By Dr. M. Haris Z Deen
This month, Muslims all over the world will be remembering the birth of the prophet of Islam – Muhammad (on whom be peace and blessings of God). The exact date of his birth is unclear but from events that had taken place about that time, historians have fixed it as the 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal. The month though has been fixed with certainty. Some Muslims celebrate it as a “birthday of the Prophet”, while most others remember it as a day of the greatest importance and joy for them. Celebrating birthdays are not recommended as a rule but people, including Muslims celebrate their own birthdays despite certain objections. The Prophet of Islam however, remembered his birthday by observing fasting as a measure of gratitude to God for the blessing of his birth on this day.
In a Hadith narrated by Abu Qatadah al-Ansari (May Allah be pleased with him) that when the Messenger of Allah (May blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) was asked about fasting on Mondays he replied: “On (that day) I was born on it and Revelation came down to me”. (Sahih Muslim Hadith No. 1162). And in another Hadith narrated by Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) it was reported that the Messenger of Allah (May blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) said: “Deeds are presented (to Allah) on Monday and Thursday and I like my deeds to be presented when I am fasting”. (Sunan At-Tirnmidhi – Hadith No. 747).
Whatever the reasons, motives and intentions are who better is there for Muslims to remember and emulate than their prophet?
In this piece, I intend to explore the most important legacy that the prophet of Islam left behind for his followers.
Firstly, from the day of his birth up to the time of his demise, there is not a shred of evidence that he claimed divinity. He emphasised time and again that he was only a human being selected by God to deliver His Message. That he (the prophet) on his own could do nothing. This is the cornerstone of the Islamic creed and the foundation upon which its articles of faith are based. Understanding this aspect and the character the prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) will be most appropriate on this propitious day.
Secondly, the clear message that the Prophet of Islam (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) delivered on the importance of believing in the omnipotence (Tawheed) of Allah. As part of this message he sought no favours from anyone except the Creator and declared to the last day that he was none but a human being and advised his followers Muslims like my readers to seek help, peace and happiness from Allah alone and that is the message that Muslims explore and remember on this occasion.
The Prophet also ensured that his companions carried this message of omnipotence of God to every corner of the world and that is what is worth remembering when we remember the birth of the prophet of Islam.
Muhammad In the Quran
God has put emphasis on the ordinary human nature of the prophet in the Qur’an thus “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: Many were the Messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those (who serve him) with gratitude”. (3:144).
And God commands his Messenger to declare his mission thus “Say; O’ men! I am sent unto you all as the Messenger of Allah to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth; there is no god but He; it is He that gives both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, The unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and His Words. Follow him that you may be guided”. (7:158).
God continues further in Chapter 6 verse 50: “Say I tell you not that with me are the treasures of Allah, Nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me ……..” and continues further thus: ” Not for you, (but for Allah), is the decision: Whether he turn in mercy to them, or punish them, for they are indeed wrong doers”. (3:128).
Thus, God establishes His authority and makes it clear that Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has no power of his own to do anything but his duty was to proclaim the message of God: “O Messenger (proclaim the message) that has been sent to thee from thy Lord. If you did not you would not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guides not those who reject faith”. (3:67).
And in another Surah Allah describes the Prophet’s (May peace be upon him) Infallibility thus: “It is true that you will not be able to guide everyone whom you love. But Allah guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance”. (28:56)
Allah describes His Messenger (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the most elegant terms thus: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the seal of the prophets; And Allah has full knowledge of all things”. (33:40).
It is thus established in no uncertain terms that Divinity belongs to Allah and His Messenger is none but a human being selected and sent to convey the message of Allah
From the Hadith
The most appropriate Hadith that I was able to find is attributed to Rafi ibn Khadi (May Allah be pleased with him) that when the Messenger of Allah (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) arrived in Medina they were grafting trees (cross-pollinating). The Prophet inquired, “What are you doing”? and they replied “we are grafting them (or cross pollinating them). The prophet commented “perhaps it would be better if you did not do it”. They abandoned the practice and the trees yielded less fruit and when this fact was mentioned to the Prophet (on whom be peace) he said; “Verily I am only a human being, if I command you to do something from my opinion then I am only a human being”. (Sahih Muslim – Hadith No. 2362).
