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ABC's of Islam New Muslims

The Life of a Muslim: How Islam Shapes Our Lives?

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In every age, in every country and among every people, all God-knowing and truth-loving men have believed and lived this very religion.

The life of a Muslim will always be filled with godliness, piety, righteousness and truthfulness. How and why should it be?

He will live in the belief that God alone is the Master of all, that whatever he and other men possess has been given by God, that the powers he wields are only a trust from God, that the freedom he has been endowed with is not to be used indiscriminately, and that it is in his own interest to use it in accordance with God’s will.

He will constantly keep in view that one day he will have to return to the Lord and submit an account of his entire life. The sense of accountability will always remain implanted in’ his mind and he will never behave irresponsibly.

A Life Wrapped in Morality

Think of the moral excellence of the man who lives with this mental attitude – his will be a life of purity and piety and love and altruism. He will be a blessing unto mankind. His thinking will not be polluted with evil thoughts and perverted ambitions. He will abstain from seeing evil, hearing evil, and doing evil.

He will guard his tongue and will never utter a word of lie. He will earn his living through just and fair means and will prefer hunger to a food acquired unfairly through exploitation or injustice. He will never be a party to any form of oppression or violation of human life and honor. He will never yield to evil, whatever the cost of defiance.

He will be an embodiment of goodness and nobility and will defend right and truth even at the cost of his life. Such a man will be a power to be reckoned with. He is bound to succeed.

An Honorable Life

He will be highly honored and respected. How can humiliation ever visit a person who is not prepared to bow his head before anyone except God the Almighty, the Sovereign of the universe?

No one can be more powerful than he – for he fears none but God and seeks blessings from none but Him. What power can make him deviate from the right path? What wealth can buy his faith? What force can shape his conscience? What power can compel him to behave as he does not want to?

He will be the most wealthy. No one in the world can be richer or more independent than he – for he will live a life of austerity and contentment. He will be neither a sensualist, nor indulgent, nor greedy.

He will be contented with whatever he earns fairly and honestly and however much ill-gotten wealth is heaped before him he will not even look at it. He will have peace and contentment of heart and what can be a greater wealth than this?

He will be the most revered, popular and beloved. No one can be more lovable than he – for he lives a life of charity and benevolence. He will be just to everyone, discharge his duties honestly, and work for the good of others. People’s hearts will be naturally drawn towards him.

No one can be more trustworthy than he – for he will not betray his trust, nor will he stray from righteousness: he will be true to his word, and straightforward and honest in his dealings. He will be fair and just in all his affairs, for he is sure that God is Ever-Present, Ever-Vigilant. Words fail to describe the credit and goodwill which such a man commands. Can there be anyone who will not trust him? Such is the life and character of a Muslim.

If you understand the true character of a Muslim, you will be convinced that he cannot live in humiliation, abasement or subjugation. He is bound to prevail and no power on earth can overwhelm him. For Islam inculcates in him the qualities which cannot be driven out.

And after living a respectable and honorable life on this earth, he will return to his Creator Who will shower on him the choicest of His blessings – for he will have discharged his duty ably, fulfilled his mission successfully and emerged from his trial triumphantly. He is successful in life in this world and in the hereafter will live in eternal peace, joy and bliss.

This is Islam, the natural religion of man, the religion which is not associated with any person, people, period or place. It is the way of nature, the religion of man. In every age, in every country and among every people, all God-knowing and truth-loving men have believed and lived this very religion. They were all Muslims, irrespective of whether they called that way Islam. Whatever its name was, it signified Islam and nothing but Islam.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “Towards Understanding Islam”.

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First Muslim Community in Madinah & the Groundwork for Hijrah

It was 620, a year after the deaths of Muhammad’s wife, Khadijah, and his uncle Abu Talib, and the time of the yearly pilgrimage to the Ka`bah and Makkah’s annual market period was drawing near. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was still dispensing his teachings in a climate of rejection, exclusion, and persecution.

Toward Exile

About a hundred Muslims now lived under protection in Abyssinia, but no solution seemed to present itself for the faithful who lived in Makkah.

