The First Revelation and the Interval
Having completed the six-month preparation toward perfecting his spiritual development so that he was now ready to receive Divine Revelation, Muhammad (pbuh) was now forty years old
It was the seventeenth day of the holy month of Ramadan. The Noble Prophet was in the Cave of Hirâ as usual, when Jibril (a.s) suddenly appeared and said:
“I cannot read”, answered our Beloved Prophet (pbuh).
Thereupon, the Angel seized and constricted the Prophet (pbuh) so hard that he left him almost unable to breathe.
“Read!” Jibril (a.s) then ordered once more.
But the Light of Being (pbuh) responded in the same manner:
“I cannot read!”
The Angel then seized him for the second time, compressing the Prophet (pbuh) until he had not strength to remain on his feet, repeating the command once again:
“I cannot read!” answered the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), as if urging the Angel to indicate what exactly it was he wanted him to read.
Jibril (a.s) then forcefully squeezed the Light of Being (pbuh) for the third time and then released him, beginning shortly thereafter to reveal the very first Revelation:
اِقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ خَلَقَ الْإِنْسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ
اِقْرَأْ وَرَبُّكَ الْأَكْرَمُ الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ
عَلَّمَ الْإِنْسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
“Read: In the name of your Lord Who created; created man from a clot. Read; and your Lord is the Most Bounteous; who taught with the pen…taught man that which he knew not.” (al-Alaq, 1-5)
With this Divine Command, the revelation of the Sacred Qur’ân, the greatest benevolence of the Lord for the whole of mankind, began its long course of revelation through the person of Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
It was thus these ayah of the Clear Quran that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) received first from the gates of Heaven as a source of grace and vigor. Jibril (a.s) departed not long after and the Prophet (pbuh) returned home to Khadijah (r.ha) trembling from the unbearable fright of the moment:
“Cover me, Khadijah, cover me!” he was saying.
After a few moments, the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) recounted the experience to his wife, our mother Khadijah (r.ha), the noble woman with whom he lived an upright family life for the rest of humankind to emulate. Anxiously, he asked her:
“Who is going to believe me now, Khadijah?”
But the noble woman reassured her life companion:
“I assure you that Allah will never embarrass you; for you protect your kin, assume responsibility for those who cannot do so for themselves, give charity to the needy, do greater good than anyone else, treat your guests with honor and respect and assist those striving to do good. I will believe you and be the first to do so, even if nobody else does. Let me be the first you invite onto the path you call!”
These gracious words thus made Khadijah (r.ha) the first person to testify to the truth of her noble husband and help him in his arduous mission.
In other words, what Khadijah (r.ha) was implicitly telling her husband was that only good can come out of good and benevolence could only engender benevolence, and nothing else. Rightly so, she could only expect the unfolding of a bright future from an immaculate past of moral uprightness, as if to echo the words of the Quran soon to be revealed:
هَلْ جَزَاءُ اْلاِحْسَانِ اِلاَّ اْلاِحْسَانُ
“Is there any Reward for Good – other than Good?”(ar-Rahmân, 60)
Khadijah (r.ha) thereupon took the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) to Waraqa ibn Nawfal, her paternal cousin, one of the exceptionally rare people who had never worshipped idols during the Age of Ignorance. With knowledge of Hebrew, Waraqa was similarly conversant with the Bible. Now in his elderly years, he was no longer able to see.
“Listen, cousin, to what your nephew has to say”, Khadijah (r.ha) said, upon arrival.
“What is wrong, my nephew?” then asked Waraqa curiously, which is when the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) recounted what he had seen.
Recognizing the greatest reality of all concealed within what had been explained to him there and then, Waraqa’s face glowed with a radiant smile, before becoming engrossed in a brief but deep meditation.
“What you saw”, Waraqa then remarked, “was but the Great Namus (Jibril) sent by the Almighty to Musa. If only I was still young when you would begin the Call… If only I would live to see the day your people expel you from your town.”
“And they will expel me from my town?” asked the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
“Yes”, replied Waraqa. “There has not been a Prophet who has called to the Religion and not faced enmity and hostility and ultimately been driven out of his hometown. But if it happens that I live to see the days of your Call, I will run to your aid.”
Not long after the conversation Waraqa passed away; and Revelation, likewise, came to a temporary standstill (fatrah). (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy, 1; Anbiya, 21; Tafsir, 96; Muslim, Iman, 252)
In the verses revealed afterward, Allah (SWT), was to address His Prophet in the following:
وَكَذٰلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِّنْ أَمْرِنَا مَا كُنْتَ تَدْرِي مَا الْكِتَابُ وَلَا الْإِيمَانُ وَلَكِنْ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُورًا نَّهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ نَّشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا
وَ إِنَّكَ لَتَهْدِي إِلَى صِرَاطٍ مُسْتَقِيمٍ
“And thus did We reveal to you a Spirit of Our command. You did not know what the Book was, nor what the faith was, but We made it a light, guiding thereby whom We please of Our servants; and most surely you show the way to the right path.” (as-Shura, 52)
إِنَّا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ كَمَا أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَى نُوحٍ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ مِن بَعْدِهِ
“Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh, and the Prophets after him…” (an-Nisa, 163)
As regards the fact that the foremost word of the very first wahy revealed to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was the command “Read”, the wise men of heart have rendered the following interpretation:
“Read! Read everything! Read the Book of Allah! Read His Signs! Read the book that is the universe! Read in order to attain guidance, to distance yourself from deviance! Read to complete your faith! Read in the name of Allah! Read in the name of your Lord who created you! Read in the name of Him who even though He created man from a clot of blood, still gave him the opportunity to read, to understand and become enlightened, and put to practice what has been understood! Read in the name of Allah who has blessed man with the ability to read, the grandest grace of all! Read in order to learn…Read each line drawn throughout the universe by the Pen of Might! Read in the name of Allah who has taught man what he did not know…”
In classifying himself during the spiritual stages he outgrew, Mawlana Rumi used the term raw for the time he spent reading books of exoteric content, cooked during the phase reading the mysteries of the universe, and burnt during his reading of Divine mysteries which virtually reduced him to ashes.
The command “read” conveyed through the ayah is of great importance; though the importance is matched by the condition that this reading ought to be in the name of Allah (SWT). It shows the manner in which this reading must be undertaken.
“Reading” is not so much an external activity as it is a process of refining and cleansing the heart spiritually to the point where it becomes receptive to the Book and Wisdom. Suggested by the command, therefore, is the ability to read with the heart, the focal point of manifestations. More clearly, it requires the universe be perceived as a book, the pages of which the heart turns to read wisdoms and Divine mysteries therefrom; the gist of it all, that is to say, is for human beings to read, comprehend and live the universe, themselves, and not least, the Holy Quran.
From the first Revelation, the following conclusion may also be derived:
One must begin all noble activities in the name of the Almighty.
Human beings, created from a clot of blood yet given the most beautiful form, must never forget their vulnerability and insignificance before Divine Power.
الَّذِي عَلَّمَ بِالْقَلَمِ.عَلَّمَ الْإِنسَانَ مَا لَمْ يَعْلَمْ
“Who taught by the pen; taught man that which he knew not.” (al-Alaq, 4-5) inform human beings of the importance of knowledge, at the same time reminding them of the fact that whatever is learnt is learnt only by being taught by the Almighty, an enormous Divine blessing in itself.
Man must therefore always be conscious of the Greatness of his Lord and resist the urge to become ingrate.
Revelation slowed to a lengthy silence following the first revelation. In a way, this was to prepare the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) for the revelations to come. Receiving Divine Revelation was such an enormous undertaking that conceiving it was certainly not something easy. Underlining this fact are the words of the Almighty:
إِنَّا سَنُلْقِي عَلَيْكَ قَوْلًا ثَقِيلًاا
“Soon shall We send down to you a weighty Message.” (al-Muzzammil, 5)
After the initial stage of truthful dreams, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was overcome with anxiety upon suddenly seeing the Angel of Revelation right in front of him. Only with the comforting words of Khadijah and the confirmation of Waraqa did his heart feel at ease. Now, he enthusiastically desired for Revelation to resume, almost growing impatient. Time and again, he would go to Mount Hira, the place where he received Revelation for the first time, and wait in hope for it to come once again.
The greatest support during the hiatus came from none other than the honorable Khadijah, a depth of spirit, elegance and grace the Noble Prophet (pbuh) was never to forget. Following her death, whenever he sacrificed stock, he would always make sure to pay tribute to his late wife by sending a share of the meat to her relatives. For the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), she always remained a cherished and unforgettable memory.
The life of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is replete with incredibly admirable manifestations, unseen in Prophets before him. It was only him that Allah (SWT), addressed as His “Beloved”. Again, among the entirety of Prophets, only he was granted the gift of Ascension, the Miraj.
The preeminence of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was confirmed by virtue of him leading the entire prophets in salat at the Masjid’ul-Aqsa. The لَنْ تَرينِى mystery of Musa (a.s) thus transpired in him in the form of قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ اَوْ اَدْنى.
Salat, the moment of union with the Real, was thereby presented to the mass of Believers to come, as a reenactment of the Ascension within the climes of the heart. Commanded, at the outset, to be performed fifty times a day by the ummah, the number of salats per day was eventually reduced to five, as a result of the repeated pleas of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
Though an unlettered orphan, through Divine teaching and training, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) became a guide to the whole of humankind, a translator of the realities of the realm of the unknown, the teacher of the school of truth. As expressed by Ziya Pasha:
At such a school was he a learner
That the Almighty was his personal teacher
Musa (a.s) had conveyed certain laws. Dawud (a.s) excelled through the prayers and psalms inspired to him by Allah (SWT). Isa (a.s) was sent as an exemplar of virtue and piety. Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) came with all of these. Pronouncing laws, he at the same time taught ways of refining the self and praying to the Almighty with a pure heart. The paramount virtues he taught, he epitomized throughout his life. He advised not be beguiled by the deceiving dazzle of the world. Simpler said, he embodied all the rights and duties of the entirety of prophets before him. The nobility of both lineage and conduct, of beauty and perfection were personified in him.
Without a doubt, the fortieth year of his life proved to be the greatest turning point in the course of the history of humankind. He had spent forty years in an ignorant society, during which most of the perfections he later was to promote remained a mystery to nearly all. He was not known yet as a man of state. Little were aware of his eloquence. Speaking of his potential as an illustrious commander was one thing; he was not renowned even as an ordinary soldier.
Before that, nobody had heard him talk about the histories of peoples and prophets of the yesteryears, or of paradise and hell. Reputed only for leading a life of utmost virtue and solitude, that momentous return from the Cave of Hira where he was entrusted with Divine duty, marked a momentous change.
The Reality of Revelation and the Ways of its Disclosure
Wahy, or Revelation, contains a variety of meanings; a rapid sign, script, correspondence, inspiration and secret talk, just to name a few. In principle, it signifies what Allah (SWT), informs his Prophets of whatever He wills, in whichever manner He pleases, as stated by the Quran:
وَمَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُكَلِّمَهُ اللّٰهُ إِلَّا وَحْيًا أَوْ مِن وَرَاء حِجَابٍ
أَوْ يُرْسِلَ رَسُولًا فَيُوحِيَ بِإِذْنِهِ مَا يَشَاء إِنَّهُ عَلِيٌّ حَكِيمٌ
“It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by Revelation, or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a messenger to reveal, with Allah’s permission, whatever Allah wills. He is Most High, Most Wise.” (as-Shura, 51)
Narrated by Aisha (r.ha), the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was once asked about the manner in which he received Divine Revelation, to which he responded:
“Sometimes it comes in a clanging sound, which is the most burdensome way I receive it. Once I comprehend and commit to memory what Allah has declared, the Angel then leaves me. And at times the Angel appears in human form. He talks to me and I immediately comprehend it.” (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy, 1-2; Muslim, Fadail, 87)
Judging from numerous narrations, Muslim scholars have concluded that:
1. Revelation sometimes came in the form of truthful dreams during sleep, which later took place in the exact way they were seen.
2. Words to be revealed would at times be instilled in the Noble Messenger’s (pbuh) heart, without the Angel appearing.
3. As was the case in the Hadith of Jibril, the Angel of Revelation would assume the form of a human being and impart the Revelation.
Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas (r.a), the incident recounted below provides a splendid example of revelation in the latter sense:
“I was next to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) with my father Abbas. By the side of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was also another man and they were whispering to one another, for which reason the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not pay much attention to my father. When we left, my father asked me:
‘You saw how the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not take much notice of me, didn’t you?’
‘Yes, father’, I replied. ‘But he was talking to another man next to him’, I added.
Thereupon we quickly returned next to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh).
