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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 2: The Promised Prophet


Chapter 2:
The Promised Prophet:



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|| Abraham's Prophecies || Moses' Prophecies || Prophecies || Jesus' Prophecies || The Holy Prophet's Genealogy || Abrahah's Attack on Makkah || Before the Call || Alliance of Protection of the Weak || Marriage with Khadijah || Charming Morals || Magnetic Personality ||

"Those who follow the Messenger Prophet, the Ummi, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel" (7:157).

Prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him are met with in earlier sacred books and had great currency among the nations. In fact, those very prophecies might have impelled Jews and Christians to settle down in Arabia; for the land of the Promised Prophet was specified by name in the Scriptures. We would touch upon a few of them.

The Quran asserts that the appearance of the Holy Prophet was foretold by each and all of the foregoing prophets, through whom the covenant was also made with their respective peoples that they would accept him when he made his appearance [The Quran, 3: 81]. The distinguishing feature of the Promised One, they were told, was that he would bear testimony to the truth of all the prophets of the world. It seems that Providence had deemed fit to depute a separate prophet for the reformation of each nation in the days of yore, when the various peoples inhabiting this planet lived in absolute isolation from one another and modern means of communication had not come into existence. To amalgamate the diverse religious systems into one all-comprehensive faith as well as to weld humanity into one universal brotherhood, was sent a prophet with a mission for the whole of mankind. Thus, while on the one hand the happy news of such a world-Prophet was given to each preceding prophet, the Promised one was, on the other, commissioned to testify to the truth of all the foregoing prophets wherever and whenever sent all the world over: "And when Allah made a covenant through the prophets: Certainly what I have given you of the Book and Wisdom - then a Messenger comes to you verifying that which is with you, you shall believe in him and you shall aid him.... [The Quran, 3:81]"

There is only one Messenger in the whole world and that is Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) - who answers to this description. His description of the faithful runs thus: "And who believe in that which has been revealed to thee and that which was revealed before thee.... [The Quran, 2:4]" It goes further still and asserts that a prophet was raised in every nation: "There is not a people but a warner has gone among them. [The Quran, 35:24]" On another occasion it says that it makes mention of some of the prophets while there are others who have not been expressly spoken of [The Quran, 4:164]. So the Holy Prophet Muhammad stands out unique from both these view-points: on the one hand, the predictions of all his predecessors find due fulfilment in his person; while, on the other, he alone out of all the prophets has made it a binding article of faith to believe in all the prophets of the world. Thus, he is the last of that noble band of prophets, as foretold by all his predecessors.

Abraham's Prophecies:

The Israelites and the Ishmaelites spring from a common progenitor - Abraham. Though the Divine Scripture revealed to Abraham has not come down to us, yet much light is thrown on God's promises to him concerning the future of his sons, Isaac and Ishmael, by the Old Testament in the book of Genesis. The Quran also alludes to the same promises when it says: "And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make thee a leader of men. (Abraham) said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrong-doers, said He. [The Quran, 2:124]" And again in the joint prayer of Abraham and Ishmael: "Our Lord, and raise up in them a Messenger from among them who shall recite to them Thy messages and teach them the Book and the Wisdom, and purify them.... [The Quran, 2:129]" The Old Testament records a Divine promise to the same effect, made to Abraham, even before the birth of Isaac and Ishmael: "And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. [Genesis, 12:2, 3]"

Then reference is made to Ishmael by name, in the same book of Genesis: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly: twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. [Genesis, 17:20]"

Moses' Prophecies:

The second prophecy announcing the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad found utterance through Moses: "I will raise up a prophet from among their brethren like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth. [Deuteronomy, 18: 18]"

