Wisdom in the actions of the Holy Prophet (S)
By: Ayatollah al-Uzma Sayyid Ali Khamenei
Then he began to formulate policies on running the society. When one takes a look and sees that the Holy Prophet (S) moved forward wisely step by step, one realizes what brilliant ideas and calculations were behind that firm determination. Naturally, this is not possible except through divine revelations. Today when people study the events that took place during those ten years, they do not understand anything. When one studies each event by separating it from the others, one does not understand anything. One should understand how these events were interrelated and how all these things were carried out with wisdom and with accurate calculation.
The first important thing that that the Holy Prophet (S) did was creating unity. Not all the people of Medina became Muslims. The majority of them became Muslims and a few of them did not become Muslims. Besides, three important Jewish tribes Banu Qaynuqa, Banu Nadir and Banu Qurayza were living in Medina. They were living in their own fortifications which were attached to Medina.
They had moved to Medina 100, 200 years earlier. It is a long story why they had moved to Medina. When the Holy Prophet (S) entered Medina, these Jewish tribes were known for these two, three things: one was that the main sources of wealth such as the best farms, the best businesses and the most profitable industries such as gold-smithery and other such things were in the hands of these tribes. The majority of the people of Medina would go to these tribes when they needed something.
They would borrow money from them and pay back the money with interest. That is to say, financially speaking, everything was in the hands of the Jews. Another thing was that these Jews had cultural superiority over the people of Medina because they had a scripture and they were familiar with different religious concepts, concepts which were foreign to the minds of the semi-barbarous people of Medina. Therefore, they had intellectual domination over the people of Medina.
In modern terms, the Jews would be considered to be the intellectual class. Therefore, they used to humiliate and ridicule the people of Medina. Of course, whenever they felt that they were in danger and whenever it was necessary, they showed humility.
However, they were superior to the people of Medina. The third characteristic is that they were in touch with distant places. That is to say, they did not confine themselves to Medina. The Jews were a reality in Medina. Therefore, the Holy Prophet (S) had to take them into consideration. He prepared a multilateral treaty. When he entered Medina, it became clear that the leadership of this society belonged to the Holy Prophet (S).
This happened without any formal agreements. He did not ask the people for anything and the people did not have any negotiations about this leadership. That is to say, the great character of the Holy Prophet (S) naturally made everybody obey him. It became clear that he was the leader and what he said was the pivot. The Holy Prophet (S) drew up a treaty which was accepted by everybody. This treaty was about social interactions, business transactions, conflicts, blood money and the relations between the Holy Prophet (S) and his opponents, the Jews and other non-Muslims. All these things were written down and recorded with all the details. The details have perhaps taken up two, three pages in great old history books.
The next important thing that he did was strengthening the spirit of brotherhood. Aristocracy, the kind of prejudice which was based on superstition, tribal arrogance and separation of different groups of people from one another were the most important disasters for biased and ignorant Arab societies of that time. By strengthening the spirit of brotherhood, the Holy Prophet (S) trampled on these things.
He created the spirit of brotherhood between the head of such and such a tribe and such a lower-class or middle-class individual. He said to them that they were brothers and they most willingly accepted this brotherhood. He established equality between the nobility or outstanding personalities and slaves who had just become Muslims and who had just been freed.
By doing this, he removed all obstacles in the way of social unity. When they wanted to choose a muezzin for the mosque, there were many handsome individuals with a pleasant voice. There were many outstanding and knowledgeable personalities. But among all these people, the Holy Prophet (S) chose Bilal al-Habashi. Beauty, good voice and family reputation were not an issue. Only Islam, faith, Jihad in the way of God and self-sacrifice were important. Notice how he practically specified the values. His actions and his behavior influenced hearts more than his words did.
The Three stages of establishing an Islamic Government
There were three stages to the task of organizing the affairs of the Muslim community. Stage one was building the foundation of the government. This duty was carried out by doing the things that I discussed. Stage two was protecting this government. Naturally a nascent and growing system which makes powerful leaders feel endangered if they know what it is to have certain enemies. If the Holy Prophet (S) could not have wisely protected this auspicious system against the enemy, it would have been destroyed and all his efforts would have been futile. Therefore, he had to protect it. Stage three was building the structure.
