Our Prophet: The Most Sublime, The Most Great
The Prophet’s Sublimity
Maulana Abul-Hasan Attari Madani
10. The Ummi Prophet
اَنَا النَّبِیُّ الاُمِّیُّ الصَّادِقُ الزَّكِیُّ
‘I am the Prophet (the one who informs of unseen matters) who has not been taught by anyone in the world (Ummi), the truthful, the pure,’ (Tabaqat Ibn-e-Sa’d, vol. 1, p. 252)
The aforementioned Hadees describes four illustrious attributes of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم with four titles, viz. The Prophet, The Ummi, The Truthful, and The Pure.
The Arabic word for prophet is ‘Nabi,’ and carries many deep implications. Literally, it means, ‘the one who informs of the unseen,’ and ‘the one who gives news.’ Many Quranic verses and countless narrations bear testimony to the deep insight and news about the unseen which the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم shared with his community. The early Meccans were well aware that a ‘Nabi’ conveys information about the unseen, so they often questioned the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم about such matters. This awareness is illustrated by the remarks of Jabal Bin Qushayr and Shamwil Bin Zayd when they said to the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم: ‘اَخْبِرْنَا مَتٰى تَقُومُ السَّاعَةُ اِنْ كُنْتَ نَبِيًّا’ ‘If you are really a Prophet, then tell us when the Day of Judgement will take place,’ (Seerat-e-Ibn-e-Hishaam, p. 232)
Then, there is the fascinating incident of Sayyiduna Jarud Bin Ma’la and Sayyiduna Salamah Bin ‘Iyad Asadi رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما and how their perception of what a prophet is eventually led them to Islam. Having studied the earlier scriptures, they knew that a prophet is someone who relates the unseen, by the command of Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ. After a brief discussion, Jarud and Salamah decided to think of a question each without disclosing it to the other. As part of this plan, they intended to visit the person claiming prophethood and check whether or not he can determine their hidden questions. If he passes this test, they will consider him to be the very prophet whose advent was foretold by the Prophet Isa عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام. Arriving before the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, they conversed for a while before Jarud Bin Ma’la remarked: ‘اِنْ كُنْتَ يَامُحَمَّدُ نَبِیًّا فَاخْبِرْنَا عَمَّا اَضْمَرْنَا عَلَيْهِ’ ‘If you, O Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم are a prophet, then inform us of what we have concealed [in our mind],’ (Seerat-ul-Halbiyyah, vol. 3, p. 311; Subul-ul-Huda war-Rashad, vol. 6, p. 303)
This perception about prophets was not exclusive to the Meccans but learned people of antiquity were also aware that a ‘Nabi’ is someone who relates the unseen. For example, when Queen Bilqees sent a valuable gem in a box to the Prophet Sulayman عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام as a gift, she included a letter which stated: ‘اِنْ كُنْتَ نَبِيّاً اَخْبِرْ بِمَا فِى الْحُقَّةِ قَبْلَ اَنْ تَفْتَحَهَا’ ‘If you are a Prophet, then inform (us) what is in the box before opening it,’ (Tareekh-ul-Khamees, vol. 1, p. 451; Tafseer Qurtubi, vol. 7, p. 151, Part 19, Surah Al-Naml, under the verse 35, selected)
By Allah’s permission, the Prophet Sulayman عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام accurately identified the contents of the box.
Similarly, while dispatching the Muslim army for the Expedition of Mu’tah, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم appointed Sayyiduna Zayd Bin Haarisah as the commander. He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم instructed that if Sayyiduna Zayd is martyred, then Ja’far Bin Abi Taalib should assume the role of commander; if he is martyred, then Abdullah Bin Rawahah should fulfil the role; and if he too is martyred, then the Muslim forces should themselves decide who to appoint next. A Jew named Nu’man, who heard the whole discourse, commented: ‘اَبَا الْقَاسِمِ! اِنْ كُنْتَ نَبِيًّا فَسَمَّيْتَ مَنْ سَمَّيْتَ قَلِيلًا اَوْ كَثِيرًا اُصِيبُوا جَمِيعًا’ ‘O Abul Qasim! If you are a prophet, then all the people who you have named, be it a few or many, will be martyred,’ (Dalaail-un-Nubuwwah-lil-Bayhaqi, vol. 4, p. 362)
In its literal sense, ’Ummi’ is someone who has not studied. However, when applied to the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, it means that he was not taught by anyone in this world. He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم spent his whole life with the Meccans without learning from any of them, yet he brought forth a most eloquent, inimitable book which Arabs and non-Arabs alike were and will be unable to replicate. Divine Wisdom determined that the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم should be Ummi, lest anyone hold a favour over him or claim that the Quran is the product of his own hands.
