The Islamic Caravan: The Prophet’s (PBUH) Ever Shining Leadership

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The Prophet (PBUH) led the Islamic Caravan to its final destination and victory, despite nonstop extreme challenges. Nations’ caravans normally focus on external enemies who openly challenge and try to harm them. But the Quran puts much more emphasis on the internal enemies who join as friends of the caravan and gain its trust and confidence, but then wait for the most vulnerable time to attack it and cause maximum damage.

If we look at world history – and sadly the Muslim history – then we will find that outside enemies have not caused as much damage to a nation as the damage caused by the machinations and plots of the hidden enemies within. This is what we see right in the beginning of the Islamic caravan led by the Prophet (PBUH). The Quran after describing the two groups – those fully and openly accepting its message and those who fully and openly rejecting its message – it describes a third group whose condition is such that:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَن يَقُولُ آمَنَّا بِاللَّـهِ وَبِالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَمَا هُم بِمُؤْمِنِينَ

(2:8) – And there are people who say, “We do believe in God and the Last Day,” the while they do not [really] believe. [Asad]

While the Believers and Non-believers accept or reject the truth openly, the hypocrites pay lip service to the truth of the Divine Code, without believing in it. They claim that they are believers but, in fact, they are not. There are those who join the believers to intentionally harm them and there are those who join for their own ulterior motives. The Quran says that they think they can deceive Allah and the believers but, actually, they deceive themselves but they don’t understand the reality:

يُخَادِعُونَ اللَّـهَ وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَمَا يَخْدَعُونَ إِلَّا أَنفُسَهُمْ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ

(2:9) – They would deceive God and those who have attained to faith - the while they deceive none but themselves, and perceive it not. [Asad]

They adopt two faced tactics towards Allah’s Divine System and delude themselves into thinking that they are deceiving the believers who establish it. But if they were to reflect, they would realize that, in fact, they deceive only themselves.

Psychological disease

They don’t reflect on their own behavior. Instead, they keep on flowing with their emotional tide. Their intellect and thought become afflicted when emotion takes over human beings (45:23). The Quran says:

فِي قُلُوبِهِم مَّرَضٌ فَزَادَهُمُ اللَّـهُ مَرَضًا ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْذِبُونَ

(2:10) – In their hearts is disease, and so God lets their disease increase; and grievous suffering awaits them because of their persistent lying. [Asad]

Leading such a life results in a diseased mind. They become psychologically sick. This keeps them under the grip of self-deception and they think that they are on the right path.

The Quran sums their psychology thus:

وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ لَا تُفْسِدُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ قَالُوا إِنَّمَا نَحْنُ مُصْلِحُونَ ; أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ الْمُفْسِدُونَ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا يَشْعُرُونَ ; وَإِذَا قِيلَ لَهُمْ آمِنُوا كَمَا آمَنَ النَّاسُ قَالُوا أَنُؤْمِنُ كَمَا آمَنَ السُّفَهَاءُ ۗ أَلَا إِنَّهُمْ هُمُ السُّفَهَاءُ وَلَـٰكِن لَّا يَعْلَمُونَ

(2:11-13) – And when they are told, “Do not spread corruption on earth,” they answer, “We are but improving things!” Oh, verily, it is they, they who are spreading corruption but they perceive it not? And when they are told, “Believe as other people believe,” they answer, “Shall we believe as the weak-minded believe?” Oh, verily, it is they, they who are weak-minded - but they know it not! [Asad]

It is amazing that these people fail to realize how the discrepancy between their word and deed exposes their true self. It is these hypocrites who do not know what is in their interest, since they do not even understand that to forego permanent advantages for temporary gains is not a good trading.

Business mentality

The question is: who are these people and why do they behave like this? The Quran has given a very clear answer:

أُولَـٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ اشْتَرَوُا الضَّلَالَةَ بِالْهُدَىٰ فَمَا رَبِحَت تِّجَارَتُهُمْ وَمَا كَانُوا مُهْتَدِينَ

(2:16) – [for] it is they who have taken error in exchange for guidance; and neither has their bargain brought them gain, nor have they found guidance [elsewhere]. [Asad]

These people fancy that they are very clever since their deceitful ways bring them temporal returns; and they feel smug about their profitable trading. But, in fact, no one is more mistaken than they are, because they have exchanged the wrong path for the right one. Such trading cannot eventually prosper because the wrong path can never lead to the ultimate destination prescribed for humanity.

