A Development under Divine Protection
The young Muhammad (pbuh) was protected by the Almighty from the evil habits of his society and times. He spent his youth immersed in moral purity in a way deserving of carrying the duty of prophethood, which a bright future stored for him. The man with the noblest lineage had undoubtedly also embodied the highest moral values among his people well before beginning his mission as a Prophet. His superlative generosity extended above all to his neighbors and he showed others a magnanimity and forgiveness that prevented him from harming anyone in any way whatsoever. Quarrelling and fighting, for him, were things absolutely unheard of. Combined with all these traits also was an unprecedented dependability, leading his peers to nickname him al-Amîn, the trustworthy, and al-Sâdiq, the honest.
The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was once asked whether he had ever worshipped the idols or drank wine before Prophethood. Replying to both questions in the negative, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) then went on to affirm:
“Even though I did not know about the Book and Faith, I somehow knew the Meccans were indulging in disobedience to Allah.” (Diyarbakrî, I, 254-255)
The Prophet (pbuh) recounts another time during his childhood when he experienced the protection of the Almighty:
“Still a young boy, I was playing with the boys of Quraysh, carrying stones from one place to another. To carry the stones with more ease, the other boys took off their garments and placed them over their shoulders, on top of which they began placing the the stones. Just as I was intending to do the same, I felt a very hard punch by someone I could not see.
‘Leave your garment on’, was all I heard him say.
So I left my garment on and continued to carry stones dressed, the only one among my friends who still had his clothes on.” (Ibn Hishâm, I, 197)
Another similar incident predating the onset of Prophethood occurred during the rebuilding of the Kaabah, when the young Muhammad (pbuh) was carrying stones on his shoulders with his uncle Abbâs, who advised his nephew to put his garment over his shoulders so as not to hurt himself. But when he tried to comply, the young Muhammad (pbuh) collapsed on the ground, and with eyes fixed on the skies, all he could do was to ask his uncle for his garments back so he could cover his body. (Bukhari, Hajj, 42)
Although strolling naked in certain circumstances was deemed acceptable at the time, the Prophet (pbuh) never walked in such a manner utterly unacceptable by Islam.
One can also remember the conversation between the Prophet (pbuh), still twelve year old child at the time, with Bahira, for an ample idea of his attitude to Meccan wrongdoings. When Bahira asked the child to speak the truth in the name of the idols Lât and Uzza, the response he got was:
“By Allah, I never hated anything more than Lât and Uzzâ; so do not ask me anything in their name.” (Ibn Ishâq, p. 54; Ibn Saad, I, 154; see also Ahmed, V, 362)
Umm Ayman, the caretaker of the Blessed Child, reports that Quraysh used to pay homage to an idol called Buwaabah, where they would organize a special festival in its honor on a particular day each year, consisting of remaining next to the idol all day long and shaving their heads in reverence. Like other Meccans, Abu Talib had also prepared eagerly for this annual festival and asked his orphan nephew to attend with him. Much to the fury of his uncle and aunts, however, Muhammad (pbuh) declined the offer.
“We are afraid a calamity will befall you for your lack of respect for our idols”, his aunts were saying, pleading the child to be present at the festival. The Child ultimately accepted his aunts’ pleas and made his way to the festival with his people. But once they arrived at the presence of the idol, Muhammad (pbuh) all of a sudden disappeared, returning moments later petrified, with a pale face.
Asked by his anxious aunts as to what had happened, he said:
“I fear I may be possessed by an evil spirit!”
“The Almighty would never leave you to suffer such torment, for you are a child exuding all kinds of virtue”, his aunts assured him. “Just tell us what you saw.”
“Each time I drew near the idol, a tall man white man appeared telling me to get back and refrain from touching it”, he said.
This would prove to be the last time Muhammad (pbuh) was forced to attend idolater festivities.
The subsequent account given by the Blessed Prophet is quoted by his cousin, Ali ibn Abu Talib (r.a):
“Never did I think of taking any part in the festivities organized during the period of Ignorance, except on two occasions. But on both occasions, I was protected by Allah from these evils. While shepherding on one evening, I remember asking one of my fellow shepherds:
‘Could you please look after my sheep so I have a chance to go down to Mecca and attend in that revelry like the other boys?’
‘Sure’, he said. ‘Do whatever you want.’
So I went to Mecca. The moment I entered, I could hear music and singing coming from the first house. Inquiring what the occasion was, I was told that so and so were getting married. I decided to sit down and watch. But taking hold of me almost immediately was an immense drowsiness that put me to deep sleep. I was only awoken next morning by the heat of the sun. I quickly went back to my friend. When he saw me, he instantly asked me to tell him what I did.
“I did nothing”, I replied.
The same thing happened to me again at another night, when I went to Mecca to participate in an event, only to be overcome with fatigue. I never again thought or did anything of this sort, until the day Allah honored me with Prophethood.”(Ibn Ishâq, p. 58-59; Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâyah, II, 292)
Muhammad (pbuh) as a Shepherd
The Light of Being worked as a shepherd before joining his uncle Abu Talib in trade. Shepherding was a profession that was held in high esteem by the Arabs; it was not uncommon to see even the children of the rich grazing sheep. Imparting unto them the precious skills of ruling and administering, shepherding, as confirmed by the following hadith, has moreover been the profession of all prophets well before their responsibilities of prophethood:
“All Messengers sent by Allah have been shepherds of sheep.”
It is reported that some Companions then asked the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) whether or not he had also been occupied in that line of work, to which he plied the reply:
“Yes, indeed. I used to tend the sheep of the Meccans in return for a pay.” (Bukhari, Ijârah, 2, Anbiyâ, 29; Ibn Majah, Tijârat, 5)
Another similar hadith states:
“Musa was sent as a Prophet while tending sheep. Dawud was made a Prophet while he was tending sheep. I also used to tend my family’s sheep at Ajyad when I was granted with prophethood.” (Ibn-i Saad, I, 126)
The young Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have been twenty-five years of age when he worked as a shepherded the sheep owned by Meccans.
Shepherding in times of affliction has been emphatically praised in the following hadith, which describes it as a virtuous occupation:
“A person in one of the most propitious lines of work is he who grazes his sheep on a hilltop or in a valley; who furthermore performs his salat, gives his alms, worships his Lord until the day he dies and constantly does good to others.” (Muslim, Imarat, 125; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 13)
The path of solemnity and compassion and the capacity for reflection are paved for shepherds, as indicated by the hadith below:
“Serenity and solemnity follow shepherds.” (Bukhari, Manaqib, 1; Muslim, Iman, 84/52)
Looking after sheep and shielding them from wild animals nurture in the shepherd emotions of mercy and protectiveness, favorable towards the flourishing of virtues a prophet must possess, like patience when facing the possible disrespect and ignorance of his people, and compassion to all the creations of Allah (SWT).
Trade Journeys with His Uncles
The young Muhammad’s (pbuh) first trip to Syria was with his uncle Abu Talib while still only twelve years of age. He made another trip to Yemen when he was sixteen. On the first occasion, Abu Talib had decided to join the Meccan caravan en route to Syria. With all his family present to see him off, it was only at that moment that Abu Talib asked his beloved nephew:
“Would you like to come to Syria with me?”
The Blessed Child’s aunts and other uncles were lukewarm to the idea, however, afraid that being very young, he might catch a disease on the way. Abu Talib was hence dissuaded and decided not to go ahead with the idea of taking Muhammad (pbuh) along. But this was to the disappointment of his beloved nephew, who was left in tears.
“Why are you crying, my dear?” asked Abu Talib. “Is it because I am leaving you behind?”
Holding fast to the reins of the camel on which his uncle was astride, he pleaded:
“Who are you leaving me with? I have neither a father nor a mother!”
Suddenly overflowing with mercy, Abu Talib then replied:
“By Allah, I will take you with me…and this will be the last time I will ever think of separating from you.” (Ibn-i Ishâk, s. 53; Abû Nuaym, Dalâil, I, 168)
His second trip was this time with his uncle Zubayr to Yemen when he was sixteen. Wanting to benefit from the blessings of his nephew in his business venture, Zubayr gained the permission of Abu Talib to take Muhammad (pbuh) with him.
On the way, they encountered a wild camel blocking a certain passage they needed to pass. The caravan decided to change their route but Muhammad (pbuh) told the members of the caravan to let him take care of the situation instead.
The moment the wild camel saw the young Muhammad (pbuh), it calmed down. The Prophet mounted upon the camel, riding it until they passed the valley, after which he let the camel free.
