He was neither tall and lanky nor short and heavy set.
When he looked at someone he looked them in the eyes.
He was the most generous hearted of men the most truthful of them in speech the most mild tempered of them and the noblest of them in lineage.
Anyone who would describe him would say I never saw before or after him
"the like of him."
Muhammad, described by a contemporary.
Muhammad was a man who faced an absolutely hopeless situation.
There was a whole continent virtually of people killing one another in an endless hopeless vendetta, going down a chute of violence and warfare.
Feeling that society was coming to an end and had no hope.
He gave them hope single-handedly.
In a space of 23 years he brought peace and new hope to Arabia and a new beacon for the world.
Islam, the religion Muhammad first brought to Arabia now claims 1.2 billion followers around the world.
There are an estimated 7 million Muslims in America where it is the country's fastest growing religion and the most diverse.
Like America itself, the Muslims in this country come from all over the world.
They have a common bond not only in their religious faith and in their mosques but in this story of Muhammad, they all look to it.
This is the source of how to behave of how to be a constructive citizen of how to be a good parent, of how to be a good child of how to seek knowledge and truth.
These are values that are expressed most clearly for Muslims in the story of Muhammad.
In the Quran Allah says that Muhammad is the best example of behavior for you.
And that's what he is the guide for the way we deal with each other and when we're in a position of authority how we attempt to implement justice and law.
Prophet Muhammad, he asked the question to people around him do you love your creator?
Serve your fellow man first.
What does that tell you?
It tells you, forget about all this intellectual yeah, I love God and this and that.
If you're gonna, you know, forget about talking the talk, walk the walk.
You want to serve God, serve people.
What more noble way to serve people than to risk your own life to save them.
September 11th has changed the whole world and it has also put the Muslim community in the spotlight.
Muslims have a lot of hostility being hurled at them.
But this is also a time of transformation.
Many people are very eager to understand Islam and want to know who is the Prophet? What is the Quran?
Who are the Muslims? How do they live?
Through the stories about Prophet Muhammad we were able to make connections and all of a sudden you would feel you can relate to things that happened back 1500 years ago and that the issues weren't old fashioned they were universal.
And that's what he's taught me.
This is the story Muslims have passed down from generation to generation for 1400 years.
A story about the merchant, husband, father statesman and warrior whom they consider the final prophet.
The man whose legacy continues to shape their lives today.
The life of Muhammad is even in its details probably better known than any other major religious figure before modern times.
His followers made careful efforts to record memories that they had of things that he had said and things that he had done.
Many of these traditions may have been made up later on but at the core there seems to me to be little reason to doubt that there is a picture and a portrait of a living man.
According to Muslim sources Muhammad bin Abdullah-or son of Abdullah was born in the year 570 in the city of Mecca in what is today Saudi Arabia.
A poet of the times described Mecca as a place where winter and summer were equally intolerable.
The world into which Muhammad arrived was a brutal one defined by hunger, violence, and tribal warfare.
You could not exist without your tribe.
An individual in this dangerous world had absolutely no chance of survival.
And that meant that the tribe had become, perhaps, the most sacred value in Arabia.
It's a society that's based on the idea of vigilantism.
That, if somebody attacked my clan then I have a right to go and attack anyone from his clan.
They saw justice as taking revenge.
The Arabs of the sixth century had no written code of law no common religion, and no central government.
In this dangerous world Muhammad had the good fortune to be born into Mecca's powerful tribe, the Quraysh.
But his father died before he was born, and, his mother died when he was only 6.
His uncle Abu Talib was left to raise the young orphan.
He surely had to have worried about his future, what will he be.
And so he he must have been a very introspective child.
Muhammad had the habit of going out in the desert and contemplating the stars and thinking about why he was an orphan.
And how would life be to him in the future.
Orphans were marginal people and he felt very, very strongly identified with the poor and disadvantaged for the rest of his life.
The Mecca of Muhammad's youth was both a religious and a commercial center located at the crossroads of two major trading routes.
Pilgrims came from all over Arabia to worship the hundreds of idols that surrounded the Ka'aba an ancient shrine in the heart of the city.
The Ka'aba was surrounded by a sacred area where fighting was not allowed.
The commerce generated by the pilgrims made it possible for a young man in Muhammad's circumstances to make a living in the markets of Mecca.
Soon Muhammad began acting as an agent for wealthy merchants taking their goods on caravans throughout Arabia.
These journeys exposed him to a variety of other tribes and communities and a range of new ideas.
He probably learned the differences that exist between different tribes.
People speaking different languages. He encountered Christians and Jews.
And learned from them what their faith what their religion, what their cultures, are.
Muhammad would have become aware that for the Jews and the Christians the holy scripture was very important.
Both got scriptures in which God had sent a sacred message to prophets and this was a way in which people could relate to the divine.
When Muhammad was about 25 years old he had a major change in his life.
A wealthy widow older woman named Khadija asked him to take her caravans into Syria for her.
Muhammad took all her goods and went with the caravan to Syria and did an incredible job.
And her respect for him turned into admiration for him.
And she inquired about him through one of her friends.
Shortly thereafter Khadija asked Muhammad to marry her.
I like you because of our relationship, she said
"And your high reputation among your people;"
"Your trustworthiness, good character, and truthfulness."
And this is interesting.
She's is a very beautiful woman.
But she's, she's 40.
She is, she is moving into her maturity.
And he's a 25-year-old youth.
Um, he's an orphan.
And, and he accepts this, uh, proposal and it's arranged through the family.
And he does, indeed, marry her.
And people have often said rather sneeringly that this was just a marriage of convenience on his part.
He'd just married the wealthy widow for his own gain and profit.
But there's no doubt in my mind that he deeply, deeply loved Khadija.
Over the course of their marriage, Khadija and Muhammad had four daughters and two sons who died as infants.
He was a family man, and a successful and respected merchant.
But as Muhammad approached his own fortieth birthday he was becoming increasingly restless and troubled by the problems of Meccan society.
Within a few generations they had gone from this kind of brutal existence in the Arabian Steppes to becoming financiers, bankers businessmen, merchants, with a lot of money.
And this was great, of course, and people were delighted.
But it was a very disturbing time because the market economy demanded as we know only too well in the West, a strong competitive streak.
People no longer felt that they had to take care of the poor and the needy.
And the weaker members of Quraysh any longer.
They had to make as much money at they possibly could.
They had a marvelous society.
They had a trading town, they were booming they were doing business.
They were living like an affluent society.
And when you have an affluent society the tendency is to become hedonistic.
To look at, you know, what are the pleasures of life?
Muhammad would often retreat to the mountains outside Mecca, to meditate.
It was on one such retreat in the year 610 that Muhammad had an experience that would transform history.
The prophet used to retire from time to time into a hill called Jabal al-Nur, the Mountain of Light.
When you climb up that mountain and many people still do it on top of it is a cave called al-Hira in Arabic Into which the Prophet would often times retire in order to contemplate and to pray.
To be still with God.
The coming of the revelation was an immediate act.
The descent from heaven came suddenly.
Muhammad was woken from sleep and felt himself absolutely enveloped by a terrifying divine presence.
He says it's an angel that seemed to squeeze him ah, in a devastating embrace and it felt as though all the breath was being squeezed out of his body.
"And a voice said to him, "recite."
"And Muhammad said, "no, I am not a reciter."
"The voice again said "recite"."
And then squeezed, as he said almost beyond his endurance
Muhammad felt the first inspired words of a new scripture in Arabic pouring from his lips.
That is recite in the name of thy lord who created.
And Islam had come into being.
And the prophet of course having received the divine word began to tremble and tremendous fear because there's no common groundbetween the human reality and the divine reality When he ran out of the cave
When he ran out of the cave he looked back
and the Archangel filled up the whole of the sky.
Everywhere you looked there was Gabriel.
Not just a single angelic image but a presence, a being, a power.
This is how the ineffable incomprehensible, utterly transcendent, indescribable God makes itself known to us.
This was something that really shook him to the very core of his being.
And he goes down from that mountain and he is shaking.
And I think it's, it's shock.
Here is somebody who, who's gone Iooking for this transcendent reality and this transcendent reality is now replying.
Muhammad was so shaken by this experience, he feared he might be possessed.
He ran home directly to Khadija.
And there he flung himself into her lap and he said cover me cover me, hold me, until the terror had passed.
