How did the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon himself) protect himself from the customs of the Era of Ignorance?*
The Master of the Universe, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) who was under the special protection of God Almighty, narrated an event that happened to him at the time when he was herding the sheep of his uncle. It was as follows: A couple of times I wanted to do some things which the people of the Era of Ignorance would do. However, God Almighty kept me from doing them. From that time on, I never intended to do something of which God Almighty would disapprove until the time I was selected as a prophet. As for the thing I meant to do, it was like this: One night, I and some youth from Quraish were herding our sheep up the hill at Mecca. I proposed my friend if he could take care of my sheep so that I like my other friends, might join the night entertainments where people told tales. My friend answered that he could do that for me. Then I came to Mecca. When I saw the first house of Mecca, I heard the voice of people having fun screaming. I asked someone what it was about. He answered that some man was getting married to some girl and that was their wedding. I then sat somewhere near the wedding and began to watch it. Then I fell asleep and could wake up only with the first lights of the sun. When I turned back to my friend, he asked me what I did. I told him I did nothing and told him all about the night before.
One night, I asked again my friend for permission to leave, which he agreed. When I walked all the way and came to Mecca, I saw again, what I had seen before. I knelt down and started to watch it. Then I fell asleep. I could wake up only at daybreak. As soon as I woke up, I turned back to my friend and told him what I had seen. After that I never attempted to do such things till I became a prophet.
It is impossible to compare the character, the way of life, and manners of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) even with the walis (trusted ones) and his companions, let alone with an ordinary man. Since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gathered in his conduct and actions all virtues that belonged to the other prophets, (May Allahs peace be upon all of them) separately, he has a special place among them as well. Even Moses (pbuh), one of the greatest prophets of all times, knelt in supplication to God Almighty asking himself to be resuscitated with the Ummah (community) of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the hereafter. Prophets are not like ordinary men. Ordinary men were not created with a nature to be a prophet and receive divine revelations. Given the fact that the parents of the prophets such as Yahya and Jesus were given the good news of their sons prophethood before they were born, it would be clearer to see the great place that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has got in the sight of God. On one occasion, Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) asked the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
O Gods Messenger, since when have you been selected as a prophet?
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) answered:
I was a prophet even when Adam was not given a soul. In other words, God Almighty had already determined Muhammad (pbuh) to be a prophet before He created Adam (pbuh) because the universe was created for the sake of Muhammad (pbuh). Ibn-i Iskhak, one of the greatest Muslim scholars, whom even anti-Islamic European orientalists, cannot help but praising, writes of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as follows: Gods Messenger Muhammad grew up in a way that Allah protected him from the wickedness and deficiencies of the Era of Ignorance. Therefore, he became such a person that he was the most supreme personality in his community in any sense. For God Almighty made him such a unique person that he often was called Muhammad-ul Ameen, Muhammad, the Trustworthy. Ibn-i Khabeeb, one of the Islamic scholars who examined the life of the Prophet (pbuh), stated that Abdulmuttalib, the grandfather of the Prophet Muhammad, kept away from the customs of the Era of Ignorance mainly from drinking. Ibn-i Qelbi says, I did a research about the ancestors of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and even went to 500 generations before him. I could see neither immorality nor any kind of customs of the Era of Ignorance in any one of them. Qadi Iyaz interprets the verse, Have We not expanded for you your breast? (Ash-Sharh Surah, 94:1) like, God Almighty removed from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) all the customs of the Era of Ignorance. (Shifa-i Sharif, 1:54-60-362 and Seerah, 1-2:183.)
None of the customs of the Era of Ignorance was ever indicated in the Quranic interpretations (tafseer) and seeyar books (the books dealing with the life of the Prophet Muhammad) to be done by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The Divine Destiny had already determined him in the pre-eternity to be the prophet of humanity. Hence, he led his life under the training of All-Maker Glorious God. That is why no signs of indecency and evil were ever witnessed by people around him all his life.
He hated idols very much. He did not respect them even once in his life. The Quraishian idolaters had a custom. They used to gather around the idol of Bowana at certain times of the year, stayed there until the night, shaved themselves by it, cut animals, and organized big ceremonies.
Again, all the Quraishians had prepared for this kind of a ceremony. Abu Talib, the uncle of the Prophet Muhammad, wanted to participate in the ceremony with the other family members. But the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not want to go there and asked him to excuse himself. Abu Talib and the Prophets aunts were surprised at his refusal to go there. They got angry. Although they insisted on his coming as well, he would not change his mind. So they said,
We are afraid of that you will be struck down because of your turning away from our gods. And they put pressure on him so hard that he agreed to follow them not to break their hearts though unwillingly. As soon as they came very near to the idol, the Luminous Prophet (pbuh) was seen to have been gone. When they found him, they saw him in a horrible condition. He had turned pale and it was all clear from his appearance that he was afraid. His uncle and aunts asked him what was wrong with him. The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) answered:
I was afraid to be harmed.
God would not let anybody do harm to you. You have very fine qualities. Now, tell us what you saw.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told them what he saw:
When I came near to the idol, some one in white clothes appeared there and shouted, O Muhammad! Stay back and never touch it. (1)
After this incident, never in his life did the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ever neither come near to any idols nor participated in their ceremonies. Yes, he, who always preached the faith of One God as soon as he was honored with prophethood, would certainly lead a clean life even in his childhood completely away from the polytheism against which he was sent. God Almighty was constantly protecting him even when he was not given prophethood yet. The Noble Prophet (pbuh) pointed out to this fact with his words, My Lord has given me the good-manners in the most appropriate fashion. (2)
Some fair orientalists could not deny this fact. Sir W. Miur makes a confession in his book, Life of Muhammad as follows: All of the information about Prophet Muhammad agrees on one point, which is his having supreme morality.
*The term the Era of Ignorance refers to the period before the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born, in which indecency prevailed.
1. Tabaqat, 1/158; Khalabi, Insanu'l-Uyun, 1/164.
2. Abdurrauf Munawi, Feyzu'l-Qadir, 1/224.
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