The Islamic caravan must move ahead solely for Allah. This means that those who join this caravan, should have only one goal in front of them: the success of the caravan; and through that their own self-development will take place. Those joining this caravan should have the character trait:

قُلْ إِنَّ صَلَاتِي وَنُسُكِي وَمَحْيَايَ وَمَمَاتِي لِلَّـهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ ; لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ

(6:162) – Say: “Truly, my prayer and my service of sacrifice, my life and my death, are (all) for Allah, the Cherisher of the Worlds.” [Yusuf Ali]

لَا شَرِيكَ لَهُ ۖ وَبِذَٰلِكَ أُمِرْتُ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ الْمُسْلِمِينَ

(6:163) – In whose divinity none has a share: for thus have I been bidden-and I shall [always] be foremost among those who surrender themselves unto Him. [Asad]

And there should not be any other goal other than this in front of believers. If any other goal enters one’s heart, then it will no longer remain solely for Allah, but it will become business affair. This is the mentality of those who join a caravan (that is moving along the path of truth) for their own ulterior motives. As long as they see that there is benefit for them, they remain with the caravan. The moment they see that their interests are not being served, they leave.

What one gains from this kind of mentality?

The material benefits are not the only ones that drive people to work hard. Usually, there are other intangible benefits which are more important to some people than the tangible benefits. The goals behind these benefits are quite imperceptible which the Quran refers to as the diseases of the heart. Leading such a life results in a diseased mind and Allah’s Law is that such a behavior further increases their disease (2:10). This situation compels them to lie persistently.

Hypocrites of Medina

There is no mention of Hypocrites during Prophet’s (PBUH) life in Mecca. Meccans weren’t hypocritical. Be their opposition or be their friendship, it was open and transparent. But in Medina it looks like these hypocrites joined the Muslims in droves. They claimed to believe in Allah and the Prophet (PBUH). They used to participate in meetings and consultations including confidential briefings – so much so that there was no difference between sincere Muslims and the Hypocrites. They had established so much trust with Muslims that the Prophet (PBUH) used to take them even to the battlefield.

There is no mention of Hypocrites among the Muslim community in the battle of Badr because it was composed of the very first pioneers whom the Quran refers to as the وَالسَّابِقُونَ الْأَوَّلُونَ (As-Sabiqunal Awwalun) (9:100). But there is a mention of them in the battle of ‘Uhad. And their increased machinations and intrigues in the battles of A’hzaab and Tabuk became so pervasive that when their hypocrisy was finally exposed – and Surah Tauba deals with mostly this issue – the Muslims split into two camps. One camp was in favor of using soft tactic and to reform the hypocrites; while the other was in favor of using harsh tactic to deal with them and going so far as to cut them off from the Muslim community.

Here is how the Quran describes the situation:

فَمَا لَكُمْ فِي الْمُنَافِقِينَ فِئَتَيْنِ وَاللَّـهُ أَرْكَسَهُم بِمَا كَسَبُوا ۚ أَتُرِيدُونَ أَن تَهْدُوا مَنْ أَضَلَّ اللَّـهُ ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّـهُ فَلَن تَجِدَ لَهُ سَبِيلًا

(4:88) – How, then, could you be of two minds about the hypocrites, seeing that God [Himself] has disowned them because of their guilt? Do you, perchance, seek to guide those whom God has let go astray - when for him whom God lets go astray thou canst never find any way? [Asad]

Hurling accusation

When the hypocrites were exposed like this, then they started hurling accusations against Muslims and slandering them:

الَّذِينَ يَلْمِزُونَ الْمُطَّوِّعِينَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ وَالَّذِينَ لَا يَجِدُونَ إِلَّا جُهْدَهُمْ فَيَسْخَرُونَ مِنْهُمْ ۙ سَخِرَ اللَّـهُ مِنْهُمْ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

(9:79) – [It is these hypocrites] who find fault with such of the believers as give for the sake of God more than they are duty-bound to give, as well as with, such as find nothing [to give] beyond [the meagre fruits of] their toil, and who scoff at them [all]. God will cause their scoffing to rebound on themselves. and grievous suffering awaits them. [Asad]


