Prophet Muhammad: A Morality Message for All Time

Prophet Muhammad: A Morality Message for All Time

A few months after his return to Medina, in the eleventh year of hijrah, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) decided to send an expedition to the north, near Mu’tah and Palestine, where a few years earlier Ja`far ibn Abi Talib, `Abdullah Ibn Rawahah, and Zayd ibn Harithah had been killed.


The Prophet had taught in various circumstances about warfare, respect for nature, or how to treat animals.

To everyone’s surprise, he gave the command to young Usamah, Zayd’s son, who was only twenty years old, though this three-thousand-strong army included such men as `Umar and other experienced Companions.

This choice gave rise to much criticism, but the Prophet reacted very promptly and put an end to all arguments when he proclaimed:

“You criticize the choice of Usamah to command the army as you had formerly criticized that of his father Zayd. Usamah is truly worthy of the command I entrust him with, as his father was before him.” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah)


In the past, some Muslims had reacted to the choice of Zayd because they still considered him as a slave, though he had been freed; now some opposed the choice of his son, perhaps because of his father, but mostly because of his young age.

By confirming his choice, Prophet Muhammad informed them that neither a man’s social origin nor his age should prevent him from exerting authority and power if he possessed the spiritual, intellectual, and moral qualities required. One had to show discernment by offering the most destitute in society real equality of opportunity and trusting the young so that everybody could express their skills and talents.

On a more general level, trust was a fine lesson in humility addressed to older Companions: they were to experience the inner, greater jihad of obeying a man who could have been their son, and in so doing remember that their time was limited, like any man’s.

By that choice, Prophet Muhammad taught them that time naturally erodes one’s energy, and one must be wise enough to learn to step aside, to delegate authority to those who are young and strong enough to create and build.

The Prophet gave young Usamah his recommendations and asked him to set out promptly. However, the Prophet’s sudden illness was to delay that departure, and the army waited near Medina during all those days of doubt about his condition.

Prophet Muhammad & War Ethics

A few weeks later, Abu Bakr was, according to the Prophet’s wish, to ask Usamah to carry out the expedition. He reminded him of the Prophet’s teachings concerning war ethics, for the latter had constantly insisted on the principles Muslims must respect when dealing with their enemies:

“Do not kill women, children, and old people,” Abu Bakr ordered him.

Literally, “Let the blood of women, children and old people never soil your hands.”

“Do not commit treacherous actions. Do not stray from the right path. Never mutilate. Do not destroy palm trees, do not burn houses and cornfields, do not cut down fruit trees, and do not kill livestock except when you are compelled to eat them …. As you move on, you will meet hermits who live in monasteries and serve God in seclusion. Leave them alone; do not kill them and do not destroy their monasteries.”  (At-Tabari)

Those teachings were essential, and they were conveyed to Usamah in the light of what the Prophet had said in various circumstances about warfare, respect for nature, or how to treat animals.

In a few sentences, Abu Bakr was synthesizing the essence of the Messenger’s teachings in this respect.

Years before, at the end of the Battle of Hunayn, the Prophet had passed by a group of people standing around a woman who lay on the ground, and heard that she had been killed by Khalid ibn Al-Waleed (who was then a recent convert). He was deeply angered and asked that Ibn Al-Waleed be told: “God’s Messenger forbids killing children, women, and slaves.” (Ibn Hisham, As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah)

The Prophet’s Mercy

He had also blamed him when he had killed men who had already surrendered after a battle. In both cases, then, the message was the same: one should fight only enemy soldiers, while sparing all those who did not directly take part in armed conflict or could no longer cause any harm.

