Seerah as a Movement

by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Biographies of the Prophet usually treat their subject as if he were a person endowed with great magical powers, one who by mysterious means brought the whole of Arabia under his wing. These books read like fairy tales; even events, which have no miraculous content, have been given a fanciful, miraculous interpretation. Take the case of Suhaib Ibn Senan’s migration from Mecca to Medina. When some Quraysh youths blocked his path, Suhaib pleaded with them: “If I let you have all my property, will you let me go?” They said that they would. Suhaib had a few ounces of silver with him. He gave it all to them and carried on to Medina. According to a tradition in Baihaqi, Suhaib said that when the Prophet saw him in Medina he told Suhaib that his trading, that is, his handing over of his property to the Quraysh, had been very profitable. Suhaib, according to the tradition, was astounded, for no one had arrived in Medina before him who could have brought the news. “It must have been Gabriel who told you,” he said to the Prophet.


A Lesson from the Letters of the Prophet (s.a.a.w.)



As-Salamu alaikum to all Muslims
Greetings of peace to all.

When we look at the letters of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) sent
to various rulers, we find that he mentions verse 3:64 in many of
them. The Prophet also gives a stern warning to the rulers that if
they refuse his message of accepting Islam, they will bear the
burden of all the sins of their people.
You can read the contents of these letters at

Verses 44, 45, and 47 of Chapter 5 of the Holy Quran tell us that if
any one fails to judge by what Allah has revealed (The Quran and
Sunnah), they are Unbelievers, Wrong-Doers and Rebels (Kafir, Zalim
and Fasiq).

We also know that those who confess Islam, but deliberately act
against it can be labelled as Munafiqoon (hypocrates) and Munafiqoon
will be in the lowest ranks in the Hellfire.

Can the current rulers realise their burden? Can they see that the
sins of millions of citizens of their countries will be on them?

Does not it become even heavier on rulers of Muslims? Rulers who
have setup or running systems of governments in violation of the
Islamic Sharia?

May Allah T'ala forgive everyone and guide us all to the right path.

Gheebah (Backbiting)

Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
 O you who have believed, avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are sins. Do not spy, nor should any one backbite the other. Is there any among you who would like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?' Nay, you yourselves abhor it. Fear Allah, for Allah is Acceptor of repentance and All-Merciful. (49:12)

Gheebat (back-biting) has been defined thus: "It is saying on the back of a person something which would hurt him if he came to know of it. " This definition has been reported from the Holy Prophet himself. According to a tradition which Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, Nasa'i and others have related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Hurairah, the Holy Prophet defined Gheebat as follows:
"It is talking of your brother in a way irksome to him." It was asked: "What, if the defect being talked of is present in my brother ?" The Holy Prophet replied: "If it is present in him, it would be Gheebat; if it is not there, it would be slandering him."
In another tradition which Imam Malik has related in Mu'watta, on the authority of Hadrat Muttalib bin `Abdullah, "A person asked the Holy Prophet: What is Gheebat? The Holy Prophet replied: It is talking of your brother in a way irksome to him. He asked: Even if it is true, O Messenger of Allah? He replied: If what you said was false, it would then be a calumny."

These traditions make it plain that uttering a false accusation against a person in his absence is calumny and describing a real defect in him Gheebat; whether this is done in express words or by reference and allusion, in every case it is forbidden. Likewise, whether this is done in the lifetime of a person, or after his death, it is forbidden in both cases.

According to Abu Da'ud, when Ma`iz bin Malik Aslami had been stoned to death for committing adultery, the Holy Prophet on his way back heard a man saying to his companion: "Look at this man: Allah had concealed his secret, but he did not leave himself alone till he was killed like a dog!" A little further on the way there was the dead body of a donkey lying rotting. The Holy Prophet stopped, called the two men and said: "Come down and eat this dead donkey." They submitted: "Who will eat it, O Messenger of Allah?" The Holy Prophet said: "A little before this you were attacking the honor of your brother: that was much worse than eating this dead donkey."

The only exceptions to this prohibition are the cases in which there may be a genuine need of speaking in of a person on his back, or after his death, and this may not be fulfilled without resort to backbiting, and if it was not resorted to, a greater evil might result than backbiting itself. The Holy Prophet has described this exception as a principle, thus: "The worst excess is to attack the honour of a Muslim unjustly." (Abu Da'ud).
In this saying the condition of "unjustly" points out that doing so "with justice" is permissible. Then, in the practice of the Holy Prophet himself we find some precedents which show what is implied by "justice" and in what conditions and cases backbiting may be lawful to the extent as necessary.

