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Ethics & Values New Muslims

The Straight Path and How to Follow It

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The thrust is that man should be just and truthful in his social relations.

God says:

Say: “Come, I shall recite what your Lord has forbidden to you”:

Do not associate anyone with Him in His divinity.

Be good to your parents.

Do not kill your children for fear of want.

We shall provide for you and for them.

Do not approach shameful deeds, whether open or secret.

Do not take life which Allah has made sacred, except in a just cause.

This He has enjoined upon you so that you may reflect.

And do not approach the property of an orphan except in the best manner until he comes of age.

And give full measure and weight with justice. We do not burden anyone beyond his capacity.

When you speak, be just, even though it be against a near relative.

And fulfill the covenant of Allah. This He has enjoined so that you may remember.

This is My way – the Straight way. Follow it then and do not follow other paths; that will deviate you from His way. This He has enjoined so that you may fear Allah.

And do not approach the property of the orphan except in the best manner until he attains his maturity, and give full measure and weight with justice- We do not impose on any soul a duty except to the extent of its ability. (Al-An`am 6:151-152)

Exploitation of the weaker sections of society is a common sight. The Qur’anic guidance for following the ‘straight way’ covers this aspect of social life as well. For the Qur’an forbids all forms of usurpation or misappropriation of an orphan’s property.

The Qur’an aims at developing such righteousness among man that any wicked thought of taking away an orphan’s belongings should not even cross one’s mind. For the Qur’an instructs that the guardian’s sole concern should be the protection and betterment of the orphan’s interest. He should look after such orphans until they come of age and are in a position to manage their own affairs.

The Islamic stance on ensuring the welfare of orphans has elicited the following tribute from a leading Western social scientist:

“One of the most commendable things which one finds in reading the Qur’an is the solicitude which Muhammad (peace be upon him) shows for the young, and especially for such as have been deprived of their natural guardians. Again and again, he insists upon kind and just treatment being accorded to children.

And working upon his words, the Muhammadan doctors have framed a system of rules concerning the appointment and duties of guardians which is most complete, and extending to the most minute details.” (Robert Roberts, Social Laws of the Quran, London, 1911)

Consciousness-based

The same Qur’anic concern for extirpating injustice and for promoting peace and cordial relations in society lies at the core of its other directives for acting with honesty and fairness in business transactions.

It goes without saying that fraudulent trade practices make man’s life miserable and breed a host of vices which tarnish man’s spiritual and moral well-being. Let it be clarified that the directive for giving full measure and weight signifies uprightness on man’s part. Included in it, by implication, is the point that man should be conscientious in all that he does. For example, he should perform his duty well and not waste time.

Punctuality in duty is as important as precision in weight and measure. As a trader is forbidden from cheating customers, an employee should faithfully serve his employer. The employer too, stands obliged to act fairly towards his employees. The Qur’anic worldview is all-inclusive.

It is not restricted to the performance of obligatory prayers on time in the prescribed manner. Rather, it seeks that the same spirit of devotion to Allah, which permeates one’s prayer, should also be reflected in every walk of life, especially in a person’s dealings with his fellow human beings.

It is not therefore surprising to note that many components of the Straight Way, as embodied in this passage, relate to man’s social life, not to devotional theology. As part of the same stance, business practices find mention in clear terms in that these affect all members of society. The Qur’an insists that these be characterized by fairness, transparency and justice.

After having prescribed this particular code of conduct and exhorted man to abide by it, failing which he will incur Allah’s wrath, the Qur’an comforts man also with an eye on bolstering his morale.

Within Capacity

It is noteworthy that at the conclusion of these commandments the Qur’an records the observation that Allah does not burden man beyond his capacity. Gifted with the numerous faculties and potentials granted to him by Allah, man can easily follow all these commands.

The Qur’an has not set man some gigantic tasks, which are beyond his capacity to accomplish. The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Companions stood this test and performed admirably what was expected of them.

It is not therefore beyond our capacity to emulate them. Implicit in the above assurance is the fact that Allah will condone any lapse on man’s part in pursuing the Straight Way, as long as his intention to observe these directives is pious and sincere.

The Qur’anic exhortation to profess and practise justice at all costs is to the fore, once again, in its directive that man should be fair in his testimony. Evidently this directive is not special to the legal sphere. The thrust is that man should be just and truthful in his social relations. This point emerges on studying the above directive in conjunction with the following verses:

O Believers! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against the rich or the poor. For Allah can best protect both. (An-Nisaa’ 4:135)

O Believers! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just. That is next to piety and fearing Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do. (Al-Ma’idah 5:8)

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

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Acts of Worship New Muslims

Ramadan: Reshape Your Life with the Qur’an

The month of Ramadan is a time when we, despite the struggle, keep ourselves away from that which is otherwise permissible and a necessity in our life. For the past eleven months, at some level we have given preference to our physical self, in terms of nourishment, than our soul. We’ve done things we shouldn’t have, we’ve probably neglected some duties towards Allah (Exalted is He) that we shouldn’t have. Maybe we haven’t been reciting much of the Qur’an or maybe we’ve been neglecting some of the prayers.

