Many Others Awaited the Prophet

Owing to the numerous predictions of his coming, eve-ryone was waiting for Prophet Muhammad. In that dark era of human history, humanity was waiting for one who would destroy unbelief and breathe new life into the world. Judaism and Christianity, being God-revealed religions in origin, had no more to offer. Those who had studied the old books without prejudice, especially the monk Bahira, were waiting for him to come.

Many Makkans also were waiting, one of the foremost being Zayd ibn 'Amr, 'Umar ibn al-Khattab's uncle. He had rejected idolatry, led a pure life, and used to address people as follows: "There's no good in the idols you worship. I know of a religion that will soon be taught and spread. It will be proclaimed no later than a few years from now, but I don't know whether I'll live long enough to witness it."

According to 'Amr ibn Rabi'a, Zayd gave a detailed description of the expected Prophet:

I am expecting a Prophet who is about to come. He will appear among Ishmael's descendants and 'Abd al-Muttalib's grandsons. He is of middle height, neither too tall nor too short. His hair is neither curly nor straight. His name is Ahmad. His birthplace is Makka. His people will force him to leave Makka, and he will emigrate to Yathrib (Madina), where his religion will spread. I have traveled from place to place searching for Abraham's religion. However, all the Jewish and Christian scholars I spoke to advised me to wait for him. He is the Last Prophet; no Prophet will come after him. I may not live long enough to see him, but I have believed in him.

At the end of his introduction, Zayd told 'Amr ibn Rabi'a: "If you live long enough to see him, greet him for me." Years passed before Prophet Muhammad declared his Prophethood. 'Amr ibn Rabi'a, having declared his faith to the Prophet, explained what Zayd had told him and conveyed his greetings. Muhammad returned his greetings and added: "I saw Zayd in Paradise, trailing his robes." [1]

Among those seeking the truth was Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a Christian scholar and paternal cousin of Khadija, wife of Muhammad. When the first Revelation came to Prophet Muhammad, Khadija told Waraqa what had happened. Waraqa replied: "Muhammad is a truthful man. What he saw is that which occurs at the beginning of Prophethood. The being who came to him is Gabriel, who also came to Moses and Jesus. Muhammad will be a Prophet. If I live long enough to witness his declaration of Prophethood, I will believe in him and support him." [2]

One of those seeking the Last Prophet was the Jew 'Abd Allah ibn Salam. The Jews had such confidence in him that they called him "the lord, son of a lord." His greatness equaled that of even the greatest Companions, such as Abu Bakr and 'Umar, and God would consider his testimony to the Qur'an equal to the testimony of a people: Say: "Have you considered? If it be from God, and you do not believe in it, and a witness from among the Children of Israel bears witness to its like, and believes, and you wax proud, God guides not the people of the evildoers." (46:10)

This great Companion describes how he found the Prophet:

When God's Messenger emigrated to Madina, I went to see him, as did everyone else. He was sitting amidst a group of people when I went in, and saying: "Give food to others and greet them." His speech was so sweet and his face so charming that I said to myself: "I swear by God that one with such a face cannot lie." Without delay I declared my belief in him. [3]

The Jews and Christians of that time recognized God's Messenger. As stated in the Qur'an, They recognize him as they recognize their sons (2:146). After his conversion, 'Umar asked 'Abd Allah ibn Salam if he had recognized God's Messenger. "I recognized him," Ibn Salam answered, and added: "I may doubt my children—my wife might have deceived me; but I have no doubt about God's Messenger being the Last Prophet." [4]

Although the Jews and Christians recognized him, most envied him and, because of their prejudice and envy, did not believe:

When there came to them a Book from God confirming what was with them—and they aforetime prayed for victory over the unbelievers—when there came to them what they recognized, they disbelieved in it; and the curse of God is on the unbelievers. (2:89)

After his conversion, 'Abd Allah ibn Salam said to God's Messenger: "O Messenger of God, hide me in a corner and then summon all the Jewish scholars in Madina to ask about me and my father. Their assessment will certainly be positive. Then let me come out to declare my conversion." God's Messenger accepted this suggestion. Ibn Salam hid in a corner and, when the Jewish scholars gathered, God's Messenger asked them what they thought of Ibn Salam and his father. All of them answered: "They are among our noblest and most learned people." Upon this, God's Messenger asked again: "How would you react if he affirms me?" They responded: "It is impossible that he will affirm you!" Ibn Salam then came out and declared his conversion, whereupon the Jewish scholars immediately changed their attitude and retorted: "Ibn Salam is the most wicked among us, and the son of the most wicked." [5]

[1] Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 2:223.
[2] Bukhari, Bad'u al-Wahy, 3.
[3] Ibn Hanbal, 5:451.
[4] Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn al-Kathir, 1:140.
[5] Bukhari, al-Anbiya', Bab Khalq Adam, 2.

Prophet Muhammad was one who had been sought for centuries. Salman al-Farisi was one of those seekers. Originally a Magian (a fire worshipper), he had left his native Persia due to his burning desire to find the eternal truth. Before embracing Islam, he worked for several Christian monks, the last of whom advised Salman on his deathbed:

Son, there is nobody left to whom I can commend you. But according to what we read in our books, the Last Prophet is about to appear. He will come with the pure creed of Abraham and will appear in the place to which Abraham migrated. Nevertheless, he will emigrate to another place and settle there. There are explicit signs of his Prophethood. For example, he will not eat of charity but will accept gifts, and the seal of Prophethood will be between his shoulders.

