By Dr. `Ali Muhammad As-sallabi
The first set of verses revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) conveyed an order from Allah to convey the teachings of Islam. They were meant to motivate the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) into action and to encourage him to live up to the duties he was being entrusted with, without caring about any obstacle that stood in the way of his fulfilling his mission. The first verse certainly aroused his attention:
O you who covers himself [with a garment]. Arise and warn. And your Lord glorify. And your clothing purify. And uncleanliness avoid. And do not confer favor to acquire more. And for your Lord be patient. (Al-Muddaththir 74:1-8)
After the above-mentioned verses of Al-Muddaththir were revealed, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) began by secretly inviting others to Islam; by “secretly” I mean that he began by inviting a select group of individuals. He naturally began with the closest people to him – the members of his household and his close friends:
Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her) was the first woman, or rather the first person, to believe in the Prophet (peace be upon him). She was also the first person to hear revealed verses from the mouth of the Messenger of Allah, and consequently was the first person (of course other than the Prophet to recite the Qur’an. She was also the first person who learned how to pray from the Messenger of Allah.
The first duty that Allah made obligatory was to believe in Islamic Monotheism (i.e., Tawhid); the second was prayer. Some narrations give an account of how the Messenger of Allah taught Khadijah how to pray and perform ablution. It began with Jibril performing ablution, while the Messenger of Allah watched and learned. He then performed ablution himself in the same manner. Jibril then stood and led the Prophet in prayer. Afterwards, when Jibril had left, the Messenger of Allah went to Khadijah and, just as Jibril had done earlier, performed ablution in order to show her how she should purify herself for prayer. After Khadijah finished performing ablution, the Messenger of Allah led her in prayer, praying in the same manner that Jibril had prayed shortly earlier.
2) `Ali ibn Abu Talib
Shortly after Khadijah embraced Islam, `Ali ibn Abu Talib also entered into the fold of Islam. He was the first child to embrace Islam, being 10 years old at the time, at least according to the strongest view in the matter, two proponents of which are At- Tabari and Ibn Ishaq.
Earlier on in the Prophet’s life, Abu Talib was experiencing financial difficulties. Wanting to lighten the financial load that was holding his beloved uncle down, the Prophet offered to take in one of his children and act as his guardian. The child he took in was `Ali (may Allah be pleased with him). So even before the Prophet received revelation for the first time, `Ali was one of the members of his household. “`Ali was the third person – the first being the Prophet and the second Khadijah- to perform prayer. The people of knowledge mention that, during the very early days of his Prophethood, the Prophet would, at the time of prayer, go out to the valleys of Makkah. `Ali ibn Abu Talib would go with him, but in a clandestine manner, making sure not to be seen by his father, his uncles, or, for that matter, anyone else from the Quraish. They performed all the day’s prayers in a valley, and then they would return home at nightfall.
3) Zayd ibn Harithah
Zayd, known as Hibbun (the beloved one of the Prophet), was the first freed slave to embrace Islam. Having first entered the household of the Prophet as a slave, Zayd , loved the Prophet a great deal, and his love was likewise reciprocated. Zayd, originally a free person from a family of free people, was taken captive as a child during a raid and was subsequently enslaved.
He was eventually purchased in Makkah, which is how he ended up in the household of the Prophet. His father came looking for him, and found him in Makkah years after he had been taken a captive. When Zayd’s father explained what had happened to his son, the Prophet said that Zayd should decide whether he wanted to stay or return with his father. Zayd’s father readily agreed to this proposal, for who would choose to be a slave rather than return with his father as a free individual? But by that time, Zayd had gotten to know the wonderful character of the Prophet, and Zayd’s love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) was so great that he chose him over his own father. Zayd said to the Messenger of Allah, “I would never choose anyone over you. To me, you rank equal to a father and an uncle.’ His father and uncle both said, “Woe unto you! Will you choose slavery over freedom! And will you choose someone over your father, uncle, and family!” Zayd said, “Yes. I have indeed seen such things from this man that make me say with certainty that I would never choose anyone over him.”
The Prophet then freed Zayd and adopted him. This of course all happened before Islam, for with the advent of Islam, adoption (the practice of changing a child’s name, so that he becomes known by his adoptive, and not birth, parents) became prohibited, so that Zayd ibn (son of) Muhammad once again became known by his original name: Zayd ibn Harithah .
