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Major Sins New Muslims

The Concept of Sin in Islam

gloomy nature

The idea of ‘Original Sin’ or hereditary criminality has no room in the teachings of Islam.

One of the major troublesome areas of human existence is the problem of sin or evil in the world. It is commonly believed that sin started with Adam and Eve during their life in the Garden of Eden. That event led to the ‘Fall’ and has ever since branded the human race with guilt, stigma, and bewilderment.

The First Sin

Islam has taken a unique position on the whole issue, a position which is not shared by any other religion we know. The Qur’an states that Adam and Eve were directed by God to reside in the Garden of Eden and enjoy its produce as they pleased, assured of bountiful supplies and comfort. But they were warned not to approach a particular tree so that they would not run into harm and injustice.

Then Satan intrigued them to temptation and caused them to lose their joyful state. They were expelled from the Garden and brought down to earth to live, die, and taken out again at last for the Final Judgment. Having realized what they had done, they felt shame, guilt, and remorse. They prayed for God’ s mercy and were forgiven (Al-Baqarah 2:35-38; Al-A`raf 7:19-25; Ta-Ha 20:117-123).

And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the Garden, and eat you freely (of the fruits) thereof where you will; but come not nigh this tree lest you become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:35-37)

This symbolic event is significantly revealing. It tells that the human being is imperfect and ever wanting even if he were to live in paradise. But committing a sin or making a mistake, as Adam and Eve did, does not necessarily deaden the human heart, prevent spiritual reform or stop moral growth.

Human Accountability

On the contrary, the human being has enough sensibility to recognize his sins and shortcomings. More importantly, he is capable of knowing where to turn and to whom he should turn for guidance.

Much more important is the fact that God is ever prepared to respond to the sincere calls of those who seek His aid. He is so Gracious and Compassionate that His forgiveness is encompassing and His mercy all–inclusive: “My mercy embraces all things” (Al-A`raf 7:156). One last revealing reading of the event is that discrimination on the basis of sex and hereditary guilt or sin are alien to the spirit of Islam.

field-nature

Whatever becomes of man after birth is the result of external influence and intruding factors.

The idea of ‘Original Sin’ or hereditary criminality has no room in the teachings of Islam. Man, according to the Qur’an and to the Prophet, is born in natural state of purity or fitrah, that is, Islam or submission to the will and law of God. Allah says:

So set your purpose (O Muhammad) for religion as a man by nature upright – the nature (framed) of Allah, in which He has created man. There is no altering (the laws of) Allah’s creation. That is the right religion, but most men know not. (Ar-Rum 30:30)

Whatever becomes of man after birth is the result of external influence and intruding factors. To put the matter in terms of modern thought, human nature is malleable; it is the socialization process, particularly the home environment, that is crucial. It plays a decisive role in the formation of human personality and the development of moral character.

This does not deny to the individual the freedom of choice or exempt him from responsibility. Rather, it is a relief from that heavy burden of hereditary criminality or instinctual sin.

Between Good & Evil

God, by definition, is Just, Wise, Merciful, Compassionate, and Perfect. He has created man by breathing into him of His own Spirit (Al-Hijr 15:29; As-Sajdah 32:9; At-Tahrim 66:12).

So, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My Spirit… (Al-Hijr 15:29)

Since God is absolutely good and His Spirit is absolutely perfect one; since man, through creation, received of the Spirit of God, then man was bound to retain at least some portion of this good Spirit of the Creator. This may account for the good dispositions of man and his spiritual longings. But, on the other hand, God created man to worship Him, not to be His equal, rival, the perfect incarnation or absolute embodiment of His goodness.

This means that no matter how much good and perfect man may be, by the grace of creation, he is still far short of the goodness and perfection of the Creator. Man is not without such qualities, to be sure. But they are limited and proportionate to man’ s finite nature, capacity, and responsibility. This may explain the imperfection and fallibility of man.

However, imperfection and fallibility are not the equivalent of sin or synonymous with criminality – at least not in Islam. If man is imperfect he is not left helpless or deserted by God to fall victim to his shortcomings. He is empowered by revelations, supported by reason, fortified by the freedom of choice, and guided by various social and psychological dispositions to seek and achieve relative perfection.

