The Birth of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (S.A.)
Muhammad (S.A.) opened his eyes to the world on the 17th of Rabi’ al-awwal of the 53rd year before the Hijrah (570 A.D.). His father, ‘Abdullah, was from the family of Hazrat Isma’il, and had died before he could see his son. His mother was one of the most pious women of that time. Muhammad (S.A.) was entrusted to a virtuous woman called Halimah, who suckled him and nursed him. One day, Muhammad (S.A.), who had not yet reached the age of four years, asked Halimah if he could go into the desert with the other boys… Halimah said: “I bathed Muhammad and anointed his hair with oil. I put collyrium on his eyes and hung a Yemenite stone on a string and put it round his neck so that no harm could come to him from the spirits of the desert. But Muhammad tore the stone from his neck and said, ‘Don’t worry about me. My God is taking care of me!”‘ So we see that from childhood he was the object of God’s favor and grace, and was always guided by Divine power and help in works that were in their right time and place. Muhammad’s behavior and speech in childhood were such that everyone’s attention was attracted. In his youth, also, he was far from that which tainted those people in his environment. He took no part in their riotous poetry gatherings. He drank no wine, was an enemy of the idols; he was perfect in speech and act. Years before he became a prophet, the people called him ‘al-Amin’ (the trustworthy one). He had a pure mind and radiant intellect, and a godly and heavenly character. Every year for one month he went to the cave of Hira and was with God in His mysteries and in prayer. At the end of the month, before returning to his home, he went to the Ka’bah and made seven or more circumambulations. At the age of forty, while busy in worship in the cave of Hira, he was elevated to the status of Messengership. For three years the Prophet of Islam (S.A.) received no command to call people openly to Islam, and during that time only a few people had faith in Muhammad (S.A.). Among men, the first person who loved and followed him was Hazrat ‘Ali (A.S.), and among women, Khadijahl (Tarikh at-Tabari, vol. I, p. 240 – 245. ). Then after three years he received the command to invite people openly to Islam, and he called his close family to be his guests; about forty of these people assembled together. The food which the Prophet (S.A.) had prepared was barely enough to satisfy the appetite of one man, but by the power of God that little food filled everyone, and this was the cause of much amazement. Abu Lahab, without thinking what he was saying, cried out: “Muhammad is a magician!” That day the relatives dispersed before the Prophet could speak, so he called them again the next day. After they had partaken of the food and hospitality, he spoke: “O Sons of Abdul-Muttalib! No youth has brought to his people better than what I bring to you. I have brought you the best of this world and of the world of the resurrection. I have been commanded by Allah to call you to Him. Which of you will extend his help to me and become my brother, executor and successor?” Apart from ‘Ali (A.S.), no one answered. The Prophet placed his hand on ‘Ali’s shoulder and said: “This is my brother, executor and successor among you. Listen what he says and obey him!” (Tarikh at-Tabari, vol.v 3, p. 1171-1173). One day the Prophet (S.A.) went up on Mount Safa and called the people around him. He said: “If I told you that an enemy, was going to fall on you this morning or this evening, would you trust me?” All together they replied: “Yes! ” He said: “I warn you of a severe torment that is soon to fall on you.” Out of fear that the speech of Muhammad (S.A.) would take effect in the hearts of those present, Abu Lahab broke the silence and said to him: “Did we assemble here just to listen to this nonsense?” The Prophet of Islam (S.A.) started his call with the slogan of Tawhid and the worship of one God, and established Tawhid as the basis of all other beliefs. He made known to men Allah, who is nearer to man than man himself; he abolished all forms of idol worship, revolutionized the atmosphere of Mecca, and drew people to his religion. Meanwhile, the Quraysh ( the most powerful tribe in Mecca, to which Muhammad (S.A) belonged), were becoming ill at ease with the progress he was making and tried hard to stop his preaching, even once trying to kill him; but with the help and protection of Allah and with His care and intercession all their tortures, persecutions and schemes were without effect and came to nothing. Day by day the call to Islam, and also the acceptance by people, spread, even to those who came from outside Mecca. People rose up with their souls in answer to this Divine invitation. In the eleventh year of the Prophethood, some people from Medina belonging to the Khazraj tribe came to Mecca to perform the ceremonies of Hajj. The Prophet invited them to Islam and they accepted, with this promise that when they went back to Medina they would call the people to Muhammad’s religion. They went to Medina and spread around the invitation of the Prophet (S.A.). The next year twelve Medinites accepted the faith of the Prophet of Islam (S.A.) at ‘Aqaba and resolved: not to associate any with Allah, not to steal, not to fornicate, not to indulge in infanticide, not to bring malicious accusations against anyone, not to disobey the Prophet in any thing which he indicated. Then the Prophet sent a man by the name of Mus’ab along with them to teach the Qur’an, and thus a large group in Medina pledged their faith in the Prophet.
