Thursday, 16 June 2011

Qualities and character of the Prophet Muhammad

Life before Prophethood

It was in the year 570 of the Christian era that Prophet Muhammad
was born, on the 12th of the lunar month Rabi' I. He came of the
noblest family of Arabia, the Quraish, who were held in the highest
esteem, being guardians of the Sacred House at Makka, the Ka'ba,
the spiritual centre of the whole of Arabia.

At the time of his birth Arabia was steeped deep in the worst form
of idolatry that has ever prevailed in any country. The Ka'ba itself
was full of idols, and every household had, in addition, its own
idols. Unhewn stones, trees and heaps of sand were also worshipped.
In spite this vast and deep-rooted idolatry, the Arabs were, as
Bosworth Smith remarks, materialistic. "Eat and drink is,"
as he says, "the epicurean tone of the majority of the poems
that have come down to us." There was practically no faith
in the life after death, no feeling of responsibility for one's
actions. The Arabs, however, believed in demons, and diseases were
attributed to the influence of evil spirits.

Ignorance prevailed among the high as well as the low, so much
so that the noblest of men could boast of his ignorance. There was
no moral code, and vice was rampant. The sexual relations were loose
obscene poems and songs were recited in public assemblies There
was no punishment for adultery, nor any moral sanction against it.
Prostitution had nothing dishonourable about it, so that leading
men could keep brothels. Women were "in the most degraded position,
worse even than that in which they were under the laws of Manu in
Hindustan." Woman was looked upon as a mere chattel. Instead
of having any right to inheritance of property, her own person formed
part of the inheritance, and the heir could dispose of her as he
liked, even if he did not care to take her as a wife. There was
no settled government, no law in the land, and might was practically

The Arabs belonged to one race and spoke one language, yet they
were the most disunited people. Tribe made war on tribe, and family
on family, on the most trivial excuse. The strong among them trampled
upon the rights of the weak, and the weak could not get their wrongs
redressed. The widow and the orphan were quite helpless and slaves
were treated most cruelly.

Amongst this people was born Muhammad, an orphan from his birth,
who lost even his mother when six years old. He came of the noblest
family of the Quraish, yet, like the rest of his countrymen, he
was not taught reading and writing. He tended sheep for some time,
and the noblest of the Arabs had no contempt for that occupation,
but in his youth he was chiefly occupied in trade. It was, however,
his high morals that distinguished him from the first from all his
compatriots. The Holy Quran, which contains the most trustworthy
account of the Prophet's life, says that he was the "possessor
of sublime morals." [68:4]

Leading generally a reserved life, he had for friends only those
men whose moral greatness was admitted by all. His truthfulness
is testified in the clearest words [6:33]. His bitterest opponents
were challenged to point out a single black spot on his character
during the forty years that he had passed among them before he received
the Divine call [10:16]. It was in his youth that, on account of
his pure and unsoiled character and his love for truth and honesty,
he won from his compatriots the title of al-Amin, or the Faithful.

Living in a country in which idol-worship was the basis of the
everyday life of the community, Muhammad hated idolatry from his
childhood, and the Holy Quran is again our authority for the statement
that he never bent his forehead before an idol [109:4]. Even Sir
William Muir bears testimony to the purity of his character in his

"Our authorities all agree in ascribing to the youth of Muhammad
a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the Makkans."

And again:

"Endowed with a refined mind and delicate taste, reserved and
meditative, he lived much within himself, and the pondering of his
heart no doubt supplied occupation for leisure hours spent by others
of a low stamp in rude sports and profligacy. The fair character
and honourable bearings of the unobtrusive youth won the approbation
of his fellow-citizens: and by common consent he received the title
of al-Amin the Faithful"

Though he lived in a city in which drinking orgies were only too
common, never did a drop of wine touch his lips. Even Abu Bakr,
the most intimate friend of Muhammad's youth, never tasted wine.
The society at Makka found pleasure in gambling, yet never did Muhammad
take part in any such pastime. He lived among a people who were
addicted to war as they were addicted to wine, yet he had no liking
for either.

To quote Muir again, "though now nearly twenty years of age
he had not acquired the love of arms." Perforce, he had to
take part on one occasion in the famous sacrilegious war that continued
for four years between the Quraish and the Hawazin, yet he did no
more than gather up arrows that came from the enemy and hand them
over to his uncles. He did not even take to trading for love of
wealth but simply out of regard for his uncle Abu Talib, whom he
loved to help. Thus says Muir:

"Muhammad was never covetous of wealth, or at any period of
his career energetic in the pursuit of riches for their own sake.
If left to himself, he would probably have preferred the quiet and
repose of his present life to the bustle and cares of a mercantile
journey. He would not spontaneously have contemplated such an expedition.
But when the proposal was made, his generous soul at once felt the
necessity of doing all that was possible to relieve his uncle and
he cheerfully responded to the call"

Above all, his earlier life was marked by that rare characteristic,
rarest of all in Arabia at the time, love of the poor, the orphan,
the widow, the weak, the helpless and the slave. Before he had affluence
of means, he was one of the members who took an oath to stand by
the oppressed and formed themselves into a league as champions of
the injured. When at twenty-five he married a wealthy widow, Khadija,
he spent freely for the help of the poor.

No slave came into the household but was set free by him. He had
acquired such a fame for hoping the poor that when, after the Call,
the Quraish demanded him of Abu Talib to put him to death, the old
chief refused and praised him in a poem as the "Protector of
the orphans and the widows." Earlier than this when Muhammad
received the Call, and was diffident whether he would be able to
achieve the grand object of reforming his countrymen, his wife,
Khadija, comforted him, saying that God would not disgrace him because
he bore the burden of those who were weary and helped the poor and
gave relief to those who were in distress and honoured the guest
and loved his kinsmen [Bukhari, 1:1].

To these great qualities was added his anxiety for a fallen humanity.
The Quran refers to it repeatedly [9:128, 18:6, 26:3, 35:8]. As
years went on, the gross idolatry of the Arabs and their evil ways
pressed the more heavily on his heart, and he spent hours in solitude
in the neighbouring mountains.



Preaches at Makka

Still later, he repaired for days to a cave at the foot of Mount
Hira, and it was here that the Divine light shone on him in its
full resplendence. At first, he was in doubt whether he would be
able to perform the great task, but his anxiety soon gave place
to absolute faith that truth would ultimately triumph, and he set
to work with a strength of will and an inflexibility of purpose
which could not be shaken by the severest opposition of the whole
of Arabia. From the very first his message was for all, for the
Arab as well as the non-Arab, for the idolaters as well as the Jews,
the Christians and the Magi. Nor was it limited to the town of Makka,
for Makka was the centre to which men and women flocked in thousands
every year from all parts of Arabia, and through this assemblage
the Prophet's message reached the most distant corners of Arabia.
His wife, Khadija, was the first to believe in him, and she was
followed by others who were either his most intimate friends or
closely related to him. As Muir remarks:

"It is strongly corroborative of Muhammad's sincerity that
the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character,
but his own bosom friends and people of his household, who, intimately
acquainted with his Private life could not fail otherwise to have
detected those discrepancies which ever more or less exist between
the professions of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions
at home."

His first revelations laid stress on the great power and majesty
of the Divine Being and on the inevitability of the judgment.

The Quraish mocked at first, treated him contemptuously and called
him a madman. In spite of this he went on gaining adherents by twos
and threes, until within four years - the number reached forty and
persecution grew bitter. At first the slaves were tortured. Bilal,
a Negro by birth, when made to lie on the burning sands under the
Arabian midday sun continued to cry, "One, One," to the
bewilderment of his persecutors. But the fire of persecution once
kindled could not be confined. Converts of high birth were made
to suffer along with the poorer followers. The Prophet himself did
not escape the cruelties of the persecutors. The Muslims could not
gather together or say their prayers in a public place. Still Muhammad
went on gaining new adherents, and his opponents became severer
in their persecution, so much so that some of the humbler converts
were put to death in a most brutal manner.

The Prophet's tender heart melted at the sight of this brutal treatment
of innocent men and women, and in spite of the fact that he would
be left alone amongst exasperated opponents, he advised the small
band of his followers to betake themselves to a place of safety.
Eleven men and women left Makka in the fifth year of the Hijra,
and migrated to Abyssinia. Thither they were followed by a deputation
of their opponents that petitioned the ruler of Abyssinia for their
extradition. The Muslim case was put by their leader before the
king as follows:

O King ! We were an ignorant people, given to idolatry. We used
to eat corpses even of animals that died a natural death, and to
do all sorts of disgraceful things. We did not make good our obligations
to our relations, and we ill-treated our neighbours. The strong
among us would thrive at the expense of the weak, till at last Allah
raised a Prophet for our reformation. His descent, his righteousness,
his integrity and his virtue are well known to us. He called us
to the worship of Allah, and bade us give up idolatry and stone-worship.
He enjoined on us to tell the truth, to make good our trust, to
have regard for our kith and kin, and to do good to our neighbours.
He taught us to shun everything foul and to avoid bloodshed. He
forbade all sorts of indecent things, telling lies and misappropriating
orphans' belongings. So we believed in him, followed him and acted
up to his teachings. Thereupon our people began to do us wrong,
to subject us to tortures, thinking that we might abjure our faith
and revert to idolatry. When, however, their cruelties exceeded
all bounds, we came to seek an asylum in your country.

