Lecture on the life of Prophet Muhammad (saws)
Father’s name: Abdullah ibn Abdi’1-Muttalib.
Mother’s name: Aminah bint Wahb.
Birth: Born in Mecca on Friday, 17th Rabiu’l-awwal, in the Year of Elephant.
Death: Died at the age of 63 in Medina on Monday, 28th Safar, 11 AH; buried in his apartment adjoining the mosque, in Medina.
The Holy Prophet said: “The first thing God created was my nur (light).”
The oldest and noblest tribe in the whole of Arabia was Banu Hashim. They were the descendants of Ibrahim through his son Isma’il. The Arabs respected and loved them for their goodness, knowledge and bravery.
`Abdu’1-Muttalib was the chieftain of Banu Hashim and lie was also the guardian of the Ka’bah. Among his ten sons, `Abdullah was the father of the Holy Prophet and Abu Talib was the father of `Ali.
In Mecca, baby boy Muhammad was born on 17th Rabi’ul-awwal, 570 AD. His father `Abdullah, son of ‘Abdu1-Muttalib, died before he was born and when he was six, he lost his loving mother Aminah bint Wahb.
His grandfather, `Abdu1-Muttalib, took the responsibility of bringing up the orphan. At the age of ten, he was berefted of his venerable grandfather. On his deathbed, he appointed his son Abu Talib as the guardian of Muhammad.
Gentle, soft spoken, tall and handsome boy, Muhammad, accompanied the trading caravans of Abu Talib, across the deserts, giving him deep insight into nature and man.
In his youth, Muhammad participated in Hilf (Confederation of) al-Fudul for helping the widows and orphans and protecting the oppressed.
The wealthy noble widowed lady Khadijah, looking for a manager for her rich mercantile caravans, selects Muhammad, the Trustee. Able and fair dealing, Muhammad is a tremendous success. Khadijah already an admirer, made him an offer of marriage, Muhammad was twenty-five and Khadijah forty. In spite of this disparity in age, the marriage proved to be a very happy one.
Lover of nature and quite, worried about human sufferings, Muhammad very often retired to Mount Hira’ for meditations. One night, laylatul-qadr (the Night of Majesty) a voice addressing him, commanded “Recite in the Name of thy Lord.” (Surah al-‘Alaq 96:1). Deeply excited by the strange phenomena of Divine Visitation, Muhammad hurried home to his wife, Khadijah, who listened to him attentively and said that “I bear witness that you are the Apostle of God.”
After an interval, the voice from heaven spoke again “O thou shrouded in thy mantle, arise, and warn, and magnify thy Lord.” (Surah al-Muddathir 74:1-3) This was a signal for him to start preaching the gospel of truth of One God.
In the beginning Muhammad invited only those near him, to accept the new Faith. The first to embrace Islam among women was Khadijah and among men `Ali. Soon after, Zayd ibn al-Harithah became a convert to the new Faith followed by Abu Bakr and `Uthman. `Umar hitherto a violent opponent of Islam, notorious for the persecution of the Muslims and a bitter enemy of the Prophet, embraced Islam, later.
For three long years, he laboured quietly to wean his people from the worship of idols and drew only thirty followers. Muhammad now decided to appeal publicly to the Quraysh to give up idol worship and embrace Islam.
He invited forty of his kinsmen to a feast. At the gathering, Muhammad stated that he had lived a lifetime among them and asked if they had ever found him lying? The general response was “We have never found you lying, O al-Amin!” The Prophet of Islam asked if he were to tell them that their enemies had collected beyond the saridhills to attack them, would they believe? The reply was, “Yes.” “Will you believe anything I will now say?” Again the reply was, “Yes.” The Prophet addressed them: “I know no man in all Arabia, who can offer his kindreds, a more excellent thing than I now do. I offer you happiness both in this life and that which is to come. God Almighty has commanded me to call unto Him. Who, therefore, among you will assist me herein shall become my Brother and my Caliph?”