Khadija was the person who reassured him.
"He said, "have I become a kahin, a soothsayer?"
And she said No my dear this is not what God does.
This revelation comes from God.
The message Muhammad received on the Mountain of Light was simple:
He was to recite the words of the one true God.
But Muhammad still had doubts that his experience was genuine.
Khadija ah, thought it would be a good idea to go to consult her her cousin Waraqa who was a Christian.
She is saying, we need to go to somebody that knows about these things.
Because if you're told you're being given a message from God well, there have been previous messages.
So, let's go ask Waraqa. Who knows the scripture.
He knows, uh, the Torah and the, the Gospel.
And as soon as Waraqa heard about this, he immediately said Muhammad is the prophet ah who will bring the revelation of the one God to the Arabs and he warned Muhammad uh that he would have a really rough time.
He says, your people are going to reject you and they will chase you out of this city.
This has never come to any human being, except they were persecuted.
Because this is basically undermining the paradigm.
And after a while Muhammad began to realize that the messages he was receiving fit a pattern that he knew about from Jewish and Christian tradition as well.
And that is that there are such things as prophets.
There are people who receive messages from the divine and that he began to realize that indeed he was one of them as well.
When we think of prophecy we come from a tradition in America where we think of Charlton Heston, you know the great big beard and the winds always blowing.
And he's, wearing raggedy clothes and they're, and they're ranting people.
You know, they're ranting and raving.
In the Islamic view a prophet isn't this kind of person at all.
But it's the person who has been selected very reluctantly from his people.
God selected him and they couldn't get out of the clutches in a sense, they had to do it.
You have to think in terms of a tribal Bedouin society.
What is the worst thing that could happen to somebody?
It is not death. It is shame.
And so I am sure that in his own mind the idea of being shamed was probably very important.
I mean think of the double loss of face you know he's gonna lose face, he's gonna be shamed in front of his people.
He's gonna be shamed in front of Allah who gave him that message.
One of the drawing features to me as a non-Muslim who came from just a very diverse background was his humility. And his humanness.
Kevin James is a Supervising Fire Marshal in Brooklyn, New York who converted to Islam as a young man.
I felt a kinship to him also personally.
And there's probably about a billion Muslims who would say the same thing, personal this personal kinship that they feel with him.
Ah he grew up an orphan, now I'm not an orphan, I have two parents. But... my position in society, I've always felt, separate.
America is a racial nation. And... either you're Black, you're White, you're Italian, you're Jewish, you're this and that.
So coming from a mixed background, I've felt like, kind of, in limbo.
My father is Native American and African-American and my mother is Jewish.
They were very a-religious I would say to the point of being atheist or agnostic.
I recall as a child we'd get a Dreidel on Hanukkah, we had a menorah in the house and we also had a Christmas tree and exchanged presents.
So, I just never really identified with any religion but what was always emphasized was discussion and dialogue and seeking for the truth.
So I went through a period of trial and error searching.
And I stumbled, I guess, I almost literally stumbled on Islam.
What appealed to me was the universality of the message.
Any religion that gives a code of righteous ethical conduct and... respect and gratitude and obedience to one being, is Islam.
So, here's a book, the Holy Quran, that validates other religions the diversity of mankind and it puts the onus of salvation on the believer.
The Quran teaches you that the saving of one life is as if you've saved all of humanity.
And that's one of the reasons why I became a firefighter.
What more noble calling than that to save a person's life to save people, to save their property.
There was another fire in the back.
Okay. Yeah. So show me what you have.
From being a fire fighter, I became a Fire Marshall, that's an arson investigator.
That's another form of prevention, of saving lives.
I guess there's no doubt what caused this.
The fire fighter, he'll risk his life to save you whether you're Black brown, red, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Atheist.
He's not asking you what your philosophy is or looking at your color.
He's looking to get you out of the building.
That's why many people say that fire fighting is a calling, because of that self-sacrifice.
The willingness to just put others before yourself.
To be a good Muslim, you serve people.
And specifically, Prophet Muhammad he asked the question to people around him:
Do you love your creator?
Serve your fellow man first.
The message Muhammad had received from God revealed that his people would be held accountable in the next life for their behavior in this one.
Although Muhammad was initially reluctant to tell others about his experience a new revelation commanded him to make his message public.
So he calls all of his family members together and he says what would you say if I told you that there was this army waiting to attack us on the other side of that hill.
They said, we would believe you and he said what would you say if I told you and he said what would you say if I told you I'm a messenger from God.
They think it's absurd.
You, you called us together for this?
And he says, will no one support me in this.
And the only person is a, is a child Ali who is his cousin uh, gets up and says, I will support you.
And they, they think this is hilarious.
That this is, this is who is going to follow this prophet is, is a child.
Think about it, there is a man, a middle-aged man who doesn't know how to read or write, who has no wealth who is an orphan, yes he is from a very important tribe but he works for a woman, and he now says, I'm the Prophet.
God has spoken to me.
This is not going to fly.
The divine message that Muhammad brought to his fellow Meccans carried with it a sharp warning for their increasingly materialistic society.
He was coming to warn the people of Mecca and the surrounding countryside and his own tribe of Quraysh that unless they pulled themselves together and started creating a more just and decent society restoring the old tribal values of looking after the poor the orphan, the widow, the oppressed then there was going to be a terrible catastrophe.
The Arabs did not believe in after life.
They really thought that life ended with death and there was no resurrection there was no coming back, there was no reincarnation.
So now Muhammad is saying, you know that one God we spoke of?
When you are going to die, you don't just disappear.
But you're going to be accountable to that God for the good deeds and the bad deeds.
He was bringing a moral, ethical, social message to his people.
That we're all in the same boat before God and we must treat each other well with compassion and justice, and equity.
The revelation that Muhammad received on the Mountain of Light was only the first of many that he would continue to receive for the rest of his life.
The revelation does not come in a lump sum.
It doesn't just come down from heaven, here is the book.
Now go out and teach it to the people. No.
It is coming down slowly.
It's coming down as events unfold.
And it's explaining the events but it's also coming down in a way that he can absorb it.
Because the idea is that this thing is so tremendous.
This thing is so immense that it's not something that we can give you all at once.
This is going to take time.
He used to say that I never once experienced a revelation without feeling that my soul had been torn from my body.
The prophet could be sitting, he could be on horseback he could be walking, he could be talking.
He was suddenly seized by the divine word.
He would feel a great weight descend upon him.
He would sweat profusely even on a cold day.
Sometimes he said it would be like the reverberations of a bell.
And that he said is hardest for me, it's not the words that were coming.
But he would have to listen very hard for the meaning of what communication, divine communication was coming through.
After Muhammad received each revelation he would recite it to the people who were with him and they would pass it on to the community.
When the Prophet, who did not know how to read and write started revealing the words of the Quran they acquired credibility because of the very nature of the words spoken.
People would, would look at it, this is, my goodness this cannot be the words of a man. He could not have made this up.
The Quran is the most extraordinary beautiful discourse.
It doesn't come over in translation but the Arabic is extraordinary.
When the first Muslims heard The Quran many of them were converted to the prophet's message.
Not necessarily because of its content but because of its beauty.
That revelation was presented in a society where there were people who were professional memorizers.
They could hear something recited once and they could repeat it.
The recitation then by Muhammad was carefully preserved immediately in the minds of memorizers and in the minds of people who were able to write down notes.
What we now call the Quran represented the complete collection of those words that Muhammad recited when he said this is the revelation of God
All we have of the prophet and all we have of the word of God is actually words.
We don't have any pictures.
We don't have any statues.
All we have left is words.
We can take those words and through the art of calligraphy we can make them more vivid, more accessible.
For Mohamed Zakariya, words are the basis of an art form.
To prevent idolatry Muhammad discouraged the creation of any images of himself or other prophets.
Calligraphy eventually became Islam's highest art form.
Among the sacred texts Zakariya writes is the Hilya a portrait of the Prophet in words.
Transmitted from Ali, who, when asked to describe the prophet, would say:
His face was not narrow, nor was it fully round but there was a little bit of roundness to it.
When he looked at someone he looked at them with his face turned perfectly towards them.
Whoever saw him unexpectedly was in awe of him and whoever associated with him familiarly loved him.
Anyone who would describe him would say
'I never saw before him or after him the like of him.
