Book Review: Muhammad the Perfect Man

muhammad-the-perfect-man

Title: Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) the Perfect Man (Muhammad al-Insan al-Kamil)
Publisher: Visions of Reality Books
Author: Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani
Translator: Khalid Williams
Foreword: Shaykh Mostafa Badawi

This is originally an Arabic work, titled, Muhammad al-Insan al-Kamil, enumerating and describing some of infinite qualities of perfection that Allah, Most High, blessed his final Messenger with, may Allah always bless him and grant him peace. In the Publishers Note, the book is described as such:

The author catalogues the Prophetic Perfections in great detail and provides scriptural evidence with meticulous scholarly authority. The book is further augmented by Khalid Williams’ lucid and exemplary translation adding depth, breadth, clarity and making this within easy reach of the English speaking world.

The book is a modern day classic in the Arabic language – we pray that its translation becomes the same in English.

Shaykh Mostafa Badawi writes in his Foreword:

The author, Sayyid Muhammad, son of Sayyid ‘Alawi al-Maliki, is himself an Idrisi Sharif whose ancestors had emigrated from Mecca to Morocco. His father Sayyid ‘Alawi was one of the most eminent and popular scholars of Mecca, as had been his grandfather, Sayyid Abbas. Many of their direct ancestors had been teachers of religious sciences and orators who regularly delivered the Friday Sermon at the Sacred Mosque [Masjid al-Haram]. He was therefore raised in a house of knowledge and spirituality and received tuition in all branches of Islamic knowledge, mainly from his father and then from the most eminent scholars in Mecca, Jeddah, and Medina at that time.

and later:

Sayyid Muhammad taught people to love God and His Messenger. His tremendous love for his ancestor, the Prophet, shone through his words, deeds, and attitudes. He set a good example for those who strove to acquire the prophetic virtues of tolerance, gentleness, compassion, and selfless devotion to the cause of God and Islam, together with uncompromising upholding of the truth and justice. As a scholar he never stooped to the crude methods of his adversaries, always maintaining the traditional courteous stance that he had inherited from his teachers when defending his faith against often crude and spiteful attacks.

On two consecutive years before his death he visited his ancestor, Imam Idris, in Morocco, and wrote a long poem in his praise.

On Friday the 15th of Ramadan of the year 1425AH we received news that Sayyid Muhammad had died suddenly in Mecca. He was sixty three lunar years old. We learned subsequently that he had been putting his affairs in order for months before that, as if in preparation for his departure. Thousands attended his funeral, from Mecca and Jeddah, and from elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula. Many more thousands came in the next few days from all over the Islamic World to offer their condolences to his brother Sayyid ‘Abbas, his son Ahmad, and the rest of the family. He was buried in the Ma’la Cemetery of Mecca – in the same enclosure where his father had been buried, as well as numerous other scholars and saints, at the northern end of the cemetery, to one’s right as one approaches the tomb of the Prophet’s first wife, the Lady Khadija – leaving his son Ahmad to the run the school in Mecca and continue the regular teaching sessions in the tradition of their ancestors.

Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani writes in his introduction:

Much has been written on the prophetic biography (al-Sira al-Nabawiyya) in its different aspects, not only in Arabic and Persian but also in many Western languages, including English, in which more works on prophetic biography have been authored than in any other Western language. English literature is richly endowed with studies of this subject, because much effort was devoted by Western authors to producing biographies of the Trusted Prophet, thus providing clear proofs of the greatness of Islam’s Messenger and acknowledging that the Blessed Prophet had succeeded in freeing his society from the effects of slavery and ignorant customs, and from the yoke of base and degrading practices. One of them said that his (peace and blessings be upon him) call raised the community (umma) from the pits of misery to the heights of happiness in only a few years. Nevertheless, their works are not free from misrepresentations and defamatory additions, and thus are not entirely trustworthy.

Yet no matter how much they write, and how many volumes they fill with descriptions of his virtues, they could never possibly encompass all the admirable qualities and pure, goodly attributes with which his person (peace and blessings be upon him) was endowed; for he reached the heights of human perfection when his Lord elected him to convey His divine message; thus he spoke not of his own caprice, but his words were naught but Revelations being revealed. And his Lord praised him by saying: ‘Verily, you are of a tremendous nature’ [68:4] and He said: ‘And had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have scattered from about you’ [3:159]; and there are many similar passages in this mightiest of books and finest of discourses. Thus it is beyond human power to enumerate every one of his perfections.

and later in the introduction, the author writes:

And the more man develops his civilisation, and further ascends the ladder of progress, and the more his intellectual horizons broaden, he will perceive more and more of the benefits that Muhammad (peace be upon him) offers to all humanity.

