In this blessed month of Rabi’ al-Awwal, as our hearts turn towards the remembrance of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, five of the Qarawiyyin Project’s contributors put forward their reflections on the life and character of Rasulallah ﷺ.
Knowing the beloved
The station of Muhammad ﷺ is guaranteed by his name: “the praised one”. In the history of humanity, no man has been praised as much as he, nor has anyone else been deserving of such. Muhammad ﷺ is not only a messenger from the Lord of the Worlds to His creation, but also the most perfect of creation. When Allah ﷻ could have sent heedless humanity any other kind of messenger, He ﷻ sent the most beloved of his creation. Our saviour and guide, our love overflows at the thought of his soft voice, his gentle touch, his humble walk. The combined poetry of all our varied languages and times cannot do his beauty justice, but through reading of him and his life, our hearts become light, our burdens are lifted, and our love of him takes root. All else pales into insignificance.
The seerah an-nabi is not just a history. It is a story of perfection that presents new meanings across time, place and people. Today, perhaps more than ever before, the life of Muhammad ﷺ must be read through a practical lens. Understanding the multifaceted approach of his dawah, the holistic nature of his governance in Madina and the spiritual depth of his message is what we need to tackle the challenges of our Ummah today. Establishing our vision as the prophetic Muslim community is the clarity we need in times of uncertainty. All of this starts with the knowledge of one man, who changed the world more than any other.
One final element to remember in this blessed month is that our love for Rasulallah ﷺ is not one-sided. His love for his Ummah was such that he spent his nights in tears thinking of our fate and praying for us. It is out of the Lord of the Worlds’ respect for our Master Muhammad’s ﷺ love for us that we are saved, in this life and through his intercession on the Day of Judgement. With that knowledge, how can we aspire to be anything other than his closest brothers and sisters?
Anas bin Malik reported that the Prophet ﷺ said, “I wish I could meet my brothers.” The Companions said, “Are we not your brothers?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “You are my companions, but my brothers are those who believe in me although they never saw me.”Ahmed 12169
Creating unity from the divided
The gift that keeps on giving, we take from the Seerah what we need at a given time, be it light in moments of darkness or strength and affirmation to strive further in pleasing our Lord.
The man who denounced the pagan faith of his ancestors and created his own religion — could he be a heretic? An imposter? Or indeed a prophet of Allah as he was claiming? Some heard stories of the new religion and curiosity overcame them, whilst others just felt an ease in their heart. Khalid, son of Sa’id Ibn Al Aas, came to Abu Bakr with a dream he had of Rasulallah ﷺ saving him from a fire; taking it as a sign, he then accepted Islam. Umar, with the hardest heart and the harshest tongue, was humbled by the words of Allah. The message transcended social, racial and class structures; it was received by those with influence and others with no social prominence — from the slave Bilal, who endured brutal torture for committing to the oneness of Allah, to the Chief of Aws, Sa’ad Ibn Muadh, who with his submission brought the whole clan of Aws into the light.
People of all spheres of life united in their defense of the Rasul ﷺ and his religion. As an individual, Hamzah confronted Abu Jahl for insulting his nephew; shaking with anger, he asked: “Wilt thou insult Muhammad now that I am of his religion?” As an Ummah, the Muslims assembled in the battlefields for the sake of Allah, mothers choosing martyrdom for their sons. Similarly, Muslims around the world, from ordinary men to famed politicians, have gathered even today in condemnation of the mockery of our Beloved ﷺ, organising protests and boycotts.
In a fragmented world with much dividing us, we are still able to unite in our love of the Rasul ﷺ. And how can we not when he epitomised love and unity? He was able to bring together rival factions and foes. He made the highest in society stand side-by-side with those whom previously they would not have looked at twice. The essence of Muslims as brothers and sisters was upheld in how he treated every Muslim with respect, regardless of kinship, status or history.
Too often, we submit to a defeatist outlook when observing our divided Ummah: “We are too far gone”; “How can we spread the true message to those identifying with ideologies contradicting Islam?” But how different is this from the idol worshippers of Quraysh? Those who sought to physically harm the Prophet ﷺ and his followers? The hypocrites? The most pleasing aspect of studying the seerah is noticing the formation of a community: an ummah of individuals hailing from various paths of life, often those you least expect. From those who quietly and secretly embraced Islam, like Mus’ab Ibn Umayr, to Umar Ibn Khattab whose public profession of faith acted as a pillar of strength for Muslims; from children like Ali, to slaves like Amir Ibn Fuhayrah. Poets, merchants and enemies of Islam, they all steadily turned towards the truth, strengthening the foundations.
