Chapter 4: The Advent of Prophet Muhammad

It was the will of God that the glorious sun of humanity’s guidance, which was to illuminate the world without end, should rise from the orb of Arabia. For it was the darkest corner of this terrestrial globe, it needed the most radiant daystar to dispel the gloom setting on it.

God had chosen the Arabs as the standard bearers of Islam for propagating its message to the four corners of the world, since these guileless people were simple hearted, nothing was inscribed on the tablets of their mind and heart, nothing so deep engraver as to present any difficulty in sweeping the slate clean of every impression. The Romans and the Iranians and the Indians, instinctually thrilled by the glory of their ancient arts and literatures, philosophies, cultures and civilizations were all crushed by the heavy burden of the past, that is, a conditioned reflex of ‘touch not-ism’ had got itself indelibly etched in their minds. The imprints in the memory of the Arabs were lightly impressed merely because of their rawness and ignorance or rather their nomadic life, and thus these were liable to he obliterated easily and replaced by new inscriptions. They were, in modern phraseology, suffering from unpreceptiveness which could readily be remedied while other civilized nations, having vivid pictures of the past filled in their minds, were haunted by an obsessive irrationality which could never be dismissed from their thoughts.

The Arabs, simple minded and straightforward, possessed the will of iron. If they failed to entertain a belief, they had no hesitation in taking up the sword to fight against it; but if they were convinced of the truth of an idea, they stayed with it through fire and water and were ever prepared to lay down their lives for it.

It was this psyche of the Arab mind which had found expression through Suhayl b. ‘Am, while the armistice of Hudaybia was being written. The document began with the words: “This is what MUHAMMED, the Messenger of God has agreed”. Suhayl promptly raised the objection, “By God, If I witnessed that you were God’s Messenger I would not have excluded you from the House of God and fought you”. Again, it was the same Arab turn of mind which is reflected in the summons of ‘Ikrama b. Abu Jahl. Pressed hard by the assailing charge of the Byzantine forces he cried out, “What a dolt you are! I have wielded the sword against the Messenger of God. Will I turn my back upon you ?” Thereafter he called out to his comrades, “Is there anyone to take the pledge of death on my hands?” Several persons immediately offered themselves and fought valiantly until they were all maimed and came to a heroic end. (Tabari, Vol. IV, p.36)

The Arabs were frank and unassuming, practical and sober, industrious, venturesome and plain spoken. They were neither double dealers nor liked to be caught in a trap. Like a people true soured, they were always out spoken and remained firm once they had taken a decision. An incident, occurring before the Hijrah of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), on the occasion of the second pledge of ‘Aqaba, typically illustrates the character of the Arabs.

Ibn Is’haq relates that when Aus and Khazraj plighted their faith to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) at ‘Aqaba , ‘Abbaas b. ‘Ubada of Khazraj said to his people, “O men of Khazraj, do you realize to what you are committing yourselves in pledging your support to the Prophet? It is to war against one and all. If you think that in case you lose your property and your nobles are killed you will give him up to his enemies, then do so now; for, by God, it would bring you shame in this world and the next. But if you have decided that you will be true to your words if your property is destroyed and your nobles are killed, then pledge yourselves; for, by God, it would bring you profit and success both in this world and the next.” The Khazraj replied: “We will pledge our support even if we lose our property and our leaders are killed; but, O Messenger of Allah, what will we get in return for redeeming our pledge”‘ “Paradise”, said the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in reply. Thereupon they said, “Stretch forth your hand”; and when the Prophet did so, they took their oath.” (Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 446)

And in truth and reality, the Ansaar(46) lived up to their word of honor. The reply given to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) on a subsequent occasion by S’ad b. Mu’adh perfectly expressed their feelings. S’ad had said to the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), “By God, if you continue your march and get as far as Bark al Ghimad,(47) we would accompany you and if you were to cross this sea, we would plunge into it with you.”(48)

“My Lord, this ocean has interrupted my march although I wanted to go ahead and proclaim the name in all the lands and seas”(49) These were the words uttered despairingly by ‘Uqba b. Nafi’ on reaching the shore of the Atlantic ocean. What ‘Uqba said on finding his victorious advance blocked by the ocean speaks volumes of the seriousness, absolute trust and iron will of the Arabs in accomplishing the task considered truthful by them.

