On the birthday of the orphan who became a head of state – Part 2
Before he was commissioned as a prophet, his nudity was never seen, he never drank alcohol, never ate from a feast dedicated to idols and never sworn by other than the Almighty. He was light in complexion, his shoulders were broad, his face usually shined brightly as if on a dark night. He had black hair, tender skin, broad chest, moderate height, high forehead. Though sweet in speech, he kept silent most of the time. He usually walked rapidly and lightly with long strides. His clothing generally consisted of two pieces of cloth. He used to begin and end speeches with ‘Bismillah”. He used to look more on to the ground than he did to the heavens out of respect for and awe of the authority in the heavens. He never repelled evil with evil but with good.
Who was that man? He was the unlettered Prophet who was given a book which made knowledge the most worthwhile investment one could bequeath to the world. He never had a chance of learning from a scholar but was blessed with a book which makes scholarship the best profession known to humanity. He was given a book which talks about astronomy and space exploration at a time the NASA and the powers that be in the US had not been born. He was given a book which talks about biology and reproduction at a time the human physiology was still unknown and uncharted. He was given a book which talks about geology and archaeology at a time oceanography and oil exploration had not occurred to humanity; he was given a book which talks about economics and the evil of round-tripping at a time the stock market had not been conceived; he was given a book which talks about numerology at a time algebra and the only formula I remember of the mathematics I was taught in my post-primary school- the almighty formula- had not been discovered!
Prophet Muhammad was taught to read a book which is itself all about reading- a book which contains a hundred and fourteen chapters and over six thousand verses which were revealed both in Makkah and Madinah. Whereas the Qur’an is known and seen today as a book, it is equally a book which is a seal of all revealed books.
Sedew, a French Scholar, says of Prophet Muhammad as follows: “He smiled readily and often, yet he was of a serious disposition. He was the most generous of his people, kind to his neighbour, courteous, faithful and trustworthy. He was the bravest of men and the most sensitive”
Who was that man, Muhammad? He was a man who began his life as an orphan and ended his life as a state man; he was employed by one of the wealthiest of his era and soon became the consort and the husband of the most-sought after woman of his clime (Khadijah). He was a bachelor who never engaged in “sampling” before he got married and having got married, he remained a faithful and close confidant to his wives. Muhammad was blessed with children, boys and girls; Muhammad was a man who buried almost all his children while he was alive. Muhammad was married to women who were blessed with the fruit of the womb; he was also, and ironically too, a man who was married to a woman who was destined never to taste the joy of motherhood.
Muhammad was a leader of a group who later became the leader of a community who later became the leader of a nation. In his person, we have insights into the elements which make the ideal leader- that leader that the world is in acute need of today. He was just, compassionate, kind, deracinated, detribalised and gender-sensitive. He was contented with the little that today could offer; he never yearned to own billions of dollars and naira – billions that generations yet unborn will never exhaust. He knew the world for what it is – beautiful, alluring and fragile like the balloon.
Anas b. Abi Malik served the Prophet Muhammad for ten years and for a decade was never rebuked for a moment nor did the Prophet ever spoke a harsh word to him. He says further: “I joined the service of the Prophet when I was eight; I served him for ten years. Not even for once did he rebuke me for any fault of mine”
Prophet Muhammad once had a she-camel named Adba which used to run faster than other camels. But one day, a Bedouin entered the city of Madinah and boasted that his camel is capable of beating that of the Prophet in a race. Soon the camels were set up against each other in a race and the Bedouin’s camel eventually overtook that of the Prophet. The companions were sad over the incident. But the Prophet quickly intervened saying: “it is the Almighty who raises in this world and whenever He wants He lowers”
In other words, we have in his persona a Prophet who would never let a moment pass by without deriving meaning from it for humanity. This is because moments of life are meant to be lived, to be encoded with meaning, to be endowed with life; a life that nourishes, that enlivens, that brings humanity back to its origin.
Muslims adulate and celebrate Prophet Muhammad because his message found practical exemplification in their reality, in their personal lives. He was a theorist and a pragmatist. In his persona, Islam in the text and Islam in socio-political and economic contexts of Arabia were mutually complimentary; a complementarity which shames the shambolic crises and puts to question the anarchic realities of Muslim societies in the contemporary period. To what extent is your personal life a true reflection of what he stood for?
(08122455111 for messages only)
Afis Ayinde Oladosu Ph.D
Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies
Dean, Faculty of Arts,
University of Ibadan,