In another Hadith in al-Bukhari (No. 3261) reported by Umar ibn al Kattab (May Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (on whom be peace) is reported to have said “Do not exaggerate about me as was exaggerated about ‘Easa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) Say: ‘the slave of Allah and His Messenger”.
The Prophet of Islam (May peace be upon him) also did not permit anyone to even bow their head in respect as the following Hadith narrated in Al-Musnad Ahmad states that when Mu’aadh ibn Jabal (May Allah be pleased with him) returned from Syria, he bowed to the Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and he askd “What is this, O Mu’aadh?” Mua’adh replied O Messenger of Allah, I saw them in Syria prostrating to their bishops and patriarchs and they attributed that to the teachings of their prophets. He (the Prophet) said ‘they are lying, O Mu’aadh, if I were to instruct anyone to prostrate to anyone, I would have instructed women to prostrate to their husbands, because of the rights that Allah has given them (the husbands) over them (the wives). O Mu’aadh, do you think that if you pass by my grave, you would prostrate? Mu’aadh replied with an emphatic “No”, “Then do not do this” commanded the Messenger of Allah. (Sahih Muslim 2362)
The holy Prophet’s whole life had been based on establishing this doctrine of “Tawheed” one-ness and omnipotence of God and he ensured that all his companions adhered to this tenet at all times. This was beautifully demonstrated in the historic speech that Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) made when announcing the demise of the Prophet at the time even Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was sceptical and drew his sword to slay anyone who said that the prophet was dead. It would have been easy for Abu Bakr to use this opportunity to deify the Prophet, after all he was the most influential personality of all times and will remain so to eternity, when the Christians grant divinity and sainthood to every pious priest and the Hindus and other religious groups have ‘gods’ aplenty, why not Muhammad? Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) however, was not to make a speech of praise of the Prophet (On whom be Peace) instead the first thing he did was to squash any belief that the Prophet was none other than a mortal human being, as reported by Aisha, the wife of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with her) as follows:
“Allah’s Apostle died while Abu Bakr was at a place called As-Sunah (Al-‘Aliya) ‘Umar stood up and said, “By Allah! Allah’s Apostle is not dead!” ‘Umar (later on) said, “By Allah! Nothing occurred to my mind except that.” He said, “Verily! Allah will resurrect him and he will cut the hands and legs of some men.” Then Abu Bakr came and uncovered the face of Allah’s Apostle, kissed him and said, “Let my mother and father be sacrificed for you, (O Allah’s Apostle), you are good in life and in death. By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, Allah will never make you taste death twice.” Then he went out and said, “O oath-taker! Don’t be hasty.” When Abu Bakr spoke, ‘Umar sat down. Abu Bakr praised and glorified Allah and said, No doubt! Whoever worshipped Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, then Allah is Alive and shall never die.” Then he recited Allah’s Statement.:– “(O Muhammad) Verily you will die, and they also will die.” (39.30) He also recited:–
“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle; and indeed many Apostles have passed away, before him, If he dies Or is killed, will you then Turn back on your heels? And he who turns back On his heels, not the least Harm will he do to Allah And Allah will give reward to those Who are grateful.” (3.144)
Bukhari Book 5 vol 57 Hadith 19
And on accepting his appointment as the first Caliph of Islam Abu Bakr made this beautiful speech
“O people, I have been appointed over you, though I am not the best among you. If I do well, then help me; and if I act wrongly, then correct me. Truthfulness is synonymous with fulfilling the trust, and lying is equivalent to treachery. The weak among you is deemed strong by me, until I return to them that which is rightfully theirs, insha Allah. And the strong among you is deemed weak by me, until I take from them what is rightfully (someone else’s), insha Allah. No group of people abandons military/armed struggle in the path of Allah, except that Allah makes them suffer humiliation. And evil / mischief does not become widespread among a people, except that Allah inflicts them with widespread calamity. Obey me so long as I obey Allah and His Messenger. And if I disobey Allah and His Messenger, then I have no right to your obedience. Stand up now to pray, may Allah have mercy on you” [Al-Bidaayah wan-Nihaayah (6/305,306)]
Salallahu ala Muhammad Sallallahu Alaihi wa sallam, Salallahu Ala Muhammad Ya Rabbi Salli Alaihi wa Sallim.
Email: deenmohamed firstname.lastname@example.org