The Life of Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
The Life of Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
The Pre-Islamic World
Before the advent of Islam, people all over the world were sadly impoverished in thought, opinions, and individual and social attitudes. Although such conditions were not the same in all parts of the world, generally speaking, all the people of the world shared superstitious beliefs, intellectual deviations, inhumane social traditions, myths and social and moral conflicts.
Before Islam emerged, the Jews had changed the religion of Moses into hidebound dogma and its principles into hollow, lifeless rules and precepts. The spirit of materialism had penetrated into people's lives. Unfortunately, Christianity, which had been presented for the moral rectification and spiritual refinement of the people, was changed in nature by the Christian clergy and became a vehicle for the passionate ambitions of most of them. Since it lacked complete, comprehensive laws and regulations for social systems, it proved unable to provide the people with deliverance and comprehensive guidance.
It was due to such conditions that people all over the world shared superstitious ideas, inhuman social traditions, myths, social and moral conflicts.
The fire of corruption and perdition was raging. Superstitions and false views ruled people in the name of religion! Paganism and the concept of the Trinity had been imposed upon them. Many worshipped idols, fire, cows and stars. Most shameful of all was the widespread worship of the sexual organs of men and women.This same moral and spiritual corruption and regression, which had spread everywhere, caused dishonesty, darkness and deviations in human societies. Bloodshed, murder, tyranny, and oppression prevailed all over the world. In fact, humanity had been put on the verge of the abyss of total destruction!
Arabia during the Dark Pre-Islamic Times
Arabia, which has been called `the burnt land', was then a strange place. A collection of red-hot deserts, valleys, and sand hills was called `Arabia'. There was hardly any water or plant life in it.
It would have been a mistake to name the people's dwellings `houses'. They were rather catacombs in which living beings named `human beings' fidgeted and lived miserably on dates and stinking water! Tribal fights and disputes formed the basic principle of the Arabian social system. Makkah was no more than an idol-temple. Its inhabitants included traders and usurers who even exchanged human life for money.
The people of the Arabian Peninsula suffered from their tribal and pastoral life in the deserts, coupled with blood-thirsty feudalism. The economic crisis resulting from the exploitation of the people by the ruling class and by bands of usurers had robbed human life of its meaning and darkened the horizon of social well-being.
The wealthy usurers who engaged in trade in Makkah had amassed enormous amounts of wealth by illegitimate means and exploited the weak and poor classes of society. In fact, they increasingly exacerbated anti-human social class differences through usury and oppressive exploitation.
Due to their ignorance, the Arab tribes in those days generally engaged in worshipping natural phenomena and in idolatry. The House of God, the Ka'aba, was used as the idol-temple of the Arabs.
Any one of the indecent, degrading social and moral customs in Arabia at that time was enough to destroy the honour of a whole nation. Before Islam, the anti-human deviations of the Arabs had created a situation whereby the fruit was crime and corruption, the nourishment was corpses, the motto was fear and dread, and the logic was the sword.
The Arabs wrongly believed that only those were superior who descended from the Arab race and had Arab blood! As a matter of fact, the twentieth-century form of nationalism and racism was quite prevalent among the Arabs during the first pagan period.
In addition, the Arabs vainly gloried in their wealth and the number of their children. Each tribe having wealth and a large number of offspring prided itself on them and considered them to be among its crowning achievements.
Plunder, robbery, savagery, aggression, and treachery were their obvious characteristics, and genocide was considered a sign of bravery and courage. As the Arabs before the time of Muhammad (peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants) believed the birth of a daughter to be harmful or were either afraid of poverty and destitution, they either killed their innocent daughters or buried them alive. If a man was given the news that his wife had borne a baby daughter, his face would become red with rage. He would then seclude himself plotting what to do with his newborn daughter! Should he bear the shame and disdain and take care of her or should he bury her alive and banish the disgrace and disdain from himself because in some cases even the existence of one daughter in a family was considered shameful.
