By Sadia Dehlvi
RABI UL awwal, literally means “the first spring”. It is the month of Prophet Muhammad’s birth. It is a joyous time for the Muslim community which holds Milad, festive gatherings to remember and honour the Prophet whom Allah ranks as rahmat ul alameen, a blessing and mercy for all the worlds.
This month invites reflection on Prophet Muhammad’s message and teachings. He said, “I have come to perfect noble character”. The Quran praises him, “You have indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, a beautiful pattern of conduct”.
When asked of his character, Muhammad’s wife Ayesha said, “His character was the Quran. He approved of what the Quran approved and disapproved of what the Quran disapproved”.
The Prophet taught to love the One God, emphasising that the path leading to Him consists of kindness, compassion and moderation. He taught that women be respected, and according a high status to mothers, he declared, “Paradise lies beneath the feet of the Mothers”. Laying emphasis on purification the heart he said, “Surely in the breasts of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound, then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt, then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?”
The most forgiving of people, the Prophet never sought revenge despite 13 assassination attempts on his life. He advised Muslims to show patience in their trials and tribulations. It was after 13 years of passive resistance of the early Muslims that verses sanctioning an armed struggle to establish peace were revealed in the Quran. While returning from the battlefield of Badr, the first armed conflict, Prophet Muhammad defined the two faces of jihad, “We are returning from the lesser holy war to the greater holy war against ourselves”. On another occasion, he said, “The most excellent jihad is to speak up for the truth, in the face of a tyrannical authority”.
Muhammad’s kindness was extended to all beings, particularly towards children and animals. On seeing the Prophet kissing his grandchildren, a companion remarked that though he had 10 children, he had never kissed them. Muhammad commented, “He who does not show mercy will not receive mercy from Allah”.
The Prophet promised Paradise to a sinful woman who fetched water for a dog and saved him from dying of thirst. On another occasion, when a cat slept on the Prophet’s garment, he cut the sleeve to leave the cat undisturbed while he got up to offer prayers. Once, while heading for an armed conflict, the Messenger noticed a bitch delivering her litter and asked his followers to change track, ensuring that the animal did not get trampled.
Muhammad’s unique position stems from many of his sayings such as, “The first thing that Allah created was my Light, which originated from His Light and derived from the Majesty of His Greatness” and “Truly, Allah made me the seal of prophets when Adam was between water and clay”.
The essence of Sufism stems from the belief that the universe was created from Noor-e-Muhammadi, Light of Muhammad, and from this pre-existent light, Allah took a handful to build the universe.
For mystics, Prophet Muhammad mirrors Allah’s attributes. During my Sufi initiation, I was taught that loving and following the Prophet was to love God. He remains the perfect vehicle to inner enlightenment, for even in slumber, he remained connected to Allah.
As Rumi glorifies:
The Prophet said, “My eyes sleep”
But my heart is not asleep to the Lord of Creation
While your eyes are closed and your heart slumbers,
My eyes are closed and my heart open in the contemplation of the Divine
Do not judge me with your own inadequacy;
What is night for you is bright day for me,
What for you is a prison is for me an open garden.
In the very midst of worldly engagement I am detached.
It is not myself that sits beside you; it is my shadow;
My reality is beyond the realm of thoughts,
For I have passed beyond all thought,
Racing ahead, far past that realm.
Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org