The Prophet’s Mission
Lover of nature and quite worried about human sufferings, Muhammad very often retired to Mount Hira’ for meditations. On one night, Laylatu’l-Qadr (the Night of Majesty), a voice addressing him, commanded “O Recite in the Name of the Lord”. Deeply excited by the strange phenomena of divine visitation, Muhammad hurried home to his wife , Khadijah, who listened to him attentively and said that ” I bear witness that you are the Apostle of God.” After an interval, the voice from heaven spoke again “magnify the Lord.” This was a signal for him to start preaching the gospel of truth of One God. In the beginning Muhammad invited only those near him, to accept the new Faith. The first to embrace Islam among women was Khadijah and among men ` Ali. Soon after, Zayd ibn al-Harithah become a convert to the new faith followed by abut baker and ` Uthman. ‘ Umar hitheto a violent opponent of Islam, notorious for the persecution of the Muslims and a bitter enemy of the Prophet, embraced Islam, later. (The Brief History fourteen Infallibles of Islam, P. 18)
The Message of Islam
The spirit of the message of Islam can be summed up and shown in this phrase: La ilaha illa’llah.”- There is no god but Allah. It means that, apart from the One and Only Allah, nothing must be worshipped. This is the great, fruitful, abundant secret of the tree of Islam. For if we compare Islam to a tree, and its ideology to the seed or the root, we must realise that the health and fruitfulness of the tree is connected to the health of the roots. And then we see how strong, how steadfast and steely the basis of the ideology of Islam is, as revealed in this one phrase.
Contentment and Faith Go Together
If all man’s wishes were rooted in material things alone, and man felt no desire in his soul to transcend the material world, happiness would come from securing material things. But we know and see that man screams out with the voice of his spirit against the depths of technology and materiality. With every increase in material things the craving of society for the spirit and for spiritual wants increases, and this phenomenon is clearly evident in the recalcitrance and disorder in society. The proof is the complete disruption and crisis which has cast its shadow over civilized societies since the beginnings of the twentieth century, to the point where the spiritual upheaval of society, especially among the young, is out of control. The Russian psychologist and sociologist, Sorokin, said: “Because, in the culture of a materialist civilization, man is only an organism with life, and is in no way attributed with the values and absolutes of goodness, beauty and wisdom, no way has been envisaged to reach spiritual perfection and spiritual wants.” Unless the sublime spirit of man which, like the keen-winged falcon, desires the exaltation of flying above the mountain ridges and peaks, soars to places far from human hands, and unless it is refreshed at the source of spiritual virtues, it will not be free of these disruptions and outbursts. All the crimes and desires for gratification are signs of the breaking of natural roaring waves which will not be quiet until they reach the safety of the shore. And the shore of safety is only faith in One Limitless Power, Infinite Knowledge, Pure Perfection and keeping away from imaginary gods. By remembering such a power, and having true faith in it, the heart finds contentment. The Qur’an recites this great truth in the shortest of sentences: “In remembrance of Allah are the hearts at rest.” (XIII:28)
Indeed the peace of hearts is only in remembrance of Allah. Only leaning towards and attention to God can regulate human nature and guide it to happiness. Islam weighs the value of man by this very standard and criterion and says: “Surely the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the most god-fearing of you.” (XLIX:13)
The aim of Islam is to show, to indicate the better and higher horizons, and to save man from the ash-cloth of his material skin and his lusts, so that man may know the real pastures of green and luxuriant pleasures, and desist from journeying in the furnace of material ways and walk in the true way of contentment. “O ye who believe! Respond to Allah and His messenger when He calls you unto that which will give you life.” (VIII:24) By acquiring knowledge of Islam, the dead soul and dormant faculties of man will be made alive, will rise up and grow, and this life will reach the source through the windows of the laws and the perspective of the aims of Islam. Now let us look at some of these perspectives:a Islamic fraternity; watchfulness by the people; the status of knowledge; work and effort; the structure of the family.
