The Divine Preparation of Prophet Muhammad (Part 3)
At the age of 25, Prophet Muhammad still needed another type of experience to enable him to become the final Prophet for the whole world. He needed to travel and have contact with other nations to learn how to deal with all types of people as he was only familiar with people from Quraysh. This brings us to the importance of travel. The experience that one gains in one year of travel equals that of 20 years of living in one place.
The Prophet then started working for Khadijah Bint-Khuwayled leading her caravan to Al-Sham (present day Syria) and Yemen. This introduced him to the greatest two empires at that time, the Romans and the Persians.
Consequently, when his uncle Abu-Taleb approached him to suggest that he worked for Khadijah, he accepted since his view of women had always been one of respect. Hence, no feeling of embarrassment stood between him and working for a woman or dealing with her as necessity demanded. This teaches our youth not to shy from dealing with girls or women as long as there is a proper reason for it and as long as they maintain mutual respect. However, some youth today come up with feeble reasons to mix with the opposite sex, this is not acceptable.
Khadijah was not an ordinary woman; she was a very successful businesswoman who had been widowed twice and was nearly 40 years of age at that time. Thus, when Abu-Taleb approached her to suggest that Muhammad (SAWS) could work for her, she accepted but had to test him. She gave him a small caravan and sent her young servant Maysara with him, whom she trusted to report to her news concerning Muhammad’s (SAWS) skills and honesty. Having joined Muhammad (SAWS) on three trips to Yemen, Maysara returned to Khadijah and told her that he had never seen anyone as honest, trustworthy or hard working as Muhammad.
Maysara informed Khadijah how successful Muhammad (SAWS) was in making profit in an honest manner and how he never bowed to any idols –just like herself—since he heard him telling a client that he never worshipped Al-Lat and Al-Uzza. This made her curious to learn more about him and decided to trust him with her caravan’s major trip to Al-Sham.
Instead of taking the usual five to six weeks that most merchants took to sell their merchandise in Al-Sham, Muhammad (SAWS) managed to sell all his merchandise before he even arrived there and he returned with the profit. This teaches us that religious people who carry the responsibility of da’wa (missionary activity) should never confine themselves to the mosque but rather they should work hard. Our Prophet was more skillful in trade than the great merchant Abu-Sufyan, who used to spend two to three weeks selling his merchandise in Al-Sham.
This gradual success in all aspects of life was necessary to polish Muhammad’s (SAWS) character. It was not miraculous but rather achievable for anyone who is prepared to commit oneself to learning and working hard. Even if we take into consideration the miracles that Allah bestowed on Muhammad (SAWS), we should keep in mind that these miracles did not interfere with the sequence of events. Muhammad (SAWS)gradually proved himself, first as a successful shepherd, then as a young honest and skillful merchant who passed several tests over a full year period and finally as a very successful and well-established merchant.
The idea of acquiring success gradually over time is one of the main principles in Islam and in sunnah (the Prophet’s tradition). It should teach the youth today to be patient and to work hard to accomplish their goals.
As Muhammad (SAWS) reached this level of success in his practical life and after dealing with different people from different nations, he became ready for the final stage of his preparation: starting a family. He needed to get married and lead a successful family life in order to be able to teach others how to do the same.
Muhammad (SAWS) had maintained a cheerful face and flexibility in all his dealings, even during times of disagreement. This cheerfulness is one major requirement for success in business, as the West later on came to understand through research. Having been deeply impressed by Muhammad’s (SAWS) incomparable kindness, honesty, and cheerfulness, Khadijah decided to take the first step.
Khadijah had rejected several marriage proposals from the elite of Quraysh who were attracted by either her beauty or her wealth. Khadijah then spoke to one of her friends, Nafisah Bint Al-Munabbih, and admitted her admiration for Muhammad, and gave permission to Nafisah to talk to him concerning the marriage.
Being mature and eloquent, Nafisah went to Muhammad (SAWS).
Two days later, she went back to him to inform him of Khadijah’s approval and how highly she thought of him.
- It is true that Khadijah was 15 years older than Muhammad. Nevertheless, the level of maturity of both, which is a main factor in determining whether a marriage can be successful or not, was extraordinary. Muhammad’s exemplary maturity was quite difficult to come by. Khadijah was mature enough never to make him feel inferior to her. We need to keep in mind the actual maturity of the characters involved when it comes to such matters, especially since psychologists affirm that a woman matures faster than a man, which can create problems for the married couple if they are of the same age or if the woman is much older than the man. Thus, it is preferable that the man is a bit older than the woman.
- Financially, Khadijah was wealthier than Muhammad (SAWS) but this was not a problem since their social level was close. In fact, Muhammad (SAWS) is the descendent of the most honorable family in Quraysh.
- Islam does not only emphasize the significance of the necessity of the similarity of the couple’s religious level in marriage; but also emphasizes similarity in their social status. In any case, the husband is the one who should carry the financial responsibility. Thus, the successful merchant Muhammad (SAWS), who had even secured a partnership with another merchant named Al-Said Ibn Abi Al-Said,was the one who took care of his family’s expenses. This not only refutes a claim made by some orientalists that claim that he married Khadijah for her money, but also teaches our girls and their guardians to test their potential husbands prior to marriage to be certain of their honesty just as Khadijah herself did.
Omar Ibn Al-Khattab asked a man once whether he knew a particular person.