The Negus was deeply touched by this statement and by a recitation
from the Holy Quran, and refused to deliver the Muslims to their
enemies. More Muslims went to Abyssinia next year, until the total
reached 101, excluding children. The Quraish tried their utmost
to check this tide of emigration, but in vain. Soon they became
exasperated beyond all measure at the Prophet and the little band
of Muslims that remained with him at Makka. Not being able to prevail
upon Abu Talib, the head of the Hashimites (the Prophet's family),
to hand the Prophet over to them to end his life, and failing to
tempt the Prophet by offering him kingship, wealth and beauty, they
at last entered into a league and shut up the Hashimites and the
Muslims in a small quarter, where they suffered the utmost privations
for three long years, being allowed liberty of action only during
the time of pilgrimage. These three years were the years of the
hardest suffering for the Muslims, and Islam itself made little
progress during this time.

Released at last from this imprisonment, the Prophet, though facing
disappointment on all sides, had still as much faith in the triumph
of the truth as ever. If Makka was now quite deaf to his preaching,
he would turn elsewhere. He went to Ta'if, another great city of
Arabia. Here, however, he found the ground even harder than at Makka.
He was not allowed to stay in Ta'if after ten days, and as he walked
back he was pelted with stones. Dripping with blood and not even
allowed by his persecutors to take rest, he at last returned to
Makka, a sadder man than when he had left it. But if men did not
listen to him, yet would he open his heart to God who was always
ready to listen, and he prayed to Him thus when coming back from

O my God ! To Thee I complain of the feebleness of my strength and
of my lack of resourcefulness and of my insignificance in the eyes
of people. Thou art the most Merciful of the merciful, Thou art
the Lord of the weak. To whom wilt Thou entrust me, to an unsympathetic
foe who would sullenly frown at me, or to a close friend to whom
Thou hast given control over my affair? Not in the least do I care
for anything except that I may have Thy protection. In the light
of Thy face do I seek shelter, in the light which illumines the
heaven and dispels all sorts of darkness, and which controls all
affairs in this world as well as in the Hereafter. May it never
be that I should incur Thy wrath or that Thou shouldst be displeased
with me. There is no strength, nor power, but in Thee.

He feels that no man lends his ear to his message, yet his faith
in the goodness of God and in the ultimate triumph of his cause
is as unshaken as ever. To him God is all in all and the opposition
of the whole world is as nothing. With marvellous calmness he undergoes
the severest hardships which he has to suffer for working for the
good of the very people who take pleasure in inflicting on him the
cruellest tortures. All these, he says, are insignificant so long
as he enjoys the pleasure of God. What a firm faith in God, what
a cheerful resignation to His supreme will, what an unalloyed spiritual
happiness !

Three years more passed away at Makka amidst the most trying circumstances.
In the meanwhile Islam took root in Madina and spread fast. As the
thirteenth year of the Call drew to a close, seventy-five Muslims
(including two women) from Madina came to perform a pilgrimage and
swore allegiance to the Prophet, affirming that if he chose to go
to Madina, they would defend him against his enemies just as they
defended their own children and wives. Then it was that the Muslim
exodus to Madina commenced.

The Prophet chose to remain alone amidst an enemy that was growing
more and more exasperated, and to see his followers safe at the
new centre. This shows the depth of his love and concern for his
followers. He was anxious more for their safety than for his own.
Within two months, about 150 Muslims left Makka and there remained
only the Prophet with two of his closest friends. The psychological
moment had now arrived for his enemies to deal the final blow. Individual
efforts had hitherto been made to do away with the Prophet, but
they had failed. If the final blow was not struck immediately, the
Prophet might escape to Madina and get beyond their reach. A big
conference of all the tribes was held and a final decision taken.
A youth from each clan was to be selected, and all these were to
fall upon the Prophet at one and the same time, so that no particular
clan should be held accountable for the murder.

The Prophet's house was besieged by these blood thirsty youths
as soon as it was dark, but, undaunted and having his faith in Divine
protection, the Prophet passed through them unnoticed. In the dark
of the night, with only one companion, he made his way through the
streets of Makka to the bare and rugged hills outside, and a hiding-place
was ultimately found in a cave known as Thaur. When morning appeared,
the enemy saw the failure of their plan and the whole countryside
was scoured. One party reached the very mouth of the cave. Through
a crevice, Abu Bakr saw the enemy at the mouth and grieved. "
Do not grieve, for Allah is with us," said the Prophet. The
more helpless he became, the stronger grew his faith in God. And
surely some invisible power saved him throughout his life every
time that the enemy's hand was on him. After three days the Prophet
and his companion started for Madina.

It was not the Prophet alone who bore all the hard trials so willingly
at Makka for thirteen years; those who accepted him bore persecutions
with the same willing heart. The new life to which the Prophet had
awakened them has drawn words of praise from Sir William Muir:

The believers bore persecutions with a patient and tolerant spirit.
One hundred men and women, rather than abjure their precious faith,
had abandoned home and sought refuge, till the storm should, be
overpast, in Abyssinian exile. And now again a still larger number,
with the Prophet himself, were emigrating from their fondly loved
city with its Sacred Temple, to them the holiest spot on earth,
and fleeing to Medina. There, the same marvellous charm had within
two or three years been preparing for them a brotherhood ready to
defend the Prophet and his followers with their blood. Jewish truth
had long sounded in the ears of the men of Medina; but it was not
until they heard the spirit-stirring strains of the Arabian Prophet
that they too awoke from their slumber and sprang suddenly into
a new and earnest life.



At Madina — the beginning of the battles

The Prophet reached Madina on the 12th of Rabi' I, corresponding
to June 28, 622 of the Christian Era. The first thing that he did
on reaching Madina was to construct a mosque, now famous as the
Prophet's Mosque. Here prayers to God were offered five times daily
in a free atmosphere for the first time in the history of Islam.
He next turned to establishing a brotherhood of the Muslims. Those
who had fled from Makka, called Muhajirs (Refugees), had left all
their property behind. So, to provide shelter for them, every refugee
was bound in a bond of brotherhood with one of the residents of
Madina, called Ansar (Helpers).

The third important matter to which the Prophet turned his attention
was to establish friendly relations between the various tribes living
in Madina. Among these were three Jewish clans, and a pact was concluded
with them as well. The main terms of this pact were as follows:

1. The Muslims and the Jews shall live as one people.

2. Each one of the parties shall keep to its own faith.

3. In the event of a war with a third party, each shall be bound
to come to the assistance of the other, provided the party at war
were not the aggressors.

4. In the event of an attack on Madina, both shall join hands to
defend it.

5. Peace shall be made after consultation with each other.

6. Madina shall be regarded as sacred by both, all bloodshed being
forbidden therein.

7. The Prophet shall be the final court of appeal in cases of dispute.

This agreement with the Jews shows that the Prophet had an apprehension
that the exasperated Quraish who were foiled in their attempt to
put an end to his life at Makka would now attack Madina.

We have seen that when the Muslims fled to Abyssinia, the Quraish
tried all the means in their power to have them expelled from there.
How could they see Islam prosper so near home at Madina, an important
city only 270 miles distant and on the trade route to Syria. Muhammad
had already received an intimation from on High that he would have
to carry on a war to save Islam from utter annihilation. The sword,
he was told, would be taken up against him and he would have to
fight to save the small community of Islam from destruction at the
hands of a powerful enemy who was determined to uproot Islam from
the soil of Arabia.

Temperamentally the Prophet Muhammad was not inclined to war; he
had not once handled the sword in actual fighting up to the fifty-fifth
year of his age, and this in a country where, owing to constant
internecine warfare, fighting had become a vocation of the people.
The religion which he preached, Islam (lit. peace or submission),
was a religion of peace, laying stress on prayer to God and the
service of humanity, and he was required to preach this religion;
to deliver the message, not to enforce it on others:

"The truth is from your Lord, so, whoever will, let him believe,
and whoever will, let him disbelieve. [18:29]

We have shown man the way, he may be thankful or he may be unthankful.[76:3]

And in still plainer words; it was laid down:

There is no compulsion in religion. [2:256]

But war was being forced on him, and it was his duty, he was told,
to defend his oppressed community who had twice fled their homes
from the persecutions of a cruel enemy to a distant place:

Permission to fight is given to those upon whom war is made; because
they are oppressed, and Allah is well able to help them. [22:39]

Why were they expelled from their homes ? Why was war made on them
? What was their offence ?

