On the occasion of meelad-un-nabi
Thursday 11, April 2006
Prophet Muhammad: The man and his mission
by Hameed Abdul Karim
Most people think that the attack on the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) by secular fundamentalists, especially in the West, is something new. But the fact of the matter is that such attacks on the person of this Blessed Man go back to the earliest days of his Prophet hood. The recent cartoon controversy is only one in a long series of vilification campaigns that have gone on for centuries. No religious leader in history has ever faced such a dreadful campaign of character assassination ever.
But that in itself should not come as a surprise since this Blessed Man is about the most popular man in history who, today, has over a billion people all over the world reverencing him with a passion and fervor that secular extremists find hard to comprehend. Almost every second the name of the Blessed Messenger of God the much revered Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace and blessing be on him) is mentioned and his followers never fail to send their greetings to their Beloved whom they hold above themselves and everybody else in the world.
There is something in the continuing vilification campaign. Western secularists and their acolytes in Muslim countries see a threat in the ever-growing numbers into the fold of the man and his religion of Islam. And what may this ‘threat’ be? Could it be that as their numbers grow his followers might want to overhaul the current economic system and replace it by one that is based on Islamic principles that requires the equal distribution of wealth? And isn’t it amazing that a Sri Lankan business magnate who is not a Muslim should open an ‘Islamic Bank’ founded on principles articulated by the Prophet Muhammad well over fourteen centuries ago? What would you call this modern trend that is based on a ‘primitive’ religion? Islamic fundamentalism?
The Blessed Prophet did not confine himself to only a fair economic system. What was close to his heart was the belief and worship of the one true God. So much so that when the tribal leaders of Makkah offered him all the wealth they could muster on condition that he give up the preaching of the new religion he told them the Almighty had sent him as a ‘Mercy to Mankind’ and that even if they were to place the sun in one hand and the moon in the other he would never give up on his mission to bring mankind in line with the Will of God Almighty.
On one occasion when he stood up to pay respects to a funeral passing by, his companions told him that it was that of a non-Muslim and wanted to know why he was so moved. In a despondent tone he told them that it made him sad to see a man die without being offered guidance and without being informed about the existence and worship of Allah Almighty. Of such tender nature was he — the Messenger of God.
On another occasion he heard of the pain of a young Jew who lay on his deathbed praying for death that would not come. He bent over the poor boy and in voice trembling with emotion told him to recite the ‘Kalima’. The boy glanced towards his heartbroken father seeking his approval for what the Prophet had asked him to do and he nodded saying ‘Do as Abu Qasim says’. (Abu Qasim was a pet name of the Prophet meaning father of Qasim) The boy recited the ‘Kalima’ that there is no god except God and Muhammad is His Messenger’ and soon after he breathed his last, going to his Lord as one who had submitted himself to the Will of Allah — i.e. as a Muslim.
The Prophet Muhammad was extremely fond of his son Qasirn and would. take him around often placing him on his shoulders. His companions were surprised because they had not showered their sons with such affection and neither had their parents been that affectionate towards them. In a society that had to face the harsh realities of a desert country, love and affection were commodities that seemed out of place. But here was a man whom they would have worshipped had he only commanded them to do so, going about town so obsessed with his only son that they did not know what to make of it.
So when young Qasim died one can only imagine the grief it must have caused his father, the Blessed Prophet Muhammad. He was devastated and yet he led the funeral prayer weeping as he performed his duty as the leader of his people. After laying his son to rest in his tiny grave he placed two planks at both ends of the grave. When he finished this task he was so overwhelmed with sorrow that he kissed one plank and broke down like a small child while his companions watched with anxiety unaccustomed as they were to such outpouring of emotions. One of them wanted to know how two planks were going to help young Qasim.
‘This will not help Qasim in any way but it will console his’ father’ he replied. The rugged and reserved Arab, so afraid to love and to be loved, learned that love for ones child was indeed a gift from God as the Holy Prophet had taught them. He taught men that it was okay to give vent to their emotions and cry the way he cried for his son.
