The Dawn: The Promise and its Fulfillment
The brightest day follows the darkest night. So it is in the world of living men. Arabia was plunged in the darkness of evil and superstition. The rest of the world was no better. But after the gloom of ages there appeared in the person of Muhammad (peace be upon him) a bright sun on the firmament of human history.
Prophecies about his advent are met with in the previous sacred books. The Qur'an emphatically asserts that the birth of Prophet Muhammad was foretold by each and all the foregoing Prophets through whom covenant was made with their respective peoples that they would accept him when he came.
When Allah made (His) covenant (1) with the Prophets. [He said:} Behold that which I have give you of the Scripture and Knowledge. And afterward there will come unto you a messenger confirming that which ye possess. Ye shall believe in him and ye shall help him. He said: Do you agree, and will ye take up My burden [which I lay upon you in this matter]? They answered: "We agree". He said: "Then bear ye witness. I will be a witness with you. (3:81)
Similarly, the last of the Israelite prophets, Jesus, promised his people the arrival of a Comforter:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.(2)
Being aware that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was destined to come after him and that he would be a prophet-king, Jesus said:
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter (3) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement. (4)
Referring to the completion of Scriptures and the exposition of all truths by Muhammad (peace be on him), to his prophecies and to his revelation, Jesus observed:
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. How be it when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. (5)
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (6)
The expression "their brethren" in the verses refers tot he children of Isma'il who are the brethren of the Israelites.
All these prophetic words predict in clear terms the dawn of a spiritual light. This light came into the world on 22 April, 571 A.D., on the ninth of Rabi al-Awwal, of the first year of the Elephant. (7)
Muhammad's genealogy has been traced beyond all shadow of doubt to the noble house of Isma'il in about the fortieth descent. He was the son of 'Abd Allah, the son of 'Abd al-Muttalib, the son of 'Abd Manaf, the son of Qusayy, the son of Kilab. Qusayy was the effective ruler of Mecca. The Prophet's mother Aminah was the daughter of Wahb ibn 'Abd Manaf of the Zahrah family. Thus his father and mother stood eminent in respect of nobility of descent and sublimity of character.
It is recorded that in pursuance of his divine mission Muhammad (peace be on him) on his return to Mecca, sent several envoys to the neighbouring rulers calling them to the fold of Islam. One of the noted emperors to whom an emissary was despatched was Heraclius of Byzantine. He treated the messenger with great respect. Before leaving Syria, however, he tried to acquaint himself with the character of the man who had sent him that message. With this objective he summoned some of the Arab merchants who had arrived at Gaza with a caravan from Arabia. Curiously enough, Abu Sufyan, who was still a deadly opponent of Muhammad and his Divine mission was among those who had come on a commercial visit. He was also summoned to the court. Among the numerous inquiries that Heraclius made about the character and personality of Muhammad and his teachings, one pertained to his descent. In spite of the grudge that he nursed against Muhammad (peace be on him), Abu Sufyan could not deny the fact that he came of a noble family. (8). At this, Heraclius at once remarked: "The apostles belong to pure and genuine nobility." (9) The stories relating to the base and plebian origin (10) of Muhammad (peace be on him) are thus calumny of evil minds. These are all baseless, too preposterous to deserve the consideration of any serious person. (11)
Sometime after his marriage, 'Abd Allah, the father of the Prophet, Muhammad (peace be on him), set out on a commercial journey to Syria and on his way back he fell ill and passed away at Medina. He was hardly twenty-five years (12) of age and Aminah was still expectant. The Prophet Muhammad was born as a posthumous child. He was, therefore, left to the care of his grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib, one of the most influential men of Mecca, and his gentle and heartbroken mother Aminah. The grand old man received the news of the birth of his grandson with mingled feelings of joy and sorrow. He was glad to be blessed with a male child from the loins of his departed son, but was deeply grieved to see that his son was not alive to share this happiness. He hurried to the house of his son, tears rolling down his cheeks. He took the baby in his arms and went to the Ka'bah; and as he stood beside the sacred house, he gave thanks to God.(13)
The grnadfather named the new-born child as Muhammad. (14) This and the other name, Ahmad, which has approximately the same meaning, are both derived from the Arabic root hamd "to praise".
1. This covenant refers, according to Qurtubi, to Holy Prophet. See his Tafsir-al-Jami' al-Ahkam al-Qur'an (Cairo, 1957) Vol. IV, p. 125.
2. John, xiv. 15-16.
3. There is a preponderance of evidence in support of the view that the original word which has been translated Periklutos, meaning praised and illustrious, meant the same as the words Muhammad and Ahmad; not Parakletesmeaning comforter as is amply shown by Rev. Heorne in his Introduction to the Critical Study of the Scriptures.
4. John, xvi. 7.
5. Ibid., 12-13.
6. Deuteronomy, XVIII: 18-19.
7. It alludes to the famous Abyssinian attack on Mecca in which the invaders had employed a large number of elephants.
8. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. II, p. 252.
9. Ibn Hajar 'Asqalani, Fath al-Bari, Vol. 11, p. 162.
10. In his book Muhammad and the Rise of Islam, Margoliouth says: "Muhammad came of a humble family; this crops up in many places. The Kuraish in the Koran wonder why a prophet should be sent to them who was not of noble birth" (p. 47). Margoliouth is perhaps referring to the verse of the Holy Qur'an: "And they say: if only this Qur'an had been revealed to some great man of the two towns." (xliii: 31). In this verse teh "greatness" to which Quraysh referred does not mean the nobility of the family, it is the worldly wealth on which they prided. "Is it they who apportion their Lord's mercy? We have apportioned among them their livelihood in the life of the world, and raised some of them above others in rank that some of them may take labour from others; and the mercy of the Lord is better than (the wealth) that they amass." (xliii: 32).
Ibn 'Abbas, one of the oldest exegetists of the Holy Qur'an, in his famous Commentary has said in clear words: "The word mercy (Rahmah) signifies prophethood and the Book (Qur'an) and 'they amass' means: what the Infidels collect in the form of riches and worldy pomp and show." (p. 387).
11. Zurqani in his famous book Sharh al-Mawahib al Ladunya has discussed this point; see Vol. I, p. 61.
12.Ibn Kathir: Al-Bidayah wa al-Nihayah, Vol. II, pp. 263, 264; Ibn al-Qayyim, Zad al-Ma'ad, Vol. I, p. 32.
13. Ibn Sa'd, Al-Tabqat al-Kubra, Vol. I, p. 103 and Ibn Hisham, Vol. I, p. 160.
14. According to its derviation, the word signifies an eminent personality who, on account of his great and genuine qualities, is praised with feelings of love and adoration. It also means one who is the best embodiment of the most perfect and admirable qualities.