‘Messenger of Allah’, explained my father. ‘I said so and so to Abdullah and he told me that you were whispering to a man next to you. Was there really someone by your side?’
‘Did you actually see him, Abdullah?’ the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) then asked me.
‘Yes’, I replied.
‘That was Jibril’, he then said, ‘and he was the reason I could not attend to you.’” (Ahmad, I, 293-294; Haythami, IX, 276)
4. Revelation every so often came in the form of a terrifying clanging sound. By the end of the process, the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) would have grasped every word conveyed by the Angel.
5. On two occasions, Jibril (a.s) brought Revelation in his actual angelic form. First of these was subsequent to the period of interval, as the Noble Prophet (pbuh) was descending down the Cave of Hira, while the second was during the Night of Miraj, by the Lote Tree, Sidrat’ul-Muntaha.
6. Revelation, on occasion, would be disclosed directly to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), as part of Divine acceptance and grace, without the medium of the Angel of Revelation, as was the case during the Miraj.
7. It was also the case that Jibril (a.s) would sometimes disclose the given Revelation to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in his sleep. Some commentators are of the view that such was the way Chapter Kawthar was revealed.
Some Companions provide an account of how, during the process of Revelation, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would become overwhelmed, become flustered, close his eyes, and put his head down. The Companions, too, would put their heads down, not daring to look up or peek at the Noble Messenger (pbuh), until the process was concluded.
Sometimes a sound resembling the humming of bees could be heard near his face upon the arrival of Revelation. During those moments, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would take quick breaths, with drops of sweat trickling down his forehead even during the coldest of days.
Zayd ibn Thabit (r.a), among the scribes of Revelation, has stated that the intensity of a given revelation would correspond to the weight of its content. If the revelation consisted of a Divine promise or assurance, then Jibril (a.s) would appear in human form, a situation that would not cause much difficulty for the Noble Messenger (pbuh). But if Divine warnings and threats of punishment were being sent down, then the Revelation would arrive amid the sound of a most terrifying clanging.
If the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was riding on camelback at the time the Revelation arrived, incapable of withstanding its weight, the legs of the camel would buckle and it would be forced to crouch. Indeed, upon the revelation of the third ayah of Chapter Maida, it was as if the legs of his camel Adba, were on the verge of breaking, forcing the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to dismount.
Zayd ibn Thabit (r.a) recounts:
“I was sitting on the floor next to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), with his knee on mine. Right at that instant he began receiving Revelation. Suddenly it was as if there was nothing else on Earth heavier than his knee. It was only a matter of time, I thought, before mine were crushed.” (Ahmad, V, 190-191)
In denial of the fact that the Sacred Quran is the word of the Almighty, some orientalists have contended Revelation to be nothing but inner inspirations felt by the Prophet (pbuh) as a result of profound contemplation and meditation. Such allegations only betray the ignorance set deep within their hearts, their weakness of judgment, and the zeal of their enmity.
The fear felt by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) upon seeing the Angel for the first time during the initial arrival of Revelation, clearly disproves the possibility that it could have been an inner, personal case of hallucination. The Prophet’s (pbuh) receiving of Revelation consists of his conceiving an external reality, not related in any way to the state of his inner being. That Jibril (a.s) forcefully hugged the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) three times, urging him on each occasion to “read” before letting him go, is confirmative of the fact that the source of Revelation is not internal, but external, from Allah (SWT).
Besides, the temporary interval of Revelation invalidates, in no uncertain terms, the claims of Revelation being an internal phenomenon transpiring within the mind of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) as a consequence of his profound contemplation. The sudden break in Revelation and the urgent desire nurtured by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) for it to resume, visibly proves that it was an occurrence of an external nature, independent of the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) will.
In addition, as reminded by the verse below, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was entirely unaware that he would be receiving Revelation in the first place.
وَمَا كُنتَ تَرْجُو أَن يُلْقَى إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابُ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً مِّن رَّبِّكَ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ ظَهِيرًا لِّلْكَافِرِينَ
“And you did not expect that the Book would be revealed to you, but it is a mercy from your Lord, therefore be not a supporter of the unbelievers.” (al-Qasas, 86)
One only needs to glance at the difference of style between the Quran and Hadith to be further convinced of the revelatory source of the former.
Such incidents would come to pass at times, that in spite of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) needing an urgent answer, the arrival of an enlightening Revelation would be postponed; as was the case with the Ifk or the Slander Incident and the recurring questions many a time asked by the Israelites. Had the Quran been, as claimed, a fruit of the Prophet’s (pbuh) meditation, it would have been better for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to provide an instant answer rather than put himself in an awkward position by waiting for a Revelation instead.
What’s more, Revelation would at times inform of the Prophet’s incorrect stance regarding certain issues or command things counter to his preferred tendency. Even a slight deferral of communicating a certain command would lay the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) open to Divine criticism. All this exposes the illogicality of the accusations holding the Quran to be a product of the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) personal contemplation.
Just to recount a relevant incident, while communicating Islam to a few notables of Quraysh, Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum (r.a), a blind Companion who had previously entered the fold of Islam, came up to the Noble Messenger (pbuh), insisting him teach him some of the truths revealed by the Almighty. Preoccupied at the time with trying to convince the prominent figures of Quraysh however, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) took little notice of him, even frowning a little upon Ibn Maktum’s insistent attitude to learn, for which he was subject to the following rebuke of Allah (SWT):
أَمَّا مَنِ اسْتَغْنَى فَأَنتَ لَهُ تَصَدَّى وَمَا عَلَيْكَ أَلَّا يَزَّكَّى
وَأَمَّا مَن جَاءكَ يَسْعَى وَهُوَ يَخْشَى فَأَنتَ عَنْهُ
تَلَهَّىكَلَّا إِنَّهَا تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَن شَاء ذَكَرَهُ
“As for him who considers himself free from need (of you) to him you do address yourself; but no blame is on you if he would not purify himself. And as for him who comes to you striving earnestly and with fear of Him, from him you divert yourself!Nay! Surely it is an admonishment; so let him who pleases mind it.” (Abasa, 5-12)
In times subsequent to the above Revelation, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would at every given opportunity seek to compliment Ibn Maktum with kind words. Upon seeing him, he would sometimes comment:
“Greetings, Ibn Maktum, on behalf of whom my Lord rebuked me!” (Wahidi, p. 471)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would, on occasion, receive Divine Commands in concise (mujmal), for which he would not provide a subjective interpretation, so long as they remained unelaborated by the Almighty. A case in point is the following verse:
لِلّٰهِ ما فِي السَّمَاواتِ وَمَا فِي الأَرْضِ وَإِن تُبْدُواْ مَا فِي أَنفُسِكُمْ أَوْ تُخْفُوهُ يُحَاسِبْكُم بِهِ اللّٰهُ
“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is Allah’s; and whether you manifest what is in your minds or hide it, Allah will call you to account according to it…” (al-Baqara, 284)
Upon hearing the above Revelation, apprehensive that they might be held responsible for even the fleeting thoughts in their hearts, the Companions worriedly asked:
“How, Messenger of Allah, are we supposed to cope with that?
In response, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) stated:
“What now? Are you trying to say ‘we hear, yet we rebel’ like the People of the Book before you? Better for you to say instead ‘we hear and we obey…we entreat You, our Lord, to forgive us, for to You is every return!’” (Muslim, Iman, 200; Ahmad, I, 233; Wahidi, p. 97)
Owing to the concise meaning of the relevant Revelation, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not provide further clarification but insisted that the Companions keep faith in Allah (SWT). It was not long afterwards, however, that an ayah revealed anew shed light upon the previous:
لاَ يُكَلِّفُ اللّٰهُ نَفْسًا إِلاَّ وُسْعَهَا لَهَا مَا كَسَبَتْ وَعَلَيْهَا مَا اكْتَسَبَتْ رَبَّنَا لاَ تُؤَاخِذْنَا إِن نَّسِينَا أَوْ أَخْطَأْنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْنَا إِصْرًا كَمَا حَمَلْتَهُ عَلَى الَّذِينَ مِن قَبْلِنَا رَبَّنَا وَلاَ تُحَمِّلْنَا مَا لاَ طَاقَةَ لَنَا بِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنَّا وَاغْفِرْ لَنَا وَارْحَمْنَا أَنتَ مَوْلاَنَا فَانصُرْنَا عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ
“Allah does not impose upon any soul a burden greater than it can bear; for it, is the benefit of what it has earned and upon it, the evil of what it has wrought: Our Lord! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake! Our Lord! Do not lay on us a burden as You did lay on those before us! Our Lord! Do not impose upon us that which we have not the strength to bear; and pardon us and grant us protection and have mercy on us! You are our Patron, so help us against the unbelieving people.” (al-Baqara, 286)
Thanks to the above ayah, the Companions had now become aware that they would not be held accountable with regard to thoughts which they could not help.
That the Noble Messenger (pbuh) recoiled from offering a clarification for a mujmal revelation, over and above being a Prophetic reality, provides at the same time another incontestable evidence that bears out the Divine source of the Quran. Had that not been the case, then an explanatory revelation would have been redundant, and a subjective explanation would have sufficed as enough clarification. The absence of the occurrence of such a scenario supports the case for the miraculous nature of the Holy Quran.
Another irrefutable fact that proves the Divine source of the Quran lies in its providing news of the unknown, that is, of ghayb.
In like manner, the Quran also provides a factual account of history. Neither a scholarly institution, nor a single cultured individual existed in 7th century Mecca, with insight into the historical knowledge presented therein. All they boasted in the name of historical knowledge was nothing beyond a few local Persian legends that swarmed with contradictions, brought to town by its seasonal traders. Not only does the Quran offer a coherent and a total picture of history, it is not, in any way, of the kind that can be articulated by any individual, no matter how intelligent and inventive he may be.
Furthermore, an intelligent person ought to stop and think: Could an unlettered man, raised in an ignorant society, really be the source of the exceptional meanings of the Quran, other than through obtaining it from a Divine source? Of course not!
And this shows that all that has been conveyed by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) has sprung forth from its very source in Divine Revelation.
The Holy Quran has also foretold events of the future, which have come to pass in the exact manner foretold, when their times came. The Quran perennially leads the way, and science only follows in its wake.
Undeniably, the following incident recounted in the Quran provides only one example of many.
To the Pharaoh, who, being on the verge of drowning in the whirlpool of the Red Sea wanted to seize the rope of belief as a last resort, the Almighty declared:
آلآنَ وَقَدْ عَصَيْتَ قَبْلُ وَكُنتَ مِنَ الْمُفْسِدِينَ
“What! Now? When hitherto you had rebelled and been of the wrong-doers?” (Yunus, 91), rejecting his desperate bid to affirm faith amid the throes of death, before continuing:
فَالْيَوْمَ نُنَجِّيكَ بِبَدَنِكَ لِتَكُونَ لِمَنْ خَلْفَكَ آيَةً وَإِنَّ كَثِيراً مِّنَ النَّاسِ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا لَغَافِلُونَ
“But We will this day deliver you with your body that you may be a sign to those after you, and most surely the majority of the people are heedless to Our signs.” (Yunus, 92)
Zamakhshari interprets the ayah in the following:
“We shall throw your naked corpse in a corner by the shore and protect it, in its wholeness, preventing it from decomposing, as a lesson for those after you in the centuries to come.” (Zamakhshari, III, 24)
Recent discoveries have found Pharaoh’s corpse washed upon the shore, prostrate. This was his very final state before death. Dreading the horrible scenes he had been made to witness in his dying moments, he wanted then to surrender to belief, but since his stance was out of desperation, it was not accepted. Thus, approximately three thousand years following that plight, and having survived decay, his corpse has emerged, and as was proclaimed by the Quran, exposed to be exhibited to humankind as warning. The corpse is exhibited at the British Museum as we speak: only one among many instances of the miracles of the Quran set to survive till the Final Hour.
But as the main objective of the Quran is to communicate tawhid and thereby call humankind to guidance, such miraculous instances of scientific and historical nature are only secondary. It must not be forgotten, that compliant with the Divine proclamation:
وَلاَ رَطْبٍ وَلاَ يَابِسٍ إِلاَّ فِي كِتَابٍ مُّبِينٍ
“….nor anything green nor dry but (it is all) in a Clear Book”, (al-Anam, 59), truths of every single kind are hidden in the Quran. Accordingly, the Holy Quran is a perfect narrative of all realities engraved across the universe, comprising the nucleus of all truths within. This characteristic of the Quran, necessitated by its being a miracle, will be better appreciated through the unfolding of events and in proportion with progress in human knowledge.
