Delivered at the programme held in celebration of the Best of Creations at the AhlulBayt Islamic Centre in Ottery.
This evening we first listened to a beautiful lecture delivered by Sheikh Hashim Khumalo in Xhosa in which he commented that it’s been a while since we enjoyed a lecture about Prophet Muhammad (sawa) in the Xhosa language and that we should enjoy the lecture even though we do not fully understand Xhosa due to the personality to whom the lecture is dedicated. This is very true considering the comments that Sheikh Shaheed made in his follow up lecture wherein he highlighted that we stuck in a Eurocentric world where we have come to believe and accept that the use of languages like English should be our default language though it is only convenient for a certain sector of our society. In tonight’s lecture wherein I will discuss the Haqiqat or Reality/Truth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) we will see that this approach must change as Prophet Muhammad (sawa) belongs to all and is loved by the entire Universe and not just a certain sector of society.
Let me say by way of introduction that the Haqiqat or Reality/Truth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) causes us to have unmatched Love for him and human nature dictates that a lover is always seeking to communicate with his beloved and about his beloved. In relation to Prophet Musa (a.s), Almighty Allah has included in the Quran a conversation that Allah has with Prophet Musa (a.s) wherein Allah asks in
Surah Taha Verse 17:
وَمَا تِلْكَ بِيَمِينِكَ يَامُوسَي
“What is that in your right hand O Musa?”
At this point it should be noted that Almighty Allah knows what it is and that those who are familiar with Eloquence in language (Balaaghat) say that one would expect a short concise answer which would simply say “a stick” as Prophet Musa (a.s) had his stick/staff in his hand. So even though Almighty Allah knows what is in Prophet Musa (a.s)’s right hand, He still initiates a communication with one of his beloved Prophets. Now when Prophet Musa (a.s) sees this opportunity to communicate with His Beloved (i.e. Allah), instead of giving a concise answer of “a stick/staff”, he gives what seems to be an elaborate, yet mundane sounding answer when he says in Surah Taha Verse 18:
قَالَ هِيَ عَصَايَ أَتَوَكَّؤُا عَلَيْهَا وَأَهُشُّ بِهَا عَلَي غَنَمِي وَلِيَ فِيهَا مَاَرِبُ اُخْرَي
“It is my stick/staff, I lean upon it, and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep; and I have other uses for it.”
These 3 additional bits of information that Prophet Musa (a.s) includes about his stick is nothing but an excuse to prolong his communication with his Beloved!
Now there are 2 major dates recorded for the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), the one being 12 Rabi-ul Awwal (in Sunni resources and some Shia books) and 17 Rabi-ul Awwal (primarily in Shia resources). On the basis of seeking an excuse to remember our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sawa), we celebrate both dates. May I say further that if other dates were recorded, then we would have celebrated those dates as well!
Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) is More Than Just a Human Being
So 17 Rabi-ul Awwal is the date of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa), i.e. the date that he came into this material world through his mother Amina (a.s). But what is the Truth/Reality of his birth? Who is Rasulullah (sawa)? And what is the meaning of his birth on this night? Lots of people consider his birth on this night to be the same as the birth of any other baby. However, the approach of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) to the birth of the Prophet (sawa) reveals a very different outlook to it just being an ordinary birth of a human being.
In a ziyarah (manner of greeting and saluting) that is recited for Rasulullah (sawa) that was taught by the Ahlul Bait (a.s), we learn many subtle points about the Haqiqat (Reality/Truth) of Rasulullah (sawa) and I share with you some extracts thereof this evening to get a glimpse thereof. While the ziyarah is a form of salawaat, it is actually an introduction into the Haqiqat of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
It says “O Allah send Your Complete Blessings and Benedictions, Your Most Honourable greetings on Muhammad, Your Slave, Your Messenger, Your Witness, Your Trustworthy one, Your Warner,….who is the Prophet of Mercy,…..who was the First Prophet who took the Covenant but was the Last Prophet who was sent to this world….”
