Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) The Universal Teacher
By Moulana Muhammad Abdul Aleem Siddiqui, Al-Qaderi.
There might have been differences in the past as regards the form of celebrating the Prophet’s Birthday; but so far as the dissemination of facts relating to his eventful life is concerned, it has been very forcefully emphasised by eminent Islamic scholars. During the early days of Islam, the traditions and stories relating to those facts were preached through sermons and lessons by the companions and those who immediately followed them. Afterwards it became the custom to arrange for the recitation of books on the Holy Prophet’s life at such places where it was not possible to get efficient preachers. on the Holy Prophet’s
The importance of holding the Milad assemblies on the date of birth itself was particularly felt during the Abbaside Caliphate when the voice of Islam had begun to echo in Europe and other distant lands. Later on the Sultans of Egypt gave a great impetus to the institution. In India itself, though the wrong method of some ignorant professional Milad reciters has somewhat marred its serenity, its observance in the right spirit has nevertheless been one of the primary concerns of the Ulema.
From the point of view of its beneficial effects, the importance of the institution is two-fold. In the first place, it is helpful in creating greater love of the Holy Prophet in the hearts of Muslims. Secondly, it has an immense importance as being the means of awakening the world in general and drawing its attention to the mighty achievements of the noblest personality that ever graced the surface of the earth and reminding the people of the day and date when for the first time this effulgent torch of guidance shed its brilliant rays on a world shrouded in darkness.
In this age of discoveries and inventions when new and strange instruments are being continuously devised to profit mankind in diverse ways, fanaticism and bigotry have also brought into existence new means to misrepresent facts. To make the best appear the worst and to make the most beautiful seem the ugliest is regarded as the most wonderful and creditable accomplishment and achievement. Under the influence of this mentality strange and new modes of attack are quite often devised against Islam and the Holy Prophet by well-meaning people.
Such a situation renders it incumbent on every Muslim to present a true portrait of the Perfect Model of the teachings of Islam, namely, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may his memory be ever green!) before the world. If this is done, the rest will automatically follow, as there is ample evidence in our history to show that an unbiased study of the life of this embodiment of virtue and human perfection will inevitably attract the student towards Islam by its inherent magnetic force.
For this purpose, not only the services of the Ulema but also of the unprejudiced and broad-minded non-Muslims should be utilised, so that the black veil of misrepresentations may be removed and the effulgent Light of Truth may dawn before the eyes of mankind.
I. – ISLAM: A UNIVERSAL RELIGION
As I have already stated a deliberate campaign to misrepresent the teachings of Islam is afoot, and people are labouring under false and erroneous notions.
While, during the medieval ages when Europe was groping in the dark, Islam was sedulously mentioned abroad as an idol-worshipping religion and its adversaries went to the extent of circulating the myth that the Muslims, on their return from the defeat they had sustained in Spain, subjected the idols in their homes to the utmost undignified and humiliating treatment, the belief that the Muslims face the Kaaba when offering their prayers because an idol is installed there, is widely prevalent in certain quarters even in these modern, enlightened and civilised times.
The travesty of the facts will, however, amusingly astonish all sensible people. For imagine the charge of idol worship being leveled against the very religion, the avowed purpose of which is to eradicate it, and the absolute unity of God its fundamental and the most essential principle.
Similarly, where on the one hand there is a general belief that Islam caters for the grosser appetites of human beings and that the Muslims take up sword in the name of religion to establish kingdoms for self-aggrandisement, and have no concern whatsoever with the arts and sciences and civilised life, there is on the other hand a group amongst the Muslims themselves who hold that Islam confines its preachings to piety and monasticism and that spiritual progress and access to Allaah can only be attained by a complete renunciation of all the material phases of life and breaking asunder all worldly ties to retire into the jungles and engage undisturbed in the worship of the Creator.
Both these conceptions of Islam are utterly false and misleading. The fact is that it makes ideal provision for the utmost development of both the material and the spiritual aspects of life. Where it dispenses instructions in secular progress, it does not stop at the elementary stage, but exhorts its votary to aspire to its pinnacle by directing him to attain proficiency in all its branches of activity, and if fortune favours him and circumstances happen to bring a territory under his sway, he is not supposed merely to take possession of the throne, enslave the people and rule as an autocrat to satisfy his own desire and indulge in luxury and extravagance, but he must administer the state in such a democratic manner that his subjects may palpably feel that they form a part and parcel of the government, and strive to bring his subjects to a footing of complete equality in pursuance of the laws of Islamic Shariat. His wars should not be actuated by mercenary motives and defence or relief of the oppressed rather than ambitious usurpation should be the incentive. He must establish tranquility and peace, and liberty of the press, freedom of speech and liberal provision for acquiring religious and secular education must be the features of his government.