Had such knowledge, hidden in the depths of the universe as part of Divine Will, received detailed exposition in the Quran instead of its present concise form, then libraries would not have been spacious enough to accommodate its voluminous size. Besides, as human beings are prone to reject any claim unjustified by the expertise of the time, belief in the Quran would not have lasted intact until the Final Hour. Just to give one example, even if the reality of television had been exposed then as we know it now, people would have balked at believing it until physically seeing it before their eyes, which would have given them reason to reject the Quran; and hence the reason as to why the Quran, though having embodied every single truth, voices most of them in an undetailed manner.
All the issues dealt with by the Quran are conducive to the greater aim of tawhid, the impulse behind its touching upon scientific facts. A distinctive miracle of the Quran is that it survives in all times and places until the Final Hour. This is another testimony to a splendor revealed all the more with every moment and discovery.
Unable to stomach the magnificence of the Holy Quran and the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), some orientalists have resorted to making the absurd and illogical claim of describing the Prophet’s (pbuh) state, while receiving Revelation, as an ‘epileptic seizure’. We need only mention the following in response:
After undergoing an epileptic seizure, one is overcome with exhaustion and soreness, leaving him or her in great pain and a disturbed state of mind. Yet, not only did the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) not undergo any of these said sufferings, he would also consider a pause in Revelation as a break in proceedings, longing for its arrival, and becoming delighted beyond description when it did.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would not undergo the experiences characteristic during Revelation all the time, often remaining in usual manner.
During an epileptic seizure, a fact known to medicine, one loses all capacity to think and all consciousness, remaining oblivious to everything around him; yet the Revelation that the Noble Prophet (pbuh) received were conveying to humankind the magnificent ayah of the Quran, boasting the most perfect blueprints of law, morality, piety and the most splendid accounts of history.
The violent tremor known to take over an epileptic during seizure was never witnessed during the coming of Revelation.
Epileptics tend to utter nonsensical even absurd words during seizure. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was never seen to engage in such behavior; not only that, spilling from his tongue were the most eloquent and meaningful words mankind can ever imagine.
Moreover, medically proven is the fact that no single body has the power to endure a seizure as lengthy as that needed to utter six-thousand odd verses.
Such deliberate allegations, which lack the least sense, are therefore only an outcome of an inability to come to terms with the truth of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
Prophethood: Nubuwwah and Risalah
Allah (SWT), willed to address His servants through exceptional figures raised from among them, by entrusting them with Prophethood; a Divine routine revealed in the Quran as:
وَرُسُلاً قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلاً لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ
“Of some messengers We have already told you the story; of others We have not…” (an-Nisa, 164)
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا مِن قَبْلِكَ رُسُلًا إِلَى قَوْمِهِمْ فَجَاؤُوهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ
“We did indeed send, before you, messengers to their (respective) peoples, and they came to them with Clear Signs.” (ar-Rum, 47)
Beginning with the first man, through every epoch of history, the Almighty continued sending His Prophets, as nabi and rasul, as a mercy for human beings.
Nubuwwah, or prophethood in a general sense, denotes the ambassadorship between the Almighty and His rational servants in regulating their affairs, both Here and in the Hereafter.
A rasul is a person, who receiving Revelation, is furthermore obliged to pass on what has been revealed in him to others. A nabi, on the other hand, is a person who receives Revelation whether or not he is obliged to pass it on. Generally, a nabi is sent to further communicate and reinforce the sharia, the canon law of a rasul sent before him. Therefore each rasul is also a nabi, though not every nabi is a rasul. There are many ahadith which indicate that the terms nabi-rasul have a universal-particular relation: that said, the Quran uses both terms interchangeably.
To the question that may arise as to why the Almighty does not address His servants directly but instead through Prophets, the following response could be rendered:
It is contrary to the mystery of the great trial that comprises the underlying reason of the existence of the universe, for the Almighty to disclose His Revelation through a direct addressing of humankind. Faith would have then lost the honor and worth it has, in its pertaining to an unknown. Receiving commands and prohibitions directly from the Almighty, humankind would have had no choice but to believe, for being directly conscious of the reality of Allah (SWT). By preventing human beings from making a willful choice of either good or bad, this would have in turn rendered the awaiting reward and punishment nonsensical.
On the other hand, human beings are of different levels of understanding, power and ability, for no other reason that they each have different functions to carry out in life. Had all human beings been talented, there would have remained certain things nobody would have liked to do. The fulfilling of all outward functions of the world, from the lowest to the highest, has necessitated that human beings be created in various grades of ability.
The greatest leaders, teachers and guides in the history of mankind are prophets. It is imperative that persons, who are to guide society and moreover show them the right way and endure the torment and hardships that may come therefrom, are endowed with supreme abilities and an endless reserve of patience. Unless they are blessed with high qualities and supreme features of character that people will admire, swaying the masses and guiding them will remain impossible.
Even with ordinary leadership, a person may not become a leader without possessing higher qualities than those under him. Even if he does somehow find himself as a leader, he cannot be successful, for no other reason that the insufficient are never truly recognized as leaders.
It is for that reason that Prophets are acknowledged as naturally endowed with greater qualities. Yet, they cannot be prophets solely through their personal will, by simply putting to use the talents they have from predisposition. Among them, prophethood is exclusive to those handpicked and appointed by the Almighty. Simpler put, neither nubuwwah nor risalah are earned: one cannot acquire them through effort. Instead, Allah (SWT), appoints whoever He wills from among His servants.
So the ayah declares:
اللّٰهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِسَالَتَهُ
“Allah knows best with whom to place His message.” (al-Anam, 124)
In contrast, selecting an ordinary person to carry Revelation is equally incompatible with Divine Will, as not everyone is competent enough to conceive and convey the Word of the Almighty. Prophets have therefore been specially selected from among the most competent, chosen to carry the heavy burden of prophethood, by virtue of the innate endurance with which they have been gifted.
The Attributes of Prophets
All Prophets have certain common attributes, classified as sidq, amanah, fatanah, ismah and tabligh. Belief in prophets comprises these principles.
Sidq marks the honesty and truthfulness of prophets in communicating Divine verdicts, commands and prohibitions, and in all the words they utter. They always uphold honesty in their words and actions, both of which are mirrors of one another. It is inconceivable for them to lie. Their trustworthiness is praised by the Almighty in the Quran:
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا
“Also mention in the Book Ibrahim: He was a man of Truth, a Prophet.” (Maryam, 41)
In emphasis of the impossibility for Prophets to deviate from sidq even for a split second, Allah (SWT), states:
وَلَوْ تَقَوَّلَ عَلَيْنَا بَعْضَ الْأَقَاوِيلِ لَأَخَذْنَا مِنْهُ بِالْيَمِينِ
ثُمَّ لَقَطَعْنَا مِنْهُ الْوَتِينَ
“And if the messenger were to invent any sayings in Our name, We should certainly seize him by his right hand, And We should certainly then cut off the artery of his heart…” (al-Haqqa, 44-46)
Their trustworthiness is of a magnificence even attested to by their foes. Below are just a few of numerous other examples:
During the first days in which the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) publicly announced the Call, standing on a rock on the Hill of Safa, he declared to those of the Quraysh who were present:
“People of Quraysh…If I were to tell you that enemy cavalrymen are staking out the outskirts of that mountain, or in that valley, waiting to pounce on you and seize your belongings, would you believe me?”
Without a second thought, they replied:
“Certainly! For until now, we have known you to be a man of your word and we have never heard you tell a lie…” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 26)
One of the questions posed by Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantine, to Abu Sufyan, still a nonbeliever, in order to obtain more information on the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), was:
“Has there ever been a time where he has failed to keep his word?”
In spite of being in staunch defiance of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) at the time, Abu Sufyan replied, unswervingly:
“No…Whatever promise he makes, he always keeps.” (Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy, 1, 5-6; Muslim, Jihad, 74)
Ubayy ibn Khalaf, a Meccan idolater, was among the most inveterate enemies of Islam. Prior to the Hegira, he would threaten the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), remarking:
“I am raising a horse, feeding it the best fodder. There shall come a day when I will mount on it and kill you!”
On one occasion, however, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) broke his silence and responded:
“Allah willing, I shall be the one who ends up killing you.”
On the day of Uhud, that dim-witted idolater was searching all over the battlefield for the Noble Messenger (pbuh), screaming:
“If he survives today, it means I am gone!”
With this thought in his mind, he was able to come within a very short distance of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and get ready to attack him. Seeing him further away moments before, the Companions wanted to finish him off, only to be prevented by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), telling them:
“Let him come!”
As Ibn Khalaf got closer, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) grabbed a spear from the hands of a Companion.
As Ibn Khalaf charged on his horse, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) pointed the spear, which lightly scraped Ibn Khalaf’s neck as he rode past. But even with that little a blow, he fell off his horse and rolled on the ground awhile, before getting back on his feet horrified and fleeing back to towards his ranks, at the same time shouting, with his eyes about to fly out of their sockets from fright:
“I swear that Muhammad has killed me!”
The idolaters rushing next to him to inspect his wound were all assuring:
“It is only light scrape…”
But unsatisfied, he kept on remarking:
“In Mecca, Muhammad had told me that he would kill me. So I swear, even if he was to spit on me, it would be enough to take my life!”
He continued bawling.
“How could you cry so much over a little scrape?” Abu Sufyan eventually told him off, to which he responded:
“Do you know who did this to me? This is a wound caused by Muhammad. I swear by Lat and Uzza that if they were to inflict on the whole folk of Hijaz the pain I am feeling from this scrape, they would certainly all perish. Back in Mecca, Muhammad had told me he would end up killing me. There and then I knew he was to be the cause of my death…I knew there was no way of saving myself.”
Ubayy, that ingrained enemy of the Prophet (pbuh), died on the return, within days of reaching Mecca. (Ibn Ishaq, p. 89; Ibn Saad, II, 46; Hakim, II, 357)
Even an idolater with a close acquaintance of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) firmly believed in the truth of his word.
Abu Maysara explains:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) had once gone next to Abu Jahl and company. Upon seeing him, they said:
‘We swear, Muhammad, that it is not you we are denying. For as far as we know you are an honest and a truthful man. It is only what you have brought that we refute!’ Revealed thereupon was the ayah:
قَدْ نَعْلَمُ إِنَّهُ لَيَحْزُنُكَ الَّذِي يَقُولُونَ فَإِنَّهُمْ لاَ يُكَذِّبُونَكَ
وَلَكِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ بِآيَاتِ اللّٰهِ يَجْحَدُونَ
‘We know well how their talk grieves you, though in truth they deny not you but it is the signs of Allah that the wicked negate.’ (al-Anam, 33)” (Wahidi, p. 219)
Requiring neither an extra word nor speech, the expression of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) alone was the ultimate embodiment of honesty; such that simply the sight of his face compelled Abdullah ibn Salam, a distinguished Jewish scholar, to remark:
“Such a face can never lie”, as he accepted Islam there and then. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamah, 43; Ahmad, V, 451)
Uttering a lie on behalf of the Almighty is impossible for a man who never spoke a lie, even jokingly, during his entire life prior to being given prophethood. Indeed, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) regarded lying as a sign of hypocrisy, emphatically prohibiting his ummah from speaking a word of untruth.
He states in a hadith:
“So long as one continues to lie and carry the intention to do so, his heart is branded with a black spot. Then the spot grows, turning his entire heart black, to the ultimate point he is recorded among the liars in the Divine sight.” (Muwatta’, Kalam, 18)
Nufay ibn Harith (r.a)narrated:
“The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) one day asked, three times:
‘Should I inform you of the gravest of the great sins?’
‘Please do, Messenger of Allah’, responded we.
‘Ascribing partners to Allah and rebelling against the parents’, he said. He then straightened up from where he had been leaning, assumed a seated position, and added:
‘And also –and listen carefully- lying and perjury’. So many times did he repeat that that fearing he would tire himself, we wished for him to stop.” (Bukhari, Adab, 6; Muslim, Iman, 143)
The Quran underlines the importance of truthfulness as follows:
قَالَ اللّٰهُ هَذَا يَوْمُ يَنفَعُ الصَّادِقِينَ صِدْقُهُمْ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي
مِن تَحْتِهَا الأَنْهَارُ خَالِدِينَ فِيهَا أَبَدًا رَّضِيَ اللّٰهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُواْ عَنْهُ
ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِي
“Allah will say, “This is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth: theirs are gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal Home; Allah well-pleased with them, and they with Allah. That is the great salvation!” (al-Maida, 119)
Amanah denotes the extreme trustworthiness, dependability and honesty possessed by the outstanding figures that are prophets. Even nonbelievers looked upon them with trust. Together with signifying their trustworthiness and reliability in general matters, the attribute of amanah in particular implies their fidelity with regard to Revelation, their faultless communicating of the Divine commands and prohibitions to people, neither adding nor subtracting a word from it.