The pilgrims, coming from all areas of the peninsula, started to settle in the Mina area, to remain there throughout the festival period. Muhammad often went there and conveyed his message to women and men who, in their distant dwelling places, had heard about it but did not know its actual contents. He was far from always receiving a favorable response.

At Al-`Aqabah, not far from Mina, the Prophet met a group of people from Yathrib. They were from the Khazraj tribe, one of the two great rival tribes in Yathrib (the other being the Aws), and he began to deliver his message to them. They had already heard of the message from the Jewish tribes who lived in their city, and they wished to know more about it. They listened to the Prophet and eventually accepted the message of Islam: they promised to inform the members of their tribe of the substance of the message and to keep in permanent contact with the Prophet. They went back home and started preaching in Yathrib.

In Makkah, conversions kept increasing, and Muhammad carried on with his public call. As far as his private life was concerned, many advised him to think of remarrying. Proposals had been made, but the Prophet had never pursued the matter. He had, however, had two dreams in which the very young `Aa’ishah, Abu Bakr’s daughter, who was then six years old, was offered to him in marriage.

When Khawlah, who had taken care of the Prophet’s needs since Khadijah’s death, advised him to remarry and suggested two names-Sawdah, a widow in her thirties who had very recently come back from Abyssinia, and `Aa’ishah, Abu Bakr’s daughter- Muhammad saw in this strange coincidence a sign of the truthfulness of his dreams, and he asked Khawlah to do what was necessary to find out whether the two unions were possible.

Polygamy was the norm in Arabia then, and the Prophet’s situation was the exception, since he had remained monogamous for twenty-five rears. The union with Sawdah was particularly easy to concretize: Sawdah immediately, and most favorably, answered the proposal made to her, and they married a few months later.

`Aa’ishah had already, in keeping with Arabian customs, been promised by Abu Bakr to Mutim’s son, and her father had to negotiate with Mutim in order to break the engagement. `Aa’shah then officially became Muhammad’s second wife, though the union would not be consummated for several years.

A year later, pilgrims and traders were again flocking to Makkah for the celebrations of 621. A second meeting was organized at Al-`Aqabah between the Prophet and the Yathrib delegation that had come to report on the evolution of the situation in their city. Twelve people from Yathrib, two of whom belonged to the Aws clan, took part in the meeting. They pledged allegiance to the Prophet, stipulating that they would worship only the One God, no others, and that they would honor the duties and interdictions of Islam.

They were therefore to constitute the first Muslim community in Yathrib. Muhammad sent back with them a Companion, Mus`ab ibn `Umayr, who had just returned from Abyssinia and who was known for his calm, his wisdom, and tile beauty of his recitation of the Qur’an.

Message of Brotherhood

Back in Yathrib, the delegation kept spreading the message and Mus`ab taught Islam, recited the Qur’an, and answered questions. In spite of age-old and still very sharp divisions between the Aws and Khazraj, members of both tribes converted to the new religion and realized that their former rivalries had become pointless: ’Islam’s message of brotherhood united them.

Clan chiefs nevertheless remained very reluctant to embrace Islam. Mus`ab never reacted to their attacks nor to their aggressive attitude; rather, he invariably answered: “Sit down and listen to the message: if you like it, accept it, if you do not, leave it.” As a result, the number of conversions was high, even among leaders.

During the following year’s pilgrimage, the Prophet met an important delegation of Yathrib. Muslims, composed of seventy-three people, two of them women. They belonged to both me Aws and the Khazraj, and they had come to bring the Prophet the good news of their commitment to Islam. After a few discussions about the nature of their future relationship, they concluded a second covenant stipulating that the Yathrib.

Muslims pledged to protect the Prophet, as well as Makkah’s Muslim women and children, against any aggression. This second covenant, granting refuge and protection and a commitment of Yathrib Muslims to support their Makkan brothers, opened before the Prophet the prospect of a promising future.

From then on, Muhammad encouraged Muslims to emigrate to Yathrib discreetly, while his closest Companions still remained by his side.

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The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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The Social System in Islam: Foundations and Practices

By Abul A`La Mawdudi

The foundations of the social system of Islam rest on the belief that all human beings are equal and constitute one single fraternity.