Similarly, on their return, the caravan came across an unexpectedly flooded valley. The Prophet-to-be (pbuh) kept his calm and told the others to follow him, leading the caravan through the valley, safe and sound, as if the Almighty had dried up their path for them. (Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâyah, II, 282)
Encounter the Christian Monk Bahirah
During his trip to Syria with his uncle Abu Talib, the caravan camped near the monastery of Bahirah, a Christian monk. Astounded at having noticed a cloud hovering around the caravan and shading a certain person, as well as the branches of trees leaning forth to shelter someone from the sun near where the caravan had camped, the curious Bahirah decided to look in to the intriguing matter and invite the Meccans inside the monastery for some food:
“I have prepared food for you all. I insist each and every member of the caravan to join, young and old, free and slave.”
The Meccans were taken aback by the invitation of Bahirah, since he had never seemed to take much interest in them before, during their numerous other trips to Syria. Nevertheless, everyone heeded the invitation. Inquisitively staring at all the faces of his guests upon their entrance, Bahirah felt he did not find whay he had been looking for, a certain sign he wished to see.
“Did you leave someone behind?” he asked.
“No one”, they said, “except for a child left to keep an eye on the caravan and their belongings, chosen for the job since he was the youngest.”
But Bahirah insisted he come for the meal as well. Once brought by the table, Bahirah recognized Muhammad (pbuh) immediately. Taking him by the hand, he murmured:
“This is the Master of the Both Worlds…The Almighty’s Messenger, the Mercy of the Worlds!”
The Meccan elders asked him where he had gotten such an idea, to which Bahirah answered:
“I read his signs from our Holy Scriptures. As you approached, I noticed all trees and rocks bowing to him in respect. I am aware that it is only to prophets that these inanimate things bow in respect. I then became all the more convinced, once I looked further and noticed the his seal of prophethood between his shoulder blades.”
Bahîrah then continued to pose more questions to Abu Talib about his young nephew and each answer he received set his heart at greater ease regarding his premonition. Bahirah was now certain about the child’s prophethood.
“Take your nephew back to your homeland!” he then urged Abu Talib. “Beware of the harm that may come from the Jews, for God forbid if they recognize your nephew, they will most certainly try to kill him. The Jews desire the next prophet to be raised from among them, from the children of Israel, yet this child is an Arab. Take him back…Awaiting him is a great future.”
Abu Talib listened to the advice of Bahirah and immediately turned back to Mecca, at the expense of cutting his business venture short. (Ibn Ishâq, p. 54-55; Ibn Saad, I, 153-155; Tirmidhî, Manâqıb, 3)
Some orientalists have exploited this incident in alleging that the Prophet (pbuh) received all the vital information from Bahirah to establish his own religion; an unfounded accusation indeed. Bahirah, after all, was a Christian monk and the beliefs communicated in the textually corrupted Bible are contrary to the core of Islamic beliefs. So how could it be conceived that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) could imitate the ideas of Christians, or for that matter Jews, which he had set out to correct in the first place?
The God of Christianity, the faith professed by Bahirah, is attributed with anthropomorphic qualities, which results in in a materialistic idea of the Divine. The concept of God in Islam, on the other hand, the faith conveyed by the Final Messenger (pbuh), is deeply entrenched in the notion of Divine unity and transcendence and thus stands entirely different. Allah (SWT), is transcendent, beyond all comprehension and above all weaknesses and imperfections alike.
The Holy Quran therefore makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the People of the Book, the Torah and the Gospels, who lived before the appearance of the Final Prophet (pbuh), merit salvation only if they abided by the original form of their religions.
اِنَّ الَّذِينَ اَمَنُوا وَالَّذِينَ هَادُوا وَالنَّصَارَى وَالصَّابِئِينَ مَنْ امَنَ بِاللّٰهِ وَالْيَوْمِ اْلاَخِرِ وَعَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَهُمْ اَجْرُهُمْ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ
وَلاَ خَوْفٌ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلاَ هُمْ يَحْزَنُونَ
“Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (al-Baqara, 62)
The Prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh), being the Final Prophet, encompasses all times and places, and consequentially abrogates all previous religions and their validity. Not professing faith in Allah (SWT), and His Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is tantamount to disbelief. Even devout adherents from among the People of the Book today, are therefore excluded from the compass of people referred to in the above ayah.
Subsequent to professing faith comes the life of worship and the rules of conduct. Islam has implemented an organized life of worship, aligning social life with justice, morality and righteousness, in relation to which it decrees punishments for those who violate the law. The aspects of worship in the religion Bahirah practiced at the time, on the other hand, had already been falsified, already devoid of the laws that regulate social conduct.
Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was also unlettered. As clearly mentioned in the Holy Quran, neither did he know how to read nor write:
“And you (O Muhammad) were not a reader of any scripture before it, nor did you write it with your right hand, for then might those have doubted, who follow falsehood. But it is clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge, and none deny Our revelations save wrong-doers. ” (al-Ankabut, 48-49)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was only twelve years old at the time he met Bahirah and the meeting was a very short one at that. It would be inconceivable to even momentarily entertain the idea that an unlettered boy of twelve could memorize six thousand odd verses of a Book in such a fleeting time and furthermore, keep each and every one of them in tact in his memory for twenty-eight long years, then all of a sudden come out and gradually begin to communicate them at the age of forty. Nobody in their right mind could dispute the fact that Islam, as a universally accepted religion, has brought a comprehensive way of life that simply cannot be conjured up out of the blue by even a scholar of expertise, let alone by a child.
What’s more, had Bahirah really known all this as alleged, then why would he not proclaim the religion himself instead of leaving the honors to a boy whom he had never met before?
Another aspect that should also be noted is that the language spoken by Bahirah was not Arabic, in contrast to the characteristically clear and eloquent Arabic of the Holy Quran:
وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ اَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ اِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ لِسَانُ الَّذِى يُلْحِدُونَ اِلَيْهِ اَعْجَمِىٌّ وَهَذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِىٌّ مُبِينٌ
“We know indeed that they say, ‘It is a man that teaches him.’ The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this (Quran) is Arabic, pure and clear.” (an-Nahl, 103)
The Quran, moreover, uses uses the Arabic language so powerfully that it mounts what is an insurmountable challenge against the entire Arab poets and their literary abilities. The Divine origin of the Quran and the sure failure awaiting those who attempt to imitate its powerful literary majesty is bluntly expressed in the verse:
قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ اْلاِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى اَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هذَا الْقُرْاَنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
“Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another.”
Considering that the Prophet’s (pbuh) meeting with Bahira was witnessed by many Meccans, had the orientalist claim any truth to it, the Meccans who severely rejected Islam would have surely used this as a pretext to reject the Religion. Although historical accounts abundantly attest to the fact that the idolaters did not forego the slightest opportunity that came up to attack Islam, there exists no reference to a polemic based on this meeting, which suggests that even they must have thought taking such a claim seriously as absurd.
The Hilf’ul-Fudûl Society
Clashes that repeatedly occurred between Arab tribes during the forbidden months were referred to in general as the Fijar Battles. There are four such battles known to have taken place during the Age of Ignorance, the last one being between the tribes of Quraysh and Kinanah, in which the future Prophet (pbuh), still twenty years of age at the time, also took part but without shedding any blood; he merely collected the stray arrows shot by the enemy and handed them to his uncles.
The battle came to an end in the month of Zilqadah, one of the months deemed holy by Arabs. Not long after, a Yemenite tradesman from the tribe of Zubayd arrived in Mecca to sell his goods. The Meccan Âs ibn Wâil, one of the richest tradesmen of the town, purchased the goods brought by the man but did not pay the price he had promised. Helpless, the poor man asked the help of the strong clans Abd’ud-Dâr, Mahzûm, Jumâh, Sahm and Adiyy ibn Kâ’b tribes, but to no avail. They even scolded him for seeking his rights.
Unable to find help in resolving the problem, the embittered Yemenite trader climbed the hill of Abu Qubays near the Kaabah and recited a poem, which began with the words ‘O Sons of Fihr’, referring to the reputed forefather of the Meccans, explaining the injustice he had suffered at the hands of As ibn Wail, calling out for the help of Meccans who had gathered around the Kaabah at that time. The first man making a move to help was Zubayr, the Prophet’s uncle, who organized a meeting at the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’an, attended by many notables of Mecca.
There, they made a solemn pledge to defend and restore the rights of anyone, beginning with the Yemenite, who suffers any injustice within the borders of Mecca, and to struggle against tyrants on behalf of the weak, “as long as mounts Hira and Sabir stood in their places and until there was enough water left in seas to moist a single strand of hair.”
The newly founded society remained strong even after they successfully regained the rights of the Yemenite from Âs ibn Wâ’il and remained on its feet to help the victims of injustice thereafter, trying its utmost to restore justice among people.
