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History and Seerah

“A Man of Evident Splendor” – Description of The Prophet

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The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam combined both outward and inward perfection. Allah ta’ala fashioned His Prophets to be morally and phsyically sound or kamaal. We are all familiar with the beautiful character of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, yet how many of us are aware of his physical beauty? We find in the seerah many beautiful descriptions from the Companions that describe the physical perfection of the Messenger of Allah alayhi salaatu wa salaam, inshaAllah a few instances will be shared here.

Moon vs Sun

Al Baraa ibn Malik radi Allahu anhu was asked, “Was the messenger of Allah’s face sword-like?” and he responded, “No, it was moon-like.” [Miskaat Al Masaabih 2/518]

We recognize the beauty in the sun, so why did the companion describe him as a moon, and not as the sun? The scholars say that although the sun is beautiful in nature, you cannot look at the sun directly because it is too bright and painful for your eyes. However with the beauty of the moon, you can stare at it the whole night without any pain. Such is the beauty of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam–there is no harm in staring at him. Another companion, Jabir bin Samurah radi Allahu anhu said, “I saw him at one full-moon night. I looked at him. He was dressed in a red garment. I compared him with the moon and found that — for me — he was better than the moon.” [Mishkat Al-Masabeeh 2/518]

Another point from this description is that Al-Baraa was asked if his face was ‘sword-like’–a sword is thin while the moon is round, so from this we also learn that the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam did not have a thin and lean face, rather he had a round face.

Ka‘b bin Malik radi Allahu anhu said: “When he was pleased, his face would shine with so bright light that you would believe that it was a moon-piece.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari 1/502]

Description of Anas radi Allahu anhu

Anas ibn Malik radi Allahu anhu was the servant of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam for ten years, and his description is more amazing because of this fact. Usually those under us–wives, children, employees– are the ones who see the ‘worst’ side of our character because we do not fear reproach from them, but Anas radi Allahu anhu narrated that he never even heard “uff” (the smallest expression of disgust) from the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam!

He said radi Allahu anhu, “I have never touched silk or a silky garment softer than his hands; nor have I smelt a perfume or any scent nicer than his.” [Sahih Bukhari]

Description of Umm Ma’bad

The description of Umm Ma’bad is by far the most comprehensive and detailed narration we have of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. This woman, who would take care of travelers who passed by her tent, only saw the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam once. During the hijrah of the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, he stopped by her tent with his companions for some rest and food.

“It was narrated that the Messenger sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, his servant, a guide and Abu Bakr radi Allahu anhu left Mecca, passing a tent of an elderly lady called Umm Ma’bad. She would sit close to the tent and would give food and drink to travelers. So they asked her if they could buy some meat or dates from her but she could not find anything. The Messenger of Allahsal Allahu alayhi wa sallam looked towards a sheep next to the tent. They had run out of provisions and where hungry. The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam asked Umm Ma’bad, “What is wrong with this sheep, dear Umm Ma’bad?”

She replied, “The sheep is fatigued and is weaker than the other sheep.”

The Messenger of Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, “Does it milk?

She replied, “I swear by your mother and father, if I saw milk from it then I would milk it.” The Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam called the sheep and moved his hand over its udder; he pronounced the name of Allah and praised him. Then he called Umm Ma’bad when the sheep steadied its feet and its udder filled. He asked for a large container and milked it until it was filled. The lady drank until full, his companions (meaning satisfied) drank until full, then the others drank. Then it was milked for a second time until the container was full and they left her and continued on their journey.

After a short while, the partner of the lady (Abu Ma’bad) returned from herding goats that were swaying from weakness. He saw the milk and said to his wife, “Where did you get this milk from, dear Umm Ma’bad. The sheep is single and there is no milk in the house!”

She replied, “I swear by God, a blessed man came to us today”

Abu Ma’bad said, “Describe him to me.”

She then began her description; dear reader: imagine your Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam with this description below:

ظاهر الوَضَاءة– “his cleanliness was apparent”, the first thing she noticed about the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam is that his cleanliness is apparent. Imagine the situation of traveling during that time; the traveler would be bound to get some dirt on him, yet the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was so clean that it was the first thing noticable.