Once a desert Arab came and offered his Prayer under the leadership of the Holy Prophet, and as soon as the Prayer was concluded, walked away saying: "O God, have mercy on me and on Muhammad, and make no one else a partner in this mercy beside the two of us." The Holy Prophet said to the Companions: `What do you say: who is more ignorant: this person or his camel? Didn't you hear what he said?" (Abu Da`ud). The Holy Prophet had to say this in his absence, for he had left soon after the Prayer was over. Since he had uttered a wrong thing in the presence of the Holy Prophet, his remaining quiet at it could cause the misunderstanding that saying such a thing might in some degree be lawful; therefore, it was necessary that he should contradict it.

Two of the Companions, Hadrat Mu`awiyah and Hadrat Abu Jahm, sent the proposal of marriage to a lady, Fatimah bint Qais. She came to the Holy Prophet and asked for his advice. He said: "Mu`awiyah is a poor man and Abu Jahm beats his wives much." (Bukhari, Muslim). In this case, as there was the question of the lady's future and she had consulted the Holy Prophet for his advice, he deemed it necessary to inform her of the two men's weaknesses.

One day when the Holy Prophet was present in the apartment of Hadrat 'A'ishah, a man came and sought permission to see him. The Holy Prophet remarked that he was a very bad man of his tribe. Then he went out and talked to him politely. When he came back into the house, Hadrat `A'ishah asked: "You have talked to him politely, whereas when you went out you said something different about him. " The Holy Prophet said, "On the day of Resurrection the worst abode in the sight of Allah will be of the person whom the people start avoiding because of his abusive language." (Bukhari, Muslim). A study of this incident will show that the Holy Prophet in spite of having a bad opinion about the person talked to him politely because that was the demand of his morals; but he had the apprehension lest the people of his house should consider the person to be his friend when they would see him treating him kindly, and then the person might use this impression to his own advantage later. Therefore, the Holy Prophet warned Hadrat `A'ishah telling her that he was a bad man of his tribe.

Once Hind bint 'Utbah, wife of Hadrat Abu Sufyan, came to the Holy Prophet and said: "Abu Sufyan is a miserly person: he does not provide enough for me and my children's needs. " (Bukhari, Muslim). Although this complaint from the wife in the absence of the husband was backbiting, the Holy Prophet pemitted it, for the oppressed has a right that he or she may take the complaint of injustice to a person who has the power to get it removed.

From these precedents of the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet, the jurists and traditionists have deduced this principle: 'Gheebat (backbiting) is permissible only in case it is needed for a real and genuine (genuine from the Shari'ah point of view) necessity and the necessity may not be satisfied without having resort to it". Then on the basis of the same principle the scholars have declared that Gheebat is permissible in the following cases:

(1) Complaining by an oppressed person against the oppressor before every such person who he thinks can do something to save him from the injustice.

(2) To make mention of the evils of a person (or persons) with the intention of reform before those who can do expected to help remove the evils.

(3) To state the facts of a case before a legal expert for the purpose of seeking a religious or legal ruling regarding an unlawful act committed by a person.

(4) To warn the people of the mischiefs of a person (or persons) so that they may ward off the evil, e g. it is not only permissible but obligatory to mention the weaknesses of the reporters, witnesses and writers, for without it, it is not possible to safeguard the Shariah against the propagation of false reports, the courts against injustices and the common people or the students against errors and misunderstandings. Or, for instance, if a person wants to have the relationship of marriage with somebody, or wishes to rent a house in the neighborhood of somebody, or wants to give something into the custody of somebody, and consults another person, it is obligatory for him to apprise him of all aspects so that he is not deceived because of ignorance.

(5) To raise voice against and criticise the evils of the people who may be spreading sin and immorality and error, or corrupting the people's faith and persecuting them.

(6) To use nicknames for the people who may have become well known by those names, but this should be done for the purpose of their recognition and not with a view to condemn them. (For details, see Fat-h al-Bari, vol. X, p. 362; Sharah Muslim by An-Nawawi; Riyad us-Salihin; al-Jassas, Ahkam al-Qur an; Ruh al-Maani commentary on verse wa a yaghtab ba 'dukum ba 'dan).
Apart from these exceptions it is absolutely forbidden to speak ill of a person behind his back. If what is spoken is true, it is Gheebat; if it is false, it is calumny; and if it is meant to make two persons quarrel, it is slander. The Shari'ah has declared all these as forbidden. In the Islamic society it is incumbent on every Muslim to refute a false charge made against a person in his presence and not to listen to it quietly, and to tell those who are speaking ill of somebody, without a genuine religious need, to fear God and desist from the sin. The Holy Prophet has said: If a person does not support and help a Muslim when he is being disgraced and his honour being attacked, Allah also does not support and help him when he stands in need of His help; and if a person helps and supports a Muslim when his honour is being attacked and he is being disgraced, Allah Almighty also helps him when he wants that AIlah should help him. (Abu Da'ud).