Those who have been expelled from their homes without a just cause,except
that they say, Our Lord is Allah. [22:40]

To worship Allah, to say that Allah is our Lord, to bow before Him,
was an offence in this land; the punishment for which was that the
men who worshipped God, and the places where He was worshipped,
should be destroyed. So the Muslims were required to defend all
houses of worship, whether they belonged to the Jews or the Christians
or their own community:

And had there not been Allah's repelling some people by means of
others, cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques in which
Allah's name is remembered most, would certainly have been pulled
down. [22:40]

These three statements follow one another in the Divine revelation
to the Prophet. In a later revelation he was further told that he
should by no means resort to an aggressive war. It was in defence
only that he was allowed to take up the sword:

And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you, and
do not exceed this limit, for Allah does not love those who exceed
the limits.[2:190]

There was no question of converting anyone to Islam by force; it
was the enemy that wanted to turn back the Muslims by force from

And they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back
from your religion if they can. [2:217]

Religion was a matter between God and His servants and no one had
a right to compel anyone to adopt a particular religion, and the
Prophet had thus to fight for the noble cause of the liberty of

And fight with them until there is no persecution and religion is
held for Allah. But if they give up persecution, then there should
be no hostility except against the oppressors. [2:193]

If the Prophet was required to cease fighting when the enemy ceased
to persecute on account of religion, he was also required to cease
fighting if the enemy offered peace even though he might be gaining
time only to renew his attack:

And if they incline to peace, do thou also incline to it and trust
in Allah; He is the Hearing, the Knowing. And if they intend to
deceive thee, then surely Allah is sufficient for thee. [8:61,62]

It was in these circumstances and on these conditions that the Prophet
was allowed to fight. He had not up to this time trained a single
man for fighting; he had no army at all. He had a small community
of followers trained only in praying to God, and even they could
not be forced to fight. To carry on the war, even though single-handed,
was his duty:

Fight then in Allah's way; this is not imposed on thee except in
relation to thyself, and rouse the believers to ardour; maybe Allah
will restrain the fighting of those who disbelieve, and Allah is
strongest in power and strongest to punish (offenders). [4:84]



At Madina — The battles

Small detachments of the Quraish used to go out on marauding expeditions
and scour the country right up to the outskirts of Madina. The situation
called for vigilance on the part of the Prophet. Reconnaissance
parties were sent out by him to keep an eye on enemy movements and
to approach certain tribes to secure their alliance or neutrality.
One such party sent out with express orders to gather information
about the Quraish movements accidentally killed a member of the
Quraish, Ibn Hadzrami by name. The usual practice in Arabia in such
cases was to demand blood-money. But the Quraish wanted a pretext
to rouse the populace against the Muslims, and Ibn Hadzram's murder
furnished it. Another pretext was furnished by a Quraish caravan
coming from Syria just at this time. Knowing that the Muslims were
still very weak, the Quraish thought that 1,000 men would be sufficient
to annihilate them, and with this army they marched on Madina in
the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, in the second
year of the Prophet's Flight.

When news of this reached Madina, the Prophet made hurried preparations
to meet them, but could gather only a force of 313 Muslims. The
two forces met at Badr, a distance of three days journey from Madina
and ten days from Makka; on the one side being 1,000 veteran warriors
with whom fighting had been a life-long profession, armed with every
weapon of warfare of the time, and on the other only 313 ill-equipped
men, including raw youths and men advanced in age. The Prophet saw
this and in deep anxiety passed the night praying to God in a small

"O Allah ! Shouldst Thou suffer this small band of believers
to perish this day, no one will be left on earth to worship Thee
and carry Thy message to the world. O Living One ! O Subsisting
One by whom all subsist ! I cry to Thee for Thy mercy."

The unexpected happened. Almost all the Quraish chiefs, the ringleaders
of the campaign against Islam, were slain in action. Seeing their
chiefs fall, the rank and file were seized with confusion and took
to flight. Seventy fell and an equal number were taken prisoners.
There were fourteen casualties on the Muslim side.

The Quraish defeat at Badr was an ignominy which they could not
leave unavenged. An army of 3,000 strong, with warriors like Khalid
among them, marched on Madina next year, Shawwal, 3 A.H. The Muslims
could muster no more than 700 men, and marched out of Madina to
meet the enemy at the foot of Uhud, only three miles from the city.
The Muslims fought desperately and seven of the enemy's flagbearers
fell one after another. Utter confusion seized the Quraish. They
took to flight and the Muslims pursued them, but just at this time
Khalid saw that the Muslim archers had left their rear undefended
by vacating a certain position to join in the pursuit, and wheeling
round at the head of his 200 cavalry attacked the Muslims from behind.
Seeing this, the fleeing Quraish army also turned back, and the
handful of Muslims, in disorder on account of the pursuit, were
thus pressed on both sides.

The position was so precarious that the whole Muslim army was now
in danger of being annihilated. The Prophet, braving the danger
of himself becoming the target of the enemy's attack, called out
aloud to his men to rally round him:

"To me, O servants of Allah ! I am the Messenger; of Allah."

This was a signal to the enemy to direct their attack to this particular
point. The Muslims saw this and, cutting their way through the enemy
ranks, mustered strongly round the Prophet. But in this attempt
they sustained serious losses, and Musab ibn Umair, who resembled
the Prophet, being killed, the news spread like wildfire that the
Prophet had been killed. Still the Muslims did not lose heart."Let
us fight on for the cause for which the Prophet fought," said
one of them. By this time, the Prophet had sustained serious wounds
and had fallen down, but the position had become secure both for
the army and for the Prophet himself who was surrounded on all sides
by devoted friends. Here closing their ranks on elevated ground
with the mountain protecting their retreat, they again made the
enemy feel their strength. The Quraish retired from the field and
took their way back to Makka. When some one entreated the Prophet
to pray for the destruction of his enemies, he raised his hands,

"O Allah ! Forgive my-people: for they do not know."

Though they had this time inflicted severe losses on the Muslims,
the Quraish knew that even this attack on Madina had proved abortive.
Therefore after returning from Uhud, they tried to raise the Jews
and the Bedouin tribes against the Muslims, and in this they were
successful. The Jews, the Bedouins and the Quraish all combined
to deal a crushing blow to Islam. A large army of 100,000 was gathered
in the fifth year of the Flight. The Muslims, unable to meet these
hosts in the open field, fortified themselves in Madina by digging
a ditch on the side which was unprotected. The Prophet himself participated
in digging the ditch like an ordinary labourer. Covered with dust
and with the fear of annihilation lurking in their minds, they yet
sang in happy chorus:

O Allah ! Had it not been for Thy mercy, we would not have been
guided aright; Nor would we have given alms, nor would we have prayed
to Thee. Send down tranquillity upon us and establish our steps
in battle, For they are risen against us and they wish to pervert
us by force But we refuse, but we refuse.

The huge force at last reached Madina. It was an hour of consternation
for the Muslims. The Holy Quran thus depicts the anguish and perplexity
of the moment:

When they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when
the eyes turned dull and the hearts rose up to the throats, and
some of you began to entertain diverse thoughts about Allah. There
the believers were sorely tried and shaken with a severe shaking."

Amid this seeming scene of dread and terror, the hearts of the Muslims
were full of faith:

And when the believers saw the Allies, they said: This is what Allah
and His Messenger promised us, and Allah and His Messenger spoke
the truth; and it only increased them in faith and submission. [33:32]

During a full month of siege the Muslims stood firm. Arrows and
stones came in terrible showers but they could not break through
the defence. Attacks were made and repulsed in quick succession.
The siege became wearisome to the besieging army, which also began
to run short of provisions. The elements of nature ultimately came
to the help of the brave Muslim defence. A storm raged one night
which blew down the tents of the besiegers. There was confusion
among the Allies and they took to flight during the night, to the
great joy and thanksgiving of the Muslims.



The conquest of Makka

The Quraish now lost all hope of being able to crush the Muslims.
About a year after this, the Prophet with about 1400 companions
(Islam was gaining ground in spite of the wars) undertook a journey
to Makka to perform the lesser pilgrimage, but finding that the
Quraish were prepared to offer armed resistance to his entry into
Makka, even though it was simply with the object of performing a
religious obligation, he had to stop at about nine miles from the
sacred city, at a place called Hudaibiya. Emissaries were sent to
find a peaceful solution, but they were maltreated, and at last
a man of the high position of Uthman, deputed to negotiate, was
arrested by the Quraish. The situation was critical; the Muslim
envoy had been taken into custody and there was a rumour that he
had been murdered. The Muslims were unarmed except for sheathed
swords, which they carried as a necessity when journeying in a country
like Arabia, but they, were determined not to turn their backs.
The Prophet took pledge from them, and they pledged afresh one and
all, that they would fight to the last man in defence of the Prophet,
whom the enemy wanted to put to death. This pledge is known as Bai'a
al-Ridzwan (Pledge of Divine Pleasure) in the history of Islam.

