My dear friends! How should the messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) be followed, and why? For that purpose we have to show you, in today’s talk, the practicability of his life pattern. At this point in history, this chapter is almost entirely empty regarding other messengers of Allah or the founders of other religions. But this very aspect of Prophet Muhammad’s biography is the fullest and the longest chapter of his life. And this very point should be enough to decide who can rightfully be the leader and Seal of Prophets”. There is no shortage of good instructions, sound advice and sweet words in this world, but what matters most is good deeds. If we go through the available histories of various religious leaders, we will find interesting philosophies, fascinating parables, great pieces of oratory and artistic use of words, which will certainly move us and please us momentarily. But what is lacking there is the practical application of those words of wisdom and proving their goodness and effectiveness through personal example.
The practical aspect of human personality is reflected in its moral and ethical behaviour. Which heavenly book, apart from the holy Quran can now claim and bring evidence to the exalted moral conduct of its Prophet? But the holy Quran clearly says about the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).
“And you will definitely have a reward that will never end.
And you are surely on an excellent standard of character.”
The first verse promises an unfailing reward from Almighty Allah, whereas the second verse explains why he deserves such a high reward. So Allah’s own words bear witness to the exalted moral conduct of holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and hence the endless reward. The unlettered Prophet of Makkah was made to proclaim through the Divine Revelation:
“O you who believe, why do you say what you do not do?”
He alone deserved to say that because he himself practised what he preached. Let us look at the preacher on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and the preacher on the Mount of Safa in Makkah from this perspective. We will see that Christ’s present biography fails to present any practical examples, any examples of his actual practice, whereas Prophet Muhammad’s life history is full of the records of his noble practice. Tolerance and forgiveness are commendable virtues. A non-violent person, who does not harm or kill others, does not rob, or does not accumulate wealth, is no doubt a virtuous person. But these virtues are passive virtues. He did no harm, but did he stand up to save a helpless person? He did not take anyone’s life himself, but did he save anyone from being killed? He did not build a house for himself; but did he shelter the homeless? This world requires these active and positive virtues. And that indeed is the noble, moral conduct.
Let us look at some Divine evidence about Prophet Muhammad’s character through the verses of the holy Quran:
“So, (O Prophet) it is through mercy from Allah that you are gentle to them. Had you been rough and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you…”
These verses describe the extremely gentle and endearing nature of prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The claim and its proof is mentioned together in the holy Book. Had he not been tender-hearted and polite, the basically wild, fearless and harsh Arabs would never have come close to him.
Another verse of the holy Quran states:
“Surely, there has come to you, from your midst, a Messenger who feels it very hard on him if you face a hardship, who is very anxious for your welfare, and for the believers he is very kind, very merciful.”
He was a mercy to the whole creation. It grieved him to see people suffering. It was extremely painful for him to see people rejecting the Truth and insisting stubbornly on living in sin. He only wished their well-being. It is his ardent love and sympathy for mankind that forces him to preach and call them to the service of one God and live a God-conscious life. He is extremely kind to those who accept his call. This verse is a proof that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was a well-wisher of mankind in general, and loving and kind to the believers in particular. That is the heavenly evidence in favour of his noble conduct.
The holy Quran is the heavenly Book. It is the word of God, revealed to His last Prophet, for the guidance of mankind. It contains the commandments of Allah and His instructions for the benefit of all mankind. Indeed, the holy Prophet’s life is the holy Quran in practice. Whatever instructions and commandments of Allah were sent down, being His Messenger he was the first to obey. He practised them while he preached them. Declaration of Faith in the Oneness of God, Salat (five-time obligatory prayer), Fasting, Hajj, Zakat, spending on the needy and destitute, fighting in the path of Allah, self-sacrifice, steadfastness, fortitude, patience, thanks-giving and other principles of good moral behavior that he taught, he first demonstrated through personal example. His life became an embodiment of what had been revealed for human guidance in the holy Quran. It is related that when some of his companions asked his wife Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with them all) about the holy Prophet’s practice and his character, she asked them whether they had not read the Quran. His life was a complete reflection of the Quran. The holy Quran is words while the holy Prophet’s life is its interpretation in practice.
No one can ever know a man’s morals, his habits and behaviour better than his wife. When Prophet Muhammad proclaimed to be Allah’s Prophet, he had been married to Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) for fifteen years. This is long enough for one to know each other’s nature, temperament and behaviour fully well. This knowledge had certainly left its mark on Khadijah’s heart. The moment he told her about his Prophethood, she wholeheartedly believed him and supported him. When the Prophet expressed his worry and distress because of the immense burden of his mission, she reassured him saying: “O Prophet of Allah, Allah will never abandon you because you always treat your kin fairly and kindly, you help people to pay their debts, you help the poor, you are hospitable to your guests, you always support what is right, and help the people in distress.” (Al-Bukhari)
These are some of the practical virtues he had shown before he was proclaimed a prophet.