The Greeks, the Byzantines and the Iranians were peoples of a different mettle. Accustomed to improving the shining hour as a godsend opportunity, they lacked the grit to fight against injustice and brutality. No ideal, no principle was attractive enough for them: no conviction or call was sufficiently potent to tug at their heartstrings in a way that they could imperil their comfort and pleasure.

Unspoiled by the nicety, polish and ostentatiousness usually produced by the display of wealth and luxury of an advanced culture, the Arabs had not developed that fastidiousness which hardens the heart and ossifies the brain, allows no emotion to catch the flame and always acts as an inhibition when one’s faith or conviction demands stirring of the blood. This is the listless apathy which is hardly ever erased from one’s heart.

Candidly honest and true souled, the Arabs had no taste for intrigue and duplicity. They were courageous, intrepid fighters accustomed to a simple and hard life filled with dangers and spent most of their time riding on horse backs across the waterless desert. These were the rules of iron essential for a nation required to accomplish a great task, especially, in an age when adventure and enterprise were the laws of Medes and Persians.

The common ignorance of the Arabs, exempted from the shame or reproach it involves, had helped to conserve the natural briskness and intellectual energy of these people. Being strangers to philosophies and sophistry, ratiocination and lame and impotent quibbling, they had preserved their soundness of mind, dispatch, resoluteness and fervidness of spirit.

The perpetual independence of Arabia from the yoke of invaders had made the Arabs free as birds; they enjoyed the benefits of human equality and beauty of living nature; and were not acquainted with the pomp or majesty or haughty demeanor of the emperors. The servile temper of the ancient Persia had, contrarily, exalted the Sasanian monarchs to supernatural beings. If any king took a medicine or was given phlebotomy, a proclamation was made in the capital that all and sundry should suspend their trades and business on that day.(50) If the king sneezed, nobody dared raise his voice to say grace, nor was anybody expected to say ‘Amen’ when the king sent up a prayer. The day any king paid a visit to any noble or chief was regarded an event so memorable that the elated family of the fortunate grandee instituted a new calendar from that day. It was an honor so singular that the grandee was exempted from payment of taxes for a fixed period besides enjoying other rewards, fiefs and robes of honor.(51)

We can imagine what a state audience of the king must have been like for those who were allowed to appear before him. By etiquette, all the courtiers, even the highest nobles and dignitaries, were required to stand silently with their hands folded on the navel, and their heads bowed in reverence.(52) Actually, this was the ceremonial etiquette prescribed for State audience during the reign of Chosroes I (531-579), known as Anushirvan (of the Immortal Soul) and ‘Adil (the Just). One can very well visualize the pompous ceremonials in vogue during the reign of Sasanid kings justly reputed as tyrants and despots.

Freedom of speech and expression (and not censure or criticism, in the least) was a luxury never indulged in by anyone in the vast kingdom of the Sasanids. Christensen has related, on the authority of At-Tabari, a story about Chosroes I, passing under the name of ‘The dust’ among the Sasanid kings, which demonstrates the freedom of allowed by the Iranian kings and the price paid for the imprudence of speaking out the truth.

“He assembled his council and ordered the secretary for taxes to read aloud the new rates of collection. When the secretary had announced the rates, Chosroes I asked twice whether anyone had any objection to the new arrangement. Everybody remained silent but on the third time of asking, a man stood up and asked respectfully whether the king had meant to establish a tax for perpetuity on things perishable, which, as time went on, would lead to injustice. “Accursed and rash !” cried the King, “To what class do you belong?” “I am one of the secretaries”, replied the mall “Then’, ordered the king, “Beat him to death with pen cases”. Thereupon every secretary started beating him with his pen case until the poor man died, and the beholders exclaimed: “O King, we find, all the taxes you have levied upon us, just and fair!’ (Iran ba ‘Ahad Sasaniyan, p.511)

