The Essentials of Prophethood
According to Muslim theologians, the essentials of Prophethood are truthfulness, trustworthiness, communicating of God’s messages, intelligence, infallibility, and freedom from all bodily and mental defects. These are found in every Prophet.
Truthfulness is the cornerstone of Prophethood. No lies or deceit, whether explicit or implicit, were ever heard from them. The Qur’an declares:
Mention Abraham in the Book: Surely he was a most truthful Prophet (19:41);
Mention Ishmael in the Book; surely, he was a man of his word, and he was a Messenger, a Prophet (19:54);
Mention Enoch (Idris) in the Book; surely he was a most truthful Prophet. We elevated him to an exalted place (19:56-57).
We also read in the Qur’an that a fellow prisoner addressed Prophet Joseph:
Joseph, O most truthful one (12:46).
The Prophets had to be endowed with truthfulness, for God wants everybody to be truthful and extols the truthful:
O you who believe, fear God and be with the company of the truthful! (9:119),
The believers are those who believed in God and His Messenger without ever feeling doubt thereafter, and strove with their souls and possessions in the way of God; those are the ones who are the truthful (49:15).
The Qur’an praises believers who, without faltering, carry out their promises:
Among the believers are the valiants who have kept their promise which they gave to God: Some of them carried out their word [and were martyred] and the others are expecting (their turn); they have never thought of going back on their word. (33:23)
This verse extols the heroes of Uhud, a decisive turning point in Islamic history. After the Qurayshi unbelievers were defeated at Badr, they had spent a whole year preparing for a deadly retaliatory blow at the Muslims. Meeting at the foot of Mount Uhud, a few miles from Madina, the Muslims at first were victorious and the Quraysh began to flee. At this crucial point, the archers whom God’s Messenger had positioned at ‘Aynayn pass left their positions, against the Prophet’s command, and pursued the enemy. Khalid ibn Walid, commander of the enemy’s cavalry, took this opportunity to surround the Muslims from behind. As a result, the Muslims experienced a reverse. Such leading figures as Hamza, Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr, ‘Abd Allah ibn Jahsh, and Anas ibn Nadr were martyred. Even the Prophet was wounded.
Let us note here that during the battle, God’s Messenger, the Prophet of forgiveness and mercy who was sent as a mercy for creation, raised his hands to the heavens with a heart-felt prayer and, while bleeding profusely, asked for the enemy to be forgiven: “O God, forgive my people, for they do not know.”1
Anas ibn Nadr was the uncle of Anas ibn Malik, the servant of God’s Messenger. Although he had sworn allegiance with God’s Messenger in ‘Aqabah before he emigrated to Madina, for some reason he did not fight at Badr. He regretted this so much that he told God’s Messenger: “O Messenger of God, if God allows us to confront them once more, they will see what sufferings I will inflict on them!” He fought fearlessly at Uhud, especially when the Muslims suffered a reverse. Just before being martyred, he told Mu‘adh ibn Jabal with a smile: “By God, I sense the scent of Paradise behind Uhud.”
The Qur’an exalts in the above verse (33:23) those martyrs who fulfilled their promise to God through His Messenger, as well as others expecting martyrdom, to show that they were true to their words. They are not the only ones extolled here; rather, all who fulfill their words and keep their promises are mentioned.
God’s Messenger was known as a truthful person even before Islam. The Makkans, even the unbelievers, called him al-Amin (the Trustworthy One, the Truthful). Even his enemies did not accuse him of lying after he proclaimed his Prophethood. Abu Sufyan, for example, confessed to the Emperor of Byzantium that he never lied.
Struck by Abu Sufyan’s answers, at that time the bitterest enemy of Islam, the Emperor acknowledged Prophet Muhammad’s position: “It is inconceivable for one who has never told a lie during his whole life to invent lies against God.”2 He was right. Why would a believer who had never told a lie, even in jest, suddenly begin to lie, especially against God, when he is 40 years old and getting closer to the grave?
The Makkans agreed unanimously that God’s Messenger was a truthful person. Once before his conversion, Yasir asked his son ‘Ammar where he was going. ‘Ammar said that he was going to the Prophet. Being fully satisfied of his son’s safety while with him, he replied: “Muhammad is a trustworthy person. The Makkans recognize him so. If he claims Prophethood he must be telling the truth, for no one has ever heard him tell a lie.”
God’s Messenger always encouraged truthfulness, as can be seen in his words as recorded in the following Traditions:
- Promise me six things and I will promise you Paradise: Speak the truth, keep your promises, fulfill your trusts, remain chaste, don’t look at what is unlawful, and avoid what is forbidden.3
- Abandon what arouses your suspicions and follow what is certain. Truthfulness gives satisfaction; lying causes suspicion.4
- Seek truthfulness even if it might bring you to ruin.5
- Always be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. If you are always truthful and seek truthfulness, God records you as such. Never lie, for lying leads to shamefulness and shamefulness leads to Hell. If you insist on lying and seek deceit, God records you as such.6
Due to his truthfulness, God’s Messenger rose to such a high rank that his nearness to God is expressed metaphorically in the Qur’an as follows: Then he approached and came nearer, till he was [distant] two bows’ length, or even nearer (53:8-9).
Truthfulness always brings salvation, even if it causes one’s death. We die through truthfulness only once, whereas each lie is a different kind of death. One of the most striking examples of this is the case of Ka‘b ibn Malik, a famous Ansari poet who swore allegiance to God’s Messenger at ‘Aqabah. Although he took part in almost all the battles, he missed the campaign of Tabuk without a justifiable excuse.
The Tabuk campaign was very difficult. It took place in midsummer and, what is more, against the Roman Empire. Although God’s Messenger always kept the destination of such campaigns secret, this time he disclosed it and wanted every believer to participate. Ka‘b completed his preparations but, at the last minute, uncharacteristic negligence kept him from joining the army.
When God’s Messenger returned from the campaign, he asked those who had not fought why they had stayed at home. The hypocrites lied and made excuses, but Ka‘b, being unable to lie, told the truth. God’s Messenger told him to leave. Thereafter, Ka‘b and two other believers who had done the same thing were boycotted. On the order of God’s Messenger, no Muslim met with them or spoke to them. They repented publicly, begging God for forgiveness, for 50 days. After this, it was revealed that:
As for those three, the acceptance of their repentance was delayed until, for them, the Earth, vast as it is, was straitened and their own souls were straitened to them, and they perceived that there is no fleeing from God and no refuge but with Him. Then He accepted their repentance so that they could recover their former state. Verily, God is the One who accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (9:118)
After this revelation, Ka‘b ibn Malik told the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings: “I promise to speak the truth as long as I live.”7
Truthfulness is the pivot of Prophethood. It could not be otherwise, for if a Prophet were to lie, everything connected with the Divine religion would be upset. All it takes is one lie to call a mission into question. Thus God declares:
If he [Muhammad] had invented false sayings concerning Us, We would surely have grasped him firmly, and then cut off the artery of his heart, and none of you could have withheld Us from doing this. (69:44-47)
The Prophet never lied or broke his promise, either prior to or during his Prophethood. A Companion remembered:
Before his Prophethood, we made an appointment to meet somewhere. It was, however, 3 days after the appointed time when I remembered it. When I hastened to the appointed place, I found the future Prophet waiting for me. He was neither angry nor offended. His only reaction was to say: “O young man, you have given me some trouble. I have been waiting here for you for three days.”8
Some of His Predictions
Ordinary people can establish their truthfulness by their detractor’s inability to provide any proof to the contrary. In the case of a Prophet who has brought a universal Divine system, people expect more. They want explanations and rules for everything: theology, law, sociology, human psychology, economics, history, and so on. Moreover, a Prophet must be proven truthful in all of them.
The explanations of God’s Messenger concerning theology (Divine Essence, Attributes, and Names) are such that philosophers, religious scholars, and saints cannot compete with him. Instead, they study his explanations and try to perceive the truths behind them. In addition to these, he dealt with the most subtle matters of Destiny and human free will so ably and convincingly that if his knowledge is ignored, we cannot obtain a true understanding of such matters.
What he said about past nations and previous Prophets has been confirmed by historical research and followers of previous Scriptures. Although unlettered, never enjoying the benefit of being able to read or being taught by another person, he established the most rational, practical, and just system known to history. Islamic civilization, which based itself on this system, enabled a large portion of humanity to experience true happiness for centuries. Indeed, the universal system of life revealed to him continues to offer a unique alternative for our future in general. The happy world of the future will be built upon its principles.
Out of hundreds of his predictions, the vast majority of which already have come true, I would like to present a selection to show his truthfulness in this matter.
‘Umar reports that one day the Prophet ascended the pulpit after the dawn prayer and spoke about almost everything from the creation of the world to the Last Day. He mentioned certain past events and what will befall humanity until that Day. These predictions demonstrate that his teacher was God, the All-Knowing, and that he related only what was revealed to him. Before giving specific examples, we must clarify a few points concerning knowledge of the Unseen.
Knowledge of the Unseen
The concept of the Unseen pertains to what is suprasensory and metaphysical, or even metacosmic. In this sense, the past, the future, and everything beyond ordinary human senses are included in the concept of the Unseen, provided that certain concrete indications have not been manifested. In a narrower sense, the Unseen pertains only to the future. It is this second sense that is used in the following section, as I intend to concentrate on his predictions.
The knowledge of the Unseen is, first of all, with God. As we read in the Qur’an:
With Him are the keys of the Unseen, none knows them but He. He knows whatever is in the ground and the sea. Not a leaf falls but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the ground nor anything wet, fresh, or dry but is in a Manifest Record. (6:59)
Say, [O Muhammad]: “I do not tell you that with me are the treasures of God, nor that I know the Unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me.” Say: “Are the blind and the one who sees equal? Will you not then reflect?” (6:50)
Say: “I have no power over any benefit or harm to myself except as God wills. If I had the knowledge of the Unseen, I should increase good for myself and no evil should have touched me. I am only a warner and a bringer of glad tidings unto people who believe.” (7:188)
Does this mean that no one can obtain even a small part of this knowledge? To answer this question, we should consider the following points:
- Whatever we have (e.g., health, knowledge, and power) essentially belongs to God and is, accordingly, from God. We have no power except that which He has given us, and no knowledge except that which He has taught us or enabled us to learn. We see and hear because He makes this possible. This being so, the verses do not exclude people absolutely from acquiring some of this knowledge, but only if He allows this.
- The concept of the Unseen relates to the future and the past. The Qur’an presents the stories of past nations as stories of the Unseen. Historical research informs us of the past.
- Many people can, by God’s Will, glimpse part of the future in dreams or other ways that are beyond the scope of this book.
- The Qur’an, like the universe and humanity, is an organic entity, for each verse is interrelated with the others. Thus the first and foremost interpreter of the Qur’an is the Qur’an itself. This means that a complete and true understanding of a verse depends on understanding all other relevant verses. It is a creedal principle and explicitly declared that knowledge of the Unseen, like power, seeing, and hearing, belongs to God. However, He reveals some of this knowledge to a Messenger whom He has chosen:
[God alone is] the knower of the Unseen and He does not disclose His Unseen to anyone, except a Messenger whom He has chosen. (72:26-27)
God revealed many secrets to His Messenger, who then related to his people those that they needed to know. The number his predictions reported in authentic books of Tradition exceed 300, and fall into three categories: his own time, events after his death, and miraculous explanations that can be understood only in conjunction with scientific developments.
Predictions: His Own Time
- As reported by authentic books of Tradition, including Sahih al-Bukhari, one day God’s Messenger mounted the pulpit, preached, and then told the congregation to ask him whatever they wished to. They did so. Finally, a young man named ‘Abd Allah stood up and asked who his father was. Since illicit intercourse was widespread in pre-Islamic times, this young man was attributed to someone other than Hudafa al-Sahmi, whom he called father. God’s Messenger told him his father was Hudafa al-Sahmi. Freed from groundless accusations, ‘Abd Allah was relieved and thereafter was called ‘Abd Allah ibn Hudafa al-Sahmi.
People continued to ask questions until, eventually, ‘Umar noticed the changing attitude of God’s Messenger.9 He stood up and said: “We are pleased with God as our Lord, with Islam as our religion, and with Muhammad as our Messenger.” This eased the Prophet and he came down from the pulpit.10 This event took place before all the Companions, and no one was reported to contradict what he said.
- ‘Umar reports in a narration recorded in Sahih al-Muslim: Before the Battle of Badr started, God’s Messenger walked around the battlefield and pointed to some locations, saying: “Abu Jahl will be killed here, ‘Utba here, Shayba here, Walid here, and so on.” By God, after the battle we found their corpses in those exact places.11 Ahmad ibn Hanbal reports: One day, God’s Messenger was sitting in the mosque with his Companions. He told them: “In a few minutes, a man with a shining face will come. He is one of the best people of Yemen, and has on his forehead an angel’s handprint.” After a short while the man came and, kneeling before God’s Messenger proclaimed his conversion. He was Jarir ibn ‘Abd Allah alBajali.12
- In his Dala’il al-Nubuwwah, Bayhaqi narrates: Abu Sufyan accepted Islam during the conquest of Makka, but belief had not yet been established firmly in his heart. While God’s Messenger was circumambulating the Ka‘ba, it occurred to him: “I wonder what would happen if I formed a new army to confront this man once more.” No sooner had he thought this than God’s Messenger approached him and said: “If you do, God will defeat you again.”13 This strengthened Abu Sufyan’s belief, and he begged God’s forgiveness. He finally understood that the Messenger was taught by God, the All-Knowing.
- As related in the reliable books of Tradition, ‘Umayr ibn Wahb, known as a “diabolic man” before his conversion, conspired with Safwan ibn Umayya to assassinate God’s Messenger. He went to Madina for this purpose and pretended to be a Muslim. He was taken to the mosque. However, since the Companions had no trust in him, they formed a protective circle around God’s Messenger. The Messenger asked ‘Umayr why he had come to Madina. All of ‘Umayr’s lies could not convince God’s Messenger, who finally told him: “As you are not telling the truth, I will tell it. You conspired with Safwan to kill me in return for 100 camels.” Shocked by the truth of this answer, ‘Umayr held the Prophet’s hands tightly in awe and amazement and became a Muslim. He became so deeply committed to Islam that he came to be called “a most ascetic devotee of Islam.”14
Predictions: The Near Future
The reliable books of Tradition contain approximately 300 such predictions, among them the following:
- Bukhari and Muslim report from Usama: “One day I was with God’s Messenger on the roof of a tall building in Madina. Looking around, he said: ‘I see seditious events and internal conflicts pouring down like raindrops among your houses.’”15
‘Umar was very afraid that disorder and sedition might appear in the Muslim community. One day during his caliphate, he asked Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman, to whom God’s Messenger had disclosed many secret things, including future events and who the hypocrites were, about them. Hudhayfa responded: “They have nothing to do with you, ‘Umar. There is a gate between you and them.” ‘Umar asked if the gate would be opened or broken down. When Hudhayfa replied it would be broken down, a shocked ‘Umar exclaimed: “Then this gate will never be closed again!” ‘Umar was the gate between the Muslim community and sedition.16 After he was stabbed by a treacherous Persian slave, Muslim unity received a fatal blow. Since that day, the Muslim world has suffered discord and sedition.
- Bukhari and Abu Dawud quote Habbab ibn Arat, who said: “During the days of trouble and torture in Makka, I went to God’s Messenger while he was sitting in the shade of the Ka‘ba. I was still a slave then, and the Makkans tortured me severely. Unable to endure it any longer, I asked him to pray to God for help and salvation. But he faced me and said:
By God, previous communities endured much more than this. Some people were forced to lie in ditches and then sawed in half. This did not make them forsake their faith. They were skinned alive, but never became weak against the enemy. God will perfect this religion, but you are impatient. A day will come when a woman will travel alone by herself from San’a to Hadramawt fearing nothing but wild beasts. However, you show impatience.
Habbab concluded: “By God, what God’s Messenger predicted that day has all come true. I have personally witnessed it all.”17
- During his last illness, God’s Messenger called his daughter Fatima to his bedside. He whispered something to her, and she burst into tears. He called her again and whispered something else to her. This time she displayed great joy. ‘A’isha saw this and asked Fatima about it. At first, Fatima said: “This is a secret belonging to God’s Messenger.” But after the Prophet’s death, Fatima told her: “The first time he said he would die of that illness, which made me weep bitterly. Then he told that I would be his first family member to join him after his death, and this made me very happy.”18 The Prophet died of that illness, and Fatima joined him in death 6 months later.19
- As related in most of the six authentic books of Tradition, one day on the pulpit God’s Messenger took his grandson Hasan into his arms and declared: “This son of mine is a noble one. It is hoped that God will reconcile through him two large hosts of Muslims.”20 Hasan was indeed a noble person. About 35 years after this prediction, he renounced the caliphate in favor of Mu‘awiya, thus demonstrating the truthfulness of his noble grandfather.
- One day the Messenger put his hand on ‘Abd Allah ibn Busr’s head and said: “This boy will live 100 years, and those warts on his face will disappear.”21 ‘Abd Allah lived for 100 years and died without warts on his face.
- As recorded in almost all books of Tradition and the Prophet’s biography, the Muslims dug a ditch around Madina during the Battle of Trench. The Prophet shared in this work and, to reinforce his Companions morale, occasionally prayed for them: “O God, the true life is the life of the Hereafter, so forgive the Helpers and the Emigrants.”22 His Companions would reply enthusiastically: “O God, had it not been for Your help and grace, we could not have found the Straight Path, paid alms, or prayed. And so, send down upon us serenity, and make our steps firm if we encounter the enemy!”23
While digging, a huge rock was uncovered. The Companions could not remove it, and so called God’s Messenger. He came with a lever and pickaxe, and set out to smash it. Each blow produced a spark and, through God’s inspiration, he predicted a future conquest, saying: “I have been given the keys of Byzantium; I have been given the keys of Persia; I have been given the keys of Yemen,”24 and so on. Within 20 years, Persia and many parts of Byzantium belonged to the Muslims, thanks to the brilliant military leadership of Khalid ibn Walid and Sa‘d ibn Abi Waqqas. Byzantium was conquered later by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.
- ‘Adiy ibn Khatam reports: “One day people complained, in the presence of God’s Messenger, about poverty, deprivation, and unsafe desert roads. He replied: ‘A day will come when a woman will travel alone on her camel from Hira to the Ka‘ba with fear of nothing but God alone. A day will come and the treasures of Chosroes (the Persian ruler) will be distributed among you. A day will come when people will travel around to find someone to pay the prescribed alms to, but in vain.’ When he predicted this, members of the Tayy tribe used to attack travelers, and the Persian Empire was enjoying its most splendid days. But I personally witnessed the first two predictions come true, and I am expecting the third also will prove to be true.”25
- ‘Adiy did not live long enough to see the third prediction come true. However, soon after his death, during the caliphate of ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, people became so rich that no one could be found to give the prescribed alms to in the vast lands of the Muslim state. Living standards were very high, and there was no discernible imbalance in the distribution of wealth.
- While the Prophet’s Mosque was being built in Madina, everybody, including God’s Messenger, worked to complete it as quickly as possible. Some cast sun-dried bricks, and others carried them to construction site. Meanwhile, ‘Ammar ibn Yasir, one of the first Muslims, approached God’s Messenger and, probably to attract his love and affection, said: “O God’s Messenger, they loaded on me two sun-dried bricks.” God’s Messenger smiled and, while rubbing the dust off ‘Ammar’s face, said he would be martyred: “What a pity (Glad tidings for you, according to another version), O ‘Ammar, a rebellious group will kill you.”26 ‘Ammar was martyred about 40 years later at the Battle of Siffin by Mu‘awiya’s followers.
- God’s Messenger was distributing the spoils of a war when a hollow-eyed man with a flat nose and protuberant cheekbones told him to be just in distribution. To this impertinence, God’s Messenger asked: “Who else will show justice if I am not just? If I do not show justice, then I have been lost and brought to naught.” According to another version, he said: “If I am not just, then, (by following me) you (the people) have been lost and brought to naught.”27 ‘Umar was furious with this man, and demanded that God’s Messenger allow him to “cut off this hypocrite’s head.” But the Messenger only said: “In the future, a group of people with chubby faces, slanting eyes, and flat noses [like this man] will appear. They will recite so much of the Qur’an that, when compared to their recitation, yours will seem small to you. Nevertheless, what they recite will not have the slightest effect on them. They will leave the religion like an arrow shot from a bow. There will, moreover, be a large fatty growth on the arm of one of them.”28
Years passed, and a group called the Kharijites appeared. Bearing these very characteristics, and basing themselves on a mistaken interpretation of the Qur’an, they rebelled. Caliph ‘Ali met and defeated them at Nahrawan. A corpse with a fatty growth on its arm was taken to ‘Ali. This event, besides proving the truthfulness and Messengership of Prophet Muhammad, fulfilled another prediction: “O ‘Ali, I have fought for the descent of the Qur’an; you will fight against its misinterpretation.”29
- One day God’s Messenger slept in the house of Umm Haram, his foster aunt. He woke up smiling. Umm Haram asked why he was happy, and he answered: “I dreamed that like kings seated on thrones, a group of Muslims boarded ships and went off to war.” Umm Haram asked him to pray that she would be included in this group. He did so, and said: “You will be among them.”30 Years passed. During Mu‘awiya’s caliphate, Muslims waged war upon Cyprus. Umm Haram was in the army accompanying her husband, ‘Ubada ibn Samit. She died there, and her tomb has been visited ever since.
Predictions: The Distant Future
- Once God’s Messenger declared: “When the end of time [the Last Day] approaches, the children of Kantura will appear. They will be slant-eyed, chubby-faced, and flatnosed.”31 Some historians think that this description fits the Mongols, and some of the Kharijites, to whom it is traditionally thought to refer. God’s Messenger predicted both the Mongol invasion and the destruction of the Muslim world, and the Western massacre of Andalusia’s Muslims—two of the most tragic calamities to afflict the Muslim nation. Always concerned with his people’s fate, he used such predictions to warn Muslims that deviating from the Straight Path will bring calamity. God uses wrongdoers and oppressors to chasten and correct His believing servants, and afterward turns against the oppressors and eradicates them.
- God’s Messenger foresaw the conquest of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul): “Certainly, Constantinople will be conquered. How good is the commander who will conquer it, and how good his army!”32 Hoping to be honored with the Prophet’s praise, Muslim rulers and commanders from the time of Mu‘awiya sought to conquer this city. During one campaign, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, the noble Companion, was martyred and buried near the city walls.
Constantinople finally was conquered by the Ottoman ruler Mehmed the Conqueror. Besides this great commander and statesman, his two school friends Hasan of Ulubat and Kadý Hizir Çelebi, as well as his tutor Ak Shamsaddin, were also symbols of this conquest. One was in the army, and the others were in the departments of religious and scientific education. The prayer and praise of God’s Messenger encompasses all of them.
- God’s Messenger predicted and explained the principle reasons for the Ottoman State’s destruction and condition of the Muslim world after the First World War: “Nations will call each other, as people make invitations to a meal, to make a concerted attack on you.” Someone asked: “Will this happen because there are only a few of us?” God’s Messenger answered: “No, your numbers will be vast, but you will be as powerless as wood-chips or straw carried in a flood. God will remove your enemies’ fear of you and implant within you a fear of death and a love of the world.”33
The prediction, which became reality during the First World War, also describes our current situation. We are divided into many factions, while our enemies seek closer unity based on mutual interests. In the past, they were afraid of us because we saw the grave as a bridal chamber, something to look forward to. But now, we are so attached to this world that we do all we can to escape death, even though we know this is impossible. We also have been the object of many betrayals. ‘Uthman and ‘Ali were victims of treachery, and the magnificent Ottoman State was made sacrificial food for the carnivorous peoples of the world. It experienced uncountable betrayals by nations who had been so prosperous and peaceful under Ottoman rule.
- God’s Messenger predicted the rise of communism in a hadith reported by Ibn ‘Umar. Facing toward the east, he said: “Take care! Anarchy and subversion will appear from that direction, from where the Age of Satan will begin.”34 The Age of Satan, built upon atheism and hedonism, is the opposite of the Age of the Prophet, based on belief in and devotion to God. Communism, the unlawful outcome of capitalism, champions hostility to religion, piety, and all moral and traditional values. In another hadith, God’s Messenger foretold that communism would arise as “a red wind.”