`And they ascribe daughters to God, glory be to Him, and for themselves (they would have) what they desire. And when a daughter is announced to one of them, his face becomes black and he is full of wrath. He hides himself from the people because of the evil of that which is announced to him. Shall he keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust? Now surely evil is what they judge' (16:58-59).
`And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong' (17:31).
In the Nahj ul-Balaghah, Imam 'Ali has described the social conditions of the Arabs in the following way,'... And you Arabs were at that time followers of the worst beliefs and lived in a land of burning deserts. You lived on the stony ground amidst poisonous snakes that fled no voice or sounds. You drank polluted water, ate rough, unwholesome foods, shed each other's blood, and removed yourselves from your relatives. Idols had been set all around you and you did not avoid sins ...'.
Thus the Arabs lived in a filthy, depraved environment and as a result of misdirection and immaturity, had turned into brutal, plundering, and seditious people. Like most people of that time, they had adopted superstitious, illusive myths, and false notions as `religion'.
It goes without saying that for a basic reformation of such a society, a fundamental, comprehensive, and all-embracing revolution was quite necessary. However, the leader of such a vital movement and revolution had to be a divine man sent down by God so he would be and would remain devoid of tyranny, and any aggressive, selfish tendencies, and would not destroy his enemies for his own selfish interests, under the pretext of purification, but would try to reform and rectify them, working solely for God's sake, for the people's welfare, and for the improvement of human societies.
There is no doubt that a leader who is himself immoral, unscrupulous, and without praise-worthy human characteristics is unable to rectify human societies and save the people. It is only divine leaders who, inspired by Almighty God, are able to make profound basic transformations in all phases of the people's individual and social life.
Now we must try to understand what kind of person such a leader of the worldwide revolution was and what changes he made in the world.
The Prophet's Birth and Childhood
Makkah was covered by a heavy blanket of darkness. No signs of life and activity could be observed in it. Only the moon slowly emerged from behind tie darkened surrounding mountains and cast its pale, delicate rays upon the simple, austere houses and upon the sandy regions outside the city.
Little by little, midnight gave way to dawn. A gentle breeze rustled through the burning land of the Hijaz and prepared it for a short rest. Now the stars, too, added to the beauty of this pure banquet of nature and smiled at the residents of Makkah. It was now early dawn and the early rising, vigilant night birds were singing beautifully in that heavenly weather. They seemed to be speaking in a romantic language to their Beloved! The horizon was on the verge of the brightness of dawn but still a mysterious silence prevailed over the city. All were asleep. Only Amina was awake, feeling the contractions she had been expecting. Gradually the contractions became stronger. Suddenly Amina saw several unknown women in her room. The room was filled with light and there was fragrance in the air. She wondered who they were and how they had entered her room through the closed door.
Soon her baby was born, and thus, after several months of waiting, Amina had the pleasure of seeing her child in the early dawn of the 17th of Rabi ul-Awwal. All were overjoyed with the child's birth. But when Muhammad (peace and the mercy of God be upon him and his descendants) illuminated Amina's dark and silent room of prayer, her young Abdullah, was not present. He had passed away in Medina while returning from Damascus and had been buried there, leaving Amina alone.
The Wonderful Baby
The Prophet was born and his blessed birth gave rise to numerous wonderful incidents in the sky and on the earth, especially in the East, the cradle of civilization. News of these events spread quickly and informed the people of an imminent, very significant incident. Since this newborn child was predestined to destroy the people's old superstitious beliefs and customs and to lay new foundations for human progress and prosperity, from the very beginning he sounded the reveille. On that blessed night, the Persian monarch Anushiravan's magnificent palace, which incarnated a false fantasy of power and eternal monarchy and upon which people looked with fear and awe, trembled. Fourteen of its turrets collapsed, and the fire in the fire-temple of Persia, which had been flaming for 1,000 years, was suddenly extinguished.
