By Yaaseen Masvood
Allah says in the Qur’ān: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, you have a good example to follow, for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much.” (33:21)
This verse from the Qur’ān makes it abundantly clear that whatever be the situation one might find himself/herself in, he/she will be able to find a golden example to relate to, in the life of our beloved Prophet ﷺ. The way in which he conducted himself across all the situations and challenges faced by him shines as a beacon of light for all those who wish to be supremely successful in this world and the Hereafter. From the time he was born till he breathed his last, his life still continues to guide human beings and will continue to do so till the end of times.
Of the various ways in which a human being reacts to the challenges of life, it is only during the periods of hardships that one’s true mettle stands out. This is where the noble character of our Prophet ﷺ acts as radiance for those who go through such tough situations. Being born an orphan and having to lose his mother also at a tender age of six, is enough of a hardship for anyone but he epitomised patience at its best. He also lost his grandfather when he was eight years. The death of the parents and grandfather of Rasulullah ﷺ when he was young made him sensitive to the hardships of others and helped him know humility and not become arrogant – a lesson most of us conveniently chose to ignore, only to our own peril.
Later, he had to rear goats to eke out a living. The choice of the occupation was significant. After becoming a prophet, Muhammad ﷺ remarked: “There has been no prophet who has not tended sheep.” Being a shepherd helps build qualities like patience, humbleness, responsibility, bravery, mercy, compassion and the ability to deal with hardships.
He had to bury all his sons with his own hands. All his sons passed away during their childhood itself and did not live to see their father become a prophet. The death of the sons of Rasulullah ﷺ was a trial but this was how Allah wanted us to know that leadership in religion is not inherited. He lost all his daughters in his lifetime except Fatima. His daughter Ruqayya was buried even before his return from the Battle of Badr. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the burial of the dead is kept in abeyance for all flimsy reasons. How far are we from emulating the blessed sunnah of burying the dead at the earliest! Of the few occasions, where haste has been encouraged in Islam are while burying the dead and praying at its earliest times. This is precisely what most of us hardly practise!
When the first revelation of the Qur’ān came, angel Jibreel (Gabriel) appeared in his true form, took hold of him and pressed him hard until he could not endure it any longer. The Prophet ﷺ was terrified and his heart was pounding hard until he was comforted by his wife Khadeejah. To add to his woes, when his caring wife took him to her cousin, the old and venerable Waraqa bin Naufal, he was forewarned about his expulsion from his own place of birth.
The beginning of the open call to Islam at Mount Safa was met with opposition from none other than his own uncle, Abu Lahab. The elders of Quraysh would jeer at him and taunt him. He was subjected to ridicule, contempt and mockery, only because he was calling people to the worship of Allah. The pagan Arabs used to vilify him: “This is a poet, a madman, a soothsayer…. Satan comes to him and teaches him….He is a sorcerer, a liar.” Yet, he would neither retaliate nor invoke the curse of Allah upon them. These unjust ridicule and condemnation deeply hurt the Prophet ﷺ, as Allah says: “We know that your breast is distressed by what they say.” (15:97) Allah then revealed verses of inspiration and comfort to help the Prophet ﷺ remain steadfast. His persecution only increased when neither threats nor bargains proved fruitful.
He ﷺ was mistreated by his own neighbours like Abu Jahl, Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayt, Hakam bin Abi Al-As bin Umayya and all that he would say was: “What kind of neighbourhood is this?” When the Prophet ﷺ bowed down in prayer, someone would throw the foetus of camel on his back and yet others would throw similar filth at his door. Whenever Umayya bin Khalaf would see him, he would taunt him before the people of Makkah. Uqba bin Abi Mu’ayt would spit on his face and Abu Lahab ordered both his sons to divorce their wives, who were the daughters of Prophet ﷺ. It is unfathomable to imagine the agony this would have caused to the Prophet ﷺ, given that they were forcibly divorced for no fault of theirs, except that they believed in the True Message that their beloved father had come with.
One of the sons of Abu Lahab, Atiba, became a constant source of irritation for the Prophet ﷺ and once, he even spat on the blessed face of the Prophet ﷺ. Umm Jameel, the wife of Abu Lahab, was no less in her enmity and used to scatter prickly bits of wood over the path that the Prophet ﷺ would pass. How much this would have pained him, coming as it does from his own uncle’s wife?
