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Worldly Life: Meaning & Purpose

Introduction

‘What is the meaning and purpose of life?’  This is, perhaps, the most important question that has ever been asked.  Throughout the ages, philosophers have considered it to be the most fundamental question.  Scientists, historians, philosophers, writers, psychologists and the common man all wrestle with the question at some point in their lives.

Is Reason a Sufficient Guide?

‘Why do we eat?’  ‘Why do we sleep?’  ‘Why do we work?’  The answers we would get to these questions would be similar.  ‘I eat to live.’  ‘I sleep to rest.’  ‘I work to support myself and my family.’  But when it comes to what the purpose of life is, people are confused.  We see their confusion by the type of answers we receive.  Youths may say, “I live for booze and bikinis.”  The middle aged professional might say, “I live to save enough for a comfortable retirement.”  The old man would probably say, “I’ve been asking why I’m here most of my life.  If there’s a purpose, I don’t care anymore.”  And perhaps the most common answer will be, “I really don’t know!”

How, then, do you discover the purpose of life?  We basically have two options.  The first is to let ‘human reason’ – the celebrated achievement of the Enlightenment – guide us.  After all, the Enlightenment gave us modern science based on careful observation of the natural world.  But have post-Enlightenment philosophers figured it out?  Camus described life as “absurd”; Sartre spoke of “anguish, abandonment and despair.”  To these Existentialists, life has no meaning.  Darwinians thought the meaning of life was to reproduce.  Will Durant, capturing the predicament of postmodern man, wrote, “Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day… it is not our homes and our treasuries that are empty, it is our ‘hearts’.”  When it comes to meaning of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing.  Will Durant, the most noted philosopher of the last century, and Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, both wrote separate books titled ‘The Meaning of Life.’[1] They wrote to the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals of their time in the world, asking them, “What is the meaning of life?”  Then they published their responses.  Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless.  In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked the authors to write back and tell them if the purpose of life was discovered!

Let the Heavens “Speak”

If the philosopher has no definitive answer, perhaps the answer can be found within the heart and mind that we ourselves possess.  Have you ever looked at the open sky on a clear night?  You will see an incalculable number of stars.  Look through a telescope and you will see gigantic spiral galaxies, beautiful nebula where new stars are being formed, the remnants of ancient supernova explosion created in a star’s final death throes, the magnificent rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.  Is it possible not to be moved by the sight of these countless stars in the night sky shining like diamond dust on a bed of black velvet?  Multitudes of stars beyond stars, stretching back; becoming so dense that they appear to merge into delicate wisps of sparkling mist.  The grandeur humbles us, thrills us, inspires a craving for investigation, and calls for our contemplation.  How did it come into being?  How are we related to it, and what is our place in it?  Can we hear the heavens “speak” to us?

“In the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day, there are surely signs for all who are endowed with insight, who remember God when they stand, and when they sit, and when they lie down to sleep, and reflect on the creation of the heavens and the earth: “O our Lord, You have not created this without meaning and purpose.  Limitless art You in Your glory…” (Quran 3:190-191)

 

 

When we read a book, we accept that an author exists.  When we see a house, we accept that a builder exists.  Both of these things were made with a purpose by those who made them.  The design, order, and complexity of the universe as well as the world around us are evidence of the existence of a supreme intelligence, a perfect designer.  All the heavenly bodies are controlled by precise laws of physics.  Can there be laws without a lawmaker?  Rocket scientist Dr. von Braun said: “The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second.  These laws must have been set by somebody.”  Paul Davies, a professor of physics, concludes that man’s existence is not a mere quirk of fate.  He states: “We are truly meant to be here.”  And he says regarding the universe: “Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact.  There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation.”  The universe, the earth, and living things on the earth all give silent testimony to an intelligent, powerful Creator.

 

 

 

Figure 2 Central region of the Trifid Nebula taken by the Gemini Telescope on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii, June 5, 2002.  Located in the constellation of Sagittarius, the beautiful nebula is a much-photographed, dynamic cloud of gas and dust where stars are being born.  One of the massive stars at the nebula’s center was born approximately 100,000 years ago.  The nebula’s distance from the Solar System is generally agreed to be somewhere between 2,200 to 9,000 light years away.

Image courtesy of Gemini Observatory Image/GMOS Commissioning Team.

