Changing the Qiblah

Changing the Qiblah

Changing the Qiblah was intended as the abolition of the sanctity of space whatever it may be and the confirmation of the sanctity of God Alone wherever the Qiblah direction may be. Learn how…..

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) emigrated from Mecca to Medina to survive disbelief, polytheism, and persecution and find a wider, vaster and more fertile environment, namely Medina.

It is Yathrib (Medina’s old name) which encompassed a pluralistic society which integrated the tribes of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj known later as (Al-Ansar “Supporters”) with various Jewish tribes and clans.

Since this new homeland hosting Prophet Muhammad as well as his mission was a fertile soil for the message of Islam and the monotheistic cause and this message managed to attract most members of Al-Aws and Al-Khazraj, Prophet Muhammad wished for the Jews’ conversion to Islam so that Medina would be a purely Muslim society.

However, unfortunately, Prophet Muhammad’s wish was not fulfilled, nor did his earnest endeavors achieve the desired results. Instead, he was faced with the same disbelief and obstinacy as those expressed by the pagans of Mecca despite the rapprochement and bridge-building efforts he exerted.

Prophet Muhammad established the first religion-based state(1) which allowed for religious, cultural and ethnic pluralism and secured all rights and freedoms by drawing up the Charter of Medina which was considered a precociously unique, fair pluralistic constitution which has had no match until very recently, i.e. after many centuries of religious persecution, extremism and fanaticism.

Prophet Muhammad was under no obligation to draw up this charter simply because such tolerance was not popular at the time, where the logic of dialogue was not recognized and only the logic of power and domination was adopted.

In spite of the religious and worldly gains Jews got, they did not make any encouraging response to Prophet Muhammad’s call to Islam. They even misunderstood the clemency, leniency and tolerance shown by Prophet Muhammad as propitiation and appeasement. That is why they were very pleased with Muslims’ taking Jerusalem as a Qiblah (the direction towards which prayer is offered). They thought that this was a token of subordination to their faith and implicit recognition of the Jewish superiority on the part of Islam and Muslims. As a result, the Jews persisted in their haughtiness and arrogance.

Though Prophet Muhammad used to offer prayers while facing Jerusalem in Mecca, he would also face the Ka`bah in the same direction as Jerusalem. However, when he immigrated to Medina, he could no longer face the Ka`bah and Jerusalem at the same time, which aggravated Prophet Muhammad’s feelings of sadness, pain, and agony driven by homesickness and estrangement.

Therefore, Prophet Muhammad wished to face the Ka`bah while offering prayers and take it as a Qiblah as a sort of mitigation and alleviation and out of the desire to be distinguished from the Jews who only showed arrogance and obstinacy when Prophet Muhammad faced their Qiblah.

Thus, Prophet Muhammad was very willing to declare Islam’s independence and distinction from the Jews as a way for deterring them and causing them to feel misguided and beguiled.

In this regard, God says in the Qur’an:

We have certainly seen the turning of your face, (O Muhammad), toward the heaven, and We will surely turn you to a qiblah with which you will be pleased. So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you (believers) are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer]. Indeed, those who have been given the Scripture well know that it is the truth from their Lord. And God is not unaware of what they do. (Al-Baqarah 2:144)

Thus, the Jews took the change of the Qiblah as a very strong slap which made them feel misguided and humiliated so much so that they asked Prophet Muhammad to face their Qiblah once again. Therefore, God warned him against that. He said:

And if you brought to those who were given the Scripture every sign, they would not follow your qiblah. Nor will you be a follower of their qiblah. Nor would they be followers of one another’s qiblah. So if you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, indeed, you would then be among the wrongdoers. (Al-Baqarah 2:145)

Though the change of the Qiblah was not an easy or facile affair, given the ensuing skepticism and the apostasy of a small number of faithless Muslims, it involved paramount religious and mundane interests, which were blessings in disguise. In this respect, God says:

And We did not make the qiblah which you used to face except that We might make evident who would follow the Messenger from who would turn back on his heels. And indeed, it is difficult except for those whom God has guided. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)

The Muslim community was at a stage of building and creation and in dire need of several changes and serious provisional gradations which could not take place without such an effective vaccine which could give this nascent community strong immunity against shake and fluctuation, grant it a crystal clear purpose and, at the same time, distinguish the faithful from the faithless.