هُمُ الَّذِينَ يَقُولُونَ لَا تُنفِقُوا عَلَىٰ مَنْ عِندَ رَسُولِ اللَّـهِ حَتَّىٰ يَنفَضُّوا ۗ وَلِلَّـهِ خَزَائِنُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَفْقَهُونَ

(63:7) – It is they who say [to their compatriots], “Do not spend anything on those who are with God's Apostle, so that they [may be forced to] leave.” However, unto God belong the treasures of the heavens and the earth: but this truth the hypocrites cannot grasp. [Asad]

Hypocrites also used other dirty tactics to cause confusion and chaos among believers. They used to tell their people to go join the believers and after sometime leave but bring out some of the believers along with them:

وَقَالَت طَّائِفَةٌ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ آمِنُوا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ عَلَى الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَجْهَ النَّهَارِ وَاكْفُرُوا آخِرَهُ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

(3:72) – And some of the followers of earlier revelation say [to one another]: "Declare your belief in what has been revealed unto those who believe [in Muhammad] at the beginning of the day, and deny the truth of what came later, so that they might go back [on their faith] [Asad]

They also used the tactic of meeting believers individually and tried to please them and thus brainwash them to leave the Muslim community and thus try to weaken it:

يَحْلِفُونَ بِاللَّـهِ لَكُمْ لِيُرْضُوكُمْ وَاللَّـهُ وَرَسُولُهُ أَحَقُّ أَن يُرْضُوهُ إِن كَانُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ

(9:62) – [The hypocrites] swear to you by God [that they are acting in good faith], with a view to pleasing you [O believers] - the while it is God and His Apostle whose pleasure they should seek above all else, if indeed they are believers! [Asad]

Personal attacks on the Prophet (PBUH)

The hypocrites went to the extent of hurling personal attacks on the Prophet (PBUH) accusing him of dictatorship and the reason for Muslims’ defeat:

ثُمَّ أَنزَلَ عَلَيْكُم مِّن بَعْدِ الْغَمِّ أَمَنَةً نُّعَاسًا يَغْشَىٰ طَائِفَةً مِّنكُمْ ۖ وَطَائِفَةٌ قَدْ أَهَمَّتْهُمْ أَنفُسُهُمْ يَظُنُّونَ بِاللَّـهِ غَيْرَ الْحَقِّ ظَنَّ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ ۖ يَقُولُونَ هَل لَّنَا مِنَ الْأَمْرِ مِن شَيْءٍ ۗ قُلْ إِنَّ الْأَمْرَ كُلَّهُ لِلَّـهِ ۗ يُخْفُونَ فِي أَنفُسِهِم مَّا لَا يُبْدُونَ لَكَ ۖ يَقُولُونَ لَوْ كَانَ لَنَا مِنَ الْأَمْرِ شَيْءٌ مَّا قُتِلْنَا هَاهُنَا ۗ قُل لَّوْ كُنتُمْ فِي بُيُوتِكُمْ لَبَرَزَ الَّذِينَ كُتِبَ عَلَيْهِمُ الْقَتْلُ إِلَىٰ مَضَاجِعِهِمْ ۖ وَلِيَبْتَلِيَ اللَّـهُ مَا فِي صُدُورِكُمْ وَلِيُمَحِّصَ مَا فِي قُلُوبِكُمْ ۗ وَاللَّـهُ عَلِيمٌ بِذَاتِ الصُّدُورِ

(3:154) – Then, after this woe, He sent down upon you a sense of security, an inner calm which enfolded some of you, whereas the others, who cared mainly for themselves, entertained wrong thoughts about God - thoughts of pagan ignorance - saying, “Did we, then, have any power of decision [in this matter]?” Say: “Verily, all power of decision does rest with God” - [but as for them,] they are trying to conceal within themselves that [weakness of faith] which they would not reveal unto thee, [O Prophet, by] saying, “If we had any power of decision, we would not have left so many dead behind.” Say [unto them]: “Even if you had remained in your homes, those [of you] whose death had been ordained would indeed have gone forth to the places where they were destined to lie down.” And [all this befell you] so that God might put to a test all that you harbor in your bosoms, and render your innermost hearts pure of all dross: for God is aware of what is in the hearts [of men]. [Asad]

