Other Dimensions Of Muhammad’s Prophethood
Muhammad’s Prayers and Supplications
The Messenger always prayed to God before any action. The books of Tradition (hadith) record no case in which he did not pray. As mentioned earlier, prayer is a mystery of servanthood to God, and the Messenger is the foremost in servanthood. This is made clear with every repetition of the declaration of faith: “I bear witness there is no god but God; I also bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.” Note that he is called servant before Messenger. Whatever he intended to do, he referred it to God through prayer.
God is the Creator of us and whatever we do. Although we should take necessary precautions and follow precedents to accomplish things in this material world, where cause and effect has a special place, we should never forget that everything ultimately depends on God for its existence. Therefore, we must combine action and prayer. This is also required by our belief in God’s Unity.
The Messenger’s knowledge of God can never be equaled. As a result, he was the foremost in love of, and paradoxically, in fear of Him. He was perfectly conscious that everything depends on God for its existence and subsistence. Whatever God wills, happens: When He wills a thing, His command is to say to it “Be,” and it is (36:82). Things exist and the universe operates according to the laws established by God and the fulfillment of prerequisites. Fully aware of this, the Messenger did what he had to and then, combining action with prayer, left the result to God with absolute confidence.
His supplications have been transmitted to us. When we read them, we see that they have deep meaning and accord exactly with the surrounding circumstances. They reflect profound belief, deep sincerity, absolute submission and complete confidence. Some examples are given below:
- When you go to bed, perform wudu’ as you do before daily prayers and pray:
O God, hoping for (Your Mercy) and fearing (Your wrath), I submit myself to You, refer my affairs to You, and take refuge in You. There is no refuge or source of safety from Your wrath except You. I believe in the Book You sent down, and the Prophet you raised.1
- Without sins, a soul is like a polished mirror or a white cloth. Sins dirty the soul, and can be expunged only by repentance and asking His forgiveness. The Prophet used to pray the following, even though he was sinless: “O God, put between me and errors a distance as great as that which you have put between East and West. O God, cleanse me of my errors as a white garment is cleansed of dirt.”2 A whole volume could be written about the meaningful words used and the comparisons made here.
In addition to these supplications for specific cases, the Prophet also left behind comprehensive supplications of various lengths. We present some of them here:
- God, I ask You for all good, including what is at hand and what is deferred, what I already know and what I don’t know. I take refuge in You from every evil, including what is at hand and what is deferred, what I already know and what I don’t know.3
- God, nothing hinders what You grant, nor is anything granted that You hinder. No wealthy one can do us good, as wealth belongs to You.4
- O God, I have not told anything, taken an oath, made a vow, or done anything that You did not previously will. Whatever You willed is, and whatever You didn’t will is not. There is no strength or power save with You, and You are indeed All-Powerful over everything.5
- God, whatever prayer I have said, let it be for whomever You have mercy, and whatever curse I have called down, let it be for whomever You have cursed. Surely You are my Guardian in this world and the Hereafter. Make me die as a Muslim, and include me among the righteous.6
- God, I ask You for contentment after misfortune, a peaceful life after death, the pleasure of observing Your Face, and a desire to meet You. I take refuge in You from wronging others and from being wronged, from showing animosity and being subject to animosity, and from erring or committing unforgivable sins. If You leave me to myself, you leave me in weakness, need, sinfulness and error. I depend only on Your Mercy, so forgive all my sins, for only You can do so. Accept my repentance, for You are the Oft-Relenting, All-Compassionate.7
- O God, You deserve most to be mentioned, and none but You deserve to be worshipped. You are more helpful than anyone whose help may be sought, more affectionate than every ruler, more generous than anyone who may be asked for something, and more generous than anyone who gives. You are the Monarch without partners, and the Unique One without like. Everything is perishable except You.
You are never obeyed but by Your permission, and never disobeyed but within Your knowledge. When somebody obeys You, You reward them; when someone disobeys You, You forgive them. You witness everything, being nearer to it than any other witness; and protect everything, being nearer to it than any other protector. You ordained the acts of all people and determined their time of death. You know what is in every mind, and all secrets are manifest to You.
The lawful is what You have made lawful; the forbidden is what You have forbidden. Religion is what You have laid down; the commandment is what You have decreed. The creation is Your creation, and the servants are Your servants. You are God, the All-Clement, All-Compassionate. I ask You, for the sake of the light of Your Face, by which the Heavens and Earth were illuminated, for the sake of every right belonging to You, and for the sake of those who ask of You, to forgive me just in this morning and in this evening, and to protect me, by Your Power, from Hellfire.8
- God, I seek refuge in You from all knowledge that gives no benefit, from a heart that does not fear You, from an unsatisfied soul, and from prayer that cannot be answered.9
- God, I ask You for steadfastness in my affairs, resolution in guidance, gratitude for Your bounties and acceptable service to You, and a truthful tongue and a sound heart. I seek refuge in You from the evil of what You know. I ask You for the good of what You know, and Your forgiveness for what You already know. Surely You are the Knower of the Unseen.10
- God, I ask You to enable me to do good, to refrain from vice, to love the poor, and to forgive me and have mercy on me. When You will people’s deviation and dissension and disorder in public life, make me die before taking part in that disorder. I ask You for Your love and for the love of whom You love, and the love of the acts that will make me nearer to Your love.11
- God, I ask You for the good in the beginning and in the end, in its most comprehensive form with its beginning and result, its manifest and secret kinds, and for the highest rank in Paradise.12
- God, help me remember and mention You, thank You, and worship You most properly.13
- God, I ask You for guidance, fear of You, chastity, and independence of others.14
- God, bring all of our affairs to a good conclusion, protect us from disgrace and ignominy in the world, and from being tormented in the Hereafter.15
- God, we ask You for all of the good for which Your Prophet Muhammad asked You, and seek refuge in You from every evil from which Your Prophet Muhammad sought refuge in You.16
Prayer was a fundamental part of the Prophet’s life. All the supplications quoted, together with many, have become keys in the hands of such great saints as Abu Hasan al-Shadhili, Ahmad al-Badawi, Ahmad al-Rifa‘i, and ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, who used them to knock on the door of God’s Mercy.
Muhammad: The Prophet of Universal Mercy
The beginning of existence was an act of mercy and compassion without which the universe would be in chaos. Everything came into existence through compassion, and by compassion it continues to exist in harmony.
Muslim sages say that the universe is the All-Compassionate One’s breath. In other words, the universe was created to manifest the Divine Name the All-Compassionate. Its subsistence depends on the same Name. This Name manifests itself first as the All-Provider, so that all living creatures can receive the food or nourishment they need to survive.
Life is God Almighty’s foremost and most manifest blessing, and the true and everlasting life is that of the Hereafter. Since we can deserve this life by pleasing God, He sent Prophets and revealed Scriptures out of His compassion for humanity. For this reason, while mentioning His blessings upon humanity in Surat al-Rahman (the All-Merciful), He begins: Al-Rahman. He taught the Qur’an, created humanity, and taught it speech (55:1-4).
