Bismillah hir Rahman nir Raheem
( * A note for the readers: the live links have articles and references, I would recommend reading this article in its entirety first and then opening the links one by one to read and review if you like, same for the videos watch them in the end and you will get more out of it)
So many people have looked at the life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad Pbuh in so many ways. Some to study it to document each step (ibn Ishaq), some to teach others (KL Gauba, Martin Ling,) and some to make money off of it (Deepak Chopra).
Any which way one looks at the Life of our beloved Prophet Muhammad pbuh it enhances our life and of those around us.
The simplicity and spirituality of his life usually escapes most writers as they are so honed on the masculine power aspects of his personality and interactions related to it that the softness, the charisma and the sweetness of his essential being escapes most of them.
We live in times when the entire Muslim world is at odds with each other. On one side is the land where Mecca resides with the fulfillment of the dua of Ibrahim AS that He Subhanawataala will provide them with everything they need and want, and so it is.
“O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in an uncultivable valley by Your Sacred House in order that they may perform As-Salat. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and (O Allah) provide them with fruits so that they may give thanks.” Quran 14:37
What does not grow in the arid sand of the desert is bought with the black gold that Allah Subhanawataala has embedded generously and unendingly in the layers of the hard rock of Arabia. The never-ending bounties of Allah will always be in Mecca and the land around it, that is Allah’s promise.
How those bounties are used is another story. Thus power corrupts absolutely all human beings especially if they become distant from what is approaching them definitely in full force. (Surah takhathur)
On the other hand the majority of the Muslims who are faltering under the yoke of poverty and oppression. Unfortunately for them the resources of learning Islam come bound in the handcuffs of a formula that negates the very essence of the love of our beloved Prophet Muhammad pbuh and degrades him pbuh to a common human being.
Thus the Muslims of Southeast Asia of which I am most familiar with, which form one of the largest bloc of Muslims in the world find themselves reeling when their symbols of love of our Prophet pbuh are smashed and tromped upon openly by Muslims and others alike.
Yet Allah has put the love of our Prophet in the hearts of some people directly. There are those Muslims from the mountains of Afghanistan who cannot read or write but the love of the Prophet brings tears to their eyes, there are those women sitting next to me in the Prophets mosque (pbuh) in Medina who can neither read nor write but sit in great reverence in the mosque of the Prophet pbuh. They reverently pass their finger over the lines of the Quran and kiss their hands and place them on their heart at the mention of the Prophets (pbuh) name.
There are those blind boys from the fertile lush land of the Punjab on which they have never set eyes but who have memorized the entire Quran. Their village to honor their only wish has bought them a ticket for Hajj, but even then they have had to wait years to accomplish it. As Pakistan is not USA where people go for Hajj every year if they so desire.
In Pakistan you may wait so long for your name to appear in the lottery for Hajj that your knees may no longer have the capacity to bend in sajdah anymore and the tawaaf which was an easy walk when you applied for Hajj becomes an agony of aching old limbs and joints when the acceptance comes through the lottery.
The other end of the Muslim world is the one in financial ease, which has made them soft in body and hard in heart. They want to and look for ways to modulate the Ahkaam of Deen to fit their lifestyle and their desires. One such campaign underway is to discredit the times of the prayer such that you do not have to wake up at dawn to pray but can do so whenever you like. I am reminded of the song: Its five o’ clock somewhere” or as they remind me “it is fajr time somewhere in the world”.
Others have gathered around soft spoken teachers from Pakistan who want to modulate the Ahkaam of the Deen to make them acceptable to the Nafs of the current secularly educated elite population of the Muslim world.
Both groups: those that want to water down the Deen and those who want to force their disrespectful version down the throat of the Muslim world wrapped in dollar bills are both militant and unbending in their tolerance towards any Muslim who does not toe their line.
HOW MY PERSONAL JOURNEY BEGINS TOWARDS THE SEERAH TUN NABI
The first time I read/heard the entire Seerah in a detailed book was while traveling through the white mountains of New Hampshire, New England.
The Seerah prior to that is a collage of beautiful stories by people I lived with, grew up with or met in passing. People who were important icons in my life and people who I saw for a moment but who left a pearl of the Seerah in my palm to feel, and treasure all my life.
