Milestones

Now, look at the second picture from this section. This is the early period of the Da’wah. So far, only a few people have pledged their submission to the Prophet ﷺ Mountains of hardship have fallen on them, some of them are laid down on burning sand under the weight of a heavy stone; some others are tied with ropes and chains and dragged about in the streets. There are still others who are laid on red embers of the fire. One of these oppressed people is Khabbab bin Al-Aratt (رض) He was forcibly laid on red embers to the point that the fat from his back melted and extinguished them. He presents himself before the Prophet ﷺ.

He draws the picture further in the following words:

“We complained to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ about our state while he was leaning against his sheet cloak in the shade of the Ka’bah. We said, ‘Will you ask Allah to help us? Will you invoke Allah for us?’ He said, Among those who were before you a (believer) used to be seized and a pit used to be dug for him and then he used to be placed in it. Then a saw used to be brought and put on his head, which would be split into two halves. His flesh might be combed with iron combs and removed from his bones, yet, all that did not cause him to revert from his religion. By Allah! This religion (Islam) will be completed (and triumph) till a rider (traveler) goes from Sana (the capital of Yemen) to Hadramout fearing nobody except Allah and the wolf, lest it should trouble his sheep, but you are impatient” — Sahih al-Bukhari

You can see the milestones of your religious struggle with open eyes. First, the worship of the one and only God; secondly, the establishment of a society where no one is wronged, where the strong will be weak if they usurp the rights of others or oppress them, and the weak will be strong if their rights are taken unjustly, or they are oppressed. If only a goat dies of hunger in a far-flung area, it will make the ruler tremble out of a deep sense of accountability.

Every Prophet gave the same advice to his people: Worship the one and only God! It was also revealed: We have already sent Our messengers with clear proof and sent down with them the Book and the balance that the people may maintain [their affairs] in justice — (Al-Hadid 57:25). The establishment of a just order through jihad and political power has been considered as helping Allah and his Messenger. Jihad is the physical struggle in the path of Allah. It can range from fighting a battle for Islamic justice to speaking out against oppression. And We sent down iron, wherein is great military might and benefits for the people, and so that Allah may make evident those who support Him and His messengers unseen — (Al-Hadid 57:25).

Life Conditional on Worship

On the way from Mecca to Medina, there is a small town called Badr. Here the road turns off the shores of the Red Sea and winds toward Medina. At a short distance, small hills surround a valley and sandy fields. ‘This is the second year after the immigration (Hijrah), and an incident will take place in this valley that will change the course of humanity from an alley of death to the highway of life. On one side are gathered all the prominent and influential leaders from that great center of ignorance, Mecca. On the other side, is a force comprising those who have responded to the call to God. They have joined the Prophet for 15 years. They include the best of Mecca and those who have responded to his call from Medina. On the side of falsehood and disbelief stands an army of 1,000 men with no shortage of horses and swords. On the side of truth and justice is a small group of slightly more than 300 believers with only two horses and a minimal number of blades.

Sad bin Mu’adh (رض) has erected a booth on one of the small hills. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ sits under its shade with his cave friend, Abu Bakr Siddique. At night, the followers of the Prophet ﷺ enjoy a sound and refreshing sleep, a sign of divine favor, for it was Allah who covered them with slumber to give their minds and bodies extra rest. Nevertheless, the Prophet ﷺ spent the whole night in prayer and dua (supplication). He stands before the Lord who has sent him with duties of Messengership. At times he puts his forehead on the ground.

It was a strange scene. The fate of Tawheed — the concept of the oneness of God — had depended upon only a few lives. The Prophet ﷺ was overwhelmed with a feeling of lowliness. He stretched forth his hands and said, “O Allah, accomplish for me what You have promised to me. O Allah, bring about what You have promised to me. O Allah, if this small group of Muslims is destroyed, You will not be worshipped on this earth.” (Sahih Muslim).

