqibu’l-Ansar, 8)

This exceptional moral conduct displayed by the Ansar was in fact a step beyond generosity; it was selflessness. Despite having needs of their own, they relentlessly preferred their brethren over themselves. In praise of their mindset, the Almighty reveals:

“And those who made their abode in the city and in the faith before them love those who have fled to them, and do not find in their hearts a need of what they are given, and prefer (them) before themselves though poverty may afflict them, and whoever is preserved from the niggardliness of his soul, these it is that are the successful ones. And those who come after them say: Our Lord! forgive us and those of our brethren who had precedence of us in faith, and do not allow any spite to remain in our hearts towards those who believe, our Lord! surely Thou art Kind, Merciful.” (al-Hashr, 9-10)

It was not just the Ansar who had embodied a moral excellence of the kind during the Age of Bliss but also the entire believers, who have likewise been praised by Allah, glory unto Him.[7]

The law of brotherhood established by the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was equally valid during battle. On setting out on a campaign, the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would enlist one brother into the Muslim army, while leaving the other to see to the needs of both their families and to defend the town if need be.[8]

The below words of Ali –Allah be well-pleased with him- wonderfully reflect the spirit of brotherhood that reigned during the Age of Bliss:

“I can think of two blessings and I do not know which one makes me happier. The first is when someone comes to me with the hope that I might be able to cover his need and genuinely asks for my help. The second is for Allah to take care of his need through me or at least ease his way towards it. I would prefer sorting out the need of a Muslim over a world full of gold and silver.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, VI, 598/17049)

In strengthening the brotherly spirit, Anas ibn Malik –Allah be well-pleased with him- would advise his children to “…offer each other presents; for that is the most affective way of increasing your love for each other.” (Bukhari, al-Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 595)

Ibn Abbas -Allah be well-pleased with him- one day entered the Masjid for itiqaf and greeted another man, assuming a seat on the ground next to him.

“You look tired and upset, my brother”, said Ibn Abbas.

“Yes, indeed so, cousin of the Prophet’ he replied. ‘So and so had set me free in return for which I am supposed to pay him a certain amount…but by the right of the man (the Prophet) lying in that grave over there, I cannot pay him back.”

“Do you want me to have a word to him on your behalf?” asked Ibn Abbas -Allah be well-pleased with him-.

“It is up to you”, responded the man. Just as Ibn Abbas -Allah be well-pleased with him- had grabbed his shoes and was making his way out the Masjid, the man called out to him:

“Have you forgotten that you are in itiqaf?”

“I certainly have not. But let me tell you one thing I heard from the man lying in that grave” said Ibn Abbas -Allah be well-pleased with him-, with tears trickling from his eyes:

“Pursuing and sorting out a brother’s need is better than a ten year itiqaf…and if one enters itiqaf for a day only for the pleasure of Allah, Allah creates between him and Hellfire three ditches…and width of each is as much as that between East and West.” (Bayhaki, Shuab’ul-Iman, III, 424-425)

Reminiscing the brotherhood that once was, Ibn Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- says:

“We saw such times that nobody from among us would ever consider himself more worthy to gold and silver than his fellow brother. And in the times we live in now, gold and silver is more appealing for us than our fellow brethren. I once heard the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- say, ‘Many a neighbor, in the Hereafter, will grab his other neighbor by the scruff of his neck and plead, ‘This neighbor of mine, o Lord, slammed his door to my face and withheld his goodness and help from me.’” (Bukhari, Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 111; Haythami, X, 285)

The Society was Dominated by Courtesy and Care

The society of the Age of Bliss was one of courtesy and care. Let alone human beings, they were even courteous towards animals and plants, going to utmost measures not to harm anything.

It was especially during pilgrimage that the level of care shown by the Companions’ would become vivid. Clothed in ihram, the milky white shrouds, they were virtually reaping their share of angelic elegance. While performing the rites of pilgrimage, all Muslims, men and women, would attentively safeguard themselves from vain and imprudent behavior, as the Almighty had commanded, and keep their gazes firmly fixed on their toes, refraining from getting into quarrels of any sort.

Again, for the duration of their period in ihram, compliant with the commands of the Lord, they would not even guide a hunter to his game, let alone hunt themselves; even intentionally removing a strand of hair, was something they would refrain from. Though engaging in these activities was permissible at all times else, the fact that they were forbidden during a particular time of pilgrimage, was instilling in their hearts the sense for the need to keep away from all things impermissible and even doubtful. Acting with compassion towards the created for the sake of the Creator, and not hurting any feelings or breaking any hearts, were things they were ever conscious of. This worked towards gradually refining their hearts to the point of elevating them to the peaks of elegance and courtesy, helping them acquire the blend that made them represent the Islam for what it was.

