O Prophet (Muhammad (saw)! Verily, We have sent you as witness, and a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner. And as one who invites to Allah [Islamic Monotheism, i.e. to worship none but Allah (Alone)] by His Leave, and as a lamp spreading light (through your instructions from the Quran and the Sunnah the legal ways of the Prophet (saw).
Audio (1 min. & 10 sec.)
The life of Muhammad Sallalahu Alayhe Wassalam (saw) introduces the Makkan Period of the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad saw, the final Messenger of Allah and the greatest human being to walk on the face of the earth.
In this series, Imam Anwar Al Awlaki, author of the best-selling series The Lives of the Prophets, eloquently presents the Makkan Period of the Prophet’s Life (saw) in a detailed manner, deriving valuable lessons from it, thus making it relevant to our modern times.
This series is primarily based on Ibn Kathir’s book on Seerah. Imam Al Awlaki describes the stories of the golden era of Islam in a dynamic style and instills in the listeners the deep love for the beloved of Allah Subhana Wataallah.
Imam Anwar Al Awlaki was born in New Mexico in USA. His parents are from Yemen, where he lived for 11 years and received the early part of his Islamic Education.
Imam Anwar Al Awlaki has served as in Imam in Colorado, California and Washington DC..
We ask Allah Subhana Watala to bless this gathering,
We ask Allah Subhana Watala to benefit us from what we learn,
We ask Allah Subhana Watala to teach us that which will benefit us,
We ask Allah Subhana Watala to make us of those who follow the way of Rasool Allah saw and love him,
And we ask Allah Subhana Watala to make us of those who will be with him in Jannah. (Ameen)
Definition of Seerah
Audio (3 min)
The word Seerah has a linguistic meaning which means a path. Walking is called Sair, when you walk from one place to another it is called sairtu Fulan. Fulan is walking.
So, it is a path which a person takes during his life time. That is Seerah. The Hans dictionary gives the translation of Seerah as conduct, comportment, demeanor, behavior, way of life, attitude, position, reaction, way of acting and biography, all of these are meanings of the word Seerah. Seerah could be the biography of any person, not just prophet Muhammad (saw), however we have used the word so much with Muhammad (saw), that when we say Seerah, we almost all the time are referring to the life of Muhammad saw. But you could also say the seerah of Abu Bakar, Seerah of Omar (ra) and so and so. So Seerah is a biography of a person, their life. In this situation, we are studying the life of the greatest, Muhammad (saw).
Importance of Studying Seerah
What is the importance of studying Seerah?
No 1: History of Islam
The life of Muhammad (saw) is the history of Islam. You’re studying a concise history of Islam by studying the life of Muhammad (saw). His life, in his Seerah we would find situations and incidences that would help us in everything that we would need to know in our life of dawah. So, the life of Prophet Mohammed (saw) is the history of Islam. We are not just studying the biography of a person, we are studying the history of our religion.
Muhammad ibn Saad ibn Waqas, -Saad ibn Waqas is one of the ashra-e-mubasharah of paradise, he is one of the 10 given glad tidings of paradise. His son Muhammad says that our father would teach us the battles of Rasool Allah, he would teach us the seerah of Rasool Allah (saw) and he would tell us that these are the traditions of your fathers, so study them. They used to refer to Seerah as maghazi. Maghazi means battles. Because the latter part of life of Rasool Allah was spent in maghazi. So, they would use the word maghazi to refer to the whole life of Rasool Allah. (Note 1 & Note 2)
And Ali bin Hussain ibn Ali bin Abi Talib- the grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib, he would say that we were taught the Seerah of Rasool Allah (saw) like we were taught Quran. That is how important Seerah was for them. They would study it like they would study Quran. (Note 3)
And that makes sense, because if you want to study the life of Musa (as) where do we go, where do we study It from? From Quran! If we want to study the life of Isa (as) we go to Quran, but if we want to study the life of Muhammad (saw), his life, even though there are bits and pieces of it mentioned in the Quran, but we don’t have as many details about Muhammad (saw) in the Quran as we have about Musa (as). So, the life of Rasool Allah (saw), for us, to study it we go to Seerah. All of the anbiya, their lives were recorded in the Quran, with the exception of Muhammad (saw). So, to study the life of Muhammad (saw) we go to Seerah. When we want to learn about the anbiya, we go to the Quran. But when we want to learn about Muhammad (saw), we go to Seerah, again even though there are some references about him in the Quran. (Note 4)
No 2: Love
The second reason to study Seerah is to develop the proper love of Muhammad (saw) in our hearts. Loving Muhammad (saw) is Ibadah. It’s part of our religion to love Muhammad (saw)
Love for Muhammad (saw)
We don’t really become true believers until we love Muhammad (saw) more than anything else. So, it is part of Islam to love Muhammad (saw).