- God’s Messenger once declared: “The Euphrates will probably go dry, uncovering a treasure (a mountain, in another version) of gold beneath it. Whoever of you witnesses it, should refrain from taking any of it.”35 This hadith alludes to the great war expected to take place along the Euphrates. Although this river has seen many wars, among them the Iran–Iraq war, this hadith points to a much greater spasm of violence in the future. While we can take the hadith literally, we also can take it figuratively. For example, oil is known as “black gold.” Or, maybe the water itself will become as valuable as gold and cause regional or even international wars. Maybe the income obtained from the dams on this river will attract international attention and cause great wars. In whichever case, God’s Messenger warned that the Euphrates region is like dynamite at the heart of the Muslim world.
- God’s Messenger averred that Christianity would be purified of its borrowed, pagan elements and join Islam, thus strengthening the Divine religion.36 This will be a universal turning point in human history, and the believers, at a time when they are gripped by their enemies, will defeat and destroy the global representatives of unbelief.
- God’s Messenger predicted that agricultural reform and developments in science and technology would enable farmers to produce a pomegranate that, on an individual bases, will be enough for twenty people, and that its rind will provide shade for people. He also prophesied that wheat produced in area the size of a house balcony will be enough to feed a family for a year.37 With the advent of biotechnology and genetic manipulation, such wonders are probably not too far in the future.
- In another Tradition, God’s Messenger describes the end of time: “Prior to Doomsday, people will discriminate when greeting others (preferring to greet only some), trade will be given so much currency and preference that a wife will help her husband in it, parents and relatives will no longer be visited, false evidence and false testimony will replace the truth, and writing will gain prominence.”38
All of this has come true. Today, trade is the most preferred way of making a livelihood, and women are exploited to advertise various products and services, and to attract customers. The rights of parents and relatives are no longer considered and, once they become old and most need attention and affection, they are often placed in nursing homes. The power of the modern press is unquestionable, and lying is now so widespread that few people can resist it. This is true at all levels, from business lies to false testimony in law suits.
- In a hadith qudsi, the Prophet relates from God: “At the end of time I will cause knowledge to be obtained by everyone, men and women, slave and free, and old and young.”39 Education is now open to almost everyone through schools, universities, and the media. Many intellectuals and scientists say that the next age will be the Age of Information.
- In another authentic Tradition, God’s Messenger declares: “The Last Day will not come until the Qur’an is a means of shame and Islam is left without a powerful group to support it.”40 We have seen the truth of this prediction. For nearly a century, Muslims have been persecuted even in their own lands. While atheists and unbelievers have openly declared their unbelief everywhere, Islam has been the target of verbal, written, and even physical assault. Muslims have felt compelled to conceal their belief, and have become too ashamed to openly declare their belief.
- The Messenger predicted the developments in telecommunication and transportation. The above hadith continues: “The Hour will not come until the distances of time and space diminish.” I have translated the word taqarub as “diminish.”41 It means “to approach each other” and implies that before the Day of Judgment, things which previously took a long time will be possible in a very short time.
This hadith, in addition to predicting modern methods of transportation and telecommunication, implies that time is relative. The Earth is gradually taking an elliptical shape. This may cause some changes in the division and calculation of time. As for the relativity of time alluded to in the hadith, we know that time differs in some aspects (e.g., division, length, calculation, and the speed of its passage in or around every sphere or planet). If humanity manages to leave this solar system, the present conception of time will completely change. Thus, in a single word, God’s Messenger makes several predictions, some of which have already come true, and also alludes to several scientific facts.
- God’s Messenger also predicted: “A time will come upon people when almost everyone will eat from usury, to the extent that those who refrain from it will be exposed to its ‘dust.’”42 God’s Messenger points to two important facts:
- A time will come when all formal transactions will involve interest. No one will be able to avoid it completely. However, those who do not enter into interest-based transactions will not be held accountable for the interest they eat unintentionally, as long as they do their best to refrain from usury.
- God’s Messenger may have meant by being exposed to its dust that a capitalist class would emerge and increase its wealth through interest. This would gradually lead the working class into deeper and deeper poverty, which would result in direct and bitter class warfare.
All these predictions have come true. How tragic it is that Muslim countries are in such a despised, degenerate state because, among other things, they are drowning in a swamp of interest despite the Qur’anic warning that anyone involved in interest-based transactions is at war with God and His Messenger (2:279). If only Muslims had been conscious of such Qur’anic statements, they would not be in such a miserable position.
- In the following authentic Tradition, God’s Messenger points to another aspect of the present sad state of the Muslim world: “A time will come when believers conceal themselves as hypocrites do among you today.”43 At the time of the Prophet, hypocrites used to conceal themselves by going through the outward motions of the religious rituals. According to this hadith, Muslims will try to conceal themselves, even performing their religious obligations in secret. The same state was described in another hadith: “Sedition and deviation will occur. A Muslim will be disgraced for performing the prescribed prayers, just as a woman is disgraced today because of fornication.”
- In another narration, God’s Messenger predicted that oil would be discovered in Taleqan (Iran): “Good tidings to Taleqan, for God’s treasuries are there, but not of gold and silver.”44 In the past, treasury meant gold and silver. For this reason, God’s Messenger emphasized that Taleqan’s treasuries would be something else. What comes to mind first today when told of such a treasury is oil. However, he might have implied resources of uranium or diamonds. If this is the case, the prediction has come true, for such resources have been discovered in and around Taleqan.
- “You will walk in the footsteps of those who preceded you so closely that if, for example, they put their heads in a lizard’s hole, you would do the same.” The Companions asked him if those who preceded you meant the Jews and Christians, and he answered: “Who else could it be?”45 Muslims have been suffering from an identity crisis for two centuries. They are blind imitators of the West and have been caught up in vices that destroyed all previous civilizations.
Predictions: Scientific Developments
God’s Messenger also made many predictions concerning various scientific developments, some of which have already come true. Out of the many examples, I will cite only a few to illustrate his accuracy in this regard.
- As related by Bukhari, God’s Messenger declared: “God did not send down an illness for which He did not send a cure.”46 This hadith, in addition to declaring that every illness is curable, is the most comprehensive statement encouraging medical research. In another Tradition, the Messenger states that “there is a cure for every illness.”47
Another version tells us: “Do not neglect to treat your diseases, for God does not send a disease for which He does not also send a cure. The only exception is old age.”48 Humanity may discover a cure for every illness, but will never be able to stop our journey from the world of spirits to the material world and then on to either Paradise or Hell through the stations of embryo, infancy, childhood, youth, old age, the grave, and the Resurrection. The Prophet encourages us to learn how to cure illnesses, but also warns us not to neglect preparing for the next world.
God encourages us to pursue scientific knowledge by relating the miracles of earlier Prophets. This brings such matters to the scientists’ attention and thereby shows the limits to their aspirations. By allowing Jesus the inimitable miracle of bringing the dead back to life, He points out that we can cure everything but death.
The story of Moses’ staff shows us that we can use inanimate things for various purposes, such as obtaining water from deep underground by using such simple things as a staff like a centrifuge. However, we will never cause a rock to bring forth abundant water by striking it with a staff, or to change a staff into a snake, both of which Moses did.
The Qur’an is Prophet Muhammad’s greatest miracle, and marks the farthest limit in literary style and eloquence that humanity can attain. It also implies that writing and eloquence will have the greatest importance toward the end of time. The Prophets set examples and showed us the limits to which we may go in material as well as spiritual progress.
- The Messenger advised quarantine to contain outbreaks of contagious diseases: “If you hear that there is pestilence in a place, don’t enter it; if pestilence breaks out where you are, don’t leave it to escape the pestilence.”49 According to Ahmad ibn Hanbal, he also declared: “Keep away from the leper as you do from a lion.”50 In this hadith, God’s Messenger advises us to protect ourselves against leprosy. Quarantine is again suggested here as a way to prevent the spread of leprosy.
- Imam Muslim narrates in his Sahih that God’s Messenger declared: “If a dog licks your bowl, clean it seven times, first time with soil, and the other six with water.”51 This hadith contains the following medical principles related to bacteria:
—–Dogs may carry microbes of certain diseases that can be passed to people. This fact was discovered recently by scientists.
—–A dog’s saliva and excrement may contain substances that can damage a person’s health.
—–At the time of the Prophet, disinfection and sterilization were unknown. Nevertheless, God’s Messenger recommends that a bowl licked by a dog be cleaned with soil. Today we know that soil is a good antiseptic that contains such substances as tetracycline.
In another hadith concerning dogs, God’s Messenger expresses a fundamental principle of ecology: “If dogs were not a separate community, I would order their killing.”52 This implies that every species is an indispensable element of ecological balance.
- As recorded by Sahih al-Tirmidhi and Sunan Abu Dawud, God’s Messenger declares: “The blessings of food lie in washing hands before and after eating.”53 This hadith emphasizes the importance of cleanliness. As we use our hands, germs accumulate and can be removed only by washing them. In another hadith, he advises us to wash our hands after we wake up since “You do not know where your hands have moved while you sleep.”54 At that time, no one knew about microbes.
- As recorded in all six of the most authentic books of Tradition from as many as 40 Companions, God’s Messenger established the principle of dental care: “If it didn’t burden upon community excessively, I would command them to clean their teeth with miswak [a tooth stick] before each of the five daily prayers.”55 Dental hygiene is of great significance not just for our teeth, but for our entire body. God’s Messenger followed this practice, and so we should do likewise.
- In relation to health and digestion, God’s Messenger recommended: “In eating, apportion a third of your stomach to food, another third to water, and leave the last third empty. The bowl most distasteful to God is a full stomach.”56 In another similar hadith, he said: “What I fear concerning my community is a large belly, oversleep, idleness, and the lack of certainty.”57
All of the points mentioned here are either antecedent to or a result of the other. Those who are idle and heedless, who ignore self-control and self-criticism, are apt to become fat. This causes them to eat more food. A full stomach encourages more sleep, and the person begins to sleep for longer periods of time. Such people, now addicted to overeating and excessive sleeping, will never be able to acquire certainty and deep conviction in Islam. This is the case with most people today.
- Another Tradition concerning health is as follows: “Treat your eyes with kohl, for it nourishes the eyes and eyelashes.”58 Many medical authorities state that kohl does exactly that. Another substance, recommended by the Prophet and useful for health as an antibiotic and for its dermatological effect, is henna.59 Henna is better and more effective as an antiseptic and sterilization agent than such substances as a tincture of iodine.
- Bukhari relates from Abu Hurayra that once God’s Messenger said: “A black cumin seed contains a cure for every illness but death.”60 This hadith contains many truths related to therapy. A patient needs, particularly during convalescence, foods that are rich in proteins, calories, and vitamins, and that are easily digestible. Scientific investigations have recently shown that all these properties are found in black cumin.
- Bukhari relates from God’s Messenger: “When a fly falls into your bowl, dip it completely in the food before taking it out. There is disease in one of the fly’s wings, and cure in the other.”61 No one at that time knew that flies carry microbes. Moreover, when a fly drops into a bowl, it tries to hold one of its wings off the food so that it can take off again. Thus, it leaves bacteria on the food. But when it is submerged with a slight touch, the tiny bag on the other wing bursts and scatters the anti-bacteria to kill the germs already left. This is a very recent medical discovery.
- ‘A’isha related that once Fatima bint Abu Khubash asked God’s Messenger: “O God’s Messenger, my blood does not stop. Should I abandon the prescribed prayers?” He replied: “No, you must not, for it is not menstrual blood but rather a hemorrhage.”62 Except by Prophethood, how could he have distinguished between a normal hemorrhage and menstrual blood?
- Tariq ibn Suwayd narrates: I used to suffer from an illness, and took alcohol as a remedy. When alcohol was banned, I asked God’s Messenger whether I could continue using this remedy. He told me: “No, for it is not a remedy; rather, it is the disease itself.”63 Scientists now agree that even a single drop of alcohol is harmful to one’s physical and spiritual health.
- God’s Messenger proclaimed that ten things are intrinsically necessary for men and therefore ordered by Prophets. Circumcision is one of them.64 Today, scientists admit that a man’s foreskin is exposed and susceptible to infections, even cancer. Therefore, millions of people are circumcised in Europe and America.
We are convinced that the West will one day acknowledge the truth of Islam, and that the prediction made at the beginning of the twentieth century by Said Nursi will come true: “The Ottoman State is pregnant with a Western one, as the West is with an Islamic one. Both will give birth to what they are pregnant with.”65
We have so far explained the truthfulness of Prophets, emphasizing the example of Prophet Muhammad. As mentioned, all predictions made by a Prophet eventually come true, for they never lie. They came to guide us to the Straight Path and to lead us to Paradise. Had they lied even once, they would have guided no one to the truth. However, their truthfulness, especially that of Prophet Muhammad, will be as clear as the sun in the Hereafter, where people will see everything as it is. There, all the tidings they gave about the next life, the Resurrection, the Place of Gathering, the Final Reckoning, the Bridge, Paradise, and Hell will be realized.
The second attribute of Prophethood is amana, an Arabic word meaning trustworthiness and derived from the same root as mu’min (believer). Being a believer implies being a trustworthy person. All Prophets were the best believers and therefore perfect exemplars of trustworthiness. To stress this principle, God summarizes the stories of five Prophets using the same words:
The people of Noah denied the Messengers. When their brother Noah asked them:
“Will you not fear God and avoid evil? I am a trustworthy Messenger to you.” (26:105-7)
Replace the name Noah with those of Hud, Salih, Lut, and Shu‘ayb, and you have a summarized version of these five Prophets’ trustworthiness (26:122-5, 141-3, 161-4, 177-180).
Mu’min is also a Divine Name, for God is the ultimate Mu’min, the source of security and reliability. We put our trust in, confide in, and rely upon Him. He distinguished the Prophets by their trustworthiness, and our connection to Him through the Prophets is based entirely on their trustworthiness and reliability.
Trustworthiness is also an essential quality of Archangel Gabriel. The Qur’an describes Gabriel as one obeyed and trustworthy (81:21). We received the Qur’an through two trustworthy Messengers: Gabriel and Prophet Muhammad. The former conveyed it; the latter related it to us.
The Trustworthiness of God’s Messenger
Prophet Muhammad was completely trustworthy toward all of God’s creatures. He was loyal and never cheated anyone.
God chose the Messenger for his trustworthiness so that he would devote himself totally to delivering the Message truthfully. He was so concerned about his duty that he would repeat the verses while Gabriel was reciting them to him. God finally revealed:
Move not your tongue concerning (the Qur’an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it, to establish it in your heart and enable you to recite it. So, when We have recited it to you, follow its recital. Then it is also for Us to make it clear to you. (75:16-19)
As the Qur’an was given to him as a trust, he conveyed it to people in the best way possible. He dedicated his life to this sacred cause, constantly aware of his responsibility. In the last year of his life, when he was delivering the Farewell Sermon at Mount ‘Arafat, he reiterated the Commandments of God once more. At the end of each sentence, he told the people: “In the near future, they will ask you about me.” He then would ask them if he had conveyed the Message to them, to which they responded, each time, with great enthusiasm: “Yes, you have conveyed it!” He then would call upon God to witness their words.66
God’s Messenger never thought of concealing even a word of the Qur’an. In fact, we read in the Qur’an several mild Divine warnings for a few actions of his. If he wrote it, as some mistakenly claim, why would he have included such verses?
The Prophet was raised in a primitive society characterized by customs that contradicted reason as well as sociological and scientific facts. For example, as adopted children enjoyed the same legal status as natural children, a man could not legally marry his adopted son’s widow or ex-wife. In order to separate a legal fiction from a natural reality, and to establish a new law and custom this practice was abolished through the Messenger’s life, for adoption does not create a relationship comparable to that with one’s biological parents.
Zayd, an emancipated black slave and servant of God’s Messenger, was also his adopted son. At the Prophet’s request, Zayd married Zaynab bint Jahsh. Nevertheless, it soon became clear that the marriage would not last long. Admitting that he was spiritually and intellectually inferior to his wife, Zayd thought it would be better for him to divorce her. In the end, the Qur’an commanded the Prophet to marry her: We gave her in marriage to you (33:37).
Of course, doing so would violate a strong social taboo. As such, and because the hypocrites would use this to defame him, he delayed announcing the Divine decree. God reminded the Prophet that His command must be fulfilled:
Then you said to him on whom God bestowed grace and unto whom you had shown favor: “Keep your wife to yourself and fear God.” But you hid in your heart that which God was about to make manifest because you feared the people [would slander you], whereas God had a better right that you should fear Him. (33:37)
‘A’isha later commented: “If God’s Messenger could have concealed any Revelation, he would have concealed that verse.”67 If the Prophet had not been trustworthy, he would have done just that. However, such an act is contrary to his character and mission, and would mean that he had not delivered the Message. Furthermore, God prohibits him from doing this:
O Messenger, deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; for if you do not, you will not have fulfilled your task of His Messengership. God will protect you from men. God does not guide the unbelievers. (5:67)
So, God’s Messenger passed on whatever was revealed to Him.
His Relations With Others
God’s Messenger was trustworthy and encouraged others to follow his example. Once during the last ten days of Ramadan, his wife Safiyya visited him while he was keeping vigil in the mosque. As he was escorting her home, two Companions happened to pass by. The Messenger stopped them and, unveiling his wife’s face, said: “This is my wife Safiyya.” They said: “God forbid any evil thought about you, O Messenger of God.” The Messenger was warning them against having evil thoughts about him, for that could cause them to lose their faith and enter Hell. He gave them and us a lesson, saying: “Satan continuously circulates within people’s blood vessels.”68
God’s Messenger was an embodiment of trustworthiness. His own people, even before his Prophethood, called him al-Amin (the Trustworthy One). After his declaration, his enemies continued to entrust him with their precious goods.
He warned his people against lying, breaking their word, and breaching their trust. All of these were condemned as “signs of hypocrisy.”69 He was so meticulous in this matter that when he saw a woman call her child, saying: “Come on, I’ll give you something,” he asked her if she was telling the truth. She replied that she would give him a date, to which God’s Messenger responded: “If you were to give him nothing, you would have lied.”
His concern in this matter extended even to animals. Once, annoyed at seeing a Companion trying to deceive his horse, he said: “Stop deceiving animals. Instead, be trustworthy with them.”70 Another time, while returning from a military campaign, a few Companions took some baby birds from a nest to pet them. The mother bird returned after a short while and, finding her babies gone, began to fly around in distress. When God’s Messenger was informed, he was so upset that he ordered the birds to be returned immediately. Such an order was meant to show that representatives of trustworthiness should harm no living creatures.71
Each Companion was an embodiment of trustworthiness. By virtue of this and other laudable virtues, cities and states submitted to Islam. During ‘Umar’s caliphate, Abu ‘Ubayda, the embodiment of justice, commanded the Muslim armies in Syria. When the Byzantine Emperor set out to recapture Hims, Abu ‘Ubayda decided to evacuate the city, for his forces were vastly outnumbered. He had the non-Muslim population assembled and announced: “We collected the protection tax from you because we had to defend you. Since we can’t defend you against the coming Byzantine assault, we are returning the tax we collected.” This was done. Pleased with the Muslim administration, Christian priests and Jewish rabbis flocked to the churches and synagogues to pray that God would cause the Muslim army to be successful.72
Such was the attitude of Muslim conquerors and administrators in the lands they ruled. They epitomized lofty virtues. To cite a single example, Muslim soldiers used to hang coin pouches on branches in return for the fruit they had eaten in the orchards when on their way to war. They conquered the hearts of people. Muslims stayed in Spain for eight centuries, and in the Balkans and some parts of the Central and Eastern Europe for around five centuries. Muslim rulers did not interfere with a conquered people’s religion, language, or culture. If they had done so, there would have been no followers of other religions in the lands they had conquered to recapture those lands.
Islam emphasizes trustworthiness and security to such an extent that suspicion and gossip are forbidden:
O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for suspicion in some cases is a grave sin. Do not spy on or gossip about one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor it. Fear God, for verily God is the Acceptor of repentance, the Most Merciful. (49:12)
God’s Messenger was so sensitive on this point that once when ‘A’isha commented: “How long her skirt is,” he said: “You have gossiped about her and so ate of her flesh!”73
He always prayed: “O God, I seek refuge in You from hunger, for how bad a companion it is! I also seek refuge in You from betrayal, for what an evil confidant it is!”74 He also had harsh words for those who betray and are disloyal: “When God gathers together on the Day of Judgment all the people preceding and to come, a banner will be raised on behalf of every disloyal person. It will be announced: ‘This is because of the disloyalty of so and so!’”75
The heart of God’s Messenger was closed to all evil, but open to all good. He lived in a climate of security, faithfulness, and trustworthiness. He never cheated, lied, betrayed people, just as he never gossiped about, slandered, or harbored evil suspicion about someone. In return, people relied on him and confided in him. His enemies slandered him, but no one ever accused him of lying and disloyalty. Those who turned their backs on him were deceived and dragged into wrong ways.
God’s Messenger was totally reliable. His trustworthiness had two aspects: his relationship with people, and his relationship with God. The former manifested itself as complete reliability; the latter as perfect reliance on God. When combined, these two aspects ensure a peaceful atmosphere of steadfastness and security.
The Qur’an gives several examples concerning the Prophets’ confidence in, and perfect reliance on God. To cite only a few:
And recite to them the news of Noah, when he said to his people: “O my people! If my stay (with you) and my reminding (you) of the signs of God is unbearable to you, then I put my trust in God. So come together with your partners and come to an agreement on your plan! Then let not your affair be a worry to you. Pass your sentence on me, and give me no respite.” (10:71)
[Hud said to his people:] “I call God to witness and bear you witness that I am free from all that you ascribe as partners in worship to God, beside Him. So, plot against me, all of you, and give me no respite. I put my trust in God, my Lord and your Lord. There’s not a moving creature but He has grasp of its forelock. Verily my Lord is on a straight path.” (11:54-56)
Indeed there has been an excellent example for you in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “Verily we are free from you and from whatever you worship besides God; we have rejected you, and there has arisen between us and you hostility and hatred for ever, until you believe in God alone,” except Abraham’s saying to his father: “Verily I ask forgiveness (from God) for you, but I have no power to do anything for you before God. Our Lord! In you (alone) we put our trust, and to You (alone) we return in repentance, and to You (alone) is our final return.” (60:4)
The nature of unbelief is deviation and opposition. Unbelievers see the world in darkness and feel alone in an alien world; believers see the whole universe as a cradle of brotherhood and sisterhood, and feel connected to everything. By its nature, unbelief severs relations and, as a result, unbelievers feel enmity against everything, especially believers. They cannot bear the believers’ existence, so they try their best to eradicate belief. That is why all Prophets encountered severe opposition and, with their followers, suffered pitiless acts of cruelty. But due to their complete confidence in and perfect reliance on God, they never lost heart because of what befell them in God’s Way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor were they brought low (3:146).
The Messenger’s reliance on God made him fearless. He appeared in the heartland of a desert inhabited by one of the most uncivilized peoples. Despite their harsh treatment, and the strident hostility of one of his own uncles, he challenged the whole world and, through complete trust in God, carried his mission to victory. He had only a handful of supporters, and his victory came in a very short period—an unparalleled achievement. We can understand his fearless nature, which developed out of his absolute confidence in God, through the following anecdotes.
The Quraysh were so eager to kill him that just before his emigration to Madina they selected one man from each clan. These numbered roughly 200. Led by Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab, they besieged his house. God’s Messenger told his cousin ‘Ali to spend the night in his bed and, throwing some dust at the hostile men while reciting: We have put a barrier before them and behind them, and thus covered them so that they cannot see (36:9), he departed without being seen.76 He left Makka with his closest friend, Abu Bakr, and reached Thawr cave, which is at the top of a steep mountain. Finding him gone, the Qurayshi chiefs sent out search parties. One of these climbed the mountain up to the cave. Abu Bakr became anxious, fearing for the life of God’s Messenger. However, the latter comforted him: Do not be anxious, for God is with us (9:40), and added: “What do you think of the two men beside whom God is the third?”77
As related through various channels, during the military campaigns of Ghatfan and Anmar, a courageous chieftain named Ghowras unexpectedly appeared beside God’s Messenger, who was lying under a tree. Unsheathing his sword, he asked him: “Who will save you from me now?’ “God,” said the Messenger, with no sign of panic, having full trust in God. All of a sudden, Ghowras’ blood ran cold and the sword slipped from his hands; he froze in shock. God’s Messenger picked it up and asked him: “Now, who will save you from me?” Ghowras began to tremble and pleaded for his life: “You are a noble, forgiving man; only forgiveness is expected of you.” God’s Messenger forgave him, and when Ghowras returned to his tribe, he said: “I have just come from the best of humanity.”78
Trustworthiness is a cornerstone of belief:
God commands you to give the trust to (the charge of) those qualified for them, and when you judge between men, to judge with justice. How excellent is the teaching which He gives you! Truly God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (4:58)
According to God’s Messenger, breaching a trust is a sign of the end of time: “When the trust is breached, expect the end of time.” When his Companions asked how that would be, he answered: “If a job or post is assigned to the unqualified, expect the end of time.”79
Assigning qualified people to jobs or posts is a social trust and plays a significant role in public administration and social order. Its abuse causes social disorder. There should be order at all social levels, for some are to be given responsibilities by others. God’s Messenger declared: “Each of you is a shepherd [manager], and each of you is responsible for your flock. The ruler is a shepherd responsible for his subjects. A husband is a shepherd responsible for his family. A woman is a shepherd responsible for her husband’s house. A servant is a shepherd responsible for managing the duties or property his master entrusted to him.”80 If everyone in a society were to carry out their responsibilities, we would be living in a “society of trustworthy ones.” Until that time, we can only imagine such utopias.
