The Holy Qur'an The Nature of God

The Holy Prophet (saw) as ‘Abd Shakur’

37The Review of Religions – June 2006 Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! you also should invoke blessings on him and salute him with the salutation of peace. (Ch.33: V.57) The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) – the ‘Abd Shakur’ – embodied the quality of gratitude to the highest degree and practiced it for his entire life. The following is a description of the state of contemporary society with regards to gratitude; the Islamic teachings on the concept of gratitude, some examples from the life of Holy Prophet(saw) on how he infused every element of this teaching into his life and the benefits of following his beautiful model in gratitude. Ingratitude in Contemporary Society Sadly, ingratitude has become an integral part of society. The Holy Qur’an draws our attention to this phenomenon. And We have established you in the earth and provided for you therein the means of subsistence. How little thanks you give! (Ch.7: V.11) Ingratitude is so ingrained in the lives of people that they cannot perceive their ungratefulness and hence do not admit it. Amazingly, this situation occurs at times when we have more to be thankful for, than any other previous civilisation. Human life has been extended by decades. The quality of life has been improved to a degree that was incomprehensible merely a hundred years ago. Similarly, the wealth of indi- viduals and nations has reached enormous proportions, which reminds a person of stories of uncountable treasures. HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(saw) as ‘Abd Shakur’ (graceful servant of Allah) Speech delivered by Maulana Naseem Mahdi, (Ameer Jama’at Ahmadiyya Canada) on the occasion of Jalsa Salana Canada 2004 38 The Review of Religions – June 2006 Individualism and Excessive Individual Freedom: Cause of Ingratitude Regretfully many people have got into the cult of ingratitude under the guise of individualism and individual freedom. Not so long ago I attended the graduation cere- mony of one of my children in grade one. My experience was similar to the other ceremonies I had attended for Grade 5, Grade 8 and countless other achieve- ments. One common thing I noticed at each of these events was how much individual success was being noted and appreciated at each of these events. It was as if the whole world revolved around these young people and that their current status was achieved without regard of a divine being. This so called individualism is not limited to school going children; Adults face the same mindset in their work place. Negative Perception of God Generally, people assume that each success is achieved because of their own efforts and anything bad must be attributed to some freak accident of nature. For example, we do not hear much about Quebec’s successful skiing season; we do not hear about plentiful harvest of the prairies; we do not hear people thanking for the benefits of the forestry of British Columbia; but on the onset of each calamity, be it a snowstorm in Quebec, a drought in the prairies or wild fires in British Columbia, it is termed as an Act of God, as if God is only out there to smite people. Gratitude in Islam In this wilderness of ingratitude, Islamic teachings are like a source of light or fresh morning breeze. In Islam, gratitude is a spiritual and moral state of mind. It is spiritual in the sense of acknowledging the believers’ obligation to the Creator and moral in the sense of mandating rightful conduct in relation to God and to those appointed by God. Ingratitude is simply the opposite of gratitude. It is characterised by the denial of what is rightfully owed to God. The Holy Qur’an states that ingratitude is a form of rebellious unbelief or kufr. It ruins, and distorts the very basis of all moral relationships, whether those HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 39The Review of Religions – June 2006 with God or those within the human community. A dominant feature of the concept of gratitude – ‘shukr’ in the Holy Qur’an – is its use to describe the spiritual bond between the believer and God. The term ‘shukr’ is derived from the root shin-kaf-ra. Words derived from this root occur at more than seventy places in the Holy Qur’an. In Arabic lexicons, the term ‘shakara’ has the root meaning of ‘being filled over’, of that of an ‘expression’. ‘Al-Mishkar’ is a milk-producing animal that is productive despite lack of fodder. ‘Shakra’ is also the grass that grows despite very little water. Inherent in this meaning is the ability to become content with small provisions. This also refers to the ability to be productive despite meagre resources. Types of Shukr According to the very well known dictionary Tajul’Urus, shukr is of three types: 1. Shukr bi al-Qalb: Its literal meaning is gratitude in the heart. It relates to the understanding at the provisions given to us and their knowledge in one’s heart and mind. 2. Shukr bi al-Lisan: Its literal meaning is gratitude with the tongue. It refers to verbal praise for the one who has done us some favour. 