As a child I had competed in elocution contests about the Life of the Prophet and had won many awards one of which was in fourth grade which is a very simply written book with the bare bones of the Prophets PBUH life by Gauba, I still have it as a treasured possession.
My love of the Seerah of our Beloved Prophet pbuh and his personality did not come from lectures, books, and movies or from YouTube videos.
It came from stories told live to me at bedtime as a lesson, or as a “healing” method, or as a methodology to resolve complex problems. With these informal ways I learned to tread in Light towards Allah without the presence of a pulpit to command me to do so.
The storytellers of the seerah in my life were as varied as the stories. The stories came from my mother in everyday life, while cooking, or advising me on behavior, respect or visitation etiquette.
More stories came from my adopted grandmother (Khalaji) who with a twinkle in her hazel eyes never answered a controversial question with a straight answer but started with.”…………………Let me tell you a story” when the story ended, the story was from the seerah and the moral of the story was blinking at me like a neon sign, there was no need for me to clarify or protest it as the answer was clear as the day.
The other more colorful storyteller was our “Bua” or our servant cook, who would stop my brothers in their tracks when they tried to partake of her gourmet food before it was time to serve it to the guests.. She would tell us a story of the seerah as a reason why we should wait for the guests to come and eat first.
I listened to her as a bystander intrigued and enchanted with her story “ ……..I could see the dimmed light in a mud house in the desert where the guest had come unexpectedly to one of the sahabas house while they were about to sit down for a very meager dinner. The man of the house says “dim the lantern so the light only falls on the guest’s plate and he does not see our empty plates……..” Bua would recount the story in present tense as if it was happening right now in the desert of Arabia.
I often wondered how wonderful and self sacrificing were these wonderful sahabas who opted not only to offer all their food to the guest but to pretend that they had enough food to prevent hurting the feelings of their guest that he had usurped their last morsel; Something unimaginable in the western culture.
Bua also had a story of jannah………… it is much more colorful than factual, and like the thousand and one nights it never ended and always stopped at an intriguing point.
“Only special people can go to Jannah……….she would say, she would describe in extreme detail the glory of Jannah, of being served with silver crystal goblets and reclining on green cushions made of brocade along with a mention of “souls being in the green parrots” We knew that it was too elaborate to be true and yet were riveted by her definition of Jannah and wanted to go there. We kept going back for more stories of Jannah and the more she told us the more we wanted to see Jannah.
Knowing that she was unable to read and had never read the Quran, tears come to my eyes when I recite surah insaan where it describes what beautiful welcome there will be for the beautiful souls in Jannah. I think of her and pray that she is selected to reside on those green brocade covered cushions in Jannah, and served by the elite youth(she reminds of ayahs 12-22)
On a clear afternoon in the heat of Lahore while I was spending my summer with my grandmother, one of our village girls who lived with my grandmother was “throwing” the wheat to separate it from the chaff in our large walled backyard (it is called “Verrah” in Punjabi). Everyone was taking their afternoon nap while I was sitting with Shad while she worked on the wheat to separate it from the chaff.
Suddenly the swishing sound of the wheat grains falling in the air were interrupted by the plaintiff sound of the cuckoo calling again and again entreating us………. The air in the protected compound of the “Vayrah” filled with the sad repetitive entreating sound of the cuckoo that could not be seen but was perched somewhere on the mango trees outside the vayrah.
Shad looked up from her sifter, her golden brown skin beaded with sweat, her brown eyes sparkling. She looked straight at me and with an arch tilt of her head said, “ Do you know what she is saying?” I was perplexed “Who? The bird?” I asked jokingly as there was no other sound in the large walled backyard (vayrrah)
“Yes the koel!” she said
I didn’t ask her how she knew what the bird said, because I had come to accept that the villagers had reams of wisdom that no one in the large city I came from could even touch with a barge pole.
“ He has come to get help for Yusuf”
“What do you mean?”I asked
“He is saying “Yusuf kooh” listen carefully” she said, and paused her chaffing as the plaintiff call of the cuckoo repeated again and again entreating with an urgency and sadness that was unmistakably a call for help. A little boy of four was in a well in the desert and no one knew it to get him help except………..
“Yusuf……was put in the well by his brothers” she said and started her chaffing again, the wheat kernels separating from the chaff scattered in the air like gold nuggets before hitting the pile on the floor.