Allah sustains Islam in this world by protecting the believers who worship Him. For this reason, the Prophet ﷺ pleaded to Allah in the final moments leading up to the Battle of Badr, giving the observation that “if this small group of Muslims is destroyed, You (Allah) will not be worshipped on this earth.”

 In other words, if Allah granted victory to the Muslims, then they and their descendants would be faithfully devoted to calling humanity to Allah, the one and only Lord of mankind. The Prophet’s dua was an expression of a request, want, and promise; it was a mission statement, too. The Prophet ﷺ didn’t say the destruction of the Muslim Ummah would cause civilization to perish, factories to vanish, science and technology to die, and wealth and production to come to an end. No, all of these things would remain intact, but the relationship with the Lord of the Universe would be terminated if the Muslim community was destroyed at the hands of disbelievers. That means civilization and production would be deprived of their spirit. As a result, all these phenomena of culture and development would take humanity toward death and destruction and away from life and well-being. By Allah’s will, Muslims won the Battle of Badr, which meant the covenant had been ratified — Islam was secured.

That is why the day of Badr is also known as the day of criteria.

This picture should inspire us to ask the following questions: Do we honor our commitment to Allah? Are we deserving of Allah’s promise to have security from fear in this life and the reward of Paradise in the hereafter? We must understand that Allah’s promise of protection and salvation is not for the disobedient or the unjust. Allah’s promise is for those who are equipped with faith and righteous deeds, whose disposition is stated in Surah An-Noor 24:55: “They worship only Me and will not associate anybody with Me.’

Tearful Eyes

The forth picture has been preserved for us by Abdullah bin Masud. He narrates:

One day I was present before the Prophet ﷺ was sitting in his pulpit. Addressing me, the Prophet ﷺ said: Abdullah, recite the Quran to me.

In amazement and respect I asked: ‘Shall I recite (it) to you on whom it has been revealed?’ “

He said, ‘I like to hear it from others.”

So I started to recite Surah An-Nisa. When I reached the verse:

‘How (will it be) then when We bring from each nation a witness, and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?’ — (An-Nisa 4:41).

“There came from him a cry: ‘Stop Abdullah, recite no more? I raised my head to look at him. Both of his eyes were overflowing with tears” — (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)

I urge you all to look at this picture with attention. What could be that profound of responsibility to melt the heart and bring tears to the eyes of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? It is the obligation to bear witness to the truth. It is the responsibility of the Da’wah, the act of inviting others to Islam through any form of communication and good conduct. All Muslims have the responsibility of Da’wah, for Allah says in the Qur’an that we will be at a loss unless we step up as righteous believers who advise others to the truth of Islam and it’s the virtues of patience. (Al-Asr 103:1-3)

One day, Allah will question how far the duty of Dawah has been performed. What will our reply be? Look at the love Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has for his Lord! Take note of his compassion and mercy for mankind. Such was his faith in the Divine Word; all it took was for Abdullah bin Masud to recite a few verses of the Quran for the Prophet ﷺ to get tearful eyes. One cannot help but love such a scene and bask in awe of Muhammad’s ﷺ veneration for his creator.

Now, have a look at yourself considering this picture. You know that as Muslims, you have been raised as an ummah (nation) to bear witness to the truth in front of your nation and the rest of the world. This is the objective of your life. For this singular cause, you have organized yourselves. Day and night, you talk about the significant concepts of Islam, such as the implementation of shariah (Islamic law), the establishment of the Deen (religion), and bearing witness to the truth of Islam. But let’s be honest and speak the truth: How many times have we cried during the day or night, thinking of the Hour when Allah will make us stand before Him to testify as a witness to the people living around us? What will our position be when that time comes?

You know very well that you are obliged to bear witness to the truth of Islam consistent with how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did in his days.

