Muhammad SAW

Muhammad (pbuh) was an illiterate but wise and well-respected man who
was born in Makkah in the year 570 C.E., at a time when Christianity was
not yet fully established in Europe. His first years were marked by the
deaths of his parents. Since his father died before his birth, his uncle, Abu
Talib, from the respected tribe of Quraysh, raised him. As Muhammad
(pbuh) grew up, he became known for his truthfulness, generosity and
sincerity, so that he was sought after for his ability to arbitrate in disputes.
His reputation and personal qualities also led to his marriage, at the age of
twenty-five, to Khadijah, a widow whom he had assisted in business.
Thenceforth, he became an important and trusted citizen of Makkah.
Historians describe him as calm and meditative.
Muhammad (pbuh) never felt fully content to be part of a society whose
values he considered to be devoid of true religious significance. It became
his habit to retreat from time to time to the cave of Hira', to meditate near
the summit of Jabal al-Nur, the "Mountain of Light", near Makkah.
At the age of 40, while engaged in one such meditative retreat, Muhammad
(pbuh) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel.
This revelation, which continued for twenty-three years, is known as the
Qur'an, the faithful recording of the entire revelation of God. The first
revelation read:
"Recite: In the name of your Lord Who created man from a clot (of
blood). Recite: Your Lord is Most Noble, Who taught by the pen,
taught man what he did not know." [96:1-5]
It was this reality that he gradually and steadily came to learn and believe,
until he fully realized that it is the truth.
His first convert was Khadijah, whose support and companionship provided
necessary reassurance and strength. He also won the support of some of his
relatives and friends. Three basic themes of the early message were the
majesty of the one, unique God, the futility of idol worship, the threat of
judgment, and the necessity of faith, compassion and morality in human
affairs. All these themes represented an attack on the crass materialism and
idolatry prevalent in Makkah at the time. So when he began to proclaim the
message to others the Makkans rejected him. He and his small group of
followers suffered bitter persecution, which grew so fierce that in the year
622 C.E., God gave them the command to emigrate. This event, the Hijrah
(migration), in which they left Makkah for the city of Madinah, some 260
miles to the north, marked the beginning of a new era and thus the
beginning of the Muslim calendar. During his suffering, Muhammad
(pbuh) drew comfort from the knowledge revealed to him about other
prophets, such as Abraham, Joseph, and Moses, each of whom had also
been persecuted and tested.
After several years and some significant battles, the Prophet and his
followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies
and established Islam definitively. By the time the Prophet died, at the age
of 63, the greater part of Arabia had accepted Islam, and within a century
of his death, Islam had spread as far west as Spain and as far east as China.
It was clear that the message was not limited to Arabs; it was for the whole
of humanity.
The Prophet's sayings (Hadith), are also believed to be revelation. The
number of sayings collected by his followers and scholars is about 10,000.
Some typical examples of his sayings are as follows:
"To pursue knowledge is obligatory on every believing (man and
woman)." [Ibn Majah]
"Removing a harmful thing from the road is charity." [Bukhari,
"Those who do not show tenderness and love cannot expect to have
tenderness shown to them." [Bukhari]
"Adore Allah (God) as though you see Him; even if you do not see
Him, He nonetheless sees you." {Bukhari, Muslim]
Although Muhammad is deeply loved, revered and emulated by Muslims as
God's final messenger, he is not an object of worship.
Other Religions
Islam is the religion of all prophets. Muslims believe that all the prophets
were sent to their respective peoples from God (Allah). They all had the
same mission and message - guiding people to the right path.
The three revealed, monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity, and
Judaism, go back to Abraham. The prophets of these religions were
directly descended from him - Moses, Jesus and others from Isaac, but
Muhammad from Isma'il. It was Prophet Abraham who had established
the settlement which today is the city of Makkah, and with his son Isma'il
built the Ka'bah, which Muslims all over the world face when they pray.