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would even offer advices on the proper way to tend to animals; he even required that sheep of goats be cleaned of their dust and dirt.[9]

Sawadah ibn Rabi –Allah be well-pleased with him- recounts a magnificent example of compassion at work:

“I visited the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- to ask him for a few things. He then requested I be given a few camels (three to ten), and added:

‘When you return home, tell your family to take care of the animals and to feed them properly. Remind them also to keep their nails trimmed so that they do not hurt the animals’ breasts while milking them.” (Ahmed ibn Hanbal, III, 484; Haythami, V, 168, 259, VIII, 196)

Declaring Medina and its vicinity a haram, an inviolable grove, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- said:

“Nobody shall strike the trees inside the grove of Allah and His Messenger with sticks or cut them down. But in the case of need, one may gently shake the leaves down to feed the animals.” (Abu Dawud, Hajj, 95-96/2039)

Abu Dushum al-Juhani recounts an incident his father passed onto him from his own father:

“The Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- once saw a bedouin violently striking his staff against the branches of a tree, to feed its leaves to his livestock.

‘Call him over to me’, said the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace-. ‘Though gently…do not scare him.’

When the bedouin turned up, the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- said to him, ‘Shake the branches gently, bedouin, for its leaves to spill…not violently, by force.’

It is as if I can still see the leaves on the bedouin’s head.” (Ibnu’l-Asir, Usdu’l-Ghabah, Beirut, 1417, VI, 378)

Inviting Muslims to uphold courtesy, consideration and compassion under all circumstances, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- has further said the following about plants:

“There is not a plant that grows on earth that is not protected by the wings of a guardian angel. This continues up until the plant is reaped. Whosoever treads on the plant will incur the curse of the angel.” (Ali al-Muttaqi, Kanz, III, 905/9122)

They were Chaste and Virtuous

Chastity and virtue reigned between males and females in the society of the Age of Bliss; for Allah, glory unto Him, had commanded:

“Say to the believing men that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts; that is purer for them; surely Allah is Aware of what they do. And say to the believing women that they cast down their looks and guard their private parts and do not display their ornaments except what appears thereof, and let them wear their head-coverings over their bosoms, and not display their ornaments except to their husbands or their fathers, or the fathers of their husbands, or their sons, or the sons of their husbands, or their brothers, or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or those whom their right hands possess, or the male servants not having need (of women), or the children who have not attained knowledge of what is hidden of women; and let them not strike their feet so that what they hide of their ornaments may be known; and turn to Allah all of you, O believers! so that you may be successful.” (an-Nur, 30-31)

According to the report of Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her-, once the above Revelation became known, without waiting to return, the female companions began cutting off the excess fabrics of their clothes to cover their heads and shoulders as had been commanded. (Bukhari, Tafsir, 24/12; Abu Dawud, Libas, 31-33/4102)

Safiyya bint Shaybah –Allah be well-pleased with her- reports that the moment the above Divine command was revealed, the males went home and recited it onto their wives, sisters and daughters. Women, then, turned even their best dresses into headscarves and covered up from head to toe. By doing so, they showed the intensity in which they had embraced and confirmed the Divine command. Come the time of the next fajr prayer, women took their places in the rows of the mosque covered from top to bottom. (Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, [an-Nur, 31])

The Companions was extremely sensitive to observe the limits of interaction with the opposite gender. Men and women, who were legally strangers to one another, would not mix with each other in a way that would test those limits. In social life, there was always a distance between men and women and their interaction was regulated by a certain standard and discipline. After all, not only was Islam prohibiting sin, it was also prohibiting behavior and environments that would instigate sinful practice of sin. By putting a distance between Muslims and sinful behavior, Islam was thereby tightly blocking all the roads that would otherwise lead thereto.

Despite placing a great importance on the Friday prayer and offering the other daily ritual prayers in congregation, in order to prevent the mingling of men and women, Islam exempted women from this obligation, suggesting it is more virtuous for them to offer their prayers at home rather than the mosque. The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- says:

“The best mosque for women is the corner of their homes.” (Ahmed, VI, 297)

Nonetheless, the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- did not prevent women from attending the mosque and gave permission for those who wanted to do so. Yet, he commanded the women attending not to line up in the same rows as men but in separate rows, behind them.