If we were made by a Creator, then surely that Creator must have had a reason, a purpose, in creating us.  Thus, it is important that seek to know God’s purpose for our existence.  After coming to the realization of this purpose, we can choose whether we want to live in harmony with it.  But is it possible to know what is expected from us left to our own devices without any communication from the Creator?  It is natural that God Himself would inform us of this purpose, especially if we are expected to fulfill it..

 

Alternative to Speculation: Ask God

This brings us to the second option: the alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life is revelation.  The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor.  To discover the purpose of your life, ask God.

 

Can Christianity Answer the Question?

In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in finding Jesus as Savior.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”  However, the proposition is not without serious problems.  First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world?  Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence!  Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation?  Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.

The Answer

Islam is the response to humanity’s search for meaning.  The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: to know and worship God.

The Quran teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God,

“(Remember) when your Lord extracted from the loins of Adam’s children their descendants and made them testify [saying]: ‘Am I not your Lord?’  They said: ‘Yes, we testify to it.’  (This was) in case you say on the Day of Judgment: ‘We were unaware of this.’  Or you say: ‘It was our ancestors who worshipped others besides God and we are only their descendants.  Will you then destroy us for what those liars did?’”(Quran 7:172-173)

The Prophet of Islam teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made.  God took a covenant from Adam when He created him.  God extracted all of Adam’s descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them.  He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord.  Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God.  This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic.  Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning.  If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God – a single Creator – but all children are affected by their environment.  The Prophet of God said,

“Each child is born in a state of ‘fitra’, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian.  It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring.  Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?”[2]

 

Figure 1 The marvel of life.  An unborn fetus sucking its thumb.

So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator.  However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it.  The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion.  When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason.  As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition towards God and their desires in order to find the correct path.  The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created,

“I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship.” (Quran 51:56)

According to Islam, there has been a basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad, may God praise them all.  All the prophets sent by God came with the same essential message:

“Indeed, We have sent a messenger to every nation (saying), ‘Worship God and avoid false gods…’” (Quran 16:36)

The prophets brought the same answer to mankind’s most troubling question, an answer that addresses the yearning of the soul for God.

 

What is Worship?

‘Islam’ means ‘submission’, and worship, in Islam, means ‘obedient submission to the will of God.’

Every created being ‘submits’ to the Creator by following the physical laws created by God,

“To Him belongs whosoever is in the heavens and the earth; all obey His will.” (Quran 30:26)

They, however, are neither rewarded nor punished for their ‘submission’, for it involves no will.  Reward and punishment are for those who worship God, who submit to the moral and religious Law of God of their own free will.  This worship is the essence of the message of all the prophets sent by God to mankind.  For example, this understanding of worship was emphatically expressed by Jesus Christ,

“None of those who call me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of God, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

‘Will’ means ‘what God wants human beings to do.’  This ‘Will of God’ is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers.  Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship.  Only when human beings worship their God by submitting to His religious law can they have peace and harmony in their lives and the hope for heaven, just like the universe runs in harmony by submitting to the physical laws set by its Lord.  When you remove the hope of heaven, you remove the ultimate value and purpose of life.  Otherwise, what difference would it really make whether we live a life of virtue or vice?  Everyone’s fate would be the same anyway.

Who Needs Worship?

God is in no need of our worship, it is mankind that needs to worship God.  If no-one were to worship God, it would not take away from His glory in any way, and if all of mankind were to worship Him, it would not add to His glory.  It is we, who are in need of God:

“I need no provision from them, neither do I need that they should feed Me for, surely, God Himself is the Provider of all sustenance, the Possessor of mighty power.” (Quran 51:57-58)

“…But God is Rich, and it is you that are poor…” (Quran 47:38)

How to Worship God: And Why.

God is worshipped by obeying the laws He revealed through the prophets.  For example, in the Bible, Prophet Jesus made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise:

“If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).

Also Prophet Jesus is reported in the Bible to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments, saying:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19)

Why do human beings need to worship God by obeying the divinely revealed laws?  The answer is simple.  Obedience to divine law brings peace to this life and salvation in the next.

Divine laws provide human beings a clear code to guide every sphere of human life and interaction.  Since the Creator alone knows best what is best for His creation, His laws protect the human soul, body, and society from harm.  In order for human beings to fulfill their purpose of creation, they must worship God by obeying His commandments.

The False Gods of Modernity

God is Who gives meaning and orientation to life.  On the other hand, modern life lacks a single center, a single orientation, a single goal, a single purpose.  It has no common principle or guideline.

