The Life & Character of the Seal of the Prophets(saw) – Part 4

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Translated from the Urdu by Ayyaz Mahmood Khan

Service of  Zaid bin Harithah(ra)

Hakim bin Hizam, the nephew of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra), was a merchant who constantly moved about with various trade caravans. Once he purchased a few slaves during a trade expedition and gave one of them as a gift to Hadhrat Khadijah(ra). The name of the slave gifted to Hadhrat Khadijah(ra) was Zaid bin Harithah(ra). In actuality, Zaid(ra) belonged to a free family, but during a plunder he was taken captive and was forcefully enslaved. Khadijah(ra) found Zaid(ra) to be wise and intelligent, so she entrusted him to Muhammad(saw).

It was always the practice of the Holy Prophet(saw) that he would treat his servants and slaves with immense love, like his own kith and kin. Hence, Muhammad(saw) was affectionate to Zaid(ra). Since Zaid(ra) possessed a sincere heart, he also developed love for Muhammad(saw). Meanwhile, Zaid(ra)’s father Harith and paternal uncle Ka‘b came to Makkah whilst looking for him. Both of them presented themselves before the Holy Prophet(saw), and with great humility requested the freedom of Zaid(ra), so that he may return home with them. Muhammad(saw) responded; “Absolutely! If Zaid wishes to leave with you, I delightedly give him permission to do so.” At this, Zaid was called upon and was asked by Muhammad(saw), “Zaid, Do you recognise these people?” “Yes,” responded Zaid(ra), “they are my father and paternal uncle.” Muhammad(saw) said, “They have come to take you. If you wish to leave with them, I gladly give you permission to do so.” “I shall not leave you on any account,” answered Zaid(ra), “To me, you are far dearer than my own uncle or father.” Zaid(ra)’s father reacted with great anger and grief, “What? Do you give preference to a life of slavery over that of freedom?” “Yes,” responded Zaid(ra), “for I have witnessed such virtues in him that I can now give preference to none above him.”

When Muhammad(saw) heard this response he immediately stood up and took Zaid(ra) to the Ka‘bah. There he announced in a loud voice, “O People! Be witness to the fact that as of this day I free Zaid(ra) and make him my son. He shall be my heir and I shall be his.” When Zaid(ra)’s uncle and father observed this sight, they were astounded. They happily left Zaid with Muhammad(saw). Since then, Zaid bin Harithah(ra) became known as Zaid bin Muhammad(ra).1 However, after the Hijrah, God revealed a commandment that it was unlawful to take an adopted child as an actual son.2 Upon this, Zaid(ra) was once again given his original name, Zaid bin Harithah. Nonetheless, the loving conduct of the ever-loyal Muhammad(saw) remained unaltered with this ever-sincere servant. Instead, that love increased day by day. After the demise of Zaid(ra), the Holy Prophet(saw) extended the same graciousness and love to his son Usamah bin Zaid(ra), who was born of Ummi Aiman(ra), a servant of the Prophet(saw).

In addition to the honourable distinctions of Zaid, one is that among all the companions of the Prophet(saw), only his name is specifically mentioned in the Holy Qur’an.3

‘Ali bin Abi Talib taken into the Care of Muhammad(saw)

Abu Talib was a very respectable man. However, he suffered from poverty and his subsistence was only provided by grave hardship. Abu Talib was the victim of great suffering, particularly due to the drought in Makkah in those days. When Muhammad(saw) noticed the anguish of his paternal uncle Abu Talib, he approached his uncle ‘Abbas and proposed: “Your brother Abu Talib lives in a state of difficulty. Would not it be worthy, if from his sons you took one to your home and I brought one to my home?” ‘Abbas agreed to this proposal and both of them went to Abu Talib and offered this proposal. Among his children, Abu Talib dearly loved his son ‘Aqil; hence he said, “Leave ‘Aqil with me and if you wish take the others into your care.” Therefore, Ja‘far was taken into the guardianship of ‘Abbas and ‘Ali(ra) was taken by Muhammad(saw). Hadhrat ‘Ali(ra) was approximately six to seven years of age and from that day he remained in the blessed custody of Muhammad(saw).4