Building the foundation was not enough. It was the first step. These three stages were done in parallel with one another. Primarily, building the foundation was important. Even in building the foundation, he took the enemies into consideration. After building the foundation, protection began. In building the foundation, individual and social structures were taken into consideration and this continued to be done even after this.
The Holy Prophet (S) realized that five main enemies were threatening this nascent society. The first enemy was a minor and insignificant one. However, it must not have been ignored. It was possible that it would cause a big danger. This enemy was the semi- barbarous tribes around Medina. There were semi-barbarous tribes who lived 60, 90, 120 kilometers away from Medina. All their life was centered around waging wars, shedding blood, plundering, killing and stealing from one another.
If the Holy Prophet (S) wanted to create a healthy, safe and peaceful social structure in Medina, he had to take these tribes into consideration, and he did so. He signed a treaty with the ones that enjoyed a trace of guidance and salvation. In the beginning, he did not tell them that they should definitely become Muslims. They were pagans and unbelievers. But he signed a treaty with them so that they would not carry out any attacks. The Holy Prophet (S) completely honored his pledges and promises. I will speak about this point later on. Some of these tribes were vicious and unreliable.
The Holy Prophet (S) cured them of their wrong behavior and he himself established contact with them. As you have heard, the Holy Prophet (S) used to send twenty, fifty people to different tribes and they tried to establish contact with these tribes. They were not peaceful and one could not direct them towards the right path. They could not live except by shedding blood and using force. Therefore, the Holy Prophet (S) went to them and put them in their place.
2. The arrogant and powerful aristocrats who were ruling Mecca
The second enemy was Mecca which played a central role. It is true that there was not a government in common terms in Mecca. But an arrogant, powerful, influential and aristocratic group of people ruled this city. These people had certain disagreements, but they became united against this nascent system. The Holy Prophet (S) knew that the main danger came from these people. And the same thing happened in practice.
He felt that if he waited for them to come to him, they would have a good opportunity. Therefore, he started to get involved with them. But he did not move towards Mecca. There was a caravan from Mecca which had to pass through a road near Medina. The Holy Prophet (S) began to attack them. In the beginning, the Battle of Badr was the most important attack. The Holy Prophet (S) began these attacks and these arrogant tribes waged a war against him because of their prejudice and obstinacy.
For around four, five years, the situation was the same. That is to say, the Holy Prophet (S) did not leave them alone. On the other hand, they were hoping to root out this nascent system that is to say, the Islamic government which threatened them. This was the reason behind the Battle of Uhud and many other battles.
The last battle which they fought against the Holy Prophet (S) was the Battle of the Trench which was one of the most important battles. They gathered all their strength and they received help from others. They said, "We will go and kill the Holy Prophet (S) and 200, 300, 500 of his close companions. We will plunder Medina and we will return comfortably. There will be no sign of them anymore." Before they arrived in Medina, the Holy Prophet (S) became aware of the invasion and he dug that famous trench.
Medina could be attacked from one side. Therefore, they dug a 40-meter trench along that side. This happened during the month of Ramadan. According to certain narrations, it was very cold. The rainfall was low that year and the people did not have a source of income. So, there were many problems. The Holy Prophet (S) worked harder than everybody. During the time they were digging the trench, whenever he saw that somebody had become tired and could not go on, he took the shovel from him and he did his work.
That is to say, he did not only order things to be done. He was physically active among the people. The unbelievers gathered on the other side of the trench. But they realized that they could not pass through it. Therefore, they had to return while they were humiliated, hopeless and frustrated. The Holy Prophet (S) said, "It is over. This was the last attack that Quraysh carried out against us. From now on, it is our turn. We will move towards Mecca and we will confront them."
A year after that, the Holy Prophet (S) announced that the Muslims wanted to go to Mecca for Umrah. The event of Hudaybiyyah which is a very significant event happened during this time. The Holy Prophet (S) moved towards Mecca to perform Umrah. They saw that the Holy Prophet (S) was coming to Mecca during a Haraam month a month in which fighting is forbidden and the people of Mecca as well as the Muslims respected Haraam months. What should they do? Should they clear the way for him to enter Mecca? What will Muslims do after this success? How can they confront the Holy Prophet (S)? Should they fight with him? How should they fight?
