September 13, 2015
After Fajr, I decided to stay behind and gradually make my way to the graves of The Prophet (p), Abu Bakr and Umar. I had no idea where they were in the mosque. I saw a large hall across one of the inner courtyards and surmised that must be it. The gathering throng of people confirmed my assumption. However, the security guards were blocking the area off. One of the guards, a mustachioed fellow in the standard beige military garb, directed us to go to the west side of the mosque. I followed the river of people, not able to understand what was being said, but only knowing that they were all going towards a common goal. It was a good practice for Hajj.
We were funneled through the As Salam door (I think that’s the name) and, well, any notions I had of personal space were removed. The cluster continued to move onward until we reached the three shrouded grates I’d only seen in pictures: the graves of the Prophet (p), Abu Bakr and Umar. Some people were crying. Others simply gave their salams and continued onward. I guess I was somewhere in the middle. I definitely felt emotional. I mean, I was standing just feet away from the body of God’s final prophet, the messenger for mankind. But I knew that he was dead. The most we can do is pray that God elevate his status in the hereafter. He can’t intercede for us [in this life] or burden himself with our sins. But it’s amazing, this connection between us and him (p). He spoke about this in a hadith when he greeted a group that wasn’t there in his gathering, and the companions asked who he was greeting. He said “My brothers,” and he explained that these were believers that would come after him, who believe in him without seeing him.
I never met Prophet Muhammad (p). I never heard him speak. I’ve never seen a statue of him. Most Islamic art obscures his face, and even the ones that do are simplistic in their depiction. Yet I follow his message, I try to imitate his way of life—his Sunnah—and I find comfort in his words.
Prophet Muhammad (p) is as much an historical figure as he is a spiritual one. The details of his life have been meticulously recorded, even down to his bloodline (both his ancestors and descendants). He was governor and commander; he was reformer and preacher; he was teacher and leader. Yet even with all these achievements, what always inspired me most about the Prophet (p) is his humble humanity. In addition to all of the above, he was a father, a husband, a friend. The simple stories of his home life inspire me most. Stories like how he would let his grandson crawl on him during prayer, or set his cloak on the ground for his guests to sit on, or kiss his daughter to greet her. In addition to all of his great achievements, they remind us that he was, at his very core, a human being. As I stood before the grave of Prophet Muhammad (p), I felt an indescribable nearness to him. He told us that God has forbidden the earth to consume the bodies of Prophets, and so, just a few feet away from me, was buried the earthly form of God’s final messenger, preserved and hidden. I wasn’t standing before some empty place or pile of rocks where legend has it this is where he was buried. He was buried where he died, in the house of his wife Aishah, and eventually his mosque was expanded to include this house and his grave.
I was standing before the grave of a man who existed, who changed hearts, minds and societies. A man whose name means, “The Oft-Praised One” and is revered as a political and historical figure, as much as a religious one. A man unashamed of his humanity, undaunted by his enemies and unwavering in his purpose.
A man who, across the chasms of time and space, I and billions of others have felt connected to, as if he were our own friend and brother.
“My brothers are those who will come after me and they believe in me without seeing me.”
“It is a great shame for any one to listen to the accusation that Islaam is a lie and that Muhammad was a fabricator and a deceiver. We saw that he remained steadfast upon his principles, with firm determination; kind and generous, compassionate, pious, virtuous, with real manhood, hardworking and sincere. Besides all these qualities, he was lenient with others, tolerant, kind, cheerful and praiseworthy and perhaps he would joke and tease his companions. He was just, truthful, smart, pure, magnanimous and present-minded; his face was radiant as if he had lights within him to illuminate the darkest of nights; he was a great man by nature who was not educated in a school nor nurtured by a teacher as he was not in need of any of this.”