It is worth noting that the revelations sent down at Mecca were mostly restricted to the call to monotheism. The Islamic rulings were not established at Mecca. Early Muslims were not used to abrogation, change or alteration. Most of the Islamic injunctions were revealed in Medina. Gradation in legislation required the abrogation and replacement of some rulings with others.

The change of the Qiblah was the first case of abrogation in the Islamic legislation and the Qur’an. It debunked the hypocrites and the deviants. Subsequent to it, the Muslim community became stronger, more immune and ready for the change, amendment or gradation which lied ahead.

Here is the Qiblah, which Muslims faced at least five times a day and whose direction was seen as the holiest ever in the sight of Muslims, undergoing change, alteration and replacement. Thus, abrogation, alteration and gradation became more acceptable and palatable among the Muslim masses.

This even paved the way for such graded rulings as those of usury, intoxicants etc. Such rulings could not have been passed smoothly without an effective vaccine like the change of the Qiblah which gave the Muslim community strong immunity against doubt, suspicion and shakiness.

Qur’anic verses were revealed, emphasizing that God does not care about the Qiblah direction, be it eastbound, westbound, northbound or southbound. All of those directions still lie within the dominion of God. The Qiblah direction does not affect prayer itself for the latter is a spiritual rather than physical act given the acceptance of the prayers of the first-generation Muslims who passed away before the change of the Qiblah. In this effect, God says:

The foolish among the people will say, “What has turned them away from their qiblah, which they used to face?” Say, “To God belongs the east and the west. He guides whom He wills to a straight path.” (Al-Baqarah 2:142)

He also says:

And never would God have caused you to lose your faith. Indeed God is, to the people, Kind and Merciful. (Al-Baqarah 2:143)

After all, the change of the Qiblah was intended as the abolition of the sanctity of space whatever it may be and the confirmation of the sanctity of God Alone wherever the Qiblah direction may be.

This is one of the exclusive characteristics of Islam and something which distinguishes Muslims from the followers of the previous divine messages. In Islam, sanctity is God’s Alone and whatever He may declare sanctified no matter how changing it may be. There is no sanctity for anyone other than God. A man cannot be sanctified or worshiped along with God, nor can a temple or synagogue be sanctified for itself. There is no sanctity that may tower above or be equal to that of God, the Most Holy One, hence came the moderateness of Islam. It is moderation between two notable extremes, namely the sanctification of man (as in Christianity) on the one hand and the sanctification of space (as in Judaism) on the other hand so that sanctity will exclusively remain God’s Alone. In the Qur’an, God says:

And to God belongs the east and the west. So wherever you [might] turn, there is the Face of God . Indeed, Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (Al-Baqarah 2:115)

(1) Note: The concept of the “Religion-based State” or even “Theocracy” is not always a negative concept as may be thought by many people. The reason for rejecting this concept is the failure of the Christian Western pattern as well as other contemporary patterns. Those patterns were mostly based on rejecting the other and imposing a certain religion, doctrine or lifestyle on them. However, this is not always the case. The religion-based state established at the dawn of Islam in Medina was a unique pattern of coexistence, justice and integration. Its slogan was: “Let there be no compulsion in the matters of religion.”

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Source: www.islamforchristians.com.

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A Blessed Birth of a Noble Prophet

In his seminal authoritative book on the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Ibn Hisham – the author of the first account of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, which has come down to us as As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah (The Prophet’s Life) – informs us that Ibn Ishaq has clearly and precisely established the Prophet’s birth date:

peace be upon him

He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

“The Messenger (God’s peace and blessings be upon him) was born on a Monday, on the twelfth night of Rabi` Awwal, in the year of the elephant.”