 You will have to stand in front of Allah, as the Prophet ﷺ and all collective humanity will. Allah will also ask if you had stood truthful as a Muslim toward your family, colleagues, and residents of your town and country, people who may have trodden the path of evil and gone astray. Were you a true or false witness to Allah’s truth? Were you mindful or negligent of your duty? Were you thinking of all human beings, or were you solely worried about your comforts, affairs, and salvation? Did such thoughts ever move you to tears? If not, it means this image of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has not been affixed in your heart and that your heart is still devoid of that tenderness of love for your Lord and His creation. You may deliver speeches, read books, shout slogans, and hold grand meetings, but nothing will be fruitful without a deep passion and dedication to practicing Islam as a Muslim who advises others to God’s truth.

Viewing this picture should cause you to tremble. You should shiver and shed tears whenever you recall that you will be accountable for every indifference shown to the Lord by your people who neither follow the right path nor obey Him. You might be held responsible for the lapses of others around you.

The Wounded That Rained Flowers

The third picture we will reflect upon takes us to the 10th year of the Prophet’s Dawah and Messengership. This was a time when the people and leaders of Mecca were still not prepared to worship the one and only God and follow the Prophet ﷺ. On the contrary, they planned to do away with the Messenger himself. The caring uncle, Abu Talib, passed away, leaving the Prophet ﷺ without traditional tribal protection. The Prophet’s 25-year-long companionship with his wife, Lady Khadija, ended with her death. Where was he to seek solace and shelter?

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ had a small group of loyal followers from Mecca, but he was searching for a settlement where a society based upon the worship of one God could flourish. He needed a place to establish the call of Allah’s rule. The ﷺ thought of Taif and set out for it. Taif was a thriving city near Mecca. It had fertile land with abundant water and fruit-laden orchards. The Prophet ﷺ sought to explore whether Taif’s leaders and wealthy elites would respond well to his call to Islam.

The way to Taif passed through rugged terrain of hilly rocks and valleys. Even though the Prophet ﷺ was past his energetic days of youth, the Prophet ﷺ, at 50 years old, made the journey to Taif during the scorching summer. He couldn’t afford to buy a horse or camel to ride because extensive spiritual activities drained his resources as the final Messenger of God. Unable to travel by animal, the Prophet ﷺ covered the distance on foot in a pair of sandals accompanied by his adopted son and youthful follower, Zaid bin Haritha. On his arrival at Taif, the Prophet ﷺ immediately went to the leaders of the Banu Taif tribe and presented them with the message of Islam. He had high hopes for the people of Taif, but the tribal leaders of Taif, just like the tribal leaders of Mecca, rejected the Prophet’s message. They refused to see the truth of accepting Islam. They responded to the Prophet ﷺ with blunt arrogance.

The Prophet ﷺ (spoke with three brothers who were the princes of Taif. Speaking coldly to the Prophet ﷺ, one of the men said he would tear up the cloth which covered the Kaaba if Allah had sent him. The second brother said, “Could Allah find no better to send except you?” The third prince complained I shall never speak to you! For, if you are a Messenger of Allah, your dignity is too great for me to contradict you; and if you are lying, there is no necessity for me to speak to you.” Brokenhearted, the Prophet left that place, but the tribal leaders of Ta’if stirred up their enslaved people and town folks to insult the Prophet and shout at him. They aimed pellets at his ankles and knees. They forced him to get on his feet again when he sat down because of the terrible pain. The stones and projectiles continue for quite a distance. He was exhausted because of injuries and loss of blood, and at long last, took refuge in an orchard outside the town.

Now, look at this conception. Whose heart will it not rip to pieces? “The knees are badly hurt, the shins bruised and bleeding, the blessed robes are crimson. The faithful Zaid lifts up his fainted master from the dusty road and carries him to a place where he finds water. When he tries to take off the shoes, they would not come off because of the sticky blood that has jelled in them”

What a day it was! How terrible was the scene! He who had come for all of mankind, for all times to come, was being returned and rejected. Not only did they refuse to accept his message, but they also injured him till he fell to the ground. And he would save them from falling into the fire, holding them and pulling them back by their waists.