The Qur’aan repeatedly refers us to the wonders of the creation and sets before our intelligent observation various phenomena of nature, thus encouraging the study of diverse sciences. In fact, hundreds of verses and traditions can be quoted to demonstrate that a perfect knowledge of arts and sciences, including mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, etc., form as it were, one of the vital concerns of the teachings of Islam.
Side by side with this emphasis on the secular aspect of life, it also imparts lessons for the highest spiritual progress and guides its followers to Almighty Allaah. At the very outset the Holy Qur’aan distinctly lays down that:
“There is no monasticism in Islam.”
Thus it discourages, if not actually prohibits, the Faithful from renouncing the world and leading a life of celibacy. Soothe to say, a Muslim’s material advancement is also accomplished to please God, so that he may enjoy the blessings of the world which are bestowed by Him, and, by gaining knowledge of the principles governing nature and bringing his faculties to perfection, admire the grandeur and beauty of His creation and know Him better. How concisely, yet beautifully, both these aspects have been summed up in the following verse of the Qur’aan:
“Lo! In the creation of the heavens and the earth and in the alternation of the night and the day, there are signs for men of understanding; those who remember Allaah standing, sitting and reclining on their sides, and contemplate on the creation of the heavens and the earth (and say): O our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain; glory be to Thee! Preserve us from the doom of fire.”
(Chapter III, Verse 189).
Whether it be the study of chemistry for the analysis of the constituents of the multifarious compounds and for learning the properties of the elements, or of the Law of Gravity, or of the rules governing the revolutions of the planets, or the knowledge for understanding those principles which control the alternation of day and night and the movements of the stars, in short, all knowledge and learning equips the intelligent person the better to appreciate the wonders of the creation. The human mind is then pushed by an invincible force towards Him, and every fresh scientific discovery serves to remind one of Him, for Islam does not want its votary to be satisfied with a superficial knowledge of things but expects him to devote himself to their study with the final object of discovering the ultimate principles. That will lead him to appreciate God and remember Him constantly, as the verse indicates:
“Those who remember Allaah standing, sitting and lying on their sides.”
“And contemplate on the creation of the heavens and the earth.”
(Chapter III, Verse 189).
Or take it this way, that in the beginning his attention is attracted by the material objects which lead him to study their nature, and thus perceiving the manifestations of Divine Attributes, he proceeds further and achieves spiritual progress by constant remembrance of Almighty Allaah and attains knowledge of the Attributes themselves, till he reaches the stage of appreciating the act of creation and spontaneously utters:
“O our Lord! Thou hast not created this in vain. Glory be to Thee!”
(Chapter III, Verse 189).
“neither art Thou false nor the manifestations of Thy Attributes: Thou art True and the manifestations of Truth are in Thy creation.”
After negotiating this stage of the appreciation of Attributes, he moves forward in search of the Being Himself and, as comes nearer to the stage of Realisation, his thoughts take the form of some such words as these:
“O Creator! Thy Being is not only free from all defects and deficiencies, but it is so perfect that it transcends the limits of our visual horizon. Thou alone can be the true Ideal of all our cultural and scientific quest.”
Restlessness increases as the human soul advances towards the Ultimate Reality, so much so that the only desire which remains in it is that of uniting itself to Him. And the desire overtakes it with such an overwhelming force that its only concern becomes to pray for relief from the acute distress of separation:
“Preserve us from the doom of fire.”(Chapter III, Verse 189).
When the human mind is enticed and captivated by the wealth of imagery and the beauty and perfection that it witnesses, it is inevitably led to think of the inexpressibly exquisite beauty and charm of the Maker and Creator of all these. The following beautiful lines of De La Mare depict such a state to some extent:
Though I should sit
By some tarn in Thy hills,
Using its ink
As the spirit wills
To write of earth’s wonders,
Its live, willed things,
Flit would the ages
On soundless wings
Ere unto Z
My pen drew nigh;
And the honey-fly:
And still would remain
My wit to try –
My worn reeds broken
The dark tarn dry,
All words forgotten –
Thou Lord and I.
Consequently the more one studies and thinks about the material objects, the more his yearning grows for knowing the reality behind them, and through the observation of the incomprehensible skill and craftsmanship of the creation of the world and the realisation of the limitations of the human mind, i.e. of the fact that the problem of creation is beyond his mental powers, he is inevitably led to ask:
“What is there beyond? What is there beyond in space? What is there beyond in time?“
The quest compels him to acknowledge that there is someone beyond it all and that that someone is none else than God, the Almighty Allaah, the Creator. For, otherwise, the wonderfully faultless and efficient working of all the phenomena that we notice could not have been possible. Thus side by side with the increase in knowledge the fact is irresistibly brought to light that God alone is at the back of it all; and furthermore, that when such is the beauty and charm of His Creation, what would be His own grandeur and splendour? The realisation of this fact naturally tends to make him eager, so to say, to improve his acquaintance with Him. The advance in this direction continues until it ends in that burning love which makes him yearn for a spiritual union with Him. The advance in this direction continues until it ends in that burning love which makes him yearn for a spiritual union with Him, and the fire of separation and suspense that consumes him urges him to exclaim ceaselessly:
“Preserve us from the doom of fire.”
