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Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.): Away from Extreme Views

Posted by on Mar 8th, 2010 and filed under Seerah. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Prophet Muhammad - 1:

Away from extreme views

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Perhaps no historical character has been subjected to vile criticism, false accusations and fabricated assertions by his opponents than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Yet no one has been the recipient of more profound and genuine love and respect than him.

Both love and hostility linger on, and are nurtured despite the fact that 14 centuries have passed since Muhammad had departed this world. Neither feeling would have lingered had Muhammad been an ordinary person, or had his contribution to human life been of temporary nature.

Today we see both feelings surfacing in different ways and shapes, in areas of our world that are wide apart, and among people of different races, cultures, beliefs and life perspectives. Books like Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, as well as videos and websites dedicated to attack Islam and its Prophet are manifestations of the hostile trend. The large demonstrations that swept the Muslim world against such productions symbolize the deep seated love Muslims feel toward Muhammad, God’s last messenger.

Yet both types of manifestation are extreme, held by small sections of Muslims and non-Muslims. Before the beginning of the 21st century, the great majority of non-Muslims did not take much interest in Islam or its Prophet, despite sustained efforts, over the last third of the 20th century, to distort the image of Islam and to associate it with terrorism. On the other hand, most Muslims today follow the traditional way in their approach to their faith and to the man who delivered its divine message.

Extreme tendencies are hardly appropriate in any generation, let alone in our modern world with its easy and varied ways of communication. By nature, they remain confined within certain areas and among small communities. However, they sometimes acquire a self-energizing force that gives them speedily increasing momentum, and they can stage sweeping revolutions. The end result is almost always a negative one.

When we study the history of Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we clearly see that his approach was a very moderate one, seeking to win hearts and influence minds and ways of thinking. He never promised anyone any type of material gain. He never sought to achieve supremacy for any class, race, tribe or community. Even the least privileged individual was, to him, a person who had every right to learn of God’s message and to make a choice whether to accept or reject it.

Muhammad’s community is described in the Qur’an as ‘the middle community’, to stress its central role in the life of humanity and its moderate approach. Yet Islam is uncompromising in establishing the truth and defending it. It accepts no injustice, no matter who is the perpetrator. It tells its followers that they must always maintain justice, even with their enemies: “Believers, be steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity. Never allow your hatred of any people to lead you away from justice. Be just, this is closer to righteousness.” (5: 8)

Steering away from all types of extremity, we will be publishing a series of articles that highlight the true character of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We hope that this will help our non-Muslim readers to understand our view of him. It will also help Muslims to formulate a better understanding of God’s last messenger and why they should follow his guidance in all aspects of life.

Prophet Muhammad - 2:

Born into a very noble family

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah at the beginning of the last third of the sixth century. At that time, the world generally was in a miserable state, as if general collapse was about to overwhelm everything. Nowhere in the world was there a coherent faith or a solid system under which a community and a state could prosper.

The two superpowers, the Byzantine and the Persian empires, were on the verge of collapse. In Byzantium, the Christian faith was no longer the guiding light. In fact, its intellectuals were engaged in endless, futile debates about everything real or imaginary. Its power, in land and sea, had weakened. Commanding vast areas of land, it could only maintain its rule by leaving its different provinces in a state of practical autonomy. Muslims were soon to deprive it of most of its provinces in Asia and North Africa.

The Persian Empire was in no better shape. Its religion had been distorted. Monotheism gave way to dualism, with good and evil represented by two different deities that were engaged in a permanent fight, and women were made the vehicle used to spread evil. Moreover, political chaos prevailed, with many instances of rebellion and sedition.

Elsewhere we could see no solid system based on coherent beliefs that satisfied thinking minds, or on a set of moral values that could sustain law and order and establish a proper human society that knows its way to progress.

In Arabia, a tribal society existed that gave affiliation to one’s tribe supreme importance. Makkah had a special status, as a result of its religious importance with the Kaaba at its center. Moreover, it enjoyed economic prosperity due to its organization of proper international trade. In fact, most of the wealth of Arabia was concentrated in Makkah, and held by a small group of its noblemen. This led to a life of luxury with its associated vices, such as gambling, drinking, loose sexual morality and exploitation of the poor.

