Awaited prophet

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Were there some in Arabia who expected the coming of a prophet?

Owing to the numerous predictions of his coming, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was awaited by all of humankind. In that dark era of human history, the whole of creation was waiting for one who would destroy the order of unbelief and breathe new life into the world. Judaism and Christianity, being God-revealed religions in origin, had no more to offer man-kind. Everyone was expecting him, especially those who had studied the old books without prejudice. Among them was Bahira, whose story we mentioned in the previous chapter. In Makka itself, there were many in expectation of him. Zayd ibn ‘Amr, the uncle of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, was one of the foremost among them. He had rejected the worship of idols, was leading a pure life and used to address people in this way:

There is no good in the idols you worship. I know of a religion which will soon be taught and spread. It will be proclaimed no later than a few years from now, but I do not know whether I will live long enough to witness it.

The same Zayd, according to ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a, gave a detailed description of the expected Prophet:

I am expecting a Prophet, who is about to come. He will appear among the descendants of Ishmael and the grandsons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib. He is of middle height, neither too tall nor too short. His hair is neither curly nor straight. His name is Ahmad. His birthplace is Makka. However, his people will force him to leave Makka, and he will emigrate to Yathrib (Madina), where his religion will spread. I have travelled from place to place in quest of the religion of Abraham. However, all the Jewish and Christian scholars I spoke to advised me to wait for him. He is the Last Prophet; no Prophet will come after him. I may not live long enough to see him, but I have believed in him.

At the end of his introduction of the Last Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, Zayd made this request to ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a: ‘If you live long enough to see him, say my greetings to him.’

Years passed before the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, declared his Prophethood and ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a, after having declared his faith to the Prophet, explained what Zayd had told him, and conveyed his greetings to him. Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, returned his greetings and added: I saw Zayd in Paradise, trailing his robes.1

Among the people who lived the inward anguish of seeking the truth was Waraqa ibn Nawfal. He was a Christian scholar and a paternal cousin of Khadija, wife of Muhammad, upon him be peace. When the first Revelation came to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, Khadija went to Waraqa and told him what had happened. Waraqa replied: ‘Muhammad is a truthful man. What he saw is that which occurs at the beginning of Prophethood. The being who came to him is Gabriel, who also came to Moses and Jesus. Muhammad will be a Prophet. If I live long enough to witness his declaration of Prophethood, certainly I will believe in him and support him.’2

One of those seeking the Last Prophet was ‘Adbullah ibn Salam. The Jews had great confidence in this scholar, whom they called ‘the lord, son of a lord’. Such was his greatness that he could match even the greatest companions like Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and God would consider his testimony to the Qur’an as equal to the testimony of a people in the verse:

Say: ‘Have you considered? If it be from God, and you unbelieve in it, and a witness from among the Children of Israel bears witness to its like, and believes, and you wax proud, God guides not the people of the evildoers.’ (al-Ahqaf, 46.10)

This great Companion describes how he found him:

When God’s Messenger emigrated to Madina, I went to see him, as did everyone else. He was sitting amidst a group of people when I went in, and saying: Give food to others and offer them a greeting! His speech was so sweet and his face so charming that I said to myself: ‘I swear by God that one with such a face cannot lie’. Without delay I declared my belief in him.3

Those who sincerely sought him, found him; and whoever seeks him sincerely will certainly find him.

Those who sincerely sought him, found him; and whoever seeks him sincerely will certainly find him. But those who have not been able to give up obstinacy and escape the temptations of the evil-commanding self, have drowned in unbelief and hypocrisy. Mughira ibn Shu’ba narrates:

One day I was with Abu Jahl in Makka. God’s Messenger came near us and invited us to accept Islam. Abu Jahl rebuked him, saying: ‘If you are making this invitation so that we should testify before God in the other world that you performed your mission of Prophethood, we will do it. Leave us then, O man, to ourselves!’

When God’s Messenger left us, I asked Abu Jahl whether he did not truly admit the Prophethood of Muhammad. ‘I admit it,’ replied Abu Jahl and then added: ‘I know that he is truly a Prophet. Nevertheless, we have so far competed with the Hashimites in everything. They have been boasting of providing food and water to the pilgrims. Now, if they begin to boast of having a Prophet, I will not be able to endure it at all.’4

This is typical of the thoughts cherished by the Abu Jahls of the past and the present. Free-thinking persons who are not prejudiced and whose will-power is not paralyzed cannot help but believe in Islam and God’s Messenger. In this respect, God says to His holy Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings:

We know well that their talk grieves you; in truth they deny not you, but it is the signs of God that the evildoers condemn. (al-An‘am, 6.33)

1. I. Kathir, al-Bidaya, 2.223.

2. Bukhari, Bad’u l-Wahy, 3.

3. I. Hanbal, 5.451.

4. Kanz al-‘Ummal, 14.39-40; I. Kathir, 3.83.

 

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