Inside Cave Hira


Emergence of Dawn

Muhammad(saw) had now reached the mature age of 40 years. The time had come for the light of dawn to manifest itself upon the Eastern horizon. Muhammad(saw) never intermingled with the general society of Makkah, for he was one who desired solitude. During this time, his disposition was such that he would remain in seclusion longing for Allah the Exalted, diligently occupied in his remembrance day and night. At a distance of three miles from Makkah towards Mina, to the left is the mountain of Hira, wherein is a cave, famously known as the Cave of Hira. During this time, it was the general practice of Muhammad(saw) to retreat to this cave where he would occupy himself in deep meditation with remembrance of God. He would normally take sufficient food with him and would not return to Makkah for many days. Sometimes, Hadhrat Khadijah(ra) also accompanied him. It is this very time period which has been referred to as ‘the era of the search for truth’ in the Noble Qur’an. Therefore, God Almighty states:

“And He found thee wandering in search for Him and guided thee unto Himself.”5

It was during this time that Muhammad(saw) experienced the commencement of righteous and true dreams that are reported to have lasted for a period of six months.6 It was in effect the elementary stage of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet(saw). Therefore, Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra) narrates:

‘The commencement of (Divine) Revelation to Allah’s Messenger(saw) was in the form of righteous (true) dreams which he would see during his sleep. Every dream came true like bright daylight. During that time, solitude and seclusion had become very dear to him. He used to go to the cave of Hira where he would worship (Allah alone) and continuously engaged himself in worship for many nights. Then he would come back and take more food with him. Upon its exhaustion he would return to Khadijah(ra) and take his food again. He was still in this state when suddenly the truth from God descended upon him. At that time he was in the cave of Hira.’7

Chapter V

A Glance at the Early Life of Muhammad(saw)

A Scarcity of Narrations

Now the first era of the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) has come to an end. Yet a sense of contentment is missing and the heart does not let the hand stop writing. It appears as if the events of the first 40 years of the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) are not preserved with such detail as were the events of the latter era. This is but natural because the way he was looked upon in the time of his prophethood, was missing in that first period. Nevertheless, had early historians exerted more attention on the period of his life prior to prophethood and had sought events with greater diligence and effort, many additional details could have been found. However, the information currently available, as compared to other previous prophets, is vast. This information is sufficient evidence of the magnificently holy and pure life of the Holy Prophet(saw) prior to his divine appointment.

Illiteracy of the Holy Prophet(saw)

Readers have probably noted that in this forty-year lifespan, no allusion has been made to the education of the Holy Prophet(saw). In actuality, the level of education in Arabia was very low, and in this regard, there was little difference between the nobles and commoners. As a matter of fact, even influential chieftains were generally as uneducated and illiterate as the common people. There is no doubt that educated individuals were present here and there throughout the country. Such people were found more in Makkah as compared to other places. However, it is proven that the Holy Prophet(saw) was completely illiterate and uneducated.8 It seems that the illiteracy of the Holy Prophet(saw)was the Will of God, so that the grandeur of his scholarly miracle could be further magnified. Along with this, we learn that many letters and treaties, etc. were often prepared before the Holy Prophet(saw) and were continually observed by him during the period of his prophethood. As a result, he developed a recognition of letters to some extent, later on in his life. This becomes evident from one Hadith, that on the occasion of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, whilst the treaty was being prepared, the Holy Prophet(saw) crossed the words ‘Rusulullah’ [‘Messenger of Allah’]9 by his own hand and wrote ‘Ibn ‘Abdullah’ in its place after the infidels objected to it.10 It is quite possible that the use of the root word َبَتَك  in the Hadith about that occasion, meaning ‘to write’, could also imply ‘to get written.’ This is because, sometimes, ‘writing’ and ‘to get written’ is denoted by the same word in general conversation. In this case, the meaning (of the word َبَتَك) would be that the portion of the treaty which the Holy Prophet(saw) crossed, was crossed by his own hand, but whatever was written afterwards was written by his scribe. In any case, whichever meaning is accepted, it does not affect the illiteracy of the Holy Prophet(saw).