Omar bin Khattab (ra) he came to Rasool Allah (saw) and said…. He was a very honest and a straight forward person. So went to Rasool Allah (saw) and said O Rasool Allah I love you more than everything except myself” I love you more than anyone except myself”
Rasool Allah (saw) told him “until you love me”, meaning you don’t really attain the complete faith until you love me more than your own self. So Omar bin Khattab came back and said” O Rasool Allah, Now I love you more than my own self” Rasool Allah (saw) said “Al aan eman ” “ Now you have attained the complete faith”
The Ummah today loves Muhammad (saw). If you ask any Muslim do you love Muhammad (saw), they would say yes.
But the love cannot be very deep and sincere unless you know the person. If you have shallow information about someone, you can’t really love them a lot. To love a person, you need to know them more. And this is especially true with Muhammad (saw). Because the more you know him, the more you would be impressed with his personality, the more you would love him. So even though Muhammad (saw), among the Ummah today with the shallow information that the masses of the Muslims have about him, even though they still love him, but we cannot truly have deep love for Muhammad (saw) unless we know him. You know the Sahaba (ra), the more they knew him, the closer they were to him, the more they would love him.
Amr bin Al As, for example- He was one of the staunchest enemies of Muhammad (saw). He was one of the top plotters against Islam. Amr bin Al As, he later become a Muslim, and when he was passing away, Amr bin Al As started weeping, he was crying on his death bed, so his son Abdullah bin Amr told him Oh My Father, Didn’t Rasool Allah saw give you the glad tidings of this, didn’t he give you glad tidings of that. It is reported in the hadith that Rasool (saw) said “Aamana amr” That Amr bin Al As has attained faith. So, this is a witness from Rasool (saw) that Amr bin Al As is a momin. Not only a Muslim, but he is at the higher level of Momin. So, his son was trying to give his father the glad tidings that you are a true believer. Rasool Allah (saw) has given you all of these glad tidings, how come you are crying now before your death. (Note 5)
Audio (9 min. & 35 sec.)
Amr bin Al As- he turned around and said: I have gone through 3 stages in my life. At the first stage, the most despised man to me was Muhammad (saw). And my desire was that I could get hold of him, I could get my hands on him and kill him. That was my desire. That was my wish, my aspiration- to kill Muhammad (saw). He said that if I had died at that time, I definitely would have been in the hell fire. He said that then Allah put the love of Islam in my heart and I went to Muhammad (saw) and I said O Muhammad , I want to become Muslim. Extend your hand so I can pledge allegiance to you. Amr bin Al As says Muhammad (saw) extended his hand forward and I pulled my hand away. So, Amr bin As, had Rasool (saw) extend his hand and when Rasool (saw) was ready to put his hand in his, Amr bin Al As pulled his hand away. Rasool Allah (saw) told him “What's wrong”? Amr bin Al as said, I have a condition to make. Rasool Allah (saw) asked him, what is your condition? He said, my condition is that you pardon me, you give me clemency. Because Amr bin Al As knew, the things he had done in the past, the great crimes he had committed against the Muslims, is sufficient for his execution. So he wanted to make sure that Rasool (saw) would not hold him accountable for what he did in the past.
So Rasool Allah (saw) smiled and he said: Ya Amr “ Arabic” “Oh Amr - Don’t you know that Islam erases everything before it and Hijrah erases everything before it and Hajj erases everything before it.”
Amr bin Al As said so I became a Muslim. He said that at that stage, Muhammad (saw), who was my worst enemy, became the most beloved person to me in this world. He said that I loved him so much, and I respected him so much, I couldn’t even get a full glimpse of his face. Whenever I would see him, I would stare downwards. He said I had so much love and respect for him I couldn’t even get a full glimpse of his face. And if you would ask me today to describe him to you…I couldn’t. He said and if I’d died during that stage, I would have hoped to be in Jannah.… And then he says came things that we don’t understand and there are other some other parts of this hadith, but what concerns us now is that Amr bin As, when he got to know Muhammad (saw), when he became close to him, Muhammad (saw), who was his worst enemy became his most beloved friend.
Audio (13 min. & 40 sec.)
