5 October 2021 (28th of Safar 1443)
Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider
Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town

Dearest brothers and sisters, the final day of Safar is upon us. These dates are amongst the most tragic periods of Islamic history. Firstly, on the 28th of Safar is the demise of Prophet Muhammad (saw) and the martyrdom of his grandson, Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (as). On the 29th of Safar, the martyrdom of the 8th Imam of the Ahlulbait (as), Ali ibn Musa ar-Ridha (as) takes place.

This is of course based on certain narrations. In the case of Imam Hasan (as), we also have historical accounts that he was killed on the 7th of Safar. The day the Prophet (saw) also left this world has differing opinions.

According to the Sunni school of thought, the Prophet (saw) passed away the same day he was born – the 12th of Rabiul-Awwal.

Alternatively, the teachings of the Ahlulbait (as) indicate the 28th of Safar 11 AH as the day the Prophet (saw) departed. While these days are utterly tragic, they were also critical in how the affairs of the Ummah were managed.


What can we truly say about the Prophet (saw)? Words fall short in capturing this magnanimous personality.

Allah (swt) himself praises him repeatedly. In the Quran, there are at least 100 verses that elucidate the greatness of the Prophet’s (saw) personality. Remarkably, the Prophet (saw) is addressed in a contrasting manner compared to other prophets. Usually, Allah (swt) addresses prophets by their names directly.

This can be in the form of giving instruction or providing divine knowledge – whatever the case may be. However, in communicating with Prophet Muhammad (saw), his name is rarely used. Most instances use his titles, such as ‘Nabi’ or ‘Rasul.’ This is done out of respect and acknowledgement of the Prophet’s (saw) extraordinary status.

As Imam Ali (as) has famously said: “I am a servant from the servants of the Messenger of Allah (swt).”

In other verses of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad (saw) is spoken alongside Almighty Allah (swt). One example of this is verse 59 of Surah Nisa’:

يا أَيُّهَا الَّذينَ آمَنوا أَطيعُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطيعُوا الرَّسولَ وَأُولِي الأَمرِ مِنكُم ۖ
“O you who have faith! Obey Allah and obey the Apostle and those vested with authority among you.”

As we have explained in previous discussions, the Prophet (saw) is the complete manifestation of the divine attributes.

Now that we have completed the introduction to our main discussion, I would like to look to draw your attention to the following verses. Almighty Allah (swt) describes the demeanour of Prophet Muhammad (saw) in verses 128 & 129 of Surah Tawbah:

لَقَد جاءَكُم رَسولٌ مِن أَنفُسِكُم عَزيزٌ عَلَيهِ ما عَنِتُّم حَريصٌ عَلَيكُم بِالمُؤمِنينَ رَءوفٌ رَحيمٌ
“There has certainly come to you an apostle from among yourselves. Grievous to him is your distress; he has deep concern for you and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.”

فَإِن تَوَلَّوا فَقُل حَسبِيَ اللَّهُ لا إِلٰهَ إِلّا هُوَ ۖ عَلَيهِ تَوَكَّلتُ ۖ وَهُوَ رَبُّ العَرشِ العَظيمِ
“But if they turn their backs [on you], say, ‘Allah is sufficient for me. There is no god except Him. In Him I have put my trust and He is the Lord of the Great Throne.”

In this verse Allah (swt) has counted 5 different qualities of the Prophet (saw) that he is introduced with.


لَقَد جاءَكُم رَسولٌ مِن أَنفُسِكُم
“There has certainly come to you an apostle from among yourselves…”

The first characteristic indicated is that the Prophet (saw) is from “amongst yourselves.” There are multiple different meanings that exegetes have derived from this verse:

  1. The Prophet (saw) is a human being just like any other person. He needs to sleep, eat, was born and will die one day.
  2. The Messenger (saw) is from amongst the inhabitants of Makkah. He is an Arab as any other person in that location.

While these interpretations are correct at a prima facie level, they cannot be the comprehensive meaning that was intended in this verse. This ayah is praising the Prophet (saw) as a special personality that is like no other. This means that the above two interpretations would be paradoxical to the unique station of the Prophet (saw). If he was just like one of you, then what is so special about him?

The existence of the Prophet (saw) has two faces – a dhaahir (exoteric) and batin (esoteric). The dhaahir is explained by the above two interpretations – he feels the exact same physical experiences that all human beings have.

However, there is an esoteric reality that is beyond being compared to any other human being. That reality of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) is centre of the universe. Whatever exists in this world stems from that light of the Prophet (saw). Despite this incredible status that he occupies which is like no other creation, the Prophet (saw) still is counted as being “among yourselves.” In this manner, the Prophet (saw) is a beautiful combination of this antithetical quality.

Along with this idea, some have used verse 157 of Surah A’raf which indicates that he was illiterate. In this manner, the Prophet (saw) was like any other person in Arabia as illiteracy was the norm in that time.

