The Prophet's Biography - nabi muhammad 6

The Prophet's Biography - nabi muhammad

6

EARLIER REVEALED RELIGIONS IN ARABIA

Arabia had been the birth-place of several Prophets of God (u) in the bygone times. The Qur'aan says:

"And make mention (O Muhammed) of the brother of A'ad when he warned his folk among the wind-curved sandhills—and verily warners came and went before and after him—saying: Serve none but Allah. Lo! I fear for you the doom of a tremendous Day. [Qur'aan 46:21]

 

Prophet Hud (u) was sent to the A'ad; a people, according to historians, belonging to the 'Arab Ba'idah who lived in a tract of white or reddish sand blown into hill banks or dunes and covering a vast area to the south-west of al-Rub'e al-Khali (the vacant quarter) near Hadramaut. This region has no habitation and is void of the breath of life, but it was a verdant land in the ancient times, with flourishing towns inhabited by a people of gigantic strength and stature. The whole area was consumed by a fearful and roaring wind which covered it with sand dunes.

The Qur'aanic verse quoted above shows that the Prophet Hud (u) was not the only Messenger of God sent to the ancient Arabs of this area as many more 'warners came and went before him'.

Salih (u) was another Arabian Prophet sent to the people called Thamud who lived in al-Hijr situated between Tabuk and Hijaz. Prophet Isma'il (u) was brought up in Makkah, and he died in the same city. If we extend the frontiers of the Arabian Peninsula northwards to include Midian on the borders of Syria, Prophet Shu'aib (u) would also be reckoned as an Arabian Prophet (r). The historian Abul Fida says that Midianites were Arabs, living in Midian near Ma'an, which is adjacent to the Sea of Lut (Dead Sea) in Syria on the frontier of Hijaz. The Midianites flourished after the downfall of the people of Lut.

Ancient Arabia had been the cradle of many a civilized and flourishing people to whom God had sent His Prophets. But all of them were either destroyed because of their evil ways or became strangers in their own homeland, or were forced to seek new homes. The Prophets of God born in the lands far away had sometimes to seek refuge in Arabia from the despotic kings of their lands. Ibrahim (Abraham) (u) had migrated to Makkah and Moses (u) had to flee to Midian. Followers of other religions, too, had to seek shelter in Arabia. The Jews, when persecuted by the Romans, had settled in Yemen and Yathrib while several Christian sects harassed by the Byzantine Emperors had migrated to Najran.

 

Isma'il in Makkah

 

The patriarch Ibrahim (Abraham) u, came down to the valley of Makkah surrounded by mountains, naked rocks and bare and rugged crags. Nothing to sustain life, neither water nor verdure, nor food grains, was to be found there. He had with him his wife Hajjar (Hagar) and their son Isma'il (Ishmael) u. Ibrahim (u) had wandered through the deserts of Arabia in order to move away from the wide-spread heathen cult of idol-worship and to set up a centre for paying homage to the One and Only God where he could invite others to bow down before the Lord of the world. He wanted to lay the foundation of a lighthouse of guidance, a sanctuary of peace which should become the radiating centre of true monotheism, faith and righteousness!

God blessed the sincerity of Ibrahim (u) and the dry valley of this wild country. Ibrahim (u) had left his wife and his infant son in this inhospitable territory. Here, in the midst of rugged hills, the Master of all the worlds manifested His grace by causing water to issue forth from the earth which is called the well of Zamzam to this day.

When Isma'il (u) was a few years old, Ibrahim (u) went to visit his family in Makkah. Ibrahim (u) now made up his mind to sacrifice Isma'il for the sake of God, for the Lord had commanded him in a dream: 'Offer up Your son Isma'il'. Obedient to the Lord as he was, Isma’il at once agreed to have his throat cut by his father. But, God saved Isma’il, and instituted the 'day of great sacrifice', in order to commemorate the event for all times, since, he was destined to help Ibrahim (u) in his mission and become the progenitor of the last Prophet (r) as well as of the nation charged to disseminate the message of God and to struggle for it to the end of time.

Ibrahim (u) came back to Makkah again and assisted by his son Isma'il (u), built the House of God. While the father and the son occupied themselves in the work, they also beseeched God to confer His grace; cause them to live as well as die in Islam; and help their progeny to keep a watch over their patrimony of monotheism, not only by protecting their mission against every risk or peril but also by becoming its standard-bearers and preachers, braving every danger and sacrificing everything for its sake until their call reached the farthest corner of the world. They also supplicated God to raise up a Prophet amongst their offsprings, who should renovate and revive the summons of Ibrahim (u) and bring to completion the task initiated by him.

"And when Ibrahim and Ismael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed); Our Lord! Accept from us (this duty). Lo ! You, only You, art the Hearer, the Knower.