By the way, this love is viewed in Islamic sufi-ism in a two-fold perspective. Rabia of Basra, the celebrated mystic poetess of Islam, expresses it in the following inimitable lines:
Two ways I love Thee: selfishly,
And next, as is worthy of Thee,
‘Tis selfish love that I do naught
Save think on Thee with every thought;
‘Tis purest love when Thou dost raise
The veil to my adoring gaze.
Not mine the praise in that or this,
Thine is the praise in both, I wis.
Hence, it we survey the present state of affairs with insight, we shall arrive at the inference that while the modern materialism-ridden world regards mundane prosperity and proficiency in secular knowledge to be the highest point of human progress. Islam allots them the place of preliminaries in the view of life that it expounds, and a Muslim is expected to utilise them as stepping stones in his onward march towards the Ultimate Goal. His preference may be for any branch of knowledge and he may engage himself in any walk of life, which may vary according to his temperament, inclination or capacity. In all cases. however, it will be a widening and a deepening of his experience – all a part of the life-long process of his equipment for the Journey. Because the journey he has undertaken is meant to carry him to the Almighty Allaah, the Lord of all Universe. Thus the pinnacle of perfection conceived by others is only the starting point of a Muslim, while his ideal is so high and so ultimate that it transcends all limitations, Khwaja Naqshband sums it up beautifully in a couplet:
“Our beginning is the end of every aspirant,
“And our goal a complete annihilation of the yearning itself.”
That implies that the fire of love annihilates everything except the Beloved. And the process of annihilation is two-fold. In the first place, the heart of the lover becomes incapable of accepting and containing anything except the Beloved; and, secondly the lover himself is consumed by the fire of love to such an extent that his separate existence is altogether lost. A Sufi says:
Love is a fire which burns up everything except the beloved.”
Two important facts may now be said to have been established:
1. The function of Islam is that it provides the via media, the golden mean, between the two extremes mentioned before. On the one hand, it directs its followers to achieve the utmost progress in all the material walks of life, and, on the other, its comprehensive and sublime code, which is unique for many reasons, equips them for their journey towards the centre of all Life and Light and the Embodiment of all Perfection – Allaah.
2. From the stand-point of the present discussion, the mission of Islam may be said to be two-fold.
In the first place, it warns those who are not only indifferent to the spiritual side of their lives but actually deny the existence of God and consider luxury and self-indulgence to be the be-all and end-all of life. It warns them that there is undoubtedly a Creator of this world and that we owe some duties to Him. Then on this spiritual concept it builds the edifice of altruism – duties towards the fellow-creatures. It lays particular stress on social good and emphasises the argument that if all human beings were engaged in the pursuit of their own objects of desire and altruism had no place in the original nature of man, it would follow that the natural state would be a state of contention, enmity and war, and peace and tranquility will be only transitory.
In the second place, it admonishes those who maintain that it is useless to have anything to do with the world, as it is to be ultimately reduced to nothingness, and that so long as one is absorbed in mundane matters, it is impossible to approach God and to partake of the blessings bestowed by Him. It tells them that it is not so commendable to devote oneself to the worship of the Almighty by renouncing the world altogether and severing all connections with one’s fellow-creatures, as it is to remember Him in the midst of all the worries and responsibilities of worldly affairs.
To sum up: Islam deprecates the separation of material from spiritual progress. For a Muslim, increased economical and social prosperity and increased progress in the study of arts and sciences signifies an increased capacity and desire for an advance which is more vital. And that advance consists in the effort to penetrate the true essence of the objects and appreciate the intrinsic value of God Almighty’s blessings. That will ultimately lead him to bow down his head before Him and to surrender himself to His Will, which is literally the meaning of the word “Islam.”
II. - NECESSITY OF QUR’AANIC REVELATION
You will agree with me that an engineer alone can be fully conversant with the machine he has made, the exact spots where its various pieces are to be fixed up, and its correct use. It is obvious that if we tamper with its mechanism and work it as we please without a thorough knowledge, the result will be disastrous. When this is the case with the machines made by man, how can our limited faculties be depended upon to make the right and proper use of the intricate and complex machine made by God. It follows, therefore, that if all the objects in this world which are, so to say, parts of the machine which we call Universe, must be put to their allotted and correct use, then, just as literature containing complete directions accompanies the man-made machines, so it is also necessary that God Almighty should send instructions to enable us to operate this formidable machine correctly and to make a proper use of it. These instructions that expound the Divine laws are known as “Revealed Books” in the terminology of religion.