"Peace be upon him.'"
That's the most famous of the Hilyas.
It gives you a description of the qualities of a person so that you can almost see them in your, uh, eyes, in your mind's eye.
I like to think it's like having a little memento of the prophet near you so that you can look at it and think of it now and then.
And of course, he's not with us, but the Hilya brings him uh, his presence a little closer.
Muhammad was always very insistent that he was not a divine figure and he always warned his followers not to do with him what the Christians had done to Jesus and put him on a pedestal and say that he was God or divine.
He was not, he was an ordinary human being and the Muslims have taken that seriously.
But what they do say is that Muhammad is the perfect man.
That if you look at Muhammad you can see how a perfect act of surrender to the divine had been made.
"Muhammad's message slowly began to attract followers;" especially among the downtrodden and the oppressed within Meccan society.
It's really the people that don't have anything, uh, to lose and everything to gain.
They are the ones that are responding to this message.
Many of the followers are poor people, slaves women that don't have protectors.
It's spreading amongst the disenfranchised of Mecca.
Prophet Muhammad noticed that he lives in a society that downgrades women.
They were viewed as second-hand citizens an object or personal belongings that belong to the man.
And that disturbed the Prophet.
Early in his prophetic career, Muhammad condemned female infanticide.
Later revelations would give women legal rights in marriage allow them to divorce, and protect their inheritance rights.
Of course, it's absurd and anachronistic to expect Muhammad to be a feminist in the 21st Century sense.
Uh, but nevertheless, what he did for women in the context of his times was amazing.
Although most women were second-class citizens in pre-Islamic Arabia Muhammad's own wife, Khadija, was wealthy and powerful.
There's been this idea that women prior to Islam were chattel that they had no rights.
And I think that for many many levels of the women, that is true, but for a certain level of woman, which Khadija would have been amongst that is not true.
Khadija is an inspiration because in spite of the male dominated society that she lived in, she was a working woman.
And so there are some parallels for modern women to to learn from her example.
I grew up in Kashmir which is in the foothills of the Himalayas, northern India.
And I came to America when I was 15 years old.
As I started becoming part and parcel of this culture and society I gravitated towards just wanting to be like everybody else.
And tended to stray away from my own faith.
And for awhile there I went through some very dark stages in my life where I wanted nothing to do with my faith and almost just walked away from my faith.
As I got older I recognized that there was this very empty hole inside of me.
So I started searching for God in all kinds of places.
You know Rumi has this beautiful story where he says I looked for God, I went to a temple, and I didn't find him there.
Then I went to a church and I didn't find him there.
And then I went to a mosque and I didn't find him there.
"And then finally I looked in my heart and there he was."
The challenges that I faced in my life are the very same challenges that a lot of young girls are facing.
And, when they come to me with their questions I feel like a person who has already traveled the road.
I dispense advice to them from real experience as to how I would have dealt with something.
I've noticed how when it comes to women we are only supposed to marry Muslim men.
Uh, why is that now?
Especially because the Quran says that believing men and women should marry believing men and women, it doesn't point out that men can marry such and women can't.
I've heard plenty of people say that in fact that's an interpretation.
Some of the issues are deeply personal ah issues with gender relations like dating and ah marriage.
And other issues have to do with you know certain Islamic law and how to reconcile with some of those things.
I want to exchange with her. See? Hers is prettier And these are all sticky wickets as we say.
The fact that I've walked the walk helps a little bit for me to dispense advice to these people.
In Mecca, opposition to Muhammad was growing.
His message of monotheism and his campaign against idolatry threatened the lucrative trade that fueled the Meccan economy.
The business of Mecca is to draw pilgrims to Mecca.
They want to make money.
And the way they draw pilgrims to Mecca is, people come visit their gods.
Well, here's somebody who is saying, these gods, they are not real.
They're stones, they're rocks.
You're wasting your time.
Now, that message has economic implications to the Quraysh.
They are worried.
This, this man is going to undermine our business.
In the tribal system Muhammad was protected by his uncle, Abu Talib so the Meccans went to Abu Talib and asked him to turn Muhammad over to them.
Abu Talib was in a difficult position.
He was not a Muslim.
But it went against the grain for him to simply hand over his beloved nephew to these people who would kill him with impunity.
So he took Muhammad to one side and said look don't do this.
Don't do this to us. Can't you just keep quiet?
And at that point the Prophet says if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand I will not stop preaching what I am preaching until this message is conveyed or I die conveying it.
And this is what he tells his uncle and at that point he begins to weep.
And his Uncle looks at him and realizes the depth of the conviction of this man and he says say whatever you want, you have my protection.
One of the things that the prophet Muhammad S.A.W. taught us was that it is our duty to try to correct injustices in the world.
If you see something wrong, change it with your hands.
If you're not able to, then speak out against it.
If you're not able to do that, then feel bad about it in your heart.
But that is the weakest form of faith.
Wherever possible the Muslim should try to take action.
And not let an injustice go by without calling it what it is, and asking for change.
What do we have?
The book's prepared for the week.
Dealing with change is part of Jameel Johnson's job.
As Chief-of-Staff for Congressman Gregory Meeks of New York he manages the congressman's schedule, and briefs him on policy issues.
The biggest problem with the bill is that there's the issue of discrimination using federal funds.
Because it's not like a private plan.
So you're telling me that you recommend a no vote.
I'm recommending a no vote.
As we had said in the beginning I'm gonna give you the technical part and what I think the issue is you take care of the politics.
Good deal... What else do we have?
My goal is not necessarily to simply seek votes or campaign money or to be accepted as a part of the game.
As Muslims we must seek justice, so what I try to do is educate.
In many cases the best thing that you are able to do with that kind of education is decrease prejudice and increase understanding.
If I practice my Islam on the job and do that without trying to interfere with anyone else's practice, whether they be religious or otherwise then I make it easier for the next Muslim that comes on board.
Especially also if I do a good job because then some of the prejudice, some of the misunderstanding goes away.
Johnson coordinates the Friday prayer service, or Jumah, on Capitol Hill.
It's grown since we started it, it used to be sometimes 3, 5, 10 of us.
Now there can be up to 40, 50 people. We're... busting out of the room that we're in.
It's kind of a re-energizing kind of refilling our fuel tank with faith again for the rest of the week.
The image of the messenger that gives us an example of somebody who is extremely successful as a head of state nevertheless he never had to compromise his integrity.
One of the most important things for a Muslim is remaining constantly in remembrance of Allah.
What we are commanded to do is that we make, formal prayer 5 times a day.
Because when you live in a society that constantly gives you acceptance and praise because of material things or achievement we need that constant remembrance of Allah in order to bring us back to the right path.
As some say, keeping our eyes on the prize.
And prayer is that remembrance.
Even though Islam isn't the biggest faith in America even though it sometimes is ridiculed the fact of the matter is that I can practice I can make my five prayers a day.
It was much harder for the Messenger of Allah S.A. W and his companions to do this.
The first Muslims faced a torrent of ridicule and abuse when they practiced Islam in public.
Attacked by crowds throwing stones they retreated to the surrounding mountains to pray in secret.
Many pagan families split apart when their children converted to Islam.
Finally, the leaders of Muhammad's tribe, the Quraysh decided that Harassment alone would not be enough to stop him.
The Quraysh, they see it as our honor is being threatened we need to deal with this.
This is the point where they begin to really increase their persecution they start sanctions on the house of Beni Hashim, which is the sub-clan of the Prophet Muhammad.
They begin to prevent them from trading, from transacting.
And that meant that basically they were being starved out.
They couldn't buy food, they couldn't do business.
Abu Talib ah was ruined by this.
The Hashim lived in one street and Muhammad and Khadija and the children moved into this street.
And this became a little Muslim ghetto.
And this leads to real hardship.
There's a period of time where according to the tradition they're actually eating from the leaves of trees.
Famine destroyed the fortunes of Muhammad's protector, Abu Talib, and his follower Abu Bakr.
The survival of both the clan and Islam were in jeopardy.
But for Muhammad the damage hit even closer to home.
Khadija, Muhammad's beloved wife, uh perhaps weakened by the privations, actually died.
And that was just a crippling blow for him.
Left him feeling alone and vulnerable and weak.
He would miss her all his life, I think.
Then the catastrophe happened that Abu Talib died.