After Khadijah’s death, the Prophet’s most dearly loved wife was Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with them). She remained with him for nine years. She says that he never complained of others’ wrongs. When he was done wrong, he never took revenge for himself but always forgave them. He stayed away from all kinds of bad deeds. He would never hit a slave, a maid, a servant or even an animal. When he was asked for some thing, he would never refuse. He never turned down a rightful request.
Of his relatives, his cousin Ali was his closest companion. He had remained with him day and night since his childhood. He says, “The holy Prophet had a cheerful nature. He was kind-hearted and had mild manners. He was courteous. He was not rude and never uttered a harsh word to hurt anyone. He never looked for peoples’ shortcomings. If someone asked him for something improper, he did not refuse bluntly but usually kept silent. Those who knew him understood what he meant from his manner. It was because he did not want to break anyone’s heart. He would rather console than hurt people. He was extremely kind and compassionate.” Ali goes on to say, “He was extremely generous and helpful. He was always truthful. He had a gentle temperament. In his company, people felt comfortable and relaxed. When they first saw him, they were overwhelmed by his personality but when they got to know him well, they began to adore him.” Having read the holy Prophet’s biography, Gibbon, the well known English historian, has expressed the same opinion.
His stepson, who was from Khadijah’s previous marriage, was brought up by him. He says about the holy Prophet, “He was of gentle disposition. He was not harsh or rude. He did not hurt anybody’s feelings. He never said anything that might show disrespect to others. Whatever food was presented to him, he would graciously accept. If he did not like it, he would not criticise it. He never lost his temper or took revenge for himself but he supported a truthful cause with all his might and showed his anger when someone opposed the truth.”
This is some of the evidence of the people who were close to him and knew him intimately well and it clearly shows the exalted conduct of the Prophet of Allah (Peace be upon him). The most shining feature of his life is that he practised whatever he preached as a Prophet. He called people to God’s love and to remember him in all circumstances. The revolution that this principle brought, into the lives of his immediate followers, is a glorious chapter of human history but let us first look at his own life from this perspective. There never was a moment when his heart was not filled with Allah’s love and his tongue would not sing Allah’s praise sitting, standing or walking about; eating or drinking or lying on his side. At all times and in all circumstances, he would always remember Allah and celebrate His praise. A great portion of his traditions consist of his supplications and prayers that he said on different occasions, suiting the time or the circumstance. A book of some two hundred pages called ‘Hisn Haseen’ is a collection of those prayers. Every sentence of the prayers shows a tremendous awareness of the greatness of Almighty Allah, and the holy Prophet’s awe, love and devotion to Him. In the holy Quran, Allah’s good servants are praised in these words:
“Who remember Allah standing and sitting, and (lying) on their sides…”
That depicts the very picture of the holy Prophet’s life. His wife Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) says that in all circumstances and at every moment of his life, he remembered Allah.
He conveyed Allah’s command to the people that they had to establish obligatory prayers five times a day. But himself he used to pray at eight different times of the day: after sunrise, mid-morning, mid-day, afternoon, after sunset, at night, pre-dawn and then at dawn. For ordinary Muslims, it is obligatory to perform two Rakas after dawn, three after sunset and four each at other times. But the Prophet (Peace be upon him) used to pray additional Rakas which came to around sixty every day and night whereas on his followers it was obligatory to pray a total of seventeen Rak ‘as daily. After the five-time prayer was ordained by Allah, the ordinary Muslims were exempted from the pre-dawn prayer, but the holy Prophet continued to perform this prayer throughout his life every night. Ocassionally, he would stand up in prayer all night. As a result, his feet would be swollen. Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her), would say “Allah has forgiven you all your faults, then why do you put so much strain on yourself?” He would reply, O Ayeshah Shouldn’t I be a grateful servant of my Lord” this means, his long prayers were more of love and devotion to Allah than of his awe for Him. Sometimes, while praying, he would take so long bowing to Allah that the onlookers thought he had forgotten to prostrate.
He had started offering prayers since the inception of his Prophet-hood. The non-believers of Makkah were extremely hostile to him at that time. But he never cared and would pray in the holy Haram right in their midst. Many times his enemies attacked him while he was offering his prayers, but even then he kept praying and never discontinued his prayer because of those attacks. The hardest time to offer prayers was when the Muslims were facing their enemy during a battle. As soon as the time came for an obligatory prayer, the Muslims stood in straight rows to pray, led by the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). In the crucial battle of Badr, while the Muslims were facing the enemy, he was in prostration in front of Allah, invoking His Mercy and seeking His Help. The holy Prophet was never late for the prescribed prayer. He never missed an obligatory prayer in his whole life except on two occasions. Once, during the battle of the Ditch, when in the heat of the battle there was no chance at all to offer the afternoon prayer. And then at another time when after a nightlong tiring journey, nobody was able to get up for the dawn prayer, the Prophet offered that prayer after sunrise. During the last days of his life, he had high fever but he did not miss his congregational prayers. Even when this illness had drained all his energy, he would come to the mosque supported by two of his companions, so that he should not miss an obligatory prayer. Three days before his death, while trying to join the Prayers in the mosque, he lost conciousness three times and was forced to pray alone.