The dawah of Rasulallah ﷺ was multidimensional and appropriate, merciful yet uncompromising. It was not solely soft and compassionate, nor did it resort to scaremongering — it was sincere and effective. Islam is for everyone and transcends the social structures and labels we conform to and must come before our political and social affliliations. We must safeguard the honour of the Prophet ﷺ and his Ummah, careful not to disregard them in our occupation with worldly pursuits.
The spring of our hearts
Syeda Rabea Bukhari
Autumn is the season I look forward to yearlong. It is the only perpetual emotion here in this occupied territory. All other seasons quickly collapse into fall, as if silently fulfilling their destiny. With leaves falling outside, durood-o-salaat rise from within the mosques around. Rabi’ul Awwal: the first spring. In autumn. In Kashmir. I cannot overlook the multiple paradoxes here. Yet, as voices of the devotees from masajid reverberate and warm up the chilly Himalayan air, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the majesty of the one whose name is enough to bind a people divided by grief, violence, pain, and disease together in a compassionate and blessed bond on a freezing night. I reflect on how my people have survived difficult times and still continue to do so, and it amazes me to know how much we owe to our faith and to the one whose praise can only be understated by us humans — Muhammad Rasulullah, the benefactor of humanity, ﷺ. Throughout the world, our Prophet ﷺ is revered as a figure of mercy, kindness, truth, justice, forgiveness and other sublime values, but in my part of the world, he is all these and beyond that.
He is mu’allim — a teacher, as he loved to refer to himself. He taught us how our oppressors can’t be our teachers, how even in the face of tyranny a Muslim ought to balance between patience and retaliation, how sabr is not only passive waiting but an active form of developing resilience and showing resistance, and most of all tawakkul — a firm belief that sovereignty lies with Allah ﷻ, who holds power over all matters of life and death, and who isn’t limited by time, space, and other conditions in bringing down a tyrant.
There have been countless major and minor revolutions in the world that changed the course of history, but Muhammad ﷺ brought about a revolution that changed men from the inside, thus rewriting their individual destinies, and then changed the nations altogether thus rewriting their collective destiny. His revolution is a revolution still in process. It’s a revolution that will keep rewriting individual and collective destinies of people till we reach the promised day.
Ours is an imperfect struggle to adhere to his principles, but when I look around and wonder how a resource-less nation of over 8.5 million Muslims has been able to offer formidable resistance to a nuclear power of above 1.5 billion people, I find Muhammad’s ﷺ teachings and his character manifest in different phases of our struggle. Letting go of control after exhausting human capabilities of struggle and placing trust in the One who holds tyrants by their neck; caring for the lesser privileged of our society, even when we are suffering ourselves; never shutting on the sublime values of mercy and forgiveness that connect people with each other, no matter the nature of grief we are reeling under; and, above all, never surrendering to human power and always upholding human dignity — these are some of his teachings that our oppressor fails to recognize.
A few days ago, my husband pointed to an interesting fact in the Qur’an: nowhere in the Book has Allah ﷻ explicitly mentioned of any of His favours upon the believers except in case of two things: the favour of guiding us to Islam —
This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.Al-Qur’an 5:3
— and the great favour of sending his Beloved ﷺ as a messenger to us —
Indeed Allah conferred a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, reciting unto them His Verses, and purifying them, and instructing them in the Book and Al-Hikmah (the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet), while before that they had been in manifest error.Al-Qur’an 3:164
Completing that favour, He ﷺ guided humankind from dhalalah to huda. He was sent as a spring breeze in the month of Rabi’ul Awwal to rejuvenate the wilting state of mankind. And he continues to be spring to perennial autumns, no matter the times and circumstances.
Prophetic Paradigm: Winning Hearts
In many ways, the world which the beloved Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came to is comparable to much of what we are witnessing in our contemporary world today. The struggle for the human spirit is one that is reminiscent of the ancestral struggle between our father Adam, peace be upon him, and Iblis; between elevation and debasement, between accountability and victimhood, and between self-cultivation and self-destruction. In light of current events, the parallels between the enemies of the Prophet ﷺ and those who attempt to disparage our Master Muhammad ﷺ today are strikingly similar. It then follows that we as Muslims must look to the example of our Master ﷺ in responding to such slander.
With the increasingly hostile political and cultural climate of Europe, the Western world’s demand for an answer to the question of Islam is giving rise to populist movements across the continent. Much of the divisive rhetoric used to sway Europeans towards populist leaders mirrors that of the Meccan elites in their attempt to dissuade people from following the call to Islam. The Quraysh warned their people that the Prophet ﷺ and his followers’ refusal to integrate into Meccan society was an affront to their cultural identity, that the Islamic way of life was a threat to the established Arabian (read: Western) order, and that it was the civic duty of those who had any semblance of dignity and pride for their nation to protect their families, wealth and property from this foreign ideology. The result was a fragmented society. Men and women were plagued by malignant rage against the Prophet ﷺ and his followers to the extent that assassination attempts and public torture were their means to rid themselves of Islam.