Christians and Jews hold a special place in Islam. They are called the
People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab), since the original Torah and Gospel
were also divinely revealed and they shared in the prophetic tradition.
Islamic states have nearly always shown their religious minorities tolerance
and respect and those communities flourished under Islamic rule. God says:
"...[T]hose who believe (in the message of Islam), and the Jews,
the Sabaeans, and the Christians - all those who believe in Allah
and the Last Day, and act righteously - no fear shall come upon
them..." [5:69]
Setting up the Islamic state in Madinah, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) further
"Whoever oppresses any Dhimmi (non-Muslim citizen of the Islamic
state), I shall be his prosecutor on the Day of Judgment."
In setting up the Islamic state, Prophet Muhammad made it inclusive of the
Arabian Jews and Christians. Their persons, properties, churches and
synagogues were protected, freedom of worship was guaranteed, and they
controlled their own community affairs with their own civil and religious
laws and courts. For most of the first century of the Islamic state, in fact,
the majority of the citizens were Christians, enjoying peace and liberty
such as they had not had even under Christian Rome or Byzantium.
The Jews, from the very beginning in Madinah, and later everywhere else,
were lifted from the burden of being clients of individual Arab tribes to
being citizens of the state, thus freeing them to focus on their Jewishness.
When the Islamic state expanded outside Arabia the Jews of other lands
were treated for the first time as liberated citizens. Judaism flourished as
never before, with Jews even serving in Muslim armies and administrations
while their culture bloomed in the arts, sciences, medicine and philosophy.
This knowledge they transmitted to their brethren in the hostile climate of
Christian Europe. Even Jewish mysticism originated under the influence of
sufism and spread to northern Europe.
When Islam reached Persia the concept of People of the Book was extended
to the Zoroastrians as well. Later, when the Muslims conquered parts of
India and encountered Buddhists and Hindus, who appeared to worship
idols, the question was referred to the ulema (council of scholars), who
judged that even they could have the same protected status as the Jews and
Christians, so long as they did not fight Islam and they paid the Jizyah tax.
"Peace" is the most common word on a Muslim's tongue. Whenever two
people meet, they exchange greetings, wishing each other peace: "Peace be
upon you." But peace cannot prevail except through justice. Since the
concept of justice may differ from one man to another, or from one society
to another, Muslims believe that real justice is that which is specified by
Allah (God).
Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of the religion, or by
those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. At the same time,
Islam requires one to treat one's enemy mercifully. It lays down strict rules
of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against
destroying crops, trees, and livestock. Islam also requires that if an enemy
declares his desire to end hostilities and seek peace, the Muslims must do
the same.
The concept of Jihad (struggling in the cause of Allah) is stated in the
Qur'an. Allah said: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do
not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors." [2:19] Jihad is
never to be waged to force anybody to choose a particular religion. On the
contrary, it is to waged to protect his right to choose freely. Therefore, if
there is a force in the world that tries to prevent a person from practicing
this right, Jihad may lead to fighting the force that is trying to prevent him
from exercising free will.
Since Islam is the last religion revealed by Allah, it possesses some
elements that make it unique. One of these is its relevance for human
beings regardless of place and time.
This means that Islam - submission to God - is a comprehensive institution
which includes all the guidelines necessary for all aspects of life.
Therefore, the best way to understand Islam is to look at it as more than a
religion - as a complete way of life. In other words, it is a system which
regulates every aspect of life, dealing with all issues - social, economic,
educational, judicial, health, and even military. Thus, it is suitable for all
human beings and for all times, since it is the final religion. Islamic law
aims to achieve five goals for human beings in life: protecting the religion,
protecting one's self, protecting one's possessions, protecting one's mind,
and protecting one's offspring.