Circle of Friends

Prior to his prophethood, the circle of friends of the Holy Prophet(saw) seems to have been quite limited. This is because the Holy Prophet(saw) was one to prefer seclusion from the beginning and never intermingled with the common society of Makkah during any part of his life. However, there were a few individuals with whom the Prophet(saw) possessed a relationship of friendship. The most distinctive among them was Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra), also known as ‘Abdullah bin Abi Quhafah, who belonged to a noble family of the Quraish. On account of his nobility and aptitude, his people looked upon him with great reverence. Next to him was Hakim bin Hizam(ra) who was the nephew of Hadhrat Khadijah(ra). He was a man of an exceptionally decent nature. In the beginning, he did not accept Islam, yet he held feelings of sincerity and love for the Holy Prophet(saw). Ultimately, his natural propensity drew him to Islam. The Holy Prophet(saw) also had good relations with Zaid bin ‘Amr. He was a close relative of Hadhrat ‘Umar(ra) and was among those who had abandoned polytheism even in the time of the Jahiliyyah [ignorance]. He attributed himself to the Abrahamic religion, but passed away prior to the advent of Islam.

The Prophet(saw)’s Religion Prior to his Commission

Since Islam with its detailed injunctions was revealed later, no one can claim or has ever asserted that the Holy Prophet(saw) was a follower of Islamic injunctions prior to its revelation. However, it is evidently proven from history that the Holy Prophet(saw) in conformity to his pure nature, always refrained from the filthy rituals of the Arab society and never practised idolatry. Therefore, during the time of his prophethood, the Holy Prophet(saw) used to say to Hadhrat ‘A’ishah(ra), “I have never eaten from the sacrificial offerings made to idols”.11 Hadhrat Ali(ra) relates in a narration, that someone once said to the Holy Prophet(saw), “O Messenger of Allah, have you ever worshipped idols?” The Prophet(saw) replied, “No.” Then the people inquired, “Have you ever consumed alcohol?”  The Prophet(saw) responded, “No.” Then he said, “I have always detested these things, but prior to Islam, I had no knowledge of religious law or faith”.12

The Prophet(saw)’s Virtues and Manners

It has already been mentioned that prior to his advent, the Prophet(saw) was known by the title of Al-Amin among the Quraish. This is conclusive evidence of his trustworthiness, honesty and high morals. Such was the level of his honesty in speech that even a bitter enemy of the likes of Abu Jahl, once addressed the Holy Prophet(saw), during the time of prophethood, saying:

“O Muhammad!  We do not consider you to be a liar but we consider that which you have brought to be a lie.”13

Abu Sufyan was presented before Heraclius, King of Rome. Heraclius questioned him about the Holy Prophet(saw):

“Prior to his claim have you ever seen this man lie?”

At that time, Abu Sufyan was at war with the Holy Prophet(saw), but upon this question, he was unable to give any answer other than ‘La’, meaning “No.”14

Umaiyyah bin Khalf was a vehement enemy of the Holy Prophet(saw), but when Sa‘d bin Mu‘adh informed him of the prophecy of his death made by the Holy Prophet(saw), he lost all his senses, and anxiously mentioned this to his wife, saying:

“By God, when Muhammad speaks, he does not lie.”15

Then, Al-Nadr bin Al-Harith was among the fervent enemies of Islam, but when he heard someone say that (God forbid) “Muhammad is a liar,” he said at once:

“Muhammad was a child among you and he was the most virtuous of all. He was the most honest in speech and the most trustworthy – and this remained your view of him until you observed his hair turning grey and he reached his old age, and he brought to you that which he brought. Then you began to say that he is a magician and a liar. By God, he is not a liar nor is he a magician.”16

By this statement Al-Nadr bin Al-Harith meant the same as Abu Jahl, that is to say “We do not consider Muhammad to be a liar, but consider the religion he has brought to be a lie.”

When the Holy Prophet(saw) began the propagation of Islam and gathered the Quraish upon a hillock and said to them, “If I tell you that a large army is gathered behind this hillock ready to launch an assault against you, will you believe me?”

Even though this apparently seemed impossible, everyone responded:

“Yes, we shall believe you, for we have always found you truthful.”17

The Holy Prophet(saw) responded:

“Then I tell you this – the chastisement of God approaches, from which you should save yourselves.”