No one of the Israelite prophets that followed Moses in a long succession down to Jesus ever claimed to be the prophet promised in this prophecy. And for obvious reasons Moses' successors, who came only to fulfil his law, could not be like unto him. The prophecy was of common knowledge among the Jews who expected, generation after generation, a prophet like unto Moses. This is amply borne out by the conversation that passed between John the Baptist and those who came to ask him: "Who art thou?" And he confessed: "I am not the Christ." And they asked him, what then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered: No. [John, I: 19-21], This shows positively that the Jews were in expectation of the appearance of three different prophets. Firstly, Elias, who, they thought, was to reappear in person; secondly, the Christ; and thirdly, a prophet of such universal fame that in his case, no further specification was thought necessary - "that Prophet" was enough to convey who was meant. Such was the household currency which Moses' prophecy concerning a prophet like unto him had gained among the Jews. It is thus evident that just before the appearance of Jesus, the Jews were in expectation of three prophets, as foretold in their scriptures.

Now two of these prophecies were fulfilled in the persons of Jesus and John, the one claiming to be the Christ and the other to have been sent in the spirit of Elias. But neither laid claim to be the Promised Prophet like unto Moses. Nor did any of those who accepted them identify them as such: With Jesus, the chain of prophethood among the Israelites came to an end. Thus, the prophecy of Deuteronomy regarding a prophet like unto Moses remained unfulfilled so far as the Israelites were concerned. Turning to the history of the world, we find that no other prophet except Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) ever claimed to be the Prophet foretold by Moses, and no other sacred book but the Quran ever pointed to anyone as fulfilling the prophecy. Facts also bear out the same conclusion. Moses was a lawgiver and so was Muhammad, peace be upon them. Among the Israelite prophets who succeeded Moses, no one brought a new law. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, being the only law-giving Prophet, was thus the only Prophet like unto Moses. The Quran says: "Surely We have sent to you a Messenger.. as We sent a Messenger to Pharaoh. [The Quran, 73: 15]" Again, it invites the attention of the Jews to the prophecy in Deuteronomy in these words: "A witness from among the Children of Israel has borne witness of one like him ... [The Quran, 46:10]" The words of the prophecy, "from among their brethren," throw further light on the fact that the Promised Prophet was to come, not from among the Israelites themselves but from among their brethren, the Ishmaelites.

A third prophecy in equally clear terms is met with in the same book - Deuteronomy. It says: "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir to them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and he came forth with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them. [Deuteronomy, 33: 2]"

"Coming from Sinai" refers to the appearance of Moses, while "rising up from Seir" refers to the conquest of Seir by David. Now Paran is admittedly the ancient name for the land of Hijaz, where arose Muhammad (peace and blessings of Ally be upon him) from among the descendants of Ishmael. The words "he came forth with ten thousands of saints" point still more unmistakably to the identity of the person to whom they refer. The Holy Prophet Muhammad of all the world-heroes, is the one solitary historical personage whose triumphal entry into Makkah with ten thousand saintly followers, is an event of common knowledge. The law he gave to the world is to this day known as baida’ (shining), for it throws full light on all matters pertaining to the religious, moral and social welfare of man. And it is to this that allusion is made in the words, "from his right hand went a fiery law for them."

Isaiah's Prophecies:

A fourth prophecy specifies Arabia as the land of the Promised Prophet: "The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companions of Dedanites. Unto him that was thirsty they brought water, the inhabitants of the land of Tima did meet the fugitives with their bread. For they fled away from the swords, from the drawn sword and from the bent bow and from the grievousness of war. [Isaiah, 21: 1 3-15]"

In the first place the word Arabia is by itself significant enough. Then the mention of one who fled sheds still further light on the object of the prophecy. The history of the world records but one such flight that has won the importance of a red-letter event - the flight of the Holy Prophet Muhammad from Makkah. It is from this point of time that the Muslim era commences; for it marked, in fact, the opening of a new chapter in the history of Islam - indeed in the civilisation of the world. A yet clearer testimony, however, is contained in the words, "he fled from drawn swords." History confirms that the Holy Prophet Muhammad fled from Makkah while his house was surrounded by blood-thirsty enemies with drawn swords ready to fall upon him in a body as soon as he came out. One will in vain turn the pages of history to find another instance of flight which resulted in issues so far-reaching and momentous, or another prophet who ran for his life through drawn swords. These two authoritative facts of history, supplemented by a direct mention of the land of Arabia as the birth-place of the Promised Prophet, furnished an indisputable clue that the prophecy refers to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.