Sohail bin Amr was sent by Quraish, to negotiate with Muhammad (saw) before Sulah Hudabiya. Sohail bin Amr was an international negotiator; he had been to the courts of the Persian emperor, the Roman emperor, the emperor of Abyssinia. He’s a well-connected man. And now Quraish sent him to negotiate with Muhammad (saw). (Note 6)
So, he went into Madina, and he came in and he had first-hand experience with how the Sahaba (ra) treat Muhammad (saw). So Sohail bin Amr went back to report to Quraish. He told them, he said I have visited the Roman emperor I have visited the Persian emperor, I’ve visited najashi (Negus), the king of Abyssinia, but I have never in my life seen a leader that is so loved by his followers, and so much respected by his followers, like Muhammad (saw). I have seen nothing like it in the world. The Roman emperor, the Persian emperor, Najashi of Abyssinia, even though they have all the power, and strength and empires, I have never seen a people love their leader so much like the Sahaba (ra) loved Muhammad (saw). He said I saw amazing things. Muhammad (saw) would be making wudu, and the Sahaba would be rushing, to grab the water dripping from his body. So, he told them, do whatever you want, these are people who would never give up their leader. The Sahaba, they would never give him up. They would give their lives first. They would sacrifice everything for him. (Note 7)
So, if we want to love Muhammad (saw), we need to learn more about him. I have already said that even though, among the masses of Muslims, we know people don’t have much information about Muhammad (saw), they don’t know a lot about his Seerah, because it’s not part of the curriculum that schools in the Muslim world teach, never the less even though, we are ignorant about him and his life, he is still the most beloved figure that ever lived in humanity. His name is the most common name in the world. How many people in the world are named Muhammad? There is no other person that ever lived in history that had so many people named after him like Muhammad (saw).
When I was in college in the US, we had an imam, he was from Nigeria. And he was a hafiz and he was our imam in the small college town in US. His name was Muhammad Al Ashr. The word ashr means the 10th. So, for a long time I assumed that Al- Ashr is his last name. Muhammad Al Ashr. One day I went up to him and asked what is Al Ashr? Is that the name of the tribe or the clan? He said no. He said my father would name every male boy that was born as Muhammad. All of his children, he would name Muhammad. So, to distinguish between us he had to number us. So there was Muhammad the first, Muhammad the 2nd, Muhammad the 3rd, I am Muhammad the 10th. So, his father doesn’t want to deal with any other name. All of his children are going to be Muhammad. And in Pakistan and India you would have Muhammad Haroon, Muhammad Suleman…everybodys Muhammad. There is no one in history that had an Ummah love him so much, like the Ummah loved Muhammad (saw). He is the most beloved figure in history.
So, what would be the situation if we studied his life. I mean how much love would we have then for Muhammad (saw)? His name is the most frequently mentioned names. Around the clock, there will be a minaret that is calling to prayer and is mentioning the name of Muhammad (saw). Around the clock. Because Muslims now are worldwide. So, in every time zone you have Muslims. So, in every minute of the day, there will be a Moaazan saying “Ashhadu La ilaha il Allah, Ashhadu ana Muhamamadar Rusool Allah” His name is mentioned around the clock. (Note 8)
And by the way, the name Muhammad means the praised one. And there is no one who is praised like Muhammad (saw). I mean his name really fulfills its meaning. He is the praised one, he is always praised. Whenever we hear his name, what do we say? “Sallalahu Alihe Wassalam”.
Audio (18 min. & 30 sec.)
So, we want to develop love of Muhammad (saw), and the way we can do it is by studying his life, we will love him more, the more we study about him.
Allah tala says
So, the ayah is stating that our love for Allah and his messenger and striving in the cause of Allah and his messenger should be paramount to everything else, our fathers, our sons, our brothers, our mates, our kindred, our wealth, everything. To love our messenger and Islam should be the dearest thing to every one of us.
Audio (20 min.)
No 3: Why do we study Seerah? - To follow the way of Mohammed (saw)
Ibn Hajar says whoever seeks the pre-eminence of the hereafter, the wisdom of this life, the just purpose, and the embodiment of morality and character, let him follow Muhammad (saw) the Prophet of Allah. So, Muhammad (saw) is the embodiment of “Khuluq”- The perfect character. And by studying his Seerah, we will be more able to follow his way.
No 4: Understanding Quran
There are some ayat in the Quran that are independent of the circumstances of the revelation. Like for example, the ayat about the Akhira, Ar-raqaik. These are independent of the circumstances. But then there are some ayat that are dealing with events that were happening in the time of Muhammad (saw). So, you would have some ayat revealed prior to an event, some ayat revealed concurrent with an event and some ayat revealed after an event.