That was the holy Prophet’s practical example of love and devotion to Allah.
He enjoined the Muslims to fast. The Muslims are required to fast during the month of Ramadhan, thirty days a year. But, there never was a month or a week when the holy Prophet was not fasting. Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) says that when he began fasting, it seemed he would never stop. He forbade the Muslims to fast for longer than a day, but himself he would fast for two or sometimes three days at a stretch without taking any food at all. His worthy companions wanted to follow suit but he would not allow them saying, ‘Who amongst you is like me? My Lord provides sustenance for me.” He fasted continuously during the months of Sha’ban and Ramadhan every year. In addition to that he would fast on the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth day of every month. He would fast for ten days in the month of Muharram and six days in the month of Shawwal. Every week, Monday and Thursday were fixed for fasting.
That was the practical example of his fasting.
He ordered the Muslims to pay Zakat and spend on the needy. But he was the first to set an example. You have already heard his first wife Khadijah’s evidence who had said “O Messenger of Allah! You help people who are unable to pay their debts. You help the poor and spend money on people in distress.” He did not ask his followers to give up everything they owned. Nor did he shut the doors of the Kingdom of Heaven for the wealthy. He simply asked them to spend a portion of their wealth for charitable purposes for the sake of Allah:
“…and spend out of what We have provided them.”
(Chap 2: Vrs 3)
The holy Prophet’s own example was that he spent on others everything he owned. There was no shortage of money because spoils of war were coming into Madinah from everywhere, but that money was meant for others. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) would spend a bare minimum on himself and his family. For them it remained the same old life of austerity. After the victory at Khyber (in 7 AH), it became usual for him to fix a yearly allowance for his wives, but it never lasted a whole year because they too, would share most of it with the poor and the needy. Ibn Abbas (May Allah be pleased with him) says that the holy Prophet was the most generous of men and his generosity knew no bounds, particularly in the holy month of Ramadhan, He never refused anyone who came to him asking for help. He did not like eating anything by himself, no matter how little he had; he would share it with others. It was his instruction to everyone “If any Muslim dies leaving an unsettled debt, let me know so that I should pay on his behalf And if he leaves anything behind, his relatives will inherit that” Once a rustic asked him roughly, “O Muhammad! (These provisions) do not belong to you, or to your father. Load them on to my camel” The holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not mind his rudeness and ordered that he be given a camel-load of barley and dates. He used to say “l am but a distributer and a custodian. The real sustainer is Allah.” Abu Zhar (May Allah be pleased with him) says, one night, while he was having a walk with the holy Prophet, he said “Abu Zhar! If this mountain of Uhad turned into gold for me, I would not like that three nights should pass and I still had a Dinar left with me, except that I should keep some to pay a debt.”
Dear friends! The holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not merely utter beautiful words, rather they display his sincere determination, and that remained his practice throughout his life. Once, some tribute was sent to him from Bahrain. He directed that it should be left in the courtyard of his mosque. When he came for the dawn prayer next morning, he did not even glance at the treasure. After the prayers he started distributing it until none was left. Having finished it he got up as if it was some dust that had settled on his clothes. On another occasion, four camels loaded with grain were sent to him and his family. Some was used to pay an earlier debt and some was distributed to the needy. He asked Bilal (May Allah be pleased with him) if he had given it all to the poor. He replied that there was still some left because no one had come to take it. The holy Prophet said: So long as this worldly possession is with me, I cannot go home,” So he stayed all night in the mosque. The next morning, when Bilal gave away the remaining grain and informed him that Allah had relieved him of the burden, the Prophet thanked Allah and then went home. Once, against his usual practice, after finishing the afternoon prayer, he suddenly went back home and then returned to the mosque after a while. He explained to the people that he had remembered a piece of gold lying at home. He was afraid that it might still remain in his house after sunset. His wife, Umm Salma (May Allah be pleased with her) relates: “Once he came to me in a very sad and dejected mood. I asked him the reason for that.” He said, “Yesterday we had seven Dinars. A day has passed and they are still lying in the house.” Can there be an example greater than this one. He is lying on his death bed, suffering from severe illness. He suddenly remembers he has a few gold coins in his house. He orders that they should be given away to the needy at once, saying, Is Muhammad going to meet his Lord in the state that he has left behind gold coins?’
That was the practical example of the holy Prophet’s charity and generosity.
