By Mohammad Osama Rawat
January 03, 2015
The day of the 12th Rabi Al Awwal of Islamic calendar is of great significance for Muslims around the world. It was on the day of this year, known as the year of elephants (A'amul Feel) among the Arabs, that our creator decided to bless mankind with the arrival of His last and final messenger Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him (PBUH), on this planet which He describes in His final testament Al Quran, 'We have sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.' (Surah Al Ambiya: Aayat - 107)
Though there is no specific religious celebration in Islam to mark the importance of this day, Muslims around the world gather to discuss the teachings of the Al Quran and teachings of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
In the year 570 CE, five years after the death of the Roman Emperor Justinian, a huge army of men, horses and elephants ruthlessly marched towards the city of Makkah, intending to completely wipe out the city. This army was led by the warlord who is referred to as Abraha in the history of Islam, and who after conquering and establishing his supremacy in Yemen was advancing towards the sacred city of Makkah to fulfil his ambition of bringing it under his fold.
Seeing the size of this huge army camping on the outskirts of Makkah and knowing their intentions, one of the most respected nobles among the Quraish tribe of Makkah, Hazrat Abdul-Muttalib, the grandfather of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), felt quite helpless.
He suggested that all the men, women and children residing in Makkah go up into the mountains to take refuge. Later, he locked the doors of the House of God (Ka'aba). But before he moved away to also take refuge he touched the doors of the Ka'aba and prayed, "Oh! Allah, we are not strong enough to fight these invaders. However, this is your House and it is only you who can protect your House and us (its caretakers)."
For Abraha, victory seemed imminent, but when the army, headed by its lead elephant, decided to advance to the fringes of the city, the animal stopped unexpectedly and refused to go any further in the direction of Makkah. No amount of pushing could make the beast move. Yet, when the men forced it around, it was more willing to go back instead of forward.
Suddenly in the distant horizon, a large flock of birds were seen flying towards the scene of the battlefield. These birds were carrying some kind of stones in their beaks and claws. They descended upon the confused army of Abraha like lightning and pelted them with the stones. These stones started to cut and tear away at the bodies of these aggressors and reduced them to helplessness. They all ran away in humiliation. Abraha and most of his army died on the way of the wounds they suffered from the stones and could not get back even to their safe haven in Yemen.
It was nothing short of a miracle, and established the supremacy of the Makkans over the other Arab tribes. It is for this reason, that the year is remembered by the Arabs as the 'year of the elephant' (A'amul Feel) and is considered very significant in the balance of power in the Arabian Peninsula. This event is described by our Lord in the Al Quran thus: 'Have you not considered O Mohammad, how your Lord dealt with the companions of the elephants? Did He not misguide them? And he sent against them birds in flocks, striking them with stones of hard clay that they began to resemble eaten straw.'(Surah Al Feel)
However, it was another event which took place just 50 days later the same year, which changed the course of history forever. It was on this blessed day on the 12th day of the Islamic calendar month of Rabi' Al Awwal (which falls on January 3, 2015) when Hazrat Amina, the wife of Hazrat Abdullah, who was the son of the most respected notable of Makkah, Hazrat Abdul-Muttalib, gave birth to a child. This child was later blessed with Prophet-hood. This was the child, who brought all the Arabian tribes under one umbrella and who brought the atrocities of the great empires of the world of that period to a standstill.
This child was named Mohammad (PBUH). The name Mohammad was given to the child by his grandfather Abdul-Muttalib and it was not a very common name among Arabs at that time. The literal meaning of Mohammad is the 'praised one'.
The name of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is uttered and praised more times than that of any person who ever lived on this earth. In fact, it is not only men, women and children who praise him on this planet, but also Allah, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and the inhabitants of the heavens, the angels, 'Allah and His angels bless the prophet. O you who believe! Bless him and salute him with a worthy salutation.' (Al Quran, Surah Al Ahzab, Aayat: 56)
The grandson of Hazrat Abdul-Muttalib and the son of Hazrat Abdullah and Hazrat Amina, was destined to become the greatest man ever to live on this planet and was blessed with prophet-hood by our creator when he turned 40.