So the humiliated worshippers of that false, destructive object of worship, whose minds had been blocked by the obstacles of prejudice and false imitation and who thus could not reflect upon nature took notice of the truth and were attracted toward a totally different direction. The drying out of the Savah Lake awakened the people of another great region."
Halima, The Prophet's Nurse
For many centuries it had been customary among the Arabs to give their newborn children to women from the tribes around the city to be wet-nursed. This was done so that their children would grow up in the fresh air and the natural environment of the desert and also learn the eloquent Arabic dialect whose purest form was to be found at that time in the desert. For this reason and since Amina had no milk to feed her child, Abdul Muttalib, his grandfather and guardian, felt it necessary to employ an honorable, trustworthy lady to look after the child of his dear son, Abdullah. After making appropriate inquiries, he selected Halima, who was from the Bani Sa'd tribe (a tribe famous for bravery and eloquence) and who was rated among the most chaste, noble women. Halima took the infant to her own tribe and looked after him as though he were her own child. The Bani Sa`d tribe had long been suffering from famine in the desert. The dry desert and lack of rains had added much to their poverty and misery.
But from the very day lie entered Halima's house, good fortune and blessings entered with him. Her life, which had been filled with poverty and destitution, suddenly changed into a happy and prosperous one. The pale faces of Halima and her children became rosy and full of life. Her dry breasts swelled with milk, and the pasture of the sheep and camels of that region turned fresh and green, whereas before he came to their tribe, people lived in poverty and faced many difficulties.
He grew up more rapidly than other children, ran more nimbly, and did not stammer like them. Good fortune and auspiciousness so accompanied him that all the people around him easily realized this fact and admitted it. Halima's husband, Harith, told her, `Do you know what a blessed baby we have been given?'
In the Storm of Events
The Prophet was just six years old when his mother, Amina, left Makkah for Medina to visit her relatives and probably to pay a respectful visit to her husband's grave. He accompanied his mother on that trip. But after visiting her relatives and expressing love and loyalty to her husband at Abdullah's graveside, on her way back to Makkah, Amina passed away at a place named Abwa'. Thus, the Prophet had lost both his mother and father by that tender age when every child needs a father's affections and a mother's loving embrace.
A Glimpse into the Prophet's Character
Just as the Prophet's birth and the events that followed his blessed birth were extraordinary and suggestive of his majesty and supreme character, so his behaviour and manner of speaking in childhood also made him different from other children. Abdul Muttalib realized this fact and respected his majesty greatly. Abu Talib, the Prophet's uncle, used to say, `We have never heard any lies from Muhammad, nor have we seen him misconduct himself or make mischief. He never laughs unduly nor speaks idly and he is mostly alone'. The Prophet was seven years old when the Jews remarked, `In our Books we have read that the Prophet of Islam refrains from eating any food which is religiously prohibited or doubtful. Let's try him'.
So they stole a hen and sent it to Abu Talib. Not knowing that the hen had been stolen, all ate from the cooked hen but Muhammad, who avoided even tasting it. When they asked the reason for this avoidance of the food, he answered, `This food is forbidden by God, and God protects me against anything that He has forbidden ...'.
Then the Jews took a hen from a neighbour, intending to pay for it later on, and sent it to Abu Talib's house. Again he avoided eating the hen, saying, `This food is doubtful and ...'. Then the Jews said, `This child has an extraordinary character and a supreme position'. Abdul Muttalib, the chief of the Quraysh tribe, did not treat his grandson like other children, but held him in great respect and reverence. When a special place was arranged for Abdul Muttalib at the Ka'aba, his offspring surrounded that special place, inhibited by Abdul Muttalib's dignity and glory from stepping into his abode. But the Prophet was by no means impressed by so much grandeur and honour and would always directly go to that particular seat. Abdul Muttalib's sons tried to hinder him, but he protested and said, `Let my son go. I swear by God that he has a glorified, majestic position'. Then Muhammad sat beside the chief of the Quraysh, Abdul Muttalib, and spoke with him.
