Exemplary Lives, Admirable Deaths

Vol 6 - Issue 3 Exemplary livesBy Erum Asif

No nation has the kind of remarkable role models that Muslims are blessed with. These people had exemplary lives and admirable deaths. Allah (swt) has decreed death for all of us, but do we remember?

Prophet Muhammad (sa) remained ill for about ten days before he died. During one of these days, he admonished: “Do not make my grave an idol to be worshipped.” (Muwatta Imam Malik) This is a stern reminder for Muslims who commit Shirk by prostrating and praying to dead ‘saints’ at shrines. He further said: “He, whom I have lashed his back (wrongfully), then, here is my back, let him retaliate. He, whom I have ever blasphemed his honour, here I am offering my honour, so that he may avenge himself.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Prophet (sa) had not wronged anyone, yet he humbly offered himself for revenge. Have we made amends to those we have hurt? He (sa) reminded the people to be good to the Ansar, adding: “…They have fulfilled their obligations and rights, which were enjoined on them, but there remains what is for them. So, accept the good (deeds) of the good-doers amongst them and excuse the wrong-doers among them.” or “….accept their good side and ignore their faults.” (Bukhari) What a noble approach! Focus on the positive deeds of your fellow-Muslims; overlook their faults, paving the way to a stronger Ummah, Insha’Allah.

A final instruction that the Prophet (sa) emphasized was: “Allah, Allah. Prayers and what your right hands own (i.e., the slaves).” (Dhahabi) Alas! What is the state of our prayers today? Do Muslims head for the Masjid upon hearing the Adhan? How many Muslims pray five times a day? Empty, divided Masjids tell us a sad story! Do we abandon cosy beds for a timely Fajr?

On the day of his death, Prophet (sa) removed his door curtain, looked at the Muslims praying Fajr and smiled. After sunrise, he asked for Fatima (rta) to be brought in. He whispered into her ear, and she cried. He whispered again, and she smiled. First, he had informed her of his death, and then of her being the first relative to join him, and of being the women’s chief in Jannah. He asked for Hasan and Hussain to be brought in and kissed them.

O, Muslim parents, isn’t there a beautiful example for you in Rasoolullah (sa)? This is an example of love and compassion, not of harshness and aloofness. Note his and Fatima’s (rta) mutual focus – the Hereafter.

In his final moments, the Prophet (sa) was leaning against his wife Aisha (rta). Her brother walked in with a Miswak (tooth-stick) in his hand. Aisha (rta) took and softened it, whereupon the Prophet (sa) used it. Such concern for cleanliness and fondness of the Miswak, as he is about to take his last breath! And what a loving relationship he and his wife enjoyed! Muslim couples can beautify their marriages by turning to the Prophet’s (sa) example. He wiped his face with water, saying: “La ilaha ill-Allah; truly, death has its agonies.” And glanced upwards, supplicating: “…O Allah, forgive me, have mercy upon me and unite me with the highest companions.”

(Quoted in “A Biography of the Prophet of Islam”, by Dr. Mahdi Rizqullah Ahmad, Translated by Syed Iqbal Zaheer, Dar-us-salam, 2005 and “Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum”, by Safi-ur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Dar-us-salam, 1995)

Twelve years later, Umar (rta), the second caliph, was martyred. As he led the Fajr prayer, a Persian slave stabbed him with a poisoned, double-edged dagger. What was Umar’s (rta) concern as he fell fatally wounded? Prayers! He asked: “Is Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf among the people?” They replied: “Yes, he is over here.” Umar (rta) asked him to lead the prayer.

Later, Umar (rta) was taken home. He thanked Allah (swt) for not causing him to die from a Muslim’s hands. He was given milk to drink, which oozed out of his belly’s wound. He asked for the Muslim children to come. He stroked them affectionately. He gave instructions for the settlement of his debt and named the companions to be chosen from as his successor.

He (rta) also asked his son to seek permission from Aisha (rta) for being buried next to the Prophet (sa) and Abu Bakr (rta). Aisha (rta) agreed, and Umar (rta) thanked Allah (swt), since the most important wish of his was fulfilled. He (rta) said to his son: “Place my cheek on the ground.” And when that was done, he said::“Woe to you and to your mother, O Umar, if Allah (swt) does not forgive you, O Umar.” He then passed away.

