After visiting with all the members of his household in the late morning, Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, returns to the mosque. The first thing he does is offer two units of prayer before sitting down. He prays in his preferred spot, by a column which is known today as the Emigrants’ Column in the middle of the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque.
He then takes a seat against the eastern wall of the mosque, which is the wall attached to his houses. Aishah’s room is on the other side of the wall. His Companions gather around him as they do every day at this time. Whoever wishes to speak with the Prophet knows to go to the mosque at this time. It is an open assembly, and the number of people in attendance varies, depending on how much free time they have. When numbers are few, they gather around the Prophet in a circle. When they are many, they arrange themselves in rows on his right and left, so that any outside visitor who might come can easily approach him.
The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, frequently beseeches God’s forgiveness during this assembly. His Companions notice how he never tires of making penance and asking God to forgive him. He invokes the following prayer more than a hundred times before the assembly is over: "My Lord! Forgive me and pardon my sins. Indeed, You are the Relenting One, the Oft-Forgiving."
Some people come to the assembly bringing the first pickings of the date harvest. Dates are Madinah’s chief crop and the staple of the people’s diet. The harvesting of the year’s first fruit is always an occasion for joy, so they share this with the Prophet. He takes the dates in his hands and says: "O God! Bless us in our produce. Bless us in our city. Bless us in each measure we measure out. O God! Truly Abraham was your servant, friend, and prophet, and truly I am your servant and prophet. He prayed to you on behalf of Mecca, and now I pray to you on behalf of Madinah for the same that he prayed for, indeed for double the blessing."
Thereafter, the Prophet calls the youngest member of his assembly to come to him and he gives that child the dates.
There is time enough during the assembly for light-hearted speech and funny anecdotes. The dignity and prestige of the Prophet’s assembly does not prevent his Companions from joviality. The Prophet relates the following parable:
A man in Paradise will ask his Lord to allow him to engage in farming. God will ask him: "Do you not have everything you desire?" The man will reply: "Certainly, my Lord. It is just that I love farming." He will begin planting seeds, and as soon as they are sown, they will grow to their full height and are harvested. The crops will be like mountains. God will then say: "This is paltry for you, O son of Adam, since you are insatiable."
There is a Bedouin in the assembly today, a visitor from the outlying deserts. After the Prophet finished speaking, the Bedouin says: "O Messenger of God! I swear by God that you will find that man to be either a Quraishi tribesman or a person from Madinah, because they are farming folk. As for us, we are not farmers." Upon hearing this, everyone in the assembly, including the Prophet, laughs with the Bedouin.
Meeting with people from outside Madinah is one of the purposes of this morning assembly. It is the custom of visitors and delegations to spend the night of their arrival outside the city limits and to enter the city after sunrise, so that they meet with the Prophet in the mosque during his assembly.
This had been the case with the delegation from tribe of Mudar. Upon their arrival in the mosque that morning, the Prophet could see how they were suffering from poverty and fatigue. His sorrow for them was clearly visible on his face. After the noon prayer on that day, the Prophet delivered a sermon about the virtues of giving in charity, until his Companions had donated to the visitors from Mudar a large pile of food and a large pile of clothing.
On another morning, he had received a delegation from the Abd Qays tribe. He greeted them, saying: "I welcome your delegation, you who have never met with disgrace and who will never meet with regret."
It is likely that when the angel Gabriel came to the Prophet in human form, it happened during one of these morning assemblies. Gabriel had appeared as a man with jet black hair wearing extremely white clothes. He showed no signs of having been travelling, and nobody knew him. He came up to the Prophet and asked him about Islam, faith, virtue, and the signs of the Last Day.
It was also during one of these assemblies that Dimam ibn Tha’labah approached the Prophet, asking him about the religious obligations a Muslim must observe. When Prophet Muhammad described to him the duties of faith, prayer, fasting, charity, and the pilgrimage, Dimam made the famous reply: "I swear by Him who sent you in truth, I will do no more and no less than what you have said."