Trustworthiness is so essential an aspect of belief that God’s Messenger once declared:
“One who is not trustworthy is not a believer,”81 and described a believer as one whom the people trust with their blood and property.82 Furthermore, he said:
Promise me the following six things and I will promise you Paradise: When you speak, speak the truth; when you give a promise, carry it out; when something is entrusted to you, do not breach it; keep chaste and don’t engage in illicit sexual relations; don’t look at what is forbidden; and don’t grasp what is forbidden.83
Even looking with lust at one to whom you are not married is forbidden. God says: “[Such] a glance is like a poisonous arrow from Satan’s quiver. Whoever refrains out of fear of Me, I inculcate belief so firmly in their hearts that they will taste it.”84
To live in absolute security is only possible if trustworthy people are in power. If the Muslim world observes the Divine Trust and becomes the representative of trustworthiness and security in the world, a “new world order” based on justice and balance will be possible. Otherwise, humanity will continue to chase after mirages of justice, security, and happiness.
Through his truthfulness, trustworthiness, and other laudable virtues, God’s Messenger left an indelible mark on people of all ages. His every word and deed proclaimed his Messengership, that he was sent to guide people to truth, to bring them out of the darkness of ignorance and savagery, slavery and immorality, into the light of knowledge, high morality and love, compassion and true freedom.85
The third attribute of Prophethood is communication of Islamic truths, otherwise known as “enjoining good and forbidding evil.” We say Islamic truths because every Prophet came with the same Divine Religion based on submission to God, and had as his sole mission the communication of this Message.
Just as God manifests His Mercifulness through the sun’s warmth and light, He manifested His Mercy and Compassion for humanity through Prophets. He chose Muhammad, whom He sent as a mercy for all worlds, to establish eternally the Message of compassion and mercy. If he had not been sent to revive and revise the Messages of previous Prophets and then spread that knowledge throughout the world, we would be wandering in a terrifying desert of unbelief, misguidance, and ignorance.
Philosophers, sociologists, and psychologists always have sought answers to such vital questions as: “Who am I?” “Where do I come from?” “What is my final destination?” “What is the purpose of life?” “What does our dying mean?” and “Is death absolute non-existence or only a door to a new, eternal life?” All of us wrestle with such questions. But only through the enlightenment of the Prophets we can find true satisfaction and peace of mind. Through them, we understand that this earthly life is just a way station on our perpetual journeying from the world of spirits to the world of eternity, a field to be planted with seeds for harvesting in the eternal world. This world is reached through the intermediate realm of the grave. With this realization, we are relieved of our anxieties, and the world is transformed into a flowery garden of recreation and a gathering place of friends.
Prophets were sent to convey this Message and to illuminate the path to happiness in this world and the next. Now we will discuss three essential points regarding how a Prophet conveys the Divine Message.
A Comprehensive Invitation to God
The Prophets dealt with people and life in a holistic manner, appealing to each person’s intellect, reason, spirit, and all outer and inner senses and feelings. They never ignored or neglected any human faculties.
The position of a Prophet in relation to Divine Revelation is similar to that of a corpse in the hands of a mortician: The individual can do nothing of his own volition.86 God directs and guides a Prophet as necessary so that he can lead his people. Without this Divine direction, he would be unable to guide anyone. If he neglected their intellects, the end result would be a community of poor, docile mystics. If he neglected their hearts or spirits, a crude rationalism devoid of any spiritual dimension would be produced. As each individual is comprised of intellect, spirit, and body, each must be assigned its due part of the Message.
Human beings are active. Therefore, they should be led to those activities that form the real purpose of their lives, as determined by God and communicated by the Prophet. God did not create people only to have them to become passive recluses, activists without reason and spirit, or rationalists without spiritual reflection and activism.
Only when the intellect, spirit, and body are harmonized, and people are motivated to activity in the illuminated way of the Divine Message, can they become complete and attain true humanity. All Prophets sought this goal, and those who seek to follow them should strive for it:
Say (Muhammad): “This is my way: I call (people) to God with wisdom and insight, I and those who follow me” (12:108).
A Prophet is totally dedicated to his mission, and thus is an altruist who lives for the happiness and good of others. His happiness lies in seeing people devote themselves to God in the hope of salvation, not in expecting some great reward for his services. He knows that his reward is with God alone. This indispensable fact is emphasized in the Qur’an:
O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it; my reward is from none but God (11:29).
The Prophets were charged with conveying the Divine Message. They did their best, patiently faced many misfortunes and even torment, fulfilled their responsibilities, and then left the result to God. They knew with full certainty that only God brings about the desired result. These three fundamentals set the principles for all those who wish to call others to Islam.
Constant striving is an essential feature of delivering the Message, as well as an important element of the Prophetic method. A Prophet is, so to speak, obsessed with how to perform his duty. With that goal always uppermost, he considers all circumstances and does everything permitted. As he is not responsible for the results, he leaves them to God. He knows that he cannot cause anyone to accept the Message, for he is only sent to convey it as effectively as possible:
You [O Muhammad] guide not whom you like but God guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who receive guidance (28:56).
Many Prophets lived with no one accepting their Message. However, they did not lose heart, weaken, or resort to such improper means as violence, terror, or deception even when faced with relentless hardship and torture. When the Prophet was severely wounded at Uhud, some Companions asked him to invoke God’s curse on the enemy. Instead, he prayed for them, saying: “O God, forgive my people, because they don’t know.”87 He did this while his face was covered with blood.
All Prophets reacted in the same way to the torments and false accusations they had to endure. For example:
The leaders of Noah’s people said:
“We see you in clear deviation.” He said: “O my people, there is no deviation in me. I am a Messenger from the Lord of the worlds. I convey unto you the messages of my Lord, and give sincere advice to you. And I know from God that which you don’t know.” (7:60-62)
The leaders of Hud’s people, who were unbelievers, said:
“We see you in foolishness; and think you are a liar.” He replied: “O my people, there is no foolishness in me. I am a Messenger from the Lord of the worlds. I convey unto you the messages of my Lord, and am a trustworthy adviser to you.” (7:66-68)
Nothing changed during the history of Prophethood. The Prophets conveyed the Message for the sole purpose of God’s pleasure. A Messenger was sent to every people:
Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for his own soul’s benefit. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray only to his own loss. No laden soul can bear another’s load. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger. (17:15)
And We have sent among every people a Messenger (saying): “Worship God (alone), and shun all false deities.” (16:36)
After he received the first Revelation, God’s Messenger returned home in a state of great excitement. While wrapped in his cloak, God ordered him:
O you wrapped up in your cloak, arise and warn! Magnify your Lord. Cleanse your garments, and keep away from all pollution. Do not show favor, seeking worldly gain. Be patient for the sake of your Lord. (74:1-7)
He was also told:
O you folded in garments! Keep vigil the night long, except a little; half of it, or a little less, or a little more, and recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. We are about to address to you words of great gravity. (73:1-5)
Every Prophet conveyed God’s Message to his people without becoming wearied or daunted. Their people’s harshness did not deter them. For example:
[Noah] said: “O my Lord! Day and night I have called my people. But my call has only added to their aversion. Every time I call on them to seek Your pardon, they thrust their fingers in their ears and cover themselves with their garments, persisting in sin and magnifying themselves in insolent pride. Further, I have called to them aloud. Further, I have spoken to them in public and in private, saying: ‘Ask forgiveness from your Lord: for He is Oft-Forgiving.”’ (71:5-10)
When a people rejects the Prophet sent to them and persists in unbelief and corruption, God’s wrath usually falls upon them. The Qur’an contains accounts of several devastated peoples, and we see their ruins all over the world.
Communicating the Divine Message was the most essential characteristic of God’s Messenger. We are worried when we are hungry or thirsty or have trouble breathing; he was worried if a day passed during which he could not convey the Divine Message to someone. He was so concerned about guidance and so pained by unbelief, that God advised him to take care of his health: [O Muhammad] it may be that you will kill yourself following after them, with grief that they do not believe in this Message (18:6).
God’s Messenger invited all Makkans, both publicly and privately, to God’s path. He called some extremely stubborn people, among them Abu Jahl, at least fifty times. He particularly sought his uncle Abu Talib’s conversion, for he had raised him and protected him from the Makkan polytheists. In the eleventh year of his Prophethood, when Abu Talib was dying, God’s Messenger again invited him to belief. However, the Makkan chiefs surrounded him to prevent this.
He was so grieved at Abu Talib’s unbelief that he said: “I will ask forgiveness from God for you as long as I am not forbidden to.”88 A verse was revealed some time later, forbidding him to do this:
It is not fitting for the Prophet and those who believe to ask (God) to forgive polytheists, even though they be near of kin (to them), after it has become clear to them that they are companions of the Fire. (9:113)
Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s closest Companion, knew how much God’s Messenger desired his uncle to be a believer. He took his aged father, who converted on the day of the Conquest of Makka, to God’s Messenger and wept bitterly. When asked why he was sobbing, he explained: “O God’s Messenger, I so wanted my father to be a believer and now he believes. But even more, I wanted Abu Talib to believe, for you desired it. However, God did not grant him belief. That is why I am weeping.”89
One of the best examples of the Messenger’s concern for everyone to believe was his invitation to Wahshi, who had killed his uncle Hamza at Uhud. After the conquest of Makka, God’s Messenger sent for him to accept Islam. Wahshi returned the invitation with a letter, including the following verses:
Who invoke no other deity along with God, and do not kill any soul—which God has made forbidden—except by right, and do not commit unlawful sexual intercourse. Whoever commits any of these will face a severe penalty. His punishment will be greater on the Day of Resurrection, and he will abide in it in ignominy. (25:68-69)
After the verse Wahshi added: “You invite me to accept Islam, but I have committed all the sins mentioned therein. I have lived immersed in unbelief, had illegal sexual intercourse and, in addition, killed your uncle, who was most beloved by you. Can such a person really be forgiven and become a Muslim?” God’s Messenger sent him a written reply, containing the following verse:
God forgives not that partners should be associated with Him, but He forgives save that (anything else) to whom He wills. Whoever associates partners with God has invented a tremendous sin. (4:48)
Wahshi returned the letter with the excuse that the forgiveness promised in the verse depended on God’s Will. Upon this, God’s Messenger sent him a third letter, in which the following verse was included:
Say: “O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Don’t despair of the Mercy of God. God forgives all sins. He is the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Compassionate.” (39:53)
Through this correspondence, God’s Messenger opened Wahshi’s heart to belief, and Wahshi could see himself included in the verse mentioned in the last letter. This correspondence enabled Wahshi to repent sincerely and become a Companion.90 Nevertheless, Hamza’s martyrdom had affected God’s Messenger so deeply that he whispered to Wahshi: “Try not to present yourself to me too often. I might remember Hamza, and thus be unable to show you the proper affection.”
Wahshi did his best to comply with this request. He would stand behind a pole and try to catch a glimpse of God’s Messenger in the hope that he might be allowed to present himself. When God’s Messenger died soon thereafter, Wahshi set out to find a way of atonement for his act. When the war of Yamama broke out against Musaylima the Liar, he hastened to the front lines with the spear he had used to kill Hamza. At the most critical point, he saw Musaylima trying to flee. Immediately, he threw his spear at the impostor and killed him. After this, Wahshi prostrated before God.91 With tears flowing from his eyes, he was as if saying: “Will you now allow me to show myself to you, O God’s Messenger?”
We cannot but wish that God’s Messenger was present in spirit at Yamama and embraced Wahshi to show his pardon and full admission into his noble company.
Another fine example of God’s Messenger’s nobility and altruism, as well as his love for humanity and concern about people’s guidance, is his acceptance of Ikrima as a Companion. Ikrima was one of the staunchest enemies of Islam and the Messenger, and an active participant in all plots to defeat him. He fled to Yemen with his wife on the day Makka was conquered, while many of his comrades chose conversion. His wife, Umm Hakam, convinced him to go to God’s Messenger and ask forgiveness. Despite his previous hostility, Ikrima was welcomed by God’s Messenger with the compliment: “Welcome, O emigrant rider!” After the conquest of Makka, there was no “emigration” in the true sense; God’s Messenger was alluding to Ikrima’s long journey from Yemen to Madina.
Ikrima was deeply affected by such nobility, and requested him to ask God’s pardon for his sins. When the Messenger did so, Ikrima felt exhilarated and promised to spend for the sake of Islam double what he had spent fighting it. Ikrima fulfilled his promise at the Battle of Yarmuk, where he was wounded. Seeing his wife crying beside him in the tent, he told her: “Don’t weep, for I won’t die before I witness the victory.” Sometime later, his uncle Hisham entered and announced the Muslims’ victory. Ikrima asked to be helped to stand up, and when they did so, whispered: “O God’s Messenger, have I carried out the promise I gave you?” Then, he recited: Make me die as a Muslim and join me to the righteous (12:101), and submitted his soul to God.92
Throughout his life, God’s Messenger grieved for the misfortunes of humanity. He ceaselessly called people to God’s way. During his years in Makka, he walked the streets and visited the nearby annual fairs, always hoping to gain a few converts. Insults, derision, and torture did not deter him even once. When: Warn your tribe of the nearest kindred (26:214) was revealed, he invited his nearest relatives over for a meal. ‘Ali later narrated the incident:
God’s Messenger invited his relatives to his house. After the meal, he addressed them: “God has commanded me to warn my nearest relatives. You are my tribe of the nearest kindred. I will not be able to do anything for you in the Hereafter unless you proclaim that there is no deity but God.” At the end of his speech, he asked who would support him. At that time, I was a boy with puny legs and arms. When no one responded, I put aside the pitcher in my hand and declared: “I will, O Messenger of God!” The Messenger repeated the call three times, and each time only I answered him.93
The Messenger persevered, enduring relentless and increasingly harsh derision, degradation, beatings, and expulsion from the fairs. He was actually stoned by children in Ta’if.
Only in the twelfth year of his mission was he able to meet some Madinese at ‘Aqaba (located outside of Makka). He told them of Islam, and they accepted it. The following year, 70 Madinese became Muslims at the same place. They swore allegiance to God’s Messenger and promised to support him if he emigrated to Madina. He appointed Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr to teach them Islam. This was the beginning of a new phase in his life. By the time he emigrated to Madina the following year, every household had at least one Muslim.94
An important point to note is that while communicating the Message, the Prophet set an excellent example of ardor in guiding people. The Companions did their best to imitate his technique. For example, Mus‘ab ibn ‘Umayr’s technique was so effective and sincere that even the most stubborn Madinese, such as Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh, became Muslims. Sa‘d’s initial reaction to Mus‘ab’s activity was harsh. But when the latter asked him politely: “First sit and listen. If you are not pleased with what I tell you, feel free to cut off my head with the sword in your hand,” Sa‘d’s anger subsided. He parted from Mus‘ab as a new Muslim.
God’s Messenger continued to send Companions to neighboring cities. He sent Talha to Duwmat al-Jandal, and Bara’ ibn A’dhib to Yemen. If a Companion was not successful, although this was rare, he sent another in his place. When Khalid and Bara’ could not capture the Yemenis’ hearts, God’s Messenger sent ‘Ali. Shortly thereafter, almost all of them became Muslims.95
Another important point is his conduct after the Treaty of Hudaybiya. Some of the Companions considered various conditions dishonorable (to the Muslims). However, in the ensuing atmosphere of peace, which followed years of disruption and war, many enemies of Islam reconsidered the Message. Eventually, even such leading opponents as Khalid and ‘Amr ibn al-‘As accepted Islam.96
God’s Messenger welcomed Khalid with a compliment: “I was wondering how a sensible man like Khalid could remain an unbeliever. I had a strong conviction that you would one day accept Islam.”97 He comforted ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, who asked him to pray for God’s forgiveness of him, and said: “Don’t you know that those who accept Islam are cleansed of all their previous sins?”98
After the Treaty of Hudaybiya, God’s Messenger sent letters to the rulers of neighboring countries. He wrote to the Negus, king of Abyssinia:
From Muhammad, God’s Messenger, to the Negus Ashama, King of Abyssinia. Peace be upon you! On this occasion, I praise God, the Sovereign, the Holy One free from all defects, the Giver of security, the Watcher over His creatures. I bear witness that Jesus is a spirit from God, a word from Him, whom He bestowed upon Mary, who was chaste, pure, and a virgin. I call you to God, One with no partner.99
The Messenger approached the Negus by first greeting him with peace; this was perhaps a sign that he was very hopeful about him. Since the Negus was a Christian, God’s Messenger referred to the verses in the Qur’an that are related with Jesus, peace be upon him, and his mother Mary, thus emphasizing the point of agreement between them.
The Negus received the letter, and, kissing it, put it to his head as a sign of respect. After reading it, he accepted Islam without hesitation and dictated the following to his secretary:
To Muhammad, God’s Messenger, from the Negus. I bear witness that you are the Messenger of God. If you command me to come to you, I will do it, but I am not in a position to make my subjects Muslim. O God’s Messenger, I testify that what you say is all true.100
The Negus was so sincere that one day he told his confidants: “I would rather be a servant of Muhammad than a king.” When he died, God’s Messenger performed the funeral prayer for him in absentia.101
The following letter was sent to Heraclius, emperor of Byzantium:
From Muhammad, the servant of God and His Messenger, to Heraclius, the greatest of the Byzantines. Peace be upon him who follows the guidance. I invite you to Islam. Embrace Islam and secure salvation, that God may give you a double reward. If you turn away, you will be burned with, besides your own, the sins of all those who turn away (among your people). Say: “O people of the Book. Come to a word common between us and you that we worship none but God, that we associate nothing in worship with Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. If they turn away, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims.’”(3:64)102
The Emperor was moved by the letter. He summoned Abu Sufyan, who was then in Syria leading a Makkan trade caravan. The following dialogue took place between them:
- What is this man’s family status?
- A noble one.
- Did any of his ancestors claim Prophethood?
- Was there a king among his ancestors?
- Do the elite or the weak mostly follow him?’
- The weak.
- Has anyone apostatized after conversion to his religion?
- So far, nobody has.
- Do his followers increase or decrease?
- They increase daily.
- Have you ever heard him tell a lie?
- Has he ever broken his promise?
- Not yet, but I don’t know whether he will in the future.
Although Abu Sufyan was at that time a ruthless enemy of God’s Messenger, he told the truth about him except in his last words, which might raise doubts about the Messenger’s future trustworthiness. The Emperor was inclined to acknowledge the faith, but seeing the reaction of the priests near to him, only concluded: “In the very near future, all these lands I am resting upon will be his.”103 Imam Bukhari narrates that the bishop of the area accepted Islam.104
God’s Messenger sent letters to other kings, among them Muqawqis, the ruler of Egypt, who responded with some presents.105 Chosroes of Persia tore up the letter, an incident predicting his empire’s end, which took place during ‘Umar’s caliphate.106
When God orders the Prophet to communicate the Message, He addresses him as Messenger to show that he has the highest rank among the Prophets. All other Prophets are addressed by name; Messenger demonstrates that he is the foremost in conveying the Message. Islamic civilization, based upon the principles he conveyed, has attracted and astounded many, so much so that an interesting incident is recorded in Mizancý Murad Tarihi (History by Mizancý Murad): Auguste Comte, the atheist French philosopher, after visiting the remains of Islamic Spain, made a brief study of Islam. When he learned that Prophet Muhammad was unlettered, he said: “Muhammad was not a god, but he was not just a human being either.”
However, quoting al-Busiri, we say: “The conclusion which we draw after all the information we have gathered about him is that he is a human being, but the best among God’s creation.”
Other Important Points
The following three points are important in conveying the Message of Islam: intelligence, practicing what they preach, and asking for no reward.
First, intelligence must be used to reach people on their own level. A Prophetic Tradition states: “We, the community of the Prophets, are commanded to address people according to their level of understanding.” Those seeking to spread Islam should know how to approach and gain non-Muslims’ attention. This point can be illustrated by many examples from the life of God’s Messenger. Here are two of them:
God’s Messenger won ‘Umar’s heart by appreciating his good sense. He told ‘Umar: “I can’t understand how a reasonable man like you can expect anything from inanimate objects like stones, wood, or soil.” He also inspired confidence in ‘Umar through his good conduct. His committed worship of God so influenced ‘Umar that at last he came to God’s Messenger, and was as obedient and reverent before him as a well-mannered child before a respected father.
One day, a young man (apparently Julaybib) asked God’s Messenger for permission to fornicate, since he could not restrain himself. Those who were present reacted in various ways. Some scoffed at him, others pulled his robe, and still others readied themselves to hit him. But the compassionate Prophet drew him near and engaged him in conversation. He began by asking him: “Would you let someone do this with your mother?” to which the young man replied: “My mother and father be your ransom, O God’s Messenger, I don’t agree with that.” The Prophet said: “Naturally, no one agrees that his mother should be a party in such a disgraceful act.”
He then continued asking Julaybib the same question, but substituting daughter, wife, sister, and aunt for mother. Every time Julaybib replied that he would not agree to such an act. By the end of this conversation, Julaybib had lost all desire to fornicate. But God’s Messenger concluded this “spiritual operation” with a supplication. Placing his hand on Julaybib’s chest, he prayed: “O God, forgive him, purify his heart, and maintain his chastity.”107
Julaybib became a model of chastity. Sometime later he married through the intermediation of God’s Messenger. Not long after that he was martyred in a battle after killing seven enemy soldiers. When his corpse was located, God’s Messenger put his hand on his knee and said: “This one is of me, and I am of him.”108
God’s Messenger was so competent and successful in educating people that it is a conclusive proof of his Prophethood. The most uncivilized, crude, ill-mannered, ruthless, and ignorant people of that time were transformed into the most praiseworthy guides of humanity in a very short period.
I wonder whether even the largest, best-equipped group of professional educators, modern pedagogues, sociologists, psychologists, teachers and the like could achieve in 100 years anywhere in the modern civilized world even a hundredth of what God’s Messenger accomplished in 23 years in the uncivilized desert of Arabia fourteen centuries ago. The modern efforts and techniques applied to remove so insignificant a bad habit as smoking with almost negligible success, when compared to the Prophet’s lasting success in eradicating so many bad habits and views, prove that Prophet Muhammad was without parallel or equal when it came to educating people.
Second, those who want their words to influence people must practice what they preach. If they do not, how can they expect to succeed, for it is well known that actions always speak louder than words. The Qur’an is very explicit in this matter:
O you who believe, why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of God that you say what you do not do (61:2-3).
God’s Messenger was the living embodiment of his mission. He was the foremost in practicing Islam, devotion to God, and servanthood to Him. It was not uncommon for those who saw him to require no other proof to believe in his Prophethood. For example, ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam, the renowned Jewish scholar of Madina, believed in him at first sight, saying: “There can be no lie in this face. One with such a face can only be a Messenger of God.”109
‘Abd Allah ibn Rawaha, a famous poet of that time, expressed this fact in the following couplet:
Even if he had not come with manifest signs,
A single look at him suffices to inspire belief in him.110
Those who believed in him were not foolish or unreasonable people. Among them were such people as the first four caliphs (Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali), all of whom administered a very great state. They were so profound in spirituality and deep in belief that ‘Ali, for example, once said: “If the veil (between this material world and the immaterial world) were raised, my certainty (of the Unseen) would not increase.”111
One reason why Prophet Muhammad is still loved deeply by hundreds of millions of people, regardless of unending hostile and negative propaganda, and why people all over the world embrace Islam daily, is that he practiced what he preached. For example, he invited people to worship God sincerely, and is himself the best example of such worship. He would spend more than half the night in prayer, crying and full of humility.
