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The Prophet’s Patience when Conveying the Message (part 1 of 2): The Followers of Muhammad are Patient

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Description: The forbearance of Prophet Muhammad when spreading the message of Islam.

  • By Aisha Stacey (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 26 Jan 2015
  • Last modified on 06 Mar 2016
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God tells us in the Quran that He sent Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, as a mercy for humankind.  "And We have sent you O Muhammad, not but as a mercy for humankind and all that exists." (Quran 21:107)  God did not say he was sent to the people of Arabia, or to a specific gender, to the people of the 7th century or even to his own people.   In fact Prophet Muhammad was rejected and humiliated by his own people. 

God also made it clear that Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, was a prophet like no other.  One whose message would spread far and wide and be applicable in all places for all times.  He overcame hardship, great sorrow, epic battles and sustained humiliation; however nothing deterred him conveying the message.  Prophet Muhammad was the first to convey God’s message in a form suitable for all people, in all places at all times.  The main message is simple; to worship God alone, without partners, sons or daughters, and Prophet Muhammad spread it with great forbearance and even greater tolerance.  His patience knew no bounds and was never ever goaded into behaving irrationally or angrily.  Violence was not part of the message and had no part in its spread. 

More than one billion Muslims across the globe love Prophet Muhammad, they respect him and follow him.  They hold him in such regard that for many it is emotionally painful to see or hear their beloved mentor ridiculed or disrespected.  Demonstrations across the globe whenever Prophet Muhammad’s name is disrespected or if his image is produced, hold testament to that.  However, violent, irrational behavior is not something learnt from Prophet Muhammad.  His face was firmly turned towards God and the Hereafter and his sole mission was to spread the message of the Most Merciful with patience and forbearance.

Spreading the word of Islam made Prophet Muhammad poor and a social outcast, after living a life of relative ease.  His lifestyle drastically changed for the worst and his life was threatened on more than one occasion.  In addition to that his family and his followers were ridiculed, derided and physically beaten.  The message however weighed heavily on his shoulders and even at his final sermon he asked the people to testify before God that he had delivered the message.

It is important that at this time in world history, when it sometimes seems as if the Muslim population is being herded into a corner or behind a fence, that we remember the patience of Prophet Muhammad and face our problems with the  same methods he used in the face of adversity.  Prophet Muhammad himself demonstrated enormous restraint and patience when he was insulted, belittled and beaten.   As his beloved wife Aisha said, "His character was a reflection of the Quran".[1]

At a very difficult time in his life, just after a period known as the Year of Sorrow, Prophet Muhammad went to the city of Taif hoping to find people who would listen and support his message to humanity.   Instead of support he found insults and injuries.  He was chased out of town.   With his sandals filled with blood, from the injuries inflicted upon him by men, women and children throwing rocks, Prophet Muhammad prayed to God for help.  In response, the Angel of the Mountains asked for the Prophet’s permission to cause the mountains surrounding Taif to crumble, killing all of the city’s inhabitants.   Despite his pain and suffering, something he had every right to be angry about, the Prophet’s reply was, "No, for I hope that God will bring forth from their progeny people who will worship God Alone, and none besides Him."

We have all heard the saying patience is a virtue, meaning that being patient is a noble and good trait to acquire.   Patience is a quality that we must practice and use in small situations and at times situations that loom large in our lives.  Reading even a small slice of Islamic history will show you that Prophet Muhammad was patient.  Patience does not mean to do nothing, it implies trying your best to ease the situation.  Thus he made efforts to alleviate the situation, such as the two migrations and the buying of slaves primarily to stop their torture and humiliation. 

After ten years of living in Medina, ten years of teaching the people how to love and obey God, ten years of establishing a fair and equitable Islamic state, Prophet Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca.   His patience was at last rewarded yet he still rode in on a donkey with tens of thousands of followers.  Prophet Muhammad could have thrown patience to the wind and exact a terrible vengeance.  He did not!  Mecca lay at his feet, enemies stood with heads bowed in surrender and Prophet Muhammad spoke by the mercy of his Creator and said, "I speak to you in the same words as (Prophet) Yusuf spoke to his brothers.  This day there is no reproof against you; Go your way, for you are free".[2]

Throughout his life and particularly during his Prophethood, Prophet Muhammad practiced patience and tried to encourage and even demand that his followers learn patience.  There are many instances of Prophet Muhammad advising patience.  The following story in particular paints a picture of a man who was able to show patience and forbearance above what is usual, but it also shows the lengths Prophet Muhammad would go to in order to teach his followers why they should always behave patiently and in the most correct way.

This is the story of the Jewish Rabbi, Zaid ibn Sanah.   Rabbi Zaid had loaned something to Prophet Muhammad.  He himself describes the scene and dialogue as follows.   "…Prophet Muhammad was attending the funeral of a man from the Ansar.  Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and some other Companions were with him.  After the funeral prayer he sat down close to a wall, and I came towards him, grabbed him by the edges of his cloak, looked at him in a harsh way, and said, ‘O Muhammad! Will you not pay me back my loan? I have not known the family of Abdul-Mutalib to delay in repaying debts!’  I looked at Umar whose eyes were swollen with anger! He looked at me and said: ‘O enemy of God, do you talk to the Messenger of God and behave towards him in this manner?!  By the One who sent him with the truth, had it not been for the fear of not entering the Heavenly Gardens, I would have beheaded you with my sword!’"

Prophet Muhammad was not late in repaying the debt, the Rabbi had accosted him and spoken badly.  How would we react?  In this year 2015 how would the majority of people react?  If you know those who would react calmly and accept harsh treatment with patience then you will be glad to know they are following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.  In the next part we will discover just how this incident concluded and it just may surprise you.



Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh Muslim

[2] Recorded by Ibn Kathir, related by Saheeh Muslim and authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani

 

 

The Prophet’s Patience when Conveying the Message (part 2 of 2): God Commands us to be Patient

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Description: Examples of Prophet Muhammad’s patience and a brief look at God’s command to be patient.

  • By Aisha Stacey (© 2015 IslamReligion.com)
  • Published on 02 Feb 2015
  • Last modified on 01 Aug 2016
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ProphetsPatience_02.jpgThis is a continuation of our story about Prophet Muhammad’s patience in the face of adversity.  We left off with Rabbi Zaid standing under the malevolent gaze of Umar.  The Rabbi turned away and Prophet Muhammad said to Umar, "… you should have given us sincere counselling, rather than act as you did! Go and repay him his loan, and give him twenty Sa’a (a measurement of weight) extra because you scared him!"

Prophet Muhammad was patient with everybody, his close companions, acquaintances such as the Rabbi, and even strangers.  He was suggesting that it would have been better for Umar to be patient and give sincere counselling such as suggesting a solution that left everybody satisfied, rather than lose his temper.When pondering this story one might also wonder why the Rabbi was asking for the repayment days before the loan was due.  The men were in fact gathered together after the funeral of one of the residents of Medina.  Perhaps the Rabbi seized the opportunity to ask about his loan; perhaps he was an impatient man who wanted to make sure his loan would be repaid in a timely manner or it may have been that he wanted to test Prophet Muhammad, to make sure he was truly a prophet.  Humankind has all manner of ways of dealing with each other but following the example of Prophet Muhammad is always the best way, which becomes clear as we continue the story.

Rabbi Zaid then says, "Umar went with me, repaid me the debt, and gave me an extra twenty Sa’a of dates.  I asked him why and he replied, ‘The Messenger of God ordered me to give it to you because I frightened you.’"  Zaid realised then that Umar had no idea who he was and asked him if he did in fact know.  Umar answered that he had no idea.  Zaid looked at Umar and said, "I am Zaid ibn Sanah, the Rabbi".  Umar was amazed and asked Zaid why he behaved that way towards the Prophet? Zaid explained that he had seen many signs of prophethood in Muhammad except two and he wanted to test the final two signs.    They were that patience and perseverance would take precedence over anger, and that harsh treatment was repaid with kindness.  This was exactly what Rabbi Zaid had observed. 