Finally, they decided to prevent him from coming to Mecca. They said, "We will massacre them if we find a good pretext." By relying on his wisdom, the Holy Prophet (S) acted in a way that they had to sign a treaty with him in order to make him return. Under this treaty, he could return to Mecca a year after that and perform Umrah. Throughout the region, the ground was prepared for him to promote Islam. This treaty is referred to as a peace treaty. But Allah the Exalted says in the Holy Quran, "Verily We have granted you a manifest victory." 1
If people refer to reliable history books, they will see how amazing the event of Hudaybiyyah is. A year after that, the Holy Prophet (S) went to Mecca for Umrah and unlike them, the power of this great personality began to increase. A year after that is to say, in the eighth year after the migration the Holy Prophet (S) went and conquered Mecca after the unbelievers had breached the treaty. It was a great victory and it showed the power of the Holy Prophet (S). So, he treated this enemy with wisdom, strength and patience and without becoming frantic and retreating even one single step. He continued moving forward every day.
3. The three Jewish tribes
The third enemy was the Jews that is to say, the unreliable outsiders who temporarily agreed to live with the Holy Prophet (S) in Medina. But they did not stop being deceitful and creating problems. If you take a look at the Holy Quran, you will see that an important part of Sura al-Baqara and other suras in the Holy Quran is about the behavior of the Holy Prophet (S) towards the Jews and his cultural battle against them.
Since as I said they had a rich cultural background, they were knowledgeable in certain areas and they deeply influenced the minds of people who did not have a strong faith. These Jews hatched plots, made the people hopeless and they pitted them against one another. They were an organized enemy. The Holy Prophet (S) tolerated them as much as he could. But when he saw that they could not be tolerated, he punished them. The Holy Prophet (S) did not get involved with them without any reason. Each of these three tribes did something and the Holy Prophet (S) punished them based on their actions.
First, it was Banu Qaynuqa who betrayed the Holy Prophet (S). He went to them and announced that they should leave. He made them move out of Medina and all their things remained for the Muslims to use. The second tribe was Banu Nadir. They also betrayed the Holy Prophet (S) – the story of their betrayal is important. The Holy Prophet (S) told them that they should take some of their things and leave. And they had to leave.
The third tribe was Banu Qurayza whom the Holy Prophet (S) allowed to stay. He did not make them leave Medina. He signed a treaty with them so that during the Battle of the Trench these Jews would not let the enemy enter Medina through their settlements. But they betrayed the Holy Prophet (S) and they allied themselves with the enemy so that they could attack the Holy Prophet (S) alongside the enemy.
That is to say, not only did they not adhere to their treaty with the Holy Prophet (S), but they also went and negotiated with the enemy so that they together with the enemy could enter Medina through their settlements and stab the Holy Prophet (S) in the back. This happened while the Holy Prophet (S) was digging a trench in a part of Medina which could be penetrated. The settlements of the Jews were on the other side of Medina where they were supposed to prevent the enemy from entering Medina.
In the middle of their plots, the Holy Prophet (S) became aware of the situation. The siege of Medina lasted for almost one month. It was in the middle of this month that the Jews began to commit this act of betrayal. The Holy Prophet (S) found out about their decision. By adopting a very wise measure, he did something to make these Jews and Quraysh break off their relations, which has been recorded in history books. He acted in a way that the Jews and Quraysh lost their trust in one another. This was one of the most beautiful tricks that the Holy Prophet (S) used in wars. That is to say, he temporarily held the Jews at bay so that they could not inflict any harm.
After Quraysh and its allies were defeated and after they drifted away from the trench to return to Mecca, the Holy Prophet (S) returned to Medina. On the same day that he returned, he performed noon prayers and then he said, "We will be saying afternoon prayers in front of Banu Qurayza castles. We should move towards them." He did not even delay it for one night. He went there and besieged them.
The Holy Prophet (S) besieged and fought with them for 25 days. Then he killed all the Jewish men who were able to fight because their betrayal was greater than the other ones and they were irredeemable. The Holy Prophet (S) treated them in such a way.