Seerah would give us the explanation of these ayat. Like for example Surah tul Ahzab. Many ayat of surah tul Ahzab were revealed regarding the battle of Al-Ahzab. Many ayat in Surah Al Imran were relating to an event that happened in the time of Rasool (saw). So, you have a major section of Surah al Imran, which was a dialogue between Muslims and Christians, based on the Christian delegation that came from Najran to visit Rasool Allah. These ayat were revealed to support Rasool (saw) in his dialogue with the Christians. And then you also have the end part, the latter part of Al Imran is dealing with Ghazwa e Uhud. Now the details of the Ghazwa are not mentioned in the Surah. So how can we understand these ayat? By going to the Seerah. (Note 10 & Note 11)
No 5: His life (Muhammad (saw) illustrates the methodological steps of the Islamic movement.
Rasool Allah (saw) went through stages; he went through steps started by a secret dawah. And then it became public. And then later on Jihad. So, it went through stages. These stages are important for Islamic movement to learn and study. Mileel Ghardan. He says, “And we believe that this methodological progression of the prophet’s life is divinely directed. For Allah has guided his prophet and all of his steps, and it was not a result of a reaction to emerging circumstances.” So, these events that happened in the life of Rasool (saw) were not haphazard. They were planned by Allah Subhana Wataala. So that they would be a guidance for us, in our attempts to establish Islam again. So, it is very important that we look at the stages that Rusool Allah (saw) went through and the progression of his dawah. (Note 12)
Rasheed Rida says that were it not for the education and training, verbal direction would not suffice. For the Seerah taught them how to be guided by the Quran and trained them to be just and moderate in all matters. So, we have Quran and Sunnah. are verbal teachings, but how do we apply these verbal teachings? It is by looking at the application of Rasool (saw) and the Sahaba (radiAllahu Anhum). So, they took this verbal teaching into action and that is something that only the Muslims have, I mean the followers of all other anbiya have lost trace of the Seerah of their anbiya, but with us we know how the Quran was being practiced, we know how the Sunnah of Rusool Allah (saw) was being practiced and applied. (Note 13)
There is an ayah in the Quran which says that you can continue eating and drinking at night time of Ramadan until the white string is distinguished from the black string. One of the Sahaba, he took this literally. What he did was that he had a string under his pillow… and he would eat and then he would uncover the string, he would pick up the pillow, he wouldn’t see the string, so he continued eating … and he would keep on doing that and then he went to Rasool (saw) and said this is what I have done. Rasool (saw) laughed and he said that it doesn’t mean you take a string in your room and you take a look at it. It means the white string which is the first emergence of light in the horizon that is what is meant by it. So Rasool (saw) taught this Sahabi how to apply that ayah, because I could get a dark room with no windows alright and I have a string with me and it would be noon time and I still cannot see it and I continue to eat. So, the application of the ayat and the hadith of Rasool (saw) are shown to us in the life of Muhammad (saw) and the life of the Sahaba. (RadiAllahu Anhum)
Audio (26 min. & 07 sec.)
No 6: Studying Seerah is Ibadah
We are not doing this to entertain ourselves. This is ibadat. There is Ajr, there is reward in studying this. We are worshipping Allah by coming together and studying the life of Muhammad (saw). This is a halaqa of zikr. This is the session of zikr where we come together and talk about Muhammad (saw), we are worshipping Allah Subhana watala. And we expect that this is a gathering which is surrounded by angels, in which Allah subhanawatla will shower us with his mercy and tranquility and be mentioned in a gathering better than this. So, it is ibadat and Allah subhana Watala says
Say, [O Muhammad], "If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is Forgiving and Merciful."
Muhsin Khan Translation
Say (O Muhammad SAW to mankind): "If you (really) love Allah then follow me (i.e. accept Islamic Monotheism, follow the Quran and the Sunnah), Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."
“Say if you do love Allâh then follow me (follow Muhammad (saw), Allâh will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allâh is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful."(Ale Imran 3: 31)
No 7: Developing a Muslim Identity
There is a global culture that is being forced down the throats of everyone on the face of the earth. This global culture is protected and promoted. Thomas Friedman, he is a famous writer in the US, he writes for the New York Times. He says, the hidden hand of the market cannot survive without the hidden fist. McDonald’s will never flourish without McDonald Douglas- the designer of the F15s. (Note 14)
In other words, we are not really dealing with a global culture that is benign or compassionate. This is a culture that gives you no choice. Either accept McDonalds, otherwise McDonald Douglas will send their F15s above your head. It is a very intolerant culture, that cannot co-exist with anything else. It uproots every other culture on the face of the earth. Just cuts the roots of it. And you have a quote here by Alexander Sofzen. He is a famous Russian Historian writer. He says to destroy a people, you must first sever their roots. So, it’s really a destruction of the people of the earth because every other culture is being demolished. So, this is not a global culture that will co-exist with others, it will replace others. And the only ideology that is standing up to this global culture is Islam. But still, as Muslims and especially Muslims living in the west, we are suffering from a serious identity crisis. I mean you would find that even though the brother or the sister would be practicing Islam, but the identity itself, the Islamic identity itself is lost. I mean the person would have more in common with the rock star or a soccer player then they would have with the companions of Rasool Allah (saw). You would find that our youth know more about pop stars than they know about the Sahaba of Rasool (saw). In fact, even sometimes more than the Anbiya. How many of our youth know the names of all of the Anbiya of Allah? How many of our youth know the names of the Sahaba ra. But ask the same person to name the soccer players on their favorite team or their best basketball players and they would go down the list. So, there is a serious identity crisis that is going on among Muslims.