The Social System in Islam

In Islam, if there is any real difference between man and man it cannot be one of race, color, or language, but of ideas, beliefs and principles.

Equality of Mankind

God created a human couple to herald the beginning of the life of mankind on earth, and everybody living in the world today originates from this couple. The progeny of this couple were initially a single group with one religion and the same language.

But as their numbers gradually increased, they spread all over the earth and, as a natural result of their diversification and growth, were divided into various tribes and nationalities. They came to speak different languages; their modes of dress varied; and their ways of living also differed widely. Climates and environments affected their color and physical features.

All these differences exist in the world of reality and Islam does not seek to ignore them. But it disapproves of the prejudices which have arisen among mankind because of these differences in race, color, language and nationality.

Islam makes clear to all men that they have come from the same parents and are therefore brothers and equal as human beings.

Islam says that if there is any real difference between man and man it cannot be one of race, color, country or language, but of ideas, beliefs and principles.

Two children of the same mother, though they may be equal from the point of view of a common ancestry, will have to go their different ways in life if their beliefs and moral conduct differ.

On the contrary, two people, one in the East and the other in the West, even though geographically and outwardly separated by vast distances, will tread the same path in life if they share the same code of moral behaviour.

On the basis of this fundamental tenet, Islam seeks to build a principled and ideological society very different from the racial, nationalistic and parochial societies existing in the world today.

The basis of co-operative effort among men in such a society is not the place of one’s birth but a creed and a moral principle. Anyone, if he believes in God as his Master and Lord and accepts the guidance of the Prophets as the law of his life, can join this community, whether he is a resident of America or Africa, whether he belongs to the Semitic race or the Aryan, whether he is black or fair-skinned, whether he speaks a European language or Arabic.

All those who join this community will have the same rights and social status. They will not be subjects to any racial, national or class distinctions. No one will be regarded as high or low. There will be no untouchability. There will be no special restrictions upon them in making marriages, eating and drinking and social contacts. No one will be looked down upon because of his birth of work. No one will claim any distinctive rights by virtue of his caste, community or ancestry.

Islamic Criterion

Man’s merit will not depend on his family connections or riches, but only on whether he is better than others in moral conduct or excels others in piety and righteousness.

Such social order, transcending as it does geographical boundaries and the barriers of race, color and language, is appropriate for all parts of the world; on its foundations can be raised the universal brotherhood of man.

In societies based on race or nationality only those people can join who belong to a particular race or nation, but in Islam anyone who accepts its creed and moral standards can become a member, possessing equal rights with everyone else.

Those who do not accept this creed, while obviously not being received into the community, are treated with tolerance and humanity and guaranteed all the basic human rights.

It is clear that if two children of the same mother differ in their ideas, their ways of life will be different; but this does not mean that they cease to be brothers.

In the same way, if two nations or two groups of people living in the same country differ in their fundamental beliefs, principles and ideology, their societies will also certainly differ; yet they will continue to share the common ties of humanity.

Hence, the Islamic society offers to non-Muslim societies and group the maximum social and cultural rights that can possibly be accorded.

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The article is excerpted from the author’s book “The Islamic Way of Life”.

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His Life New Muslims

A Blessed Birth of a Noble Prophet

In his seminal authoritative book on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Ibn Hisham – the author of the first account of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, which has come down to us as As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah (The Prophet’s Life) – informs us that Ibn Ishaq has clearly and precisely established the Prophet’s birth date:

peace be upon him

He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

“The Messenger (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born on a Monday, on the twelfth night of Rabi` Awwal, in the year of the elephant.”

Other accounts mention other months of the year, but throughout history there has been broad acceptance of that date among scholars and within Muslim communities. The Muslim calendar being a lunar one, it is difficult to determine exactly the solar month of his birth, but the “year of the elephant” to which Ibn Ishag refers corresponds to 570 CE.

Noble Birth… Noble Origin

The Last Prophet was born in one of Makkah’s noble families, Banu Hashim, which enjoyed great respect among all the clans in and around Makkah. This noble descent combined with a particularly painful and debilitating personal history. His mother, Aminah, was only two months pregnant when his father, `Abdullah, died during a trip to Yathrib, north of Makkah.