4) The daughters of the Prophet
All of the Prophet’s daughters – Zaynab , Umm Kulthrm , Fatimah , and Ruqaiyyah – raced to embrace Islam. Even before Islam, they benefited from the noble character of their father, so that, like their father, they were upright people who stayed away from the evils of the polytheistic Quraish society. With their acceptance of Islam, the Prophet’s household became the first family from this nation that believed in Allah and practiced the teachings of Islam, which is one of the reasons why Khadijah is of such a high ranking among the Prophet’s Companions. It was in that blessed household that:
♦ The Qur’an was first recited, after verses of it were revealed in the cave of Hira’.
♦ The first follower of the Prophet resided.
♦ Prayer was first established.
♦ The three first believers gathered together: Khadijah, `Ali, and Zayd ibn Harithah.
♦ Each individual member pledged to support the Prophet, a pledge that each one of them fulfilled.
The way in which the Prophet and Khadijah raised their children embodies the meaning that is alluded to in the Hadith: “Every single newborn is born upon the Fitrah (the inborn disposition of being a Muslim). Then it is his parents who make him into a Jew, into a Christian, or into a Magian.” (Al-Bukhari) The Prophet’s children were born upon the Fitrah (the inborn disposition of being a Muslim), and then their parents raised them in such a way as to keep them upon the Fitrah.
Islam places great importance upon both society and the individual, and the individual is introduced into society by means of a family. It is within the context of a family that an individual develops his characteristics and qualities. Therefore, the family acts as an intermediary between the individual and society. If the intermediary is sound and good, then the entities that are at its furthest edges – the individual and society – will be strengthened and improved. This is why Islam stresses the importance of family. Each family must be a strong link in the establishment of an Islamic society. We can see the importance given to the family in the very early stages of the Prophet’s mission. After all, the first person to embrace Islam was his wife, Khadijah -which also establishes the important role that women play in Islam. Then `Ali , at the time a young child, embraced Islam, which shows the importance of performing Da`wah to the youth, to the next generation of Muslims.
It is most interesting to contemplate the kinds of people the Prophet first invited to Islam: Khadijah, a woman; Zayd ibn Harithah, a freed slave; `Ali, a child. This clearly proves that the message of Islam is directed towards all people – to the young and old, to men and women, to masters and slaves. Each individual member of society has an important role to play in the establishment of a Muslim society and country.
5) Abu Bakr
Abu Bakr was the first free man to embrace Islam, and even before the advent of Islam, he was one of the closest friends of the Messenger of Allah. Throughout their long years of friendship, Abu Bakr became very much acquainted with the noble character of the Prophet, which is why it is not much of a surprise that he embraced Islam without hesitating in the least. The Prophet said, “Every single person I invited to Islam stumbled, hesitated, and considered the matter – except for Abu Bakr. When I invited him, he neither wavered nor hesitated (to the contrary, he raced to embrace Islam).” [As-Seerah An-Nabawiyyah by Abu Shuhbah] Abu Bakr was not just a free man; he was also a nobleman and was well-respected among the Quraish for many reasons:
♦ The people of the Quraish loved him for his manners and agreeable nature.
♦ In terms of lineage, he was one of the noblest members of the Quraish. Also, he knew more about the family trees of Quraish’s individuals than anyone else. In fact, he was a recognized scholar of genealogy, being well- versed in the family trees of not just the Quraish but of all Arabs.
♦ He was a businessman who was known for his fair dealings and good manners.
♦ He was very popular among Quraish’s nobles, who would come to him for his knowledge, his expertise in business – or simply for his good company.
As soon as he embraced Islam, Abu Bakr sprang into action with the passion of a fresh convert, yet, unlike many other converts throughout history, his passion and enthusiasm never died, and never even waned. Abu Bakr’s Islam shows that a person of status and ranking in society often has more of an opportunity than others do of having a positive impact upon others.
From his Islam, one can also perceive an interesting transformation: Abu Bakr was always a close friend of the Prophet, but prior to Islam, that friendship was based upon an affinity of character and personality; with the advent of Islam, their friendship was based only upon faith in Allah.
Source: Taken with modifications from the author’s Noble Life of the Prophet, translated by Faisal Shafeeq