THE LIFE OF MOHAMMAD (PBUH) THE PROPHET OF ALLAH
BY E. DINET and SLIMAN BEN IBRAHIM
Say: Go through the earth, and see how He hath brought forth created beings
CHAPTER THE NINTH
al-Madinah, the City of the Prophet. The Dome of Mohammad’s Tomb.
Thou truly art mortal, O Mohammad, and they truly are mortals.
ILLNESS AND DEATH OF THE PROPHET
(Rabi’u’l-Awwal, Year IX of the Hegira. June A.D. 632.)
Quoth Abu Muwayhiba, the Prophet’s serving-man: “One night towards the end of the month of Safar, my master woke me up. “I must go and implore the blessing of Allah,” said he, “for those at rest in the tombs of Baqui’u a’l-Gharqad. Come with me.”
“I accompanied him. “Blessed be you, O dwellers in the tomb!” he exclaimed, when we reached the cemetery. “Rest in peace! Allah hath spared you terrible ordeals, like unto the anguish of a dark night, more terribly black at the end than at the beginning. Such are the torments in store for those who are still upon this earth!”
“As he finished speaking, the whole of his body was shaken by the palsy of fever, and he wended his way back to his dwelling with difficulty; his temples racked by the unbearable pains known as “Suda”….”
Quoth Ayishah: “When the Prophet returned from his visit to the cemetery of Al-Baqi, he came to see me in the middle of the night. I was suffering from violent headache and as I complained, he said: ‘Ah! ’tis I who ought to complain of pains in the head and not thou!’ He went on, jokingly: ‘Would it not be better for thee to die whilst I am still in the land of the living? I could implore the Mercy of Allah in thy favour; with my own hands I could enfold thee in thy winding-sheet; I could pray over thy body and place thee in thy grave.’ ‘Of a surety thou doest me great honour in apprising me that thou wouldst act thus in my favour,’ I replied; ‘but I fear that after I was buried, thy sole consolation would be to bring back with thee, into my room, some other of thy wives!’ At this sally, a smile returned to the Prophet’s face and, for a brief moment, he forgot his pain.”
As time went on, his illness left him no rest; nevertheless, mastering his sufferings, his mind was busier than ever, and he occupied himself with the future of Islam, for he felt that the effects of his management would soon be lacking.
Thinking that Syria was one of the gates through which the warriors of Allah would have to march to conquer the world, Mohammad’s gaze was unceasingly turned towards that country and he resolved to organise a third expedition against the Christians, in whose power it was.
Great rivalry at once arose with regard to commanding such an incursion. Of heroes and generals having been put to the test, Islam had enough and to spare. The most famous among them: Ansars or Mohadjirun, anxiously awaited the Prophet’s choice.
To the stupefaction of all, however, Usama, barely twenty years of age, was chosen. It is true that this lad was the son of Zayd ibn Harith, the martyr of Mutah. Mohammad placed great reliance on the revengeful ardour that Usama would show in fighting the murderers of his father on the very spot where he gloriously succumbed, than on the experience and warlike valour of the Mussulman generals.
This selection caused deception and gave rise to murmuring. The Believers hesitated to put boundless confidence, such as is indispensable for success, in a chief so young and inexperienced. Having been told about this, the Prophet rose and cut short all disputes by these words: ‘Ye criticise my choice of Usama, even as ye formerly cavilled at that of Zayd, his father! Listen! To you I swear, by Allah! that Zayd was truly worthy of the post of command with which I did entrust him. I cherished him above all other men; and after him, his son is the man I prefer. Go, carry out my orders, and have confidence!’
These simple words, uttered in a tone of inspired conviction, banished all hesitation; smoothing away all jealousy as if by magic; and the noblest and most famous among all the chieftains, together with the most humble soldiers, came enthusiastically to obey the commands of the stripling. When the expedition marched into the “Farewell Pass,” the Prophet was deeply moved as he saw his troops disappear. The superhuman faith animating the warriors at the parting hour proved to him that no obstacle could bar their way on the road to victory and that the irresistible torrent of Islam, like unto the salutary overflow of a wadi, was about to inundate the world and bring it the prolific germs of its new civilisation. Meanwhile, it was not long before the alarming news, relating to the Prophet’s illness, stopped Usama’s forward progress, bringing him back to Al-Madinah.