Side by side with theory, however, practice is also a vital factor in instruction. Now, the books referred to contain laws only, and unless a practical model accompanies them, human nature, constituted as it is, does not come into full play. Consequently Almighty Allaah selected certain individuals for promulgating and demonstrating the laws of the Revealed Books and these sacred personalities are known as Prophets or Apostles. Hence in the language of religion, a Prophet or an Apostle signifies a Messenger between the Creator and His creatures, whose duty it is to deliver His message to them, and, acting in accordance with it, set a practical example for them to emulate.
History furnishes us with evidence to the effect that, in every age and every clime, such individuals made their appearance from time to time. Their object was not to amass wealth and acquire means for self-indulgence by making themselves kings and millionaires; but their aim was to wean the immoral and selfish humanity from its entanglement in the meshes of superstition and the forgetfulness of the Creator, and to guide it to the right way of life at the cost of undergoing persecution and innumerable sufferings.
Thus it was that the different existing religions were promulgated in the world. But perhaps, like a child who is careless about his studies in his childhood, the world in its infancy remained indifferent to the contents of the revealed books and the history of the lives of their promulgators. The inevitable result of this was that, at the time of the advent of Islam, the world neither possessed those books in their original form nor were there any reliable records of the biographies of their Messengers from which we could study the ways of their lives and arrive at a proper estimate of their character and get an idea of the models they left for the emulation of their followers.
This is a fact which is lost sight of by many, so much so that there are some people who profess to believe all religions to be true and advance and claim that they have culled out the points from them and are thus following the quintessence of their teachings. This seems to be an excellent idea. But when the original scriptures of the religions do not exist and there is no authentic record of the life histories of their promulgators, how on earth is it possible for human ingenuity to differentiate between the true and the false and to pick out the truth from all religions?
The fact, however, is that whenever people have broken away from the regulations taught to them by the Prophets and have reverted to a state of irreligion, idol worship, etc., God has invariably sent His Messengers to proclaim His laws and to remind them of their obligations to Him and their duties to themselves and to their fellow-creatures.
And it is in this perspective that we should view the necessity of Qur’aanic revelation. No student of history can deny the fact that, in the sixth century of the Christian era, a state of spiritual chaos and moral disintegration had come to obtain universally in the world and gloom and darkness had engulfed it totally. And more than that, as remarked earlier, the Divine Truth had been corrupted by human hands. A fresh Divine Dispensation was, therefore, a crying need of the day, even as the Mosaic and Christian Dispensations had been earlier. Moreover, as there was no place on earth where Truth could be found in its original form, it was necessary that that Dispensation should be meant for the whole world. Consequently, Almighty God sent a comprehensive code of laws covering all the activities of mankind and comprising the essence of all the former Dispensations in the book called Al-Qur’aan and chose Muhammad (with whom be peace!) as its vehicle, to present himself as an embodiment of its teachings in that part of the earth which was in the worst possible state of religious, social and moral disintegration, I mean, Arabia.
III. – THE FINALITY OF ISLAM.
The Message which the Holy Prophet delivered to humanity was written down by the specially-appointed scribes (as he was illiterate himself) during his lifetime, nay, in his very presence, and was verified by him. From that original, copies were made by Zaid ibn Thabit and other Companions, some of which are preserved intact to this day, and although millions of copies have now been printed and published, there has not been the slightest deviation from the original text, even to the extent of a dot. Nor could such a contingency arise. Because the contents of the Book are not only available in print, but they are also faultlessly preserved in the hearts of thousands of men and women.
That much about the Qur’aan. But apart from that there is a verifiable record of each and every incident and event of the Prophet’s life, not pertaining to the period of Ministry only, but practically from childhood right up to the last moments of his career; and his sayings, or, more appropriately, the Traditions, have been preserved in such a unique manner that rules out all possibility of wrong judgment on our part. The chain of reporters, commencing from the Holy Prophet’s companions, has been maintained to this day, and, if there be the slightest flaw in the character of any of the reporters, the Tradition reported by him is unceremoniously rejected.
Thus the Divine laws in their entirety and pristine purity are present in the Qur’aan and the practical model of its teachings is found in the life and character of its Messenger. It, therefore, becomes evident that the world now needs neither another Revelation nor another Messenger or Prophet. Prophet Muhammad (on him be blessings of Allaah) is the very last Prophet and the Qur’aan, the last Divine Book.
Apart from this historical basis for the finality of Islam, there is another fact which lends a powerful support to it. It is that Islam furnishes mankind with a most comprehensive code of laws – a truth freely acknowledged even by many non-Muslim scholars.