Some scenes from the Prophet's childhood and youth
A Few Scenes
Muhammad went through the difficulties of orphanhood in his childhood with the support of his high-spirited grandfather, Abdul Muttalib, and his a,ffectionate uncle, Abu Talib. It seems that the heart-rendering pains of orphanhood must have severely tormented his pure delicate soul. It is logical to believe that these sufferings were necessary for the foundation of his supreme character and that such difficulties taught him how to resist the hardships of life and to bear the heavy responsibility later to be put on his blessed shoulders.
As time went on, Muhammad grew up and his childhood gave place to youth, when instincts and potentials bloom. Although he was deprived of a mother's care and a father's affection, he received affectionate care and attention from Abu Talib, who, due to his moral attitudes and in obedience to his father's emphatic order, protected and supported him. In fact, Muhammad represented three things to Abu Talib: a son, a reminder of his brother, Abdullah, and of his father, Abdul Muttalib. So the Prophet became a beloved member of Abu Talib's family, lived in his house, and was treated as his own son. To the Prophet, Abu Talib was an affectionate father, a loyal uncle, and a compassionate preceptor. These two - uncle and nephew - were so fond of each other that their lives seemed to be intertwined. This very intense affection had caused Abu Talib to refuse to ever part from him. He would take his hand in his own and go with him to the famous Arab markets of `Akaz, Majnah, and Zil-Majaz. Even when he was to accompany the caravan on travelling on business from Makkah to Damascus, he could not bring himself to part with his nephew. So Abu Talib took him along to Damascus. Riding on a camel, the Prophet started the long journey to Yathrib and Damascus.
Bahira's Interview with the Prophet
On the day the Quraysh caravan was nearing Basra, Bahira, a devout monk, caught sight of it through his monastry's window. He observed the caravan shaded by a little cloud that kept pace with it. Bahira came out of his monastry, stood in a corner and instructed his servant, `Go and tell them that today they are all my guests'. All came to him but the Prophet, who was standing beside the property and equipment of the caravan. Seeing that the cloud had ceased to move, Bahira asked his guests, `Are all the members of the caravan present here?' They answered, `All but a youth who is the youngest'. Bahira said, `Tell him to come as well'. So he was asked to come to the monk's room. The keen eyes of Bahira noticed that the cloud over his head moved with him. Taken by surprise, Bahira kept staring at the young boy. When the meal was over, the pious monk told him, `I have a question to ask you and you must swear by Lat and `Uzza to answer my question'.
Muhammad said, `These two you have asked me to swear by are the most detestable things to me'. Bahira said, `Swear by Allah to answer my question'.
He said, `Ask your question'.
After a short interview with him, Bahira knelt down before him and started kissing his hands and feet, saying, `If I live till you start your divine mission, I will most faithfully aid you and fight your enemies. You are superior to all of Adam's offspring ...'. Then he asked, `Whose son is this youth?' The caravan members pointed to Abu Talib, saying, `His son'. Bahira said, `No. His father must be dead!' Abu Talib said, `You are right. He is my nephew'. Bahira then said, `This youth will have a brilliant, extraordinary future. If the Jews find out what I have realized about him, they will destroy him. Take great care lest the Jews should hurt him'. Abu Talib said, `What is he destined to do? What have the Jews to do with him?' Bahira said, `He is predestined to become a Prophet, and the angel of inspiration will come down and make divine revelations to him'. Abu Talib said, `God will not leave him alone and will Himself protect him against the Jews and his malevolent enemies'.
The Prophet as a Shepherd and a Contemplative Man
Although Abu Talib was rated as a man of status among the Quraysh, his income, was not sufficient to support his family. Now that Muhammad was of mature age, he was naturally inclined to find a job to ease the heavy burden upon his uncle's shoulders. But what kind of job should he engage in to suit his supreme character?