Perhaps himself weakened by the deprivation in food.
Now without Abu Talib Muhammad was fair game for assassination.
And there's a terrible moment where he utters this heart breaking prayer saying oh my god I have no other protector but you, Allah.
And how was he going to move forward?
He'd done what Allah had told him to do.
He had proclaimed this message and all that he seemed to have done was stir up hostility and hatred.
Um and split his tribe down the middle this wasn't improving matters.
He must have felt an almost, a sort of a dark night of the soul.
He is at the low point of his mission.
He's been almost 13 years now in Mecca and the results are not, they are not impressive.
But at this point, at this low ebb he is now being prepared for the most extraordinary mystical experience of his prophetic life and that is what is known as the Night ascension.
The story goes that one night he was sleeping near the Ka'aba and he was woken from sleep by Gabriel who mounted him on a Buraq a magical steed and they flew from Mecca to Jerusalem.
And then he began an ascent.
Up through the seven heavens to the divine throne at every stage of the heavens he meets various prophets of the past.
He meets Abraham, he meets Jesus, and John the Baptist.
He meets Moses and finally he enters into the divine presence and there the sources are silent because when you enter into the presence of God you have gone beyond words.
And he receives from God, the highest form of knowledge and truth and many injunctions of the religion itself including the final form of the daily prayers Now all of this took place in a time beyond time.
That's why some sources say that as the door was swinging when he left, it was still swinging when he came back.
For later Muslims this also meant that the departure point that is Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock, became also important.
Many Muslims say that there are three holy cities in Islam:
Mecca, and Medina, the City of the Prophet, and Jerusalem.
When he comes back somebody asks him what have you been doing, he says I went to Jerusalem last night and this man says, you went to Jerusalem last night?
Are you willing to say that publicly?
So they assemble this group and they tell him, describe for us Jerusalem and he begins to describe it in very exact detail.
And they're shocked.
They don't what to make of this now.
The story of the Night Journey not only incited Muhammad's enemies.
It caused doubt even among some of his followers.
This is something that they hadn't really expected.
A journey that takes them a month to be made in an evening and to come back.
What Abu Bakr says is listen I believe that he's getting messages from God.
That is certainly more extraordinary than making a Night Journey to Jerusalem.
As Muhammad's relationship with the Meccans continued to deteriorate his enemies decided that the time had come to eliminate him.
And they decide to get a youth from each clan.
They all come together and they're going to strike him with one blow together.
So, the blood is distributed amongst all the clans.
Under cover of darkness the assassins surrounded Muhammad's home.
Inside a covered figure lay asleep.
As dawn broke, they prepared to strike.
But Muhammad had been forewarned about the plot.
He asked his cousin Ali whom he knew the Quraysh would not harm, to take his place.
By the time the assassins burst into his home Muhammad and his companion Abu Bakr had escaped into the desert.
With the Meccans in hot pursuit they set out on a circuitous route to the oasis settlement of Yathrib, 250 miles to the north.
For several months, Muhammad had been sending his followers there for refuge.
Now, he was about to join them.
Yathrib was quite different from Mecca.
It was an agricultural settlement.
People grew dates and they had farms and there were a number of clans and tribes living together in the settlement.
The settlement was engulfed in tribal warfare of the worst kind.
It was an example of where the whole system in Arabia was beginning to break down.
One killing led to another and nobody could seem to find a solution.
Nobody, that is, until the clans of Yathrib heard about the trustworthy Muhammad.
Hoping he could unify its warring factions which included two major pagan tribes and their Jewish allies a delegation from Yathrib had taken the dramatic step of inviting Muhammad to move to their settlement.
The deal is that he will serve as their binding arbitrator that is both sides to the conflict have agreed already that they will accept the arbitration of Muhammad whatever it would be.
The people of Yathrib vowed that they would take the Muslims on board as honorary tribesmen, they would be their protectors.
Anyone who hurt the Muslims, they would retaliate.
And the Muslims agreed to do the same.
This move from your tribe to join up with people who were of no kin to you at all was absolutely unheard of.
Muhammad was really going off into the wilderness here he was breaking every tie.
Doing something utterly shocking and novel.
When Prophet Muhammad was leaving he stood up on a hill and he was looking on Mecca and his tears were coming down out of his eyes.
And he talked to Mecca and he said God knows that I love you Mecca so much, but it is your people who are chasing me out.
In Yathrib, Muhammad's followers anxiously awaited the Prophet's arrival.
Had the man they hoped would save them been able to save himself?
Had the Meccans captured or even killed him?
When Muhammad finally reached the outskirts of the city his relieved followers rushed to greet him with a song Muslims around the world still sing 1400 years later.
Oh the wise moon rose over us from the valley of Wadan.
And we always do show gratefulness where the call is to Allah.
Muhammad's arrival marked the beginning of a dramatic new chapter in the history of Islam.
For the first time he would be the leader of a sovereign community based on Islamic law.
Yathrib would henceforth become known as Medina.
Muhammad arrives in Medina as somebody who was escaping danger.
He's been invited there but he doesn't know what to expect...
So at each stage of his life, there's a new challenge and obviously, new fears and new doubts.
And so, he started thinking in terms of policy.
In terms of strategy.
In terms of tactics.
And that's what ultimately made him into a statesman.
Because that's what statesmen do.
Now unlike Jesus, or the Buddha who seem to have been purely spiritual leaders with no temporal responsibilities whatever Muhammad found himself now head of state.
Having transferred the Muslim families from MECCA to Medina.
He now had to make sure they could survive there.
The survival of the fledgling community depended on its ability to defend itself against attacks from Mecca.
To respond to this possibility Muhammad developed a novel political solution.
He essentially establishes a pact, an agreement sometimes it's called the Constitution Of Medina.
Whether you were a Pagan or a Muslim or a member of the Jewish tribes or any other tribes in Medina you had to sign on to this pact.
And the pact established that if there were ever an attack on Medina from the outside all the inhabitants of the town would be responsible to defend the city.
This way, Muhammad really developed a revolutionary idea which was transcend your tribal responsibilities your petty particularism and begin to think in larger terms, as a entire community.
Now this was a very fearful terrifying time for Muslims but nevertheless it was seen as a creative time when faith was at its strongest.
It's a creative act for Muslims to look back at the Muslim community in Medina and try to apply the ideals to their own society so that they can reproduce something of the Prophet's original spirit.
I came here to this country and I came with a feeling that I left back in my original country in Iraq many memories many painful memories one of them that my grandfather as well as
13 members of all my family were persecuted and imprisoned by the dictator Saddam Hussein.
That reminds me of the agony and pain many early immigrants went through when they came to Medina.
Like many other Muslims who have fled persecution in their native countries Imam Hassan Qazwini, was drawn to America by the promise of religious freedom and economic opportunity.
He emigrated to Dearborn Michigan a community that boasts the highest per capita concentration of Muslims in the United States where people are almost as likely to speak Arabic as English.
Hijra, migration, it has a shining aspect for me.
As well as for the Prophet and his companions who came with him from Mecca to Medina.
And that shining aspect was the freedom religious freedom that they faced in Medina.
Muslims here in America, they feel they are more free in practicing their religion than many other Muslim countries.
In many ways this whole immigration process from Mecca to Medina very much parallels what's happened in my own city here in Dearborn, in our own backyard.
And I see it play out in the hospital where I work.
Najah Bazzy is a nurse at Dearborn's Oakwood Hospital.
She conducts training sessions to help bridge the gap of understanding between the hospital staff and their Muslim patients, many of whom are immigrants.
I know you're all nurses, and I know that you're in this profession, just as I am, to serve, to do a good job.
But it's real easy for us to get caught up in our own baggage.
We're all human and we all have a certain set of preconceived notions just as you walk through the door and you saw me for the first time, just as you might have seen Alijah.
In the sensitivity training inevitably, they know very little about the faith of Islam.
They think that the faith of Islam is a very maybe terroristic, militant, barbaric spread by the sword faith.
And so when they have a Muslim up there talking about patient rights, dignity, issues around health and illness, all of a sudden you see all of these stereotypes that people have as part of, you know, the baggage as we grow up, just kind of fall.
When you transcend culture, you arrive at a universal place where our humanness is all the same. You grieve the same.
We all cry when someone we love dies.