When asked why he went to such lengths that his feet would swell, and did so even though he was sinless, he would answer: “Should I not be a thankful slave of God?”112
‘A’isha narrated that one night he asked her permission to get up and pray. He was so sensitive to the rights of his wives that he would seek their permission to perform supererogatory prayers. He prayed until daybreak and shed tears. He frequently recited the following verses:
In the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and in the alternation of day and night, are signs for those of understanding. Those that remember God standing, sitting, and lying down, and meditate upon the creation of the Heavens and the Earth. “Our Lord, You have not created this in vain. Glory be to You. Protect us from the punishment of the Fire. Our Lord, those whom You will admit to the Fire You have abased; for wrongdoers there are no helpers. Our Lord, we have heard a caller calling to faith:
‘Believe in your Lord!’ So we believed. Therefore, Our Lord, forgive our sins and erase our evil deeds. Take our souls in death in the company of the righteous. Our Lord, grant us what You promised to us through Your Messengers, and do not abase us on the Day of Resurrection. You never break the promise.” (3:190-94)113
Again, ‘A’isha reports:
I woke up one night and could not see God’s Messenger beside me. I was jealous, lest he had gone to another of his wives. As I just got up from bed, my hand touched his feet. I noticed that he was prostrating, praying: “O God, I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your wrath, and in Your forgiveness from Your punishment; I also seek refuge in Yourself from You. I cannot praise You as You praise Yourself.”114
His life was so simple that once ‘Umar, upon seeing him, said: “O Messenger of God, kings sleep in soft, feather beds, while you lie on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God and thereby deserve an easy life more than anyone else.” God’s Messenger answered: “Don’t you agree that the world should be theirs and those of the Hereafter ours?”115 God’s Messenger lived for others. He desired a comfortable life for his nation, provided that his community would not be led astray by world attractions, but himself lived a very simple life.
Third, God’s Messenger, like all Prophets, expected no reward for performing his mission. He suffered hunger, thirst, and every other hardship. He was forced into exile and made the target of assaults and traps. He bore all of these simply for the good pleasure of God and the good of humanity. Abu Hurayra once saw him praying while seated and asked if he were sick. The Messenger’s reply caused Abu Hurayra to cry: “I am hungry, Abu Hurayra. Hunger has left me no strength to stand up for prayer.”116 Hunger was a common feature of Muslim life. One night, God’s Messenger, Abu Bakr, and ‘Umar met each other unexpectedly outside. When they asked one another why they were outside, all replied: “Hunger.”117
Even though most of his Companions became wealthier in later years, the Messenger and his family never changed their very simple lifestyle. Fatima, his only surviving child, did all of the housework for her family by herself. Once when captives were distributed in Madina, she asked her father for a maid. He replied:
O my daughter. I can give you nothing before I satisfy the needs of the people of the Suffa. However, let me teach you something that is better for you than having a servant. When you go to bed, say: “Glory be to God, All praise be to God, God is the Greatest” 33 times each. [Some Traditions say that the last phrase should be recited 34 times.] This is better for your next life.118
One day he saw her wearing a chain of gold and warned her: “O my daughter, do you want people to say of my daughter that she is wearing a chain of Hellfire?”119
In addition to receiving no worldly benefit, God’s Messenger bore many tortures. He often was beaten and left on the ground covered with dust, and only Fatima would run to his aid. Once he was being beaten at the Ka‘ba, Abu Bakr ran to help him, shouting to those beating him: “Will you kill a man because he says: ‘My Lord is God?’”120
Intellect is another important attribute of Prophethood. In this context, it has a specific meaning: a composite of reasoning power, sagacity, intelligence, sound judgment, and wisdom far surpassing the ability of ordinary people through a sublime power of understanding. It encompasses and coordinates all human abilities, whether of the heart and soul or of the mind.
Under the influence of temporary trends, some reduce Islam to a rationalistic system. They regard reason as the ultimate authority, and make no distinction between the judgment of sound reason and the excesses and shortcomings of rationalism. All the principles of Islam, a revealed religion originating in an All-Encompassing Knowledge, can be confirmed by reason. However, a comprehensive understanding of Islam requires a Prophetic intellect to grasp the entire meaning of the universe and humanity. Islam admits reason’s ultimate authority; not of human reason, which is limited by one’s capacity and usually conflicts with another’s, but of a Prophet’s universal reason, for Islam is the name of the Divine universal order.
God manifests His Names through veils. His absolute Unity requires that we attribute effects directly to His creative Power. But His Transcendence, Grandeur, and Majesty require “natural” causes to veil His acts so that people do not ascribe to Him that which seems disagreeable to them. He raised the Prophets to communicate His Revelation. As we cannot receive Revelation directly, the Prophets functioned as a prism receiving and then reflecting Divine Revelation. They modulated the Revelation according to their audience’s intellectual ability and the prevailing circumstances. In other words, the Prophetic intellect allows a Prophet to understand everything about his people and thus to answer all their questions and solve their problems.
If we study the Prophet’s achievements, we see that he was a statesman and commander of the highest order. As the embodiment or most comprehensive manifestation of the Divine Attribute of Speech, he is the most influential orator we have ever seen. His words, regardless of their apparent simplicity, affect everyone, regardless of their intellectual simplicity. As human knowledge increases, we see that these supposedly simple words are, in fact, like an ocean whose depth is only appreciated the more deeply one dives into it, or like a rose with petals one within the other, each one full of meanings.
His level of understanding was so sublime that Wahb ibn Munabbih, who was well-versed in the Torah and Gospels, said: “When compared to that of God’s Messenger, humanity’s total mental capacity and perception is like a single sand particle compared to all the sand in a vast desert.”121
Examples of His Intellectual Capacity
- Before his Prophethood, the Ka‘ba was partly ruined by rain and the ensuing floods. The Quraysh restored it. However, clan warfare almost broke out over who would have the honor of restoring the sacred Black Stone to its proper place. Someone suggested that they refer the matter to whoever appeared first at the Ka‘ba. To everyone’s relief, this person was Muhammad. They told each other: “The Trustworthy One is coming!” After explaining the problem, he asked them to bring a piece of cloth, which he spread on the ground. Putting the Black Stone on it, he told each clan chief to hold a corner and lift the cloth. When the Black Stone was at the required height, Muhammad put it in its place. Clan warfare was thus averted.122
- God’s Messenger always assessed a person’s or an audience’s spiritual and mental capacities accurately. He spoke directly to a particular individual at a particular time and under particular circumstances; he had no need for flattery or falsehood. One time Husayn, an eloquent speaker renowned for his persuasive rhetoric, sought to dissuade him from his mission. God’s Messenger listened carefully to his argument and then initiated the following dialogue:
- Husayn, how many deities do you worship?
- Eight; one in the Heavens and the others on Earth.
- Which one do you call upon when misfortune befalls you?
- The one in the Heavens.
- Which one do you call when your goods are gone?
- The one in the Heavens.
God’s Messenger asked a couple of similar questions, and, upon receiving the same answer to each question, asked: “According to you, the one in the Heavens alone answers your call. Yet you continue to associate partners with Him. Isn’t this what I have been preaching? There is no deity but God. Become a Muslim and be saved.”123 This apparently simple argument defeated Husayn with his own logic.
- Bedouins are often called “people of the desert.” Their way of life engenders many unique experiences: the loss of a camel, forgetfulness of where items have been placed, or being caught in a sandstorm. However many deities they worship, they always ask God, the One, the Unique Creator of the universe, and Powerful over all things, for help and rescue. Their inner sense and sound conscience tell them the truth under the enchanting desert sky or in the darkness, and they then acknowledge His Oneness. This happened with Hamza, who proclaimed: “O Muhammad, I have perceived in the darkness of the desert night, that God is too great to be restricted within four walls!”124
God’s Messenger knew everyone’s mood and thus took people “by the soul” when inviting them to Islam. For example, Ahmad ibn Hanbal reports from Abu Tamima that a Bedouin once asked God’s Messenger if he was Muhammad. Receiving an affirmative answer, the Bedouin asked to what he was inviting people. The Messenger replied: “To God, the All-Majestic. I invite them to Him alone, without associating any partners with Him. He is God whom you call upon when a misfortune befalls you and He who removes it. It is to Him alone that you pray during drought and famine, and He sends rain and causes the grass to grow. It is also Him you entreat when you lose something in the vast desert, and He causes you to find it.” These simple, accurate, and concise words caused the Bedouin to awake to the truth and embrace Islam on the spot.125 History records no other instance of an individual forming such a virtuous community so quickly and from such unpromising people and meager resources. Prophet Muhammad used the dynamics granted to him by God so effectively that historians and sociologists still cannot fully grasp all dimensions of his revolutionary Message. Its waves have swept through the ages, and continue to attract increasing numbers of people from all over the world into the peaceful ocean of Islam.
- The Prophet solved problems, as Bernard Shaw pointed out, as easily as one drinks coffee. Even when faced with the most unexpected emergencies, he remained calm and solved the problem to everyone’s satisfaction. His whole life shows that he was a man of perfect balance, and that this balance was never lost.
Expanding on this last item, consider the following example. After the conquest of Makka, many former enemies proclaimed their conversion. Naturally, it was difficult for them to acquire sincere belief so quickly. So, God’s Messenger sought to “reconcile their hearts” and increase their commitment by preferring them over the Muslims when distributing the war spoils after the Battle of Hunayn.
The spoils consisted of 24,000 camels, 40,000 sheep and goats, and 10,000 pounds of gold and silver. God’s Messenger gave 300 camels and 250 pounds of gold and silver to Abu Sufyan and his family, 200 camels to Hakim ibn Hizam, and 100 camels each to Nusayr ibn al-Harith, Qays ibn Asiyy, Safwan ibn Umayya, Malik ibn Awf, Akra ibn Habis, and ‘Uyayna ibn Hisn. Such generosity also did much to repair the Makkan chiefs’ wounded pride.
Some younger Ansaris, despite their devotion to God’s Messenger and Islam, became upset. They did not desire the spoils themselves; rather, they did not want to see such formerly staunch enemies of Islam, in their view, rewarded. This might have led to a dissident movement among the Muslims. When informed of the situation by Sa‘d ibn ‘Ubada, an Ansari leader, God’s Messenger ordered them to assemble so he could address them. They did so, and he opened his speech in a dramatic way designed to attract and hold their attention, and to impress their souls: “O Community of the Helpers! I hear that you are displeased with me.”
He continued in this powerful and impressive style, reminding them of God’s blessings upon them through him. He asked: “Were you not in misguidance when I came to you? And has God not guided you to the truth through me? Were you not in poverty when I came to you? And has God not enriched you through me? Were you not in internal conflicts when I came to you? And has God not reconciled you through me?” They agreed to all of this, answering each question with: “True, O God’s Messenger! We are indebted to God and His Messenger!”
After reminding them of these blessings, God’s Messenger recounted their services to Islam, saying:
“O Ansar! If you had desired, you could have answered me differently and said: ‘Your people denied you, but we believed in you. You came to us with no one to defend you, but we admitted and protected you. Your people exiled you, but we embraced you. You came to us with nothing to subsist on, and we met all your needs.’ If you had responded thus to me, you would have told the truth and no one would have stood up to contradict you.”
He continued: “O Ansar! Even if you’re upset with my actions, wouldn’t you rather return home with God’s Messenger while they return with camels and sheep? I swear by God, in Whose Hand of Power is my soul, that if all other people took a different direction than that of the Ansar, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the Ansar! Had it not been for the Emigration, I would have wished with all my heart to be one of the Ansar! O God, protect the Ansar and their descendants!” These words were enough for the Ansar to burst into tears, and all of them responded with one voice: “We are content with God and His Messenger! We desire nothing else!”126
Although uttered on the spur of the moment, this speech both quashed a potential dissident movement and reconquered the Ansar’s hearts. Let’s analyze this speech so that its wisdom can be better understood and appreciated.
- He addressed the Ansar only, for they were the offended party. This showed them special honor, and exerted a psychological influence upon them from the outset. It also prevented any ill-will among the Muhajirun, who had been forced to emigrate to Madina, or the new Muslims of Makka, many of whom still had to be won over.
- His speech, when considered in its Arabic original, is an extraordinarily eloquent rhetorical document.
- His opening was dramatic, for it was designed to win the audience’s attention. Their attention never wavered, for the rest of his speech was just as dramatic and effective.
- He did not resort to flattery or diplomacy. Rather, he spoke in plain sincerity, which was vital in securing the desired influence upon the listeners.
- The spur-of-the-moment nature of his speech also was significant in obtaining the desired result. The freshness and force of such an unprepared address, on such occasions, is often more effective than a speech prepared in advance.
Those few examples illustrate the intellect of God’s Messenger, and show that he did not speak or act of himself; rather, what he said and did carried the charge or force of one fulfilling a Divine mission.
Another dimension of his intellect is the very concise nature of his speech. Remember that he is the leader not only of those who lived during his lifetime, but of every believer to come. He was sent to address people of every level, from ignorant seventh-century bedouins to those of the highest intellectual and scientific achievements, until the Day of Judgment. No one has yet been able to disprove what he said. Accordingly, after we scrutinize his Traditions and the Qur’an, we realize that they complement each other in style and content. Moreover, there is no contradiction between them and established scientific knowledge. Ever since the Revelation, billions of people have found in the Qur’an answers for their intellectual problems, cures for their spiritual diseases, and models for their behavior in all circumstances.
The enchanting, captivating, and informative words of God’s Messenger that so enlightened his Companions intellectually and revived them spiritually have exerted the same influence on countless scholars, scientists, Qur’anic exegetes, Traditionists, jurists, spiritual guides, and specialists in science and humanities. Such people, the vast majority of whom have been non-Arab, have used the Qur’an and Sunna as the foundational sources of their academic studies and endeavors.
Even today, his words are enough to cause people to reform themselves and embrace Islam. He acknowledged this as one of God’s blessings and, to emphasize it as so, would sometimes say: “I am Muhammad, an unlettered Prophet. No Prophet will come after me. I have been distinguished with conciseness of speech and comprehensiveness of meaning,”127 and: “O people, I have been honored with conciseness of speech and giving the final judgment in all matters.”128
The nightingale is said to convey the gratitude of plants and flowers to the All-Provider. Likewise, God’s Messenger came to “sing” the praises of God in the “garden” of humanity and announce His Commandments with his enchanting “songs.” His words opened ever-fresh flowers in all human hearts and reduced the words of others, regardless of their surface beauty, to nothing. Believers were purified by his words’ deep serenity, exhilarated by the bright atmosphere created through his speeches, and by the love his personal conduct inspired. Through his words and deeds, God’s Messenger removed the veils from the “face” of nature and embellished the “Book of the Universe” with Divine inscriptions.
Many famous rhetors, orators, and poets have preferred to listen to him or have benefited greatly from his words. Thousands of literary people have devoted their lives to studying his sayings, and have compiled multi volume books about or out of them. Many thinkers and scholars have quenched their “thirst” with the “water of life” found therein. In order to express the beauty and comprehensiveness of his words, we provide a slightly adapted version of a couplet uttered about the Qur’an:
Almost nothing of this world
has come unveiled or pure,
But the words of the Messenger
preserve their purity undefined,
and still wait to be understood fully.
As God’s Messenger was unlettered, he was not influenced by his era’s written culture. His conscience was so sound, his intellect so comprehensive, and his character so pure that only he could have received Divine Revelation. His mind and heart were fed by Divine Revelation exclusively. Each word and deed was a ray from that Revelation, a sign of his Messengership. Like a bright, crystal cup of clear, sweet water, his intellect was so pure that Divine Revelation entered it and emerged from it, drop by drop, in the form of words in their original clarity.
The primary expression of Divine Revelation is the Qur’an. It is also the primary source for Islamic law. Although it contains guidance pertaining to all aspects of human life, the number of questions and problems put to God’s Messenger meant that a second form of Revelation was necessary. This took the form of inspiration, an implicit Revelation, to clarify Qur’anic verses or to establish new principles related to Islamic conduct. This, together with his daily words and conduct, forms the second source of Islamic law: the Sunnah.
Every Prophet was supported by miracles relevant to his time and environment. For example, Moses’ miracles had to appear as magic, for magic was widespread. Jesus’ miracles took the form of healing, for medicine was in wide demand. Similarly, during the time of Prophet Muhammad, four things enjoyed popularity in Arabia: eloquence and fluency in writing and speaking, poetry and oratory, soothsaying and divination, and knowledge of the past and cosmology. The Qur’an challenged all known experts in these fields and forced them to surrender. Prophet Muhammad surpassed them through his wonderful eloquence, knowledge of the cosmos, and predictions.
As his Prophethood is universal and will exist until the Last Day, his eloquence and linguistic style will never be surpassed. His words, together with the Qur’an, supersede all literary works. Their excellence is everlasting and becomes increasingly vivid as their deeper meanings are discovered over the course of time. His words and the Qur’an are of such extraordinary nature and so full of meaning that millions of saints and people seeking Divine knowledge have obtained perfect knowledge of the Divine Essence, Attributes, and Names through them. The hidden truths of the Unseen worlds (e.g., angels, jinn, the Hereafter, Paradise, and Hell) are unveiled through them.
These two sources have also served as a pure, inexhaustible fountain of insight for countless jurists, Qur’anic interpreters, Traditionists, historians, scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and many others. The Qur’an and the Sunna have enlightened billions of people, and have shown them how to pray, fast, give alms, and make pilgrimage—even how to eat, drink, and speak. In short, it has shown them how to conduct themselves at every moment of their lives.
Some examples are the following:
- Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Abbas, the Scholar of the Umma, that God’s Messenger said to him:
O young man, let me teach you a few principles: Observe the rights of God so that God will protect you. Observe His rights so that you always will find Him with you. When you ask something, ask it from God. When you seek help, seek it from God. Know that if everyone joined together to help you, they could only do that which God already preordained for you. If everyone joined together to hurt you, they could only do that which God already preordained for you. The Pen of Destiny has been lifted, and everything has been ordained.129
This hadith encourages submission to God, and belief in His Unity and the truth of Destiny. We should not conclude that it excludes human free will; rather, it stresses one’s action, prayer, and need to strive for the desired results. It balances this with a warning that since everything is ultimately in the hands of God, we should strive in accordance with His Commandments and seek the results only from Him.
- Imam Tirmidhi relates from Ibn ‘Umar: God’s Messenger said: “Live in the world as if you were a stranger or traveler. Regard yourself as one of the dead.”130 This succinct hadith encourages us to lead an austere, disciplined life based on awareness of God. It reminds us of our final destination by stressing this world’s transience, and establishes the balance between this life and the next. We are travelers in this world. Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, a thirteenth-century Turkish Sufi, says each individual is like a flute made of a reed separated from its reed-bed. We continually groan with the pangs of separation from the real Owner and our native land. We set out from the World of the Spirits and travel through the stations of our mother’s womb, childhood, youth, old age, the grave, and the Resurrection. Finally, our journey ends either in Paradise or Hell. If we desire a pleasant journey and a safe arrival in Paradise, we must be aware of this life’s transience and prepare for the eternal life. Although we can taste life’s pleasures to a certain extent, provided they are not specifically forbidden, we should not overindulge or forget our true destination.
- Such authentic books of Tradition as Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Muslim, and Sunan Abu Dawud relate from ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas‘ud that God’s Messenger said: “Always be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. If you are always truthful and seek truthfulness, God records you as such. Never lie, for lying leads to shamefulness and shamefulness leads to Hell. If you insist on lying and seek deceit, God records you as such.”131
Truthfulness is an indispensable attribute of Prophethood. Truthfulness opens the door of happiness in both worlds. No one can taste true bliss while living in the darkness of lies and lying. Lying is “an assertion contrary to God’s knowledge,” a pillar of unbelief, and the most manifest sign of hypocrisy. The current prevalence of lying is destroying our security and morality, and contaminating the whole community (especially its political circles) like a contagious disease. Any structure based on lying must eventually perish due to its very nature.
This hadith states that truthfulness leads to absolute piety, while lying leads to sinfulness. Birr, the Arabic word translated here as piety, encompasses every virtue, from sound thinking, truthfulness, and pure intention to honesty, decency, and good conduct. Its opposite, fujur (sinfulness), denotes every kind of deviation and evil, among them debauchery, indecency, and perversion.
- Bukhari and Muslim report from Ibn Mas‘ud that God’s Messenger said: “A person is with the one whom he (she) loves.”132 This hadith is a source of hope and consolation for those unable to adhere completely to the Divine Commandments. Those who love the Prophets and saints will be in their company in the Hereafter. Therefore, whoever desires this should love them sincerely and follow them as best as they can. Those who love the enemies of God will be with them in Hell.
Nu‘ayman, a Companion, could not stop drinking alcohol. He was punished several times. When yet another Companion reproached him, God’s Messenger warned that Companion: “Don’t help Satan against your brother! I swear by God that he loves God and His Messenger.”133 Thus, those who are trying their best to reform themselves, as long as they continue to perform their obligatory duties and try to refrain from major sins, should be encouraged, not reprimanded. This is a prerequisite of their love for God and His Messenger.
- Ibn Hanbal related from Mu‘adh ibn Jabal: God’s Messenger said: “Fear God wherever you are. Do good immediately after a sinful act to erase it, and always be well-mannered in your relationship with people.”134 This concise hadith establishes the principles of a happy life and describes the way to eternal bliss. Fear of God is the basis of every virtue and good conduct, and leads to Paradise. Through this, people can erase their sins with good deeds, and being well-mannered elevates them to the rank of perfection.
- God’s Messenger declares: “You are governed how you are (according to your beliefs and lifestyle.)”135 This hadith expresses a principle of public and political administration: A country’s political structure is shaped according to its people’s tendencies, whether directly through democracy or indirectly through other ways. Both the natural and the social sciences have their own laws, which we call “God’s creational and operational laws of the universe.” According to these laws, if people immerse themselves in sin and evil, they inevitably will be ruled by evil people. If, by contrast, they prefer a virtuous life, their government will be good.
The hadith stresses that laws have no sanction on their own; rather, their authority depends on those who apply them. Therefore, the character of government officials is of vital importance. If the people are righteous, their rulers or government officials will be righteous. If they are not, no one can expect a righteous administration. The ruling elite are like the cream rising to the surface of a liquid: milk has its own kind of cream, as do lime and alum. When Hajjaj, a despotic commander, was reminded of ‘Umar’s justice, he replied: “If you were like ‘Umar’s people, I would be like ‘Umar.”
The hadith also tells us to develop self-control and discern our own faults. Social harmony cannot be established if people tend to blame others. As emphasized in the Qur’an: God will not change the condition of a people unless they change themselves (13:11). We are the ones who determine our fate and make our own history.
- Bukhari, Muslim, and Abu Dawud relate from ‘Umar that God’s Messenger said: “Actions are judged according to intentions. One is rewarded for whatever one intends to do. Whoever emigrates for God and His Messenger has emigrated for God and His Messenger; whoever emigrates to acquire something worldly or to marry has emigrated for what is intended.”136 This hadith concerns a Companion who emigrated to marry Umm Qays. It is considered a cornerstone of Islamic law and the foremost standard for evaluating a believer’s actions. Intention is the spirit of our actions. For example, if we fulfill our religious duties without making a specific intention to do so, they are unacceptable to God. If we do not seek God’s good pleasure, what we do is not rewarded by God. Hijra (sacred emigration in the way of God) can be considered a twin of jihad (holy struggle in the way of God). Although there is no hijra after the conquest of Makka, it will continue elsewhere along with jihad until the Last Day. Believers may emigrate to preach Islam, as God’s Messenger and his Companions did when they could no longer do this in Makka. Such emigrations are accepted as hijra when done purely for the sake of God. Intention can sometimes be rewarded without action. For example, if we sincerely intend to do something good but cannot, for some justifiable reason, we will be rewarded for what we intended to do.
Intention multiplies an action’s reward, and transforms every action into a kind of worship. We cannot earn eternal happiness in this short worldly life. But by intending to worship God as if we were to live forever, we can become deserving of the eternal life of Paradise. Unbelievers whose hearts are closed to belief, according to the same principle, deserve the eternal punishment of Hellfire. Believers who sleep after the night prayer with the intention of getting up before dawn to pray tahajjud are recorded as having worshiped God for the whole night. This is why God’s Messenger declared: “A believer’s intention is more rewarding than his [or her] action.”137
- Bukhari records that God’s Messenger said: “The Muslim is one from whose tongue and hand Muslims are safe. The Emigrant is one who emigrates from what God forbids.”138 This short hadith expresses many truths. First of all, it describes the ideal or norm by beginning with the Muslim, as opposed to a Muslim. In this way, our Prophet draws attention to the qualities of perfect Muslims, not to those who are only nominal Muslims. The word Muslim, derived from the infinitive silm (security, peace, and salvation), comes to mean one who desires and gives peace, security, and salvation. So, the Muslims are believers who embody peace, cause no trouble for anyone, from whom all are safe, and who are the most reliable representatives of peace and security. They strive to bring peace, security, and salvation to others, and dedicate themselves to disseminating their inner peace and happiness. Our Prophet mentions the tongue before the hand, for slander, gossip, and insult often do far more damage than physical violence. If people can refrain from verbal assault, they can more easily refrain from physical assault. Moreover, self-defense against physical violence is often easier than that against gossip and slander. So, true Muslims always restrain their tongues and hands so that others will be safe from them.