Being entrenched in justice and based on helping the weak, the Hilf’ul-Fudûl was the only society that the Prophet (pbuh) supported during the Age of Ignorance, remembering the society with sympathy long after his Prophethood:
“I was present with my uncles at the house of Abdullah ibn Jud’ân when the Hilf’ul-Fudûl was established. So satisfied was I with it that being given red camels (the most prized Arab commodity at the time) in its place could not have satisfied me more. If I were invited to participate in such a society even today, I would certainly accept the offer without hesitation.” (Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâya, II, 295)
The Business Life of the Prophet (pbuh)
It should always be borne in mind that being home to the Kaabah, the house of Allah (SWT), Mecca has always been a revered visiting place for believers not only since the time of Ibrahim (a.s), but also since Adam (a.s). Trading with pilgrims by virtue of buying goods from neighboring lands and selling them at fairs during the seasons of pilgrimage, not to mention the selling of local goods to neighboring lands during the regular season, always provided Meccans a major source of livelihood.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had already traveled with his uncles in trade caravans to Syria and Yemen as a teenager. In later years, he traveled on another two occasions to Yemen, to the Juraish market, on behalf of Khadijah (r.ha), receiving in return a young male camel for each trip. On one occasion, he also took a caravan loaded with goods belonging to Khadijah (r.ha) to the Hubasha market at Tihamah. Accompanying him on this trip was Maysara, Khadijah’s (r.ha) servant. They brought the valued Tihamah fabric they had purchased at the market back to Mecca and sold it to Hakim ibn Hizam with a high profit. The Noble Messenger (pbuh) was always very happy with Khadijah’s (r.ha) conduct when working for her, confessing to have never worked with a better business partner than Khadijah (r.ha) who more often than not would end up paying Muhammad (pbuh) more for his services than the price agreed upon. (Halabî, I, 221, Aynî, X, 104)
It all began with Abu Talib’s advice to Muhammad (pbuh):
“I am a poor man, my dear nephew. Drought has left us with nothing to trade. It has dried up all our capital. But I hear a caravan is about to leave to Damascus and Khadijah (r.a), the daughter of Khuwaylid, is looking for a trustworthy agent to sell some of her goods over there on her behalf; a dependable, loyal person like yourself. I think we should convince her to accept you as a partner in trade. I believe she will prefer you for your trustworthiness. The truth is I do not want you to go to Damascus for the Jews have me fear for your wellbeing, yet I cannot think of another way out.”
The offer made Khadijah (r.ha) very happy, and she ended up offering Muhammad (pbuh) more money than expected, remarking:
“I never knew Muhammad would be willing to work for me!”
Khadijah (r.ha) knew very well that Muhammad (pbuh) was a very reliable and honest man, who possessed an exceptional moral standard.
As Muhammad (pbuh) was preparing to leave for Syria, Khadijah (r.ha) advised her servant Maysara to go with him and obey him under all circumstances.
Having loaded the two camels, they set out. At the outset, the two camels kept lagging behind the rest of the caravan, a reason for concern for Maysara as he felt anxious and rushed to Muhammad (pbuh) to inform him of the problem. It only took Muhammad (pbuh) to place his hands on the camels’ hooves, immediately after which they rejuvenated, bellowing and marching in a frenzied pace to take the lead in front of the caravan. Witnessing such a sight, the other members of the caravan thereafter showed extra care for Muhammad (pbuh) and his servant.
The young Muhammad (pbuh) was always honest in his business transactions, fulfilling the promises he made at any cost. Ibn Abbas (r.a), who thoroughly knew the details of Muhammad’s (pbuh) life, has said:
“Whenever the Messenger of Allah promised something he would definitely do it.” (Bukhari, Shahâdât, 28)
A similar affirmation was made by Sâib ibn Abi’s-Sâib (r.a), who recounts the time he visited the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), as he was surrounded by the Companions.
“The Companions started praising me to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), thinking he knew little of me. But he then told the others he knew me more intimately than the rest, upon which I said:
“May my mother and father be ransomed for you, Messenger of Allah; you surely do. You were my business partner; and what an excellent partner you were. Never do I remember you quarrelling nor disputing with me!” (Abû Dâwud, Adab, 17/4836; Ibn Majah, Ticârât, 63)
Countless examples from his life illustrate why the Blessed Prophet was nicknamed al-Amîn (the Trustworthy) and as-Sâdiq (the Honest). One such instant is narrated by Abdullâh ibn Abi’l-Hamsâ (r.a):
“I did some trade with the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) long before his prophethood. Having owed him money, I told him to wait for me and that I would repay him after a short while. But not long after I departed, I forgot my promise, and came around to remembering it only after three days. On impulse, I rushed back to the spot where I had made the promise and I found him there still waiting for me. Expecting him to pour scold on me, that noble man, who evinced the most remarkable virtues, instead simply remarked, ‘You have placed me in a very difficult situation, young man, keeping me waiting here for the past three days.’’ (Abû Dâwûd, Adab, 82/4996)
Such splendid behavior evocative of great wisdom could have only been embodied by a future Prophet.
Had the Almighty wished, He could have enabled His Beloved Prophet to lead a comfortable life, beginning from childhood. But Divine Wisdom willed that he earn his livelihood with his own hands and thus set an example for others to emulate. Confirming the action of the Noble Prophet (pbuh) are his words:
“None has ever eaten a better sustenance than that earned by his own hands…” (Bukhari, Buyû’, 15; Enbiyâ, 37)
Any given cause will decrease in value in people’s eyes, if its leader makes a living only through the donations of his followers. Such a leader will no longer be taken seriously by others. This is the gist that underlies the command of the Almighty to His prophets:
وَمَا اَسْئَلُكُمْ عَلَيْهِ مِنْ اَجْرٍ اِنْ اَجْرِىَ اِلاَّ عَلَى رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ
“No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds.”(al-Shuarâ, 109, 127, 145, 164, 180; Yûnus, 72; Hûd, 29)
Echoing this truth also is the following couplet:
Covet not the favor of another,
For its price is the gem of freedom
Since he supported himself through his own earnings, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was in this sense among the most independent of all people.
The Observations of Monk Nestor
After a long journey, the caravan eventually made a stopover at Busra, part of Syria. Muhammad (pbuh) retreated under an olive tree in the vicinity of the monastery of Monk Nestor. Noticing the man taking a respite in the shade, and already having met Maysara before, the Monk asked him:
“Maysara! Who is the man under the shade?”
“He is from the tribe of Quraysh”, Maysara answered.
“Has he any redness in his eyes?” the Monk then asked.
“Yes, he has.”
“Then he has got to be the Last Prophet!” exclaimed Nestor. “If only I could live to see the beginning of his prophethood and help him!” (Ibn Saad, I, 130-156; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidâya, II, 297-298)
Soon after, the caravan left Busra for Mecca. On the way back, Maysara witnessed two angels shading Muhammad (pbuh) at times when the heat of the desert soared to unbearable heights. The journey proved to be a profitable one for the entire caravan.
Marriage to Khadijah (r.ha)
Immediately following the return to Mecca, Maysara began conveying in great detail the supreme conduct he witnessed in the Blessed Man during the journey, as well as their spectacular experiences throughout. Upon hearing this, Khadijah (r.ha) began nurturing a wish to marry Muhammad (pbuh).
Nafîsa bint Umayya, a close friend of Khadijah (r.ha), narrates how it all developed then on:
“Khadijah (r.ha) was a clever, hardworking lady of an splendid moral standard. Virtually, there was not a single man from her tribe who did not carry a strong desire to marry her. But Khadijah (r.ha) was a great admirer of Muhammad (pbuh). Following their return with the trade caravan from Damascus, Khadijah (r.ha) sent me to sound him out regarding his intentions of marriage.
‘Why don’t you marry, Muhammad?’ I asked him.
‘How can I when I am without material means?’
‘Say you did have the means; would you then marry an honorable, beautiful and moreover wealthy woman?’
‘Who is this lady?’ he then asked.
‘Khadijah (r.ha), I replied.
‘Do you think that is possible?’
‘Leave that to me’, I assured him. He then remarked:
‘If you can arrange it, I will marry her.’
Without delay, I went to Khadijah (r.ha) to inform her of our conversation.” (Ibn Saad, I, 131)
Upon hearing the good news of her confidant, Khadijah (r.ha) proposed to Muhammad (pbuh). The Light of Being (pbuh) then informed his uncle Abu Talib of the proposal, who in line with the custom of the time went to Khadijah’s (r.ha) uncle to ask her hand in marriage on behalf of his beloved nephew. Khadijah’s (r.ha) uncle gave his blessings and the marriage ceremony went ahead, attended by all relatives and friends. Short speeches were given by Abu Talib and Khadijah’s (r.ha) cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal. Once the talks came to an end, Khadijah’s (r.ha) uncle Amr stood and said:
“Bear witness, people of Quraysh, that I hereby declare Khadijah (r.ha) ibn Khuwaylid as the wife of Muhammad ibn Abdullah.”