That is to say, he foiled the attempts of the hostile Jews mainly in the issue of the Banu Qurayza and, before that, in the issue of the Banu Nadir and, later on, in the issue of the Jews involved in the Battle of Khaybar - against the Muslims with his wisdom, strength and persistence while observing his noble and humane principles. In none of these events, the Holy Prophet (S) broke his pledges. Even the enemies of Islam agree that the Holy Prophet (S) did not break his pledges in any of these events. It was them who broke their pledges.
4. The Hypocrites
The fourth enemy was the hypocrites. The hypocrites were among the people. They were the people who did not believe in Islam from the bottom of their heart. They were mean and hostile people who were prepared to cooperate with the enemy. But they were not organized. This was the difference between them and the Jews. The Holy Prophet (S) behaved towards an organized enemy, which was ready to attack and inflict harm, in the same way as he treated the Jews and he did not give them any opportunity. But he tolerated enemies who were not organized, who did not believe in Islam and whose obstinacy, hostility and wickedness were based on individual actions.
Abdullah ibn Abi was one of the chief enemies of the Holy Prophet (S). He was alive almost until the last year of the Holy Prophet's (S) life. But the Holy Prophet (S) did not treat him badly. Although everybody knew that he was a hypocrite, the Holy Prophet (S) tolerated him and he treated him the way he treated other Muslims. He paid him his share through Beyt al-Mal, provided him with security and treated him with respect. He did so although hypocrites hatched many vicious plots. In Sura al-Baqara, a certain section is about these hypocrites.
When a group of hypocrites, hatched organized plots, the Holy Prophet (S) confronted them. On the issue of Zarar Mosque, they set out to build a center for their activities. They established relations with people outside the world of Islam with a people who resided in the Roman territory such as Abu Amer Rahib and they prepared the ground to send troops from Rome against the Holy Prophet (S). At this time, the Holy Prophet (S) confronted them and he destroyed and burnt the mosque which they had built. He said, "This is not a mosque. This is a place for plotting against mosques, Allah and the people."
Similarly, when a group of hypocrites revealed that they were unbelievers and moved out of Medina to raise an army, the Holy Prophet (S) fought them. He said, "If they approach us, we will confront them and we will fight them.” Although a group of hypocrites stayed in Mecca, he did not do anything against them. So, the Holy Prophet (S) behaved towards the third enemy in an organized and determined way. But he behaved towards the fourth enemy in a lenient way because they were not organized and their threats centered around individual actions. With his behavior, the Holy Prophet (S) made them feel embarrassed.
5. Internal conflicts, inner human passions and the tendency towards deviation
And the fifth enemy was the enemy that existed in every Muslim and religious person. And this was the most dangerous enemy. This enemy exists within ourselves as well. It is our passions, selfishness and the tendency towards deviation and wrongdoing. We ourselves prepare the ground for them to grow. The Holy Prophet (S) also fought hard with this enemy. But he did not fight this enemy with a sword.
He fought with it through education, promotion of piety and warning. When the people returned from the war after going through a lot of trouble, the Holy Prophet (S) said, "You have carried out the lesser Jihad. Now you should engage in the greater Jihad." They said, "O Messenger of Allah, what is the greater Jihad? We have engaged in such a great and difficult Jihad. Is there a kind of Jihad which is greater than this?" The Holy Prophet (S) said, "Yes, Jihad against your passions." When the Holy Quran says, "Those in whose hearts is a disease," 2
It does not mean hypocrites. Of course, some hypocrites are among "those in whose hearts is a disease". But anybody "in whose hearts is a disease" is not a hypocrite. Sometimes, these people are believers, but in their hearts, there is a disease. What does this disease mean? It means moral weaknesses, debauchery and a tendency towards different kinds of selfishness.
If you do not restrain these negative qualities and if you do not fight with them, they will take faith away from you and you will be hollow on the inside. When these qualities take faith away from you, your heart will be empty of faith, but you appear to have it. In such conditions, you are in fact a hypocrite. If, God forbid, our hearts become empty of faith while we appear to have it and if we stop being committed to our religious beliefs while our tongues say the same things as in the past, this means hypocrisy. This is also dangerous. The Holy Quran says, "In the long run evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil, for they rejected the Signs of Allah." 3
Those who committed evil acts, the worst thing will happen to them. What is this worst thing? It is rejecting “the Signs of Allah”. Elsewhere in the Holy Quran, God says that those who did not carry out this great responsibility making charitable donations in the way of God.
