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"The first appearance of prophethood was in Adam,
and its perfection was in the Seal of the Prophets".
The Secret Rose Garden, by Mahmud Shabistari, Sufi poet
progression of faith has started ever since the early days of human life led
by Allahs messengers, the first of whom was Adam (pbuh), down to the last
messenger conveyed by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to all mankind. We see a noble
progression based on divine guidance and bringing light to mankind, and clear
landmarks defining the way.
While Adam (pbuh) and all the prophets were prophets of Islam, the collective
prophetic consciousness reached its completion with Muhammad (pbuh) (570-632
CE) whose name means "most praiseworthy". He lived 600 years after
his predecessor Isa (pbuh). Allah sent each prophet as a warner to his community
until the advent of the final prophet, Muhammad (pbuh), who came as a mercy
to all of Allah creatures. God declares "We sent
thee not, but as a mercy (Muhammad) for all creatures."
Indeed, if it had not been for Muhammad (pbuh), we would not have known the
true stories of the prophets as they took place. This is because their stories
were distorted and corrupted before Muhammad's mission. The resulting versions
did not respect the dignity of the prophets. For example, the books of the Jews
narrate a story of a prophet who drank alcohol and committed adultery with his
own daughter, of a prophet who worshipped idols after marrying a pretty young
idol-worshipper. They said he preferred to please her by worshipping her idol
than to please his creator!
The true image of the prophets was lost by either degrading or over-glorifying them. Were it not for the Qur'an and the beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh), we would be probably all worshipping idols and ignoring the Truth, our Creator.
Light may be physical, such as the light of the sun or the moon, or intelligible,
like the light of the intellect. The latter illuminates the darkness of ignorance
with the light of knowledge. This primordial light is what is called the Light
of the Prophet, since he is the created being who received the major share of
it. This is how the Prophet (pbuh) could say, "I was a Prophet when Adam
was still between spirit and body."(source: Tirmidhi, Ahmad,
Hakim and Bukhari in Tarikh.) The power of this light made the Prophet's
radiation so powerful, once he appeared on earth, that Allah calls him in the
Qur'an "an illuminating lamp." Allah describes the sun and the moon
in the Qur'an in like manner explaining what He means when He says that He made
the Prophet (pbuh) "an illuminating lamp". He says, Exalted is He:
"Have you not seen how Allah created seven heavens, one upon another, and
set the moon therein for a light and the sun for a lamp?"<Qur'an Nuh
71:16> Here he calls the sun a lamp, since its light is self generating,
but He calls the moon a light, since it but reflects the light of the sun. The
sun's light being extremely hot, and "Blessed
is He who has set in the sky constellations and has set among them a lamp and
an illuminating moon,"<Qur'an Al-furqan 25:61> emphasizing
that the moon's light is light with little heat. When He says to His Prophet
(pbuh): " O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness,
a bearer of good tidings and of warning, as a caller to Allah by His leave and
as an illuminating lamp," <Qur'an Al-Ahzab 33:45-46> we are
to understand that He made the Prophet's light powerful like the sun's, yet
cool and gentle like the moon's.
The Prophet (pbuh) is a spiritual guide, and he was also the organizer of a new social order with all that such a function implies. Many people have understood his political genius, power of oratory and great leadership, but few have understood how he could be, and still is, the religious and spiritual guide of men. This is particularly true in the modern world in which religion is separated from other domains of life and most modern men can hardly imagine how a spiritual being could also be immersed in the most intense political and social activity.
The Prophet (pbuh) did indeed participate in social life in its fullest sense. He underwent practically every possible human experience as he fulfilled the roles of husband, father, teacher, immigrant, merchant, political and social leader, military commander, judge and ruler. He had to undergo many hardships and experience all the difficulties which human life especially that of the founder of a new state and society, implies.
But within all these activities his heart rested in contentment with the Divine, and he continued inwardly to repose in the Divine Peace. In fact his participation in social and political life was precisely to integrate this domain into a spiritual centre.