In the same hadith, emigration means more than leaving one’s family, house, possessions, and native land for the sake of God. To be capable of the latter, one must first emigrate from the material to the spiritual dimension of his or her being, from worldly pleasures to an altruistic life, and from selfish aims to living for a Divine cause. Therefore, obeying Divine prohibitions is directly related to being a good Muslim and to sacrificing one’s life in the service of people purely for the sake of God.
- God’s Messenger says: “It is a sign of one’s being a good Muslim that he abandons what is of no use to him.”139 Such people practice ihsan, a term denoting that we worship God as if we see Him, fully aware that even if we cannot see God, He sees us all the time.140 Those who reach this rank can say: “I was searching for Him in the outer world, but now I have come to understand that He is the Soul within my soul” or “I expected some news from beyond the world. However, the veil has been removed from my soul and I have seen myself.”
To attain this degree, worshipers should abandon whatever is vain and useless. They should know that God is watching them, and that God’s Messenger and discerning believers are aware of their deeds’ true value. God says:
Say: “Work, and (know that) God will behold your work, and so will His Messenger and the believers; then you shall be brought back to the Knower of what is hidden and what is open, and He will declare to you all that you have done.” (9:105)
Good Muslims abandon heedlessness and indifference, do their work properly, put forth their best efforts in whatever they do, and are serious and reliable in all dealings and transactions. Flippancy and frivolity injure one’s reliability and reduce one’s dignity.
- Both Bukhari and Muslim relate that God’s Messenger said: “Patience is shown at the moment of misfortune.”141 In the early days of his mission, God’s Messenger forbade people to visit graves, as some un-Islamic practices were still observed. After such practices vanished, he encouraged his Companions to visit graves, and did so himself, for this encourages people to improve their moral conduct and strive for the next life.
During a visit to Madina’s graveyard, God’s Messenger saw a woman weeping bitterly and complaining about Destiny. When he sought to console her, the woman, who did not recognize him, angrily told him to go away, for: “You don’t know what misfortune has befallen me!” When she later learned his identity, she hurried after him and, finding him at home, begged his pardon. God’s Messenger told her: “Patience is shown at the moment of misfortune.”
Patience is a key to success and triumph. It means to accept pain, trouble, misfortune, and similar unpleasant facts without complaint, or loss of self-control, trust, or belief in God and Destiny. Sometimes one can achieve patience in difficult circumstances by changing one’s attitude, place, preoccupation, or immediate conditions. Performing wudu’ (ritual ablution) or praying also may help one deal with sorrow. There are several kinds of patience:
- Determination to avoid sins. This elevates one to the rank of the God-fearing, whom God takes into His care.
- Constant and regular worship of God. This causes one to acquire the rank of being a beloved of God.
- Acceptance of misfortune without complaint. This causes one to be included among the people of patience and those who put their trust in God.
- Dealing with exasperation. This means having a realistic understanding of what is required to achieve a specific result. For example, producing a loaf of bread requires that the field be cultivated, the crop harvested, the grain taken to a mill, and the dough shaped into loaves and baked in an oven. If, out of impatience or neglect, this procedure is not followed exactly and in this specific order, a loaf of bread will not be produced.
- Bukhari, Muslim, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal record that God’s Messenger said: “The upper hand is better than the lower one.”142 In another hadith, God’s Messenger explains that the upper hand gives to the poor and needy, while the lower hand takes from others. So, besides expressing the merits of charity, this hadith encourages people to work and earn their living.
A subtle point: God’s Messenger did not say the one who gives and the one who receives. Instead, he said the upper hand and the lower hand. This indicates that the act, not the person, is generally preferable. As a result, the recipient may sometimes be better than the giver. For example some people, like Bara’ ibn Malik, appear to be very low but are so beloved in His sight that whatever they predict, and then swear on by God, comes true. Such people ask for nothing and are extraordinarily independent. God’s Messenger advised Thawban not to beg. As a result, he would not even ask someone to pick up a whip he dropped while riding his camel. So, when seemingly “poor” believers of this quality receive from people, it cannot be said that they are inferior to those who give.
Islam does not approve of begging either on the individual or the national level. It should never be forgotten that honor, dignity, and superiority always belong to God, His Messenger, and the believers. Therefore Muslims should not come under the control or authority of unbelievers, for this undermines their dignity and superiority.
- Imam Muslim relates from God’s Messenger: On the Last Day, God will not talk to, pay attention to, or purify three types of people. A painful torment awaits them. These are the people who “trail their robes,” who remind those they have favored of their favors, and who try to sell their goods by false oaths.143
The hadith begins with thalathatun (three), meaning any three, unnamed, unworthy of being named. In other words, they may be met anywhere, and they and their actions are so despicable that Muslims should avoid them. God will ignore such people in the next world. This is a severe punishment, for, as stated in Surat al-Rahman, speech is one of the foremost and greatest favors of God to humanity. Besides, we will be in dire need of speaking on the Day of Judgment, when we try to justify ourselves. These people, however, will be told: Be driven into it (the Fire)! Don’t speak to Me! (23:108).
On that day, everyone will be occupied with their own troubles, and there will be no refuge except God the Almighty. Everyone will hope that God will give them some personal attention, that He will look upon them with mercy and purify them. But those three sorts of people will have no hope of being purified and forgiven, since God Almighty will not acknowledge them.
In the hadith, their punishment is announced before their sins are identified. God’s Messenger thereby emphasizes the gravity of their sins and warns everybody to refrain from them. The first and most grievous sin is “trailing one’s robe,” an Arabic idiom for arrogance.
Arrogance means to contest with God for the rule of the Earth. Human beings, despite their vast weakness, poverty, and powerlessness are nevertheless enchanted with themselves. They consider their abilities, skills, position, wealth, apparent accomplishments, and so on worthy of pride. This leads to self-conceit and self-pride. Though created from a drop of lowly “water” and unable to choose their time and place of their birth, family, color, and race, this self-pride grows despite their inability to satisfy their bodies’ operative needs.
For example, they cannot satisfy their hunger, thirst, and sleep on their own. The only reason human beings survive is because God has endowed them with various talents and faculties. But people ignore this fact, attribute their accomplishments to themselves, and so contest with God. Such arrogance eventually blinds them to innumerable signs pointing to God’s Existence, Unity, and Absolute Sovereignty. In the words of the Qur’an:
Those who behave arrogantly on the Earth in defiance of truth—I will turn them away from My signs: even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them; even if they see the way of guidance and right conduct, they will not choose it for their way. For they rejected Our signs, and gave no heed to them. (7:146)
The second grave sin is reminding others of the favors you have done for them. This is closely related to arrogance, for those who consider what God has bestowed upon them as their own possessions and abilities tend to engage in this sin as well. Those who regard everything as a gift from God understand that they can benefit others only if He allows them to do so. As a result, those who do the favor actually feel indebted to those they have helped, for such actions allow them to receive a spiritual reward. This hadith encourages people to disinterested generosity and altruism, concerning which God’s Messenger says:
The generous are near to God, to Paradise, and to people, and distant from Hell. The miserly, however, are distant from God, from Paradise, and from human beings, but near to Hell.144
The last grave sin is deception in trade. According to the laws of Islam, merchants must disclose any defect in what they are selling. Swearing by God is also prohibited, especially in transactions. If merchants try to sell their goods through lies or false oaths, or stir up demand by swearing by God, they are committing a great sin deserving of severe punishment. This sin is closely linked to the two earlier ones, for it usually originates in miserliness and one’s non-recognition of God. Besides being connected with unbelief in and distrust of God, these three sins poison society’s life and indicate weak character. Hence, the severity of their punishment.
- Imam Bukhari records in his Sahih that God’s Messenger said: “Whoever guarantees to me what is between their lips and what is between their legs, I will guarantee them Paradise.”145 As speech is one of the greatest favors of God, we should use our tongues only for good and useful acts, such as reciting the Qur’an, praying, telling the truth, and enjoining good and forbidding evil. We should be modest and well-mannered in our speech, and not engage in lying, profanity, slander, gossip, and so on. Words should be chosen carefully, for, as ‘Ali said: “Your word is dependent on you until you utter it; once you utter it, however, you are dependent on it.”
Controlling one’s sexual lust is very important for attaining human perfection and deserving Paradise. God has endowed us with many faculties and impulses so that we might evolve spiritually by restraining them and, channeling them into good deeds and virtues, attain higher spiritual ranks. By struggling to satisfy desires only in lawful ways, we can attain the rank of sainthood and gain superiority over angels. Since angels have no carnal desires and thus do not struggle against temptation, they do not evolve spiritually. However, because of our essential duality, we travel between the lowest (more wretched than Satan) and the highest (surpassing the angels) levels.
Since Islam bans or blocks the ways leading to forbidden acts, one should refrain from such acts as displaying personal charm or beauty, gazing at the opposite sex, and being alone with someone of the opposite sex in such places that encourage illicit sexual relations. Like holding one’s tongue, this requires strong willpower, self-discipline, and continuous struggle. Even though it seems at first sight to be too difficult, it will engender great spiritual pleasure, for the pleasure of labor and struggle lies in labor and struggle themselves. Those who are successful will be deserving of Paradise.
- Hadith scholar Muslim records God’s Messenger as having discussed forgiveness. He once asked:
“Listen. Shall I guide you to the things through which God blots out sins and elevates you to higher ranks?” When his Companions asked him to do so, he told them: “Perform wudu’ (ritual ablution) as correctly as possible, even in the most adverse conditions; walk to the mosque for each prayer; and wait for the next prayer after praying. This is the ribat, this is the ribat (preparation, dedication).”146
The hadith begins with “Listen” to stress the importance of what follows. In this case, it is the five daily prayers.
The prescribed prayer is the pillar of Islam. Without it, Islam cannot be maintained. When believers pray correctly, they are protected from evil thoughts and deeds. It is also a sacred ladder for ascending to the Presence of God. But before we can climb it, we must perform wudu’ as perfectly as possible. From the first step toward wudu’, believers begin to gain reward. While performing it, they are relieved of the stress of daily life and cleansed of sins. When performed in difficult circumstances, believers receive an even greater exhilaration.
Adhan (the call to prayer) is both the call for believers to enter the Presence of God and the call to prosperity in both worlds. Wudu’ is the preparation that believers must make before entering this Presence. By performing the supererogatory prayer before the prescribed one, believers complete their preparations and receive permission from the God’s aide-de-camp: Prophet Muhammad. When the muezzin (caller to prayer) calls iqama (the beginning of the prayer), believers enter His Presence with total respect and reverence, converse with the Unique Owner of the universe, and petition Him for their needs and desires.
Believers pray five times a day, thereby having their sins erased and their potential to commit sins changed into “seeds of blessed trees of good and virtue.” There is, however, one condition: The prayer must be performed with absolute sincerity, with pure intention to gain God’s good pleasure only, and in full awareness of being in the Presence of the Creator and Owner of the universe, the All-Powerful, All-Knowing, All-Seeing, All-Hearing, and All-Overwhelming.
God’s Messenger describes the prescribed prayer as ribat, which can be translated as “dedication to something or guarding the frontier.” It appears in the Qur’an:
O you who believe! Persevere in patience and vie in such perseverance; be alert and prepared for jihad; and fear God, so that you may prosper (3:200) and: Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including horses dedicated to war (8:60).
In the first verse, ribat means being alert and prepared; in the second, dedicated. By describing the prayer with this term, God’s Messenger stresses the value and importance of struggling in God’s way as well as the primacy of the prescribed prayers in Islam and a believer’s life. In another hadith, he calls the former the lesser jihad and the latter the greater jihad. To succeed in the former, believers must be very attentive while performing the latter.
By describing the prescribed prayers as ribat, God’s Messenger also emphasizes that Muslims should dedicate their lives to Divine worship and organize their daily activities around the five daily prayers. They should ensure that they can pray when necessary and with full attention. After each prayer, they should wait expectantly for the next one. Those who pray in such a manner will be cleansed of sins and, moreover, protected against committing more sins. Then they will experience, as another hadith says, something like a mi‘raj (ascension to God’s Presence).
- Bukhari relates that God’s Messenger said: “God says: ‘I have prepared for My righteous servants such things of which they have never seen, heard, or imagined.’”147 Paradise is the place of surprises. The Qur’an tells us of its bounties using familiar words so that we can get some idea of them. But as Ibn ‘Abbas points out: They are given things in similitude (2:25), means that these bounties are particular to Paradise in nature and taste; their appearance, however, is like that of their counterparts in the world. Believers will be rewarded in Paradise with ever-renewed bounties and, above all, will observe God free from any qualitative and quantitative dimensions. An instant of this observation will surpass, in delight and blessing, thousands of years of life in Paradise. But the greatest bounty of all in Paradise is that God will be pleased with believers forever.
To be worthy of Paradise, we must be righteous, upright in all our deeds, and do everything as perfectly as possible. Righteous believers do not lie or deceive others, and are completely reliable. God is confident that they will perform their religious duties as carefully as possible and obey His prohibitions. All other parts of creation are sure such believers will never hurt them. Such people do everything in full awareness that God Almighty is watching them. Since they have gained their Lord’s good pleasure, they are counted among those whom God calls My righteous servants. That is, they are loved by God and, as a result: “He is their eyes with which they see, their ears with which they hear, their hands with which they hold, and their feet on which they walk.”
God multiplies the good deeds of His servants and gives, in certain circumstances, millions of rewards for each deed. This is why believers will meet in Paradise such bounties as they could never have imagined while alive.
- In a hadith related by Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim, God’s Messenger says: “Paradise is surrounded by trouble and tribulation, and Hell is concealed in pleasure.”148 Paradise and Hell are, in essence, blessings for humanity. Fear of Hell causes us to observe God’s prohibitions so that we may go to Paradise. However, being saved from Hell and becoming deserving of Paradise requires great self-discipline and strict intellectual and spiritual training.
The Qur’an says that people are tempted by love of the opposite sex, children, hoarded treasures of gold and silver, splendid mounts, cattle, and plantations (3:14). People have a natural attachment to life and its pleasures. Hell is an abode of torment placed within an attractive setting of enticing lures and pleasures. If we are captivated and live only to satisfy such desires, we are lured toward Hell. We can reach this destination easily, for the path to Hell passes through worldly attractions of every kind.
To reach Paradise, we first have to train ourselves to ignore worldly attractions. Hell is part of the way to Paradise, for we must travel to Hell without allowing any of its attractions to seduce us. This requires self-discipline and continuous struggle against temptation and the carnal self ’s desires. Whenever we are invited to enjoy such worldly luxuries as fame, wealth, and status, we must restrict ourselves to the boundaries set by Divine Commandments. We must continue to pray, fast, give alms, and (if possible) perform the pilgrimage to the Ka‘ba.
In addition, we must engage only in fairness; honesty; truthfulness; kindness to the poor, the needy, and orphans; and enjoin good and forbid evil. We also must refrain from deception, usury, gambling, drinking alcohol, backbiting, hypocrisy, and every form of injustice. We should expect to be tested, for: God will test you with afflictions and something of fear and hunger, and loss in goods or lives or in the fruits of his toil and earnings (2:155). To reach Paradise, we must persevere, endure affliction, perform what is obligatory, avoid sin, and thank God for His bounties and blessings. Because our carnal selves are prone to evil, they are averse to virtuous deeds.
- Imam Tirmidhi relates that God’s Messenger said:
I advise you to fear God and obey your leader, even if he is a black slave. Those of you who live long enough will see great controversy, so adhere to my Sunna and the Sunna of the rightly guided caliphs. Cling to them stubbornly. Beware of newly invented matters in religion, for every invented matter is an innovation. Every innovation is going astray, and every going astray is in Hellfire.149
The Arabic word translated here as “fear of God” is taqwa. Derived from wiqaya (protection), taqwa means to be in the safekeeping or protection of God. This has two aspects. The first is that believers fear God and obey Him by observing His commands and prohibitions. The second aspect is that, by studying nature and life and discovering the laws of God that control them, people acquire scientific knowledge and order their lives. Science cannot be established if people do not discover these laws.
To be under the safekeeping of God, true religion and science should be combined, for they are two expressions of a single truth. According to Muslim sages and scholars, the universe is “the Created Qur’an,” where God’s laws issuing from His Attributes of Will, Destiny, and Power are operative. The Qur’an, the collection of Divine laws issuing from God’s Attribute of Speech, is “the composed universe” or “the universe in words.”
The second point is that believers should not disobey their government without justifiable cause. Without a leader, a community is like a broken rosary whose beads have scattered everywhere. Such a situation of social and political conflict usually results in anarchy and destruction. The hadith also points out a truth that even modern democracies have proven unable to grasp: no racial discrimination. It is clearly stated that an emancipated black slave can lead the Muslim community. This was not only a theoretical assertion, but was testified to by the numerous and great black saints, administrators, and scholars who were respected and obeyed.
God’s Messenger also draws attention here to his Sunna. As he is the most excellent example for all aspects of life, believers are to follow his example until the Last Day. Such adherence guarantees that Islam retains its original purity. Any deviation will result in social and doctrinal splits and new importations into Islam, the religion perfected by God. Adherence to the way of the first four caliphs also guarantees of Muslim unity and Islam’s maintenance.
This hadith also contains a prediction that his first four political successors would be rightly guided, and that disobedience to them would cause internal splits. Islamic history records the truth of this statement. Just look at the uprisings during the caliphates of ‘Uthman and ‘Ali.
- Bukhari and Muslim relate that God’s Messenger said: “Believers are not bitten twice from the same hole.”150 Believers have insight, perceptiveness, and intelligence, for they are distinguished by their sound reasoning and spiritual insight. The Muslim community has—and should have—the same perceptiveness and always be aware of potential dangers or problems. They may be deceived once, but the insight and awareness provided by belief should prevent them from being deceived twice. This hadith contains a significant warning for contemporary Muslims, who have been deceived for centuries by the West and the hypocrites of the East. Muslims must take control of their own affairs and re-examine the quality of their belief.
- One hadith recorded by Bukhari and Muslim calls educators to re-evaluate their methods: “Human beings are like ores containing silver or gold. Those who are promising and in leading positions in unbelief are better than others (in virtue) when they accept Islam and acquire a good understanding of it.”151 This hadith is very significant, especially with respect to education, which demands the imparting of insight and perceptiveness. The Prophet said: This is my way: I call unto God with insight and sure knowledge, I and those who follow me (12:108).
Insight implies knowing each individual’s character, potential, and shortcomings. Human beings are not alike in character, capacity, ambition, and taste. For example, they can be said to “contain coal, copper, silver, gold, and diamonds.” The first step in providing a good education is to recognize individual potentialities and figure out how to develop them. Just as you cannot obtain gold from a coal mine, you cannot develop “copper” people into “gold” people. Conversely, if you try to extract copper via the gold–ore extraction method, your efforts will be fruitless.
We also should note that those with great potential always distinguish themselves. For example, such leading opponents of Islam as ‘Umar eventually embraced Islam and became leading figures of the Muslim community. This shows that their potential for virtue is refined and developed fully in the crucible of Islam.
- In another hadith, God’s Messenger said: “Surely God grants the wrongdoer, the oppressor, a reprieve. But once He seizes him, He utterly destroys him.”152 Then he recited: Such is the chastisement of your Lord when He chastises communities in the midst of their wrong: grievous, indeed, and severe is His chastisement (11:102).
God gives the wrongdoers some time to repent and amend their behavior. If they do not take advantage of this opportunity, He punishes them severely.
God sometimes uses wrongdoers as a “sword of God” to punish the sinful. Muslims often become the target of wrongdoing powers when they deviate from Islam and abandon the Divine Commandments. This happens when God wills to punish them before the Day of Judgment.
For example, after the Muslims split into many competing factions nine centuries ago, they were exposed to the Mongol invasion and massacre. Likewise, they tasted the bitterness of overall defeat and subjugation during and after the First World War. This was because they were no longer practicing Islam in their lives and because they had surrendered intellectually, spiritually, and materially to un-Islamic trends coming from the West.
However, every misfortune befalling Muslims is, on account of resulting from sin, an occasion and means for self-purification and Divine forgiveness; the beginning of a new, more splendid revival. So, the near future will witness, if God wills, the collapse of tyranny and a magnificent revival of Islam and the Muslim world.
- In an authentic Tradition, God’s Messenger says:
God will shade seven (groups of) people under His shade on the Day when there will be no shade except His: the just ruler; young people who have grown up in worship of God, may He be glorified; those people who are greatly attached to mosques; two persons who love each other for God’s sake, meet and then leave each other because of this love; men who refuse the invitations of beautiful women of rank,153 saying: “I fear God”; those who spend in the way of God so secretly that when they give charity to the one on his left, the one on the right does not see it; and those whose eyes fill with tears when they mention God in seclusion.154
People will be drenched in sweat up to their necks because of the heat of the Day of Judgment. Those who wish for His shade must strive for it according to the instructions outlined in this hadith.
Justice is the foundation of social life, and a just ruler is a rare occurrence. Holy and blessed indeed are those young people who can control their carnal desires and devote themselves to the worship of God. Designing one’s life according to the daily prayers is a laudable virtue that pleases God Almighty. Another important quality, especially in this world of individualism and selfishness, is to love each other for God’s sake and regard the Earth as a “cradle of brotherhood and sisterhood.” Chastity requires self-discipline, and is so meritorious that it elevates its practitioners to the highest ranks. Giving alms purely for God’s sake and without display is almost as much encouraged in Islam as are belief and the prescribed prayers. Meditation and continuous self-supervision, accompanied by a healthy attitude of God consciousness, prevent people from sinning and make them worthy of Paradise.
- God is kind and gives favors to everyone. Whatever people have is from God. Nevertheless, He bestowed special favors on each Prophet and community according to the dictates of the time. For example, Adam was favored with knowledge of the names (the keys to all branches of knowledge). Noah was endowed with steadfastness and perseverance; Abraham was honored with God’s intimate friendship and being the father of numerous Prophets; Moses was given the ability to administer, and was exalted by being addressed by God directly; and Jesus was distinguished with patience, tolerance, and compassion. All Prophets have some share in these praiseworthy qualities, but each surpasses, on account of his mission, the others in one or more than one of those qualities.
Prophet Muhammad has all of the qualities mentioned above, except for being the father of Prophets. Moreover, because of the universal nature of his mission, he is further distinguished in the following five ways. As related by Bukhari, he says:
I have been given five things not given to anyone before me: God helps me by implanting fear in the heart of my enemies at a distance of one month’s walk; the Earth has been made a place of worship and means of cleansing for me, so whenever it is time to pray my followers can pray wherever they are; the spoils of war are lawful for me, although they were not lawful for anyone before me; I have the right to intercede (with God on behalf of believers); and, while every Prophet (before me) was sent to his people exclusively, I was sent to humanity.155
It is possible to deduce the following things from this hadith:
- Prophethood is a Divine favor bestowed by God on whomever He wishes.
- The five things mentioned in the hadith are exclusive to the Muslim community.
- To make your enemies fear you from great distances, maintain complete sincerity and devotion to the cause of God, as was done during the Era of Happiness when the Prophet and his true successors ruled the Muslims.
- As Islam recognizes no intermediaries between God and people, there is no church or organized and professional clergy. Although saintly people may be allowed to intercede for certain Muslims on the Day of Judgment, God’s Messenger will enjoy the right of all-inclusive intercession for believers of every community.
- The spoils of war, forbidden to previous communities as a trial, are lawful for Muslims, because they must struggle in the way of God until the Last Day and convey the Message throughout the world.
- While the mission of previous Prophets was restricted to a certain people and time, God’s Messenger was sent as a mercy for all worlds.
Infallibility is a necessary attribute of the Prophets. The original Arabic word translated here as infallibility is ‘isma, which means “protecting, saving, or defending.” It appears in the Qur’an in several derived forms. For example, when Prophet Noah asked his son to board the Ark during the Flood, the latter replied: I will betake myself to some mountain; it will save me from the water. Noah replied: Today there is not a saving one [active participle] from the command of God (11:43).
