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The Technique of the Prophet (peace be upon him)


by KHURSHID AHMAD

The personality of the Prophet Muhammad ,peace be upon him, is a myriad personality. All colours shine there. You can study him as a man moving about in the ordinary routine of life, behaving as a father, as a husband, as a member of the family. You can study his attitude to the elders, to the youngsters and his role as a statesman, a general, a commander and as a ruler. Common in all these aspects is that he is a daa'iila at-haqq (a caller unto Truth), a daa'i ila Allah (a caller unto God). It is this central theme-the Prophet ,peace be upon him, as the daa'i ila al-Haqq-which provides a key to his personality. It is this aspect of the Prophet,peace be upon him, which is emphasised over and above others in the Qur'an.

Perhaps the most significant and all-embracing expression of this is that the Prophet ,peace be upon him, has been called a Shahid-a witness unto Truth:

The Messenger of God is a witness (unto Truth) over you, so be you witnesses over mankind.

For us what is really important is that on the one hand, the Prophet,peace be upon him, has been called shahid and on the other, the entire Muslim Ummah has been called shuhadaa' (sing-shahid). The chief characteristics of the Prophet's,peace be upon him, life is also the distinctive characteristic of the Ummah.

It is because of this we find that a solitary voice is heard in the wilderness and soon there are echoes from here, there and every- where. We find that this one man ignites a new faith, produces new men, canalises them into a new movement, launches a total war against the forces of evil. This strife,this struggle, this striving continues and produces a new society-a society which is distinct from the overall society in which it takes place and eventually prevails over it. It becomes a state-a state with a message. It enters history and then gives a new direction to history. This is how occurs this transformation which emanates from the Prophet's, peace be upon him, distinctive characteristic of being the daa'i ila al-Haqq.

The importance of studying the Seerah (the life of the Prophet,peace be upon him,) from this viewpoint lies not so much in the content but in trying to suggest an attitude and approach. It is the responsibility of each one of us as the followers of the Prophet,peace be upon him, to study his life from this angle and see what light it sheds for us in our own times and on the problems which beset us. Then you will find a newly-discovered similarity between your situation and his situation, between your conditions and the conditions which you find portrayed in the Seerah. Then you will discover the meaning of

"Verily, the Messenger of God has been a fine example".

In stressing this angular approach, let us cast a rapid look at the entire life perspective of the Holy Prophet,peace be upon him.

THE PRE-NUBUWWA PERIOD

The pre-Nubuwwa period is very important, in that it is the period of preparation. This is the period when the man is being put in the harness, and what strikes us most is the pure, simple, clean, uncorrupted and incorruptible life of the Holy Prophet,peace be upon him. It is distinct. It shines like a diamond among stones It is the clear and pure life which gives us a link to the making of the man with a mission. The man with a mission must keep this in view. Not merely the words he speaks, the high ideas he expresses, the fascinating speeches he can make, but the silent impact of his personality, and the example he sets on the people, which is to be his greatest aid in this mission-leaving apart the personal importance for him, here and the Hereafter.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to this In the Prophet's life came from his wife-a person who knows a man's weakness and against whom no facades can be built up- when he came back from the cave of Hira after the first Wahiy (revelation). Then in the seventh year of the Hijra comes the testimony of the greatest enemy of the Prophet-Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraysh, when he was summoned to the court of the Byzantine emperor eracilius. There Abu Sufyan testified, as did the Prophet's wife Khadija,may Allah be pleased with her, to the completely honest, simple and humanitarian life of the Prophet,peace be upon him. And what more can be said about the life of the Prophet,peace be upon him, than the testimony of the Qur'an ?

In Surah Yunus, Allah presents a testimony to the truth and veracity of the Qur'an and the life of the Prophet,peace be upon him, by describing him as

,,a man who has lived amongst you before this. Would you not really reflect?"

Here the entire life of the Prophet,peace be upon him, is being presented as a testimony to the truth.

The second thing which strikes me during this period is the Prophet's,peace be upon him, involvement and participation in the society to establish himself as one who can play a decisive part in the reform and reconstruction of that society. Out of the many, there are three examples which can be quoted:

Firstly, there was an agreement between the best and the most virtuous in Arabian society to uphold five things: to establish peace and virtue, to help the poor, to help the wayfarer, to help the persecuted and finally to see that any persecutor (zalim) is driven out of power.

By co-operating on these points the Prophet,peace be upon him, showed his involvement and interest in that society, demonstrating a way out from the condition the society found itself in.