A hierarchy of tribes established itself on the basis of certain values, such as wealth, numbers and military prowess. Yet the top position in that hierarchy indisputably belonged to the Quraysh, as it lived in Makkah and was the custodian of the Kaaba, the temple built by the Prophet Abraham and Prophet Ishmael and consecrated for the worship of God alone.

Within every major tribe there were a number of clans, each clan comprising a number of families. The system meant that loyalty to one’s immediate family transcended all claims of loyalty. Yet loyalty moved upward, stage by stage, from a small clan to a larger one, then to the tribe. Among the Quraysh, the Hashimite clan, was considered the most noble, but it was not the richest. Its nobility derived from its direct descent from the Prophet Ishmael and from the fact that for several generations it held custody of the Kaaba and provided food and water to the pilgrims who came from all over Arabia.

The chief of the Hashimite clan was Abd Al-Muttalib, grandfather of Muhammad (peace be upon him), who by the time of the Prophet’s birth was a very old man. He was not rich by Makkan standards, but was recognized by all as the most noble person in Makkah. His standing was enhanced a couple of decades before the birth of his grandson, when he dug the well of Zamzam in response to a dream he saw on successive nights, giving him its exact location.

Thus, Muhammad was the son of the most noble family in Arabia, where nobility of birth was given a very high degree of importance. Yet he was not born into a rich family where children could be spoilt.

Prophet Muhammad - 3:

A child in difficult circumstances

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Special circumstances surrounded childhood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and these undoubtedly had a bearing on his character. His parents’ marriage lasted only a brief period. His father, Abdullah, was the youngest of Abd Al-Muttalib’s 10 sons.

He was to be sacrificed in fulfillment of a pledge Abd Al-Muttalib had made long before his birth. However, he was ransomed for an offering of 100 camels. When this was done, he got married, but stayed only a brief period with his wife, Aminah, before joining a trade trip to Syria. On the way back he died.

Aminah herself died when Muhammad was six years of age, and Abd Al-Muttalib followed her two years later. Thus, Muhammad was deprived of both parents and grandfather by the time he was eight years old. Thus he experienced being an orphan, cared for by relatives who were kind, particularly his uncle Abu Talib who treated him as his own son.

What all this meant was that Muhammad was a young boy of noble descent in a society that attached much importance to family, tribal lineage and loyalty. However, he was of limited means. As we see later in his life, this was the spur for him to endeavor to be independent from an early age. He was nevertheless brought up by kind people: his wet nurse, mother, grandfather, as well as his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Fatimah. He also experienced life in the desert when he was with his wet nurse. Most hard was his loss of his mother when he was traveling with her in the desert. Then as a teenager he worked as a shepherd, tending sheep.

Then as a young man, he traveled with a trade caravan to Syria, working as agent for his future wife, Khadijah. We learn that he was exemplary in his attending to his work, faithful to his trust, with a keen eye to ensure that his mission was profitable for his employer, useful to him. Thus he combined noble descent with good upbringing, a serious approach to life with honesty and faithfulness to trust, and varied life experience with high moral values. We also learn that he never engaged in loose pleasures, as young men often do in all types of society.

We have various reports speaking of events that accompanied his birth, which people read as indicating his future role as God’s messenger. These reports cannot be confirmed. We do not, however, attach much importance to them because they were not clear enough to those who might have witnessed them so as to understand their significance. It is true that Muhammad’s birth signaled the end of confused ideas about God, and the establishment of the true faith that would remain available to mankind for the rest of human life. Yet this was not indicated by some miraculous events accompanying his birth. It was made clear in the divine revelations he was to receive forty years later, when the angel Gabriel told him that he was God’s choice to be His last messenger to mankind.

When we look at the situation of mankind at the time, we recognize that the world was in great need for a message from God to set its life on the right course. And when we look at Muhammad’s early years, we realize that his difficult childhood was part of his preparation for his future role. He was the one most suited to deliver God’s message, and his preparation for that task was a continuous process that was soon to yield its fruits.

Prophet Muhammad - 4:

A keen sense of fairness

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

When a family of high status experiences hard times and loses much of its wealth, it either works hard to maintain its social standing through observing fine values and moral standards, or it may be unscrupulous in attempting to regain its material losses.

Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) family was of the first type. It continued to attach much importance to all the fine qualities all human societies approve, such as sincerity, truthfulness, fidelity, courage, kindness to others, readiness to help in any good cause. Muhammad followed this line from his early years and developed a keen sense of upright behavior. Hence, his community gave him the nickname Al-Amin, which means ‘the trustworthy’. They always declared that they never experienced him telling a lie in any situation, for any reason.