About that time, the Apostle received a letter, couched in these terms: “Musailimah, the Prophet of Allah, to Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah. Peace be with thee, I am thy associate. Let the exercise of authority be divided between us. Half the earth is mine, and half belongeth to the Quraish. But the Quraish are a greedy people, and will not be satisfied with a fair division.”
The author of this epistle, Musailimah, Prince of the Yamama, had recently been converted to Islam; and then, fully appreciating the majesty of the part played by the Prophet, this pretender planned with monstrous pride to play the some part in his turn.
To the envoys bringing the impudent missive, Mohammad replied: ‘Were it not that your situation as ambassadors causeth me to look upon your lives as sacred, I would have you beheaded.’ And he handed them this answer: “Mohammad, the Prophet of Allah to Musailimah, the Impostor. Peace be with those who follow the right road! The earth is Allah’s, and He giveth it to whom he will. Those only prosper who fear the Lord!”
Both Musailimah and Al-Aswad, another impostor, soon found out the danger run by those who enacted the part of Prophet without having been called by Allah. They expiated their temerity most cruelly.
The Prophet’s illness became daily more serious. He grew so weak that he could only move about by dint of the most painful efforts.
Being in the house of Maimunah, he sent for his other wives. His usual habit was to pass the night in turn, impartially, at each of their dwellings; but feeling himself weighed down by intense suffering, he begged them to let him remain with Ayishah alone for the duration of his illness; and to this they consented.
Quoth Ayishah: “The Prophet left the abode of Maimunah, thanks to the assistance of Al-Fadl and Ali, who held him in their arms. A bandage was bound tightly round his head, and his weakness was so great that he had no sooner set foot in my room than he swooned. When he came to, lancinating pains tortured his temples; and hoping to soothe his pangs, he asked: ‘Pour over me six skinsful of water drawn from a very cold spring, so that I may be in a fit state to go forth and preach to the Faithful.’ We sat him in a stone trough, borrowed from Hafsa, and poured water over him in abundance, until he bade us stop, by a wave of his hand, saying: ‘Enough!'”
Momentarily invigorated, Mohammad went out through Ayishah’s door which gave on to the Mosque; and again supported by his cousin Ali and Al-Fadl, he had great trouble in mounting the steps of the pulpit, from which he made the following declaration to the Faithful assembled: ‘O Believers, if among you there be one whose back I have beaten, here is my back so that he may do himself justice! If there be one whose honour I may have wounded, here is my honour, let him be avenged! If there be one whose property I may have seized, here is my property, let him satisfy his claim! Let no one hesitate in fear of my resentment, for resentment formeth no part of my disposition.’ After having stepped down to give out the noonday prayer, he went up in the pulpit again and repeated the same declaration.
A man arose and claimed payment of a debt amounting to three drachmas. The Prophet handed them over to him at once, adding: ‘It is easier to put up with shame in this world than in the other.’
He then evoked the remembrance of the martyrs of Uhud, to whom he devoted the best part of his prayer, imploring Allah’s blessings in their favour. He wound up as follows: ‘Allah hath offered one of His servants the choice between the riches of this earth and those that are to be found at His side.’ At these words, divining that the Prophet was alluding to himself and the state of his health, Abu Bakr burst into tears, and exclaimed: ‘Ah! why cannot we offer our lives as a ransom for thine?’—’O Believers!’ replied Mohammad, ‘it hath come to my ears that ye fear your Prophet may die; but before me hath any Prophet been immortal as he accomplished his Mission? How can I dwell eternally among you? Every soul is doomed to die. I must return to Allah and ye likewise will return to Him.’
Quoth Ayishah: “After this effort, when the Prophet came back to my room, he fainted away again. When the call of the Muazzin was heard, he rose up and asked for water wherewith to perform his ablutions, meaning to lead the prayers. He swooned three times.