Aisha narrated she had asked the Prophet ﷺ, “Have you encountered a day harder than the day of the Battle of Uhud?” The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Your tribes have troubled me a lot, and the worst trouble was the trouble on the day of Aqaba when I presented myself to ibn Abd-Yalail bin Abd-Kulal (in Ta’if), and he did not respond to my demand (Sahih al-Bukhari ; Sahih Muslim).

Now keep all these scenes of woe before your eyes — hopeful journey to Ta’if, broken heart and bruised body, the most challenging day of life — and take note of the words he utters while he prays to his Lord:

O Allah, I complain to you of my weakness, my lack of resources, and my lowliness before man. O Most Merciful, You are the Lord of the weak and You are my Lord. To whom will you relinquish my fate? To one, who will abuse me or to an enemy given power over me? If You are not angry with me, then I do not care what happened to me. I only care for Your favor. I seek refuge in the light of Your face by which all darkness is illuminated and the affairs of this world and the hereafter are ordered. I wish to please You until You are fully pleased. There is no power or might except in You.” — Reference: Ad-Dua At-Tabarani 959 – Grade: Hasan (fair) according to As-Suyuti.

You saw the condition of the heart, the dedication to the Dawah, the hardships of the journey, trust in the Lord, and the desire to win His pleasure. These colors are pretty evident in the picture, but there are other colors that I would like to point out to you. After being rejected, assaulted, and driven out of Ta’if, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was greeted by Angel Jibrail (Gabriel), and Jibrail introduced the Prophet ﷺ to the angel in charge of the mountains. The angel in charge of the mountains then addressed the Prophet, saying, “O Muhammad! Order what you wish. If you like, I will let Al-AkhShabain (i.e., two mountains) fall on them.’ The Prophet ﷺ said, “No, but I hope that Allah will let them beget children who will worship Allah alone and will worship none besides Him” (Sahih al-Bukhari ; Sahih Muslim).

A writer has written in these words: “This was a reflection of the merciful aspect of the Prophet’s personality. It was an amazing example of his immense love and affection for humanity and his patience and perseverance. History fails to present even a semblance of this level of love for humanity, faith in the truth of Allah’s message, and dedication in faithfully delivering this message to the world. No other great personality could rise to these heights of kindness toward humanity”. History has recorded the flood that drowned Noah’s people, the storm that overcame the Aad, the roar and thunder that shook the people of Thamud, the rain of stones that covered the people of Lot, and the Nile which drowned the armies of Pharaoh has also recorded the answer that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ gave to the angel in charge of the mountains. The Prophet could have directed the angel to destroy Ta’if, and Allah would have permitted it. However, the Prophet ﷺ declined to invoke punishment against Ta’if and instead expressed hope that Allah would allow the people of Ta’if to have children who embraced Islam.

This picture is beautiful, captivating, and moving because of Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ patience, restraint, and hopefulness. One cannot help but love it. It is like a fountain of love. What a wealth of compassion! How kind is the Prophet ﷺ to the creation of His Lord! How firm is the rock of hope based on the foundation of Da’wah!

Everybody loves friends, but how many people love their enemies? How many people would send blessings in response to stones and abuse? Prophet Muhammad (ص) had no feelings of revenge, hate, or anger. He never expressed foul words, never indulged in self-conceit, and never misused his power. Instead, what we find is the tenderness of heart, sympathy, kindness, mercy, and a message of life. Force is only used when necessary to maintain order and curb mischief. The biggest concern is that hearts should be conquered so that they bow before their Lord; the greatest wish is that there should be people who respond positively to the invitation to Islam and join in sooner or later.

I think of this picture again and again. We often forget it when we are in the middle of conflicts, arguments, and scuffles. We forget that good manners are supposed to be practiced at all times, including during heated moments of contention. As Muslims, we are supposed to hate sin and evil, not the evildoer; we are supposed to fight disease. Put an attempt to save those who are sick. A bad person is like a suffering part of the body and is amputated only when there is no hope of recovery. Imagine the plight of someone in this situation. Do you have the love, kindness, mercy, tenderness of heart, perseverance, and strength of character to respond to abuses and stones with blessings and good wishes?