Jesus' Prophecies:

There are several other similar prophecies by Israelite prophets, such as David, Solomon, Habakkuk, Haggai, and others. But for the sake of brevity let us refer to one only, by the last of the Israelite prophets - Jesus - which runs thus: "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray to the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of Truth [John, 14:15-17]."

Again: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things. [John, 14:26]"

And again: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him unto you. [John, 16:17]"

Yet again: "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth. [John, 16:12,13]"

All these prophetic words predict in unequivocal terms the advent of another prophet after Jesus. The terms of the prophecy do not warrant the conclusion that they are applicable to the Holy Ghost. "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you" are words too clear to need any comment. The New Testament says that John was filled with the Holy Ghost even before he was born. Then it speaks of Jesus himself as receiving the Holy Ghost in the shape of a dove. Thus, the Holy Ghost used to visit men before the time of Jesus as well as in his own time. To what is then the reference made in the words, "If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you?" Surely not to the Holy Ghost; for it is almost sacrilegious to think that Jesus was without the Holy Ghost. Genuine reverence for Jesus requires that we should recognise even his disciples, purified as they were at the hands of their great Master, to have been pure enough to merit the company of the Holy Ghost. The Quran, at least, credits the companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad with such company in clear terms: "These are they in whose hearts He has impressed faith and strengthened them with a Spirit from Himself. [The Quran, 58:22]"

The words "Holy Ghost" which have also been used in the prophecy, if not an interpolation, are intended to be taken that the Promised one would have such an inseparable union with the Holy Ghost that his advent might be taken, metaphorically of course, as the coming of the Holy Ghost itself. There are other words in the prophecy which are applicable only to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The characteristic features set forth in the prophecy are found one and all in him. "That he may abide with you forever" indicates that there would be no prophet after the Promised one. This is exactly what the Quran says of the Holy Prophet Muhammad: "The seal of the Prophets. [The Quran, 33:40]" Again, "He shall teach you all things," says the prophecy. The same is in the Quran about the dispensation of the Holy Prophet Muhammad: "This day have I perfected for you your religion. [The Quran, 33:40]" Then the Promised one is called the Spirit of Truth in the prophecy, which is also confirmed by the Quran in the words: "The Truth has come and falsehood vanished. [The Quran 17:81]"

The Holy Prophet's Genealogy:

Ishmael was the eldest son of Abraham. He had twelve sons, as confirmed by the Old Testament, one of them named Kaidar, whose progeny spread over the Arabian province of Hijaz. That the Arabs are the descendants of Kaidar also goes without saying on the authority of the Old Testament. Again, it is admitted on every hand among the Arabs that ‘Adnan, to whom the Holy Prophet Muhammad's genealogy has been traced beyond all doubt, was also a scion of Ishmael in about the fortieth degree. There have never been two opinions as to the fact that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was in direct descent from ‘Adnan. Further down, in the ninth degree from the latter, there follows Nadr ibn Kinanah, founder of the Quraish dynasty. Another descent in the genealogical scale and then comes in the ninth place, one Qusay by name, to whom was entrusted the guardianship of the Kabah - an office of the highest honour in Arabia. He was the grandfather of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, the Holy Prophet Muhammad's grandfather. Thus in respect of nobility, the Holy Prophet's dynasty occupies the highest place.