Since Islam considers a god to be an entity that is served out of love, deep respect, and anticipation of reward, one can say that the modern world serves many gods.  The gods of modernity give meaning and context to the life of modern man.

We live in a house of language, and our words and expressions are the windows through which we look out at the world.  Evolution, nationalism, feminism, socialism, Marxism, and, depending on how they are employed, democracy, freedom, and equality can be listed among the indefinable ideologies of modern times.  “Plastic words,” to borrow the words of Uwe Poerksen, a German linguist, have been used to usurp God’s power and authority to shape and define the goal of society, or even of humanity itself.  These words have connotations with a ‘feel good’ aura.  Indefinable words become a limitless ideal.  By making the ideal limitless, unlimited needs are awakened, and once these needs are awakened, they appear to be ‘self-evident.’

As it is easy to fall into the habit of worshipping false gods, people then have no protection against the multiplicity of gods that modern ways of thinking demand that they serve.  The “plastic words” give great power to those ‘prophets’ who speak on their behalf, because they speak in the name of ‘self-evident’ truths, so other people keep silent.  We must follow their authority; the axiomatic pundits who lay down the Law for our health, welfare, well-being, and education.

The window of modernity through which we perceive reality today is marked by cracks, smudges, blind spots, and filters.  It covers the reality.  And the reality is that people have no real need except toward God.  But nowadays, these empty ‘idols’ have become the objects of people’s devotion and worship, as the Quran states:

“Have you not seen the one who takes his desires as his god?…” (Quran 45:23)

Each of these “plastic words” makes other words appear primitive and out-of-date.  ‘Believers’ in idols of modernity are proud of worshipping these gods; friends and colleagues consider them enlightened for doing so.  Those who still insist on holding onto the “old” God can cover up the embarrassment of doing so by worshipping the new ‘modern’ gods along with Him.  Obviously, many people who claim to worship the “old-fashioned” God will twist His teachings in this event, so that He also seems to be telling us to serve these “plastic words.”

The worship of false gods entails the corruption not only of individuals and society, but also of the natural world.  When people refuse to serve and worship God as He has asked them to serve Him, they cannot fulfill the functions for which He has created them.  The result is that our world becomes ever more chaotic, just as the Quran tells us:

“Corruption has appeared in the land and the sea because of what the hands of people have earned.” (Quran 30:41)

Islam’s answer to the meaning and purpose of life fulfills the fundamental human need: a return to God.  However, everyone is going back to God willy-nilly, so the question is not merely going back, but how one goes back.  Will it be in shameful agonizing chains awaiting punishment, or joyful and grateful humility for that which God has promised?  If you await the latter, then through the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, God guides people back to Him in a manner that will ensure their eternal happiness.


Footnotes:

[1] “On the Meaning of Life”  by Will Durant. Pub: Ray Long & Richard R. Smith, Inc. New York 1932 and “The Meaning of Life”  by Hugh S. Moorhead (ed.). Pub: Chicago Review Press, 1988.

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim. The Arabs would cut the ears of camels and the likes as a service to their gods in pre-Islamic times.

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The Purpose of Life By Khalid Yasin

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Mu`adh Ibn Jabal: The Most Learned of Halal and Haram

By: Khalid Muhammad Khalid

Among the seventy-man delegation of the Ansar who took the oath of allegiance to the Prophet in the Second Allegiance of `Aqabah sat a young man with a bright face, graceful eyes, and a radiant smile. When he was silent, he attracted attention with his profound peacefulness and devoutness. On the other hand, when he talked, he held his people spellbound. This young man was Mu`adh lbn Jabal (May Allah be pleased with him).

Mu`adh Ibn Jabal: The Most Learned of Halal and Haram

Mu`adh Ibn Jaba was a man of remarkably enlightened, resolute, and decisive mind.

He belonged to the Ansar, and he was among the foremost believers who gave the second oath of allegiance to the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Naturally, a man of such precedence, faith, and certainty would not miss for the world a battle or an expedition. His uppermost quality was his knowledge of fiqh (jurisprudence) the practical aspect of Muhammad’s message. He reached the apex in knowledge and fiqh, to the extent that made the Prophet (peace be upon him) say, “The most learned man of my nation in halal and haram is Mu`adh Ibn Jabal.”

He resembled `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab in his enlightenment, courage and intelligence. When the Prophet sent him to Yemen, he asked him, “How will you give a judgment or settle a dispute?” Mu`adh answered; “I will refer to the Qur’an.” The Prophet then asked, “What will you do if you do not find the decree you are looking for in the Qur’an?” Mu`adh answered, “I will refer to the Prophet’s Sunnah.” The Prophet asked, “But what will you do if you do not find a decree even in the Sunnah?” Mu`adh readily answered, “I will be judge between mankind by resorting to juristic reasoning (ijtihad) to the best of my power.”