All of them hesitatingly declined the matter. `Ali (who was then given the title of “Amiru’1-Mu’minin” (the Commander of the faithful) by the Prophet, stood up and declared that he would assist the Prophet and vehemently threatened those who would oppose him. Muhammad with great demonstration of affection, embraced `Ali and declared to all, to hear and obey `Ali as his Deputy and Caliph. The gathering broke out into laughter, taunting Abu Talib that now he will have to obey his son.
Muhammad is the founder of the great religion of Islam, meaning submitting (oneself or one’s person to Allah). The adherent of Islam is usually designated by the corresponding adjective Muslim. The Persians adopted a different adjective Musalman, from which are derived the Anglo-Indian Mussulman. But Muslims, certainly, dislike the terms Mohammedan and Mohammedanism, which seem to them to carry the implication of worship of Muhammad, as Christian and Christianity imply the worship of Christ.
The new Faith is simple, without complications, practical and useful for every day life. It commands to believe and do good, keep up prayer and pay the poor rate. Two orders giving four principles of a successful way of life.
The new Creed had set in motion a terrific revolution, shaking the very foundations of the world. The vested interests, kings, priests, racketeers, and tyrants all were against, and they united to crush the movement of Islam.
The keepers of Ka’bah and owners of the idols, came to Abu Talib to stop Muhammad from saying, “There is no god but Allah (la ilaha illa Allah).” The guardian uncle conveyed the request of the delegation to give Muhammad fortune larger than possessed by any, to make him a chief and even a king, if he agreed to give up his mission. Muhammad refused. Angry Arab chieftains threatened social boycott, destruction and death. Abu Talib (who actually became Muslim but did not announce his faith so that he may be able to defend the Prophet) promised to defend Muhammad.
Boys and louts of Mecca started pelting stones and abuses on Muhammad. Brave and loyal `Ali, son of Abu Talib, stopped this by his strong fists. The harassment and tortures, which the Prophet and his small band of faithful followers suffered at the hands of Quraysh were excruciating in the extreme. Some of the believers were dragged over burning sand, imprisoned, flogged and starved, but they firmly held to their Faith till death. Umayyah, master of Bilal, took Bilal to the desert and exposed him bare-back with his face, to the noon-day sun and placed a big stone on his chest and said, “There you shall remain, until thou art dead or thou hast adjured Islam.” Dying with thirst in the heat he would only answer “Ahadun! Ahadun! (One [God]! One!).”
Almost ten years of hard work and preaching, in spite of all persecution, produced over a hundred followers. Physical cruelties and social boycott made life unbearable in Mecca. The Holy Prophet of Islam advised his followers to seek refuge in the neighbouring country of Ethiopia. Eighty-eight men and eighteen women sailed to the hospitable shores of the Negus, under the leadership of Ja’far at-Tayyar (brother of `Ali) and the cousin of the Holy Prophet. Arab chieftains pursued them and demanded their extradition.
Ja’far, pleading the cause of the refugees said to the king: O King! we were plunged in the depth of ignorance and barbarism; we worshipped idols, we lived in unchastity, we ate dead bodies and we spoke abominations; we disregarded every feeling of humanity and the duties of hospitality and neighbourhood; we knew no law, but of the strong (power), when God raised among us a man, of whose birth, truthfulness, honesty and purity we are aware; and he called us to the Unity of God and taught us not to associate anything with Him; he forbade us the worship of idols; and enjoined on us to speak the truth, to be faithful to our trusts, to be merciful and to regard the rights of neighbours; he forbade us to speak evil of women or to eat the sustenance of orphans; he ordered us to fly from vice and to abstain from evil; to offer prayers, to render alms, to observe the fast. We have believed in him, we have accepted his teachings and his injunction to worship God and not associate anything with Him. For this reason our people have risen against us, have persecuted us in order to make us forego the worship of God and return to the worship of idols of stone and wood and other abominations. They tortured and injured us, until finding no safety among them, we have come to thy country and hope wilt protect us from their oppression. The demand of the Quraysh were rejected and they returned to Mecca.