‘Abd al-Muttalib's mother came of the Banu Najjar, which tribe thus stood in the relation of maternal ancestors to the Holy Prophet. ‘Abd al-Muttalib begot ten sons, noteworthy among them being Abu Lahab who was the arch-leader of the opposition to the Holy Prophet, Abu Talib who brought him up, Hamzah who was among the earliest converts and fell at the battle of Uhud, ‘Abbas who though a long time outside the pale of Islam, yet remained very affectionate to the Holy Prophet and ‘Abd Allah, his father. The latter was married to Aminah, daughter of Wahb ibn ‘Abd Manaf, of the Zuhrah family. The couple was pre-eminent not only in respect of the nobility of their families, but for what stood for greater distinction in that age of darkness and corruption, they both possessed pure and sublime characters.

A few days after the nuptials, ‘Abd Allah undertook a commercial journey to Syria. On his way back he fell ill and passed away at Madinah. The Holy Prophet was thus a posthumous child. Monday, the 12th of Rabi‘al-Awwal is his commonly accepted birth-date. According to another research, it is the 9th of the same month as corresponding to the 20th of April 571 of the Christian era. Before his birth, his mother received the happy news in a vision. It transpires from certain sayings of the Holy Prophet that he was given the name Muhammad by his grandfather and Ahmad by his mother, each in accordance with a vision. He has been spoken of in the Quran by both of these names [The Quran, 61:6; 3:144; 33:40; 48:29]. He himself is reported on trustworthy authority to have said: "I am Muhammad as well as Ahmad." In poetical compositions too, he was addressed by both names.

Abrahah's Attack on Makkah:

This is hardly the place for dwelling at length on the extraordinary events that are related to have attended the Holy Prophet's birth. We content ourselves with referring to just one, by itself a mighty sign. The very year that the Holy Prophet was born, the Christian chief of Yaman erected a magnificent church in his capital San'a with a view to make it a general centre for people, both commercial and religious, in place of the Kabah which he resolved to demolish. This was, in fact, a life and death struggle between Trinity and Unity. Abrahah, the chief, marched at the head of a large army against the Kabah to pull it down. He encamped at a distance of three stages from Makkah, and sent word to the Makkans, intimating his mission to them. In the meantime, some of ‘Abd al-Muttalib's camels were captured by Abrahah's soldiers. ‘Abd al-Muttalib came in person to the chief to demand the return of his camels. Much impressed by his imposing appearance, Abrahah asked him what had brought him thither, believing no doubt that he had come to implore him to spare the Sacred House. ‘Abd al-Muttalib told him that he was there to demand his camels. Astonished at this unexpected reply, Abrahah said: "You are so anxious about your camels, but you are not concerned about the Kabah which I have come all this way to demolish." "I worry myself about the camels," replied ‘Abd al-Muttalib, "for I am their master, as to the Kabah its Master will Himself look after it." The Quraish, finding themselves too weak to offer any resistance to Abrahah, evacuated Makkah, taking shelter in the neighbouring hills. While leaving the city, ‘Abd al-Muttalib took hold of a curtain of the Kabah and prayed: "O Allah! This is Thy own house. We feel too feeble to defend it. Be pleased to take care of it Thyself." Historians say that a most virulent form of smallpox broke out in the camp of Abrahah, which wrought a terrible havoc, destroying the major part of his forces. The rest took to flight in utter confusion ["Hast thou not seen how thy Lord dealt with the possessors of the elephant? Did He not cause their war to end in confusion?" (Quran, 105:1, 2)]. This miraculous event came to pass simultaneously with the Holy Prophet's birth. According to some reports, the day of Abrahah's discomfiture was the very day of the Holy Prophet's birth. According to others he was born forty days after this event.