The response of our Master Muhammad ﷺ to those who antagonized the believers is one that, to this day, leaves both believers and non-believers awestruck of the sublimity of his ﷺ character. The Prophet’s concern for the state of people’s hearts, no matter how poisonous their hatred was, should enrapture us in love of him ﷺ. Such was his concern for the hearts of people that, despite the hatred festering in the minds and spirits of his enemies, he ﷺ knew that the human heart is the seat of Divine love and even the hardest of hearts can be touched by empathy and compassion.
Fudala al-Laythi, an assassin blinded by tribal loyalties and seething hate, was set on retribution for the fall of Mecca. He narrated that no name nor face was more detested to him than that of our Master Muhammad ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ, aware of Fudala’s sinister plot, placed his blessed hand on the chest of Fudala and prayed for him. Rather than moving his ﷺ hand of power to punish Fudala for his crime, he ﷺ placed it on the chest of his assassin and prayed that the Creator of Fudala’s heart illuminates it with His ﷻ guidance. From his benevolence and humility, Fudala fell so deep into the ocean of Prophetic love that he later narrates, after that day, no face was more radiant and beloved to him than that of Muhammad ﷺ.
In the face of malicious animosity, the Prophet ﷺ unearthed the treasures of the human spirit through his unwavering concern for the hearts of others. In spite of the fallacious depictions of him ﷺ being praised as the epitome of free speech, we mustn’t forget that he ﷺ did not storm cities and homes; he stormed the hearts of all who laid eyes upon him. He ﷺ did not battle for power and riches, but for the minds of all who paid heed to him. He ﷺ did not make captive the powerless and destitute; rather, he showed humanity what it truly means to taste freedom. No matter how vile one was, our Master Muhammad ﷺ demonstrated to us that the hearts of mankind carry invaluable weight in the eyes of our Creator. He ﷺ reminds us that, even in the hearts of those overwhelmed by fear and hatred, the seeds of Divine love and guidance can be planted.
Finally, as a community we must recognize that those who wish to disparage our Messenger ﷺ will not reduce the beauty of our beloved ﷺ through emotional politics or violent crimes against humanity. Rather, the greatest victory to win over the hearts of people is to emanate the light of Allah’s beloved ﷺ and instill within us the Prophetic virtues of patience, compassion, and empathy.
“Can I be his mirror?”
Some weeks ago, I was listening to a talk about Sayyida Fatima, may Allah be pleased with her. The speaker mentioned that our mother Aisha (ra) said no one more closely resembled the Prophet ﷺ in their character, looks, and speech than Fatima (ra). He then said these words, which I’ve since tightly clung to:
“My dear sisters: don’t think that your femininity and your being female is any barrier to you becoming a mirror of the Prophet ﷺ. Fatima is your leader in this.”
When I heard this, a small, inner voice sheepishly asked, “Can I be his ﷺ mirror?”
I answer it thusly:
Yes. You can at least try, or at the very least hope to try. You’ll find yourself discolored, scathed, cracked in places, but still able to behold your beloved. You will be polished with each salat upon him ﷺ, beautiful not because of what you are, but what you see. Innocent children think the ocean is blue because, in merely laying beneath the sky, it takes on one of its attributes. Perhaps by simply gazing upon you ﷺ, I may take on your hue.
Even when the lights dim and I temporarily lose sight of your reflection, evidence of having gazed upon you remains in the fingerprints upon the glass. Under the veil of night, I still remember who was here. Leave traces of your speech: eloquent, yet limited, and ever truthful. Leave something of your gait: purposeful, humble, confident. Leave that nur which inspired more stanzas about you than the moon itself, Ya Badr ﷺ. Leave anything, but do not leave: this mirror does not travel well. It is clumsy and stubborn, weighed down by that which it cannot openly admit without collapsing from shame.
Through gazing upon you, may this mirror be an animated picture of love for you — that love which drove Sayyidina Bilal (ra) to leave Madinah after you had passed, unable to bear constant reminders of your absence. What words can describe what his heart must have felt when you visited him in a dream, after he’d spent years in Al-Sham away from your City, and asked him:
“Ya Bilal, ma hadhihi al-jaf’a — Oh Bilal, what is this harshness? Is it not time for you to come visit me?”
And then he did come visit. Each night I close my eyes, preparing to have my soul taken and not returned, and hoping for your visit. If not in this life, then still I maintain the eagerness of Bilal (ra) when, upon his deathbed and hearing his wife cry, “Wā waylāh! Oh, what woe!”, he cried: “Wā farḥāh! What joy! Ghadan nalqa al-aḥibbā: Muḥammad wa hizbah. Tomorrow, we meet the beloveds: Muḥammad and his company.”
My Lord ﷻ, I will not curse time. Today I am content, and tomorrow I will be joyous.