Other accounts mention other months of the year, but throughout history there has been broad acceptance of that date among scholars and within Muslim communities. The Muslim calendar being a lunar one, it is difficult to determine exactly the solar month of his birth, but the “year of the elephant” to which Ibn Ishag refers corresponds to 570 CE.

Noble Birth… Noble Origin

The Last Prophet was born in one of Makkah’s noble families, Banu Hashim, which enjoyed great respect among all the clans in and around Makkah. This noble descent combined with a particularly painful and debilitating personal history. His mother, Aminah, was only two months pregnant when his father, `Abdullah, died during a trip to Yathrib, north of Makkah.

Fatherless at birth, young Muhammad was to live with the tension of the dual status implied in Makkah by a respectable descent, on one hand, and the precariousness of having no father, on the other.

Ibn Ishaq reports that the name Muhammad, quite unknown at the time in the Arabian Peninsula, came to his mother in a vision while she was still pregnant. (Ibn Hsham, As-Seerah An-Nabawiyah)

This same vision is also said to have announced to her the birth of the “master of this people” (sayyid hadhihi al-ummah); according to the vision, when he was born she was to say the words “I place him under the protection of the One (Al-Wahid) against the treachery of the envious.

Torn between her grief at her husband’s death and the joy of welcoming her child, Aminah said repeatedly that strange signs had accompanied the gestation, then the extraordinarily easy birth of her child.

The Desert

Aminah soon became aware that she was the mother of an exceptional child. This feeling was shared by Muhammad’s grandfather, `Abdul-Muttalib, who took responsibility for him after his birth. In Makkah, it was customary to entrust infants to wet nurses belonging to the nomadic Bedouin tribes living in the nearby desert.

Because he was fatherless, one nurse after another refused to take the child into her care, fearing that his ambiguous status would bring them no profit. Halimah, who had arrived last because her mount was tired, decided with her husband that it was better for them to take the child, although he was an orphan, than to risk being mocked by their tribe when they went home. They therefore went back with the infant Muhammad, and Halimah, just like Aminah, tells of many signs that led her and her husband to think that this child seemed blessed.

For four years, the orphan was looked after by Halimah and lived with the Banu Sa`d Bedouins in the Arabian desert. He shared the nomads’ life in the most barren and difficult natural environment, surrounded, as far as the eye could see, with horizons bringing to mind the fragility of the human being and spurring contemplation and solitude.

Although he did not yet know it, Muhammad was going through the first trials ordained for him by the One, Who had chosen him as a messenger and was, for the time being, his Educator, his Rabb (Lord).

Why Orphan?

The Qur’an would later recall his particular situation as an orphan as well as the spiritual teachings associated with the experience of life in the desert:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? And He found you wandering, and He gave you guidance. And He found you in need, and made you independent. Therefore (for that reason), do not treat the orphan with harshness, nor chide him who asks. But the bounty of your Lord, proclaim! (Ad-Duha 93:6-11)

lighthouse

For each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching.

Those verses of the Qur’an carry several teachings: being both an orphan and poor was actually an initiatory state for the future Messenger of God, for at least two reasons. The first teaching is obviously the vulnerability and humility he must naturally have felt from his earliest childhood.

This state was intensified when his mother, Aminah, died when Muhammad was six. This left him utterly dependent on God, but also dose to the most destitute among people. The Qur’an reminds him that he must never forget this throughout his life and particularly during his prophetic mission. He was orphaned and poor, and for that reason he is reminded and ordered never to forsake the underprivileged and the needy.

Considering the exemplary nature of the prophetic experience, the second spiritual teaching emanating from these verses is valid for each human being: never to forget one’s past, one’s trials, one’s environment and origin, and to turn one’s experience into a positive teaching for oneself and for others.