Since he was destined to become a great Prophet and a sublime leader, to face unrestrained obstinate people, to fight against the superstitious beliefs and wrong customs of the period of ignorance, and to lay the foundations of the magnificent palace of justice and proper laws and regulations, he found it expedient to become a herdsman. Our Holy Prophet would take the sheep and cattle of his relatives and those of the people of Makkah to the surrounding deserts to graze. He gave his uncle the wages he received in return.
This engagement outside the noisy, agitated environment of the city and away from people's disputes and conflicts gave him an invaluable opportunity to acquire much experience, of which the sweet fruits appeared during his prophethood and time of leadership. Indeed, during this period, he acquired many superior human characteristics such as generosity, good temper, magnanimity, good behaviour towards neighbours, tolerance, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and avoidance of vices. He became known as 'Muhammad, the Trustworthy'.
The Prophet's Chastity
When childhood gives its place to maturity and human instincts and potentialities bloom, youngsters suddenly find themselves in the stormy stage of maturity - much more exciting and agitating than childhood. During this critical period of life, various kinds of deviations, seditions, moral deteriorations, and forms of heedlessness threaten the young and their future life. Unless they are properly directed and carefully looked after, or themselves endeavour to control and restrain their overflowing instincts, they will so fall into the terrible abyss of misery and immorality that they can hardly attain happiness and prosperity for the rest of their lives. The Prophet lived in a severely polluted environment, the atmosphere of which was darkened with all kinds of moral deteriorations and sins. In the Hijaz, not only the youth, but also the aged had become most shamefully involved in sexual deviations and unchasity. In every alley and neighbourhood, black flags had been hung over some houses as a sign of corruption, inviting un-virtuous people inside.
The Prophet grew up in such a foul society, but though he remained unmarried until the age of 25, the sordid environment could not affect him the least bit, nor did anybody observe any immoral action springing from him. Both his friends and his enemies regarded him as the best model of chastity and virtue.
The poems commemorating his blessed marriage with Khadija - the great lady of the Quraysh - remind its of modesty, Addressing Khadija, the poet says,`... O Khadija, among all the people of the world, you have attained a sublime position, the most honourable position. You have been granted the honour of being wife to Muhammad, the great man whose peer has not been born by any woman in the whole world. All praiseworthy virtues and majestic qualities plus modesty are to be found in him and will be so forever'. Another poet had said, `If Ahmad is weighed against all other creatures, he will outweigh them, and truly his virtues are obvious to the Quraysh'.
The Prophet's First Marriage
Youth is the period of the blooming of instincts and the emergence of one's sexual` potencies. When youngsters, both male and female, are of -mature age, they are drawn to the opposite sex, and a fire of passion starts flaming in their hearts that will not be extinguished unless they form a union of marriage. It is only in this way that they will find peace of mind.
Therefore, to make the proper use of such potentials and to prevent the various deviations that overflowing sexual instincts may create in human societies, Islam has emphatically ordered that the youth should marry as soon as possible and not shun the command of marriage on the pretext that they may be unable to support their family later on.
`And marry those among you who are single and those who are fit among your male slaves and your female slaves; if they are needy, God will make them free from want out of His grace; and God is Most Generous, Knowing. And let those who do not find the means to marry keep chaste until God makes them free from want out of His grace' (4:31-32).
But there may be times when financial conditions do not permit one to undertake the responsibilities of married life. No doubt, under such circumstances, marriage must be postponed until conditions are favourable, and, all through this period of celibacy, the youth must necessarily acquire virtue and chastity.
Muhammad suffered just such hard conditions. Due to financial problems, he was unable to take a wife until he was 25. So he found it advisable to temporarily refrain from marriage and to wait for a suitable occasion when life's conditions would allow the formation of a family.
Khadija's Business Proposal
Khadidja, who was an honourable wealthy woman, used to put her wealth at the disposal of others who traded for her and received wages in return for their services. As Muhammad's fame for honesty, virtue and trustworthiness spread throughout Arabia and reached Khadidja, she started seeking his cooperation. Then she made this proposal to him: `I will put at your disposal some property plus a servant, Masara, and pay you more than others'. Being well aware of his uncle's financial problems due to his old age, low income, and large family, Muhammad accepted Khadidja's ofher.