Several times the chieftains came to Abu Talib saying, “We respect your age and rank, but we have no further patience with your nephew. Stop him or we shall fight you.”
Abu Talib asked Muhammad for his decision. With tears in his eyes the Apostle firmly replied, “O my uncle! if they place the sun on my right hand and the moon on my left, to force me to renounce my mission, I will not desist until God manifests His cause or I perish in the attempt.”
In a period of troubles, trials and tribulations two major tragedies afflicted Muhammad. First the venerable guardian uncle Abu Talib died and shortly afterwards his noble wife Khadijah died, leaving behind her daughter Fatimah (peace be on her) – the only child she had from the Holy Prophet – the daughter who looked after her father so much so that the Prophet called her Umm Abiha (the mother of her father).
With the death of the old patriarch Abu Talib, the Meccans planned to assassinate the Prophet. Under Divine guidance, he asked `Ali to sleep in his bed and Muhammad put his green garment on `Ali. While the murderers mistook ‘Ali for Muhammad, the Holy Prophet of Islam escaped to Medina. The Muslim era of Hijrah (Emigration) is named after this incident and dated from 17th Rabi’ul-awwal, 622 AD.
From the time he came to Medina, he was the grandest figure upon whom the light of history has ever shone. We shall now see him as, the king of men, the ruler of human hearts, chief law-giver and supreme judge. The Preacher who went without bread, was mightier than the mightiest sovereigns of the earth. No emperor with his tiaras was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clothing.
He laid the foundation of the Muslim commonwealth and drew up a charter which has been acknowledged as the work of highest statesmanship; a master-mind not only of his age, but of all ages.
Unlike the Arabs, the Prophet had never wielded a weapon, but now he was forced to defend Islam by force of arms. Commencing from the battle of Badr, a series of eighty battles had to be fought, which the infant community defended successfully.
One day Muhammad was sleeping under a tree, away from his camp. He was awakened by his enemy Du’thur ibn al-Harith with sword, standing over him. “O Muhammad! Who is there now to save you?” “God!” replied the Apostle. The wild Bedouin suddenly began to shiver and dropped his sword. The Prophet picked the sword and asked, “Who is there now to save you?” “Alas, no one!” “Then learn from me to be merciful.” The Arab’s heart was overcome and he embraced Islam.
Next year, Abu Sufyan, the famous long-lived enemy of Islam, again attacked the Muslims at Uhud. Hamzah, the first flag-bearer of Islam and uncle of the Prophet, was killed in action. In spite of strict instructions from the Prophet, a few Muslim soldiers deserted their post when victory was in sight. This changed the course of the battle. Khalid ibn al-Walid attacked the Prophet and the grave situation was saved by the timely arrival of `Ali. The enemies ran away and the issue was decided. Muhammad was deeply grieved at the death of Hamzah.
In the 10th year AH, a Christian deputation from Najran came to the Prophet at Medina for religious discussions. Even after convincing arguments, the Christians refused to believe because they were not willing to give up their religion for the religion of Islam.
According to Divine instructions in the Holy Qur’an:
“And whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to thee, say: ‘Come now, let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, our selves and your selves, then let us humbly pray and so lay Allah’s curse upon the ones who lie.’” (Surah al-Imran 3:61)
Muhammad suggested that next morning that the Christians should bring their women, sons and near ones and the Prophet would bring his, and they should pray, to invoke the curse of God on the liars, in order to end the argument.
At dawn Muhammad entered the maydan (field) with his grandsons, leading Hasan by the hand, carrying Husayn in his arms, his beloved daughter Fatimah following him and ‘Ali walking behind her, with the banner of Islam. The Christians watching this procession from far, came to the conclusion that Muhammad was the true Prophet of God, for he had brought with him his dearest and nearest ones.
