by Ali Shariati
Truly, even thinking about the Prophet is extremely difficult and awe inspiring. A great personage like Ali said: "Whenever we found the situation to be grave, we used to take refuge in the Prophet of God and sought the shelter of his presence in order to feel safe and protected in his loving company". How sublime and lofty was the personality of this great man. It is quite natural that our limited and little minds are unable to realize this greatness. The tools and criteria that we have to evaluate and measure men by, fail to assess and understand such a great being. Hence, we are compelled to understand him within the limits imposed on our intellects.
One of his characteristics' (with which I myself came across while lecturing on the life and personality of the Prophet) indicates that no personage has existed in the annals of history in whose being both strength of character and popularity, at such a high level, were combined together in this way. In a personage of such greatness, which inspires awe, fear, and another quality; which fills the heart with a special kind of friendly love for him, has never been integrated with each other. The love-ableness of the Prophet is separate from his prophet hood; for instance Moses, Abraham and Jesus were also prophets and all of them were loved and respected by their people as prophets and apostles of God. But our Prophet possessed an additional quality, and that was the compassion of all who came in contact with him. (We who know and love the Prophet through his words alone can naturally imagine to what extent those who dealt with him personally, could love him.) This dimension of his personality was, in itself such a great force that many of his Companions were greatly affected by his words in such a way that they feared that the Quranic verses reflecting the Prophet's utterances filled their hearts so full that even the words of the Quran might not fit. They were anxious to remember whatever he said, because they loved him so much they memorized his words by heart. Even today, after the passage of fourteen hundred years, his words are so familiar to the masses of Makkah and Madinah, who now have no culture whatsoever and have fallen to the lowest intellectual level, it is as if the Prophet is still alive and speaking to them. His words, his reminiscences, his relics, his memoirs and all that belong to him are ever recounted by the people, as if he still resides in Madinah. Even the drivers, grocers and vendors those who are not acquainted with history, who have never read about his life and character and are illiterate still feel his presence among them. As if he was still alive, and in contact with them.
In the course of these fourteen hundred years, no incident, no rift or gap has been able to create a gulf or distance between them and the Prophet (this is something very unusual). This love-ableness is wonderful and extraordinary, to the extent that when one reads his biography, after some time one begins to love him. All this greatness within all this simplicity seems to be impossible is a miracle in itself. Philosophically, it is to contain the whole world in an eggshell, but this actually became reality.
While sitting in the corner of the Prophet's Mosque, one can imagine the magnificence of the Prophet. What kind of a man was this person who razed all the great empires of the world to the ground? Who was he? What was the extent of his might and strength? Those of you who have fortunately visited this mosque can envision it in your mind. The additions that have been made to the Prophet's Mosque, are fully distinguishable. If you envision that portion of the Prophet's Mosque which is between the columns colored in yellow ochre, it was the entire area of the Prophet's Mosque, both the covered and uncovered area measured 2,100 sq cubits. The area covered by the yellow ochre columns with a golden margin, indicates the exact place where the columns were erected during the Prophet's time. In place of the present columns date trees were placed (exactly in the same place where the present columns stand). It perfectly reveals the nature and extent of the government which brought down and destroyed the majestic edifice of the Roman Empire and leveled to the ground the lofty mansions of the Mada'in rulers within the short period of less than a quarter of a century. A few houses made of mud in one corner of the courtyard of the mosque, a pulpit in another corner. a nitche at the distance of two three meters; there a small house, here the site of the mosque and the place where he prayed, and in that corner he used to converse with the people. This was the centre of his power* the entire domain of his strength, which served as the base of Islam throughout the entire world. This was actually the whole administration he controlled until the time of his death.
When one views that history was made in this small space of ten to twelve meters and all the ancient magnificent powers were humbled to the ground, one has to believe that it was in fact an extraordinary phenomenon. One can feel this miracle and witness it with his own eyes.
The other specific quality of the Prophet's personality is that in every place of the (Arabian) Peninsula, which the Prophet visited, man feels a sense of attachment to that land and is attracted to its soil, its pebbles and the mountains thereof. It attracts the heart like a magnet, as if one has entered a magnetic field. At first I thought that maybe since I knew what had happened on the other side of the mountain Abu Qubays, and what role it played in the Prophet's life, and I knew about the gloomy years when the sequence of the revelations was interrupted for years those nights, when sometimes the Prophet even considered throwing himself down, made a great emotional impression on me, for they had a specific attraction for me. Even though, when a group of Germans and other youths came to visit this place, even before I told them about where we were, (we were talking and as we passed through the ravines of Bani 'Amir and Bani Hashim, and went up the summit of Abu Qubays), when we reached the tops all of them had the same unconscious feeling, even though they did not cherish any memory which could stir their feelings.
Today I shall describe some very unique characteristics of the Prophet, since it is a day especially connected with his person. On all other days we can talk about his philosophy and ideology. Today is not the anniversary of the beginning of his prophetic mission, it is his birthday. Due to this, it is not improper if I choose to speak about him personally, the characteristics of this great personage and his personality.
Whenever one reads the account of his life, the places where he lived, one realizes the one of the characteristics inherent to his nature was his choice of high and lofty places like an eagle. Wherever he went and put up his tent, he chose the highest point. For instance, during Haji he would go to 'Arafat. His spiritual state was exactly like a bird that dwells in lofty heights. If you look at Mina, the highest hilltop there is Khayf, where the mosque of Khayf is situated that is the place where the Prophet preferred to stay.
Arafat is a desert and a plateau. There is a hill in a corner. You know that at Arafat the Prophet went and stayed there.
Before he was appointed to the prophet hood, he chose the mount of Hira, which was the highest and the most mysterious mountain among the mountains surrounding Makka, to go into retreat and seclusion. Unlike the hermits and recluses who chose basements and underground places, burrows, secluded spots and caves for this purpose, even the place that he chose to go into seclusion was a mountain top, a lofty peak and a summit. These are spiritual and psychological matters but they are indications of his existential experience. Sometimes the individualistic behavior of a person reveals the greatness of his being and his innate characteristics.
He was a man who wielded so much power and might that even when his enemies wanted to abuse him, they would say: "He is a Prophet equipped with arms and his religion is the religion of the sword". For the world his image is projected as that of a warrior. None of the Roman, Aramaic, Greek or Arian generals ever fought as many battles as our Prophet. What is important is not the extent of battles but the occupation in martial activities. The Prophet was engaged in battles for eight years. During this period of time he fought 64 or 65 battles, which if averaged out, will show that he had a military expedition every forty or fifty days. No single military man, considering his military operations alone, has been able to engage himself in as many battles, (64 or 65) during a ten year period of social and political responsibilities.