All aspects of this life are a rehearsal for the afterlife, and every creature is engaged in action toward this end. Order is evident in every effort, and compassion resides in every achievement. Some “natural” events or social convulsions may seem disagreeable at first, but we should not regard them as incompatible with compassion. They are like dark clouds or lightning and thunder that, although frightening, nevertheless bring us good tidings of rain. Thus the whole universe praises the All-Compassionate.
Muslim sages consider the Qur’an a “created book” issuing from His Attribute of Will. To write a book that people could not understand would be pointless. Therefore, He created Muhammad to tell people what the universe really means, and to relay His Commandments in the Qur’an through Muhammad so that we can know what is expected of us. Only by following these Commandments can we attain an eternal life of happiness. The Qur’an is the ultimate and most comprehensive Divine Revelation; Islam is the last, perfected, and universal form of Divine Religion; and Prophet Muhammad is the embodiment of Divine Compassion, one sent by God as a mercy for all worlds.
Prophet Muhammad is like a spring of pure water in the heart of a desert, a source of light in an all-enveloping darkness. Whoever appeals to this spring can take as much water as needed to quench their thirst, to become purified of all their sins, and to become illumined with the light of belief. Mercy was like a magic key in his hands, for with it he opened hearts that were so hardened and rusty that no one thought they could be opened. But he did even more: he lit a torch of belief in them.
The Messenger preached Islam, the religion of universal mercy. However, some self-proclaimed humanists say that Islam is “a religion of the sword.” This is completely wrong. They make a great deal of noise when animals are killed or when one of their own is harmed, but are silent when Muslims are massacred. Their world is built on personal interest. It should be pointed out that abusing the feeling of compassion is just as harmful—sometimes even more harmful—than having no compassion at all.
Amputating a gangrenous limb is an act of compassion for the whole body. Likewise oxygen and hydrogen, when mixed in the proper ratios, form water, a most vital substance. When this ratio changes, however, each element resumes its original combustible identity.
Similarly, it is quite important to apportion compassion and to identify who deserves it, for “compassion for a wolf sharpens its appetite, and not being content with what it receives, it demands even more.” Compassion for wrong-doers makes them more aggressive and encourages them to work against others. In fact, true compassion requires that such people be prevented from doing wrong. When the Messenger told his Companions to help people when they were just and unjust, they asked him to explain this seeming paradox. He replied: “You help such people by preventing them from engaging in injustice.” So, compassion requires that those who cause trouble either be deprived of their means for, or prevented from, doing so. Otherwise, they eventually will take control and do as they please.
The Messenger’s compassion encompassed every creature. In his role as an invincible commander and able statesman, he knew allowing blood-stained, blood-thirsty people to control others would be the most terrible form of tyranny imaginable. Therefore, out of compassion, he required that lambs should be able to live in security against wolves’ attacks. He desired, of course, that everyone be guided. In fact, this was his greatest concern:
Yet it may be, if they believe not in this Message, you will consume yourself, following after them, with grief (18:6).
But how should he deal with those who persisted in unbelief and fought him to destroy both him and his Message? He had to fight such people, for universal compassion encompasses every creature. This is why, when he was wounded severely at Uhud, he raised his hands and prayed: “O God, forgive my people, for they don’t know.”17
The Makkans, his own people, inflicted so much suffering on him that he finally emigrated to Madina. Even after that, the next five years were far from peaceful. However, when he conquered Makka without bloodshed in the twenty-first year of his Prophethood, he asked the Makkan unbelievers: “How do you expect me to treat you?” They responded unanimously: “You are a noble one, the son of a noble one.” He then told them his decision: “You may leave, for no reproach this day shall be on you. May God forgive you. He is the Most Compassionate of the Compassionate.”18
Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror said the same thing to the defeated Byzantines after conquering Istanbul 825 years later. Such is the universal compassion of Islam.
The Messenger displayed the highest degree of compassion toward the believers:
There has come to you a Messenger from among yourselves; grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, full of concern for you, for the believers full of pity, compassionate. (9:128)
He lowered unto believers his wing of tenderness through mercy (15:88), and was the guardian of believers and nearer to them than their selves (33:6). When a Companion died, he asked those at the funeral if the deceased had left any debts. On learning that he had, the Prophet mentioned the above verse and announced that the creditors should come to him for repayment.19
His compassion even encompassed the hypocrites and unbelievers. He knew who the hypocrites were, but never identified them, for this would have deprived them of the rights of full citizenship they had gained by their outward confession of faith and practice. Since they lived among Muslims, their unbelief in eternal life may have been reduced or changed to doubt, thus diminishing their fear of death and the pain caused by the assertion of eternal non-existence after death.
God did not send a collective destruction upon the unbelievers, although He had eradicated many such people in the past:
But God would never chastise them while you were among them; God would never chastise them as they begged forgiveness (8:33).
This verse refers to unbelievers of whatever time. God will not destroy peoples altogether as long as those who follow the Messenger are alive. Besides, He has left the door of repentance open until the Last Day. Anyone can accept Islam or ask God’s forgiveness, regardless of how sinful they consider themselves to be.