"Our Lord ! and make us submissive unto You and of our seed a nation submissive unto You, and show us our ways of worship, and relent toward us. Lo! You,' only You, are the Relenting, the Merciful.

"Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Your revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! You, only You, are the Mighty, the Wise." [Qur'aan 2:127-29]

 

The prayer sent up by Ibrahim (u) included the request that the House he was constructing might become a sanctuary of peace and God might keep his progeny away from idol worship. Ibrahim held nothing more in abomination than idolatrousness, nor deemed anything more fraught with danger for his progeny, for he knew the fate of earlier idolatrous nations. He was aware how the great Prophets of God had earlier struggled and fought this evil throughout their lives, but in no long time after their departure from the world their people were again misled into fetishism by devil's advocates disguised as promoters of faith.

Ibrahim (u) had implored the Lord to bless his descendants with his own spirit of struggle against the evil of pantheism and iconolatry. He wanted his heirs to carry into their thoughts how he had to strive all his life for the sake of Truth and Faith; how he had to bid farewell to his hearth and home; realize why he had incurred the wrath of his idolatrous father; and appreciate the wisdom behind his making a selection of that valley, unbelievably bare with no scrap of soil, sheer from top to bottom and jagged and sharp for their habitation. He wanted them to understand why he had preferred that wilderness, holding no prospects of progress and civilization, over verdant lands and flourishing towns and centers of trade, arts and commerce where one could easily meet one's wishes.

Ibrahim had invoked the blessings of God on his sons so that they might be esteemed and adored by all the nations of the world; that the people of every nation and country might become attached to his children; that they should come from every nook and corner of the world to pay homage to his posterity and thus become a means of satisfying their needs in that barren country. Allah says:

"And when Ibrahim said: My Lord! Make safe this territory, and preserve me and my sons from serving idols.

"My Lord! Lo! They have led many of mankind astray. But whoso followeth me, he verily is of me. And whoso disobeyeth me still You art Forgiving, Merciful. "Our Lord! Lo! I have settled some of my posterity in an uncultivable valley near unto Your holy House, our Lord! that they may establish proper worship; so incline some hearts of men that they may yearn toward them, and provide You them with fruits in order that they may be thankful." [Qur'aan 14:35-37]

 

Quraish

 

God answered each and every prayer sent up by Ibrahim and Isma'il (u). The descendants of Isma'il multiplied exceedingly, so that the barren valley overflowed with the progeny of Ibrahim (u). Isma'il (u) took for his wife a girl of the tribe of Jurhum, a clan belonging to the 'Arab 'Aribah. In the lineal descendants of Isma’il, 'Adnan was born whose lineage was universally recognised as the most worthy and noble among them. The Arabs being too particular about the purity of race and blood have always treasured the genealogy of 'Adnan's progeny in the store house of their memory.

'Adnan had many sons of whom Ma'add was the most prominent. Among the sons of Ma'add, Mudar was more distinguished; then Fihr b. Malik in the lineage of Mudar achieved eminence; and finally the descendants of Fihr b. Malik b. Mudar came to be known as Quraysh. Thus came into existence the clan of Quraysh, the nobility of Makkah, whose lineage and exalted position among the tribes of Arabia as well as whose virtues of oratory and eloquence, civility, gallantry and high mindedness were unanimously accepted by all. The recognition accorded to the Quraysh without a dissentient voice throughout the Peninsula became, in due course of time, a genuine article of faith to the people of Arabia.

 

QUSAYY BIN KILAB

Qusayy Bin Kilab was born in the direct line of Fihr but the hegemony of Makkah had, by that time, passed on from Jurhum's clansmen to the hands of the Khuza'ites. Qusayy b. Kilab recovered the administration of the Ka'bah and the town through his organizing capacity and superior qualities of head and heart. The Quraysh strengthened the hands of Qusayy b. Kilab in dislodging the Khuza'ites from the position of leadership usurped by them. Qusayy was now master of the town, loved and respected by all. He held the keys of the Ka'bah and the rights to water the pilgrims from the well of Zamzam, to feed the pilgrims, to preside at assemblies and to hand out war banners. In his hands lay all the dignities of Makkah and nobody entered the Ka'bah until he opened it for him. Such was his authority his Makkah during his lifetime that no affair of the Quraysh was decided but by him, and his decisions were followed like a religious law which could not be infringed.

After the death of Qusayy his sons assumed his authority but 'Abdu Munaf amongst them was more illustrious. His eldest son, Hashim b. 'Abdu Munaf conducted the feeding and watering of the pilgrims, and, after his death the authority passed on to 'Abdul Muttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet (r). His people held him in the highest esteem and such was the popularity gained by him, so they say, as was never enjoyed by anybody amongst his ancestors.