Therefore, God (Allah) decided on two main domains of law:
1. If the domain always requires change and progress, Allah
legislated comprehensive yet flexible rules and gave people the
chance to create and develop the necessary laws to satisfy the
specific needs of a certain period of time. For example, in the
rule of consultation (Shura), Allah decided that it should be the
general rule for any government; however, its form and style are
left open for people to choose and decide according to their
2. If the domain does not require or lend itself to change or
progress, Allah legislated fixed and detailed laws that govern all
issues related to a specific area. Thus, there is no way for man
to change or develop those laws, which were made for the welfare
of all mankind. For example, the area of worshipping God contains
fixed details which cannot be changed at all. These regard prayer,
fasting, making pilgrimage, etc. Another example is in family
matters, such as the laws of marriage, divorce, and inheritance.
To show how Islam cares for the environment, one can cite the many laws
that protect the environment. About fourteen hundred years ago. Prophet
Muhammad (pbuh) said:
"The world is green and beautiful, and Allah has appointed you as
His stewards over it. He sees how you acquit yourselves."
Muhammad showed how important plants and trees are by saying:
"Whoever plants a tree and looks after it with care until it matures
and becomes productive will be rewarded in the Hereafter."
Even in the territory of an enemy, Islam's care for plants, animals, and
trees is profound. Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, or successor, to Muhammad
(pbuh), instructed his troops that he was sending into battle not to cut down
any trees or kill any animals except for food.
These are but a few examples of how Islam remains relevant in the modern
Two Sources
• Qur'an
The ultimate manifestation of God's grace for man, the ultimate wisdom,
and the ultimate beauty of expression: in short, the word of God. This is
how the German scholar, Muhammad Asad, once described the Qur'an. If
one were to ask any Muslim to depict it, most likely they would offer
similar words. The Qur'an, to the Muslim, is the irrefutable, inimitable
Word of God. It was revealed by God Almighty, through the instrument of
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet (pbuh) himself had no role in
authoring the Qur'an, he was merely a human secretary, repeating the
dictates of the Divine Creator:
"He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire. It is no less
than an Inspiration sent down to him." [53:3-4]
The Qur'an was revealed in Arabic, to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), over a
period of twenty-three years. It is composed in a style so unique, that it
cannot be deemed either poetry or prose, but somehow a mixture of both.
The Qur'an is imimitable; it cannot be simulated or copied, and God
Almighty challenges mankind to pursue such an endeavor if he thinks he
"Or do they say he forged it? Say: Bring then a chapter like unto
it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, beside God, if it be
you speak the truth." [10:38].
The Qur'an's language is indeed sublime, its recitation moving, as one non-
Muslim scholar noted, it was like other cadence of my heartbeat. Due to its
unique style of language, the Qur'an is not only highly readable, but also
relatively easy to remember. This latter aspect has played an important role
not only in the Qur'an's preservation, but in the spiritual life of Muslims as
well. God Himself declares,
"And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and
remember; then is there anyone that will receive admonition?"
One of the most important characteristics of the Qur'an is that it remains
today, the only holy book which has never changed; it has remained free
from any and all adulterations. Sir William Muir noted, "There is probably
in the world no other book which has remained (fourteen) centuries with
so pure a text." The Qur'an was written down during the lifetime and
under the supervision of the Prophet, who himself was illiterate, and it was
canonized shortly after his death by a rigorous method which scrutinized
both written and oral traditions. Thus its authenticity is unblemished, and is
its preservation is seen as the fulfillment of God's promise:
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message, and We will
assuredly guard it from corruption." [15:9]
The Qur'an is a book which provides the human being the spiritual and
intellectual nourishment he/she craves. Its major themes include the oneness
of God, the purpose of human existence, faith and God-consciousness, the
Hereafter and its significance. The Qur'an also lays a heavy emphasis upon
reason and understanding. In these spheres of human understanding, the
Qur'an goes beyond just satisfying the human intellect; it causes one to
reflect on implications. There are Qur'anic challenges and prophecies. One
of the most exciting fields in recent years has been the discovery that, of
the significant amount of scientific information in the Qur'an, including the
event of the Big Bang, embryological data, and other information
concerning astronomy biology, etc., there is not a single statement that has
not been borne out by modern discoveries In short, the Qur'an fulfills the
heart, the soul, and the mind.