Fatherless at birth, young Muhammad was to live with the tension of the dual status implied in Makkah by a respectable descent, on one hand, and the precariousness of having no father, on the other.

Ibn Ishaq reports that the name Muhammad, quite unknown at the time in the Arabian Peninsula, came to his mother in a vision while she was still pregnant. (Ibn Hsham, As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah)

This same vision is also said to have announced to her the birth of the “master of this people” (sayyid hadhihi al-ummah); according to the vision, when he was born she was to say the words “I place him under the protection of the One (Al-Wahid) against the treachery of the envious.

Torn between her grief at her husband’s death and the joy of welcoming her child, Aminah said repeatedly that strange signs had accompanied the gestation, then the extraordinarily easy birth of her child.

The Desert

Aminah soon became aware that she was the mother of an exceptional child. This feeling was shared by Muhammad’s grandfather, `Abdul-Muttalib, who took responsibility for him after his birth. In Makkah, it was customary to entrust infants to wet nurses belonging to the nomadic Bedouin tribes living in the nearby desert.

Because he was fatherless, one nurse after another refused to take the child into her care, fearing that his ambiguous status would bring them no profit. Halimah, who had arrived last because her mount was tired, decided with her husband that it was better for them to take the child, although he was an orphan, than to risk being mocked by their tribe when they went home. They therefore went back with the infant Muhammad, and Halimah, just like Aminah, tells of many signs that led her and her husband to think that this child seemed blessed.

For four years, the orphan was looked after by Halimah and lived with the Banu Sa`d Bedouins in the Arabian desert. He shared the nomads’ life in the most barren and difficult natural environment, surrounded, as far as the eye could see, with horizons bringing to mind the fragility of the human being and spurring contemplation and solitude.

Although he did not yet know it, Muhammad was going through the first trials ordained for him by the One, Who had chosen him as a messenger and was, for the time being, his Educator, his Rabb (Lord).

Why Orphan?

The Qur’an would later recall his particular situation as an orphan as well as the spiritual teachings associated with the experience of life in the desert:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? And He found you wandering, and He gave you guidance. And He found you in need, and made you independent. Therefore (for that reason), do not treat the orphan with harshness, nor chide him who asks. But the bounty of your Lord, proclaim! (Ad-Duha 93:6-11)

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For each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching.

Those verses of the Qur’an carry several teachings: being both an orphan and poor was actually an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God, for at least two reasons. The first teaching is obviously the vulnerability and humility he must naturally have felt from his earliest childhood.

This state was intensified when his mother, Aminah, died when Muhammad was six. This left him utterly dependent on God, but also dose to the most destitute among people. The Qur’an reminds him that he must never forget this throughout his life and particularly during his prophetic mission. He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

Considering the exemplary nature of the prophetic experience, the second spiritual teaching emanating from these verses is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching for oneself and for others.

Muhammad’s past, the One reminds him, is a school from which he must draw useful, practical, and concrete knowledge to benefit those whose lives and hardships he has shared, since he knows from his own experience, better than anyone else, what they feel and endure.

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The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s book “In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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Khadijah: The Faithful Wife & Companion

Lady Khadijah, the Prophet’s wife, played a very critical role throughout the first years of revelation which were ridden with events, some extraordinary and others deeply painful.

Prophet’s wife Khadijah

Khadijah was a sign sent by the One to manifest His presence and His support to His Prophet.

She was the one who had first noticed and then chosen Muhammad for his honesty, his fairness, and the nobleness of his character.

Widely courted in Makkah because of her wealth, Lady Khadijah had been able to measure the disinterested and reserved attitude of that young man, who was nonetheless so enterprising and efficient.

And against usual practice, she had the courage to propose marriage to him through her friend Nufaysah.

Their union was to bring them their lot of happiness, sorrow, and grief: they lost their two sons, Qasim and `Abdullah, in infancy and only their four daughters survived. (They, daughters, all died when Muhammad was still alive, except for Fatimah, who died six months after him.)