He gave people the lesson of self-denial and contentment. But what was his own attitude in this regard? You have already heard how money was pouring into Madinah in the form of taxes, tribute, Zakat and donations for charitable purposes from all corners of Arabia. But the life in the holy Prophet’s house remained as austere as ever. After his death, Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) used to say “The Prophet (Peace be upon him) left this world but he never had two full meals a day.” She says that when he died he had nothing in his house except a handful of grain for that day’s meal. He had pawned his armour with a Jew for a small amount of oats. He used to say, ‘It is unbecoming for the son of Adam to have more than these things: a simple house for shelter, a piece of clothing to wear, a simple meal and water to fill the stomach.’ These were not just beautiful words. They painted the actual picture of his own life. His house consisted of one small room made from mud, and had a roof of date-palm leaves and camel wool. Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) says that she never had to fold the holy Prophet’s clothes, meaning he possessed no clothes other than the ones he had already on. Once a beggar came to him complaining that he was starving. He sent for some food from his house. The reply came that there was nothing except water. Abu Talha (May Allah be pleased with him) relates that once he saw the holy Prophet lying on the floor in his mosque. He was tossing and turning with the intense pain of hunger. Once his companions complained to him of starvation. They had each tied a stone to their stomach to lessen the pangs of hunger. In reply, he showed them his stomach where two stones had been tied. He had had nothing to eat for two days. Many a times he could hardly speak because of intense hunger. Once he came out of his house and he was feeling extremely hungry. He went to his friend Abu Ayub’s house. He at once brought some fresh dates and began to prepare a meal. When the meal was ready, the Prophet put some meat on a piece of bread and asked that it be sent to his daughter Fatimah’s house who had not eaten for several days.
He had great love for his daughter Fatimah and her two sons, Hassan and Hussein (May Allah be pleased with them). But the holy Prophet never showed this love by means of costly clothes or gold and silver jewelleryl When he saw her wearing a gold necklace given to her by her husband, Ali (May Allah be pleased with him), he said, ‘O Fatima do you want people to say that Muhammad’s daughter is wearing a necklace of fire around her neck?’ Fatimah at once took off the necklace, had it sold and had a slave freed for its price. Similarly, when Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) wore bracelets of gold, he told her that it was unbecoming of Muhammad’s wife and asked her to take them off. He used to say ‘Man’s needs in this worldly life are like those of a wayfarer. “That is what he said but in practice he used a lot less than even a wayfarer. Once, some of his close companions came to see him and noticed the marks of the rough mat on his body. They requested him to allow them to make a soft mattress for him:
He replied that he had nothing to do with the comforts of this temporary life. This worldly life, in his sight, was like that of a rider’s who stops for a little while to take some rest under the shade of a tree and goes on to complete his journey. In the 9th year of his migration to Madinah, the rule of Islam had extended to Yemen in the south and Syria in the north. But as its ruler his total possessions were: a piece of cloth that he wrapped round his waist, a bare bed, a pillow filled with the bark of date-palm, a handful of grain, a skin of an animal and few jars of water.
That was his personal practice while he preached others to live a life of simplicity and contentment.
My dear friends! You must have heard many a speech about the merits of self-sacrifice, but did you ever see the speaker applying that golden rule on himself? Here again, you will find the best example in the life of the Prophet of Madinah (Peace be upon him). When he taught people the nobility of self-sacrifice, the noblest examples of this virtue came forth from his own life. His love for his daughter Fatimah (May Allah be pleased with her) is evident. In the early days of Madinah, life for the Muslims was very hard. Fatimah had developed blisters on her hands from grinding grain in the hand-mill, and drawing water from the well had left rope marks on her body. One day she came to the holy Prophet to ask for a maid He replied that he could not meet her demand because the poor of Suffah were needier. In another tradition it is reported that the orphans of Bath had made a similar request before her. So they were given preference and she returned without any maid. Once he was presented a shawl. Somebody remarked it was a beautiful shawl. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) gave it to him although he himself badly needed one at that time. He was visiting one of his companions. The Prophet realized that his host did not have enough for the guest. He sent him to Ayeshah (May Allah be pleased with her) to bring a basketful of flour. That happened to be the only provision in the Prophet’s house for that day’s meal. One day he brought home the destitute companions of Suffah and asked Ayeshah to prepare some meal for them. It consisted of some oatmeal, a dish made from dried dates, and in the end a bowl of milk. There was nothing left that day in the holy Prophet’s house after serving his guests.
With such examples he taught self-sacrifice to others.
If you want to see the glory of faith in Allah and total reliance and dependence on His Mercy, look at the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (Peace be upon him). To him Allah’s Commands had come in these words of the holy Quran:
“So, be patient. Surely Allah’s promise is true, and let not the disbelievers shake your firmness.”
(Chap 30: Vrs 60)
He was born amongst an ignorant and illiterate people. They were so severe in their bigotry that they could not hear a word spoken against the many gods they worshipped. They were headstrong and ferocious and were always ready to kill or to be killed for the sake of their beliefs. But the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) took no notice of them and raised the voice of the Oneness of God in the middle of holy Ka’bah. The chiefs of Qureish used to assemble there but the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) would offer prayers to Allah right in front of them, bowing and prostrating to One God with the least concern about his personal safety. When this verse of holy Quran was revealed to him:
“Now, proclaim what you are commanded to….”