As mahr, the obligatory dowry offered to the bride in marriage, Muhammad (pbuh) gave Khadijah (r.ha) twenty young camels. At the time of their marriage, Muhammad (pbuh) was around twenty-five years old, while Khadijah (r.ha), a widow already with children from her previous marriage, was around forty.
Throughout their marriage, Khadijah (r.ha), the mother of the Believers, proved to be a brilliant support for Muhammad (pbuh), virtually laying her life and riches at his feet. Stemming from her noble character, she was known as al-Afifah (the Chaste), al-Tâhirah, (the Pure) and most notably, before and after the advent of Islam, as Khadijat’ul-Kubra, Khadijah (r.ha) the Great.
The following words of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) attest to her outstanding status:
“The best woman of the Hereafter is Maryam bint Imrân, mother of Isa, while the best of this world is Khadijah (r.ha) bint Khuwaylid.” (Bukhari, Manâqıbu’l-Ansâr, 20; Muslim, Fadâil’us-Sahâbah, 69)
The future Prophet’s choice of marriage shows he was never a man motivated by egoistic desires. He could have most certainly married a younger and more beautiful lady, if he wanted, and not a widow with children. But the Noble Muhammad (pbuh) was not searching for passing beauties or youth in his wife to be, but rather treasured virtues like honor, chastity and morals.
The Wisdom behind the Multiple Marriages of the Prophet (pbuh)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) contracted multiple marriages after he the age of fifty-five, a move behind which lay much wisdom. Regardless, since Allah had made the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) an example for others to emulate in all aspects of life by Allah (SWT), as testified by the following ayah, entertaining any bad thoughts about his marriages and taking these thoughts even further to the point of slander, only betrays an ignorance of facts and a malicious intention:
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ اللّٰهِ اُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَان يَرْجُو اللّٰهَ وَالْيَوْمَ اْلآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللّٰهَ كَثِيرًا
“Verily in the Messenger of Allah there is a good example for him who lookes unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.”(al-Ahzâb, 33:21)
The Blessed Prophet is an exemplar beyond comparison in all affairs, especially family relations. Even though we cannot give details here on all the righteous wives of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his marriages, a task that surpasses the scope of this book, we will nevertheless touch upon some of their characteristics.
Undoubtedly it is during youth that one feels the strongest desires for the opposite gender. From this aspect, a look into the early life of the Prophet (pbuh) evidently presents an impeccably chaste and honest young man. This can easily be gleaned from the nickname given to him by Meccans, al-Amîn, the Trustworthy, without requiring a look elsewhere. His integrity is also proved by the fact that no Meccans had ever made any allegations about his marital life. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) married only once during the Meccan period, when he was twenty-five, to Khadijah (r.ha), a widow of forty. Throughout their twenty-five year marriage, which came to an end with the passing away of Khadijah (r.ha), Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) never married another lady. The Arab custom of the time was hospitable to polygamy; had the Prophet (pbuh) gone ahead to marry another, it would have been deemed perfectly acceptable and he would have incurred no blame for doing so.
Following the passage of Mother Khadijah (r.ha), the Blessed Prophet married Sawda (r.ha), another widow. Having immigrated to Abyssinia with her former husband, she suffered his death on the return back to Mecca, leaving her vulnerable and without protection, especially against her relatives, who, predominantly being idolaters, were putting unbearable pressure on her to reject Islam. Hence in order to help and protect her, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) married Sawda (r.ha) in the tenth year of Prophethood. Apart from his marriages to Khadijah and Sawdah, the rest of the marriages of the Prophet (pbuh) were to take place in Medina.
The Hegira marked the beginning of an entirely new period in the life of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). No longer was he only a Prophet, but also a head of state and a commander of an army of Believers. Above all, he was a teacher entrusted with the responsibility of conveying the message in a way that would reach all kinds of people in different places, as befitted their peculiar needs. Setting a precedent for such needs was the primary motive behind the marriages of the Prophet (pbuh), interwoven with a remarkable wisdom from all perspectives, whether religious, social or moral.
Aisha (r.ha) was the only maiden whom the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) married. Despite her young age, she was very clever, graced with an acute intellect and a profound understanding. It was from her that the female Companions learned with ease the Islamic principles and regulations, especially those peculiar to women. Even five to six decades after the passing away of the Noble Messenger (pbuh), the remaining Companions and the rest of the Muslim community, including the children and the grandchildren of that first generation who never had the privilege of physically being in the presence of the Prophet (pbuh), were able to learn Islam directly from her. In hindsight, foreshadowing this was the confirming hadith of the Prophet (pbuh):
“Learn one third of your religion from the house of Aisha (r.ha).” (Daylamî, II, 165/2828)
Aisha (r.ha) is among the seven Companions known as the mukthirun, for having transmitted an enormous number of ahadith pertaining to the sayings and actions of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh); two- thousand-two-hundred-and-ten to be exact. One-hundred-and-ninety four among them are narrations agreed upon (muttafaqun alayh) by both Bukhari and Muslim, the two paramount scholars of hadith.
Aisha (r.ha), the mother of Believers, was a lady steeped in knowledge, gifted with an insight into the Holy Quran with regard to obligations and prohibitions, not to mention her knowledge of medicine, poetry, Arab history and the lineage of Arab families. Whenever the Companions had difficulty in resolving their disagreement over a given issue, they would always come to Aisha (r.ha) for a solution. This applied to even the more prominent Companions of the Prophet (pbuh), as confirmed by Abu Musa (r.a):
“Whenever we came across a difficulty in understanding a saying of the Messenger of Allah, we would ask Aisha (r.ha) for help, who would clear any possible misunderstanding.” (Tirmidhî, Manâqıb, 62)
By marrying his daughter and establishing a familial relation, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) also reinforced his already strong friendship with Abu Bakr (r.a), the closest friend and the most loyal supporter of the Prophet (pbuh).
In his marriage to Hafsah (r.ha), the Messenger of Allah had a similar idea in mind, to establish a familial relationship with the outstanding Omar (r.a). Hafsah (r.ha) was bereaved of her husband who was martyred at the Battle of Badr. Omar (r.a) first wished for Abu Bakr (r.a) to take his daughter’s hand in marriage, and then upon Abu Bakr turning down of the offer, Othman (r.a), who however also declined. Omar (r.a) was saddened by their refusal. Thus, by marrying Hafsah (r.ha), the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) effectively appeased Omar (r.a) and at the same time mended the damaged relationships between Abu Bakr, Othman and Omar (r.a).
The heavily debated marriage of the Prophet (pbuh) to Zaynab (r.ha) is in fact laden with profound wisdom. In the first place, as halfhearted as she was, by arranging the marriage between Zaynab (r.ha), the daughter of his aunt, to Zayd (r.a) his emancipated slave, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) helped eradicate some mistaken notions prevalent among Arabs and through persons closest to him and set an example of putting an end to the discrimination between the rich and the poor, the noble and the slave, sending a message out that all were equal in the sight of Allah (SWT), like the teeth of a comb. Yet, the reluctance of Zaynab as well as the persistent pressure of her relatives meant that the marriage became unbearable for both parties. Although Zayd (r.a) did consult the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and sought his permission to divorce Zaynab, he was instead advised to keep patient. Once the marriage reached an insufferable level however, Zayd had no other choice than to divorce.
Revealed a short time after the divorce, an ayah commanded the Prophet (pbuh) to marry Zaynab, whereby Allah (SWT), willed the abolishment of the Arab notion of regarding marriage with the former wife of an adopted son as illicit. The marriage was thus aimed toward drawing attention, once and for all, to the difference between an adopted child and one’s own, emphasizing the distinction between the two.
Thus the absurdity of the claim that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) married Zaynab for her beauty stems from a sheer ignorance of the following facts:
1. First of all, Zaynab (r.ha) was the Prophet’s (pbuh) cousin, the daughter of his aunt. Thus he knew her from childhood and saw her on innumerable occasions.
2. Had the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) proposed to her before, she would have accepted it wholeheartedly; neither was there any obstacle standing in the way of their marriage. But not only did the Noble Prophet (pbuh) ask her to marry Zayd, he moreover turned down their request for divorce on numerous occasions.
In short, such incidents had to take place to facilitate the establishment of the many principles of Islamic Law through them being embodied in the life of the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) and provide precedents for later practices.
The Prophet’s (pbuh) marriage to Safiyya (r.ha), the daughter of the Jewish leader of Khaybar, was motivated by the intention of bolstering relations with the Jews, conducive therefore to a political aim.