Islamic brotherhood is based on the highest human virtue, for it is far from hollow rootless formalities. It is a reality for the strengthening of self-sacrifice in the Muslim individual and the keeping alive of the spirit of purity, sincerity and faith. One of its direct practical results is the creation of responsibility and sympathy between individuals in all aspects of life. On the basis of this brotherhood, a Muslim cannot refrain from sharing his brother’s difficulties. The project of initiating Islamic brotherhood in the first days of Islam was so skillfully and interestingly put into action that the poor and the rich were brothers in heart and soul. The Prophet (S.A.) explained Islamic brotherhood in this easy and expansive way: The believers are brothers one to the other, and are in the likeness of one man in that if one part is in pain, the other parts will not be at peace.” Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: “The spirit of Islamic brotherhood does not allow you to be full and your thirst quenched while your Muslim brother is hungry and thirsty, nor that you should be clothed and your Muslim brother naked. You must wish for him what you wish for yourself. Support him as he supports you. When he is traveling, guard his property and honor. When he returns, hurry to see him, give him respect as if you were his and he were yours. If he is fortunate, give thanks to Allah for his gladness. If he is in difficulty, help him.”
The Last Message the Last Prophet
From the first, Islam has said that it is the last message, and Muslims have accepted this fact with wisdom and with love, and have realised that Islam is the last manifestation of revelation prophethood and the culmination of the former pure religions Also, all Muslims, on the basis of ayahs in the Qur’an and hadith believe that the prophet of Islam (S.A.) is the last messenger of Allah who was the recipient of human leadership. The great Qur’an has explained the universality of the pure religion of Islam in many ayahs and has shown that Muhammad (S.A.) is the last emissary sent be God: ” Muhammad is not the father of any of one of your men, but the messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets; and Allah has knowledge of everything” (XXXIII:40) It has been said in a hadith from the Prophet to `Ali: “In all respects your relation to me is like that of Harun to Musa ( i.e. if Harun was Musa’s brother, I also take you as a brother according to the rules of brotherhood; if he was Musa’s successor, you also will be my successor). Except that Musa was not the last prophet, and I am the last.” (It is an authentic hadith accepted by both the shi`a and the sunnis, see al-ghadir, vol`3. p.196-202). He also said: “I am the last brick in the building of prophethood. with my coming the prophets have come to an end.” Imam `Ali (A.S.) said in Nahg al-Balaghah, the great book of learning and knowledge: “with the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (S.A.), revelation come to an end. “(sermon 133) The eighth leader, the true Imam, Hazrat Rida(A.S.) said : “The pure religion of Muhammad (S.A.)will not be abrogated till the Day of Resurrection, and also no Prophet will follow him.” (Bihar al-anwar, vol.II,p.34) What we have just recounted is only a sample of tens of hadiths which clearly and succinctly explain the conclusive status of the Prophet (S.A.) and the Perpetuity of his pure religion; they leave no room for doubt.
The universality of Islam
One of the greatest causes of Islam’s ever-Iastingness is its `all-inclusiveness’. Islam is a comprehensive project based on the human disposition, and it embraces all aspects of life: individual, social, material, spiritual, doctrinal, emotional, economic, legal and so forth and it explains the basis of each in the most acceptable way, most realistically , for all peoples and all levels of people, in every time and place. Thus European Islamicists, each with his deep view and research, have all acknowledged the omni-sidedness of Islamic laws and its universality. Now let us investigate some aspects of this universality.
The God of Islam and the Qur’an
The God of Islam is the Preserver of all worldly things. He is not the god of a tribe, for` some special group only. At prayer we say: `al-hamduli’llahi rabbi’l- alamin’ praise be to Allah, the lord of the worlds.’ Every moment, in every place, whenever he wants, He brings into existence ; there is no limitation on His Essence. He has authority over all existent things. “Blessed be He in Whose hand is the kingdom. He is powerful over everything” (lxvll:1)
He is aware of the manifest and the concealed, the past and the future, and everything, even what is in our hearts. “He knows whatever is in the heavens and the earth, and He knows you conceal and what you declare, and Allah knows what is in the breasts” (LXIV:4) Being with Him is possible in every place: there is no need to travel or to pass by a doorman. He is nearer to us than anything. “We are nearer to him (man) than his jugular vein” (L:16)
He is a reality without parallel, beyond all human attributes and likenesses; He is not like the gods of other altered religions who have become man-like or like something created. Therefore He has no place, for He created place. He is not contained in time, for He is the creator of time. He is not associated, nor has He any beginning or ending. therefore, He has no like or similitude. “Like him there is naught; He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing.” (XLII:11)