Nevertheless, his Companions never considered him to be a military man. People came to him with their smallest problems. A woman opened her heart to him complaining that her husband does not sleep with her. He was so accessible to the people that she comes to the Prophet without having the slightest idea of his superiority . (To whom can you speak to in this manner? You dare not speak of; such trifle matters to the clergy in your neighbourhood. ) This woman comes and detains the Prophet for an hour. She recounts to him the habits of her husband; she tells him how he is when he comes home; how bad is his mood; what she says, and how he answers; what he said the last night; how many nights he has not slept with her; how he behaves with her; how he supports her, doesn't support her... He sits patiently, and listens to her in such a manner that she is encouraged to return the next day again. Tomorrow her neighbors also come. The day after tomorrow all the other women come to him. It is obvious that he does not behave in a way that the very first day a person feels that he or she was mistaken, should not have come to him. Till his death no one realized that he was mistaken to behave with him in this manner. His firmness, grandeur, greatness and his worldly prestige overwhelmed all those, irrespective of friend or foe who did not see him. But those who saw him, they found in him an intimate, lovable friendly person. Unlike the great worldly personages who appear little and humble from a distance and dreadful and terrible from near.
An old woman wanted to speak with him. She saw the Prophet emerging from his quarters and came face to face with her. The Prophet felt that she wanted to tell him something. She stopped and waited, when he saw that she would not come forward, he himself went to her. He noticed that she was trembling and tongue-tied (she was over-awed by the Prophet's personality). He came and held her by the shoulders like a child and said, "Mother whom are you afraid of ? I am the son of that Qurayshi woman who used to milk sheep. Whom do you fear?" This is the new value system which was created by him, as he broke the old value system.
We have again returned to those very aristocratic values. Even while speaking about our Prophet, we judge him by criteria that is contrary to the mission of his prophet hood. Imam Sadiq speaks about the Prophet thus:
"The Prophet used to sit as a servant siteth, used to take his meals as a servant eateth; and indeed he regarded himself to be a servant".
(It was not a feigned appearance, but in reality he considered himself to be a servant. What a strange thing.)
Besides being a social privilege, aristocracy has its own specific symbols. It has its own style of dressing, its own specific decorations, its own means of transportation, its own specific sources of livelihood, its own specific titles all these are the signs of aristocracy, whether it may be the clerical elite, for if you look at the titles of this class, the whole writing space will be filled or it may be the political or a privileged class elite. It makes no difference as to which kind of aristocracy a person belongs. One of the signs of aristocracy, for example, is having a long beard this was prevalent in Russia several years ago. servant. But the latter is more appropriate.
The members of senior families used to grow very long beards.
Some other signs of aristocracy include: long robes, long sleeves, titles and the possession of a horse. Horseback riding formed one of the essential constituents of chivalry in Europe, Iran and many other parts of the world. Nobles were called 'Chevalier' in Europe (derived from cheval, which means horse). In Iran 'Aswaran' means equestrian (the family of the nobles were called Aswaran). The kings' titles were 'Goshtasb', 'Bayarasb', 'Lohrasb' etc. meaning the possessor of ten horses, a hundred horses, two hundred horses and so on, which was in itself a symbol of aristocracy. Even in the aristocratic system of China, and similarly of Europe the common people had no right to mount a horse. Not for the reason that they did not have sufficient money, even if they had money they were not allowed to have a horse for the horse and sword were specific privileges of nobles and their families. Nevertheless the Prophet, even when he went to a battle, used to ride a camel, and during his journeys used to ride a she-camel or a mule. Ali (A) said that the Prophet used to ride an ass. An ass was the most inferior and meanest of animals, usually used by the humblest of the people. And it is even humbler not to use a saddle. It is similar to riding a bicycle without a chain. This is a sign indicating the lowest status of a man, or rather having no status at all. It is a greater dishonor to share such a humble beast with somebody else for a ride. The Prophet often liked to travel about the city in this manner.
He even caught his own beard in his hands and repeatedly commanded (to follow his example), and cursed the people (who grew long beards) saying: "Whatever (hair of the beard) exceeds the measure of a fist will be burnt in the flames". With great zeal he ordered all the long robes to be cut short and declared that no Muslim had a right to wear a cloak below the knee. We see that in the aristocratic system the higher the status of a person is, the longer the length of the dress
For example in ancient China the skirts of the gentry were tailored a few meters longer than their height, and since it became difficult to move in such garments, they were collected and put in a basket with four wheels which were carried by slaves. This shows that the cutting short of the robes was basically a revolutionary, categorical, profound and meaningful act. It was intended to break the values of aristocracy.
Doing away with titles of honor. The Prophet was intent upon making revolutionary amendments in names as well. If someone was named Abu al-Aass, the Prophet said! 'Nay, it should be Abu Muti' . Henceforth, he was called by the name Abu Muti' alone.
Sometimes he himself conferred titles on men. Even today we have a custom in our villages to call persons by specific titles, but these titles have derisive, malicious, or aristocratic and racial implications. But the titles bestowed by the Prophet (S), despite revealing a sense of humor had a pleasant tint. (For instance) he saw a person carrying a cat, he called him Abu Hurayrah, which became his name. Once he entered the mosque. He saw Ali (A) sleeping on the ground and asked him to wake up. When Ali (A) woke up they saw that his hair, his clothes and his face were covered with dust. He said: "What happened? O Abu Turab" (the father of dust). Henceforth Hadrat Amir (A) very much loved to be called by this nickname alone. The values were completely transformed. His values were absolutely contrary to the titles that the clerics, aristocrats and the elite contrived for themselves.
One of the characteristics of the Prophet was that he was from among common men. (Though this is a term improper a more suitable term does not exist.) He was absolutely and purely illiterate. What is training or education? To train means to mould and fashion a personality. What are the factors that are effective in training a human being?
In my view there are five factors that participate in the formation of an individual: First, it is the mother who shapes the first dimensions of the personality of a child. Second, the father. Third; ideology, educational institutions and culture. Fourth: Civilization. Fifth: Essentially the spirit of the period in which you live. Take yourself as an example. You were brought up by your mother. The next training you received was from your father. The third kind of training was educational whatever you have studied. The fourth factor of your training is that you are from Tehran. The fifth factor is that you are living in the twentieth century. If you lived in Tehran at the time of Nasiruddin Shah You would have shared four factors with the present Tehrani, but your age would be different. These are the five factors.
The Prophet of Islam did not enjoy any of these five factors effective in molding an individual's personality. His father died before he was born. (This factor is absent.) Secondly, immediately after his birth, he was separated from his mother and taken to the desert to be nursed. He remained there for two years. He should have been brought back to his mother after that period, but on account of a plague, before his mother could embrace him he was again taken back to the desert. The plague prevented him from being brought up by his mother. Until the age of five, he neither saw his father nor his mother. At the age of five he was returned to his mother. The mother, who had lost her husband and he was her only child, for the first time took him under her care and intended to take him to Madinah so that he could visit his uncles, her father and her family. (The mother of the Prophet belonged to the tribe of Banu Najjar of Madinah) But his mother died on the way to Madinah and the child, Muhammad, was left alone in the middle of the desert.
The third factor is civilization, and the Prophet was born among the crudest of the nomadic people of the age. The Arabian Peninsula was also a peninsula from the cultural as well as the geographical points of view. Geographically it is a peninsula, a piece of land surrounded by water on three sides, but paradoxically not a single drop of water fell on this desert. A dry island. Culturally also it is a peninsula. On the one side Greek civilization, Palestine on the other; on this side Iran and Iraq, and India lies on that side all these civilizations surrounded it, but none of the signs of the surrounding cultures ever penetrated it. Thus, the Prophet grew up in a virgin desert land, bereft of culture and civilization, and was brought up in a virtual cultural vacuum.