3. Shukr bi al-Jawarih: This term is applied for appropriate and suitable use of the provisions provided to a person. Basis for Gratitude The root of gratitude lies in the act of creation to which every human being owes his existence. The sustenance of life through Allah’s bounties and blessings is further grounds for gratitude. The Holy Qur’an states: And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers while you knew nothing, and gave you ears and eyes and hearts, that you might be grateful. (Ch.16: V.79) HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 40 The Review of Religions – June 2006 The Holy Prophet(saw) as Abd Shakur The person who exemplified this gratitude in his life was the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). Therefore if we are ever to truly learn about shukr, then we must turn our eyes towards the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) as Abd Shakur. Qualities of Abd Shakur Abd Shakur is in reality a composite of two qualities. In it, the Holy Prophet(saw) can be seen as the true ‘abd’ or servant of God and he can be witnessed as the true human embodiment of ‘shakur’ the one who shows gratitude. These two qualities are completely intertwined. Their relationship is such that one cannot be truly called an abd or a servant of God without showing gratitude and that a shakir or a shakur – a person who does shukr – cannot attain his status, unless he is a true servant of God, i.e., and abd of Allah. Examples of the Holy Prophet’s(saw)Appreciation We witness that the Holy Prophet Muhammad’s(saw) entire life revolved around the remembrance and gratitude of Allah. He started his day with hamd or praise of Allah. During the day, before starting any activity, he would remember and thank Allah, and He would end that activity by again showing gratitude to Allah. Despite the fact that his entire day was spent being grateful to Allah, he continued to pray: ‘Oh my Lord, Make me one of those who remember You and of those who show ingratitude towards Allah.’ (Abu Daud, Kitab-us-Salat, The book of prayer) Even after his obligatory prayers, he would not forget the remembrance of Allah and continued in the following words. ‘Oh, My Allah grant me the ability to pray that is full of your remembrance, gratitude and beauty.’ (Abu Daud, Kitab-us-Salat, the book of prayer) The Holy Prophet(saw) did not pass a single occasion on which a person could show gratitude without setting an example for us. For example whenever it rained HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 41The Review of Religions – June 2006 after a long dry season, the Holy Prophet(saw) was full of gratitude to Allah. He would uncover his head and take the early shower upon his blessed head and would say: ‘This is a fresh blessing from my Lord.’ (Masnad-e-Ahmad, Volume 3, page 267 published in Beirut) The Holy Qur’an mentions a prophecy of Jesus(as) that indicates that a prophet by the name of ‘Ahmad’ would come after him. One meaning of Ahmad is a person who has shown incomparable gratitude towards Allah. This prophecy was fulfilled in the person of the Holy Prophet(saw) who taught us Surah Al-Fatiha, which is the most beautiful hamd or praise possible. One attribute of Allah is that He is Shakur, The Appreciator. Thus shukr is the ability to appreciate. The Holy Prophet(saw) is the perfect manifestation of human equivalent of this attribute. He appreciated every kindness or good deed of other fellow beings. He reminded us that a person who is not appreciative of others cannot be grateful to Allah. He has admonished us to be mindful of other people’s favours. One example on true appreciation is related to the Holy Prophet’s(saw) visit to Ta’if. Upon the Holy Prophet’s(saw) return, the non- Muslim Mut’im bin’ Adi extended his protection to the Holy Prophet(saw), so that he could enter Makkah again. Although Mut’im died soon thereafter, the Holy Prophet(saw) did not forget the good deed. When the prisoners of battle of Badr were presented to the Holy Prophet(saw), he said, ‘If Mut’im had been alive, and he had asked to free these prisoners, I would have done so without asking for any ransom’1 Similarly, during the battle of Badr, an uncle of the Holy Prophet(saw), Hadhrat Abbas(ra) was one of the prisoners. The Holy Prophet(saw) had ordered that all the prisoners should be given clothes. However, Hadhrat Abbas(ra) was quite tall, and no person’s garment would fit him. Abdullah bin ‘Ubayy, a hypocrite, brought his shirt from HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 42 The Review of Religions – June 2006 home and gave it to Hadhrat Abbas(saw). Even this deed was not forgotten by the Holy Prophet(saw) , so much so that upon the death of this leader of the hypocrites, the Holy Prophet(saw) gave his blessed garment for his burial. Another incident shows how the Holy Prophet(saw) was