The constant gravitation between the forces of good and evil is the struggle of life. It gives man something to look forward to, ideals to seek, work to do, and roles to play. It makes his life interesting and meaningful, not monotonous and stagnant. On the other hand, it pleases God to see His servants in a state of spiritual and moral victory.

Sins/Sinful Acts

According to the moral scale of Islam, it is not a sin that man is imperfect or fallible. This is part of his nature as a finite limited creature. But it is a sin if he has the ways and means of relative perfection and chooses not to seek it.

A sin is any act, thought, or will that (1) is deliberate, (2) defies the unequivocal law of God, (3) violates the right of God or the right of man, (4) is harmful to the soul or body, (5) is committed repeatedly, and (6) is normally avoidable. These are the components of sin which is not innate or hereditary.

It is true, however, that man has the potential capacity of sin latent in him; but this is not greater than his capacity of piety and goodness. If he chooses to actualize the potential of sin instead of the potential of goodness, he will be adding a new external element to his pure nature. For this added external element man alone is responsible.

In Islam, there are major and minor sins as there are sins against God and sins against both God and man. All sins against God, except one, are forgivable if the sinner sincerely seeks forgiveness. The Qur’an has stated that truly God does not forgive the sin of shirk (polytheism, pantheism, trinity, etc.).

But He forgives sins other than this and pardons whom He wills. Yet if the polytheist or atheist comes back to God, his sin will be forgiven. Sins against men are forgivable only if the offended pardon the offender or if the proper compensations and / or punishments are applied.

In conclusion, sin is acquired not inborn, emergent not built-in, avoidable not inevitable. It is a deliberate conscious violation of the unequivocal law of God. If man does something that is truly caused by natural instincts or absolutely irresistible drives and uncontrollable urges, then such an act is not a sin in Islam.

Otherwise, God’ s purpose will be pointless and man’ s responsibility will be in vain. God demands of man what lies within the human possibilities and reaches.

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The article is excerpted from Dr. Hammudah’s well-known book “Islam in Focus”.

 

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The Unforgivable Sin in Islam

Allah is All-Merciful and Oft-Forgiving. Indeed, He may forgive all sins except for one sin: shirk.

In Islam, shirk is the sin of idolatry or polytheism. i.e. the worship of anyone or anything other than the singular God, or more literally associating partners with Him.

If a person dies in a state of polytheism, every hope for his or her salvation is surely dashed.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked: what is the greater sin , he said: To ascribe partners to Allah even though he created you. (Al-Bukhari)

However, Almighty Allah may forgive every sin, without exception, from a sincere penitent.

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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)

lighthouse

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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`Abdullah ibn `Umar: A Great Man with a Tender Heart (Part 2)

Ibn `Umar made himself a “friend of the night”, praying at night, crying, and asking forgiveness during its latter hours before daybreak. He had once, during his youth, seen a dream. The Prophet interpreted it in a way which made the night prayer `Abdullah’s utmost hope and a means of his delight and joy.

Ibn `Umar tenderness

His generosity was never a means of arrogance. He always dedicated himself to the poor and needy.

Let us listen to him, while he narrates the story of his dream:

“During the Prophetic era, I saw a dream in which I was riding a piece of brocade which let me fly to any place in Paradise I wished. Then I saw two approaching me, intending to take me to hell, but an angel met them saying, “Don’t be afraid,” so they left me.

My sister Hafsah narrated the dream to the Prophet (peace be upon him), who said, “What an excellent man `Abdullah is. If he is praying at night, then let him pray more.”

From that day until he met with Allah, he never stopped performing his night prayer, neither while staying in one place nor while traveling. He was frequently praying, reciting the Qur’an, and praising Allah. Like his father, his tears rolled down abundantly whenever he heard a warning verse in the Qur’an.