After each prayer at the mosque, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- would wait and have the male Companions wait awhile, until the female Companions left the mosque and made it to their homes. Only then would they make their way out. Especially after the fajr prayer, which was offered before the sun completely broke, the women would shroud themselves in their clothes and head home, without anyone recognizing them. There were even times when they would not recognize each other.[10]

The Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- once suggested they should reserve a certain door of the mosque for the exclusive use of women, after which the male Companions stopped using that door. (Abu Dawud, Salat, 53/571)

Women would also attend the eid prayers; yet as usual, their places were at a certain distance from men. Once the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- completed his sermon, he would go nearer to the women and give them advice. (Bukhari, Iydayn, 7-8)

Leaving the mosque one day, the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- happened to see men and women inadvertently mixing with each other as they walked, on which he called out to the women to “…walk from the side of the road and not from the middle.” Thereupon, women began to walk from beneath the surrounding walls; so much so that their dresses would brush up against them. (Abu Dawud, Adab, 167-168/5272)

Upon seeing men and women mixing with each other during the Umayyad period, Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- remarked, “Had the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- seen this, he would have forbidden women from entering mosques, just as the Israelites had done.” (Bukhari, Adhan, 163)

They Always Had a Smile on their Faces

“Is humor a bad thing?” a man once asked Sufyan ibn Uyaynah –may Allah have mercy on him- (d. 198 AH).

“Much the contrary”, he replied, “it is Sunnah; for the Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- has said, ‘I act in humor but I always speak the truth.’” (Nuwayri, Nihayatu’l-Arab fi Fununi’l-Adab, Cairo, IV, 2)

Joking and acting in humor is a prophetic practice. But it must not come at the price of breaking a heart; it should rather be done with the aim of winning one.

Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751 AH) says:

“The Messenger of Allah –upon him blessings and peace- would act in humor, though he would always utter the truth. There was metonymy in his speech it was always used to express the truth.” (Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, Zadu’l-Maad, I, 58)

The Companions were lively and joyful people, who knew what to say and where to say it. At times witty and humorous, they were also serious and somber when needed. Their lives struck a perfect balance, free of excess.

Bakr ibn Abdullah –Allah be well-pleased with him- says:

“The Companions would joke with each other, using watermelons at times. But when a serious situation arose, they would get serious and take great pains to see to the task.” (Bukhari, al-Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 266)

Abu Salamah ibn Abdurrahman –Allah be well-pleased him- depicts the Companions as follows:

“The Companions were never ones to laze and shrink back. They would recite poems in their gatherings and tell each other stories of their days of Ignorance. But when any one of them was faced with a duty surrounding the religion of Allah, his eyes would virtually fly out of his sockets out of desperation to fulfill it.” (Bukhari, al-Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 555)

Thabit ibn Ubayd explains:

“I have never seen anyone more solemn than Zayd ibn Thabit; though neither have I seen anyone chattier than him at home.” (Bukhari, al-Adabu’l-Mufrad, no: 286)

After observing a bedouin praying, after performing a really quick ritual prayer, “Wed me, Lord, to the houris of Paradise!” Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him- humorously remarked:

“Man…that is so much to ask for so little a price!”

According to report of Abu Bakr as-Saqafi, the Companions would alternate between reading the Quran and poetry. (Kattani, at-Taratib, II, 236)

When with his students, Ibn Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with him- would narrate a few ahadith, and then say:

“Whet our appetites with some jokes or a few lines of poetry; for the spirit is prone to becoming weary just like the body.” He would, at times, follow this up by recounting some classical parables renowned by the Arabs, after which he would resume the lesson, repeating this procedure whenever the need would arise. (Kattani, at-Taratib, II, 237)

On saying anything whatsoever, Abu’d-Darda –Allah be well-pleased with him- would make sure to smile. One day, his wife told him, “I fear people might get the wrong impression.”

“But”, replied he, “there was always a smile in the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- speech.” (Ahmed, V, 198, 199)

Abdullah ibn Muhammad, of the Tabiun generation, was a jovial and humorous man. Even watching her aunt Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- in her deathbed did not deter him from making a joke. It is reported that he visited her during her final illness, where he asked:

“How do you feel my dearest aunt?”

“I assure you”, she replied, “this sure is the throes of death”.

“In that case”, he remarked, “it cannot be that serious!” Astounded to see him carry on his jokes even amid such a setting, Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- said:

“By Allah, it seems you will kick your habit!” (Ibn Saad, VIII, 76)

In Short

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was a mercy not only for entire humankind but also for the entire universe. His wonderful appearance on Earth illumined its pitch dark horizons, signaling the dawning of a brand new day which humanity had been anticipating. Hearts were unlocked, eyes were opened; the murky flow of life was rinsed spotless. Through the showers of his blessings, the universe reached an eternal spring. Man was united with his true honor and the justice he had been yearning for; it was the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- who gave him the insight into the mystery of life and eternity.

That great Prophet hailed from an unlettered society; yet, the Grand Book revealed to him became the guiding lamp to the books on the dusty library shelves. A downpour of wisdom onto thirsty hearts, it was the opening lesson of ‘true knowledge’, setting the standard for lessons to follow.