appreciative of others. Hadhrat Fatima bint Asad(ra) was the mother of Hadhrat Ali(ra) and a cousin of the Holy Prophet(saw). When she passed away in Madinah the Holy Prophet(saw) gave his blessed garment for her shroud and personally lowered her corpse into her grave to ensure that the burial was performed correctly. His eyes were full of tears at that time. Hadhrat Umar(ra) asked the reason for that special attention. The Holy Prophet(saw) indicated that after the death of his mother, Hadhrat Fatima(ra) was like a mother to him. She had showed such loving treatment that he could not truly show his gratitude. He continued: ‘Whenever I sat with my cousins to eat, she would provide for me even more than what was given to her own sons. Even then, she would save some food for me separately.’ Examples of Holy Prophet’s(saw) Contentment Shukr has another meaning of contentment. The early life of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw) was full of struggles. However, when he migrated to Madinah and Islam spread to all corners of Arabia, life became affluent for many. Despite that change in fortunes, the Holy Prophet(saw) led a simple and content life, always looking to provide for people worse off than him . Hadhrat Abu Huraira(ra) narrated that the Holy Prophet(saw) said, ‘If any of you would like to see the great blessings of Allah on him, then let him look at those who are less fortunate than him, not those who appear better off than him.’2 Hadhrat Aisha(ra) relates that it never happened that food was cooked in the household of the Holy Prophet(saw) for three consecutive days. Surely if the Holy Prophet(saw) had wanted, he HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 43The Review of Religions – June 2006 could have filled his house with the best of provisions; but his way of showing gratitude was to remain content and not show any greed. Once Hadhrat Umar(ra) visited the Holy Prophet(saw) and noticed that he was resting upon a mat. When the Holy Prophet(saw) got up, the marks of this rough mat were evident on his skin. Hadhrat Umar(ra) was much disturbed by this sight and enquired if a better arrangement could be made for the Holy Prophet(saw). The Holy Prophet(saw) responded by saying that there was no need for such luxuries as he was leading his life in this world just like a traveller who had stopped under a tree for rest before continuing his journey. Some may think that there is no connection of contentment with thankfulness, but, in reality, true gratitude cannot be shown without being content. Greed is the enemy of contentment and thankfulness. The conquest of Makkah is the epitome of true gratitude. The Holy Prophet(saw) entered Makkah victoriously with ten thousand followers. However, due to his gratitude to Allah and humility, he entered the city in a prostrating position looking down – while sitting on the back of a camel. It was a magnificent bloodless victory, which had been pro- phesied in the earlier scriptures. A worldly leader would have started a grand feast to celebrate this monumental victory. That ruler would have butchered hundreds of animals for this feast. However, the attitude of the Holy Prophet(saw) provides true guidance to us. After completing some urgent tasks, the Holy Prophet(saw) visited Umm Hani’s(ra) abode and asked her if there was anything to eat. She responded that there was nothing in the house except some dried breadcrumbs. The Holy Prophet(saw) asked her to dip those breadcrumbs in water to make them soft and edible. He then enquired from her if there was anything to eat with those breadcrumbs. She responded that there was nothing in the house except a few drops of vinegar. The Holy Prophet(saw) asked her to bring that vinegar and started to eat. With each bite, he thanked Allah; he praised Allah and said how good those breadcrumbs were with those few drops of vinegar. HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 44 The Review of Religions – June 2006 Such was the feast of the Holy Prophet(saw) on the great victory of Makkah.3 It is reported that the Holy Prophet(saw) often stayed up all night standing until his feet became swollen. When he was asked why he was subjecting himself to such hardship, when Allah had already forgiven all his past and future human lapses. He would reply, ‘Should I not be a grateful servant?’4 Hisham bin Urwa said that the Holy Prophet(saw) used to pray, ‘Oh Allah! Help me to remember You, to give thanks to You and to worship You well.’5 The Holy Prophet(saw) once said: ‘Allah is pleased with his slave, who, when he eats something, thanks Allah for it and when he drinks something, thanks Allah for it.’6 Shu’bah(ra) narrated that once he came to the Messenger of Allah(saw) looking untidy and scruffy. The Holy Prophet(saw) asked him whether he had any possessions. Shu’bah(ra) replied that Allah had given him camels, horses, slaves and sheep. The Holy Prophet(saw) said, ‘If Allah has given you all of that, then let Him see His blessings on you.’ Al-Nu’man bin Bashir(ra) narrated that the Holy Prophet(saw) said, ‘Speaking of Allah’s blessing is gratitude and ignoring it is ingratitude. The one who does not give thanks for a small blessing will not give thanks for a great blessing, and the one who does not give thanks to people will not give thanks to Allah.’7 Examples of the Holy Prophet’s(saw) Remembrance of Allah The Holy Prophet(saw) was very particular about prayers in con- gregation. Even during illness, he would go to the mosque to lead the prayers himself. Once, due to severity of illness, he was not able to proceed to the mosque and instructed Hadhrat Abu Bakr(ra) to lead the prayers. As he felt a bit better, he asked to be supported to the mosque. He was still so feeble that he had to rest his weight on the shoulders of two men. According to Hadhrat Aishah(ra), HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 45The Review of Religions – June 2006 his feet trailed around the ground. Is this not the example of a true servant of Allah whose every breath was filled with the remembrance of Allah?8 It is fascinating to note that every moment of the life of the Holy Prophet(saw) was filled with the remembrance of Allah. Even while going to sleep, he would offer the prayer: ‘O Allah! Let me die with Thy name on my lips, and with Thy name on my lips let me rise.’ Upon waking up he would say, ‘All praise is due to Allah Who has brought me to life after death and one day we shall all be gathered unto Him.’9 Darud Sharif – Our Gratitude to the Holy Prophet(saw) The Holy Prophet(saw) was the best amongst the grateful servants of Allah. Allah the Almighty has bestowed us with all kinds of bounties because of the Holy Prophet’s gratitude toward Him. If we show our gratitude to the Holy Prophet(saw) by offering Darud Sharif, Allah the Almighty will multiply these favours on us. Fruits of Following the Beautiful Example of the Holy Prophet(saw) as Abd Shakur In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty says: And remember also the time when your Lord declared: If you are grateful, I will, surely, bestow more favours on you; but if you are ungrateful, then know that My punishment is severe indeed.’ (Ch.14: V.8) The Holy Prophet(saw) offered his gratefulness toward Allah the Almighty throughout his life. The bounties that Allah bestowed upon the Holy Prophet(saw) as a result of his gratitude to Allah are mentioned in the Holy Qur’an in the following words: Surely, we have given thee an abundance of good. (Ch.108: V.2) These favours that belong to this world as well as the hereafter will also be extended to his true followers. Allah the Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ 46 HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ The Review of Religions – June 2006 O ye who believe! fear Allah and seek the way of approach unto Him and strive in His way that you may prosper. (Ch.5: V.36) The Holy Prophet(saw) has shown us the beautiful face of Allah; he has given us the beautiful teaching in the shape of the Holy Qur’an; he has given us the beautiful Sharia of Islam, the most beautiful religion on earth. So, following in his footsteps and showing our gratitude to him, we should also become grateful servants of Allah the Almighty. In this time and age, the Promised Messiah(as) – the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has been given the torch of Islam. The light will shine through him. He is the second coming of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw). He claims that whatever he has got is due to his love for the Holy Prophet(saw). He says: ‘Once I realised that I should spend more time in invoking blessings and saying darud on the name of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw), I realised that the roads leading to Allah are very tiny and some times you have to find them with struggle. Then I realised that this is possible only through the medium of the Holy Prophet(saw), because Allah says, ‘seek the way of approach Unto Him.’ The way of approach to Allah is true obedience of Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw). Then I saw a vision that two angels come to my house with containers of light. One comes from the outside and one comes from the inside. They are sprinkling light in my house while saying, ‘This light is given to you because you have been sending darud on the Holy Prophet.’10 If we show our gratitude to the Holy Prophet(saw), then since he possesses the attribute of Shakur to its full human capacity, his appreciation for us will work in our favour in wonderful ways as is evident from the following Ahadith: Hadhrat Abu Hurairah(ra) relates that the Holy 47 HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ The Review of Religions – June 2006 Prophet(saw) said, ‘He who calls blessings on me, Allah sends down blessings on him ten times.’ (Sahih Muslim) The Holy Prophet(saw) was not in need of blessings, from us; but he has shown us the way to receive the blessing of Allah. Hadhrat Abu Talha Ansari(ra) relates that one morning the Holy Prophet(saw) was extraordinarily cheerful. His face was shining with joy. The companions enquired from the Holy Prophet(saw) the reason of such extreme happiness. The Holy Prophet(saw) replied that Hadhrat Gabriel(as) came to him and told him that he who sends or invokes darud or salam on him from his ummah, Allah will write down ten good deeds in his record. Moreover, ten bad deeds will be taken away from his record and the spiritual station of that person will be raised ten times.11 On the Day of Judgement everybody will be in a state of loss and fear. However, the Holy Prophet(saw) said: ‘The closest to me on the Day of Judgement will be those who called down blessings on me the most.’ (Jamia Tirmidi) Similarly, in another hadith, the Holy Prophet(saw) said: ‘The best of your days is Friday. Therefore, invoke blessings on me frequently on that day, for your invocation is conveyed to me.’12 Thus a spiritual arrangement has been made by Allah the Almighty such that our darud is reported to the soul of the Holy Prophet(saw). Hadhrat Abu Bakr Siddiq(ra) relates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: ‘He who sends darud on me, I will intercede on his behalf on the Day of Judgement .’13 Hadhrat Fadhaalah bin’ Ubaid relates that the Holy Prophet(saw) heard someone supplicate in his prayer without glorification of Allah and without invoking blessings upon the Holy Prophet(saw). The Holy Prophet(saw) 48 HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ The Review of Religions – June 2006 observed that he was in a hurry. Then he called him and said to him or to someone beside him that when one is to supplicate, the prayer should begin with the praise of his Lord and His glorification followed by the invoking of blessings on the Holy Prophet(saw). Then one can suppli- cate as he may wish. Hence the Holy Prophet(saw) has taught us the art of prayer. Our prayers are enriched when they start with the praise and glorification of Allah and with darud and salam on the Holy Prophet(saw).14 Hadhrat Ubayy bin Ka’b once told the Holy Prophet(saw) that when he supplicated, he would spend one fourth of his time in darud. He enquired whether he should increase the amount of time spent in darud. The Holy Prophet(saw) replied that if he were to offer more darud, it would be better for him. Upon hearing this advice, he suggested that he reserved half of his time of supplication for darud. The Holy Prophet(saw) again said that if he were to offer even more darud, it would be better for him. Then he suggested that he spent two thirds of his supplication time in darud. Again the Holy Prophet(saw) said that if he were to offer even more darud, it would be better for him. Now he said that he would only offer darud sharif during his entire supplication. Upon this, the Holy Prophet(saw) said Allah would fulfil all of his desires.15 Hadhrat Anas(ra) relates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: ‘The one who says darud one thousand times a day, he will not die until he is shown his abode in paradise.’16 Conclusion How often do we come across people who complain about small and insignificant things? How often do we see people not content with provisions given to them by Allah? How often do we realise that what Allah has provided for us is truly a blessing? The attitude of appreciation, contentment and gratitude must develop within our daily lives. Without this change in our behaviour, we cannot truly follow in the footsteps of our beloved master Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw). 49 HADHRAT MUHAMMAD(SAW) AS ‘ABD SHAKUR’ The Review of Religions – June 2006 What a perfect example of shukr has been set by the Holy Prophet(saw) for us. He was an Abd Shakur. He is Shakur because he appreciated. When we send darud, it is appreciated by Allah on his behalf and a spiritual relationship is developed with him which will grow so strong by the Day of Judgement that he will intercede on our behalf. Therefore, we must strive to develop a spiritual relationship with the Holy Prophet(saw) REFERENCES 1. Bukhari Kitab-ul-Maghazi, Chapter the Battle of Badr 2. Masnad-e-Ahmad, Volume 2, page 254 Beirut. 3. As-Seeratun Nabawiyya. Ibn Hisham. Vol.4 page 91, Beirut and Majma-uz-zawahid. Vol.8, p.172. 4. Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Tafseer 4460. 5. Abu Daud, Kitab-us-Salat, Chapter Istighfar 1301. 6. Jamia Tirmidhi, Kitab-ul- Dawaat 3379. 7. Jamia Tirmidhi, Kitabul Birru- was-silah, 1877. 8. Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ul-Adhan, 624 and 4088. 9. Sahih Bukhari, Kitab-ud-Dawat, 5837. 10. Haqiqa-tul-Wahi, p.128 footnote. 11. Jila-ul-afham by Hafiz Ibn-e- Qayyem with the reference of Masnad Imam Hanbal, p.31. 12. Sunan Abu Daud, Abwabul Jumu’ah. 13. Jila-ul-afham, p.70 with reference to Ibn Shaheen. 14. Sunan Abu Daud, Kitab al Salat, Bab al Dua’a 15. Jami’ Tirmidhi 16. Jila-ul-afham with reference of Ibn-al-Ghazi.