When we deliver, those of us who deliver, we all experience labor.
Something happened in Dearborn that further established a need for this kind of work and that was a huge immigration process as a result of the Gulf War.
As a critical care nurse, Najah Bazzy often has to counsel patients with terminal illnesses, like this Iraqi immigrant who has just been diagnosed with uterine cancer.
I said to her what do you think you have?
And she said I have an infection in the uterus and they took it out.
Maybe she's not hearing it the first time, maybe she doesn't need to hear it.
Maybe she can't hear it.
They're just not saying the "C" word at all.
They're not using that word with her.
And they want to just maintain hope, and uh ... just want to treat it delicately, okay? Okay. Alright.
Ok ..Thanks Salaam Alaykum
These are families immigrating from a way of life.
And mostly because they have been torn by war.
And so they get here and the helpers are here.
And it's quite obligatory to be that helper.
When Muhammad arrived in Medina, he made it clear that helping immigrants would be one of the cornerstones of the new Islamic society.
This is his message, spread peace, feed people food, and do some devotional practice and you will enter paradise without any trouble.
Two-thirds of that message is about other people.
The secret of Medina is it's a place where human beings are going to attempt to live up to the ideal of the Islamic tradition.
Part of the arrangement was that the people of Medina agreed that they would provide housing and support for the immigrants as they came in.
And very often they were even paired so that certain people had direct responsibility for specific people from Mecca.
And that did not take place in 24 hours.
It came step by step, step by step, and within a few months, you now have two groups the Helpers, so called, El Ansar, that is, those Medinan Arabs who had become Muslims, and the Meccans who had become Muslims before them.
And in this way, for the first time, he created the Islamic Ummah, that is, the Islamic people.
That bond which transcends all other bonds.
He said to these people, these are now your neighbors these are your brothers and sisters.
He establishes that sense of humanity, that Ummah.
We are all connected to one another, we are all responsible for one another.
A couple of you guys to carry to my car, ok?
There's a mosque in the heart of Detroit and it's run by an Imam who started a soup kitchen I want the kids to be able to see that that's part of Muhammad's message.
This is the exit right here. Hang on everybody it's a sharp turn.
Hajji is like not a good driver.
Listen, I'm a good driver.
This is the first test. If you can't pass this test the rest of it is off.
The majority of the ones that come for the soup kitchen are non-Muslim.
It's only about, maybe one or two people that are Muslim that come for the soup kitchen.
And we let them know that it's a part of who we are, as to why we're doing this.
It's a part of what God has commanded for the Muslims, for a human being to be charitable.
I'm studying to be ordained as a Catholic Deacon, so I had run into Abdullah when he made a presentation about Islam and uh...
I was really attracted to the works of this mosque.
I was never aware that there was an active part of Muslim faith life that really reached out to the poor. I wasn't even sure that it was part of your creed.
Abdullah went through misunderstandings that would commonly exist... he started with the term Black Muslim.
What does that bring to mind?
And honestly it brought to mind certain things that would make you fearful.
Certain kinds of maybe aggressive behavior, nationalistic kinds of thinking you know, as if we are going carve ourselves off from the others and have no fellowship.
He said if I tell you what the stereotypes are that I have of Catholics when you listen to them, you'll say oh those are extreme examples, those are not what we are about.
Dearborn is the place where the early immigrants of Arab, Lebanese and Middle Eastern people came and settled down.
This country embraced them and opened its door for them.
Yet they needed time to adjust and go through that difficulty they faced when they came to this country.
It's two different societies, two different cultures.
Najah and Ali Bazzy are raising their family in the suburbs of Dearborn.
Their children are third generation American Muslims.
We're trying to combine the best of both worlds and giving our kids the family values that our parents teach and realize that they live in, uh, you know, a land in the United States which has, you know, many opportunities for our kids to prosper in.
You still can't beat me. I'll beat you tonight.
Can you shoot five and 0? I can shoot 5 and 0 from anywhere.
5 and 0 anywhere? Right now? Let's go.
Like many Dearborn families the Bazzy's struggle daily to balance the sometimes conflicting demands of their faith and modern American society.
Their daughter Nadia, has decided to wear the hijab or head covering, that was first worn by Muhammad's wives.
Many Muslim women still wear the hijab as a sign of modesty and piety.
Well, we're gonna back you one way or the other.
That's a given.
Our daughter came to us and said, I made a decision.
And she's 16 now.
And she said, I've decided that I want to wear hijab.
The last time when you put it on, right?
You made me take it off.
No, I didn't make you take it off.
I sort of persuade you thinking, try and bring it out the other, end of the light of it, right?
And you resented me for that, correct?
I just thought maybe if you go through high school and then put it on after high school, that then if then, at least at that point in life, you'll be able to see what you want to do in life, and that.
Because you gotta understand something.
You know, you never know where you're gonna be and where you're gonna go in life.
I mean, it's, sure, this hijab is accepted in our community here, and, you know, you maybe do well.
And you end up being a doctor or a lawyer whatever, you'll be doing very well for yourself.
But look what just happened to you when you went down to Tennessee.
I mean, here you have her driving a bus and the state police trooper wants to stop over, we've got a whole bus full of people, because he sees hijabs.
I think for Nadia, he probably feels much like I feel.
There is great reverence for it, and then there's that that oh my gosh, I want to protect my daughter from the world.
I don't want people to think she's a terrorist.
I don't want people to think she's oppressed.
I don't want people to think I'm her father, I made her put that on her head.
All of those kinds of things come into play.
I don't think Baba is, you know, trying to hurt you here.
He's trying to show you a picture of the real world, and what you need to do is show him a real picture of your world.
He's a father, he has some legitimate concerns.
So my point is that you're still the same Nadia.
Ali, maybe she's not done talking to you.
You've talked to her.
Give her a few minutes and now let her talk to you.
Do you know that I'm, that I'm doing this for myself and for you?
Remember something. You're not doing it for me. You're doing it for yourself and God.
You're the one who has to answer to God.
So do you. I will answer to God. Don't worry about that.
I have my positives and my negatives in life and I will answer to God, don't worry about it.
Baba, all that I do is a reflection of you.
You're in good shape, then. You're in good shape, right?
So are we at peace?
I never knew we were at war
Muhammad also tells you that, you know you should always give what's best, uh, for your daughter.
And me as a father, I'm just trying to give my daughter the opportunity.
To be able to see, uh, life from a wider angle and a bigger perspective.
People would immigrate into different parts of the country, but what was interesting is that they would all manage to find their way into Dearborn, a great many of them.
And the reason for that is because the mosques were in place.
Dearborn's newest mosque will be the largest in North America.
Like the first mosque in Medina, it is being built with help from the entire community.
There's great feelings of ownership to the mosque when the community builds it.
People are baking food. Every year they contribute between
$50,000 to $100,000 to the income and the operating costs of our mosque.
So, we have the building of this mosque, kind of metaphorically and the laying of the bricks and this new foundation with all these new immigrants in Dearborn.
And everybody brings their contribution.
Prophet Muhammad established the first center in Medina for Muslims and that was his mosque.
And it was not only a place where Muslims go and do their prayer, or offer their supplication, it was the center for the entire community.
It was the headquarters of the Prophet.
He would become a judge and solve problems among people inside the mosque.
So he receives delegations, he would declare war or peace.
The mosque was serving multiple purposes in the life of Prophet Muhammad.
It was at the mosque that Muhammad discussed a sweeping change in strategy with his followers.
After years of exercising restraint in the face of persecution by the Meccans Muhammad received a clear new revelation that marked a dramatic departure from the past.
It gave the Muslims limited permission to take up arms in self-defense.
The statesman was about to become a general.
For 13 years, there's been no sanction to fight.
Then a revelation comes that says those who have been removed unjustly from their homes, and have been fought because of their religious beliefs are sanctioned to fight to defend themselves.
Killing is always abhorrent, the QURAN makes it very clear about that and the QURAN says that it's always wrong to start a war, to be an aggressor.
But persecution is worse than killing.
When people have been driven from their homes, or deprived of their basic human rights when an evil ideology comes into the world, sometimes regrettably, it may be necessary to fight and sometimes lives will be lost.
Muhammad's first large military engagement occurred near the town of Badr, when
313 Muslims set out to surprise a caravan from Muhammad's own tribe, the Quraysh.
In a sense, the battle of Badr, which became such a landmark in Muslim history, ah was a sort of mistake.