All these testimonies came from the most vehement of enemies. No testimony is required from the believers because their acceptance is in itself a powerful testimony. However, at this moment, I cannot rest without including the testimony of the wife of the Holy Prophet(saw), Hadrat Khadijah(ra). When the angel of God first came to the Prophet(saw) with revelation and the Holy Prophet(saw) apprehensively said to Khadijah(ra), “I fear for myself,” Khadijah(ra), who was intimately aware of his life, spontaneously said the following words:

“Nay! Nay! By God, Allah shall never dishonour you. You treat your kith and kin with love, and are truthful, and mitigate the burdens of others. You have brought together lost virtues within yourself, and you are hospitable, and you assist others in the way of truth.”18

This testimony is of that venerable lady who by day and night, whilst sitting and standing, eating and drinking, while semi-conscious and awake, observed the Holy Prophet(saw).

O Allah bless Muhammad(saw) and grant him peace and prosperity.

(Serialisation continues in the next edition with Chapter VI – ‘Commencement of Prophethood’)






1   * Usdul-Ghabah, Vol.2, pp.141-142, Zaidubnu Harithah(ra), Darul-Fikr, Beirut (2003)

* As-Siratun-Nabawiyyah, By Ibn Hisham, Babu Islami Zaidibni Harithah(ra) Thaniyyan, p.188, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmayyah, Beirut, (2001)

2 Surah Al-Ahzab, Ch.33:V.5

3 Surah Al-Ahzab, Ch.33:V.38

4 * As-Siratun-Nabawiyyah, by Ibn Hisham, Babu Dhikri Anna ‘Aliyyabna Abi Talibin Awwalu Dhakarin Aslama, p.187, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, (2001)

* Usdul-Ghabah, Vol.3, pp.588, ‘Aliyyubnu Abi Talib(ra), Darul-Fikr, Beirut (2003)

5 Surah Al-Duha, Ch.93:V.8

6 Sharhu ‘Allamatiz-Zarqani ‘alal-Mawahibil-Ladunniyyah, Vol.1, pp. 386, Babu Mab‘athin-Nabi(sa), Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, First Edition (1996)

7 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabu Bad’il-Wahyi, Babu Bad’il-Wahyi, Hadith No. 3

8 Surah Al-Araf, Ch.7:V.159, Surah Al-Ankabut, Ch.29:V.49

9 Messenger of Allah (publisher)

10 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabus-sulh, Babu Kaifa Yuktabu Hadha Ma Salaha Fulan bin Fulan, Hadith No.2699

11 As-Siratul-Halbiyyah, Vol.1, p.180, Babu Ma Hafizahullahu Ta‘ala Bihi Fi Sigharihisa Min Amril-Jahiliyyah, Darul-Kutub (2002)

12 As-Siratul-Halbiyyah, Vol.1, p.182, Babu Ma Hafizahullahu Ta‘ala Bihi Fi Sigharihisa Min Amril-Jahiliyyah, Darul-Kutub (2002)

13 Sunan At-Tirmidhi, Kitabut-Tafsir, Babu Wa Minal-An‘ami, Hadith No.3064

14 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabu Bad’il-Wahyi, Bab No. 6, Hadith No. 7

15 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul-Manaqib, Babu ‘Alamatin-Nubuwwati Fil-Islam, Hadith No.3632

16 * As-Shifa’, by Qadi ‘Ayad, Part 1, p. 90, Babuth-Thani Fi Takmilillahi Ta‘ala Lahul-Mahasina Khalqan Wa Khuluqan Faslun Wa Amma ‘Adluhu(saw), Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, (2002)

* As-Siratun-Nabawiyyah, By Ibni Hisham, Babu Ma Dara Baina Rasulillahi(saw) Wa Baina Ru’usa’i Quraishin Wa Tafsiril-Kahf, p. 224, Darul-Kutubil-‘Ilmiyyah, Beirut, (2001)

17 * Sahih Bukhari, Kitabut-Tafsir, Babu Wa Minash-Shu‘ara’i, Hadith No.4770

* Sahih Muslim, Kitabul-Iman, Babu Wandhir ‘Ashiratakal-Aqrabin, Hadith No. 508

18 Sahih Bukhari, Kitabu Bad’il-Wahyi, Bab No.3, Hadith No.3

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