أبْلَجُ الوجه-“his face was luminous”

حسن الخُلُق-“handsome disposition”

لم تعبه ثُجْلَة-“he did not have a protuding stomach”

ولم تُزْرِ به صَعْلَة-“nor did he have a small head”

وسِيم -“handsome”

قَسِيم-“well proportioned”

في عينيه دَعَج-“his eyes had wideness”

وفي أشفاره وَطَف-“his eyelashes were long”

وفي صوته صَهَل-“and in his voice was raspiness/crackle”

وفي عنقه سَطَع-“and his neck was long”

أحْوَر-“the white of his eyes is extremely white, and the black of his eyes is extremely black”

أكْحَل-“it was was as if he had kohl (eyeliner the Arabs used) on naturally”

أزَجّ-“natural arching of his eyebrows”

أقْرَن-“looked like his two eyebrows met”, this was mentioned by Umm Ma’bad keeping in mind that she saw him once, other companions said “laysa bi aqran” he did not have any hair between his eyebrows but it was a vein that would show when he would be angry. This does not mean that he necessarily was angry during his stay with Umm Ma’bad but any thing that causes blood to rush to your head, (such as lowering it, to milk a goat for example) could have caused that.

شديد سواد الشعر-“his hair was extremely black”

إذا صمت علاه الوقار-“when he was silent he would be enveloped in an aura of respect”

وإن تكلم علاه البَهَاء-“and if he spoke it was like a light protruding from him”

أجمل الناس وأبهاهم من بعيد-“the most beautiful of people from far”

وأحسنه وأحلاه من قريب-“and the most beautiful from close”

حلو المنطق-“his speech was sweet”

لا نَزْر-“not short”, tazar means someone who is very short and brief in their speech; they do not give you more than a ‘yes/no’ answer.When the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam spoke, he did not speak in this manner.

ولا هَذَر-“not very long”, hathar is the opposite of tazar; it is to be very long and detailed in speech, to keep talking and talking, so much so that it can get annoying. Likewise the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was not this way.

كأن منطقه خَرَزَات نظمن يَتَحدَّرن-“it was as if his speech were beads of a necklace cut”, meaning that his words fall in order after one another and that his speech was organized.

لا تقحمه عينمن قِصَر، ولا تشنؤه من طول، غُصْن بين غُصْنَيْن، فهو أنْظَر الثلاثة منظراً، وأحسنهم قدْرًا-“His height does not harm and the eye is not taken over by him, a branch between two branches, he is more radiant than them and he is most respected.”

له رفقاء يحفون به-“his companions would surround him”

إذا قال استمعوا لقوله-“when he spoke they would listen attentively to his speech”

وإذا أمر تبادروا إلى أمره-“and if he orders they hasten to it fully”

لا عَابِس ولا مُفَنَّد-“without frowning or refusing” She ends her description by talking about the respect that was shown to him, which only adds to his impressive personality in how the companions would respond. Amr ibn Alaas radi Allahu anhu when he met the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and he returned to Makkah saying that he had visited the courts of Kisrah and Caesar, and he had never seen anyone more beloved or respected than Muhammad sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

Abu Ma’bad responded, “I swear by Allah, he is the one Quraysh mentioned to us about his affair in Makkah. I am determined to accompany him; if I could go that way.”

Here is a description of Umm Ma’bad in English that was used for parts of this post, and is translated in a clear manner.

We ask Allah ta’ala to make us among those who truly love, follow, and dwell in Firdaws with the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. Ameen.

Amatullah is a student of the Qur'an and its language. She completed the 2007 Ta'leem program at Al-Huda Institute in Canada and studied Qur'an, Tajwid (science of recitation) and Arabic in Cairo. Through her writings, she hopes to share the practical guidance taught to us by Allah and His Messenger and how to make spirituality an active part of our lives. She has a Bachelors in Social Work and will be completing the Masters program in 2014 inshaAllah. Her experience includes working with immigrant seniors, refugee settlement and accessibility for people with disabilities.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Arif

    April 18, 2009 at 2:05 PM

    sister amatullah, may allah bless you! such a beautiful description of Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam!

  2. Avatar

    arfan

    April 18, 2009 at 4:13 PM

    Salam Alikum

    It’s always a compliment when I see posts from Sheikhy notes on other websites.

    I would like that you add a link to the original translation from the website., below the title.

    Jazak Allah khair

  3. Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    Zainab (AnonyMouse)

    April 18, 2009 at 9:46 PM

    That was amazing… barakAllahu feekum to those whose effort went into sharing this with us!

  4. Avatar

    MR

    April 18, 2009 at 11:07 PM

    “Cleanliness was apparent” – Man that is something hard to find anywhere.

  5. Avatar

    Umm Fulaanah

    April 19, 2009 at 5:43 AM

    Wooow… I loved this article mashaa-allaah….
    Sweet tone to it aswell… gets you into ‘imagination-mode’…..

    Jazaakillaahu Khayran Ukhtii….