(Chap 15: Vrs 94)
He climbed the Mount Safa and preached the message of God to the Qureish of Makkah who had assembled there in response to his call. The Qureish of Makkah tried to dissuade him from his mission by all possible means. They persecuted him. They threw rubbish over him while he was praying in the holy haram. They tried to strangulate him. They spread; thorns in his way. But he remained steadfast and nothing could stop him from calling people to the right path. He was under the protection of his uncle, Abu Talib. When, under pressure from Qureish, he hinted at withdrawing his support, the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) told him with great determination, ‘O uncle! If the Qureish were to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I will never abandon my mission.” At last, he was forced to live along with his family and his clan, Banu Hashim, in a mountain pass outside Makkah for three years. Their boycott was so complete that even food was not allowed to reach them. They were forced to eat the leaves of trees in order to survive. When the Qure’ish failed to stop him by these measures, they finally plotted to murder him. The holy Prophet remained steadfast. He had to migrate to Madinah, with the pagans of Makkah in hot pursuit. They nearly caught up with him when he had taken refuge in a cave, called Thaur. Just a few yards separate the fully armed Qureish and the unarmed Prophet of God (Peace be upon him). His companion, Abu Bakr, cries out with fear “O Allah’s Prophet! We are only two.” But a soothing voice tells him “Abu Bakr! We are not two but three. Have no fear, for God is with us.”
During the same journey, Suraqa Bin Ja’sham almost approaches them on his horse with a threatening spear in his hand. Abu Bakr cries “O Prophet of Allah! We have been spotted”. But Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) is as calm as ever, reciting the holy Quran and having complete faith in his Lord.
Even in the relative safety of Madinah, there was a threat of the local Jews, the hypocrites and the terrorists of Qureish. People used to stand guard outside the Prophet’s house, until this verse of the Quran was revealed: Allah will protect you from people.” He at once told the guards to go away because Allah had taken his protection upon Himself.
On his return from the campaign of Najd, he was having a rest under a tree, with none of his companions around. A bedouin approached him with a sword. He woke up and heard him say “O Muhammad! Who can save you from me now? Undaunted by the critical situation, with complete calm and confidence the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah “. The enemy was overawed by his faith in Allah that he put his sword back in the sheath.
In the Battle of Badr, three hundred barely armed Muslims are facing one thousand warriors of Qureish, covered in armour from head to toe. But where is the commander of these three hundred mostly unarmed men? Away from the battle, he has raised his hands in prayer to Allah. Some times prostrating, sometimes raising his hands, he implores his Lord: “O Allah! If this small group of faithful men is wiped out today, no one will be left to worship You in this world.’
There were occasions when the Muslims were overwhelmed by the enemy and had to retreat from the battle. But the holy Prophet with complete reliance on Allah’s help, confidently faced the enemy and stood there like an adamant rock. In the Battle of Uhad, most of the Muslims retreated under pressure from the enemy but Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) did not leave his position even though he was being attacked from all sides by rocks, arrows, spears and swords. He was seriously injured in the face, lost a tooth, a piece of his helmet pierced his cheeks but he did not believe in the sword, he believed in Allah, in Whose help his faith never wavered and Who had promised to protect him from the people. In the Battle of Hunain, ten thousand archers of the enemy rained down their arrows upon the Muslims. They were shaken for a while and began to retreat, but the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) was facing the enemy chanting, It is no lie that I am the Messenger of God I am Muhammad, the son of Abdul Muttalib!” He dismounted and raised his hands in prayer saying he was the servant and the Prophhet of Allah.
Dear friends! Have you ever heard of a commander-in-chief who never leaves a battlefield even though he is outnumbered by the enemy, whose men are not armed properly, or when they have begun to retreat leaving him alone to face the enemy? His courage and fortitude do not allow him to leave the battle and save his own life, nor does he raise his sword to defend himself, lnstead he turns to Almighty Allah for His Heavenly Help, completely dissociating himself from all earthly powers. That is the Prophet of Allah, Muhammad (Peace be upon him).
You must have heard the beautiful saying. “Love your enemy!” but may not have seen it in practice. Let me show you some examples from the holy Prophet’s life in Madinah where he was the absolute ruler. I will not quote any examples from his early Makkan life where he was helpless and persecuted, because in my opinion servitude and helplessness are not equivalent to mercy and forgiveness. How can you really forgive when you, have no power to take revenge? When the holy Prophet left Makkah for Madinah, the chiefs of Qureish announced a reward of 100 camels for the holy Prophet’s head. Suraqa bin Ja’sham armed himself and pursued the Prophet for the sake of that reward. Once he approached so near him that his companion, Abu Bakr, lost his nerve. But the holy Prophet prayed to Allah and before Suraqa could do any harm, his horse was caught in soft sand and could not move. It happened three times. Suraqa cast his arrow to divine what course of action he should choose? Three times he got the answer that he should not follow them. Finally, he gave up and requested the holy Prophet to grant him a document saying that he would be safe at the hands of the Muslims when God granted him victory over the Qureish. The holy Prophet granted his request and handed him a paper to that effect.