There is no imaginable human activity from the simplest and the most ordinary daily routine of food and dress up to the most complicated dealings, transactions and avocations, wherewith Islam does not furnish us with complete and appropriate guidance. It fully deals with our duties to parents, brothers and sisters, wife and children, friends and foes, and it provides elaborate rules and regulations for the administration of the state, the organisation of armies, the regulation of public finances, etc. and this it does besides expounding the rules relating to contemplation, devotion, prayer, fasting, alms-gving, pilgrimage, etc. – factors which form a vital concern of other religions also. In fact the Holy Qur’aan and the exemplary life of the Holy Prophet furnish our standard of values and constitute the final criterion by which all things have to be judged and made to stand or fall.
IV. – HOLY PROPHET AS MODEL
“Say (O Muhammad to mankind): If you love Allaah, then follow me; Allaah will love you, forgive you your sins.” (Chapter III, Verse 30).
That is the declaration of the Holy Qur’aan, and there is abundant historical evidence to prove that those who cast their lives in the Holy Prophet’s model emerged from the abyss of ignorance and barbarism and poverty to be the teachers of arts and sciences and morals and social good, and the masters of the world. They did not only attain the utmost temporal progress, but also set such an example of religious and spiritual life of piety and righteousness and purity and chastity that Almighty Allaah Himself proclaimed in the Holy Qur’aan:
“Allaah is well pleased with them and they are well pleased with Allaah.” (Chapter 98 Verse 8).
He started his life as an orphan – a stranger to the loving care and sympathy of parents. He passed his boyhood as a shepherd, tending the sheep of his uncle. Then he engaged himself in trade and earned his livelihood by honest and legitimate means. Ever thoughtful and sober, he began to lead a life of retirement in the cave of Hira, after his twenty-fifth year, and that habit lasted until he was forty, when he received his call to Prophethood. The next twenty-three years saw him working out the greatest revolution of human history until he was the master of all Arabia and the founder of a new world-order. During all these successive stages of his life, he exhibited such great and sublime qualities of human character that his life, taken as a whole, when viewed to-day, stands out without a parallel in the history of mankind. Even before he received the mantle of Prophethood, his countrymen had been so much impressed by the gentleness of his disposition, his integrity of conduct, his purity of heart and his singular devotion to duty that they had conferred upon him the title of Al-Amin, the Trustworthy, the True. He was not only patient in adversity and sincerely and joyfully offered his thanks to the Creator, but even when he became the ruler of Arabia, the arbitrator of the destinies of nations, and tributes in cash and kind and presents of gold and jewelry began pouring into the coffers, and there were all the requisites at his beck and call for a regal life of ease and luxury, he did not only scrupulously perform the multifarious duties that devolved upon him as an administrator and the supreme magistrate, but attended to the wants and complaints of the humblest and maintained the same simplicity of life and humility of spirit.
Hence I propose to lay before you the main commandments of the Holy Qur’aan and the salient features in the life of the Holy Prophet in respect of two fundamental aspects of human activity, i.e.,
(a) Relations with Fellow-Beings;
(b) Relations with God.
These two factors comprehend in themselves virtually our whole life and struggle. The first one implies: How best to conduct ourselves in all the dealings with our fellow-creatures, so that our lives may be reckoned to be useful and successful from all points of view and we may be counted as the most advanced and progressive members of the human brotherhood. The second one means; How to comport ourselves before our Creator so that by pleasing Him, we may gain access to Him and, traversing the stages of friendship and intimacy, may be able to experience the exquisite ecstasy of uniting ourselves to the Divine Self. To do them justice, therefore, would require lengthy discussions on moral, social, political, economic, scientific and metaphysical issues. I, however, feel I must deal here with things which look quite simple but possess in reality a very vital importance.
(a) RELATIONS WITH FELLOW-BEINGS
Duty to Parents
The first human being with whom we come into contact at the commencement of our life on earth is our mother. It is she who first conceives us in her being, then rears us in her lap, nourishes us with her milk and shares our joys and sorrows. Next comes our father who acts as a partner of our mother in all these obligations and takes upon himself the weighty responsibility of our education and sustenance.
Now, to make an adequate return of their innumerable sacrifices is not possible for us; but surely our sense of gratitude must impel us to respect and honour them and do everything in our power to at least acknowledge their favours and obligations. Consequently the Holy Qur’aan lays down:
“Thy Lord hath decreed, not to worship any one save Him, and (to show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both attain old age with thee, say not ‘Fie’ unto them, nor repulse them but speak unto them a gracious word.
“And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both even as they cherished me in childhood.” (Chapter 17, Verse 24).
Our Holy Prophet, who lost his father before his birth and was bereaved from his mother in his infancy, indicates the respect and reverence due to our mothers by his conduct towards his foster-mother, Halima Sadiya.
There is a tradition to the effect that once Halima Sadiya came to the Prophet. No sooner did he see her than, overcome by love, he stood up and exclaimed: “My mother, my mother!” Instantly he spread his sheet for her and invited her to sit down. It can, therefore, be easily conceived that when he evinced so much affection and paid such respect to a lady who had only suckled him, what would he not have done for his real mother!