Before the Call:

It was a custom among the Arab gentry and nobility that the mothers did not nurse their children; they were sent out to be reared in the country. At his birth the infant Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was nursed by his mother for a couple of days and for two or three days by Thuwaibiyah, a handmaid of Abu Lahab. After this, he was entrusted to Halimah of the tribe of the Banu Sad. Two years later, Halimah, brought the child to his mother, Aminah, who sent him back with her, Makkah being at the time stricken with an epidemic. He remained in the charge of Halimah till the age of six, when he was returned to his mother. At this time, his mother, desiring to pay a visit to the tomb of her husband, undertook a journey to Madinah where he was buried, taking the child along with her. On the way, however, the orphan child was deprived also of his mother, who passed away at a place called Abwa' where she was interred. The Holy Prophet Muhammad was thus bereaved at the tender age of six of both his father and mother. It was not his lot to be brought up under the loving care of his parents, nor had he the opportunity to prove his filial devotion to them. Nevertheless, he gave the same affectionate treatment to his foster-mother and foster-sisters, in his later days as though they were his blood relations. Halimah once called upon him, after he had received the Divine Call. No sooner had she appeared, than the Holy Prophet stood up to greet her - a mark of deep respect - and spread his own mantle for her to sit upon. Likewise, he showed special regard for his foster-sisters and foster-brothers, indeed for the whole tribe of the Banu Sa'd of which Halimah came.

On the death of his mother, charge of the child fell to his grandfather, ‘Abd al-Muttalib. Barely two years had elapsed, however, when this patronage was also snatched away by death. Thus he was eight years old when his guardianship passed to his uncle, Abu Talib. From his very childhood he possessed the virtues which won him the deep affection of Abu Talib. Whosoever came in contact with him, even at that early age, was impressed by his ways and manners. Abu Talib kept him in his own company and took him out wherever he went. As reading and writing were almost unknown in Arabia, there being only rare exceptions, the Holy Prophet had no book-learning. When he was twelve years of age, Abu Talib undertook a trading mission to Syria. The nephew was so attached to his uncle that he could not bear the idea of such a long separation and was consequently allowed to accompany him on that long journey. It was during this journey that he is said to have met a Christian anchorite called Bahirah. Beholding the boy, so goes the story, Bahirah could discern in his face marks of his future greatness and he advised Abu Talib to take good care of him, for he would some day be the recipient of a Divine Call.

Alliance of Protection of the Weak:

At the age of twenty, the Holy Prophet took part in the battle between the Quraish and the Qais which goes under the name of Harb al-Fijar, lit., a war of transgression, so called because it was fought in the sacred months when warfare was forbidden. His part in it was, however, not that of actual fighting, but only of handing arrows to his uncles. After that he participated in the alliance known as the Hilf al-Fudul, formed to vindicate the rights of the weak and the oppressed against tyranny. Each member of the alliance was bound in honour to defend the helpless against all oppression. The credit of taking the lead in the formation of this humanitarian organisation was due to the Holy Prophet and his family, the Banu Hashim. Thus his early inclinations to render help to the distressed go to show that human sympathy was implanted in his very nature ["I have lived among you a lifetime before it. Do you not understand" (Quran, 10:16).].

At this early age, the Holy Prophet's integrity had already won household fame in the town of Makkah. He was commonly known as Al-Amin - the Faithful. The epithet does not imply honesty in money matters alone but is all-comprehensive, denoting righteousness in every form. Whosoever happened to have any dealings with him at this period never ceased to praise him all his life. It was about this time that the necessity arose for the reconstruction of the sacred house of Kabah. The requisite material being provided, the Quraish jointly undertook the work. In the course of construction a serious dispute arose as to who should have the proud privilege of laying the Black Stone. This might have resulted in the outbreak of inter-tribal feuds and the consequent destruction of a number of families, had not a hoary-headed elder advised arbitration. Whoever, he suggested, should be the first to appear at the Kabah the following day should be accepted as a judge to decide the point at issue. The proposal was unanimously agreed to. All were eagerly awaiting the next morning, when lo, to the satisfaction of all, none other than Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, was the first to appear. "Here is al-Amin. Here is al-Amin!" all shouted with one voice. And the general confidence in him was fully justified. Taking a sheet of cloth, he placed the Black Stone thereon with his own hands. Then he invited principal men from every clan to hold the sheet by the four ends and thus equally share in the honour of lifting the stone into position. He thus averted what might have developed into a terrible conflagration of internecine warfare. He was then thirty-five years of age.