This month is a time when Allah commands us to limit our physical nourishment and instead focus on the spiritual – in order to give life to our hearts and fix and improve our spiritual state. This is the time to rise up and acknowledge our deficiencies during the past months and resolve to move ahead with the aim to improve our relationship with Allah, with His Book, and with His Messenger (peace be upon him).

Ramadan, as an institution, is designed as a whole to bring our hearts back to life, thus allowing the light of taqwa (God-consciousness) to illuminate itself within us. The fasting during the day reminds us that our purpose in life isn’t merely to satisfy the desires of our self (nafs) and this reminder leads us to focus instead on feeding our soul. We are taught during the day to empty our hearts from the desires of our nafs so that at night we can fill it up instead with the light of the Qur’an.

Therefore, we find the next logical step is the Taraweeh (the night prayer offered in Ramadan) where we stand after a long day listening to the Qur’an being recited in prayer in order to give our soul its much required nourishment. As we get in tune with this during the early phases of the month and our hearts are revived and rejuvenated, the bar is raised and during the final ten nights we stand even longer and even later in prayer in the Tahajjud (late night prayer) seeking the rewards of the Laylat Al-Qadr, reciting Qur’an and engaging in `ibadah (worship) so as to fill our hearts with the sweetness of worship.

Allah says:

The month of Ramadan (is that) in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion… (Al-Baqarah 2:185)

The interesting thing to note about this ayah (verse) here is that Allah at the mention of Ramadan didn’t talk about fasting first. When we think about Ramadan, what comes to our mind immediately? Usually, our first thought is fasting right? But we find that Allah instead couples Ramadan firstly with the Qur’an as if to say that Ramadan’s first and foremost role in our lives should be to increase our relationship with the Qur’an and only then does He follow it with the command to fast in the month.

The goal of fasting is taqwa, but what actually allows us to establish taqwa in our lives if not the Qur’an? So the logical step for us is that we need to try and prepare ourselves towards establishing a relationship with the Book of Allah. As mentioned earlier, fasting trains us to empty our hearts from desires and aspires towards a loftier goal and that goal can only be achieved with the soul food that the Qur’an provides.

Allah says in the Qur’an:

And We made firm their hearts when they stood up and said, “Our Lord is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. Never will we invoke besides Him any deity. We would have certainly spoken, then, an excessive transgression. (Al-Kahf 18:14)

This verse is talking about the story of the Youth of the Cave when they stood up and said to the people in their vicinity that they only worshipped Allah. They were able to do that only because Allah strengthened their hearts. However, the interesting thing to notice here is that they made the first move to get closer to Allah – Allah only strengthened their hearts when they stood up. Meaning, they had to commit to following the truth and when this commitment was proven by their action, Allah made their efforts easy for them.

Likewise, in Ramadan, we need to make sure to put in the effort to establish that bond with the Qur’an. Once we start making the effort, Allah will make it easier for us and we will start tasting the sweetness of servitude. We need to go into this month not just with the intention of improving ourselves, but with actual preparation by increasing in good so that our good actions are a reason by which Allah gives us the ability to come out of Ramadan improved and forgiven. As the Messenger told us, ”Whoever fasts Ramadan out of iman (faith) and seeking Allah’s reward then his past and future sins are forgiven.” (Ahmad)

Let’s try and set some goals for ourselves with regards to the Qur’an. If we don’t know how to read it correctly, let’s try to learn. If we don’t recite it often, let us take the time out every day to recite. If we are already reciting, then we can try and add some more or increase the frequency. If we listen to music in our iPods, in our cars and on the way to school or work, then let’s empty our hearts and devices from music and instead try and fill it up with the Qur’an for this month.

Let’s begin to reflect upon the guidance in the Qur’an and try to internalize the lessons therein. Let’s aim to set a powerful foundation for the Qur’an in our lives by which we can establish routines that will allows us to begin a functional relationship with the Qur’an in Ramadan and continue it thereafter so that once the devils are let out, we have a solid defense mechanism, taqwa, within our hearts to help us.

After all, this is the month of the Qur’an and that necessitates that we give special attention to this Book during the month. Our aim should be to build this relationship, not just for the 30 days of Ramadan but rather setting a strong, deep, unshakeable foundation for a relationship that will flourish for the next eleven months.

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Source: suhaibwebb.com.