Khadidja, the daughter of Khuwalid, was a lady of supreme character. She had been twice married, to Abu Halah and Atigh Makhzumi, and twice widowed. Though she was forty years old, her enormous wealth, popularity, and prestige had led many wealthy and powerful Quraysh to court her.
But she did not accept any of them as her husband and avoided marriage, for she knew well that they either were interested in her wealth or were men whose character she detested.
Prophet's Journey to Damascus
When the commercial caravan of the Quraysh was ready to start moving towards Damascus and the Prophet, too, had made provisions for the trip and was about to join the caravan, Khadidja ordered her servant, Masara, to accompany him to Damascus and be always ready to serve him. Obviously, it is not possible to explain in detail this historical journey, and we content ourselves with mentioning the following points: This journey brought about many blessings and much good fortune, such as enormous profits in commerce, the manifestation of the Prophet's wonderful personality to the people in the caravan, the meeting with the Christian monk, the prediction of his prophecy, and the preliminary causes of an auspicious matrimonial union. When the trading was over, the caravan returned from Damascus.
Masara explained the trip to Khadidja in detail, reporting the huge, unprecedented profits they had gained. She also spoke about the Prophet's excellent character and his generosity, as well as his many other virtues manifested during this journey. Upon hearing this and hearing about the predictions of a learned Jewish man about his divine character and his marriage with the most honorable woman of the Quraysh, Khadidja not only started to cherish his love in her pure heart, but also came to realize that he was her ideal husband.
Also, her uncle, Warqa ibn Nawfal, had talked to her about tile predictions of the last prophets, and about the good news of his marriage with Khadidja. These words, too, added to her love and enthusiasm. But how was she to talk to him about her desire and heavenly affection? This was not so easy for Khadidja, who was herself the most respected woman of the Quraysh.
Khadija's Proposal of Marriage
Khadidja asked Nafisa, who was her close friend and whom she always trusted with her secrets, to speak to the Prophet about marriage. Nafisa went to him and asked, `Why do you not get married?' He answered, `My living conditions and financial situation do not allow me to get married'. Nafisa said, `Will you agree to get married if this problem is solved and a rich, beautiful, and honorable woman from a well-known family asks you to marry her?'
He asked, `Who is this woman you are talking about?' Nafisa answered, `Khadidja'.
He said, `How is it possible? She has rejected the proposals of many of the Quraysh aristocrats and rich men. Would she marry me?' Nafisa said, `This union is possible and I will arrange it'.
When he became quite sure of Khadidja's inclination towards marriage with him, the Prophet talked to his uncles about the matter. They were very pleased with this good news, and they attempted to arrange the marriage for their blessed nephew. And finally this auspicious marriage was celebrated with special ceremonies.
The Prophet spent 25 years of his life with Khadidja, who was not only a loving wife for him, but also his best and most helpful mate. This period is considered to be the best period of his married life.
Khadidja, peace be upon her, was the first woman who believed in the Prophet's divine prophecy. She put all her wealth at his disposal to propagate and promote Islam. Six children were born of his marriage: two sons named Qasim and Tahir who passed away as infants in Makkah and four daughers named Ruqiyah, Zaynab, Umm Kulsum, and Fatima, who was the most prominent and honoured of them all.
Khadidja was so devoted to her husband and showed such great sympathy and self-sacrifice for him and for the promotion of his religion that not only did he love her dearly and respect her highly during her lifetime, but even after her death. Each time he remembered her, his blessed heart filled with sorrow and he wept at her loss. Khadidja's brilliant sun of life set at the age of 65, ten years after the actualization of the prophetic mission of the Prophet. In this way, the house of our Holy Prophet became deprived of the light of Khadidja's existence forever.
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