The Prophet had clearly stated before sending the Mu’tah expedition:

You shall not be treacherous, you shall not deceive, you shall not mutilate, you shall not kill children nor the inhabitants of hermitages (ashab as-sawami`).” (Ibn Hanbal)

War was never desirable, but when Muslims were compelled to it because they were attacked or because their survival was threatened, they had to keep strictly to what was needed to fight enemy forces who were armed and/ or determined to fight. If the latter wished for peace or surrendered, the war must be stopped, according to the Qur’anic injunction:

But if they incline toward peace, do you (also, in the same way) incline toward peace, and trust in God, for He is the One that hears and knows (all things). (Al-Anfal 8:61)


The article is an excerpt from Dr. Tariq Ramadan’s In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press (2007).


Qur’an: The Most Important Nourishment for the Heart

Qur’an: The Most Important Nourishment for the Heart

By Khurram Murad

The most important nourishment for the heart is the Qur’an. Those who lived in the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him) received their training and inspiration from the Qur’an. It was their guide, their light and their leader. Likewise, it must be your constant companion.

The Qur’an contains a treasure house of soul-stirring inspiration and wisdom. We can and should spend hours in understanding the Qur’an. There are thousands of pages of tafseer (Qur’anic exegesis) to read. But, we must know that the real test of benefiting from the Qur’an lies somewhere else. The Qur’an says that when people really listen to it, their faith must increase:

Believers are those who, when God is mentioned, feel a tremor in their heart, and whenever His Messages are conveyed to them their faith is strengthened. (Al-Anfal 8:2)

Where there is a fire, there is smoke. If the `fire’ of iman (faith) has been lit inside the heart, there must be smoke, and you will see that those who truly listen to the Qur’an, their eyes begin to well up with tears which trickle down their cheeks.

Live with the Qur’an

Nowadays, when we listen to the Qur’an or read it, our hearts are not moved, nor do our lives change. It is as if water is felling on a rock and flowing away. Our task is to replace this hard rock with soft absorbent soil so that the Qur’an may nourish the seed that has been planted.

We should always study the Qur’an as if it is being revealed to us today. One of the greatest injustices we do to the Qur’an is that we read it as if it were something of the past and of no relevance to the present.

Remember that the whole purpose of the man is to guide you and to change you by bringing you into submission to Allah. As you read it, also try to live by what it invites you to. If it does not have any impact upon your actions and if you do not observe what it enjoins and avoid what it prohibits, then you are not getting anywhere nearer the Qur’an.

In fact, one who reads the Qur’an and does not try to act upon it may be more likely to be cursed and punished by Allah. The Prophet said:

“Many of the hypocrites in my Ummah will be from among the reciters.” (Ahmad)

“He is not a Believer in the Quran who makes halal or lawful what has been made haram or prohibited.” (At-Tirmidhi)

It is also narrated that many Companions, like Uthman and `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud, once they learnt ten verses from the Prophet did not move further unless they had `learnt’ it fully both in understanding and in action; that is how they sometimes spent years in learning only one surah or chapter.

If you sincerely start changing your life according to the Qur’an, Allah will certainly help you and make the path easy for you. Allah reassures us in the Qur’an:

Those who say, `Our Lord is Allah,’ and continue upon the straight way, the angels descend upon them: Do not fear, nor be grieved, and receive glad tidings of the Garden which you were promised. We are your supporters in this world and in the Hereafter. And for you therein is whatever your souls desire, and for you therein is whatever you ask for.’ (Fussilat 41:30-31)

The Method of Tilawah

Tilawah or recitation is an act in which your whole person – soul, heart, mind, tongue and body – should participate. Thus, to recite the Qur’an, as it deserves to be recited, is not a light task; but neither is it impossible nor difficult. Otherwise, the Qur’an could not have been meant for everyone; nor could it be the mercy and the guidance that it surely is. There are a few obligations regarding recitation of the Qur’an which you should keep in mind.

– Read the Qur’an every day; in fact do not consider a day complete without it. It is better to read regularly, even if it be a small portion, than to read large sections, but only occasionally.

– Every day you must also find time to memorize as much of the Qur’an as you can. You can start with small surahs and short passages and then move on to longer portions.

