Ayyaz Mahmood Khan
Writing a biography on any individual is indeed an arduous task. Human beings are multi-faceted creatures. Therefore, doing justice to the story of any one person’s life requires an author to not only undertake a broad study into the stories and events that have shaped their life, but also delve deep into their personality and character so that insofar as possible, a true reflection may be portrayed in writing.
When the biography in question is about a man dubbed the most influential of personalities in history and who changed the course of the world as we know it, the task at hand becomes all the more formidable. Yet, it is this very task, which Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad Sahib, may Allah be pleased with him, set out to undertake when he began writing his magnum opus Sirat Khatam-un-Nabiyyin (The Life and Character of the Seal of Prophets), an extensive biography on the Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, spanning three volumes and hundreds of pages.
There is a plethora of biographies written on the life of the Holy Prophetsa, so what should make this one by Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra any different? Hazrat Khalifatul Masih II, may Allah be pleased with him says:
“I have reviewed much of this book and have also given my own suggestions. I believe that of all the biographies that have been published about the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, this book is the finest. This work also reflects the knowledge that we have been blessed with from the Promised Messiah, peace be upon him, and it will, God willing, make our efforts to spread the message of Islam much easier.”
Although there are many biographies on the life of the Prophetsa, the distinctive feature of this magnificent work is that in analysing the events of the Holy Prophet’ssa life, the Holy Quran and the six authentic books of Hadith have been given the place of a judge.
Where other Muslim historians have liberally taken historical accounts from the compilations of Ibn-i-Hisham and Ibn-i-Sa‘d – even inauthentic ones – Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra has not blindly accepted every narration, simply because it appears in a book of history. In fact, he systematically and methodologically scrutinises the authenticity of every narration before including them in his work as facts, and he does this on the basis of the Holy Quran and other authentic narrations.
Therefore, in view of this, we will find that where other historians have had to take an apologetic stance when faced with a “so-called” event that took place in the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra is gifted with the ability to easily dissect these so-called events and prove, without a shadow of doubt, that the incident did not even occur in the first place, and if it did, the extent to which its relevant details, as recorded in books of history, are accurate.
Additionally, another salient feature of his work is that it is a perfect balance between in-depth scholarship of the highest academic level and simple, easy to follow storytelling. The captivating mastery with which Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad takes us through the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, in this book is truly unparalleled. One feels as if they have been transported into the streets of Mecca as the Holy Prophetsa conveys his message of love and peace to the Quraish, or perhaps onto the battlefield of Uhud as a handful of companions guard their master like a shield in the face of arrows and swords.
The deep love and eloquence with which Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra tells this riveting story of the life of the Holy Prophetsa can bring one to tears as the heart begins to race as perilous events with all their suspense reach their climax. If ever a book could be as visually captivating as a film, it would be this book. Yet, this vivid storytelling does not take away from the academic value and scholarly nature of this book; and it is this very fusion which makes this literary masterpiece unique.
This book is not only confined to the biography of the Holy Prophetsa but also describes the environment and times in which the Holy Prophet lived. In this respect, Hazrat Mian Sahib states himself that this book is perhaps better described as “The History of Islam” then merely a biography. As such, wherever Western scholars have raised criticisms in an attempt to expose Islam’s so-called “dark history” or where orientalists have levelled allegations against the Holy Prophetsa himself in order to malign his character, the esteemed author has valiantly responded to all of these accusations in a most logical, eloquent and well-evidenced manner.
These rebuttals are truly compelling and not mere passionate responses as one would expect from a religious apologetic; they are academic, well-reasoned and quite simply, irrefutable rebuttals.
Even as decades have gone by it appears that the allegations against Islam and its Founder remain the same. Whether they relate to the age of Hazrat Aishara when she was married to the Holy Prophetsa, or about the Prophetsa “mercilessly executing 700 Jews”, all of these objections have been responded to in this book with ample evidence and compelling argumentation. It is often alleged as a major point, even today, that the Prophet of Islam married the young Aishara when she was only six years of age, against her will. The author has demonstrated through concrete evidence and authentic hadith that this was definitely not the case. In this respect, Sirat Khatam-un-Nabiyyin is as relevant and topical today as it was when first penned.
The book also deals with other enlightening and scholarly discussions on issues that relate to Islam, such as the incidents of the me‘raj (the ascension of the Prophetsa into the heavens), Jihad, polygamy and Islam’s view on slavery, to name a few.
A large majority of Muslim scholars believe that the me‘raj was a physical event in which the Holy Prophetsa of Islam flew to up into the heavens on the back of a winged-horse and ultimately had audience with God in the highest heaven. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins often highlight this “scientific impossibility” and mock at how foolish religious people are.
Unfortunately, since most Muslims do believe in this event to have taken place literally and physically, they are often unable to respond to this criticism. However, in this work, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra has established, in light of the Holy Quran and the Hadith, that this was a spiritual experience and explains that the Holy Quran categorically deems the me‘raj to be an experience that was seen by the “heart” of the Prophet, and not his “eyes”. In doing so, the author very eloquently dismantles a powerful argument used by atheists to attack religion at large. He demonstrates through this discussion and elsewhere in the context of miracles, that Islam does not believe in fairy-tale stories that clearly contradict science and reason.
Many of the things that a vast majority of Muslims believe to have occurred literally, are simply dreams, visions and spiritual experiences that take place in a realm that is beyond the physical. Moreover, miracles are nothing more than a timely culmination of various laws of nature in a manner that brings about an extraordinary result – a result that is beyond the power of man to create.
He explains that Islam is a religion that believes in God to be the Creator of the universe. His words cannot contradict His acts. If God’s words form the basis of scripture and religious teaching, then science constitutes His actions in the world around us. But the question is, can humans claim to know all the intricacies of the law of nature or even all the laws of nature themselves?
In his eloquent discussion on the concept of slavery, Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him, outlines the meticulous care with which Islam promotes the good-treatment of slaves. He highlights that Islam was the only religion to put in place a proper system for the manumission and freedom of slaves.
He also elaborates on the wisdoms behind not releasing all slaves at once. He points out that since slavery had existed for generations upon generations, if all slaves had been released at once, though this would have given them an apparent freedom to move as they please, they would have been left to suffer a “freedom of famine” (as Martin Luther King puts it), with no way to support themselves economically and socially. And so, Islam did not simply release all the slaves in Arabia at once with a single proclamation, as was done in America – only to leave them helpless and without economic support.
On the contrary Islam sought to first train, and uplift slaves as human beings through the loving care of their Muslim guardians, before releasing them the perils of the world, so that they would not only be able to work for themselves but also support their families. And practically, history bears testimony to the fact that while the slaves of America were released but not given the opportunity in society to uplift themselves, the slaves released by Muslims under the guidance of the Holy Prophetsa and the teachings of Islam rose to the greatest heights and in many cases even outstripped their masters, becoming generals, teachers, scholars and leading figures in politics and government. So, while in the past, slaves have been freed, it was only the Prophetsa of Islam who truly liberated slaves.
In any case, this book is a gem which shines to enlighten readers at various levels and in various subjects, irrespective of their academic background. It is a must-read. Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad, may Allah be pleased with him states:
“O Allah! Make it so by your grace that your servants read this book and benefit from it, and follow in the example of your Chosen Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, to attain your pleasure.”
May Allah the Exalted accept this heartfelt prayer of Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmadra and continue to reward him immensely for this loving and valuable service to the religion of Islam and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Amin.