For this reason, a Muslim’s enmity toward unbelievers is a form of pity. When ‘Umar saw an 80-year-old priest, he sat down and sobbed. When asked why he did so, he replied: “God assigned him so long a life span, but he has not been able to find the true path.” ‘Umar was a disciple of the Messenger, who said: “I was not sent to call down curses on people, but as a mercy”20 and:
I am Muhammad, and Ahmad (praised one), and Muqaffi (the Last Prophet); I am Hashir (the final Prophet in whose presence the dead will be resurrected); the Prophet of repentance (the Prophet for whom the door of repentance will always remain open), and the Prophet of mercy.21
Archangel Gabriel also benefited from the mercy of the Qur’an. Once the Prophet asked Gabriel whether he had any share in the mercy contained in the Qur’an. Gabriel replied that he did, and explained: “I was not certain about my end. However, when the verse: (One) obeyed, and moreover, trustworthy and secured (81:21) was revealed, I felt secure about it.”22 When Ma‘iz was punished for fornication, a Companion verbally abused him. The Messenger frowned at him and said: “You have backbitten your friend. His repentance and asking God’s pardon for his sin would be enough to forgive all the sinners in the world.”23
The Messenger was particularly compassionate toward children. Whenever he saw a child crying, he sat beside him or her and shared his or her feelings. He felt a mother’s pain for her child more than the mother herself. Once he said: “I stand in prayer and wish to prolong it. However, I hear a child cry and shorten the prayer to lessen the mother’s anxiety.”24
He took children in his arms and hugged them. Once when hugging his beloved grandsons Hasan and Husayn, Aqra ibn Habis told him: “I have 10 children, and have never kissed any of them.” The Messenger responded: “One without pity for others is not pitied.”25 According to another report, he said or added: “What can I do for you if God has removed compassion from you?”26
He said: “Pity those on Earth so that those in the Heavens will pity you.”27 When Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubada became ill, the Messenger visited him at home and, seeing his faithful Companion in a pitiful state, began to cry. He said: “God does not punish because of tears or grief, but He punishes because of this,” and he pointed to his tongue.28 When ‘Uthman ibn Mad‘un died, he shed tears. During the funeral, a woman remarked: “‘Uthman flew like a bird to Paradise.” Even in that mournful state, the Prophet did not lose his balance and corrected the woman: “How do you know this? Even I don’t know this, and I am a Prophet.”29
A member of the Banu Muqarrin clan once beat his maidservant. She informed the Messenger, who sent for the master. He said: “You have beaten her without any justifiable right. Free her.”30 Freeing a slave was far better for the master than being punished in the Hereafter because of that act. The Messenger always protected and supported widows, orphans, the poor and disabled even before announcing his Prophethood. When he returned home in excitement from Mount Hira after the first Revelation, his wife Khadija told him: “I hope you will be the Prophet of this Umma, for you always tell the truth, fulfill your trust, support your relatives, help the poor and weak, and feed guests.”31
His compassion even encompassed animals. We hear from him: “A prostitute was guided to truth by God and ultimately went to Paradise because she gave water to a dog dying of thirst. Another woman was sent to Hell because she left a cat to die of hunger.”32 While returning from a military campaign, a few Companions removed some young birds from their nest to stroke them. The mother bird came back and, not finding its babies, began to fly around screeching. When told of this, the Messenger became angry and ordered the birds to be put back in the nest.33
Once he told his Companions that God reproached an earlier Prophet for setting fire to a nest of ants.34 While in Mina, some of his Companions attacked a snake in order to kill it. However, it managed to escape. Watching this from afar, the Messenger remarked: “It was saved from your evil, as you were from its evil.”35 Ibn ‘Abbas reported that when the Messenger saw a man sharpening his knife directly before the sheep to be slaughtered, he asked: “Do you want to kill it many times?”36
‘Abd Allah ibn Ja‘far narrates:
The Messenger went to a garden in Madina with a few Companions. A very scrawny camel was in a corner. Seeing the Messenger, it began to cry. The Messenger went to it and, after staying beside it for a while, severely warned the owner to feed it properly.37
His love and compassion for creatures differed from that of today’s self-proclaimed humanists, for he was sincere and balanced in this regard—a Prophet raised by God, the Creator and Sustainer of all beings, for the guidance and happiness of humanity and jinn, and the harmony of existence. As such, he lived for others, and was a mercy for all the worlds, a manifestation of Compassion.
Muhammad’s Mildness and Forbearance
Mildness is another dimension of his character. He was a bright mirror in which God reflected His Mercy. Mildness is a reflection of compassion. God made His Messenger mild and gentle, thereby allowing him to gain many converts to Islam and overcome numerous obstacles.
After the victory of Badr, the Battle of Uhud was a severe trial for the young Muslim community. Although the Messenger wanted to fight on the outskirts of Madina, most Muslims desired to fight on an open battlefield. When the two armies met at the foot of Mount Uhud, the Messenger positioned 50 archers in ‘Aynayn pass and ordered them not to move without his permission, even if they saw that the Muslims had won a decisive victory.
The Muslim army, having only one-third of the men and equipment of the enemy, almost defeated the Makkan polytheists in the initial stage. Seeing the enemy fleeing, most of the archers forgot the Prophet’s command and left their post. Khalid ibn Walid, the Makkan cavalry’s commander, saw this and, riding round the mountain, attacked the Muslims from behind. The fleeing enemy soldiers turned back, and caught the Muslims in a crossfire. They began to lose, more than 70 were martyred, and the Messenger was wounded.
He might have reproached those who had urged him to pursue their desires as well as those archers who had abandoned their post, but he did not. Instead, he showed leniency:
It was by the mercy of God that you were gentle to them; if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would have dispersed from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them in the affair. And when you are resolved, then put your trust in God; surely God loves those who put their trust (in Him). (3:159)
This verse shows two prerequisite for leadership: mildness and leniency toward those who make well-intentioned mistakes, and the importance of consultation in public administration.
This mildness and forgiveness was a reflection of God’s Names the All-Mild, All-Clement, and All-Forgiving. God does not stop providing for people despite their rebellion or unbelief. While most people disobey Him by indulging in unbelief, by explicitly or implicitly associating partners with Him, or transgressing His Commandments, the sun continues to send them its heat and light, clouds full of rain come to their aid, and the soil never stops feeding them with its fruits and plants. God’s Clemency and Forgiveness are reflected through the Messenger’s compassion, mildness, and forgiveness.
Like Abraham, whom he used to say that he resembled, the Messenger was mild, imploring, clement, and penitent (11:75), gentle to believers, and full of pity and compassion for them (9:128). Abraham was never angry with people, regardless of how much they tormented him. He wished good even for his enemies, and implored God and shed tears in His Presence. Since he was a man of peace and salvation, God made the fire into which he was thrown cool and safe (21:69).
Like him, the Messenger was never angry with anybody because of what they did to him. When his wife ‘A’isha was slandered, he did not consider punishing the slanderers even after she was cleared by the Qur’an. Bedouins often behaved impolitely with him, but he did not even frown at them. Although extremely sensitive, he always showed forbearance toward both friend and foe.
For example, while he was distributing the spoils of war after the Battle of Hunayn, Dhu al-Huwaysira objected: “Be just, O Muhammad.” This was an unforgivable insult, for the Prophet had been sent to establish justice. Unable to endure such offences, ‘Umar demanded permission to kill “that hypocrite” on the spot. But the Messenger only replied: “Who else will show justice if I am not just? If I don’t show justice, then I am lost and brought to naught.”38 According to another possible meaning of this expression, he said: “If I am not just, then, by following me, you people have been lost and brought to naught.”39 In addition, he implied that this man would later take part in a seditious movement. This came true during the caliphate of ‘Ali: Dhu al-Huwaysira was found dead among the Kharijites after the Battle of Nahrawan.
Anas ibn Malik related that a Jewess offered a roasted sheep to the Messenger after the conquest of Khaybar. Just before he took the first bite, he stopped and told the others not to eat, saying: “This sheep tells me it has been poisoned.” Nevertheless, a Companion named Bishr died immediately after his first bite (taken before the Messenger spoke). The Messenger sent for the woman and asked her why she had poisoned the meat. She replied: “If you’re really a Prophet, the poison won’t affect you. If you’re not, I wanted to save people from your evil.” The Messenger forgave her for her conspiracy to kill him.40 According to some reports, however, Bishr’s relatives demanded that she be punished, and she subsequently was.
Once when the Prophet was going home after talking to his Companions in the mosque, a bedouin pulled him by the collar and said rudely: “O Muhammad! Give me my due! Load up my two camels! For you will load them up with neither your own wealth nor that of your father!” Without showing any sign of being offended, he told others: “Give him what he wants.”41
Zayd ibn San‘an narrates:
Before I embraced Islam, the Messenger borrowed some money from me. I went to him to collect my debt before its due time, and insulted him: “O you children of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, you are very reluctant to pay your debts!” ‘Umar became very angry with me and shouted: “O enemy of God! Were it not for the treaty between us and the Jewish community, I would cut off your head! Speak to the Messenger politely!” However, the Messenger smiled at me and, turning to ‘Umar, said: “Pay him, and add 20 gallons to it, because you frightened him.”
