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CHAPTER 7: Prophethood in Islam

 

The role of Prophethood is important, since a belief in the Prophets is necessary in order to truly accept their messages.  In the Islamic tradition, all Prophets have been human beings, chosen and assigned by God. Had the divine Messengers been different species or entities, such as angels, it would have been difficult for people to identify with them. Therefore, God sent humans as Messengers; each had to set the best example possible, in spite of the suffering they endured. All of the Prophets embodied full submission to God, even when their hearers rejected them, which illustrates the need for endurance and patience in obeying God, not giving in to frustration. As the Qur’an teaches, our beliefs cannot be compromised in order to gain acceptance or benefits in this life:

Messengers (of Allah) have been derided before you, but that whereat they scoffed surrounded such of them as did deride.

Messengers indeed have been denied before you, and they were patient under the denial and the persecution till Our succour reached them.  There is none to alter the decisions of Allah. Already there has reached you (somewhat) of the tidings of the messengers (We sent before).

Thus have We appointed unto every Prophet an adversary – devils of humankind and jinn who inspire in one another plausible discourse through guile.  If your Lord willed, they would not do so; so leave them alone with their devising.

(The Cattle, Surah 6; 10, 34, 112)

 

Who Is The Prophet Of Islam?

Prophet Muhammad, son of Abdullah (Peace be upon Them), was born in Makkah (Mecca) about the year 570 CE. He received the message of the Qur’an at 40 and died aged 63. Before his time of prophethood, he was known to be trustworthy and faithful; even from youth he had acquired a reputation for honesty and wisdom. From time to time, it was his habit to retire to a cave in the mountains for meditation.  Muhammad (PBUH) never composed or recited poetry and consistently denied having any power to perform miracles on his own.

Around the year 610 CE, during one night in the month of Ramadan, he received his first divine revelation and was ordered by God to convey the message publicly.  So Muhammad (PBUH) gathered his people and asked them: ‘If I were to warn of an attacking army from behind the mountain close to your city, would you trust me?’ Their unanimous answer was: ‘Yes, we have never known you to tell a single lie’.  Then he proceeded to tell of the revelation he had received from the Most High to warn transgressors and give good news to the righteous.

To know more about Prophet Muhammad, one has only to study his teachings, which have been preserved in a tradition collectively known as the Sunnah, or the recorded account of his actions and remembered sayings (hadith). Scholars have compiled the Sunnah in separate texts and many have spent their lives studying this material. The Sunnah is regarded as the second greatest source of Islamic law, after the Qur’an. Here are a few examples:

Ibn Masoud (R) quoted the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) as saying: ‘He will not enter Paradise who has in his heart an atom’s weight of arrogance.’  It was then said: ‘But a person likes to have a clean garment, and a clean pair of slippers.’  He said: ‘Allah is beautiful and He likes the beautiful.  Arrogance is to reject the truth and oppress other people’. (Reported by Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘A hypocrite has three signs: he lies whenever he talks; he breaks his promise and he cheats when he is trusted’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Fear Allah wherever you might be, follow every evil deed with a good deed which will erase it, and deal with people with good conduct’. (Reported by Al-Tirmithi)

Ibn Omar (R) quoted the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) to have said: ‘Gabriel continued to recommend neighbors to me until I thought  he  would make a share for them in inheritance’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Love for other people what you love for yourself’. (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

Abdullah Ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of God (PBUH) said: ‘Each Muslim is the brother of every other Muslim; he should neither wrong him nor surrender to him. And whoever strives to fulfill the needs of his brother, then Allah will fulfill his needs; and whoever relieves the misfortune of any Muslim, Allah will relieve him of one misfortune of the Day of Judgment. And whoever protects the secrets of a Muslim, Allah will protect him on the Day of Judgment.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Allah will love you if you forsake worldly pleasures; and people will love you if you don’t aspire to what they have’.  (Reported by Ibn-Majah)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Excellence in action is that you worship Allah as though you see Him, but if you don’t see Him, He sees you’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘The most major sins are: ascribing partners to Allah, slaying innocent persons, being rebellious and ungrateful to parents and passing false testimony’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:  ‘Keep away from evil suspicion, for evil suspicion is the falsest utterance’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Two characteristics are not gathered in a believer: miserliness and ill conduct.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said:  ‘A good word is a charity’.   (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘He is not a believer who has his stomach full while his neighbor is hungry along his side’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Never has anyone of you eaten any food better than what he eats as a result of the work of his hands’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: ‘Every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim; hence he should not wrong him nor be unfair to him.  Neither should he surrender him. Whoever walks to fulfill the needs of his Muslim brother, Allah will fulfill his needs. Whoever averts a misfortune from his brother, Allah will relieve him of a misfortune on the Day of Judgment; and whoever covers (the shame of his Muslim brother) Allah will cover his (sins) on the Day of Judgment.  (Agreed upon.)

Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari told on the Prophet’s authority that he used to make this supplication: ‘O Allah, forgive me my sin, my ignorance, my extravagance in my affairs, and what You know better than I do. O Allah, forgive me my serious and my frivolous sins, my unintentional and my intentional sins, for I am guilty of all that. O Allah, forgive me my former and latter sins, what I have kept secret and what I have done openly, and what You know better than I do. You are the Advancer, You are the Delayer, and You are Omnipotent’.  (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet of Islam (PBUH) said: ‘Turn to God, oh you people, offer your repentance and seek his forgiveness. I myself offer my repentance to God a hundred times a day’.

The Prophet (PBUH) taught that the Qur’an is a plea in our favor or against us. We begin our morning ready to bargain with our soul as a stake and free it or lose it.

The Prophet (PBUH) said the strong one is not he who can knock down his adversary; the strong one is the one who can keep control over his temper.

Speaking of his own conduct, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that God had perfected his manners. He then narrated the following verses from the Qur’an:

Further tell them: ‘I have no power to acquire benefit or avert any harm from myself only that happens which Allah wants.  Had I possessed the knowledge of the unseen I would have acquired many benefits to myself; and no harm would have touched me.  I am no more than a Warner and bearer of good news for the true believers. Show forgiveness, speak for justice and avoid the ignorant’.

(The Heights, Surah 7; 188, 199)

The following points further illustrate the character of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH):

1.   The leaders of the Prophet’s tribe complained to his uncle, that his nephew Muhammad called upon people to obey one God who was different from their gods. At that time, the followers of Islam were few, weak, and unable to defend themselves; many were tortured and died for the new faith. The Prophet turned to his uncle and said ‘Oh Uncle! By Allah Almighty, I swear that even if people should put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand to abandon this religion, I shall not do so until Allah makes his religion victorious, or I perish in defending it’.

2.   The citizens of Makkah, having failed to obtain the action they wanted from the Prophet’s uncle, took matters into their own hands.  The most eminent among them sent for Muhammad and their spokesman said: ‘O Muhammad, we want to talk to you. Listen to what we have to say, for by all the gods, we know of no other Arab who has brought so many afflictions on his people.  You have sown dissension among us, disrupted our unity and brought sorrow to us all. If you have created this upheaval because you want wealth and riches, say so, and we shall make you the richest man in the land. If you want power and authority, tell us and we shall make you our ruler. If there is a beautiful woman who has touched your heart, name her and she shall be yours.  And if the angel or messenger that you say comes to you is a Jinn or a spirit, let us know and we shall collect the best sorcerers and medicine men from the length and breadth of Arabia to cure you and to rid you of this evil’.

Thus they offered this poor and humble man the best of everything in the land, but Muhammad calmly replied: ‘I want no wealth nor riches. I have no desire to be crowned a king, and no woman has touched my heart. I am neither sick nor possessed by an evil spirit. All these things you have talked about are of no concern to me. I am a humble servant of God, who has sent me to you… God has revealed to me (the Qur’an) and commanded that I warn you against rejecting its teachings and to bring you a promise of blessing if you believe.  So I have given you this message and no power on earth will stop me from propagating it. If you listen to me and accept the message, there will be a goodly reward for you in this world and the next.  If you reject it, I shall be patient and wait for the day when God will settle this dispute between us’. This answer greatly amazed the gathering.  The tribal leaders were sure that all human labor, all their endeavors, must be directed toward some desirable end, such as wealth, power, or pleasure, but here was this strange man who rejected all these benefits for some unknown goal they could not comprehend.

3.  After all but failing to convince his own tribe members to submit themselves to God’s religion, the Prophet then made a long journey to the city of Taif to call its people to Islam.  But the people of Taif not only refused the Prophet’s call; they also insulted him and threw him out of their city, sending young children to throw stones at him and abuse him with their taunts. At the edge of the city he sat down, deeply discouraged at being rejected by the people of Taif.  He raised his hands in prayer saying, ‘O God, please consider my weakness, my shortage of means, and the little esteem that people have for me. O Most Merciful God, you are God of the oppressed and you are my Lord. To whom would you leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me?  I would that you have no wrath against me!  Your pleasure alone is my objective.  Under the light of your faith which illuminates all darkness and on which this world and others tend, I take my refuge. I pray that I may not become the object of your wrath and anger.  To you alone belongs the right to blame and to chastise until your pleasure is met. There is neither power nor strength except in you’.

