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Muhammad: The First Years of His Message

By: Khalid Muhammad Khalid

Logic and reason were – and still are- the best proof of the truth of Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he said, “I am Allah’s Messenger.” It does not appeal to good logic or to sound reason that a man who lived such a good life lies about Allah.

Early believers who hastened to believe in his message had such a relation with him after their guidance from Allah, which is the best evidence of logic and reason.

We see Muhammad (peace be upon him) before his message, and we see him after his message. We see him in his cradle, and we see him shrouded by death. But, have we seen any contradiction or inconsistency in all his life? Never!

Truth & Eminence

Let us now approach the first years of his message. Those were years one rarely finds an equal to in the annals of history for the constancy, truth, and eminence. Those were the years which revealed, more than any others, all the facets of the teacher and guide of all humanity. Those were years that opened the living book of his life and heroism and, more than any other years, represented the cradle of his miracles.

Throughout those years, the Messenger of Allah was alone. He left all he possessed of comfort, security, and settled life. He approached the people with what they were not familiar, or rather with what they detested. He approached them and directed his words to their reasons, and it is a difficult task for a person who directs his speech to the minds of people instead of their feelings.

The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad did not only do that, since the consequence of addressing the mind might be bearable if you are standing within the circle of common conventions and common aspirations. But when you call them towards a distant future which you perceive but they do not, which you live in and they are not aware of, it is a difficult task.

Indeed, when you address their minds and rise to destroy the essence of their lives from the base, though you do that in a sincere, honest way and not urged by a certain purpose or glory, it is a risk which cannot be taken except by the leaders of the righteous people and messengers.

The Messenger (peace be upon him) was the hero and great master of that situation. The form of worship at that time was worshiping idols, whose rites were observed as a religion. The Messenger (PBUH) did not turn to any maneuvers or intrigues. The unpaved road and the heavy burden would have been good excuses if he had used his brilliant mind to prepare them for the word “monotheism” instead of surprising them with it.

He was able and it was his right to prepare to isolate the community from its idol-gods which had been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. He could have started by going around the issue to avoid as much as possible a direct confrontation he knew would bestir all the envy of his people and draw upon them all their weapons against him.

The Core Message

Yet, he did not. This illustrates that he was a Messenger. He heard a divine voice within him telling him to rise, and he did, and telling him to deliver the message, and he did so without the force of  weapons and without fleeing! He confronted them from the first instant with the essence of the message and the core of the case: “O people, I am the Messenger of Allah unto you, to worship Him and not to set partners with Him. These idols are intellectual falsehood. They are of no harm or benefit to you”.

From the very beginning he faced them with such clear and plain words, and from the very beginning he faced the severe struggle which he had to undergo his departure from life!

Or were the early believers in need of a prompting power to support the Prophet!

What awakened conscience would not be stirred by such a rare and unique scene! It was the scene of a man known to the people to have full intellectual power and immaculate behavior, standing alone, facing his people with a call which could bring mountains down. Words were issuing forth from his heart and lips, obedient and superb, as if in them lay all the power, will, and design of the future, as if it were fate announcing its proclamation!

But perhaps this was the prompting of a good spirit, after which Muhammad (peace be upon him) would worship his Lord as he liked, leaving the deities of his people in their place and leaving his community’s religion alone.

If such a thought occurred to some minds at that time, Muhammad (peace be upon him) soon dissipated it. He made it quite clear to the people that he was a Messenger and had to convey the message, that he could not be silent nor turn into himself after being guided by the truth and enlightenment.

Unwavering Will

All the powers of the world and nature could not have silenced him or stopped him because it was Allah Who made him speak and move and Who guided his footsteps.

The Quraysh’s reaction came as swift as flames stirred by a violent wind. Troubles began to be wreaked upon a soul unaccustomed to anything but absolute grace. The Messenger then began to teach his first lessons with utmost mastery and amazing loyalty.

The image of this scene is paramount in all places and at all times, as well as in history. Those with an awakened conscience in Makkah were pleased, filled with admiration, and came closer. They beheld a lofty and majestic man. They did not know whether his neck had become longer until it was able to touch the sky or the sky had come down to crown his head. They beheld loyalty, steadfastness and eminence.

However, the best scene they beheld was on the day when the noblemen of the Quraysh went to Abu Talib saying, “Verily, we cannot tolerate a person who insults our fathers, mocks our dreams, and finds fault with our deities. You either stop him or we fight both of you until one of the parties is destroyed.”

Abu Talib sent a message to his nephew saying, “My nephew, your people have approached me and talked about your affairs. You have to think of me and yourself and not burden me with what I cannot endure.”

What then was the attitude of the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him)?

The only man who had stood with him seemed to be abandoning him, or rather seemed unable to confront the Quraysh who sharpened all their teeth.