These are the reasons behind the success of Muhammad’s (SAWS) marriage to Khadijah. The marriage lasted 25 years: 15 years prior to the prophecy and 10 years after the prophecy. They had six children together: four girls (Zeinab, Roqayia, Om-Kulthom, Fatimah) and two boys (Al-Qasem and Abdullah). Unlike Romeo and Juliet, who never got to consummate their love and put it to the real test of marriage, Muhammad (SAWS) and Khadijah’s love was tested through marriage that lasted for a long time. Let me give you some proof of its success:
Twenty years after Khadijah’s death, during the conquest of Makkah, and while the Prophet was very busy dealing with many issues, he saw an elderly lady coming towards him. He immediately made room for her and asked everyone not to disturb them for an hour. The people saw him spread his cloak for her to sit on, then talked and laughed with her. This aroused everyone’s curiosity to the extent that, when he returned, Aisha asked him who the lady was.
Muhammad: We were remembering the good old days of Khadijah.
One day, after Khadijah’s death and during Muhammad’s (SAWS) marriage to Aisha, the Prophet heard a knock at his door similar to that of Khadijah, he immediately said that he wished the visitor was Khadija’s sister Hala and so it was.
This great love and loyalty lasted 25 years and was interrupted by the sad death of the two sons of the prophet. It is as if the prophet was reminded again and again that life is transitory and short. Through these events, Allah taught the Prophet that he should live for his goal, and should not get distracted by life. One son died at the age of three and the other at the age of four; the age when parents are most attached to their children. During his 35 years, the Prophet saw the death of a lot of very close people to him, his father, mother, grandfather and two sons. This made the Prophet realize that life is short, and that it isn’t worth sacrificing the hereafter for.
Now, the next stage in preparing the Prophet for his mission was to show his humanity to all mankind and not only Muslims. This is a lesson Muslims should learn from. They should look at how merciful the Prophet was to non-Muslims before Islam. Was the Prophet sent for Muslims only, or was he sent to all mankind? Of course he was sent to all mankind. Thus, the Prophet had to go through experiences to show everyone his mercy to all mankind. Some Muslims limit their mercy to Muslims, which is not how the Prophet was. Let’s look at the story of Zaid Ibn Haretha. This happened before the prophethood. There was a woman called Sa’da Bent Ta’laba, who had a son called Zaid. This woman went out with Zaid, who was eight then, to another village. The boy was kidnapped on the way and sold later in the market place of Ukadh as a slave. A man called Hakim Ibn Hossam Ibn Khwayled, Khadijah’s nephew, bought him. Zaid was given as a gift to Khadijah, who in turn gave him to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). The boy lived with the Prophet. Then one day, the father was told that his son lived in Prophet Muhammad’s (SAWS) house.
He started collecting money to buy his son back. The father then met with Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and asked him to accept the money in return for his son. Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) told him that he had a better solution; to let the boy choose for himself whom he wanted to be with. If the boy chose the father, then he could have him back and he wouldn’t have to pay anything to the Prophet (SAWS), but if the boy chose the Prophet, he should be left to stay with him. Can you see how merciful he was? The Prophet was not Muslim at that time; he was caring and kind towards everyone. The Prophet did not just tell them that they can’t take Zaid back because he saw how Zaid was attached to him and was caring of his feelings. He wanted Zaid to do the choosing. Zaid chose to be with the Prophet. His father was amazed and asked Zaid how he could choose being a slave over being with his parents. Zaid replied by saying that he had seen from the prophet an unprecedented mercy, and that he would never choose to leave him, no matter what he was offered. The Prophet was merciful even though he was not a Muslim then. We should all learn from his mercy.
The last stage in preparing the Prophet for his mission was to test his leadership abilities. He had to be able to solve disputes between people and unify them. Also, it is crucial that before the onset of the prophecy that he was recognized as an honored trusted person among his people, so that it is clear later on that those who did not follow his call did so because of their own interests and not because he was dishonest or not trustworthy.
The Prophet was now 35 years of age. Quraysh (the tribe of the Prophet) decided to rebuild the Ka’ba. People were scared of tearing the Ka’ba down in preparation for the rebuilding, because of what happened to Abraha and his army who died trying to tear it down. So, Al-Waleed Ibn Al-Mogheera, who was known for being brave, said he would do it. He said that since they were doing it for a good cause, Allah wouldn’t harm them. This is an important point; Allah accepts good intentions even if you are not a Muslim. So, Al-Waleed started tearing down the Ka’ba, and all the rest waited to see what would become of him. When they were sure that nothing happened, they all joined in the building of the Ka’ba.
Quraysh made sure that all the money used for rebuilding the Ka’ba came from honest and ethical sources, not from immoral ones (i.e. stealing for example).
Every tribe built a portion of the Ka’ba, as it was considered an honor to do so. After the building was done, it was time to place al-hajar al-aswad (the black stone in the holy mosque, which is a stone from paradise) back into its place. Every tribe wanted to perform that task, and they couldn’t reach an agreement. The issue got so complicated that one tribe said they would start a war if they were not the ones to move al-hajar.
Three days passed, and no decision was made. Al-Waleed then suggested that they should allow the first person to come through the door of the place they were sitting in to judge who would carry al-hajar, no matter who that person was. The Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) came through the door. Notice how Allah arranged for the Prophet to be the one to settle this dispute. Miracles did not happen to the Prophet, but Allah planned for him.
As soon as the Prophet came in, all were happy and agreed to take him as judge because of his honesty. This assertion was made before his prophethood, which shows how respected and trustworthy he was. Thus, Allah says what can be translated as, “Yet surely they do not cry lies to you, but the unjust (people) repudiate the signs of Allah.” (TMQ, 6:33).
The Prophet came up with a quick intelligent answer, like the leader that he is. He asked them to spread a cloak on the ground. He then picked up al-hajar and placed it on the cloak. Next, he asked a representative from each tribe to hold on to one end of the cloak and they all moved it simultaneously towards the Ka’ba, where the prophet placed it in its position. He allowed them all to join in, which made them feel they each had accomplished something.