Ah, the Muslims had planned a conventional raid but the Meccans, when they heard that this band of renegades was attacking their great caravan were so enraged they sent out the whole army against them.
And the Muslims were convinced that they were going to die.
He never wanted to fight the Meccans.
I mean, the Meccans are his people, uh, his, his friends, his family.
He wants to co-opt them, he wants to make them the key, if you will to the new Islamic Ummah that he's trying to form, so he doesn't want to go to war with them.
As he prepared to lead the Muslims into battle, Muhammad took the unprecedented step of establishing clear rules of engagement for his army.
He makes it very clear to his soldiers that if they have the right to use force against the Qurayshy that does not mean that they will do the same thing that has been done in pre-Islamic wars.
In which women and children could be killed in which no prisoners could be taken, no quarter given.
He said Islam is a religion of law.
The Meccans had sent an army of about 1,000 men.
As the army approached, Muhammad prepared to make a stand near a well.
One of his soldiers suddenly questioned his strategy Has God revealed it to you? he asked, "Or is it your own opinion?"
When Muhammad answered that he was speaking as a man, not a prophet the soldier suggested that they stop at a larger well closer to the enemy, so they could deprive them of water.
Muhammad agreed at once.
The change in strategy proved decisive, and the Muslims recorded a resounding triumph.
It was a victory that stunned the Muslims.
It seemed like a complete reversal, like a miracle.
Almost a sort of revelation of God in history.
A Furqan, they called it.
Something that separated the just from the unjust.
After the battle, Muhammad received a revelation claiming the victory for God.
The Muslims felt that angels had been fighting alongside them.
The victory reaffirmed their belief that God was on their side and raised Muhammad's status higher still.
But his followers also knew that the Meccans would seek violent retribution.
A year later, an army of 3,000 Meccans returned to face 1,000 Muslims in the battle of Uhud.
The resulting rout left the future of Islam in mortal peril.
It was a horrible battle.
And the corpses of the Muslims were mutilated by the Meccans.
And the Meccan women, as was their wont came out onto the battlefield and danced around the corpses.
Sixty-five of Muhammad's soldiers lost their lives in the battle including a Rabbi who had honored the Medina Pact by fighting alongside Muhammad.
The families of the fallen Muslims were now without protectors.
Then, Muhammad received a new revelation allowing Muslim men to safeguard these women and children by taking as many as four wives, but only if they could treat them equally.
That, in itself, in the context of Arabia, was a bit of a restriction because a man could have unlimited number of wives the context of the permission to polygamy is to say who is going to look after these women.
It was an act of faith, not an act of lust that inspired men to take more wives.
So, it would be wrong to think of the Prophet as basking decadently in the garden of sensual delights with his harem.
His harem was very much a matter of state and sometimes his wives were rather a mixed blessing.
Although Muhammad was monogamous during Khadija's life, after her death he eventually married a number of women including one of the Uhud widows, Umm Salama.
The reason for his marriages were really political alliances.
It was a tribal society, and for Muhammad to marry into another tribe and take a wife just meant that there was a bond being created with this tribe.
Among Muhammad's wives were the daughters of his two closest allies Abu Bakr and Umar.
Abu Bakr's daughter, Aisha, would become one of the most influential women in his life.
Aisha was very lively. She was, uh, brilliant.
She was somebody that questioned the prophet.
She was not somebody in any way that um took everything, she questioned him.
She said, what does that mean?
Uh, why did you do this, why did you do that?
Um, she was somebody that really had a, an incredibly active mind.
She memorized vast amounts of prophetic traditions, and she's considered to be actually, the transmitter of a large number of, uh, traditions from the prophet Muhammad.
In the year that followed the battle of Uhud, the Meccans girded themselves for a final assault that they hoped would finish off the Muslims once and for all.
They assembled one of the largest armies ever seen in Arabia and marched on Medina.
But Muhammad hit upon a daring defense.
Muhammad has dug a trench around the whole of the settlement.
And you have an almost comic scene with the Meccan cavalry galloping up to this trench, and pulling back in horror, and saying what is this?
They've never seen anything so unsporting in their lives.
This is something, they say, the Arabs don't do.
It sounds comical but surrounded by the powerful Meccan army the Muslims were expecting all to be killed, to a man, to a woman.
Stopped by the trench around Medina, the Meccans laid siege to the city and to the hundreds of Muslim families trapped inside.
According to the Muslim sources, in their determination to defeat Muhammad, the Meccans had recruited as allies many Bedouin tribes as well as the largest Jewish tribe within Medina, the Bani Qurayzah.
For the Muslims, this defection was the final blow in a relationship that had been strained from the beginning.
When Muhammad came to town the organized Jewish community did not accept his prophecy.
There were, according to the Islamic sources some individual Jews that did accept him but for the most part the community as a whole did not.
If the Jews would accept his Prophethood, then he has tremendous and complete confirmation of his Prophethood.
But the Jews were so well respected that when they rejected his prophethood and they did it actively they became a very serious political threat to his very existence in Medina.
Despite the aid of the Bani Qurayzah the Meccan siege could not break through the Muslim defenses.
When the weather turned bad and as the Bedouin tribes began deserting the field of battle the Meccans themselves lost heart and departed abandoning their Jewish allies to be tried by the Muslims for the crime of treason.
Islamic sources believe that the Jews did indeed aid the enemy in trying to defeat Muhammad.
This was absolutely against the terms of the Medina agreement.
The Jews and the Muslims decided that they would choose an arbitrator to determine what would be the future of the Jews.
The person who was chosen was a man who was mortally wounded in the Battle of the Trench.
And so he determined that the women and children of the Bani Qurayzah would be taken as slaves to the Muslims, and the men would be killed.
The Prophet agreed with this judgement.
When he judged he said that you have judged according to God and his messenger.
And then, uh, approximately 700 men uh, were killed. Uh, they were executed.
So, this definitely occurred.
All that can be said is that, this cannot be seen as anti-Semitism, per se.
Muhammad had nothing against the Jewish people per se, or the Jewish religion.
The QURAN continues to tell Muslims to honor the People of the Book.
And to honor their religion as authentic.
And the Jewish tribes who had not rebelled who had not given help to the MECCANS continued to live in MEDINA, completely unmolested.
Muhammad was not trying to exterminate Jews.
He was trying to get rid of very dangerous internal enemies.
It's unfortunate that many historians and particularly in contemporary times both on the Jewish and on the Muslim side, uh, have transformed this.
On the Jewish side, they have used that as a way of saying well, you see, the Muslims hate the Jews and they kill them.
And, and on the Muslim side, it says well, you see, the Jews are full of treachery and can't be trusted.
Both are wrong.
When the other tribes of the peninsula saw the impotence of Mecca with all its power and might against this little community they began to switch allegiance and see that Muhammad was the coming man.
Now once that happened, once the tide had been turned after the battle of the trench, and the Muslims were no longer subject to the fear of extermination Muhammad stopped the fighting.
The Prophet Muhammad received a few people militants who just arrived from one of the battles that they came back from and, they felt so important that we finished this job fighting with the enemies of Islam.
And the Prophet smiled and he said let me tell you something.
You finished the minor Jihad and now you have the bigger Jihad ahead of you.
And they were stunned.
They thought that they just finished the biggest achievement in their life by being willing to sacrifice their own life.
And the Prophet explained that the biggest Jihad is the struggle against your own desires and limitations.
Jihad does not mean holy war, primarily.
The word means effort, striving.
And it's always a hard struggle to put the word of God into practice.
When the Quran talks about struggling or they're not talking always about fighting a holy war they're talking about this immense struggle to implement a divine imperative in the flawed and tragic conditions of daily life.
Fighting might sometimes have to be done as part of the Jihad but it is by no means the major imperative.
I remember a quotation from Jesus, peace be upon him(PBUH) who says that the first step in the reformation journey is to start with your own self.
If you want to reform the society you have to reform yourself first.
And that was basically the meaning of Jihad.
The Prophet put that emphasis on inner development.
Jihad, the constant struggle with yourself, to improve yourself and perfect your intent.
That you do things only for the sake of God.
The most excellent Jihad, Holy struggle, is the struggle to control your ego, the self.
For a long time I was deathly afraid of speaking in public, of giving speeches.