As for the backbiter, as soon as he realizes that he is committing this sin, or has committed it, his first duty is to offer repentance before Allah and restrain himself from this forbidden act. His second duty is that he should compensate for it as far as possible. If he has backbitten a dead person, he should ask Allah's forgiveness for the person as often as he can. If he has backbitten a living person, and what he said was also false, he should refute it before the people before whom he had made the calumny. And if what he said was true, he should never speak ill of him in future, and should ask pardon of the person whom he had backbitten. A section of the scholars has expressed the opinion that pardon should be asked only in case the other person has come to know of it; otherwise one should only offer repentance, for if the person concerned is unaware and the backbiter in order to ask pardon goes and tells him that he had backbitten him, he would certainly feel hurt.

In the verse, Allah by likening backbiting to eating a dead brother's flesh has given the idea of its being an abomination. Eating the dead flesh is by itself abhorrent; and when the flesh is not of an animal, but of a man, and that too of one's own dead brother, abomination would be added to abomination. Then, by presenting the simile in the interrogative tone it has been made all the more impressive, so that every person may ask his own conscience and decide whether he would like to eat the flesh of his dead brother. If he would not, and he abhors it by nature, how he would like that he should attack the honour of his brother-in-faith in his absence, when he cannot defend himself and when he is wholly unaware that he is being disgraced. This shows that the basic reason of forbidding backbiting is not that the person being backbitten is being hurt but speaking ill of a person in his absence is by itself unlawful and forbidden whether he is aware of it, or not, and whether he feels hurt by it or not. Obviously, eating the flesh of a dead man is not forbidden because it hurts the dead man; the dead person is wholly unaware that somebody is eating of his body, but because this act by itself is an abomination. Likewise, if the person who is backbitten also does not come to know of it through any means, he will remain unaware throughout his life that somebody had attacked his honour at a particular time before some particular people and on that account he had stood disgraced in the eyes of those people. Because of this unawareness he will not feel at all hurt by this backbiting, but his honour would in any case be sullied. Therefore, this act in its nature is not any different from eating the flesh of a dead brother.

(Tafheemul Quran)

With His Family and Children

Aisha, the wife of Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) said:
"Allah's Messenger (s.a.a.w.) used to patch his sandals, sew his garment and conduct himself at home as anyone of you does in his house. He was a human being, searching his garment for lice, milking his sheep, and doing his own chores." (Narrated by al-Tirmathi).

She also said:
"He would patch his garments and sole his sandals. " She was once asked: "How was he with his family?", she responded: "He was in the service of his family until it was time for prayer, at which time he would go and pray."

Ibne Malik narrated:
"I never saw anyone more merciful with children than the Messenger of Allah (s.a.a.w.)" (Narrated by Muslim)

Abu Hurairah narrated that:
"The Messenger of Allah never denigrated any type of food; if he liked it he ate it, and if he disliked it he left it alone" (Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim)

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The Year of Grief

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Abu Talib’s Death

In Rajab, the tenth year of the Prophethood, Abu Talib fell ill and passed away, six months after leaving the confinement at Ash-Sh‘ib. In another version, Abu Talib breathed his last in Ramadan, three days prior to the death of Khadijah (May Allah be pleased with her). On the authority of Al-Musaiyab, when Abu Talib was on the death bed, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) entered the room where he saw Abu Jahl and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah. He requested his uncle:

  • “My uncle, you just make a profession that there is no true god but Allâh, and I will bear testimony before Allâh (of your being a believer)”.
  • Abu Jahl and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah addressing him said: “Abu Talib, would you abandon the religion of ‘Abdul-Muttalib?” The Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) constantly requested him (to accept his offer), and (on the other hand) was repeated the same statement (of Abu Jahl and ‘Abdullah bin Abi Omaiyah) — till Abu Talib gave his final decision and he stuck to the religion of ‘Abdul-Muttalib and refused to profess that there is no true god but Allâh. Upon this the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) remarked:

  • “By Allâh, I will persistently beg pardon for you till I am forbidden to do so (by Allâh)”.
  • It was then that Allâh, the Magnificent and Glorious revealed this verse:

  • “It is not (proper) for the Prophet and those who believe to ask Allâh’s forgiveness for the Mushrikûn (polytheists, idolaters, pagans, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allâh) even though they be of kin, after it has become clear to them that they are the dwellers of the Fire (because they died in a state of disbelief).” [9:113]
  • And it was said to the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him):

