This particular trait of my beloved RasulAllah ﷺ is epitomised in the Quran in the ayah 18:6 of Surah Khaf and in seerah from the incident of Taif. Do you know the story of Taif (pre hijri)? How he ﷺ was heckled by adults of the Hawazin tribe (the 2nd most influential clan amongst Arabs after the Quraysh), watching as their children threw pebbles at him ﷺ.
Some narrations say he ﷺ was bleeding so profusely that his slippers had become sticky from the dripping blood. Imagine coming seeking refuge with hope but instead facing such animosity (perhaps how the migrants feel today?). When he ﷺ came out of the boundaries of Taif, Jibrail AS descended and asked him what RasulAllah ﷺ would like to do, he could curse them if he wished and they would destroyed ‘kun fayakun’ (Be and so it is!).
But this is an illustration of the prophetic life:
His ﷺ infamous dua at the time: ‘’I put my complaint to You (Allah) about my weakness, my inability to strategise, my lack of articulation for they didn’t pay any attention to what I had to say. I am meagre; who will I go to but You? Indeed You are the Lord of the poor and the destitute. As long as you are not upset with me then I have no complain of these people.’’
Just reread this dua several times, look at his concern with His Rabb; of the people. He only spoke of it to Him, he only spoke of himself. He didn’t blame anyone, his concern was whether he had displeased Allah by not successfully delivering the message of Islam to the people of Taif! He didn’t even want to say anything bad about them. Nowadays we don’t forget what someone said to us for months!
Concern provides the onset which everything starts from. We have many areas of concern in our lives; both physical and metaphysical. The Quran (as always), prioritises where our concerns should lie. The primal concern for us is ‘meeting Allah SWT’. Our concern should be Allah. Put God above all other concerns. All prophets (peace be upon them all) understood this vividly (e.g. Musa, Issah AS). The concern itself, the purpose and the fulfilment of concern should always be stemmed from yourself. You cannot know your Lord if you do not know yourself. You go in to your own grave, your answers are your own therefore the foremost concern must also be with yourself. This frees you from becoming a people pleaser and the ills attached to such a spiritual sickness.
You cannot save the world if you need saving yourself. And the truth is, everybody needs salvation. People who think by saving others, are saving themselves, well that’s a dichotomy. It leads to a vicious, egotistical cycle where you feel good about yourself. Allah hates the arrogant. Because it can make people think it’s their ability allowing them to help others. But in essence, it’s their inability to see Allah’s bounty allowing you to be a waseela (help / relief) for others.
That is why meditation, having some disconnection (regularly) from the madness of this world is so necessary for us across all civilisations and religions. Even RasulAllah ﷺ regularly spent time at Cave Hira because he recognised the significance of solitude. He also ﷺ received prophethood in seclusion as opposed to a public, ceremonial service pronouncing him the prophet of all prophets.
People often misconstrue concern with judging, sharing too much information publicly, disclosing secrets’ to the extent of arguing / debating (specially on religion) in the name of defending it or ‘your genuine concern for it’. Be wary of that, its perilous. Look at your (judgemental) concern and compare that to the concern of RasulAllah ﷺ for the people of Taif.
Hazrat Ali RA said that (in his opinion) the dua that gave him the greatest hope was the verse from Surah Duha (93:5). Where Allah SWT promises RasulAllah ﷺ, He will continue giving to him until you are content. Scholars say this refers to the Day of Judgement where the Prophet ﷺ will not be free of concern till every single person from his ummah will be out of hell fire and makes it to Jannah.
Without wanting to make this note too long, my lasting point is to narrate a story for you to reflect upon as the state of our ummah (which is all creation not just Muslims). There was a great scholar called Shaykh Ibrahim during the WW1 and he was perplexed whose side to take, who was right and who wanted war so he sought Allah’s refuge in solitude. He had a dream one night in which he saw an army of soldiers on the left versus a battalion on the right ready to wage war. It’s a bloodbath and chaos all around. But right in front of him, in the middle of the two armies was the Prophet ﷺ on a white horse looking distraught with concern. So the Shaykh called out: Ya HabibAllah ﷺ! These people are from your ummah, can’t you see, this is ummati! Help them! The Prophet ﷺ replied with a heavy voice; O Ibrahim, I look to my right and I look to left but I don’t see ummati anywhere!
How do we balance between the concerns we have for ourselves versus others? A way to understand this is to know about your sphere of concern and your sphere of influence within that (Shaykh Hamza Yusuf explains this beautifully, search for his YouTube lecture). Change begins within, charity begins at home, be the change you want to see in the world, Allah doesn’t help those who don’t help themselves, during a flight emergency play out, you are always instructed to put on your air mask before you help others. These points all resonate with us surely? They accentuate the gift of prioritisation. An art we must learn, where we give everything its due time and concern, in the correct order. If you do things with sincere concern for those you can influence around you, then your sphere of influence may eventually become as big as your sphere of concern but until then you can rant on social media and feel good about yourself :).
Having said this in context, of course one should never feel discouraged from wanting to help others, reach out or volunteer in our societies / communities but please don’t help out at the refugee camp or a rehab clinic at the expense of missing all your prayers for that day for example. That’s a classic trap of the Shaitaan!
This note is my interpretation of the lecture I attended on the traits of Mohammed ﷺ in the Quran taught by Shaykh Thaqib Mehmood. Any faults are my own and this note serves as a reminder first and foremost for my own weak self.
Peace – MM.