Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy

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  • Muhammad the Prophet of Mercy


    3. Shall we believe in you while you are followed
    by the lowest of people?

    The followers of Muhammad r,
    mostly the poor and slaves, were a subject of ridicule and laughter for the
    strong, wealthy chiefs of Quraish. They arrogantly said, Had it been
    good, that to which Muhammad is calling us, Bilal, Suhaib, ‘Ammar, and their
    like would not have preceded us to it.

    (And those who disbelieve say of those who believe, “Had it
    been good, they would not have preceded us thereto.” And when they are not
    guided by it (this Qur’an), they will say, “This is an ancient lie.”

    Derisive glances were exchanged
    whenever they passed by the Companions of Muhammad
    r like ‘Ammar, Khabab, Suhaib, and Bilal.3 The Noble Qur’an depicts their mocking attitude towards the
    believers, saying:

    (Verily, those who committed crimes used to laugh at those
    who believed. And whenever they passed by them, used to wink one to another (in
    mockery). And when they returned to their own people, they would return
    jesting. And when they saw them, they said, “Verily, these have indeed gone

    Their plan was mainly to polarize and
    divide, as a defensive stance against the unity this religion enjoins. While
    the Prophet
    was sitting surrounded by slaves and weak Muslims, they passed by and said, “O
    Muhammad! Are you pleased with these (slaves) from among your people? Has Allah
    bestowed His Grace on these from among us? Should we be followers of these?
    Drive them away from you! Perhaps if you drive them away, we will follow you.

    As a consequence, the following Ayat
    were revealed:

    (And do not drive away those who call upon their Lord
    morning and afternoon seeking His Face. Nothing of their account falls upon
    you, and nothing of your account falls upon them, that you should drive them
    away and thus be of the unjust. Thus We have tried some of them with others,
    that they might say, “Are these the ones whom Allah has favored from among us?”
    Does not Allah know best those who are grateful?

    Allah further revealed about those
    slaves whom the Prophet
    r was ordered not to drive away: (And when those who believe in our Ayat come to you, say,
    “Peace be on you.” Your Lord has decreed upon Himself mercy.
    )7 Thus, whenever
    the Prophet
    saw them, he was the first to greet them. He
    r said, “All praises and thanks to Allah Who made in my
    8 those whom He
    ordered me to greet first.

    Khabab t said, “So we sat so close to him r until we placed our knees over his knees.”

    Khabab went on narrating, “The
    Messenger of Allah
    used to sit with us; when he
    r wanted to leave, he would rise and leave us. Then, Allah U revealed: (And keep yourself (O Muhammad) patiently with those who
    call on their Lord morning and afternoon, seeking His Face, and let not your
    eyes turn away from them, desiring the adornment of the worldly life. And obey
    not him whose heart We have made heedless of Our Remembrance, one who follows
    his own lust and whose affair (deeds) has been lost.

    Khabab said, “So we used to sit
    with the Prophet
    r, and when we reached the hour in which he used to get up,
    we stood up and left him so that he could leave (after we had gone).

    These were the people whom the
    sat patiently with, by Command of his Lord
    U, to eradicate all discriminatory barriers. Among them was
    the poor blind man, Ibn Umm Maktum
    t, for whose sake Allah revealed a Surah (Chapter) of the
    Qur’an –

    This poor blind man, Ibn Umm Maktum,
    came to the Messenger of Allah
    r at a time when he r was busy calling to Islam a group of the most powerful and
    influential chiefs of Quraish, hoping that their embracing of Islam would help
    out Islam, which was struggling through hard circumstances and obstacles in
    These chiefs had been using the power
    of their wealth, rank, and authority to impede the way to Islam, putting all
    their effort in plotting against it to paralyze and freeze it in Makkah.

    Tribes outside Makkah were well aware
    that against Muhammad
    r, the Prophet of Islam, stood his own kindred, who should
    have been his most ardent supporters. Consequently, they were disinclined to
    take any interest in a call opposed by its own people, especially as their
    tribal communities gave high consideration to tribal position.

    Therefore, acceptance of Islam by these
    influential and powerful men meant to the Messenger
    r the removal of sharp thorns from the path of Islam in
    Makkah. It would also ensure for Islam the freedom to expand outside Makkah.

    This crucial meeting was in progress
    when the blind poor man came to the Messenger
    r, and he interrupted him, saying, “O Messenger of Allah,
    recite to me. Teach me from what Allah has taught you
    .” Despite being aware
    that the Messenger
    was busy, he repeated his request several times. The Messenger
    r disliked the man interrupting his meeting, and the
    annoyance appeared on his face – which could not be seen by the blind man.
    (He frowned and turned away)12 from the blind
    man, who had interrupted the crucial meeting of which he
    r had great hopes for his Message.

    Here, heaven intervened to say the
    final word and decide the balance of values regardless of all circumstances and
    considerations, including the consideration of what may serve the interests of
    Islam, as seen by men, and even by the greatest man, Muhammad

    Divine instructions were revealed,
    following the Qur’anic method of making use of isolated incidents to lay down
    fundamental and permanent principles. The principles established here – and
    their consequent effects – are indeed Islam itself.

    They constitute the truth, which
    Islam and all earlier Divine Messages seek to plant in human life. They are not
    merely outlines of how an individual or a class of people should be treated.
    The heart of the matter is something far more important. It is: how should
    people evaluate things in their lives? From where should they derive their
    criteria and standards for such an evaluation?