“As the Faithful awaited his coming in the Mosque, he sent Bilal to fetch Abu Bakr, so that he could perform the duties of Imam instead of the Prophet. The crowd, guessing the reason of this change, broke out into fits of sobbing….
“The Prophet was frequently seized with delirium. One Thursday, whilst all his companions gathered round his bed, he said to them: ‘Bring hither to me ink and parchment; I would place on record a book for you which shall prevent your going astray for evermore.’—’Allah’s Messenger is burdened by pain,’ said Umar; ‘have we not the Qur’an? Allah’s Book sufficeth for us.’
“Several of his companions, accustomed never to argue about anything said by the Prophet and remembering that he was illiterate, thought that in this supreme moment a miracle was about to be accomplished. Therefore they wanted to give him what he asked for. They were opposed by his partisans sharing Umar’s opinion, and a quarrel began, the Prophet recovering his senses by the noise. He told them reproachfully: ‘It is not seemly to quarrel thus at a Prophet’s bedside. Go away!’
“To soothe his unbearable pain, he dipped his hands in a pitcher of cold water and passed his wet palms over his face, as if to wipe it: ‘O Allah!’ he cried, ‘help me to support the terrors of the death struggle!’
“He had Fatimah, his beloved daughter, fetched to him twice and spoke to her secretly, whispering in her ear. The first time, Fatimah’s face was bathed in tears; the second time, her features were lit up by a smile. We asked her the reason of her changed expression, and she told us: ‘The first time, my father warned me that he must soon succumb to his illness, and I could not repress my tears. The second time, he informed me that of all his family, I should be the first to rejoin him, and so great was my joy that I could not stop myself from smiling.'”
On the Monday, the twelfth day of Rabi’u’l-Awwal, Abu Bakr was saying prayers in the presence of the Faithful, when Ayishah’s door, giving into the Mosque, was thrown open. Supported by Ali and Al-Fadl, the Prophet appeared. His turban was twisted tightly round his head, and his benumbed feet dragged along the ground. On seeing him, the Faithful were comforted by a ray of hope and a wave of emotion stirred them all. Without turning round, Abu Bakr guessed that only the arrival of the Prophet could have given rise to such a manifestation while prayers were being said, and he moved away to join the ranks of the worshippers and let his place be taken by Mohammad. But he made Bakr go back; pulling him by his garment, as he said: ‘Continue to lead the prayers.’
He then sat down on Abu Bakr’s right hand, under the pulpit, and his face beamed with happiness, at the sight of the piety of the congregation. When prayers had been said, he spoke to the Believers for the last time; and in tones firm enough to be heard outside the Mosque, he preached a sermon predicting terrible ordeals and charging them with the strictest observance of the principles of the Qur’an, for such would be the only way leading to Salvation. Leaning against one of the palm-tree trunk pillars, he chatted familiarly with some of his companions, and then went back to his room.
Quoth Ayishah: “After this last effort, the Prophet was again overtaken by greater pain than ever, and covered his face with a black garment, which he threw off again, as it stifled him….
“Just then, Abdu’r Rahman, son of Abu Bakr, came in, holding in his hand a small twig of green “araq,” with which he was picking his teeth. The Prophet stared at the little stick and I made out that he would have liked it. So I took it out of Abdu’r Rahman’s hand. Cutting off the end of the toothpick, I shook it, cleaned it and gave it to Allah’s messenger who immediately made use of it, picking his teeth more carefully than ever before. When he had finished, he let the little stick drop from between his faltering fingers. He raised his eyes to heaven, repeating three times: ‘O Allah! with the Compassionate on High….!’ And I felt his head, resting between my chin and shoulder, grow heavy on my arm.
“I guessed that the Prophet had chosen the eternal dwelling and that his noble soul had just been taken by the Angel of Death. I placed my head on the pillow and uttered a great cry of distress…. His wives came running in; and all together, we went down on our knees, and tore our faces with our nails.”
On hearing these lamentations, the Believers filled the Mosque. They were dazed, like sheep straying on a dark, wintry night; but not one of the Faithful would admit that the Prophet was dead. The disappearance of the man who led them in every way seemed an impossibility.