The fifth factor time, was under the domination of the Roman culture, Alexandrian culture and Iranian culture. Time was controlled by these cultures. No age or time existed during the seventh century A.D. in the Arabian Peninsula. It is true that now we are living in the twentieth century, but actually we do not live in the twentieth century. Even today there are Bedouin tribes who do not wear clothes. If you look at their calendar. you will believe that they belong to the twentieth century, but the twentieth century does not exist for them. They live in the twentieth century B.C.!
You can see that the Prophet was an individual who was not influenced in the slightest manner by any one of the five factors that play an active role in the training and raising of an individual. He grew up as a completely free being, independent of any influences. It is on account of this that he had an immense capacity to understand, and accept new concepts, meanings and values that humanity could not have comprehended. It is for this very reason that he was able to defeat and demolish all the old values and cultures, all the systems of education and training, all the beliefs, and all that was sacred to them. Had he had an opportunity of being trained under any system, he would have been influenced by the existing values of the time.
According to these facts, the Prophet's being illiterate is an indication of the pureness of his being. Age, family, history, culture and moral molding, none of these had the slightest role in his development. For this reason, he could easily comprehend the concepts that were completely unprecedented and revolutionary. A philosopher who studies philosophy in Alexandria, Athens or Hamadan could never have such an immense capability.
There are really many peculiarities in the Prophet's life. In the seventh year of his migration he went to Makkah and declared: "We wish to circumambulate around the Ka'bah as other Arabs do. We also wish to perform the ritual." They did not allow him to enter Makkah and bluntly said: "Go away, we shall not let you to do it". He returned frustrated and disappointed. How can a person who cannot exercise a right which is granted to an Arab Bedouin, and is so weak in his own country, come back and write to the superpowers of that age; the Iranian and Roman emperors? He wrote to them: "In the name of Allah. Surrender to me, otherwise, what will come to you will be of your own doing." What a tone and a manner! What a great bully! Well, Brother! With what strength? Just now you were turned back by Abu Sufyan and were forced to stop at the gate of Makkah, and you were so helpless that you had to comply and turn back, as you had no other choice. And now that you have been turned back, on what authority do you write a letter? And in such a manner! It seems that he possesses the strength of a mountain. Otherwise, how could it be possible? He is not deranged. He is a sensible, reasonable man. He has calculated all the pros and cons and he knows very well that the emperor Khusrow abd Parviz does not need to send a company of soldiers to arrest him. He could have easily asked one of his slaves in Yemen to go and arrest that Arab! And that's what Khusrow did. He did not even send some of his soldiers to Madinah in order to bring him. He asks Bazan his protege in Yemen "Go and see what type of a dreamer is he who behaves so nonsensically. And wrote a letter to me asking me to surrender to him." He could have sent four persons to arrest him, and that would have been enough!
In spite of the existence of such a great power in the world and realizing his own weakness, he issues warnings to all the great powers on earth. In the seventh year of the Hijrah he wrote and dispatched these letters. (It is significant that he wrote these letters in the seventh year of the Hijrah.)
With all this greatness, while he enters his house, his wives see in his countenance an ordinary good husband alone. What kind of a person he is that outside his home, emperors are afraid of him, he is tough and wields so much power and has such a great spirit. But, as he enters his house, his wives, the same women who used to fear their husbands and fathers used to seize him by the collar, call him names, and tease him. They reproach him tauntingly by saying: "What kind of life is this that you are leading? Look how other people live, what kind of house they have, how their daughters live, how their wives live ! Is this the house that you have built for us'?" According to the narrations of Abu Hurayrah, month after month passes and no smoke rises out of his kitchen. When they wished to be indulged in luxury, they used to take seeds of the dates and knead them with dates (even then no cooking!) till they were softened. He too liked them very much, and whenever he wanted to fill his stomach lavishly, he ate them. This was the kind of life, house, and furniture he had.
In Europe a person delivered a speech on the topic "The Prophet, his loves and wives". I also delivered a speech as a rejoinder to what he had uttered on this topic. I said: What kind of a home did the Prophet have? It was a room made of mud, which he built himself. Half of the room was covered by a mat and the remaining by sand. The sand was brought from the desert and changed every few days, so that it would not become dirty. The house made of mud walls belonging to his favorite wife Ayesha, is also furnished in the similar manner. This all the furniture that a great emperor possesses. And how did he behave with those wives? In relation to his wife and family he is no longer a Prophet of God. Once Umar' objected: "How you spoil them!" Hafsah' was afraid of 'Umar, but the Prophet had made her cheeky 'Umar used to ask his daughter: "What is the matter? Why are you so proud?" Hafsah, a widow, was ill-tempered and ugly. No one would marry her. 'Umar made every effort to find a husband for her, but he was unsuccessful. In order to unburden him of his responsibility, the Prophet sought her hand in marriage. This ugly, ill-tempered widow always created a sorry fight for the Prophet and always embarrassed the Prophet by her shouting. The Prophet adjusted to her and their whole life, they lived together compatibly. It is after all an amazingly rare quality to show such great patience, courtesy and humility towards others.
He is the only friend of the widows, the homeless and the strangers whom he saw in the streets of the city the persons whom nobody greets with a salaam, and nobody bothers to return greetings. Sometimes, when passing he sees that these strangers, shepherds and paupers who are seated on the ground have spread a cloth laying their humble meal upon it, consisting of bread suitable for a camel only, they invite him to join them, and he eagerly sits down and shares their food. He is not posing for photographers to click their cameras. No, not at all. He sits and chats with them amicably and makes friends with them. He invites them to honor him by coming to his home for supper that evening.
He comes lower and lower, as if there is no one humbler in Madinah. Returning from (the battle of) Banu Mustalaq. (This is really terrific at such a time when the values prevalent were all aristocratic ones.) Among the inhabitants of Madinah nobody was left except old women, the crippled and children, for all the warriors had gone to the battlefront, and now the army was returning home They all went to receive the triumphant soldiers, under the command of the Prophet. All the women, children, families, old and elderly persons and respectable citizens of Madinah and those who stayed behind had formed rows. An obscure laborer, who had been shoveling when he saw the Prophet and the holy fighters advancing, hid himself behind the crowd, humbly watching from a corner. He did not consider himself to be worthy enough to come forward to offer his greetings. (He thought of himself as a non-entity, not a personage to come forward and salute the warriors; no, he felt he should watch from a distance only). When the Prophet saw that the people have come to greet him and formed rows, he unmounted his horse and passed through the rows of the people, shaking hands with everyone.
He happened to see the laborer at the farthest end behind all the people. Breaking through the line he advances towards him. This person became nervous, (What? Is it possible'?) he had not prepared himself for such a thing. He threw aside his shovel and offered his hand. The Prophet was shocked to feel something rough like a stone in his hand. Wondering he asks, "What has happened to your hand?" The laborer says: "Nothing! I work with a shovel. I am a worker, a laborer, my hands have become calloused, mud-covered and dried." The Prophet was visibly moved, as to why he did not realize the cause of the hardness of this hand from the beginning. He feels compelled to compensate for his omission. He expresses this feeling by holding the worker's hand, kissing it and raising it high in front of his army, declaring: "This is the hand that will not be touched by the fire." What an extraordinary person! A strange phenomenon!