The early life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) before his prophet-hood is highlighted by his sublime character and noble manners. The world into which Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was sent by our Lord was, at times, a world of idolatry, in which women and slaves had no rights whatsoever; a world in which men would cheat each other for small monetary benefits. Might is right was then the sole purpose and philosophy of life.
However, right from childhood, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was unlike those around him. He was neither known to swear or talk in a vile manner, nor was he known to drink alcohol or gamble. His honesty overcame all that and he began to be known as Al Ameen (the trustworthy). In fact, it was this quality of honesty which attracted the masses to join him and support his noble mission which was bestowed by our Lord.
The nature of the Arabs at the time of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was very barbaric and they would fight over the smallest of things. Even if a camel from one tribe grazed on the land of another, it would often result in bloodshed which would last for years and take thousands of lives. The early life of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was wrought with quite a bit of unhappiness. He never saw his father Hazrat Abdullah, who died before he was born. At the age of six his mother, Hazrat Amina, passed away and he was entrusted into the care of his beloved grandfather Abdul-Muttalib. However, at the age of 12, Hazrat Abdul-Muttalib also passed away, and one of his uncles, Hazrat Abu Talib, took charge of him. With such distress and heartache so early in his life, one would think that this boy would grow up to be rebellious and troublesome. But that was not going to happen with Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).
Hazrat Abu Talib was a trader and businessman, and he sometimes took Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) along on his business trips. It was these journeys which eventually resulted in an alliance between Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his future wife, Hazrat Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her).
She was a wealthy widow in Makkah, who was known for her noble character and morals. Hearing about his honesty, efficiency and sincerity she requested him to look after her caravans and thus Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) started working for Hazrat Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her) as a manager for her trade caravans. It was this honesty and efficiency which led to Hazrat Khadijah's proposal of marriage, and in consultation with his uncle they got married.
It was in the year 610 CE at the age of 40, that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) received the first revelation. It was the practice of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) before he was blessed with the Prophet-hood to often go up to the cave of Hira to meditate and pray to Allah alone in search of tranquillity and peace. On one such night during the month of Ramadan while he was meditating, an angel appeared before him. This was the angel Jibril (Gabriel), the very same angel who had brought down a revelation to the earlier prophets of Allah such as Jesus (Hazrat Issa) and Moses (Hazrat Moosa), peace be upon both of them.
"Read!" the angel commanded him in a thundering voice.
"I cannot read," replied Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) in all honesty.
The angel grabbed hold of him and squeezed so hard that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) thought he would die of suffocation.
"Read!" the angel commanded again but the Prophet's reply was the same. So the angel squeezed him again and again, each time harder than the previous occasion. But Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) continued to say the same thing each time. Finally, the angel released him and spoke the words which are remembered as the first words of the final revelation of our Lord to the mankind, "Read! In the name of your Lord who created! Created man from a clinging clot! Read! Your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen. Taught man what he did not know." (Al Quran -Surah Al Alaq: Aayat 1-5)
This was the beginning of the revelations from Allah to humanity through Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It was the final incorruptible message which mankind would have to live by and worship according to it till the last day of the existence of this planet. And this is how Mohammad, the son of Abdullah was chosen to be Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) to spread the commandments of our Lord.