  6. Avatar

    imz

    April 19, 2009 at 7:54 AM

    One of the most beautiful posts i have read

    Jazakillah khair!!

  7. Avatar

    FearAllah

    April 19, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    That truly was very beautiful subhanAllah! The Arabic is so eloquently descriptive…

    Jazakillahu khayrun katheerun for sharing this with us! :)

  8. Avatar

    Algebra

    April 19, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    Aslamu-alaikum:
    OH this was such a nicely written post. I really enjoyed it. Amatulllah, I must say i am happy that you have come to the MM team. MashAllah, you have written nice posts. Thank you.
    Salam

  9. Avatar

    Aasif

    April 20, 2009 at 1:57 AM

    Oh Allaah, increase my love for this man.

  10. Avatar

    Sadaf

    April 20, 2009 at 4:29 AM

    Bismillah
    Excellent post! I loved the fact that it was supplemented with the actual Arabic terms, it made everything said so much clearer and easier to understand! Jazakillahu Khairan, Amatullah, for helping us envision the beautiful appearance of our beloved Prophet Muhammad [صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم]. Indeed Amatullah is a valuable addition to the MM team.

    I find it amazing that a man whose first, most obviously striking quality was his cleanliness, today has followers (of his religion) who leave their disgusting mark in any washroom they might venture into, particularly here in the East. I mean, even the washrooms in the Haramain are so disgustingly dirty, one can vomit. May Allah guide us to emulate him in every aspect. Ameen.

  11. Avatar

    MM Associates

    April 20, 2009 at 11:33 AM

    Alhamdulillah wa iyyakum.

    InshaAllah I’m thinking of working on a part two :) Allahumma sali wa sallim alaa nabiyyinaa Muhammad.

    Sadaf: how true subhanAllah! I was quite shocked when I went for umrah and had the stopover in Doha. I thought I was going to be sick :( My brother went to Egypt for a few months and I asked him how the city was during the first few days he was there and all he could say was: “it’s so dirty, there is garbage everywhere”. SubhanAllah.

    -Amatullah

  12. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    April 23, 2009 at 2:27 AM

    Great post. May Allah send peace and blessings on our beloved prophet. He was definitely the best of creation, inwardly and outwardly.

    May I know if the references of the Umm Ma’bad hadeeth linked to the sheikhly notes blog have been verified?

    Sources: Ibn Hisham, Imam Ahmed, Al-Hikam Hasan qawi agreed upon by Ad-Dhahbi, Tabarni in Mujam Al-Kabir 3/57, Ibn Kathir “The beginning and the end” 2/190, Haytami 6/57, Proofs of Prophethood by Al-Bayhaqi 2/493, Tabarani in the Major compilation 4/57, in the “Grades” of Ibn Saad 1/230

  13. Avatar

    MM Associates

    April 23, 2009 at 6:00 PM

    Brother Faraz, I remember specifically reading that this narration is hasan, but inshaAllah I will look up the authentication for you and post it.

    -Amatullah

  14. Avatar

    Faraz Omar

    April 23, 2009 at 6:13 PM

    jazaak Allah khair… will wait for it

  15. Avatar

    Amatullah

    April 23, 2009 at 10:28 PM

    This hadeeth is classified as “hasan li ghayrihi” which means that there are many narrations that are not very strong, but due to the sheer amount of narrations, the chains strengthen one another and so is considered sound.

    and Allah knows best.

  16. Avatar

    UmmeAmmaarah

    April 29, 2009 at 7:31 PM

    SubhanAllah! May we witness this beauty on the day of Judgement, and may we drink from his blessed hands Sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam…. and may we be blessed with atleast a fraction of his inner beauty so that by Allah Ta’Ala’s infinite mercy we may be granted a dwelling in Jannah. aameen.

  17. Avatar

    Allah's slave

    April 30, 2009 at 6:48 PM

    Bismillah
    Assalaamualekum

    Ameen!Subhan Allah….
    May Allah swt send peace and blessings on him…
    Jazakh Allah Khair ukhti!
    Not that I have anything in my account to think big like this but if Allah swt with His infinite mercy gave me such a chance…..I wonder if I would ever get to see him though…if I could ever raise my eyes to him ….how can one raise his/her eyes to him…

    ‘Amr Ibn Al-‘Aas said, “There wasn’t anyone more beloved to me than the messenger of Allah – salah allahu ‘alayhi wa salam – and more glorious in my eyes than he. I wouldn’t allow my eyes to stare at him so that to honor him, and if you were to ask me to describe him, I couldn’t…”

    [Muslim]

    Fi Aman Allah

  18. Avatar

    Amatullah

    April 30, 2009 at 7:16 PM

    wa iyyakum, Ameen to the duaas.