‘How can he be dead?’ they cried. ‘Did we not count upon him to be our witness on the Day of Resurrection? He is not dead; he hath been carried up to Heaven, even as was Isa (Jesus).’ And through the door they cried: ‘Beware lest ye bury him!’
This met with Umar’s approval: ‘No, verily, the Prophet is not dead! He hath gone to visit the Lord, even as Moses did, when after an absence of forty days, he reappeared to his people. In like fashion, Mohammad will be restored to us. Those who say he is dead are traitors to the cause of Islam. Let their hands and feet be cut off!’
At that juncture, Abu Bakr, who had been fetched from the As-Sunuh quarter where he lived, arrived on horseback, galloping as fast as possible. He alighted and, making his way through the crowd in consternation, he went into the Mosque without speaking to a soul, and from there, passed into the room of his daughter Ayishah in order to see Allah’s Messenger. A piece of striped stuff was thrown over the body; Abu Bakr uncovered the Prophet’s face, kissed him, wept and then broke down under the weight of his great grief…. ‘O Thou for whose ransom I would have offered both father and mother,’ he cried, ‘thy career is well accomplished!’
Tearing himself away from his sorrowful contemplation, he covered up Mohammad’s face again and went out, going straight up to Umar who was haranguing the people. ‘Sit down, O Umar!’ he said. Umar refused to obey him. In the meantime, the majority of the Faithful left him by himself, and gathered round Abu Bakr who told them: ‘O Believers, if ye adore Mohammad, know that Mohammad is dead; but if ye adore Allah, know that Allah is alive, for Allah cannot die! Ye must have forgotten these verses of the Qur’an: “Mohammad is no more than an Apostle; other Apostles have already passed away before him; if then he die, or be slain, will ye turn upon your heels? Thou truly art mortal, O (Mohammad), and they truly are mortals.” (The Qur’an, iii, 138, and xxxix, 31.)
Quoth Umar: “By Allah! scarcely did I hear Abu Bakr recite these verses than I felt my legs give way under me. I was near falling down, for then I began to understand that the Prophet was really dead!”
ABU BAKR ELECTED
Before thinking about the funeral, it was urgent to guard against the pressing danger threatening Islam, totally broken up by the loss of its inspired guide.
The man who had succeeded in bringing together in religious fraternity families and tribes at loggerheads for centuries, having disappeared, what would become of this brotherhood? The immediate nomination of a Caliph, or lieutenant appointed to continue the Prophet’s task, could alone prevent irretrievable disaggregation. This urgent necessity stirred the tribes tumultuously; a tragical conflict between Ansars and Mohadjirun was imminent, each party claiming to have the Caliph chosen from among its adherents. Happily, Umar’s energy and spirit of decision easily averted the crisis. Having succeeded in gaining a few moments’ silence, he called upon the Believers to take notice that during the last days of his life, Mohammad had designated Abu Bakr, his companion during the Hegira, to take his place as “Imam,” and doubtless the Prophet would have chosen him for Caliph.
This opinion carried the day. When the sun rose again, all the Believers, forgetting their disputes, came and took the oath of fidelity to Abu Bakr.
THE PROPHET’S BURIAL
This important question being settled, the Faithful were free to arrange the Prophet’s funeral and give way to the despair that racked their souls.
At first, they were embarrassed, not daring to strip off his garments so as to wash the body according to the usual rites. Respect forbid them to look on his nakedness, as if it were sacrilegious to do so. After long discussions, irresistible sleep weighed down their eyelids; their chins rested on their breasts, when suddenly, a voice proceeding from the chamber of death was heard. They awoke at its sound and it replied to what was passing in their minds: ‘Wash the Prophet without undressing him.’ That was the solution they sought, and without further delay, they acted on the suggestion. With striped stuff of the Yaman, Abbas erected a kind of tent in the room, so as to keep the crowd away from the body. By the aid of seven skinsful of water drawn from the well of Al-Ghars, at Quba, preferred by Mohammad to any other, Ali, Usama, Abbas and his sons, and Shukran, the freed slave, proceeded with the ritual washing. Abbas, assisted by his sons, Al-Fadl and Qutham, turned the venerated body over. Usama and Shukran sprinkled it with water and Ali wiped it without removing the shirt.