Muhammad’s past, the One reminds him, is a school from which he must draw useful, practical, and concrete knowledge to benefit those whose lives and hardships he has shared, since he knows from his own experience, better than anyone else, what they feel and endure.

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

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The Prophet’s Miraculous Night Journey: A Gift and a Test

The Prophet’s Miraculous Night Journey: A Gift and a Test

The Night Journey experience,  presented in classical accounts of the Prophet’s life as a gift from God and a consecration for the Messenger, the Elect (AI-Mustafa) was a real trial for Muhammad and those around him.

A Test

The Night Journey marked the boundary between those believers whose faith radiated in their trust in this Prophet and his message and the others, who were taken aback by the improbability of such a story.

A Quraysh delegation hastened to go and question Abu Bakr about his mad and senseless friend,but his immediate, forthright answer surprised them: ”If he says such a thing, it cannot but be true!”

Abu Bakr’s faith and trust were such that he was not in the least disturbed, even for a second. After that, he personally went to question the Prophet, who confirmed the facts.As a result, Abu Bakr repeated forcefully: ”I believe you, you have always spoken the truth.”

It is from that day on, the Prophet called Abu Bakr the epithet As-Siddiq (he who is truthful, who confirms the truth).

The trial that Muhammad’s Night Journey presented for his fellow Muslims occurred at a moment when they were struggling with a most difficult situation. Sunnah reports that a few Muslims left Islam, but most trusted Muhammad.

A few weeks later, facts confirmed some elements of his account, for instance the arrival of caravans whose coming he had announced (having seen them on his way back) and of which he had given a precise description.

Thanks to the strength of this faith, the community of Muslims would be able to face future adversity. From then on, `Umar ibn Al-Khattab and Abu Bakr were always to stand in the front line of this spiritual force.

Spiritual Lessons

Muslim scholars have, from the outset, pondered the question of whether the Night Journey was of a purely spiritual nature or whether it was also physical. The majority of scholars consider that the journey was both physical and spiritual.

All things considered, however, this question is not essential in the light of the teachings that can be drawn from this extraordinary experience undergone by the Messenger (peace be upon him).

There is first of all, of course, the centrality of the city of Jerusalem: at the time, the Prophet prayed facing the holy city (the first qiblah, or direction of prayer),and during the Night Journey it was on the site of the Temple that he led the prayer together with all the prophets. Jerusalem thus appears at the heart of the Prophet’s experience and teaching as a dual symbol, of both centrality (with the direction of prayer) and universality (with the prayer of all the prophets).

Later, in Madinah, the qiblah (direction of prayer) changed from Jerusalem to the Ka`bah to distinguish Islam from Judaism, but this by no means entailed a diminution of Jerusalem’s status, and in the verse:

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who hears and sees (all things). (Al-Israa’ 17:1)

The references to the “Sacred Mosque“ (the Ka`bah, in Makkah) and the farthest Mosque(Al-Aqsa, in Jerusalem) establish a spiritual and sacred link between the two cities.

The other teaching is of a purely spiritual essence: all revelation reached the Prophet in the course of his earthly experience, with the exception, as we have seen, of the verses that establish the fundamental pillars of faith (iman) and the duty of prayer (as-salah).

Night Journey & Prescribed Worship

The Prophet was raised to heaven to receive the teachings that were to become the foundation of Islamic worship and ritual, `aqeedah and `ibadat (religious duties of worship required of all Muslims who are of age and of sound body and mind), which require that believers should accept their form as well as their substance.

Unlike the field of social affairs (al-mu`amalat), which calls for the creative mediation of people’s intellect and intelligence, human rationality here submits,in the name of faith and as an act of humility, to the order imposed by revelation; God has prescribed requirements and norms that the mind must hear and implement and the heart must love.

