The environment Muhammad was raised

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In what kind of an environment was Muhammad raised as a prophet?

Every period of human history during which people associate partners with God in any way – whether by worshipping idols and ascribing to them some divine functions or by deifying some persons or attributing creativity to nature and material causes – is wholly dark. This is so because when belief in the Unity of God is removed from the heart, the mind and soul ‘darken’, all standards change and things and the world are judged from false points of view. This moral, spiritual, social and even economic and scientific state of a community is defined by the Qur’an as jahiliya, and described as follows:

Or like darkness on a deep sea obscure, covered by a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layers of darkness one upon the other. When he holds out his hand, well-nigh he cannot see it. And he for whom God has assigned no light, for him there is no light. (al-Nur, 24:40)

I do not like describing falsehood. Besides, it is wrong for me to describe falsehood where the truth may be described. In the words of God, What is there, after truth, but misguidance? (Yunus, 10:32). However, in order to clarify the subject, I feel it necessary to say a few words concerning the pre-Islamic era, that is, the age of jahiliya.

The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, appeared at a time when people had no knowledge of the true religion and therefore worshipped a great number of idols. As stated in the Qur’an:

They were serving, apart from God, what hurts them not, neither profits them, and they say: These are our intercessors with God. (Yunus, 10:18)

They shaped idols of stones, earth, bread, even cheese, and then said: ‘These are our intercessors with God.’ They were so degraded in thoughts and morals that, as reported by Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, they would sit at meal-time, cut their idols into pieces and eat them. The only excuse offered was that they were following in the steps of their forefathers.

When it is said to them, ‘Follow what God has sent down’, they say, ‘No; but we follow that wherein we found our fathers.’ (al-Baqara, 2.170)

They buried their daughters alive. In the words of the holy Qur’an:

When any of them is given the good tidings of a girl, his face is darkened and he chokes inwardly, as he hides himself from the people because of the evil of the good tidings that have been given to him, whether he shall preserve her in humiliation, or trample her into the dust. (al-Nahl, 16.58–9)

Women were despised, not only in pre-Islamic Arabia but also in the Roman and Sassanid lands. The Qur’an openly declares that they will be questioned concerning this:

When the female (infant) buried alive is questioned – for what crime was she killed? (al-Takwir, 81.8-9)

One day, after Muhammad’s declaration of his Prophethood, one of his Companions came to him and narrated what he had done with his little daughter:

O Messenger of God, I had a daughter. One day I told her mother to dress her as I was taking her to her uncle – the poor mother knew what this meant, but she could do nothing but obey and weep. My wife dressed the infant, who was rejoicing at the news of going to the uncle. I took her near a well, and told her to look down into the well. While she was looking into the well, I kicked her into it. While she was rolling down, she was shouting ‘Dad, Dad!’

As he was recounting this, the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, sobbed as if he had lost one of his nearest kinsfolk.1

Hearts had become hard. Every day a pit was dug in the corner of the desert for an innocent girl to be buried. Human beings were more brutal and cruel than hyenas. The powerful crushed the weak. It was a time when brutality was taken for humanity, cruelty received approval, the bloodthirsty were exalted, bloodshed considered a virtue, adultery and fornication were more common than legal marriages. Family structure had been destroyed.

This dark period would be followed by Islam, and, besides eradicating all other evils, God would also declare in the Qur’an concerning infanticide:

Do not slay your children because of the fear of poverty: We provide you and them. (al-An‘am, 6.151)

1. Darimi, Sunan, Muqaddima, 7-8.

Were the ancestors of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, devoted to a certain religion during the interregnum – the period when no Prophet came?

There are traditions that they acted according to what survived of the religion of the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, which continued in some particular persons under the veils of heedlessness and spiritual darkness. It is certain that the members of an illustrious lineage beginning with the Prophet Abraham and resulting in God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, cannot have been indifferent to the light of the true religion, or been overcome by the darkness of unbelief. Besides, those who lived in the interregnum will not be called to account for their faults in the secondary commandments of religion and, as stated in the verse, We do not torment unless We send a Messenger9, be exempt from Hellfire. Further, according to Imam Shafi‘i and Imam Ash‘ari, they will be saved from the torment of Hell even if they were in unbelief, unaware of the pillars of faith, since God holds His servants responsible for His Commandments only after He has sent a Messenger and, what is more, responsibility is established after people become aware of belief and Divine Commandments. So, because the passage of time had covered the religions of the preceding Prophets, the people of the interregnum can not be held to account for not following those religions. How-ever, those who carried out some commandments of those religions consciously or unconsciously will be rewarded, while the others who did not will not be tormented.

Did a Prophet appear among the ancestors of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings?

It is not traditionally certain whether there appeared one after the Prophet Ishmael, upon him be peace. There were however, two Prophets named Khalid ibn Sinan and Hanzala, but not from the lineage of God’s Messenger. Nevertheless, the couplet of Qa’b ibn Luayy, who was from that lineage,

The Prophet Muhammad will appear in the time of heedlessness,

He will give tidings, in all of which he is truthful.

seems to be miraculous and therefore belonging to a Prophet. Imam Rabbani, based on both evidence and spiritual discovery, said: ‘Many Prophets appeared in India, but, since no one or only a few followed most of them, they either did not become famous or were not recognized as Prophets.’

Thus, from the viewpoint of that illustrious Imam, some Prophets resembling those of India, might have appeared among the lineage of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings.

What is the most true and acceptable opinion concerning the belief of the parents of God’s Messenger and of his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib?

I have had no books, except the Qur’an, with me for ten years, and I do not have enough spare time to make a thorough search in the books of Hadith to find the most acceptable opinion on matters like this one, relating to the details of the religion. What I can here say on this point is that the parents of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, are among the people of belief and Paradise. God Almighty will certainly not hurt the feelings of His most noble beloved of filial affection towards his parents.

If you ask why they were not allowed to live long enough to witness the Prophethood of God’s Messenger to be able to believe in him, I will give this answer:

In order to please the filial feelings of His most noble beloved, God Almighty may have willed not to make his parents indebted to him. Since His Compassion required, in order to please both His noble beloved and his parents, that the parents of God’s Messenger should not be reduced from parental rank to the position of being his children-in-religion, and that they should only be indebted to His Lordship, not to any created being, God Almighty did not make the grandfather and parents of God’s Messenger among his community, but He granted to them the virtues, merits and happiness shared by the community. If, for example, a noble marshal’s father, who has the rank of a captain, enters the presence of his son, that son will be under the influence of paradoxical feelings. So, the monarch does not include his father in the company of the marshal, who is his honourable aide-de-camp, because of his compassion for him.

What is the most accurate opinion about the belief of Abu Talib, the uncle of God’s Messenger?

The Shi‘ites are of the opinion that he believed, while the majority of the Ahl al-Sunna hold the opposite. It occurs to me, however, that Abu Talib sincerely loved God’s Messenger for his per-son, not on account of his Messengership. That sincere and solemn love and affection will certainly not go to nothing. Even if Abu Talib would go to Hell because he did not actually believe for such feelings as shame and tribal zeal, not for wilful denial and sheer obstinacy, God Almighty could create a particular paradise in Hell for him in reward for his good deeds, as he loved God’s noble Messenger and protected and supported him. As He sometimes makes people live in mid-winter a weather of spring or even creates spring in some places, or He changes a dungeon into a palace for some by means of sleep, He may change a particular abode in Hell into a particular paradise.

Knowledge is with God. No one but God knows the Unseen.

Glory be to You! We have no knowledge save what You have taught us. Surely, You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.

 

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