4.   After enduring 13 years of hostility against them, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) and his followers migrated from Makkah to another Arabian city called Medina. There, Muhammad built the nucleus of a strong and united Muslim nation and later he was able to conquer Makkah with the least amount of bloodshed possible and establish in it the religion of God. Only 15 or 16 reportedly died on that occasion. Many of those who had  tortured Muhammad’s followers early in his mission, however, were still alive. The Quraish (a powerful merchant tribe that controlled Makkah) were totally against the new religion; they had persecuted and plotted to kill Muhammad and his followers, necessitating their flight from the city.  But at the conquest of Makkah, the entire Quraish tribe submitted to the Muslims and willingly became subject to the Prophet’s command. At that point of victory, Muhammad and his followers could easily have exacted vengeance. Instead, the following dialogue took place: Muhammad asked, ‘O men of Quraish (and people of Makkah); what do you think I am about to do with you?’ They replied, ‘Everything good, for you are a noble brother and a noble nephew of ours.’ Then the Prophet told them all to get up and go free.  He proclaimed general amnesty to everyone. By choosing to forgive, Muhammad modelled for all humankind a perfect example of goodness, truthfulness and nobility.  He completely immersed himself in the will of Allah, showing himself to be the full embodiment of Islam.

5.   Late in life, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) offered pilgrimage, or hajj, and on the plain of Arafat outside Makkah, he mounted a camel to deliver the last major sermon of his earthly ministry to a sea of followers, numbering more than 120,000 souls. As he spoke, his words were taken up by avid listeners and relayed to the entire assembly from end to end.

After giving praise to God, he said:

O people, listen carefully to my words for I may not be among you next year, nor ever address you again from this spot. O people, just as you regard this month as hallowed, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Usury is forbidden. Satan has despaired of leading you astray in big things, so beware of obeying him in small things. O people, women have rights over you just as you have rights over them. Be good to them. You may soon have to appear before God and answer for your deeds. So, beware! Do not go astray after I am gone.  O people, no Prophet or apostle will come after me and no new faith will be born. Listen to me in earnest! Worship your God, say your prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give of your wealth to charity. All Muslims, free or enslaved, have the same rights and the same responsibilities. None is higher than the other unless he is higher in virtue. Feed your slaves as you feed yourselves, clothe them as you clothe yourselves. Do not oppress them nor usurp their rights. O people, your God is one God, and your father is one father. All mankind is the progeny of Adam, and Adam was fashioned out of clay. Verify in the sight of Allah, the most honored amongst you is the one who is most God-fearing, and Allah has full knowledge, and is well acquainted with all things. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab except in God-consciousness.

Having spoken thus, he turned his face to heaven and said, ‘Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed Your message to Your people.’ And the assembly responded with one voice, ‘Yes, you have conveyed to us the message of God.’

These traditions of the Prophet (PBUH) further speak of his character.  One may again examine the Qur’an to see if the Prophet (rather than God) composed it, and if so, what his motive could be.

Say: ‘It is only inspired in me that your God is One God. Will you then surrender?’ But if they are averse, then say: ‘I have warned you all alike, although I know not whether near or far is that which you are promised. Lo!  He knows that which is said openly, and that which you conceal. And I know not but that this may be a trial for you, and enjoyment for a while’. He says: ‘My Lord! Judge You with truth. Our Lord is the Beneficent, whose help is to be implored…’

(The Prophets, Surah 21; 108-112)

Say: ‘I am only a mortal like you. My Lord inspires in me that your God is only One God. And whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Lord’.

(The Cave, Surah 18; 110)

And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them and they look not for the meeting with Us, say: ‘Bring a lecture other than this, or change it’.  Say (O Muhammad): ‘It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! If I disobey my Lord I fear the retribution of an awful Day’.

(Jonah, Surah 10; 15)

The foregoing passages confirm the true character of Muhammad, the Messenger of Islam (PBUH). So why would we not want to surrender our will to God through the religion of Islam and adopt the characteristics of being Muslim.


 

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The Great Mosque of Kairouan, also known as the Mosque of Uqba ,is one of the most important mosques in Tunisia.Established by the Arab general Uqba ibn Nafi in 670 AD. The university, consisting of scholars who taught in the mosque, was a centre of education both in Islamic thought and in the secular sciences.[8] Its role can be compared to that of the University of Paris in the Middle Ages.

 

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