"So He made hypocrisy to follow as a consequence into their hearts till the day when they shall meet Him because they failed to perform towards Allah what they had promised with Him." 4
Since they did not honor the promises to God, hypocrisy entered their hearts. This is a big danger for the Islamic community. Whenever you read in history that the Islamic community has deviated from its path, this deviation is because of this. It is possible that a foreign enemy comes and oppresses and defeats you and he may bring about a lot of destruction.
But he cannot destroy you because there is faith in you and this faith will show itself somewhere. But when our inner enemies attack us and make us feel empty on the inside, we will deviate from our path. Wherever there is deviation, it originates from this. The Holy Prophet (S) fought with this enemy too.
The Holy Prophet (S) behaved wisely and he was quick to act. He did not waste time on any issue. He was modest and pure and there were no weaknesses in his auspicious life. He was infallible and pure. This is the most important factor in influencing others. We should learn. Many of these things should be said to me too. I should learn. Our government officials should learn. Influencing others through action is much more effective than trying to influence others through words.
The Holy Prophet (S) was decisive and he spoke explicitly. His statements were never vaguely worded. Of course, whenever he confronted the enemy, he carried out effective political actions and he confused the enemy. In many cases, the Holy Prophet (S) surprised the enemy in military or political arenas. But he spoke explicitly and clearly to believers and his own people and he did not treat them like a politician. Wherever necessary, he was lenient with certain people such as Abdullah ibn Abi about whom there are many stories.
The Holy Prophet (S) never broke his promises to the people and the groups with whom he had signed a treaty – even his enemies and the unbelievers of Mecca. He did not break his promise to them. It was them who broke their promises. The Holy Prophet (S) only responded decisively. He never broke his promises to anybody. Therefore, everybody knew that when they signed a treaty with him, they could rely on it.
On the other hand, the Holy Prophet (S) never stopped worshipping God and he strengthened his relationship with God on a daily basis. In the middle of wars, when he was engaged in organizing and encouraging his army, when he himself was leading his army in a determined way or when he was teaching his soldiers what to do, he would kneel down in supplication, he would raise his hands and he would start to cry and speak to God.
He said, "Dear God, help us. Dear God, support us. Dear God, You Yourself defeat Your enemies." His praying did not make him stop being active. And his activities did not make him stop praying and they did not prevent him from preserving his relationship with God. He paid attention to both issues. He never showed fear and he never hesitated in the face of a hostile enemy. The Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) who is the embodiment of courage says that whenever they were faced with difficult conditions during different wars, they would go to the Holy Prophet (S). Whenever, somebody felt weak in difficult situations, he would go to the Holy Prophet (S). He led Muslims for ten years. But if we had a group of active people do the things that he did during those ten years, they would not be able to do all the things that he did even if they were given 100 years.
If we compare our work with the things that the Holy Prophet (S) did, then we realize what he has achieved. Managing that government, creating such a society and being such a role model for others are among the miracles the Holy Prophet (S) performed. The people lived with him day and night. They used to go to his house and he used to go to their houses. They went to mosque together. They used to travel together. They used to go to sleep in one place. They starved together and they rejoiced together.
The life of the Holy Prophet (S) also involved rejoicing and being happy. He would make jokes with the people. He organized certain competitions and he himself took part in them. The love of the people who lived with the Holy Prophet (S) for ten years for him and their belief in him became deeper on a daily basis. During the conquest of Mecca, when Abu Sufyan came to the camp of the Holy Prophet (S) with the support of Abbas, the Holy Prophet's (S) uncle, so that he could ask for his mercy, he saw that the Holy Prophet (S) was performing Wudu. He saw that the people had gathered around the Holy Prophet (S) to snatch the drops of water that was trickling down his face and hands.
Abu Sufyan said, "I have seen Khosrau [king of Persia] and Caesar these powerful and great kings in the world but I did not see such greatness in them." Spiritual greatness is the true greatness.
