On the birthday of an orphan who became a head of state – Part I – Prof. Afis Oladosu
An orphan? Yes. Who was he? No. The question should be- who is he? I see him as a text living context. Thus I prefer not to refer to him in the past since he still talks, by affiliation to the Quran, in the present. I prefer to refer to him in the present because his legacies make all allusions to him in the present a categorical imperative.
In other words, though he died close to fifteen centuries ago, Muslim’s existential realities show that he did not actually die. Rather, he lives on in the hearts of billions of Muslims and on the tongues of a countless number of creatures of the Almighty who celebrate his shining patrimony and strive to emulate, based on correct knowledge and understanding, his exemplary legacy. “ Think not of those who are slain (died) in His path are dead, so says the Quran, Nay they are alive finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord” Quran 3: 169.
Thus when I say: who is the orphan? When do I ask the question who is the orphan who became a head of state and the leader of a civilization? It is with the decided agenda to remind you of the known, the unknown, and the unknowable. To those who properly understand his message among Muslims, Prophet Muhammad is known. To those who are ignorant of the core messages of his vocation but who are only emotionally attached to him, Muhammad is unknown. To those who use the negative exteriorities and realities in Muslim life all over the world as evidence of his message, Muhammad is unknowable. His full name is Abul Qasim Muhammad b. Abdullah b. Abdul Mutallib b. Hashim b Abdul Manaf b. Adnan. His mother is Aminah, daughter of Wahab. He was born on Monday; he was commissioned into Prophethood on Monday; he left Makkah on migration (hijrah) to Madinah on Monday; he arrived Madinah on Monday; he placed the black stone on its present spot in the Kaaba on Monday; he died on Monday.
Prophet Muhammad’s birth and the saga of his growth as an orphan and eventual success in life is meant to be a lesson for and to all. His birth is a reminder to Muslim parents of today who usually work with the thinking or assumption that their presence is sine qua non for the success of their children to have a rethink. There you had a child whose father, named Abdullah, lived until the moment he delivered the “seed” in the womb of his wife, Aminah, before he transmitted to the great beyond. The other unspoken moral here should not be lost on us- live every moment of your life as if it the last; know that it is good to be important in life. Be aware that it is more important to be good and be God-conscious.
Yes Aminah, the Prophet’s mother, also received the “seed” as a trust and nurtured it to maturation. She gave birth to and nurtured the young Muhammad till such a time the infant could be separated from the womb and the bosom that bore him before she departed this world. Again, Amina’s life and that of her dead husband become signifiers – parents are agents in the hands of the unknowable scheme of the Almighty; we are puns – children and their forebears- in the chessboard of our Creator.
In other words, children who see their parents on a daily basis easily forget their creator; they shout and chorus at every moment; “My daddy, my mummy”! But those who have no parents to call take solace in their recourse to the Almighty on a permanent basis. Thus while the former shouts “My daddy! My mummy!” the latter constantly say: “Ya Rabb! Ya Rabb! (My Lord! My Lord!)
In other words, by coming to the world intestate, the whole life of Muhammad (s.a.w) is designed to teach what none other the Almighty can teach. When Muhammad lost his mother at six after having lost his father while he was in the womb, we are reminded that it is a privilege for us to be there, to be “daddied” and “mummied” by our children: the child would attain to his destiny with or without the intervention of his parents!
Again, Prophet Muhammad was born as an heir to a prophetic tradition, the apogee of which was Prophet Ibrahim (upon him be peace and blessings of the Almighty). From Prophet Ibrahim down to Prophet Ismail down to Abdullah, father of Prophet Muhammad, a certain light of excellence, the gravitas of moral rectitude, was inherited from one to the other. In other words, the “seed” from which Muhammad emerged and the womb that bore him were of the purest stock. Put graphically, the womb that bore Muhammad never played host, prior to her marriage to Abdullah, to the chemical-genetic fluid of the fornicator. Humans often desire to reap where they do not sow; some men desire to marry virgins even as they go about the cities defiling women. They often assume, and erroneously too, that they can come to equity with soiled hands! Do you desire to have righteous children in life? Yes! But consider whether you have led a righteous life all through. It takes an Ibrahim to bear an Ismail; it is but an accident in history that the son of Prophet Nuh (a.s) refused to take a ride on the Ark just before the deluge descended on the earth.
Oladosu is a Professor of Middle Eastern, North African and Cultural Studies, Dean, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan,
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