    Allah’s Slave – Make duaa to Allah ta’ala to allow you to see him sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in your dream and inshaAllah dwell with him sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in Jannah :)

    Narrated by Ya’la ibn Murrah ath-Thaqafi radi Allahu anhu said, “one time we were walking with the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam and he stopped at a place to spend the night. When the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam went to sleep, a tree uprooted itself and came to the Prophet and enveloped him. When the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam woke up, he said: ‘this is a tree that when it saw the Prophet, it asked Allah to give salaams to the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, and Allah gave it permission.'” (Musnad Ahmad, Tabarani and Bayhaqi: Saheeh)

    Do we even ask to see the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam in our dreams? Yet a tree is asking to send salaams on the Prophet alayhi salaatu wa salaam!

  19. Avatar

    Allah's slave

    May 1, 2009 at 9:48 AM

    Jazakh Allahu Khair ukhti…I will do as you say insha Allah….may Allah swt reward you for giving hope…
    your words brought tears to my eyes….
    we are his(peace and blessings be upon him) ummati and what a state of ghaflah are we in….we waste our prayers, our energies, our devotions on so many irrelevant things….if only we desired his proximity with such a zeal…may our lives be sacrificed for him..Ya Allah…make us love him and make him love us…and love us for His sake….we fall short of th status you gave us in so many ways and at all times…to be his ummati…

    grant us his company Ya Rabb…aameen

    {Zayd ibn Aslam(ra) said, ‘Umar(ra) went out at night to observe the people and saw a lamp in a house where an old woman was teasing some wool, saying:

    “The prayer of the good be upon Muhammad, may the blessed bless him!
    I was standing in tears before dawn. If only I knew, when death gives us different forms,
    Whether the Abode will join me to my beloved???!”

    She meant the Prophet(s). ‘Umar(ra) sat down in tears. }

    Barakh Allah Feek
    Fi Aman Allah

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  22. Avatar

    Qamar

    December 16, 2015 at 2:41 AM

    Jazak Allah Khaira

  23. Pingback: Tasveer e Kamaal e Muhabbat, Tanweer e Jamal e Khudaai… | Madd o Jazar

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    Umair

    May 12, 2016 at 4:27 AM

    Mashallah brilliant work. I’m using it for my speech this weekend inshallah. Is it tazar or nazr? Also is it possible u can put i’rab’s on? JazakAllah

  25. Avatar

    muhammad azam

    February 9, 2018 at 9:36 AM

    اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ
    كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ
    .إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ
    اللَّهُمَّ بَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ، وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ
    كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَعَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ
    .إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ

  26. Avatar

    Ashif Hussain

    March 14, 2018 at 12:09 AM

    Masha Allah very nice well done

  27. Avatar

    cornor

    November 27, 2018 at 3:51 AM

    I LOVE PROPHET(PBUH)

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#Culture

Emotional Intelligence: A Tool for Change  

Imam Mikaeel Smith

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Why do we consider emotional intelligence to be half of the Prophetic intellect? The answer lies in the word “messenger.” Messengers of Allah are tasked with the divine responsibility of conveying to humanity the keys to their salvation. They are not only tasked with passing on the message but also with being a living example of that message.

When ʿĀʾishah, the wife of the Prophet ﷺ, was asked to explain the character of the blessed Prophet ﷺ, her reply was, “His character was the Qurʾān.[1]” We are giving emotional intelligence a place of primacy in the construct of Prophetic intelligence because it seems implausible that Allah would send a messenger without providing that messenger with the means necessary to exemplify and transmit the message to others. If the Prophets of Allah did not have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to successfully pass on the message to the next generation, the argument would be incomplete. People could easily excuse themselves of all accountability because the message was never conveyed.

We also see clear examples in the Qur’ān that this knowledge was being perpetually perfected in the character of the Prophet ﷺ. Slight slips in his Emotional Intelligence were rare, but when they did occur, Allah gently addressed the mistake by means of revelation. Allah says in the Qurʾān, “If you (O Muḥammad) were harsh and hardhearted, then the people would flee from you.” This verse clearly placed the burden of keeping an audience upon the shoulders of the Prophet ﷺ. What this means is that the Prophet ﷺ had to be aware of what would push people away; he had to know what would create cognitive and emotional barriers to receptivity. When we study the shamāʾil (books about his character), we find that he was beyond exceptional in his ability to make people receptive. He took great care in studying the people around him and deeply understanding them. Only after the Prophet ﷺ had exhausted all the means of removing barriers to receptivity would the responsibility to affirm the message be shifted to those called to it.