Sometimes they would say:

وَمِنْهُمُ الَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ النَّبِيَّ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ أُذُنٌ ۚ قُلْ أُذُنُ خَيْرٍ لَّكُمْ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللَّـهِ وَيُؤْمِنُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مِنكُمْ ۚ وَالَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ رَسُولَ اللَّـهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ

(9:61) – AND AMONG those [enemies of the truth] there are such as malign the Prophet by saying, "He is all ear." Say: "[Yes,] he is all ear, [listening] to what is good for you! He believes in God, and trusts the believers, and is [a manifestation of God's] grace towards such of you as have [truly] attained to faith. And as for those who malign God's Apostle - grievous suffering awaits them [in the life to come]!" [Asad]

They went so far as to say that the Prophet (PBUH) does not get any revelation from Allah; that someone teaches him:

وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ ۗ لِّسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَـٰذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ

(16:103) – And, indeed, full well do We know that they say, "It is but a human being that imparts [all] this to him! - [notwithstanding that] the tongue of him to whom they so maliciously point is wholly outlandish, whereas this is Arabic speech, clear [in itself] and clearly showing the truth [of its source]. [Asad]

Extreme viciousness

The last weapon of such vicious people is to accuse the leader of unfairness in the distribution of gifts. Imagine to what extent they went in their malicious attacks against the authority whom they themselves called the truthful and trustworthy one before the prophethood – so much so that in the court of the Abyssinian king even his staunch enemy Abu Sufiyan vouched for Prophet’s honesty and integrity. But the hypocrites were hurling such a malevolent attack against him?

وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَلْمِزُكَ فِي الصَّدَقَاتِ فَإِنْ أُعْطُوا مِنْهَا رَضُوا وَإِن لَّمْ يُعْطَوْا مِنْهَا إِذَا هُمْ يَسْخَطُونَ

(9:58) – And among them are such as find fault with thee [O Prophet] concerning [the distribution of] the offerings given for the sake of God: if they are given something thereof, they are well-pleased; but if they are not given anything thereof, lo! they are consumed with anger.

وَلِلَّـهِ الْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَـٰكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

(63:8) – However, all honor belongs to God, and [thus] to His Apostle and those who believe [in God]: but of this the hypocrites are not aware. [Asad]

Consequences of hurling accusations

Hurling accusations to malign one’s character and integrity is so serious in the eyes of the Quran that it has devoted special attention to it. Accusing a decent person is the most effective weapon to bring him down from his honorable place, and to mentally torture him. The Quran tells that there were such people who wanted to hurt even the Prophet (PBUH) using such tactic: There are some amongst them who wish to hurt the Messenger by slander (9:61). They went so far – as history tells us – to accuse our Prophet (PBUH) of being unfair in distributing the wealth for which he had to defend himself.

The Prophet’s heart was torn by such attacks against his character – so much so that Allah said to the Prophet (PBUH):

فَلَا يَحْزُنكَ قَوْلُهُمْ ۘ إِنَّا نَعْلَمُ مَا يُسِرُّونَ وَمَا يُعْلِنُونَ

(36:76) – However, be not grieved by the sayings of those [who deny the truth]: verily, We know all that they keep secret as well as all that they bring into the open.

But despite all these personal attacks the Prophet (PBUH) continued unswervingly to lead the Islamic caravan with fortitude and steadfast conviction to its final destination and ultimate victory. That is why Allah declared that our Prophet’s (PBUH) exemplary character is the role model for entire humanity:

لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّـهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّـهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا

(33:21) – VERILY, in the Apostle of God you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe] to God and the Last Day, and remembers God unceasingly. [Asad]

The Quran provides witness of the Prophet (PBUH) being at the pinnacle of lofty human character and a role model for all of humanity for all time to come:

وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ

(94:4) – And raised high the esteem (in which) thou (art held) [Yusuf Ali]

Let us then pray and show our deep commitment to the Prophet (PBUH) by following in his exemplary and sublime footsteps forever shining on the historical landscape:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا

(33:56) – Verily, God and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender! [Asad]

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