 Is it possible that people throw stones at you, and you sprinkle them with flowers? Is it possible that you are rejected, and you do not give up hope; you are torn apart, and still you keep contact; you are oppressed, and you forgive; you are deprived, and you keep giving? It’s not easy to answer evil with good. But without doing so, you cannot go very far in the field of Da’wah, good deeds, and steadfastness in Islam. Only the fortunate few are endowed with this wealth. The fortunate people are those who have been granted patience.

The Lord says: “And who is better in speech than one who invites to Allah and does righteousness and says, “Indeed, I am of the Muslims.” And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better, and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. But none is granted it except those who are patient, and none is granted it except one having a great portion [of good] — (Fussilat 41:33-35).

To tell you the truth, you will never be able to conquer hearts until you have become a person of patience, love, and kindness. The caller to Islam must not be a rival or enemy to anyone. The caller to Islam is the Muslim who fights for the well-being of others. He kills with the same intention with which a surgeon amputates a futile limb.

Expectations Few, Hopes High

 Now let me show you three of the pictures from another part of my album. These will help you to see where all of the spiritual work of Islam leads us in this world and the hereafter.  

Mission Accomplished

The second picture we will reflect upon paints a scene full of beauty and inspiration. It owes its charm to the previous two pictures. This third one could not have taken shape if the first and second ones had not paved the way.

This picture brings us to the broad valley of Arafat in the presence of about 150,000 people. Among them are men, women, and children. They have come from all corners of Arabia and gathered in response to the call raised by Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham, peace be upon him). He had built the Kaaba as a house of worship and a place of sacred gathering for future generations of Muslims. Prophet Ibrahim’s call has been revived by one of his heirs and the last leader of his line of succession, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.  

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took this call to every nook and cranny of Arabia, introduced it to the surrounding lands, and ensured its perennial communication to future generations.

In this third picture, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is giving his last instructions to his followers. Approaching the end of the speech, he engages them with an earnest question:

O people! What shall you say in Allah’s presence (on the Day of Resurrection) when you will be asked about me?

The thousands shout back in one voice: “We bear witness that you have fulfilled your obligations; you have fulfilled your duty of counseling us; you have faithfully delivered your message.

The Prophet ﷺ then raised his forefinger, pointing to the sky, and said: “O Allah, bear witness!” “O Allah, bear witness!” “O Allah, bear witness!” — (Sahih Muslim; Sunan Abu Dawud)

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has fulfilled his obligations as the final Messenger of Allah. Are you following his example? You are the carriers of the same message; it is the main objective of your life as a Muslim, and you must devote your days and nights to achieve it.

You complain that people do not listen to you despite years of effort. I ask you one thing: Are you in a position to gather the people of your family and neighborhood and ask them to bear witness in Allah’s presence that you have delivered the message and fulfilled your duties and obligations of guiding them? And do you hope that they will answer in the affirmative?

 You are responsible for delivering Allah’s message to the members of your household and everyone you come in contact with. Eventually, you must deliver Allah’s message to whomever you can reach and whomever is in want of guidance. Any one of them, including a son or nephew, can question you on why you did not come to rescue him when he was in the dark and you had the light, when he was wandering in the wilderness, and you had knowledge of the Straight Path. If he faces the punishment in the hereafter, how will you defend your negligence?

The aspects of the Prophet’s life that these first three sketches bring to our attention make our duty very clear: We must emulate the Prophet’s example in the area of Da’wah by inviting others to Islam with a deep passion for delivering Allah’s message to humanity. We must accept our profound sense of accountability regarding the people we meet. And we must question whether those people can testify that we have fulfilled our obligations toward them in the form of well-wishing, giving them sympathetic advice, and delivering them the message from their Lord.