This quality enhanced Muhammad’s standing with all those who were close to him. His paternal aunts loved him dearly. They always tried to help him achieve the best in life. His uncles recognized in him a young man of great potential. None more so than Abu Talib, his uncle who took him into his own home after Abd Al-Muttalib’s death. Hence, we see Abu Talib taking his teenager nephew on a trip to Syria. A few years later, he arranges for him to work as a shepherd, then as he approaches adulthood, he encourages him to work as a trade agent, traveling with a trade caravan.

The upright attitude and moral code of behavior that Muhammad adopted from an early age endeared him to all around him, and earned him a high standing among his people. Hence, when they had a dispute concerning the replacement of the Black Stone at the corner of the Kaabah, after it had been renovated, they could find no way of preventing the dispute from developing into a bloody fight other than arbitration. They agreed to put their dispute to the first person entering the Sacred Mosque. When it was Muhammad that came forward, they were delighted and readily declared their acceptance of his judgment. His ruling showed maturity and recognition of the considerations that led people to take extreme measures. Hence, he was keen to ensure that no hard feelings remained and everyone was satisfied. He gave them a method of replacing the Black Stone in which they all shared that honor, and none could feel left out. He told them to bring a sheet of cloth and place the Black Stone on it. Then a man from each clan held the edge of the sheet and they all lifted it at the same time, bringing the Black Stone close to its position. He then helped them to put it in place.

Although this incident took place several years before Muhammad started to receive divine revelations, his ruling shows a keen sense of justice. The people in dispute placed no condition on the process of arbitration. They declared their acceptance of his ruling in advance. Had he wished, he could have argued that since the exercise of putting the Black Stone back in place was an exercise of honor, it belonged to the most honorable family or clan in Makkah. That would have given it to his own family. He, however, did not wish to exploit the situation in order to give his own people some advantage. Instead, he was keen to keep the whole community happy. Hence, he ruled that they all should share in the honor and he provided the way to ensure that.

Needless to say, when Muhammad started to receive his revelations, and became a Prophet and a messenger of God, his sense of justice was placed on a much higher level.

Prophet Muhammad - 5:

A happy family life

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Perhaps nothing is more important to a person who is charged with bringing about a fundamental change in the life of his community than having a settled and happy family life. When the home front is established on sound basis and characterized by love and care between all its members, the head of the family can evaluate matters in public life more accurately.

This will help him to address problems and define priorities. By contrast, if his family life is plagued with problems, or mistrust, or lack of mutual care, his vision of public life will be impaired. How can he bring about the desired change, or establish proper reforms?

Long before the beginning of his mission, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) enjoyed a very happy and settled family life. His wife, Khadijah, belonged to a distinguished family from the Quraysh. She was wealthy and in her womanly prime. She was a mature woman who had had a previous marriage and given birth to two children. Although it is commonly thought that she was forty years of age at the time of her marriage to Prophet Muhammad, this is far from certain. On the contrary, the fact that she gave Muhammad six children over a period of ten years suggests that she was much younger. According to a report by Ibn Abbas, she was no more than 28 at the time when Muhammad married her.

It was Khadijah who proposed marriage to Prophet Muhammad. She was a woman of sound judgment, and she discovered all his good qualities. Most important to her were the facts that he was true to his trust, always speaking the truth. Moreover, she made certain that he had no design to lay his hand on her wealth. On the contrary, he was content with what he lawfully earned. Yet when they were settled in their home, she discovered in him more of his fine qualities: his kindness, humility, care for the weak and vulnerable and his keen sense of fairness. She was later to describe him in the following terms: “By God, you are faithful to your trust, kind to your kinsfolk and you always tell the truth.”

Numerous are the reports that tell us of the care each of the two spouses took of the other. Yet this was manifest throughout their marriage. During the few years that preceded the first divine revelations, Prophet Muhammad used to seek solitude in a cave in a mountain close to Makkah. He would take food and water to drink, sufficient for a few days. He would then return home to replenish his stock. When he was late on one occasion, she sent some of her servants to look for him. She told him that she was worried. Later, during his mission, he would go out to speak to people in Makkah, telling him about his message and that God wanted them to believe in His oneness. He would try to convince everyone of the truth of his message. But he often received the same type of stubborn rejection. He might be at his task for the best part of the day, then he would go home tired, exhausted and full of sorrow. As soon as he got home, he was always sure to be received by a caring, loving wife who comforted and encouraged him, so as to start again on the following day, full of vigor and enthusiasm.

