The Most Excellent-Ever Exemplar
By: Seyyed Ali Shahbaz
"Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah, an Excellent Exemplar…" (Holy Qur'an 33:21)
The Words of God Almighty are food for thought, especially when the Most Excellent Exemplar set practical precedents through his flawless behaviour and characteristics during the 63 years he graced Planet Earth on which he first set foot on the 17th of Rabi al-Awwal.
It was no ordinary birth, since he was not an ordinary person. Born in the Bani Hashem Clan of the Quraysh that was directly descended from Prophet Abraham's (AS) firstborn son, Prophet Ishmael (AS), his birth was accompanied by portents through which the Almighty intended to show the greatness and grandeur of the baby coming into the world as an orphan – his father Abdullah (AS) having died a couple of months ago.
The infinite wisdom of God is certainly beyond the comprehension of mortals. The Source of all creation had ensured the birth of Abraham (AS) and his growing-up in secrecy – without his parents – in a cave outside the city to avoid the murderous designs of Nimrod. He had decreed the bringing up of the next great prophet, Moses (AS), in the palace of the Pharaoh himself, who fearful of the birth of this very babe, had slaughtered all males born that year to the Israelites. He had brought Jesus (AS) miraculously into this world through the Virgin Mary (SA), without the association of a male.
And now, the Last and Greatest of all Prophets, who was born an orphan on the paternal side, was not destined to have his mother's love for long, for Amena bint Wahb (SA) passed away when he was hardly six years. His orphaned status became more acute when his loving paternal grandfather, Abdul-Mutalleb (AS), who had taken him under his personal care, left the mortal world two years later.
Orphans, especially the materially deprived ones, in view of the sufferings they go through that leave permanent scars on their minds, are generally not known to grow up into normal, stable persons, let alone being exemplars of society.
Yet the case of the Chosen of God shows a remarkably perfect divine system. Here the baby Prophet, whether or not he has been ordered to formally announce his mission (Jesus did it in the cradle), is groomed right from birth – or even before.
This is part of God's Grace to present to His creatures a spotlessly pure personality that not only wins the admiration of the still unguided society as Amin (Trustworthy) and Sadeq (Truthful), but also stands supremely unsullied for all time even when the self-styled Muslims hurl baseless charges against him of being in the dark before the first ray of Divine Revelation dawned upon him at the age of 40 years, or that his uncle and guardian, Abu Taleb (AS), who had brought him up and later defended him and his mission against the Arab infidels, was a disbeliever.
This was Prophet Muhammad (SAWA), indeed the finest ever Exemplar to mankind. His mission was foretold by all previous prophets, such as Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and several others, as is evident by the scriptures of various religions including those of the Zoroastrians, the Hindus, the Buddhists, etc, which despite being tampered with, still contain references to the coming of the universal religion (Islam or peace and healthy way of life), and the immaculately peerless Prophet.
Time and space do not allow me to delve into the portents that accompanied Prophet Muhammad's (SAWA) birth, such as the headlong fall of the idols that the warped brains of Arabia had installed in Abraham's edifice to the One and Only God, the holy Ka'ba in Mecca; the crack that suddenly appeared on the main arch of the palace of the king of kings in Cteisphon (Mada'en near present Baghdad) while 14 parapets came crashing down from atop the royal residence; the dieing out of the sacred fire of the Zoroastrians in the temple of Pars; or for that matter other signs in various parts of the world.
Since it was Divine Providence that Prophet Muhammad (SAWA) be groomed by the primordial monotheist, Abu Taleb (AS), to teach humanity the most perfect ever code of human conduct revealed by God Almighty for all time, here I present a few pieces of the bezels of wisdom from the peerless person whose birth we are celebrating – bequeathed to none other than his dear ward, cousin, son-in-law, and vicegerent, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS) for the guidance of human societies: "O Ali! No poverty is harsher than ignorance, no fortune better than the intellect, no loneliness drearier than pride, no victory like counselling, no intellect like moderation, no lineage like good manners, and no worship like pondering (over things)...
"O Ali! Keep saying the truth and your mouth should never utter any single lie. Never approach any treason. Fear God as if you see Him before you. Sacrifice your property and soul for the sake of your religion. Ride the good manners and avoid the ill manners.
"O Ali! The most favourable deeds to God are three: the best worshipper is he who fulfils the obligatory duties of God properly. The most pious of people is he who abstains from the forbidden matters. The wealthiest of people is he who satisfies himself with that which God has given to him.
"O Ali! Three characteristics are the high moral standards: to be kind to him who ruptured his relations with you, give him who deprived you (of his bestowals), and pardon him who wronged you.
"O Ali! Three matters save you: (They are) to control your tongue (stop saying obscene language or stop reviling at people), to weep for your sins, and to be contented with your home.
"O Ali! Three characteristics are the masters of deeds: to treat people fairly, loyalty to your friends, and to praise God under any circumstances."