The wife of a high Egyptian official, named Potiphar in the Bible (Genesis 39:1), uses the same word in: I did seek to seduce him, but he firmly saved himself guiltless (12:32). The Qur’an calls believers to hold fast to the rope of God (the Qur’an and Islam) using the same word in a different form: Hold fast all together to, and protect (against being divided), the rope of God (3:103). Again, we see the same word in the verse: God will defend (protect) you from people (5:67).
The infallibility of Prophets is an established fact based on reason and tradition. This quality is required for several reasons. First, Prophets came to convey the Message of God. If we liken this Message to pure water or light (13:17, 24:35), the Archangel Gabriel (who brought it) and the Prophet (who conveyed it) also must be absolutely pure. If this were not so, their impurity would pollute the Message. Every falling off is an impurity, a dark spot, in the heart. The hearts or souls of Gabriel and the Prophet are like polished mirrors that reflect the Divine Revelation to people, a clean cup from which people quench their thirst for the pure, Divine water.
Any black spot on the mirror would absorb a ray of that light; a single drop of mud would make the water unclear. As a result, the Prophets would not be able to deliver the complete Message. But they delivered the Message perfectly, as stated in the Qur’an:
O Messenger! Convey what has been sent to you from your Lord. If you did not, you would not have fulfilled His mission. God will defend you from people. God guides not the unbelieving people. (5:67)
Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My favor upon you, and I have chosen and approved for you Islam as religion. (5:3)
Second, the Prophets teach their people all the commands and principles of belief and conduct. So that the people learn their religion in its pristine purity and truth, and as perfectly as possible to secure their happiness and prosperity in both worlds, the Prophets must represent and then present the Revelation without fault or defect. This is their function as guides and good examples to be followed:
You have in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern, an excellent example, for anyone who aspires after God and the Last Day, and who engages much in the remembrance of God. (33:21)
There is for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him … there was in them an excellent example for you— for those who aspire after God and the Last Day. (60:4, 6)
A Prophet can do or say only that which has been sanctioned by God. If he could, he would have to repent even beyond his current lifetime. For example, Abraham will tell those who approach him for intercession on the Day of Judgment to go to Moses, saying he cannot intercede for them because he spoke allusively three times in his life.156 Although this is not a sin, his repentance will continue in the Hereafter.
Third, the Qur’an commands believers to obey the Prophet’s orders and prohibitions, without exception, and emphasizes that it is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by God and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision (33:36). It also warns believers that what falls to them when God and His Messenger have given a judgment is only to say: “We have heard and obeyed” (24:51). Absolute obedience to a Prophet means that all of his commands and prohibitions are correct and beyond reproach.
Prophethood is so great a favor that all Prophets bore extreme hardship while fulfilling the duty of thanksgiving, and always worried about not worshipping God sufficiently. Prophet Muhammad often implored God as follows:
Glory be to You. We have not been able to know You as Your knowledge requires, O Known One. Glory be to You. We have not been able to worship You as Your worship requires, O Worshipped One.
The Qur’anic verses that are sometimes understood (mistakenly) to reprimand certain Prophets for some faults or to show that they seek God’s forgiveness for some sin, should be considered in this light. Besides, God’s forgiveness does not always mean that a sin has been committed. The Qur’anic words ‘afw (pardon) and maghfira (forgiveness) also signify a special favor and kindness, as well as Divine dispensation, in respect to lightening or overlooking a religious duty, as in the following verses:
If any is forced (to eat of them) by hunger, with no inclination toward transgression, God is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (5:3)
If . . . you find no water, then take for yourselves clean sand or earth, and rub therewith your faces and hands. For God is All-Pardoning and Oft-Forgiving. (4:43)
Fourth, sins and pardoning have different types and degrees. These are: disobeying religious commandments, and forgiveness thereof; disobeying God’s laws of creation and life, and forgiveness thereof; and disobeying the rules of good manners or courtesy, and the forgiveness thereof. A fourth type, which is not a sin, involves not doing something as perfectly as possible, which is required by the love of and nearness to God. Some Prophets may have done this, but such acts cannot be considered sins according to the common definition.
Tradition also proves the Prophets’ infallibility. God says of Moses:
I cast love over you from Me (and made you comely and love-able) in order that you might be brought up under My eye (20:39).
Thus, as Moses was brought up by God Himself and prepared for the mission of Messengership, how could he possibly commit a sin?
The same is true of all other Prophets. For example, God’s Messenger says of Jesus: “Satan could not touch Jesus and his mother at his birth.” Jesus was protected from birth until his elevation to the Presence of God:
(Mary) pointed to the infant (Jesus). They asked: “How can we talk to an infant in the cradle?” Jesus said:
“I am a servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live. He has made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or a wretched rebel. So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I will be raised up to life again.” (19:29-33)
Jesus, like all Prophets, was protected from sin from his birth. The Messenger, while still a child and not yet a Prophet, intended to attend two wedding ceremonies, but on each occasion was overpowered by sleep.157 During his youth he helped his uncles repair the Ka‘ba by carrying stones. Since the stones hurt his shoulders, his uncle ‘Abbas advised him to wrap part of his lower garment around his shoulders for padding. But as soon as he did so, thereby leaving parts of his thighs exposed, he fell on his back and stared fixedly. An angel appeared and warned him: “This is not befitting for you,”158 for later he would tell people to be well-mannered and observe Divinely ordained standards of conduct, including covering the thighs. In such ways was the future Prophet protected from his people’s pagan rituals and practices.
God’s Messenger says that “all children of Adam make faults and err, and the best of those who make faults and err are the repentant.”159 This implies that as human beings we are fallible by nature, not that we are condemned to make such mistakes. Whether by God’s Will and special protection or, as will be explained below, by His showing the way to become free of error or sin, even the greatest saints who continue the Prophetic mission may be infallible to some degree.
God, the Almighty, promises to protect believers who obey Him in utmost respect and deserve His protection, and to endow them with sound judgment so that they can distinguish between the truth and falsehood, and right and wrong:
O you who believe! If you obey God in utmost respect, He will establish in you a Criterion (to judge between right and wrong), purify you of all your evils, and forgive you. God is of grace unbounded. (8:29)
God made a covenant with the believers that if they obey Him and strive to exalt His Word, by proclaiming His religion, He will help them and establish them firmly in the religion, protecting them against all kinds of deviation (47:7). This protection from enemies and committing sins depends upon their support of Islam and the struggle to spread it so that only God is worshipped, and that no partners are associated with Him in belief or worship, or in the creation and rule of the universe. If believers keep their promise, God will keep His (2:40); if they break it, God will cause them to fail (17:8).
God protects His servants against sin in different ways. For example, he may place obstacles in their way, establish a “warner” in their hearts, or even cause them to suffer some injury so that they physically cannot sin. Or, He may put a verse in someone’s mouth, as happened with a young man during ‘Umar’s caliphate.
The young man was so strict and attentive in his worship that he prayed every prayer in the mosque. A woman who lived on his way to the mosque had become enamored with him and so sought to seduce him. Although he resisted her gestures, the moment came when he took a few steps in her direction. Just at this moment, he felt he was reciting: Those who fear God, when a thought of evil from Satan assaults them, bring God to remembrance, and lo! they see (aright) (7:201). Overwhelmed with shame before God, and with love of God for preventing him from committing this sin, he fell down dead. When ‘Umar was informed of this a few days later, he went to his grave and shouted: “O young man. ‘For those who fear the time when they will stand before the Lord, there will be two gardens!’” (55:46). A voice from the grave, whether that of the young man or an angel on his behalf, replied: “O Commander of the Believers, God has granted me the double of what you say.”160
This is how God protects His sincere servants. He says in a hadith qudsi161:
My servants cannot draw near to me through something else more lovable to Me than performing the obligations I have enjoined upon them. Apart from those obligations, they continue to draw near to Me through supererogatory acts of worship, until I love them. When I love them, I will be their ears with which they hear, their eyes with which they see, their hands with which they grasp, and their feet on which they walk. If they ask Me for something, I will give it to them immediately. If they seek refuge in Me from something, I will protect them from it.162
God guides His true servants to good and protects them from evil. The servants will and do what is good, and refrain from wickedness. They ask God for what is good, and whatever they ask is provided. They seek refuge in God from what is bad, and God protects them according to their request.
All Prophets were infallible, sinless, and lived completely virtuous lives. Although God sent numerous Prophets, the Qur’an specifically mentions only 28 of them. Some have regarded it a religious injunction to learn the names of the Prophets. I think it would be proper here to count them in the words of Ibrahim Haqqi, an eighteenth-century Turkish saint and religious scholar, who was also an expert in anatomy and astronomy:
God informed us of 28 of them in the Qur’an: Adam, Enoch, Noah, Hud, and Salih; Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael, who was a sacrifice for God; Jacob, Joseph, Shu’ayb, Lot, and John the Baptist; Zachariah and Aaron, the brother of Moses, who spoke to God; David, Solomon, Elijah, and Job; Elisha, a relative of Jesus, who was a spirit from God; Dhu al-Kifl and Jonah, who was certainly a Prophet.
The Seal of Prophets is the Beloved of God—Muhammad, the Messenger of God. Scholars disagree on the Prophethood of Ezra, Luqman, and Dhu al-Qarnayn. Some regard them as Prophets, while others consider them saints of God.
Some Qur’anic verses appear to reprimand certain Prophets or entertain the possibility that a Prophet can sin, according to the usual definition of that word. Before clarifying specific examples, it may be appropriate to acquit the Prophets of such accusations.
Genesis 19:30-38 states that Prophet Lot’s two daughters caused him to get drunk so that he would impregnate them. Such a charge against a Prophet is beyond belief. Lot’s people (Sodom and Gomorra) were destroyed by God for their sexual immorality. Even the Bible says that Lot and his daughters were the only ones spared, because of their belief, good conduct, and decency. This supposed “sin” of Prophet Lot is worse than the sin of his people, which caused God to destroy them!
In Genesis 38:15-18, Judah,163 a son of Jacob, is supposed to have engaged in sexual relations with his daughter-in-law. This woman, in turn, gave birth to twin boys. Some of the Israelite Prophets were descended from them. Genesis 49:4 also claims that Jacob’s other son, Reuben, slept with his father’s wife (Reuben’s stepmother).
Neither the sons of Jacob, whom the Qur’an mentions as “grandchildren” whose ways should be followed, nor his wives could have engaged such a behavior.164 Our Prophet explicitly declared that there is not a single case of fornication in his lineage back to Adam,165 and that all Prophets are brothers descended from the same father.166 Our Prophet is a descendant of Abraham, as were Judah and the other Israelite Prophets. Thus, how could any of them be the result of an improper sexual alliance?
II Samuel 11 records that Prophet David fell in love with the wife of a commander and committed adultery with her. According to the Bible, he then had her husband sent to the front line and, after he was killed, married her.
David is a Prophet who was given a Divine Scripture (the Psalms) and who is praised in the Qur’an for his sincere and profound devotion to God:
Be patient with them, and remember Our servant David, the man of strength and abilities, who always turned to God in sincere devotion and submission. We made the mountains declare, in unison with him, Our praises, at eventide and at the break of day, and the birds gathered (in assemblies): all with him did turn to Him (in profound devotion). We strengthened his kingdom and gave him wisdom and sound judgment (in speech and decision). (38:17-20)
Though a king, he lived a simple life by his own labor. He had such a great awareness of God that he cried a great deal and fasted every other day. Our Prophet recommended this type of fast to some Companions who asked about the most rewarding type of supererogatory fasting.167 Could such a noble Prophet ever commit adultery with a married woman, plot her husband’s death, and then marry her?
In I Kings 11:1-8, despite God’s command: “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods,” Prophet Solomon is accused of marrying many foreign women belonging to pagan nations and following their gods and goddesses (idols). Would a Prophet be able to commit such a grievous sin as following the idols and deities of other tribes?
If the Qur’an had not been revealed, we would not be sure whether the previous Prophets were really sincere, devout, and thankful servants of God. The Qur’an frees Jesus from his followers’ mistaken deification of him and from his own people’s denial of his Prophethood, and explains that God had no sons and daughters. It also clears the Israelite and non-Israelite Prophets of their supposed “sins” mentioned in the Bible. It presents Jesus as a spirit from God breathed into the Virgin Mary, Abraham as an intimate friend of God, Moses as one who spoke to God, and Solomon as a king and a Prophet who prayed to Him humbly:
O my Lord, order me that I may be grateful for your favors, which You have bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please You. Admit me, by Your Grace, to the ranks of Your righteous servants. (27:19)
Solomon never worshipped idols or committed a sin. Despite being the greatest and most powerful king that ever lived, he remained a humble servant of God until his death.
Several other assertions are equally impossible to accept. For example, the Bible claims that although Prophet Isaac wanted to bless his older son Esau, he mistakenly blessed Jacob, for he could not see through his wife Rebaka’s trick (Genesis 27). Also, the Bible claims that Prophet Jacob wrestled with God, who appeared to him in the form of a man (Genesis 32:24-30).
A small minority of Muslim scholars have asserted that the Prophets may have committed insignificant sins (zalla: error or lapse). To prove their assertion, they cite some examples from the lives of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.
Before elaborating upon this, it should be noted that lapses and sins have totally different definitions. Sin, for example, means disobedience to God’s commands. When the Prophets were faced with a question that they could not answer, they tended to wait for Revelation. On rare occasions, however, they used their own reason to decide the matter, as they were the foremost mujtahids (jurists of the highest rank who can deduce laws from the principles established by the Qur’an and the Sunna). They might have erred in their judgments or decisions. However, such errors, which were immediately corrected by God, are not sins.
Moreover, Prophets always sought God’s good pleasure and tried to obtain whatever was best. If, for some reason, they could not obtain the best but had to settle for the better, a very rare event, this does not mean that they sinned. For example: Suppose you must decide whether to recite the Qur’an in 10 days while giving due attention to each verse, or recite it in 7 days to express your deep love of the Word of God. If you choose the first option without knowing that God’s greater pleasure lies in the second, you cannot be considered guilty of a sin. So, a Prophet’s preference of what is better instead of the best is not a sin. However, because of his position before Him, God might sometimes reproach him mildly.
Now, we will clarify some individual examples in the lives of certain Prophets.
Adam was in the Garden before his worldly life. While therein, God told him and his wife Eve not to eat of the fruit of a particular tree. They disobeyed Him in this matter, and so were expelled from the Garden and commanded to live on earth.
Although Qur’anic interpreters differ on what the prohibited fruit was, it was most probably the human inclination toward the opposite sex. Satan approached Adam and Eve, saying that it was a tree of eternity and of a kingdom that would never decay, the fruit of which had been prohibited to them (20:120). Most probably knowing that they were mortal, Adam and Eve must have desired eternity through offspring, as such a desire is inherent in people. This can also be deduced from:
Then Satan whispered to them so that he might show to them that which was hidden from them of their shame. He said: “Your Lord forbade you this tree only lest you should become angels or become immortal.” And he swore to them (saying): “Truly, I am a sincere adviser to you.” Thus did he lead them by a deceit. When they tasted of the tree, their shame was shown to them and they began to cover (by placing) on themselves some leaves of the Garden. . . (7:20-22)
Even if we accept Adam’s eating of the forbidden fruit as a lapse, it is difficult to regard it as deliberate or sustained disobedience or revolt against God, which might lead us to see the Prophets as fallible. First, Adam was not a Prophet while in the Garden. Second, this lapse was the result not of willful disobedience, but merely some sort of forgetfulness. Concerning this, the Qur’an says:
We had made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and we found on his part no firm resolve (20:115).
Sins committed because of forgetfulness will not be accounted for in the Hereafter. The Prophet said: “My community is exempt from being questioned about forgetting, unintentional errors, and what they are compelled to do.”168 The Qur’an teaches us this prayer:
Our Lord, don’t condemn us if we forget or fall into error (2:286).
Adam did not make this lapse deliberately. Although some have read into this verse Adam’s lack of determination to fulfill his covenant with God, the context does not allow such an interpretation. Adam and Eve turned to God immediately after their lapse and, in sincere repentance, entreated Him:
Our Lord, we have wronged our own selves. If you don’t forgive us and don’t bestow Your Mercy upon us, we certainly shall be among the lost (7:23).
Destiny had a part in Adam’s lapse. God had destined him to be His vicegerent on Earth, even before his creation and settlement in the Garden. This is explicit in the Qur’an:
Behold, your Lord said to the angels: “I will make a vicegerent on Earth.” They asked: “Will you make therein one who will make mischief and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praises and glorify You?” He said: “I know what you know not.” (2:30)
God’s Messenger also points to that truth in a hadith:
Adam and Moses met each other in Heaven. Moses said to Adam: “You are the father of humanity, but you caused us to come down to Earth from the Garden.” Adam replied: “You are the one whom God addressed directly. Did you not see this sentence in the Torah: ‘Adam had been destined to eat of that fruit 40 years before he ate of it?’”
After reporting this meeting, God’s Messenger added three times: “Adam silenced Moses.”169
Adam’s life in the Garden and his trial were preliminaries he had to pass through before his earthly life. He passed these tests. Being chosen and rescued from the swamp of sin and deviation, he was made a Prophet and honored with being the father of thousands of Prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, and millions of saints:
Then his Lord chose him; He relented toward him, and rightly guided him (20:122).
Prophet Noah called his people to the religion of God for 950 years. When they insisted on unbelief and persisted in their wrongdoing, God told him to build the Ark. After completing this task, Noah placed therein, according to God’s command, a male and female of each animal, all his family members (except for those whom God already had said He would punish), and the believers (11:40).
When the Ark was floating through the mountain-high waves, Noah saw that one of his sons had not boarded the Ark. He called to him, but his son rejected his call, saying:
I will betake myself to some mountain and it will save me from the water (11:43).
When Noah saw his son drowning, he called out to God:
My Lord, my son is of my family! Your promise is true, and You are the Most Just of Judges (11:45).
O Noah, he is not of your family, for his conduct is unrighteous. Do not ask of Me that of which you have no knowledge. I give you counsel, lest you should act like the ignorant (11:46).
Some scholars have regarded Noah’s appeal as a sin. However, it is difficult to agree with them. Noah is mentioned in the Qur’an as one of the five greatest Prophets, and is described as resolute and steadfast. He thought his son was a believer.
It is well known that the religion of God tells us to judge according to outward appearances. Thus, those who profess belief and appear to perform the religious duties of primary importance (e.g., prescribed prayers and alms-giving) are treated as believers. This is why Prophet Muhammad treated the hypocrites as if they were Muslims. Apparently, Noah’s son hid his unbelief until the Flood, for it was Noah himself who had prayed beforehand:
“O my Lord. Forgive me, my parents, and all who entered my house in faith, and all believing men and believing women, and grant to the wrongdoers no increase but perdition” (71:28).
God accepted his prayer and told him to board the Ark with his family, except those who had already deserved punishment because of their willful insistence on unbelief. Noah’s wife was among those who drowned. Noah did not ask God to save her, for he either knew or was informed that she was an unbeliever. He must have thought his son was a believer. As such, he felt compelled to express, in a manner befitting a Prophet, his astonishment that God had let him drown. This is why God replied to him as He did (11:46).
Noah, like every other Prophet, was kindhearted and caring. Every Prophet sacrificed himself for the good of humanity and made tireless efforts to guide people toward the truth and true happiness in both worlds. Concerning Prophet Muhammad’s attitude in this respect, God says:
You would nearly kill yourself following after them, in grief, if they believe not in this Message (18:6).
Noah appealed to his people for 950 years, never once relenting. It is natural for a Prophet, a father, to show disappointment when he learns that his son is among the unbelievers who have been condemned to punishment in both worlds. But since God is the Most Just and Most Compassionate, Noah immediately turned to Him and sought refuge with Him, lest he should ask Him for that of which he had no knowledge:
O my Lord, I seek refuge with you, lest I should ask You for that of which I have no knowledge. Unless You forgive me and have mercy on me, I shall be lost. (11:47)
Abraham, the “intimate friend of God,” was one of the greatest Prophets. God’s Messenger took pride and pleasure in his connection with him, saying: “I am the one whose coming Abraham prayed for and Jesus gave glad tidings of, and I resemble my forefather Abraham more than anyone else.”170 He was thrown into fire because of his belief in One God, and the fire became, by God’s Will and Power, coolness and a means of safety for him.
Like all Prophets, Abraham never even thought of worshiping that which was not God. Despite this fact, various erroneous and untrue stories have found their way into some Qur’anic commentaries. They have come from a misunderstanding of the following verses:
When the night covered him over, he saw a star and said: “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said: “I don’t love those that set.” When he saw the moon rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord.” But when it set, he said: “Unless my Lord guides me, I surely will be among those who go astray.” When he saw the sun rising in splendor, he said: “This is my Lord; this is the greatest (of all).” But when the sun set, he said: “O my people, I am free from your ascribing partners to God. I have set my face toward Him Who created the Heavens and the Earth, a man of pure faith and one by nature upright. I am not among those who associate partners with God.” (6:76-79)
These verses clearly show that Abraham tried, by way of analogy, to convince his people that no heavenly body could be God. Abraham lived among the Chaldeans of northern Mesopotamia, a people who knew a great deal about heavenly bodies and who worshipped them, along with many other idols. Abraham first argued with his father, telling him that no idol was worthy of worship:
Abraham once said to his father Azar: “Do you take idols for gods? Surely I see you and your people in manifest deviation” (6:74).
Since Azar was the local idol maker, Abraham began his mission by opposing him. After that, he sought to guide his people to the truth. Since they had a great knowledge of heavenly bodies, God instructed him in such matters and showed him various hidden metaphysical realities so that he might attain complete certainty in belief and convince his people of their deviation:
So also did We show Abraham the inner dimensions of, and the metaphysical realities behind, the Heavens and the Earth, that he might have certainty. (6:75)
While traveling in mind and heart through heavenly bodies, Abraham began by telling his people that a star could not be God because it sets. Although the superstitious might read fortunes into it or attribute some influence to it, true knowledge shows that it rises and sets according to God’s laws, and that its light is extinguished in the broader light of day. So why should anyone worship stars?
His second step in this analogy was to show that the moon, although looking brighter and bigger than a star, could not be God. This is because it sets like a star, changes its shape from hour to hour, and depends on some other heavenly body for its light. At this point, Abraham openly declared that he had been guided by his Lord, and that those who did not worship only Him had gone astray.
Abraham’s final analogy showed that the sun could not be worshipped as God, for despite its size and light, it also disappears from sight. Thus, worshipping created phenomena is pure folly. After rejecting the worship of creation, Abraham declared his faith:
I have set my face toward Him Who created the Heavens and the Earth, a man of pure faith and one by nature upright. I am not among those who associate partners with God. (6:79)
So, it is a great mistake to infer from these verses that Abraham took heavenly bodies as God in the early phase of his life.
Abraham’s second supposed fault or lapse is that he appealed to God to show him how He revives the dead. Concerning this, the Qur’an says:
Behold! Abraham said: “My Lord, show me how You give life to the dead.” He asked: “Do you not believe?” He said: “Yes, but to set my heart at rest.” (2:260)
In a hadith, God’s Messenger says that 70,000 veils separate God from humanity. This implies that our journey toward God is endless, and that people have different degrees of knowledge and understanding as well as varying capacities for spiritual and intellectual satisfaction. Since God is infinite, unbounded in His Attributes and Names, each individual can obtain only some knowledge of Him and attain some degree of satisfaction (according to his or her capacity).
Abraham had one of the greatest capacities, and therefore needed to increase in knowledge of God every day to attain full spiritual satisfaction. The Prophets, like every other human being, were in a constant process of spiritual and intellectual growth. Considering each previous stage of growth inadequate, they incessantly pursued further degrees of conviction. For this reason, God’s Messenger asked God’s forgiveness about 100 times a day and frequently entreated Him, saying:
Glory be to You, we have not been able to know You as Your knowledge requires, O Known One! Glory be to You, we have not been able to worship You as Your worship requires, O Worshipped One!
Once Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi met Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi and asked him: “Who is greater: Prophet Muhammad, who says: ‘Glory be to You, we have not been able to know You as Your knowledge requires, O Known One,’ or Bayazid al-Bistami, who says [in an instance of entranced ecstasy]: ‘Glory be to me, how exalted I am!’?” Mawlana’s reply also answers those who try to find fault with Abraham: “Both utterances show to what extent our Prophet is greater than Bayazid. Our Prophet’s heart or soul was like an ocean, so deep and vast that it could not be satisfied. But Bayazid’s soul, in comparison, was like a pitcher—easy to fill and quick to overflow.”171
To remove any possible doubt of Abraham’s conviction, God’s Messenger once said: “If Abraham’s conviction contained a doubt, we are more liable to doubt than him.”172
Abraham’s whole life was a constant struggle against unbelief and polytheism. On only three occasions did he ever use allusions. In other words, he chose to divert his audience’s attention to something else by making indirect references to the truth. He did this either to avoid harassment or explain a religious truth in simpler terms. Since, however, some scholars consider these allusions to be lies, we must clarify them here.