The first washing was done with plain water, the next with an infusion of lotus-flowers; and the third, and last, with camphorated water. Abbas and Ali then perfumed every part of the body that comes in contact with the earth during the ceremony of prostration: forehead, nose, hands, knees and feet.
‘How sweet is thy smell, O Prophet!’ exclaimed Ali; and all marvelled at not finding on Mohammad’s frame any of those horrible traces of decomposition following the separation of the soul from the body, with the exception of a slight bluish tinge appearing on the nails.
Instead of a shroud, the Prophet was wrapped in the garments he wore at the moment of death: his shirt, which after the ablutions was wrung out and allowed to drip; and a double robe woven at Najran. It was then that Ali and Abbas, having replaced Mohammad on his bed, allowed the crowd to enter.
The room was at once filled with as many Believers as it would hold, and after they had said: ‘Peace be with thee, O Prophet, and also the Mercy and Blessing of Allah!’ they got ready to pray without an “Imam” to lead them, for the real “Imam” was present, although his soul had been called back to the side of the Almighty.
Abu Bakr and Umar were in the front rank of the worshippers, and they concluded the prayer by these words: “O Allah! we bear witness that he hath accomplished the Mission Thou didst entrust to him. O Allah! grant peace to those among us who follow faithfully the orders Thou hast revealed to him and hasten to reunite us with him. Amin!” And all the people, stirred to the innermost depths of their being, repeated: “Amin! Amin!“
Fresh difficulties now arose, concerning the place of burial; some wanting the grave to be dug in the Mosque; others, at Al-Baqi, among the tombs of the Prophet’s family. A few mentioned Makkah, his birthplace. Abu Bakr silenced them, affirming that he had heard Mohammad say: ‘Allah only taketh the soul of a Prophet on the spot where it is fitting that he should be buried.’
The bed was accordingly moved away and the grave dug in the ground underneath it. This task was alloted to Talha, the gravedigger of Al-Madinah. He strengthened the sides of the grave by means of nine unburnt bricks, and carpeted the bottom with the red blanket that served the Prophet as a rug for his camel when travelling, and which was not to be used by anyone now that he was dead. Ali, Al-Fadl, Qutham, and Shakran lowered the body into its last resting-place….
Al Mughira ibn Shu’ba affirms that he was the last man to have the happiness of contemplating the face of the Chosen One before it was covered with earth. “I let my finger-ring drop into the grave,’ he says, ‘so that when I regained it, I should be the last to address a farewell salute to the Prophet.”
The sad ceremony was concluded in the middle of the night between Tuesday and Wednesday. On the morrow, at dawn, when in his call to prayer, Bilal, the “Muazzin,” proclaimed: ‘There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah!’ he could only shout the name of Mohammad through his sobs. The whole town replied to him, as by an echo, in a long moan of despair which rose to heaven, from every door and window of the houses….
Ever since that day, the twelfth of the month of Rabi’u’l-Awwal, Year XII of the Hegira, (June 8th, A.D. 632), this extraordinary man, who was, to say the least, the equal of the greatest of all Prophets; monarch, general theologian, legislator and philosopher, and whose religion counts at the present time three hundred millions of disciples, rests in this spot where his noble soul was carried aloft.
A sumptuous Mosque, erected over the room where he died, has taken the place of the humble temple of raw bricks and palm-trunks that he built up with his own hand. A visit to his tomb is not one of the pillars of Islamic pratical religion, but nevertheless there are few pilgrims who, after the severe trials endured during their journey to Makkah, hesitate to undertake the twelve days’ caravan travel, so distressing and dangerous, between Mohammad’s birthplace and Al-Madinah, in order to salute the Prophet’s grave piously and enthusiastically….
