Education through Simplification

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Information taken from 'Sealed Nectar' and adapted.
Click on image to enlarge.

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This is the amazing event mentioned by Allah Ta'ala in Surah Feel:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِأَصْحَابِ الْفِيلِ
أَلَمْ يَجْعَلْ كَيْدَهُمْ فِي تَضْلِيلٍ
وَأَرْسَلَ عَلَيْهِمْ طَيْرًا أَبَابِيلَ
تَرْمِيهِم بِحِجَارَةٍ مِّن سِجِّيلٍ
فَجَعَلَهُمْ كَعَصْفٍ مَّأْكُولٍ
Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the People of the Elephant? 
Had He not turned their plan into nullity? 
And He sent upon them flying birds in flocks
throwing upon them stones of baked clay
 and thus He turned them into an eaten-up chaff.
How the event unfolded:

Yemen was under the rule of Hiyar. Their last king Dhu Nuwas cruelly burnt alive around 20,000 Christians [the event is mentioned in Surah Burooj].

Two Christian men managed to escaped. They fled to Syria and took refuge with Caesar, emperor of Syria.

To avenge this cruel act, Caesar wrote to Najashi [Negus; King of Abyssinia] as he was closer to Yemen. Najashi sent two governors with him: Ariat and Abraha bin as-Saba'h, along with a huge army of around 100,000.

The army invaded Yemen and conquered the country. Dhu Nuwas tried to escape, but was drowned in the sea or committed suicide.

Abraha and Ariat fought each other until Ariat was killed. Abraha was appointed the commander of the Abyssinian army in Yemen, and the governor.

In Yemen, he built a luxurious cathedral called al-Qullays. The purpose was to honour Negus and divert Arabs from Ka’aba. It was huge and tall so that a person standing at the bottom was not able to see the top. He decorated the structure with gold, silver and other precious gems.

The Arabs, whether Qahtani or Adnani, were enraged and infuriated. One night, A Kinani Arab entered the church and defiled it. According to other narratives, a nomadic tribe halted near the church and started a fire for their own needs. The wind on that day was blowing violently and the cathedral caught on fire and sustained much loss.

When Abrahah found out, he swore to march to the House of Allah in Makkah and destroy it stone by stone. He asked for Najashi's permission. He sent for him a special elephant whose name was Mahmud. It was unusually huge in size and powerful in strength the like of which had never been seen before. The king of Abyssinia sent in eight more elephants as reinforcements for the army. 

The Yemeni Arabs raised an army under the command of Dhu Nafr.  Abraha defeated them. This was due to Allah's will that no humans should protect His House and His intent to expose the enemy to embarrassment and venerate the Sacred Sanctuary to the highest degree. Dhu Nafr was taken prisoner.

The army continued on its way until it came to the settlement of the Banu Khath'am tribe. Their leader, Nufail Ibn Habib, led his tribe but they were defeated and Nufail was taken prisoner. Abrahah and took him as his guide to Hijaz.

At  Taif, the people of Thaqif wanted to pacify him and were  afraid that he would demolish their temple of idol Al-Lat. They did not resist him and sent a guide by the name of Abu Righal.

When they arrived in Al-Maghmas, near Makkah, they settled there. This was the pasture where the camels of the Quraish grazed. They captured two hundred camels of 'Abdul-Muttalib.

Abrahah then sent emissary Hanatah Al-Himyari to enter Makkah and bring to him the leader of the Quraish. He did not come to fight with the Makkans unless they stood in his way. Abdul-Muttalib replied: "By Allah! We too have no desire to fight him, nor do we have the might to do so. This is the Sacred Sanctuary of Allah built by His friend Prophet Ibrahim. If He wills to prevent Abrahah from pulling it down, He will protect it. And if He allows him to approach it, by Allah, we have no means to defend it."

Abraha was impressed with 'Abdul-Muttalib who had the most handsome, charming and attractive personality. He descended from his throne and sat with the latter on a carpet on the ground. He then said to his interpreter to ask him: "What do you need?" 'Abdul-Muttalib replied to the interpreter: "I want the king to give back my two hundred camels which his soldiers have taken from me." Then Abraha said: "When I first set my eyes on you, I admired you greatly and had great respect for you. But all that is now lost. You speak only of your two hundred camels while you fully well know that I have come to tear down your Ka'bah which is the embodiment of your religion and the religion of your forefathers. You did not even say a single word to persuade me to spare it." Abdul-Muttalib calmly responded: "I am the owner of my camels and am concerned about them. I am not the owner of Allah' House. The Master of the House knows how best to protect His House." Abrahah rudely rebuffed: "Your God cannot protect it from me." Abdul-Muttalib: "Then do as you like or [take your chance!]"