الَّذينَ يَتَّبِعونَ الرَّسولَ النَّبِيَّ الأُمِّيَّ الَّ
“Those who follow the Apostle, the uninstructed prophet (ummi)…”

Unfortunately, this is another misunderstanding of the Prophet’s (saw) personality. How can the man that taught the whole of humanity lack the ability to read and write? “Ummi” in this context does not mean illiterate, but rather an individual that never went to a school to learn to read and write.

Students of any science are first and foremostly taught to read and write, as these are the tools used to advance their knowledge as they grow older. Only once both skills are mastered are they able to move forward. In the case of Prophet Muhammad (saw), what he learnt did not require reading and writing! This was a completely different reality that he was receiving from Almighty Allah (swt).

To further explain this verse, Imam Jafar Sadiq (as) has said that the Prophet (saw) was always with the people. When strangers would enter Madina, they would not be able to distinguish the Prophet (saw) amongst his companions as he never made himself seem special and greater than others.


عَزيزٌ عَلَيهِ ما عَنِ عَزيزٌ عَلَيهِ ما عَنِتُّم حَريصٌ عَلَيكُم بِالمُؤمِنينَ رَءوفٌ رَحيمٌ
“…Grievous to him is your distress; he has deep concern for you and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.”

This is in fact a continuation of the first theme. The Prophet (saw) is so close to his people that whatever they are distressed over, he also grieves. This shows that the Prophet (saw) is not aloof from his people. In fact, he is more stressed and sadder over what befalls us than we are ourselves.

The Quran then uses the word “harees.” The most accurate translation of this word would be “greedy.” The Prophet (saw) is greedy for own benefit! He is so earnestly interested in our salvation. In verse 6 of Surah Kahf, Allah (swt) says that Prophet (saw) will lose his life out of his deep fear that people will not believe:

فَلَعَلَّكَ باخِعٌ نَفسَكَ عَلىٰ آثارِهِم إِن لَم يُؤمِنوا بِهٰذَا الحَديثِ أَسَفًا
“You are liable to imperil your life for their sake, if they should not believe this discourse, out of grief.”

Is this grief and concern only focussed towards the hereafter? The exegetes of the blessed verses from Surah Tawbah indicate that it is for both!

In the last part of verse 128, we see a most important phrase that is used. The “most kind and merciful to the believers” raises a stark question. What about the previous two characteristics of grief and concern? Who is this applicable to?

According to the great Allamah Tabatabai (ra), the grief and concern of Prophet Muhammad (saw) is for the whole of humanity. This is not specially reserved for the believers but is available for everyone. Similarly, his closeness is for the whole of humanity. However, he has special care towards the believers as indicated at the end of the verse.

بِالمُؤمِنينَ رَءوفٌ رَحيمٌ
“…and is most kind and merciful to the faithful.”

What is the difference between Rauf and Raheem? “Rauf” in this instance means that the Prophet (saw) is kind towards that group of believers that are obedient. Alternatively, “Raheem” is the compassion he shows towards those believers that are sinners.

Despite their wrongdoing, his mercy and kindness encompasses them as well.
It is truly sad to see that despite this lofty status that the Prophet (saw) is bestowed with, he is represented as a vicious person who longs for war and inflicting pain on others. This image is completely in contrast to what we have espoused from the verses discussed. The Prophet (saw), even when fighting against the enemies, did not struggle out of hatred of the opposition, but out of love.

This is also why that when the perfect chance of revenge in the form of Fathul Makkah presented itself, the Prophet (saw) opted to show forgiveness. This is the same community that would repeatedly insult him, who famously used to pour the faces of animals onto him while he prayed and killed so many of those who followed and loved him. Despite the horrible report card of these people, he decided to free them. Figures like Abu Sufyaan and others who were involved in every conspiracy from the very onset of the Prophet’s (saw) mission were granted amnesty.

Beyond that – Wahshi ibn Harb – the slave of Hind was shown mercy! The same individual that was famous for murdering Hamza ibn Abdul-Mutallib (ra) in the battle of Uhud, and later humiliated his body by slashing it further. Despite this heinous action, the Prophet (saw) did not kill him. Rather, he allowed him to leave the city of Makkah.


Despite all the great care the Prophet (saw) showed towards his nation at large and the believers in particular, Allah (swt) provides a very subtle hint as to what would arise later in history.

In the final verse 129 of Surah Tawbah, the Quran reads:

فَإِن تَوَلَّوا فَقُل حَسبِيَ اللَّهُ لا إِلٰهَ إِلّا هُوَ ۖ عَلَيهِ تَوَكَّلتُ ۖ وَهُوَ رَبُّ العَرشِ العَظيمِ
“But if they turn their backs [on you], say, ‘Allah is sufficient for me. There is no god except Him. In Him I have put my trust and He is the Lord of the Great Throne.”

With the immense love and sacrifice that the Prophet (s) had and the continuous effort he had actively engaged in, Almighty Allah (swt) puts the Prophet (saw) at ease. If his community still insists on abandoning him and his message, then his Lord is sufficient.

How unfortunate, that this warning from Allah (swt) became a reality even before the Prophet (saw) leaves this temporal world. In his last days while he was on his deathbed, he is disrespected in what would be the beginning of a long and painful history for him and his holy family (as).

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