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Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Prophet as a Man: News Bringing Tears to the Prophet

We have seen last week how the Prophet (peace be upon him) cried when his son died, and how his eyes where tearful at the death of one of his earliest companions, Uthman ibn Maz’oon, and also when he visited another of his companions, Saad ibn Ubadah, who was very ill. The Prophet loved all his companions, because they were not only good Muslims, they were the ones who believed in him, placed their full trust in him, and were ready to sacrifice their all for him and his cause. We know from our own experience that when we go through some experience together with some friends, and we cooperate with them in achieving common goals, our relations become stronger. If such an experience has noble objectives, with little personal gain for any of us, we become much closer to each other. This is what happens in the ranks of the advocates of Islam. They feel their brotherhood to be a reality. The best example of this brotherhood was the community of the Prophet’s companions. Hence, it is not surprising that their mutual relations were very strong, and their relation with the Prophet was one of pure love, incomparable to any other relation.
When the Byzantine Empire was contemplating an attack on the Muslim state, the Prophet sent a force to meet any attacking army. This led to what is known in Islamic history as the Battle of Mu’tah. The Muslim force was no more than 3000, led by Zayd ibn Harithah. The Prophet’s instructions specified that in case Zayd was killed, then the command would go to Jaafar ibn Abi Talib, and in case of his death, and then Abdullah ibn Rawahah will take the command. In case of Abdullah meeting the same end, the army should choose a commander. As it happened, when the Muslim troops met the Byzantine army, they were outnumbered by more than 30 to one. Still a battle took place and soon the three commanders fell one after the other. The command was taken over by Khalid ibn Al-Waleed who managed to withdraw with the army suffering little further losses.
What was the Prophet’s reaction to the news? Before we speak about that, we should remember that Zayd, the first commander, was gifted to the Prophet as a slave when he was still a young lad. The Prophet subsequently set him free and adopted him as a son in pre-Islamic days. When the Prophet started to receive his revelations, Zayd was the first man to declare his belief in him as God’s Messenger and was, as such, the first Muslim after the Prophet. The second commander, Jaafar, was the Prophet’s own cousin. He had only recently returned after 15 years’ absence in Abyssinia, where he and a group of the Prophet’s companions established an outpost for Islam away from Arabia. Abdullah ibn Rawahah was one of the early figures among the Ansar and a devoted servant of Islam. All three were killed on the same day. How did the Prophet react to the news of their death?
We have three Hadiths mentioning his reaction. Anas ibn Malik reports: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) announced the death of Zayd, Jaafar and Abdullah ibn Rawahah to the Muslim community before the messenger delivering the news arrived in Madinah. He said: ‘Zayd took up the banner first, but he was soon hit, and Jaafar took it over. Again he was hit, and it was taken by Ibn Rawahah and he was hit.’ The Prophet’s eyes were pouring with tears. He then said: ‘Then the banner was taken up by one of God’s swords, and they continued to fight until God bestowed His grace.’” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Ahmad).
The second report is given by Aishah, the Prophet’s wife: “When the news of the death of Zayd ibn Harithah, Jaafar ibn Abi Talib and Abdullah ibn Rawahah was given to the Prophet, he sat down with grief clearly visible in his face, as I looked at him through a hole in the door.” (Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim).
Khalid ibn Salamah Al-Makhzoomi gives us the third report: “When Zayd ibn Harithah was killed, the Prophet went to his home. When Zayd’s daughter saw him coming, she cried as she came toward him. The Prophet also cried. Some of his companions asked: ‘What! (Are you crying), Messenger of God?’ He said: ‘It is all an expression of missing a loved one.’” (Related by Ibn Hibban, Ibn Saad and Al-Baghawi).
These three Hadiths confirm that the Prophet’s grief was acute as he received the news of the death of his three companions who were very close to him. That some people wondered at him crying is not surprising, particularly in a society that considered crying to be unbecoming of a man. But the Prophet explained that it is perfectly natural for a man to miss a loved one and to cry at the news of death. What Islam does not approve of is wailing and lamentation of the type many people do. To be saddened by the death of a close relative or friend is natural, and to express such grief with tears is also natural. What is not natural is to exaggerate one’s calamity by crying out loud, lamenting, and calling out to the deceased and appealing to him or her to return. All such actions are unacceptable from the Islamic point of view.
The Prophet is reported to have cried on other occasions. One such occasion was when he visited his mother’s grave. His mother had died when he was only six years of age, but this visit must have taken place when he was in his late fifties, as the Hadith reporter, Abu Hurayrah, joined the Prophet nearly four years before he passed away. The Hadith states: “The Prophet visited his mother’s grave and he cried, as did those who were with him. Then he said: ‘I requested God’s permission to pray for her forgiveness, but He has not permitted me to do so. I then sought His permission to visit her grave and He has granted me that. You too should visit graves, because such visits remind you of the Day of Judgment.”
This Hadith gives us an insight into the type of person the Prophet was. Half a century after his mother’s death, he was still keen to visit her grave and he cried there. What a soft heart that makes those who were present with him also cry! That God did not permit him to pray for his mother’s forgiveness means that a Muslim cannot seek forgiveness for a person who died a non-Muslim. The Prophet also makes clear that the objective of visiting the graves of dead relatives is the reminder that we will die and will be brought back to life when we will receive reward or punishment. Such visits then provide motivation to do good so as to ensure a happy life after death.

Adil Salahi


At 1:50 PM, Blogger comicsans said...



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