The entire world was steeped in darkness at the time of the advent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). All over the world armed clashes were the order of the day and humanity suffered most. The common man was deprived of the most essential necessities of life and could not even raise his voice of protest. The very country where Prophet (SAW) was born was steeped in utter moral degradation. Great civilizations of Ur and Nineva, of Aad and Thamud and of Aden and Saba were lost in ancient history and there was barbarism and disruption all over Arabia. Debaucher, drinking and gambling was rampant. Despite being a land of desert, Arabia occupied a central place in the then known world where all caravan routes from east and west met and the foreign trade of different countries passed through the hands of Arab merchants. Arab were firm in their determination and if they adopted even a wrong course they pursued it wholeheartedly and faced all obstacles and difficulties. Thus, as the Prophet in his own person was the ideal leader of his movement he was also given the most suitable human material to work on and the best geographical location where a great culture could evolve and flourish. The Prophet’s life is not the story of Rustam and Sohrab or the tale of a Thousand And One Nights. It is not the story of an imaginary character and its study is not to be treated as a literary pastime! It is not the life of a person but the story of a historical force which appeared in the form of a man. Muhammad (SAW.) was born an orphan of a noble family of Banu Hashim ancestry. His father, Abdullah bin Abdul Muttalib, died of sickness at the age of 25 on a trading journey to Syria, leaving his wife Amenah only a few months pregnant. His birth was on the twelfth (12) of Rabiul Awwal 53 B.H. (570 C.E. of the Christian era). The Quraysh had a special status in Mecca because they used to be in charge of the sacred Ka’ba. Abdul Mutalib, his grandfather who was the chief of Makkah at that time, showed pride in him as Prophet (SAW) compensated him for the loss of his son who died in the prime of his youth. His mother showed affection for her son as she awaited the best nurses to come and take care of him: The tradition at that time was that nurses would come from the desert seeking to be the custodians of the children of nobility in return for good pay and gifts. Giving that Muhammad (SAW) was not wealthy all nurses turned away from him, Halimah of the Banu Saad tribe was one of them, but when she could not find any other child she was ashamed to return home empty handed, so she went back and took Muhammad (SAW), and since then Allah showered his mercy on her; for instance animals started giving plenty of milk after they had been dried. Therefore, her and her husband felt they were blessed to have taken Muhammad (SAW) and became very attached to him. Muhammad (SAW) spent five years with Banu Saad and one told incident known as “the splitting of his chest.” Scared Halimah. When he was playing with the other boys, Jibril (A.S) held him, threw him down, split his chest, took out his heart and took out a clump from it and said: “this is Satan’s portion of you.” Then he washed him in a basin made of gold with the water of zamzam, then sealed his chest and returned him where he was. The boys ran to Halimah and said Muhammad (SAW.) has been killed. They came back and found him alive but pale. Muhammad (SAW.) returned to Makkah at the age of five to his mother and grandfather who took good care of him, but the days refused to allow him tranquility among those tender hearts, as his mother died during a visit to Madinah to visit her husbands grave. She took Muhammad (SAW.) and his maid Umm Aiman with her. On the way back, she fell very sick and died in Abwaa leaving Muhammad (SAW.) with Umm Aiman. His grandfather always took good care of him and never left him alone, he took him to all public gatherings. However, at the age of eight, Abdul Muttalib died leaving him into his uncle Abu Talib’s care. Fatima, daughter of Asad, who was the wife of Abu Talib loved Muhammad (SAW) as if he were her own son. Abu Talib, too, was very good to him. Since Abu Talib had many children and was not wealthy, Muhammad (SAW) insisted on sharing the burdens of life with him. He went with his uncle on a trading journey to Syria at the age of thirteen. He met a monk called Bahira during the journey, who looked at his face and the sign on his back (the sign of Prophet hood) and asked Abu Talib: “What is this boy to you ?”My son he said.” “His father should not be alive.” Said Buhira. Abu Talib then said, “Yes, in fact he is my brother’s son “and told him the rest of the story. The monk said “Now you are telling me the truth. Take him back and be careful of the Jews over him.”