Perhaps the best description of the Qur'an was given by Ali, the cousin of
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when he expounded upon it as,
"The Book of God. In it is the record of what was before you, the
judgment of what is among you, and the prophecies of what will
come after you. It is decisive, not a case for levity. Whoever is
a tryant and ignores the Qur'an will be destroyed by God. Whoever
seeks guidance from other than it will be misguided. The Qur'an is
the unbreakable bond of connection with God; it is the remembrance
full of wisdom and the straight path. The Qur'an does not become
distorted by tongues. nor can it be deviated by caprices; it never
dulls from repeated study; scholars will always want more of it.
The wonders of the Qur'an are never ending. Whoever speaks from
it will speak the truth, whoever rules with it will be just, and
whoever holds fast to it will be guided to the straight path."
• Sunnah
The term Sunnah comes from the root word sanna, which means to pave
the way or make a path easily passable, such that it becomes a commonly
followed way by everyone afterwards. Thus sunnah can be used to describe
a street or road or path on which people, animals, and cars travel.
Additionally, it can apply to a prophetic way, i.e. the law that they brought
and taught as an explanation or further clarification of a divinely revealed
book. Normally, the prophetic way includes references to his sayings,
actions, physical features and character traits.
From the Islamic standpoint, Sunnah refers to anything narrated or related
about the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), authentically traced to him
regarding his speech, actions, traits, and silent approvals, before and after
the revelation.
Each narration is composed of two parts: the isnad and the matn. The isnad
refers to a chain of people who narrated a particular narration. The matn is
the actual text of the narration. The isnad must comprise upright and
sincere individuals whose integrity is unquestionable.
The Speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
The speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) refers to his sayings. For
example, he said:
"Actions are judged by their intentions; everyone will be rewarded
according to his/her intention. So whoever migrates for the sake
of Allah and His Prophet then his migration will be noted as a
migration for the sake of Allah and His Prophet. Conversely, one
who migrates only to obtain something worldly or to marry a
woman, then his migration will be worth what he had intended."
The Prophet (pbuh) also said: "Whoever believes in Allah and the
Last Day, should say something good or keep quiet.
The above two accounts clearly show that the Prophet (pbuh) spoke these
words. Consequently, these are known as his speech.
The Actions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
His actions pertain to anything he did, as authentically reported by the
Sahabah (Companions). For instance, Hudhayfah reported that whenever
the Prophet (pbuh) got up at night, he would clean his teeth with a toothstick.
Also A'ishah reported that the Prophet (pbuh) loved to do
everything starting with the right side - putting on shoes, walking, cleaning
himself, and in all his affairs generally.
The Silent Approvals of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
His silent approvals on different issues meant his not opposing or minding
what he saw, heard or knew of the actions or sayings of his Companions.
On one occasion, for example, the Prophet (pbuh) learned of actions of
some of his Companions from other Companions. Soon after the battle of
Khandaq, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave the order to the Companions to
move quickly to surround the tribe of Banu Quraydah, encouraging them
to hurry so that perhaps they would pray 'Asr (the late afternoon prayer)
there. Some of the Companions of the Prophet (pbuh) responded
immediately and left without praying 'Asr. They arrived after sunset,
pitched camp and prayed 'Asr- after sunset. At the same time another
group of Companions formulated their judgment differently. They thought
that the Prophet (pbuh) was merely encouraging them to hasten to their
destination, rather than to delay 'Asr until after sunset. Consequently, they
decided to stay in Madinah until they had prayed 'Asr. Immediately
thereafter, they hastened towards the tribe of Banu Quraydhah. When the
Prophet (pbuh) was told of how each group responded differently to his
announcement, he (pbuh) affirmed both judgments.