Faithful Khadijah

This family destiny was difficult enough, but among the Arabs, the birth of a daughter was considered shameful; tradition reports how much, on the contrary, Muhammad and his wife surrounded their daughters with deep love and constant care, which they never hesitated to express in public.

When at the age of forty, Muhammad received the first Revelation, it was to his wife he immediately turned, and she was the first to stand by him and comfort him. During all the previous years, Lady Khadijah observed a man whose nobleness of character was a distinctive feature.

When he came back to her from the cave of Hira’, troubled and assailed with deep doubt as to what he was and what was happening to him, she wrapped him in her love, reminded him of his qualities, and restored his self-confidence.

The first Revelations were both an extraordinary gift and a terrible trial for a man who no longer knew whether he was possessed or the prey of devilish delirium. He was alone and confused: he turned to his wife, who immediately lent him comfort and support.

A Gift from God

From that moment on, there were two of them facing the trial, trying to understand its meaning and then, after the silence of Revelation had ended, answering God’s call and following the path of spiritual initiation.

In this respect, Khadijah is a sign of God’s presence at the heart of Muhammad’s trial; she is to the Prophet Muhammad’s spiritual experience what Ishmael and Hagar were to Abraham’s trial. Both women and the son were the signs sent by the One to manifest His presence and His support in their trial, so that they should never doubt Him.

Khadijah was to be the first to accept Islam, and throughout the first ten years of Muhammad’s mission, she was to remain at his side, an unfailingly faithful companion.

This woman’s role in the Prophet’s life was tremendous. She was, for twenty-five years, his only wife, whose presence alone protected the Prophet but who also underwent with him rejection by his kin, persecution, and isolation. She was the mother of all his children, except for Ibrahim, whom Muhammad had with the Copt Mariyah and who also died in infancy.

The Prophet’s Love for Khadijah

He loved her so much. This was so obvious that, many years after Khadijah’s death, `A’ishah -who later married the Prophet-was to say that Khadijah was the only woman of whom she had ever been jealous.

Khadijah received the good news of his election by God; she was a woman, independent, dignified, and respected, then a wife, strong, attentive, faithful, and confident; she was a pious Muslim, sincere, determined, and enduring.

Muhammad, the Last Prophet of the One, was not alone, and one of the dearest signs of God’s bounty and love for him was a woman in his life, his wife.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press,2007.

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Prophet Muhammad: The Father of Fatimah

Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) was all the way a message of true love and compassion. He taught and spread this love in all ways. His relationship with Fatimah, who also was a model of piety, generosity, and love, was a unique one. Learn how was the Prophet as a father…

father

The Prophet taught his people good manners, kindness, gentleness, respect for children, and regard for women.

The Father: Model of Modesty

The Prophet lived very modestly: his dwelling was particularly bare, and he often had nothing but a few dates left to eat. Yet he kept helping the destitute around him, especially Ahl As-Suffah (the people of the bench, who lived near his home).

When he received presents, he had them given out, and he immediately freed the slaves who were sometimes sent to him as gifts: he did so with the slave Abu Rafi, whom his uncle Al-`Abbas had sent him when he had returned to Makkah after his release.

In spite of his increasingly important role in Madinah society and of his many responsibilities, he kept this simplicity in his life and in the way he allowed the members of his community to approach him. He owned nothing, and he let himself be accosted by women, children, slaves, and the poorest people. He lived among them; he was one of them.

 The Daughter

His daughter Fatimah (may God be pleased with her) was very close to her father. Married to `Ali ibn Abi TaIib (the Prophet’s cousin, may Allah be pleased with him), she had eventually moved near her father’s dwelling and she was most devoted to the cause of the poor, including Ahl As-Suffah.

When the Prophet was at home or in public and his daughter came to him or entered the room, he would stand up and greet her, publicly showing her great respect and tenderness. Both the people of Madinah and the Makkans were surprised at this behavior toward a daughter, who in their respective customs did not usually receive such treatment.

The Prophet would kiss his daughter, talk to her, confide in her, and have her sit by his side, without paying attention to the remarks or even the criticisms that his behavior could give rise to.