Even the learned men of Europe are beginning to forget secular prejudices and do justice to the founder of Islam. ‘If a man’s value is to be estimated by the grandeur of his works,’ declares Dr. G. Le Bon, ‘we can say that Mohammad was one of the greatest men known in history.’
According to his son-in-law, Ali, the Prophet was of middle height and sturdy build. His head was large, his complexion healthy; with smooth cheeks, a thick beard, and wavy hair. When he was vexed, a vein swelled out on his forehead, from the top of his aquiline nose between his eyebrows which were well arched and meeting.
His big eyes, framed by long lashes, were of a deep black, lit up at times by a few red gleams, and his glance was extraordinarily keen. His mouth was large, well suited to eloquence. His teeth, as white as hailstones, were slightly separated in front. The palms of his hands, of which the fingers were long and slender, were broad and soft to the touch like fine silk.
The Seal of Prophecy—which the monk Bahira discovered—was just below the nape of the neck, between Mohammad’s shoulder-blades. It resembled the scar left by the bite of a leech, and was of a reddish hue, surrounded by a few hairs.
The Prophet’s gait was slow, solemn and majestic. In all circumstances, he never lost his presence of mind and was quick-witted. When he turned round, the whole of his body moved, unlike frivolous folks twisting their necks and rolling their heads about. If he held out an object to show it, he made use of the whole of his hand and not two or three fingers. When surprised, he glorified Allah, turning the palms of his hands to heaven, nodding his head and biting his lips.
When he made an affirmation, he struck his widely-open left hand with his right thumb to lay stress on his declaration. If angry, his face flushed; he stroked his beard and passed his hand over his face, taking a deep breath and exclaiming: ‘I leave it to Allah, the best proxy!’
He was a man of few words; but each had many different meanings, some plain and others hidden. As for the charm of his elocution, it was supernatural, going straight to the heart. None could resist it. The Prophet’s merriment never went beyond a smile, but if he was overcome by an excess of gaiety, he covered his mouth with his hand.
His disposition was even, without self-sufficiency or obstinacy. Whenever any of his companions called him, he replied immediately: ‘Here I am!’ He liked to play with their children and would press them to his noble breast. He used to make the sons of his uncle Abbas stand in a row and, promising to reward the child who got first to him, they would all run into his arms and jump on his knees.
He interested himself in the doings of all, whether slaves or nobles, and followed the funeral of the most humble Believer. He flew one day into a most violent passion because, through negligence, he had not been apprised of the death of a poor negro who swept out the Mosque. He insisted on being told where the grave was situated and went to pray over it.
When an applicant tried to get close to the Prophet’s ear so as not to be overheard, he would bend his head until the man had finished speaking. When a visitor took the hand of Mohammad, he was never the first to withdraw it, but waited until the other chose to relax his grasp. The Prophet often said: ‘To be a good Mussulman, we must wish for others that which we wish for ourselves.’
Never did he let his blessed hand fall on a woman, nor on one of his slaves. Quoth Anas, who was seven years in his service: “‘He never scolded me; he never even asked me: ‘Hast done this?’ or: ‘Why didst thou not do that'” Abu Dharr heard the Prophet declare: ‘These servants are your brothers, placed under your authority by Allah. Whoso is master over his brother must give him the same food as he eateth and the same apparel as he weareth.’
An Arab who bore arms at the battle of Hunain, tells the following story: “My feet were shod with heavy sandals and in the thick of the fight, I accidentally trod on the Prophet’s foot. He struck me with the whip he held in his hand and cried out: ‘By Allah! thou hast hurt me!’ And all night long, I reproached myself for having inflicted pain on Allah’s Messenger. Next day, early in the morning, he sent for me. I went into his presence. I was trembling with fright. ‘Thou art the man,’ said he, ‘who crushed my foot yesterday under thy thick sole and whom I lashed with my whip? Well then, here are eighty lambs. I give them to thee. Take them away.’ And ever since that incident, the Prophet’s patience got the best of his anger.”
Of a loving disposition, he suffered at having been deprived at an early age of maternal affection, which led him always to busy himself about the way mothers and children got on together. His ideas in this connection were summed up in this sentence: ‘A son gains Paradise at his mother’s feet.’ While saying prayers, if he heard a child cry, he would hasten to conclude, so as to allow the mother to go and console her offspring, for he knew how mothers suffer when they hear their children cry.
His marvellous insight into mortals’ souls and the depths of all things, causing him to be the most prodigious psychologist ever known, did not prevent him from consulting his companions for the least thing. Ayishah tells us: ‘I never knew anybody ask for advice and listen to different opinions so carefully as the Prophet.’
If feelings of kindly dignity prevented Mohammad from resorting to vulgar mockery or making use of cutting remarks, his mood was nevertheless playful. He was fond of joking, which is not reproved by Allah, if the sally contains a grain of truth. One day, for amusement, he told Safiyah, his aunt on his father’s side, that ‘old women were not allowed to enter Paradise.’ The noble dame, well advanced in years, burst into tears. So he went on: ‘But all women will be resuscitated with the aspect of females thirty-three years of age, just as if they had all been born on the same day.’
The three things he loved best in this world were prayer, perfumes, and women.
He was so fond of praying that his feet used to swell in consequence of standing for too long a time whilst at his devotions; but he considered that the right to pray so often was one of the prerogatives of his position as a Prophet. Still he would not admit that his example should be followed. This he proved when upraiding Abdullah ibn Amir: ‘Have I heard aright when they tell me thou dost pass the night in prayer, upstanding; and then fast next day? If thou shouldst keep on at this, thou wilt endanger thy sight and wear out thy body. Thy duty, that thou owest to thyself and thy people, is to fast and break thy fast; to rise in the night and also to sleep.’
Next to prayer, Mohammad preferred women, for which his detractors have blamed him severely. He was certainly an ardent lover; a male, in every respect, morally and physically, but endowed with that chastity which fits in well with healthy voluptuousness. Following his example, even nowadays, the Arabs are remarkable for their extreme decency, although devoid of all affectation and having nothing in common with the hypocritical mock-modesty of Puritans.
Mohammad had twenty-three wives, but he only had intercourse with twelve of them; his other marriages taking place for political reasons. All the tribes were eager to be allied to him through one of their daughters and he was beseiged by matrimonial offers. One of these women, Azza, sister to Dihya al-Kalbi, died of joy when she heard that the Prophet accepted her as spouse.
His love of women caused him to be brimful of kindness to them, and he sought to better their lot whenever he could. To begin with, he abolished the monstrous custom of burying girls alive, “Wa’du’l-Binat,” of which we have already spoken. He then regulated polygamy, limiting the number of legitimate helpmates to four, which did not prevent him from urging the Faithful to give heed to this verse of the Qur’an: “If ye fear that ye shall not act equitably, then marry but one woman only.” (IV, 3.)
Then, after declaring that: ‘among all things which are licit, divorce is the most displeasing to Allah,’ he allowed a wife to ask for release if the husband neglected the duties of marriage.
Finally, thanks to his ruling, a virgin could no longer be taken in marriage against her will; the dower, formerly given by the husband to the father of the affianced maiden, was ordered to be handed over to her. Such is the wise custom of the dower which the enemies of Islam call the purchase of a wife. Doubtless, they know nothing about the terrible retort of Moslems when they notice that in certain Western countries the dowry is paid to the bridegroom by the bride’s father! Over and above the dower, the Mussulman husband has to defray household expenses without touching his wife’s fortune to which he has no right.
The Prophet also ordained that a wife is always entitled to some part of an inheritance. If it is only half a share, that is because the compensation found by the spouse in the dowry and the household upkeep is taken into account.
The Prophet was fond of perfumes; for they completed the process of purification by ablutions. The man who has a sweet smell will be worthier and better able to safeguard his honour than he whose bodily odour is disgusting. Mohammad scented himself with musk and he liked sandal-wood, camphor and ambergris to be burnt. He used pomade for his hair, and four plaits hung down over his ears, two on each side. He clipped beard and moustache with scissors, keeping all in order by means of an ivory, or tortoise-shell comb. He blackened his eyelids with “Kuhl,” which brightens the eye and strengthens the lashes. He took care of his teeth by rubbing them often with the “Miswak,” (fragment of soft “Araq” wood), of which the fibre, when the end is chewed, has the same effect as a brush.
