Question: What are the points to be considered while seeking to have a fair perspective of Prophet Muhammad?
There are extensive literature and sources that explore the different aspects of the noble Prophet’s life, attributes of his Prophethood, and his general human qualities. Undoubtedly, those works are very important for a proper recognition and understanding of him. However, it should not be forgotten that the narrations related in those works are based on some subjective considerations from the authors’ own perceptions according to what they heard, perceived, and understood. For this reason, while reading such works and learning about some everyday situations one may subconsciously lose respect for him and fall for considerations that are not very appropriate for his actual standing. For this reason, the entirety of the narrations about him needs to be brought together and considered with a holistic perspective.
Undoubtedly, the people who knew him best were his Companions as they were the ones that lived directly with him while he was alive. In particular the four people known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs are the foremost ones among the Companions. Each of them knew him more accurately than we do and benefited from that fresh spring to their heart's content. They not only benefited from it, but also transmitted everything they heard and saw so that the next generations could get to know him better. What falls to us is to appreciate this transfer of information and to benefit from it. Each of the Companions perceived the noble Prophet with a different depth. If we can bring their words together and view his character thus then we can see and recognize him in accordance with his actual standing.
Believing in the teachings of the Messenger of God, and adhering to his traditions, is a means of deliverance for believers. According to Muslims, he is the owner of the first blessed light and is regarded as the purpose of creation; thus, it is very important to be able to see his actual worth. There is a saying acknowledged mostly by mystics but criticized by hadith scholars, which goes as follows: “God would not have created the universe, if it weren't for him” (Ajluni, Kashfu'l- Khafa 2/214). The late Necip Fazil also named a book he wrote about the Prophet “He for the Sake of Whom We Are.”
The meaning of this is that the universe would not be understood if there was no person to serve as a guide for the attendants to this universe that is laid before us as an exhibition. It could not be known that existence consists of the manifestations of the Divine names; God Himself would not be known with His beautiful Names and glorified Attributes. Likewise, people would live in the world unaware that they remain here as guests and are to migrate to another realm. Therefore, they could not find the right path, could not walk on the right path, and could not reach the horizons they are supposed to reach. If we know anything about all of these matters we know of them thanks to the Messenger of God. In order to express this truth, the poet Mehmed Akif said,
Indebted to him are his society,
so is each person;
indebted to him are the entire humanity.
O Lord! Please resurrect us upon this affirmation
on the Day of Resurrection!
In this respect, his blessed personage is beyond the scope of books of history.
Bediuzzaman Said Nursi states this truth as follows: “...since he is creation’s result and most perfect fruit, as well as the beloved and interpreter of the Creator of the universe, his true nature and true perfections cannot be contained in accounts of his recorded human qualities. Certainly the stature of one served by archangels Gabriel and Michael as aides-de-camp during the Battle of Badr cannot be sought in accounts of, for example, his bargaining over the price of a horse. To avoid falling into error, we must focus on his true nature and illustrious spiritual persona in his rank of Messengership. Otherwise we may risk showing him disrespect or entertain uncertainties about his persona” [Nursi, Bediuzzaman Said. 19th Letter, Fifth Essential, The Light Inc., p.125].
One should not take the Messenger of God as an ordinary person by looking at the narrations about the mundane situations in his everyday life. In addition to such situations, it should not be forgotten that he is in contact with the heavenly realms beyond this one, that God blessed him with a shower of revelations, that people clearly witnessed different miracles by means of him, that he was a paragon of Qur'anic virtues. Also, Nursi gives the analogy of a peacock that its beauty cannot be appreciated by looking at the eggshell it was hatched in. In the same way, one cannot appreciate the true worth of the Messenger of God spiritual personage with a superficial glance at his early life (The Letters, p. 126).
In order to understand his true value, one should look at the light he has spread all over the world. At the beginning, a peacock is just a chick out of an egg, but later on it grows up and begins to possess colorful patterns, dazzling colors, and dizzying beauty; it is necessary to see this aspect instead.
In the same way, one should not be preoccupied with the “eggshell” while looking at the Messenger of God. If he is evaluated only in terms of his parents, the household he grew up in, the environment in which he grew up, if he is seen only as the orphan of Abu Talib then one will fail to appreciate his true worth. He is an exceptional being that God created with a special nature. In a way, God Almighty takes him as a measure in consideration of the existence. Great personages, who were aware of this value of him, did not neglect to ask for togetherness and reunion with God’s beloved while praying for reunion with God. It is necessary to try to feel and know him with all of these merits.
Like Imam Busiri said, although he was human he was not an ordinary human being. He too had hands and feet, eyes and ears like us; he ate, drank, did trade, and met other human needs. However, besides this he hadp a different spirit, and spiritual faculties (Latifa al-rabbaniyya, sir, khafi, akhfa). Unless you look at the Messenger of God with all these qualities it is impossible to see and know his true worth. Even though he is human, he is like a ruby among stones. A ruby is also a stone, but not an ordinary one.