The marriage to Juwayriyah (r.ha) also had similar aims. Marrying Juwayriyah, the daughter of a chieftain, meant the release of hundreds of prisoners of battle, who enthralled to regain their freedom, entered Islam in thjeir entirety. Their good fortune was occasioned by the marriage between the Prophet (pbuh) and Juwayriyah (r.ha).
The Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) marriage to Umm Habîbah (r.ha) was prompted by the intention of protecting her. Among the early Muslims who immigrated with her husband to Abyssinia, Umm Habîbah was left alone and unprotected there when her husband retracted from Islam. She nonetheless courageously preserved her faith under extremely difficult circumstances. Although her father Abu Sufyan was at the time the leader of the Meccans, Umm Habîbah’s faith and honor prevented her from asking for his help. Hence, by marrying her, the Noble Prophet (pbuh) took her under his protection. A further blessing fostered by the marriage was that it helped reduce the enmity between the Meccan idolaters and Muslims.
Now, had the Prophet (pbuh) married out of sexual desires, there were many young and beautiful daughters of the Ansar, the Medinan Muslims, from whom he could have chosen. Doubtless they would all have been more than willing to marry the Prophet (pbuh) and thus attain the honor of becoming the wife of the Last Messenger and consequently the Mother of the Believers. The Prophet, however, never chose to head down that path.
It therefore ought to be realized that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) contracted multiple marriages, with the permission and command of Allah (SWT), for reasons social, moral and religious, and above all out of the need to have a number of women trained to convey the specific legal commandments of Islam to other Muslims. Considering Islam is a universal religion that aims to cover all times and places, it would be difficult to think that the duty of teaching the vast corpus of Islamic knowledge should rest upon one woman only; and had that been the case, the religion may not have properly passed on to future generations. Besides, that ‘one’ wife could well have passed away before the Prophet (pbuh), which would have forever interrupted the establishment of Islamic Law.
There are many private matters pertaining to Islamic Law that women would feel uncomfortable asking men. But given they have female instructors they could then learn such matters with ease, safe from any discomfort. Muslim societies therefore are always in need of educated and knowledgeable women to ensure the outright practice of Islam. Could there be, then, anyone better to fulfill this duty than the Blessed Wives, who breathed the same air as the Prophet (pbuh) and learnt everything directly from him? Beyond everything, the way they conducted themselves and the sheer life of piety they led, have rightly made them shining examples for the future generation of Believers.
If one wonders as to how exactly the Noble Prophet’s (pbuh) multiple marriages can constitute an example for people in this day and age, the following considerations should be borne in mind.
First of all, we need to remember that not all the practices of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) are meant to be imitated. Being the first representative of a religion, its founder as well as its implementer, his position was unique. The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) was hence obliged to carry out some practices peculiar to himself only, like the tahajjud prayer, fasting continuously without break (sawm-ul’wisâl) and the prohibition of him and his family from receiving charity even if they should be in need. The multiple marriages he contracted owing to various underlying reasons, whether religious, social or political, do not constitute examples for the rest of the Ummah to emulate, as held by the consensus of Muslim scholars.
It ought to be remembered that it was not Islam that initiated polygamy. Islam rather reformed and regulated the already existent practice. Before Islam, there was no limitation as to the number of women a man could marry. Restricting this number to four, Islam at the same time emphatically recommends monogamy, if one is apprehensive of not being able to treat all spouses with justice.
Secondly, contracting more than one marriage is not a commandment, but rather a permission given in special circumstances, motivated by the aim of upholding and safeguarding the marital institution. In times of war and plague, for instance, the number of men can tend to decrease drastically, leaving many women without spouses. The practice can therefore serve to protect women left without protection. Moreover, if one is married to a woman depleted with ill health, a physical disorder or one who is unable to conceive, then the practice can provide opportunity for remarriage without the need for divorce, from whose damaging consequences the family is therefore protected. Regardless of the circumstance, the upper limit is four, whatever the motive behind it may be.
Indeed, when war strikes it can takes its toll on the population, in which case encouraging the contracting of multiple marriages may provide the only remedy to boost the population and prevent prostitution. Numerous examples of such circumstances have come to pass through the history of mankind. In overcoming such major challenges, Islam always offers solutions through allowing leeways of such nature, all of which serve to make life easier and keep it steadfast on its natural course. This shows the vitality of Islam, since it exhibits an ability to solve all kinds of potential problems that may surface in different times and places, under various conditions.
The following ayah makes clear that one who does intend to contract more than one marriage should be aware of his responsibilities and seek to establish justice among his wives, lest the injustice he commits should lead to him incur the punishment of Allah (SWT).
وَاِنْ خِفْتُمْ اَلاَّ تُقْسِطُوا فِى الْيَتَامَى فَانْكِحُوا مَا طَابَ لَكُمْ
مِنَ النِّسَاءِ مَثْنَى وَثُلاَثَ وَرُبَاعَ فَاِنْ خِفْتُمْ اَلاَّ تَعْدِلُوا فَوَاحِدَةً
اَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ اَيْمَانُكُمْ ذَلِكَ اَدْنَى اَلاَّ تَعُولُوا
“And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, then marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice between them, then marry only one or what your right hands possess; this is more proper, that you may not deviate from the right course”(an-Nisâ, 4/3)
وَلَنْ تَسْتَطِيعُوا اَنْ تَعْدِلُوا بَيْنَ النِّسَاءِ وَلَوْ حَرَصْتُمْ
فَلاَ تَمِيلُوا كُلَّ الْمَيْلِ فَتَذَرُوهَا كَالْمُعَلَّقَةِ وَاِنْ تُصْلِحُوا
وَتَتَّقُوا فَاِنَّ اللّٰهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
“And you have it not in your power to do justice between wives, even though you may wish it, but be not disinclined from one with total disinclination, so that you leave her as it were in suspense; and if you effect a reconciliation and guard against evil, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (an-Nisâ, 4/129)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) states, “A man married to two women without having established justice among them will be resurrected half paralyzed in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Majah, Nikâh, 47)
Islam also allows women to lay down the condition, at the time of their marital contract, that her husband observe monogamy throughout the marriage. This is a legal right given to women permitting them to make a case against any second marriage provided they had stipulated it at the time of the contract.
A crude logic may attempt to justify the multiple marriage of a woman, that is her having more than one husband. Such a notion is completely wrong, since a child born from such a marriage will not have a proper lineage, forever leading to controversy regarding who his/her father is. Not only does Islam reject this type of marriage by calling it fujur (open sin), but no other legal system, religious or secular, is found to be hospitable to that kind of practice. Islam places great emphasis on the progeny of human beings, to the point of demanding that a divorced woman wait a period of at least three months before marrying again, lest she may be pregnant from her previous marriage, in which case the waiting period will clear any confusion that might arise with regard to the child’s father. The waiting period described is ignored today by almost all secular legal systems. The difference illustrates the level of care shown by Islam for human honor, through the laws it lays for ensuring its protection.
To contemplate all these unique conditions enables one to understand the underlying reasons behind the permission given by Islam for contracting multiple marriages, which stems from its consideration of various circumstances. Islam is not only the religion of the strong and healthy, but equally of the old and the weak. It offers rules regulating not only common conditions, but also those that provide solutions for the more difficult quandaries. Not only is it the religion of men, but also the religion protecting the rights of women; it is the inimitable religion that cares so much for the honor and dignity of human beings that it does not turn a blind eye on women and children falling into destitution owing to a reckless breakdown of the family.
The Emancipation of Zayd ibn Harithah (r.ha)(r.a)(r.ha)and His Adoption by the Blessed Prophet (pbuh)
Abducted by the tribe of Banî Qayn, the young Zayd ibn Harithah was brought to the Ukaz Festival to be sold. Eventually buying him for four hundred dirhams was Hakim ibn Hizam, who then offered him to his aunt Khadijah (r.ha). Upon seeing the young boy for the first time, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) said:
“Had I been the owner of this slave I would have certainly emancipated him!”
“In that case he is yours”, said Khadijah (r.ha), hearing her husband’s words.
The mercy of all worlds, the Noble Messenger (pbuh) then immediately set him free from slavery. (Ibn Hishâm, I, 266; Ibn Saad, III, 40)
Agonized by the abduction of his son, Zayd’s father was in the meantime looking for him everywhere. After a long search, by some information passed on to him by the returning pilgrims, he found the traces of his son in Mecca, to where he immediately set out with his brother. Finding the Prophet (pbuh) not long after, he informed the Prophet (pbuh) of his intention to take his son back and of his willingness to pay the required ransom, appealing to him to be merciful and quoting a reasonable price. But the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had something else in mind.
“Can we not find another solution for this?” he asked them.
