An orphan? Yes. Who was he? No. The question should be – who is he? I see him as a text living in different global contexts of the Muslim world. Thus, I prefer not to refer to him in the past since he still speaks, by affiliation to the Quran, to and in the present. I prefer to refer to him in the present because his legacies make all allusions to him in the present a categorical imperative. In other words, though he died close to fifteen centuries ago, Muslims’ existential realities show that he did not actually die. Rather, he lives on in the hearts of billions of Muslims and on the tongues of countless creatures of the Almighty who celebrate his shining patrimony and strive to emulate, based on correct knowledge and understanding, his exemplary legacy. “ Think not of those who are slain (died) in His path as dead; they are alive finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord” Quran 3: 169.
Thus, when I say: who is the orphan who became a head of state and the leader of a civilisation? It is with the decided agenda to remind you of the known, the unknown and the unknowable. To those who properly understand his message among Muslims, Prophet Muhammad is known. To those who are ignorant of the core messages of his vocation but who are only emotionally attached to him, Muhammad is unknown. To those who use the negative externalities and realities in parts of the Muslim world as evidence of his message, Muhammad is unknowable.
Thus, who is he? His full name is Abul Qasim Muhammad b. Abdullah b. Abdul Mutallib b. Hashim b Abdul Manaf b. Adnan. His mother is Aminah, daughter of Wahab. Reports say that he was born on Monday; that he was commissioned into Prophethood on Monday; that he left Makkah on migration (hijrah) to Madinah on Monday; that he arrived in Madinah on Monday; that he placed the black stone on its present spot in the Kaaba on Monday; and that he died on Monday.
Prophet Muhammad’s birth and the saga of his growth as an orphan and eventual success in life, are meant to be a lesson for and to all. His birth is a reminder to Muslim parents of today that their presence is not sine qua non for the success of their children. There you had a child whose father, named Abdullah, lived until the moment he delivered the “seed” in the womb of his wife, Aminah, before he transited to the great beyond. The other unspoken moral here should not be lost on us- live every moment of your life as if it is the last; know that it is good to be important in life; but be conscious all of the time that it is more important to be good and be God-conscious.
Yes Aminah, the Prophet’s mother, also received the “seed” as a trust and nurtured it to maturation. She gave birth to and nurtured the young Muhammad till such a time the infant could be separated from the womb and the bosom that bore him before she departed this world. Again, Amina’s life and that of her dead husband become signifiers – parents are agents in the hands of the unknowable scheme of the Almighty; we are puns – children and their forebears- in the chessboard of our Creator.
In other words, children who see their parents on a daily basis easily forget their Creator; they shout and chorus at every moment; “My daddy, my mummy”! But those who have no parents to call usually take solace in their recourse to the Almighty on a permanent basis. Thus, while the former call on their parents saying- “My daddy! My mummy!”, the latter constantly says: “Ya Rabb! Ya Rabb! (My Lord! My Lord!).
In other words, by coming to the world intestate, the whole life of Muhammad (s.a.w) is designed to teach what none other than the Almighty can teach. When Muhammad lost his mother at six after having lost his father while he was in the womb, we are reminded that it is a privilege for us to be there, to be “daddied” and “mummied” by our children: the child would attain his destiny with or without the intervention of his parents!
Again, Prophet Muhammad was born as an heir to a prophetic tradition, the apogee of which was Prophet Ibrahim (upon him be peace and blessings of the Almighty). From Prophet Ibrahim down to Prophet Ismail down to Abdullah, father of Prophet Muhammad, a certain light of excellence, the gravitas of moral rectitude, was inherited from one to the other. In other words, the “seed” from which Muhammad emerged and the womb that bore him were of the purest stock. Do you desire to have righteous children in life? Yes! But consider whether you have led a righteous life all through. It takes Ibrahim to bear an Ismail; it is but an accident in history that the son of Prophet Nuh (a.s) refused to take a ride on the Ark just before the deluge descended on the earth. (To be continued)