This resolve on the part of the Muslims brought the Quraish to
their senses and a truce was at last drawn up to last for a period
of ten years, with the following conditions among others:

1. The Muslims shall return without performing a pilgrimage, for
which they may come back the following year.

2. Should any of the Makkans go over to Madina, the Muslims shall
hand him over to the Makkans, but if any of the Muslims go over
to Makka, the Quraish are under no obligation to return him to the

3. The Arab tribes are at liberty to enter into alliance with which
ever party they choose.

It can easily be seen what a heavy price the Prophet was willing
to pay for the sake of peace; he had agreed not to give shelter
to those who were persecuted for accepting Islam, while his own
men were free to join the unbelievers and find shelter in Makka.
The moral force drawing the people to Islam was so great that while
not a single Muslim went back to Makka where he could find a sure
shelter, scores of Makkans embraced Islam, and finding the doors
of Madina closed to them, settled themselves at Is, a place subject
neither to the authority of the Prophet, nor to that of the Quraish.
Islam was spreading in spite of the sword.

After returning from Hudaibiya, the Prophet made arrangements to
send the message of Islam to all people, Christians as well as Magians,
living on the borders of Arabia. He wrote letters to the sovereigns
of the neighbouring kingdoms, the Emperor of Rome, Chosroes II of
Persia, the king of Egypt, the Negus of Abyssinia and certain Arab
chiefs, inviting them to Islam. The letter to the Roman Emperor
was worded as follows:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful From Muhammad,
the servant of Allah and His Messenger, to Heracleus, the chief
of the Romans.

Peace be with him who follows the guidance.

After this, I invite thee with invitation to Islam. Become a Muslim
and thou wilt be in peace -- Allah will give thee a double reward;
but if thou turnest away, on thee will be the sin of thy subjects.

And, O followers of the Book ! Come to an equitable proposition
between us and you that we shall not serve any but Allah, and that
we shall not associate aught with Him and that some of us shall
not take others for lords besides Allah; but if they turn back,
then say: Bear witness that we are Muslims. [Bukhari 1:1]

Of the rulers addressed the Negus accepted Islam; the king of Egypt
sent some presents in reply; the Roman Emperor was impressed but
his generals were averse; while Chosroes tore up the letter and
sent orders to the governor of Yemen to arrest the Prophet. When
the governor's soldiers reached Madina for the execution of the
orders, the Prophet told them that Chosroes was himself dead and
no more the king of Persia. They went back with this report to the
governor of Yemen, and it was found that Chosroes II had actually
been murdered by his own son on the very night indicated by the
Prophet. This event led to the governor's conversion to Islam, and
ultimately to Yemen's throwing off the yoke of Persia.

The truce of Hudaibiya had hardly been in force for two years when
the Banu Bakr, an ally of the Quraish, attacked the Khuza'a, an
ally of the Muslims, with the help of the Quraish. The Prophet thereupon
sent word to the Quraish that they should either pay blood-money
for those slain from among the Khuza'a or dissociate themselves
from the Banu Bakr, or, in the last resort, declare the truce of
Hudaibiya to be null and void. The Quraish did not agree to either
of the first two proposals, and the result was the annulment of
the truce. The Prophet thereupon ordered an attack on Makka in the
closing months of the eighth year of the Plight.

The two years during which the truce remained in force had brought
such large numbers over to Islam that the Prophet now marched on
Makka with 10,000 men under his flag. The Makkans were unable to
make any preparations to meet the attack. At Marr al-Zahran, a day's
journey from Makka, the Quraish leader, Abu Sufyan, sued for pardon,
and though he was the arch-offender who had left no stone unturned
to annihilate Islam, free pardon was granted to him by the Prophet.

The conquest of Makka was practically bloodless. The Quraish were
unable to meet this force and the Prophet declared a general amnesty,
guaranteeing safety to all those who entered Abu Sufyan's house,
or closed the doors of their own houses or entered the sacred precincts
of the Ka'ba. Conversion to Islam formed no part of the conditions
which guaranteed security of life and property. There were strict
orders to the advancing army that there should be no bloodshed.
There were only about a score of casualties due to Ikrima, son of
Abu Jabl, attacking a party of the Muslim forces under Khalid, who
was now a Muslim.

Makka having thus been entered, the first thing that the Prophet
did was to clear the Ka'ba of the idols. He then addressed the assembled
Quraish who had been guilty of most heinous offences against the
Muslims. They were standing before him now as culprits who had persecuted
Muslims, inflicted on them the severest tortures, put many of them
to death and ultimately expelled them from Makka. They had not even
allowed the Muslims to live a peaceful life at their new home in
Madina, but had attacked that city thrice with large forces which
they knew the Muslims had no means to meet.

It was these men who were now at the Prophet's mercy, and addressing
them, he put to them the question:

"What treatment do you expect from me?"

They knew al-Amin of old; they knew Muhammad had a generous heart
within his breast. "Thou art a noble brother, the son of a
noble brother, " was their unhesitating reply. But the treatment
Muhammad accorded them exceeded even their own expectations "This
day," he said in the words of Joseph to his brothers, "there
is no reproof against you."[12:92]

They were yet unbelievers, but mark the magnanimity of that great
soul who would not even reproach them for their evil deeds, who
let them go even without taking a pledge from them for the future.
Here was a practical proof of that laudable precept Love thine enemy.
Not only was Makka conquered, but with it were conquered also the
hearts of the bitterest foes of Islam.

They now saw with their own eyes how the combined forces of opposition
offered by the whole country had proved an utter failure against
the mighty truth which came from the lips of a man who had stood
alone in the midst of all opposition. The righteousness of the cause
was now only too clear to them and men and women came forward spontaneously
to embrace the faith. There was not a single instance of conversion
by force.

Those that still adhered to the old religion were treated in the
same spirit of friendliness as the members of the brotherhood. Even
a hostile critic has to admit:

"Although the city had cheerfully accepted his authority,
all its inhabitants had not yet embraced the new religion nor formally
acknowledged his prophetical claim. Perhaps he intended to follow
the course he had pursued at Madina and leave the conversion of
the people to be gradually accomplished without compulsion. ...
[Sir William Muir]



Islam spreads throughout Arabia — End of Holy Prophet's

The fall of Makka was a signal to the whole of Arabia. In fact,
the Quraish were generally at the bottom of all organized opposition.
With the sole exception of the battle of Hunain, which had to be
undertaken against the Hawazin immediately after the conquest of
Makka, regular warfare between the Muslims and the non-Muslims in
the whole of Arabia now came to an end, and even at Hunain, the
unbelieving Makkans fought on the side of the Muslims.

Islam was now free from trouble from within, but the Christian
power on the north viewed its strength with a jealous eye, and persistent
news as to preparations of the Roman Empire to attack Arabia could
not be ignored. Accordingly, an expedition of 30,000 men was led
by the Prophet personally to the northern frontier in the ninth
year of the Flight. When he reached Tabuk, however, he found that
his march had a restraining effect on the enemy, and there being
no hostile force in the field, the Prophet returned without either
attacking the Romans or declaring war against them. In fact, the
Prophet always observed the Quranic injunction to fight only with
those who took up the sword first to fight against the Muslims.

After the return from Tabuk, peace was apparently established in
the peninsula, but the Islamic territory was infested with hordes
of marauders belonging to the tribes that had entered into agreement
with the Muslim state, but had little respect for their treaties:

Those with whom thou makest an agreement, then they break their
agreement every time and then have no regard for their obligations."

These people had become a menace to the security of life and property,
and accordingly, towards the end of the ninth year of the Hijra,
the Prophet sent Ali to make an important declaration of immunity
regarding such agreements at the annual pilgrimage at Makka. This
declaration is contained in the opening verses of the chapter entitled
The Immunity:

"This is a declaration of immunity by Allah and His Messenger
towards those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement."