Holy migrant to the horizons of humanity
What has been said about the Messenger of God is only one percent of what needs to be said about him; he is the spiritual sultan of this world and the next. He is the first being determined in the divine knowledge as a kernel. In this respect, if we take the universe to be like a tree, while it is possible to view him as the kernel of that tree with reference to the initial truth (of Ahmad) he stands for it is also possible to view him as the fruit of that tree with reference to the ultimate truth (of Muhammad) yielded. As he was the first one to come to existence among the creation with his nature and status, he also directed humanity to God with the message he brought.
If the universe is viewed as a book, his blessed light is the ink of the divine pen which authored that book. And if the universe is viewed as an exhibition, his light will be the chief guide and counselor. In this respect, when looking at his prophethood the truths of him being the initial kernel, and being the ultimate fruit of the universe, need to be considered together. It is at this point that we will then be able to understand how the meaning of the universe unfolds by means of him, like a mysterious and magical key, and that God created the existence for His sake.
In terms of these characteristics, the Messenger of God is the hero of a holy migration to the horizons of humanity. The fact that he left behind his status in the realm of spirits or the realm of first creation and come to the realm of being a human is migration even more important than his migration from Mecca to Medina. The migration of the Pride of Humanity to the horizon of humanity marks a rebirth for humanity; because if humanity need to know about the relation they are supposed to establish with their Creator, the purpose of their creation and why they were sent to the world, and where they are traveling to... without knowing these, there is no difference between their existence or nonexistence. It is Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, that taught these key points to humanity and solved these problems pertaining to human life. In fact, the effects of the centrifugal force he effected in the Age of Bliss of his lifetime has reached up until the present day.
Perfected human, as a true representative of the universe
The Messenger of God led an otherworldly life thankfully praising God and in remembrance of His Name. So much so that he once stated that he takes delight in servitude to God just like ordinary people get pleasure from eating, drinking, jaunting, or other physical pleasures. He felt such a love and eagerness for worship and servitude to his Lord. Undoubtedly, this showed his profundity in knowledge of God. His certain dealings and engagement in worldly affairs were necessary for his complete guidance and practical representation of his teachings. They were intended for showing his followers how to act in those matters. Otherwise, he had nothing else to do with the world.
In the words of Abdulqadir Jili, the real perfected universal human (insan al-kamil) is Prophet Muhammad, the Pride of Humanity. His becoming the universal human is a result of his servitude to God rather than being a prophet. In the same way, his Ascension (mi’raj) to Heaven was a reward granted for his servitude. The noble Prophet realized the Ascension through the wings of his saintly aspect. It is believed that he had gained such a pious character by means of his deep devotions that he rose to the Ascension with his lucent body. Neither gravity, friction, nor the constraints of time and place posed an obstacle for him. By means of his saintly aspect, he journeyed to realms beyond the corporeal one. He entered such a dimension that distances to be covered in thousands of years became compressed under his feet. He saw things not seen before, things not felt before, and solved problems not solved before with permission from God. He was blessed with reunion with, and seeing, God while he was in this world.
Afterwards, he returned from the Ascension with his Prophethood and brought messages and glad tidings to his followers. In order to hold people by the hand and let them hear what he heard, let them see what he saw, and let them reach the same feast, he returned back to this realm of tribulation and hardship; he crowned his ascent by descending back again. After reaching the horizon of the “distance of two bows” he returned to this realm where his archenemies awaited. By leaving the blessings of Paradise behind, he had returned to a very bitter life; this is an expression of the deep care and love he had for his followers.
It is related in a weak narration that after Prophet Adam (pbuh) experienced his lapse in Paradise, he could not raise his head to the heavens for forty years, that he felt too ashamed for daring to turn to God. In the end, he prayed “forgive me for the sake of Prophet Muhammad.” Although God has knowledge over everything and has no need to ask questions, God asked him how he knew this name. He replied: “While leaving Paradise, I saw that on its gate it was written: “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is His Messenger.” On seeing his name near Your name, I understood that there is nobody more valuable in Your sight than him. That’s why I made him an intercessor.” Like Prophet Adam, we too mention him as an intercessor at our prayers. Although some Muslims object to this, his spirituality is like a green house. We feel secure in his atmosphere.
As we take refuge in his green house in this world, God willing, we hope to gather under his Banner of Praise (Livau’l Hamd) in the next world. Those who take refuge under his flag will be saved from a hard questioning by the grace and favor of God.
To conclude, telling others about the noble Prophet with all of these qualities and profundities in mind, and helping others develop a love for him, is a duty of utmost importance for believers for letting people love him will mean letting them love God. It is unthinkable for people to turn to him but not to turn to God. People who reach up until him and enter his blessed presence will have reached God as well.