'Abdul-Muttalib took his camels and ordering his people to leave Makkah and seek shelter at the top of the mountains. He held the metal ring of the door of Ka'bah and  implored: "We have no strength to face the army of Abrahah. So, Oh my Lord! Defend Your Ka'bah."

Abraha mobilized his army, and they turned the elephant towards the Ka'bah. Nufail whispered in its ears:
"Return safely where you came from, because you are, verily, in the Sacred City of Allah. They are taking you to destroy Allah's house." Thus, it knelt and didn’t go forward. They cruelly tried striking it with large iron spears and putting iron arrowheads in its trunk,  beat it on its head with axes and used hooked staffs to pull it out , but it refused.

So they turned it towards Yemen, and it rose and walked quickly. Then they turned it towards Syria, it walked fast. Then they turned it towards the east and it walked briskly. Then they turned it towards Makkah, it knelt and sat down again.

Some flocks of birds (unusual which were never seen before) smaller than pigeons, and their claws were red in colour, were seen coming from the sea. Each bird carried three pebbles of the size of gram seeds or lentils, one in each claw and two in its beak. They flew over the army and pelted them with the pebbles.

It tore directly through the body and settled deep in the ground. Elephants fled in panic, except one which was destroyed by the pebble.

Some were destroyed then. Others died excruciatingly on their way back. Two of Mahmud's drivers remained in Makkah, but both of them became blind and paralyzed. Sayyidah Asma' says that she would see the two blind and paralyzed men begging in Makkah.  Abu Yaksum got all the way back to Najashi but the bird followed him and killed him no sooner had he finished recounting the incident.

Allah Ta’ala afflicted Abraha with a deadly disease. A kind of poison spread thoroughly through his entire body and caused every single part to decay - his limbs began to rot and separate from the rest of his body and he started losing one finger after another until his heart protruded out. He had said that he would destroy Ka’aba brick by brick. 

When the incident occurred: 

It occurred approximately 50-55 days before the birth of Nabi Muhammad [upon who be blessings]. 

The event is known as an Irhaas. This means a miracle that happens prior to a Prophet becoming a Prophet. It is a prelude and indication to the people that a Prophet is soon to be born.  

This event secured in the hearts of the people, the esteem of Quraish and the Ka'aba. 

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The land was split into many parts. The most important and famous being:
  • Hejaz/Hijaz
  • Najd
  • Tihama
  • Yamama
  • 'Asir
  • Hadhrmaut
  • Rub'ul Khaali
  • Najran
  • Yeman
  • Uman
  • Bahrain
Can you spot them all? [Enlarge images by clicking on them to view them properly.]

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Introduction to Seerah

Before we study anything in life, we must ask ourselves 9 questions:

What is the definition of the subject?

Seerah comes from the Arabic word ‘Sayr’ which means to walk. ‘Seerah’ is the way someone walks. This means the way they live their life; their biography. Seeratun-Nabi means the biography of Nabi Muhammad صلي الله عليه وسلّم. It is shortened to Seerah as this is the most important biography!
The traditional name for this subject is ‘Maghaazi’. This means battles, as it covers the major struggles and battles in Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم’s life. This name was used during the time of the Sahaaba and Tab’ieen. Another name is ‘Shamaail’ which means description. This covers the physical description of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم and his habits.

What is the subject material?

The subject covers the life of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم, both before and after Prophethood. In order to fully study the Seerah, it is also important to study the lives of those who he interacted with and the history of the people and time he was sent in. Therefore, we study not only the life of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم but also the lives of his companions and enemies.

Who is the founder and what is the history of the subject?

The founder of this blessed science is Allah Ta’ala himself! In the Qur’aan Kareem, He Almighty, mentions events from Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم’s life numerous times. As Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم and his companions lived their lives, verses were revealed to guide and console them.

The companions of the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم were the human founders of this science. They reported everything they heard him say and everything they knew about him.