And the way we can counter that, the way we can develop a Muslim identity is:
Steps to Develop Muslim Identity
No 1: By having a strong study of Islamic history. Which is made up of the lives of Prophets of Allah. The life of Muhammad (saw), the life of the Sahaba (ra) and then learning in general, the Muslim history after that. So that’s No 1. You develop an identity, by having an attachment with history. Because our history, is our umbilical cord. This is our life line. We are an extension of an Ummah. We are not separated; we are not severed from our roots. We are a part of a glorious Ummah that we need to study about.
No 2: By being part of the world wide Muslim Ummah. Our local identity should not over ride our Muslim identity. So, my identification with Britain or America or Pakistan or Kuwait or any other country should not over ride my Islamic identity. See this “nation/state” concept is something that Islam came to abolish. We have our loyalty to Allah Subhana Watala and to our religion. And we are part of a worldwide Ummah. Therefore, we need to study; we need to learn about our Muslim brothers all over the world. What happens in Palestine should concern every British Muslim. What happens in Kashmir should concern every American Muslim. What happens in every part of the Muslim world, should concern me as if it is happening within my own house. So, these are the two important elements in building an identity.
No 1: Having a deep understanding of your History
No 2: Being part of the Ummah and caring about the Ummah.
And again, the saying of Alexander Solzhenitzyn is “To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots” (Note 15)
We don’t want our roots to be severed. We want our roots to be deep. Studying the life of Rasool Allah (saw) is the most important ingredient in our history.
Audio (32 min. & 33 sec.)
No 8: The Life of Muhammad (saw) is a Testimony of his Prophet hood.
The greatest miracle of Muhammad (saw) is Quran and then Rasool Allah (saw) had many other miracles other than that. But by thus studying his life in itself is an evidence of his Prophet hood.
I mean here we have a man, who for forty years was leading a normal life. The outstanding thing about the life of Muhammad (saw) in the first 40 years was his morality and character. But Rasool (saw) did not show any signs of aspiration to power or influence. None of that at all. Rasool (saw) was leading a normal life and then suddenly after the age of 40, Rasool Allah (saw) brings about the greatest change that the world has ever seen. That’s an irony. That’s a miracle. Rasool Allah (saw) was illiterate. Could not read or write. And then he presents the world with the greatest book, ever produced. And we could go on and on… the list of ironies of things that are only explained if Muhammad (saw) is a messenger of Allah. Who had divine help. Otherwise it’s impossible. There is no way to explain the Seerah, except to admit that he was a Nabi from Allah. It is impossible for a person to achieve, what Muhammad (saw) achieved without being assisted by Allah Subhana Watala through revelation. So, it’s a testimony of his prophet hood.
There you have Muhammad (saw) leading a normal life for the first forty years. Then suddenly he becomes a political leader, military leader, religious leader, head of a large house hold, law maker, teacher, Imam and go on and on and on, the list of the things that Prophet Muhammad (saw) used to do. All of this was done within a span of twenty-three years. Impossible!
Which would lead to the next point that…
No: 9 We are studying the life of the Greatest
We are studying the life of the greatest man that ever set foot on this earth. Muhammad (saw) is the greatest. And whatever bench mark you want to use for greatness, he would still come out the greatest. Michael Hart, he’s a US Author, he wrote a book called the “The 100 Most influential People that ever lived in history”. After studying the lives of leaders throughout history, it became clear to him that Muhammad (saw) is the undisputable greatest man that ever lived. (Note 16)
He is the greatest and in his introduction, he feels compelled to respond to what the readers of the book might think because he is mostly writing for a non-Muslim audience. So many people would question his choice of Muhammad (saw), so therefore in his introduction he writes, he says “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others. But he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” And then he goes on to say it is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence, which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”