‘Umar relates the rest of the story:
We went together. On the way, Zayd said unexpectedly: “‘Umar, you were angry with me. But I find in him all the features of the Last Prophet recorded in the Torah, the Old Testament. It contains this verse: His mildness surpasses his anger. The severity of impudence to him increases him only in mildness and forbearance. To test his forbearance, I provoked him deliberately. Now I am convinced that he is the Prophet whose coming the Torah predicted. So, I believe and bear witness that he is the Last Prophet.”42
This mildness and forbearance was enough for the conversion of Zayd ibn San‘an, a Jewish scholar.
The Messenger was extremely meticulous in practicing Islam. Nobody could match his supererogatory prayers. Despite being sinless, he spent more than half the night praying and crying, and sometimes fasted two or three successive days. Every moment he took another step toward the “praised station” set for him by God. He was very tolerant toward others. Not wanting to burden his community, he did not perform the supererogatory prayers in the mosque. When people complained that an imam was prolonging the prayer, the Prophet mounted the pulpit and said: “O people! You cause people to dread the prayer. When you lead a prayer, don’t prolong it, for there are people among you who are sick or old or in urgent need.”43 Once his congregation complained about Mu‘adh ibn Jabal, saying he prolonged the night prayer. The Prophet’s love for Mu‘adh did not stop him asking three times if he was a trouble-maker.44
The Messenger’s mildness and forbearance captured hearts and preserved Muslim unity. As stated in the Qur’an, if he had been harsh and hard-hearted, people would have abandoned him. But those who saw him and listened to him were so endowed with Divine manifestations that they became saints. For example, Khalid ibn Walid was the Qurayshi general who caused the Muslims to experience a reverse at Uhud. However, when he was not included in the army that set out on the day after his conversion, he was so upset that he wept.
Like Khalid, Ikrima and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As were among those who did great harm to the Messenger and the Muslims. After their conversions, each became a sword of Islam drawn against unbelievers. Ibn Hisham, Abu Jahl’s brother, converted to Islam shortly before the Messenger passed away. He was such a sincere Muslim that just before he was martyred at Yarmuk, he did not drink the water that Hudayfa al-‘Adawi offered him. Rather, he asked that it be given to nearby wounded fellow Muslim groaning for water. He died, having preferred a fellow Muslim over himself.45
Such people attained high ranks in the enlightening atmosphere of the Messenger. They became his Companions, regarded and respected as the most virtuous people after the Prophets by almost all Muslims since the earliest days of Islam. Explaining their greatness, Said Nursi, the great twentieth-century Muslim revivalist, says:
I wondered why even the greatest saints like Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi could not attain the rank of the Companions. One day God enabled me to perform in prayer a prostration that I could never repeat. I concluded that it is impossible to attain the Companions’ ranks, for all of their prostrations were like that in meaning and merit.46
The Messenger brought up the Companions. Their greatness is shown in the fact that despite their small numbers, they successfully conveyed Islam to the furthest reaches of Asia and Africa within a few decades. In those areas, Islam became so deeply rooted that despite the concerted efforts by the superpowers of each era to extinguish Islam, it continues to gain new momentum and represents the only realistic alternative for human salvation. The Companions were transformed from their wretched pre-Islamic state to being guides and teachers of a considerable part of humanity until the Last Day, the vanguard of the most magnificent civilization in history.
In addition, the Messenger was absolutely balanced. His universal compassion did not prevent him from executing Divine justice, and his mildness and forbearance kept him from breaching any Islamic rule or humiliating himself. For example, during a military campaign Usama ibn Zayd threw an enemy soldier to the ground. When he was about to kill him, the man declared his belief in Islam. Judging this to be the result of a fear of imminent death, Usama killed him. When informed of the incident, the Messenger reprimanded Usama severely: “Did you cleave his heart open and see (if what you suspected is true)?” He repeated this so many times that Usama said later: “I wished I had not yet become a Muslim on the day I was scolded so severely.”47
Likewise, once Abu Dharr got so angry with Bilal that he insulted him: “You son of a black woman!” Bilal came to the Messenger and reported the incident in tears. The Messenger reproached Abu Dharr: “Do you still have a sign of Jahiliya?” Full of repentance, Abu Dharr lay on the ground and said: “I won’t raise my head (meaning he wouldn’t get up) unless Bilal put his foot on it to pass over it.” Bilal forgave him, and they were reconciled.48 Such was the brotherhood and humanity Islam created between once-savage people.
The Messenger is the most polished mirror in which God’s Names and Attributes are reflected to the highest degree. As the perfect manifestation of these Names and Attributes, an embodiment of the Qur’an and Islam, he is the greatest and most decisive and comprehensive proof of God’s Existence and Unity, and of the truth of Islam and the Qur’an. Those who saw him remembered God automatically. Each of his virtues reflected a Name or Attribute of God, and is a proof of his Prophethood. Like his mildness and forbearance, his generosity is another dimension of his excellent, matchless personality, a reflection and proof of his Prophethood.
The people of Arabia were renowned for their generosity even in pre-Islamic times. When we look at that era’s poetry, we see that the Arabs were proud of their generosity. However, their generosity was not for the sake of God or for an altruistic motive; rather, it was the cause of self-pride. But the Messenger’s generosity was purely for God’s sake. He never mentioned, and did not like to have mentioned, it. When a poet praised him for his generosity, he attributed whatever good he had or did to God. He never attributed his virtues and good deeds to himself.
The Messenger liked to distribute whatever he had. He engaged in trade until his Prophethood, and had considerable wealth. Afterwards, he and his wealthy wife Khadija spent everything in the way of God. When Khadija died, there was no money for her burial shroud. The Messenger had to borrow money to bury his own wife, the first person to embrace Islam and its first supporter.49
If the Messenger had desired, he could have been the richest man in Makka. But he rejected such offers without a second thought. Although God mandated that one-fifth of all war spoils should be at the Messenger’s free disposal, he never spent it on himself or his family. He and his family lived austerely and survived on scanty provisions, for he always gave preference to others. For example, his share of the spoils of Hunayn was of 40,000 sheep, 24,000 camels, and 16 tons of silver.
Safwan ibn Umayya, from whom the Messenger had borrowed some weapons, gazed upon the spoils with greed and bewilderment. Aware of this, the Messenger gave him as many camels as he wanted. Astounded with such generosity, Safwan ran to his people and announced: “O my people! Accept Islam without hesitation, for Muhammad gives in such a way that only one who has no fear of poverty and relies fully on God can give!” Such generosity was enough to guide Safwan and his people, who had been among the bitterest enemies of Islam until just before that day, to the truth.50
The Messenger regarded himself a traveler in this world. Once he said:
“What connection do I have with this world? I am like a traveler who takes shade under a tree and then continues on his way.”51
According to him, the world is like a tree under which people are shaded. No one can live forever, so people must prepare here for the second part of the journey, which will end either in Paradise or Hell.