Raised to receive the injunction of ritual prayer, the Prophet and his experience reveal what prayer must in essence be: a reminder of and an elevation toward the Most High, five times a day, in order to detach from oneself, from the world, and from illusions.

The mi`raj (the elevation during the Night Journey) is thus more than simply an archetype of the spiritual experience; it is pregnant with the deep significance of prayer, which, through the eternal world, enables us to liberate our consciousness from the contingencies of space and time, and fully comprehend the meaning of life and of life.

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

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Prophet Muhammad on the Night Journey.. The Qur’an Tells Us

Prophet Muhammad on the Night Journey.. The Qur’an Tells Us

By: Tariq Ramadan

What do you know about the Prophet’s miraculous night journey? What happened on that journey? Who did he meet?

Beginning of the Night Journey

The Prophet liked to go to the Ka`bah enclosure at night. He would stand there in prayer for long hours. One evening, he suddenly felt deeply tired and in great need of sleep. He, therefore, lay down near the Ka`bah and fell asleep.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) has related that the Angel Gabriel then came to him. Gabriel shook him twice to awaken him, but Muhammad slept on; the third time the angel shook him, Muhammad awoke, and Gabriel took him to the doors of the mosque, where a white animal looking something like a cross between a mule and a donkey, but with wings) was waiting for them. He mounted the animal, which was called Al-Buraq, and started with Gabriel toward Jerusalem.

Up There

There Muhammad met a group of prophets who had preceded him (Abraham, Moses, and others, peace be upon them), and he led a group prayer with them on the Temple site. When the prayer was over, the Prophet was raised with the Angel Gabriel beyond space and time.

On his way, rising through the seven heavens, he again met the various prophets, and his vision of the heavens and of the beauty of those horizons permeated his being.

He at last reached Sidrat Al-Muntaha (the Lotus of the Utmost Boundary). This was where the Prophet received the injunction of the five daily prayers and revelation of the verse that established the `aqeedah (elements of the Muslim creed). (There were initially to be fifty prayers, but the number was reduced to five after successive requests from the Prophet acting on Moses’ advice.)

The Messenger believes in that which has been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believes in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – We make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: “We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying”. (Al-Baqarah 2:285)

Muhammad was taken back to Jerusalem by the Angel Gabriel and Al-Buraq, and from there to Makkah. On the way back, he came upon some caravans that were also traveling to Makkah. It was still night when they reached the Ka`bah enclosure.

The angel and Al-Buraq left, and Muhammad proceeded to the home of Um Hani, one of his most trusted Companions. He gave her an account of what had happened to him, and she advised him not to tell anybody about it, which Muhammad refused to do.

The Qur’an Tells the Story

Later on, the Qur’an was to report this experience in different passages. One is in the Surah whose title, Al-Israa’ ( the Nocturnal Voyage), directly refers to the event:

Glory to (Allah) Who did take His servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless,- in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who hears and sees (all things). (Al-Israa’ 17:1)

It is also in Surat An-Najm (The Star):

It is no less than inspiration sent down to him: He was taught by one Mighty in Power, endued with wisdom: for he appeared (in stately form); while he was in the highest part of the horizon. Then he approached and came closer, and was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer. So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant- (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey. The (Prophet’s) (mind and) heart in no way falsified that which he saw. Will you then dispute with him concerning what he saw? For indeed he saw him at a second descent, near the Lote-tree beyond which none may pass. Near it is the Garden of Abode. Behold, the Lote-tree was shrouded (in mystery unspeakable!) (His) sight never swerved, nor did it go wrong! For truly did he see, of the signs of his Lord, the Greatest! (An-Najm 53:4-18)

The Night Journey and ascension were to give rise to many comments, both when the Prophet recounted the facts and later among Muslim scholars. When Muhammad went to the Ka`bah and reported his experience, jeers, sniggers and criticisms quickly followed.