After Makkah fell, he came to the holy Prophet to embrace Islam, but the Prophet never even mentioned Suraqa’s crime of that day to him.
Who was Abu Sufyan? The holy Prophet’s deadliest enemy, who led the campaign against the Muslims in Badr, Uhad, and the battle of the Ditch etc. Numerous Muslims were killed by his orders. How many times did he plot to assassinate the holy Prophet? He proved to be the bitterest enemy of Islam. After the victory of Makkah, he was at the mercy of the Muslims. Nearly everyone recommended to the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) that Abu Sufyan should be killed for his crimes against the Muslims. But when he came, along with the Prophet’s uncle Abbas, and threw himself at his mercy, “the mercy to the worlds” not only granted him a pardon but announced that whoever entered Abu Sufyan’s house in Makkah to take refuge, will remain safe from a Muslim’s sword.
Abu Sufyan’s wife Hynd, who participated in the battle of Uhad, exhorted the Qureishi soldiers to kill the Muslims by singing war songs with her friends. She mutilated the body of the holy Prophet’s uncle and Islam’s hero Hamzah, and tried to eat his liver. It was a most tormenting sight for the holy Prophet to find his beloved uncle’s mutilated body after the battle. After the victory of Makkah, she came to the Prophet (Peace be up him) hiding her face behind a veil, and even then addressed him in a rude manner. But the holy Prophet granted her pardon, without even mentioning her previous crimes. She had never expected such miraculous mercy and forgiveness and cried out “O Muhammad! No tent was so hateful to me than the sight of your tent before this day. But now no tent is dearer to me than your tent!”
It was Wahshi who had killed the holy Prophet’s uncle Hamzah in the battle of Uhad. After the fall of Makkah, he fled to Taif. When that too was captured, he had no place to go. People said to him, “You have still not recognized Muhammad. You can have no refuge except in the mercy of the Prophet.” A desperate Wahshi presents himself to the holy Prophet. He looks at him and remembers the beloved uncle’s death with tearful eyes. His murderer is at his mercy but he forgives him saying ‘Try not to come before me because that brings back the memory of my uncle,”
lkrimah was the son of Abu Jahal, Prophet Muhammad’s tormentor and the greatest enemy of the Muslims. He had given the holy Prophet the maximum trouble. Ikrimah himself had taken part in many battles against Islam. When Makkah fell, he knew his crimes and his family’s crimes against the innocent Muslims. He fled to Yemen. But his wife had become Muslim and had come to know the holy Prophet’s immense capacity to forgive his worst enemies. She followed Ikrimah to Yemen and brought him back to Madinah. When the holy Prophet learnt of Ikrimah’s arrival, he was so overjoyed that when he rushed to welcome him, his mantle fell off his body. In a voice brimming with joy he welcomed him with these words “O refugee rider, you are most welcome.” Think for a moment who is being welcomed in this manner; who is being granted a full pardon. It was Ikrimah’s father who had caused the greatest pain to the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). He had had rubbish thrown over him, had attacked him during prayer, had tried to strangulate him. He had plotted with the other leaders of Qureish to murder him. He had led the Qureish in the battle of Badr. He had thwarted all attempts at peace. Yet, when his son came to Madinah, he was welcomed with such joy and happiness by the Prophet (Peace be upon him).
Habbar bin Al-Aswad is another criminal. He is believed to have killed the holy Prophet’s daughter Zainab (May Allah be pleased with her). After the victory in Makkah, he is sentenced to death. He wants to run away to Persia; but changes his mind and throws himself at the holy Prophet’s mercy saying “O Messenger of Allah! I wanted to run away to Persia but then I thought of your tolerance, kindness and forgiveness. Here I am at your mercy. All the information you got about my crimes is true” Hearing this confession, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) forgives him, knowing well that this man is his beloved daughter’s murderer.
Umair bin Wahab, is sent to Madinah by a Qureishi leader of Badr. He is carrying a poisoned dagger with the intention to kill the holy Prophet (Peace he upon him). He is captured and his guilt is proven. Yet, he is par’doned and released.
Safwan bin Umayyah was the chief who had sent Umair to assassinate the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). He had promised Umair that if he was killed, he would look after his entire family and would also pay all his debts. After the fall of Makkah he ran away to Jeddah with the intention to flee to Yemen by sea. Umair came to the holy Prophet pleading for Safwan. He said ‘O Prophet of Allah! Safwan is the chief of his tribe. He has run away out of fear. He might throw himself into the sea.” The holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) granted him safety. Umair again requested him to give him something as a sign of the Prophet’s pardon. He gave him his head-dress. Umair took it to Safwan who was still reluctant. He said, I still fear for my life, if I went to Muhammad.” Umair, who had himself carried a poisoned dagger to kill Allah’s Messenger reassured him by say ing, “O Safwan you do not yet know the kindness and compassion of the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him).” Finally he decided to come to Madinah and surrendered himself. He asked the holy Prophet if he had been pardoned and given safe passage. He insisted that he would not embrace Islam. He asked for a period of two months to make up his mind. He was given four months instead of two. This period was not up when he had a change of heart and came into the fold of Islam.