His Essence is beyond sleep, tiredness, remorse and so forth “slumber seizes him not, neither sleep.” (II:255)
“Say: He is Allah, one.” (CXII:I)
He is one without equal: He has no son or nother or father, neither partner or associate. This is the reality in surah tawhid, which Muslims recite many times each day in prayer so as to be far from the possibility of associating something with Him (shirk). The god of Islam is a god with all the attributes assigned to by the pure, sweet tongue of the Qur’an, with an understanding wider, more magnificent, greater than can be conceived by created intelligences. free from want, without partner, prevailing, close, supreme, compassionate, most compassionate, available to all so that anyone at any time may communicate with Him, bring his needs before Him, ask whatever he wishes of Him, that He may make available what is of benefit and what is expedient, as He Himself said: ” And verily, Allah is to you all-gentle, All-compassionate.” (LVII:9)
The Equality of all in Islam
Superiority of race or segregation is not only eliminated and void in the eyes of Islam, but the equality of man is an absolute reality from the point of view of Islam, and it says that all men are equal, all are from one father and one mother and are members of one family, and from the aspect of nobility, origin and connections they are equal partners. no one is better than anyone else, except in purity and devoutness. “O mankind, we have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes that you may know one another. surely the noblest among you in the sight of Allah is the most godfearing of you; Allah is All-knowing All-aware.” (XLiX:13)
Islam and freedom of Thought
Islam is a firm supporter of logic, rational argument and freedom of thought. Imposition of ideas or beliefs, or the stifling of voices does not exist in Islam. “No compulsion is there in religion. rectitude has become clear from error”. (II:256) In Islam, investigation of the foundations of beliefs is a duty for every individual, and it is an obligation for everyone not to accept anything without proof, and if some commands and precepts are obligatory and must be accepted without why and wherefore, it is because they are from the source of revelation which cannot be in error, and because they have been stated through the Prophet and the pure Imams. Islam censures those who blindly follow the beliefs of their fathers and ancestors, and commends self-investigation and deep examination. It rejects feeble-mindedness and vain speculation, and urges only to the persual of knowledge and certainty. “and pursue not that thou hast no knowledge of; the hearing, the sight, the heart-all of these shall be questioned of”. (XVII:36) Islam grants its opponents the right to set forth their queries in reasonable discussion and to enumerate their proofs and listen to the answers. “Say: `Produce your proof, if you speak truly.” (II:111)
This was the reason that many Jews, Christians and those from other groups who took a stand against Islam, came to the Prophet or the pure Imams, and sat down and discussed their religious ideas.
Islam and the Invitation to Thought and Education
Islam lends great value to thinking. It asks the learned and wise to think and think again about creation, time, night and day, the sky, the earth, animal life, man and the universe and what is in it. “surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day, and the ship that runs in the sea with profit to men, and the water Allah sends down from the sky therewith reviving the earth after it is dead, and His scattering abroad in it all manner of crawling thing, and the turning about of the winds and the clouds compelled between heaven and earth, surely there are signs for a people having understanding”. (II;164) Also it asks them to research into the lives of those who come before, their thoughts and the causes of their decline and fall, so that they may keep far from the precipices of their destruction. “Divers institutions have passed away before you; journey in the land and behold how was the end of those that cried lies. This is and exposition of mankind, and a guidance and an admonition for the god fearing.” (III;136-7) In short, Islam desires that man should think deeply and freely and travel across the far horizons of thought and knowledge and take everything that is best for the improvement of his being. For this reason Islam values scientific advances and discoveries which are for the help of humanity, and this is why scientists and scholars rose up in the centuries following the advent of Islam, to decorate the high road of human civilization with the jewel of their scientific endeavors, so much so that their great names will shine forever at the summit of scientific history. They include Jabir ibn Hayyan, Razi, Ibn Sina ( Avicenna) and Khwajah Nasir ad-Din tusi, who were celebrated in all the sciences of their times: the intellectual sciences, natural science, astronomy, chemistry, etc. The books of Ibn Sina were even being taught in European universities up to the end of the last century. Jurji Zaydan, the famous Christian Lebanese writer, says on page 598 of his history of Islamic civilization: “As soon as Islamic civilization found its feet, and the now sciences spread among the Muslims, Muslim scholars appeared whose thinking was more important that the founders of some of the branches of the sciences. in fact these sciences took on a fresh color with the new researches of Islamic scientists, and progressed due to Islamic civilization.”