Their methods of transmission were two:
1.  Oral/Spoken
2.  Written

In the early stages of Islam, transmission of knowledge was mainly oral. This is because the Arabs had a phenomenal memory and had no need to keep a recorded copy, but also because most of them did not know how to read or write.

However, some literate Sahaaba had compiled books of Hadith that they heard from Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم. Also, the Tabi’een started recording in written form whatever they learnt from the Sahaaba. In this way, we have millions of Hadith from the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم recorded in the Books of Hadith as they passed from teacher to student and so forth.

What are the sources of the subject?

The life of the Prophet was taught as a separate subject from the time of the companions. Imam Zaynul Aabideen [great grandson of Nabi] mentions, ‘we were taught Maghazi like we were taught the Holy Qur’aan’.

As for the earliest written book on Seerah:
Hadith of the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم were recorded in book form but in the early stages most Hadith compilations contained Hadith pertaining to various topics. There were, however, certain Sahaaba like Sayyidina Sahl ibn Abī athma who recorded Maghazi separately. 

There were Tabi’een like Imam Muhammad Zuhri [Passed away: 124 AH] who actively collected and compiled Hadith pertaining to Seerah.   

His student Imam Muhammad ibn Ishaaq [Passed away: between 150–159 AH] is known to be the first person who recorded Seerah in a book form. His book may not have been the first book on Seerah but it received acceptance and fame in the Muslim community and is the foundational and most important Seerah biography. May Allah Ta’ala reward him abundantly. 

Though his book does not survive in its original form, the edited version survives. Imam Abu Muhammad Abdul Malik ibn Hishaam [218AH] edited the book and removed some unreliable transmissions. This is the most famous Seerah biography.  

Other early famous Seerah are those of Muhammad Al-Waqidi [207AH] and Imam Muhammad Ibn Jarir Tabari [310AH]. 

Note how these Seerah scholars have Muhammad in their names. SubhaanAllah.

What is the ruling regarding studying it?

Studying Seerah is Fardh Kifaayah. This means that it is not compulsory for every individual to study it but a group in a Muslim community must study it, otherwise the whole community will be sinful. However, it is mandoob/mustahab and encouraged to study it, and will aid in the completion of Imaan and love of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم.

Why are we studying it?

Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم said,Actions are only according to intentions, and to each is only what he intended”.

Seerah is studied by the enemies of the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم and his lovers too. Yet, one is punished for trying to find faults in Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم’s life whilst the other is rewarded with Jannah for learning about the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم. It is therefore, important to clear our intentions before studying.

The first and foremost reason we are studying it is to please Allah Ta’ala. How pleased He must be when His beloved is mentioned! The more intentions we make, the greater reward we will attain. 

To inculcate love of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم in our hearts
To learn the Qur’aan and Hadith
The gain the companionship of Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم in Jannah
To appreciate our religion
To learn patience
To learn gratitude
To learn humility
To improve Akhlaaq
To gain knowledge
To spread knowledge
To pass time wisely
To gain solace
To understand the times
To purify the heart
To learn Arabic
To soften the heart
To learn correct ‘Aqeedah
To recite Durood Shareef
learn through others’ mistakes
To gain intersession of Nabi
To see Nabi  صلي الله عليه in dreams
To follow the Sunnah
To increase in Imaan
To increase in intelligence

How should one study it?

It is common to study Seerah by going through a chosen text book. The students are given a certain amount of pages to read before the lesson. The teacher then teaches the material in the allocated pages during the lesson. There is question time after the lesson. Students are given tasks and research to do for homework, other than reading. There are 3 stages to studying:

1.       Mutaali’ah = Pre-study
2.       Dars = Lesson
3.       I’adah = Revision
What are its benefits?

There is nothing but benefit in studying the subject. Its benefits are innumerable; the greatest one is success in both worlds. If one truly studies it with Ikhlaas [sincerity], one’s life will change for the better. Many are blessed with the vision of the Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم in their dreams, after studying his Seerah.

How can it be applied in our lives?

The Prophet صلي الله عليه وسلّم’s life should not be studied merely as a point of interest. Rather, in every event from his life, morals can be deduced. It is our goal is to act upon these morals. When we study in the Seerah that something was liked or recommended by Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم, we should rush to perform it. When we study in the Seerah that something was hated or warned by Nabi صلي الله عليه وسلّم, we should rush to avoid it.

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Note: The poster did not make any of these. The credit goes to those who made them.