Now look, they want to analyze the revelation in terms of physics, and discover what color it is. It is actually something else and has come from another place! When and from what time? From which period, and what conditions? The great French Revolution is not known to him, and he has not read Victor Hugo, etc.... civilization flourishes in Iran and Rome. They enjoyed the fruits of education and culture, but you know what kind of values they had. In India, which had a great culture three thousand years prior to this event, even today, in the twentieth century, while the workers, after completing their day's work want to take wages from the employers in the evening, they carry a bowl with them, so that the employer may drop coins in it and his hand may not touch the untouchables' hands. This is an idea newly introduced in the modern world that the aristocratic values should be discarded. But was not conceived in the tribal and traditional agricultural society. Then try to understand what has happened. Here is a gentleman well- versed in English, is modern, knows Europe and the world, but still lacks such values. The world is governed by such a value system.
Here is the Prophet, who considered the kissing of the hands a sign of infidelity, yet kissed the hands of only two persons: The hand of a lady-Fatimah and the hand of a laborer.
It is really difficult for me to speak about the Prophet. I chose to speak about his personal and private life, so that I may do some justice to the topic. Despite saying that he was a simple person, there are still other such qualities that are specific to his and his personality alone. One of these qualities is his discipline. He is just like the Secretary General of the United Nations! Three rooms made of mud and thatched with the leaves of the date palm (this is what his entire organization consisted of) are organized and coordinated in such a way the same administration, the same life that the greatest of all bureaucracy of the world cannot be compared to. He is like a phenomenon a natural phenomenon like a small fragment of the world. Muhammad, is a microcosm in the form of a human being. He functions as a computer, as a mathematical device. Have a look at his mosque. (I am not in a position to elaborate this point any further.)
His life was very simple and at the same time very regular and exact. He had several wives, but he goes to Umm al- Masakin,' who is ten to twelve years his senior (her son, who was of the Prophet's age, had come to ask for his hand in marriage to his mother) in the same manner as he goes to 'Ayeshah. Throughout his whole lifetime he did not commit a single act of discrimination. Except when he fell ill and it became essential for him to remain in one place, he sought permission from his wives, which they ought to have granted him, so that he could stay in one house. How could the same person, move about in the streets on all fours, so that the children could climb up upon his back and enjoy a ride, maintain such a discipline in his affairs?
There are three columns, the columns on which the roof of his rooms rests, three trunks of the date tree. It is written on one of them Ustuwanat al-Halaq the column of rings, on the other, Ustuwanat al-haras the column of guards and Utuwanat al-tahajjod the column of the Meditation or the sleeping column on the third column. What does all this mean?
Whenever the Prophet closed his prayers he used to stand beside the pulpit, so that anybody who wished to discuss their problems could come forward. A person cheated in a certain deal, would come and give an account of his difficulties. A woman unhappy about her husband, would come and discuss her problems. Two people who have quarreled, come and explain their dispute. Someone has used abusive language to someone in Madinah, the aggrieved party comes to him. Whoever wants to come, comes and says whatever he or she wants to say. But sometimes he needs to hold a commission meeting. The chiefs of the tribes have come to discuss with him something that is related to the destiny of Islam. He ought to take an account of the matter. But still he does not go behind closed doors; he sits beside a pillar. While he is seated beside a particular pillar, all the Muslims who enter the mosque understand that the Prophet is holding a commission meeting, and that it is not the time for them to sit beside him. It is obvious that he has foreign visitors. That he is busy in important political talks, and therefore it is not a proper time to interrupt him (they can do so later on). They leave the place, for when the Prophet is busy with important discussions, order should be maintained. But his simplicity is still evident. No line is drawn and no walls are raised, but discipline is observed and everybody knows the nature of this business.
When the person, who is in politics, who fights battles, who is involved in conflicts, who listens to the problems of every so and so, and has attained such lofty heights of spiritual glory that the inhabitants of the heavenly spheres gaze at him with awe, needs silence and seclusion for contemplation and meditation. Whenever he wishes to be alone to with draw to himself, drown himself in thought, he goes to the pillar named 'Ustawanat al-tahajjod (the column of Meditation). When he is there, no one goes to him. His family should not try to have any contact with him, his wife should not speak to him, nor the Companions nearest to him should approach him. The people have no business to disturb him either. He remains aloof and alone there. If delegations arrive, they have to wait for him. As long as he is seated near the 'Ustawanat al-tahajjod, everyone understands that he wishes to meditate in seclusion and is saying his prayers. When he says liturgical prayers, he does it with the people. But when he offers midnight prayers, he is in a special spiritual state. On such occasions, when he wishes to say prayer all alone, no one is supposed to say prayers with him or disturb him. He goes around the three houses one by one, and stands for prayer at the backside of the house of Fatimah. (There was no place specified for this purpose, but always the backside of Fatima's house.) When he goes there, it is implied that he would say prayer alone and that no one should be around.
This order and discipline reached such proportions that the household goods acquired specific names, whose list is given in the Biography (Sirah) of the Prophet written by Ibn Hisham. He had several donkeys and mules, each of whom was given a name. (He did not say; "bring the black-tailed mule", it had a name.) He had several caps; there were four quadrangular caps that he used to wear during battle. He had two or three turbans which he used to wear on Fridays, and on the occasion of peace talks and other important social ceremonies. Each of these turbans had a certain name. This naming of the caps is indicative of his keenness to have order in every matter. His bodily functions were exactly like nature. It was not something cultivated and acquired, as in the case of the behavior of other human beings.
Mr. Bazargan, (May God reward him amply for his service) has performed a mathematical study of the Quranic verses regarding their order and their length, and arranged them according to their length. We know that the verses revealed in Mecca are shorter and those revealed in Madinah are longer. He classified all the verses revealed during the span of twenty three years the duration in which the Quran was revealed into twenty-three grades, and has put them together according to their length in their respective grades. Incidentally, the verses placed in a particular grade belong to the same year. We can know and count the number of words contained in the verses of each year. What is the result of this? We have the following chart:
In the first year, 2500 words were revealed to the Prophet. In the second year, 3000 words were revealed. In the third year, 3500 words were revealed. In the fourth year, 4000 words were revealed. In the fifth year, 4500 words were revealed. In the sixth year, 5000 words were revealed. In the seventh year, 5500 words were revealed. In the eighth year, 6000 words were revealed. In the ninth year, 6500 words were revealed, and so on.
Year After Prophecy
Number of Words Revealed
What are we dealing with here? Here we see a systematic order which is found in physics and mathematics, and not concerned with the man who uttered these words. It is just like a graph or curve indicating the temperature and rainfall during different months of year. A man who discourses for a period of twenty-three years, under so many strains, victories, happiness, hardships, political matters, philosophical matters and religious matters cannot have control over the number of words in a way that exactly 500 words are added every year to the words uttered by him in the previous year. It is really impossible to discipline oneself in this way. Unconsciously all the verses uttered by the Prophet have an exact increase every year.