"Honor belongs to Allah and His Messenger, and to the Believers." 5
If believers follow the same path, they will enjoy such greatness too. On such a day on the 28th of Safar this heavenly light, this noble person and this kind father passed away, which made everybody sad and mournful. The day when the Holy Prophet (S) passed away and the days before that when the Holy Prophet (S) was sick were difficult days for the people of Medina, particularly because of the things that had happened earlier.
The Holy Prophet (S) came to the mosque and he sat on the Minbar. Then he said, "If I owe anybody anything, they can come forward and get it from me." The people started to cry and they said, "O Messenger of Allah, is it possible for you to owe us something?" He said, "Being ashamed before God is more difficult than being ashamed before you. If I owe you anything, you should come and get it from me so that it will not be delayed until Judgment Day." Notice how he behaved. Notice who said these things.
The kind of person whom Gabriel felt honored to speak to say these things. And he was not joking. He was serious because he might have violated somebody's right unknowingly.
The Holy Prophet (S) repeated this two or three times. Of course, there are many narrations in history books regarding this event and I do not know which is reliable and to what extent they can be trusted. But the one which is often cited is this: somebody stood up and said, "O Messenger of Allah, you owe me something. Once you were going past me while you were riding a camel. I was riding a camel too.
My camel came near yours and you forced it to go with a stick. But the stick hit my stomach and you owe me an apology." The Holy Prophet (S) pulled his shirt up and he told him, "Right now you should do Qisas and you should not let it be delayed until Judgment Day." The people were astonished and they said, "Does this man really want to do Qisas? Is he that cruel to do that?" They saw that the Holy Prophet (S) sent somebody to his house to bring the same stick. Then he said, "Come and hit my stomach with the same stick."
That man came forward. The people looked astonished and embarrassed, thinking that the man might try to do that. But they saw that he knelt at the Holy Prophet's (S) feet and he started to kiss his stomach. The man said, "O Messenger of Allah, I will save myself from hell fire by touching your stomach."
Dear God, by the blessedness of Muhammad (S) and his household and out of Your generosity, bestow Your best blessings and greetings on the immaculate soul of our Holy Prophet (S). Bestow on him all the blessings because of what he did for Islam, Muslims and the entire humanity. Make us a member of his Ummah. Make us follow the right path that he followed. Make our society become like his society. Bestow on all of us the determination to follow him. 6
The Importance and effects of the Holy Prophet’s (S) birth
Definitely, the day when the Holy Prophet (S) was born and divine light enlightened the world, should be considered the beginning of a new epoch for humanity. As the Commander of the Faithful (a.s.) said, “The world was devoid of brightness, and full of open deceitfulness.” 7
The Holy Prophet’s (S) light revealed the signs of divine rule and the reasons behind the presence of divine proofs among the people. The astonishing things that happened at the time of the Holy Prophet’s (S) birth are in fact a warning to humanity. For example, that battlements of the Persian king’s castle collapsed or that the fire in certain fire temples went out, had a symbolic meaning as well. The symbolic meaning of those events is that after the birth of the Holy Prophet (S), a path would be opened up in front of humanity and human beings would be saved from the darkness of illusions and oppressive systems.
Choosing this path and following it vigorously or avoiding it and depriving oneself of the blessings, are matters that depend on the willpower and determination of those who make these decisions. It is human beings themselves who choose their destiny and their future, but this path has been opened up in front of them. Moreover, Allah the Exalted has ordained that the general movement of humanity will be towards these noble goals. Divine laws of nature have left human communities with no choice but to move towards these goals, and this has been proven by all historical events. Scientific progress of human communities and the growth of collective human knowledge are in line with the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (S) and with the final goals of this path. And today human beings feel the need for the teachings of the Holy Prophet (S) more than ever before. 8
• 1. Sura al-Fath, Ayah 1
• 2. Sura al-Anfal, Ayah 49
• 3. Sura ar-Room, Ayah 10
• 4. Sura at-Taubah, Ayah 77
• 5. Sura al-Munafiqoon, Ayah 8
• 6. Supreme Leader’s Friday prayer sermons delivered on May 18, 2001
• 7. Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 89
• 8. Supreme Leader’s speech delivered on June 10, 2001 in a meeting with government officials of the Islamic Republic on the occasion of birthday anniversaries of the Holy Prophet (S) and Imam Sadiq (a.s.)