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs”, Prepared and Translated by Tamir Abu As-Suood, Dar Al-Manarah, 2001)

More than seventy years after Umar’s (rta) demise, the Ummah witnessed the greatest ruler after the rightly-guided caliphs. That was Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz, great-grandson of Umar (rta). Remember the God-fearing lady, who had refused to mix milk with water because of Caliph Umar’s (rta) prohibition? Umar’s (rta) son Asim married her. Umar Ibn Abdul Aziz was Asim’s grandson. This God-fearing ruler would gather scholars to remember death and the Akhirah, and they would cry, as if a funeral were before them.

He died after a short but exceptional rule of two years. In his last speech, he said: “Don’t you know that protection tomorrow will be limited to those, who feared Allah [today], and to those who sold something ephemeral for something permanent? (…) I swear by Allah (swt) that I say those words to you, knowing that I myself have committed more sins than any of you; I, therefore, ask Allah for forgiveness, and I repent.” He lifted up the edge of his robe and began to sob, causing people to burst into tears.

In the agony of death, he addressed his sons tearfully: “By Allah (swt)! I have not left for you anything in inheritance (except for a room). If you are righteous, then Allah (swt) is the caretaker of the righteous ones. And if you are evil-doers, then I will never help you in evil-doing with my wealth.” Each son kissed him, and he prayed for them. He left his sons barely a dirham each, but years later they were seen distributing multitude of horses as charity. Just before his departure, Umar asked to be left alone and was heard reciting: “That home of the Hereafter (i.e. Paradise), We shall assign to those who rebel not against the truth with pride and oppression in the land nor do mischief by committing crimes. And the good end is for the Muttaqun.” (Al-Qasas, 28:83)

(Quoted in “Biographies of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs” by Tamir Abu As-Suood Muhammad and Noha Kamal Ed-Din Abu Al-Yazid, Dar Al-Manarah; “Sunehray Huroof” by Abdul Malik Mujahid, published by Dar-us-salam and “Umar Bin Abdul Aziz”, Muslim Heroes Series, by Naima Sohaib, Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

Seriously ill before her death, Aisha (rta) was asked how she felt. She would say she was fine. Visiting her, Ibn Abbas (rta) started praising her. She asked him not to, adding, “I would be happy not existing.” What fear of accountability!

(Quoted in “Aisha (rta)”, Muslim Heroes Series by Naima Sohaib. Translated by Eeman Asif Misbah, Sahar Publishers, 2006)

They were well-prepared, yet fearful. We are unprepared, yet relaxed!

Ummul-Mumineen – Aisha (rta)

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Name: Aisha Bint Abi Bakr

Kunniyat: Umm Abdullah

Title: Siddiqa and Humaira

Father: Abdullah – Abi Bakr Ibn Abi Qahafa

Mother: Zainab – Umme Ruman Bint Aamer

Clan: Banu Tumaim

Tribe: Quraysh

Birth: 5th Shawwal AH – 615 CE

Death: 17th Ramadan, 58 AH – 681 CE

How does one begin to define the life and times of a daughter of Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (rta) – the most eminent of Companions – and the wife of the most remarkable man of all times – the Messenger of Allah (sa)? Even among these stellar associations, she shines as an individual to reckon, which says volumes about her character and personality.

Even as a child, Aisha (rta) showed exceptional intelligence. She was about six years of age, when the Prophet (sa) saw her in her father’s house playing with some toys, including a toy-horse with wings. The Prophet (sa) asked her: “Aisha, do horses ever have wings?” Instead of feeling shy in the presence of this great man, Aisha (rta) confidently replied: “Yes, King’s Solomon’s horse did.”

Aisha (rta) was at various times a judge, a political activist and, after the death of her husband, an indispensable source of knowledge about the life and teachings of the Prophet (sa). Even such senior Companions as Umar (rta) frequently consulted her about matters, in which they were doubtful. Even Tabi’in, the great scholars of Ahadeeth and Fiqh, learned from her. A part of what they learnt has come down to us in the form of numerous traditions that are narrated on her authority.