Aysa Ummi kis liye minnat kash-e-ustaad ho
Kya kifayat us ko اِقْرَأ رَبُّکَ الْاَکْرَمْ nahin
‘Al-Zaki’ means, ‘the one who is pure,’ and is a significant aspect of the Prophetic Character. Not only is his صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم inner character and outward behaviour free of blemishes, but he also purified others from disbelief and polytheism. By granting humanity Islam, he صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم opened the doors for people to a pure way of life. This sublime quality is described in the Quran:
لَقَدْ مَنَّ اللّٰهُ عَلَى الْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ اِذْ بَعَثَ فِیْهِمْ رَسُوْلًا مِّنْ اَنْفُسِهِمْ یَتْلُوْا عَلَیْهِمْ اٰیٰتِهٖ وَ یُزَكِّیْهِمْ وَ یُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتٰبَ وَ الْحِكْمَةَۚ-وَ اِنْ كَانُوْا مِنْ قَبْلُ لَفِیْ ضَلٰلٍ مُّبِیْنٍ(۱۶۴)
Allah has indeed bestowed a great favour upon the Muslims; that, He sent to them a (great) Messenger (i.e. the Prophet Muhammad) from amongst them, who recites upon them His verses, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom. And they were definitely in open misguidance previously.
[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 04, Surah Aal-e-Imraan, Verse 164)
11. The truthful and trustworthy
اَنَا اَمِينُ مَنْ فِی السَّمَاءِ، يَاْتِينِی خَبَرُ السَّمَاءِ صَبَاحًا وَمَسَاءً
‘I am entrusted by the Lord of the Heavens. The news of the heavens reaches me from Him in the morning and the evening,’ (Bukhari, vol. 3, p. 123, Hadees 4351)
The truthful and trustworthy nature of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was recognised even by his enemies. Even when they encircled his home in Mecca, intending to assassinate him, they did not fear that the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would mishandle the valuables which they had deposited in trust with him صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. In fact, even when the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was forced to leave Mecca, he appointed Sayyiduna Ali رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُ to return the items to their rightful owners.
Truthfulness was ingrained in the Prophetic Character and its lights beamed on his blessed countenance, driving people to completely trust him, even if they had only known him for a few moments. Once, a caravan stopped near the outskirts of Medina. The Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم happened to pass by when he asked: ‘Where are you going?’ They replied: ‘Madinah.’ He صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم asked the reason to which they answered: ‘To get dates.’ Pointing to one of their camels, the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم asked if it was for sale. They replied in the affirmative, handing over the camel which the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم took by the reigns as he departed. Utterly awestruck by the sheer beauty and overpowering magnificence of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, they did not even ask for a payment. Once the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم had left, they began to mutter: ‘What have we done! We do not even know this person, and yet we handed over a camel to him, and that too without payment.’ A woman, who had observed the whole incident, remarked: ‘Do not berate yourselves. I saw that this was the face of an individual who will never deceive anyone. I swear by Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ, I have seen that his face is like a part of the full moon. I will be the guarantor for the payment of the camel.’ At that point, a companion of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم arrived, and handing them more dates than the actual value of the camel, he said: ‘Here! Eat these to your fill. Measure them and take the full amount,’ i.e. much more dates that the agreed amount. (Subul-ul-Huda war-Rashad, vol. 6, p. 357; Dalaail-un-Nubuwwah-lil-Bayhaqi, vol. 5, p. 381)
(To be continued in the next issue)