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How did Prophet Muhammad Achieve Reform?

18100 2007/11/08 2024/06/23
Article translated to : العربية Español


reform has become today’s fashionable issue. everyone is demanding reform although many are not ready for its consequences. to those, mr. amr khaled presents the example of a reform pioneer through the suffering of prophet muhammad (peace be upon him) during his 23 years of mission, as an inspiration to those seeking reform while resting in their cozy chairs. amr khaled reviews the phases of struggle and suffering of muhammad while he called upon people to embrace the islamic faith. he also discusses the true concept of reform, and how the prophet predicted from the beginning that it would not be achieved quickly or easily.

first module of reform

amr khaled: let us take a look at verse 81 of surah 3 of the qur’an, “the house of imran”: “allah made a covenant with the prophets: ‘if, after what i have vouchsafed to you of the scriptures and wisdom, there comes to you a messenger confirming the truth of what you have in your possession, you shall believe in him and you shall help him. do you,’ said he, ‘affirm this and accept the obligation i lay upon you in these terms?’ they answered: ‘we do affirm it.’ said he: ‘then bear witness, and i am also a witness to you’”. (the holy qur’an, 3:81)

the almighty allah gathered all the prophets and told every one of them, “if muhammad was sent to you while you were still alive, you must follow and assist him.” all the prophets agreed to that and allah bore witness. this holy verse shows the dignity and position of muhammad, and that achieving reform in this world is through following his message and teachings.

religion of hard tasks

before receiving revelation, muhammad used to seclude himself in the cave of hiraa to meditate. what was the reason for this? it was a form of worship muhammad practiced between the age of thirty and forty, during which he would meditate upon the greatness of allah’s creation. this paved the way toward prophethood.

reaching the cave of hiraa is rather difficult and exhausting, even for a young man. in this cave, one can see a great amount of the sky, as well as the holy ka’bah.

one night, while he was meditating in the cave, the angel gabriel came to muhammad. on this occasion the angel did not come to him in the form of a human but in its true angelic form. muhammad recalls the experience: “while i was in the cave at night, the angel came to me. he took me and held me very tight until i thought i was going to die for sure. when he released me, i was very exhausted. he ordered me to read, to which i replied, ‘i cannot read’, so he held me again very tight until i thought i was going to die for sure again. again he released me and said, ‘read’ and again i replied ‘i cannot read’, so for the third time he held me very tight and shook me hard until i thought it was certain death and said, ‘read’. i asked, ‘what should i read?’ he said, ‘read in the name of your lord who has created”. (96:1)

the first words of the prophet’s message show that islam is a religion of knowledge and reform.

it was a hard start, for islam had difficult tasks aiming to reform humanity until judgment day. the message began with power and strength, in the same way the almighty allah told zacharia, john and jesus to, “hold fast to the book with all your strength” (19:12). the way gabriel held muhammad when entrusting him with the divine message is symbolic to each one of us. in this way the almighty allah tells us: "you are all bearers of this message, so hold fast to it with all your strength".

muhammad ran down the mountain heading home, calling out to his wife, “cover me! cover me!” from that day, muhammad carried the message and lived by it. his nights were spent praying to allah and his days were spent calling upon people to embrace the new faith. verses of the qur’an were revealed to him ordering him to wake up, guide people, and keep praying to allah, outlining the first rule of reform: “o thou enshrouded one! keep awake in prayer at night…” (73:1-2), “o you enfolded [in your coverings], arise and warn!” (74:1-2) and “when you have completed your task, resume your toil…” (94:7), namely devotion and dedication in worship. these verses were some of the first revelations muhammad received.

muhammad’s route was clearly defined. he was sent to reform the earth—this was the path he took. to follow it, one must work toward reform.

when the prophet first began calling people to the new faith, his wife khadijah asked him to rest a while. he replied, “the time of rest has passed, khadijah”. 3 years passed and only 4 believers followed him: khadijah, his friend abu bakr, his servant zayd ibn harithah and a little boy called ali ibn abi talib, who was also muhammad’s cousin. those 4 were the first muslims. later on, abu bakr brought 7 new followers to the faith. those 7 were all among the “ten promised with paradise”.

muhammad began regular meetings with them at the house of al arqam ibn abi al arqam. he showed them the ways of islam and taught them patience, sacrifice, and trusting the almighty allah. the stories of the prophets joseph and hud descended upon him to teach him and his followers patience and endurance. the companions of the prophet started to gather round him more and more for 3 years. then, the verse was revealed to “proclaim what you are bidden” (15:94) and announce islam.

muhammad climbed the hill of as safa, the most well-known elevation in the whole of makkah, to announce islam to its people at a time when 360 idols were placed around the ka’bah. he felt no fear or shame. he addressed all the tribes of makkah, all of whom gathered in front of him: “if i told you that there is an army behind this mountain getting ready to attack you, would you believe me?” he asked them. they replied, “of course we would, we have never known you to tell lies.” he said, “then hear this, i was sent to warn you against great suffering”. it was then that the abuse, torture and sacrifices began.

forms of abuse

what is the forms of abuse muhammad had to endure?”

 they used to throw sand on him so that when he went home he would be covered in dust. his daughter zaynab cried once when she saw him in that state. “don’t cry my daughter”, he said, “allah is supporting your father”. he was certain that reform was on its way. one day they threw camel’s guts on him while he was prostrating in prayer. he remained in prostration, perhaps waiting for one of the muslims to pass by and take the dirt off his back. his daughter fatimah was walking by when she saw him. with tears in her eyes, she removed the dirt from his back. he said to her, “don’t cry my daughter, the almighty allah will honour his religion and grant your father victory”.

