The Holy Prophet Muhammad
(upon whom be peace)
By Dr. Nizam Ajmir Mohammed
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (Upon Whom Be Peace) was born in Mecca, Arabia, on the 12th Rabiul Awwal (corresponding to Monday 571 C.E.). On this day, Allaah sent to all mankind His Chosen One (al-Mustafa), The Praised One (Muhammad), The Bringer of Mercy to all mankind (Rahmatan-lil-Alamin), The Shining Spiritual (Sirajan-munira), the only one to whom the fountain of abundance (Kauthar) in heaven has been granted, the Loving Son Merciful (Raufun rahim), His Beloved One (al-Murtaza), His Friend (Khalil), and the one bestowed with the finest manners (la ala Khulqin azim).
At the age of forty, Muhammad (Upon Whom Be Peace) received his first revelation in the Cave of Hira where it was his practice to spend his time in prayer and meditation. Following his call to Prophethood, he spent 13 years at Mecca (Meccan Period). Then, due to increasing persecution and also in accordance with the command of Allaah, he and his followers migrated from Mecca to Medina. This historic and epoch-making event in the life of the Prophet is known as the Hijra (June 622 C.E.) and marks the turning point in the history of Islam. Muhammad (U.W.B.P.) spent the last 10 years of his life at Medina (The Medina Period) where he died (June 632 C.E.) and was buried.
The Meccan Period was one of intense spiritual struggle and preparation, but the trials, hardships and the persecutions brought about by the unbelievers never discouraged the Prophet. On the contrary, these difficulties provided him with the opportunity to strengthen himself and his followers in the faith and to build up patience, tolerance, perseverance and determination in the cause of Allaah. The Medina Period which followed, though lasting only 10 years, witnessed an impressive social and political growth, organization and development at Medina. In this short period of 10 years, the entire Arabian peninsula had accepted Islam, and furthermore, the two major civilizations of that era – the Persian and the Byzantine – were beginning to feel the impact of Islam. The Hijra had paved the way for the successful completion of the Holy Prophet’s mission. It was in Medina that Muhammad (U.W.B.P.) established the supremacy of the Islamic social order and ideology, and Islam translated into practical everyday life. It was here that he received the Divine Laws regarding the rules and regulations of the new social order. It was here, for example, the Zakaat (legal charity), one of the fundamentals of social life in Islam, was introduced. In this period also, alcoholic drinks, gambling and games of chance were declared to be forbidden for Muslims.
In Medina he drew up the clauses of a written constitution, the first of its kind in the world. In it he defined the rights and obligations of all its citizens. It laid down the principles of defence and foreign policy, and recognized liberty of religion. It organized a system of social insurance. The Prophet, himself laid down the principles of social security. When the widow of Ja’far ibn Abu Talib came to him and mentioned the orphanhood of her children, he assured her of his responsibility for them in this life and the next. This promise of assistance to them by Muhammad (U.W.B.P.) as head of the Muslim State illustrates the principle of the State’s responsibility to provide its citizens with the fundamental necessities of life.
The Holy Prophet of Islam gave to mankind the principles and teachings of Islam affirming the dignity and universal brotherhood of man. These are principles that transcend the barriers of race, colour and class. Under his inspiring leadership the Muslims evolved a social structure that has been the pride of humanity. In this social structure he made human brotherhood both a cardinal principle and a fact of Islamic law. By putting into practice the teachings of Islam, he demonstrated that Muslims of the world are really one body forming one common brotherhood. He was able to shatter the narrow concept of nationalism and effectively speak in terms of the wider concept of inter-nationalism and universal brotherhood.
The pivot from which springs the Holy Prophet’s attitude and successful actions in bringing about a united community marked by equality and brotherhood was his firm faith in the Unity of God. He made every Muslim conscious of the fact that the unity of man cannot be fully realised without first realising the Unity of God, and that from the Unity of God follows the concept of the unity of man. He refused to become part of the corrupt society in which he found himself. The social structure of the community loses its depth of character and purpose if the spiritual basis is lacking. He therefore began by preaching Tawhid or the Unity of God. Everything originated from God. God exists in a state of unity. Hence, man who is God’s Khalifah or representative on earth must also exist in a state of unity.
Muhammad (Upon Whom Be Peace) thought that Islam exists primarily in relation to society. Muslims are true only if they practise their faith in a social atmosphere, and a society cannot be Islamic if the laws of Islam are excluded from its codes and customs. When there was mentioned to him a certain man whose exemplary piety left no time for the daily provisions of life, he asked “Who lives with him?” On learning that the pious man had a brother who worked and supported him, the Prophet said, “His brother is more pious than he.”
