Rafed English

Holy Prophet (S.A.W.) from Shepherd to Merchant

By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani

The Divine guides are charged with a very important and great responsibility. It is a responsibility linked with embarrassment and deprivation, torture and calamities, murder and death; etc. in short with all sorts of hardships and sufferings. And the greater and more sublime their target is, the severer and the graver are the hardships attached to it.

On this account fortitude and forbearance, i.e. patience in the face of all calumnies, accusations, injuries and persecutions, is a pre-condition for the success of Divine leaders, because forbearance and patience are a real condition at all stages of a campaign for the attainment of their object.

In the history and the narratives relating to the Prophets we come across matters which it is very hard and difficult for us (ordinary human beings) to imagine. We read about Noah that he preached for 950 years and as a result of his campaign and prolonged efforts only eighty one persons expressed their belief in him. In other words in every twelve years he succeeded in bringing only one person to the right path.

The quality of forbearance and patience develops in man only gradually. It is necessary that he should face unpleasant events so that his soul should become fully acquainted with hardships and sufferings.

Before attaining the position of prophethood the Prophets used to spend a part of their lives as shepherds so that they might spend some time in the jungles in bringing up flocks and herds, and thus become patient and forbearing for the education of human beings and might take it easy to bear all hardships and sufferings. This is so, because when a man is able to bear hardships with reference to an animal which. from the point of view of intellect and wisdom, holds no comparison with human beings, he inevitably accepts responsibility for the guidance of the misguided people, who are essentially prepared to have faith in Allah.

What has been said above is based upon the contents of a tradition wherein it has been said. "Allah has not sent any Prophet who has not been made to tend the flocks as a shepherd so that he may learn how to guide the people.[95]

The Holy Prophet also spent a part of his life in this manner and most of the writers of 'Seerah' have quoted this sentence from him "All the Prophets have been shepherds for some time before attaining to the position of prophethood". The people asked the Prophet "Have you too been a shepherd?" He replied "Yes. For some time I grazed the sheep of the people of Makkah in Qarareet area".

No doubt it was necessary for the person, who must fight with Abu Jahls and Abu Lahabs, and one who wanted to mould, out of degraded persons, whose common sense and intelligence was at such a level that they bowed before every stone and stick, a set of those, who should not submit to the will of anyone except the Will of Allah, that he should have rehearsed the lesson of forbearance and patience, in different ways, for quite some time.

We think that there was another reason also for the Holy Prophet choosing the pastoral occupation. It was that the sight of unreasonable ways of life of the powerful ones amongst the Quraysh and demonstration of viciousness by them weighed heavily on the mind of this brave and free man; who possessed a great sense of moral dignity. Besides this, failure of the Makkan society to worship the Almighty and their going round the inanimate idols was something very unpleasant for an intelligent person. For these reasons the Holy Prophet dissociated himself from that society and spent a part of his life in the jungles and on the slope of the mountains which were naturally located at a distance from that polluted society, so that, for some time at least, he might be relieved of the mental torture caused by the pitiable conditions prevailing in that age.
By observing the beautiful sky and the positions and shape of stars and by reflecting on the plants of the jungle an enlightened person becomes acquainted with hundreds of signs of Divine order and strengthens his natural belief in monotheism with cogent scientific proofs. The great Prophets, notwithstanding the fact that from the very time of their coming into existence their hearts were illuminated with the glowing torch of monotheism did not consider themselves independent of the need of studying the created beings and the Universe and through this very method they attained to the highest degrees of conviction and faith.


The stringent financial conditions of his nephew prompted Abu Talib, who was himself one of the chiefs of Makkah and noblemen of Quraysh and was famous for his generosity, bravery and magnanimous disposition to arrange for a vocation for him. He therefore, said to his nephew: "Khadijah, daughter of Khuwaylad is one of the wealthy persons among Quraysh and her trade activities extend to Egypt and Ethiopia. She is on the look out for an honest man who should assume responsibility for her trade, participate on her behalf in the trade caravan of Quraysh and take her merchandise to Syria for sale. O Muhammad! What a good thing it would be if you introduce yourself to her".[96]

The magnanimity and spiritual excellence of the Prophet did not permit him that he should go to Khadijah direct, without any acquaintance, and in the absence of any request from her, and make such a proposal. He, therefore, replied to his uncle: "It is possible that Khadijah may herself send someone to me'. He said so, because he knew that he was well-known amongst the people as an 'honest' person. And the same thing did happen. When Khadijah came to know about their conversation she at once sent someone to the Prophet saying: "The thing which has inspired my regard for you is your truthfulness, honesty and good morals. I am prepared to give you double of what I give to others and shall also send along with you two slaves, who will obey you in all circumstances''.[97]

The Prophet related this thing to his uncle and the latter said "This offer is a source of your livelihood which Almighty Allah has bestowed upon you"

The caravan of Quraysh, which included the merchandise of Khadijah, got ready to move. Khadijah placed an easy-paced camel, a quantity of costly goods and two slaves at the disposal of her agent and ordered the slaves to be very respectful to him at all stages, never to object to what he did, and to obey him in all circumstances.

Eventually the caravan reached its destination and all its members made profit. However, the profit made by the Prophet was comparatively more than that made by others and he also purchased certain things for being sold in the market-place of Tahamah.

After making a successful trip to Syria the caravan of Quraysh returned to Makkah. During this journey the Prophet once again passed through the land of Ad and Samud. The silence of death which prevailed over the environments of that unruly nation invited his attention more and more to the other worlds. Moreover, the memories of the previous journey were also revived. He recollected the days when he had traversed those very deserts along with his uncle. The caravan of Quraysh drew near Makkah. Addressing the Prophet the slave named Maysarah said, "It will be better if you enter Makkah before us and inform Khadijah about the affairs of trade and the extraordinary profit which we have made this year'. The Prophet entered Makkah at a time when Khadijah was sitting in her upper chamber. She ran down to receive him and took him into the chamber. The Prophet narrated, in a sweet manner, the matters relating to the merchandise. In the meantime Maysarah also arrived.[98]

The slave of Khadijah (Maysarah) narrated to her exactly all that he had seen during the journey and all of which testified to the greatness and spirituality of Muhammad, 'the honest one'. He told her inter alia that during the journey 'the honest one' differed with a merchant about some matter. That man told him that he would accept his word if he swore by 'Lat' and 'Uzza' but the honest one said to him in reply. "I consider Lat and Uzza, whom you worship, to be the meanest and most despicable things on the face of the earth".[99]
Maysara also added that in Busra 'the honest one' sat under a tree to take rest. In the meantime, a monk, who was sitting in his monastery, chanced to see him. He came and enquired about his name and then said "This man who is sitting under the shade of the tree is the very Prophet about whom I have read many good tidings in the Taurat and the Injeel".[100]


[95] Safinatul Bihar, root word nabi.

[96] Biharul Anwar, vol. XVI, page 22

[97] Seerah Ibn Hisham, vol. II, page 24

[98] al-Khara'ij, page 186 and Biharul Anwar, vol. XVI, page 4.

[99] Tabaqat-i Kubra, page 140

[100] Biharul Anwar, vol. XV, page 18.

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