And I saw that and I, well, this my Jihad, I've gotta overcome this fear.
If I'm gonna help people, it's gonna be necessary for me to talk in public.
To be able just to speak out.
And going back to 1987 I had become active as far as writing articles for papers to have fire safe cigarette legislation enacted.
Cigarettes are the largest cause of fire fatalities in the nation.
So, I began writing and because of my position I could speak from the authority as a fire fighter and, and now a Supervising Fire Marshal.
Going back to if you save one life it's like you saved all humanity.
Well I feel I was part of an effort to save thousands of lives each year because of this legislation that we passed in New York State.
Jihad is misused.
There is absolutely nothing in Islam that justifies, uh, the claim of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda or other similar groups to kill innocent civilians.
That is unequivocally a crime under Islamic law.
Acts of terror violence that have occurred in the name of Islam are not only wrong, they are contrary to Islam.
September 11th, I hooked up with two other fire marshals.
We found a place to park near the bridge, about several inches of soot.
If it had been white and colder out, you would have sworn it was snow.
We came over the Brooklyn Bridge, uh it was just like something out of a movie.
It was very quiet, you know, that muffled sound that you have during a blizzard you know, where you can't hear your feet hitting the ground, it's just very muffled very quiet.
So we put on our turn out gear and we started heading over there.
And it's just, I think I could speak for all of we were just all in a state of shock and disbelief.
I just felt, oh, in the back of my head, please don't be Muslims doing this.
And I just felt ah, I just felt sick.
We could see this fragment of the World Trade Center sticking up almost like a lopsided crown.
Then we started walking down one way and we saw some fire fighters, you know dazed and shell shocked, saying don't go down there there's still more collapses happening.
I mean, we were dying to go out there and do something.
And, you know, we're figuring that some of the brothers or even anyone, you know, people could still be alive, trapped under the rubble.
But, we just, it was frustrating, but, I mean you have to understand that they don't want to lose more people on top of the people who are lost already.
This is just, I mean, it was just out and out madness what they did.
The Prophet himself in the course of the circumstances engaged in battle in warfare, but he had a certain code of conduct that he followed.
So, you have to separate fanaticism, which every religion has from the reality and the truth of that religion.
These are fanatics who have lost sight of what the purpose of religion is and they're acting, you know, on their own.
What hurt me probably most of all, out of the World Trade Center attack was that here is a religion that I entered because of the universality.
And the tolerance that is throughout the book and throughout the sayings of Prophet Muhammad.
Yet, these people who did that and were behind it and planned it were just so intolerant and so disregarding of their own tenets that they could do something so horrific and kill people in such a horrible manner I was hurting because that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach After you do all this work and you try so hard now you'd have to deal with this and the Prophet says "If you're planting a tree and the end of world comes you finish the tree"
It means you keep on going, you gotta keep trying to live your life according to what you believe in and for me and others trying to keep this from ever happening again
September 11th, underscored the need to have dialogue with non-Muslims and other faiths to understand each other and to try to resolve these hot spots that fester and cause this type of hatred.
Uh, the death and destruction in New York City that was caused by this terrible, terrible act in the name of Islam has propelled the Muslim community in New York to respond in many different ways.
And one of the ways that I want to respond is the way the Prophet would have responded.
To just talk about the humanity which we all belong to.
Since September 11 Muslims have gone to churches to synagogues, to schools to explain our faith.
However, people still kept asking where are the Muslims and why aren't they doing something about it.
So I started thinking about this and I said, what is it that we are not doing right?
Maybe we need to respond in a more gentle way.
So I looked around for the mildest people in our community.
The artists in our community.
And the first person I called was Mohamed Zakariya.
Catastrophes have brought us here, but not all is lost.
Uh, through our art, we pick up all these broken pieces and try to put them back together again and make something that's gonna work.
Revenge, suicide bombing, things of that kind they have no place in Islam.
They must never have a place in Islam, never.
Islam is really a soft thing, it's not a hard thing And so we have to approach it with softness, and be soft to each other.
(Arabic) the Prophet said.
Make it easy and not difficult.
So we should put away all those angry words the harsh, the strident rhetoric that that we have been dealing with for all these years that we've suffered through this sweet religion with this beastly stuff.
And come out into the light, and be bright.
Be bright in America.
And look in the mirror, that's what we have to do.
This piece is the golden rule of Islam.
It is the basis of the relations between people It means that there is no harming of other people in Islam and no returning or retaliating harm for harm.
And so that's why I did it.
To respond through the sayings of Muhammad the man.
By the year 628, the battles that had occupied the Muslims for the preceding four years had come to an end.
Once the Muslims were no longer fearing the threat of total extermination Muhammad knew that the time for fighting had stopped.
And it was now time to make an extraordinary initiantive a peaceful, nonviolent initiative.
He astonished the whole Muslim community and the whole community of Yathrib by announcing that he was going to go on the Hajj pilgrimage Dangerous as it was, an enormously risky as it was about a thousand Muslims volunteered to go with Muhammad.
All the rites were fulfilled to the letter.
The camels all decked in their special sacrificial garments.
The men all in their white garb.
The Muslims set out on the perilous trip to Mecca crossing the vast desert without any arms to defend themselves.
When they reached Hudaybiyah, just outside the sacred area around Mecca where violence was forbidden Muhammad surprised his followers not to enter, but to sit and wait.
He then sent an emissary to Mecca seeking permission to complete the pilgrimage.
Muhammad knew of course, that he was putting the people of MECCA into a really impossible position.
Because if they forbade Arabs, to enter the city and perform the rights of the Ka'aba they would be abusing their position as guardians of the holy places.
The MECCANS themselves did not know what to do.
When the emissary did not return quickly, the Muslims feared the worst.
But Muhammad's gambit paid off.
The Meccans offered to negotiate a treaty.
With tensions running high Muhammad began dictating its first line by stating his own name.
Ali was taking down the notes with the MECCAN negotiator at his side and when Muhammad began to saying the Prophet of God, the MECCAN saids, I don't believe you are the Prophet of God I can't sign to that.
So he said fine, Muhammad, Son Of Abdullah.
And many of the Muslims felt that this was a major insult.
The Muslims, sitting around Hudaybiyah watched this in utter dismay.
There was almost a mutiny.
A thousand pilgrims stood, refusing to accept this.
Muhammad went back into his tent where he had his wife, Umm Salama.
And he said to her, what shall I do?
And she gave him some excellent advice part of the ritual of the HAJJ was that you sacrificed a camel.
And he went out and he sacrificed one of the camels and somehow some kind of necessary tension was released.
The ritual sacrifice of an animal traditionally marked the end of the pilgrimage.
Grudgingly, the Muslims considered the pilgrimage complete and headed back to Medina.
Muhammad had compromised on every major point in the treaty.
But he had won the most significant concession.
In return for postponing their entry into Mecca for a year the Muslims had secured ten years of peace and official recognition as a political entity.
Muhammad had proved himself as capable a diplomat as he was a religious leader.
There was wisdom in the treaty because one of the things that was promised to the Muslims was protection as they moved throughout Arabia.
That they would not be harmed and they could move freely.
And what was gained most greatly from that was the dauwa, the teaching of al-Islam.
On the way back to Medina, Muhammad told his companion, Umar I have received a revelation which is dearer to me than anything else beneath the sun. it said, "Surely", "We have given you a clear victory."
Then more and more and more people came to Islam more and more people turned to Muhammad.
It sent out a huge signal of strength.
Strength of purpose, utter courage, utter panache, and utter wisdom that, of course you could go on to fight of course he could have gone on being the prophet with the sword but there are times when to make peace is more daring more creative, and more enduring.
One year after signing the Hudaybiyah treaty, Muhammad led his followers on a new pilgrimage to Mecca.
After years of rejection, persecution, and humiliation this was truly a moment of triumph.
The first pilgrimage of the Muslims after Hudaybiyah must have been an extraordinary event for everybody.
Because the MECCANS couldn't bear it.
They decamped and went and sat up in the hills and mountains outside the city, and watched this procession, huge procession of Muslims, and some of their confederates coming on the HAJJ, and as it were, taking possession of the city crying out the pilgrim cry, here I am, oh, God, here I come, in a huge cry.
Then came the moment Muhammad had waited seven long years to achieve.