When his companions had to migrate to Abyssinia, his persecution only worsened. Uqba bin Abi Mu’ayt once saw the Prophet ﷺ praying and waited for him to place his head on the ground. He then placed his foot on the Prophet’s neck and pressed down with all his weight until the eyes of the Prophet bulged. Once when he was surrounded by a mob on all sides, and Uqba bin Abi Ma’ayt caught hold of a cloth hanging from around his neck and began choking the Prophet ﷺ until Abu Bakr had to rescue him.
He and his companions were subjected to social boycott and it was devastating. Three years of near starvation and hardship made their life miserable. Then, the uncle and wife, the two closest comforters and supports of Rasulullah ﷺ, passed away in the same year. It was a double blow to Rasulullah ﷺ, sorrow after sorrow and this year came to be known in Islamic history as the “Year of sorrow.” Even small acts of unkindness stung him more than ever as he grieved over his bereavement.
Our Prophet’s journey to Taif was met with not only disappointment but also with bruises all over his blessed feet so much so that it began to crack and bleed. He considered the day of Taif as the worst day of his life. Yet, Rasulullah ﷺ did not seek revenge against the people of Taif. Instead he wanted Allah to guide them to Islam. The way he conducted himself during his visit to Taif has got enormous number of lessons for us to ponder upon. His steadfastness, his resolute faith and trust in Allah, his ability to forgive those who harmed him, his compassion and mercy to the street urchins who pelted stones at him such as his feet bled, his supplication to Allah seeking solely the good pleasure of Allah, his strategy employed in Dawah when he met Addas at an orchard – are all something that we should take heed of. He was bruised yet he was not down.
He was forced to leave his homeland, his house and his family. When he reached the outskirts of the blessed city of Makkah, he looked back emotionally and said: “You are the most beloved to Allah among Allah’s lands and you are also the most beloved to me among Allah’s lands. Were it not that the idolaters have driven me out from you, I would have never left you.” His subsequent stay in Cave Thawr for three nights with his beloved companion and the arduous and circuitous journey that they both undertook to protect the Deen of Islam did have their own share of hardships. Living in a globalised world and enjoying the comforts of the means of travel, the pain of migration and hardship of separation from one’s family are difficult to fathom for most of us!
Even after his migration, he had to face battle after battle, thrust on him by the enemies of Islam, Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khybar, Tabuk, to name a few. His beloved uncle Hamza was brutally assassinated in a gruesome manner, in the Battle of Uhud and his body parts were mutilated. This pained him so much that he did not want to see eye to eye with Hinda, the person who was responsible for his uncle’s death, even after he forgave her. Is this not a classical example of repelling evil by doing good, as the Qur’ān exhorts us?
His beloved, pure and chaste wife, Ayesha was character assassinated. When this evil rumour was spread like a wild fire by the hypocrites of Madinah, he had to wait for revelation from Allah to exonerate her and to attest to her chastity through the verses of Sura An-Noor. His heart was burdened with grief till then yet he never chided her. What a beautiful character he had displayed during the most trying times!
After the Conquest of Khaybar, he was even poisoned by the Jews when they tried to kill him through the wife of Sallam bin Mishkam, who sprinkled the shoulder of a roasted goat literally with poison and presented it to him. Although he was subsequently protected by Allah, he chose to forgive his enemies who had tried to kill him! Is this not repelling evil by doing good unto such evil doers?
Even during his final days of his life in this world, he was subjected to the severest of illnesses. His pain intensified, he often kept losing consciousness and his health deteriorated so much so that he sent word to Abu Bakr to lead the prayer. Fatimah was so distressed at her father’s agony that she cried: “O the pains of my dear father!” The Prophet ﷺ replied: After this day, your father will suffer no pain.” These words truly reflect the amount of suffering and hardship that he faced throughout his life.
If this was how the noblest of the human beings to walk on the face of the earth had to face hardships, one after another, till he breathed his last, then would it be sane to think and wish that we could lead a trial-free life in this world. To this effect, Allah asks a rhetorical question in Sura Al-Ankaboot: “Do people think that they will be left alone because they say “We believe” and will not be tested?” (29:2) This is a rebuke in the form of a question, meaning that Allah will inevitably test His believing servants according to their level of faith.
An authentic hadith states: “The people most severely tested are the Prophets, then the righteous, then the next best, and the next best. A man will be tested in accordance with the degree of religious commitment, the stronger his religious commitment, the stronger his test.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer) The entire suffering any one of us undergoes will turn pale in comparison to the quantum of the suffering undergone by our Prophet ﷺ.
May Allah help us overcome the hardships and trials that He subjects us to and to never despair of His Ever-encompassing Mercy and to remove the hardships of all those who are suffering around the globe. Ameen.