Once he kissed his grandson, Al-Hassan, Fatimah’s son, in front of a group of Bedouins, who were startled. One of them, Al-Aqra’ ibn Habis, expressed his shock and said: ”I have ten children and I have never kissed any of them!”

The Prophet answered: ”He who is not generous (loving, benevolent), God is not generous (loving, benevolent) to him.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

In the light of his silent example and his remarks, the Prophet taught his people good manners, kindness, gentleness, respect for children, and regard for and attentiveness toward women. He was later to say: “I have only been sent to perfect noble manners.” (Al-Bukhari)

Fatimah: The Wife 

Fatimah received that love and the teachings of faith and tenderness from her father and spread them around her through her activities with the poor.

One day, however, she told her husband about her difficulties: like her father, they owned nothing, and she felt it increasingly difficult to manage her daily life, her family, and her children. Her husband advised her to go to her father and ask for his help; perhaps he might supply her with one of the slaves he had received as gifts. She went to see him, but she dared not express her request, so deep was her respect for her father.

father, fatimah

Fatimah lived in the light of her father’s spiritual teachings; getting by on little, asking everything of the One, and giving everything of herself to others.

When she came back, silent and empty-handed, `Ali decided to go with her and ask for the Prophet’s help himself.

The Prophet listened to them and informed them that he could do nothing for them, that their situation was far better than that of the Ahl As-suffah, who urgently needed his help. They had to endure and be patient. They left, sad and disappointed, although they were the Prophet’s daughter and cousin, they could not claim any social privilege.

Late in the evening, the Prophet came to their door. They wanted to get up to receive him, but Muhammad entered and sat at their bedside. He whispered: ”Shall I offer you something better than what you asked me for?” They assented, and the Prophet told them: ”They are words Gabriel has taught me, and that you should repeat ten times after each prayer:

Suban Allah (Glory to God)!”, then “Alhamdulillah (Praise be to God)”, then “Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest). Before going to bed, you should repeat each of those phrases thirty-three times.” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

True Love & Help

Sitting at his daughter’s bedside late at night, deeply attentive to her needs, he answered his daughter’s material request by granting her the privilege of a confidence from the divine: a spiritual teaching that has come down to us through the ages and each Muslim now adopts as his own at the heart of his daily life.

Fatimah, like her husband, `Ali, was a model of piety, generosity, and love. She lived in the light of her father’s spiritual teachings; getting by on little, asking everything of the One, and giving everything of herself to others.

Years later, by her dying father’s side, she was to weep intensely when he whispered in her ear that God was going to call him back to Him, that it was time for him to depart. She smiled happily when, a few minutes later, he told her in confidence – as loving confidence seems to reveal the essence of this father daughter relationship – that she was to be the first in her family to join him.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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Prophet Muhammad: A Morality Message for All Time

A few months after his return to Medina, in the eleventh year of hijrah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) decided to send an expedition to the north, near Mu’tah and Palestine, where a few years earlier Ja`far ibn Abi Talib, `Abdullah Ibn Rawahah, and Zayd ibn Harithah had been killed.

nature-peace

The Prophet had taught in various circumstances about warfare, respect for nature, or how to treat animals.

To everyone’s surprise, he gave the command to young Usamah, Zayd’s son, who was only twenty years old, though this three-thousand-strong army included such men as `Umar and other experienced Companions.

This choice gave rise to much criticism, but the Prophet reacted very promptly and put an end to all arguments when he proclaimed:

“You criticize the choice of Usamah to command the army as you had formerly criticized that of his father Zayd. Usamah is truly worthy of the command I entrust him with, as his father was before him.” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah)

Qualifications-based

In the past, some Muslims had reacted to the choice of Zayd because they still considered him as a slave, though he had been freed; now some opposed the choice of his son, perhaps because of his father, but mostly because of his young age.

By confirming his choice, Prophet Muhammad informed them that neither a man’s social origin nor his age should prevent him from exerting authority and power if he possessed the spiritual, intellectual, and moral qualities required. One had to show discernment by offering the most destitute in society real equality of opportunity and trusting the young so that everybody could express their skills and talents.