I paused, who was Yusuf, why did his brothers put him in the well? ………I was 10 years old and there was no Internet.
“ Who is Yusuf?” I asked nonchalantly to cover my ignorance.
“ You know she said waving her hand…..Hazrat Yusuf AS, the one who had so much Nur on his face that one could not look at it directly and you know Zulekhas friends cut their fingers when they tried to do so?”
Thus began my search for Yusuf and why he was put in the well, and who was Zulekha?
I found him in the seerah on our beloved Prophets ascension to Mairaaj……… and it was much later that I could decipher and understand the many layers of the story of Prophet Yusuf (AS), and even much later as a mother I felt the pain of his father when he was given Yusuf (AS) blood stained shirt and told that “Yusuf was killed by a wolf”. He the father and a Prophet was not immune to grief, he had turned to Allah……. for “Sabrun Jameel” In my extreme parental grief at the death of my young son, he Yusuf’s father became my torch for salvation.
To this day when I hear the koel, I see the gold nuggets of the wheat grain and I see Shad with her sparkling brown eyes introducing the Quran and the seerah to me on that hot Lahore afternoon when everyone napped except Shad and me.
She started an exciting unfinished story begging to be completed. Shad was a simple village girl with the wisdom and knowledge of a scholar. She is now long dead at a very young age of breast cancer, and remembered with much love and duas.
I am deeply thankful for those long boring days (without internet or phone) of summer in Lahore, which was enlivened with her stories connecting me to the Seerah in so many ways.
Thus I am blessed that the spirituality of the Seerat un nabi came to me long before the cut and dried aspects from the pages of a history book.
However it was in the White Mountains of New Hampshire that the Seerah came truly alive and Light filled my car as my mother and I drove through the meandering roads in the mountains and green valleys of Northern New England.
The mountains rose on one side or the other as my mother read aloud Martin Lings book on “Muhammad” pbuh.
We came upon a mountain where sheep were grazing and a young boy stood far up watching them……… I had to stop and park at the scenic rest stop as she was reading the section when Prophet Muhammad pbuh was grazing the sheep with his milk brother from Bibi Halima and the Angel came and cracked open his chest…………” Her soft gentle voice recounted what was happening and the car interior filled with the presence of light of the being about whom we were reading. She paused for a moment at the unnatural light in the car and we both looked at each other as we had read about UFOs in this region. She shook her head and kept on reading ……………..
…………..taking me to the desert plains, the Prophet as a child, the angel Gabriel, washing his heart with zam zam and literally zipping his chest back. His thunderstruck brother: son of Bibi Halima watching speechless witnessing what was happening to his brother.
We were on the journey of the Seerah……..step by step. There was a hush, time stood still, we were no longer in the White mountains, but in Arabia……… mesmerized as we lived those moments in the life of our beloved Prophet (pbuh)………….in a car parked at the scenic stop in the middle of the beauty and grandeur of the White mountains of New Hampshire. Mother and daughter sharing something unforgettable and the Light that filled the car……
Such was my spotty but spiritual education in the Seerah till much later when I had to connect the dots to survive the insurmountable pain that Allah Subhanawataala had subjected me to …………..
It was a time and circumstance that forced me to hold on to the rope of Allah via the Quran and seek solace from the one, His Beloved (pbuh) who had buried five of his children in his (pbuh) lifetime while I had only buried one……….how did he do it! How did he do it?
The answer if you search for it diligently and with sincerity, lies in the spirituality of what is found between the lines of his recorded Seerah (pbuh) ………
let the journey begin!
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I am deeply grateful to be a part of the Suhba program of Al Madina. Special thanks to Moutesem Atiya to make it possible and to our respected Sheikh Mokhtar to light up the Seerah with spirituality and profound respect.
My sincere and heartfelt thanks to all those unnamed souls I met in Pakistan, my birth country, USA my adopted country and in my travels, to Syria, South Africa, Mecca, Medina, and so many other places who gave me a vignette from the Seerah to light my way. Thank you my mother, friends, relatives and mentors where ever you are, May Allah protect you and may the Seerat un Nabi light your way as you helped light mine!
Prophet Yusuf (AS) story (complete) the part about the well and his fathers grief is: ayah 9-18