Here we are face to face with a scientific order and discipline, not with a normal human personality. The Prophet is indeed a clear sign (ayah) similar to the day and night, the sea, sun and stars. He is a cross-section of the cosmos, or rather a cosmos in itself.
One of the characteristics of the Prophet is described by Ali who has minutely portrayed him and has given such exact physiognomic details about him that one can paint a portrait of the Prophet according to them (he has portrayed his inner reflection and characteristics with words). How modern it is! What a psychological insight! What a vivid portrait! He says: "He was neither so tall that he could be regarded tall, nor so short that he could appear slight and puny. He was square-shouldered and of sturdy build. His eyes were sharp and he had a bass voice. He walked with a fast pace, a bit inclined forward (he did not have an awkward wide-legged slow gait, like the man who has been always beaten and making a retreat he strode forward like the one sailing before the wind). He was prominently visible from a long distance and caught the eyes like a roaring stream gushing onwards or like a rock rolling down the mountain (as if he was striding over a steep slope). From one shoulder to the other his chest was covered with thick growth of hair. a line of which reached his navel. He was so particular about cleanliness that he never used the same towel twice in his life. Today a revolutionary is supposed to be a dirty person. In fact these are the values cherished by a revolutionary today. If anyone keeps himself neat and clean, it is said that he has adopted the bourgeoisie way of life. But this fellow, who was a revolutionary to the core of his being, whose entire paraphernalia consisted of four mats, ate date flour and date stone, transformed the whole world, and despite growing up as a shepherd in the desert, where water was scarce and hygienic conditions bad, had such a high sense of hygiene and cleanliness that he did not use a towel twice during his entire lifetime. It is written in al-Kamisi that he had no riches, but one third of all he possessed he spent on the articles of toilet and cosmetics (one third of all his expenditure was for articles of dressing up, toilet and perfumes, what can I say, it seems to be unbelievable!).
Similar was the case with his swords. Each one of his swords bore a specific name.
More beautiful than all the periods of his life, was his death. We have been in the habit of considering death always as an uproarious affair. To borrow movie jargon, we appreciate action, battle and its clamor, scenes which have conflicts, panoramic backgrounds, hubbubs and in the words of actors, full of suspense and adventure. But we cannot feel and comprehend a peaceful death with all its tragic profundity, greatness, beauty and lesson. It is for this reason that we still are not totally aware of the dimensions of the Prophet's death. Otherwise, for anybody who is capable of feeling and understanding such things, the death of the Prophet is a more sorrowful, tragic, profound and undoubtedly more glorious incident than the martyrdom of Hussien. The period of the Prophet's last protracted illness lasted one year. From the time of the Hajjat al-Weda the Last Pilgrimage up to the time he could speak no more and was preparing himself for death. During this year his behavior radically changed and his speech assumed a completely different style. His relations with the Companions became calculated; and every one was treated in a particular manner, expressing a definite meaning. In his relationship with Ali, he grew more dependant upon him daily. He is obviously worried about the fate of this man and also seems to be anxious about the destiny of his own mission.
He wishes to give him support to recompense for his loneliness among the senior Companions by praising him more and giving him special treatment. He gives expression to this attitude repeatedly throughout the year.
As I have given a detailed account of the last days of the Prophet before, I shall not repeat it again here. If you are interested, I will read only the last pages concerned with the death of the Prophet. (Of course, in summary).
Man always conceals his true self throughout his life. He is always concealed from others behind the appearances that he assumes. Man always has a veil over his face. It is usually on two occasions in his life that he raises this veil from his face: inside a prison cell and on his death bed. It is on these two occasions that you find an opportunity to see the real face of every, person, especially in his death chamber!
As soon as man smells death, he becomes cordial and sincere. One reveals his real self on his death bed. The dread of death overtakes him in such a manner that he finds no time for simulation It is an event of such magnanimity that all other matters become insignificant in comparison. The soul steps out from its hiding place, where it had concealed itself all throughout life from the public view.
Dying is also an art and must be learnt and acquired like other arts. It is an extremely beautiful and profound drama, the most dramatic and spectacular scene of the human life. There are very few persons who have died beautifully. I have been searching for a long time in the annals of history for people who have died beautifully, trying to discover extremely beautiful and glorious deaths. Of course, the people who know how to die, also know how to live. For those people who know that living is not merely breathing also know that dying is not merely the suspension of breathing, but it is in itself an act, a great act just like living.
Grand deaths are not of one and the same nature. Everyone dies in the same fashion in which he lives. One of the most famous deaths was that of Vespasian, a Roman emperor. Lying in bed in the agony of death, with his officers standing nearby as soon as he realized that the hands of death had reached his throat, he jumped out of his bed and uttered: "An emperor ought to die standing," and died in the arms of his officers. That is grand. But there are certain eyes which are able to witness the beauty and glory of such deaths, while some which cannot see beyond appearances, cannot. (The death of a general can be easily understood by a man, but). The grandeur of a battle scene, the beauty of a sword, the delicacy of a soft velvet are seen by ordinary eyes, but the grandeur of a soul, the beauty of an idea and the delicacy of a need are not perceivable to them. The death of Muhammad also belongs in the same category. It is not adorned with the lightning of the sword, with streams of blood, with the neighing of horses, with heroic war cries and it is for this very reason that near-sighted eyes remain incapable of perceiving its beauty. How can the occasion of Muhammad's meeting with death be so simple? During (his last) this year, the signs of the end of life and the commencement of death were quite visible in the looks of the Prophet, in his speech, in his indefatigable social efforts, in his behavior and in his private life. Now the great commander of history, who has mobilized his grand army with the unceasing efforts of twenty-three years, has to assign new jobs to the future front of this army. This army is advancing to wage a war on a large scale. They are to fight everywhere, and at all times, with ignorance and the vileness of the soul, and wage war against the 'Caesars' and 'Khusrows' which rule the societies.
The wonderful prophetic mission of Muhammad has come to an end. The army is to be inspected for the last time. Whatever has been instructed during the span of twenty-three years is to be reviewed once again. A thorough and comprehensive inspection, an all embracing study of general issues, without ignoring a single detail is to be carried out, lest a single point remain untold and the things that are already mentioned remain unheeded. All these tasks are to be taken care of in advance before this (final) journey.
The eleventh year of the Hijrah has begun, and the fruitful life of Muhammad is coming to a close. The first job to do is to bid farewell to the people of Mecca, by the side of the Ka'bah.(The account of his last pilgrimage is a detailed one, which I shall omit. I shall mention here only an interesting incident that occurred there.) After the Tawaf (the ritual going around the Ka'bah),he performed two rak'ahs of prayer at the Place of Ibrahim (on the occasion of Hajat al- Weda'; the Last Pilgrimage.) Afterwards he kissed the Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone) for the second time, and immediately went towards Safa' and walked briskly (sa'y) between Safa' and Marwah. At this juncture, he made an announcement that those who had not brought sacrificial animals should perform 'Umrah (visitation or Lesser Hajj) and take off their ihram; (the pilgrim's dress). (This peculiar behavior is to be noticed). Many people hesitated, and expressed their unhappiness about it. The Prophet was so angered that his rage was expressed by his face. In a voice choked with anger, he ordered them to obey his command. He went to his tent in anger. Fearful and alarmed, Ayesha asked him who had made him so angry. Angrily he answered, "Why should I be not be angry when they do not obey my command?" One of his Companions came and saw the Prophet emotionally upset. He regretfully said: "O Prophet of God! May whoever has made you angry, be thrown into the fire by God." The Prophet said: "Did you not see that I commanded the people to do something and they disobeyed me? Had I known it, I too would not have brought the offering, and would have taken off my ihram as well."