The Christians came to the Prophet and informed him that they were not willing to pray for the curse on the liars, instead they were willing to pay the jizyah (poll-tax or tithes payable by non-Muslims in the realm of Islam) and to come to a settlement. The Prophet referred them to Ali for terms.
The Muslims had been in self exile for six years and began to feel a keen yearning for their homeland, Mecca. The Prophet desired to perform a pilgrimage to Ka’bah. When he forsook his home town he was weak, but when he wanted to return, he was strong. He did not use his strength to force an entry into the sacred city.
Finding the Quraysh hostile, Muhammad entered into a treaty known as the Peace of Hudaybiyyah, appearing not very advantageous to the Muslims, but which revealed the Islamic character of moderation and magnanimity. For the strong to exercise restraint and toleration is true courage. Having reached up to the door of their birth place with hearts over-flowing with impatient longing to enter it, the Muslims retraced their steps peacefully to Medina, under the terms of the treaty, which allowed them to perform the pilgrimage next year.
The harassment and murders by the Jews, forced the Prophet into leading an army against Khaybar in the 7th year AH. The Muslims under the command of `Umar and others turned back and were in despair. The Prophet said: “Tomorrow I shall assign the command of the Muslim force to a person who will be crowned by God with victory.” The daybreak saw the Islamic banner waving gallantly in the hand of `Ali.
The fateful battle began with Jewish champion warrior Marhab. With soul stirring shout of Allahu Akbar, the Dhulfiqar (sword) of `Ali descended on Marhab, piercing his skull. In the general encounter that followed, the Jews were defeated. The great victory of Islam was won and made ‘Ali the immortal conqueror of Khaybar.
Towards the end of the year, Muhammad with his followers availed of the truce of Hudaybiyyah to accomplish the pilgrimage to Mecca. For three days, the Quraysh evacuated the city and watched the Muslims perform the pilgrimage. The strict observance of the terms of treaty, the self-restraint and regard for their pledged word displayed by the believers, created a great impression on the idolaters. Struck by Muhammad’s kindness of heart and nobility of nature many Qurayshite chieftains adopted the Faith.
In the 8th year AH, the idolaters violated the peace of Hudaybiyyah by attacking the Muslims. The enemies were defeated and Mecca was conquered.
The Prophet who fled from Mecca as a fugitive, now returned home as a mighty conqueror. The Rahmatun lil’alamin (mercy unto all beings, i.e., the Prophet) entered the city with his head bowed low in thankfulness to the Almighty (Allah) and ordered a general amnesty, instead of the mass massacre of those who persecuted him and his followers.
In the middle of the 9th year AH, the Prophet had to lead an expedition to Tabuk near the border of Syria, owing to the threatening attitude of the Roman Emperor. The hypocrites and holders back out of spite, taunted `Ali, who was left in charge of Medina in the absence of the Prophet. Unable to bear the taunts of the hypocrites, the brave and faithful `Ali mounted a fast camel and reached the Muslim army. ‘Ali related to the Prophet the taunts of the hypocrites that `Ali was frightened and that the Prophet was displeased with him. Muhammad smiled and said: “O `Ali! Do you not wish that your position with me should be like Harun’s position with Musa, with this difference only, that after me there will be no prophet?” The pacified ‘Ali returned to Medina. The Muslim army on reaching Tabuk found, the Romans had diverted to other fields of action. The Prophet returned to Medina without having to fight.
A great number of Muslim soldiers were killed in battles at Badr, Uhud, Khaybar, Hunayn and other places, leaving behind young wives and children. The serious problem of taking care of the widows and orphans, threatened to break up the moral fabric of the Muslim Society. Muhammad decided to marry these widows and set an example for his followers to do likewise.
Before the advent of Islam, a man could marry any number of wives but the Holy Prophet of Islam was different in every way. History bears out, the unimpeachable character of Muhammad up to the age of twenty-five, when he married the widowed lady Khadijah. She remained his one and only wife till she died when Muhammad was fifty. At the ripe age of fifty-five when the blood cools down, in order to solve the problem of war, widows and orphans, he started marrying one wife after another in quick succession, even though he was old and burdened with the responsibilities of Prophethood and the affairs of the Islamic State.