Allah (SWT), only entrusts His most honest and dependable servants with the honor and duty of prophethood, not the treacherous. The verses below indicate that Prophets have constantly been truthful in reminding their people:
أُبَلِّغُكُمْ رِسَالاَتِ رَبِّي وَأَنَاْ لَكُمْ نَاصِحٌ أَمِينٌ
“I but fulfil towards you the duties of my Lord’s mission: I am to you a sincere and trustworthy adviser.” (al-Araf, 68)
إِنِّي لَكُمْ رَسُولٌ أَمِينٌ
“I am to you a messenger worthy of all trust.” (as-Shuara, 107)
As a matter of fact, the title al-Amin, or the Trustworthy, given to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would resonate equally loud among the ranks of idolaters. Ever suspicious of their own friends, when they had to, the idolaters routinely entrusted their belongings to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Indeed, even just before the journey of Hegira, the idolaters had many of their possessions entrusted with the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), who, in a display of inimitable loyalty, had left Ali (r.a) behind in Mecca to return the goods to their owners, at the risk of death.
al-Amin virtually became the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) second name—and the only name the Meccans used to call him around the twenty-fifth year of his life.
Those up in arms over the Black Stone issue prior to the Prophet’s (pbuh) arbitration were jubilant upon seeing him approach from a distance towards them, excitedly shouting ‘al-Amin is coming’, placing the settlement of their disagreements in his dependable hands. Never could there be a slight question mark raised against his trustworthiness, neither by a Companion who would not think twice of sacrificing his all for him, nor by an enemy intent on putting him to death.
Equal to the trustworthiness of the Prophets, so is Jibril (a.s) the carrier of Revelation, attesting to which the Almighty said:
إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلُ رَسُولٍ كَرِيمٍ ذِي قُوَّةٍ عِندَ ذِي الْعَرْشِ مَكِينٍ
مُطَاعٍ ثَمَّ أَمِينٍ
“Verily this is the word of a most honourable Messenger, endued with Power, possessing rank before the Lord of the Throne, with authority there, and faithful to his trust” (at-Takwir, 19-21) Revelation, is therefore, carried to the Amin on Earth, through the Amin of the Heavens.
Fatanah implies that prophets possess the highest level of intelligence, reason and insight among mankind. They have been gifted with strength of memory, a piercing cognition and solid power for judgment and persuasion.
Fatanah is not a tedious exercise of reason and logic; it much rather represents a level of comprehension beyond genius, the expression of reason, prudence and insight that abides with the heart. To impeccably complete their duties, prophets need to be in possession of peerless intelligence. They would otherwise be unable to put forward to the people the case that they have been sent for and convince them of its truth.
Prophets solve even the most obscure and intricate problems with ease. Wrapping even the most complex issues in the shroud of ease enables their words to be put across with clarity to people of various levels of understanding.
A quality that has transpired in various styles in each prophet, it could be said the life of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is a quintessence of fatanah or prudence. As aforementioned, by virtue of a matchless display of prudence and insight, the Noble Messenger (pbuh), who happened to be walking through the gate of the Kaabah at the time, was able to settle the great dispute that arose pertaining to the replacement of the Black Stone, and prevent what otherwise would have certainly ended up as massive bloodshed between rival clans.
Similarly, his competence when battling in the way of Islam, his prudence in peace, and in particular, during the Armistice of Hudaybiyah, the wisdom in his capture of Mecca and its eventual guidance without the shedding of a drop of blood, his extraordinary discretion and justice in Ta’if, are exemplary displays of fatanah lying beyond the reach of any single mortal.
A Muslim should likewise seize a share of the fatanah of prophets and put to use the gift of reason in the most efficient way possible. Knowing how to say what is to be said, where and when to say it, and no less the behavior to adopt in saying it, is essential.
The delicate approach adopted by Jafar Tayyar (r.a), for instance, in informing the Abyssinian Negus of Islam, is worth enormous significance in terms of exhibiting the ideal prudence of a Believer. When the Negus, then a Christian, insisted that Jafar Tayyar (r.a) recite a few verses of the Quran, instead of reciting, for example, Chapter Kafirun that defies the disbelievers in full force, Jafar chose to recite Chapter Maryam, which speaks highly of both Isa (a.s) and his mother. Enthralled by the ayah read aloud by Jafar, the Negus, reduced to tears, exclaimed:
“There is no doubt that what I have just heard and springs forth from the same source of light as that which was brought by Jesus”, and he entered the fold of Islam not long after. (Ibn Hisham, I, 358-360)
Tabligh refers to how prophets inform people of the Divine Word truthfully, just as they have been commanded. Their invitation contains neither addition nor subtraction. Among the common attributes of Prophets, tabligh is one of their most important duties, as is thus declared in the ayah:
يَآ أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ بَلِّغْ مَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ
وَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلْ فَمَا بَلَّغْتَ رِسَالَتَهُ
“O Messenger! Deliver what bas been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message…” (al-Maida, 67)
In carrying out their responsibility of tabligh prophets have encountered numerous obstacles, in the face of which, however, they never allowed for compromise. Their lives abound in exemplary cases of such experiences.
The Noble Messenger (pbuh) began his invitation to Islam by extending it to his closest kin, acting in accordance with the given time and place, making sure to observe the state of mind and the level of comprehension of his subjects: in compliance with the principle of gradualness he made the most of every opportunity, replacing difficulty with ease, promoting glad tidings rather than attracting hate.
Having devoted his entire life to the call of Islam, in his Farewell Sermon, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) asked the Companions who were present:
“Have I accomplished my duty of conveyance?” After receiving an affirmative response he announced:
“Bear witness, O my Lord!” with satisfaction over a mission accomplished.
Thus all Believers must also live up to the tabligh methods exemplified by the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), to the best of their ability; for calling to Islam is an obligation upon all Muslims.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) states:
“Upon seeing something improper, one should set it right with his hand; if unable to do so, then with his tongue; if unable to that too, then he should despise it with his heart, and that is the weakest faith.” (Muslim, Iman, 78)
The absence, in society, of people who enjoin the good and forbid the wrong, sooner or later results in the wrong becoming customary and accepted as something normal. An evil not eradicated in time after a while becomes ineradicable even if it were wished to be so. Right and wrong become muddled, and as the truth takes flight people forget about their Lord. Consequent upon this is the total destruction of that society. Avoiding such devastation requires that an especial importance is given to the activity of tabligh.
Ismah points to the fact that prophets are immune from falling into sin, whether it is great or small. Owing to this quality, prophets have been safeguarded from becoming mired in the swamp of shirk, both before and after their prophethood. In like manner, it is impossible for them to have a memory lapse or make an error while extending to people the Revelation they receive from the Almighty.
Had Prophets not been endowed with the quality of ismah, then the truth of what they communicated would have remained dubious, a shortcoming which would have cast doubt over their being the proof and witness of the Almighty on Earth.
According to Ahl’us-Sunnah, prophets never commit major sins. Though it is possible for them to commit blunders, unintentionally and in compliance with many underlying reasons, they are never left as they are, but are immediately rectified and cautioned through Revelation.
The commission of these involuntary mistakes called zalla, is motivated by the underlying wisdom of giving Prophets a little taste of insufficiency in comparison with the Almighty and in preventing others from idolizing them through a reminder that they are, after all, human.
The conduct of prophets must be of a kind that can be taken after. People, otherwise, would be prone to dismissing the Divine commands with the excuse that what Prophets enjoin is beyond human capability. In total disregard of this fact, there were even those ignorant enough to expect prophets to be raised from among angels, to whom the Quran tendered the following answer:
قُلْ لَوْ كَانَ فِي الْأَرْضِ مَلآئِكَةٌ يَمْشُونَ مُطْمَئِنِّينَ
لَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَآء مَلَكًا رَّسُولاً
“Say: Had there been in the earth angels walking about as settlers, We would certainly have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as a Messenger.” (al-Isra, 95)
وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَّا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا خَالِدِينَ
“Nor did We give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they exempt from death.” (al-Anbiya, 8)
Likewise protecting their followers from making the same blunders and showing them the right kind of action, requires prophets to provide an example.
For instance, after his tribe remained indifferent to his nine-hundred-and-fifty-year call to the Truth, Nuh (a.s) pleaded:
فَدَعَا رَبَّهُ أَنِّي مَغْلُوبٌ فَانتَصِرْ
“Therefore he called upon his Lord: I am overcome, come then to help!” (al-Qamar, 10)
As his tribe met its ruin by drowning amid the Deluge in consequence of his prayer, Nuh (a.s) again pleaded, overflowing this time with fatherly compassion:
رَبِّ إِنَّ ابُنِي مِنْ أَهْلِي
“Surely, Lord, my son is of my family!” (Hud, 45)
Yet, for wanting his son salvaged while calling destruction upon his tribe, Allah (SWT), sent him the following warning:
إِنِّي أَعِظُكَ أَن تَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ
“…I admonish you lest you be of the ignorant!” (Hud, 46)
That admonishment to Nuh (a.s) has provided a precedent for all Believers to come until the Final Hour.
The attribute la yukhti’, or infallibility, is exclusive to the Almighty alone. It is impossible for mortals to avoid error. Be that as it may, a Muslim should strive to minimize his errors, to ensure which the Quran, on numerous occasions, advises dhikr, that is to say the togetherness of the heart with Allah (SWT), since it is impossible to do injustice or commit an error while the heart says “Allah”.
So declares the Almighty:
وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللّٰهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ
أُوْلَئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ
“And be ye not like those who forgot Allah; and He made them forget their own souls! Such are the rebellious transgressors!” (al-Hashr, 19)
Again, with reference to those ignorant of this aspect:
فَوَيْلٌ لِّلْقَاسِيَةِ قُلُوبُهُم مِّن ذِكْرِ اللّٰهِ أُوْلَئِكَ فِي ضَلَالٍ مُبِينٍ
“Woe to those whose hearts are hard against the remembrance of Allah; those are in clear error!” (az-Zumar, 22)
Besides the five prophetic attributes mentioned, namely sidq, amanah, fatanah, tabligh, ismah, there are an additional three, solely exclusive to the Noble Messenger (pbuh):
1. The Chosen Prophet (pbuh) is the Beloved of Allah, the greatest of all Prophets, the noblest of humankind.
Poet Necip Fazıl concisely depicts him as:
Eternity has refined your fragrance,
You are honey, Being is your comb!
2. As the rasul’us-thaqalayn, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) has been sent to all man and jinn. The religion he brought is valid until the end of time. Other prophets, on the other hand, were sent for a temporary period of time, with some sent for a certain group of people in particular. In this respect, while the miracles of other prophets have remained exclusive to their times, the miracles of the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) extend to all times. The Holy Quran, especially, as the greatest miracle given to him, is set to survive unsullied till the Last Hour, impervious to falsification.
3. He is the Khatam’ul-Anbiya, the Seal of Prophets.
On top of all this, on the Day of Judgment, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) will be privileged with leading the Great Intercession, shafaat’ul-uzma, and be given the Praised Rank, that is to say the maqam’ul-mahmud. It is that Prophet of Mercy (pbuh), who will hence intercede on behalf of the sinners of his ummah, an intercession that will be accepted.
It is an indisputable fact that loving a person, admiring his character and trying to imitate him, are naturally ingrained tendencies. Pinpointing the most exemplary figures and following in their wake is therefore of enormous importance for human beings. Being of eternal grace and generosity, the Almighty has therefore not only sent Revelation to humankind, but also prophets adorned with the most supreme qualities, quintessential figures who are the living embodiment of Divine Revelation. Such consummate characters they are that they exude perfection in all aspects, be it religious, scientific or moral. In fact, by perfecting certain modes of behavior, each Prophet has rendered an outstanding service to humankind.
Among the Prophets, for instance, a look at the life of Nuh (a.s) immediately strikes one with a persevering and patient call to the Truth, and an ultimate and passionate dislike of unbelief and its representatives.
Dominating the life of Ibrahim (a.s) is a relentless battle against idolatry in an attempt to eradicate it permanently, whereby he provides a unique example of trust and reliance in the Almighty, who, in return, turned the fire of Nimrod into a rose garden for him.
Musa (a.s) spent the bulk of his life struggling against the oppressive Pharaoh and his mob, setting up a celebrated social system for Believers in the shade of the Sacred Law.
The distinctive feature of the call of Isa (a.s) was a tenderness of heart filled with mercy and compassion for human beings. Significant in his call is the promotion of sublime virtues like humbleness and leniency towards people.
In spite of the dazzling and legendary kingship of Sulayman (a.s), his maintenance of his spiritual state by virtue of gratitude and humbleness, which made him grow ever greater in his servanthood of the Real, commands admiration.