The Messenger was sent to guide people to truth, and so spent his life and possessions to this end. Once ‘Umar saw him lying on a rough mat and wept. When the Messenger asked him why he was weeping, ‘Umar replied: “O Messenger of God, while kings sleep in soft feather beds, you lie on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God, and as such deserve an easy life more than anyone else.” He answered: “Don’t you agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs, and that those of the Hereafter should be ours?”52
Islam does not approve of monastic life. It came to secure justice and human well-being, but warns against overindulgence. Thus many Muslims have chosen an ascetic life. Although individual Muslims generally became rich after the Messenger passed away, others like Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, and ‘Ali preferred an austere life. This was partly because they felt the need to live as the poorest of their people, and partly because they strictly followed the Prophet’s example. During his caliphate, Abu Bakr was offered a glass of cold water to break his fast during Ramadan. He brought the glass to his lips and suddenly began to weep. When asked why, he answered: “One day, the Messenger drank such a glass of cold water offered to him and wept. He said that God says: ‘On that day, you will be questioned concerning every bounty.’ We will be questioned about this water. I remembered that and wept.”53
In the early days of his Caliphate, Abu Bakr earned his living by milking a woman’s sheep. Some time later, he was given a small salary. While on his death-bed, he gave a pitcher to those around him and asked them to give it to the new caliph after his death. ‘Umar succeeded him and, when he broke the pitcher, some coins came out, together with the following letter: “I lived according to the living standards of the poorest of Madina, and put in this pitcher the amount left of my salary. Therefore, these coins belong to the public treasury and must be returned there.” On reading the letter, ‘Umar wept and remarked: “O Abu Bakr, you have left an unbearable burden on your successors.”54
The Messenger was, in the words of Anas, “the most comely and generous person.”55 Jabir ibn Samura reports:
Once we were sitting in the mosque, and a full moon was shining above us. The Messenger entered. I looked first at the moon and then at his face. I swear by God that his face was brighter than the moon.56
The Messenger never refused anyone, and, as Farazdak pointed out, he said the word “no” only when reciting the profession of faith: “There is no deity but God. Once, a bedouin came and asked the Messenger for something. The Messenger complied with his request. The bedouin continued to ask, and the Messenger continued to give until he had nothing left. When the bedouin asked again, he promised that he would give it to him when he had it. Angered by such rudeness, ‘Umar said to the Messenger: “You were asked and you gave. Again you were asked and you gave, until you were asked once more and you promised!” ‘Umar meant that the Messenger should not make things so difficult for himself. The Messenger did not approve of ‘Umar’s words. ‘Abd Allah ibn Hudafa al-Sahmi stood up and said: “O Messenger, give without fear that the Owner of the Seat of Honor will make you poor!’ Pleased with such words, the Messenger declared: “I was commanded to do so!”57
He never refused a request, for it was he who said: “The generous are near to God, Paradise, and people, but distant from the Fire. The miserly are distant from God, Paradise, and people, but near to the Fire,”58 and: “O people! Surely God has chosen for you Islam as religion. Improve your practice of it through generosity and good manners.”59 His mercifulness rose up as moisture into the sky, and then rained as generosity so that hardened hearts would be fertile enough to grow “good trees whose roots are firm and whose branches are in the Heavens, and which yield their fruits every season by the leave of their Lord.”
In society, each person has a window (status) through which he or she looks out to see others and be seen. If the window is built higher than their real stature, people try to make themselves appear taller through vanity and assumed airs. If the window is set lower than their real stature, they must bow in humility in order to look out, see, and be seen. Humility is the measure of one’s greatness, just as vanity or conceit is the measure of low character.60
The Messenger had a stature so high that it could be said to touch the “roof of the Heavens.” Therefore, he had no need to be seen. Whoever travels in the realm of virtues sees him before every created being, including angels. In the words of Said Nursi, the Messenger is the noble aide-de-camp of God. He lowered himself to stay in the world for a while so that people might find the way to God. Since he is the greatest of humanity, he is the greatest in modesty. This follows the well-knowing adage: “The greater one is, the more modest one is.”
He never regarded himself as greater than anybody else. Only his radiant face and personality distinguished him from his Companions. He lived and dressed like the poorest people and sat and ate with them, just as he did with slaves and servants. Once a woman saw him eating and remarked: “He eats like a slave.” The Messenger replied: “Could there be a better slave than me? I am a slave of God.”61
One time when he was serving his friends, a bedouin came in and shouted: “Who is the master of this people?” The Messenger answered in such a way that he introduced himself while expressing a substantial principle of Islamic leadership and public administration: “The people’s master is the one who serves them.” ‘Ali says that among people the Messenger was one of them. When he and Abu Bakr reached Quba while emigrating to Madina, some Madinese who did not know what the Prophet looked like tried to kiss Abu Bakr’s hands. The only external sign distinguishing one man from the other was that Abu Bakr seemed older than the Messenger.62
While the Muslims were building their mosque in Madina, the Prophet carried two sun-dried bricks; everyone else carried one.63 While digging the trench to defend Madina, the Companions bound a stone around their stomachs to quell their hunger; the Messenger bound two.64 When a man seeing him for the first time began trembling out of fear, because he found the Prophet’s appearance so awe-inspiring, the Messenger calmed him: “Brother, don’t be afraid. I am a man, like you, whose mother used to eat dry bread.”65 Another time, an insane woman pulled him by the hand and said: “Come with me and do my housework.” He complied with her request.66 ‘A’isha reported that the Messenger patched his clothes, repaired his shoes, and helped his wives with the housework.67
Although his modesty elevated him to the highest rank, he regarded himself as an ordinary servant of God: “No one enters Paradise because of his or her deeds.” When asked if this was true for him as well, he replied that he could enter Paradise only through the Mercy of God.68
His Companions always asked for his advice or permission before any action. Once ‘Umar asked his permission to go for the minor pilgrimage. The Messenger allowed this, and even asked ‘Umar to include him in his supplications. ‘Umar rejoiced so much that later he would say: “If the worlds had been granted to me that day, I wouldn’t have felt the same happiness.”69
Humility was one of the Prophet’s greatest qualities. As he attained a higher rank each day, he increased in humility and servanthood to God. His servanthood is prior to his Messengership, as seen in the declaration of faith: “I bear witness that there is no god but God; I also bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger.” He preferred being a Prophet–slave to being a Prophet–king.