The progeny of Hashim, who now filled the stage and assumed a commanding position among the Quraysh, was like a stream of light in the darkness of Arabia. The sketches of Bani Hashim preserved by the historians and genealogists, although fewer in number, eloquently speak of the nobility of their character and moderation of their disposition, the reverence they paid to the House of God, their sovereign contempt for the things unjust and uneven, their devotion to fair-play and justice, their willingness to help the poor and the oppressed, their magnanimity of heart, their velour and horsemanship, in short, of every virtue admired by the Arabs of the pagan past. Bani Hashim, however, shared the faith of their contemporaries which had beclouded the light of their soul; but despite this failing, they had to have all this goodness as the forefathers of the great Prophet (r) who was to inherit their ennobling qualities and to, illustrate them by his own shining example for the guidance of the entire human race.

 

MAKKAH IN PAGANISM

The Quraysh continued to glorify the Lord of the worlds, from whom all blessings flow, like their forefathers Ibrahim and Isma’il (u) until 'Amr b. Luhayy became the chief of Khuza'ites. He was the first to deviate from the religion of Isma'il; he set up idols in Makkah and bade the people to worship and venerate them, he instituted the custom of sa’iba which were to be held in reverence. 'Amr b. Luhayy also modified the divine laws of permissible and impermissible. It is related that once 'Amr b. Luhayy went from Makkah to Syria on some business where he found the people worshipping idols. He was so impressed by the ways of the idol worshippers that he obtained a few idols from them, brought them back to Makkah and asked the people there to pay divine honors to them.

It might have been so, or, perhaps, on his way to Syria 'Amr b. Luhayy had happened to pass through Betra which was variously known to ancient historians and geographers as Petraea and Petra. It was the key city on the caravan route between Saba and the Mediterranean, located on an arid plateau three thousand feet high, to the south of what is today called Transjordan, as mentioned by the Greek and Roman historians. The city was founded by the Nabataeans, ethnically an Arab tribe, in the early part of the sixth century B. C. These people carried their merchandise to Egypt, Syria, valley of the Euphrates and to Rome. Most likely, they took the way to the valley of the Euphrates through Hijaz. The Nabataeans were an idolatrous people who made their deities of graven stones. Some historians hold the view that al-Lat, the famous deity of the Northern Hijaz during the pre-Islamic period, had been originally imported from Petra and was assigned an honored place among the local gods and goddess.

The above view finds a confirmation in the History of Syria by Philip K. Hitti who writes about the religion of Nabataean kingdoms:

"At the head of the pantheon stood Dushara (dhu-al-Shara, Dusara), a sun deity worshipped under the form of anobelisk or an unknown four-cornered black stone.... Associated with Dushara was Al-Lat, chief goddess of Arabia. Other Nabataean goddesses cited in the inscriptions were Manat and al-'Uzza, of Koranic fame, Hubal also figures in the inscriptions."

It is noteworthy that the above description relates to a period when idolatry had, in different forms and shapes, engulfed Arabia and the countries around it. Jesus Christ (u) and his disciples had not yet appeared on the scene who later on laboured to restrain its unbridled expansion. Judaism had already proved its incompetence to the task, since, being essentially a racial religion; it allowed none save the children of Bani Israel to join his faith to the creed of monotheism preached by it.

Another writer, De Lacy O'Leary, tracing the influences responsible for introduction of idol worship in the Arabian Peninsula sums up his findings in the "Arabia before Muhammed" in these words:

"It seems fairly safe therefore to understand that the use of images was an instance of Syro-Hellenistic culture which had come down the trade-route; it was a recent introduction in Makkah in the time of the Prophet (r) and was probably unknown to the Arab community at large."

Worship the idols was thus the popular creed of the people in the valley of the Euphrates and the lands to the east of Arabia. As the Arabians were bound, since times immemorial, by the ties of commerce with these countries, it is not unlikely that their cultural influence was responsible for grafting idol worship within the Arabian Peninsula. In his history of Ancient Iraq, Georges Roux says that during the third century B.C. and long thereafter idol-worship was very popular in Mesopotamia. Its every city, old or new, gave shelter to several foreign gods besides the local deities."

There are also reports which suggest that idol worship gradually; came into vogue among the Quraysh. In olden times, as some historians relate, when anybody went out on a long journey from Makkah he took a few stones from the enclosures of the sanctuary as a mark of grace with him. In due course of time, they started venerating the monoliths they admired most. The subsequent generations, not knowing the reason for holding such monoliths in esteem, started worshipping them like other pagan people of the surrounding countries. The Quraysh, however, remained attached to some of the older traditions like paying deference to the holy sanctuary, its circumambulation, and the greater and lesser pilgrimages: Hajj and 'Umra.

