Issue 100 / July - August 2014
Return of Grace
Question: The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was an epitome of generosity, full of grace for others. Could you further expound on the contributions of his generosity and benevolence to the overall mission he represented?
Grace is a very significant feature of the Prophet's character. In fact, whichever characteristic of him we may consider, he was able to make the best out of them so that all of his efforts paid back many times as much. Grace relates to his benevolence, generosity, and unselfishness. While these terms are differentiated from each other by tiny nuances, they all indicate the same point. The Prophet was taught by God, thus his character developed with the morals of the Divine, which he practiced so well that He did not waste even an iota of it. Then, God Almighty returned the results of that divine morality, but with a multiplied amount. The Prophet, as being the Pride of Humanity requires, has surpassed all people - and even the angels.
In fact, this is not something reserved to him exclusively. That is, whatever someone grants on the way to God's contentment shall return to him/her a multiplied amount. Many of the verses of the Qur'an state this fact very clearly: "Whoever comes to God with a good deed will have ten times as much" (6:160). Yes, if a person does a unit of goodness, God Almighty shall multiply that goodness by ten and return it to him/her. This is the least degree of divine favor. God Almighty sometimes multiplies by hundred or thousand. It depends to a certain extent on one's depth of sincerity. He may multiply even by thousands, in accordance with the depth that that particular person subjectively loads on that particular practice of worship. Still, depending on the particularity of certain days and nights, or on the degree of altruism and unselfishness of that person, and on the firmness of his/her association with God, God Almighty may grant him/her a million times more. In sum, something like that may happen to every single person. However, the Prophet, we can confidently argue, benefited from this potential in full and made the best out of it to the last drop.
Grace is one's being locked on or knotted around benevolence, or that one's nature is completely engaged in doing favors to others. Actually, this emotion is shared to a particular extent by any human being. However, some people dull this emotion, whereas some others enhance it by a life-long process of practice. When they do this, the path of grace becomes the main road for them. By this way, they live their life always as a devotee radiating around pearls of grace, without straying in any other direction.
Due to the heavy mission he was loaded with, God favored the Prophet immensely from the very beginning. Parallel to the magnitude of this load, his nature was equipped with kernels that were able to shoulder this weighty task and responsibility. Nonetheless, he improved those kernels and extended them beyond expectations. By means of His all-covering divine knowledge, God Almighty had taken into consideration that the Prophet was going to give his willpower its due in the future, and bestowed him, at the very beginning, grandeur exceeding all other creatures.
Grace covers his character of benevolence as well as his capacity to be blessed with wonders - as he gave away in charity, God bestowed upon him His favors. As each of these incidents also served to endorse his messengership, they can certainly be considered miracles. Indeed, miracle is defined as something wonderful created by God through the hands of a prophet, particularly aimed at the confirmation of his prophethood. The Prophet's nature, peace be upon him, was already prepared to welcome such wonders.
Grace and generosity have been among the key features of praise throughout history. It is reported in a story that Prophet Abraham owned a herd of livestock, and he had shepherds and dogs to attend them. When some angels, according to the story, could not reconcile his mission with this extensive wealth he owned, God told them to test Abraham. Angels visited Abraham in human form, and when they came close, they praised God, saying, "You are All-Glorified, All-Holy, the Lord of angels and the Spirit," and they made sure Abraham could hear their prayer.
Each single one of these words were chosen precisely in the name of the glorification and sanctification of God. The true value of chosen words in a poem can be appreciated by true poets and experts of oratory; similarly, the very fine selection of these words would certainly be appreciated by Abraham, whose conscience was able to perceive the situation. Therefore, once he heard the angels verbalizing that utterance of glorification, he almost lost himself and said: "what a beautiful expression! Please say it once more; I will give you one fourth of this herd in front of me!" And when they did so, he offered them half of it for one more utterance. And when said it once more, he declared "I am a slave of yours, together with my shepherds!" As you see, if wealth is firmly connected with that kind of feeling, it becomes a vital support, instead of opposing the post of prophethood.
Prophet Muhammad, too, peace and blessings be upon him, was blessed with wealth through Khadijah, his beloved wife, who was a reputable businesswoman. Nevertheless, by the second or third year following the advent of his call, they had nothing to eat. That huge fortune had almost melted for the sake of mission, spent on banquets to win the hearts of people, or to decrease the tension of conflict. But at the end, that huge fortune was used up. It was consumed to the point that the Pride of Humanity started to bind stones on His belly in order to rid himself of his hunger. You see, this generosity and grace inherited from Abraham was not something unfamiliar to the people of Mecca. And, any member of this city used to have a share from this grace, in accordance with their personal position. However, no single soul was in a position to compete with the grace of the Prophet - even before his prophethood. Indeed, God's Messenger was the final and the most inclusive fruit of the tree of Abraham. He inherited almost the whole grace of Abraham. This grace increased after the prophethood, and God's Messenger became an embodiment of grace and generosity.
Especially during Ramadan, as Aisha stated, God's Messenger was like winds of grace and abundance; he used to give away everything he could to the people around him. For God's Messenger, accomplishing the exalted mission God Almighty had loaded upon his shoulders was a blessed ideal, even an ambition. God Almighty modified and consoled him in the Qur'an by saying, "Yet, it may be that you will torment yourself to death with grief" (18:6). However, he never gave away his wealth in vain; in contrast, he appreciated doing so on the way to God's contentment. He scattered whatever he was endowed with like seeds scattered on soil, and every single grain he scattered became an everblooming flower.
The devotees of today, who are striving for the good of all humanity "so that others may live," are in no different a situation, as they may be considered as inheritors of the prophetic mission. These inheritors should behave in exactly the same way as the Prophet, who revived the character of generosity and grace in His own era and elevated it to its zenith. Taking him as a role model, we can invest all the resources God has given us in education, without wasting a penny. Yes, our generosity has brought about, and will bring about, results that are vitally important for the future of humanity, and so valuable as to be worth all sacrifices.