  • “Verily! You [O Muhammad (Peace be upon him) ] guide not whom you like.” [28:56]
  • It goes without saying that Abu Talib was very much attached to Muhammad (Peace be upon him) . For forty years, Abu Talib had been the faithful friend — the prop of his childhood, the guardian of his youth and in later life a very tower of defence. The sacrifices to which Abu Talib exposed himself and his family for the sake of his nephew, while yet incredulous of his mission, stamp his character as singularly noble and unselfish. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) did his best to persuade his octogenarian uncle to make profession of the true faith, but he remained obdurate and stuck to the paganism of his forefathers, and thus could not achieve complete success. Al-‘Abbas bin ‘Abdul-Muttalib narrated that he said to the Prophet (Peace be upon him) “You have not been of any avail to your uncle (Abu Talib) (though) by Allâh, he used to protect you and get angry on your behalf.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said: “He is in a shallow fire, and had it not been for me, he would have been at the bottom of the (Hell) Fire.”

    Abu Sa‘id Al-Khudri narrated that he heard the Prophet (Peace be upon him) say, when the mention of his uncle was made, “I hope that my intercession may avail him, and he be placed in a shallow fire that rises up only to his heels.”



    Khadijah passes away to the Mercy of Allah

    Only two months after the death of his uncle, did the Messenger of Allâh (Peace be upon him) experience another great personal loss viz., the Mother of believers, his wife Khadijah passed away in Ramadan of the tenth year of his Prophethood, when she was sixty-five years old, and he was fifty. Khadijah was in fact a blessing of Allâh for the Prophet (Peace be upon him). She, for twenty-five years, shared with him the toils and trials of life, especially in the first ten years of his ministry of Prophethood. He deeply mourned over her death, and once he replied in an honest burst of tender emotions:

  • “She believed in me when none else did. She embraced Islam when people disbelieved me. And she helped and comforted me in her person and wealth when there was none else to lend me a helping hand. I had children from her only.”
  • Abu Hurairah reported that Gabriel came to Allâh’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) and said: “Allâh’s Messenger, lo, Khadijah is coming to you with a vessel of seasoned food or drink. When she comes to you, offer her greetings from her Lord, and give her glad tidings of a palace of jewels in Paradise where there is no noise and no toil.”

    These two painful events took place within a short lapse of time and added a lot to his grief and suffering. The Makkans now openly declared their campaign of torture and oppression. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) lost all hope of bringing them back to the right path, so he set out for Al-Ta’if seeking a supportive atmosphere. But there too, he was disappointed and he sustained unbearable tortures and maltreatment that far outweighed his miserable situation in his native town.

    His Companions were on equal footing subjected to unspeakable torture and unbearable oppression to such an extent that his closest friend, Abu Bakr, to escape pressure, fled out of Makkah and wanted to leave for Abyssinia (Ethiopia) if it were not for Ibn Ad-Daghanah who met him at Bark Al-Ghamad and managed to dissuade him from completing his journey of escape and brought him back under his protection.

    Tdeath of Abu Talib rendered the Prophet (Peace be upon him) vulnerable, and the polytheists availed them of that opportunity to give free rein to their hatred and highhandedness and to translate them in terms of oppression and physical tortures. Once an insolent Quraishite intercepted him and sprinkled sand on his head. When he arrived home, a daughter of his washed the sand away and wept. “Do not weep, my daughter. Allâh will verily protect your father.” The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said.

    Rapid succession of misfortunes, led the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to call that period, ‘the year of grief and mourning’. Thenceforth, that year bore that appellation.



    His Marriage to Sawdah (May be please with her) in Shawwal, the tenth year of Prophethood

    The death of Khadijah left the Prophet (Peace be upon him) lonely. The name of Sawdah was suggested to him for marriage which he accepted. This lady had suffered many hardships for the sake of Islam. She was an early convert to the Islamic Faith and it was by her persuasion that her husband had embraced Islam. On the second emigration to Abyssinia (Ethiopia), Sawdah had accompanied her husband As-Sakran bin ‘Amr. He died on their way back to Makkah leaving her in a terrible state of destitution. She was the first woman for the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to marry after the death of Khadijah. Some years later she granted her turn with the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to her co-wife, ‘Aishah.

    Short Quotes

    Disposition by Ali

    He was the most generous of heart, truthful of tongue, softest in disposition, and noble in relationship. He who first set eyes upon him feared him, but he who associated with him loved him. Those who described him would say: 'I have never seen before or after him anyone similar to him, peace be upon him.'