The conditions for marrying more than one wife, are so strict, that hardly anybody can fulfil them, in times of peace. The Qur’an says:
“And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans then marry such women as seem good to you, two, three and four, but if you fear that you cannot do justice between them, then marry only one…” (Surah an-Nissa 4:3)
Though a Prophet and a King, Muhammad was the man of the common people. He sat and ate with them. Shared their joys and sorrows, helped the weak, widows and orphans and sympathized with the distressed. He found the world sunk deep in degrading ignorance, superstition, vice and cruelty. He saw people disunited and engaged in perpetual wars, practising most revolting cruelties; daughters were buried alive and the widows of their fathers were inherited or sold by the eldest son. Among all this chaos, Muhammad established order and inspired in them the belief of One God; prohibited idolatry and made them think, not only of this world, but beyond the grave on a higher, purer and diviner plain, asking them to practise charity, goodness, justice, reasonableness and universal love. The whole mission was achieved in his lifetime.
The Five Purified Ones (Ahlul-Kisa’)
Allah only desires to keep away the uncleanliness from you, O People of the House! and purify you a (thorough) purifying. (Surah Ahzab, 33:33)
The Five Purified Ones – Muhammad, Ali, Fatimah, and their two sons Hasan and Husayn – became perfect examples of human conduct. They lived a life of extreme devotion, loyalty, utility, goodness, trust and charity, giving a standard of human values to every action of humanity. Their record of life is that of a work nobly and faithfully done, preaching the Unity of God, the equality of men and obliterating the tyranny of priests and rulers, breaking the shackles of wrangling creeds, oppressive rituals, and soul crushing dogmas; he broke down the barriers of caste, exclusive privileges and tyranny of vested interest. He proclaimed the importance of knowledge learning and hard work.
Though the Holy Prophet was occupied in looking after the affairs of people, but he used to pay special attention to his family too. Some believers, requested him to allow them to buy lands and build houses for him. The reply was revealed by God:
Say: “I do not ask of you any reward, but love for my relatives…; surely Allah is Forgiving, Grateful.” (Surah ash-Shura 42:23)
Thereupon, the believers asked the Prophet whose love was made incumbent on them? Muhammad answered “Love for `Ali, Fatimah, Hasan and Husayn.”
Under the Divine intuition of his approaching end, Muhammad prepared to make the farewell pilgrimage to Mecca.
Before completing all the ceremonies of hajj, he addressed a huge multitude from the top of mount ‘Arafat on 8th Dhi’l-hajjah, 11 AH in words which shall ever ring and live in the atmosphere:
O ye people! Listen to my words, for I know not, if another year will be vouchsafed to me after this year, to find myself amongst you at this place. Your lives and property are sacred and inviolable to one another, until ye appear before the Lord, as this day and this month is sacred for all, and remember ye shall have to appear before your Lord, Who shall demand an account of all your actions. O ye people, ye have rights over your wives and your wives have rights over you… Treat your wives with kindness and love. Verily, ye have taken them on the security of God and made their persons lawful unto you by the Words of God. Keep faithful to the trust reposed in you and avoid sins. Usury is forbidden. The debtor shall return only the principal and the beginning will be made with the loan of my uncle Abbas son of `Abdul-Muttalib. Henceforth the vengeance of blood practised in the days of ignorance is prohibited; and all blood feuds abolished, commencing with the murder of Ibn Rabi`ah son of al-Harith son of Abdu1-Muttalib. And your slaves! See that ye feed them with such food as ye eat yourselves, and clothe them with the stuff ye wear; and if they commit a fault which ye are not inclined to forgive, then part from them, for they are the servants of the Lord and are not to be harshly treated.