She was strong-willed and fiercely feminist – but not a rebel without a cause. Hence, we see her defending women’s rights – even negating opinions of other Companions. On hearing some Companions narrate that if a woman, dog or donkey crosses in front of a person praying, the prayer gets disrupted, she got angry and said: “You did gross injustice in putting us together with dogs and donkeys. The Prophet (sa) would pray and I would lie in front of him; when he wanted to prostrate, I would gather my legs.”

When she felt some women deviating from the Islamic code of conduct, she said in no uncertain terms: “Had Allah’s Prophet (sa) known what the women were doing, he would have forbidden them from attending the Mosque.” (Bukhari) Her brand of feminism was firmly entrenched in Islamic teachings. She had no ego issues about standing behind a man in congregation or a chip on the shoulder about remaining in Purdah.

Syed Sulaiman Nadwee says: “ The greatest favour that Aisha (rta) has done to women is to demonstrate that a Muslim woman, living in Purdah, can actively participate in literary, religious, social and political activities and can work for the betterment of the community.”

Aisha (rta) did not simply teach and preach Islam – she lived it. She led a truly Muslim life of prayer, charity and struggle for truth and justice. The Prophet (sa) once gave her this advice: “Aisha, if you want to meet me (again in the life to come), then treat this world like a traveler’s meal and do not attend the gatherings of the rich and the powerful, and do not consider clothes old as long as they can be mended.” (Ibn Sa’ad)

During the Caliphate of Umar (rta) and afterwards, wealth began to pour into the hands of Muslims. A due share of it came to Aisha (rta), but she gave away almost all she received. Once Abd Allah Bin Zubayr sent her 100,000 dirhams, but by the end of the same day, she had given it all away. Ibn Sa’ad reports Urwa as saying that on one occasion he saw her distribute 70,000 dirhams and then get up shaking the front of her dress, as if she were clearing it of dust. Aisha (rta) also often kept Nafl (supererogatory) fast and rarely missed Hajj.

This is but a glimpse of an inspiring life!

Some people like to focus only on: “How old was she, when she got married?” or “What about the Battle of the Camel (Jamal)?”

The Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) marriage to Aisha (rta) was an exceptional one. Waheeda Carvello observes: “Here we have a man nearing the end of his life and a woman still near the beginning of hers. Aisha (rta) had a lively temperament and was quick to learn. She had a clear heart and an accurate memory.”

It is important, however, to dig deeper and to bring out the real significance of this union. The emphasis here is on education and the cultivation of the intellect, which every human is blessed with. We must remind ourselves that if knowledge is not related to and acquired through action, it cannot be used for reconstruction of society.

What we lack today is the application of knowledge. Most of us are educated – in some instances, very highly educated – but how well do we understand what we have learnt? And how many of us have the commitment and the strength to apply it? Let alone implement it? This is what made the marriage of Aisha (rta) to the Prophet (sa) so exceptional.

Prophet Muhammad (sa) encouraged intellectual growth and debate. Although Aisha (rta) was intelligent, she had a great deal to learn. The Prophet (sa) tutored her with love and understanding and enhanced her potential. Through this interaction with the Prophet (sa) and the other wives, she became very knowledgeable. Like any student, she would sometimes feel insecure regarding her progress, and the Prophet (sa) would always help her and assist her in improving herself. She was never short of words and was not afraid to question or debate in order to find out the truth. When she got older, she passed on the knowledge she had received from the Prophet (sa), and long after his death, she was a source of knowledge and wisdom for both women and men.

Aisha (rta) accompanied the Prophet (sa) on many expeditions. She participated with total courage and commitment in the battles of Badr, Uhud and Khandaq and learned through these experiences. Through this kind of training, and as an active participant, she developed into a mature eloquent woman, who could fully participate in the affairs of the first Islamic state and be a beacon for all times to come.

The Battle of the Camel was an incident that caused Aisha (rta) tremendous grief. On remembering it, she would say: “I wish I was a stone, I wish I was a tree.”

The focal point of Aisha’s (rta) remarkable life is her commitment to the cause of Islam under all circumstances, her unfaltering devotion and love for her husband and her submission of her will and intellect to the will of Allah (swt).