    People live on earth and establish a
    multitude of ties, each having its own weight and gravity. They deal with and
    assess others according to their level of power, wealth, and prestige, which
    determine the position of every person or class of people in relation to
    others, and divide them into higher and lower, according to earthly scales.
    Islam replaces all these heavy values with the one outweighing in the Balance
    of Allah
    U: (The noblest of you in the Sight of Allah is the one
    who fears Him most

    Consequently, a reprimand, severe
    in tone, descended from Allah, the Most High; and for the first time in the
    entire Qur’an the beloved Messenger
    r is told, “No.”
    The principle involved here is the great foundation upon which this religion

    The reprimand is addressed at first
    in the third person:
    (He frowned and turned away. Because there came to him the
    blind man
    )14 to suggest that the subject is hateful to Allah t for confronting His beloved Messenger, out of compassion
    and mercy towards him

    The reprimand – after this subtle
    allusion to the action that necessitated it – takes the form of direct address
    starting somewhat mildly:
    (But how could you tell? Perhaps he might be purified (from
    sins). Or receive admonition and the admonition might benefit him.
    )15 How could you
    know? Great goodness might happen. This poor blind man, who came willingly,
    might be purified through what he would hear from you or his heart awakened
    through admonition and filled with light, becoming ready to receive and give,
    as happens every time faith genuinely enters a soul. It is, indeed, what
    carries real weight in the Scales of Allah.

    The reprimand then takes a severer
    tone. It wonders at the action, saying:
    (As for him who thinks himself self-sufficient, to him you
    give attention. Though not upon you (is any blame) if he remains unpurified
    (from disbelief). But as for him who came to you running, and is afraid (of
    Allah and His Punishment), from him you are distracted.
    )16 You give your
    attention to and strive to guide aright those who show no need or interest in
    you, your religion, guidance, goodness, light, and purity. You turn to them
    while they are turning away from you.
    (Though not upon you if he remains unpurified.) You are not to be blamed if they choose to remain in
    filth. You will not be accountable for their guilt, and they will be no support
    for you.
    as for him who came to you running
    ) willing, groping his way with outstretched hands, (from him you are distracted) – inattentive and neglectful, giving a strong description
    of the act of not paying due attention to the man who came seeking the right

    The tone gets even stronger and the
    reproof becomes outright prohibition:
    (No) – this should never be. You should equally warn the strong
    and the weak, the poor and the rich, the master and the slave, the men and the
    women, the young and the old. Then Allah
    will guide whomever He chooses to the straight path. His is the profound wisdom
    and the decisive proof.

    This Call, the great and honorable
    Islam, has no need for anybody’s support. It cares only for the one who wants
    it purely for its worth and seeks to be purified by it, whatever be their
    position in human society.
    (Indeed, it is an admonition. So whoever wills, let him pay
    attention to it. In Records held in honor, exalted, purified. In the hands of
    scribes (angels). Honorable and obedient.

    That is the balance, the Balance of
    Allah; and that is the word, the Word of Allah, against which there is no word
    or resistance.

    This happened in Makkah, at a time
    when Islam was ferociously resisted with only a small number of followers in
    support of its cause.

    The attempt to convert the
    dignitaries was not promoted by any personal interest, nor was the inattention
    to the blind man out of personal feeling. They were only for the sake of the
    Message. But that is the ethics of the Call, first and last; and the balance it
    came to establish in the life of humanity, free from all pressures of worldly
    considerations, unconfined by the narrow limits of circumstances.

    The Prophet r, deeply and powerfully
    touched by these Divine instructions and by the reprimand, worked tirelessly
    throughout his life for the establishment of this great principle in Islamic
    society. He
    r used to say to Ibn Umm
    t, whenever he met him
    after that incident, “Welcome to the man for whose sake my Lord reproved me.”

    <![if !supportFootnotes]>


    1 Circumstances of revelation on the authority of Qatadah: Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami li-Ahkam Al-Qur’an, interpretation of Surat Al-Ahqaf [46: 11].

    2 Translated meanings of Al-Ahqaf 46: 11.

    3 Narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas: Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami li-Ahkam Al-Qur’an, interpretation of Surat Al-Mutaffifin
    [83: 29-32].

    Translated meanings
    of Al-Mutaffifin 83:

    5 Narrated by ‘Abdullah bin Mas‘ud: Jalal Ad-Din As-Suyuti, Ad-Durr Al-Manthur;
    Tafsir At-Tabari, Jami‘ Al-Bayan,
    interpretation of Al-An‘am [6:

    Translated meanings
    of Al-An‘am 6:

    Translated meanings
    of Al-An‘am 6:

    People of one faith from every race.

    9 Al-Qurtubi,
    li-Ahkam Al-Qur’an, interpretation of Al-An‘am [6: 54].

    Translated meanings of Al-Kahf 18: 28.

    11 Sunnan Ibn Majah, Book of Az-Zuhd (Renunciation), Hadith no. 4117; Al-Qurtubi, Al-Jami li-Ahkam Al-Qur’an, interpretation of Surat Al-An‘am [6: 52].

    Translated meanings
    ‘Abasa 80: 1.

    meanings of Al-Hujurat 49: 13.

    Translated meanings
    ‘Abasa 80: 1-2.

    Translated meanings
    ‘Abasa 80: 3-4.

    Translated meanings
    ‘Abasa 80: 5-10.

    meanings of ‘Abasa 80: 11-16.

    18 Adapted from Sayyid Qutb, In the Shade of the Qur’an, interpretation of Surat ‘Abasa
    thirty-sixth edition, Dar Al-Shorouk.


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