9. PROPHETHOOD AND THE EARLY MUSLIMS
It was in the month of Ramadan when an incident took place, which would change the rest of Muhammad’s life and the course of human history. The Prophet (pbuh) was forty years old and until now he had lived a relatively normal life. Until this day, he wasn’t well known for anything apart from his honesty and good character.
The Prophet (pbuh) had dedicated a few days to Allah, away from the world, in seclusion. Muhammad (pbuh) was alone in a cave in mount Hira, on the outskirts of Makkah when suddenly the angel Jibrael appeared to him in the form of a man. The angel said to the prophet ‘IQRA’ which means to read, repeat or recite. The prophet (pbuh) was shocked and terrified when he saw the angel before him because he had been alone in the cave until then. The Prophet (pbuh) replied to the angel “I can not read.” The angel grabbed the prophet (pbuh) and squeezed him, repeating the same words to the prophet (pbuh) – Iqra. The Prophet (pbuh) again replied, “I can not read!”
As we know very few people could read and write at this time in Arabia. Most people had very little education and this was also true for our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The word Iqra has a few meanings and this is the character of the Arabic language. Each word is taken from a root word that defines the meaning of this word.
The angel squeezed the prophet (pbuh) a second time and then repeated ‘IQRA’ for a third time. The Prophet (pbuh) replied with the same words “I can not read!” The angel squeezed the Prophet (pbuh) a third time and said Iqra, bismi rabi kalla zi….:
Read in the name of your lord who created
He created man from a clot of blood
Read and your lord is most bountiful
He who has taught by the pen
Taught man that which he knew not
The prophet (pbuh) afterwards talked of this experience and recalled how it was – as if these words were written on his heart. The prophet (pbuh) was scared and confused. He could not believe what had happened and he ran from the cave towards the house. On the way he heard a voice above him saying you are Muhammad (pbuh) the messenger of Allah and I am Jibrael.
Muhammad (pbuh) turned around and saw the angel standing astride, filling the whole horizon. The prophet (pbuh) turned away and wherever he turned he could see the angel. The prophet (pbuh) heard the same words as before that you are Muhammad (pbuh) the messenger of Allah and I am Jibrael. Finally, the angel disappeared from the horizon and the prophet (pbuh) descended down the slope and ran home.
The prophet (pbuh) went home straight to his wife. He got home and said to Khadija ,“Cover me, cover me.” The prophet (pbuh) was trembling as he lay on the couch, covered by a cloak. He re-told the whole story to Khadija who listened to every word. She reassured him that he was a good man and that he was good to the orphans and helped the poor and needy. He looked after his guests and was always kind and generous to all. Allah did not want anything bad for such a person.
She then went to her cousin Waraqah who was old and had lost his sight. He was amazed at what he heard. He said this was the same Namus (i.e. Angel Jibrael) who had come to Musa. He also said that Muhammad (pbuh) was the messenger of Allah and that he would have joined him if he were young and able. Waraqah also said that the people would doubt you, ill treat you and drive you away from your home.
Many aspects of the life of the final messenger (pbuh) was foretold in the religious scripture of different religions. This is one of the reasons why some people accepted Islam very quickly. They could see the qualities and events about the prophet (pbuh) as described in their books. In many cases, they were waiting for a prophet (pbuh) to come.
Muhammad (pbuh) later received more verses from the Qu'ran which was followed by a period when there was no revelation coming to him. The Prophet (pbuh) was concerned that he might have said or done something to incur this silence from Allah. Khadija re-assured him that Muhammad (pbuh) was a good person and he did not do anything wrong.
After a while, the messages returned to the Prophet (pbuh) and he continued to practice Islam. Muhammad (pbuh) began to tell some of his close companions about what had happened and asked them to keep it a secret.
After Khadijah, the people that believed in the prophet (pbuh) were Ali and Zayd. Ali was only ten years old and Zayd was a slave who had no influence in the Makkan Society. After them Abu Bakr, from the tribe of Taym, accepted Islam. He was a well-mannered and liked person who was well respected by the Arabs of Makkah. He was also a successful merchant. He used to tell some of his close friends whom accepted Islam at his hands.
The early converts were people who knew the prophet (pbuh) very well. They knew his character and his good qualities. They also knew that he had always been truthful and did not doubt his word when he told them that revelation had come to him. They knew that he had never composed any words or poems in the past and the verses of the Qu’ran were a true master piece.
Another well known story, of conversion was that Uthman son of Affan, was sleeping in the desert whilst on a trade journey, when he heard a loud voice saying, “Sleepers, awake, Ahmad has come forth in Makkah.” Uthman then hurried to Makkah where he met Talha on the way. Talha said that when he was in Syria, he met a monk, who had asked if Ahmad had come to the people of the sanctuary. When Talha quizzed the monk about Ahmad, the monk replied that Ahmad was the son of Abdullah the son of Abdul Muttalib.
Both Uthman and Talha went to Abu Bakr, who was known to be close to the Prophet (pbuh). They both related their stories. Abu Bakr then took them to the Prophet (pbuh) and both young men accepted Islam. These were some of the earliest converts to Islam.
One of these remarkable people who accepted Islam in the earliest stages was a young boy by the name of Ibn Masood. He attended sheep on the outskirts of Makkah when he was a young lad. One day, the prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr were passing by and asked the boy for some milk. Ibn masood refused them milk saying that they were not his sheep. The prophet (pbuh) asked him to bring him a young sheep that did not bear any milk. When Ibn Masood brought the sheep over, the prophet (pbuh) did a prayer and the udder was full of milk. The prophet (pbuh) and Abu Bakr drank the milk and afterwards the udder dried up. A few days later Ibn Masood accepted Islam and became one of the leading authorities in Islam with the regards to the Qu'ran.
The angel Jibrael appeared to Muhammad (pbuh) one day and taught him about Wudhu and salah. The angel cast his heel on the ground causing a spring to start gushing from the ground. The angel then showed the prophet (pbuh) how to wash up for prayers (wudhu) and also showed Muhammad (pbuh) how to pray to Allah. It showed the prophet (pbuh) how to perform the Salah with all the different positions of bowing and sitting. The angel also told him what to say in the Salah. From then on the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) began to perform Salah.
Everything was going well for the prophet (pbuh). There were a few Muslim coverts now but they were his close friends and family. What would happen when Allah asked him to deliver the message to the Makkans? The Makkans were war-like and stubborn, how would they react? Would they get angry and try to kill the Muhammad (pbuh) or would they accept Islam? What trials and tribulations would the Muslims face?
That’s for another week, inshallah.