The holy Prophet led a campaign against Khyber, which was a great centre of Jewish power. After many battles the city fell. A Jewish woman presented him some meat which had actually been poisoned. As soon as he put a piece in his mouth, he realized that the meat was poisoned. The woman was brought before him and confessed her crime. The holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) took no revenge and she was released without being punished. The holy Prophet suffered from the after effects of that poison for the rest of his life. On his return from the campaign of Najd, he was having a rest under a tree at midday. His sword hung from the tree. None of his companions was near him when a bedouin managed to sneak up to him and pulled his sword to attack him. Suddenly the Prophet woke up. Waving his sword he said, Muhammad who can save you now?’ A confident voice told him ‘Allah! He was so overcome by this reply that he put his sword back. In the meantime, the holy Prophet’s companions had gathered round him but the bedouin was allowed to go unpunished.
On another occasion, a non-believer was captured while he was waiting to attack the holy Prophet (Peace he upon him). When he saw the Prophet, he began to tremble with fear. He reassured him and said, ‘You could not have killed me even if you had attacked me.” Similarly, a group of eighty soldiers was captured during the campaign of Makkah who wanted to attack him from mount Tan’eem near Makkah. When he was informed of their plan, the Prophet let them go flee,
My dear friends! You are familiar with Taif. The city where the holy Prophet sought refuge in the early days of his persecution in Makkah, but was rejected and its people refused even to listen to his message. Its chief and his clan mocked at him and incited their vulgar people to make fun of him. The ill-mannered people of the city gathered round him and when he passed through them, they began to throw stones at him. His blood began to flow from his wounds to fill his shoes. When he tried to sit somewhere to take some respite, they forced him to walk again and continued throwing stones at him. The experience was so torturing for the holy Prophet that after nine years when Ayeshah asked him, “O Messenger of Allah! What was the hardest day in ur life he referred to that day in Taif In the eighth year of Al-Hijra, the Muslims had gained power and a contingent of Muslim army had surrounded the city of Taif The siege prolonged and the Muslims lost many men. The holy Prophet decided to withdraw his forces but the Muslims insisted on continuing the fight till Victory. ‘Ihey requested him to pray for the destruction of the city. He raised his hands in prayer but said “O Allah. Show the people of Taif the right path and let them surrender to Islam.” Whose salvation is being asked for here? It is the same city of Taif whose people had refused to give him refuge. Instead, they had stoned him and tortured him.
In the battle of Uhad, the Muslims were forced to retreat under severe pressure of the enemy. The holy Prophet himself was surrounded by the enemy. He was attacked from all sides by stones, arrows and swords, He lost a tooth. Some pieces of his helmet pierced his cheeks, his face was covered in his own blood. Even at that moment he was heard praying to Allah for his enemy, saying, “How can those people gain salvation, who are bent upon murdering their own Prophet? O Allah! show my people the right path, because they don’t know me yet” This is the sermon of the Mount Olives: ‘Love thy enemy!’ in actual practice, and not just a beautiful poetic expression.
lbn Abd Yalil, the chieftain of Taif, whose clan had tortured the holy Prophet, came to Madinah with a delegation. The holy Prophet welcomed him and had his tent pitched in the court of his holy mosque. He honored him with a daily visit after the isha prayers each night. Who was this man? The same who had mocked at him in Taif and stoned him! That is “Love thy enemy and forgive him.”
The sanctuary of the holy Ka’bah was the place where the leaders of the Qureish had assembled and decided that Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) should be assassinated. That is where he was laughed at. They had thrown rubbish over him while he was praying there. After the fall of Makkah, it was the same place where all of them were standing vanquished before him, their heads bowed in shame. They included those who had done everything in their power to eliminate the Muslims and those who had written lampoons to mock at their holy Prophet (Peace be upon him); those who used to call him names, who had rejected him as a Prophet; those who had thrown stones on him and spread thorns in his path; those who had drawn swords on him; those who had killed his innocent loved ones and mutilated their bodies; those who had tortured the poor Muslims by branding their bodies with hot iron, dragging them over the hot sands of Makkah, burning them over flaming coals and piercing their bodies with spears. All those criminals were now standing with bowed heads before Prophet Muhammad surrounded by ten thousand Muslim warriors with swords drawn, waiting for a signal from their commander (Peace be upon him). Addressing the Qureish, he asked “O Qureish! Tell me what I shall do with you today? ‘They said, “Muhammad You are our noble brother. You are our noble nephew.” He said, “I say to you what Allah’s Prophet Joseph had said to his callous brothers: This day let no reproach be (cast) on you. Go your way for you are free!'”