Just this portion is filled with deep meaning. Prophet Muhammad (sawa), though being the Last Prophet who was sent to this world, in Reality is the First Prophet who took the covenant with Almighty Allah. This is the Haqiqatti Muhammadiyya (Reality/Truth of Muhammad sawa) that needs to be explored.
So though Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was born into this world long after Prophets Adam (a.s), Ibrahim (a.s), Dawood (a.s), Musa, (a.s), Isa (a.s), etc., it must be realised that in reality Prophet Muhammad (sawa) had 2 births, the one in this world on a night like tonight is his “Bashari” birth or birth as a human being and the other is the birth of his Nur (Light)/Truth/Reality/Fact which occurred a very long time ago when basically nothing existed and thus to indicate this Prophet Muhammad (sawa) himself says “I was already a Prophet when Adam (a.s) was still between clay and water.”
Further on the Ziyarah explains about the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) when it says “whom You have immersed in the Ocean of Virtue, and in Lofty Ranks, and Elevated Status, and the Exalted Position, and placed his Nur in Pure Loins of Men, and moved it to Immaculate Wombs, out of Your Benevolence to him, and out of Your Compassion to him….”
These words describe the journey of the Nur of Muhammad (sawa) from the time it was first created to being transferred through various personalities through the ages. This Nur of Muhammad (sawa) is thus a manifestation of the Light and Love of Allah to us.
So far you see that this understanding of the Nur of Muhammad (sawa) is very different to the one wherein people insist he is “Bashar” or Human being like us. Of course he is a human being, but what a human being is he!! (Bashar kayfa bashar!!)
The Ziyarah continues “You have appointed safeguards to shield and protect him, You assigned out of Your Omnipotence a protective lookout over him, You protected him away from the impurities of adultery and the defects of fornication.” This is saying that in the whole journey of the Nur of Muhammad (sawa) until it reached Amina (a.s), there was no haraam act that came into contact with his Nur and consequently it’s not possible for there having been any shirk committed in this vertical chain that the Nur of Muhammad (sawa) descended through. This Nur travelled until Allah raised the sights of his slaves towards it and revived the dead lands and removed the darkness by the Light of his birth and Milad and dressed His Holy Sanctity in the Garments of Brightness through him (as the ziyarah says).
There is absolutely no doubt that he was a human being. However, this is because in the logic of Quran it is not possible to convey the message of Allah to us except through a human being which resembles us physically. But Prophet Muhammad (sawa) does not only have to interact and communicate with us human beings, he also has to communicate with Allah and vice versa and thus has this Spiritual Reality we referred to.
Those who do not understand this sometimes say we go overboard in speaking about the Reality of Muhammad (sawa) and turn him into a God. But can one really go overboard in speaking about the Greatness of Rasulullah (sawa)?? Who thinks of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as God?? We all believe he is the Perfect Servant of Allah. Praising Muhammad (sawa) is actually praising the Creator of Muhammad (sawa). Thus thikr and Remembrance of Muhammad (sawa) is Remembrance of Allah and Praise and Hamd/Madh of Muhammad (sawa) is Praise of Allah.
Sheikh Shaheed Mathee made reference in his speech to the phenomenon that we witness in the world wherein people feel they have the right to insult the Personality of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) in cartoons and writings, etc. And he then said that they unfortunately get the fuel to do this from our history books which reflect at times that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was a normal human being who had a bad side to him. I agree that there are some strange references of this nature in the books of history but want to submit to you that the reason for this is that those people were very insistent that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) was a human being LIKE US! So if we lie, he can lie, if we forget, he can forget, if we make mistakes, he can make mistakes. They forget all the verses of the Quran which elevates his status like in Surah Najm and Surah Qalam, etc.
Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as “Witness”
So far I have explained the portion of the ziyarat which says Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is a “Slave and Messenger”, but now in conclusion I want to elaborate on Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as a “Witness.”
What is a witness in our daily terminology? In very simple language it is when you want to prove someone is innocent or guilty, you bring a witness to testify. Surah Ahzab Verse 45 says:
آ أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ اِنَّآ أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِداً وَمُبَشّـِراً وَنَذِيراً
“O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a Witness, and as a bearer of good news and a warner.”