“What other solution is there?” they replied, thinking the only way for them to regain custody of Zayd would be through paying his ransom out of the slavery they supposed he was still in.
“Let’s call Zayd here and leave him free to decide between me and you”, said the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). “If he chooses you, then you may take him without paying anything. But if he prefers me, you have to understand that by Allah, I can tell someone wanting to stay with me to leave!”
Both Zayd’s father and uncle were elated with the suggestion of the Prophet (pbuh), commending him for his kindness and generosity, confident that Zayd would choose them, after which they could leave Mecca with him without having to pay any ransom. The idea that he might choose to stay never crossed their minds. But the words of Zayd proved them wrong:
“I swear by Allah, I will not prefer anyone over you! You are like a father and mother to me. My preference is to remain here with you.”
When his father and uncle showed their disappointments over his choice, Zayd said:
“I have seen such extraordinary things from him that I could never possibly prefer anyone over him. I will never leave him.”
Moved by Zayd’s loyalty, the Prophet (pbuh) took him by the hand to the Kaabah where he proclaimed:
“My fellow people! Bear witness that Zayd is now my son, he shall inherit me and I shall inherit him.” Zayd was thus officially adopted by the Prophet (pbuh). The great honor conferred upon the young Zayd was a reason for relief and happiness for both his father and uncle as they returned to their hometowns with their hearts at ease. (Ibn Hishâm, I, 267; Ibn-i Sa’d, III, 42)
Zayd’s brother Jabala ibn Hârithah (r.a) narrates another version of the story:
“I went to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) to ask him to send Zayd with me.
‘He is here. If he wants to go with you I will not stop him from doing so,’ he said. But Zayd did not accept my request, telling him:
‘I will never prefer anyone over you.’
Much later I understood that my brother Zayd had greater wisdom than I.” (Tirmidhî, Manâqıb, 39/3815)
The Prophet’s (pbuh) Custodianship of Ali (r.a)
Abu Talib was in financial duress, being the head of a large household. It was owing to this that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) went to his other uncle Abbas (r.a) and suggested:
“As you know uncle, your brother Abu Talib manages a large family and the drought and famine have left him in need like most. Why don’t we go to him and talk him into giving two of his little ones over to our custody, to relieve him of some of his responsibility?”
Abbas (r.a) accepted the benevolent suggestion, and together they went to Abu Talib, who after hearing the offer, said:
“Apart from Aqil, you can take any of the children you like”, he said.
Muhammad (pbuh) eventually took Ali, while Abbas took his brother Jafar (r.a). Ali (r.a) was raised by his generous caretaker until the beginning of prophethood. (Ibn Hisham, I, 264)
The Children of the Prophet (pbuh)
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) had a total of six children with Khadijah; two sons, Qâsım and Abdullah, and four daughters, Zaynab, Ruqayya, Ummu Khulthum and Fâtima. As the Arab custom designated one’s name in line with the name of his firstborn male, the Prophet (pbuh) began carrying the appellation Abu’l-Qasim, after his eldest son.
Qasim did not live long however, passing away at the age of two. Abdullah, the Prophet’s (pbuh) second son in line, was born within the period of his messengership. But like his brother before him, neither did Abdullah survive, breathing his last at an early age. Thereupon Âs ibn Wâ’il, a notorious idolater of Quraysh, exploiting the sorrow of the moment, began insulting the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), telling his comrades:
“He is an infertile man who will not leave a son to carry on his name. So you need only wait until his death. You will then be saved from him forever.”
This occasioned the revelation of Chapter Kawthar:
اِنَّا اَعْطَيْنَاكَ الْكَوْثَرَ. فَصَلِّ لِرَبِّكَ وَانْحَرْ. اِنَّ شَانِئَكَ هُوَ اْلاَبْتَرُ
“Surely We have given you Kawthar.Therefore pray to your Lord and make a sacrifice.Surely your enemy is the one who shall be without posterity.” (al-Kawthar, 1-3) (Ibn Saad, III, 7; Wâhidî, p. 494)
Upon the death of their son at a very early age, Khadijah (r.ha) lamented:
“I am overflowing with my dear child’s milk. If only Allah had extended his span until at least he completed his feed!”
“He shall complete his feed in Paradise”, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) replied.
“If I knew that with certainty, it would definitely ease the pain of his loss.”
“I will pray to Allah, if you wish, so you are made to hear his voice”, said the Prophet (pbuh).
But showing once more her exemplary submission and dependence, Khadijah (r.ha) replied:
“No need. I trust Allah and His Messenger.” (Ibn Majah, Janaiz, 27)
The eldest of the daughters of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) was Zaynab, born when he was around thirty years of age. Ruqayya was born after her. Subsequent to the birth of Ruqayya was Umm Kulthum, followed right after by Fatimah (r.ha), born in the year of the rebuilding of the Kaabah, at which time the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) was thirty five years old.
The last child of the Noble Prophet (pbuh) was Ibrahim, born in Medina, in the eighth year of Hegira. His mother was Mâriya. The birth was nursed by Umm Rafi, whose husband Abu Rafi delivered the good news of Ibrahim’s birth to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh), who reportedly became quite happy and told those around him:
“Tonight I had a baby son whom I shall name after my grandfather Ibrahim.” (Muslim, Fadâil, 62)
Ibrahim also developed an illness when he was around seventeen months old, passing away shortly after.
The Arbitration at the Kaabah
A flood that struck Mecca around then had led to a partial destruction of the Holy Kaabah. The clans of Mecca thus decided to jointly repair it, by demolishing it down to its foundations and reconstructing it. Inadvertently around the same time, news arrived of a vessel loaded with iron, planks, timber, stones and other kinds of construction material, shipwrecked at Shuaybah Pier nearby Mecca. Without wasting time, the Meccans went there and bought the materials necessary for the repair of the Sacred House and the reconstruction soon got under way. They cast lots to determine the type of work that would fall to the share of each and every clan. They shared the work of demolishing and building by casting lots. Before the launch, a wise man from among them said:
“People of Quraysh! Do not mix dirty money into the reconstruction of the Sacred House. Let not money earned from interest or usurped from others against their will be used to fund the repair!”(Ibn Hishâm, II, 210; Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâyah, II, 305)
But fearing wrath may befall them if they went ahead and destroyed the Kaabah, the Meccans remained undecided. The respect and reverence of the Kaabah prevalent among Arabs was a sacred duty upheld since the Law of Ibrahim (a.s). Walid ibn Mughirah, the notable of Quraysh, cut the knot and asked:
“What do you aim for by destroying the Kaabah; good or evil?”
“For the good, of course”, they replied.
“My fellow tribesmen! Don’t you wish to destroy the Kaabah only for the sake of its improvement? Then, feel at ease, for the Almighty shall never destroy those seeking improvement”, Walid assured, shortly after which he struck the first sledge in demolishing the House, and the rest followed suit. (Abdurrazzaq, V, 319)
They raised the walls of the Kaabah reinforcing each row of stone with timber beams, following the order up to the top. The Light of Being (pbuh) also labored in the reconstruction with his uncle Abbas. When time came to restore the Black Stone in its spot, each clan vied with one another to have the honor exclusively to itself, sparking a debate that turned into a sour dispute which at one stage looked like it would spill over into a bloody conflict; so much so that the clan of Abduddar made a pact with the clan of Adiyy ibn Kaab to fight until death, with both clans dipping their hands in a bowl filled with blood brought by the Abduddar clan as a symbol of their resolution. Quraysh was left to wait in doubt regarding the fate of the Black Stone for three or four days.
Abu Umayya, the eldest Meccan present, eventually spoke out:
“Friends! We only want what is best, not evil. Do not lock horns out of jealousy! Stop the quarrel! Since we seem unable to settle the issue among ourselves, let us designate the first person to walk past the gates of the Sacred Precinct as our arbitrator and comply with his verdict, whatever it may be!” He was pointing at the Banu Shaybah gate of the Sacred House.
Right at that instant, Muhammad (pbuh) walked through the gate. All faces were now full of smiles; after all it was the Trustworthy approaching. Meccan love and respect for Muhammad (pbuh) had grown by the day, to the point that were they to slaughter a camel, for instance, they would call him to pray for blessings.
As soon as they saw him, the men of Quraysh exclaimed:
“There is the Trustworthy. We are all happy for him to settle our dispute!”
After they explained the matter to him, the Blessed Muhammad (pbuh) elected a person from each clan, then removing his rida, he laid it on the ground, placing the Black Stone on it. Then he told each member to hold an edge of the rida, thereby getting them to jointly carry the Sacred Stone to its place, whereupon Muhammad (pbuh) reinstated the Stone into its spot with his own hands. He thus effectively prevented the breakout of a battle between the clans.