Now, Mu`adh’s staunch commitment to Allah’s Book and the Prophet’s Sunnah does not mean that he closed his mind to the countless and endless hidden or equivocal facts that await someone to unravel and adjudicate.

Perhaps both Mu`adh’s ability in juristic reasoning and the courageous usage of his intelligence enabled him to master the fiqh, excelling all other scholars. The Prophet justifiably described Mu`aadh as “the most learned man of my nation in halal and haram.”

Decisive Mind, Well-mannered

 

History portrays him as a man of remarkably enlightened, resolute, and decisive mind. For instance, `Aaez Allah lbn `AbduAllah narrated that one day he entered the mosque with the Companions of the Prophet at the dawn of `Umar’s caliphate. Then he sat among more than thirty men. Let us hear him narrate the story: “I sat with a group of more than thirty men. They were recalling a hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him). In this ring sat a dark, swarthy young man who had a sweet voice and a radiant face.

Whenever they disputed about a hidden or ambiguous meaning in the Hadith, they at once sought his legal instruction or judgment. He seldom, if ever, spoke unless he was asked. When their meeting was over, I approached him and asked him, “Who are you, O Allah’s Slave?” He answered, “I am Mu`adh Ibn Jabal.” So I instantly felt dose to him.

Also, Shahr Ibn Hawshab said, “Whenever Mu`adh lbn Jabal was present when the Companions of the Prophet were holding a meeting, they looked at him with reverence”.

`Umar Ibn Al-khattab, the Commander of the Faithful, often consulted him. It seemed that Mu`adh had a highly disciplined mind and a captivating and convincing logic that moved peacefully and knowledgeably. When we look at his historical background, we will always see him at the center of attention.

He always sat there surrounded by people. He always maintained a discrete silence that was only broken whenever people were anxious to hear his judgment and whenever they were in dispute.

When he spoke he looked, as one of his contemporaries described, “as if light and pearls were emanating from his mouth rather than speech.”

He reached his high rank in knowledge and reverence when the Prophet was alive and maintained it after his death, notwithstanding his youth, for Mu`adh died during `Umar’s caliphate at the age of thirty-three years.

Knowledgeable

Mu`adh was generous, magnanimous, well-mannered, and good-natured. If anyone asked him for money, he would readily and gladly give it to him. His generosity made him spend all his money on charity and aid.

When the Prophet died, Mu`adh was still in Yemen, where the Prophet had sent him with the task of teaching Muslims their religion and fiqh.

After a while, Mu`adh emigrated to Syria, where he lived among its people and the expatriates as a teacher and a scholar of fiqh. When Abu `Ubaydah, the governor of Syria and a close friend of Mu`adh, died, the Commander of the Faithful `Umar Ibn Al khattab assigned Mu`adh to take his place as a ruler.

Only a few months had elapsed after his taking over when he died, humble and repentant to Allah. `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) used to say, “If I were to grant Mu`adh Ibn Jabal succession and Allah asked me, `Why did you make him your successor?’ I would readily answer, `I heard Your Prophet say that when those who have knowledge stand before Allah, Mu`adh will be among them.”

The succession that `Umar meant here was not merely over a country or a governorship but over all the Muslim lands. When `Umar was asked before his death, “If you choose your successor now, we will give him our allegiance,” he answered, “If Mu’aadh lbn Jabal were alive and I made him my successor to the caliphate, then I died and met Allah Who asked me, `Whom did you assign to rule Muhammad’s nation?’ I would answer, `I assigned Mu`adh lbn Jabal to rule it after I heard the Prophet say ‘Mu`adh Ibn Jabal is the Imam of those who have knowledge of Judgment Day.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said one day, “O Mu`adh, by Allah I love you dearly, so do not forget to recite after every prayer, `Allah help me in remembering You, in offering thanks to You, and in worshiping You properly.’”

Indeed, the Prophet supplicated Allah to help him to remember Him. The Prophet persevered in stressing this great fact that tells people that authority belongs to Allah, He has the power over all, and there is no power or any might except with His permission, for He is Most High and Most Great.

Definitely, Mu`adh had learned and fully grasped this fact.

He did his utmost to cherish and apply this fundamental basis in his life from that moment onwards.

