Friday, April 19, 2013

Remembering Prophet's greatness in simplicity

MUHAMMAD (peace be upon him) was the posthumous son of Abdullah and his wife, Aaminah, among the nobility of the Qurash tribe of Mecca whose line of descent reaches Prophet Ishmael, son of Prophet Abraham. Born in 570 AD, his mother died when he was 6 and was brought up by his paternal grandfather, Abdul Mutalib, and uncle Abu Talib. He was nursed by Halimah, who took the young Muhammd to her desert home for two years.
At the age of 9, Muhammad exhibited indications of an intelligent and inquiring mind. He was reflective and loved solitary meditation. At the age of 12, he was taken by his loving uncle Abu Talib on a mercantile journey to Sham and Basrah. It was at Basrah that they met the Christian monk Buhaira, who told Abu Talib to take good care of his nephew as great dignity awaited him. All accounts of Muhammad's personality concur on ascribing to him correctness of manner, purity of morals and dignified bearing, which won him the approbation of Meccan society that soon conferred on him the title al-Amin (the trustworthy).
Between 580 and 590, war broke out between Quraish and Banu Hawazin tribes, which lasted 10 years, and in two of these, Muhammad accompanied Abu Talib. He also took interest in business and visited local fairs in and around Mecca.
At age 25, on Abu Talib's recommendation, he entered the service of Khadijah, an affluent widow of 45, who had two sons and a daughter from her former marriage.
Muhammad was placed in charge of Khadija's mercantile, and he again travelled the route to Basrah. Having proved himself successful in Khadijah's business, he was soon rewarded with her hand in marriage.
At the age of 40, when on a meditative retreat, Muhammad received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. He continued receiving revelations for 23 years, which became known as the Quran. As soon as he began to propagate his mission, he and his small group of followers became targets of bitter hostility and persecution of the Meccans, which compelled them to leave their hometown in 622 AD. This event, the Hijrah (migration) marked the Prophet's departure for Madinah, some 418km to the north, and the beginning also of a great transformation in the life of the nascent community of Muslims. After eight years, the Prophet and his followers triumphantly returned to Mecca, where they forgave their enemies and established Islam in the whole of Arabia.
The Prophet was of fair complexion with definitive facial features, broad shouldered, average in height and weight. He spoke with clarity and pause. When he turned his face, he did so with the whole of his body, and when pointing at something, he did so with the whole of his hand. He would sit as one that was always ready to rise, and sat as one among equals. Whenever he had the choice between two matters, he would choose the easier. He did not take revenge, except where the honour of God was concerned. When angry, he would avert his gaze, look downwards yet joyful.
He smiled often, showed affection to children and reverence to the elderly. He walked fast such that keeping pace with him was an effort. As a parent and friend, he was loyal, endowed with humility and gentleness, exceptionally generous.
The Prophet's marriage to Khadijah was "happy, fortunate and fruitful" until her death at age 65. Two sons and four daughters were born to them, but both their sons died at infancy. During her lifetime, Khadijah was his only wife. She was "his counsellor and support, and his grief at her death at first was inconsolable". The fact that he had many wives is undisputed, but he was not licentious. Abraham, David, Solomon and many other prophets and saints of the Old Testament also had many wives -- none were licentious.
 Many of his marriages were to protect widows whose husbands had died in the cause of Islam.
T. P. Hughes, author of Dictionary of Islam, quoted  Thomas Carlyle, who wrote:  "Mohammad was not a sensual man; we shall err widely if we consider him otherwise. His household was the frugalest, his common diet barely bread and water; sometimes for a month, there was not once a fire lighted on his hearth...  He would mend his own shoes, patch his own cloak, a hard toiling man, careless of what vulgar men toil for. No emperor with his dignity was obeyed as this man in a cloak of his own clouting".
Till the third day before his death, he regularly led  congregational prayers.
When he was too ill to enter the mosque, he ordered his faithful friend, Abu Bakr, to lead the service. On his last attendance, the Prophet addressed the congregation: "Men and brethren! If I have caused any of you to be unjustly scourged, I here submit my own shoulder to the lash of retaliation. If I have aspersed the good name of any of you, let him proclaim my fault before this congregation. If I owe any of you a debt, the little that I have shall discharge the debt."
He then informed them of the rituals of his own burial,  and said: "My most earnest wish is that no wailing and lamentation disturb my repose."
The Prophet died on  June 8, 632 at the age of 63.
Among the Prophet's greatest achievements was to instil a new monotheistic moral code that departed from the pagan Arab's reliance on tribalism and ancestral practice as criteria of moral life.
The very simplicity of his calling to  faith in only One God worthy of worship was also a reason for the rapid spread of his mission.
With few means, a man who had been an orphan and suffered in countless ways laid the foundations of a new religious society and civilisation that was soon to make its mark upon a large portion of the world and began a new chapter in human history.

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