The life of Ayyub (a.s) reveals instances of fortitude against hardships and of thankfulness to Allah (SWT), at all times, no matter how dire the situation may be.
The life of Yunus (a.s) offers a perfect example of turning towards and attaching to the Almighty with repentance, out of remorse over an error committed.
Even during captivity, Yusuf (a.s) personified the zenith of loyalty to the Almighty and calling to His Path, fending off his attempted seduction by a beautiful woman of wealth and fame, her mesmerizing and tempting call, with lofty purity. His heart, adorned with piety, was virtually like a font of behavioral perfection.
The life of Dawud (a.s) is filled with an excellence of sentiment towards Divine Majesty. Engrossed in His fear and awe, his tearful glorifications and invocations of the Almighty, his turning to Him, earnestly and beseechingly, provide great lessons.
As for the life of Yaqub (a.s), it is the quintessence of the need to avoid despair even in the darkest hour, to attach one’s hopes to the Almighty with steady patience and to never lose hope in His mercy.
Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh), the Seal of Prophets, embodied all the known and unknown distinguished attributes of the entirety of Prophets to come before him -124,000 on one account-, and more, representing the apex of virtue and conduct. His celebrated life is a vast ocean of which the lives of all the other prophets are tributary rivers that pour into it.
In order that Religion flourish within an environment of peace and happiness, the family of humankind that began with Adam and Hawwa (a.s) adopted that certain area of Mecca, on which today stands the Kaabah, as the first place of worship. Spread across vast lands thereafter owing to the demands of life, the children of Adam (a.s) continued their life of religion, guided time and again by prophets, remaining loyal to Divine Truths which, since times immemorial, have been exposed to distortion by the ignorant and those bent on destroying religion. By virtue of sending prophets in succession, the Almighty has always mended the damage inflicted, reviving Religion each time with a fresh breath of life. Humankind has thereby been saved, each time, from universal, individual and social disarray.
Making its entrance into the world at long last, at the asr mark of its entire history was the Great Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh), with whom the life of Religion met its final and grandest display, at the very place in which it had been inaugurated. It is now inconceivable to imagine a greater perfection beyond that of his dispensation, insofar as with him, the regular revival of Religion through the sending of Prophets came to an end, making Islam the religion Allah (SWT), is pleased with.
On the Humanness of the Blessed Prophet
Allah (SWT), has reinforced humankind with prophets of their own kind, who dwelled in their midst, and the details of whose lives were quite known to them. In reply to the idolaters’ wishes to see a miracle, the Almighty counseled the Noble Messenger (pbuh) to say:
قُلْ سُبْحَانَ رَبِّي هَلْ كُنتُ إَلاَّ بَشَرًا رَّسُولاً وَمَا مَنَعَ النَّاسَ
أَن يُؤْمِنُواْ إِذْ جَاءهُمُ الْهُدَى إِلاَّ أَن قَالُواْ أَبَعَثَ اللّٰهُ بَشَرًا رَّسُولاً قُل لَّوْ كَانَ فِي الأَرْضِ مَلآئِكَةٌ يَمْشُونَ مُطْمَئِنِّينَ لَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْهِمْ مِنَ السَّمَاء مَلَكًا رَّسُولاً
“Say: Glory be to my Lord; am I aught but a mortal messenger? And nothing prevented people from believing when the guidance came to them except that they said: What! has Allah raised up a mortal to be a messenger? Say: Had there been in the Earth angels walking about as settlers, We would certainly have sent down to them from the heaven an angel as a messenger”(al-Isra, 93-95)
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) would remind of his inability to produce a miracle of his own doing, without it being through the permission of the Almighty, no other than the fact that he, too, was after all human. Reiterating this fact on numerous occasions is also the Quran:
قُلْ إِنَّمَا أَنَا بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَى إِلَيَّ أَنَّمَا إِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ
“Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your god is one…” (al-Kahf, 110)
The words below of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) leave no doubt as to him being a human being just like everyone else:
“I, too, am human like the rest of you. You come to me to settle your disputes. Some may have more proofs or be more persuasive, and therefore I may judge in favor of them in line with what I hear. Whoever I have favored in my judgment at the expense of the right of his brother, let him know that I have handed over to him a portion of Hellfire.” (Bukhari, Shahadah, 27; Mazalim, 16; Muslim, Aqdiyya, 5)
Prophets were sent not only to communicate revelation, but also to establish a lifestyle compliant with the Divine way, to exhibit an exemplary character under all circumstances and provide a concrete case in point. Since this could only be carried out within a society of human beings, only a human being could have achieved this task. Had there been angels sent instead, verbal communication of the Divine Revelation would have been the only thing they would have been capable of. Being incapable of leading a life in society and therefore unable to relate to their lives and human problems, they would have failed to address the human condition. Human beings would have then come up with the excuse that not being angels, it naturally lies beyond their power to obey the commands and prohibitions communicated by them.
In that respect, being under an obligation to provide an example for his ummah, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) did not lead the extraordinary life the authority of being a Prophet would have otherwise granted. He displayed feats of wonder only very rarely and on an individual scale. The majority of the activities that filled his life evolved around the necessities of society, in line with their capacities. For that reason, anyone intent on becoming an ideal merchant, a perfect family man, a superb commander, an administrator, and so forth, can very well derive principles from the life of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) that will allow him to be so.
Society, through history, has held fast to the illusion that a human being cannot be a representative of the Almighty. That prophets have been human, with wives and children of their own kind, carrying the needs of ordinary human beings have been wrongly regarded as deficiencies on their behalf, which has led to brazenly laying the blame on Divine Will. Many a Prophet has been indicted with such a charge by the very people to whom he was sent.
On the other hand, excess love and devotion to certain Prophets by their followers has led, over time, to a belief that they must be superhuman. Glorifying them with extreme intensity, many have seen fit to ascribe their prophet a divine status, thereby falling into idolatry. Some mistook their prophet to be God, others chose to call him the son of God, or even God incarnate, resulting in a corruption of monotheism, and a promotion of anthropomorphism as is the case with Christianity.
The purpose of the emphasis of the humanness of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in the Quran and Hadith is to deter the Believers from falling into the error that plagued people before them.
Omar (r.a) retells the following words of the Noble Messenger (pbuh):
“Do not praise me in the excessive manner in which Christians praise Isa, son of Maryam. I am without a doubt a servant of Allah. So duly call me ‘Allah’s servant and messenger.’” (Bukhari, Anbiya, 48)
In another hadith, we see the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) caution a certain group tending to praise him to excess:
“Do not elevate me above a higher rank than I deserve…for Allah had made me a servant before He made me a Prophet.” (Hakim, III, 197/4825; Haythami, IX, 21)
Another cause for the Prophet’s (pbuh) frequent reminder of being human and a servant of the Almighty is his unfathomable humbleness.
Doubtless, many a time, after having enumerated in thankful appreciation the blessings bestowed upon him by the Almighty, he was always quick to adjoin to it the expression, “this is not to boast”.
Abdullah ibn Jubayr (r.a) explains:
“Once while the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was walking in the company of a few Companions, one of them made a move to veil him from the sun. Upon becoming aware of the man’s attempt, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) quickly intervened, putting the veil on the ground, before saying:
‘I am human just like you!’” (Haythami, IX, 21)
It should also be remembered, however, that, although human, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is certainly not just like any other human being. As elaborated by a poet:
“Sure, Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) is human, but he is not like any other. How a ruby fares among stones is how the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) fares among human beings.”
Another poet puts this reality into the following words:
There is nobody alike in entire history,
On each tongue lives his memory,
Heavens stand for the perfection of his Ascension,
Angels rise admiring his beauty,
The essence of words resides in his personality,
A man, who yet presides over angels in supremacy
The Wisdom behind the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) being an Ummi
The word ummi harbors a variety of meanings, denoting one who has remained pure and unsullied like a newborn, or is unlettered without having received any formal education, as well as signifying Meccans or, in general, the Arabs, with the exception of the People of the Book residing in Arabia.
On the words of the Quran, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was an ummi, that is he was unlettered, knowing neither how to read nor write.
Thus states the ayah:
الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ
مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ وَالإِنْجِيلِ
“Those who follow the Messenger-Prophet, the Ummi, whom they find written down with them in the Taurat and the Injeel” (al-Araf, 157)
That the Messenger of Allah was unlettered was something also known to the idolaters of the time, who, on the testimony of the Quran, would accordingly allege:
وَقَالُوا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ اكْتَتَبَهَا فَهِيَ تُمْلَى عَلَيْهِ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
“They claimed: Stories of the ancients—he has got them written, and these are read out to him morning and evening” (al-Furqan, 5)
The reasons why the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was called ummi or unlettered could be listed as follows:
1. He remained as pure as the day he was born, a purity of predisposition through which he was protected from the smear of external knowledge, trained and educated personally by the Almighty instead.
The Quran fittingly indicates:
وَقَالُوا أَسَاطِيرُ الْأَوَّلِينَ اكْتَتَبَهَا فَهِيَ تُمْلَى عَلَيْهِ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
“We will make you recite so you shall not forget” (al-A’la, 6)
As also professed by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh):
“My Lord educated me and made my education beautiful.” (Suyuti, I, 12)
Cleaving his chest on three occasions (sharh’us-sadr), the Almighty cleansed all negativities from the Prophet’s (pbuh) heart, replacing them with sublime feelings of peace, serenity, mercy, compassion, faith and wisdom.
2. It serves as a reminder that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was an Arab, not from the People of the Book.
3. It is in emphasis that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was born in Mecca, also known as Umm’ul-Qura. Qaryah, whose plural is qura, is an Arabic word that denotes villages or the smallest settlements. Umm’ul-Qura, therefore, means the mother of all settlements, that is to say, the first ever milieu in which human beings settled.
Arabs were on the whole unlettered; they were a people remote from culture, who did not know how to read and write. Allah (SWT), sent them a Prophet from among their ranks; a quintessential Prophet whose inner blend of purity remained uncorrupted.
The ayah describes:
هُوَ الَّذِي بَعَثَ فِي الْأُمِّيِّينَ رَسُولًا مِّنْهُمْ يَتْلُو عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتِهِ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا مِن قَبْلُ لَفِي ضَلَالٍ مُّبِينٍ
“It is He Who has sent among the Unlettered a Messenger from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error.” (al-Jum’a, 2)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) sheds greater light on the issue:
“We are an ummi people. We neither know how to write, nor calculate.” (Muslim, Siyam, 15)
Although being unlettered denotes a lack of knowledge when used for common people, for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) it carries connotations of perfection and superiority. That a Prophet, whose perfection of knowledge and action can leave even the supposedly most cultured in awe, could only be a fabulous proof that he was sent directly by the Almighty.
Allah (SWT), declares:
وَمَا كُنتَ تَتْلُو مِن قَبْلِهِ مِن كِتَابٍ وَلَا تَخُطُّهُ بِيَمِينِكَ
إِذًا لَّارْتَابَ الْمُبْطِلُونَ
“And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted.” (al-Ankabut, 48)
Unless through Divine Revelation, there is no way known that an ummi, simply through inner inspiration, can put together the Holy Quran, a miracle that leaves powerless entire man and jinn, and provide insight into historical facts like the accounts of the Pharaoh, of Musa’s (a.s) mother and Yusuf (a.s).
The Quran presents the experiences of past people to humankind in the most evocative manner, in conformity with the demands of contemporary science and standards of the philosophy of history.
Being unlettered, from another perspective, is the minimum requirement for the words of the Quran to have an all-inclusive universality. Reminiscent of the aphorism “the leader of the caravan is always its weakest”, to make sure of getting its message across to humankind entire and rendering its application achievable by all human beings, the Quran has in a sense targeted, first and foremost, the level of illiteracy. Such that understanding and living Islam requires as little as being an ordinary, common human being. Coming into play, again, is a similar sensitivity in its taking the motions of the Sun as a measure in determining daily deeds of worship, and those of the Moon in determining the deeds of worship that are monthly or annual.
Having descended to the level of human beings does not mean that the Quran has wished for them to remain on that level, aiming to raise them from illiteracy to being an ummah with a Book. To be sure, Islam did establish a brand new civilization, the cornerstone of which was the Holy Quran, to which it referred as al-Kitab, the Book.
Hilyah means adornments, jewelry, as well as beauty of spirit and expression. By convention, the term also denotes a verbal description of the appearance of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), inasmuch as allowed by the capacity of the words of mortals.
“Surely, if one writes the hilyah of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and takes some time to contemplate it, Allah (SWT), will protect the person from illness, troubles and a sudden death. If one takes the hilyah with him on a journey, then he will be under Divine protection throughout.”