Knowledge & Practice

Mu`adh advocated knowledge and the remembrance of Allah. Moreover, he invited mankind to seek the useful and true knowledge saying, “I warn you against the deviation of wise men. You will know the truth when you see it, for it has a distinctive light!” He believed that worship was an end and a means to reach justice.

One day a Muslim asked him, “Teach me.” Mu`adh asked him, “Will you obey me if I teach you?” The man answered, “I will not disobey you in anything.” He said then, “Fast, then break your fast. Pray during the night but you must get some sleep. Earn what is halal and what is rightfully yours and do not earn sin. Die as a true Muslim. Finally, I warn you against the supplication of those who have been wronged or oppressed.”

He believed that education meant knowledge and practice; therefore, he said, “Learn whatever you like to learn, yet Allah will not make your learning worthwhile unless you practice what you have learned.”

He believed that belief and remembrance of Allah meant the perpetual calling to mind of His greatness and the perpetual calling of oneself to account for deeds before Allah does so.

His Death

At the end, death summoned Mu`adh. It was time to meet Allah. When the stupor of death creeps upon someone, his subconscious takes the reins and spurs the tongue – if it is able to – to disclose the reality of all mankind in concise words that summarize his life story.

In those blessed moments, Mu`adh faintly uttered great words that revealed a great believer, for he gazed up into the sky and humbly supplicated Allah, the Most Merciful, saying,

“Allah I used to fear You but now I implore You. Allah, You know that I did not devote my life to travel in the lands or to earn money or property but rather consecrated it to knowledge, faith and obedience, notwithstanding intense heat or hardships.”

He stretched his hand as if he were shaking death and went into a coma. His last words were, “O Death, welcome! You are a long-awaited beloved.”

At last Mu`adh ascended to Allah’s Paradise.

_________________________

The article is excerpted from the book Men Around the Messenger, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.

Khalid Muhammad Khalid (1920-1996) is a modern Egyptian Muslim thinker. He is most known for his book Rijal Hawla al-Rasul (Men Around the Messenger). He wrote many books about the life and the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

 

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Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib: The Lion of Allah & Martyr of Martyrs (Part 1)

By: Khalid Muhammad Khalid

Hamzah: Uncle & Brother

After a day full of work, worship, and entertainment, the people of Makkah fell into a deep sleep.

The people of the Quraish were turning in their beds except for one who forsook his bed of sleep. He used to go to bed early, rest for a few hours, then wake up in great anxiety for the expected appointment with Allah. He went to the praying corner in his room to supplicate to his God.

Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib: The Lion of Allah

Hamzah was not only physically strong, but was also wise and strong-willed.

Whenever his wife awakened upon hearing the voice of his long supplications, she shed tears out of warm sympathy and asked him not to take it so hard and to get some sleep. He only answered her in tears, ”The time for sleep is over, khadijah.”

At that time Muhammad was not yet a serious problem for the Quraish, although he had started to draw their attention as he started to spread his call secretly; those who believed in him were still quite few.

There were people among the non-believers who loved and respected him. They yearned to declare their belief in him and become one of his followers, but their fear of the prevailing norms and the pressure of inherited traditions prevented them. Among them was Hamzah lbn `Abdul-Muttalib, the Prophet’s paternal uncle who was at the same time his brother through fosterage (i.e. they had been breast-fed by the same woman).

The Call

Hamzah was fully aware of the greatness of his nephew and of the truth he came with. He used to know him not only as a nephew, but also as a brother and friend because they both belonged to the same generation.

They always played together and walked together on the same road of life step by step. But in their youth they departed, each one in his own way: Hamzah preferred the life of leisure, trying to take his place among the prominent leaders of the Quraish and Makkah, while Muhammad chose the life of seclusion away from the crowd, immersed in the deep spiritual meditation that prepared him to receive the truth.

Despite the fact that each of them had a different way of living out his own youth, Hamzah was always attentive to the virtues of his friend and nephew. Such virtues helped Muhammad to win a special place in the hearts of people and helped to draw a clear outline for his great future.

The next day, Hamzah went out as usual. At the Ka`bah he found a number of Quraishi noblemen. He sat with them, listening to what they had to say: they were talking about Muhammad.

For the first time Hamzah saw them worried about the call his nephew was propagating with a tone of bitterness and rage marking their voices. Before that, they had never paid attention – at least they had pretended not to do so – but on that day their faces looked perplexed, upset, and aggressive.