The Messenger did not hesitate in his reply, and his determination did not waver. No! He did not even search for the words to show his tenacity. It was already there, efficiently rising to deliver one of his most significant lessons to the whole of humanity and to dictate its highest principles.

Thus he spoke: “O uncle, by Allah, if they put the sun on my right and the moon on my left in order to abandon this matter until it is manifested by Allah or I perish by it, I would never abandon it!” Peace be upon you, O Prophet of Islam, you who were colossal among men, and your words were colossal. Abu Talib thereupon restored his courage and the courage of his forefathers at once, clasped the right hand of his nephew with his two hands, and said, “Say what you like, for, by Allah, I will never force you to do anything at all.”

Muhammad (peace be upon him) then did not depend on his uncle for protection and security, though his uncle was capable of that, but he was the one bestowing security, protection and steadfastness on people around him.

Any honest person who beholds a scene like that cannot but hasten to love, be loyal to, and believe in that Messenger.

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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.

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Abu Bakr As-Siddiq: The Skinny but Great Man

By: Faisal Az-Zamil

Every Muslim owes a debt of gratitude to him!

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq

This great man managed to unify Arabia and his reign was the basis for the Islamic Ummah we see today.

In physical appearance, Abu Bakr was a slender man with a slightly bent waist that the cloth that he wore round it often slipped down before he fastens it many times. He was very gentle and tender-hearted. He used to recite the Qur’an in a sad heart-touching voice awakening the hearts of the people of Makkah when particularly reciting:

And, O my people! What ails me that I call you unto deliverance when ye call me unto the Fire? You call me to disbelieve in Allah and ascribe unto Him as partners that whereof I have no knowledge, while I call you unto the Mighty, the Forgiver. Assuredly that whereunto ye call me hath no claim in the world or in the Hereafter, and our return will be unto Allah, and the prodigals will be owners of the Fire. (Ghafir 40:41:43)

Abu Bakr (may Allah be blessed with him) was an eloquent reciter of the Qur’an. His recitation attracted the people of Makkah who were gathering around his house to listen to him. When the leaders of Quraish knew about that, they sent someone to ask the Prophet (peace be upon him) to “ask his friend not to pray in public as his recitations ruined their boys” … meaning their slaves who were yearning to the call of freedom that recognizes absolute equality between humans irrespective of any distinction of color, race or tribe …

Abu Bakr fought against the forces of slavery and racism, purchasing the freedom of slaves. The first of the slaves set free by him was Bilal.

We see this soft gentle nature of Abu Bakr disappearing when the shocking great news of the Prophet’s death spread, turning the Arabian Peninsula upside down.

The Companions of Prophet Muhammad were in shock and confusion. Some of them took the corner of the Mosque in silent and grief.

Before his death, Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) had ordered the mobilization of a large army to march to (now) Jordan under the command of Usama Ibn Zayd.

While the army was ready for war, the Prophet began to suffer from the sickness.

The first issue that Abu Bakr as a Caliph was called upon to decide was whether army- halted outside Al-Madinah- should proceed to its destination, or should it be abandoned due to the danger to which Madinah was exposed following the death of the Prophet.

Abu Bakr saw that it was the wish of the Prophet that the army should be sent to Jordan and it should be fulfilled at all costs.

“Who am I to withhold the army that the Prophet had ordained to proceed? Come what may: let Madinah stand or fall; the Caliphate live or perish, the command of the Holy Prophet shall be carried out.”, said Abu Bakr.

The view of Abu Bakr reflected his faithfulness and loyalty with the unwavering faith that whatever the Prophet had ordered was in the best interests of the community.

Thus, on the third day after the Prophet’s death, the Caliphate Abu Bakr announced the departure of Usama’s army, as were the commands of Allah’s Messenger.

After twenty days march the army reached Palestine and fought the Romans. Usamah returned to Madinah with a great victory and no losses proving the certainty of Abu Bakr’s faith and the strength and integrity of the Muslims as well.

The victory came at the most critical time of unrest and disorder. The victory news spread around entire Peninsula. It was the powerful beginning of Abu Bakr’s caliphate and war against the apostates.

Abu Bakr’s Reign

Abu Bakr’s reign lasted for 2 years, 3 months, and 8 days. Here we will address four key features of his caliphate:

1- His War of Apostasy: A Comprehensive View of the Last Message

As Al-Aswad Al-`Ansi, Tulayha Ibn Khuwaylid, Sajah, Musaylamah claimed prophethood, turning many tribes like Muzhig followed Al-Aswad; Banu Asad, Ghatfan Tai’ and Al-Ghawth who followed Tulayha; Banu Taghlab and Banu Tamim who followed Sajah and Yemen which followed Musaylamah who canceled the ritual of Prayer. Also, Luqayt ibn Malik Al-Azdi claimed Prophethood in Oman. They all sent delegations to Abu Bakr to negotiate with him as regarding the cancellation of some of the obligation and pillars of Islam topped by zakah. Abu Bakr replied with his well-known word, “I swear by Allah that if they were to refuse me a rope of camel which they used to pay the Messenger of Allah, I will fight with them over the refusal of it.”