Mercy for Mankind

In my album, pictures are beautifully arranged and kept in order. Let’s move to another section to see the fourth picture, and it is very dear to me; I look at it time and again and have shown it to my friends for years. While the earlier three pictures depicted how seriously the Prophet ﷺ took his message, this shows how kind and considerate he was toward all groups of people.  

The Tender, Tormented Heart

The first picture that we will reflect upon was not drawn by any mortal; it was painted by Allah, the eternal and absolute Lord of perfection:

It may be that you (O Muhammad) are going to kill yourself with grief, that they do not become believers (in your Messengership) ~ (Ash-Shura 26:3).

The statement is brief, but the illustration depicted is complete and comprehensive.

One aspect is the Prophet’s ﷺ faith in his truthfulness, a faith that one has in the existence of the sun on a bright, cloudless morning.

Whatever is beyond our sight and perception is quite evident for the Prophet ﷺ.

Repeated denials and rejections confront his faith. What would be the mental condition of the person who, pointing to the shining sun, declares it is daytime and people refuse to accept it? They call him a liar and label him an impostor. Can you imagine how harsh their attitude to him was? The people were not satisfied with solely rejecting his claims; they went further by laughing at the Prophet ﷺ, turning against him, and oppressing him. Think of what his heart goes through and how Allah correctly paints his picture by using the expression “kill yourself”.

There is another feature far more fascinating. To grieve over rejection is natural. Every human being would experience a range of emotional pain from rejection. But there is one thing very hard to visualize. Allah brings it before our eyes, despite rejections, accusations, and enmity, there are no signs of anger or ill will on the part of the Prophet ﷺ towards his transgressors. He only has one desire, one concern, one passion: And that is to bring his people to the way of Allah, rescue them from the wrath of Allah, and save them from the fire of Hell. His greatest wish is that they be sent to Paradise and rewarded with goodness in both worlds.

It is one of the most attractive combinations of devotion, concern and grief from which emerge the characteristics of the picture of one who torments himself. The Prophet ﷺ is losing control over himself and virtually dying of this grief. He is not disturbed by people ignoring him. He is not suffering because people reject the invitation to Islam’s truth. He is not dying to win their confidence. No, the Prophet’s pain and grief is because people are happily rushing toward the fire like moths falling in it.

Ah! what boldness (they show) for the Fire! — (Al-Baqara 2:175)

On one hand, he is in love with his Lord and fellow human beings The Prophet ﷺ is by nature a compassionate being Mercy for Mankind is his title. On the other hand, his beloved fellow human beings are running away from his beloved Lord and almost killing themselves. Can you imagine the condition of such a heart? The Prophet ﷺ described the situation:

My example and the example of the people is that of a man who made a fire, and when it lighted what was around it, moths and other insects started falling into the fire. The man tried (his best) to prevent them (from falling in the fire), but they overpowered him and rushed into the fire.‘ The Prophet ﷺ added: “Now, similarly, I take hold of the knots at your waist (belts) to prevent you from falling into the Fire, but you insist on falling into it” — (Sahih alBukhari; Sahih Muslim)

Now look at yourself. Do you believe in your message so intensely as to find it difficult to breathe when people refuse to accept it? Do you love humanity so well that disappointment, anger, and hate do not replace the feelings of love, sympathy, and concern? Do you feel the same emotions of grief when you see people going astray as you would feel seeing a loved one burn in fire? After all, among these loved ones include your mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and children, relatives, friends, classmates, and colleagues.

The hardships and difficulties faced by the people we love make us depressed and render us well near dead. All of us have been through this in one way or another. Does the concern to deliver Allah’s message to the people keep us impatient? Does the desire to save people from the Hellfire make us agitated? Do we try to hold people back and save them from disaster instead of branding them transgressors when we see them going astray? Believe me, until our lives reflect the image of “you are going to kill yourself with grief,” we will not be able to do what was successfully performed by the Prophet ﷺ

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