The Quraysh believed that, at last, they had proof that the so-called prophet was indeed mad since he dared claim that in one night he had made a journey to Jerusalem (which in itself required several weeks) and that he had, furthermore, been raised to the presence of his One God. His madness was obvious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To be continued…

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

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How Did the Prophet Prepare for Ramadan?

How Did the Prophet Prepare for Ramadan?

What did Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) do in order to welcome Ramadan? Were there special preparations to welcome the month of Ramadan? Why did he (peace be upon him) prepare himself for this blessed month? What did he say about this blessed month?

Learn from the Prophet…Prepare for Ramadan

Watch this video by Dr. Zakir Naik to know how the Prophet (peace be upon him) prepared himself for Ramadan…

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The Prophet’s Life and Mission As the Qur’an Depicts Them

By Abdur Raheem Kidwai

The Qur’an depicts a clear picture of the Prophet’s life and mission, his place in Islam, and his coveted position in the sight of Allah. So, what does the Qur’an say about that?

Those who believe and do good deeds and believe in the revelation sent down to Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Lord– He will remove from them their misdeeds and improve their condition. (Muhammad 47:2)

Although there exist many standard biographies of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in every major world language, the Qur’an itself brings out the outstanding features of his illustrious life and career.

Reading the Qur’an one gets a clear picture of his message and mission and the central place he occupies in Islam. In the above verse of the Qur’an Muslims are promised forgiveness for their sins, if they follow the divine message sent down to the Prophet. This underscores the Prophet’s coveted position in the sight of Allah. Without the pledge to abide by his teachings, no salvation is possible. His message is hailed as the truth revealed by Allah.

More remarkably, Allah promises that one’s commitment to it is bound to bring success in both worlds. For he is part of the chain of Allah’s messengers who conveyed divine guidance to mankind. Rather, he stands out as the final Messenger, marking the end of messengership:

And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot. Each one (of them) did We prefer above (Our) creatures, with some of their forefathers and their offspring and their brethren; and We chose them and guided them unto a straight path. Such is the guidance of Allah wherewith He guides whom He will of His bondmen. (Al-An`am 6:85-88)

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things. (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

To Teach & Purify

Muhammad (peace be upon him) belongs to the progeny of the Prophet Ishmael, son of the Prophet Abraham. His advent in seventh century Makkah marks Allah’s acceptance of the supplication made by the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael:

Our Lord! Raise up for them (the children of Ishmael) a Messenger from among them who will recite to them Your revelations and will teach them the Book and wisdom and will purify them (of sin and unbelief). Surely You alone are Almighty, the Wise. (Al-Baqarah 2:129)

There is ample evidence to prove that he accomplished his fourfold mission well. At the time he appeared on the scene, the Arabs had discarded and corrupted the divine message conveyed to them by the Prophet Abraham. All sorts of evil – social, moral and economic – had crept into their way of life.

They were given to drinking, causing bloodshed and sexual licentiousness. They had grown so callous that they used to bury their daughters alive. They had installed hundreds of idols in and around the Ka‘bah and openly indulged in polytheism. As a pious person even in his pre-prophetic life, Muhammad felt disturbed over the degeneration which he observed in his society.

When he was 40 years old, Allah appointed him His final Messenger, directing him to convey divine guidance in both word and deed. The Archangel Gabriel transmitted to him the opening verses of Surat Al-`Alaq (the 96th chapter of the Qur’an), which constitute the first installment of divine revelation.