By idolaters were meant the idolaters spoken of in the previous
chapter, already referred to, "those with whom Thou makest
an agreement then they break their agreement every time." This
is made clear in the next few verses by making an exception in favour
of those who had not violated their treaties:

Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement then
they have not failed you in anything and have not aided any one
against you, so fulfil their agreement to the end of their term,
for Allah loves those who have regard for their obligations. [9:4]

And again:

How can there be an agreement for the idolaters with Allah and His
Messenger, except those with whom you made an agreement at the Sacred
Mosque; so as long as they are true to you be true to them, for
Allah loves those who have regard for their obligations. How can
it be ! For if they prevail against you, they will not pay regard
in your case to ties of relationship, nor those of their covenant;
they please you with their mouths while their hearts do not consent
and most of them are transgressors.... They do not pay regard to
ties of relationship nor those of covenant in the case of a believer,
and these are they who exceed the limits. [9:7-10]

The idolaters concerned met Ali with the retort: "O Ali ! Deliver
this message to thy cousin (i.e. the Prophet) that we have thrown
the agreements behind our backs, and there is no agreement between
him and us except smiting with spears and striking with swords."
The result of the Prophet's firm attitude was that such tribes surrendered,
and a settled condition of peace prevailed throughout the peninsula.

This declaration of immunity towards the violators is sometimes
misunderstood as meaning an abrogation of the conditions of war
laid down at the beginning: "Fight with those who fight with
you and do not exceed this limit." As a matter of fact, the
condition laid down remained effective to the end. The Prophet's
return from Tabuk without attacking either the Roman territory or
the territory of any other tribe is a dear evidence of this. And
even after the declaration of immunity, the Muslims were required
to fight with those who attacked them first:

What ! Will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed
at the expulsion of the Messenger and attacked you first? [9:13]

Deputations which had already started coming to the Prophet in the
ninth year of the Flight to learn the truth about Islam now became
more abundant. People came from different corners from all over
Arabia and embraced Islam of their own free will. As soon as peace
was established, Islam spread be leaps and bounds, and the tenth
year of the Flight witnessed the conversion of the whole of Arabia
to Islam, including some Christian tribes. It was not only a conversion
in the sense that idolatry was given up for the purest monotheism
from one end of the vast peninsula to the other; it was a reformation
in all spheres of life. The whole course of life of an entire nation
was changed - ignorance, superstition and barbarism giving place
to the spread of knowledge and to a rational outlook in all aspects
of life.

At the end of the tenth year of the Hijra, the Prophet set out to
perform the pilgrimage to Makka. As the whole of Arabia was now
Muslim, there was not a single idolater in the huge concourse of
124,000 pilgrims assembled at Makka from all corners of the country.
The very spot where the Prophet was only twenty years ago a rejected
person, to whose word no one was willing to lend his ear, was now
the scene of marvellous devotion to him. To whichever side he turned
his eye, he saw hosts of devoted friends who recognized him both
as their temporal as well as their spiritual head. An inspiring
manifestation of Divine power to him as well as to those who had
assembled there.

It was here on the ninth day of Dhul Hijja, the day of the assembling
of the pilgrims at Mount Arafat, that he received a revelation from
on High which sent a thrill of joy through the vast gathering:

This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My
favour to you and chosen for you al-Islam as a religion. [5:3]

Obviously the Prophet perceived that the message of the perfection
of religion meant his approaching end. Here he delivered the following
sermon - Islam's sermon on the Mount to the whole of Arabia through
representatives of tribes coming from every quarter:

O people ! Lend an attentive ear to my words, for I know not whether
I shall ever hereafter have the opportunity to meet you here.

I apprise you that your lives, your properties and your honour must
be as sacred to one another as this sacred day in this sacred month
in this sacred town. Let those present take this message to those

You are about to meet your Lord Who will call you to account for
your deeds....

O people ! This day Satan has despaired of re-establishing his
power in this land of yours. But should you obey him even in what
may seem to you a trifling matter, it will be a source of pleasure
for him. So you must beware of him in the matter of your faith.

O my people ! You have certain rights over your wives and so have
your wives over you.... They are the trust of Allah in your hands.
So you must treat them with all kindness ... And as regards your
slaves, see that you give them to eat of what you yourselves eat
and clothe them with what you clothe yourselves.

O people ! Listen to what I say and take it to heart. You must
know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are
all equal, and members of one brotherhood. It is forbidden to any
of you to take from his brother save what he should willingly give.
Do not do injustice to your people. ........

Then the Prophet cried at the top of his voice:

O Allah ! I have delivered Thy message,

and the valley resounded with the words:...

Aye ! That thou hast.

This is known as the Prophet's Farewell pilgrimage. A little while
after his return to Madina, he fell ill. At first he went to the
mosque to lead the prayers even during his illness, but later on
he became too weak and appointed Abu Bakr to lead the prayers. After
about twelve days' illness, on the 12th of Rabi' I on a Monday in
the 11th year of the Flight, at the age of sixty-three, he commended
his soul to his Maker, his last words being:

Blessed companionship on High.



Amazing transformation brought about by the Holy Prophet

The most outstanding characteristic of the life of the Prophet
is the amazing success which he achieved. The transformation wrought
within the short space of less than a quarter of a century is in
fact unparalleled in the history of the world. There is not a single
reformer who brought about such an entire change in the lives of
a whole nation inhabiting such a vast country. None, in fact, found
his people at such a depth of degradation as the Prophet found the
Arabs, and no one raised them materially, morally and spiritually
to the height to which he raised them. So deep-rooted was their
idolatry, so powerful the bonds of their superstitions and their
usages that the propagandic efforts of the Jews and the Christians,
carried on for hundreds of years one after the other, with the material
power of the kingdoms at their back, could not bring about the least
change in their condition. The indigenous Arab movement of the Hanifs
proved an even greater failure. All these attempts at form left
the Arabs as a nation as ignorant of the principles of religion
and morality as they ever were.

Twenty-three years work of the Prophet, however, quite metamorphosed
them. Worship of idols and of all objects other than God, whether
in heaven or on earth, was now considered to be a disgrace to humanity.
No trace of an idol was left throughout the whole of Arabia. The
whole nation awakened to a sense of the true dignity of manhood
and realized the folly of falling prostrate before things which
man was made to rule and before powers which he was required to
conquer. Superstition gave place to a rational religion. The Arab
was not only cleansed of deep-rooted vice and bare-faced immorality;
he was further inspired with a burning desire for the best and noblest
deeds in the service of, no country and nation, but, what is far
higher than that, humanity. Old customs which involved injustice
to the weak and the oppressed were all swept away, as if by a magician's
wand, and just and reasonable laws took their place. Drunkenness,
to which Arabia was addicted from time immemorial, disappeared so
entirely that the very goblets and vessels which were used for drinking
and keeping wine could no more be found. Gambling was quite unknown,
and the loose relations of the sexes gave place to the highest regard
for chastity. The Arab who prided himself on ignorance became the
lover of knowledge, drinking deep at every fountain of learning
to which he could get access. And greatest of all, from an Arabia,
the various elements of which were so constantly at war with each
other that the whole country was about to perish, was indeed on:

"the brink of a pit of fire," [3:102]

as the Holy Quran so tersely puts it - from these jarring and warring
elements, the Prophet welded together a nation, a united nation
full of life and vigour, before whose onward march the greatest
kingdoms of the world crumbled as if they were but toys before the
reality of the new faith. No man ever; breathed such a new life
on such a wide scale a life affecting all branches of human activity;
a transformation of the individual, of the family, of the society,
of the nation, of the country, an awakening, material as well as
moral, intellectual as well as spiritual. Here are a few testimonies
from non-Muslim writers:

"The prospects of Arabia before Muhammad were as unfavourable
to religious reform as they were to political union or national
regeneration. The foundation of Arab faith was a deep-rooted idolatry
which, for centuries, had stood proof, with no palpable symptom
of decay, against every attempt at evangelization from Egypt and
Syria." --- Sir William Muir.

"During the youth of Muhammad, the aspect of the Peninsula
was strongly conservative; perhaps never at any previous time was
reform more hopeless." Ibid.

"Causes are sometime conjured up to account for results produced
by an agent apparently inadequate to correct them. Muhammad arose,
and forthwith the Arabs were aroused to a new and spiritual faith;
hence the conclusion that Arabia was fermenting for the change,
and prepared to adopt it. To us calmly reviewing the past, pre-Islamite
history belies the assumption." Ibid.

"From time beyond memory Makka and the whole Peninsula had
been steeped in spiritual torpor. The slight and transient influences
of Judaism, Christianity, or philosophical enquiry upon the Arab
mind had been but as the ruffling here and there of the surface
of a quiet lake; all remained still and motionless below. The people
were sunk in superstition, cruelty and vice ... Their religion was
a gross idolatry; and their faith, the dark superstitious dread
of unseen things ... Thirteen years before the Hijra, Makka lay
lifeless in this debased state. What a change had these thirteen
years now produced ... Jewish truth had long sounded in the ears
of the men of Madina; but it was not until they heard the spirit-stirring
strains of the Arabian Prophet that they too awoke from their slumber,
and sprang suddenly into a new and earnest life." --- Sir William

"And yet we may truly say that no history can boast events
that strike the imagination in a more lively manner or can be more
surprising in themselves, than those we meet with in the life of
the first Mussalmans; whether we consider the Great Chief, or his
ministers, the most illustrious of men; or whether we take an account
of the manners of the several countries he conquered; or observe
the courage, virtue and sentiments that equally prevailed among
his generals and soldiers." --- Life of Muhammad, by Count
of Boulainvilliers.