Prophet Muhammad (SAW.) then returned to Makkah and resumed his life, working as a shepherd in his early life. All the people who had done business dealings with him before his prophet hood had always praised his honesty and fair dealing in trade. He did not acquire knowledge or education from a monk or a philosopher or sorcerer, as was the norm then. Instead he read through the pages of life and took what he found good. In this manner, he entered his third phase of life and got acquainted with his wife Khadija (R.A) who was a merchant woman of nobility and wealth. She had heard of his truthfulness and trustworthiness, so she offered him to take her trade to Syria (before marrying him). He was 25 years old and she was 40 years old when they got married. Their marriage lasted until she died at the age of 65. Every year, Muhammad (SAW) used to leave Makkah to spend Ramadan in the cave of Hiraa where he used to meditate and worship for self-purification away from the falsehood of Jahilia. In this cave, He met with the heavenly host and listened to the voice of the angel telling him to read. He knew that he had become a Prophet of Allah (SAW.) and that it was Jabril (A.S), the ambassador of revelation who came to him; then the mission’s struggle began. Quraysh spared no efforts to fight Islam and persecuted those who embraced it. In spite of all that Islam grew stronger, so Quraysh decided to change strategy and agreed not to buy, sell or intermarry with Muslims or those who approved of their religion, protected them or sympathized with them. They wrote this agreement which was called “The General Boycott” on a piece of parchment and hung it inside the Kaabah as a secret pact. Therefore, Prophet (SAW) and his followers were forced into confinement in the Vale of Banu Hashim where they were cut off of any assistance. This boycott lasted three long years during which only the bond of faith kept the hearts together and gave them strength. It ended after Hisham Ibn Amr (who felt very upset about the terrible plight of Muslims) gathered some clans around him and agreed to break the pact. They went to Makkah to tear the parchment and to their surprise they found that the worms had already eaten it up except the words: “In Your name O God.” In ten years, Muhammad (SAW.) suffered the loss of his wife Khadijah (R.A) and his uncle Abu Talib, in other words, he had lost his public and his private life. It became virtually impossible for Muhammad (s.aw.s.) to continue preaching in Mecca. In September 622, after secret negotiations over the previous two years, he settled in the area of Medina, 270 miles to the north, where seventy of his followers had already gone. This “emigration” is the Hijra (Latin, hegira), on which the Islamic era is based. Once Muhammad (SAW.) immigrated to Medina he made an agreement with the Jewish tribes of Yathrib (Medina). The constitution of Madinah, which the Prophet drew up with the multi-religious community of Madinah, soon after his arrival there, remains a shining model for communities that strive for social justice to this day. This document guaranteed the freedom of worship to all religious communities. The constitution of Madinah was a magnificent historical document, authored and dictated by Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) used to visit the sick people among the Muslims, as well as non-Muslims; and when on one occasion the funeral procession of a Jew passed before him, he stood up as a sign of respect for the deceased. He was asked “Why did you stand up for a Jewish funeral?” He replied: “Is it not a human soul?” In this age of double standards and deceitful treaties that tarnish interpersonal and international relations, the following statement of the Prophet may sound other-worldly to the “civilised world”: The Prophet was never aggressive to any particular man or class of men; he never made war on any people on the ground of belief, but only on the ground of conduct. The principle that guided him in this matter was particularly what the Quran teaches in this verse: “Invite (all) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and discuss with them in ways that are best and most gracious.” (An-Nahl 16:25) Muslims fled to Abyssinia, the Qurais tried all the means in their power to have them expelled from there. How could they see Islam prosper so near home at Medina, on the trade route to Syria. Muhammad (SAW) had already received an intimation from on High that he would have to carry on a war to save Islam from utter annihilation. The sword, he was told, would be taken up against him and he would have to fight to save the small community of Islam from destruction at the hands of a powerful enemy who was determined to uproot Islam from the soil of Arabia. Temperamentally Muhammad (SAW) was not inclined to war. The religion which he preached, Islam (peace or submission), was a religion of peace, laying stress on prayer to Allah and the service of humanity, and he was required to preach this religion; to deliver the message, not to enforce it on others. But war was being forced on him, and it was his duty, to defend his oppressed community who had twice fled their homes from the persecutions of a cruel enemy to a distant place.
The last sermon of the Prophet (SAW) attended by more than 1 lakh people is known as Khutbatul Wada’ and the basic points mentioned in this khutbah are: Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you, don’t take usury (interest), treat women well, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat.
The Quraish were not able to crush the Muslims. They were defeated by small Muslim Army at Badr, Uhud and Medina. Muslims brought the Quraish to their senses and a truce was at last drawn up to last for a period of ten years. It can easily be seen what a heavy price the Prophet (SAW) was willing to pay for the sake of peace; he had agreed not to give shelter to those who were persecuted for accepting Islam, while his own men were free to join the unbelievers and find shelter in Mecca. The moral force drawing the people to Islam was so great that while not a single Muslim went back to Mecca where he could find a sure shelter, scores of Meccans embraced Islam, and finding the doors of Medina closed to them, settled themselves at Is, a place subject neither to the authority of the Prophet, nor to that of the Quraish. Islam was spreading in spite of the sword. After returning from Hudaibiya, the Prophet made arrangements to send the message of Islam to all people, Christians as well as Magians, living on the borders of Arabia. He wrote letters to the sovereigns of the neighbouring kingdoms, the Emperor of Rome, Chosroes II of Persia, the king of Egypt, the Negus of Abyssinia and certain Arab chiefs, inviting them to Islam. The truce of Hudaibiya had hardly been in force for two years when the Banu Bakr, an ally of the Quraish, attacked the Khuza’a, an ally of the Muslims, with the help of the Quraish. The Prophet thereupon sent word to the Quraish that they should either pay blood-money for those slain from among the Khuza’a or dissociate themselves from the Banu Bakr, or, in the last resort, declare the truce of Hudaibiya to be null and void. The Quraish did not agree to either of the first two proposals, and the result was the annulment of the truce. The Prophet thereupon ordered an attack on Mecca in the closing months of the eighth year of the Plight. The two years during which the truce remained in force had brought such large numbers over to Islam that the Prophet now marched on Mecca with 10,000 men under his flag. The Meccans were unable to make any preparations to meet the attack. At Marr al-Zahran, a day’s journey from Mecca, the Quraish leader, Abu Sufyan, sued for pardon, and though he was the arch-offender who had left no stone unturned to annihilate Islam, free pardon was granted to him by the Prophet. He (SAW.) led a very ordinary life yet the life style he practiced offered an example for others to follow. The last sermon of the Prophet (SAW) attended by more than 1 lakh people is known as Khutbatul Wada’ and the basic points mentioned in this khutbah are: Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you, don’t take usury (interest), treat women well, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. All mankind is from Adam (A.S) and Eve (A.S), an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action. Remember one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. People, no prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. I leave behind me two things, the Quran and the Sunnah (Hadith), and if you follow these you will never go astray. This was a brief study of the Prophet (SAW.)’s way of life. It must be stressed that we will never really understand the Sirah unless we study the Qur’an and Sunnah.
(The authors write regularly on Islamic topics for “Kashmir Horizon” exclusively. Views are their own) [email protected]