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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…

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

The Father: Model of Modesty

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

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

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

 The Daughter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fatimah: The Wife 

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

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

father, fatimah

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

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

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

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

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

True Love & Help

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

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

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

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

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Prophet Muhammad on the Elimination of all Forms of Racism

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In the sight of Allah, all people are equal.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) upheld justice in his time and rejected the ignorant belief which considered some people superior to others because of their language, race, social status or ethnicity. That is because such discrimination is severely condemned in the Qur’an.

‘Racism,’ as defined in our day, is an idea Allah prohibits in the Qur’an, but which receives extensive support in ignorant societies. As mentioned in the Qur’an, one of the divine purposes in the creation of the different races is “that they should come to know each other”. (Al-Hujurat 49:13)

Humanity-based

In the sight of Allah, all people are equal, and the only superiority anyone can have over anyone else is his fear of Allah and faith in Him.

The Prophet Muhammad also declared to his people, who committed racism, that ethnic differences had no importance and that everyone was equal in the eyes of Allah.

He repeatedly underlined that all that mattered was having sincere faith. While summoning his people to have faith, the Prophet Muhammad commanded them not to discriminate in his last sermon:

“O people! Your Allah is One and your forefather (Adam) is one. An Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab, and a red (i.e. white tinged with red) person is not better than a black person and a black person is not better than a red person, except in piety. Indeed the noblest among you is the one who is deeply conscious of Allah.” (Ahmad)

The Prophet Muhammad also told people that Allah created man from nothing, that everyone is created equal and that everyone will give account of his deeds all alone before Allah. For this reason, he added that it would be a great wrong to look for superiority in one’s descent.

The Prophet commanded thus:

(All of) you are children of Adam, and Adam is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others.” (Ahmad and Abu Dawud)

He (peace be upon him) stated that no criteria except for heedfulness are acceptable:

“Your descent is nothing to be proud of. Nor does it bring you superiority. O people! All of you are the children of Adam. You are like equal wheat grains in a bowl … No one has any superiority over anyone else, except in religion and heedfulness. In order to consider someone a wicked person, it suffices that he humiliates other people, is mean with money, bad-tempered and exceeds the limits.” (Ahmad)

The Formula… the Qur’an

Throughout his life, the Prophet Muhammad advised his people to set aside their ignorant and perverse values and to live by the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, racist attitudes are defined as “fanatical rage,” and people’s ambitious attitudes are criticized. A related verse reads:

Those who disbelieve filled their hearts with fanatical rage- the fanatical rage of the Time of Ignorance- and Allah sent down serenity to His Messenger and to the believers, and obliged them to respect the formula of heedfulness which they had most right to and were most entitled to. Allah has knowledge of all things. (Al-Fath 48:26)

Muslims who obeyed Allah‘s call in the above verse led their lives in peace and security, both during the blessed period of the first community of Islam and in succeeding ages when just administrators reigned.

In the Period of the Prophet Muhammad, contracts signed with the People of the Book and the pagans secured justice in society.

After the migration of the Prophet from Makkah to Medina, he encountered many different communities. At that period, Jews, Christians and pagans who held power were all living together.

Under such circumstances, the Prophet Muhammad united the cosmopolitan structure to secure social unity and peace by making social agreements- either by sending letters or holding face-to-face meetings- with more than a hundred communities, and thus achieved social compromise.

Prof. Thomas Arnold stresses the importance of the social unity established by the Prophet Muhammad in these words: Arabia that had never before obeyed one prince, suddenly exhibits a political unity and swears allegiance to the will of an absolute ruler. Out of the numerous tribes, big and small, of a hundred different kinds that were incessantly at feud with one another, Muhammad’s word created a nation. (Thomas Arnold, The Spread of Islam in the World, Goodword Books)

Islam and Other Religions

As is related in many verses in the Qur’an, living in peace with people of other religions is perceived as good by Islam.

In one verse, Allah commands Muslims to believe in all the holy books revealed by Him and respect their beliefs:

So call and go straight as you have been ordered to. Do not follow their whims and desires but say, “I believe in whatever Allah has sent down (in the form) of a Book and I am ordered to be just between you. Allah is our Lord and your Lord. We have our actions and you have your actions.

There is no debate between us and you. Allah will gather us all together. He is our final destination. (Ash-Shura 42:15)

The above verse describes the relations a Muslim should establish with people of other religions. Muslims are also held responsible for adopting the morality of the Prophet and being compassionate and just towards other people. This person can be anyone, a Buddhist, a Jew, a Christian or even an atheist.

Such honest and just attitudes will make a very positive impact on their hearts, no matter what or who they believe in- or even if they have no beliefs at all- and they will become a means to make them feel closer to Islam.

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The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “Justice and Compassion in the Qur’an”.

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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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Muhammad: The Exemplar of Coexistence and Moderation

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

The Day of Mercy

moderation_nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forgiveness and Moderation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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