The first allusion: When his people wanted him to accompany them to their religious celebration, he cast a glance at the stars and said he was sick.
Abraham was not physically sick, but the grief that he might be associated with his people’s falsehoods was preying on his mind and soul. It was impossible for him to worship idols; rather, he was determined to destroy them. Once, to avoid participating in their ceremonies, he told them he was sick and, after they left, smashed their idols. This was not a lie, for he truly was sick of their idols and idolatry. This is why he did what he did. The Qur’an praises him for this:
Among those who followed Noah’s way was Abraham. He came unto his Lord with a pure, sound heart. He said to his father and his people: “What do you worship? Do you desire a falsehood, gods other than God? What, then, is your opinion of the Lord of the Worlds?” Then he cast a glance at the stars, and said: “I am indeed sick!” So they turned away from him and departed. Then he turned to their gods and asked: “Why don’t you eat [of the offerings before you]? Why don’t you speak?” Then he turned upon them, striking them with might (and breaking them). (37:83-93)
The second allusion: Abraham uses irony to make his point. As we read in the Qur’an:
We bestowed on Abraham his rectitude before, and were well acquainted with him. He asked his father and his people: “What are these images to which you are (so assiduously) devoted in worship?” They replied: “We found our fathers worshipping them.” He said: “Clearly, both you and your fathers have deviated (from the truth).” They said: “Have you brought us the truth, or are you joking with us?” He replied: “No, your Lord is the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth, He who created them. I am a witness [to this truth]. By God, I have a plan for your idols after you go away and turn your backs.” So he broke them to pieces, (all) but the biggest, that they might turn to it. They exclaimed: “Who has done this to our gods? He must indeed be some evil-doer!” They said: “We have heard a youth talk of them: Abraham.” They replied: “Bring him before the people, that they may bear witness.” They asked him: “Did you do this to our gods, Abraham?” He answered: “Maybe he did it. This is their biggest one. Ask them, if they can speak!” (21:51-63)
Some consider Abraham’s final reply to be a lie. The truth is, it is an example of biting irony. Abraham wanted his people to understand that things that cannot speak or do them any harm or good are unworthy of worship. He was so successful in this attempt that his people, unable to refute his reasoning, could find no way to protect their idols other than by throwing him into the fire.
Abraham did not say that the idols had been broken by the biggest one. Look at his answer carefully. He said: “He did it,” and then stopped—there is a significant stop in the reading of the verse—and then continued: “This is their biggest one!” Therefore, the phrase He did it alludes to the one who broke the idols, but diverted the audience’s attention to the biggest one with: This is their biggest one!
Once, God’s Messenger told an old woman that old people will not enter Paradise. When he saw that his words distressed her greatly, he clarified the irony: “Because they will enter it as young people.”173 This is, in a way, similar to what Abraham did and so is not a lie.
The third allusion: Abraham and his wife Sarah. In a hadith, and also in the Bible (Genesis 20:2-14), we read that Abraham wanted his wife Sarah to reply to those who asked
that she was his sister, not his wife.174 According to the Bible, Abraham did this because he would have been killed if her true identity were known. This is not a lie, for as declared in the Qur’an, all believers are brothers or sisters to each other.
In conclusion, Abraham never lied. If he had done so, he would have been reproached by God. However, the Qur’an never mentions that God reproached him for lying. On the contrary, his allusions are mentioned where God praises him in the Qur’an. For this reason, the Prophetic Tradition about those allusions should not be treated literally.
Abraham’s Supposed Lapse
Abraham began his mission by calling upon his father Azar, the local idol maker, to abandon idolatry and turn toward God, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. When his father refused to do so, he left him, saying that he would ask God to forgive him. He kept his promise:
Forgive my father, for he is one of those who go astray (26:86).
Some consider this a lapse, for after all his father was an unbeliever. However, it is difficult to regard it as a lapse, for Abraham was a Prophet deputed by God to call people to the truth and salvation. Like every Prophet, it grieved him to see any of God’s servants not following His way to happiness and salvation in both worlds. We can discern in the following verses just how much he desired his father to be guided:
(Also) mention in the Book (the story of) Abraham: He was a man of truth, a Prophet. He asked his father: “My father, why do you worship that which cannot hear or see, and which cannot benefit you? There has come to me that knowledge which has not reached you, so follow me. I will guide you to a straight, even way. Don’t serve Satan, for Satan is a rebel against the Most Merciful. O father, I fear lest a penalty afflict you from the Most Merciful, so that you become a friend to Satan.” (19:41-45)
It was Abraham’s duty to call people to worship God, despite their persistent rejection. Although the Qur’an openly stated that: As to those who do not believe, it is the same to them whether you warn them or not, for they will not believe (2:6), God’s Messenger never gave up warning them. Besides calling his father to the truth, Abraham prayed for him until, as stated in the Qur’an, he realized that his father was an enemy of God. When he was convinced of this fact, he dissociated himself from him. God mentions this not as a lapse on Abraham’s part, but as a virtue, saying: For Abraham was most tenderhearted, forbearing (9:114).
God also mentions Abraham’s conduct as an excellent example to follow:
There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him. They said to their people: “We are free of you and whatever you worship besides God. We have rejected you, and there has arisen enmity and hatred forever between us and you, unless you believe in God and Him alone.” But Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for you, although I have no power (to get) anything on your behalf from God.” Our Lord! In You we have put our trust, and to You we turn in repentance; to You is the final return. (60:4)
As indicated above, Abraham prayed for his father’s forgiveness because he had promised to do so (9:114). When he saw that his father was determined to persist in his unbelief, he dissociated himself from him and no longer sought his forgiveness.
Finally, it should be noted here that some Qur’anic interpreters do not consider Azar to be Abraham’s father. Although it is not a defect on the part of Abraham to descend from an unbelieving father, for God Almighty brings forth the living out of the dead, and brings forth the dead out of the living (3:27), the Qur’an always uses the word ab (which in addition to father can mean uncle, step-father, foster-father, or grandfather) for Azar.
Although he was told not to seek forgiveness for Azar, the Qur’an mentions that in his old age he prayed: Our Lord, forgive me, my parents, and all believers on the day that the Reckoning will be established (14:41). In this prayer, he uses walid (the one who begot him) for father. It is therefore quite possible that Azar was not the one who begot him. According to the Bible, Abraham’s real father was Terah. However, God knows best.
Prophet Joseph is exalted in the Qur’an as an example of chastity. In his childhood, his envious brothers threw him down a well and left him there. A passing caravan found him and later sold him as a slave to a high official (probably a minister) of the Egyptian court. The Bible gives his name as Potiphar Genesis (37:36).
Joseph came from a family of Prophets. When someone told God’s Messenger that he was a noble man, the Messenger alluded to this fact, saying: “The noble one, son of a noble one who is the son of a noble one who is the son of a noble one. This is Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, the intimate friend of God.”175 Joseph was still a child in the well, when God revealed to him that he would one day tell his brothers the truth of what they had done (12:15). Therefore, from the beginning he was protected from all vice.
Joseph, an exceptionally handsome young man, soon came to the attention of his master’s wife. Eventually, she fell in love with him. In the words of the ladies of the capital city, quoted by the Qur’an, Joseph inspired her with passionate love (12:30). She tried to seduce him by locking the doors and calling him to come to her. But Joseph, having been given knowledge, sound judgment, and discernment by God, replied immediately: God forbid! Truly my Lord has treated me honorably. Assuredly, wrongdoers never prosper (12:23).
Prophet Joseph had attained the rank of ihsan, which God’s Messenger describes as the believer’s ability to worship as if seeing God in front of him or her. In other words, at every instant he was aware of God watching him. He also was one whom God had made sincere, purehearted, and of pure intention. Therefore, it is inconceivable that he would betray God’s blessings by succumbing to this temptation. If he had taken only one step in this direction, he would have become a wrongdoer. Or, if by “my lord” he meant his master, he would have been a wrongdoer if he had violated his master’s trust.
While narrating the rest of the story, the Qur’an says:
Certainly, she was burning with desire for him; and he would have desired her had it not been that he had already seen the evidence of his Lord: thus We did that we might turn away from him all evil and shameful deeds. For he was one of Our servants, made beforehand sincere and pure. (12:24)
Unfortunately, the sentence translated here as she was burning with desire for him; and he would have desired her had it not been that he had already seen the evidence of his Lord, has been misunderstood by some interpreters of the Qur’an to mean “she desired, and was moved toward him; and he desired, and was moved toward her, but just at that point he saw the evidence of his Lord and stopped.” Some have embellished the evidence of his Lord with such flights of fancy as Jacob appearing with his hand on his lips and saving his son from a grave sin.
More than a misunderstanding, this is a slander against a Prophet who was honored and presented by God as “a most excellent model of chastity,” and by God’s Messenger as the noblest of all. To remove all such doubts, we will analyze hamma, which we have translated literally as “to burn inwardly,” for this word has confused some interpreters.
Hamma literally means “to suffer, burn, be troubled inwardly, and be consumed with passion and longing.” There is a principle in the sciences of morphology and semantics that the first and most common meaning of a word is preferred, unless an inconsistency or in conformity appears in the context. This principle, together with two other principles to be explained below, make it impossible to take hamma in its first meaning:
One: Joseph and this lady were worlds apart with respect to their beliefs, ambitions, characters, and ways of life. Therefore, each had his or her own suffering and anxiety, and each was consumed with completely different ambitions.
Two: The verse containing hamma is a parenthetical one explaining the virtue of belief and sincerity, which bring God’s special favor and protection. It is not there merely as a part of the story. It also should be noted that there are stops after each phrase, which shows that they do not link a chain of events, but rather express three different realities. In this case, the exact meaning of the verse is as follows:
She was burning inwardly because of her love for Joseph. This love got Joseph into great trouble; his chastity, good character and reputation might have been damaged. He had to escape this situation. At this juncture, God’s evidence (His protection or something else) came to his aid and turned all evil away from him, for God already had made him one of His sincere and pure servants. He was not mukhlis (one purified and sincere due to self-discipline and spiritual training), but rather a mukhlas (one made by God sincere and pure).
Moreover, the verb hamma in this context does not indicate the beginning of an action, for we read in the previous verse that she already had started the action: she locked the door and called Joseph to come to her (12:23). But Joseph refused. So, to say that hamma has the meaning of “to start toward” for both Joseph and the woman contradicts the previous verse, as well as the next one: So they both hurried to the door, and she tore the shirt from his back (12:25). It is clear that Joseph ran to the door to escape, that she ran after him to catch him, and that she tore the shirt from his back.
Some, however, suggest that she desired Joseph and that he might have desired her if he had not seen his Lord’s evidence. Since he had been protected from the beginning against sin, he could not have any desire for her. In either case, he neither felt something for her nor start toward her. Like every other Prophet, Joseph was infallible.
God’s Messenger is superior to all other Prophets. This could not be otherwise, for he was sent as a mercy to all the worlds. The religion he relayed includes all essential tenets of the previously revealed religions as well as everything necessary to solve all human problems until the Last Day. In contrast, all earlier Prophets were sent to certain people and for a limited period.
Prophet Muhammad, in the words of Busiri: “. . . is the sun of virtues and the others are, in comparison to him, stars diffusing light for people at night.” When the sun rises, both the moon and stars are no longer visible. Likewise, when the “Sun of Prophethood” (Prophet Muhammad) rose to illuminate all the universe, starlight became unnecessary.
Like his predecessors, Prophet Muhammad was infallible. We see both in the Qur’an and history books that, although his enemies slandered him relentlessly, they never questioned his honesty and infallibility.
They said he was “mad”—he madly loved God and, again, madly desired and sought for the people to be guided. Thus he was “mad,” but not in the sense of being crazy. They said he was a “magician” who charmed people—he did charm them, but with his personality, as well as with Islam and the Qur’an, both of which he brought from God. But he was not a magician. They said he was a “soothsayer”—he made hundreds of predictions, most of which have already come true and the others waiting to be proven. But he was not a soothsayer.
Like the already discussed Qur’anic expressions that, superficially, seem to cast doubt on the infallibility of some of the Prophets, there are several admonitions in the Qur’an regarding some actions of God’s Messenger. Before analyzing them, however, we must remember that Prophets, like great jurists, also exercised their personal reason if no explicit or implicit ruling concerning the matter in question had been revealed.
Just as the Prophet’s wives are not the same as other Muslim women with respect to reward and Divine punishment (see 33:3032), God does not treat Prophets as He does other believers. For example, He admonished them when they drank water from Zamzam (a well in Makka) instead of from Kawthar (a fountain in Paradise). Such admonitions should never be regarded as the result of sin. Furthermore, these admonitions usually are really Divine compliments that show the greatness of Prophets and their nearness to God.
God’s Messenger and the Prisoners Taken During the Battle of Badr
The small Muslim community of Makka was subjected to the most brutal tortures. Its members bore them patiently and never thought of retaliation, for the Qur’an ordered God’s Messenger to call unbelievers with wisdom and fair preaching, to repel evil with what was better, and to forgive their faults and evil deeds. When the Muslims emigrated to Madina to live according to Islamic principles, they left everything behind. However, they continued to be harassed in Madina by both Makkan polytheists as well as a new group: Madina’s Jewish tribes. Moreover, even though the Ansar (the Helpers) willingly shared all their possessions with the Emigrants, all Muslims experienced deprivation. In such straitened circumstances and because they had been wronged, God permitted them to resist the enemy onslaught. This was just before the Battle of Badr.
This battle was the Muslims’ first military confrontation with the enemy forces. Although outnumbered, the believers won a great victory. Until then, if we do not accept the opinions of some Qur’anic interpreters that Sura Muhammad, which contains regulations on treating prisoners of war, was revealed before Surat al-Anfal, no Divine commandment had been revealed on how to treat captives. Muslims did not know if they were to kill enemy soldiers or take them as prisoners. Sa‘d ibn Mu‘adh, for example, was not pleased when he saw fellow Muslims taking prisoners; he was in favor of killing them in the first confrontation.
After the battle, the Prophet consulted with his Companions, as he always did where there was no specific Revelation, on how to treat the prisoners. Abu Bakr said: “O God’s Messenger, they are your people. Even though they have wronged you and the believers greatly, you will win their hearts and cause their guidance if you forgive them and please them.”
‘Umar had a different idea. He said: “O God’s Messenger, these prisoners are the leading figures of Makka. If we kill them, unbelief will no longer be strong enough to fight us again. Hand each prisoner over to his Muslim relative. Let ‘Ali kill his brother ‘Aqil. Let Abu Bakr kill his son ‘Abd al-Rahman. Let me kill my relative so and so.”
God’s Messenger turned to Abu Bakr and said: “You are like Abraham, who said: He who follows me is of me, and he who disobeys me—but You are indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Compassionate (14:36). You are also like Jesus, who said: If You punish them, they are Your servants. If You forgive them, You are All-Mighty, All-Wise (5:118). Then he turned to ‘Umar and said: “You are like Noah, who said: O my Lord, don’t leave even one unbeliever on Earth” (71:26). You are also like Moses, who said: Our Lord, destroy their (Pharaoh’s and his chiefs’) riches and harden their hearts so they will not believe until they see the painful chastisement (10:88). He followed Abu Bakr’s advice.176
Every Prophet was sent to guide people to the way of God, and the mission of each was based on mercy. However, mercy sometimes requires, as in the case of Noah and Moses amputating an arm to ensure the body’s health, or even that the body should undergo a major operation. Islam, being the middle way of absolute balance between all temporal and spiritual extremes and containing the ways of all previous Prophets, makes a choice according to the situation.
Prior to Badr, the Muslims were weak, whereas their enemies, in material terms, were strong, formidable, and organized. Thus, conditions may have required that the Prophet should not have had prisoners of war until he became completely triumphant in the land (8:67), for they were fighting for the cause of God, not for some worldly purpose. However, God Almighty already had decreed that ransom and spoils of war would be lawful for Muslims. The pure hearts of the Prophet and Abu Bakr must have felt that God would allow them to take spoils of war and ransom prisoners. Therefore, they released the prisoners in return for some ransom before the relevant verses were revealed:
Had it not been for that decree, a severe penalty would have reached them for the ransom that they took. But if God made it lawful, they could enjoy what they took in war, lawful and good. (8:68-69)
This is mentioned more explicitly in another verse:
When you confront the unbelievers (in battle), smite their necks. When you have thoroughly subdued them, bind them firmly. Thereafter (it is time for) either generosity (release without ransom) or ransom (recommended). (47:4)
To conclude, the Muslims did not disobey a Divine commandment that had been revealed already, and so they did not sin. It was a decision reached after consultation.
The Prophet’s Exempting the Hypocrites from the Expedition of Tabuk
The expedition of Tabuk took place in 9 AH (after hijra) during the summer, when Arabia’s heat is intense. The soldiers were sent to face Byzantium, one of the two local superpowers. Against his custom, God’s Messenger announced the expedition’s target. Some people asked to be excused, and God’s Messenger excused those whose excuses he regarded as justifiable. He did not check to see whether they were telling the truth for, as a Muslim, he had to judge according to outward signs and the affirmation of faith.177
Besides, as God veils people’s shortcomings, God’s Messenger never reproached people directly. When he discerned a defect in an individual or a fault common in his community, he would mount the pulpit and give a general warning. He never mentioned any names.
Many hypocrites offered bogus excuses. Despite this, God’s Messenger accepted their excuses. In this case: God forgive you! Why did you grant them exemption until those who told the truth were manifest to you, and you knew the liars? (9:43) was revealed.
Although some scholars hold that God reproached His Messenger for exempting the hypocrites, the truth is the reverse. Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi and many others, among whom are linguists, have correctly pointed out that God forgive you! is an exclamation, [like God bless you! in English.] So, the true meaning of the expression is God give you grace! As explained earlier, it is not necessary for a sin to exist before forgiveness is granted. For example, as we saw in verses 4:99, 5:3, and 4:43, forgiveness may be juxtaposed with grace, for their meanings are closely allied.178
In addition, God’s Messenger was motivated by kindness as well as policy: kindness because, in the urgency of the moment, he did not wish to refuse those who had real excuses; and policy, because those who were there just because they were obligated to be there would be a burden and a source of disorder. This is stated explicitly:
If they had gone forth with you, they would have added nothing but mischief; they would have hurried through your ranks, seeking to cause sedition among you. (9:47)
God’s Messenger knew who the hypocrites were: Surely you will know them by the tone of their speech (47:30). In addition, God did not will that they should set out for war:
If they had intended to go forth they would certainly have made some preparation therefore; but God was averse to their being sent forth; so He made them lag behind, and they were told: “Sit among those who sit (inactive).” (9:46)
That being so, the meaning of the verse in question is this: “God give you grace! If you had not excused them when they asked, the hypocrites would have been clearly distinguished from the truthful.” As we can see, the Prophet is not being reprimanded; rather, the verse expresses a Divine compliment and affection for him.
Surat al-‘Abasa (He Frowned)
Prophethood is not just another job that anyone can do. Each person has two aspects: heavenly and earthly. We are shaped from dust and created from a lowly drop of “water,” but nevertheless have been distinguished with the “breath of God.” As a result, we can rise (or fall) to infinitely high (or low) levels. All Prophets were of the highest rank. God chose them and endowed them with all laudable virtues and the highest degree of intellectual and spiritual faculties.
To catch just a glimpse of the greatness of God’s Messenger we should consider how, by God’s Will and Power, he transformed a savage and backward desert people into the founders of the most magnificent civilization in human history. In addition, according to the rule that “one who causes something is like its doer,” the reward of each believer’s deeds, from the time of the Prophet to the Last Day, is added to the Prophet’s reward, which causes him to grow in spirit incessantly.
Despite this, some classical Qur’anic commentaries and the like contain assertions based on borrowings or unreliable anecdotes incompatible with Prophethood. What is more tragic is that in the Muslim world itself, “researchers” influenced by either Orientalists or worldly temptations, have been less-than-respectful toward Prophethood, God’s Messenger, and the Sunna. Deceived into mistaking “the sun’s reflection for the sun itself,” they regard themselves as free to criticize the Prophet and his Sunna. One of their pretexts is the initial verses of Surat al-‘Abasa:
He frowned and turned away because there came to him the blind man. But how can you know? Perhaps he might purify himself or be forewarned, and warning might profit him. As for him who regards himself as self-sufficient, to him you eagerly attend, though it is not your concern if he does not purify himself. But as for him who eagerly hastens to you, and is in fear [of God], you are heedless of him. (80:1-10)
According to what some Qur’anic interpreters have written, God’s Messenger was once deeply and earnestly engaged in conveying the Message to pagan Qurayshi leaders when he was interrupted by a blind man. This man, ‘Abd Allah ibn Umm Maktum, was so poor that usually no one took any notice of him. He desired to benefit from the teaching of God’s Messenger, but the latter disliked the interruption and became impatient. As a result, these verses were revealed to reproach the Prophet.
This story is, however, highly questionable for several reasons:
- The narration of the event and its participants are not the same in all reliable Tradition books as in some Qur’anic commentaries. In total, the various accounts mention seven people in addition to Ibn Umm Maktum.
- Several verses explain how previous Prophets behaved toward poor people. It is inconceivable for a Prophet who always advised his followers to be with poor people to frown at or turn away from a poor blind man, especially when he came to listen to him.
- God’s Messenger always rejected the calls of Qurayshi leaders to drive away the poor Muslims if he wanted them to believe in Islam.
- The Qur’an attaches great importance to how a believer behaves in the presence of God’s Messenger. For example, they are “not to depart without asking for his leave when they are with him.” They cannot enter his house without permission, will have their deeds reduced to nothing if they raise their voices above his, and will be punished in Hell if they ill-treat him. Given this, Ibn Umm Maktum should have been reprimanded for interrupting God’s Messenger.
- Ibn Umm Maktum was the son of Khadija’s uncle, and one of those who accepted Islam in its early days. He had a remarkable position in Islam. God’s Messenger deputed to him the government of Madina twice while he was on military campaign. So, despite his blindness, he could not have been so rude as to interrupt God’s Messenger while the latter was inviting the Qurayshi leaders to the truth. He was blind, not deaf.
- The reprimand contained in the relevant verses is too severe to be for the Prophet. The verbs to frown and to turn away from are never used in the Qur’an for a Prophet; in fact, they are not even used for ordinary believers. In this verse, they are used in their third person, singular form. In the absence of the Prophet, this means disrespect and debasement. Also, the following expressions are of the type used for the leaders of the unbelievers. Therefore, it is inconceivable that the target of this reprimand was the Prophet.
- The Qur’anic interpreters who mention this incident add to it that whenever God’s Messenger saw Ibn Umm Maktum afterwards, he would say to him: “Greetings to you, O one because of whom my Lord admonished me.” This addition is not to be found in reliable books of Tradition.
- God’s Messenger was very kindhearted and gave all he had to bring his people to guidance. The Qur’an states: It grieves him that the believers should perish. He is ardently anxious over them, and most kind and merciful to them (9:128).
After all these explanations, we choose to refer the truth of the matter to God, who is the All-Knowing.
The Offer Made by the Thaqif Tribe
Before entering Islam, the Thaqif tribe tried to get some concessions from the Prophet, including some exemptions from various religious duties—as if the Messenger were authorized to do so! As even an ordinary Muslim would never think of granting such a request, imagine the Prophet’s reaction! The verses revealed concerning this incident say:
They sought to entice you from what we reveal unto you, to substitute against Us something different. Then, they would certainly have made you a trusted friend! Indeed, had We not given you strength and firmness, you might nearly have inclined to them a little. Then, We should have made you taste double (punishment) in this life, and double in death; and moreover you would have found none for you to help you against Us. (17:73-75)
First, God’s Messenger is the direct addressee and receiver of the Divine Revelation. For this reason, God directly addresses him concerning collective and individual orders, prohibitions, and responsibilities. This does not mean that God’s Messenger sometimes ignored what he was told to do. Being the embodiment, representative, and preacher of Islam, as well as the best example, God’s Messenger practiced them most strictly and experienced the “whole history of Islam” in miniature measure.