On a more general level, trust was a fine lesson in humility addressed to older Companions: they were to experience the inner, greater jihad of obeying a man who could have been their son, and in so doing remember that their time was limited, like any man’s.

By that choice, Prophet Muhammad taught them that time naturally erodes one’s energy, and one must be wise enough to learn to step aside, to delegate authority to those who are young and strong enough to create and build.

The Prophet gave young Usamah his recommendations and asked him to set out promptly. However, the Prophet’s sudden illness was to delay that departure, and the army waited near Medina during all those days of doubt about his condition.

Prophet Muhammad & War Ethics

A few weeks later, Abu Bakr was, according to the Prophet’s wish, to ask Usamah to carry out the expedition. He reminded him of the Prophet’s teachings concerning war ethics, for the latter had constantly insisted on the principles Muslims must respect when dealing with their enemies:

“Do not kill women, children, and old people,” Abu Bakr ordered him.

Literally, “Let the blood of women, children and old people never soil your hands.”

“Do not commit treacherous actions. Do not stray from the right path. Never mutilate. Do not destroy palm trees, do not burn houses and cornfields, do not cut down fruit trees, and do not kill livestock except when you are compelled to eat them …. As you move on, you will meet hermits who live in monasteries and serve God in seclusion. Leave them alone; do not kill them and do not destroy their monasteries.”  (At-Tabari)

Those teachings were essential, and they were conveyed to Usamah in the light of what the Prophet had said in various circumstances about warfare, respect for nature, or how to treat animals.

In a few sentences, Abu Bakr was synthesizing the essence of the Messenger’s teachings in this respect.

Years before, at the end of the Battle of Hunayn, the Prophet had passed by a group of people standing around a woman who lay on the ground, and heard that she had been killed by Khalid ibn Al-Waleed (who was then a recent convert). He was deeply angered and asked that Ibn Al-Waleed be told: “God’s Messenger forbids killing children, women, and slaves.” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah)

The Prophet’s Mercy

He had also blamed him when he had killed men who had already surrendered after a battle. In both cases, then, the message was the same: one should fight only enemy soldiers, while sparing all those who did not directly take part in armed conflict or could no longer cause any harm.

The Prophet had clearly stated before sending the Mu’tah expedition:

You shall not be treacherous, you shall not deceive, you shall not mutilate, you shall not kill children nor the inhabitants of hermitages (ashab as-sawami`).” (Ibn Hanbal)

War was never desirable, but when Muslims were compelled to it because they were attacked or because their survival was threatened, they had to keep strictly to what was needed to fight enemy forces who were armed and/ or determined to fight. If the latter wished for peace or surrendered, the war must be stopped, according to the Qur’anic injunction:

But if they incline toward peace, do you (also, in the same way) incline toward peace, and trust in God, for He is the One that hears and knows (all things). (Al-Anfal 8:61)

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The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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His Character New Muslims

Muhammad: The Exemplar of Coexistence and Moderation

Most traditionists report that the Prophet entered Makkah on the twentieth or twenty-first of Ramadan of the eighth year of hijrah (630 CE).

The Day of Mercy

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The Prophet taught his Companions not only to forgive, but also to always remember that nobody can be held responsible for someone else’s mistakes.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) had segmented his army into divisions that encircled the city (Makkah) and closed in on the center together. A few Quraish groups posted themselves on the hills, led by Suhayl, `lkrimah, and Safwan, but after the first confrontations, they realized that resisting was pointless.

Suhayl sought refuge in his home, and `Ikrimah and Safwan ran away. The Prophet had demanded that no fighting or battle should take place on that day, which he called “the day of mercy”. (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah)

Some eight years before, the Prophet had left Makkah secretly, but with dignity and with his head held high. The Prophet now came back to Makkah in broad daylight, victorious, but this time he prostrated himself on his mount in thankfulness to the One as he recited the verses from the Surat “AI-Fath” (The Victory):

Verily We have granted you a manifest victory, that God may forgive you your faults of the past and those to follow, fulfill His favor to you, and guide you on the straight path, and that God may aid you with powerful help. It is He Who sent down tranquility into the hearts of the believers, that they may add faith to their faith. (Al-Fath 48:1-4)

He entered Makkah expressing the deepest humility, and he required that the greatest kindness should be shown to the Muslims’ former foes. He performed the greater ablution and prayed eight cycles of voluntary ritual prayer before resting for a few hours.