"A more disunited people it would be hard to find, till, suddenly,
the miracle took place. A man arose who, by his personality and
by his claim to direct Divine guidance, actually brought about the
impossible, namely, the union of all these warring factions."
--- Ins and Outs of Mesopotamia.

"Never has a people been led more rapidly to civilization,
such as it was, than were the Arabs through Islam." --- New
Researches, by Hirschfeld.

"Such then, very briefly, was the condition of the Arabs,
social and religious, when, to use an expression of Voltaire, .
. . 'the turn of Arabia came'; when the hour had already struck
for the most complete, the most sudden and the most extraordinary
revolution that had ever come over any nation upon earth."
--- Bosworth Smith.

"Of all the religious personalities of the world, Muhammad
was the most successful." --- Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th



Marriages of Holy Prophet and wars

The man who brought about the most thorough transformation of
a nation within twenty years; who, alone and unaided, swept away
vice and immorality from a whole country where the most strenuous
efforts of a powerful missionary nation had hopelessly failed; who
by his personal example purified the lives of vast numbers of humanity;
could such a man himself be in the grip of sin An impure man could
not consistently preach virtue; how could he take others by the
hand, and free them from the bondage of sin, and inspire his very
soldiers and generals with sentiments of virtue Could a man who
himself groped in the dark lead others to light? Yet the Prophet
— this great deliverer of humanity from the bondage of sin
— is called sinful because at a certain stage in his life
he had more wives than one.

Whatever may be the views on polygamy of the modern world, there
is not the least doubt that plurality of wives is met with in the
lives of the great religious personages who by a consensus of opinion
led lives of transcendent purity. Abraham, who is held in reverence
by more than half the world up to this day, had more wives than
one. Similar was the case with Jacob, Moses and David among the
Israelites, and with some of the famous revered sages of the Hindus.
Yet it is true that these great sages were not led to a polygamous
life by sensual desires. Purity in all respects is the outstanding
characteristic of their lives, and this fact alone is sufficient
to condemn the attempt to defame them on the basis of their resorting
to polygamy. What was their object in doing so, it is difficult
to say at the present day, as their histories are generally enveloped
in darkness, but as the life of the Prophet can be read in the full
light of history, we will take his case in detail.

The life of the Prophet may be divided into four periods so far
as his domestic life is concerned. Up to twenty-five he led a celibate
life; from twenty-five to fifty-four he lived in a married state
with one wife; from fifty-four to sixty he contracted several marriages;
and lastly, from sixty till his death he did not contract any new
marriage. The most important period to determine whether the Prophet
was a slave to his passions is the period of celibacy. If he had
not been a complete master of his passions, he could not have led
an exceptionally chaste and pure life, which won him the title of
al-Amin, to the age of twenty-five in a hot country like Arabia
where development must necessarily take place early and passions
are generally stronger. His worst enemies could not point to a single
blot on his character when challenged later. According to Muir,
all authorities agree “in ascribing to the youth of Muhammad
a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the people
of Makka”.

Now, youth is the time when passions run riot, and the man who
is able to control his passions in youth, and that in celibacy,
cannot possibly be conceived as falling a prey to lust in his old
age. Thus the first period of his life, his celibacy up to twenty-five
years of age, is conclusive proof that the could never fall a prey
to his passions. It should be noted in this connection that in Arab
society at the time there was no moral sanction against an immoral
life, so that it cannot be said that he was kept back from an evil
course by the moral force of society. Profligacy, on the other hand,
was the order of the day; and it was among people who prided themselves
on loose sexual relations that the Prophet led a life of transcendent
purity, and therefore all the more credit is due to his purity of

Take now the next period, the period of a monogamous married life.
When twenty-five years of age, Muhammad married a widow, Khadija,
fifteen years his senior, and led a life of the utmost devotion
with her till she died, when he was fifty years of age. Polygamy
was the rule in Arabia at the time; and the wife had not cause of
complaint, nor did she ever grumble, if the husband brought in a
second or third wife. The Prophet belonged to the noblest family
of the Quraish and his marriage with Khadija had enriched him; and
if he had chosen to marry another wife, it would have been quite
easy for him. But he led a monogamous life of the utmost devotion
to his wife during all that time. When Khadija died, he married
a very elderly lady, Sauda, whose only recommendation for the honour
was that she was the widow of a faithful companion of his who had
to flee to Abyssinia from the persecution of the Quraish. The main
part of his life, from twenty-five to fifty-four, was thus an example
for his followers that monogamy was the rule in married life.

Now comes the third period. Of all his wives A’isha was the
only one whom he married as a virgin. Her father, Abu Bakr, the
closest friend of the Prophet had offered her to him when he suffered
the great bereavement of losing both his wife and his uncle Abu
Talib. The girl was one possessing exceptional qualities, and both
Abu Bakr and the Prophet saw in her the great woman of the future
who was best suited to perform the duties of the wife of a teacher
who was to be a perfect exemplar for mankind. So the Prophet accepted
her; but apparently she had not yet reached the age of puberty,
and her marriage was consummated towards the close of the second
year of the Flight. [See footnote below on her age at marriage.]

In the second year of the Flight began the series of battles with
the Quraish and the other Arab tribes, which appreciably reduced
the number of males, the bread-winners of the family. These battles
continued up to the eighth year of the Flight, and it was during
this time that the Prophet contracted all the marriages which appear
objectionable to the modern mind, but which neither friend nor foe
looked upon with disapprobation at the time. A Christian writer

It would be remembered, however, that most of Muhammad’s
marriages may be explained at least as much by his pity for the
forlorn condition of the persons concerned, as by other motives.
They were almost all of them widows who were not remarkable either
for their beauty or their wealth, but quite the reverse.

Let us look the facts straight in the face. The Prophet had now
in his house a young and beautiful wife in A’isha. None of
the other wives whom he married later compared with her either in
youth or beauty. Surely then it was not attraction for beauty that
led to these marriages. We have already seen that from his youth
till his old age the Prophet remained a complete master of his passions.
The man who could live in celibacy up to twenty-five and still have
the reputation of a spotless character, who up to fifty-four lived
with a single wife and this notwithstanding the fact that polygamy
was more the rule than the exception at the time and that a polygamous
connection was not in the least objectionable — such a man
could not be said to have changed all of a sudden after fifty-five
when old age generally soothes the passions even of those who cannot
control their passions in youth. No other motive than compassion
for the ladies who were given this honour can be attached to these
marriages. If there had been any less honourable motive, his choice
would have fallen on others than widows, and under the Arab custom
a man in his position could have plenty of youthful virgins.

I have said that change for the worse could not come over a man
who had led an undoubtedly spotless life until he reached fifty-five.
If the beauty of women could not excite his passions in youth and
lead him away from the path of rectitude, how could it lead him
away in old age? And what were the circumstances in which he lived
in Madina during these years? It was not a life of ease and luxury
that he was leading at the time; it was a life of hardness, because
it was at this very time that he had to carry on a life-or-death
struggle with the enemies of Islam. Huge armies came to crush him
and the small band of Muslims at Madina. The whole of Arabia was
aflame against him. He was not secure for a minute. Battles had
to be fought in quick succession. Expeditions had to be arranged
and sent. “Prophet of God! We are tired of being in arms day
and night,” his companions would say to him; and he had to
console them by telling them that the time would come when a traveller
would be able to go from one end of the country to the other without
having any arms. The Jews and the Christians were his enemies along
with the idolaters. His best friends were falling sometimes in battle
and sometimes by treachery. Is it possible for a man to lead a life
of ease and luxury under such circumstances? Even if a man had the
mind to lead a life of self-indulgence, which the Prophet according
to all available evidence had not, this was not the opportune time
for it. In such circumstances of warfare, with enemies within Madina
and enemies all around it, with the number of Muslims being insignificantly
small in comparison with the enemy, with news of assaults by the
overwhelming numbers on all sides, even a profligate’s life
would be changed, to say nothing of a man of avowed purity of character,
which no temptation could shake, turning into a profligate.

If the Prophet’s days during this period were passed so strenuously,
how did he pass the nights? He had a number of lawful wives, but
he did not spend his nights in enjoyment with them. There is clearest
evidence on record in the Holy Quran as well as Hadith that he passed
half, and sometimes even two-thirds, of the night in prayers and
in reciting the Holy Quran while standing in prayer. He would stand
so long that his feet would get swollen. Could such a man be said
to be taking wives for self-indulgence when the minutest details
of his life as available to show us conclusively that it was a strenuous
life furthest away from indulgence of any kind?

