THE SEQUEL. BY DEMAND!
Grace Personified revisited.
Persuaded by the numerous comments on the article, Grace Personified: Prophet Muhammadﷺ a sequel to it began with the hope of giving perspective on a man who still generates interest just by his name. Here I am, battling my COVID-19 illness and writing about a man whose followers as early as 638-639 had to deal with the plague of Amwas and it was his teaching way before that, that gave the leadership the protocols on how to deal with it. Amazing as it was then, his teachings make great sense today. The sequel begins with poem written by Abu Qays ibn Abu Anas.
Who is Abu Qays ibn Abu Anas? Ibn Ishaq in his book, The life of Muhammad ﷺ, translated by A.Guillaume describe him like this:
He was a man who lived as a monk in heathen days and worn a black mantle of camel-hair, given up idols, washed himself after impurity, kept himself clean from women in their courses. He had thought of adopting Christianity but gave it up and went into a house of his and made it a mosque…He said that he worshipped the Lord of Abraham when he abandoned idols…when the apostle came to Medina he became a good Muslim…He composed some excellent poetry and it was he who said: (on Muhammad ﷺ)THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD. Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah by A.Guilluame.
He abode among the Quraysh some ten years Hoping for a friend to help him He displayed himself to those who came to the fairs But found none to offer him hospitality. But when he came to us God displayed his religion And he became happy and contented in Medina. He found friends and ceased to long for home And was plainly helped by God. He told us of what Noah said to his people And what Moses answered when he was called. None near at hand need he fear And those afar he recked not of. We spent on him the best of our possessions, Sparing not our lives in war at his side. We know that there is nought beside God And we know that God is the best guide. We shall fight any man that fights Him, Be he our dearest friend. In every mosque when I pray to Thee I say Blessed art Thou (Oft have I mentioned thy name). I say when I traverse a land I fear 'Mercy! Let not my enemies triumph over me.' Go where will death comes in many guises And you cannot live forever. A man does not know how to protect himself Unless he makes God his protector. The palm that needs water cares naught for its owner If it has moisture, though he be dead. (page 238)
Before we indulge in some analysis of the poem one must keep in mind that this poem is now more than a 1000 years old given that the Islamic year is 1442. The poem is written by a man who had witnessed an era of life we cannot imagine but, we can get a glimpse of that era by what he said. Furthermore, between Jesus/Isa (PBUH) and the last Messenger ﷺ there is a period of about 620 years which means that the faith of Abu Qays has got a lineage going back and coming forth on the same line wherein paganism and heathen faiths were understood as false. Therefore, his search continued and when he found the expression of truth in Islam through Muhammad ﷺ his heart was illuminated with new spirituality that makes his poem alive today more than 1000 years from the day he wrote it. His words did not become inured by the vicissitudes of history rather, it got embellished into the writing of history so that people like you and I can measure up to excellence and continue doing things with excellence. When I read the lines of Abu Qays it made me realise that many millions like him who, when they fell in love with Mohammad ﷺ their praise for him became voracious. So much so that if you, like me, were to ponder on their praises of Muhammad ﷺ we become engrossed and like wise begin to praise Muhammad ﷺ or, if we don’t we are compelled by some deep sincere feeling in the soul and in the heart to at least read more, find out more and yearn to know more because, of the fact that anything beautiful is attractive. It is even more attractive when it has no contamination of anything impure.
Abu Qays cleansed himself after any impurity is something that is so important to consider in light of how we take caution during this COVID-19 pandemic. We have become obsessed with sanitising and the likes but, we have become more negligent of many other social mores. Imagine in that time without the luxury of flowing water from taps he was so clean therefore, the nagging thought of how much did he clean himself when he wrote about Muhammad ﷺ the best of all creation to grace the earth captures my mind like a bigger at the door of generous host. I am compelled to think that he sat in state of physical purity, spiritual ecstasy, mental clarity and focused to please the creator of Muhammad ﷺ, Allah, the Majestic and the Pure. This is what love for Muhammad ﷺ did for people. It gave them such an elevated sense of being that they became extraordinary and the trend continues if you look around, your mind’s eye will point out those who have peace in the eyes, souls, hearts and minds because there is some deep attraction to the life of Muhammad ﷺ in ways we cannot imagine. It is a reality that we look more but see less, hear a lot more but listen too little and speak too much and talk more nonsense lined with vanity that shuts the heart’s desire for truth and; the soul’s begging for guidance.
Guidance is what Abu Qays wanted and first found it in his heart. Lets delve in Abu Qays for a while. He says,
We spent on him the best of our possessions, Sparing not our lives in war at his side.
This is the diadem that every companion of Muhammad ﷺ graced his/her soul with. Please ask yourself how would poor people spend all their possessions on the mission of Muhammad ﷺ? Today, we only hear and see of wealthy giving and taking too but, during the lifetime of Muhammad ﷺ at the start of his mission it was the poor and down trodden that gave their health, wealth and time for his cause. What strikes me here is that Abu Qays knows the treachery and bloodshed that preceded the advent of Muhammad ﷺ and saw the persecutions of the early believers and saw how fearless they were in the face of horror and torture not to give up their faith. Today, we have so many unholy alliances that underpins stealing land, usurping of natural resources of countries, orchestrated wars, forced occupations and more. The biggest loser in the above are the poor and downtrodden and Abu Qays makes me understand by these lines that again, it will be the poor and downtrodden who will find the courage to stand up for justice and 1000 years from now they will be adored and the rest of power hungry men and woman will be the doormats of their great empires.