The horrible condition of the depressed classes in the then India, who were condemned as untouchables by the social and religious laws promulgated by the Aryans, baffles all human understanding. Subjected to it gruesome indignity, this unfortunate class of human being was treated pretty much the same way as pet animals except that they resembled the species of man. According to this law, a Sudra who assaulted a Brahmin or attempted to do so, was to lose the limb with which the assault was made. The Sudra was forced to drink boiling oil if he made the pretentious claim of teaching somebody. (Manil Shahtra, 10 Chapter) The penalty for killing dogs, cats, frogs, chameleons, crows and owls was the same as that for killing the Sudras. (R.C. Dutt, Ancient India, Vol. III, pp. 324 qnd 343)

Unworthy treatment of their subjects by the Sasanian Emperors had not been the lot of the common man in Byzantium, but in their pride and policy to display the titles and attributes of their omnipotence, the Caesars of Rome had all the signs of their oriental counterparts.

Victor Chopart writes about the arbitrary rule and majesty of the Roman Emperors. “The Caesars were gods, but not by heredity, and one who rose to power would become divine in his turn, and there was no mark by which he could be recognized in advance. The transmission of the title of Augustus was governed by no regular constitutional law; it was acquired by victory over rivals, and the Senate did no more than ratify the decision of arms. This ominous fact became apparent in the first century of the Principate, which was merely a continuance of the military dictatorship.”(53)

If we compare the servile submission of the common man of Byzantium and Persia with the spirit of freedom and pride, as well as the temperament and social conduct of the pre-Islamic Arabs, we would see the difference between the social life and natural propensities of the Arabs and other nations of the world.

“May you be safe from frailty”, and “Wish you a happy morning”, were some of the salutations very often used by the Arabs to hail their kings. So solicitous were they of preserving their dignity and pride, honor and freedom that many a time they even refused to satisfy the demands of their chiefs and rulers. A story preserved by Arab historians admirably describes the rudimentary Arab virtues of courage and outspokenness. An Arab king demanded a mare known as Sikab from its owner belonging to Bani Tamim. The man flatly refused the request and instantly indited a poem of which the opening lines were:

Sikab is a nice mare, good as gold,
Too precious it is to be gifted or sold.
And, in the concluding verse he said:
To grab it from me, make no effort,
For I am competent to balk your attempt.(54)

The virtues common to all Arabs, men and women, were their overweening pride, loftiness of ambition, chivalrous bearing, magnanimous generosity and a wild, invigorating spirit of freedom. We find all these features of Arab character depicted in the affair leading to the murder of ‘Amr b. Hind, the King of Hira. It is related that ‘Amr b. Hind once sent to ‘Amr b. Kulthum, the proud cavalier and noted poet of Banu Taghlib, inviting him to pay a visit to himself, and also to bring his mother, Layla bint Muhalhil, to visit his own mother. ‘Amr came to Hira from Jazira with some of his friends, and Layla came attended by a number of her women. Pavilions were erected between Hira and the Euphrates. In one of these pavilions ‘Amr b. Hind entertained ‘Amr b. Kulthum, while Layla found quarters with Hind in an adjoining tent. Now, ‘Amr b. Hind had already instructed his mother to dismiss the servants before calling for dessert, and thus cause Layla. to wait upon her. Accordingly, Hind sent off her servants at the appointed moment and asked her guest, “O Layla, hand me that dish.” Layla felt insulted and exclaimed in shame, “Let those who want anything, fetch it for themselves”. Hind insisted on her demand despite Layla’s refusal. At last Layla cried, “O shame! Help Taghlib, help !” ‘Amr b. Kulthum got his blood up on hearing his mother’s cry and seizing a sword hanging on the wall, smote the King dead with a single blow. At the same time, the tribesmen of Banu Taghlib ransacked the tents and made rapid strides back of Jazira. ‘Amr b. Kulthum has narrated this story in an ode which is a fine illustration of the pre-Islamic ideal of chivalry. It was included in the Sab’a Mu’allaqat or the Seven Suspended Odes.(55)