Prophet Muhammad - 6:

Taking care of the weak

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Long before he started to receive his revelations, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was known for his noble characteristics. One of the most important of these was that he always cared for the weaker elements in society. In Arabia, where a tribal society flourished, the most vulnerable sections of the society were slaves and women. Muhammad looked after both, extending to them exemplary treatment.

Perhaps the best example to illustrate this is the way he treated Zayd ibn Harithah, a young lad who was taken captive in a raid mounted by a tribe hostile to his tribe. According to the universal custom at the time, captives became slaves. Zayd was sold as a slave by his captors. He was then re-sold and brought to Makkah by an uncle of Khadijah, the Prophet’s first wife. On arrival in Makkah her uncle showed her the slaves he brought with him and told her to choose one as a gift. She took Zayd and gave him to her husband.

Zayd’s family continued to search for him until they learnt that he was in Makkah. His father and uncle traveled there and met Muhammad, requesting him to sell Zayd to them and to be kind when naming his price. Realizing that his interlocutors were Zayd’s own family, Muhammad felt for them. He, however, had a better offer for them. He told them that he would give Zayd a choice to go with them or to stay with him. If Zayd chose them, Muhammad would not ask them to pay any price. He would let them take him free of charge. But if Zayd chose to stay with him, he would not let anyone take him away, not even his own father. Both were very satisfied with this offer, feeling that when Zayd would be given the choice, he would not hesitate to choose to be free.

Zayd was duly called in, and he confirmed that the two men were his own father and uncle. Muhammad then told him of the offer he made to them, asking him to choose whether to go with them or to stay with him. Zayd unhesitatingly chose to remain with Muhammad. Stunned, his father asked him to explain why he would make such a choice. Zayd said: “I have seen from this man enough to make me prefer to stay with him to any other situation.”

At this point, Muhammad realized that the two men needed reassurance. He therefore took them, along with Zayd, to the Kaabah and declared to the nobles of Makkah gathering there that he had adopted Zayd as his own son. This was a relief to Zayd’s father and uncle who returned home realizing that Zayd would not come to any harm as long as he stayed with Muhammad. He was no longer a slave.

In order to appreciate the full significance of the affair, we need to remember that this took place several years before Muhammad was given his mission. He did not know that he would become God’s prophet and messenger. Slaves were always maltreated, in all societies. Only under Islam slaves came to be treated like ordinary human beings, enjoying clearly defined rights. Prior to Islam, a slave could be tortured and killed by his master, without anyone even raising a question. To adopt a slave as one’s own son was unheard of. The fact that Zayd chose to stay with Muhammad, in preference to joining his own family and tribe, tells us much about the treatment he received from him. It was not surprising, therefore, that when Muhammad received his message; Zayd was the first man to declare his belief in Islam.

Prophet Muhammad - 7:

A model husband

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

When Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to deliver his message as God’s last messenger to mankind, all human societies ill-treated women. Arabia was no exception. Prior to Islam Arabian women had no rights, not even the right to live. Often parents killed their young daughters, burying them alive, for fear of poverty or shame. Under the Roman and Byzantine Empires, women were practically enslaved, even by the rule of law.

The Persian Empire considered women to be the source of evil. Today, the Western civilization boasts of its achievement of equality between men and women. Yet, this was achieved after hard struggle. Until World War One, women did not have the right to vote in general elections in Britain or elsewhere in Europe. The suffragette movement had to fight hard for that right to be granted. By contrast, Islam, as preached by Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago, gave women a status equal to that of men. The Qur’an clearly states: “Women shall, in all fairness, enjoy rights similar to those exercised against them.” (2: 228)

Legal provisions are one thing and personal treatment is another. A member of parliament may give the best argument in a public debate for looking after women, but his behavior toward his wife and women folk may be overbearing and hurtful. Prophet Muhammad made sure that his conduct was always a practical endorsement of what he preached. As a husband, he never wavered in his love and kind treatment of Khadijah, his first and only wife for 25 years. He continued to cherish her memory to the end of his life. He married other women after her death, but none could fill her place. Yet with them he committed himself to much more than what Islam requires of all men to be kind and caring of their women. He disliked to be seen by any of them without a smile on his face. He visited each one of them in the morning and in the afternoon, enquiring after them and ensuring that they received what they needed. At night, he would be with the one whose turn it was for him to stay with.