Throughout the 23 years of his Prophetic career he received at intervals its other parts, which taken together comprise the Qur’an, the final Book of guidance for all mankind, regardless of time and place. His main assignment consisted in giving the good news to believers and warning unbelievers. At several places the Qur’an projects him in this role:

Lo! We have sent you (O Muhammad) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And you wilt not be asked about the companions of hell-fire. (Al-Baqarah 2:119)

O Prophet! Lo! We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. (Al-Ahzab 33:45)

Abraham’s Way

He made plain his adherence to the Prophet Abraham’s way with a view to reminding fellow Arabs of their original faith. So doing, he emphasized also the cardinal principles of monotheism in faith:

(Abraham declared) “As to me, I have set my face firmly and truly towards Him Who created the heavens and earth. Never shall I ascribe partners to Allah. (Al-An`am 6:79)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented the essence of the creed of earlier messengers, asserting that he was there to confirm the Scriptures originally sent down to mankind. The Qur’an stresses the essential similarity between its message and that of the Books revealed to other messengers. For all of these originated from the same source – Allah. Since earlier Scriptures had been corrupted by the wicked beyond recognition, there was a need to revive the original divine message.

This task was performed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Life of a True Believer

Not only did he transmit faithfully the Word of Allah, he also demonstrated the way of life of a true believer. His distinguished life and conduct serve as the role model for all time and place. For example, Allah directed him to engage sincerely in worshipping Him in order to achieve closeness to Him.

Moreover, he displayed exemplary bravery, courage and tact in overcoming the unbelievers on the battleground:

When you climbed (the hill) and paid no heed to anyone, while the messenger, in your rear, was calling you (to fight). Therefor He rewarded you grief for (his) grief, that (He might teach) you not to sorrow either for that which you missed or for that which befell you. Allah is Informed of what you do. (Aal `Imran 3:153)

And if We had not strengthened you, you would have almost inclined to them a little. (Al-Israa’ 17:74)

These and many other points are cited in the Qur’an in order to vindicate his genuine Messengership. The following passages, in particular, adduce arguments in support of his designation as Allah’s Messenger:

Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet and those who believe (with him); and Allah is the Protecting Guardian of the believers. (Aal `Imran 3:68)

But Allah (Himself) testifies concerning that which He has revealed unto you; in His knowledge hath He revealed it; and the angels also testify. And Allah is sufficient Witness. (An-Nisaa’ 4:166)

Rather, Allah promised him the highest reward imaginable – that of elevating him to the station of praise and glory:

Your Lord will raise you to the rank of praise and glory. (Al-Israa’ 17:79)

And We have exalted your fame. (Al-Inshirah 94:4)

The Last Messenger

Another of his distinctions is that he is the last Messenger in the chain of Allah’s envoys. What this signifies is that Islam as revealed to and preached by him will serve as the final message for all time to come. The universality and timelessness of his mission are special to him:

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things. (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

As part of His grand plan for the guidance of mankind, Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) down as the mercy for all the worlds:

And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107)

Abiding by his directives amounts to obeying Allah. This underscores his pivotal position in matters of faith. Hadith and Sunnah, his sayings and deeds respectively, are therefore, of the utmost importance in Islam and constitute the primary sources of faith. The Qur’an commands Muslims to obey him unquestioningly:

And obey Allah and the Messenger, that you may obtain His mercy. (Aal `Imran 3:132)

He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah. (An-Nisaa’ 4:80)

A Human

Notwithstanding his many special features, the Prophet is a mortal human being, a servant of Allah, chosen by Him to convey His message to man. He does not share any trait of divinity. Nor does he have access to the realm of the Unseen which is only Allah’s prerogative. The Islamic concept of messengership is marked by balance and moderation.

Unlike Christianity, it does not elevate the Prophet to Godhead. And, unlike some other faiths, it does not project a tainted picture of messengers, given to worldliness and vice. In keeping with its cardinal principle of monotheism, the Qur’an denies any superhuman feature to him:

(O Muhammad) Say: “I do not tell you that the treasures of Allah are with me. Nor do I know what is hidden. Nor do I tell you that I am an angel. (Al-An`am 6:50)

They ask you concerning the Hour – when it is to come. Say: “Its knowledge is with my Lord alone. None can disclose its time but He” … Say: “I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah wills. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I would have amassed all good and no evil should have ever touched me. I am only a warner and bring glad tidings to the people who believe.” (Al-A`raf 7:187-188)

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

 

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