Fourteen centuries have passed since the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) passed on to the Supreme Assembly, and his greatness continues to fill hearts and ears, and his remembrance remains the music of life for all those who thirst to drink from the spring of his holy inspiration, and to partake of the overflowing blessings of his unique valour and perfect greatness.

and later in the introduction:

His (peace and blessings be upon him) greatness was not drawn from any allegiance of kinship or any wordly prestige or wealth, nor from the greatness of the nation in which he appeared, nor from his high lineage or nobility. Rather, his greatness was drawn from the majesty of this personality, the perfection of his character and the broadness of his horizons, and from his being the highest paradigm of the perfect man. It was drawn from how he lived and died while struggling for Allah’s cause, and from his being the Chosen Messenger elected by Divine Providence from among all of mankind to convey Allah’s message to the world, after a time had passed wherein no messenger had come, and the people had gone astray and forgotten the guidance of Heaven which they had been given by the prophets and messengers of the past. Thus he came forth bearing the final message to unite all humanity on one doctrine, the primordial nature in which Allah created man.

Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani ends his introduction with what endeavoured him to write this book:

Once I was reading Surat al-Ma’ida when I came to the Almighty’s words: ‘This day have I perfected for you your religion, and fulfilled My favour upon you, and have gladly chosen for you Islam as your religion’ [5:3]. I stopped at this verse and reflected on it, and began to repeat it again and again, tasting its sweetness and experiences its eloquence, until my whole body was moved by it. From it, I concluded the following:

1 – Allah intended for this religion to be the seal of all religions, so that no other religion would ever come after it to replace it, amend it or correct it, as He says: ‘Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, yet he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets’ [33:40]. Because of this, He placed within this religion sufficient laws, ethics and teachings to ensure it would be lasting and unending, and fitting for all times and places, and able to give happiness to all mankind and to free humanity from its fetters, and establish justice and truth among all people. All this made this religion immutable, complete, preserved and unending.

As for its being immutable, Allah says: ‘Turn, then your face toward the religion in a pure fashion, in conformity with the primordial nature upon which Allah has created men; there is no changing Allah’s creation. This is the immutable religion, but most men know it not’ [30:30]

As for its being complete, Allah says: ‘We left nothing out of the Book’ [6:38]

As for it being preserved, Allah says: ‘Falsehood comes to it not from before it, nor from behind it’ [41:42]

And as for its being unending, Allah says: ‘We Ourselves have sent down the Remembrance, and We watch over it’ [15:9].

Completeness, preservation and endlessness are the primary qualities of perfection, and these qualities make it the perfect religion.

2 – In the message of Islam is complete, immutable, preserved, endless and perfect in every way, then the one whom Allah sends to bring it forth and invite others to it must also be at this level or indeed a higher one, and have this same rank or indeed a loftier one, and be of this status or indeed a greater one; for it is he who undertakes to bear the burden of this message, and it is only logical that a great load can only be borne by one who is greater than it.

3 – Leading on from this subtle point and this noble standpoint, I concluded that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) who came forth with this perfect religion, must himself be a perfect man, and perfect in every way: perfect in his image and appearance, such that no one who saw him ever saw the like of him, before or after:

He it is whose subtle and physical forms were perfected,
Then the originator of souls chose him as His beloved.

Perfect also in his character and nature, for his Lord said of him: ‘Verily, you are of a tremendous nature’ [68:4]. Perfect too in his ethics and his way of life, for his Lord said of him: ‘Did He not find you an orphan, and shelter you? And find wandering, and guide you? And find you needy, and enrich you? [93:6-8] He is the perfect man in every way, both physically and spiritually and free of all fault and blemish.

Created were you free of every blemish,
As though you were created just as you wished to be!

4 – I wanted to have a share in writing about this truth, a truth which is only denied by those who are guilty of folly and falsehood:

If a blind man denies that the sun shines,
He harms it not at all, but reveals his own folly.

So I endeavoured to write about the perfection of this man (peace and blessings be upon him), and thus I wrote this book, in which I have spoken about some aspects of his (peace and blessings be upon him) person, and I ask the Lord Almighty to inspire us with the truth, and to guide us by His grace to that wherein there is goodness and righteousness. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds; and blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad, his Household and his Companions.

Now we will continue to pick out a few excerpts of how Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi expounds on this reality.

The Perfection of His Pure and Noble Lineage:

Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: ‘I came from marriage and never from fornication, from the time of Adam until my father and mother begat me. None of the fornication of pagan ignorance touched me.

Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) recited ‘There has come unto you a messenger from the best of you’ [9:128], and then said: ‘I am the best of you in lineage, kinship and ancestry; my forebears from Adam were unsullied by fornication.’

Prophetic Beauty:

As for the Prophets (peace and blessings be upon him) awe-inspiring majesty, Hind ibn Abi Hala said of it: ‘The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) had great and stately attributes, and was honoured as such by others. Ali (may Allah be pleased with him): ‘Whoever saw him unexpectedly would be awe-stricken.’ Others said that the Prophet was the most dignified of people in his gatherings. Once a man came to him and was sorely awe-stricken by him and began to quake; so the Prophet spoke words to set him at ease. Amr ibn al-As (may Allah be pleased with him) said about the Prophet’s presence: ‘I could not look at him directly because of the awe he struck in me’ and were I to be asked to describe him, I would not be able to do so, because I never took a firm look at him.'(peace and blessings be upon him)

The Companions (may Allah be pleased with him) were unable to look directly at him (peace and blessings be upon him) because of how powerful the awe he inspired in them was, and how dignified his bearing was. This is why all our descriptions of him (peace and blessings be upon him) come from the youngest of them, of those who were in his care before the mission of prophethood began such as Hind ibn Abi Hala (may Allah be pleased with her) and our master Ali (May Allah be pleased with him).