His apparel consisted generally of a tunic of cotton cloth, short-sleeved, and not too long; together with a cloak, four cubits long and two wide, woven in the Uman region. He also had a Yamanite mantle, six cubits long and three wide, which he wore on Fridays and holydays. Then, last of all, came his green mantle, inherited by the Caliphs; and a turban known as “As-Sahab,” bequeathed to his son-in-law, Ali.
The Prophet took the greatest care of his personal appearance and reached as far as simple, although very refined elegance. He was wont to look at himself in a mirror, or if that was lacking, in a jar full of water, to comb his hair, or adjust the folds of his turban, letting one end hang down behind his back. He used to say: ‘By attending to our exterior, we please Him of whom we are the servants.’
To make amends, he severely condemned extravagance in clothing; particularly the use of silk, which for rich people furnishes an opportunity for a display of pride belittling the needy; but he permitted it for those to whom it was necessary for reasons of bodily health.
His love of justice and charity extended to animals. It was he who told how “a man saw a dog so thirsty that it lapped up mud. Taking off one of his slippers, the man filled it with water which he offered to the dog; keeping on in the same way until the animal had quenched its thirst. Allah was pleased at what the man did and welcomed him to Paradise.”
This kindness and the mysterious radiation emanating from Mohammad’s personality made an impression on animals; and even on inanimate objects, as well as on human beings. When he went up the steps of a pulpit newly constructed in the Mosque of Al-Madinah, the humble palm-tree trunk on which he habitually stood when preaching, began to groan and was only quieted when he laid his blessed fingers on it.
The Prophet worked with his own hands. He milked his ewes, cobbled his shoes, mended his clothes, fed his camels, pitched his tent, etc., without accepting the assistance of anyone. He carried home his own purchases from the market, and replied to one of the Faithful who wished to do so for him: ‘It is incumbent on the buyer to take away what he buyeth.’ Thus, by his example, he condemned the practice of wealthy people who bought largely, and without troubling about the weight of their purchases, forced their servants to carry the goods.
His disdain for the riches of this world reached to the highest pitch. According to Ayishah, this is what he said on this head:
“Allah offered to change all the pebbles round Makkah, into pure gold for me and I answered: ‘O Allah! all I ask is to be hungry one day and satisfied the next. The day I am hungry, I will implore Thee and the day I am satisfied, I will thank Thee.’ What have I to do with worldly wealth? I am like the traveller who lieth down in the shade of a tree; the sun, as it turneth, beateth down upon him and he goeth away from that tree never to return. O Allah! let me die poor and resuscitate me in the ranks of the poor!”
The Prophet’s sobriety was extreme; he never would have several kinds of food served at the same repast. If he ate meat, he went without dates; and if he ate dates, he deprived himself of meat. He showed a predilection for milk which appeases thirst and hunger at one and the same time.
Many months often passed without a fire being kindled in any of the Prophet’s houses for baking bread or preparing other kinds of food. All this time, he and his family lived on dried dates only and his sole beverage was plain water. When hunger-pains gnawed his entrails too cruelly, he placed a stone on his belly and bound it there with a girdle. He departed this life without having a surfeit of any sort of victuals, not even of barley cake.
He never troubled about his body, so far as comfort went, although he kept it in a state of perfect purity by dint of continual ablutions. He frequently slept on a rugged mat, the rough bristles deeply marking his flesh. His pillow was made of palm-fibre and his bed was a mantle folded in two. One night, when Ayishah had folded it in four, the Prophet lost his temper, found his couch too soft and ordered it to be restored to its usual state.
Before dying, he freed all his slaves and distributed the small amount of property he still possessed. He deemed it unseemly to appear before the Lord with gold in his possession. In his dwelling, but thirty measures of barley were found; and to buy them, he had been forced to leave his breastplate at a usurer’s as security for a loan.
There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is the Prophet of Allah.