One day, while sitting with Archangel Gabriel, the Messenger mentioned that he had not eaten for several days. As soon as he said this, another angel appeared and asked: “O Messenger of God, God greets you and asks if you wish to be a Prophet–king or a Prophet–slave?” Gabriel advised him to be humble toward his Lord. As humility was a fundamental part of his character, the Messenger replied: “I wish to be a Prophet–slave.”70 God praises his servanthood and mentions him as a servant in several verses: When the servant of God stood up in prayer to Him, they (the jinn) were well nigh upon him in swarms (to watch his prayer) (72:19), and:
If you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down on Our servant, then bring a sura of the like thereof, and call your witnesses beside God if you are truthful. (2:23)
After Khadija and Abu Talib died, the Messenger became convinced that he could no longer expect any victory or security in Makka. So before things became too critical, he sought a new base in Ta’if. As the townspeople were quite hostile, he felt that he had no support and protection. But then God manifested His Mercy and honored him with the Ascension to His Presence. While narrating this incident, God mentions him as His servant to show that he deserves Ascension through his servanthood:
Glory be to him, Who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, the precincts of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (17:1)
Humility is the most important aspect of the Messenger’s servanthood. He declared: “God exalts the humble and abases the haughty.”71 ‘Ali describes the Messenger as:
He was the most generous person in giving, and the mildest and the foremost in patience and perseverance. He was the most truthful in speech, the most amiable and congenial in companionship, and the noblest of them in family. Whoever sees him first is stricken by awe, but whoever knows him closely is deeply attracted to him. Whoever attempts to describe him says: “I have never seen the like of him.”72
The Ethos Generated by The Messenger Muhammad
It is difficult for us to understand Prophet Muhammad fully. As we tend to compartmentalize the universe, life, and humanity itself, we have no unitary vision. However, Prophet Muhammad perfectly combined a philosopher’s intellect, a commander valor, a scientist’s genius, a sage’s wisdom, a statesman’s insight and administrative ability, a Sufi master’s spiritual profundity, and a scholar’s knowledge in his own person.
Philosophers produce students, not followers; social or revolutionary leaders make followers, not complete people; Sufi masters make “lords of submission,” not active fighters or intellectuals. But in Prophet Muhammad we find the characteristics of a philosopher, a revolutionary leader, a warrior and statesman, and a Sufi master. His school is one of the intellect and thought, revolution, submission and discipline, and goodness, beauty, ecstasy, and movement.
Prophet Muhammad transformed crude, ignorant, savage, and obstinate desert Arabs into a community of sincere devotees of a sublime cause, a society of gentleness and compassion, an assembly of sainthood, and a host of intellectuals and scholars. Nowhere else do we see such fervor and ardor combined with gentleness, kindness, sincerity, and compassion. This is a characteristic unique to the Muslim community, one that has been visible since its earliest days.
The “Garden” of Muhammad
Islam, the school of Prophet Muhammad, has been a “garden” rich in every kind of “flower.” Like cascading water, God has brought forth from it such majestic people as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, ‘Umar ibn Abd al-‘Aziz, Mahdi al-‘Abbasi, Harun al-Rashid, Alp Arslan, Mehmed the Conqueror, Selim, and Sulayman. These were not only statesmen of the highest caliber and invincible commanders, but also men of profound spirituality, deep knowledge, oration, and literature.
The Messenger’s blessed, pure climate produced invincible generals. Among the first generation we see such military geniuses as Khalid, Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas, Abu ‘Ubayda, Shurahbil ibn Hasana, and A‘la al-Khadrami. They were succeeded by such brilliant generals as Tariq ibn Ziyad and ‘Uqba ibn Nafi‘, both of whom combined military genius with human tenderness and religious conviction and devotion.
When ‘Uqba, the conqueror of North Africa, reached the Atlantic Ocean, 2,000 miles away from Arabia, he cried out: “And now, God, take my soul! If this sea didn’t stretch out before me, I would convey Your holy Name across it to other lands!” We can hardly imagine Alexander the “Great” thinking such thoughts as he set out for Persia. Yet as conquerors, the two men achieved comparable feats.
‘Uqba’s idealism and his “possibility” with respect to the Divine Will would be transmuted into irresistible action in this world. Alexander’s empire crashed after his death; the lands ‘Uqba conquered still retain Islam as their dominant worldview, creed, and lifestyle fourteen centuries later, despite attempts to change this reality.
Tariq was a victorious commander, not only when he defeated the 90,000-man Spanish army with a handful of self-sacrificing, valiant men, but also when he stood before the king’s treasure and said: “Be careful, Tariq! You were a slave yesterday. Today you are a victorious commander. And tomorrow you will be under the earth.”
Yavuz Selim, an Ottoman Sultan who regarded the world as too small for two rulers, was truly victorious when he crowned some kings and dethroned others, and also when he silently entered Istanbul at bedtime, after conquering Syria and Egypt, to avoid the people’s enthusiastic welcome. He also was victorious when he ordered that the robe muddied by his teacher’s horse be placed over his coffin because of its sanctity—it had been “muddied” by the horse of a scholar.
During the rapid conquests after the Prophet, many conquered people were distributed among the Muslim families. Those emancipated slaves eventually became the foremost religious scholars: Hasan ibn Hasan al-Basri (Basra); ‘Ata’ ibn Rabah, Mujahid, Sa‘id ibn Jubayr, and Sulayman ibn Yasar (Makka); Zayd ibn Aslam, Muhammad ibn al-Munkadir, and Nafi‘ ibn Abi Nujayh (Madina); ‘Alqama ibn Qays al-Nakha’i, Aswad ibn Yazid, Hammad, and Abu Hanifa Nu‘man ibn Thabit (Kufa); Tawus and ibn Munabbih (Yemen); ‘Ata ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Khorasani (Khorasan); and Maqhul (Damascus). They all opened as splendid, sweet-smelling flowers in the garden of Muhammad. They established the Islamic legal code and brought up thousands of jurists, who wrote and complied volumes that are still valued as legal references.
One of these jurists, Imam Abu Hanifa, founded the Hanafi legal school, which has hundreds of millions of followers today. He brought up such great scholars as Imam Abu Yusuf, Imam Zufar, and Imam Muhammad Hasan al-Shaybani, who taught Imam Muhammad Idris al-Shafi‘i. The notes Abu Hanifa dictated to Imam al-Shaybani were expounded centuries later by Imam Sarakhsi (the “Sun of Imams”) in the 30-volume work Al-Mabsut.
Imam Shafi‘i, who established the methodological principles of Islamic law, is regarded as reviver or renewer of religious sciences. However, when his students told Imam Sarakhsi that Imam Shafi‘i had memorized 300 fascicles of the Prophetic Traditions, the latter answered: “He had the zakat (one-fortieth) of the Traditions in my memory.” Imam Shafi‘i, Abu Hanifa, Imam Malik, or Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and so many others, were brought up in the school of Prophet Muhammad.
And then there are such Qur’anic interpreters as Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Ibn Kathir, Imam Suyuti, Allama Hamdi Yazir, and Sayyid Qutb. In addition, there are such famous hadith collectors as Imam Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Abu Dawud, Ibn Maja, Nasa’i, Ibn Hanbal, Bayhaqi, Darimi, Daraqutni, Sayf al-Din al-‘Iraqi, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, and many others. They are all ever-shining stars in the luminous sky of Islamic sciences. All received their light from Prophet Muhammad.