Secondly there is the incident of the Ka'ba, when the roof was rebuilt and the walls raised up and the Black Stone was to be replaced. This was a very august and sacred moment but every tribe was eager to have the honour of replacing it. To settle all questions with honour, swords were taken out of their sheaths. Because of the Prophet's,peace be upon him, standing in the society, he was accepted as the arbiter. He resolved the issue in a very simple and peaceful way. But in how just a way ! By placing the Black Stone on a sheet, all the leaders of the tribes lifted it. In this symbolic way all tribes who were torn by tribal rivalries are put together by this act of godliness. The cloth is raised and the Prophet,peace be upon him, himself puts the Black Stone in the required place. This is involvement in the society. This is occupying a kind of decisive position.

Thirdly, the Prophet,peace be upon him, participated in trade. This is an economic involvement with the society. In a society which was primarily at the commercial stage, the Prophet,peace be upon him, participated and showed a better example. It is because of this that he was called Al-Ameen as-sadaq (the Truthful and Trustworthy).

So whether it be political, tribal or economic, we find involvement, we find a distinctive example and we find that the situation is created that people start looking towards the daa'i as different from them and as one who can solve their situation.

During this period there is a great restlessness in the Prophet,peace be upon him, an unending agony for the plight in which he finds the people around him. He is moved to the last fibre of his being. It is this situation which takes him to prayer, to contemplation, to meditation in Allah. And through the pain of this restlessness, this wandering for the Truth, this search for the Lord the body becomes capable of receiving the message, understanding it and conveying it to others.

THE FIRST PHASE OF PROPHETHOOD

This extends more or less to three years. During this period, the distinctive characteristic is that the message is not conveyed publicly and openly. It is not a period of secret work but a period of silent persuasion. The scale of the work remains limited during this period. Only those persons are contacted who are in direct touch with the man or with the men whom he contacts. The first converts to Islam- Khadija, Abu Bakr, Ali, Zaid ibn Haritha, may Allah be please with them all-they were affected immediately after the beginning of the Wahiy. And then through Hadrat Abu Bakr, people like Uthman and Zubayr, may Allah be pleased with them, came to the fold of Islam.

Perhaps the best understanding of this period can be had only through a study of the early Meccan surahs of the Qur'an, particularly, Muzamill and Mudatthir. These surahs give the strategy which is being taught to the Prophet,peace be upon him, and they fore-shadow well in advance what is to happen to the movement, how opposition is to come. During this period dhikr (remembrance of Allah) and sabr (patience and perseverance) are the values emphasised.

During this period the basic da'wah (message) is emphasised in clear terms, in words that penetrate into the depths of the heart. The style is extremely simple-small sentences, just like cut diamonds. Emphasis again and again is on the concept of Tawheed, life after death, the human problem that is the relation- ship between man and man-a relationship of compassion and mercy-the destitute and the starved, man's affinity and relation to Adam, the oneness of man which comes naturally as a result of the oneness of God. This is the basic theme.

The other striking theme is that with in- creased and repeated emphasis the Prophet,peace be upon him, is commanded to prepare himself for the mission. Here comes the tazkiyah (purification) aspect. Prayer, particularly Salat al-Lail (Night prayer), as an instrument in this preparation is emphasised. It has been said that

"And your garments purify" (Surah Muddaththir)

does not merely refer to the cleansing of the bodily clothes but to the purification of the character. During this period the real strategy is built up in preparation for the great Call.

THE SECOND PHASE OF PROPHETHOOD

This is the phase of open declaration. From this time to the Hira, broadly speaking, there are three stages. Firstly, two years when the Prophet,peace be upon him, was charged to make a public pronouncement of the faith (Qum fa andhir). He makes it with no fear of any adversity, proclaiming it from the mound of Safaa. Open persuasion, open dissemination of the message then begins.

These first two years are distinct because of the particular type of reaction to the message. The message is regarded as insignificant and irrelevant-just the cry of a man which will die out in its own way. Then comes ridicule and an unending volley of allegations and objections: this is the speech of the madman, of the wizard and the sorcerer; what he says is just the stories of the bygone and so on. Then it is realised that whatever is' being said is in the nature of a challenge to the status quo, to the men in authority and to the system as such. The attempt is then made to persecute and opposition in a different way begins.