Again in Surah Fath Verse 8 it says:
إِنَّا أرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِداً وَمُبَشِّراً وَنَذِيراً
“Indeed We have sent you as a Witness, and as a bearer of good news and a warner.”
And then in Surah Muzammil Verse 15 it says:
إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَيْكُمْ رَسُولًا شَاهِدًا عَلَيْكُمْ كَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا إِلَىٰ فِرْعَوْنَ رَسُولًا
“Indeed We have sent to you a Messenger, to be a witness over you.”
All of these verses are saying that the Rasool (sawa) is a Witness. On the Day of Resurrection when there will be a court, Allah will bring a long list of witnesses who will testify for us or against us before we are judged to enter Heaven or Hell. Quran says our body parts will bear witness against us, Allah will bear witness against us, the 2 angels on our shoulders will bear witness against us, the earth will bear witness against us and you will bear witness against yourself (even if you were a kaafir)! But in this long list of witnesses we can understand how they become witnesses as they are all present when we do a particular action. Now in the list of witnesses, the Quran says on numerous occasions that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is also a witness. The question then arises “why is the Messenger also a witness and what type of witness is he?” The following 2 verses will shed light on this question:
Surah Nisa Verse 41:
فَكَيْفَ إِذَا جِئْنَا مِن كُلِّ أمَّةٍ بِشَهِيدٍ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ عَلَى هَـؤُلاء شَهِيدًا
“So how shall it be when We bring from every nation a witness and We bring you as a witness over them?”
That is on the Day of Judgement in the Hereafter, Allah will bring a witness from every nation and Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as a witness over all of them! How can a Prophet be a witness over his whole nation? Does he know everybody? And to what extent is he required to know everybody to be a witness over them?
It should be emphasised that when you are a witness in a court in this world, one simply provides evidence in relation to what one has observed with one’s eyes or senses regarding the external action of a person. But in the case of Prophets, they will be a witness for or against their followers in the next world. Now the Judgement of actions in the Hereafter is not only based on the external shape of one’s action, but is also more importantly based on the internal reality of one’s action, i.e. it is based on one’s intention. So a Prophet is required to have access to this inner knowledge of EACH of his followers to be able to be a witness for them in the hereafter.
This seems even more complicated at face value when Prophets like Musa (a.s), Dawood (a.s), etc. has already passed away from this world and have followers who come after him. If they are normal human beings like us, how do they have access to this level of hidden information about EVERYTHING we do, in public or in private, during their lifetime and after they have passed away. So if your Prophet is just a human being like anybody, how can he have the power to be a witness over his whole nation and testify for or against them?
And then most importantly, our Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is a witness over ALL nations and is a witness over the actions of ALL previous Prophets themselves. To be able to do this, what level of awareness does he not have to know the finer details of the intention of the infallibles like Prophets?? Allamah Tabatabai thus calls our Prophet Muhammad (sawa) the WITNESS of WITNESSES!!
Surah Tauba Verse 105 says
وَقُلِ اعْمَلُوا فَسَيَرَى اللّهُ عَمَلَكُمْ وَرَسُولُهُ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ
“And say, Go on working, Allah will see your conduct, and His Messenger, and the Believers (as well)”.
This verse says Allah and His Messenger can see your actions, AND even some Believers have that ability!! Thus there are ahadith of the Prophet (sawa) which say the deeds of EVERY person is presented to him on every Thursday, or some ahadith even say EVERY day. This is the Haqiqat of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) i.e. on one level he has exposure at ONE TIME to the actions of ALL human beings.
If you understand the meaning of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) as a “Witness” you realise he is not only Witness of our actions but is Witness of the Truth, the Realities of the Universe, a Witness over ALL creation and all its levels and over all previous Prophets. So in this whole world, if there is someone who is experiencing the Realities of all Creation, it’s none other than the Haqiqatti Muhammadiyya (sawa). This is the station of Witness and there are many stations which Prophet Muhammad (sawa) enjoys which is the reason that he is brought as a witness over all nations. With this understanding we can NEVER exaggerate the Praise of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).
I thus congratulate the whole world on this auspicious occasion of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (sawa).