The same Arab tradition of democracy tempered by aristocracy is to be witnessed in the meeting between the Arab envoy, Mughira b. Shu’ba, and Rustam, the Sasanian General and administrator of the empire. When Mughira entered the splendid court of Rustam, he found the latter sitting on a throne. Mughira made his way direct to Rustam, as was an Arab’s wont, and sat down on the throne by the side of Rustam. Rustam’s courtiers, however, lost no time in getting Mughira down from the throne of their chief. Thereupon Mughira said, “We had heard that you are a sagacious people but now I see that none is more block headed than you. We Arabs treat everybody as an equal and enslave no man save on the battlefield. I had presumed that you would also be conducting yourselves similarly towards your own people. You should have better told us that you have exalted some amongst you as your gods; for, we would have then known that no dialogue was possible between us and you. In that case we would not have dealt with you in the way we have done, nor came to see you, although it was you who invited us here.” (Tabari, Vol. IV, p. 108)

There was yet another reason for the advent of the last Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in Arabia and it was Ka’ba, the House of God, built by Abraham and Ishmael (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) as the center for worship of One God.

“Lo ! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca(56), a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples.” [Qur’an 3:96]

There is a mention of the valley of Baca in the Old Testament. The old translators of the Bible gave this word the meaning of ‘a valley of weeping’, but better sense seems to have prevailed later on. According to more recent of the Biblical scholars, the word ‘signifies rather any valley lacking water, and ‘the Psalmist apparently has in mind a particular valley whose natural condition led him to adopt that name.(57) Now, this waterless valley, which can easily be identified with the valley of Makkah, has been thus mentioned in the Book of Psalms.

“Blessed art they that dwell in thy house; they will still be praising thee Selah. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; In whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well. ” [Psalm 84:4-6]

The birth of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in the city of Makkah was really an answer to the prayer sent up by Abraham and Ishmael (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) while laying the foundation of Ka’ba. They had beseeched God in these words: “Our Lord! And raise up unto them an Messenger from among them, who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall teach them the Book and wisdom, and shall cleanse them. Verily Thou! Thou art the Mighty, the Wise.” [Qur’an 2:129]

A standing norm of God Almighty is that He always answers the prayers of those who are pious and devoted and pure in heart. The Messengers of God (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) occupy, without doubt, a higher place than the most devout and the godliest believers. All the earlier scriptures and prophecies bear witness to this fact. Even the Old Testament testifies that the supplication of Abraham in regard to Ishmael (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) met the approval of the Lord. The Book of Genesis says:

“And as for Ish’ma-el, 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.” (Gen. 17:20)

That is why the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) is reported to have said: “I am the (result of the) prayer of Abraham and prophecy of Jesus”. (Musnad Imam Ahmad) The Old Testament still contains, notwithstanding its numerous recensions and alterations, the evidence that this prayer of Abraham was answered by God. Mark the very clear reference in the Book of Deuteronomy to the advent of a prophet.

“The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18:15)

Now, this being a prognosis by Moses, “Thy brethren”clearly indicates that the prophet promised by God was to be raised from amongst the Ishmaelites who were the cousins of Israelites. God again reiterates His promise in the same Book:

“And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” (Deut. 18:17-18)

The words ‘put my words in his mouth’ occurring in this oracle very clearly indicate the advent of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) who was to recite and deliver to his people the divine revelation exactly as he received them. This prediction has been substantiated by the Qur’an also.

“Nor doth he speak of (his own) desire.” [Qur’an 53:3]

Again, the Qur’an says about the revelation vouchsafed to the Prophet MUHAMMED (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam):

“Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. (It is! a revelation from the Wise, the Owner Praise.” [Qur’an 41:42]

But, quite unlike the Qur’an, both the Bible and its followers ascribe the authorship of the ‘Books’ included in the Bible to the ‘ancient sages’ and the ‘great teachers’ and never to the Divine Author Himself. Modern Biblical scholars have reached the conclusion that:

“Ancient Jewish traditions attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch(58) (with the exceptions of the last eight verses describing Moses’ death) to Moses himself. But the many inconsistencies and seeming contradictions contained in it attracted the attention of the Rabbis, who exercised their ingenuity in reconciling them.” (Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IX, p.589)

