Learning from the Prophet

IN the year 628 AD, the Quraisy of Mecca and the state of Medina entered into the pivotal Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. The relationship between the two was hostile, to say the least, and the treaty was to establish peace between them.

Mecca was represented by its emissary Suhayl ibn Amr, while Medina was represented by Prophet Muhammad, the leader of Medina. After terms of the treaty were agreed it was to be put in writing, and the task was given to the Prophet's cousin, Ali ibn Abu Talib.

He first wrote "In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful" (Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim). Suhayl, objected, saying that he did not know of this 'ar-Rahman' and instead wanted to use the phrase commonly used by Arabs, Muslims or otherwise, which was; "In your name, O God" (Bismika Allahumma).

A few of the Prophet's Companions objected to this, but the Prophet told Ali to write Bismika Allahuma as requested by Suhayl instead.

The Prophet then asked Ali to write the next line; "These are the terms of the truce signed between Muhammad, messenger of God and Suhayl ibn Amir".

Again, Suhayl objected. The Quraisy did not acknowledge Muhammad as the messenger of God and it was for this reason, according to Suhayl, that they opposed him.

"Write instead 'Muhammad ibn Abdullah'." Ali had already written the first version and refused to change it.

But the Prophet asked Ali to show to him where the written phrase, since he could not read. He then wiped it out and asked Ali to write the phrase Suhayl wanted.

Ali did so and continued with the rest of the treaty. The agreement between Mecca and Medina was sealed.

This is one of my favourite anecdotes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Many of his Companions felt afterwards that the treaty was more beneficial to the Quraisy and disadvantageous to the people of Medina.

The covenant of the treaty would later be broken by the Quraisy, events which would eventually lead to the Prophet's victorious return to Mecca without any blood being spilled.

Even though the terms initially seemed to favour the Meccans, in the long run the Prophet was proven right.

I have always been passionate about the life and times of the Prophet.

I started young, reading picture books and stories of the Prophet and his Companions.

When I was older, I read biographies and commentaries about his life. With each new perspective gained, my respect and admiration for the Prophet grew.

The Prophet taught his followers that a person's worth before God is not the colour of his skin but the goodness of his heart. The Prophet freed slaves and constantly encouraged others to do so.

At the signing of the treaty, the Prophet could have insisted that he be known as the Messenger of God, yet this was not an issue for him. He could have also insisted to phrase Bismillah ar-Rahman ar-Rahim but he knew that it was more important to sign the treaty rather than get caught up with mere phrases.

At a time when women were ill-treated and discriminated against, the Prophet empowered them and elevated their status in society.

When infanticide of female babies was widespread amongst the Arabs, he forbade the barbaric practice. When he was insulted and pelted with stones in Taif, he did not retaliate nor did he ever bore a grudge against them.

When he came to Medina, he established the Constitution of Medina. The Constitution of Medina guaranteed religious, political and cultural rights to all the people of Medina, regardless of race or religion - centuries before the Magna Carta was signed and sealed.

For example, according to one account, an innocent Jewish man, maliciously accused by a Muslim of a crime he did not commit, obtained justice from the Prophet.

The Prophet also laid down rules of war, such as the prohibition on harming women, children and aged men, mutilating bodies and destroying plants and livestock.

There are many more lessons which one can and should learn from how the Prophet lived his life. For Muslims, there is no better role model. We have been enjoined to emulate the way he lived his life.

But have we done so?

We are selfish when he was selfless, we are greedy when he was generous, we are proud when he was humble, we are disrespectful when he was respectful, we are unkind when he treated others with kindness, we discriminate and persecute when he was a paragon of fairness and trust. We are quick to take offence when he was patient and rational. We deny and restrict rights when he guaranteed freedom for all.

Unfortunately, we have failed to learn from the enduring legacy of his life.

In our zeal to become the defenders of the religion, we Muslims have forgotten or ignored what the Prophet taught us.

The Prophet attracted many to embrace Islam, but the way we treat others paint a negative picture of the religion.

Why not take the opportunity, this Maulidur Rasul, to learn and re-learn the ways of the Prophet?

It will most not only make us better Muslims, but also teach many lessons on how to be good human beings to our fellow Malaysians.

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