Another example of this Prophetic responsibility can be found in the story of Prophet Mūsa when he was commissioned to call Pharaoh and the children of Israel to Allah. When Allah informed him of the task he was chosen for, he immediately attempted to excuse himself because he had a slight speech impediment. He knew that his speech impediment could potentially affect the receptivity of people to the message. He felt that this disqualified him from being a Prophet. He also felt that the act of manslaughter he committed might come between the people and guidance. All of these examples show that Allah’s Prophets understood that many factors can affect a person’s receptivity to learning something new, especially when the implications of that new information call into question almost every aspect of a person’s identity. History tells us that initially, people did not accept the message of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ; they completely rejected him and accused him of being a liar.

One particular incident shows very clearly that he ﷺ understood how necessary it was for him to remove any cognitive or emotional barriers that existed between him and his community. When the people of his hometown of Makkah had almost completely rejected him, he felt that it was time to turn his attention to a neighboring town. The city of Ṭā’if was a major city and the Prophet ﷺ was hopeful that perhaps they would be receptive to the message. Unfortunately, they completely rejected him and refused to even listen to what he had to say. They chased him out of town, throwing stones at him until his injuries left him completely covered in blood. Barely making it outside the city, the Prophet ﷺ collapsed. Too weak to move, he turned his attention to his Lord and made one of the most powerful supplications made by a Prophet of Allah.

اللهم إليك أشكو ضعف قوتي، وقلة حيلتي، وهواني على الناس، يا أرحم الراحمين، أنت أنت رب المستضعفين وأنت ربي، إلى من تكلني؟ إلى عدو يتجهمني؟ أو إلى قريب ملكته أمري؟ إن لم يكن بك علي غضب فلا أبالي، غير أن عافيتك أوسع لي، أعوذ بنور وجهك الذي أشرقت له الظلمات، وصلح عليه أمر الدنيا والآخرة، من أن ينزل بي غضبك، أو يحل علي سخطك، لك العتبى حتى ترضى، ولا حول ولا قوة إلا بك”

“Oh Allah, only to You do I complain about my lack of strength, my insufficient strategies, and lowliness in the sight of the people. You are my Lord. To whom do you turn me over? Someone distant from me who will forsake me? Or have you placed my affair in the hands of my enemy? [2]

The Prophet ﷺ felt that he was the reason why the people were not accepting the message. His concern that “my low status in the eyes of the people,” informs us that he understood that people naturally judge the seriousness of a message based on the stature of the message bearer. The people of Ṭā’if were extremely ignorant, so much that they adamantly refused to enter into any dialogue. In reality, this was not due to any shortcoming of the Prophet ﷺ; he demonstrated the best of character and displayed extreme patience in the face of such ignorance. But the beginning of the supplication teaches us what he was focused on: making sure that he was not the reason why someone did not accept the message.

Because his message was not geographically restricted like that of other Prophets, those who inherited the message would have the extra burden of transferring the message to a people with whom they were unfamiliar. The intelligence needed to pass the message of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ around the world included an understanding of the cultural differences that occur between people. Without this understanding effective communication and passing on of his message would be impossible.

A sharp Emotional Intelligence is built upon the development of both intra- and interpersonal intelligence. These intelligences are the backbone of EQ and they provide a person with emotional awareness and understanding of his or her own self, an empathic understanding of others, and the ability needed to communicate effectively and cause change. Emotional Intelligence by itself is not sufficient for individual reform or societal reform; instead, it is only one part of the puzzle. The ʿaql or intellect that is referenced repeatedly in the Qurʾān is a more comprehensive tool that not only recognizes how to understand the psychological and emotional aspects of people but recognizes morally upright and sound behavior. After that this intellect, if healthy and mature, forces a person to conform to that standard. Therefore, we understand the ʿaql to be a comprehensive collection of intelligences analogous to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory.

Taking into consideration the extreme diversity found within Western Muslim communities, we see how both Moral Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence are needed. Fostering and nurturing healthy communities requires that we understand how people receive our messages. This is the interpersonal intelligence aspect of EQ. Without grounding the moral component of our community, diversity can lead to what some contemporary moral theorists call moral plasticity, a phenomenon where concrete understandings of good and evil, right and wrong, are lost. Moral Education (Moral Education, which will be discussed throughout the book, is the process of building a Morally Intelligent heart) focuses on correcting the message that we are communicating to the world; in other words, Moral Intelligence helps us maintain our ideals and live by them, while Emotional Intelligence ensures that the message is effectively communicated to others.