Hamzah laughed at their talks and accused them of exaggeration. Abu Jahl said to his companions that Hamzah was the best one to know the danger of his nephew’s call and that he pretended to underestimate this danger till the Quraish would relax so much that when they awakened it would be after his nephew had complete control over them.

They kept talking and threatening while Hamzah sat, sometimes smiling, sometimes frowning. When they dispersed his head was full of new ideas about the issues of his nephew that they had discussed in his presence.

Strong Belief

Days passed and the Quraish’s whispering about the Prophet’s call increased. Later, whispering turned into provocation and Hamzah watched from a distance. His nephew’s composed, steadfast attitude towards their provocations puzzled him. Such an attitude was quite unfamiliar to the Bani Quraish, who were themselves known to be strong and challenging.

If doubts of the greatness and truth of Muhammad could steal into anyone’s heart, they would have never stolen into Hamzah’s heart, because he was the best one to know Muhammad from his early childhood to his youth, then to his proud, honest manhood. Hamzah knew Muhammad as he knew himself and maybe more.

Since they had come into life together, grown up together, and attained full strength together, Muhammad’s life had been as pure and clear as the sunlight. It never occurred to Hamzah that Muhammad could make an error or a doubtful act in his life. He never saw Muhammad angry, hopeless , greedy, careless, or unstable.

Hamzah was not only physically strong, but was also wise and strong-willed.

Therefore, it was natural for him to follow a man in whose honesty and truthfulness he wholeheartedly believed. Thus he kept a secret in his heart that was soon going to be disclosed.

Then came the day. Hamzah went out of his house towards the desert carrying his bow to practice his favorite sport of hunting (in which he was very skilled). He spent most of his day there. On his way home he passed by the Ka`bah as usual, to circumambulate it.

Near the Ka`bah, a female servant of `Abdullah lbn Jud`an saw him and said, “O Abu `Umarah!

You haven’t seen what happened to your nephew at the hands of Abu Al-Hakam ibn Hisham. When he saw Muhammad sitting there, he hurt him and called him bad names and treated him in a way that he hated.”

She went on to explain what Abu Jahl had done to the Prophet of Allah. Hamzah listened to her carefully and paused for a while, then with his right hand he picked up his bow and put it on his shoulder. He walked with fast, steady steps towards the Ka`bah, hoping to meet Abu Jahl there. He decided that if he did not find him, he would search for him everywhere till he did.

As soon as he reached the Ka`bah he glanced at Abu Jahl sitting in the yard in the middle of the Quraishi noblemen. Hamzah advanced very calmly towards Abu Jahl and hit him with his bow on the head till it broke the skin and bled. To everybody’s surprise, Hamzah shouted, “You dare to insult Muhammad while I follow his religion and I say what he says? Come and retaliate upon me. Hit me if you can.”

In a moment they all forgot how their leader Abu Jahl had been insulted and they were all thunderstruck by the news that Hamzah had converted to Muhammad’s religion and that he saw what Muhammad saw and said what he said. Could Hamzah really have converted to Islam when he was the strongest and most dignified Quraishi young man?

Such was the overwhelming disaster to which the Quraish were helpless, because Hamzah’s conversion would attract others from the elite to do the same. Thus Muhammad’s call would be supported, and he would find enough solidarity that the Quraish might wake up one day to find their idols being pulled down. Indeed, Hamzah had converted, and he announced what he had kept secret in his heart for so long.

Loss & Uncertainty

Again Hamzah picked up his bow, put it on his shoulder, and with steady steps and full strength left the place with everyone looking disappointed and Abu Jahl licking the blood flowing from his wounded head.

Hamzah possessed a sharp sight and dear consciousness. He went home, and after he had relaxed from the day’s exhaustion he sat down to think over what had happened. He had announced it in a moment of indignation and rage. He hated to see his nephew getting insulted and suffering injustice with no one to help him.

Such racial zeal for the honor of Bani Hashim’s talk had made him hit Abu Jahl on the head and shout declaring his Islam. But was that the ideal way for anyone to change the religion of his parents and ancestors and to embrace a new religion whose teachings he had not yet become familiar with and whose true reality he had not acquired sufficient knowledge of?

It was true that Hamzah had never had any doubts about Muhammad’s integrity, but could anybody embrace a new religion with all its responsibilities just in a moment of rage as Hamzah had done?

Yearning for Guidance

It was true that he had always kept in his heart a great respect for the new call his nephew was carrying and its banner, but what should the right time have been to embrace this religion if he was destined to embrace it? Should it be a moment of indignation and anger or a moment of deep reflection?