Later one of his closest friend and companion the tough and sturdy Umar Ibn Khattab was to break down and cry upon hearing of his demise and it was left to another of his friends and companions the stoic Abu Bakr to hold him close to his chest and console him. At another time when one of his companions found him kissing his grandsons Hassan and Husayn he asked him whether it was necessary to show such affection and the Beloved Messenger of God replied ‘If you do not show your love and affection to your children how would you expect Allah Almighty to do the same for you?’
Then we have the touching tale of Zaid ibn Thabit who was a servant in the household of the Prophet. In actual fact he was from a wealthy family and had been kidnapped by dacoits and sold to slave traders. Eventually he was gifted to the Prophet Muhammad, as was Mariam the Coptic Christian whom the Beloved Prophet married and who bore him his son Ibrahim. When Zaid ibn Thabit's folks came to know that he was in the household of the Prophet they rushed to Makkah and pleaded with the Prophet to release their son on the payment of a ransom of his choice. The Prophet very gently declined their offer of money and told them they could take Zaid for free.
How delighted was Salman’s father when he heard this! He thanked the Prophet profusely and went to take in charge of his son. But to his horror Zaid very quietly told his father that he loved him as a son should love his father but explained that he could never leave the Prophet Muhammad and begged him to be allowed to stay on with Allah’s Messenger’. A horrified father asked him why he chose slavery over freedom and young Salman replied "Oh, my beloved father, Muhammad is the Messenger of God and I love him so much that I would not survive for even a day if I were separated from him. So please let me be with him’.
Then there is the story of Addas a Christian from Nineveh. When the Prophet Muhammad was on a solo mission to the wealthy city of Ta’if he was humiliated and physically attacked and had to take shelter in a corner somewhere. Two brothers saw his pathetic condition and though not favourably disposed towards his religion took pity on him and asked Addas to go over and give him some food. When the Prophet said ‘In the name of God’ as is the custom of Muslims before taking food, a stunned Addas told him that he had never heard those words in Ta’if before.
The Prophet asked him from where he originated and when he gave the name of his native place the Prophet said, ‘You come from the land of my brother Prophet Jonah’. On hearing this Addas gently kissed the Prophet’s head then his hands and finally his feet. The two Arabs were observing all this and upon Addas’ return they wanted to know why he did what he did. He replied ‘Because he is truly a Prophet Of God’.
The Ptophet had a Man Friday who followed him wherever he went attending to all his menial tasks. One day the Prophet told him that he had been loyal to him for so long and yet had not asked for anything in return. ‘What do you want from me’ the Prophet asked and without any hesitation the Man Friday replied ‘Oh Blessed Messenger of Allah all I want is to be your servant in Paradise’. The Prophet smiled at him and soothingly stroked his head and asked ‘What else do you want’. The Man Friday, overwhelmed with joy, said ‘That’s all, Oh Messenger of Allah’.
And women? How did the Blessed Prophet Muhammad treat women? His detractors would want the world to believe that he was a misogynist and a chauvinist. But it would be fair to say that no man of his stature had ever treated women the way he did. He had raised them to a happy status at a time when the entire world treated them as mere chattels and at a time the Arabs were enjoying burying their daughters alive.
In his last sermon he ordered his followers to treat their wives with love telling them that they had a right over them and therefore they had to be treated not only kindly but with respect. Men, he told them must act as protectors of women. This was unthinkable at that time as much as it is unthinkable in some places even now.
The Beloved Prophet Muhammad held, his daughter Fathima very close to his heart and on one occasion he told his followers that if anyone were to hurt Fathima’s feelings it would be like hurting his feelings and no Muslim at that point of time or even thereafter could ever harbour such a horrendous thought.
The Prophet was known to get up from a gathering when he could see Fathima approaching the house and go up to the door and greet her with a hug. Such perfect conduct was unthinkable then, but even today you would be hard put to find a father treating his daughter the way the Prophet Muhammad treated his!
He taught the Believers that Paradise lay at the feet of their mothers and that a child is required to love his mother four times more than, his or her father and yet his enemies then and now would continue to vilify him saying the nastiest of things and drawing the most insulting of cartoons. But if they would only care to look at their mothers and ponder over what the Messenger Muhammad – the Beloved of Allah – had said about their high status perhaps their thoughts might undergo a revolutionary change.
Little wonder then that among converts to Islam women far outnumber men.