My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.”

Interpersonal understanding is the core of emotional intelligence. My father would often tell me, “It’s not what you say, son; it’s what they hear.” From the perspective of Emotional Intelligence, this statement is very accurate. The way we interpret words, body language, verbal inflections, and facial expressions is based on many different factors. The subtle power of this book lies in the simple fact that your emotional intelligence is the primary agent of change and thus the most powerful force you have. You must understand how people perceive what you are communicating to them. What is missing from my father’s statement is the primacy of Moral Intelligence. Throughout this book, I attempt to show how the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ demonstrated a level of perfection of both of these intelligences.

*With the Heart in Mind is available for pre-order at https://www.qalam.foundation/qalambooks/with-the-heart-in-mind

[1]Bayhaqī, Shuʿb al-ʾĪmān, vol. 3, p. 23.

[2] Ibn Kathir, al-Bidāyah wa al-Nihāyah, vol. 3, p. 136.

 

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#Islam

The Languages of the Sahaba

Antar Abdellah

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Arabs – during the time of the revelation- were known as an illiterate nation for whom the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent from among themselves. Yet, there are instances in the prophetic hadiths that draw attention to some literate companions who were even able to speak and write in more than one tongue. In this article, we shed light at samples of the companions who were multilingual.

The Prophetic stand towards foreign languages:

One hadith is well known among current Muslims in which the Prophet ﷺ says: “Whoever learns a language of a people (other than Arabic), he becomes safe from their wickedness”. Although this saying is well known among Muslims, the fact is that it is not a hadith of the Prophet ﷺ. Hadith scholars say it is root-less, fabricated, but its meaning is sound. Another fabricated hadith is the one that goes “Seek knowledge even in China”. Some people deduce that one cannot seek knowledge in China without being able to communicate with the Chinse in their own language.

Although these two fabricated hadiths are well known, there is no real need for them to establish the importance of learning a foreign language as perceived by the Prophet ﷺ and the companions in their dealings. After all, the Prophet’s tradition (Sunnah) is not just verbal hadiths; it includes his dealings and actions. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is known to have used messengers to carry his messages to kings and emperors after the 6th year of Hijra. He sent Hatib ibn Abi Baltaa to Egypt because he was knowledgeable about Greek that was spoken by the rulers in Egypt at that time. He also sent Jaafar Ibn Abi Talib to the king of Abyssinia, because Jaafaar learned their tongue while he was there in the first Hijra, where he spent more than 10 years there. The Prophet ﷺ even ordered some of his companions to learn the tongue of the Jews so as to translate for him the messages they used to send to him.

In addition, he ﷺ used very few non-Arabic words in his hadiths that were known to his interlocutors. In Al Bukhari, Um Khalid (the daughter of Khalid bin Sa`id) who was a very young child narrated “I went to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ with my father and I was wearing a yellow shirt. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said, “Sanah, Sanah!” (`Abdullah, the narrator, said that ‘Sanah’ meant ‘good’ in the Ethiopian language). I then started playing with the seal of Prophethood (in between the Prophet’s shoulders) and my father rebuked me harshly for that. Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said. “Leave her,” and then Allah’s Messenger ﷺ (invoked Allah to grant me a long life) by saying (thrice), “Wear this dress till it is worn out and then wear it till it is worn out, and then wear it till it is worn out.” (The narrator adds, “It is said that she lived for a long period, wearing that (yellow) dress till its color became dark because of long wear.”)

In another hadith, The Prophet ﷺ said, “Near the establishment of the Hour, there will be the days of Al-Harj, and the religious knowledge will be taken away (vanish i.e. by the death of Religious scholars) and general ignorance will spread.” Abu Musa raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) said, “Al-Harj, in the Ethiopian language, means killing.”

These rare instances of using non-Arabic words in the Prophet’s speech do not mean that he knew foreign languages. Rather, it means that he knew a few words that were known to most people to whom he spoke. He used them for recreation purposes (the case of Um Khalid), or for drawing attention to the importance of the idea (the case of Abu Musa).

Bilingual Sahaba:

  1. Abu Huraira:

There different instances where Abu Huraira raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) spoke Faris (Persian). In Al Bukhari, Hilal ibn Usamah quoted Abu Maimunah Salma, a client of the people of Madinah, as saying:

While I was sitting with Abu Huraira, a Persian woman came to him along with a son of hers. She had been divorced by her husband and they both wanted custody. She said: Abu Huraira, speaking to him in Persian, my husband wishes to take my son away. Abu Huraira said: Cast lots for him, saying it to her in a foreign language. Her husband came and asked: Who is disputing with me about my son?

