WHY DO WE NEED TO STUDY THE SEERAH OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD (Peace Be Upon Him)?
Khan Ansur describes based on his own personal experience why reading Seerah is an important task for every Muslim.
“I looked into history for a human paradigm and found it to be in Muhammad”.
(Wolfgang Goethe, the German Poet)
The word “Seerah” simply means “path”. If we go by the dictionary meaning, it means; conduct; way of life; life of a person; biography; etc. I could perfectly recall the days of my childhood when I used to attend the local Darasgah for attaining religious education in terms of Quran and Hadith (Traditions of Prophet Muhammad – PBUH). After completing the recitation of the Quran, we would sing a Kashmiri poem loudly and I don’t know why, we all would show extraordinary zeal over reciting it on Fridays. Some verses are below:
“Saa’nis Thaa’this Nabiyas,
Naame Paak Hazrate Muhammad Mustafa,
Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam
Tim zaayi makahas manz,
Makah chu arbas manz
Yore luk Hajj karni gasaan chi”
[The blessed name of our beloved Prophet,
is Muhammad Mustafa (chosen one)
May Allah’s Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him
He was born in Makkah,
Makkah is in Arab-
Where people go for Hajj (Pilgrimage)]
Every student of the Darasgah would enjoy and love to recite it, even if we would return back to our respective homes late. It was just; this poem would give us pleasure. That time I didn’t know what we were reciting. Albeit, the Mu’alim (teacher) of the Darasgah would say it is the Seerah of our Last Prophet in poetic form but there was always a question revolving in my heart and mind that why do we need to Seerah in our curriculum? Why do we need to study it? After some years when I got some religious knowledge, I got exposed to the books of Seerah which illuminated me with the life of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah Be Upon Him). With the time I got some lessons out of it which ultimately turned fruitful to my personal life. And what happened, I got the answer of my question which I have described in the following points.
- Testimony of Prophethood
Firstly, studying the life of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) is actually the testimony of his Prophethood. We will get to know his Prophethood only by studying his Seerah. Allah has called our Prophet as Mustafa (the chosen one). We understand it in this way that an illiterate person can hardly make any change now, not talking about 1400 years ago. If we go back 1400 years ago, we cannot find any scope for any illiterate and unlettered person to establish a great change and make an unending example in the whole universe. Technically it is impossible to achieve the great feat that Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) achieved in his lifetime. By studying the Seerah, we not only affirm but we also believe that Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) was the last prophet sent by Allah. In the affirmation tone, Professor Ramakrishna Rao writes, “He (Muhammad) had not studied philosophy in the school of Athens or Rome, Persia, India or China, yet he could proclaim the highest truths of eternal value to mankind. Unlettered himself he could yet speak with eloquence and fervor which moved men to tears of ecstasy. Born an orphan and blessed with no worldly goods, he was loved by all. He had studied at no military academy; yet he could organize his forces against tremendous odds and gained victories through moral forces which he marshaled. Gifted men with a genius for preaching are rare”. (Rao, 2014, p. 17) In his famous book, ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History,’ Dr. Michael H. Hart says, “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious levels” (Emara, 2011, p. 67). Indeed, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) enjoys being an all-time undisputable leader ever to be seen on earth. Furthermore, Alphonse de Lamartine in ‘Histoire de la Turquie,’ writes, “Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational beliefs…The founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?” (Emara, 2011, p. 7) Being without prior knowledge and unlettered during the times of no possible technology and sophisticated communication, these things, in rational sense, cannot be achieved by anyone but by a God-sent prophet. It is, therefore, necessary to go through the Seerah to know the Prophethood of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in true sense.
- History of Islam
Whatever exists on the earth has its own history, be it material or non-material things. Everything comes with its own history as well as subjects. Similarly, Islam also has a definite history. Every Messenger of Allah has his life history, although brief, mentioned in the Qur’an but there are bits and pieces of events related to the life of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) who was sent to the whole universe as Rehmatal-Lil Aalameen (Mercy for the worlds) with the identity of Islam. The reason we go to the Seerah is to know about Islam and our Last Prophet; Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). The life of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) explains us the whole history of Islam and its gradual development. Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki (Rahimahullah), in one of his lectures, quotes Muhammad Ibn Sa’ad Bin Waqaas (RA) who says, “We were taught the Magaazi (battles) of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)” and Hussain Bin Ali (RA) has said, “We were taught the Seerah of Rasoolullah like we were taught Qur’an” (Al-Basheer). Both the sayings imply that we need to go to the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in order to know the history of Islam; the life and entire career of Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him).
- Seerah Helps in Understanding Qur’an
We cannot understand Qur’an properly without having Seerah in our hands. First and foremost the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and it was gradually revealed during many events happened in his entire career of Prophethood. Seerah helps us to understand the situations and events with respect to every Ayah revealed in the Qur’an. Seerah and the Ayahs of Qur’an are interrelated with each other. They corroborate the happenings as well as particular situations so as to give true glimpse of every Ayah. More importantly, in the light of the Seerah, we become able to understand the application of every Ayah. We have to have Seerah in our hands while toiling for understanding the Qur’an. Interestingly, there are some Ayahs of Qur’an which cannot be understood without having the notes of Seerah in our hands. For instance Allah says in Surah Abasa, “The Prophet frowned and turned away” (80:01). This Ayah is an ostensible statement from Allah and it cannot be understood without knowing the actual situation happened with the Prophet at that point of time. Similarly there are two important Surahs; Surah Falaq (113) and Naas (114) in the Qur’an. These two Surahs can be best understood when we read and understand the whole situation Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) underwent during that period of time.