Then he turned and departed, at which point the Prophet said: "If he is telling the truth, he will enter Paradise."
The morning assembly is a time for consultation on important community matters and current affairs. The Prophet consults with his Companions on almost everything, in accordance with the commandment in the Quran: "Consult with them in their affairs." (Quran 3:159)
The Companions sometime take turns in attending the assembly. For instance, Umar recalls: "I lived in the upper reaches of Madinah, so I would take turns with one of my neighbors in attending the Prophet’s meetings. One day he would go, and on the next day I would go. When it was my day to go, I would return and relate to him what happened on that day, including anything that was revealed to the Prophet, and he would do the same for me when it was his turn."
The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, sits among his Companions as an equal. There is nothing to set him apart from his fellows. A stranger who comes there for the first time will not know at first glance which of them he is, and they often have to ask if he is among them. Sometimes, they might notice the characteristic light in his countenance and extra gentleness of his expression. In the final year of the Prophet’s life, the Companions will seek his permission to make for him a small clay bench so people will be able to readily identify him. He will permit them to do so for practical reasons, since this year will go down in history as the year of delegations, when representatives from all over Arabia will come to Madinah to pledge their allegiance.
Prophet Muhammad divides his attention between his Companions equally from the time they assemble until the time they depart. Each of them leaves with the impression of enjoying his special favor and attention.
Sometimes, someone sends a gift of food to the Prophet, which he shares with everyone. On one occasion, someone sent a large bowl of stew to the mosque as a gift to the Prophet. They all ate from it, passing it repeatedly from one person to the next, and there was enough food that it took them until nearly noon to finish it off. They were surprised at how much they were all able to eat from that single bowl. One man asked: "Was someone refilling the bowl?"
The Prophet replied: "No one here was refilling it. If it was being refilled at all, then it was being refilled from Heaven."
On another occasion, a sheep was sent to his home as a gift. This was at a time when food was very scarce. He instructed his family to prepare it, augmenting it with some bread that they had. When they did so, he had the food placed in a large bowl which needed four people to carry it. After performing prayer in the mosque on that morning, he had that bowl brought in. His Companions gathered around it. Only after they grew in number, the Prophet also kneeled down. A Bedouin visitor asked: "What kind of assembly is this?"
The Prophet replied: "God sent me as a generous servant, not as an arrogant tyrant. Everyone, eat from what is immediately in front of you, and leave what is still piled up in the middle, and you will be blessed in what you eat." After a while, he added: "Take it and eat it, for I swear by Him in whose hand is Muhammad’s soul, Persia and Rome will be opened up until food becomes plentiful, and people will forget to mention God’s name over it."
The morning assembly might go on for a long time, or it might be brief, depending on the community’s circumstances. In any case, by late morning the assembly is over and the Prophet stands up, but only after saying: "Glory be to You, O Allah (God), my Lord, and may You be praised. I bear witness that there is no god but You. I seek Your forgiveness and I repent my sins to You."
On the first occasion when the Prophet uttered this supplication, his Companions asked him about it. He said to them: "With this, we atone for whatever sins were committed during the gathering." He also explained once to Aishah that: "For those who said something good, this supplication will be a seal upon what they said until the Day of Judgment. For those who said something bad, it will be an expiation for what they said."
Before he departs, he also invokes a prayer for his Companions: "O Allah (God)! Grant us to fear You enough that it prevents us from disobeying You. Grant us the ability to be obedient to You so that we attain Paradise. Grant us the certainty of faith that makes it easy for us to bear the trials of life. O Allah (God)! Let us enjoy our strength and our faculties of hearing and sight as long as You let us live, up to the very end. Give us vindication over those who oppress us and aid us against those who show us hostility. Do not make the world an affliction to us, and do not let it become our chief concern or the whole of our knowledge. Do not let anyone have power over us who will not show us mercy."
The Companions all get up and go their separate ways, some to their vocations and others to their homes to take a brief rest before noon.
As for the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, he goes home today. On some days, he might use this time to visit the market, or honor someone’s invitation, of carry out some task he needs to complete.
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