The people came to know that the Prophet was very upset. They were ashamed of their behavior and took off their ihrams immediately. Fatimah, his daughter, and all other women who had not brought offerings did the same.
History, the slave of the aristocracy, was again in bewilderment! What is it, as to why this king, who has more than one hundred thousand servants at his command, does not punish the transgressors. (There were approximately one hundred and several thousand men with him at the time of Hajat al-Weda'.) Where is the executioner? Why does he not issue a decree for their massacre? (History is accustomed to such practices. Instead he returns to his tent in anger and dismay!)
How does this king rule? How has he conquered the country? Is it possible to rule without being in possession of a thing like fine silk and saffron-colored objects?
"It is gold that inscribes the name of a king, And the other thing is a shining pearl from Yeman. But the state is captured with two things, One is silken and the other is saffron-colored."
One is the sword and the other is the gold coin. This king makes neither use of his sword, nor does he possess a treasure! How could he attain power?
Indeed, it is possible to do so. This uneducated fellow has come to teach people how to do it. What do the teaching institutions of Rome, Athens, Median, and those who are the products of the great Eastern and Western cultures know? They have never had any teachers other than jackals and foxes in their schools of politics.
Standing on the mount of 'Arafat, (Jabal al-Rahmah) the Prophet appointed some persons to repeat his words (one conveys the words to the other and he in turn to another) asks Rabi'ah to say: "O, people. the Prophet of God says, do you know which month this is?" (This is the last speech.) Rabi'ah repeats these words in a loud voice. The Prophet waits (in order to see his words are accurately communicated). People consider it their duty to answer, and they say: "This is the sacred (Haram) month." The Prophet continues: "Tell them that as long as you are in the presence of your God, God Almighty has consecrated your blood and your possessions in the same way as He has consecrated this month." He asks Rabi'ah to say: "The Prophet of God asks you tell which month is this." Rabi'ah repeats and the Prophet waits and listens to him. Again the Prophet asks him to say. "What day is it?" Rabi'ah repeats his question and people say: "The day of the Greater Pilgrimage." He asks Rabi'ah to tell them: "God Almighty has consecrated your blood and your possessions as He has consecrated this day." The Prophet continues his speech in the same fashion: "O people, listen to my words, I may never see you again here. As long as you are in the vicinity of the House of God, your blood and your possessions are consecrated by God in the manner of this day and this month. You will shortly meet your God, He will take account of your deeds. I ask you to return whatever was entrusted to your custody. All kinds of usury is futile, but your capital belongs to you. Neither oppress anyone, nor tolerate any oppression. God has forbidden usury, and all usury money due to 'Abbas ibn' Abd al-Muttalib is null and void (first he gives an account of his own family members then....). Every murder committed in the days of heathenism (Jahiliyyah) is not accountable and the first murder I pardon is the murder of ibn Rabi'ah ibn Harith ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib (for which I am a legitimate claimant).
The last great task assigned to him is at last completed. Today, the greatest of all men in history, who has accomplished the greatest of all the prophetic missions successfully, is to bid adieu to his city for ever, so that he may die in peace with a calm conscience and a sense of fulfillment among his faithful Companions in Madinah. Subsequent to this, the episode of Ghadir occurs in the course of his return Journey. He examines and evaluates each one of his Companions in order to anticipate to whom the people will gather in the future. He assesses as to what kind of persons are Uthman, Abu Bakr, Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas and 'Abd al-Rahman one by one, until he comes to 'Ali(A). Among them 'Ali has a definite eminence. (It is here that they criticized him by saying that after all, he preferred 'Ali(A) to all others. How strange that a non-entity is placed at the top!) He is the only Companion of Muhammad who had no associations with the pre-Islamic heathen past. His is the generation that came into being with Islam and was cast in the mould of Muhammad's revolution. His other distinction belongs to his bringing up. The kind hands of poverty brought him from his own house to the house of Muhammad at a tender age when all the basic dimensions of his soul and mind were being shaped and molded. This in an important incident that a child is entrusted to the custody of his cousin during the lifetime' of his father (during those days it was an extraordinary thing that a child whose father was alive and enjoyed a distinguished position was placed under the guardianship of his uncle's son), so that a blessed soul who was destined to be an ideal of humanity was to be trained in the school where Muhammad was the tutor and the Book that was introduced to him was the Quran, that too from the very beginning of revelation with a view that the blank tablet of the child's heart might not receive any impressions of heathenism. A man of the sword, both rhetoric and politic, and possesses the subtlety of the feeling of an Aaref and the wisdom of a hakim (philosopher). His sense of piety and justice is so rigorous that he has become unacceptable to the Companions. His exact and accurate knowledge of the Quran is unanimously accepted by all (throughout his return journey after the Last Pilgrimage the Prophet had been making a mental comparison, assessing him and comparing him with the other Companions regarding the role they were to play in the future). The specific circumstances of his private life, his social and political activities, his relationship with the Prophet and especially his spiritual and intellectual position have been instrumental in bringing him closer to the real spirit of Islam, its deeper and profound meanings that remained hidden beneath the surface of the injunctions, beliefs and religious rites that are not visible to the eyes accustomed to the exoteric aspects of religion only. His feelings and his outlook have become one with the essence of Islam. He possesses the Islamic consciousness, which is something over and above mere faith in Islam.
Throughout the course of twenty-three years, since Muhammad launched his movement in the spiritual realm as well as society, Ali was always distinguishable from others. He always dwelt in the midst of dangers and did not waver even once. He never once showed the slightest signs of weakness during his whole life. What distinguishes 'Ali more than any other thing is his multi-dimensional personality the spirit that surpasses all other heroes in all its diverse dimensions. He is a hero in the realm of thought as well as a hero on the battlefield. His capacity to love is great, equally at ease under the niche of a mosque or among people. A man who loves aloofness, yet is active in politics. The greatest enemy of all the forms of lewdness which cause human suffering. The embodiment of all the sublime aspirations that have been cherished by human hearts throughout the ages.
But, it is quite obvious that in a society which is separated by only ten years from the heathen Bedouin and tribal epoch, how alienated, how strange and unknown such a soul may find itself. It is a tragic record of history, and the fate of 'Ali and his associates is the most tragic of all. There never existed such a big disparity between an individual and the society to which he belonged.