There is another tradition which relates that once a woman was seen coming towards him, followed by a man and a youth; he offered her one corner of his sheet and requested the man to take his seat at the other corner; and when his eyes fell on the youth, he stood up saying: “O, my brother, O, my brother!” and embraced him. They were none else than Halima Sadiya, her husband and her son. It is evident that he accorded them the same respect and honour and cherished for them the same love and affection as one does for his real parents and brother.
Duty to Children
Attachment to and affection for one’s children are inborn in human nature and the ties of blood that bind us to them are next in rank only to those of parents and cannot be severed under any circumstances.
The Holy Prophet set such an example in this respect that the haughty and arrogant people, who gloried in killing female children and thought it below their dignity to kiss even their youngest offsprings, were abashed and dumbfounded. The following commandment of God fell amidst them like a bombshell:
“And slay not your children, fearing a fall to poverty. We shall provide for them and for you. Lo! The slaying of them is great sin.” (Chapter 17, Verse 31).
This applies no jess forcibly to those modern prototypes of primitive Arabs who extol the practice of birth control and try to justify the murder of unborn babies on the same grounds.
Our Holy Prophet cherished so much affection for his first-born child, Fatima Zahra, that he frequently referred to her as his “heart and soul,” and treated her sons, Hasan and Husain as his own. He used to hug them and kiss them on their foreheads and address them in sweet, endearing terms. Once it so happened that they entered the mosque while he was delivering a sermon. The moment he saw them tottering towards him, he came down from the pulpit, approached them, lifted them up in his arms, and made them sit beside him. Thus he demonstrated to the world that love for one’s off-springs does not come in the way of devotion to and worship of Allaah.
Relations between Wives and Husbands
The Westerners, who lay so much store by their civilization and flaunt the so-called liberty of their women folk before the world, falsely allege, because of their ignorance, that Islam allots an inferior place to woman and that she is more of a slave than a person of equal status under Islam. But when the ancestors of these very champions of freedom for woman and equality of rights and state had not come even to a decision whether she was a human being at all, had met in a conference in 586 A.C. to solve the problem, and had eventually resolved to accord her a status inferior to that of man, Islam had granted her privileges which she does not enjoy even now amongst the most advanced nations, as the following verse establishes:
“And women shall have rights similar to the rights against them, according to what is equitable.” (Chapter II, Verse 228).
The Holy Qur’aan, therefore, awards legal equality to the fair sex and the Prophet invests her with further honour and dignity, for says he:
“Woman is the queen of her house.”
How nicely the Qur’aan describes her position at another place:
“He created for you helpmates from among yourselves that you might find rest in them, and he ordained between you love and mercy.”
(Chapter 30, Verse 21).
And the Prophet tells us in his own words about the regard he had for his wives. He says:
“He amongst you is the best who has the greatest regard for his wife and I am better than all of you for my wives.”
He first married at the youthful age of twenty-five, and he married not a virgin but a twice-widowed lady of forty. But, in spite of the disparity in age, the marriage proved to be such a signal success and their relations were of such an ideal type that the handsomest and the most fortunate virgins might well have envied Lady Khadija.
Again, when he married a maiden at the ripe age of 54, he demonstrated that she was not merely a wife in name, but a darling of the beloved of God and made Lady Ayesha realise that she had not only a husband in his person, but one whom she could love and honour whole-heartedly.
Political requirements, supported by ancient custom, were responsible for compelling him to marry a number of wives, only one of whom was, however, a virgin, while the rest were widows and included even those who had attained a ripe old age before he married them. Among all those wives, not only was the spirit of quarrel and unpleasantness absent, but a serene sense of harmony and goodwill prevailed – a positive proof of their spiritual refinement and purity of heart, which they had acquired from no other source except the Holy Prophet himself.
The adversaries of Islam, either out of spite or basing their judgments on their own perverted natures, may impute motives of sensuality to him for having more than one wife and marrying a maiden girl at an advanced age. But, I put it to you that, God forbid, if there had been even an iota of truth in this disgustingly false allegation, could he pass his nights on the hard prayer-mat, seeking communion with his Lord, instead of sleeping in the company of his wives on the soft bed? – a fact established by history beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Treatment of Friends and Acquaintance
When one takes into consideration his gentleness and benevolence towards the humblest and the lowliest of people, as the incident I am going to relate will graphically illustrate, his uniformly kind and affectionate treatment of his friends, neighbours and acquaintances, granting that he allowed such differentiation, can be better imagined than expressed.
OnCe an insane woman came to him, took hold of his hand and carried him to the middle of the road. There she asked him to sit down and commenced her meaningless talk. He heard her patiently and did not leave her, nay, did not even withdraw his hand from her clasp, till she was fully satisfied and, of her own accord, allowed him to depart.