From the view of Islam, there is no oppposition between the material and the spiritual life, the world and religion. similarly, those who do not work in this world make no effort are not approved of, although those who do not think of anything apart from individual benefit and consumption and profit are also detested from the point of view of Islam. Imam Sadiq (A.S.) the sixth imam, said: “He who abandons this world for the next – i.e. he who withdraws from the activities of life in the name of asceticism- and he who gives up the next world for this world both are not from among us` “(Wasa’ilash-shi`a,vol.12,p.49). So it can be said that in this matter Muslims should adjust their actions with equal movement in this world, advancing with its happiness, and in the spiritual world. Therefore in Islam there is no monasticism, being a burden on society, social withdrawal, egoism or seclusion. The Prophet (S.A.) said: “There is no monasticism for us; the monasticism for my followers is jihd in the way of Allah.” (Bihar al-anwar,vol.p114).
Islamic commands and the Advance of Time
The transformation, evolution and development of the means of living and progress in the various elements of civilization have no kind of incompatibility with the eternity of the commands of Islam, because the incompatibility of a law with this kind of progress is because the law depends on fundamental means and special factors. For example, if one makes a law: only the hand must be used when writing, only a donkey must be used for travel, etc. , this kind of law cannot come into action when science and civilization advance. but if it is not in contradiction with fundamental means, and at the time of making the law these were only used as examples, they will not clash with the occurrence of now means and the advance of civilization. Islamic laws are of this latter category, that is to say they do not look especially at the means of one period in history. For example, they say: one must be unconquerable with regard to foreign powers so as to defend one’s vital and human rights. This law, although it was declared in the time of the sword, never depends on the instruments of that time, i.e. Islam never says: The Islamic jihad must only be with swords. Thus it is practicable today. similarly with business transactions, trade, word, etc. So, however much civilization and its means and elements expand, it will never leave the domain of inclusion in the laws of Islam, and this is one of the secrets of eternity of Islam. Does Islam dispense with contemporary ideologies and systems of thought? There is no doubt that man has progressed far in the way of knowledge, but scientists themselves confess that what they know in the world of creation is not comparable with what they do not know. and basically, since their vision is limited, they cannot find out all the secrets of the world. Moreover, each leap forward that man makes is not immune from error. Therefore, in the area of human aspirations, not everything that comes forward, in every field, can be one hundred percent imbued with certainty, because it is possible that environmental factors and other unforeseen thing have an effect on man’s thinking and outlook and take him far from reality. But the fundamental project of Islam, since it grows from the root of revelation, has nothing to do with the possibility of mistake, and can give trustworthy guidance at all times of course, with the condition that these pure laws are not inserted within the framework of other deviated systems, whereupon they the become completely incapable of deriving advantage.
The continuation of Divine Assistance
Some imagine that the meaning of the conclusive nature of the prophet’s mission is that after him connection with the hidden, divine world has been interrupted and stopped. This is not valid because the meaning of its conclusiveness is only that after the prophet of Islam (S.A.), no other prophet or religion will come, not that in a general way connections with the unseen world are also severed. For with the understanding of shi`a Muslims, whereby we believe in the Imamate and Wilayat of the twelve pure Imamas this connection is everlasting and is continued by means of these pure ones. And this is one of the distinctive points of the shi’a school. Mulla Sadra has written in Mafatih al-ghayb – keys of the unseen _ : “Revelation, that is to say the descent of the angel to the delegated and prophetic eyes, has been eyes, has been forever cut off, but the door of inspiration and illumination has not and will never be closed, and it is not possible for it to be interrupted.”
How can Islam be practiced in the present Day and age?
Although corruption in our world is greater today, and although as time rolls on it becomes greater, and in the end more destructive and more annihilating, we must remember that generosity and magnanimity are found in difficulty. so our independence and individuality demand that we struggle with the aberrations of the our times. Basically, control and reform of the environment can be considered as one of the most pressing duties. The prophets have also taught us by their lives the lesson of the struggle against the aberrations of the times. They never followed the perverse desires of the pulsation of their own societies or the various passions of the environment; eventually they made the environment their own environment. The prophet of Islam (S.A.) struggled constantly against the aberrant and amoral customs of the ignorance of his time, till he built another society and environment. class differences, the inferiority of women, idol-worship, tribal wars, and tens of other kinds of amorality were among the conventions and customs and beliefs of the people of those days, but the courage of the prophet saw that all of them were destroyed. some of the chiefs of the quraysh, such as` utbah, were very unhappy about the prophet’s method, so they arranged a meeting and after they conferred together with him to make him deviate from his way by promise and threat, the prophet replied to them: ” This is what I was delegated to do. I swear by Allah that even if the sun were put in one of my hands and the moon in the other I would not deviate from my way, nor give up my faith, till victory or death ensue.” So let us follow the way of the iron-willed leader and envoy of Allah.