Aishah mentions that when he was alone with his wives, he was the most amenable of people, always smiling and relaxed. Every description of the Prophet, given by his companions, highlights the fact that he inspired awe in anyone who talked to him, whether on religious matters or any other subject. Yet he did not allow that awe inspiring appearance to become a barrier between him and any of his wives. They always spoke to him in the friendliest manner that characterizes a marital relation. One of them once said to him in front of her father: “Speak out, but say nothing but the truth.”

What we see here is a normal conversation between husband and wife. The role of the Prophet, who is God’s messenger to all mankind, totally disappears. Had the woman felt that she was addressing God’s messenger, she would not have thought of speaking in this way. She was merely a woman talking to her husband and trying to prove a point in dispute between them. Muhammad, whose life was totally devoted to his mission, saw nothing wrong with the way she spoke to him. He accepted it as perfectly normal. We will have more to say on this aspect of the Prophet’s life in future.

Prophet Muhammad - 8: Normal family relations

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

When a woman is married to a person in high position, she needs to adjust to the demands of her new status. It may not be so hard if a man assumes a high position after several years of marriage. The couple would have known each other very well and they would be familiar with what each of them requires for a happy and settled home life.

It is when a woman finds herself married to a president, a prince, a minister, etc. that adjustment might not be easy. Hence, marital relations in palaces of all types may often be hard. It is often the case that families stay together because of public duty, or because a break-up is too costly, socially or materially.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived with his first wife, Khadijah, for 25 years. After her death, he married several wives, but he was with the first of these, Sawdah, for several years before he married again. All his marriages were necessitated by legislative, social or political reasons. This means that each one of his wives realized at the time of her marriage that she was being married to a person who received direct revelations from God. This was a far more honorable position than that of any king or emperor. How could they adjust to their new positions? What sort of training did they need for such adjustment?

Umar ibn Al-Khattab tells us of an occasion when he was at home thinking about a problem he was facing when his wife asked him what was on his mind. He told her that it was none of her business. She said: “How could you say that when your daughter, Hafsah, would ask her husband, the Prophet, about his affairs and would object to something he might wish?” Shocked, Umar went to his daughter and asked her if that was true. She confirmed that it was. Umar counseled his daughter not to do this again, reminding her that should she be divorced, her position with God and the Muslim community would be greatly undermined. Umar further asked another of the Prophet’s wives, Umm Salamah, about this, because she was related to him. She confirmed it and he tried to counsel her, but she said: “How strange that you, Umar, are trying to interfere between God’s messenger and his wives?”

What this tells us is that life in the Prophet’s home was just as normal as it was, and remains, in most families. A married couple may have the occasional disagreement, and if a wife feels that she did not receive what she wants, she may be upset with her husband. She may object to a decision he might have taken, and tries to persuade him to change it. If she fails, she may decide not to speak to him, or she may sulk for a while. A little later, things may sort themselves out. The fact that the other party was God’s messenger did not affect this relationship. They looked at it as a normal married life. Thus, the position of the Prophet as God’s messenger disappears, and what is left is the relationship between a man and his wife.

In the Prophet’s case, this was governed by his advice to us all: “The best of you is the one who is best to his wife and family. I am the best of you to my wives and family.” This Hadith sets a principle that the best of all people are those who are kind and compassionate in their dealings with their wives and children. It also sets a practical example that we should all follow. This was the example provided by the best person to have ever lived on earth, Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Prophet Muhammad - 9: Preferring a life of poverty

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

Some prophets, such as David and Solomon, combined kingdom with prophethood. They enjoyed the benefits of kingdom with the great privilege of being the recipients of divine revelations. In the case of David, he was given the Psalms, constituting one of the major divine books. Solomon, on the other hand, was granted what he prayed for: a dominion that would not be granted to anyone else.

Hence, God made the wind subservient to his command, and granted him mastery over the jinn. Other prophets were given special privileges.

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was God’s final messenger. It should be remembered that prophets were of two types: some were only prophets endorsing messages given before their times, and others were given their own messages, making them God’s messengers. Muhammad was of the latter, elite type, but as the last messenger, his message was addressed to all mankind, and guaranteed by God to remain intact for the rest of time.