Muhammad sends Bilal, an African ex-slave this lowest of the low in the eyes of the Meccans up on to the sacred shrine of the Ka'aba what the Meccans regard as their shrine to deliver the call to prayer.
And the hills around Mecca are granite.
They're set up for a sonorous voice.
And the call to prayer resonates through the valley.
Bilal was proclaiming for all to hear, there is one God and Muhammad is his Prophet.
It must have been an appalling moment for the MECCANS.
But an extraordinary moment of exhilaration for the Muslims.
Performing all the rites punctiliously and then taking no advantage of this, going back peacefully home.
But the peace between the Muslims and the people of Mecca would not last.
By the end of the year, the Meccans had broken the Treaty of Hudaybiyah by attacking a clan allied with Muhammad.
In response, 10 days into the holy month of Ramadan Muhammad and a Muslim army of 10,000 men set out to take Mecca by force.
The Prophet felt he was strong enough to be able to conquer MECCA.
But as the army approached the city, more and more leaders of the Quraysh realized that they were not going to win, and so many decided to join Islam.
The prophet entered the city without resistance.
When he came into Mecca he came in with his head bowed down.
He did not come in as, as, as an arrogant conquering warrior.
He comes in humbled by a victory that he sees is from God.
After circling the Ka'aba seven times Muhammad destroyed each of the three hundred sixty idols that surrounded it.
He then turned to the vanquished Meccans who had sought refuge inside the shrine.
His own brethren, who had oppressed and attacked the Muslims for so many years.
He says, if you were in my position right now, what do you think you would do and the Meccans are afraid they're about to die.
And then he says, you are all pardoned.
He grants them all amnesty.
And this was unheard of in this culture, unheard of in this society.
And very unexpected among the Meccans.
The religion that had begun in ridicule and persecution was now thriving throughout the Arabian peninsula.
But shortly after returning to Medina, Muhammad received a premonition of his death.
He told his daughter Fatima that every year during Ramadan the angel Gabriel recited the Quran to him and asked him to repeat it.
This year Gabriel had asked Muhammad to recite the Quran twice.
I cannot but think, Muhammad said, that my time has come.
In February 632 Muhammad made what would be his final pilgrimage to the city of his birth.
On his first pilgrimage, he had led a few hundred Muslims back to Mecca.
This time, tens of thousands of believers followed in his footsteps.
He arrives in Mecca as the leader of the Muslim people now, not as the enemy of the Meccans.
And they begin to perform the rites of the pilgrimage.
And during this period Muhammad defines the rites of pilgrimage as they're performed today.
Michael Wolfe has written extensively about the Hajj the traditional pilgrimage which every Muslim is expected to perform at least once.
Two to three million Muslims from around the world travel to Mecca every year for this five day ritual, which takes them in the footsteps of Abraham the ancient patriarch from whom Muslims, Jews, and Christians all trace their lineage.
In 1990 Michael Wolfe, a convert to Islam, took part in his first Hajj.
The Hajj was one of the most attractive elements in Islam to me as a non-Muslim and then as a Muslim.
When I finally became a Muslim after 20 or more years of thinking it over the first thing I wanted to do was make the Hajj.
When I circled the Ka'aba for the first time, I was in a state of wonder.
You're there with ten of thousands of people, all doing the same thing at once.
You're literally putting God at the center of your life.
For that period of time.
At the culmination of the Hajj, on the Plain of Arafat on a small hill called the Mount of Mercy, Muhammad gave his final sermon.
Here is a man who began his mission as this individual in Mecca, persecuted, with with almost no followers, and his life is completed with a valley filled with tens of thousands of people, uh, that have accepted his message.
And, and there he is, preaching to them his final sermon.
And in it in a sense is a summation of this universal teaching.
He tells them to be good to each other, and not to violate each other's rights.
For men and women to treat each other humanely, for brothers and sisters to treat each other well, and for Muslims to treat each other as brothers and sisters.
And perhaps most importantly, he calls an end to revenge, to blood killing to the vendetta which has bled this culture terribly since he was born.
At the end of Muhammad's sermon, he does not list his achievements.
This man has unified people.
He has taught them monotheism.
He has brought them to peace.
And yet he doesn't mark these as his accomplishments.
Quite the opposite, he asks his community
"Have I fulfilled my mission"
"To my God, and to you?"
You can hear in his words the desire for a completed mission.
This is a man of faith who is unsure of his affects.
It's a very human moment in which he needs to know, and he asks and the people affirm that yes, three times they say, yes you have fulfilled your mission.
This, was not a leader who was looking for his legacy in time.
It wasn't for any purpose other than to make sure that when he was going to face his maker, he was going to be accountable.
And he was, he would be in a position of saying Allah, I did the best I could.
And, and I hope I was successful in doing it.
Uh, and that's all what we can do as human beings.
I think that if I were to say that I hope to exemplify any part of Prophet Muhammad's life it would be the issues around the dignity near the end of life.
He's a good friend of mine and I know he knows my voice.
And now I know for sure he knows my voice.
I'm visiting Mr. Hamoud, who is a patient that's terminal.
When he was not in the condition he's in now, he was very delightful very loving and very much wanting to tell his story so we'd sit and listen and talk for long hours and he'd give me all his history and his past, so we're very bonded.
Um, he's slipped into a more terminal stage, meaning less responsive.
Well he responds, he's just unable to speak.
Prophet Muhammad has taught us that near the time of death, the holy Quran to hear is soothing, very soothing to the soul.
And since it's a part of our lives on a daily basis anyway we derive great comfort from the hearing of the Quran.
While I'm stroking a head or I'm speaking softly I say the things that I think Muhammad would say.
Prophet Muhammad has taught us that we don't even understand, we could never comprehend the value of taking care of the ill or providing for the dying maintaining their dignity.
And I believe that that's my mission, to be the helper, to be the listener to be a comforter in many ways.
The Prophet knew that death was coming he had an indication that he would not be around for much longer.
Muhammad had been feeling ill. He'd had some fever.
It was clear that he was in real difficulty in terms of his health.
And the household seemed to be convinced that Muhammad was dying.
And while he was on his deathbed and there were many who surrounded him, especially his close companions and his family he called for silence around him.
And he wanted it to be a time of quiet and of peace and of calm.
Embraced by the community he had founded in Medina and cared for by his wives and companions Muhammad died peacefully on June 8th, in the year 632.
The news of his death shocked his followers, especially Umar who believed Muhammad would outlive them all.
People began to hear the Prophet is dead.
Umar went to the center square and started to say there are hypocrites and liars who are saying that the Prophet is dead.
In the midst of this chaos, Abu Bakr reminded the Muslims of a verse from the Quran that had first been revealed after the battle of Uhud when they feared that Muhammad had been killed.
Abu Bakr, comes into this scene of pandemonium.
And he immediately, uh, stands up and says whoever worshipped Muhammad, uh, then know that Muhammad is dead.
But whoever worshipped God, know that God lives on and never dies.
And so, suddenly these people are brought to their senses that indeed that Muhammad is, is a man.
And men are mortal.
And, and this is his legacy.
He, he did everything within his power to prevent himself from being worshipped.
Because he recognized that that was a danger inherent in religious tradition.
That the object of worship becomes the messenger, and not uh, the one sending the message.
Prophet Muhammad was a man, he was flesh and blood who brought one of the most eloquent revelations to mankind.
He's set an example to mankind through his behavior, through his actions, a living example.
This is a legacy that he has left for Muslims.
Muhammad's legacy is obviously the seed that he planted.
It is his righteousness, his honesty, his integrity his model as uh as a political leader, his model as an individual a man who has uh made great accomplishments in his time and yet who didn't let the successes uh overpower him didn't let his ego get the best of him.
He remains, I think, more than anything else a great role model.
Muhammad is the kind of person who combines political and military and social and religious and intellectual dimensions of life in ways that are important for those of us in the 21st century who are struggling to put together complete lives ourselves.
If I were to have met Prophet Muhammad on the street, I feel like I would know him.
And as though he would know all of us.
The beauty of it is, we live our lives through his examples, but he's not God.
Our reverence is to God.
And our reference is to him.
So how I walk, and how I speak, and how I carry myself and how I treat my husband, and how I treat my mother and my father and how I behave as a sister and a daughter and a nurse and a friend and a neighbor that's all prophet Muhammad in action.