The Holy Prophet of Islam addressed himself to the whole of humanity. He unshackled the chains that fettered the human mentality by first of all making man’s access to God a direct one. There is to be no intermediary between man and his Creator with whom man is at all times free to communicate. Having accomplished this, he gathered mankind into a single family. In his Farewell Pilgrimage Address he said:
“O Men! You have one Lord and one Father. You are all children of the same father, Adam. Today the pride of aristocracy is being trampled under my feet. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab; nor has a non-Arab any superiority over an Arab. The noblest among you in the sight of God is he who is dutiful to God… All Muslims are brothers unto one another. You are one brotherhood. However, nothing which belongs to one is lawful unto his brother unless given freely and out of good will.”
In the early stages of the establishment of the Muslim Community, Muhammad (Upon Whom Be Peace) appointed an African Muslim, Bilal, as Muezzin (one who gives the Azan or Call to Prayer). Sayyidina Bilal, an Abyssinian, was formerly a slave who had been severely tortured by his master for accepting Islam. He was finally released by Sayyidina Abu Bakr, one of the Holy Prophet’s companions, and he became the first Muezzin in Islam, the position of Muezzin being held in high respect by Muslims. Bilal had a beautiful voice, and from the Mosque in Medina, his voice was heard with appreciation by all. Later, in the eight year of the Hijra, when Mecca was taken by the Muslims, again it was Bilal who, at the Holy Prophet’s request, gave the Azan from the top of the Ka’ba, his voice being thus the first to be heard summoning the Muslims to prayer from that spot. After the Prophet’s death, the Muslims, on the occasion of taking Jerusalem, requested Bilal to call the Azan in the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Hence Bilal became the first Muslim and the first Muezzin to call the Azan from all the three mosques most sacred to Muslims (i.e., the Mosques at Medina, Mecca and Jerusalem).
The Message which the Prophet delivered was based on the Holy Qur’aan and his own example and words. With this message, he was able to penetrate the hearts and minds of men so that they became eager to learn the truth and attain righteousness. He devoted all his efforts and even risked his life and the lives of his followers to the crystallization of the first fundamental of Islam, the belief in the Unity of God. Belief in the Unity of God is the source of energy which activated the Prophet to the path of truth, peace, goodness and success. His greatest concern was that mankind should be brought together through the worship of the all-Powerful Creator, who is not only supreme but also unique. It was because of his firm faith and dedication that he was able to become the standard bearer of a new and revolutionary way of life based on the sovereignty of God and that he was able to construct a society free from oppression and exploitation. He gave us the best example of how we should love, worship and obey Allaah. Every aspect of his life is a source of inspiration for us. Allaah says in the HolyQur’aan:
“O Prophet! Truly we have sent thee as a witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings, and a Warner. And as one who invites to Allaah’s (Grace) by His leave and as a Lamp spreading light. Then give the glad tidings to the believers, that they shall have from Allaah a very great bounty.” (33:45-47).
Whereas in the past, in the regions where Prophets were sent, there were rulers, kings, armies and soldiers to keep law and order; there was no such thing in the time of the Prophet Muhammad U.W.B.P. Every man was a law unto himself, here might was right. Infanticide, female children born, were buried alive; men and women would circumambulate the Ka’aba naked> There were constant wars among the tribes; women had no rights; a man would take as many wives as he pleases and would dismiss them as he pleases; drunkenness prevailed; prostitution and adultery were rampant; idols were worshipped in the Ka'aba, a different one each day of the year. These and other social evils which were the order of the day, the Prophet U.W.B.P. fought and uprooted with Divine help. and perseverance.
The success of the Prophet U.W.B.P. in bringing about the reformation, social and spiritual, among the people, and which was to spread throughout the world, was due mainly to his being faithful to God and the first and best exemplar to the revelations he received and preached. At no time did he doubt God’s words. At no time did he hesitate to carry out God’s commands.
God Almighty was the best watcher over the Prophet U.W.B.P. as to his actions. He described him (the Prophet) as a Mercy to the believers, also to the worlds, and his followers are the best of the people on whom God’s Mercy is specially ordained. He was also described by God as a Warner and a Light-giving sun, one who spreads light thereby bringing men from darkness into light and striving hard for the cause of truth. This transformation took twenty-three (23) years at the end of which time he was able to change those evil and corrupted practices of the people to one of a God fearing and righteous nation.
He united those warring tribes into one great brotherhood. He taught them to pray together five times daily and to find comfort in prayer. He showed them a system of collecting alms for the needed, the orphans and the poor. He established in their hearts fear for God and belief in the accountability for sins on the day of Judgment and a life in the hereafter. He showed them how they can attain spiritual purification by combining their prayers with fast in Ramadan. He taught them to faithfully follow the Qur’aan. He taught them the rites of Hajj and to put their trust in God. He taught them to be just and merciful to the believers and to grieve when they are in difficulty, to be firm against the unbelievers until they believe. Nay, he showed them these and many more things. He showed them the way to eternal life.
This is the legacy he left for later generations of Muslims to follow till the day of Qiyamat. The Muslims of today would do well to study the Prophet’s life history, the incidents and circumstances in his lifetime and follow the instructions he gave.
Let us all pray for Allaah’s Peace and Blessings on the Prophet, his families and on the nation of Islam.