Abu Huraira said: O Allah, I do not say this, except that I heard a woman who came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ while I was sitting with him, and she said: My husband wishes to take away my son, Messenger of Allah, and he draws water for me from the well of Abu Anabah, and he has been good to me. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: Cast lots for him. Her husband said: Who is disputing with me about my son?

The Prophet ﷺ said to the boy: This is your father and this your mother, so take whichever of them you wish by the hand. So he took his mother’s hand and she went away with him.

In addition to Persian, Abu Huraira is reported to have spoken in Abyssinian. In Al Bukhari, Abu Salama narrated that ‘Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Auf raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger ﷺ as saying:

There is no transitive disease, but he is also reported to have said: A sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Abu Salama said that Abu Huraira used to narrate these two (different hadiths) from Allah’s Messenger ﷺ, but afterwards Abu Huraira became silent on these words:” There is no transitive disease,” but he stuck to this that the sick person should not be taken to one who is healthy. Harith b. Abu Dhubab (and he was the first cousin of Abu Huraira) said: Abu Huraira, I used to hear from you that you narrated to us along with this hadith and the other one also (there is no transitive disease), but now you observe silence about it. You used to say that Allah’s Messenger ﷺ said: There is no transitive disease. Abu Huraira denied having any knowledge of that, but he said that the sick camel should not be taken to the healthy one. Harith, however, did not agree with him, which irritated Abu Huraira and he said to him some words in the Abyssinian language. He said to Harith: Do you know what I said to you? He said: No. Abu Huraira said: I simply denied having said it. Abu Salama said: By my life, Abu Huraira in fact used to report Allah’s Messenger ﷺ having said: There is no transitive disease. I do not know whether Abu Huraira has forgotten it or he deemed it an abrogated statement in the light of the other one.

So, while Abu Huraira used Persian in the first Hadith for communication purposes, he used Abyssinian in the second for expressing his anger. Did he try to conceal his anger by holding his tongue in Arabic, and releasing it in a foreign language? This may be the case.

  1. Zaid ibn Thabit:

Zaid is known as on the geniuses of the companions. He was the one entitled with the responsibility of collecting the Quran during the time of Abi Bakr and the time of Othman Ibn Affan. He tells us about how the Prophet (ﷺ) ordered him to learn a foreign language.

Narrated Zayd ibn Thabit: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) ordered me (to learn the writing of the Jews), so I learned for him the writing of the Jews. He said: I swear by Allah, I do not trust Jews in respect of writing for me. So I learned it, and only a fortnight passed before I mastered it. I would write for him when he wrote (to them), and read to him when something was written to him.

The hadith indicates that Zaid learnt Syriac/ Aramaic which the Jews used in their writings. Zaid states that only 15 days were enough for him to master the language. It seems that Zaid focused more on the orthographic system rather than the phonic system because he does not tell us about instances where he used Syriac/ Aramaic in speaking.

  1. Salman The Persian:

As Salman was a native speaker of Persian, he was the first choice for the companions when they wanted to communicate with Persians. Narrated Abu Al-Bakhtari: “An Army from the armies of the Muslims, whose commander was Salman Al-Farisi, besieged one of the Persian castles. They said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘Leave me to call them (to Islam) as I heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ call them.’

So Salman went to them and said: ‘I am only a man from among you, a Persian, and you see that the Arabs obey me. If you become Muslims then you will have the likes of what we have, and from you will be required that which is required from us. If you refuse and keep your religion, then we will leave you to it, and you will give us the Jizyah from your hands while you are submissive.’ He said to them in Persian: ‘And you are other than praiseworthy and if you refuse then we will equally resist you.’ They said: ‘We will not give you the Jizyah, we will fight you instead.’ So they said: ‘O Abu ‘Abdullah! Should we charge them?’ He said: ‘No.'” He said: “So for three days he called them to the same (things), and then he said: ‘Charge them.'” He said: “So we charged them, and we conquered the castle.”

We can deduce from the story of Salman that in seeking the last prophet, he knew some other languages, especially Syriac/ Aramaic as he used to serve Jewish and Christian monks and read their books. It is also narrated that a group of Persians asked Salman to translate the opening chapter of the Quran (Al Fatiha) for them to be able to understand its meaning. It is reported that he translated it or part of it. If this is true, then Salman would be the first translator of the meanings of the Quran –or part of it- in history.