According to Islam, God created humanity on the best pattern, as the most universal and all-embracing theater of Divine Names and Attributes. But people, because of their heedlessness, can fall to the lowest levels. Sufism, the inner dimension of Islam, leads people to perfection or enables them to reacquire their primordial angelic state. Islam has produced countless saints. As it never separated our metaphysical quest or gnosis from the study of nature, many practicing Sufis were also scientists. Such leading saints as ‘Abd al Qadir al-Jilani, Shah Naqshband, Ma‘ruf al-Karkhi, Hasan Shazili, Ahmad Badawi, Shaykh al-Harrani, Ja‘far al-Sadiq, Junayd al-Baghdadi, Bayazid al-Bistami, Muhy al-Din al-‘Arabi, and Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi have illumined the way to truth and trained others to purify their selves.
Being embodiments of sincerity, Divine love, and pure intention, Sufi masters became the motivating factor and the source of power behind the Islamic conquests and the subsequent Islamization of those lands. Figures like Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani, and Bediüzzaman Said Nursi are revivers or renewers of the highest degree, and combined in themselves the enlightenment of sages, the knowledge of religious scholars, and the spirituality of great saints.
Islam is the middle way. Its elaborate hierarchy of knowledge is integrated by the principle of Divine Unity. There are juridical, social and theological sciences, as well as metaphysical ones, all deriving their principles from the Qur’an. Over time, Muslims developed elaborate philosophical, natural, and mathematical sciences, each of which has its source in a Beautiful Name of God. For example, medicine depends on the Name All-Healing; geometry and engineering on the Names All-Just and All-Determiner, and All-Shaper and All-Harmonizing; philosophy reflects the Name All-Wise.
Each level of knowledge views nature in a particular light. Jurists and theologians see it as the background for human action; philosophers and scientists see it as a domain to be analyzed and understood; and metaphysicians consider it the object of contemplation and the mirror reflecting suprasensible realities. The Author of Nature has inscribed His Wisdom upon every leaf and stone, on every atom and particle, and has created the world of nature in such a way that every phenomenon is a sign singing the glory of His Oneness.
Islam has maintained an intimate connection between science and Islamic studies. Thus the traditional education of Islamic scientists, particularly in the early centuries, comprised most of contemporary sciences. In later life, each scientist’s aptitude and interest would cause him or her to become an expert and specialist in one or more sciences.
Universities, libraries, observatories, and other scientific institutions played a major role in the continuing vitality of Islamic science. These, together with students who would travel hundreds of miles to study under acknowledged scholars, ensured that the whole corpus of knowledge was kept intact and transmitted from one place to another and from one generation to the next. This knowledge did not remain static; rather, it continued to expand and enrich itself. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of Islamic (mainly in Arabic) manuscripts in the world’s libraries, a large number of which deal with scientific subjects.73
For example, Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub al-Kindi (the “Philosopher of the Arabs”) wrote on philosophy, mineralogy, metallurgy, geology, physics, and medicine, among other subjects, and was an accomplished physician. Ibn al-Haytham was a leading Muslim mathematician and, without doubt, the greatest physicist. We know the names of over 100 of his works. Some 19 of them, dealing with mathematics, astronomy, and physics, have been studied by modern scholars. His work exercised a profound influence on later scholars, both in the Muslim world and in the West, where he was known Alhazen. One of his works on optics was translated into Latin in 1270.
Abu al-Rayhan al-Biruni was one of the greatest scholars of medieval Islam, and certainly the most original and profound. He was equally well-versed in mathematics, astronomy, the physical and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a geographer and historian, a chronologist and linguist, and as an impartial observer of customs and creeds. Such figures as al-Kharizmi (mathematics), Ibn Shatir (astronomy), al-Khazini (physics), Jabir ibn Hayyan (medicine) are remembered even today. Andalucia (Muslim Spain) was the main center from which the West acquired knowledge and enlightenment for centuries.
Islam founded a most brilliant civilization. This should not be considered surprising, for the Qur’an begins with the injunction: Read: In the Name of Your Master Who creates (96:1). The Qur’an told people to read when there was very little to read and most people were illiterate. What we understand from this apparent paradox is that humanity is to “read” the universe itself as the “Book of Creation.”
Its counterpart is the Qur’an, a book of letters and words. We are to observe the universe, perceive its meaning and content, and through those activities gain a deeper perception of the beauty and splendor of the Creator’s system and the infinitude of His Might. Thus we are obliged to penetrate into the universe’s manifold meanings, discover the Divine laws of nature, and establish a world in which science and faith complement each other. All of this will enable us to attain true bliss in both worlds.
In obedience to the Qur’an’s injunctions and the Prophet’s example, Muslims studied the Book of Divine Revelation (the Qur’an) and the Book of Creation (the universe) and eventually erected a magnificent civilization. Scholars from all over Europe benefited from centers of higher learning located in Damascus, Bukhara, Baghdad, Cairo, Faz, Qairwan, Zeituna, Cordoba, Sicily, Isfahan, Delhi and other great Islamic cities. Historians liken the Muslim world of the medieval ages, dark for Europe but golden and luminous for Muslims, to a beehive. Roads were full of students, scientists, and scholars traveling from one center of learning to another.
For the first five centuries of its existence, the realm of Islam was a most civilized and progressive area. Studded with splendid cities, gracious mosques, and quiet universities, the Muslim East offered a striking contrast to the Christian West, which was sunk in the Dark Ages. Even after the disastrous Mongol invasions and Crusades of the thirteenth century CE and onwards, it displayed vigor and remained far ahead of the West.
Although Islam ruled two-thirds of the known civilized world for at least eleven centuries, laziness and negligence of what was going on beyond its borders caused it to decay. However, it must be pointed out clearly that only Islamic civilization decayed—not Islam. Military victories and superiority, which continued into the eighteenth century, encouraged Muslims to rest on their laurels and neglect further scientific research. They abandoned themselves to living their own lives, and recited the Qur’an without studying its deeper meanings. Meanwhile, Europe made great advances in sciences, which they had borrowed from the Muslims.
What we call “sciences” are, in reality, languages of the Divine Book of Creation (another aspect of Islam). Those who ignore this book are doomed to failure in this world. When the Muslims began to ignore it, it was only a matter of time before they would be dominated by some external force. In this case, that external force was Europe. The unending attacks of the Western powers and colonialism contributed greatly to this result.
Every civilization has its own characteristics distinguishing it from others. The present modern civilization, although having made great contributions to humanity’s development in the fields of sciences and technology, is primarily materialistic and is considerably far from satisfying humanity’s perennial needs. It is because of this that according to many Western sociologists such as Oswald Spengler it cannot last for long. Spengler has predicted its collapse on the grounds that it is against human nature and values. The bright world of the future will be built on the firm foundation of the wedding of sciences with faith, spirituality, and morality, and it will also attach due importance to basic human values and rights. Islam will make the greatest contribution to this world.