It is the great personal character of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) blessed by Lord, which was one of the main reasons for the acceptance of his noble mission bestowed to him by the Lord. As mentioned before, he never swore and he never spoke badly about anyone. But after his appointment as a Prophet of Allah, he not only absorbed these excellent qualities in himself, but also ordered all the Muslims to live their lives according to these noble traits. This is why we find that lying and cheating are totally forbidden in Islam. About lying, the Prophet (PBUH), said, "Lying leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to the fire of hell." (Book of Hadeeth, Sahih Muslim)
For the Arabs to stop cheating and lying it would mean turning their whole lives upside down. Cheating and lying during business transactions was a regular practice for the Arabs. Backbiting and slandering one another were totally forbidden and the Prophet was instructed by Allah to inform the people that backbiting another Muslim was comparable to '...eating the flesh of your dead brother.' (Al Quran, Surah Al Hujrat, Aayat: 12)
Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was known to laugh very little, if at all. When he was happy he would express his delight by smiling and he is reported to have said, "Too much laughter kills the heart." (Book of Hadeeth, Al Tirmidhi)
Similarly, when he was angry, he would not fly off the handle, shout or throw a tantrum, but his complexion would simply turn red.
The generosity of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was so great that one of his companions, Hazrat Ibn Abbas compared his huge generosity to 'the blowing wind'. (Book of Hadeeth, Sahih Muslim)
Pre-Islamic Arabia was characterised by the evil crime of burying baby girls alive because girls were considered a shame for the family. Yet, it was Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who spoke out vehemently against this great social evil. In fact, he preached of the great blessing and reward for those having and rearing female children. 'Whosoever brings up two girls upon this religion, then me and him shall be like this in paradise (and he joined his forefinger with his middle finger).' (Book of Hadeeth, Sahih Muslim)
By the time of his departure from this world in the year 632 CE, almost the entire Arabian Peninsula had been brought under the Islamic umbrella of Allah's guided rule of life. A million square miles lay at his feet. Yet, such was the humble nature of this great man that he would mend his own shoes, sew his own clothes, milk his own goats and sleep on mats made from date leaves. Such behaviour has inspired millions of people and has thus led them to the beauty of Islam.
As a leader for his people he was a great example of humility and mercy. When his companions walked past his house they could hear him weeping during his prayer, so much so that it was compared to a 'boiling pot' (Book of Hadeeth, Abu Dawood). He would pray for such long hours during the night that his feet would swell up. That was his dedication towards his Lord.
On observing this, his wife once asked him, "Why do you pray so much, when your Lord has forgiven your past sins and your future sins?"
And Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, "Should I, therefore, not be a grateful servant of my Lord?" (Book of Hadeeths, Al Bukhari)
The famous conquest of Makkah is an event which shall be remembered for the justice and mercy which was shown that day. Even though he had the option to punish those who were guilty of oppressing Muslims, Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) issued a general amnesty by which the majority were forgiven. It was this behaviour which saw the amazing acceptance of Islam by almost the whole population of Makkah literally overnight. How different was this behaviour from that of the other conquerors of those days who, after conquering, looted and burnt towns, raped women on their way to success.
The world before his blessed arrival was a crumbling place. The empires of Rome and Persia were locked in constant battle. The Chinese and Indian civilisations were in a kind of moral decline. Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism were all religions which were fast losing their originality. The case of the Arabs was even worse and they were regarded as being at the bottom of this ongoing decaying pit.
It was in the midst of this decadence that Allah, our Lord sent his last Prophet, Mohammad (PBUH) with His final testament 'Al Quran'. He was a light in this world of ignorance. Like a lamp he shone in this abyss of darkness.
It is very important here to note that Islam means total submission and obedience towards our creator, our Lord, the only one, who in Arabic is addressed as Allah. Islam is not a new religion preached by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), but it is the first, the last and the only religion which has been preached by all the Prophets of the Lord sent on this earth time to time. Neither Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) nor other Prophets mentioned in the Al Quran, Bible and Taurat (Old Testament) sent before him came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in one Lord. But they all were sent by the Lord to reconfirm it, to renew it, to reaffirm it, and to guide and enlighten humanity towards their spiritual, moral and social responsibilities.
'Be thankful for small mercies' is a common saying by our elders in our part of the world. But the mercy which we have been given is far from small. Thanks to this greatness, this mercy will enable us to live and die with success and contentment. This mercy is the way of life preached by Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and through it we, by the will of Allah, will enjoy an everlasting life.
'In the messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.' (Al Quran, Surah Al Ahzab: 33:21)