Marriage with Khadijah:

A high-placed widow, Khadijah [The life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad may be divided into four periods so fu as his domestic life is concerned. Up to twenty-five, he lead a celibate life, from twenty-five years, he lived in a married state with one wife; from fifty-four to fifty-six he contracted several marriages and lastly from sixty till his death he did not contract any new marriage.], who had acquired in pre-Islamic days, by her virtue and righteousness, the title of Tahirah (the virtuous), hearing of the righteousness of Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, entrusted to him the sole charge of her business. Before long, much profit accrued to her through his honest dealings. These dealings gave evidence of his high morals and it was this circumstance which led Khadijah to make a proposal for marriage. Thus was he married, at the age of twenty-five, to a widow, fifteen years older than himself. Of Khadijah, the Holy Prophet begot four daughters and two sons. The first-born was Qasim, after whom the Holy Prophet was called Abu-l Qasim, but he died at the age of two. His eldest daughter was Zainab who was married to Abu'l-‘As. Next to her was Ruqayyah, married to ‘Uthman. She died on the day of the Muslims' victory at the battle of Badr. Next to her came Umm Kulthum, who was also married to ‘Uthman on the death of her elder sister. The youngest of all the daughters was Fatimah, from whom sprang the progeny known as Sayyids in the history of Islam. She was wedded to ‘Ali. The youngest offspring of Khadijah was a male child who passed away while yet an infant. The Holy Prophet lost in his lifetime all his children except Fatimah, who survived him for only six months. He had only one son, Ibrahim, from another wife whom he married later at Madinah, but the child died when only 18 months old.

The Holy Prophet was greatly attached to Khadijah and often remembered her in affectionate terms, even after her death. Once when he was speaking highly of her, ‘A'ishah put him a pert question. Had not God given him, in herself, - she asked - a better substitute for Khadijah? "No," replied the Holy Prophet "she accepted me at a time when others rejected me." He was devoted heart and soul to Khadijah for her moral excellences. Although he freely spent of her wealth in the way of God, Khadijah never rejected his recommendation for spending her riches on charitable purposes. She purchased a slave for the Holy Prophet but was only too pleased when the latter set him free. Zaid, the well-known companion of the Holy Prophet who himself had once been a slave, was also liberated through Khadijah's generosity. When the Call came, the Holy Prophet was weighed down with the sense of onerous responsibility, and was diffident as to his ability to carry out the charge entrusted to him. Khadijah, at this moment, cheered up his distressed mind with the encouraging words: "God will never let thee see the humiliation of failure. Verily, thou showest due regard for blood-ties, carriest the burden of the infirm, practisest virtues that are extinct, entertainest guests and standest by what is righteous in the face of calamities." This shows how deeply Khadijah was impressed with the virtues and human sympathy of the Holy Prophet. This, in fact, was the cause of the deep love between husband and wife. Both were imbued with a profound sense of human sympathy. No one knows better the ways of a man than his own wife, who is in a position to have free access to the innermost recesses of his heart. The fact, therefore, that Khadijah had such implicit faith in the Holy Prophet furnishes indisputable testimony to the unimpeachable integrity of his character. The most hostile critic cannot in the face of this evidence dare throw suspicion on the Holy Prophet's sincerity. An impostor cannot possibly command the whole-hearted devotion of one so privy to his secrets.

Charming Morals:

