Seerah – Life of the Prophet: The Approach of Revelation
Episode 24: The Approach of Revelation
Welcome to Seerah Pearls, which aims to highlight some tantalising learning points from each episode of the Seerah- Life of the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).
We are at this point, a few years away from the start of revelation. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is the continuation and the completion of the guidance of Allah. It was six centuries since the last message by Isa (peace be upon him) had come to earth, which was one of the largest gaps between two Prophets. Some people of the scripture were aware of the coming of the last Prophet. So, why was it so shocking when he finally came? Why did not more people believe his message? The answer is that these people were rare, even written off as being ‘on the fringe’, and not well publically accepted.
The Quran mentions the previous scriptures foretold of his coming:
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful. (7:157)
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration. That is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers – so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward. (48:29)
The Quran mentions how Isa (peace be upon him), foretold of his coming:
And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.” (61:6)
The Quran mentions the covenant taken by the prophets to accept any prophet that comes after him:
And [recall, O People of the Scripture], when Allah took the covenant of the prophets, [saying], “Whatever I give you of the Scripture and wisdom and then there comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you, you [must] believe in him and support him.” [ Allah ] said, “Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My commitment?” They said, “We have acknowledged it.” He said, “Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.” (3:81)
Prophet Ibrahim made a dua, of which the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) is the manifestation:
Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom and purify them. Indeed, You are the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (2:129)
There is a narration about a Jewish scholar from As-Sham who migrated to Yathrib. The other Jewish tribes knew he was reclusive. When it would not rain, they would ask him to pray for rain, and his prayers would be consistently answered. When he was nearing death, he asked, ‘Does not it make you curious why I would leave As-Sham and come and live in the middle of the desert?’ He said he came because the Prophet of the last time was coming and Yathrib would be the place he would migrate to. He hoped to live to see the day he would come and he would follow the Prophet. The scholar advised the people to follow the Prophet if they lived to see his coming.
The Quran says:
And when there came to them a Book from Allah confirming that which was with them – although before they used to pray for victory against those who disbelieved – but [then] when there came to them that which they recognized, they disbelieved in it; so the curse of Allah will be upon the disbelievers. (2:89)
The story of the acceptance of Islam by Salman al-Farsi is discussed here. Even though he accepted Islam later in the chronology of events, it is relevant to mention here as it recounts the dynamic that there were a few people aware of the coming of the last Prophet.
Salman was from the people Persia. His father was the leader of the town. Salman was the most beloved thing to his father, to the point where his father was very overprotective of him, keeping him in the house. He used to worship the fire to spend his time and it was Salman’s responsibility to keep the fire burning. One day, his father was supposed to pick up a payment, and he entrusted the responsibility to collect the payment to Salman. His father emphasised not to get distracted from the job. Salman passed by a Christian monastery, where they were praying. He entered in and was amazed by the sight before him: he felt their religion was better than the religion of fire worship. He asked where they learnt the religion, and they said from As-Sham. Arriving late back home in the evening, Salman’s father was extremely worried. Salman recounted what he saw and said of how impressed he was with the religion. His father frightened him with regards to those people and dismissed his opinion, chaining him to the home. Salman sent a message to the people at the monastery, asking for information about anyone going to As-Sham. When informed about a group of business people going there, he picked the lock and ran away from home.
Arriving at As-Sham, Salman asked for the most righteous man in the religion of Christianity. The priest agreed that Salman could stay with him. However, he discovered the priest was not a good person: he would collect charity and hoard it for himself. Salman informed the people about the priest’s misconduct and they hung the priest. In contrast, the replacement priest was the most remarkable man. Salman stayed with him until the priest was on his deathbed: he was directed to another priest, who again was of good character. When this 3rd priest was about to die, he was again directed to a 4th person. On the deathbed of the final priest, Salman was informed there was nobody left to go to. Instead, he was advised to go and wait in a land in the direction of Hijaz, a place where they farm and have date trees, and where he would find mostly idol worshippers: the coming of the last Prophet was imminent in this land. Some of his signs would be: he will accept gifts but not take any charity for himself, and between his shoulder blades is the seal of Prophethood.
Salman asked some businessmen to take him towards that land. However, they betrayed him and sold him as a slave. He eventually ended up as a slave with the Jews of Banu Quraydah of Madina. Salman remained content, as he realised he was where he needed to be. One day, whilst Salman was working in the trees, someone came to his owner and remarked how they might be in trouble: all the idol worshippers were gathering at Quba, as a man had come there claiming to be a Prophet. On hearing this, Salman nearly fell out of the tree. He descended, asking eagerly for more details, but his owner dismissed him and sent him back to work.
Salman slowly gathered money and eventually went to Quba to see the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). He brought fruit and presented it to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) as charity: the Prophet did not eat from it. Salman again gathered money and a few weeks later, he went again and presented food as a gift: this time the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) ate from it. Finally, Salman came again after a few days, wanting to see the mark of Prophethood. Salman went and sat behind the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), who was wearing an upper and lower garment. The Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) noticed him and remarked that he knew what Salman was trying to see, thus he dropped the upper cloth and revealed the mark of Prophethood. Salman jubilantly ran up to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and hugged him from behind, kissing the mark of Prophethood. Salman’s long, arduous and difficult search had come to an end and he accepted Islam.