Such exhibition of wisdom and exceptional virtue were but foresigns of a prophethood that was to raise the Noble Man in the near future above every other prophet before him. People were little aware that the young Muhammad (pbuh), born and raised in Mecca, would in due course become a prophet. Many devout souls still persevering on the path of tawhid were conscious of the coming of the Prophet of the Final Hour, sensing the time was near. One such man was Quss ibn Saidah.
The Speech of Quss ibn Saidah
The leader of his clan, Quss ibn Saidah was a poet and an adherent of the religion of Isa (a.s). The sermon he gave during the Ukaz Fair to a crowd that included the Prophet to be (pbuh), in which he spoke of the awaited coming, is remembered for its wisdom:
“Come, listen, learn and take a lesson!
“Whoever lives dies, whoever dies perishes and whatever is bound to happen happens. Rain falls, grass grows and children are born to take over the place of their parents. Then they all depart. Occurrences are ceaseless; they all follow up on one another.
“Beware and lend an ear to my words! The skies are filled with news, the ground with lessons to be taken. The earth is a mattress stretched out and the skies a lofty ceiling. The stars will expire and the seas will come to a rest. Whoever comes does not stay and whoever leaves does not return. Who knows? Is it that they are so comfortable where they are that they remain there or are they withheld and put to sleep?
“I swear that there is a religion more beloved to God than the one you now follow.
“And a Prophet of God will come; and his coming is near. His shadow hovers over your heads. Blessings to him who believes in the Prophet and basks in the light of guidance. Woe to him, who rebels and opposes Him!
“Woe to those who squander their lives in ignorance!
“Beware of heedlessness! Everything is mortal. Immortality lies only with the Almighty, who is One, without partners, without a like. He is the only One worthy to be worshipped. He begets not, nor is He begotten.
“Abundant lessons wait to be taken from those who have come to pass.
“People of Iyad! Where are your fathers and forefathers? Where are the people of Ad and Thamud who built exquisite mansions and abodes of stone? Where is the Nimrod and the Pharaoh, who beside himself in worldly riches said to his people ‘Am I not your greatest lord?’
“The Earth ended up grinding them all in its mill. Even their bones have now rotten away, scattered. Their abodes stand deserted, now inhabited by dogs. Do not ever become heedless like them! Do not tread their path! Everything is mortal, only the Almighty is not.
“There is many a passage to enter the river of death, but alas, no way out! All things great or small migrate. Whatever befalls all shall befall you too!” (Bayhaqi, Kitabu’z-Zuhd, II, 264; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, II, 234-241; Haythami, IX, 418)
When he made this beautiful speech, a short time after which he passed away, Quss ibn Sâidah was of course not aware that the future he was announcing—the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)—was present listening. But Quss’s entire tribe believed in the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) once they were made aware of him.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have told their delegation:
“Never could I forget the speech given by Quss ibn Sâidah at the Ukâz Fair, when mounted on a camel, he said, ‘Whoever lives dies, whoever dies perishes and whatever is bound to happen happens.’
The Blessed Messenger (pbuh) then asked them whether there was anyone remaining among them who could repeat his speech. They answered that almost everyone could, a response that made the Light of Being (pbuh) very happy.
Thereupon, Abu Bakr (r.a) also said he could repeat from memory the famous speech as he was also present at the time, confirming his avowal by reciting Quss ibn Sâidah’s speech in full.
Following Abu Bakr, a man from the tribe got up and recited a poem of Quss ibn Sâidah, clearly informing of how a great Prophet would appear from among the Hâshimites. (Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâyah, II, 234-241)
About Quss ibn Sâidah, the Prophet (pbuh) has said:
“May Allah have mercy on Quss ibn Sâidah. He will be resurrected as a separate nation in the Hereafter.” (Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâyah, II, 239)
The Retreat of the Prophet (pbuh) to the Cave of Hira before the Mission
As the advent of Prophethood drew near, the Messenger to be (pbuh) often found himself delving into the depths of contemplation, in seclusion, distant from the public eye. At times he would set out from his home and leave Mecca far behind him, to seek the haven of places silent. Many a time on the way, he would hear the outlying stones and the trees on the path greet him with the words, ‘peace be upon you Messenger of Allah’. In hope of making out the owner of the voices, he would look around, but see only trees and stones.
Later, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) is reported to have said, “I remember there being a certain stone in Mecca that used to greet me before the arrival of my Prophethood. I could identify its place even today.” (Muslim, Fadâil, 2)
Confirming this are the words of Ali (r.a):
“The Messenger of Allah and I were going to a certain place in Mecca once, during our years in the town. As we were passing by trees and stones, I could hear them salute him with the exact words, as-Salâmu alayka yâ Rasûlallah.” (Tirmidhî, Manâqıb, 6/3626)
Muhammad (pbuh) had made a habit of regularly retreating to the Cave of Hira in Ramadan for well nigh the entire month, taking even greater care to feed the poor and disadvantaged. Circumambulating the Kaabah each time he returned home from the Cave had also become routine.
The Prophet to be (pbuh) always despised his tribe’s worshipping of idols, perpetually distancing himself from the practice. His worship in seclusion consisted of contemplating the creation of the skies and earth, like his grandfather Ibrahim (a.s) and gazing at the Kaabah from the overlooking Cave.
Muhammad (pbuh) used to take with him to the Cave small supplies of food and drinks, returning to Khadijah (r.ha) once they finished to refill, only to once again go back to the Cave. On occasion, he would also take Khadijah (r.ha) with him.
Contemplating in seclusion in the Cave of Hira, the Light of Being (pbuh) would frequently see lights and hear voices, which led him to fear that the experiences could be premonitions related to soothsaying and sorcery. Concerned, he would voice his anxiety to Khadijah (r.ha), saying:
“I am afraid, Khadijah, of being a soothsayer, when by the Almighty there is nothing I hate more than soothsaying and idols!” But Khadijah (r.ha) would only have words of consolation:
“Do not say that, cousin. Allah would never make you a soothsayer.” (Ibn Saad, I, 195)
The period of seclusion before the mission was a preparatory stage for the Prophet (pbuh), like a seed pushing forth from beneath the soil. The exact nature of this preliminary period of preparation, however, will forever remain a secret to us. But it was there that the seeds of faith were laid and the fire of eternal bliss was ignited; and the Revelation of the Quran, the guidance for all humanity, first started.
On the face of it, the retreat of the Blessed Prophet to the Cave was prompted by the general misguidance of the people and his inexpressible grief over the injustices committed by the corrupt Meccans; yet in reality the withdrawal was simply a preparation of the heart of the Noble Messenger (pbuh) towards immaculate purification whereupon the Holy Quran could be flawlessly communicated to the perception of entire mankind. This was virtually an instance of a spiritual spark stirred by the grounding of a high voltage of electricity, an intimate secret between the Almighty and His Beloved, in a secluded cave remote from prying eyes. Just as raw iron becomes steel through an inner propensity, the time at Hira was for the flourishing of the Prophet’s (pbuh) predisposition to become the recipient of Divine Revelation and assume a burden too heavy for ordinary human beings to carry. It is inconceivable to even imagine a conscience that would not shatter to pieces in trying to grasp this secret or a human language that could perfectly express its gist.
Understood from the retreat and seclusion of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) at the Cave of Hira and many an itikaf he regularly performed during the later years of his life, is the fact that no matter how great a deed one may perform, spiritual perfection will forever remain out of reach short of retreating to seclusion to call the self into account and contemplate the flow of Divine Power vibrant throughout the universe. This is a minimum requirement for all Muslims. As for those set to become guides for the rest, they need to spare even more time for contemplation and reflecting on the self.
From the first verse to the very last, the Sacred Quran trains one in the art of contemplation, instilling servanthood to the Lord at the center of all thought. Only then does faith become an intrinsic identity, prompting one to seek the pleasure of the Almighty at all times and places. And with the manifestations, through wisdom, of the flow of Divine Splendor and Power in the heart, the servant gradually gains greater proximity to the Lord, attaining the ultimate aim.
Among the most vital aspects for a Believer is muhabbetullah, the love of Allah (SWT). After faith, the most important catalyst for gaining Divine Love is through constant contemplation of His blessings and grace, deliberating over His Majesty and Power and then incessantly remembering and invoking Him with the heart and tongue. To realize these states in the truest sense of the word can be achieved only through protecting the heart from the pomp and concern of the world by retreating to seclusion.
One thing needs to be brought to attention here, that is to say, what is intended by khalwat or retreating to seclusion here is not fleeing all together from the community and taking up permanent residence in caves, mountains or remote dwellings. Such a move would run counter to the practice of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions.
