25.1 Mohamed as a Worshipper
In the preceding chapters we have described the personality of Mohamed as the Messenger between Allah and man, the leader of men, the ruler, the judge, and the commander of an army. There is a very important side of Mohamed’s nature that we have so far paid very little attention, and one that is very difficult to describe because Mohamed himself kept it private and screened. Before becoming Messenger of Allah, before becoming a leader of men, Mohamed was first and foremost a worshipper. A very long time before he became the Messenger, he forsook the roads frequented by men and sought refuge in the austere seclusion of the desert. He had a refined and sensitive soul that longed to worship. He was a worshipper seeking eternal truth, a slave who longed for contact with his Master.
The trait may be hereditary; we find it in all the line of his descent as far back as his ancient grandfathers, Abraham and Ishmael. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son to Allah and Ishmael went willingly to be sacrificed since this was the will of Allah. The offering sacrificed at the end of the Hajj is symbolic of this memorable occasion, when Allah in His mercy ordered Abraham to sacrifice it instead of Ishmael. We know that Mohamed's fifth grandfather Qusayy ibn Kilab was a pious sheikh who ordered that the guests of Allah should be attended to and served more than all others. His grandfather, Abdul-Muttalib, after fining the gold swords and struggling with the Quraysh for them, placed them as an ornament at the door of the Kaaba. When Abraha came with a great army to destroy it, and he knew that they were no match for him, he said,
“The Kaaba has Allah who protects it.”
Although Mohamed's father died young, this spiritual tendency already showed in him and his slave, later Mohamed's nurse, used to say to him,
“I see in you the piety of your father.”
Mohamed had in him this same spiritual transcendence, this piety that shielded his character from anything unworthy or unseemly. He was made on the grand scale of his ancient grandfather Abraham. When we first encounter him as a mature man, we find him shunning the amusements, the honors, and the busy social life of Mecca, deserting worldly gain and the trade he was successful in to flee to the seclusion of the cave of Hiraq. Year after year he would remain there, particularly in the month of Ramadan. He would spend long days in the cave oblivious of time and place, in worship. He cared neither for food or drink, and if left to himself would not think of them, and it was the lady of Khadija, seeing how emaciated he became after these periods of worship, who insisted on sending food to him.
With the years, as his relationship to his Creator who guided him grew closer and deeper, he spoke little about Him who was closer to him than life itself. He said only what he was ordered to say, no more and no less. He spoke in his capacity as a messenger but his own relationship to Allah he kept private, although we do get significant information from those who lived with him and from his Companions who asked him about everything he did in order to emulate him. He was keenly sensitive to what others could not see, deeply aware of the truth behind the thick screens of matter, conscious of the presence of Allah more than the presence of those around him, and he told his Companions,
“Worship Allah as if you saw Him, because even if you do not see Him, He sees you.”
One day when on pilgrimage with his Companions, he saw them calling upon Allah with upraised voices and he said to them,
“Softly, He you are addressing is neither deaf nor dumb.”
The lady Aisha told of how he used to spend long hours of the night in prayer. Standing he would read the Koran, prostrating he would call upon his Lord.
Sometimes he would exhaust himself in prayers, oblivious of time and place but keenly aware of the goodness of Allah to him and of the magnanimity of the gift of the Koran, relayed to mankind through him. He felt that no matter how long he prayed, it would not pay his debt of gratitude or express his feelings of thanks. He exhausted himself to the extent that one day verses were revealed to him which say:
Taha, We have not sent down the Koran upon you to exhaust you.
It is only a reminder to those who fear Him. (20: 1-3)