Civility, politeness, affability to the humble, humility of spirit, nobility of character, delicacy and refinement of feeling, modesty, kindness and patience – these were the traits which characterised his conduct towards his friends and acquaintances. God Almighty Himself bears testimony to this fact in the following verse:
“And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of a character.”
(Chapter 78. Verse 4).
Attitude Towards Enemies
But he was not solicitous for the comfort of his friends alone and his deep sympathy was not confined to the circle of the Faithful only. Rather, his commiseration and compassion extended to the worst of his enemies, for many a time was he known to invoke God Almighty’s mercy for them.
His forbearance and clemency, in his hour of triumph, towards those ruthless life-long enemies, the Meccans, and his proclamation of general amnesty for all, including his bitterest foes, who had left no stone unturned in dogging his steps with persecution and had ultimately compelled him to seek refuge in Medina, is a historical fact and speaks volumes for the unique traits of his character. Where can you find a parallel to such a marvelously magnanimous treatment of one’s unscrupulous enemies, when they are utterly at one’s mercy? He transcended the limits of human generosity when, on his victorious entry into Mecca, he addressed his enemies with the noble words:
“This day there is no blame upon you.”
Thus he exonerated them from all reprimand for their nefarious activities. There neither has been nor will there ever be in the history of the world a repetition of such an exceptionally unparalled behaviour on the part of a victor.
The bitter hostility of the Jews at Medina and their persistent efforts to sow sedition among the luke-warm section of the Faithful did not create a spirit of revenge and anger in him, but on the contrary he continued to treat them with kindness and consideration till the very end. In the case of Ubai ibn Khalaf, the ring-leader of the traitors, to whose treacherous desertion from the ranks with three hundred of his men the reverse at the battle of Ohud was mainly due – a reverse which endangered the life of the Holy Prophet himself, he not only kept on bestowing favours on him but actually gave his shirt to cover his corpse when he died.
(b) Relations With God.
In the above facts I gave you a few glimpses of the Holy Prophet’s character as a man – a member of human society. Now I may be allowed to make a few remarks to reveal the other side of the picture, namely, his position as the luminary of the spiritual firmament.
It is the unique and distinguishing feature of the Holy Prophet’s character that he was a “man of the world” and a “man of God” at one and the same time. His devotion to and communion with Allaah and the performance of his multifarious duties as the leader of the Faithful, went side by side. He was the human personification of Islam, which combines and comprehends in its harmonious system the “religious” as well as the “secular” aspects of human activity, nay, which destroys the very foundations of the popular notion of “secular things” by supplying a spiritual basis for each and every conceivable aspect of our life.
We learn from a tradition related by his beloved wife, Lady Ayesha, that, when the Muezzin called the Faithful to prayer, he would break off at once in the midst of the most interesting and instructive conversation that he might be holding in the privacy of his family circle. In fact, he would become then so wholly absorbed in the thought of his Lord that the sudden and profound change in his attitude would make it difficult to recognise in him the charming and amiable personality of a few minutes ago.
It has been established beyond dispute that he never slept after midnight, but passed the time in prayer. Occasionally he would pray standing throughout the night, with the result that his feet would get swollen.
In order to inculcate in us the habit of crushing our low passions, he set us an example of observing fast after fast, and though such a hardship would have evidently enfeebled any other man and would have probably not left him with enough strength to offer even the daily five obligatory prayers punctiliously, but also performed the optional ones called the Nawafil, and that also with such devotion that, some times at an stance (Rakaat) he would recite the longest chapters of the Holy Qur’aan, as, for instance, the one named “The Cow.” If he was struck with awe by some particular verse of that nature, he would cry and weep till his large and handsome eyes became red.
It may, however, be remarked that all this austerity and rigorous discipline, which decidedly entailed much physical suffering, was not necessary for him to gain access to Allaah. For, from eternity he had been selected as his Lord’s Chosen One and Beloved and his pure heart had been destined to be the Recipient of Revelation.
In fact, even his life of meditation passed in the cave of Hira, prior to the commencement of his Ministry, should not be regarded as in any way akin in its import to the life of the common run of ascetics. His Prophethood was not the product of his life of meditation and was not earned though ascetic penances. It was only a God-given and a predetermined gift. And what urged him for fifteen years continuously to seek the solitude of the cave of Hira was the magnetic force of the love of God and his deep yearning to enjoy communion with Him.
However, when the flood-gates of Revelation were thrown open, he was no more a recluse. His sweet voice echoed in the valley of Paran. His sublime teachings filled the atmosphere like a fragrant breeze. He kindled the torch which illumined the path of the seekers after God.
As a teacher of spiritual culture, he, on the one hand, communicated the message of the Qur’aan:
“And those who strive for Us – We certainly guide them to Our Paths;
“For verily God is with those who do right.” (Chapter 29, Verse 69).
On the other he instructed the people about the way of trying and striving in the following words:
“Follow not your low passions and desires.” (Chapter 4, Verse 135).