  1. ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib

Although we know very little about ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib raḍyAllāhu 'anhu (may Allāh be pleased with him), he is reported in Al Bukhari to have saved a non-Arab woman from the punishment for adultery. It was during the reign of Uman Ibn Al Khattab that a Persian woman was forced to commit adultery. She came to Umar, and ‘Umar said in the presence of ‘Ali, ‘Abdur-Rahman, and ‘Uthman, “What is this woman saying?” (the woman was non-Arab) ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Hatib said: “She is informing you about her companion who has committed illegal sexual intercourse with her.” Umar realized that she didn’t know that adultery was prohibited in Islam and that she was complaining from her companion who forced her to commit it. So Umar released her.

  1. Abu Jamra Al Basri

Abu Jamra is not one of the companions. He is one of the Tabieen (followers). He used to keep the company of Ibn Abbas, and while Ibn Abbas is known as the turjuman (interpreter) of the Quran, Abu Jamra was the inter-lingual interpreter of Ibn Abbas. Abu Jamar said – as narrated in Al Bukhari, “I was an interpreter between Ibn ‘Abbas and the people.” Based on four instances of using translators (The Roman translator at the palace of Heraclius in Abu Sufian’s account, the hadith by Zaid ibn Thabit, the account of Abdur-Rahman ibn Hatib and the account of Abu Jamara), Al-Bukhari commented that “a ruler should have two interpreters.”

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These are just some instances of companions and followers who are narrated to have spoken or written in foreign languages. It is strongly believed that there were numerous cases of other bilingual transactions in the early Muslim community, but they were not recorded as they were not relevant to religious matters. Learning foreign languages then is deeply rooted in the Islamic tradition, and we do not need to go to China to prove this.

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The Life and Works of Shaykh Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah | Sh. Abdul Wahab Saleem

Shaykh Abdul Wahab Saleem

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One of the things that I noticed from the life of Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah رحمه الله is that everything he wrote, said, and taught was done with utmost precision and perfection. Thus, everything he did became a reference.

Many today, speak or write the very first thought or idea that comes to their minds and thus all of it is lost as quickly as they tried to disseminate it.

Let knowledge become part of you. Let yourself grow with it. Let yourself get used to it. The more you consider this, the slower your “growth-rate” will become. However, your roots will be grounded and not every passing wind will shake your entire legacy.

One of my dear teachers, Sh. Khālid Marghūb al-Hindī, once said to me, “Even if it’s just one book that you get to write in your entire life, make sure it’s done right.” It’s not about how much you speak, write, tweet, or admonish, it’s about how well you do it every time you do it. That’s Iḥsān, and that’s what finds divine aid and blessings from Allah in the long run.

Shaykh ‘Abdul Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah as among the people who had given Ijazah to Sh. Muhammad Yunus al-Jaunpuri (r). Here is a lecture I gave about the life of SShaykh ‘Abdul Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah.

Reading and listening to the biographies of the great luminaries of Islam is a great way to shape ourselves and stay focused in these times which challenge us with many distractions. This is especially true with the recent luminaries of Islam as studying their lives, sacrifices, accomplishments, and achievements leave no room for the excuse that ‘these are just tales of the early generations’.

https://youtu.be/j3teq_xoaG8
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❝I took knowledge from approximately a 100 scholars. All praise is due to Allah! [I sought knowledge in] my city Aleppo amidst other cities in Syria, Makkah, Madinah, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Morocco, and other places.

I have nearly 100 Shuyūkh from whom I took and learned. Each one of them had his own sources and methodology. I never stuck to the opinions of any one person merely because he is my Shaykh and teacher. Rather, I stick to what I believe to be correct, the truth or better.❞

— Sh. ‘Abd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah رحمه الله

To learn more about the life of Sh. ‘Abd al-Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah رحمه الله, watch this brief account of his life:

https://youtu.be/j3teq_xoaG8
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On the 9th of Shawwal, 22 years ago, a little before Fajr prayer the great traditionist and scholar of our times, Sh. ‘Abdul Fattāḥ Abū Ghuddah (r) passed away. At the time of his death and during the funeral rites the Shaykh had his index finger raised in the manner of a person saying tashahhud.

Thousands of people came to attend his janazah in Jāmi‘ al-Rajiḥī in Riyadh. The body was then transported to Madina in a private plane by a royal order and again thousands of people attended the janazah in al-Masjid al-Nabawī. Thereafter, the body was taken to al-Baqī‘ and the lines of those following the janazah were connected all the way to the Masjid itself. May Allah have his mercy on the Shaykh and grant him a high place in Jannah.

To learn more about the Shaykh, watch this brief account about the life of the Shaykh: https://youtu.be/j3teq_xoaG8
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