– Read as much of the Quran in Prayer as you can, especially during the night, after the `Isha’, before the Fajr and in the Fajr, as nothing is more effective in making you attuned to the Quran and ensuring you absorb it than reading it in the night or in the morning. Indeed, the early hours of the morning is a particularly blessed time to recite the Qur’an:

Indeed, the recitation of the Quran at dawn is ever witnessed. (Al-Israa’ 17:78)

– Read the Qur’an in a good voice, as we have been told: “Beautify the Qur’an with your voices” (Abu Dawud); but also remember that the real beauty is the beauty that comes with the fear of Allah in the heart: “His recitation and voice are the most beautiful so that when you hear him, you think he fears Allah”. (Ad-Darimi)

– Read the Qur’an with concentration and understanding. The Prophet told Ibn `Umar not to finish reading the Qur’an in less than a week He also said that one who finishes it in less than three days does not understand any of it. One companion said that he preferred to read a short surah like Al-Qari`ah with proper understanding than to hastily finish long ones like Al-Baqarah and Aal `Imran.

Your Constant Companion

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), has said: “I am leaving you with two murshids.” The term murshid refers to the one who guides to the right path. The first is the talking murshid, the Qur’an, mid the second is the silent murshid (death).

As much as you keep in touch with the Qur’an and as long as you keep in touch with the idea that you are going to return to Allah and give an account of your actions, so you will stay on the right path.

You don’t need any other training program or another `person’ to guide you. These two murshids (guides) are enough and everyone has them at his disposal.


The article is excerpted from the author’s In the Early Hours: Reflections on Spiritual and Self-Development.


Building up Goodness: Lessons from the Prophet

Building up Goodness: Lessons from the Prophet

The greatest, most profound change in history happened peacefully. Nevertheless, it was truly decisive. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) changed the people’s beliefs, their behavior, their customs, and their social norms, and he did so by convincing them with kindness and gentle persuasion.

He did not force people to agree with him. He did not resort to a show of strength except when absolutely necessary to protect his people.

For the first thirteen years of his mission, he lived in Makkah in a state of abject weakness, persecuted by his countrymen. After he emigrated to Madinah, his focus was on building and safeguarding his community.

Real Change

If we consider the landmark events of the Madinite era, we find that the battle of Badr was not pre-planned; the battle of Uhud was purely defensive as was the Battle of the Confederate tribes. The peace treaty of Hudaybiyah that the Prophet entered into with the Makkans was seen by many of the Muslims to be a humiliation for Islam, but the Prophet knew better.

Then, when the Muslims finally entered Makkah in victory, they did so peacefully. They took the city without fighting or bloodshed. Then the Prophet stood among the Makkans, who feared reprisals for the years of persecution they had meted out to the Muslims, and he said: “You may go as you please, for you are free.”

He restored to the weak and oppressed their rights, manumitted slaves, elevated the status of the people, and did away with oppressive practices against women. He likewise did away with the exploitative practices, pomp and influence of the city’s despots with the minimum of hardship for all parties concerned.

It is impressive how the Prophet rid Arabian society of the many deep-rooted and pernicious customs that they had during the times of ignorance. He was able to bring about a new mindset, freed from the rote, blind following of ancestral traditions. He made the people aware of the falsehood of their former customs, so this awareness could protect them from lapsing back into such modes of thought.

In this way, the Prophet brought them out of the darkness of superstition, fortune-telling and divination. He dispelled their wantonness and sexual exploitation. He did away with their tribal boasting and rivalries.

He rid their hearts of racism. When his own Companion Abu Dharr betrayed racist tendencies, he did not hesitate to tell him: “You are indeed a man possessed of some habits from the times of ignorance.”

Non-Negotiable Principle: Oneness of God

He never compromised on polytheism. He opposed it absolutely, regardless of the sacrifices and hardships this meant for him. He stove to dismantle polytheism in the minds and hearts of the people and bring them to monotheism. Nevertheless, when he went to Mecca after the Treaty of Hudaybiyah to perform the `umrah pilgrimage, there were three hundred and sixty idols around the Ka`bah.