EndNote: A Tribute to The Prophet Muhammad
This is the tribute of Lamartine, a French historian, to the Prophet of Islam: “Is there any man greater than Muhammad?”
Never a man set himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a more sublime aim, since this aim was superhuman: To subvert superstitions which had been interposed between man and his Creator, to render God unto man and man unto God; to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry then existing. Never has a man undertaken a work so far beyond human power with so feeble means, for he had in the conception as well as in the execution of such a great design no other instrument than himself, and no other aid except a handful of men living in a corner of desert. Finally, never has a man accomplished such a huge and lasting revolution in the world, because in less than two centuries after its appearance, Islam, in faith and arms, reigned over the whole of Arabia, and conquered in God’s name Persia, Khorasan, Western India, Syria, Abyssinia, all the known continent of Northern Africa, numerous islands of Mediterranean, Spain, and a part of Gaul.
If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great men to Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples, and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then-inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs, and the souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which has blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. He has left to us the indelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality, the hatred of false gods, and the passion for the One and immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad: the conquest of one-third of the Earth to his creed was his miracle.
The idea of God’s Unity proclaimed amidst the exhaustion of fabulous theogenies was in itself such a miracle that upon its utterance from his lips it destroyed all the ancient temples of idols and set on fire one-third of the world. His life, his meditations, his heroic reviling against the superstitions of his country, and his boldness in defying the furies of idolatry; his firmness in enduring them for thirteen years in Makka, his acceptance of the role of the public scorn and almost of being a victim of his fellow countrymen: all these and, finally his incessant preaching, his wars against odds, his faith in his success and his superhuman security in misfortune, his forbearance in victory, his ambition which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayer, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to imposture but to a firm conviction. It was his conviction which gave him the power to restore a creed. This creed was twofold: God’s Unity and the immateriality of God—the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not.
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial states and of one spiritual state, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask: Is there any man greater than he? (Tr.)
By M. Fethullah Gulen
- Bukhari, “Da‘awat,” 6; Muslim, “Dhikr,” 56.
- Bukhari, “Adhan,” 89; Muslim, “Masajid,” 147.
- Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 6:147.
- Bukhari, “Adhan,” 155; Muslim, “Salat,” 205; Abu Dawud, “Salat,” 139.
- Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5:191.
- Nasa’i, “Sahw,” 62; Ibn Hanbal, 5:191.
- Ibn Hanbal, 5:191.
- Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 10:117.
- Muslim, “Dhikr,” 73; Abu Dawud, “Witr,” 32.
- Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat,” 23; Nasa’i, “Sahw,” 61.
- Tirmidhi, “Tafsir al-Qur’an,” 39; Imam Malik, Muwatta’, “Qur’an,” 73.
- Hakim, Mustadrak, 1:520.
- Ibid., 1:499.
- Ibn Maja, “Du‘a,” 2; Muslim, “Dhikr,” 72; Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat,” 72.
- Ibn Hanbal, 4:181; Hakim, 3:591.
- Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat,” 89.
- Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 54; Muslim, “Jihad,” 104.
- Ibn Hisham, Sira, 4:55; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 4:344.
- Muslim, “Fara’iz,’ 14; Bukhari, “Istiqraz,” 11.
- Muslim, “Birr,” 87.
- Ibn Hanbal, 4:395; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 126.
- Qadi ‘Iyad, Al-Shifa’, 1:17.
- Muslim, “Hudud,” 17-23; Bukhari, “Hudud,” 28.
- Bukhari, “Adhan,” 65; Muslim, “Salat,” 192.
- Bukhari, “Adab,” 18.
- Bukhari, “Adab,” 18; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 64; Ibn Maja, “Adab,” 3.
- Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 16.
- Bukhari, “Jana’iz,” 45; Muslim, “Jana’iz,” 12.
- Bukhari, “Jana’iz,” 3.
- Muslim, “Ayman,” 31, 33; Ibn Hanbal, 3:447.
- Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 1:195.
- ukhari, “Anbiya’,” 54; “Musaqat,” 9; Muslim, “Salam,” 153; Ibn Hanbal, 2:507.
- Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 164; “Jihad,” 112; Ibn Hanbal, 1:404.
- Bukhari, “Jihad,” 153; Muslim, “Salam,” 147.
- Nasa’i, “Hajj,” 114; Ibn Hanbal, 1:385.
- Hakim, Mustadrak, 4:231, 233.
- Suyuti, Al-Khasa’is al-Kubra’, 2:95; Haythami, Majma‘, 9:9.
- Muslim, “Zakat,” 142, 148; Bukhari, “Adab,” 95; “Manaqib,” 25.
- Bukhari, “Adab,” 95; Muslim, “Zakat,” 142.
- Bukhari, “Hiba,” 28; Abu Dawud, “Diyat,” 6.
- Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 1; Nasa’i, “Qasama,” 24.
- Suyuti, Al-Khasa’is, 1:26; Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 1:566.
- Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 28; “Adhan,” 61.
- Muslim, “Salat,” 179; Nasa’i, “Iftitah,” 71; Bukhari, “Adab,” 74.
- Hakim, Mustadrak, 3:242.
- Said Nursi, Sözler (Istanbul: 1986), 459.
- Muslim, “Iman,” 158; Ibn Maja, “Fitan,” 1.
- Bukhari, “Iman,” 22.
- Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 3:158-9.
- Ibn Hisham, 4:135; Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 2:187; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 57.
- Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 3.
- Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 2; Muslim, “Talaq,” 31.
- Muslim, “Ashriba,” 140; Abu Nu‘aym, “Hilya,” 1:30.
- Tabari, “Tarikh,” 4:252.
- Muslim, “Fada’il,” 48; Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 23.
- Suyuti, Al-Khasa’is, 1:123; Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 7:168.
- Ibn Kathir, 6:63.
- Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 40.
- Hindi, 6:571.
- Said Nursi, Letters, 2:315.
- Haythami, Majma‘, 9:21.
- Ibn Hisham, 2:137.
- Bukhari, 1:111; Muslim, 2:65; Semhudi, Wafa’, 1:237; Ibn Sa‘d, 1: 240.
- Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 39.
- Ibn Maja, “At‘ima,” 30; Haythami, 9:20.
- Qadi ‘Iyad, Al-Shifa’, 1:131, 133.
- Tirmidhi, Shama’il, 78; Ibn Hanbal, 6:256.
- Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 18.
- Ibn Maja, “Manasik,” 5; Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat,” 109; Abu Dawud, “Witr,” 23.
- Ibn Hanbal, 2:231; Haythami, 9:18.
- Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 3:113; Haythami, 10:325.
- Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 3880.
- George Sarton, in his monumental Introduction to the History of Science, divided his work into chronological chapters, naming each chapter after the most eminent scientist of that period. From the middle of the second century AH (eighth century CE) to the middle of the fifth century AH (eleventh century CE), each 50-year period carries the name of a Muslim scientist. Thus we have the “Time of al-Kharizmi,” the “Time of al-Biruni,” and so on. These chapters also contain the names of many other important Islamic scientists and their main works. (Tr.)