Thus he was inspired by a clear consciousness to reconsider the whole situation in light of strict and meticulous thinking.

Hamzah started thinking. He spent many restless days and sleepless nights. When one tries to attain the truth by the power of mind, uncertainty will become a means of knowledge, and this is what happened to Hamzah.

Once he used his mind to search Islam and to weigh between the old religion and the new one, he started to have doubts raised by his innate inherited nostalgia for his father’s religion and by the natural fear of anything new. All his memories of the Ka`bah, the idols, the statues and the high religious status these idols bestowed on the Quraish and Makkah were raised.

It appeared to him that denying all this history and the ancient religion was like a big chasm which had to be crossed. Hamzah was amazed at how a man could depart from the religion of his father that early and that fast. He regretted what he had done but he went on with the journey of reasonable thinking.

Faith and Certainty

But at that moment, he realized that his mind was not enough and that he should resort sincerely to the unseen power. At the Ka`bah he prayed and supplicated to heaven, seeking help from every light that existed in the universe to be guided to the right path.

Let us hear him narrating his own story: “I regretted having departed from the religion of my father and kin, and I was in a terrible state of uncertainty and could not sleep. I came to the Ka`bah and supplicated to Allah to open my heart to what was right and to eliminate all doubts from it. Allah answered my prayer and filled my heart with faith and certainty. In the morning I went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) informing him about myself, and he prayed to Allah that He may keep my heart stable in this religion.

In this way Hamzah converted to Islam, the religion of certainty.

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The article is excerpted from the book Men Around the Messenger, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.

Khalid Muhammad Khalid (1920-1996) is a modern Egyptian Muslim thinker. He is most known for his book Rijal Hawla al-Rasul (Men Around the Messenger). He wrote many books about the life and the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

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Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib: The Lion of Allah & the Martyr of Martyrs (Part 2)

By: Khalid Muhammad Khalid

Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib: The Lion of Allah & Martyr of Martyrs (Part 1)

Allah supported Islam with Hamzah’s conversion. He was strong in defending the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) and the helpless amongst his Companions. When Abu Jahl saw him among the Muslims, he realized that war was inevitably coming.

Hamzah ibn `Abdul-Muttalib: The Lion of Allah & the Martyr of Martyrs (Part 2)

Since his conversion, Hamzah devoted all his life and power to Allah and His religion.

Therefore he began to support the Quraish to ruin the Prophet and his Companions. He wanted to prepare for a civil war to relieve his heart of anger and bitter feelings.

Hamzah was unable, of course, to prevent all the harm alone, but his conversion was a shield that protected the Muslims, and was the first source of attraction to many tribes to embrace Islam. The second source was `Umar Ibn Al-Khattab’s conversion, after which people entered Allah’s religion in crowds.

Since his conversion, Hamzah devoted all his life and power to Allah and His religion till the Prophet peace be upon him) honored him with the noble title, “The Lion of Allah and of His Messenger”.

The first military raid launched by the Muslims against their enemies was under the command of Hamzah. The first banner that the Prophet handed to any Muslim was to Hamzah. In the battle of Badr, when the two conflicting parties met, the Lion of Allah and of His Messenger was there performing great wonders.

The defeated remnants of the Quraish army went back to Makkah stumbling in disappointment. Abu Sufyan was broken hearted with a bowed head as he left on the battlefield the dead bodies of the Quraish martyrs such as Abu Jahl, Utbah ibn Rabii`ah, Shaibah ibn Rabii`ah, Umaiyah ibn khalaf, `Uqbah ibnn Abi Mu`ait, Al-Aswad ibn `Abdul Al-Asad Al-Makhzumi, Al- Wallid ibn `Utbah, Al-Nafr ibn Al-Haarith, Al-`Aas lbn Sa`eed, Ta`mah ibn `Addi and tens of other great Quraish.

But the Quraish would not accept the defeat easily. They started to prepare the army and to pull together all powers to avenge their honor and their dead. They insisted to continue the war.

Uhud

In the Battle of Uhud, all the Quraish went to war together with their allies from the Arabs, under the leadership of Abu Sufyan once again.

The Quraishi leaders had targeted two persons in the new battle, namely, the Prophet and Hamzah (May Allah be pleased with him). If one had heard them talking and plotting before the war, one would realize that Hamzah was their second main target after the Prophet.