This is in a way, the next phase which starts from the fifth year of the Nubuwwa, broadly speaking, and goes up to the time of the Hijra. In this period the opponents are fully conscious of the great challenge which this message poses to them. They try to win over each one from this new group and they try to win over the man, the Prophet,peace be upon him. They promise him sovereignty, woman and wealth on condition that he abandons the message. Having failed in this the method adopted was to persecute, to harass, to beat, to torture. Stones were thrown, thorns were laid in the way of the Prophet,peace be upon him, dirt and filth were flung upon him. He was beaten and made to bleed.

The Muslims were persecuted, dragged across the burning sands of Arabia, suffocated. It is during this period that the first Hijra (migration) took place-to Abyssinia. Then there was the boycott of Abu Hashim with the result that the Prophet,peace be upon him, and his family, may Allah be pleased with them, were forced to hide themselves. It was an arrest extending over about three years. All supplies were cut off so much so that they had to eat leaves and wild heather.

The last three years of the Meccan period in a way are the continuation of the persecution and in a way a departure from that. The Quraysh realised that it was not possible for them in anyway to break the will of this man. It was a kind of frustrated abandonment of a particular line of persecution that marks the end of the period of hiding. This is the period also when the message was seeping into new places-to tribes outside Mecca. The message of Islam went to Medina during this period. The Hijra then takes place.

The Prophet ,peace be upon him, comes to Medina, a new society is established and a new state. Now we have the realisation of that movement in the society as faith and civilisation. The force of evil challenged this centre of the Islamic movement and it retaliates with force. The fight begins from the sixth month of the Hijra and in the second year there was the battle of Badr the importance of which can be discerned from the Prophet's,peace be upon him, prayer:

"0 my Lord, if this handful of the believers are obliterated this day then Thou shall not be praised, 0 Allah, Thou shall not be worshipped, 0 Allah".

He succeeded and God is worshipped and God shall be worshipped. The fate of humanity was decided on that day.

Then from the Battle of Uhud to the Treaty of Hudaibiyyah is another period in the life of the Prophet,peace be upon him. Hudaibiyyah is again a turning point. Although prima facie it seemed as a kind of retreat, in fact-as the Qur'an says- it was a clear victory, since it was because of Hudaibiyyah that it was possible to re-infiltrate Mecca to consolidate the Islamic state, to conquer Khyber, to safeguard the state from other dangers and to spread the message to the whole of Arabia and indeed to send and spread the message to the whole world.

In particular, what is striking in the Prophet's,peace be upon him, life is the vision of total change. The Prophet ,peace be upon him, does not want merely to ameliorate this economic ill or that social evil or that political problem. Ail these are to be solved in the process of a complete transformation of the life of the individual and of the society. All this is on the basis of Tawheed and God-given hidayah (guidance). Sometimes this fact is not kept in view of the Meccan period. It is alleged that perhaps this breadth, this vastness of vision comes after the Hijra. This is wrong. From the very beginning, this total change concept and the vision of ghalabat al-din (the victory of religion), the success and supremacy of this way is there, not merely for Arabia but for the whole world. There are many instances to support this ... This is the vision which inspires the daa'i even in those early days. This faith, this perseverance, this steadfastness is really striking. It is not in the spirit of any arrogance, or superiority complex or of any aggressiveness. It is sweet sympathy, it is love, it is rahmah, it Is eagerness to save people from Fire, to protect them,'to show them the right path, to illumine and shed away darkness. It is this spirit which permeates the entire life of the Prophet,peace be upon him, from the first act of his mission to his last day. The Prophet's,peace be upon him, sense of responsibility is overwhelming.

Study the Prayers of the Prophet. It is a method through which you can approach nearest to the spirit of the Prophet,peace be upon him, because there it is before us unveiled.

TECHNIQUE OF WORK: A CREATIVE RESPONSE

This is a very difficult and a very vast topic on which you would find a store of light and information in the Seerah. One thing stands out, namely, the creativity, the creative response or reaction of the daa'i to a specific situation- adopting a method that suits the occasion. As far as the basic message is concerned it is unchanged. As far as the basic strategy of work is concerned, it too is unchanged. But the daa'i is eager to exploit and use every opportunity as it presents itself and to find a way out of that situation through applying his creative genius.

Everyone who has to work for the cause of Truth in any age or in any circumstance has to learn a lot from this aspect of the example of the Holy Prophet,peace be upon him,-how the daa'i is ever conscious, ever vigilant and ever creative, strictly sticking to his technique but devising new methods, new tactics to meet the situation.