Many Muslim scholars have put forth their views with regard to the numerous blessings of the hilya of the Noble Messenger (pbuh). The tradition of memorizing it, motivated by the hope of seeing the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in a dream survives in many Muslim countries to this day.
Having said that, equal to the inadequacy of any verbal depiction of the blessed appearance of the Prophet (pbuh), a beauty described as ‘light upon light’, one must also consider the absolute inadequacy any human being faces when gazing at him and trying to comprehend his reality. A perfect articulation of the beauties of that exceptional being, in whom the Almighty has gathered up all the exquisiteness He has ever bestowed upon mankind, remains impossible. As said by Hakani:
None who knows this has belied,
Among creation, that he has no peer.
These attempted illustrations of the Prophet (pbuh), the Beauty of all Beauties, are simply to console and assuage hearts not fortunate enough to witness the Age of Bliss, ever burning with his yearning. Those who convey the precious descriptions of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) virtually present us with a drop from an ocean. Believers, who have tried to see the ocean through the crystals of those drops, have striven to benefit from his quintessential example, and by virtue of intensifying their love for him, to try to become one with his conduct and morals.
Without a doubt, as compelled by their predisposition, hearts always incline towards the beautiful, with the desire of becoming one with it. The attraction takes hold of the mind, as it exclusively becomes preoccupied with it. Budding in the heart, then, is the desire to become like the beloved, in terms of spirit and morality. Consequent upon taking the beloved as example, one ends up becoming one with him/her. Owing to the tendency of predisposition, it is doubtless that these descriptions of the Prophet (pbuh) are sure to increase love and enthusiasm towards him.
As a matter of fact, Hasan (r.a) uses the following words to describe his emotional state when asking for a description of the Blessed Prophet from his foster uncle Hind ibn Abi Hala (r.a):
“My uncle Hind ibn Abi Hala used to describe the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in the most beautiful style. I used to love it when my uncle described him, for my heart to continue being attached to him and stand firm on his path.” (Tirmidhi, Shamail, p.10)
Hasan and Husayn (r.a), who could never have enough of listening to others depict the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), likewise, on many an occasion, heard their father Ali (r.a) elaborate his graceful appearance, a description they have passed on to future generations.
Yet it gives reason to wonder as to what portion of the reality of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) could really be conveyed through such depictions? Similarly, one can only comprehend the hilyah in accordance with the intensity of the love within and in line with the limited content words can at best convey.
Thus, notwithstanding our blatant inadequacy in that respect which we humbly confess, we nonetheless wish to present here a drop from the narrations that have trickled down to us that depict the gracious appearance of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). A concise summary of the said narrations reveal that:
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was of medium height, closer to tall.
He had a perfectly balanced stature and a well proportioned body.
Having a wide chest and broad shoulders, there was also a seal of prophethood adorning the spot between his shoulder blades.
His bones and joints were largish.
He was of a pinkish white complexion, like a rose. Shiny like light, his skin was softer than silk. His graceful body was always clean, emitting a refreshing scent. Regardless of whether he had put on fragrance or not, his skin and sweat were more elegant than the most exquisite of fragrances. If one were to shake hands with him, his hands would be immersed all day in the Prophet’s (pbuh) elegant scent; it was as if roses had gotten their fragrance from him. If the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was to caress a child’s head, one could immediately tell the child apart from others, due to his beautiful scent.
Upon sweating, his skin would resemble a rose sprinkled with dew.
He had a dense beard, which he would not allow to grow more than a handful. Upon his passing away, there were around twenty strands of grey hair on his hair and beard.
His eyebrows were the shape of a crescent, with a fair distance separating both.
Located right between his eyebrows was a vein that would visibly swell, whenever the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) got annoyed for something in the name of Truth.
He would brush his pearl like teeth with miswaq, the frequent use of which he would always recommend.
His black lashes were quite long. His eyes were stunningly big; entirely black where black, and entirely white where white. It was as if the hands of the Divine had garnished them with kohl in past eternity.
As exceptional as the perfection of his spiritual composition was the beauty of his physical appearance.
His face would shine like the full moon. Aisha (r.ha) has said:
“So radiant was the Messenger of Allah’s (pbuh) face that, in the dark of the night, I would make use of its light to put a thread through the eye of a needle.”
Between his shoulder blades was a Divine mark attesting to his prophethood. Many a Companion would crave just to kiss it. The disappearance of the seal upon the passing away of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was accepted as confirmation of his demise.
His blessed body underwent no change whatsoever after his bereavement. Staring at the Light of Being (pbuh) behind teary eyes, Abu Bakr (r.a) mournfully remarked, moments after he had passed away:
“As your life, so too is your death beautiful, Messenger of Allah”, thereupon placing his lips on the forehead of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
It is impossible to adequately describe the profundity of the elegance of his heart.
Never uttering a word in vain, his every word conveyed wisdom and advice. There was not the least place for backbiting and futile talk in his vocabulary. He would talk to people in accordance with their capacities.
He was kind and humble. Although he would never express his joy through excessive laughter, his face always displayed a warm smile to others.
If someone happened to see the Prophet (pbuh), awe would overwhelm him; even a brief conversation sufficed to implant feelings of deep love and affection towards him.
He would treat the righteous with respect, according to their ranks of piety. Receiving a massive share of his kindness and respect were his relatives. It was habitual for him to extend the tenderness he nurtured for his family and friends to the rest of society. He explicitly reminded us of these qualities, saying:
“None of you may become a true Believer until you wish upon your brothers what you wish upon yourselves.” (Bukhari, Iman, 7; Muslim, Iman, 71-72)
He would treat his servants inexpressibly well, feeding them whatever he had and clothing them with whatever garments he himself wore. Generous and compassionate, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had struck a perfect balance between courage and kindness.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was a man of his word and always kept his promises. Superior to all in terms of virtue, intelligence and sharpness, he does truly deserve all the praises one can possibly state. With beauty of appearance coupled with perfection of life, he was a sacred being beyond compare in all creation.
He also carried a perpetual look of sorrow. Withdrawn to an uninterrupted state of contemplation, he only spoke when necessary. Though his spell of silence was lengthy, he would complete every sentence he began, conveying the deepest meaning using the least possible words. His words would come out distinctly, like the beads of a necklace. Though he was born with a gentle predisposition, his stature was nevertheless majestically imposing.
He would never get up from his seat when angry. Besides, he would never get angry, unless there was an infringement of right; and given there was an infringement of which nobody took notice, his anger would not subside until the right was restored. Afterwards, he would once again resume his usual composure. He never got angry on his own behalf; he would never develop a vendetta or become quarrelsome over a personal matter.
He would never enter the household of anyone without permission. Once he returned home, he would divide the time he spent there into three parts: the first was for Allah (SWT), the second for his family and the third for himself, though only by name, as in effect he would spare that time for all kinds of people, both common and eminent, depriving not a single person of his precious time, leaving not a single heart uncaptured.
Each state and deed of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was an expression of Divine Remembrance.
At mosques, he would assume different places for seating, to prevent others from making a habit of sitting in a particular place, wary of the consecration of certain places and sites. He disliked the adoption of conceited behavior in public. Upon entering an assembly, he would take whatever seat available, insisting others do the same.
Whenever a person wanted something from him in sorting out a particular problem, regardless of the importance of the favor, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) would never feel at ease until that need was taken care of. Given the impossibility of sorting the problem out, then the Noble Messenger (pbuh) would not recoil from at least soothing the person with some comforting and heartening words. He was a confidant for all. No matter what their social classes were, whether rich or poor, wise or ignorant, people would receive even treatment next to him, solely from the vantage of being a human being. All his gatherings were environments teeming with kindness, wisdom, manners, patience and trust, first and foremost in Allah (SWT), then in each other.
Never would there be a person explicitly condemned for his shortcomings. When there was a need to warn a particular person, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) would subtly and gently hint at it, without breaking the person’s heart.
“Do not celebrate a disaster that befalls your Muslim brother…for through His Mercy, Allah may deliver him from that disaster and test you”, he would say. (Tirmidhi, Qiyamat, 54)
Not only was he ever preoccupied with investigating the concealed flaws of others, he was stern in prohibiting others from getting busy with such ignobility; for Divine decree had banned suspicion of others and inquiring into their hidden faults.
He would not speak, unless it was with an aim to reap the Divine pleasure. Ecstasy would take hold of the assemblies in which he spoke. So enamored would the listeners be while the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) spoke, and so intently would they give ear, that in the words of Omar (r.a), had there been a bird perching above any of their heads, it could have remained there for hours on end undisturbed.
The manners and conduct that had reflected onto his Companions were of such force that, more often than not, even asking him questions was deemed to be impudent. Thus they would wait for a desert Arab to perhaps arrive and inadvertently drop in to ask the Noble Prophet (pbuh) questions and spark a conversation, from whose blessings and grace they would be in hope of benefiting.
Timid in his presence, there were even those who had waited for two years before plucking up the courage to ask their questions. Due to his imposing appearance, they could not stare at him in the face.
Amr ibn Âs(r.a) has confessed:
“Though I spent a lot of time next to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), the shyness I was overcome with in his presence and the immense feeling of reverence deep inside always prevented me from lifting my head and staring at his sacred and beautiful face to my heart’s pleasure. If they were to ask me, right now, to describe the appearance of the Messenger of Allah, believe me, I could not.” (Muslim, Iman, 192; Ahmad, IV, 199)
A person who wished to describe his unique traits could not help but admit to “never seeing anyone alike, before him or after.”
During his visit of a certain Arab tribe, Khalid ibn Walid (r.a) was asked by the chief to explain the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
“That is impossible”, replied Khalid (r.a). “Words could not suffice!”
“Then at least explain to the best of your ability”, said the chief, prompting Khalid to give the magnificent reply below:
“Let me tell you this much: the Envoy reflects the honor of the Sender. Since the Sender is the Lord of the Worlds, the Creator of the Universe, then you imagine the honor of the Envoy!” (Munawi, V, 92; Qastallani, Mevâhib-i Ledünniyye Tercümesi, p. 417)
Endowed with an immense degree of beauty, awe-inspiring majesty and a dazzling elegance, he really needed neither an extra proof, nor a further miracle to prove the truth of him being the Prophet of the Almighty.
His morals were the Quran, something gracefully elaborated by Muallim Naji:
Embodied in you is the Quran’s beauty, the praise of all things existent,
The Quran is your hilyah written by the Hand of Might
A similar tone reverberates in the words Mawlana Khalid Baghdadi ŞÏÓ ÓÑå, which express how the supreme virtues of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) invigorate entire creation:
“How splendidly beneficial he is that thanks to his bountiful existence, pearls billow out of seas, emerald from hard stones and roses from thorns. You would not see a bud that does not smile out of joy, and blossom, in a garden where his beautiful conduct is mentioned.” (Diwan, p. 65-66)
All beauties had united in the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), virtually radiating from his body. Still, nobody has been able to see the beauties of Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in their completeness. In the words of Imam Qurtubi:
“The beauty of the appearance of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) never fully transpired. Were the entirety of his beauties to be shown in all their reality, the Companions would not have had to power to gaze at him.” (Ali Yardım, Peygamberimiz’in Şemâili p. 49)
The Noble Messenger’s poet Hassan ibn Thabit (r.a) articulates the uniqueness of his nature in the following:
وَاَحْسَنَ مِنْكَ لَمْ تَرَقَطُّ عَيْنٍ
وَاَجْمَلَ مِنْكَ لَمْ تَلِدِ النِّسَاءُ
جُلِقْتَ مُبَرَّءًٖا مِنْ كُلِّ عَيْبٍ
كَاَنَّكَ قَدْ خُلِقْتَ كَمَا تَشَاءُ
“Messenger of Allah…No eye has seen anyone more beautiful than you. No woman has given birth to anyone more beautiful. You were created remote from all shame and insufficiency, as if you were created in your own liking!”
The Resumption of Revelation
The break in Divine Revelation lasted six months. Its resumption is recounted by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh):
“As I was walking one day I heard a voice from the sky. I lifted my head, and there he was; the Angel that had come to me at Hira, seated on a throne suspended on the horizon. I was terrified. I returned home, urging:
‘Cover me…cover me!’
(As I lay covered, Jibril (a.s) returned; and through him) Allah (SWT), revealed:
يَآ أَيُّهَا الْمُدَّثِّرُ قُمْ فَأَنذِرْ وَرَبَّكَ فَكَبِّرْ
وَثِيَابَكَ فَطَهِّرْ وَالرُّجْزَ فَاهْجُرْ
‘O you who is covered! Arise and warn, And your Lord do magnify, And your garments do purify, And uncleanness do shun!’ (al-Muddaththir, 1-5)
Revelation continued uninterrupted thereafter.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 74/4, 5; Muslim, Iman, 255-258)
The Almighty declares:
وَلَقَدْ وَصَّلْنَا لَهُمُ الْقَوْلَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
“And certainly We have made the word to reach them so that they may be mindful.” (al-Qasas, 51)
The unbroken continuance of Revelation is likewise to be counted among the miracles of the Quran. The successive revelation to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) of verses of such magnificence, defying imitation even if an attempt was to be made by the entirety of humankind with another species of being also called upon to help, can only confirm beyond the shadow of a doubt the Divine source of the Quran, providing one of the clearest proofs of it being impervious to human intervention.