As for the ‘Books’ forming part of the New Testament, they have never been treated, either literally or in their contents to be of Divine origin. These books really contain a biographical account and anecdotes of Jesus (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), as narrated by the later scribes, rather than a Book of revelation sent unto the Master.(59)

We now come to the geographical position of Arabia, which, being connected by land and sea routes with the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, occupied the most suitable place for being chosen as the center of enlightenment for radiating divine guidance and knowledge to the entire world. All the three continents had been cradles of great civilizations and powerful empires, while Arabia lay in the center(60) through which passed the merchandise of all the countries(61), far and near, affording an opportunity to different nations and races for exchange of thoughts and ideas. Two great empires, Sasanid and Byzantine, on either side of the Arabian peninsula, governed the history of the world. Both were large, rich and powerful, and both fought each other constantly; yet, Arabia jealously guarded her independence and never allowed either of the two powers to lay its hands on it, barring a few territories lying on its frontiers. Excepting a few peripheral tribes, the Arab of the desert was extremely sensitive to his regal dignity and untrammeled freedom, and he never allowed any despot to hold him in bondage. Such a country, unimpeded by political and social constraints, was ideally suited to become the nucleus of a Universal message preaching human equality, liberty and dignity.

For all these reasons God had selected Arabia, and the city of Makkah within it, for the advent of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) to whom divine Scripture was to be sent for the last time to pave the way for proclamation of peace throughout the length and breadth of the world from age to age.

“Allah knoweth best with whom to place His message.” [Qur’an 6:125]

[46] Located variously by different people, some say that Bakr al-Ghimad is a far off place in Yemen while others hold that it is in Abyssinia. What S’ad b. Mu’adh meant was that his companions would keep company of the Prophet even if he was to go the most distant place.

[47] Zad al-Ma’ad, Vol. I, pp. 342-343, Ibn Hisha, Vol. I, p. 615.

[48] Ibn Athir, Al-Kamil, Vol. IV, p.46

[49] Iran Ba ‘Ahd Sasaniyan, pp. 535-36.

[50] Iran Ba ‘Ahd Sasaniyan, pp. 543.

[51] Exact in the way one stands in prayer. Actually the Arabic word ‘Kufr’ means, etymologically, ‘standing in the way Iranians pay respect to their Kings’ (Lisan-ul-‘Arab, Vol. VII, p. 466)

[52] Victor Chopart, the Roman World, London, 1928, p.418

[53] Diwan Hamasa, Bab-ul-Hamasa, pp. 67-68.

[54] Ibn Qutaybah, Kitab-us-Sh’ar was Shu’ara, p. 36. These odes were awarded the annual prize at the fair of ‘Ukaz and inscribed in golden letter and suspended on the wall of Ka’ba.

[55] The sacred city is known both as Becca and Mecca. The Arabic alphabets be and mim are etymologically interchangeable, in many cases, such as, Lazi and Lazib, and balit without any change in their memaning.

[56] Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 415. Also see commentary on the Holy Qur’an by ‘Abdul Majid (Lahore, 1957), Vol. I, pp. 121-22 and Qazi Sulaiman Mansupuri, Rahmatul-il-‘Alamin (Deoban, N.D.), Vol. I, p. 24.

[57] The first five books of the Old Testament.

[58] Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IX, p. 589

[59] For detailed discussion see the Chapter “Finality of Prophethood” in the Islamic Concept of Prophethood.

[60] Dr. Hussain Kamal Uddin, Professor of Civil Engineering in the Engineering College of Riyadh University informed in an interview with the correspondent of Al-Ihram, Cairo, that according to his researches it could be proved that Mecca lay at the centre of the world. For devising an inexpensive instrument which could show the direction of the Ka’ba, he had started preparing maps showing the distance of various cities om different countries from Mecca. These maps revealed that Mecca lay in the centre of the world, which is yet another reason why it was selected by God to house the Sacred Sanctuary and to radiate Divine uidance to the four corners of the world.

[61] De Lacy O’Leary, Arabia Before Muhammad, London, 1927, pp. 179-88.

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