He did not destroy the idols or interfere with them in any way. What would have been the point?

It is easy for people to recreate their idols as long as they believe in them. The only permanent way to dismantle them is to dismantle them in the people’s hearts and minds. Only after he entered Makkah as their leader, after the people entered into Islam in droves, did he remove the idols from the Ka`bah, restoring it as a place of worship for Allah alone.

At this time, a great majority of the people had been convinced of the falsehood of idol worship. Indeed, one of the Makkan leaders commented: “Had they been of any worth, they would not have forsaken us.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was an example of patience in how he coexisted with the pagans in Makkah, and in the fortitude he showed by responding gently and with an open heart to them, in spite of to their abuses and hostility towards him and towards the men and women who chose to follow him.

Peace & Coexistence

Then, after the emigration to Madinah, he lived alongside the Jews and the pagans from the local tribes, not to mention the hypocrites who concealed their animosity towards Islam and the Muslims who were weak in faith. These people were still in Madinah at the time of the Prophet’s death. The chapter of the Qur’an entitled Al-Hujurat, which addresses those who were being ill-mannered towards the Prophet and using spiteful names, was revealed in the ninth year after the emigration. One of its final verses reads:

The Bedouins say: “We have believed.” Say (to them): “You have not (yet) believed; but say (instead), ‘We have submitted’, for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Al-Hujurat 49:14)

At the time of the Prophet’s death, his shield was being held by a Jewish man as collateral for a debt he owed him. The Prophet had borrowed the money to provide food for his family. The Prophet needed the money at the time, and the purchase of the shield was in the Jewish man’s interest at the time. This is the basis of coexistence, to realize that your own welfare and that of other people can be realized together.

In this way, the Prophet gave a practical lesson for future generations. Madinah, the first capital of Islam, had this diversity within it. In this way, the people could learn how to call others to Islam and how to conduct themselves in a society where they live with people of other faiths as fellow citizens.

Throughout History

During the many eras of Islamic rule throughout history, the rights of the various religious communities and denominations were upheld and protected within the context of a strong social fabric. They were not forced to change their religion or their denominational affiliation. The Muslims continued to engage them in polite debate and discussion.

This social fabric can be torn apart by conflicts spurred on by political interests who instigate the ignorant people and play on their prejudices. When this happens, when neighbor turns against neighbor, people abandon our Prophet’s teachings which stress neighborly rights even with those you disagree with.

At times of conflict, people behave irrationally and suspiciously. Sensible people know that this state of affairs is temporary and can –must– be surmounted. People can settle back into living together in peace and cooperation for their mutual wellbeing.

This is why `Amr ibn Al-`Aas praised the Roman people for being: “the quickest people to recover from a crisis.” He was referring to an aspect of their cultural mindset that allowed them to get past the times of strife and war and return to a productive state of dialogue and cooperation. This is what we see in Europe after the two world wars. The European people pulled themselves together and ultimately created the European common market, and ultimately the European Union with all of its impressive institutions.

By contrast, we find some Arab tribes holding on to their ancient feuds, passing the animosity down from one generation to the next, keeping them alive through their legends and poems as if the conflict began only yesterday.

These tensions can sometimes take on a sectarian or partisan character, spurred on by political rhetoric and ideology. We see this among both Islamist and secular factions, which shows that the particular ideology in the political theatre did not succeed in disciplining this trend, but instead channelled it one way or another.