O ye people! Listen to my words and understand the same, know all Muslims are brothers unto one another. Ye are one brotherhood; nothing which belongs to another is lawful unto his brother, unless freely given out of goodwill. Guard yourselves from committing injustice. Let him that is present tell it unto him that is absent. Haply he that shall be told may remember better than he who hath heard it.
Hadith of Ghadir
Soon after finishing the hajj the Holy Prophet started for Medina. On his way, at ‘Ghadir Khumm’ the Voice from Heaven cried:
“O Apostle! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message and Allah will protect you from the people, surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people”* (Surah Maida 5:67).
Muhammad immediately ordered Bilal to recall the Muslims, who had gone ahead, who were behind and who were proceeding to their homes at the junction, to assemble. The famous Sunni mutakallim and commentator, Fakhru’d-Din ar-Razi in his at-Tafsiru’l-kabir, (vol. 12, pp. 49 – 50), writes that the Prophet took `Ali by the hand and said: Whoever whose mawla (master) I am, `Ali is his master.
O Allah! love him who loves `Ali, and be the enemy of the enemy of `Ali; help him who helps `Ali, and forsake him who forsakes `Ali. He (ar-Razi) writes further that Abu Bakr and `Umar congratulated `Ali in the following words:
Congratulations, O son of Abu Talib! This morning you became my mawla and mawla of every believing man and woman. Once again the voice from Heaven proclaimed:
This day have I perfected your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam
* The hadith of Ghadir is mutawatir to Shi`ahs and Sunnis, because it has been narrated through so many chains of transmission by both sects that no doubt can be entertained. As, for the Shiite transmission of this hadith see al-Bihar, vol. 37, pp. 108 -253; and as for others see the book of Imamate, by S . S . A . Rizvi, part 2, pp. 39 – 105, 1985, WOF IS, Tehran – IRAN. as a religion (5:3).
The lives of Muhammad and `Ali are so interwoven that one cannot think, read or write without mentioning both.
Imam Ali said:
“I testify that there is no god but Allah and I testify that Muhammad is the servant and Prophet of God sent with the famous Faith and the written Book with strong commands and prohibitions to remove the doubts and superstitions of the people and to give reasoning and proofs.
“He was sent to make the people fear the signs of God and His punishment. God has done us a big favour by giving us such a Prophet, so that we may follow him.
“Then Allah deputed Muhammad, peace be upon him and his progeny, as a witness, giver of good tidings and warner, the best in the universe as a child and the most chaste as a grown up man, the purest of the purified in conduct, the most generous of those who are approached for generosity.
“The hearts of the virtuous and good people turn to him. He has established brotherhood. His word is the Word of God. He gave them the Message of God without minimizing or magnifying it.
“He gives eyes to those who earnestly seek guidance and be recited the Holy Qur’an. He is the Fountain of Knowledge and Light of the World.
“He is a great Physician. The ointment of his knowledge is very effective and unfailing. He searches for houses where there is no peace and confusion reigns.
“May Allah give height to his (the Prophet’s) construction above all other constructions, heighten his position with Thee, grant perfection to his effulgence and perfect for him his light. In reward for his discharging Thy prophetship, grant that his testimony be admitted and his speech be liked for his speech is just, and his judgments are clear-cut. May Allah put us and him together in the pleasures of life, continuance of bounty, satisfaction of desires, enjoyment of pleasures, ease of living, peace of mind and gifts of honour.
“He is Thy Trustee and knows Thy secrets. He shall testify on the Day of Judgment. Reward him handsomely. Let him intercede for his followers, for he is just and can distinguish between right and wrong.
“All praise is due to Allah, who cannot even be imagined. No person, however, wise he may be, can understand Him.
“Muhammad is the last of all the prophets. There shall be no prophet after him. Revelation came to an end on his passing away. The sons of the Holy Prophet are the best sons and his Ahlu’l-bayt, are the best Ahlu’l-bayt. Follow your Apostolic Imams.” (See photo p. 26)