There is doubt that the Prophet had an intense feeling for 'Ali in his heart of hearts. In various ways he revealed his special liking for 'Ali. But he also knew full well that the elite of the Ummah would not easily accept the leadership of this young man a little older than thirty years, who had no refuge in the society except that of Muhammad's love and had no wealth whatsoever except his sacrifices for Islam
The most powerful party in the Islamic politics is the party of Abu Bakr, the most eminent members of which are 'Umar, Abu' Ubaydah, Sa'd ibn Abu Waqas, 'Uthman Talhah and Zubayr's all of whom came to the fold of Islam at the same time with Abu Bakr, and these were the same persons who formed the Shura (the Council to elect a caliph) thirty-five years later. (How strange!) Today, at this stage, the Prophet's task has assumed very serious and precarious dimensions. Proclamation that 'Ali is the greatest and the most suitable person to take up the leadership can jeopardize and shake the base of unity attained with much effort in a tribal Bedouin Arab society, which is the solitary hope that can guarantee the life of the young Ummah. On the other hand, if Muhammad kept silent in regard to 'Ali(A), would he not be sacrificing truth for prudence? Is it not true that 'Ali's social weakness is the result of his spiritual strength? Is the cause of his political isolation other than his steadfastness and unshakable commitment to the cause of Muhammad? Has his thunder like sword that spared no group unhurt, ever struck an individual except by the command of Muhammad and for the sake of God? Does the malice that is being nursed against him in many a heart, as the Prophet himself said a few days ago in Mecca, not owe its origin to his unceasing zeal in the way of God and for the sake of God?
Muhammad's silence in 'Ali's case would render him defenseless in the course of history. The political conditions of the society, social structure, class prejudices, aristocratic values and political factionalism, all will conspire together to alienate 'Ali and deprive him of his due right. His personality will be smeared and distorted to an extent in the history of Islam that the most pious of the Muslims will sincerely believe that to curse 'Ali is the only way to seek nearness to God and Muhammad.
Did all this not happen after all? Should Muhammad not defend 'Ali who had no other defender besides him? Will his silence not leave him at the mercy of history to be ravaged and tattered?
They have come ten miles away from Mecca. The Prophet has made up his mind. It is the place called Ghadir Khom. The episode (of Ghadir e Khom) is known to all.
'Uthman camping on the outskirts of the city, has prepared his army for departure. The Prophet has worked hard to mobilize his army. The danger that has raised its head will soon start showing its teeth.
The headache has started. The Prophet cannot sleep at night. He feels the steps of death approaching and sees the black clouds gathering on the horizon with alarming speed It is midnight and the stillness is dreadful. The sorrow and distress that could never disturb his energetic soul during a life full of hazards and risks, has overcome his spirit. He notifies Abu Muwayhibah, Khadijah's slave and he comes out of his quarters to attend to him. The loneliness of the Prophet is noticeable. From the height of his power and glory he calls on a slave to accompany him on his last visit to the graveyard.) It is a warm summer night of the end of the month of Safar or early Rabi' al-Awwal. The slowly and softly flowing breeze awakens bitter memories and stirs his thoughts. He turns to the slave and says: O, Abu Muwayhibah, let us go, for I have been commanded to go and pray forgiveness for the dwellers of Baqi'.' Both of them start walking and leave the city. The calm of the night has engulfed the graveyard of Baqi'. He stands there knowing that he will join them soon. He glances a moment and then begins speaking. The graves listen to him. "Peace be on you, o, inhabitants of the graveyard. Rest here undisturbed. Your days are better satisfied than the days of those who are left behind. (Nothing has happened. Why is the Prophet who has never been at the zenith of his success as he is today, so perturbed?) Calamities are pursuing us like the dark patches of night".
The Prophet becomes silent for a while, then he turns towards his companion and says: "O, Abu Muwayhibah, they brought for me the keys to the worldly treasures and the eternal life therein, and then the Paradise was drawn near me, I was authorized to make a choice between these things on the one hand, and the beatific vision of the Most High and the bliss of the Paradise, on the other. I willingly opted for the beatific vision of my God." Abu Muwayhibah became very upset and realized that the time for separation had arrived. In a broken voice, choking with tears, he said: "My father and mother be your ransom O Prophet! First get hold of the keys to the worldly treasures and the eternal life therein, and choose the Paradise afterwards."
He said: "It will not be so, by God, Abu Muwayhibah, I have already chosen to go and see my Lord and enter Paradise." Subsequently he asked forgiveness for those buried in Baqi' and returned home.
His headache became severe and the illness and pain tormented him, so he went to 'Ayesha's apartment; 'Ayesha too was suffering from headache and was groaning, "O my head, O my head." The Prophet (S), who used to spend his moments of anguish outside the house, and entered the house only with a bright face and radiant smile, responded to 'Ayesha's lamentation, saying: "Not yours but my head, O head." "O 'Ayesha what was harm in dying before me? I would have attended your dead body and would have shrouded you, would have offered your funeral prayers and buried you." 'Ayeshah answered without hesitating: "Then you would have returned to my house and would sleep with one of your wives." The Prophet laughed and tried to continue in the same zestful manner, but the pain did not permit him to do so. After a few hours when the pain subsided, the Prophet arose and visited the apartments of his wives one by one, and conversed with them. When in the house of Maymunah the pain again became acute. He called all his wives and asked them to grant him permission to rest in 'Ayesha's house. They who had seen his condition agreed. The Prophet entered 'Ayesha's house with his head bound in a cloth, his arms were supported by 'Abbas ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib and 'Ali ibn Abu Talib, and his feet dragged on the floor. The pain had become severe and his body was burning with fever. Why has not the army marched yet? He knew the reason. He knew quite well that the senior members among his Companions would not leave Madinah in such conditions. He ordered: "Fetch water from different wells in seven vessels and pour it on me, so that I may go to the people and make a covenant with them." Some people helped him to sit in the tub of water brought by his wife Hafsah, 'Umar's daughter, and splashed water over him, until he asked them to stop.
Then, with his face burning with fever and the head bound in a cloth, he went to the mosque. He asked Fadl ibn 'Abbas to support his arms. Fadl helped him to sit on the pulpit. (It is worthwhile to visualize the scene and its details.) The people gathered around him, and he began speak. After praising God, first of all he recalled the memory of the martyrs of Uhud (Do you understand as to why he remembered the Companions of Uhud, whereas the Companions who took part in the Battle of Badr were more renowned? I think that since it was in the battle of Uhud that the treachery on the part of some of his Companions caused his defeat, and now he wanted to warn the people of another treachery, he was remembering Uhud, there is no other reason to offer than this). He asked forgiveness for them and pronounced benedictions for them repeatedly. Afterwards he said: "From among His slaves, God has chose one and blessed him with the freedom to choose between what belongs to this world and what takes him to the Lord's presence, and he chose the latter.' He pauses. The people could not see him with clear eyes, for tears had blurred their vision. Abu Bakr felt the gravity of the situation and wept loudly. With his tearful eyes fixed on his honored friend's face, he said in a voice trembling with love and grief: "Be our lives and our children's lives ransomed for you." The Prophet said: "Calm yourself, Abu Bakr."
The atmosphere of the mosque was loaded and charged with excitement and grief. Grief and anxiety had gripped the people so tightly that no one could utter a single word. The Prophet continued again: "O people go continue the task assigned to you under the command of Usama. I swear by my life that whatever you said regarding the commandership of Usama, you said about the commandership of his father also, whereas Usama is fully qualified to command you, just as his father deserved this position."