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The Muslim and the Belief in Allah’s Books

The Muslim and the Belief in Allah’s Books

By Abdul-Rahman Al Sheha

To have iman in Allah’s books is to believe that Allah (Exalted be He) revealed heavenly books to His messengers in order to convey them to humankind. These books contain nothing but the truth; they do not contain any falsehood. In them is the message of the Oneness of Allah: that there is no creator, administrator, or owner except Him, that all worship should be directed to Him and none else, and that to Him belong all excellent Names and Attributes. He is nothing like His creation, and none can be compared to Him. Allah says:

Indeed We have sent Our Messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance (justice) that mankind may keep up justice. (Al-Hadid 57:25)

Some of those books are the following:

1- The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses (peace be upon them)

The Qur`an has given a brief insight about the religious basic principles found in these scriptures. Allah says:

Or is he not informed with what is in the Scriptures of Moses? And of Ibrahim who fulfilled (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another. And that man can have nothing but what he (himsel) strove for. And that his deeds will be seen (in the Hereafter). Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense. (An-Najm 53:36-41)

2- The Tawrah

The Tawrah is the Sacred Book which was revealed to Musa (Moses). Allah says:

Verily, We did send down the Tawrah (to Musa), therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will, judged the Jews. And the rabbis and the priests (too judged the Jews by the Tawrah after those Prophets) for to them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed, such are the disbelievers. (Al-Ma’idah 5:44)

3- The Zaboor

The Zaboor is the Book which was revealed to Dawud (peace be upon him) (David). Allah says:

…and to Dawood We gave the Zaboor. (An-Nisaa´ 4:163)

4- The Injeel

The Injeel is the Sacred Book which was revealed to `Isa (peace be upon him) (Jesus). Allah says:

And in their footsteps, We sent `Isa, son of Maryam (Mary), confirming the Tawrah that had come before him. And We gave him the Injeel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Tawrah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for the Allah-fearing. (Al-Ma’idah 5:46)

Belief in Them

A Muslim must believe in all the Heavenly Books. He must believe that they are from Allah, but he is required not act upon or follow them, for they were revealed for a specific time and people.

The Qur`an has explained some of the teachings which were found in the Tawrah and the Injeel. Allah says that from the things they mentioned was the prophecy of Muhammad (peace be upon him):

 …and My Mercy embraces all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who are Allah-fearing, and give Zakah; and those who believe in Our revelations; Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write (Muhammad) whom they find written with them in the Tawrah and the Injeel, – he commands them all good things; and forbids them from of all kinds of evil; he allows them as lawful all good and lawful things, and prohibits them as unlawful all evil and unlawful things; and he releases them from their heavy burdens (of Allah’s Covenant), and from the fetters (bindings) that were upon them. (Al-A`raf 7:156-157)

5- The Qur’an

One must hold the following beliefs concerning it:

a- One must believe that the Qur`an is the exact and literal Speech of Allah which Jibreel (peace be upon him) brought to Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a clear Arabic language. Allah says:

Which the trustworthy Ruh (Gabriel) has brought down; Upon your heart (O Muhammad that you may be (one) of the warners, In a plain Arabic language. (Ash-Shu`araa’ 26:193-195)

b- One must believe that the Qur`an is the last of the heavenly books, giving truth to the previous books in their message of the Tawheed of Allah and the obligation to worship and obey Him Alone. Allah abrogated all the previous books by the Qur`an. Allah says:

(It is) He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (Muhammad ) with truth, confirming what came before it. And He sent down the Tawrah and the Injeel. Aforetime, as a guidance to mankind, And He sent down the Furqan (The Criterion) (of judgment between right and wrong (this Qur’an). (Aal `Imran 3:3-4)

c- One must believe that the Qur`an embodies all divine teachings. Allah says:

This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as a religion. (Al-Ma’idah 5:3)

d- One must believe that it was revealed to all of humanity, and not to a specific nation or specific time period unlike the previous heavenly books. Allah says:

And We have not sent you (O Muhammad) except to all of humanity, as a giver of glad tidings and a warner, but most people know not. (Saba’ 34:28)

  1. e) One must believe that Allah has protected the Qur’an from all types of distortion, whether addition, deletion, substitution or interpolation. Allah says:

Indeed it is We ourselves who have sent down the Remembrance (the Qur`an) and surely, it is We who shall guard it (from distortion). (Al-Hijr 15:9)


The article is an excerpt from the author’s book “How to Become a Muslim”.