another time, uqbah ibn abi mu’ayt took off his robe and wrapped it forcefully around muhammad’s neck, strangling him until he fell on his knees in pain. many other times they called the prophet names, calling him “muthammam”, meaning “the dispraised one”, or “the blamed one”. all the companions of the prophet were deeply angered by this, to which he would laugh and say, “why are you upset? they are insulting muthammam and i am muhammad!”

strengthening the prophet’s companions with sacrifices

as muhammad continued his mission, the hostility and abuse reached higher levels. many were killed, many died under torture and others were blinded. an old lady from among the believers named sumayya was brutally tortured by abu jahl, the prophet’s most hardened opponent. muhammad witnessed this torture but was powerless to stop it. he offered sumayya and her family words of support: “have patience, yasser’s family, you are promised paradise”. abu jahl became infuriated by her tremendous patience and endurance as she told him over and over, “allah is one! allah is the only one!” and killed her with a spear in her private parts.

the prophet knew that reform would not be accomplished overnight but after years to come, and indeed, 23 years later it was achieved.

sumayya died, her husband yasser was killed and her son ammar was beaten and skinned. the unbelievers kidnapped khabbab ibn al aratt, tore off his clothes and pushed him to the ground on charcoal stones heated with fire, until the charcoal was extinguished from the grease of his back. when they released him, he went to muhammad and pleaded with him, “will you not pray to allah to help us?” muhammad replied, “the almighty allah will grant his religion victory, but you are rushing. have patience”. nothing is accomplished overnight. it was sacrifices that strengthened the companions of the prophet.

no compromises

quraish, the ruling tribe in makkah who were the main opponents of muhammad, were now looking for a solution. they offered muhammad wealth, power and marriage to beautiful women. at one point utbah ibn rabi’ah was sent to make such proposals to the prophet. when he stopped talking the prophet asked him whether he had finished. “yes,” replied utbah. “then hear this,” muhammad said, and started reciting from “fussilat”, surah 41 of the qur’an. when he reached the verse that says, “but if they turn away, say: ‘i have given you warning of a thunderbolt, like the thunderbolt that struck [the tribes of] ad and thamud’”, utbah was struck with fear and panic, covering muhammad’s   mouth with his hands and saying, “i beg you in the name of our kinsfolk, say no more!”

no attempts at negotiation or compromise of this matter worked with muhammad, so instead they went to his uncle and protector abu talib, and asked him to keep his nephew away from them or else they would kill him. muhammad   said to his uncle in reply, “i swear to allah that even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand in return for leaving this message, i will not until allah grants us victory or i die first!” abu talib responded with unfailing support, “go my son and do what you wish”.

the quraish then resorted to isolating muhammad and his companions in a barren desert called the mountain pass of bani talib, boycotting them completely, to the extent that they eventually had to eat leaves to survive. khadijah insisted on joining them, even though the quraish were willing to spare her. they stayed there for 3 years until the boycott agreement was finally annulled. it was an experience that strengthened their resolve immensely.

the epitome of forgiveness

the prophet’s wife khadijah and his uncle abu talib both died in the same year. only allah would be there for him now. muhammad devoted more and more effort to spreading his message. he walked all the way to al ta’if—more then 100 kilometres from makkah. after about 10 days in al ta’if muhammad was driven out by its people. they gathered in two lines, throwing stones and rocks at him. zayd ibn harithah was with muhammad, trying to protect him from the stones with his body. fifty year-old muhammad was dripping blood from his feet, when he met the angel of the mountains. “if you wish me to collapse these mountains on al ta’if i will do as you ask,” the angel said to muhammad, who replied, “no, may allah raise from their children a generation who worship him”.

muhammad pleaded to allah while returning from al ta’if: “to you, my lord, i complain of my weakness, lack of support and the humiliation i am made to receive. most compassionate and merciful! you are the lord of the weak, and you are my lord. to whom do you leave me? to a distant person who receives me with hostility? or to an enemy to whom you have given power over me? if you are not displeased with me, i do not care what i face. i would, however, be much happier with your mercy. i seek refuge in the light of your face by which all darkness is dispelled and both this life and the life to come are put on their right courses against incurring your wrath or being the subject of your anger. to you i submit, until i earn your pleasure. everything is powerless without your support”.

the almighty allah comforted his messenger and reassured him—one night, as muhammad was asleep, the angel gabriel woke him and took him on the night journey to jerusalem and the seven heavens, where he was shown his honorable status in the afterlife.

muhammad continued to preach his message and appealed to several arab tribes to accept the new faith but they refused. one of the tribesmen hit the prophet’s camel in its side so that it threw him off its back while the rest of them sat laughing at him. he preached his message to 26 different tribes with no success, but he never gave up. 

kol el nas: “was the exodus the answer to all these problems?”

amr khaled: yes, the exodus, or immigration to madinah was not an easy task. when muhammad was leaving makkah, he turned and looked back and said with tears in his eyes, “only allah knows that you are the most beloved of all places to my heart, and if it was not for your people driving me out i would never have left you”. the prophet’s companions left everything behind—their wealth and their homes—to immigrate with the prophet to madinah, and there, a new life began.

several battles were fought during this period. badr, uhud, hunayn and many others. at one time, during the battle of uhud, muhammad was badly injured and some of his teeth was broken.

after 13 years of oppression and abuse in makkah, followed by 10 years in madinah filled with struggles and battles, muhammad died at the age of 63, a strong and determined fighter. ali ibn abi talib, the prophet’s cousin, reported that, “whenever the battle got hard and rough, we used to gather behind muhammad for protection”. another time, during the battle of hunayn, the sword broke in muhammad’s hand and he called out to the fighters, “i am the prophet, this is the truth! i am the son of abdul muttalib!”, gathering all his followers around him and spurring them on… into the battle for reform.


allah’s peace and blessings be upon him

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