Readily admitted, moreover, is the fact that even a simple volume of poems takes great toil to compile. However, regardless of the degree of care shown, it is impossible to argue that any of these manmade works is free from error. Such concerns are inapplicable to Divine Revelation, forever surviving in its original form, abounding in numerous miracles. That alone suffices to manifest the splendor of the Holy Quran.
Upon the coming of Chapter Muddaththir, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) immediately got up from where he had been laying. Not knowing what had just happened, Khadijah (r.ha) was surprised:
“Why did you not continue your rest?” she asked.
“Time for resting is over”, said the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), informing her of the Revelation that had come anew.
During the first few days of the arrival of Revelation, Jibril (a.s) taught the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) how to make wudu and perform salat. The command to perform a deed of worship which he was fond of had put a smile on his face.
Jubilant, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) returned home. Telling Khadija (r.ha) of the great blessing given by Allah (SWT), he instructed her how to make wudu and offer salat.
The First Muslims
The first person to believe in the Divine Message was the Messenger of Allah himself, (pbuh), which is expressed in the Quran as such:
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِن رَّبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“The messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord…” (al-Baqara, 285)
قُلْ إِنِّي أُمِرْتُ أَنْ أَعْبُدَ اللّٰهَ مُخْلِصًا لَّهُ الدِّينَ
وَأُمِرْتُ لِأَنْ أَكُونَ أَوَّلَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ
“Say: “Verily, I am commanded to serve Allah with sincere devotion,
And I am commanded that I shall be the first of those who submit.” (Zumer 11-12)
The next in line to accept Islam after the Prophet (pbuh) was his honorable wife Khadijah (r.a). Each time the Noble Prophet would return home dejected and depressed from having to put up with the insults, mockery and ill-treatment of his tribesman, the Almighty would soothe his pain with the kind and consoling words of Khadijah (r.ha) that served as a Divine relief easing his mission.
Once Khadijah (r.ha) became a Muslim, their daughters Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatimah (r.ha) followed in her footsteps.
Having seen the Prophet (pbuh) and Khadijah offer salat together, Ali -may his countenance be ennobled- once asked:
“What are you doing?”
“This is the religion Allah has chosen for Himself. I hereby invite you to believe in the one Allah and worship Him, and reject Lat and Uzza who neither benefit nor harm’, said the Prophet (pbuh).
“I have not heard of a religion of this kind until now”, replied Ali. “In any case, I cannot accept anything without first consulting my father Abu Talib.’
As the Noble Prophet (pbuh) had been calling to Islam only secretly at the time, he said:
“If you will not choose to become a Muslim, Ali, keep this between us, do not expose it.”
That night, the Almighty warmed Ali’s -may his countenance be ennobled- heart to the light of Islam. He went next to the Prophet (pbuh) in the morning to ask more questions. Upon receiving the desired answers, he succumbed to the wish of the Prophet (pbuh) and became a Muslim. Being only ten years old at the time and fearing his father, he nonetheless kept his acceptance of Islam secret for some time. (Ibn Ishaq, p. 118; Ibn Saad, III, 21).
Every time the Prophet (pbuh) wished to perform salat, with Ali -may his countenance be ennobled- by his side, he would set out to the valleys of Mecca and worship in secret, and would return by sunset. This continued for a while.
It was only a matter of time before Abu Talib found out about the secret prayers of his son and nephew, whereupon the Prophet (pbuh) formally invited his beloved uncle to Islam. Abu Talib responded:
“Abandoning the religion of my ancestors, my dear nephew, is not something within my power. But be sure to hold fast onto that with which you have been sent. By Allah, as long as I am alive no harm shall come to you.”
And to Ali -may his countenance be ennobled- he said:
“He invites you only to goodness and integrity. Remain firm on his path, son; do not ever leave him!” (Ibn Hisham, I, 265)
During a commercial visit to Mecca, Abdullah ibn Masud (r.a) saw the Prophet (pbuh), Khadijah and Ali (r.a) circumambulate the Kaabah, and noted that Khadijah paid particular attention to covering herself with the hijab. (Zahabi, Siyer, I, 463)
Ufayf al-Kindi also paid a visit to Mecca at the time for trade where he noticed the Prophet (pbuh), Khadijah and Ali perform salat by the Kaabah. Interested, he requested information about them from Abbas (r.a), who after describing them at length, added:
“By Allah, I know of no other people who believe in this religion apart from those three!”
Even long after having become Muslim, Ufayf (r.a) was later always to express his regret for that day and bemoan:
“If only I had accepted Islam that day and had become the second male Muslim! How I wish now to have been the fourth among them!’ (Ibn Saad, VIII, 18; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, II, 487)
Right after Ali, Zayd ibn Harithah, (r.a), the freed slave of the Prophet (pbuh), also accepted Islam and offered salat, never leaving the company and service of the Prophet (pbuh) thereafter. So sincere was his devotion to the Messenger of Allah that when the vagrants of Ta’if began stoning the Prophet (pbuh), he shielded him with his own body until he was left bloody and bruised, for which he was graced with the personal affection and compliments of the Prophet (pbuh).
In this respect, significant is the following account of Omar (r.a) that testifies to the love the Prophet (pbuh) had for Zayd (r.a).
As Caliph, Omar (r.a) had reserved a salary of 3,500 dirham for Zayd’s son Usama, 500 dirham more than the salary of Abdullah, Omar’s own son. Abdullah protested.
“Why do you value Usama more than I, when I have been involved in a greater number of battles than him?’’
Omar’s (r.a) response manifested the richness of his heart and the greatness of his humility, along with his extraordinary esteem for justice.
‘Well, son, the Prophet (pbuh) liked his father more than he liked yours. He also liked Usama more than he liked you. It is for that reason that I have preferred the fondness of the Prophet (pbuh) over mine’. (Tirmidhi, Manaqib, 39)
As seen in this example, which is just one among numerous others, the Companions always willingly chose those whom the Prophet (pbuh) liked over their own.
Abu Bakr (r.a) had already been a friend of the Prophet (pbuh) even before Prophethood. Since childhood, he had witnessed the Messenger’s perfect morals, loyalty and trustworthiness and was convinced that a person whose unblemished standards prevented him from uttering even the smallest of lies could never lie about the Almighty. Hence, when invited by the Prophet (pbuh) to accept Islam, Abu Bakr accepted without hesitation.
In a relevant hadith, the Prophet (pbuh) states:
“When Allah sent me as a Prophet to you people, you first said ‘You are a liar’. But Abu Bakr said ‘He speaks the truth’ and then supported me with his life and wealth”. (Bukhari, Ashab’u-Nabi, 5)
Nothing had made the Prophet (pbuh) happier than Abu Bakr’s (r.a) acceptance of Islam. Once he became a Muslim, he openly proclaimed his faith without hesitation and began inviting others to believe in Allah and his Messenger.
Abu Bakr (r.a) holds an exceptionally important place in the life of the Noble Prophet (pbuh). In this respect, the success of any given cause depends upon three factors:
1. A governing idea.
2. People rallying around that idea.
3. Financial resource.
The governing idea was the content of Islam, confirmed by Revelation. Regarding the other two factors, Abu Bakr (r.a) assumed a crucial role. It was with him that the rallying began and his great wealth was put to use in taking care of the various financial needs of the cause, including, among others, the freeing of Muslim slaves.
To further explain these two points, it can be said that the friendship between the Prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr (r.a)that spanned across their teenage years, turned into a sublime companionship once the mission of prophethood began.
Already honored for being among the first to accept Islam, Abu Bakr further earned the title as-Siddiq, by not allowing even a speck of doubt to sully his faith. True to this spirit, the upcoming years were to stand witness to his amazing material and spiritual devotion in the cause of spreading Islam, when he was to end up devoting his entire wealth in the way of Allah (SWT).
To love is to overflow with affection for the beloved; it is to be able to love whatever and whoever the beloved loves, to prefer his or her desires over one’s own and to able to sacrifice all in the way of the beloved. The life of Abu Bakr (r.a) is filled with such supreme instances of a devoted love for and complete self-annihilation in the Prophet (pbuh).
On one occasion, Abu Bakr (r.a) became bedridden simply upon hearing the Prophet (pbuh) was ill. Such uplifting love resulted in a complete bond between the two friends, so much so that the Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Abu Bakr is part of me and I am part of him. He is my brother both in this world and in the hereafter”. (Daylami, I, 437) This is a confirmation of their companionship in the spiritual world and a mutual reflection of the state of their hearts.
On his deathbed, the Prophet (pbuh) further said of the doors leading to his Mosque:
“Close all the doors except that of Abu Bakr!” (Bukhari, Ashabu’n-Nabi, 3) This compliment is one of the finest expressions of the spiritual connection and exceptional closeness between the two.
Also becoming Muslim during the first days of the call of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) were Bilal the Abyssinian and his mother (r.a). Bilal (r.a) was in fact among the first seven to announce their acceptance of Islam. To renounce his faith, he was inflicted with the severest of tortures, which he would endure, reciting ‘Ahad! Ahad! Allah is one! Allah is one’, each time he was forced to deny his belief.
Paying their ransom, Abu Bakr (r.a) freed both Bilal and his mother, for which not only did he receive the praises of the Prophet (pbuh), he also became an exemplar of compassion and generosity.
Mawlana Rumi ŞÏÓ ÓÑå recounts this instance, using the language of the heart, as follows:
“Upon hearing of the horrendous torture exacted on Bilal Habashi, the Siddiq appeared in the presence of the Noble Prophet and informed him of Bilal’s troubles:
‘That sacred soul, who clutches the heavens, has fallen in love with you. He is captivated by your affection. Only for this reason do the oppressors harass that angelic man. In spite of his innocence, they pluck his wings. They want to bury that great treasure in the dirt of idolatry and rebellion…
They are laying him on scorching sand under the burning sun; thrashing his naked body with thorny branches…
But despite the fount-like gushing of blood from his flesh, he still says ‘Allah is one, Allah is one’; he does not give up prostrating to his Lord…’
Compassion and mercy had virtually turned every bit of Abu Bakr’s body into a tongue aching with sorrow and agony, with which he was distressfully and lengthily explaining the torment of Bilal to the Noble Prophet (pbuh).
At last, he unveiled the intention in his heart and uttered, ‘I want to ransom him, Messenger of Allah; I am ready to spend all my wealth. I shall not feel at ease in this world until I save that sacred soul who has incurred the wrath and torture of the enemies of Allah only for having loved Allah and having become His slave, and a believer of His messenger’.
The Noble Prophet (pbuh) became overly delighted, and responded, ‘I too am your partner in this venture…you compassionate friend of Allah and His Messenger!’
Abu Bakr then immediately headed to the house of Bilal’s master. Bilal had meanwhile passed out from the pain of torture. Abu Bakr had only bitter words to say to his master, the man deprived of even the least mercy.
‘You evil, ruthless soul! How can you torture a friend of Allah? You callous man! With what kind of malice and hatred are you filled?
You merciless beast! Do you think yourself a man? You are a villain deprived of mercy, a disgusting soul clad as a human being!’
Following these words, Abu Bakr quenched the greed of Bilal’s master with so much worldly goods that the man was left in awe as he watched Abu Bakr pour out his ransom.
Realizing the amazement of the deprived man, Abu Bakr said, ‘You fool! Little are you aware that like a child, you have given me a pearl in return for a walnut. Little do you know that Bilal is worth both worlds. The difference is that you look at the color of his skin, while I look at his soul. If you were to insist on more payment during the deal, I would have surely given more to secure him. Were you to insist on even more, I would have given you all I have, and I would have even gone into debt if need be. You simple fool! Remember that only a jeweler can know the worth of a gem’.
Giving voice to a perfect compassion and mercy, Rumi’s ŞÏÓ ÓÑå depiction equally impresses our hearts with the truth that the value of a maturehuman being is beyond all estimation and that worldly riches amount to nothing in comparison to the spiritual fiber of a human being.
With this humane deed, Abu Bakr (r.a) had once more proven the great love he had for the Prophet (pbuh). Further signs of his boundless love for the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) could be summed up as follows:
– Acting in line with the Quran and principles of Islam brought by the Prophet (pbuh), lovingly with all his heart.