Physical and Moral Traits of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
Everything authentically narrated concerning the Prophet's complexion and
the rest of his physical features is also included in the definition of sunnah.
Umm Ma'bad described what she saw of the great Prophet (pbuh). She
"I saw a man, his face radiant with a bright glow, not too thin or
too fat, elegant and handsome. His eyes had a deep black hue with
long eyelashes. His voice was pleasant and his neck long. He had a
thick beard. His long black eyebrows were beautifully arched and
connected to each other. In silence, he remained dignified,
commanding utmost awe and respect. When he spoke, his speech was
brilliant. Of all people he was the most handsome and the most
pleasant, even when approaching from a distance. In person, he was
unique and most admirable. Graced with eloquent logic, his speech
was moderate. His logical arguments were well organized as though
they were a string of gems. He was not too tall or too short, but
exactly in between. Among three, he appeared the most radiant and
most vibrant. He had companions who affectionately honored him.
When he spoke, they listened to him attentively. When he gave
orders, they were quick to execute them. They rallied around him
guarding him. He never frowned or spoke frivolously." [Hakim]
Along with his physical features, his Companions also described his habits
and behavior with people. Once Anas reported:
"I served the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) for ten years. Never once
did he so much as express any bit of displeasure nor did he ever
ask 'Why did you do it?' for something I did or 'Why didn't you do
it?' for something I didn't do."
From the above we can clearly see that when the term sunnah appears in a
general context referring to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) it comprises
anything narrated about the Prophet (pbuh) and authentically traced to him.
Once a Muslim learns of the authenticity of any narration, he/she is obliged
to follow and obey it accordingly. Such obedience is mandated by Allah as
He declares
"...and obey Allah and His Prophet and do not turn away when you
hear (him speak)." [8:20]
At times, some Muslims are perplexed when people say that sunnah is
something only recommended and is not mandatory. Thus they conclude
that we are only required to follow the Qur'an and not the Sunnah. Such an
argument results from a gross misunderstanding. Scholars of Islamic
jurisprudence use the term sunnah to denote what is authentically
established of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in deeds which were not
subsequently made mandatory by Allah.
They further hold that this includes any saying of Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) where he encourages Muslims to do a particular task and
compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to them, the term
sunnah denotes what is authentically established of Prophet Muhammad
(pbuh) in deeds which he did voluntarily and which were not subsequently
made mandatory by Allah. They further hold that this includes any saying
of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) where he encourages Muslims to do a
particular task and compliments those who imbibe such attributes. Thus to
them, the term sunnah refers to what is "recommended" and is not
mandatory (fard or wajib).
From the above, we can clearly see that the term sunnah takes on different
meanings when used by different Islamic disciplines.
Freedom of belief is guaranteed in Islam. It should be very clear that Islam
tolerates not only other faiths but even its enemies. This is stated clearly in
the Qur'an:
"God forbids you not with regard to those who fight you not for
(your) faith, nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly
and justly with them, for God loves those who are just." [60:8]
It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of
minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished
all over the Islamic world. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities
to set up their own courts to implement family laws drawn up by the
minorities themselves and to govern their own affairs.
History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths.
When the great leader and second Caliph, Umar, entered Jerusalem in the
year 634, Islam guaranteed freedom of worship to all religious
communities in the city. In fact, so careful was Umar in setting an example
for his people that he not only went to a church to pray, he prayed outside
in the courtyard, lest his followers after his death be tempted to convert the
church into a mosque.
Islam teaches that the closest to Allah and the most beloved of Allah are
those who are the best in piety. Thus all people, male and female, and
regardless of race, color, nationality or ethnicity, are considered and
treated as equal before Allah and before the law. This concept of tolerance
did not reach the West even in theory until the 18th century, and in
practice not until the 20th century.

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