While most of us live our lives knowing Rasoolullah (S), seerah class does what books and hours of Sunday school does not; it breaths life into the knowing, by allowing us to fall unequivocally in love. Emotions are tangible and they are real. What we feel truly affects us, physically.
After tuning into seerah classes via the Qalam institute podcasts with Moulana ANJ for sometime, I decided to share some of the thoughts that preoccupy my mind through the week between each class.
Seerah is the study of the life of Muhammad (S); the difficulties, the struggles and the eventual triumph. Most of us learn this at an early age in Islamic schools, weekend, regular or over the summer. Most of us carry a basic outline of the life of the Prophet (S)’s life in our mind: Cave of Hira, Revelation, Makkah, Boycott, Hijra are all terms we were essentially familiar with. Nonetheless, the seerah brings us something incomprehensibly greater and that is love.
Unlike so much of what we feel through out our day to day lives, whether it is love for a celebrity who will never know us, the desire to impress someone who will never give us a second thought, or the hope to become successful as strictly defined by societal parameters, we remain unfulfilled in our quests. Contrary to all that we keep near and dear to our hearts, it is the love that Muhammad (S) had for us, that gives us more than we can return. And it is regrettable that we often feel unable to return this love simply because we do not know him (S).
We know the facts, most children do, but we do not fall in love with facts, we do not fall in love with numbers, and we certainly do not fall in love with over-played emotions that we have become desensitized to. I recall siting in my Sunday School class while our teacher said, “Do you know how great Rasoolullah (S) was? He was kind to everyone. He was the kindest person. Kindest.” I remember feeling unfortunate to be unable to classify the words. Maybe I was to young to have met cruel, stingy people, or maybe I did not know what real kindness was, nevertheless, I remember feeling hopeless unengaged and equally worried that my classmates would feel similarly and would thusly write Rasoolullah (S) off with the simple adjective and would never desire to know more. Kind is good, mean is bad, but we still love both and in between, don’t we?
Love is tangible and listening to life of Rasoolullah (S)’s makes it 3D, makes it tangible, brings it within our grasps, allows us to venture into our mind’s eye and envision, sense, breath, and live in a time and feel something more than textbook historical figure “greatness” or philanthropist “kindness.” Seerah brings along connectedness that only love can foster.
I have noticed a trend. Many times great historical figures are referred by how much they conquest and how big their empires were. Very rarely are they considered great for their treatment of conquered people and even more rare are those of high moral character. I have noticed how their morals are written off as insignificant, by “look how much land and resources they accumulated, who cares how many were displaced or murdered, who cares about how he or she cheated on their spouse by engaging in immorality…” Historical greatness, it seems, is flawed. There is a simple trade off between greatness achieved and morality. This can never be the case with Muhammad (S): He was a successful military leader yet a loving father and husband, a ruler who sat with and befriended the poor and visited the sick, a Prophet who never gave a believer priority over a non-believer when it came to social justice, a man who was trusted by his own enemies-the very people that planned to kill him (S).
His greatness did not diminish his moral character nor did his morality decrease his greatness. Today Muhammad is the most common name in the world; a man of great simplicity has 1.6 billion followers currently worldwide (you can forget about counting your number twitter followers!) and people constantly speaking of him, thinking of him and teaching what he (S) taught. The daunting question that arises is: How does one fall in love with man so, so, so amazing? So accomplished, so great? Here’s what I am learning in seerah class…
Muhammad (S) cared. He cared about the people he met and interacted with. He loved his followers, and each person who spoke with him (S) would feel as though he or she were the most important or closest to him (S). Imagine this: meeting the President once on a trip to the state capital, and then imagine him calling you up and saying, “I’ve been thinking about you. I’ve been worried about you. I’ve been hoping you do well. I will do everything I can to see you succeed.” The President would never do this, you might get a signed letter in the mail, but a part of you knows someone else wrote the letter and the President hardly looked down before signing it. But Muhammad (S) did, he thought about us, he worried about us, he hoped we were doing well and he wanted to see us succeed. It is why he spent hours in prayer with swollen feet, for us. He (S) did not just lay down the law, accept the power and rule a people who showed fierce loyalty, he cared. He cared so much so that in the last moments of his blessed life who did he think of? Us.
He believed in us. And not just for the people who were already recognized and on their way to greatness but the average folks, the ones that tend to be overlooked by society, Rasoolullah (S) believed in them. To me this was tremendously eye opening. Many times within our own masjid people clamor over a few, while the rest of the youth are discounted. In fact, a leader at the local masjid once swore that two boys at our masjid would never become huffaz because “they don’t have what it takes!” SubhanAllah, it really makes me think that Rasoolullah (S) would have never discounted those boys.* A sister I used to go to school with tried to learn the recitation of the Quran, when she presented herself to the expert tajweed teachers they similarly discounted her, telling her she didn’t really know how to recite properly and picked the same few students participate in their group. I remember consoling her and wondering why, rather than foster her interest in Quran and recitation, they so simply tossed her aside.
Muhammad (S) gave importance to each of us and he (S) believed that we all could in some way succeed in being pleasing to our Lord (SWT). He never discounted anyone; he never picked a few and left the rest. This is seen in his love for the Ansar (the Helpers). Moulana ANJ described the people of medina as a group of “small town farmers” the ones who lived simply and were not given importance by the neighboring tribes and communities. Only years later would the world see greatness in these men and women that Muhammad (S) had seen in them during their very first meeting.
Muhammad (S) felt. It was never easy to do what he (S) did. Often times we chalk it up to “Well, he was the Prophet” and assume that he “would obviously be successful.” We fail to realize that the greatness and success took time, not minutes or hours but years…Years. Thirteen years spent in Makkah among not only enemies but hypocrites as well. Thirteen years working and waiting and calling while watching the few followers he did have be tortured. Thirteen years of abuses from the very people he grew up with, and it was difficult for him as it would be for anybody. This very human aspect of our Nabi is often left out of the conversation. Maybe we do not talk about the Prophet (S)’s pain, because it is unimaginable. Because it is too painful even in reflection, it is the hardship only a prophet (A) could endure. He was patient and forbearing and the extraordinary truth is that only Allah (SWT) could comfort and console Rasoolullah (S). (ref: Surah Yasin, Surah Taha tafseer by M.ANJ). The very human side of the Prophet (S) allows us to love a man who reached greatness, but still felt the way we feel. Our frustrations, downfalls and limitations were not strange to him (S). If anything, he (S) knew it better than we ever could.
Finally, Muhammad (S) smiled. For so many of us Islam is a set of rules and regulations and we think if we were to meet the Prophet (S) he would simply chastise us, tell us what we were doing wrong like so many do at the masjids today. What we fail to realize is that the Prophet (S) treated people as people, gave them their right and they were so incredibly surprised and taken aback by this that they immediately loved him (S) and they immediately accepted Islam. Muhammad (S) was a man who believed in them even if no one else did, who worried and cared for them as no one else did. He welcomed them to Islam in such a beautiful way that they would go to him with nothing, empty as those who are surrounded by dunya often are, and they would leave with everything, leaving behind the dunya and all it’s wonders and replacing it only with their love and loyalty for the Messenger (S), and they say that when he (S) smiled, his face was brighter than the full moon.
Sharing this reflection on the far-reaching efforts of M. ANJ and Qalam Institute and the seerah podcast series! Only a great teacher inspires students. While nothing matches sitting in a masjid and at the feet of a scholar, who can be opposed to learning small gems from the life of the Rasoolullah by any means possible? Links are in the Library of Gems to tune into live seerah class and access podscasts! Thanks for reading!