This applies to the first three years and the continuing process of silent persuasion throughout the Meccan period. During the early period the Prophet,peace be upon him, had to offer prayers secretly at hidden places. This process continued until Hadhrat Umar's embrace of Islam. But the Prophet,peace be upon him, used to offer the prayer which is offered after sunrise at the Ka'ba. This prayer was an 'urf (custom) of the Arabs. He availed himself of this one opportunity to bring his practices in the open.

Another example is the first open proclamation of the message. From the viewpoint of technique of work it is highly significant. The Prophet,peace be upon him, selected for this purpose the raised platform-the Safaa-a place which was used for important gatherings, the best that was available in that situation. He goes there and calls to the people in the manner recognised in any emergency, to make them realise that they were being called to something significant and Important. And when the people came, he did not start by saying "I am God's prophet. Accept me". He asks in words like these:

"if I tell you that there is an aggressive force behind these mountains out to crush you would you believe that?" And they answered, "Yes, we shall, because we have found you to be truthful and honest."

A basis is thus built up for communication between them to dislodge them as far as argument is concerned.

He has also made them realise that if he is to warn them against a threat or a penalty, they would accept this warning. And then the prophet says,

"I want to warn you against the fires of Hell, invite you to the obedience of one God and to ask you to shun the worship of false gods."

The reaction, of course, was ridicule. But look to the technique of the daa'i, how he approaches the problem, how he gradually develops his thesis, how he totally disarms his opponents, whatever be their reactions.

The method used in the case of members of his family is different. The Prophet,peace be upon him, calls them to a feast-an Arab custom-to get them together and uses this for the propagation of his message. And because it is the family, the appeal is personal and emotional: "Who is going to be my helper in this cause?" Then of course, the occasion of Hajj was used by the Prophet,peace be upon him. Even the festivals of the abs were used. He would go to those festivals not for the festivities, but he would go to every camp conveying the message to the people.

The conquest of Mecca also provides a very interesting example of technique of work. And on the personal plane there's the way the Prophet tackled the problem of disaffection created by the distribution of the booty after the battle of Hunayn. The speech of the Prophet,peace be upon him, to the Ansar is one of the best examples of applied psychology. All parts of the problem are considered; the incipient fitna is not neglected but faced squarely and in a clear, straightforward and sweet manner.

As far as the technique of work is concerned, how the demands of gradualism are adjusted with the demands of the uncompromising nature of the ideology is a very difficult and tricky point in the life of a movement. On the one hand you have to go gradually and see that certain priorities are created and that you do not rush to all things simultaneously. On the other hand, you might develop the attitude of com- promise leaving out the essentials.

If you study the Prophet's life from this viewpoint, you would find a unique balance between the two. For example when the Banu Thaqif, one of the most highly developed tribes in Arabia, came to the Prophet ,peace be upon him, saying that they were prepared to accept Islam provided they were allowed to continue drinking wine, taking riba (interest) and practising adultery-their demand was not accepted. On the other hand some Sahaba (Companions) presented the situation to the Prophet,peace be upon him, that some people accepted Islam but felt that they could not be asked to fulfil the duties of Salat, Zakat or jihad since they were not prepared for all that. The Prophet,peace be upon him, told them not to worry but to call the new Muslims to Salat. Then he continued, by way of explanation, in these golden words, that once they take to Salat, they would take to Zakat and Jihad as well.

Now you can see the demands of these two prima facie conflicting cases being poised together. This is only one instance. Dozens of them you will find in the life of the Holy Prophet,peace be upon him. This is how the workers of the Islamic movement should try to learn how the demands of gradualism and the uncompromising nature of the ideology can coexist and can be adjusted.

A study of the seerah from this angle brings home the realisation that this is a long drawn- out struggle and it is wrong to think that there is any short cut to it. It demands arduous efforts, continuous work, unceasing struggle, unending strife. Unless we are prepared for this continuous struggle we would not be able to discharge the responsibility of daa'i ila al-Haqq.

What gives promise and confidence is that if a list is made of all those persons who were converted to Islam in the early period of strife in particular-the first ten years of the Meccan period-one is struck with the fact that almost all of them were below the age of thirty-five. No one was over the age of thirty-five and most of them were between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. This of course, is significant in that a new revolutionary movement which stands for total change should have its appeal and attraction in the minds and souls of those persons who are young, who are enthusiastic, who have something to live for and would think over the problems and respond to the situation.

By the grace of Allah, may these be enabled to accept this message, respond to it in the way the early converts responded and seek from the Holy Prophet,peace be upon him, guidelines for their individual and collective lives.

The Muslim
July 1969



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