In the meantime, he was again alarmed by dangers which had threatened his people. He continued. "Last night I dreamed that both of my hands were fastened by two golden handcuffs, which distressed me. I cast a spell over them and they disappeared I called those two (the false claimants to prophet hood) the liars of Yamamah and Yaman".
He stopped speaking. The intensity of the fever was increasing every minute. The little comfort he managed to wrest away from the fever after splashing cold water over his fevered limbs and had helped him to arrive at the mosque had disappeared, and the illness was aggravated. He felt exhausted. The people could see that he was trying hard to speak to them again, but in vain. He writhed in pain and was unable to suppress his agony. This was his last meeting with the people. He should bid adieu to the people and to the mosque. Life will not offer another opportunity. Everything has come to an end. His association with the people has reached its finale. He should say farewell to the people and descend the pulpit forever, for death is awaiting him at Ayesha's house. But, as if he has something to tell the people in the last moments of his life, he collects all his remaining energy with great effort, in order to say something. The people feel that he is endeavoring pitiably to muster enough energy to deliver his last message. An immensely moving scene. Even the Munafiqun (the hypocrites) were visibly touched. People hung their heads in grief. Their sense of grief was too great to be relieved by tears. Muhammad starts. Words come out of his feverish lips with great difficulty. Never has an individual said something with such a painful effort. But Muhammad must speak. He has to ask a certain question from the people, without asking which he will not find peace. "O men. I praise God, except whom there is no god, in front of you. Anybody whom I owe something must come forward. If I have caused anyone of you to be unjustly scourged, I have my own back to the lash of retaliation. If I have reviled anyone, he should come and proclaim my fault before this congregation. I have never had the spirit of a policeman, rather, I despised it. Verily, the most loveable among you is he who claims anything I owe to him, or who willingly declares to forgive me, so that I may be able to greet my God with a satisfied conscience. It appears that this request of mine is not enough and it is necessary to stand up and repeat it several times." He came down from the pulpit, said his afternoon prayer. Fever, headache, exhaustion and the midday heat
wrested all his energy. The signs of death were visible from his countenance. It seemed as if his job with the people was not yet finished. What he required the people to do was not just an ethical formality, but it was such a serious affair that it kept even death away for a few moments. There was a feeling of wonder among the people who had seen the Prophet m the most difficult conditions. Some of them offered their support to him but he did not go home. He again returned to the pulpit, sat on it and again reiterated what he had said with much more insistence. This time his tone was extremely emphatic. After repeating his request he kept silent, glancing at the people with tired and feverish eyes expectantly The people felt that they were compelled to say something in answer; but what to say? They did not know. He had devoted his entire life to the welfare of the people. He imbued these Bedouin people with a sense of civility and honor. He spent Khadijah's enormous wealth also for their sake. He did not lead a life that prospered by taking the rights of others nor did he ever allow himself to oppress anyone. He was himself the model of a Muslim, a Muslim whose face God portrayed with two bold strokes of his pen:
"They are firm with infidels, and compassionate among themselves." He had never caused sorrow or pain to anybody. Only once he vented his anger upon a rude Bedouin who was riding along him neck to neck, and was riding in such a savage manner that his horse collided with Muhammad's horse repeatedly causing severe pain to his foot; he lashed him with the whip, asking him angrily to keep a distance. When he reached Madinah he called him and apologized to him and paid him as a penalty eighty she goats. Now he has forgotten if he has injured someone or owes anyone something. But he still fears that in the course of his eventful life he might have behaved with someone rudely and is oblivious of it.
Muhammad is waiting and the people are ashamed of themselves. No one dared look in his eyes to be confronted with his expecting looks. All hung their heads and their shoulders trembled. The question posed by Muhammad was too difficult to be answered. An Arab got up and said: "O, Prophet of God, you owe me three dirhams." (It was a strange society.) Some of the people could not bear it and they wept. Muhammad immediately asked Fadl to pay him his due. Fadl ib 'Abbas paid him three dirhams and the Arab sat down. An uneasy painful calm fell on the atmosphere of the mosque. (The people were extremely ashamed of this man's act.) The Prophet felt that this act on the part of the man who caused shame to the Prophet in front of the congregation had disturbed the people, and he said: "O, People. Whosoever owes anything to anyone should repay his debt and should not feel humiliated in this world, for it is easier to be ashamed here than on the Day of the Judgment."
Another Arab arose and said: "O, Prophet of God, I have three dirhams that I must give in the way of God." The Prophet asked him: "Why did you promise it?" He replied: "I was destitute at that time." The Prophet asked Fadl to collect the amount from him. Another man arose, he directly looked in the Prophet's eyes, while trembling with excitement. He said: "O Prophet of God, you lashed me across my abdomen in such and such a battle!" Suddenly silence falls on the audience, and hearts are torn to pieces. All had become stunned. No one had the courage to raise his head. With a calm face, the Prophet lifted his shirt that was drenched with sweat and bared his abdomen to the chest. He asked the man to come forward, and the people had dropped their heads on their knees in anguish. A painful moment passed. Suddenly a painful cry pierced the charged atmosphere and the mosque underwent a tremor. The people raised their heads and saw that the man had thrown himself on the bare chest of the Prophet and was kissing the place he wanted to lash in a state of frenzy. Everyone was overcome by streaming tears. The people who were feeling ashamed in front of the Prophet now had a sense of exultation. The passions of adoration and love had wiped off the shameful memories. The people were hilarious that they had expressed their love and respect for the Prophet (S), and the Prophet who himself loved his people intensely and who knew at the moment that he would not be able again to express his pure love for his brothers, made an amazing suggestion at a critical juncture. (This is also a sign of the Prophet's humility that at that time when he could not do anything for them, he still wished to do something that could benefit them.) He suggested: "There is no eye in the world which comes to know the positive qualities of a beautiful soul, and remains untouched by tears. O, people! Anyone who is afraid for himself and has any infirmities should stand up, so that I may pray for him."
These words filled the grim and grief struck atmosphere of the mosque with an amazing sense of exultation and hope (the Prophet praying for an ordinary human being!). The powerful spirit of faith manifested itself among the Arabs in an unprecedented manner. Hope had lifted the veils from the faces hidden behind them. A man stood up and said: "O Prophet of God, I am a liar to the core of my being; I am a wicked man; I sleep more than necessary." The Prophet prayed for him: "O God, bless him with truthfulness and faith; whenever he wishes to wake up, take away the sleep from him." Another one got up and said: "O Prophet of God, I am a compulsive liar, a hypocrite, and have never had an honest job in my life in which I did not cheat others." 'Umar arose and asked the man arrogantly to be ashamed of dis-honoring himself in public. The Prophet addressed 'Umar reproachfully, saying, "O son of Khattab, humiliations of this world are easier to bear than the humiliations and dis-honor in the Hereafter. May God bless thee with truthfulness and faith and turn thine face toward good. " He came down from the pulpit, and stepped forward with the intention of leaving the mosque. Suddenly he stopped and turned towards the people, saying, "O party of the Emigrants! (Muhajirun) I recommend you to be good with the Helpers (Ansar) The people will increase in number, but the Helpers will always remain what they have been.