Lessons from the Story of the Opening of His Blessed Breast:

The great scholar Ibn al-Munir said: The opening of his (peace and blessings be upon him) breast, and his patient endurance of it, was akin to the trial which Allah send to the Sacrificed One [Son of Ibrahim – Ismail, peace be upon them]; nay, it was even more difficult and trying, because that was only symbolic, whilst this actually happened. What was more, it was repeated, and it occurred to him when he (peace and blessings be upon him) was still a young orphan, far from his family.

His (peace and blessings be upon him) Perfect Physical Strength:

[Reviewer’s note: The following passage is referring to the Battle of the Trench]

Some narrations of this story state that they did not go to the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) until after they had proved unable to move the rock, and broken their spades on it; these narrations also state that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) only struck the rock three times before it broke. His (peace and blessings be upon him) strength was such that the rock could only withstand three blows from him after having completely exhausted the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them all) despite their best efforts to budge it. This was how strong he (peace and blessings be upon him) was after going three days without eating, so that he had to tie a stone to his stomach to abate his hunger. We all know how hunger weakens the body – so what do you imagine the hunger of going three days without food would be like? Had he (peace and blessings be upon him) not been so hungry, there is no doubt that his strength would have been greater still – and can you imagine his strength?

His Perfect Knowledge:

One aspect of the breadth of his (peace and blessings be upon him) knowledge is that Allah gave him the Quran, with all the teachings and truths that are gathered therein. The Quran is an ocean of knowledge and wisdom; and Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘If I spoke to you about Surah al-Fatiha, it would over-burden 70 camels.’ What, then, of the knowledge of our master Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), and the understanding that the Quran imparted unto him?

Sayyid Muhammad ibn ‘Alawi expounds on his knowledge of the unseen, of Paradise and of Hell, of the Hour, its signs, its minor and major, the knowledge of different realms of the seven heavens and that of states and affairs of beings on the Day of Judgement. He also writes:

Al-Tabarani narrated, with a chain of narration the men of which are all rigorously authenticated, that Abu -al-Darda (May Allah be pleased with him) said: ‘Before the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) parted from us, there was not a single bird flying with its wings save that he had taught us some knowledge pertaining to it.

His Perfect Eloquence:

How could he not be the most eloquent of Allah’s creation, when Allah gave him a way of speaking that expressed so much with such few words? He once said from the pulpit: ‘O People! I have been given the compendium of speech and its keys, and for me it has been made as concise as can be.’ Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) once asked him about the secret of his eloquence, saying: ‘O Prophet of Allah, how can it be that you are the most eloquent of us, when you never left our sight?’ He (peace and blessings be upon him) replied: ‘The tongue of Isma’il had vanished, and so Jibril brought it to me and I retained it.’

and later:

Another aspect of his (peace and blessings be upon him) perfect eloquence was that he would speak to every tribe with their own regional dialect and idioms, to the point where many of his Companions would ask him to explain certain words and expressions he used. Whoever studies his words and his biography will clearly see this; the way he spoke to Quraysh, the Helpers, and the people of Hijaz and Nahd in general was not the same as the way he spoke to the chieftains of Hadramaut and the kings of Yemen. The letter he (peace and blessings be upon him) sent to Hamdan [of Yemen] was filled with words common to the Yemeni dialect. The same is true of the way he (peace and blessings be upon him) addressed the [Yemeni] tribe of Nahd, and the message he (peace and blessings be upon him) gave Wa’il ibn Hajar to convey to the chieftains of Hadramaut, giving instructions on how the zakat should be collected.

The book covers an awe-inspring number of aspects of the Prophetic office and his perfection in all realms of life, of knowledge both related to this world and the world to come, of the Lord and his commandments and prohibition, his perfection in all virtue, in worship, in his character, his excellence and perfection in his teaching, in conveying the message, in leading his people both in persecution and when in power, in inspiring his followers, in his governance, expeditions and negotiations, his foresight in signing treaties, agreements and truces, in his ethics, loyalty, justice, forgiveness, his mercy with animals and more. This book is highly recommended as a sequel to a work on prophetic biography, and to one about to embark on a trip to the two sanctuaries. It moves the reader to fall in love with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and leaves the reader in absolute awe of the last Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him). I pray that Allah increase all those who worked on bringing this book into fruition, and that Allah enable all the Muslims to exemplify his beautiful character and that we achieve resoluteness in our strive for perfection as we follow in his footsteps. Ameen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s