God used him, his time, and his Companions as a pattern according to which the future expansion of Islam would be shaped. He functioned as a seed from which all future Islamic civilizations, movements, and sciences—the universal tree of Islam— would grow. For this reason, such verses should never be taken to suggest that God’s Messenger was reproached for doing something wrong. That blessed person, the Beloved of God and for whose sake God created all the worlds, is absolutely free of defect, fault, and shortcoming.
God’s Messenger was extremely eager for the guidance of all people. To have some understanding of his love and affection for humanity and existence in general, reflect on what Said Nursi, the great saintly scholar of our time, said concerning his eagerness for the guidance and well-being of his nation:
I have known nothing of worldly pleasures in my life of over eighty years. All my life has passed on battlefields, and at various other places of suffering. There has been no torment which I have not tasted and no oppression which I have not suffered. I care for neither Paradise nor fear Hell. If I witness that the faith of my nation (that is, all the Muslim peoples) has been secured, I will have no objection to being burnt in the flames of Hell, for my heart will change into a rose garden while my body is being burnt.179
God said to His Messenger, consoling him in the face of persistent unbelief: You will nearly grieve yourself to death, following after them, if they don’t believe in this Message (18:6).
Having seen the eagerness of God’s Messenger to guide people, the Thaqifi leaders tried to extract special concessions. They even added that if others objected, he might excuse it with the lie that his Lord had ordered him to do so. From a purely human point of view, it may seem good policy to make a small concession to fulfill a great mission. But the Messenger was not the author of Islam; his only responsibility was to convey it. The religion belongs to God. The verses in question emphasize this point.
His Marriage to Zaynab
During the pre-Islamic period, and still today, cultural, economic, and spiritual slavery was widespread. Islam came to destroy such slavery and sought to solve this social, as well as psychological, problem in stages. Since slavery has a deep psychological aspect, its abolition all at once could have resulted in even harsher conditions. For example, when Lincoln abolished slavery in the United States, most slaves had to return to their owners because their ability to assume responsibility, to choose, and to manage their affairs as free people had been beaten out of them or had caused their leaders to be murdered.
Islam established, as a first step, strict principles on how to treat slaves, as seen in the following hadiths: “Those who kill their slaves will be killed. Those who imprison and starve their slaves will be imprisoned and starved. Those who castrate their slaves will be castrated,”180 and “Arabs are not superior to non-Arabs; non-Arabs are not superior to Arabs. White people are not superior to black people; black people are not superior to white people. Superiority is only in righteousness and fear of God.”181
As its second step, Islam enabled slaves to realize their human consciousness and identity. It educated them in Islamic values, and implanted in them a love of freedom. On the day of their emancipation, they were fully equipped to be useful members of the community as farmers, artisans, teachers, scholars, commanders, governors, ministers, and even prime ministers.
Another pre-Islamic practice, which still exists in the civil law codes of many contemporary countries, is allowing adopted children to enjoy the same legal status as natural children. As a result, a father could not legally marry his adopted son’s widow or divorced wife. This practice was to be abolished, for neither adoption nor any other method of declaring someone a son can create a relationship comparable to that between children and their natural parents.
Zayd had been kidnapped and enslaved as a child. Khadija, the first wife of God’s Messenger, had purchased him in the Makkan slave market. After she married the Prophet, she gave Zayd to him as a gift. God’s Messenger emancipated him and called him “my son.” When Zayd’s parents finally located him and came to Makka to get him, he refused to go with them, saying that he would rather stay with God’s Messenger.
In order to demonstrate that superiority lies in righteousness and devotion to God, not in descent and worldly position, God’s Messenger married Zayd to Zaynab bint Jahsh of the Hashimite tribe. She was a very devoted and intellectual Muslim woman and had a noble character. God’s Messenger had known her very well since her childhood. Although her family had wanted her to marry God’s Messenger, they agreed to let her marry Zayd because God’s Messenger desired it.
Zayd, however, admitted that he was spiritually inferior to his wife. He realized through his insight that her sublimity of character made her fit to be the wife of a far greater man than himself. He asked God’s Messenger many times to allow him to divorce her, but each time God’s Messenger advised him to remain married to her. Nevertheless, Zayd concluded that he was not his wife’s equal and eventually divorced her.
After this, God told His Messenger to marry her, even though this would violate his society’s norms. But as this marriage had been ordained in heaven, he submitted and married Zaynab:
When Zayd had dissolved (his marriage) with her, We gave her in marriage to you, so that there may be no difficulty and sin for believers in marriage with the wives of their adopted sons if they divorce them. And God’s command must be fulfilled. (33:37)
Although this marriage was very difficult for God’s Messenger to enter into, God used it to abolish a mistaken custom and establish a new law and custom. The Messenger always was the first to practice the law or rule to be established and obeyed, so that it would have enough influence on others. His marriage to Zaynab was one of the most difficult commandments he had to carry out. That is why his wife ‘A’isha remarked: “If the Messenger of God been inclined to suppress anything of what was revealed to him, he would surely have suppressed this verse.”
As expected, the enemies of Islam and the Hypocrites slandered God’s Messenger. Although some of their allegations have found their way into various Qur’anic commentaries, no such allegation or slander has ever affected—or will affect—his pure personality and chastity. All scholars agree that he lived happily with Khadija, a widow 15 years older than himself, with nothing to suggest any misconduct during their 25-year marriage (ending only with Khadija’s death). Unlike young people, he did not burn with lust and carnal desires. This clearly shows that his subsequent marriages, which took place after he was 50 years old, a time when desire has subsided, were entered into for specific purposes.
In sum, like every other Prophet, God’s Messenger has no blemish and is innocent of what they accuse him. Nor can his infallibility be doubted.
No Bodily or Mental Defects
All Muslim theologians agree that Prophets have no bodily or mental defects. As they were extraordinarily attractive in personality and conduct, they were also graceful and charming in outward appearance. They were perfect in bodily structure, handsome, and well-built.
Anas says that God’s Messenger was the most handsome of people. Jabir ibn Samura remarks: “Once during a full moon, we were sitting in the mosque. God’s Messenger came in. I looked first at the shining moon, and then at his face. I swear by God that his face was brighter than the moon.”182
Prophets must be free from all bodily defects, for their appearance should not repel others. In explaining the Divine wisdom of God’s Messenger living for 63 years, Said Nursi writes:
Believers are religiously obliged to love and respect God’s Messenger to the utmost degree, and follow his every command without feeling any dislike for any aspect of him. For this reason, God did not allow him to live to the troublesome and often humiliating period of old age, and sent him to the “highest abode” when he was 63 years old. This was the average lifespan of the members of his community, thus making him the example in this respect also.183
Despite this characteristic being common to all Prophets, false stories about Job and Moses, either borrowed from Israelite sources or misunderstandings of Qur’anic verses, have found their way into Qur’anic commentaries.
In a hadith, God’s Messenger says: “The Prophets undergo the severest trials; the greatest misfortunes strike them. Then come other believers; the firmer their belief, the bigger their misfortune.” Prophet Job is praised in the Qur’an as a steadfast, excellent servant of God, one ever-turning to his Lord (38:44). As can be deduced from the Qur’anic verses, and mentioned in the Bible, he was afflicted with a skin disease, which caused painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head (Job 2:7). Influenced by Israelite stories, some Qur’anic commentators have added that worms lived in his sores or abscesses, and that the resulting offensive odor caused people to leave him.
These additions are completely groundless. If people really left him, this might have been due to his later poverty. In the beginning, Job was a rich, thankful servant of God; later on, he lost his wealth and children. As a Prophet, he could not have had a repulsive or disgusting appearance, with, at least, his face exempt from sores. Nor could his body have emitted an offensive smell.
Contrary to the Biblical account that he cursed the day of his birth (Job 3:1) and God openly (Job 7:20-21), and justified himself rather than God (Job 32:2), Job bore his afflictions for years without any objection. He prayed: Affliction has visited me, and You are the Most Merciful of the Merciful (21:83). God answered his prayer and removed his affliction, and restored to him his household and the like thereof along with them (21:84).
Moses’ Speech Impediment
The Qur’an states that Moses, on receiving the order to go to Pharaoh, supplicated:
My Lord, open my breast (relieve my mind and enable me to bear everything), and ease for me my task. Loosen a knot upon my tongue so that they may understand my words (20:25-28).
Some commentators, influenced by Israelite sources and misunderstanding Moses’ supplication, have asserted that he had a speech impediment. They say that a young Moses once pulled Pharaoh’s beard. Angered, Pharaoh wanted to have him killed.
But his wife, trying to save the child, asked Pharaoh to test him to see whether he was fit to be judged or decide in his favor. Bringing a weighing scale, he put a piece of gold in one pan and some embers in the other. Moses put the embers in his mouth, which gave him a permanent stutter. So, according to these interpretations, Moses was asking God to remove his stutter.
An invented story cannot serve as the basis for interpreting a Qur’anic verse. If Moses had had such a speech impediment, he should have prayed for the knot—not a knot—to be loosened. What Moses was asking for was a greater ability to articulate God’s Message in Pharaoh’s presence, for he was not as eloquent as his brother Aaron (28:34; Exodus 4:10).
In conclusion, all Prophets were both physically and mentally perfect. Regardless of what others might claim, there is nothing in their lives to suggest even the slightest defect. However, some of them may have been superior to others in certain respects:
And those Messengers, some We have preferred above others; some there are to whom God spoke [directly], and some He raised in rank (2:253).
Prophet Muhammad is superior to all of them by virtue of being the last Prophet sent to both humanity and jinn. His Mission was not restricted to a certain people or a certain time; rather, it was directed toward all people and remains valid until the end of time.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
1 Muslim, “Jihad,” 101; Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 54.
2 Bukhari, Bad’u al-Wahy, 6.
3 Ibn Hanbal, 5:323.
4 Tirmidhi, “Qiyamah,” 60; Ibn Hanbal, 1:200.
5 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 3:344.
6 Bukhari, “Adab,” 69; Muslim, “Birr,” 105; Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 80.
7 Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 79; Muslim, “Tawba,” 53.
8 Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 82.
9 It is not stated exactly why the Prophet had a change of mood. However, we can make several guesses: Some questions may have contained unbecoming things or sounded unnecessary, or he might have seen some doubts in their hearts about his knowledge and so wanted to lay them to rest.
10 Bukhari, “Fitan,” 15.
11 Muslim, “Janna,” 76, 77.
12 Ibn Hanbal, 4:360-64.
13 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 4:348; Bayhaqi, Dala’il al-Nubuwwa, 5:102.
14 Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahaba, 3:36.
15 Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Madina,” 8; Muslim, “Fitan,” 9.
16 Bukhari, “Sawm,” 3; Muslim, “Fitan,” 27.
17 Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 22; Abu Dawud, “Jihad,” 97.
18 Ibn Maja, “Jana’iz,” 65; Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 15; Ibn Hanbal, 3:197.
19 The death of God’s Messenger touched Fatima so deeply that she gave voice to her grief in the following verses:
What else does the one who has smelt the soil of
Muhammad’s tomb need?
Does one really need the smell of anything else?
I have been struck by such misfortunes that if they had fallen upon days,
They would have changed into nights!
20 Bukhari, “Sulh,” 9; Ibn Hanbal, 5:49.
21 Haythami, Al-Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 9:404-5.
22 Bukhari, “Manaqib al-Ansar,” 39; Muslim, “Jihad,” 127.
23 Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 29; Muslim, “Jihad,” 123, 124, 125.
24 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 4:116; Ibn Hanbal, 4:303; Ibn Hisham, Sira, 3:230.
25 Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 22.
26 Bukhari, “Salat,” 63; Muslim, “Fitan,” 70, 72, 73; Ibn Hanbal, 12: 161, 164.
27 Bukhari, “Adab,” 95; Muslim, “Zakat,” 142; Ibn Hanbal, 3:56.
28 Bukhari, “Adab,” 95; Muslim, “Zakat,” 142; Ibn Hanbal, 1:356.
29 Ibn Hanbal, 3:82.
30 Bukhari, “Jihad,” 3:8; Muslim, “‘Imara,” 160-61.
31 Bukhari, “Jihad,” 95, 96; Abu Dawud, “Malahim,” 10; Ibn Maja, “Fitan,” 36; Ibn Hanbal, 5:40, 45.
32 Hakim, Mustadrak, 4:422; Ibn Hanbal, 4:335.
33 Abu Dawud, “Malahim,” 5; Ibn Hanbal, 5:278.
34 Bukhari, “Fitan,” 16; Muslim, “Fitan,” 45; Ibn Hanbal, 2:50, 72.
35 Bukhari, “Fitan,” 24; Muslim, “Fitan,” 30; Abu Dawud, “Malahim,” 12:13.
36 Muslim, “Iman,” 244-47.
37 Muslim, “Fitan,” 110; Tirmidhi, “Fitan,” 59; Ibn Hanbal, 4:182.
38 Ibn Hanbal, 1:407, 408; Hakim, Mustadrak, 4:98, 448.
39 Darimi, Muqaddima, 27.
40 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 14:244.
41 Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 7:324.
42 Ibn Maja, “Tijara,” 58; Ibn Hanbal, 2:494; Nasa’i, “Buyu‘,” 2.
43 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11:176.
44 Ibid., 14:591.
45 Muslim, “‘Ilm,” 6; Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 50.
46 Bukhari, “Tib,” 1.
47 Abu Dawud, “Tib,” 10; Muslim, “Salam,” 69.
48 Tirmidhi, “Tib,” 2; Ibn Maja, “Tib,” 1; Ibn Hanbal, 4:278.
49 Bukhari, “Tib,” 30; Muslim, “Salam,” 98.
50 Bukhari, “Tib,” 19; Ibn Hanbal, 2:443.
51 Muslim, “Tahara,” 91.
52 Abu Dawud, “Adahi,” 21; Ibn Maja, “Sayd,” 2; Ibn Hanbal, 4:85.
53 Abu Dawud, “At‘ima,” 11; Tirmidhi, “”At‘ima, 39; Ibn Hanbal, 5:441.
54 Muslim, “Tahara,” 87; Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 49; Tirmidhi, “Tahara,” 19.
55 Bukhari, “Jumu‘a,” 8; Muslim, “Tahara,” 42; Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 25; Tirmidhi, “Tahara,” 18; Nasa’i, “Tahara,” 6; Ibn Maja, “Tahara,” 7; Ibn Hanbal, 1:80.
56 Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 47; Ibn Hanbal, 4:132.
57 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 3:460.
58 Abu Dawud, “Tib,” 14; Tirmidhi, “Tib,” 9.
59 Ibn Maja, “Tib,” 29; Tirmidhi, “Tib,” 13.
60 Bukhari, “Tib,” 7; Muslim, “Salam, “88.
61 Bukhari, “Bad’u al-Khalq,” 17; Tib, 58; Abu Dawud, “At‘ima,” 48.
62 Bukhari, “Wudu’,” 63; Muslim, “Hayd,” 62; Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 109.
63 Muslim, “Ashriba,” 12; Ibn Maja, “Tib,” 27.
64 Muslim, “Tahara,” 49; Abu Dawud, “Tahara,” 27.
65 Said Nursi, Tarikhca Hayat (Biography), 56.
66 Abu Dawud, “Manasik,” 56; Ibn Maja, “Manasik,” 84; Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 5:173.
67 Bukhari, “Tawhid,” 22; Muslim, “Iman,” 288.
68 Bukhari, “I‘tiqaf,” 8; Ibn Maja, “Siyam,” 65.
69 Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 80; Ibn Hanbal, 3:447.
70 Bukhari, “Iman,” 24; Muslim, “Iman,” 107.
71 Abu Dawud, “Jihad,” 112, “Adab,” 164; Ibn Hanbal, 1:404.
72 Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 164; Ibn Hanbal, 1:404.
73 Bayhaqi, Shuab al-iman, 5/313.
74 Abu Dawud, “Witr,” 32; Nasa’i, “Isti‘adha,” 19:20; Ibn Maja, “At‘ima,” 53.
75 Muslim, “Jihad,” 9.
76 Ibn Hisham, Sira, 2:27.
77 Bukhari, Tafsir, 9; Ibn Hanbal, 1:4.
78 Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 29, “Jihad,” 83; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 13.
79 Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 2; Ibn Hanbal, 3:361.
80 Bukhari, “Jumu‘a,” 10; Muslim, “‘Imara,” 20; Abu Dawud, “‘Imara,” 1.
81 Ibn Hanbal, 3:135.
82 Tirmidhi, “Iman,” 12; Ibn Maja, “Fitan,” 2.
83 Ibn Hanbal, 5:323.
84 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 5:328.
85 One of Avicenna’s students once told him that, with his extraordinary understand- ing and intelligence, he could claim Prophethood and easily gather many follow- ers. Avicenna said nothing. Some time passed, and then during the winter they undertook a journey. Avicenna awoke from his sleep one morning at dawn, woke his student and asked him to bring some water for him to drink. The student put him off and made excuses. However much Avicenna persisted, the student would not leave his warm bed. At that moment, the call to prayer was made: God is the Greatest… I bear witness that there is no god but God. I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God… Avicenna, taking advantage of this opportunity, finally answered his student’s question:
Remember when you encouraged me to proclaim my Prophethood and that many people would follow me? Consider this: You have been my student for years and have benefited from my lessons, but you wouldn’t even leave your warm bed to get some water for me. But this man, who calls us to prayer as oth- ers have done for the last 400 years, follows the (real) Prophet. He left his warm bed, as he does every morning together with hundreds of thousands of others, climbed the minaret and pro- claimed God’s Unity and Muhammad’s Messengership. Now do you understand my position vis-à-vis the Prophet?! (Tr.)
86 This simile is coined with respect to the Prophet’s submission to Revelation. He fulfills whatever he is commanded by Revelation.
87 Qadi Iyad, Shifa’ al-Sharif, 1:105; Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 54; Muslim, “Jihad,” 105.
88 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 3:153.
89 Ibn Hisham, Sira, 4:48; Ibn Hanbal, 3:160; Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 4:116.
90 Haythami, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 7:100-1.
91 Bukhari, “Maghazi,” 21; Ibn Hisham, Sira, 3:76-77.
92 Hakim, Mustadrak, 3:241-43; Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 2:496.
93 Ibn Hanbal, 1:159; Haythami, 8:302-3.
94 Ibn Hisham, Sira, 2:73.
95 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 5:120-21.
96 Ibid., 4:272.
97 Ibid., 4:273.
98 Ibid., 4:271.
99 Ibid., 3:104.
100 Ibid., 3:105.
101 Bukhari, “Jana’iz,” 4:65; Muslim, “Jana’iz,” 62-67.
102 Bukhari, “Bad’u al-Wahy,” 6.
105 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 5:324.
106 Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 7:1; Ibn Hanbal, 1:243.
107 Ibn Hanbal, 5:256-57.
108 Muslim, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 131.
109 Ibn Hisham, Sira, 163-64.
110 Sa‘id al-Hawwa, Al-Rasul, 1:9. For a different version, see Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 2:307.
111 ‘Ali al-Qari, Al-Asrar al-Marfu‘a, 286.
112 Bukhari, “Tahajjud,”6; Muslim, “Munafiqin,” 81.
113 Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 2:164.
114 Muslim, “Salat,” 221-2; Abu Dawud, “Salat,” 148; “Witr,” 5.
115 Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 287; Muslim, “Talaq,” 31.
116 Abu Nu‘aym, Hilya, 7:107; Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 1:199.
117 Muslim, “Ashriba,” 140.
118 Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 9.
119 Nasa’i, “Zinat,” 39.
120 Bukhari, “Fada’il al-Sahaba,” 5; Ibn Hanbal, 2:205.
121 Qadi Iyad, Shifa’, 1:67.
122 Ibn Hanbal, 3:425; Ibn Hisham, Sira, 1:209.
123 Ibn Hajar, Al-Isaba, 1:337.
124 ‘Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 1:147.
125 Ibn Hanbal, 4:65; 5:64.
126 Bukhari, “Manaqib al-Ansar,” 1:2; Muslim, “Zakat,” 132-41.
127 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11:412.
128 Ibid., 11:425.
129 Tirmidhi, “Qiyama,” 59.
130 Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 25.
131 Bukhari, “Adab,” 69; Muslim, “Birr,” 105; Abu Dawud, “Adab,” 80.
132 Bukhari, “Adab,” 96; Muslim, “Birr,” 165.
133 Bukhari, “Hudud,” 4:5.
134 Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 55; Ibn Hanbal, 5:153.
135 Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 6:89.
136 Bukhari, “Bad’u al-Wahy,” 1; Muslim, “‘Imara,” 155; Abu Dawud, “Talaq,” 11.
137 Dahabi, Majma‘ al-Zawa’id, 1:61, 109.
138 Bukhari, “Iman,” 4.
139 Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 11; Ibn Maja, “Fitan,” 12.
140 Bukhari, “Iman,” 37; Muslim, “Iman,” 1.
141 Bukhari, “Jana’iz,” 43; Muslim, “Jana’iz,” 14, 15.
142 Bukhari, “Wasaya,” 9; “Zakat,” 18; Muslim, “Zakat,” 94; Ibn Hanbal, 2:4.
143 Muslim, “Iman,” 171-4; Suyuti, Al-Fath al-Kabir, 2:57.
144 Tirmidhi, “Birr,” 40.
145 Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 23.
146 Muslim, “Tahara,” 41; Tirmidhi, “Tahara,” 39.
147 Bukhari, “Tawhid,” 35.
148 Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 28; Muslim, “Janna,” 1.
149 Tirmidhi, “‘Ilm,” 16; for different versions, see, Ibn Maja, “Muqad-dima,” 6.
150 Bukhari, “Adab,” 83; Muslim, “Zuhd,” 63.
151 Bukhari, “Manaqib,” 1; Muslim, “Birr,” 160; Ibn Hanbal, 2:539.
152 Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 5; Muslim, “Birr,” 61.
153 Women who resist men are certainly included in the meaning of this hadith. The reason why men are mentioned is that they often are attracted to women and fol- low their desire. Men are at greater risk than women and more liable to fall. So, the hadith warns men to protect themselves against illicit relationships. Men exploit the charm and beauty of women for their benefit, and unfortunately women are used to spread immorality and obscenity. It is rare in human history that women com- mand and use men in such ways.
154 Bukhari, “Adhan,” 36; Muslim, “Zakat,” 91; Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 53.
155 Bukhari, “Tayammum,” 1; “Salat,” 56.
156 Muslim, “Iman,” 326.
157 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 2:350-51.
158 Bukhari, “Hajj,” 42; Ibn Kathir, “Al-Bidaya,” 2:350.
159 Tirmidhi, “Qiyama,” 49; Ibn Maja, “Zuhd,” 30.
160 Ibn Kathir, “Tafsir” 3:539.
161 A Prophetic saying whose meaning is directly from God.
162 Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 38; Ibn Hanbal, 6:256.
163 Judah is not mentioned in the Qur’an as a Prophet. However, the Qur’an mentions the sons of Jacob as grandchildren worthy of following. Although they wronged Joseph out of jealousy, they must have corrected their ways later. According to the Bible, not to the Qur’an, some of the Israelite Prophets were descended from Judah.
164 See note 163 above.
165 Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 2:313-14.
166 Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 48; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 144.
167 Bukhari, “Tahajjud,” 7, “Sawm,” 59; Muslim, “Siyam,” 182.
168 For different versions of the hadith, see, Bukhari, “Hudud,” 22; Abu Dawud, “Hudud,” 17; Tirmidhi, “Hudud,” 1; Ibn Maja, “Talaq,” 15,16.
169 Bukhari, “Tafsir,” 3; Tirmidhi, “Qadar,” 2; Ibn Hanbal, 2:287, 314.
170 Muslim, “Iman,” 271.
171 Mulla Jami‘, Nafahat al-Uns, 521.
172 Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 11.
173 Ibn Kathir, Shama’il, 84-85.
174 Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 8; Muslim, “Fada’il,” 154.
175 Bukhari, “Anbiya’,” 21:19; Ibn Hanbal, 2:96, 332.
176 Qurtubi, “Tafsir,” 8:31; Ibn Hanbal, 1:383.
177 He could not make them reveal their real reasons. This is why hypocrites, who are outwardly Muslims but inwardly unbelievers, are treated as Muslims in a Muslim society. There were many such people in Madina during the Prophet’s time. The Prophet never disclosed their identities.
178 Qurtubi, 8:98-99; Fakhr al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 16:73-74.
179 Said Nursi, Eptiomes of Light (Mathnawi al-Nuriya) (Izmir, Kaynak: 1999), II.
180 Abu Dawud, “Diyat,” 70; Tirmidhi, “Diyat,” 17.
181 Ibn Hanbal, 411.
182 Suyuti, Al-Khasa’is al-Kubra, 1:123; Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 7:168.
183 Nursi, The Letters, 2:84-85.