After that, he mounted his camel, Qaswaa’, and went to the Ka`bah sanctuary, where he performed the seven rounds of circumambulation. Then, with his stick, he pulled down the idols and destroyed them while repeating the Qur’anic verse “Truth has arrived, and falsehood perished: for falsehood is bound to perish.” (Al-Israa’  17:8 1)

He had the keys to the sanctuary brought to him and required that all religious images be obliterated, in order to reconcile the House of God with its essence, which was to celebrate the worship of the One, Who cannot be represented and must not be associated with any image:

There is nothing whatever like Him, and He is the One that hears and sees. (Ash-Shura 42:11)

This gesture of destruction by the Prophet was, in appearance, the exact antithesis of all that he had usually been doing since leaving Makkah, as he had had mosques (devoid of any image) built to mark the sacred space of worship of the One God.

On the level of the spiritual message, however, this gesture was exactly of the same essence, since by breaking the idols that lay inside and near the Ka`bah he was destroying what had, in the course of centuries, perverted the cult of the Transcendent.

With this act Muhammad turned the Ka`bah into a real mosque, in which henceforth only the One was to be worshiped.

The Quraish people were gradually coming out of their homes and gathering inside the sanctuary enclosure. After destroying the idols, the Prophet exclaimed: “There is no god but God, the One, Who has no partner.”

He has fulfilled His promise, supported His servant, and routed the enemy clans; He alone (has done that). (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah)

Then he turned toward the Quraish, told them about the rules of Islam, and recited this verse:

O humankind! He created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know each other. Verily the most honored among you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you (the most deeply aware of God’s presence). And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

After that, he asked them “how they thought he was going to deal with them. (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah) They replied that as “a noble brother, son of a noble brother,” he would certainly deal with them kindly. (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah)

Forgiveness and Moderation

At that point, the Prophet recited the verse that punctuates the story of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) when he was reunited with his brothers, who had wanted to kill him: “This day let no reproach be (cast) On you: God will forgive you, and He is the Most-merciful of then who show mercy.” (Yusuf 12:92). Then he exclaimed: “Go on, you are free!” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah)

The Prophet granted his forgiveness to all the women and men who came to him or to a Companion. Wahshi ibn Harb, who had killed Hamzah, was also forgiven, but the Prophet asked him to refrain from appearing in his presence in the future.

Many Quraish converted to Islam on Mount As-Safa in front of `Umar; some years before, the Prophet had been called a liar on that same spot. When `Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl came to the Prophet, the latter warned his Companion: “`lkrimah, Abu Jahl’s son, is coming to you as a believer. Do not insult his father, for insulting the dead hurts the living without reaching the dead.”

He thus reminded them not only to forgive him but also to always remember that nobody can be held responsible for someone else’s mistakes. not even their father’s, according to the meaning of the Qur’anic verse “No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another”. ( Al-Israa’ 17:15) Prudence was required, as well as nobleness of soul.

The Prophet stayed in Makkah for two weeks, and the situation been to settle down. He sent expeditions to make sure that his alliances with the nearby tribes were solid and that those who had announced they accepted Islam had given up all idol worship.

Khalid ibn Al-Waleed had been entrusted with such a mission among the Banu Jadhimah, who eventually surrendered, but Khalid decided, against Abd Ar-Rahman ibn `Awf advice, to execute the prisoners toward whom he harbored particular resentment.

After executing some of them, he stopped at Abd Ar-Rahman’s insistence, the latter having made it dear to him that his behavior was motivated by other intentions than faith in God and justice. The Prophet got very angry when he heard of Khalid’s behavior; he decided to pay blood money for all the dead, and he kept repeating aloud: “0 God, I am innocent of what Khalid ibn Al-Waleed has done”. (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah An-Nabawyyah)

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).

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