Khadijah's testimony to the sublimity of the Holy Prophet's character carries, no doubt, the greatest weight. But others who came in contact with him were no less devoted. The father of Zaid, the liberated slave, hearing of the freeing of his son, came over to Makkah to take him away with him. The Holy Prophet, gentle as he was, could not possibly stand between father and son. He was only too glad to see a son restored to his father. Nevertheless, he could not separate Zaid from himself against the latter's own wishes. So on his father's request to allow Zaid to go with him, he left the matter to the free choice of Zaid himself. And what more could a father wish for? Little did he dream that his son's love for the Holy Prophet outdid his filial affection. Though set free from physical bondage, Zaid had already been enthralled by the charm of the Holy Prophet's personality. To the disappointment of the father, he preferred to stay with the Prophet. Similarly, Abu Bakr's steadfast attachment to him is a fact of common knowledge. Abu Talib was no less impressed with the nobility of his character. Notwithstanding his adherence to his ancestral form of religion, he stood by the Holy Prophet through thick and thin, defending him, at grave risk to his own person, against the wrath of the united Quraishite tribes. Such was the deep impression the Holy Prophet's charm of character had made on his mind. He looked upon it as the height of cowardice to desert one of so sublime a character. He would run any risk for his sake, in opposing overwhelming odds. When asked by the Quraish to give up Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, he rebuked them in a beautiful couplet: "Woe unto you? No tribe has ever deserted its chief - a chief who carefully guards everything worth guarding. He is not overbearing, nor is he so weak as to entrust his affairs to others. He is generous of heart; through the intercession of his face, rain is prayed for. He shelters the orphan and the widow."

Magnetic Personality:

In a word, the Holy Prophet commanded the deepest attachment of all who came into contact with him. But what is still more significant, all who associated with him were men possessed of sterling moral qualities. Besides his fast friends, well-known in the history of Islam for the sublimity of their morals, there were others among his earlier friends equally distinguished for the nobility of their character, such as Hakim ibn Hazam, a respectable Quraish chief who did not give his adherence to Islam until after the fall of Makkah, and Damad ibn Tha'lbah. Both were his intimate friends and both were men of strong moral calibre. This leads to the conclusion that, like the golden touch in the story, whosoever came into contact with the magnetic personality of the Holy Prophet even at this early stage of his life, was enlivened by the sublimity and nobility of his morals.

One of the most precious gems in his character was his deep sympathy for the poor, the helpless, orphans and widows. He would exert his utmost to see to their needs. As regards this virtue, friend and foe were at one in admiring him. Khadijah's consolatory words to him bear testimony to this same trait of his character. Abu Talib gave it as an argument why he must defend him against his enemies. His participation in the Hiff al-Fudul, an alliance formed with the express object of championing the cause of the oppressed, testifies to his solicitude for the weak. Sympathy for the poor, the helpless, orphans and widows was, in short, ingrained in his very nature. The teachings of the Quran clearly lay it down as the very essence of religion to look after the orphan and the helpless. Whoever discards the orphan or does not prompt others to feed the poor is spoken of as belying religion itself [The Quran, 107:1-3]. The loftiest summit of human dignity consists in tending the orphan and the poor [The Quran, 90:11-16]. Whosoever does not show respect to the orphan has been threatened with degradation. National decadence follows as a matter of course where neglect of the orphan and the poor prevails [The Quran, 89:17,18].

We learn from the account of the Holy Prophet's early life that he was, from his very childhood, possessed of the highest order of modesty and gravity. He was not given to the boyish frivolities characteristic of his age. Abu Talib, speaking of him to ‘Abbas, bears testimony to this effect: "I have never seen him tell a lie, indulge in jests and vulgarity, or mix with street boys." Warfare was the favourite pastime in the Arabia of his days, but by his very nature he held it in aversion. At the battle of Fijar he did not go beyond supplying arrows and other fighting material to his uncles. Superstitions of all sorts, rampant in the country, were repugnant to his nature. He abhorred idol-worship from his very youth. On a certain occasion when conversation turned upon the chief Arab idols, the Lat and the ‘Uzza, he observed that he held nothing in greater detestation than idolatry. He would never participate in the observation of the polytheistic rites of his day. He refused to partake of the meal intended as an offering to an idol.

His heart ached within him at the fallen state of humanity. A burning desire to elevate degraded fellow beings and bring them round to the path of righteousness agitated his bosom. He would often retire to the cave of Hira and fervently pray to God, shedding tears, for the regeneration of mankind.

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Books Section > Muhammad the Prophet by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 2: The Promised Prophet

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