Prophet Muhammad’s life before his Prophethood foretold his Prophethood. Consider the following facts:
• The extraordinary events on the night of his birth, the unusual character he displayed even as a child, and the meaningful signs people of insight observed in him all meant that he would undertake a great mission. Many famous Jewish scholars and Christian monks abandoned their previous convictions and converted after seeing that Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, had the attributes mentioned in their Scriptures concerning the Last Prophet. They silenced some of their former co-religionist scholars by showing them the references in the Torah and the Gospels. Among them were the famous ‘ Abdullah ibn Salam, Wahb ibn Munabbih, Abu Yasir, Shamul, and Asid and Tha‘laba (the two sons of Sa‘ya), Ibn Bunyamin, Mukhayriq, and Ka‘b al-Akhbar.2
On the night of his birth, the Prophet’s mother and the mothers of ‘ Uthman ibn al-‘As and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al- ‘Awf saw a magnificent light. Each woman said: “During his birth, we saw a light that illuminated the east and the west.” On that night, idols within the Ka‘ba toppled over; the palace of the Sassanid king shook and cracked, and its fourteen spires collapsed. The small lake of Sawa in Persia (sanctified by the Persians) sank into earth. The fire worshipped by the Magians at Istakhrabad, which had burned continually for a thousand years, went out. These incidents indicated that the person born on that night would abolish fire worship, destroy the palace of the Persian rulers, and prohibit the sanctification of things that God does not allow to be sanctified.3
• Prior to his Prophethood, he opposed injustice and joined organizations like the Hilf al-Fudul, which defended the helpless and restored usurped rights.4
• Although of honorable descent, he did not live in luxury; rather, he grew up as an orphan under the protection of his grandfather and then his uncle. Whatever money he may have earned by trading before and after his marriage went to support orphans, widows, and the poor.5 Thus, he was never wealthy and had no powerful backers.
• Despite his community’s moral corruption, he lived an extraordinarily chaste, disciplined, and morally upright life. He hated idols and idol worship. During his childhood, he intended only twice to attend wedding ceremonies, but was overpowered by sleep on both occasions. (Thus, he did not see improper things and practices that Islam would later outlaw.) When he was twenty- five years old, he married Khadija, a respected widow several years older than him. He only married again after her death twenty-five years later. Those who knew him said he was as shy as a young girl when marriage was proposed to him.6
• History records his moral commitment, trustworthiness, honesty, truthfulness, and integrity. He did not lie, an assertion proven by the fact that not even his worst enemies ever called him a liar. He talked politely and never used obscene or abusive language. His charming personality and excellent manners captivated the hearts of those who met him. He always followed the principles of justice, altruism, and fair play with others, and never deceived anyone or broke his promise.
Those who had business dealings with him had full confidence in his integrity. Everyone called him al-Amin (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). He was the embodiment of modesty in a society that was immodest to the core.7 Once while the Quraysh were repairing the Ka‘ba, a question of individual and clan honor arose over who would reinsert the sacred Black Stone. To prevent violence, they all agreed to let Muhammad decide. He asked them to bring a piece of cloth, which he then spread on the ground. Placing the Black Stone on it, he told each chief to raise his corner. When the Black Stone was raised to the required height, he set it in its place.8
• Born and raised among people who regarded drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never drank alcohol or gambled. Surrounded by heartless people, his own heart overflowed with the milk of human kindness. He helped orphans, widows, and the poor, and was hospitable to travelers. Harming no one, he exposed himself to hardship for their sake. Avoiding tribal feuds, he was the foremost worker for reconciliation. He never bowed before any created thing or partook of offerings made to idols, even when he was a child, for he hated all worship devoted to that which was not God. In brief, his towering and radiant personality, when placed in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon of light illumining a pitchdark night, to a diamond shining among a heap of stones.9
• Prophet Muhammad’s enemies never accused him of lying or cheating either before or after his Prophethood. To prevent Islam’s spread, they labeled him a poet, a sorcerer, a magician, or a lunatic. Sometimes they attempted to justify their rejection by such false pretexts as: “If only this Qur’an had been sent down to one of the great men of the two cities (Makka and Ta’if),” but never dared to accuse him of lying, deception, or any immorality.
• Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, did not know how to read and write. During his whole life, no one taught him and no written culture influenced him. Makka’s ideas and customs were idolatrous and wholly untouched by Christian or Jewish religious thought. Even Makka’s hanifs,10 who rejected idolatry, were not influenced by Judaism or Christianity. No Jewish or Christian thought is reflected in these people’s surviving poetic heritage. Moreover, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, avoided the locally popular intellectual forms of poetry and rhetoric even before his Prophethood. He talked politely and never used obscene or abusive language. His charming personality and excellent manners captivated the hearts of those who met him.
• Before his Prophethood, Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was engaged in trade and commerce for years, but never entered into a dishonest transaction. Those who had business dealings with him had full confidence in his integrity. Even his enemies left their precious belongings with him for safe custody, and he scrupulously fulfilled their trust.11
• Until he was forty, no one had ever heard Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessing, give an eloquent speech, talk on religious or metaphysical issues, formulate laws, or handle a sword. Toward his fortieth year, he began retreating to the Hira cave. One day he emerged with a new, wholly authentic message to heal humanity’s wounds, and challenged all literary geniuses to produce something like it. And what was his message?
The idols that you worship are mere shams, so stop worshipping them. No person, star, tree, stone, or spirit deserves your worship. Do not bow your heads before them in worship. The entire universe belongs to God Almighty. He alone is the Creator, Nourisher, Sustainer, and thus the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and Who is worthy of your prayers and obedience. So worship Him alone and obey His commands.
The theft and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty, and all the vices in which you indulge are sins in God’s eyes. Leave your evil ways. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone, for whoever kills a person unjustly is like one who has killed all humanity, and whoever saves a person’s life is like one who has saved all humanity (5:32). Do not rob anyone, but take your lawful share and give that which is due to others in a just manner.
Do not set up other deities with God, or you will be condemned and forsaken. If one or both of your parents reaches old age and lives with you, speak to them only with respect and, out of mercy, be humble with them. Give your relatives their due. Give to the needy and the traveler, and do not be wasteful. Do not kill your children because you fear poverty or for other reasons. Avoid adultery and fornication, for they are indecent and evil. Leave the property of orphans and the weak intact.
Fulfill the covenant, because you will be questioned about it. Do not cheat when you measure and weigh items. Do not pursue that of which you have no knowledge, for your ears, eyes, and heart will be questioned about this. Do not walk around arrogantly, for you will never tear the earth open or attain the mountains in height. Speak kind words to each other, for Satan uses strong words to cause strife. Do not turn your cheek in scorn and anger toward others or walk with impudence in the land.
God does not love those who boast, so be modest in bearing and subdue your voice. Do not make fun of others, for they may be better than you. Do not find fault with each other or call each other by offensive nicknames. Avoid most suspicion, for some suspicion is a sin. Do not spy on or gossip about each other. Be staunch followers of justice and witnesses for God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents and relatives, regardless if they are rich or poor. Do not deviate by following caprice. Be steadfast witnesses for God in equity, and do not let your hatred of others seduce you to be unjust toward them.
Restrain your rage and pardon the offences of others. Good and evil deeds are not alike, so repel the evil deed with a good one so that both of you can overcome your enmity and become loyal friends. The recompense for an intentional evil is a similar evil; but whoever pardons and amends the evildoer with kindness and love will be rewarded by God. Avoid alcohol and games of chance, for God has forbidden them.
You are human beings, and all human beings are equal in God’s eyes. No one is born with the slur of shame on his or her face or the mantle of honor around his or her neck. The only high and honored people are the God-conscious and pious, true in words and deeds. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria of greatness and honor.
On a day after you die, you will appear before a Supreme Court and account for all your deeds, none of which can be hidden. Your life’s record shall be an open book to God. Your fate shall be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge—the Omniscient God— there can be no unfair recommendation and favoritism. You cannot bribe Him, and your pedigree or parentage will be ignored. True faith and good deeds alone will benefit you at that time. Those who have done them fully shall reside in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while those who did not shall reside in the fire of Hell.12
- August 23, 2013
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