Not only was Prophet Muhammad patient when conveying his message it was his patience that convinced people that his religion was the truth.  In this case Rabbi Zaid immediately renounced his religion and in front of Prophet Muhammad testified that there was none worthy of worship but God alone and that Prophet Muhammad was His messenger.[1]

Prophet Muhammad did not show such patience when conveying the message because he thought it might make his life easier, he did it because he was commanded by God to do so.  In many cases it did not make his life easier.   The Prophet’s uncle, the man known as Abu Lahab and his wife were great enemies of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad.  Everyday they would throw stones and dirt at his house and encourage others to do so.  Many threw stones not only at his house but at his body.  Injuries were not uncommon.  Thorns were spread on the ground in a way that Prophet Muhammad could not avoid them and on many days the Prophet’s feet would bleed after extracting the thorns.  How did he react? With patience, with forbearance,  and with forgiveness.

To place emphasis on the importance of behaving in a calm and kind manner, God mentions it time after time throughout the Quran.  God says, bear patiently, forgive them, pardon them, and repress your anger.

"Those who spend (in God’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon the people; verily, God loves the good-doers." (Quran 3:134)

"… And if you are patient and keep your duty - this is surely a matter of great resolution." (Quran 3:185)

"Many of the followers of the People of the Scripture wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed… but you should pardon and forgive." (Quran 2:109)

Prophet Muhammad patiently bore the persecution and abuse that he suffered when calling people to the truth of Islam.  The idolaters, the pagans,  and the hypocrites all mocked him, insulted him, disbelieved him and abused him.  He was called a liar and a magician, a soothsayer and a madman but this did not deter him from conveying his message.  God had warned Prophet Muhammad that many would disbelieve, ignore or abuse him.

"So be patient (O Muhammad).  Verily, the Promise of God is true; and let not those who have no certainty of Faith discourage you from conveying God’s Message." (Quran 30:60)

When conveying the message Prophet Muhammad never lost his temper or behaved violently.  He never raised his voice or looked at them with disdain.  If he engaged in debate or argument he did so in a calm and clever way. 

"Invite humankind, O Muhammad to the way of your Lord with wisdom  and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better…" (Quran 16:125)

"And argue not with the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner, inviting them to Islamic Monotheism with His Verses), except with such of them as do wrong; and say (to them): ‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One and to Him we have submitted’" (Quran 29:46)

When Prophet Muhammad spoke to his companions about conveying the message he was always concerned with their behaviour.   When sending companions to the Jews and Christians in Yemen he advised them to, "Be easy going and do not be harsh, give glad tidings and do not put people off."[2]  Moreover God forbade anyone to initiate insults or to respond to harsh words about the message with insults. 

And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge" (Quran 6:108)

Prophet Muhammad and those who convey the message are commanded by God not to behave badly no matter what the provocation.  God says do not insult, do not respond and in addition to this we are told to turn away from the ignorant.  Prophet Muhammad did exactly what he was commanded to do - convey the message and bear the ridicules patiently, forgive them and turn away from the ignorant.

"And if you invite them to guidance, they hear not; and you see them looking at you, yet they see not.  Hold fast to forgiveness, enjoin goodness and turn away from the ignorant." (Quran 7:198-199)

"So bear patiently what they say…" (Quran 20:130)

Prophet Muhammad’s patience when conveying the message was endless.  He never tired of speaking to people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, about the religion of Islam.  His sincerity was obvious and he never engaged in useless arguments or debates destined for disaster.  He treated people well, with kindness and compassion, he overlooked faults and bad behaviour and when all else failed, he turned away.  Violence, anger and rudeness were never part of his method nor were they part of his character.  He showed patience in the face of adversity and kindness in the face of harsh treatment.   



Footnotes:

[1] Saheeh Ibn Hibban.  For more information see http://islamicencyclopedia.org/public/index/topicDetail/id/390#Doctrines-of-Ibn-Hibban

[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim

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