Let us now consider another point. Was any change really witnessed
in the latter part of his life when he became the ruler of a state?

“In the shepherd of the desert, in the Syrian trader, in
the solitary of Mount Hira, in the reformer in the minority of one,
in the exile of the Persian Chosroes and the Greek Heraclius, we
can still trace a substantial unity. I doubt whether any other man,
whose external conditions changed so much, ever himself changed
less to meet them: the accidents are changed, the essence seems
to me to be the same in all” — Bosworth Smith.

From the cradle to the grave the Prophet passed through a diversity
of circumstances — a diversity which can hardly be met with
in the life of a single man. Orphanhood is the extreme of helplessness,
while kingship is the height of power. From being an orphan he climbed
to the summit of royal glory, but that did not bring about the slightest
change in his way of living. He lived on exactly the same kind of
humble food, wore the same simple dress, and in all particulars
led the same simple life as he led in the state of orphanhood. It
is hard to give up the kingly throne and lead the life of a hermit,
but it is harder still that one should wield the royal sceptre yet
at the same time lead a hermit’s life, that one should possess
power and wealth yet spend it solely to promote the welfare of others,
that one should ever have the most alluring attractions before one’s
eyes yet should never for one moment be captivated by them.

When the Prophet actually became the ruler of a state, the furniture
of his house was composed of a coarse matting of palm leaves for
his bed and an earthen jug for water. Some nights he would go without
food. For days no fire would be lighted in his house to prepare
food, the whole family living on mere dates. There was no lack of
means to live a life of ease and comfort. The public treasury was
at his disposal. The well-to-do among his followers, who did not
shrink from sacrificing their lives for his sake, would have been
only too glad to provide him with every comfort of life, should
he choose to avail himself of it. But worldly things carried little
weight in his estimation. No mundane craving could ever prevail
over him, neither in times of indigence nor of plenty. Just as he
spurned wealth, power and beauty which the Quraish offered him when
he was yet in a state of utmost helplessness, so did he remain indifferent
to them when God granted him all these things out of His grace.

Not only did he himself live the simple life of a labourer, but
he did not even allow wealth to have any attraction for his wives.
Shortly after their immigration into Madina, the condition of the
Muslims had changed, and they carried on a prosperous trade. Their
conquests, later on, went further to add to the comforts of life
which the Muslims enjoyed. A quite human desire crept into the hearts
of the Prophet’s wives that, like other Muslim families, they
too should avail themselves of their share of comforts. Accordingly,
they approached the Prophet in a body to prevail upon him to allow
them their legitimate share of worldly comforts. Thereupon came
the Divine injunction:

“O Prophet ! Say to thy wives, If you desire this world's
life and its ornature, come, I will give you a provision and allow
you to depart a goodly departing. And if you desire Allah and His
Messenger and the latter abode, then surely Allah has prepared for
the doers of good among you a mighty reward.” [33:28,29]

Thus they were offered two alternatives. They might either have
worldly finery, or remain in the Prophet’s household Should
they decide to have the former, they would have plenty of what they
wanted, but would forthwith forfeit the honour of being the Prophet’s
wives. Is this the reply of a sensual man? Such a man would have
done everything to satisfy the whim of the objects of his affection.
Nay, he would himself have desired that his wives should wear the
most beautiful dress and live in comfort. No doubt the Prophet cherished
great love for his wives. He had immense regard for the rights of
women and was the champion of their cause. But when his wives came
to him with what was apparently a quite legitimate demand to have
more finery and ornaments, they were coldly told that if they would
have these things they were not fit to live in the Prophet’s
house. This shows beyond a shadow of doubt how free the Prophet’s
mind was of all base and sensual thoughts. He was prepared to divorce
all his wives rather than yield to what he regarded as unworthy
of his wives — an inclination towards worldly things. It shows
conclusively that the object of his marriages was anything but self-indulgence.

Let us consider once more the historical facts which led the Prophet
to take a number of wives within the short space of five years from
the third year of Hijra to the seventh, while before that he passed
nearly thirty years of his life in a monogamous state. This period
coincides exactly with the period during which incessant war was
carried on between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. The circle of
Muslim brotherhood was at the time very narrow. The perpetual state
of war created disparity between the male and the female elements
of society. Husbands having fallen on the field of battle, their
widows had to be provided for. But bread and butter was not the
only provision needed in such cases. Sex-inclination is implanted
in human nature, and the statesman who neglects the sex requirements
leads society to moral corruption, ending ultimately in the ruin
of the whole nation. A reformer with whom morals were all in all
could not content himself with making provision merely for the maintenance
of the widows. The Prophet was anxious for their chastity to a far
greater extent than their physical needs. It became therefore necessary
allow polygamy. This is the reason that he himself took so many
women for his wives during the period when war was raging. Nearly
all his wives were widows. If self-indulgence were the motive, the
choice would not have fallen on widows. It would have been an enviable
privilege for any Muslim to be the father-in-law of the Prophet.
But the object was a noble one — the protection of the widows
of his friends. In polygamy alone lay the safety of the Muslim society.

We now come to the fourth period. With the conquest of Makka in
8 A.H., internal warfare came practically to an end. Disturbances
there were, but, on the whole, peace had been established in the
country and normal conditions were restored. From the eighth year
of the Flight to the end of his life we again find that the Prophet
did not contract any new marriage. What is the evidence of the facts
then The Prophet added to the number of his wives only during the
time that he had to live in a state of warfare, when the number
of males was reduced and many women would have been left without
protection and without a home if the difficulty had not been solved
by permitting a limited polygamy. Before the Prophet had to enter
on a defensive war, he lived in idle company of a single wife, and
when war ended, he contracted no new marriage. This sets all doubts
at rest as to the motive of the Prophet. In all the marriages which
he contracted during the war, there was some ulterior moral end
in view. There arose situations in his life under which he could
not consistently, with the moral and religious mission of his life,
help taking more wives than one. In that, he only showed compassion
to the weaker sex.

Living in a country in which polygamy was the rule, the Prophet
had no liking for polygamy. He passed the prime of his life, up
to fifty-four years of age, as the husband of a single wife, thus
showing that the union of one man and one woman was the rule under
normal conditions. But when abnormal conditions arose, he did not,
like a sentimentalist, shirk his duty. He saw that the chastity
of woman was at stake if polygamy was not allowed, and for the sake
of a higher interest he permitted polygamy as an exception to meet
exceptional circumstances.

Exactly thus he had to revert to war, though by disposition he
was averse to it. Full forty years before the Call, he had been
living in a land where the sword was wielded as freely as a stick
elsewhere, where fighting and feuds were the order of the day, where
men would fly at each other’s throats, like wild animals,
where there was no chance of survival for one who could not use
the sword, yet not once during these forty years did he deal a blow
at an enemy. The same was the case with him for fourteen years after
the Call.

That he was peace-loving by nature is shown by the clear injunctions
relating to peace in the Holy Quran:

“And if they incline to peace, do thou also incline to it
and trust in Allah ... And if they intend to deceive thee, then
surely Allah is sufficient for thee.” [8:61,62]

The Prophet’s acceptance of the truce of Hudaibiya, though
its conditions were humiliating for the Muslims, who were ready
to lay down their lives one and all rather than accept those terms,
is also a clear proof of his peace-loving nature. But when duty
called him to take the field to save his community, he did not hesitate
to take up the sword against an overwhelming majority. He acted
as a sagacious general in all fields of battle and behaved like
a brave soldier when opportunity demanded. He knew how to disperse
an enemy in time before it had gained sufficient strength to deal
a severe blow at the Muslims. And once, in the battle of Hunain,
when his army was in flight owing to the severe onslaught of the
enemy’s archers, he was all alone advancing towards the enemy
forces, till his soldiers rallied round him. By disposition he had
no inclination for war, yet circumstances arose which dragged him
into the field of battle, and he then displayed the wisdom of a
general and the bravery of a soldier. So by disposition he was not
inclined to polygamy, living a celibate life of unexampled purity
up to twenty-five years of age and a married life of a monogamous
husband up to fifty-four, but when duty called him to take more
women under his shelter, he answered the call of duty.


