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24

 

time when they were discussing previous Prophets:

 

       Ibn ‘Abbas told that when some of the companions of God's messenger were sitting he        came out, and when he came near them he heard them discussing. One of them said        God had taken Abraham as a friend, another said he spoke direct to Moses, another said        Jesus is God's word and spirit, and another said God chose Adam. God's messenger        (Muhammad) then came out to them and said, "I have heard what you said, and your        wonder that Abraham was God's friend, as indeed he was; that Moses was God's        confidant, as indeed he was: that Jesus was His spirit and word, as indeed he was and        that Adam was chosen by God, as indeed he was. I am the one whom God loves, and this        is no boast. On the day of resurrection I shall be the bearer of the banner of praise under        which will be Adam and the others, and this is no boast. I shall be the first intercession        and  the first whose intersession is accepted on the day of resurrection, and this is no        boast. I  shall be the first to rattle the knocker of paradise, and God will open for me and        bring me into it accompanied by the poor ones among the believers, and this is no boast.        I shall be the most honorable in God's estimation among those of earliest and latest        times, and this is no boast."*

 

Here is the voice of authority speaking, and in its echo we can get a hint of the qualities of majesty and glory that Muhammad embodied.

 

Even to attempt to enumerate the ways in which the Prophet Muhammad has been described would be an almost impossible task.

 

All these meditations are, as it were, sparks from the light of Muhammad. Yet if a summary could be made, it might well use the words of praise which the martyr Husayn ibn Mansur al- Hallaj addressed to his beloved:

 

       The lights of prophecy emerged from his light, and his lights appeared from His light.        There is not among their lights a light brighter and more splendid save the light of the        Master of the Sanctuary . . . Eyes see by his guidance, conscience and consciousness        know through him; God made him speak, the Guide made him sincere, and God        dispatched him. He is the guide and he is the guided. He is the one who polished the rust        from the mirror of the suffering breast. He is the one who brought an eternal Word, not        temporal, not spoken, and not made, united with God without separation, passing out of        the understood . . . .No learned man has attained to his knowledge, and no sage is aware        of his understanding . . . if you fled from his fields, then where would be the path, with no        guide, O weak one? For the wisdom of the sages, next to his wisdom, is shifting sand.**

 

For Further Reading

 

The best general survey of the facts of Muhammad's life is W. Montgomery Watt's Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, London, 1961. The oldest Arabic biography of the Prophet is The Life of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq (edited by Ibn Hisham), translated by Alfred Guillaume, London, 1955. Modern Muslim biographies (Ameer Ali, Rahnama, Haykal) are also of interest. The hadith collections are gradually being translated; the most convenient collection is al-Khatib al-Tabrizi's Mishkat al-Masabih, translated by J. Robson, published by Muhammad Ashraf in Lahore, 1960. It is arranged by subject. The hadith gudsi have been studied by William A. Graham in Divine Word and Prophetic Word. The best recent surveys of Sufi thought on the Prophet are the books of Annemarie Schimmel, especially Mystical Dimensions of Islam, Chapel Hill, 1975. A forthcoming book by her is devoted to the study of the veneration of the Prophet. Sufi texts describing the Prophet are found in Book XX of al- Ghazali’s Ihya’ ‘Ulum al-Din by L. Zolondek, Leiden, 1963; Ibn 'Arabi's description of Muhammad is in The Bezels of Wisdom, trans. R.W. J. Austin, New York, 1980, pp . 269-84.

 

*Ibn., p. 1231.

**Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj, Kitab al-Tawasin 1.6, 9, 13, 17, ed. Paul Nwyia, Beirut, 1972 (MUSJ 47), my translation.

 

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