It was again that Prophet of Mercy who opened the pages of the grand book that is the universe. He became the translator of languages silent and unknown; languages forever busy in the remembrance of Allah, glory unto Him. By guiding many a society previously struggling in a bestial life to its true honor and dignity, he became the king of love enthroned right in the hearts of the guided.

The Almighty had the model of an exemplary human being embodied in the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, making him the quintessential example for entire humanity. Good morals, which consist of nothing but the behavior and conduct that please the Lord, was thereby conveyed to mankind through the exemplary words and conduct of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

In fact, when asked about the morals of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-, Aisha –Allah be well-pleased with her- simply replied, “His morals were that of the Quran”. (Muslim, Musafirin, 139)

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- was ‘the Quran come-to-life’. His life was the practical interpretation of the Quran that had been revealed to his pure heart. In honoring his towering morals, the Almighty declares:

“Nay, verily for you is a Reward unfailing. And you stand on an exalted standard of character.” (al-Qalam, 3-4)

The Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- is the grandest pillar of morality ever witnessed by humankind. And his most loyal followers are the Companions and then the righteous. Believers, who have rejoiced the value of treading his path, have also acquired outstanding characters, worthy of the honor and name of man.

It was for immersing their hearts in the love of the Noble Messenger –upon him blessings and peace- and obeying him under all circumstances that the Companions embodied the prophetic morals and received thereby the praises of Allah, glory unto Him. The Quran in fact states:

“And the first to lead the way, of the Muhajirun and the Ansar, and those who followed them in goodness – Allah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Him, and He hath made ready for them Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. That is the supreme triumph.” (at-Tawbah, 100)

We no longer have the opportunity to become Companions. Yet, as the ayah declares, ‘following them in goodness’ and in doing so, acquiring the pleasure of the Lord is an opportunity that remains with us so long as we are alive.

The best to reflect the morals of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- throughout the centuries following the Companions, have been the righteous saints, designated as examples by the Almighty Himself:

“Now surely the friends of Allah- they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve” (Yunus, 62). They evidently enjoy a privileged rank in Divine sight; to reap a share of this Divine guarantee, it is therefore best to follow their path.

Since the Companions and saints were able to become one with the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- character by acquiring an immense share therefrom, all the beauty of conduct they were able to exhibit throughout their lives, are nothing but reflections mirrored by the Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- own exemplary character. Wherever there is beauty, it is but a reflection from him. Not a flower booms through the soil that is not from his light. It is because of him that we are. He is a bloom of pure light from the Divine that never wilts and only appears fresher with each passing moment.

In the footsteps of the Companions and the righteous Muslims who followed, we are compelled to fill our existence with the love of the Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and seek to embody his superb morals. We must strive to live and revive those beauties that are timeless despite the passage of centuries. This is the price for being a worthy devotee of the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace-.

Endless thanks to the Lord for rendering us members of the Blessed Prophet’s –upon him blessings and peace- nation, free of charge. Yet, the path to infiltrating into the core of this Divine grace and to becoming worthy of the Prophet’s love and his compliment of us as ‘his brothers’, runs through embracing his Sunnah and embodying his morals.

Comprehensively grasping the wonder of creation that is the Blessed Prophet –upon him blessings and peace- and his sublime morality, and articulating it within the limited scope of human language is in fact impossible. The sensory impressions we receive from the world, on which our thinking depends, would fall hopelessly short of the task; just as it is utterly impossible to fit the entire ocean into a cup. What has spilled forth from our tongues in trying to explain both him and the Age of Bliss is therefore nothing but crumbs reflected forth from his inexplicable beauty.

Lord…Grant our hearts a share of the sublime morals and spirituality of Your Noblest Messenger! Let our hearts reverberate in the sound of those who used to cry out, ‘may our parents be ransomed for you, Messenger of Allah!

Amin

[1]       M. Hamidullah, Islam Peygamberi, I, 141.

[2]       A. Shalabi, Tarîkhu’t-Tarbiyati’l-Islamiyyah, Cairo, 1960, p. 38-39.

[3]       Kattanî, Tarâtib, I, 56; Ibn Abdilbarr, al-Istîab, I, 247; Maqridî, al-Mawaiz wa’l-Itibar bi-Dhikri’l-Hıtati wa’l-Asar, II, 362, Egypt, 1270h.

[4]       Ibn Hazm, al-Muhalla, Egypt, 1389, IX, p. 454.

[5]       Samhudi, Wafa, Egypt, 1327, I, 540.

[6]       Haythami, II, 295.

[7]       See, al-Insan, 8-11.

[8]       M. Ali Kapar, Hz. Muhammed’in Müşriklerle Münâsebeti, İstanbul 1987, s. 145.

[9]       Haythami, IV, 66-67.

[10]      See, Bukhari, Adhan, 162-166.