Then conveying to them the Qur’aanic message that:
“(The Evidences and Signs of God are) in your own beings; will ye not then see?” (Chapter 7, Verse 21).
And telling them that:
“We are nearer to one that one’s jugular vein.” (Chapter 70, Verse 16).
He explained the ways and means for achieving the goal, and touched upon the signs and symptoms that manifest themselves in the votary on his approach to Allaah:
(Says God): “My faithful servant attains proximity to me by constantly performing the optional prayers, till at last I make him my beloved. And when I have made him my beloved (the state of proximity becomes such that) he could be said (metaphorically) to hear with My ears, to see with My eyes, to catch with My hands, and to walk with My feet” – that is, he finds himself lost in My Being. (Hadis-al-Qudsi).
The last teaching, however, has no reference to incarnation or pantheism. It is only meant to express in a metaphorical language the state of the spiritual pilgrim on his arrival at the goal of his journey.
You have before you, therefore, a perfect pattern to emulate for cultivating the requisite qualities and bringing forth your inherent faculties for the accomplishment of the highest spiritual progress. I shall consequently very briefly refer to the spiritual state of the Holy Prophet himself.
This is what he says concerning his knowledge of God:
“Gnosis is my capital (or asset).”
Further, he did not only witness the dazzling rays of the Divine Light and receive Revelations through the medium of Gabriel, but he soared up to those spiritual heights which are utterly beyond human comprehension. For, they are not only above and beyond everything material, but even out of reach of what we might call for want of an appropriate term, spiritual flight. His Station of Proximity might be interpreted in the Qur’aanic expression:
“Then he drew nigh and came closer, and was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or even nearer.” (Chapter 73, Verse 8,9)
In one word, a direct vision of God. His own words in this connection are:
“For me there is a time with Allaah (when I enjoy such a state of proximity to Him) which does not admit (of participation) in it of Gabriel or Prophet and Apostle.”
Now you can judge for yourselves the incomparable excellence of his life. On the one hand, he manifests the highest perfection in practically all aspects of human activity, and on the other, his heart is through and through permeated with the Divine Light and his self is totally absorbed in the ocean of the Divine Unity.
The short-sighted, because of misunderstandings, are unable to comprehend this peculiar character of his life. Some are blinded by their own passions; others only believe in what is visible to the naked eye. Happy are they indeed who enjoy the good fortune of delving below the surface and catching a glimpse of the genuine brilliance, and blessed are the individuals who have the rare luck of treading through life in his footsteps and thus attain union with the Lord.
Before I close, allow me to sum up what I have said so far in the words of the celebrated Austrian Muslim, Muhammad Asad Leopold Weiss:
“The Holy Prophet’s wonderful life was a living illustration and explanation of the Qur’aan, and we can do no greater justice to this Holy Book than by following him who was the mouthpiece of its revelation.”
“We have seen that on of the main achievements of Islam, the one which distinguishes it from all other transcendental systems, is the complete reconciliation between the moral and the material sides of human life. This was one of the reasons why Islam in its prime had such a triumphant success wherever it appeared. It brought to mankind the new message, that the earth must not be despised in order that the heaven be gained. This prominent feature of Islam explains the fact that our Prophet, in his mission as an apostolical guide of humanity, was so deeply concerned with human life in its polarity both as a spiritual and a material phenomenon. It shows, therefore, not a very deep understanding of Islam if one discriminates between such orders of the Prophet as deal with purely devotional and spiritual matters, and others which have to do with questions of our society and our daily life. The contention that we are obliged to follow the commands belonging to the first group, but not obliged to follow those of the second, is as superficial and, in its spirit as anti-Islamic as the idea that certain general injunctions of the Qur’aan were meant only for the Arabs at the time of the revelation, but not for the refined gentlemen of the twentieth century. At its root lies a strange under-estimation of the prophetical role of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). As the life of a Muslim is to be directed upon a full and unreserved co-operation between his spiritual and his bodily self, so the leadership of our Prophet embraces life as a compound entity, a sum total of moral and practical, individual and social manifestations. This is the deepest meaning of Sunnah.
“The Qur’aan says:
“Whatever the Prophet gives you, that accept; and whatever he forbids you, that avoid.”
“We regard Islam as superior to all other religious systems, because it embraces life in its totality. It takes World and Hereafter, soul and body, individual and society, equally into consideration. It takes into consideration not only the lofty possibilities of the human nature, but also its inherent limitations. It does not impose the impossible upon us, but directs us how to make the best use of our possibilities and to reach a higher plan of reality, where there is no cleavage and no antagonism between Idea and Action. It is not a way among others, but the way; and the Man who brought us this teaching is not a guide among others, but The Guide. To follow him in all he did and ordered is to follow Islam; to discard his Sunnah is to discard the Reality of Islam.”