The gradual evolution of different religions showing substitution of means for the ends and the slow progression from suppositions to conclusions lend support to the view put forth by the historians about the beginning of idol worship among the Quraysh. The esteem and reverence in which even certain misguided Muslim sects come to hold the portraits and sepulchers of the saints and the way they sluggishly adopt this course possesses an incriminating evidence in support of the gradual evolution of idol worship. That is why the Islamic Shari'ah completely stalls all those tracks and alleys which lead to the undue veneration of personages, places and relics for they ultimately lead to ascribing partners to God.

 

THE BATTLE OF THE ELEPHANTS

It was during this period that a significant event, unparalleled in the history of Arabia, came to pass which portended something of vital importance likely to take place in the near future. It augured well for the Arabs, in general, and predicted a unique honor for the Ka'bah, never attained by any place of worship anywhere in the world. The incident afforded hope for expecting a great future for the Ka'bah—a future on which depended the destiny of religions or rather the entire humanity since it was soon to unfold itself in the shape of an eternal message of righteousness and peace.

 

AN IMPLICIT BELIEF OF THE QURAYSH

The Quraysh had always held the belief that the House of God had a special place of honor in the eyes of the Lord Who was Himself its protector and defender. The trust placed by the Quraysh in the inviolability of the Ka'bah is amply borne out by the conversation between Abraha and 'Abdul Muttalib. It so happened that Abraha seized two hundred camels belonging to 'Abdul Muttalib, who, then, called upon him and sought permission to see Abraha. Abraha treated 'Abdul Muttalib with the greatest respect and got off his throne and made him sit by his side. Asked to tell the purpose of his visit, 'Abdul Muttalib replied that he wanted the King to return his two hundred camels which the King had taken.

Abraha, taken by surprise, asked 'Abdul Muttalib, "Do you wish to talk about your two hundred camels taken by me, but you say nothing about the House on which depends your religion and the religion of your forefathers, which I have come to destroy?" 'Abdul Muttalib boldly replied "I am the owner of the camels and the House has an Owner Who will Himself defend it".

Abraha said again, "How can it be saved from me?"

"This is a matter between you and Him", replied 'Abdul Muttalib."(Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, pp.49-50)

Who could dare to do harm or cast a blighting glance at the House of God? Its protection was, in truth, the responsibility of God.

The episode, briefly, was that Abraha al-Ashram, who was the viceroy of Negus, the King of Abyssinia, in Yemen built an imposing cathedral in Sana'a and gave it the name of al-Qullays. He intended to divert the Arab's pilgrimage to this cathedral. Being a Christian, Abraha had found it intolerably offensive that the Ka'bah should remain the great national shrine, attracting crowds of pilgrims from almost every Arabian clan. He desired that his cathedral should replace Ka'bah as the most sacred chapel of Arabia.

This was, however, something inglorious for the Arabs. Veneration of the Ka'bah was a settled disposition with the Arabs: they neither equated any other place of worship with the Ka'bah nor they could have exchanged it with anything howsoever precious. The perturbation caused by the declared intentions of Abraha set them on fire. Some Kinanite dare-devils accepted the challenge and one of them defiled the cathedral by defecating in it. Now, this caused a serious tumult. Abraha was enraged and he swore that he would not take rest until he had destroyed the Ka'bah.

Abraha took the road to Makkah at the head of a strong force which included a large number of elephants. The Arabs had heard awesome stories about elephants. The news made them all confused and bewildered. Some of the Arab tribes even tried to obstruct the progress of Abraha's army, but they soon realised that it was beyond their power to measure swords with him. Now, hoping against hope, they left the matter to God putting their trust in Him to save the sacred sanctuary.

The Quraysh took to the hills and craggy gorges in order to save themselves from the excesses of Abraha's soldiers. 'Abdul Muttalib and a few other persons belonging to the Quraysh took hold of the door of the Ka'bah, praying and imploring God to help them against Abraha. On the other side, Abraha drew up his troops to enter the town and got his elephant 'Mahmud' ready for attack. On his way to the city, the elephant knelt down and did not get up in spite of severe beating. But when they made it face Yemen, it got up immediately and started off.

God then sent upon them flocks of birds, each carrying stones in its claws. Everyone who was hit by these stones died. The Abyssinians thereupon withdrew in fright by the way they had come, continually being hit by the stones and falling dead in their way. Abraha, too, was badly smitten, and when his soldiers tried to take him back, his limbs fell one by one, until he met a miserable end on reaching San'a (101). The incident finds a reference in the Qur'aan also.

"Hast You not seen how Your Lord dealt with the owners of the Elephant? Did He not bring their stratagem to naught, And send against them swarms of flying creatures, Which pelted them with stones of baked clay, And made them like green crops devoured (by cattle)?" [Qur'aan 105:1-5]



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Section : The Biography of the Prophet muhammad
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Date : 4/5/2010
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