Empires rise and fall even that of the Ottomans. Abu Qays mentions:
And we know that God is the best guide.
We shall fight any man that fights Him,
Be he our dearest friend.
This very striking chord of words, ‘…and we know that GOD is his best guide.’ manifests the arch of confidence they had in Muhammad ﷺ. To compare notes in our lives where our investor on the stock exchange is deified because he knows the markets, Muhammad ﷺ knew Allah, the Dispenser of wealth and his followers knew that he knew Allah, the High in a supreme way which they felt because he never misguided them or never let them down on a deal, to use a modern economic expression. You see, when your followers know who your guides are your credibility waxes or wanes. Here Abu Qays is saying what he knows from his own pure experience and embellishes it by saying ‘we’ meaning not only him but many more will ‘fight any man that fights Him..’ The pronoun him, written as a proper noun for me stands out as poetic form to express that if any one fights against Muhammad ﷺ has actually offended Allah, the High the Great therefore, touching Muhammad ﷺ unfairly is treason against the highest order, Allah the Merciful. In its simplicity it is deep because it tells you of people that adored a man, believed in his mission and never gave up the cause to continue striving in the way they saw him, Muhammad ﷺ strive. Today, we don’t hear such things as we cannot find poetry that has such insuperable truths of real peoples lives that history cannot erase.
I once saw on a documentary on the pop singer Madonna, I cannot erase from my mind. It boggles my intellect but, it was teaching moment. I recall it was my high school years and Madonna was the icon of pop music culture. The documentary featured her rise to fame and included a host interviews with her fans. The one fan astounded me. He was the lead dancer at some random club in the USA and crossed dressed himself as Madonna for every show when he sang each of her songs. The interviewer asked him what he would do if Madonna walked in on his performance of her and he replied, “I would die…oh! my God…” This expression showed his extreme and extraordinary love but yielded no result beyond that moment and today, thousands have surpassed Madonna in ways that have skewed morality and more will come. In 1000 years from now Abu Qays will still be remembered because he loved a man whose legacy still lives in the hearts of mankind such that they imitate him and they become renowned. Tell me then, how can Muhammad ﷺ be defiled? He can never be. Today, we imitate a soccer star until a new one becomes a flamboyant transient craze but, with imitating Muhammad ﷺ the reality is you become great in your own way. If you deviate and innovate on his legacy you lose out. It is like pure science – Muhammad ﷺ’s energy is the energy in the process of transfer from one body to another. Look around and take notice that no pop culture fad gave him even on gold record yet, he lives on like an energy source.
Water is the source of life and is a scientific fact. The palm tree needs water like a creation and like that people need guidance. When Abu Qays says:
The palm that needs water cares naught for its owner
If it has moisture, though he be dead
He is really making a very exulted point of a person’s fervour when an acquiescence of truth has merged with the heart and soul. Think on this with a studious mind. A child needs guidance and when the child grows up the energy to make choices and take decisions become stronger. We eventually have our own mind. What Abu Qays teaches me here is that when a person finds the truth and decides with heart and soul to follow it, then all past histories feign into oblivion and the current situation is enough to propel a life of new belief without looking back. The palm tree as a symbol is one of strength and a symbol used in many early revelations on which land Muhammad ﷺ will come to establish his mission. So he uses the symbol to speak to us that like him, millions found Muhammad ﷺ and after that their life changed and they weathered life’s trials and tribulations like the grace of the palm tree. This poem had an audience that were polytheists, pagans, agnostics, Christian and Jews who knew the symbolism and biblical allusions he mentioned yet, many declined the opportunity to take from Muhammad ﷺ when he was alive among them living in Medina where lush palm tree gardens fed the world with dates. Therefore, one has to think on what is the influence of Muhammad ﷺ that today, those of us who have not seen him, heard him talk, never sat in his presence or never just walked with him believe in him as if he were sitting with us, talking to us and walking with us? The influence lies in the fact that he became autonomous by fructifying good character and whoever followed him exudes that character too. We need to start with ourselves.
Ibn Al Arabi cames years after and it is clear Abu Qays’s teaching filtered through.
And was plainly helped by God... Abu Qays
Plainly we have this life to search for the truth and not the afterlife. Abu Qays found it in the life of Muhammad ﷺ whilst we are searching for it on social media and in the lives of people who will be forgotten while they are alive because another star will over take them with more gauche and; will steal our minds with something so asinine. We will give up our life goal to satisfy the lust of fame for someone who cannot even benefit you even if you have cross dress or change your gender. We do this because the people we want to follow have the entrapment of fanciful false promise of a better life dressed in wine and song whilst the true great ones are dressed in virtue celebrating simplicity and shunning transient worldly pleasure but, living a very good life crowned with contentment.
It is with contentment that I leave you with another poem Abu Qays wrote on falling in love with the mission and life of Muhammad ﷺ but, this time, I leave you to interpret his words on what you now know of Muhammad ﷺ. Abu Qays wrote:
...My sons, transgress not the proper limits Transgressing the bounds brings one to a halt. O my sons, trust not the days. Beware their treachery and the passage of time. Know that it consumes all creation, Both the new and the old. Live your lives in piety and godliness. Abandon obscenity and hold fast to what is right.
As these words come to ripe understanding I know that millions will come and continue to visit the Kaba and make tawaf because the magnetism of Muhammad ﷺ is an energy source. Whose legacy is so strong today that will grab you to the Kabaa and make you renounce yourself in the Supremacy of Allah, the Eternal in doing what Muhammad ﷺ did? This legacy belongs to Muhammad ﷺ until the end of time and;
“If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.”