“`Umar said: ‘O Abu Bakr! How can you fight the people when the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) has said: ‘I have been ordered to fight the people until they say: ‘There is no God but Allah’ and whoever says this, makes himself and his property inviolable except by legal right, and his reckoning is with Allah?’ Abu Bakr replied: ‘By Allah! I will fight whoever made a distinction between salah and zakat, for zakat is a lawful right upon the property!”

This how comprehensive and firmly intact was Abu Bakr’s view of Islam as a whole.

When `Umar also asked him to go a bit slow, he taunted him: “I need your support and you let me down! Were you strong in pre-Islamic days to have become a coward now?”

2- If Apostates Had Succeeded, There Would Have Been No Islam

This firm attitude from a tender-hearted skinny man was a fence to protect the wholeness and unity of the religion and its pillars from breakdown. Following Musylamah, people began to give up the Salah, and withhold the zakah, coming up with a new religion that has nothing to do with true Islam; a religion guided by individual desires, by defaced and disintegrated beliefs and principles, and racist inclinations. The religion, then, would have been a region-based weird set of rules like that of the Mongols. But Islam is the religion of sound fitrah (natural inclinations of man) and healthy mind; a guidance for all time, addressing the whole humanity and integrating all domains of human life.

This is how Abu Bakr fought to protect the true religion of God from distortion and innovations without sacrificing the rulings of its pillars of salah and zakah.

In the hadith narrated by Bakr:

“He heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) as saying: just see, can anything of his filthiness remain (on the body of) any one of you if there were a river at his door in which he washed himself five times daily? They, said: Nothing of his filthiness will remain (on his body). He said: That is like the five prayers by which Allah obliterates sins” (Muslim)

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by some of his Companions: “Is Allah near so we invoke him or is he far so we call him? so Allah revealed the verse: “When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calls on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.” (Al-Baqarah 2:186)

Where, other than Islam, can one find such guidance!

If those apostates had succeeded to spread their new invented religion, nothing of these teachings would have been reached us.

3- Majority Is Not A Precondition for Decision-Making

Another lesson we can learn is that Abu Bakr’s opinion was not a majority’s. Thus, shura (consultation) in Islam is not binding for the ruler if he has an opinion opposed to the majority. Shura, in this respect, is advisable and not strictly necessary. Almighty Allah says, “So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely (upon Him).” (Ash-Shura 3:159)

This is the basis of the principle of separation of powers, a term coined in modern times by these French political thinker Montesquieu and was adopted by the ancient Romans. They divided the state powers into executive power, the legislature and the judiciary. If the judiciary was clearly independent, the executive power fluctuated between the systems. Yet, the Shura principle is a criterion, and the head of state has to exercise his powers after that advice is done by Shura or consultation. This what Abu Bakr has done, to make consultation and thereafter make use of his powers even if being opposed by the majority.

4- Strategic Goal for Apostasy Wars: Unified Arabian Peninsula

At strategic level, Abu Bakr left to his successor, `Umar, a united Arabia. Without this unity, Islam would have never been spread beyond the caliphate’s borders., to West, East and North.

Abu Bakr managed to unify these rebellious factions and his reign was the basis for the Islamic Ummah we see today.

`Umar would often say that he would prefer to be a hair on the chest of Abu Bakr.

Back to the situations and words that show Abu Bakr’s firm character:

  • In the Hudaybiyah peace treaty, the decision of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the conclusion of a reconciliation with Quraysh, in which Muslims return to Madinah and do not enter Makkah to perform Umrah. The acceptance of this condition was difficult for Muslims and the most angry was Umar (may Allah be pleased with him). When Abu Bakr saw Umar reviewing with the Prophet (peace be upon him) repeatedly asking to him in a fully disciplined manner, “O `Umar, he is the Messenger of Allah. So, stop it.” He means that he has to follow the Prophet’s footsteps in full compliance, and do not overstep him.
  • Usama was riding his horse and he is the commander of the army and Abu Bakr, the Caliph, was walking on his feet. When Usama wanted to go down to walk with him, Abu Bakr said to him (Do not come down, what if my feet is covered by dust for an hour in the way of God!)
  • Make sure that death gives you life!

May Allah have mercy on this great man.

May Allah Almighty bless him and reward him for what he had done for the Muslim Ummah.

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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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