Looking Back to Madeenah – Complete book
By Shaykh Aadil Davids
We express our profound gratitude to Allaah for the choice of Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam), the finest exemplar, and the reason for our survival and harmonious existence a true mercy to humanity, animals, plants ‘and all other forms of life.
Looking back to Madeenah is our attempt to turn back the pages of history, and explore the life of Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). We will draw only from the authentically transmitted documentation to compile this series.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) urged us to visit three mosques including his mosque in Madeenah. In response to this invitation, we conduct this series, with the intention of contributing to a functional Islamic experience at a time when we are suffering a terrible paralysis. Muslims are involved in superficial arguments among themselves, which cause us to waste vital energy for the reconstruction and growth of the ummah. As a result, we have lost focus.
We hope to find deeper insight and understanding of the challenges we face in today’s world, and to empower ourselves to deal with them in a manner that will please Allaah and His Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam). By looking back into Madeenah, we hope to move forward.
WE SEE …
A simple structure! A house made of stones packed one on top of the other, cemented together with clay. The ceiling was made exclusively from palm leaf stalks. Hasan (Radhiallaahu Anhu), the Prophet’s grandson, was of medium height and able to touch the ceiling when he raised his arms.
The house consisted of a single chamber, devoid of ornamentation. A curtain was pulled down to divide the space in the presence of visitors, or when the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) prayed in the silence of the night. In one corner was a sleeping mat. It was made of tanned animal skin and stuffed with palm fibres that left marks on the Prophet’s (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) sides as he slept.
Dates and water were the major sources of subsistence. The dates were the most inferior to be found in Madeenah. For months, no food was cooked; his meagre source of living was simply the water and dates. He never roasted sheep in his house from his arrival in Madeenah to his demise. We see no wheat bread, only the inferior barley bread.
We never see the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) enjoying a meal alone. He either ate with his spouse or he invited friends to join him. Three of them would share a meal for two, or four of them would share a meal for three.
He ate only when he felt hunger, and then he ate until he was satisfied. He never overate. The Prophet ate the food available in the house; he did not try to find other kinds of food. If there was no food, he fasted.
After the late afternoon prayers (Asr), we see that the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) rushed into his house to collect gold coins. Then he went out into the streets of Madeenah to distribute them. He was concerned that the money might remain in the house until the following day, without being distributed. He feared to hoard money in his house for even one evening, when others were in need of it.
That a Muslim home should be …
simple, void of extravagance in food and drink
free from pieces of art and other unnecessary decoration
indicative of the owner’s awareness of the difference between extravagance and beauty
conducive to avoiding indiscriminate mixing of the sexes (it can be spacious to separate the boys and girls after a certain age as the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) advised).
The ideal home should be a place …
of social consciousness and solidarity
filled with Allaah-consciousness, worship and education
that is cheerful and hospitable, in which generosity is promoted and practiced
in which people eat and drink without being lavish or wasteful
in which the wives are shown love and respect.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) preferred extreme simplicity as a personal choice, as a leader and true servant of humanity. Many of his Companions were rich but he did not object to this. He himself had access to huge amounts of money (baitul maal), especially after the conquest of Makkah and subsequent occupations of Taif, Hunain and Khaibar, but he did not take advantage of this. Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) could not fathom why this Prophet whom Allaah selected from among millions of people, throughout the millions of years of human existence preferred a life of extreme austerity and seemingly depressing poverty. He was deeply touched when he saw the scratches on the Prophet’s (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) body caused by the sleeping mat, and wondered why he refused to sleep comfortably, as did the Caesars and the Kaisers the affluent tyrant oppressors of the time, the enemies of Allaah and humanity.
His response to Umar (Radhiallaahu Anhu) clarified and emphasised the reason for his choice, ‘Who am I, and what is this worldly life? This life is like a tree that provides me with shade for a while, as I rest during the journey towards my destination (the hereafter). Then I continue the journey, leaving the tree and its shade behind me.’
His consciousness of the reality of the hereafter gave the Prophet his greatest purpose in life. He did not focus his efforts on the acquisition of wealth and sensual pleasures, provoked by greed. Material desires could not overpower him as he knew, with utmost certainty, that life will continue into the real world. He aspired to achieve the real life without being obstructed by the superficialities of this world.
His highest aspiration was to live his life in harmony with the purpose of Allaah for life. He was therefore enriched with real life. He derived true happiness and tranquility from his attachment to Allaah being perpetually engrossed in His remembrance (dhikr) and devout worship.
The humble and modest home of the Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) vibrated with love, respect and veneration of Allaah. The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) summarised his spiritual condition when he said, ‘The tranquillity and peace of my mind comes with prayers.’
We must stress that his denial of material comfort did not imply his denial for life. He engaged life thoroughly. His impact on human history and the destiny of humanity was profound and perennial.
Our appreciation for the piety, Allaah orientation and unselfish sacrifice of Muhammad is great. It is intensified when his struggle to rid humanity of injustice and the oppression of the tyrants of this world is viewed in comparison to the lavish lifestyle of these modern world leaders.
Most of these leaders ostensibly operate in the name of reform and in the service of the oppressed and disadvantaged. Once they have gained positions of power, it becomes apparent that they exploited the sentiments of these people with their promises. The promises are soon forgotten and their initial struggles come to an abrupt halt. Comfort comes into play and the leaders become seduced by the material pleasures that accompany their positions. When the Prophet passed away, the family had to borrow a lamp to burn in his house. Power did not obstruct his intentions.
Remember, Muhammad (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) slept on the floor in a one-roomed stone and clay house, during conquest after conquest. He was the only world leader to witness a victory of the struggle he initiated himself (under the guidance of Allaah) a struggle that is still haunting the enemies of humanity today. He was rich with divine joy and pleasure in his poverty, as we saw him in his house, while most rich people are poor (deprived of divine joy and pleasure) in their wealth.
As we close the windows of Madeenah, we leave you with the following story and pray for operational, or functional, knowledge. Ghazaali considered knowledge that cannot be operated on, a monumental waste of time.
The Prophet (Sallallaahu Alayhi Wasallam) sent a trusted companion of his, Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarraah to Bahrain. When the people of Madeenah heard that Abu Ubaidah was returning with enormous wealth, they flocked to the mosque for dawn prayers. The Prophet prayed and then started to leave. The people gathered around him. He smiled when he saw them and said, ‘Set your hopes on that which will bring true pleasure and happiness. It is not poverty that I fear for you; rather I fear you will become engrossed with the world as were those before you, and that you will pursue it as they pursued it, and that it will destroy you as it destroyed them.’
In conclusion, we should compare our homes to that of the Prophet How far from or how close are we to Madeenah?