Now, let Salman narrate the rest of his story: I joined a caravan heading for the place mentioned by the late monk. When we arrived at Wadi al-Qura', they sold me to a Jew as a slave. When I saw gardens of date palms, I thought the Prophet would emigrate to this place. While I was working there, another Jew from the Banu Qurayza bought me and took me to Madina. I began working in his datepalm garden. There was no news yet of God's Messenger. However, one day I was harvesting dates when a cousin of my Jewish owner came up hurriedly. He said in great anger: "Damn itl! The people are flocking to Quba. A man from Makka, who claims Prophethood, has come. They think he's a real Prophet."

I began to tremble with excitement. I climbed down from the tree and asked: "What are you talking about?" My owner saw my excitement and slapped my face with the back of his hand, saying: "It doesn't concern you, mind your own business!"

On the same day, as the sun set, I went to him in Quba and gave him as alms the food I had brought with me. God's Mes-senger did not touch it, but said to those around him: "Help yourself to this." I told myself: "This is the first sign." On another occasion I gave him something as a gift. He accepted it and ate it with his Companions. "This is the second sign," I told myself.

Once, I attended the funeral for a deceased Companion. I came close to God's Messenger in the cemetery. After greeting him, I stood behind him in the hope of seeing the Seal of Prophethood. His shoulders were bare, and the seal was just as the monk had described it. I couldn't help kissing it in tears, after which I told him my story. He was very pleased and wanted his Companions to hear my story. [6]

People who sincerely sought him found him. Whoever seeks him will find him, whereas those who remain obstinant and ruled by their evil-commanding selves will drown in unbelief and hypocrisy. Mughira ibn Shu'ba narrates:

One day I was with Abu Jahl in Makka. God's Messenger came over and invited us to accept Islam. Abu Jahl rebuked him, saying: "If you are doing this so that we will testify be-fore God in the other world that you performed your mission of Prophethood, we will do it. Leave us then, O man, to ourselves!" When God's Messenger left us, I asked Abu Jahl if he admitted Muhammad's Prophethood. He said that he did, and then added: "I know he is truly a Prophet. Nevertheless, we compete with the Hashimites in everything. They have been boasting of providing food and water to the pilgrims. Now if they begin to boast of having a Prophet, I won't be able to en-dure it at all." [7]

This is typical of the thoughts cherished by the Abu Jahls of the past and the present. Intelligent people who are not prejudiced and whose willpower is not paralyzed cannot help but believe in Islam and God's Messenger. In this respect, God says to His holy Messenger: We know well that their talk grieves you; in truth they deny not you, but it is the signs of God that the evildoers condemn (6:33).

How could they accuse him of lying, for he was known by everybody as al-Amin (the truthful one)? The testimony of one of his bitterest enemies, 'Utba ibn Abi Rabi'a, proves that even his enemies admitted his truthfulness.

The Qurayshi leaders met to discuss how to prevent the spread of Islam. They decided to send 'Utba to God's Messenger. 'Utba went with the hope of persuading him to stop. He asked: "Who is better, O Muhammad, you or your father?" God's Messenger did not answer, probably because silence is the best answer to such an absurd question. 'Utba continued: "If your father was better than you, he cannot have been following the religion you are now preaching. If, by contrast, you are better than your father, then I am ready to listen to what you have to say."

God's Messenger inquired: "Is that all you intend to say?" 'Utba said that it was, and fell silent. Then, God's Messenger knelt and began reciting from Sura al-Fussilat. By the time he reached: But if they turn away, then "I warn you of a thunderbolt [as fell in times past upon the tribes] of 'Ad and Thamud" (41:13), 'Utba was trembling as if caught by fever. He had to put his hand on the lips of God's Messenger and said: "Please stop, for the sake of the God in whom you believe!" 'Utba returned home bewildered.

The Qurayshi leaders were waiting for him anxiously. Fearing that 'Utba might have accepted Islam, Abu Jahl knocked at his door and, when admitted, angered 'Utba by saying: "I heard Muhammad treated you very generously and feasted you, and in return you believed in him. This is what the people are saying." Angrily, "Utba replied: "You know I don't need his feating. I am richer than all of you. But his words shook me. They weren't poetry, nor did they resemble those of a soothsayer. I don't know how I should respond. He's a truthful person. While I was listening to his recitation, I feared that what happened to 'Ad and Thamud might happen to us." [8]

They had been expecting a Prophet for a long time. Everybody knew al-Amin's character, and no one had ever heard him lie. They were charmed by his personality and the Qur'an's eloquence, but yet could not overcome their pride and arrogance, or the envy and rivalry, and proclaim their belief. Nor could they bring their habits and lifestyle into accord with his Message. Is this not true of all those who, knowing the truth, persist in unbelief?

[6] Ibn Hisham, Sira, 1:228–34.
[7] Kanz al-'Ummal, 14:39-40; Ibn Kathir, 3:83.
[8] Ibn Kathir, 3:80-81; Ibn Hisham, 1:313.
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