Before they went to war, they had already chosen the person in charge of assassinating Hamzah: an Abyssinian slave with extra ordinary skill in spear throwing. They planned for him to kill Hamzah, his only role being to hit him with a deadly spear. They warned him not to be busy with any other preoccupation other than Hamzah, regardless of the situation on the battlefield. They promised him the excellent reward of his freedom.

The slave, whose name was Wahshiy, was owned by Jubair ibn Mut`am. Jubair’s uncle had been killed in the Battle of Badr, so Jubair said to Wahshiy, “Go out with the army, and if you kill Hamzah you will be free.” Afterwards, the Quraish sent Wahshiy to Hind Bint `Utbah, Abu Sufyan’s wife, to give him more encouragement to kill Hamzah, because she had lost her father, uncle, brother, and son and it was said that Hamzah had been behind their deaths.

This was the reason why Hind was the most enthusiastic one of all the Quraish to escalate the war.

All she wanted was Hamzah’s head, whatever the cost might be. She spent days before the battle pouring all her rage into Wahshiy’s heart and making the plans for him. She promised him if he killed Hamzah she would give him her most precious trinkets. With her hateful fingers she held her precious pearl earrings and a number of golden necklaces around her neck and gazed at him saying, “All these are yours if you kill Hamzah.”

Wahshiy’s mouth watered for the offer, and his soul yearned for the battle after which he would win his freedom and cease to be a slave, in addition to all the jewelry decorating the neck of the leading woman of the Quraish, the wife of its leader, and the daughter of its master. It was clear then that the whole war and the whole conspiracy were decisively seeking Hamzah.

Thus the Lion of Allah and of His Messenger died as a great martyr. His death was as unusual as his life, because it was not enough for his enemies to kill him. They sacrificed all the men and money of the Quraish to a battle only seeking the Prophet and his uncle Hamzah.

Worse Loss

The battle ended and the polytheists mounted their camels and led their horses back to Makkah. The Prophet (peace be upon him) and his Companions examined the battlefield to see the martyrs. There, in the heart of the valley, the Prophet was examining the faces of his Companions who had offered their souls to their Lord and had given their lives as a precious sacrifice to Him.

The Prophet suddenly stood up and gazed in an upset manner at what he saw. He ground his teeth and dosed his eyes. He never imagined that the Arabic moral code could be that savage so as to cut and disfigure a dead body in the dreadful way that had happened to his uncle, the Lion of Allah, Hamzah Ibn `Abdul Muttalib. The Prophet opened his shining eyes and looked at the dead body of his uncle saying, “I will never have a worse loss in my life than yours. I have never been more outraged than I am now”.

Then he turned to his Companions saying, “It is only for the sake of Safiyah (Hamzah’s sister) that she should be grieved and that it should be taken as a practice after me. Otherwise, I would have ordered him to be left without burying so that he may be in the stomachs of beasts and in the craws of birds. If Allah destines me to win over the Quraish, I will cut thirty of them into pieces.”

Best Honor

Therefore, the Companions shouted, “By Allah, if one day we conquer them, we will cut them in a way that no Arab has done before!” Allah honored Hamzah by making his death a great lesson for the Muslims to learn justice and mercy, even in situations when penalties and retaliation were justified.

No sooner had the Prophet finished his threatening words, then a revelation came down to him while he was still standing in his place with the following verse:

Call mankind to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and sound advice, and reason with them in a well-mannered way. Indeed your Lord is well aware of those who have gone astray from His way, and He is well aware of those who are guided. And if you retaliate, let your retaliation be to the extent that you were afflicted, but if you are patient, it will certainly be best for those who are patient; and be patient, yet your patience is only with the help of God, and do not sorrow for them, not distress yourself at what they devise. Indeed GOD is with those who are pious, and those who are doers of good. (An-Nahl 16:125-127)

The revelation of these verses in this situation was the best honor for Hamzah. As stated before, the Prophet loved him dearly because he was not only an uncle, but also his brother by fosterage, his playmate in childhood, and the best friend in all his life.

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The article is excerpted from the book Men Around the Messenger, which is a translation based on Khalid Muhammad Khalid’s celebrated work in Arabic “Rijal Hawla Ar-Rasul” which represents the real inspirational stories of sixty-four Companions of the Prophet.

Khalid Muhammad Khalid (1920-1996) is a modern Egyptian Muslim thinker. He is most known for his book Rijal Hawla al-Rasul (Men Around the Messenger). He wrote many books about the life and the companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

 

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