The Prophet (pbuh) was not attached to this world. He did not entertain any political or worldly ambition. He was by nature contemplative. Before being chosen as Prophet he did not like to frequent social gatherings and activities. He led a caravan from Mecca to Syria passing through the majestic silence of the desert whose very "infinity" induces man towards contemplation. He often spent long periods in the cave of Hira' in solitude and meditation. He did not believe himself to be by nature a man of the world or one who was naturally inclined to seek political power among the Quraysh or social eminence in Meccan society although he came from the noblest family. It was in fact very painful and difficult for him to accept the burden of prophecy which implied the founding of not only a new religion but also a new social and political order. All the traditional sources, which alone matter in this case testify to the great hardship the prophet underwent by being chosen to participate in the active life in its most acute form.
Besides, the Prophet (pbuh) was full of love for the Almighty. Many hadith point out his depth of love for God which, in conformity with the general perspective of Islam, was never divorced from the knowledge of Him. For example in a well known hadith, he said, "O Lord, grant to me the love of thee. Grant that I love those that love thee. Grant that I may do the deed that wins thy love. Make thy love dear to me more than self, family and wealth." Such sayings clearly demonstrate the fact that although the Prophet was held in the highest esteem amongst his contemporaries, acting as ruler, judge and spiritual guide, he was one whose being was anchored in the love of God aiming only to please Him.
The characteristics that emphasise the Prophet Muahammad's (pbuh) spirituality, above others, are numerous. Here we only elaborate on three. Firstly, the Prophet (pbuh) possessed the quality of piety in its most universal sense. This profound piety which inwardly attached him to God made him place the interest of God before everything else including himself. Secondly he had a quality of combativeness, of always being actively engaged in combat against all that negated the Truth and disrupted harmony. Externally it meant fighting wars, either military, politically or socially, the war which the Prophet (pbuh) named the "little holy war" (al-jihad al-asghar). Inwardly this combativeness meant a continuous war against the carnal soul (nafs), against all that in man tends towards the negation of God and His Will, the "great holy war" (al-jihad al-akbar).
Thirdly, the Prophet (pbuh) possessed the quality of magnanimity in its fullest sense. His soul displayed a grandeur which every devout Muslim aspires to have. He is for the Muslim nobility and magnanimity personified. This aspect of the Prophet (pbuh) is fully displayed in his treatment of his companions which, in fact, has been the model for later ages and which all generations of Muslims have sought to emulate. In Islam, when one thinks of the Prophet (pbuh) who is to be emulated, it is the image of a strong character that comes to mind, who is severe with himself and with the false and unjust, and charitable towards the world that surrounds him. On the basis of these two virtues of strength and sobriety on the one hand and charity and generosity on the other, he is serene extinguished in the Truth. He is that warrior on horseback who halts before the mountain of Truth, passive towards the Divine Will, active towards the world, hard and sober towards himself and kind and generous towards the creatures about him. Thus personifying the perfect balance advocated by Islam and yearned for by every Muslim.
These qualities characteristic of the Prophet are contained virtually in the
sound of the second shahadah, Muhammadun rasul Allah, that is Muhammad is the
Prophet of God, in its Arabic pronunciation, not in its translation into another
language. Here again the symbolism is inextricably connected to the sounds and
forms of the sacred language and cannot be translated. The very sound of the
name Muhammad implies force, a sudden breaking forth of a power which is from
God and is not just human. The word rasul with its elongated second syllable
symbolizes this "expansion of the chest" , and a generosity that flows
from the being of the Prophet (pbuh) and which ultimately comes from God. As
for Allah it is, of course, the Truth itself which terminates the formula. The
second shahadah thus implies by its sound the power, generosity and serenity
of reposing in the Truth characteristic of the Prophet (pbuh). But this repose
in the Truth is not based on a flight from the world but on a penetration into
it in order to integrate and organize it. The spiritual castle in Islam is based
on the firm foundations of harmony within human society and in individual human