– Showing compassion to fellow Muslims and persevering in matters to their benefit.
– Not valuing the world and being willingly prepared for poverty if need be.
– Longing to unite with Him.
– Frequently remembering Him.
The guidance of Khalid ibn Said (r.a) on the other hand came through a disturbing dream. One night he saw himself on the edge of a huge pit of fire with his father trying to push him down, just when the Prophet (pbuh) seized him by the waist, saving him from plunging into the flames. When he woke in fear, he said to himself, ‘This must surely be a message!’ Afterwards, through the advice of Abu Bakr (r.a), he went to the Prophet as and accepted Islam.
After hearing about his son’s change of faith, Khalid’s father persecuted him, telling him to, “Go away! You shall no more receive any food from me!”
“Withhold as long as you may…surely Allah will give me my food”, Khalid replied resolutely.
Khalid (r.a) remained by the Prophet’s (pbuh) side until the Abyssinian migration. (Hakim, III, 277-280)
Becoming Muslim later were also Khalid’s wife Umayna, his brother Amr and Amr’s wife Fatima (r.a). With the encouragement and guidance of Abu Bakr (r.a), the days of secret calling also saw Abu Fuqayha, Othman, Zubayr ibn Awwam, Abdurrahman ibn Awf, Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas and Talha ibn Ubaydullah (r.a) taste the delight of Islam.
Othman (r.a) once told the following to the Prophet (pbuh).
“While in Damascus lying half asleep, Messenger of Allah, we suddenly heard a voice, saying ‘Sleepers, wake up! Ahmed has appeared in Mecca!’ Once we returned to Mecca, we found out about your prophethood.” (Ibn Saad, III, 255)
Talha ibn Ubaydullah (r.a) recounts the following:
“I was at the Busra Fair when I heard a priest asking for people from Mecca. I approached him and told him I was from there.
‘Has Ahmed appeared?’ the priest then asked.
‘Which Ahmed?’ I replied.
‘Ahmed ibn Abdullah ibn Abdulmuttalib! The last Prophet set to appear in Mecca. He shall then leave Mecca and migrate to an arid, stony place with date orchards. I advise you to pursue him!’ the priest said.
The priest’s words had made a way into my heart. Immediately leaving the fair, I returned to Mecca.
‘Are there any news of late?’ I asked.
‘Yes’, they replied. ‘Muhammad the Trustworthy, son of Abdullah, claims to be a prophet. Abu Bakr too has followed him’”. (Ibn Saad, III, 215)
Others graced with the blessing of being the first Muslims include Abu Ubayda ibn Jarrah, Abu Salama, Arqam ibn Abi Arqam, Othman ibn Mazun, Asma bint Abu Bakr, Khabbab ibn Arat, Abdullah ibn Masud, Abdullah ibn Jahsh, Jafar ibn Abu Talib, his wife Asma bint Umays, Abu Huzayfa and Amir ibn Fuhayra (r.a).
The House of Arqam:
The Center of Education for the First Muslims
For the first three years, the Prophet (pbuh) called people to Islam secretly, asking those who declined the offer not to disclose the matter to anyone. The house of Arqam ibn Abi Arqam (r.a) served as a secret meeting place for the Companions, after he became Muslim during the first year of Prophethood.
The House of Arqam, also known as the House of Islam, was situated by the Hill of Safa in Mecca. Here in this sacred house, the Prophet (pbuh) would take refuge to explain Islam, recite and teach the Quran to those who would come, away from Meccan idolaters. There, they would offer salat in congregation. It was here that many became acquainted with Islam. Until Omar’s (r.a) acceptance of Islam in the sixth year of prophethood, the house lent tremendous service in the way of teaching and calling others to Islam. Arqam (r.a) was to later donate the house as a trust. The deed of trust is as follows:
“In the Name of Allah, the most Merciful and most Compassionate…This is Arqam’s will regarding his house at Safa just ahead, the land of which has been deemed as part of the Sacred House, and has therefore also became sacred and inviolable. It cannot be sold or bequeathed. To this, Hisham ibn As and his slave bear witness’. (Ibn Saad, III, 242-244; Hakim, III, 574-575/6129)
The House of Arqam has today been demolished by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and incorporated into the land of the Sacred House, the Kaabah, and has thus returned to its origin.
The Prophet (pbuh) spent the first three years of prophethood calling to Islam in secret. This was not from fear of incurring torment and hardship but was rather for the benefit of Islam. Besides the fact that there had not yet been revealed a Divine command for open calling, had Islam been proclaimed openly during that period, many new Muslims, most of whom were poor and weak, would have fallen into danger, and their perishing could have put an end to the religion even before it began.
From the experience of the House of Arqam, we can draw the following lessons with regard to the method of Islam.
1. When needed, covertness must be essential to a mission.
2. Education is the necessary first step in the realization of any given social, religious and political aim. To acquire quality, individuals must be conversant with the logic and morals of the mission.
The course to be taken and the method to be followed in Islamic activities till the Day of Judgment must be observed in the light of the model of the Prophet (pbuh). Any effort toward revitalizing Islam and taking it to places it has not yet been must take into essential consideration these educational blueprints.
. For other ayah in relation, see, Fussilat, 6; al-Muminûn, 33, 24; al-Anbiyâ, 2-3; Ibrâhîm, 11.
. See Tirmidhi, Manâqıb, 1/3615.
. On the other hand, some of the historical accounts provided by the Torah and the Bible conflict with the findings of modern historiography and science. The creation of the universe and its stages, the date of man’s descent on Earth, the Deluge are but a few of these conflicting accounts. (See Maurice Bucaille, Müsbet İlim Yönünden Tevrât, İncîl ve Kur’ân, p. 53-82, 157-175)
. See Hâkim, III, 10; Ahmed, I, 89, 96, 117, 127; IV, 309; Ibn Saad, I, 376, 412, 420-423; II, 272; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, VI, 31-33; Tirmidhi, Shamâil, p. 15.
. Tirmidhi, Shamâil, p. 15; Ibn Saad, II, 272.
. Ibn Saad, I, 121, 365, 422-425; Haythamî, IX, 13.
. Ahmed, I, 96.
. Ibn Ishaq, p. 117; Ibn Hisham, I, 262-263.
. Ibn Hisham , I, 259.
. Ibn Saad, VIII, 36.
. Abdullah ibn Masud (r.a), also called Abu Abdurrahman, is among the first Muslims. After accepting Islam, he never left the side of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), taking great enjoyment in serving him. Ibn Masud was a thin, delicate man, with a sweet voice and an amiable appearance. Muslims were still very low in number when he entered Islam. The idolaters never ceased harrassing him in Mecca, forcing him to migrate to Medina, where he was sheltered by Muadh ibn Jabal (r.a). He took permanent residence in the town following the Hegira of the Noble Messenger (pbuh), taking active part in all the battles that were to take place thereafter. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to take great pleasure from listening to Ibn Masud recite the Quran. Because of his profound knowledge, Ibn Masud ended up training numerous scholars of tafsir, hadith and Islamic jurisprudence. The scholars of Kufa, in particular, are known to have given jurisprudential verdicts in accordance with his narrations and opinions. He is reputed to have conveyed a total of 848 hadith narrations. After serving as the Judge of Kufa, Ibn Masud returned to Madina during the caliphate of Othman (r.a), passing away a short time later, aged over sixty years.
. Ibn Saad, I, 194.
. لَنْ تَرينِى: “You shall never see me!” (al-Araf, 143). On Mount Sina, Musa (a.s) was subjected to training in preparation for speaking with the Almighty. He was made to fast for thirty days, completed to forty with a further addition of ten, which elevated him from the ego-dominated life and prepared him for the conversing that was to take place between him and the Almighty. Allah (SWT), did not speak to Musa (a.s) through the medium of a language or a sound, much rather with His eternal attribute of Kalam, or Speech, which was not heard or even sensed either by Jibril (a.s), or the seventy men brought to stand witness. Musa (a.s), in the face of this manifestation, lost sight of himself. Forgetting whether he was on Earth or in the Hereafter, he traversed beyond space and time. A forceful desire awakened in him, fuelled by a grand love and rapture, to see the essence of the Almighty, in response to which came the Divine decree: “You shall never see Me!” And when Musa (a.s) involuntarily insisted on gazing at the Essence of the Divine, the Almighty told him to turn his gaze towards the mountain, and that he could have his wish of gazing at the Essence of the Divine granted, on the condition that the mountain would remain in one piece upon the Almighty’s manifestation thereon. When a light of Divine Essence trickled forth from behind innumerable veils and manifested itself to the mountain, the mountain shattered, the terrifying sight of which made Musa (a.s) faint. Upon regaining consciousness, he repented to Allah (SWT), for having overstepped his boundary.
One can draw the following lessons from the incident: There is no single place in the universe that can stand an essential manifestation of Allah (SWT). This is attested by the eruption of a mountain, which could not even endure an infinitesimal amount of Divine manifestation. Thus in terms of His Essence, Allah (SWT), is hidden (ghayb), but apparent through the manifestations of His attributes, for which reason that in describing Believers, the Quran reiterates that they “اَلَّذِينَ يُؤْمِنُونَ بِالْغَيْبِ”, “…those who believe in the ghayb”.
Another fact of the matter is that human cognition is incapable of comprehending the manifestation of the Essence of the Almighty, something verified by the fainting of Musa (a.s). Accordingly, there is no manifestation of Divine Essence in our world, due to the inadequacy of the cognition of both man and jinn to bear the intensity of its appearance.
“قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ اَوْ اَدْنى: “And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer…” (an-Najm, 9): On the night of Miraj, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was delivered beyond the Sidrat’ul-Muntaha, the Lote Tree, never before passed by any being, including Jibril (a.s). Taking place there was a union, whose nature remains impossible and too confidential for our understanding to grasp, disclosed to cognition simply as “a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer…”.
These are expressions articulated to accommodate our levels of understanding, in depicting the two grand manifestations which Musa (a.s) and Muhammad Mustafa (pbuh) were subjected to.
. One day while the Blessed Prophet was at the Masjid, Jibril -aleyhissalâm- came to him in the form of a man and asked him questions regarding îman, Islâm, ihsân and the signs of the Day of Judgment, with the aim of helping the Companions learn their religion. The hadith explaining this incident has thereafter been known as the Jibril Hadith. (See Bukhârî, Iman, 37; Muslim, Iman, 1, 5)
. Bukhari, Bad’ul-Wahy 1/2, Umra 10; Muslim, Fadâil 87, Hudûd 13; Tirmidhi, Tafsir 23/3173; Ahmed, V, 327.
. Zayd ibn Thabit (r.a) was among the scribes of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). At the time of the Noble Messenger’s (pbuh) migration to Medina, Zayd was an eleven year old orphan. As a child, he had committed to memory seventeen chapters of the Quran. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) advised him to learn Assyrian and Hebrew, both of which he became conversant with within a matter of forty days, supervising the Prophet’s (pbuh) Assyrian and Hebrew correspondences afterward. But one of his most honorable services was, with the aid of another two Companions, the assembling of the Quran. He passed away in Medina in the 45th year of Hegira, having narrated 92 hadiths.
. Ahmed, II, 176; VI, 445; Ibn Saad, I, 197; Tabarî, Tafsîr, VI, 106.
. Hallucination: Originally from French, in psychology, the term denotes sensations more commonly observed in cases of schizophrenia or paranoia, where the person undergoes experiences without the stimulation of his senses and imagines things that have no reality of their own.
. Mujmal are expressions that contain succinct meanings, which until further clarification, remain obscure.
. For relevant examples, see, Osman Nûri TOPBAŞ, Rahmet Esintileri, Istanbul 2001, p. 184-239.
. The observable changes undergone by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) during the receiving of Revelation, the details of which are explained above, have lead some orientalists to conceive the experience as an epileptic seizure, centered upon which they have conjured further arguments, even taking it so far as to make the inconceivable allegation of dubbing the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) mentally insane. They were even able to persuade the French National Academy of Medicine to at least consider the scientific value of the case, hoping for the eventual confirmation of their claim. In 1842, a committee consisting of the most outstanding doctors of medicine at the time assessed the claims, finally submitting a long and elaborate report, rejecting the claim as medically unacceptable. Those interested can refer to Rapor, a 1996 translation of the report from French to Turkish by Prof. Feridun Nafiz Uzluk.
. Also see, Maryam, 54, 56; Yûsuf, 46.
. Bukhari, Iman, 24; Muslim, Iman, 107.
. Also see, as-Shuara, 125, 143, 162, 178; ad-Dukhân, 18.
. Ibn Saad, I, 121, 156.
. See Âl-i İmrân, 104, 110.
. See Bukhari, Tawhîd, 36.