One only needs to be reminded of the words of the Prophet (pbuh) himself:
“A Muslim who lives in the community and endures the torment that comes with it is of greater virtue that he who stays remote from them and their distress.” (Tirmidhi, Qiyamat, 55)
Many activities of the Noble Prophet (pbuh), from shepherding to taking active part in the Fijar Battles and the Hilf’ul-Fudul guild, his business endeavors, and his assistance in the rebuilding of the Kaabah, testify to his lively presence in society even before his advent as prophet. A part of all the virtuous activities of his society, the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) equally made sure to stay away from their vices, never crossing paths with them.
The essence of retreating into seclusion is to improveone’s condition. To become cured, medicine must be taken on time at the right amount. Taken excessively, it is sure to procure harm instead of remedy.
An Overview of the Blessed Prophet’s Childhood and Youth
Allah (SWT), brought His Beloved to the realm of being by filtering him through the noblest and purest of lineages beginning with the first page of the book of humanity. Bestowing upon this lineage a preeminence above others in many respects, the Almighty made each and every ancestor of the Prophet (pbuh) a person honored and respected during his or her time, as indicated exquisitely in the following couplet:
A rose is so for being a rose at its core,
Only a line of roses would bear a Prophet forth…
Beginning with Adam (a.s), the first man and Prophet, an oath was taken from every single Prophet to believe in the Final Messenger (pbuh) and disclose the news of his coming, which has been bolstered by many incidents alluding to the awaited arrival. Allah (SWT), thus introduced His Beloved Prophet, whom He was to grant to humanity, with all his signs, easing the path for His right-minded servants to affirm their faith in him once he appeared.
By leaving him an orphan without parents, the Almighty Himself undertook the training of the gracious soul exclusively, imparting unto him the best of conduct. Giving him the sour taste of the greatest vulnerability and helplessness one can endure, the Glorious enabled him to reach the apex of mercy, compassion and altruism with regard to the people he was to be entrusted with in the near future.
Protecting His beloved from the repugnance of the Age of Ignorance, the Almighty did not allow even the slightest blot of vice to mar the clean sheet that was his life, ensuring thereby the manifestation of the zenith of virtue in his conduct.
People knew him for his virtues of trustworthiness, dependability, sincerity, generosity, nobility and loyalty, and preeminent features like intelligence and prudence, placing their trust in him in all their affairs. The Almighty combined in him all things beautiful and the most exemplary attributes, conceded even by his enemies. It was they who, after all, had named him al-Amin, the Trustworthy, well before the time of prophethood. The arbitration of the Blessed Messenger (pbuh) at the Kaabah testifies to his inimitable position in the eyes of Meccan notables. It never even crossed their minds that there could be any untruth to his words or that his moral fiber could harbor any misgivings. They never doubted the sublime level of his sincerity whenever his aid was sought and things depended on him for the better.
Character wise, the Almighty had created the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) in the most excellent manner and ensured he lived accordingly, as he was going to constitute the best example for the rest of mankind and steer them onto the path of guidance. In essence, man becomes attracted to figures of exceptional character, and not to those in possession of worldly goods. However praiseworthy geniuses are, people only follow those with exemplary disposition.
. Ibn Hishâm, I, 191; Ibn Saad, I, 121.
. Ibn Saad, I, 158.
. Reports vary on what the term qararit, used in the hadith to denote the payment received, could mean. One report suggests that it was rather the name of a place in Mecca, while the other implies it being the plural of the term qirat, a type of currency, according to which the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) used to shepherd the sheep of the Meccans in return for one qirat, or the twentieth of a dinar, per sheep, per day.
. Diyarbakrî, I,260.
. Ibn Hishâm, I, 198; Ibn Saad, I, 126-128.
. Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâya, II, 295-296; Ibn Saad, I, 128-129.
. Hâkim, III, 200/4834.
. Ibn Hishâm, I, 203; Ibn Saad, I, 129; Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidâya, II, 297.
. Diyarbakrî, I, 262.
. Ibn Saad, I, 130, 156-157.
. Diyarbakrî, I, 264; Yakûbî, II, 20.
. Ibn Hisham, I, 206; Ibn Asîr, Usdu’l-Ghaba, I, 23.
. Ibn Saad, VIII, 14-15.
. See Ibn Hajar, al-Isâba, IV, 360.
. See al-Ahzâb, 37.
. See an-Nisâ, 3.
. Elmalılı Muhammed Hamdi Yazır elucidates the issue in the following:
“…As for contracting multiple marriages: It cannot be disputed that, essentially, this is only a permission, rendering permissible (mubah) something that at the same time can become impermissible (makruh) if there is fear of committing injustice towards any of the spouses. Having said that, it would not be a farfetched construal of the ayah, to see that it suggests contracting multiple marriages can become recommendable (mandub) even necessary (wajib) in certain situations, characteristically defined by an increase of risk, for both men and women, of falling into iniquity.” (Hak Dîni Kur’ân Dili, II, 1290)
. Hayreddin Karaman, Mukâyeseli İslâm Hukûku, v. I, p. 290, İstanbul, 1996.
. Following that day, Zayd began to be called ‘Zayd ibn Muhammad’, up until the abolishment of adoption with the 5th and 40th verses of Surah Ahzab.
. Ibn Saad, I, 133.
. Kawthar means abundance, a great amount of every given thing. It has been interpreted as including Prophethood, the Quran, Islam, goodness, bliss, intercession, salat and the miracles given to the Blessed Prophet (pbuh). Authentic narrations report it to be the name of the heavenly pool given to the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) in Paradise, around which the ummah will gather in the Hereafter. (Bukhari, Tafsir, 108)
. Diyarbakri, I, 273-274.
. Ibn Saad, VIII, 19-26.
. See Asri Çubukçu, DİA, “İbrâhîm” entry, XXI, 273-274.
. Abdurrazzaq, V, 319; Ibn Kathîr, al-Bidaya, II, 304.
. Ibn Hisham, I, 209-214; Abdurrazzaq, V, 319.
. Ibn Saad, I, 157.
. Hira is the name of a cave in the mountain, known as the Jabal’un-Nur, or the Mountain of Light, where the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) received his first ever Revelation. Situated to the northeast of Mecca at a distance of approximately five kilometers, the Cave of Hira occupies an important place in the life of the Noble Prophet (pbuh). The Cave, a few meters below the peak of the mountain, in fact consists of a tunnel-like passage wedged amid slabs of rock naturally piled upon one another. The Kaabah stands in clear vision through the entrance of the Cave. Only as high as one can stand, the width of the Cave barely allows one to lie down; though overlooking the surrounding areas, including the Kaabah, it provides an ideal hideaway for contemplation. Before the Blessed Prophet (pbuh), the Hanifs of Mecca too made most of the opportunity for contemplation provided by the Cave, one of whom was Abdulmuttalib, the Prophet’s (pbuh) very own grandfather, who having firm belief in Allah (SWT), and the Hereafter as the abode of reward and punishment, would escape to the Cave and commit himself to worship. (Fuat Günel, DİA, “Hira” entry, XVIII, 121-122)
. Ibn Hishâm, I, 253-254.
. Aynî, I, 61; XXIV, 128.
. Muslim, Iman, 252.
. Ibn Hishâm, I, 254.
. Colloquial terms like cousin or nephew are commonly used by Arabs to address one another. They do not necessarily imply a blood relation.
. Pleading the Almighty for His Love in his prayers, the Blessed Prophet would pray:
اَللّهُمَّ اِنِّى اَسْأَلُكَ حُبَّكَ وَحُبَّ مَنْ يُحِبُّكَ وَالْعَمَلَ الَّذِى يُبَلِّغُنِى حُبَّكَ.
اَللَّهُمَّ اجْعَلْ حُبَّكَ اَحَبَّ اِلَىَّ مِنْ نَفْسِى وَاَهْلِى وَمِنَ الْمَاءِ الْبَارِدِ.
“Allah! I ask you for Your Love, the love of those whom You love and the deeds that will lead to Your Love! Allah! Make Your Love dearer to me than myself, my family, my possessions and even cold water!”(Tirmidhi, Daawat, 72)
. In interpreting the ayah, يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اذْكُرُوا اللّٰهَ ذِكْرًا كَثِيرًا “Believers…Remember Allah plentifully”(al-Ahzâb, 41) Ibn Abbas (r.a) has stated:
“For each compulsory deed Allah (SWT), has decreed His servants, He has imposed a limit, exempting at the same time those with legitimate excuses. From this, however, His remembrance (dhikr) is excluded, for which Allah (SWT), has not designated a specified limit. Neither will he accept the excuses of those who abandon His remembrance, apart from those who have lost their sanity. He has commanded each and everyone to be in a constant state of remembrance.” (Tabarî, XXII, 22; Qurtubî, XIV, 197)
. Bûtî, p. 79-82.