What effect did this have on his family life? Prophet Muhammad established a state in Madinah, thus combining the two roles of prophethood and head of state. The Muslim community was under siege for the first few years, with the enemies combining their forces to try to crush the Muslim state. However, after the great victory against the allied forces of the Arab unbelievers and the Jews, the situation brightened up for the Muslims and their fortunes vastly improved. The Prophet could lead a life of riches, had he so wished. He, however, preferred a life of poverty. He did not wish to change his life style in any way.

Although jealousy among his wives often surfaced, with two groups emerging among them, they were treated equally by him. No one was ever as fair as the Prophet was in his treatment of his wives. They, however, felt that they should not continue to endure a life of poverty. Therefore, they requested him to give them a better standard of living. They all joined in making this request, feeling that by grouping together they might be able to persuade the Prophet to change his mind.

Again we see here a perfectly ordinary family situation. A woman asks her husband for better provisions after having endured poverty for a length of time. What makes the request more significant, however, is that it was made by several wives at the same time. They all endured the same standard of living. Aishah once said that: “We might go through a month without a fire being lit up for cooking in any of the Prophet’s homes.”

When things were hard, those noble wives of the Prophet endured this type of life with exemplary patience. However, when the situation changed and the Muslim state was no longer poor, they felt that the newly found affluence should be reflected in their standard of living. This was a perfectly understandable request.

Yet the Prophet realized that material affluence counted for little. His mission placed him on a totally different level. Therefore, he was unwilling to change his life style. The request could not be granted.

Prophet Muhammad - 10: A choice for the Prophet’s wives

By ADIL SALAHI | ARAB NEWS

Published: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM Updated: Feb 14, 2010 9:50 PM

At one point the Prophet’s wives made a joint request asking him to provide them with a better standard of living. It was not an unreasonable request, since it came after the Muslim state had enjoyed victories over its enemies and its fortunes were getting much better. It was the sort of request any woman who had lived through years of poverty with her husband would make when they enjoyed better times.

Yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not care for any material comfort. He wanted his household to remain an example for all Muslims, in all generations. Therefore, he did not look favorably at this request.

His closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar, were allowed into his home after they had heard of the problem. They were the fathers of two of the Prophet’s wives.

They found the Prophet silent, looking distressed. Abu Bakr sought to relax the somber atmosphere. He said: “Messenger of God! If you could only see my wife when she asked me for more money to spend. I pierced my finger into her neck.”

The Prophet smiled and said: “You see them all around me asking for more money.” Abu Bakr went up to his daughter, Ayesha, and Umar went up to his daughter, Hafsah, piercing them in the neck. They said to them: “How come you ask the Prophet to give you what he does not have?” Both of them said: “We will never again ask the Prophet for what he does not have.”

The Prophet was upset by the whole episode. He wanted his household to be totally free of the material concerns of worldly life. He wanted his own family to aspire only for what is with God. He, therefore, decided to stay away from all his wives for a whole month. He then received revelations requiring him to give his wife a choice.

When the month was over, he mentioned the choice to everyone of his wives, starting with Ayesha. The choice is outlined in the following Qur’anic verses: “Prophet! Say to your wives: ‘If you desire the life of this world and its charms, I shall provide for you and release you in a becoming manner; but if you desire God and His Messenger and the life of the hereafter, know that God has readied great rewards for those of you who do good.’” (33: 28-29)

Before he read them the two Qur’anic verses, the Prophet told each one that she needed not make her choice straightaway. She should consult her parents or her guardian. Every single one of them said to him: “I need not consult anyone concerning my status with you. I certainly choose God and His messenger, hoping for success in the life to come.” They assured him that they desired nothing in preference to life with him.

It should be mentioned that as Ayesha made her choice, being the first asked, she requested the Prophet not to make her choice known to any of his other wives, should they ask him about her choice. She felt that if any of them was unsure, she should not be helped by learning of Ayesha’s choice.

The Prophet, however, declined her request, telling her that his mission was to teach people every good thing for them. Therefore, if any would ask him about her choice, he was certain to inform them of it. They could then follow her example, if they so wished. However, in the event, none needed that sort of help.

They all recognized that their status as wives of the Prophet and mothers of all believers was so precious that they would not change it for anything in this world.

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