Footnote on age of A’isha:

A great misconception prevails as to the age at which A’isha
was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa‘d has stated
in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr was approached on behalf of the
Holy Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed
to Jubair, and that he would have to settle the matter first with
him. This shows that A’isha must have been approaching majority
at the time. Again, the Isaba, speaking of the Prophet’s daughter
Fatima, says that she was born five years before the Call and was
about five years older than A’isha. This shows that A’isha
must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the
Prophet, and not six years as she is generally supposed to be. This
is further borne out by the fact that A’isha herself is reported
to have stated that when the chapter entitled The Moon (fifty-fourth
chapter) was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered
certain verses then revealed. Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly
revealed before the sixth year of the Call. All these considerations
point to but one conclusion, viz., that A’isha could not have
been less than ten years of age at the time of her nikah, which
was virtually only a betrothal. And there is one report in the Tabaqat
that A’isha was nine years of age at the time of nikah. Again
it is a fact admitted on all hands that the nikah of A’isha
took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal,
while there is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation
of her marriage taking place in the second year of Hijra in the
same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between
the nikah and the consummation. Hence there is not the least doubt
that A’isha was at least nine or ten years of age at the time
of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.



Qualities and character of the Holy Prophet

Brief as this treatment of the Prophet's life is, it would be
incomplete without a few words as to his manners and morals. When
his wife, A'isha, the most privy to his secrets, was questioned
about his morals, her reply was, "His morals are the Quran."
In other words, the highest morals that were depicted in the Holy
Quran were possessed by him.

Simplicity and sincerity are the keynotes of the Prophet's character.
He would do all sorts of things with his own hands. He would milk
his own goats, patch his own clothes and mend his own shoes. In
person would he dust the house, and he would tie his camel and look
after it personally. No work was too low for him. He worked like
a labourer in the construction of the mosque, and again in digging
a ditch round Madina. In person would he do shopping, not only for
his own household but also for his neighbours or for helpless women.
He never despised any work, however humble, notwithstanding the
dignity of his position as Prophet and King. He thus demonstrated
through personal example that man's calling does not really determine
his nobleness or his meanness.

His actions and movements were characterized by homely simplicity.
He did not like his companions to stand up on his arrival. Once
he forbade them, saying, "Do not stand up for me as do the
non-Arabs;" and added that he was a humble creature of God,
eating as others eat and sitting as others sit. When a certain man
wanted to kiss his hand, he withdrew it remarking that that was
the behaviour of the non-Arabs to wards their kings. Even if a slave
sent him an invitation he accepted it. He would take his meals in
the company of all classes of people, even of slaves. When seated
among people, there was nothing about him to make him conspicuous.

The Prophet had a deep love for his friends. While shaking hands
with them, he would never be the first to withdraw his hand. He
met everybody with a smiling face. A report from Jarir ibn Abdullah
says that he never saw the Prophet but with a smile on his face.
He would talk freely, never putting on artificial reserve to give
himself an air of superiority. He would take up children in arms
and nurse them. He disliked backbiting and forbade his visitors
to talk ill of any of his friends. He would ever take the lead in
greeting his friends and shaking hands with them.

The Prophet's generosity even towards his enemies stands unique
in the annals of the world. Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the head of the
hypocrites, was a sworn enemy of Islam, and his days and nights
were spent in plotting mischief against the Muslims. Yet at his
death, the Prophet prayed to the Lord to forgive him and even granted
his own shirt to enshroud his body. The Makkans, who had all along
subjected him and his friends to the most barbarous tortures, were
not only awarded a general amnesty but were let off even without
a reproof. Twenty long years of persecutions and warfare were absolutely
forgiven and forgotten. "The magnanimity with which Muhammad
treated a people who had so long hated and rejected him is worthy
of all admiration," says Muir. The fact is that no other example
is met with in history of such magnanimous forgiveness of inveterate
enemies, who had shed innocent blood, who had shown no pity for
helpless men, women and children, who had exerted themselves to
their utmost to kill the Prophet and to annihilate the Muslims.
The prisoners of war were almost always set free even without demanding
a ransom. It was only in the case of the prisoners of Badr that
ransom was demanded; after that, hundreds of prisoners and in one
case, in the battle with Hawazin, as many as six thousand, were
released without taking a penny as ransom. At the battle of Uhud,
when he was wounded and fell, down, a comrade asked him to curse
his persecutors. His reply was: I have not been sent to curse but
as an inviter to good and mercy. O Lord ! guide my people, for they
know not." Once a Bedouin pulled him and threw his wrap round
his neck. When asked why he should not be repaid in the same coin,
he pleaded that he (the Prophet) never returned evil for evil.

In the administration of justice, the Prophet was scrupulously
even-handed. Muslims and non-Muslims, friend and foe, were all alike
in his eyes. Even before the Call, his impartiality his honesty
and integrity were of household fame, and people would bring their
disputes to him to settle. At Madina, tie Jews and the idolaters
both accepted him as the arbitrator in all their disputes. Notwithstanding
the deep-rooted malice of Jews against Islam, when a case between
a Jew and a Muslim came up before him, he decreed in favour of the
Jew, regardless of the fact that the Muslim, nay, even perhaps the
whole of his tribe, might thereby be alienated. In his dealings
with his worst enemies he was always true to the Quranic injunction
which says:

"Let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably;
act equitably, that is nearer to piety." [5:8]

On his deathbed, immediately before he breathed his last, he had
it Publicly announced:

"If I owe anything to anybody, it may be claimed; if I have
offended anybody, he may have his revenge."

In his dealings with others he never placed himself on a higher
pedestal. Once while he held the position of a king at Madina, a
Jew whom he owed some money came up to him and began to-abuse him.
Umar was enraged, but the Prophet rebuked him, saying:

"It would have been meet for thee to have advised both of us
- me, the debtor to repay the debt with gratitude, and him, the
creditor, to demand it in a more becoming manner."

And he paid the Jew more than his due. On another occasion when
he was out in the wood with his friends, the time for preparation
of food came. Everybody was allotted a piece of work, he himself
going out to pick up fuel. Spiritual and temporal overlord though
he was, he would yet do his share of work like an ordinary man.
In his treatment of his servants, he observed the same principle
of equality. A report from Anas says that during the ten years that
he was in the Prophet's service at Madina, where he ultimately became
the master of the whole of Arabia, he was not once scolded by him.
He never kept anybody in slavery. As soon as he got a slave, he
set him free.

In charity the Prophet was simply unapproached. He never gave a
flat refusal to a beggar. He would feed the hungry, himself going
without food. He never kept any money in his possession. While on
his deathbed, he sent for whatever there was in his house and distributed
it among the poor. Even for the dumb creatures of God his heart
overflowed with mercy. He spoke of one who drew water from a well
to quench the thirst of a dog as having earned paradise with this
act of kindness. He spoke of a deceased woman that she was undergoing
punishment because she would tie up her cat and keep it hungry.
Form his earliest days he had a deep sympathy for widows and orphans,
the poor and the helpless. He would ever stand by the oppressed.
He vindicated the rights of women over men, of slaves over their
masters, of the ruled over the rulers, and of the subjects over
the king. Negro slaves were accorded the same position of honour
as the Quraish leaders. He was the champion of the oppressed and
the ill-treated ones. He was very fond of children, and while walking
along he would pat and stroke those whom he met on the way. Without
fail would he visit the sick to enquire after their health and console
them. He would also accompany a funeral.

Humble and meek in the highest degree, he had yet the courage of
the bravest of men. Never for a moment did he harbour fear of his
enemies. Even when plots to take his life were being hatched in
Makka, he moved about fearlessly day and night. He told all his
companions to emigrate from Makka, himself remaining almost alone
among infuriated enemies. With his pursuers at the mouth of the
cave in which he had hidden himself, he could yet console his companion,
saying, "Allah is with us." On the field of Uhud when
the whole of his army fell into a trap, he shouted aloud, regardless
of all danger to his own person, to rally the confused soldiers.
In the battle of Hunain when the Muslim rank and file took to flight,
he advanced alone towards the enemy, calling aloud, "I am the
Prophet." When one night a raid was suspected, he was the first
to reconnoitre the outskirts of Madina, riding his horse without
saddling it. On a certain journey, while resting under a tree all
alone, an enemy came upon him, and unsheathing his sword shouted
out: " Who can save thee now from my hands?" Calmly the
Prophet replied, "Allah." And the next moment the same
sword was in the Prophet's hand who put to his enemy the same question,
on which he assumed a tone of abject humility, and the Prophet let
him go.

The Prophet's integrity and sincerity were of universal fame throughout
Arabia. His worst enemies had often to confess that he had never
told a lie. When he once pledged his word, he kept it under the
most trying conditions and even at a heavy lost. He faithfully observed
the truce made at Hudaibiya, though he had to refuse shelter to
Muslims escaping from the persecution of the Makkans. His biographers
are all at one in their admiration of his unflinching fortitude
and unswerving steadfastness. Despair and despondency were unknown
to him. Hemmed in as he was on all sides by a gloomy prospect and
severe opposition, his faith in the ultimate triumph of the truth
was never for one moment shaken


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