- Love of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)
Muslims around the globe claim that they love the final prophet; Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) more than their lives but, to be on a straightforward note, no one actually loves Him because what he said through his teachings and what he did practically are not replicated in the Muslim Character in the contemporary times. It means we as Muslims say it by our tongues only but do not show it by following him in entirety. Technically speaking, it is not possible to develop love for someone without knowing her/him completely. Love without knowing is sheer absurdity. One can claim her/his love for someone but s/he will never be truthful to it practically. Similarly, Muslims cannot develop true love without knowing Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) through his Seerah. Muslims around the globe claim their love for Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and get enraged when someone says wrong about him. This getting enraged is, almost, without going through his history and life events. Now we can imagine, if Muslims will study his Seerah, the love in the hearts of Muslims will inevitably increase and the entire situation will altogether be different.
- Following Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in True Spirit
Studying Seerah will eventually make Muslims to follow Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in true spirit. Seerah helps one to follow him in entirety. It is impossible to follow him without knowing him. We cannot draw the life lessons without getting to know what situations did occur to him and how he handled those very situations in his life career. In Surah Aal-E-Imran, Allah says, “Say (O Muhammad), if you should love Allah, then follow me, (so) Allah will love you and forgive you your sins” (03:31). This Ayah demands Muslims to follow him and it will become possible after when Muslims start studying his Seerah.
- Muslim Identity
Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki (Rahimahullah), in one of his lectures on Seerah, says, “Seerah is the root of Muslims. If this root is removed, there will be no way to go” (Al-Basheer). When we look at ourselves and particularly youth, we observe that they are more inclined to the Bollywood or Hollywood personalities. They know more about these stars but they do not have proper introduction as well as information about the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Studying Seerah actually helps a Muslim in developing a true Muslim Identity. By studying the Seerah, one feels connected to Islam and Muslims living around the world. Adil Salahi says, “Unfortunately, most Muslims today do not know the Prophet well enough to portray his life in true colours”. Seerah gives us the sense of spirit and it builds love in the hearts of Muslims around the world. In more simple words, it makes us to love and care for Muslims living far away from our present station.
- Methodological Steps of the Islamic Movement
The life of Muhammad (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) defines the ways and methodologies to establish Islamic State. Adil Salahi writes, “….he (Muhammad) offered a system of life that provided for all the needs of body, soul and emotions.” (Salahi, 2013) That system was based on certain pillars and built through a defined methodology. We have examples from the Seerah as in; the Islamic movement was initiated with ‘Secret Dawah’. In secret Dawah, Islam was spread secretly among people. To explain it more simply, it meant to invite people secretly without letting those people know about this mission who were against Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). This Secret Dawah was mostly done in Makkah. It was done to evade any persecution at the hand of the idolaters of Makkah. The Seerah tells us how Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) dealt with the issue of persecution. It also tells us how the ‘Open Dawah’ took place and what were its characteristics and outcomes. We get the lessons about the Hijrah (migration), making of Islamic State and the consequent battles (Jihad) to spread Islam in its true colour. This is the reason, Sir George Bernard Shaw in ‘The Genuine Islam,’ writes, “I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness….” (Emara, 2011, p. 66)
TAILPIECE: Studying Seerah, thus, is an importance task of every Muslim for it will show us how to lead our lives in a better way. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan says, “He (Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)) showed us the life that God would like us to live on earth, for in all matters each and every one of his actions was in accordance with the will of God” (Khan, 2016, p. 10). And to say it clearly, Studying Seerah is actually a form of Ibadah (worship). We study Seerah in order to understand Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). We do not study it to entertain ourselves but to live and reform our lives in the same manner. Eventually, we will be compensated for this sacred and rewarding exercise. In his book, ‘Muhammad: The Benefactor of Humanity’, Naeem Siddiqi writes, “His life can be a model for us to emulate only as a man and only as a man can we take lessons from him, learn adherence to principles and recognition of duties, acquire courage and determination from him, cultivate the spirit of service to the humanity from his examples and create in ourselves an urge to fight against the forces of evil” (Siddiqi, 2014, pp. 34-35). It must be remembered always, we can only be benefitted in both the worlds when we start studying his Seerah like we study other literature and personalities of the world. Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), says Adil Salahi, is “The teacher of perfect goodness”. In nutshell, taking this quote forward, studying Seerah has to be kept as an important task for every Muslim and then only will we be able to get this perfect goodness.
- Al-Basheer (Composer). (n.d.). The Life of Muhammad. [I. A. Al-Awlaki, Performer]
- Emara, O. (2011). Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), The Prophet of Mercy. The Global Program of Introducing the Prophet of Mercy.
- Khan, M. W. (2016). Muhammad: A Prophet for all Humanity. Noida: Goodword Books.
- Rao, P. K. (2014). Muhammad: Prophet of Islam. New Delhi: Madhur Sandesh Sangam.
- Salahi, A. (2013). Muhammad: His Character and Conduct. New Delhi: GOOD TREE PRESS.
- Siddiqi, N. (2014). Muhammad (PBUH): The Benefactor of Humanity. New Delhi: Markazi Maktaba Islami Publishers.
Khan Ansur is working as a Psychiatric Social Worker (PSW) at Child Guidance and Well-Being Center (CGWC)-IMHANS, Kashmir under the Mental Health and Psycho-Social Service (MHPSS) Program of UNICEF-India.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions.