Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lessons from the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him)

How is Dr. Tariq Ramadan's latest book different from the many other sirah books out there? The insightful lessons drawn from the stories of Prophet Muhammad’s life nd applied to ours today is what, to me, makes this book unique.

The book doesn’t overwhelm its readers with names and dates (as other more comprehensive history books sometimes do). Instead the author focuses on the morals and the teachings that can be derived from the different incidences. He truly delves deep into the Prophet’s character, at the same time subtly correcting common misconceptions about our beloved Messenger and his message (jihad, treatment of women, interfaith relations, etc…)

I whole-heartedly recommend this book to Muslims and non-Muslims, young and old alike.

Below are excerpts from passages that particularly touched and inspired me.

The Orphan and his Educator
One evening, he [Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)] heard that a wedding was to be celebrated in Mecca and he wanted to attend. On the way there, he reported, he suddenly felt tired; he lay down to rest and fell asleep. … The One, always present at his side, literally put him to sleep thus protecting him from his own instincts… This natural initiation into morals, remote from any obsession with sin and fostering of guilt, greatly influenced the kind of education the Prophet was to impart to his Companions. … this teaching method is most valuable and reminds us that a moral sense should be developed not through interdiction and sanction but gradually, gently, exactingly, understandingly, and at a deep level.

Incidence with the blind companion(referred to in Surah `Abasa)
Thus the prophet is a model for Muslims not only through the excellence of his behavior but also through the weakness of his humanity… No one must ever let power or social, economic, or political interests turn him or her away from other human beings, from the attention they deserve and the respect they are entitled to.


Battle of Badr
The Messenger’s authority in human affairs was neither autocratic nor restricted… The Prophet gave his Companions, women and men alike, the means and confidence to be autonomous, to dare to address and contradict him without his ever considering it as lack of respect for his status. Through this attitude he showed them deep respect for their intelligence and for their heart…

He [Prophet Muhammad] thus invited them [the Companions] to deny or despise nothing in their humanity and taught them that the core of the matter was achieving self-control. Spirituality means both accepting and mastering one’s instincts…

Battle of the Moat
Muhammad took part in the work [digging the ditch], and his Companions would hear him sometimes invoking God, sometimes reciting poems, sometimes singing songs in which they would all join. … the Prophet enabled the women and me in his community—beyond their communion in faith and ritual prayer—to commune through the voicing of emotions and the musicality of hearts articulating their belonging to a common expression of the self, a collective imagination, a culture.

All his Companions had witnessed, in all the circumstances of his life, that seemingly surprising blend of infinite generosity of heart, unambiguous determination in adversity, and strict management of time.

Death of his son Ibrahim
The trial of faith and of humanity, which made the Prophet shed tears, consisted precisely in learning how to find,…, the strength to face the finitude of the human, sudden departures, and death. The sign of the One’s Presence at the time of a person’s death lies not in the occurrence of any miracle but rather in the permanence of the natural order, in the eternity of His creation…

Final teachings

…faith would not leave them [the Muslim community], he said, but the world with its illusions would colonize them, and both would, unfortunately, coexist with them.

In History, for Eternity
The Messenger may have left the human world, but he has taught us never to forget Him, the Supreme Refuge, the Witness, the Most Near. Bearing witness that there is no god but God is, in effect, stepping towards deep and authentic freedom; recognizing Muhammad as the Messenger is essentially learning to love him in his absence and to love Him in His presence.

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