That is how enemies are forgiven and loved. That is Prophet Muhammad’s way of teaching love and forgiveness, not by beautiful words alone but through actual practice and personal example for the world to follow.
That is the basic point that distinguishes Islam from all other religions. The followers of all other religions call to the virtuous and sweet words of their Prophets or their leaders. They have nothing to offer except those sayings which they keep repeating. On the other hand, Islam calls people to the worship of one God not by mere words of its Prophet, but calls to follow his example. When Prophet Muhammad was leaving this world, he had said, “I am leaving behind (for your guidance) two essentially good things; the Word of God and my personal practice.” These two guide lines have remained intact upto our time and will remain unchanged till the Day of Judgment. Therefore, Islam’s call has always been to follow the Book of Allah as practised by His holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). The holy Book states: “Verily in the Messenger of Allah ye have a good example.”
Islam proudly presents its Prophet (Peace be upon him) as a living example of its Book. It is the only religion in the world whose Prophet presents his own practice and his own example along with his principles and his teachings. For those who want to learn how to pray, he has his words and his method. He says, “Perform your prayers the way you see me praying.” When he teaches to be good and kind to wives and children, he says, ‘The best amongst you is the one who is good to his family and l am the best of all in being good to my family.” Look at the way he teaches the Divine Message to the people on the occasion of his last Hajj. Over a hundred thousand devotees are gathered around him. People are being preached the final message of Allah. All the false and cruel man-made traditions are being condemned and the unending habit of bloodshed is being eliminated. Look how with every instruction the first example to apply the laws of Allah is his own example. He says, “Today the ancient Arab tradition of vendetta is abolished. All murders committed before Islam are not to be avenged. They are all to be forgiven. First of all, I forgive the murderer of my nephew Rabeeah bin Harith.”
He declares, ‘All the pre-Islamic deals based on usury are nullified today. First of all, I cancel all such transactions of my uncle Abbas bin Abdul Muttalib.”
After the sanctity of human life and property, the most important thing is human dignity and honour. The most difficult thing is to eliminate those social conventions that are related to human honour but are actually harmful to society. It is extremely difficult to reform or root out such social traditions. It demands a lot of moral courage to challenge the time-honoured conventional practices, especially when the reformer’s own honour is at risk. Therefore, there are very few reformers in human history who dare to change the habits of a people. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) taught people that all human beings have equal rights. In the Arab society of his time slaves were considered to be the lowest in society. The holy Prophet taught them that all human-beings are equal by adopting a slave as his son. This was done in a society where they were so conscious of the status of different tribes that one would not kill in a battle a person of a lower rank lest his noble sword be defiled by a less noble blood. In that society, the holy Prophet (Peace be upon him) declared, “O People! You are all Sons of Adam and Adam was created from clay. The black has no preference over the white or the white over the black or the non-Arab over the Arab, nor is the Arab nobler than the non-Arab. The better among you is the one who is more God-fearing.” This teaching gave equal status to all and brought the rich and the poor, the high and the low, the slave and the master on equal footing. Again the practical example came from the holy Prophet himself. His clan was considered the noblest of Qureish. He arranged the marriage of his cousin with a slave, Zaid, whom he had adopted as his son. When the Divine Revelation came that adopted sons do not actually become sons, Zaid who was called Zaid bin Muhammad was the first to be called Zaid the son of Harithah, after his real father. It was considered a shame for an Arab to marry the divorced wife of an adopted son. The custom of adoption had caused many rivalries and rifts among the tribes. It was only a word of mouth, nothing based on reality. This evil custom had to be challenged and abolished. The holy Prophet, against the age old custom of the Arabs, married the divorced wife of Zaid bin Haritha thus setting an example which led to the eventual end of an evil practice.
There is no end to such incidents and there is no dearth of examples. But the time is short and perhaps today I have taken a little more of your time than usual. My dear friends In the light of my presentation, have a look from Adam to Jesus and at each reformer from India to Syria. Can you fmd examples of such complete and practicable guidance?
Have patience with me for a few more words. Some orators, in their high flown poetic style, talk of a transcendental spiritual love of God. But according to their own claim “a tree is known by its fruit.” I would like to ask what effect has this pure love” left in their own lives? Read Prophet Muhammad’s life. He spent many a sleepless night in reciting the prayers of his Lord, with tearful eyes and a trembling heart. Is this the true picture of love or the one with mere words?
When Christ (Peace be upon him) was put on the cross, according to the Christian faith, he said ‘O my God, my God! Why have you forsaken me?” When Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) is on his deathbed, breathing his last, he is heard saying, “O my God my dearest companion.” Which of these two utterances brims of a sublime love, a taste of true bond between God and his devoted servant, and of spiritual serenity?
O Allah! Send Your special Blessings and Peace on him and on all the Prophets and Messengers.