`Ubayd lbn `Umar said: I was once reading to `Abdullah ibn `Umar this verse: “How will it be for them when We bring from every nation a witness, and bring you to witness over them all? On that day

those who disbelieved and disobeyed the Messenger will wish the earth to be split open and swallow them, but they will never conceal GOD any of their saying” (An-Nisaa’ 4:41-42) Ibn `Umar began to cry till his beard was wet from his tears.

One day he was sitting among his brothers reading “Woe to those who give insufficient measure, who when others measure for them they make full measure, but when they measure out, or weigh out for others, they give less than due. Do such not think that they shall be raised up on a Mighty Day? The Day when all mankind shall stand before the Lord of the Worlds” (Al-Mutaffifin 83:1-6). Then he repeated again and again “The Day when all mankind shall stand before the Lord of the Worlds” while his tears were rolling down like heavy rain falls from the sky until he fell down because of his tremendous sorrow and crying.

His generosity, asceticism and piety all worked together in complete harmony to shape the most magnificent merits of that great man. He gave out abundantly because he was generous. He granted the fine halal things because he was pious, never caring if his generosity left him poor because he was ascetic.

lbn `Umar (May Allah be pleased with him) was one of those who had high incomes. He was a successful, honest merchant for a greater part of his life, and his income from the treasury (Bayt Al-Mal) was abundant. However, he never saved that money for himself, but always spent it copiously on the poor, the needy, and beggars.

Following the Prophetic Model

Ibn `Umar’s generosity, asceticism, and piety, these three qualities demonstrate how sincere his imitation of the Prophetic model was and how sincere his worship.

He imitated the Prophet (peace be upon him) to the extent that he stood with his camel, where the Prophet had once stood saying, “A camel foot may stand over a camel foot.”

His respect, good behavior, and admiration towards his father reached also to a far extent. `Umar’s personality forced his foes, his relatives, and, above all, his sons to pay him respect. I say, the one who belongs to that Prophet and that kind of father should never be a slave of money. Large amounts of money came to him but soon passed, just crossing his house at that moment.

His generosity was never a means of arrogance. He always dedicated himself to the poor and needy, rarely eating his meal alone: orphans and poor people were always present. He often blamed some of his sons when they invited the rich, and not the poor ones, to their banquets, thereupon saying, “You leave the hungry behind and invite the sated ones.”

The poor knew his tenderness, felt his kindness and sympathy, so they sat down across his path for him to take them to his house. When he saw them he was like a sweet scented flower surrounded by a drove of bees to suck its nectar.

Ibn `Umar & True Richness

Money in his hands was a slave, not a master, a means for necessities and not luxury. Money was not his alone. The poor had a right to it, a mutually corresponding right, with no privilege kept to himself. His self-denial helped him to reach such great generosity that he never stored, endeavored, or had a vivid interest toward the worldly life. On the contrary, he never wished to possess more than a gown to cover his body and just enough food to keep him alive.

He who has not satisfied his appetite for 40 years has not curbed his appetite due to need or poverty, but rather due to self- denial and piety, and a trial to imitate the Prophet and his father.

He was afraid to hear on the Day of Judgment: “You have wasted all your good deeds for the enjoyment in the life of this world” (Al-Ahqaf 46:20). He realized that he was in this life just as a visitor or a passerby.

He described himself saying, “I haven’t put a stone upon another (i.e. I haven’t built anything) nor planted a palm tree since the Prophet’s death.”

Persistently on the Path

Ibn `Umar lived long enough to witness the Umayyad period, when money became abundant, and land and estates spread, and a luxurious life was to be found in most dwellings, let alone most castles.

Despite all that, he stayed like a firm-rooted mountain, persistent and great, not slipping away from his paths and not abandoning his piety and asceticism.

If life with its pleasure and prosperity – which he always escaped from – was mentioned, he said, “I’ve agreed with my companions upon a matter. I’m afraid if I change my stance I won’t meet them again.”

Then he let the others know that he did not turn his back to the worldly life owing to inability, so he lifted his hands to the sky saying, “O Allah, You know that if it weren’t for fear of You, we would have emulated our clan in the Quraysh in this life.

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The article is excerpted from the book “Men Around the Messenger”, which is 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.

 

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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.

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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 & 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.

_________________________

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.

_________________________

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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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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