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The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him


Do not direct your eyes longingly to what We have given certain of them to enjoy, the flower of the life of this world, so that We can test them by it. Your Lord´s provision is better and longer lasting Surah Taha: 131

The natural disposition of man is that if he is given a choice to live an austere life in which he has few material comforts and not a lot of possessions and wealth, he would inevitably choose the life of a king; but one person in this life, when he was given these two choices, chose an austere life with few material comforts instead of having a lot of possessions and wealth!

Yes… it was the master of asceticism, an example for the people, may Allah send prayers and blessings upon him. Allah sent an angel to him to ask him to choose between being a Prophet king or a slave Messenger. The angel said to him (peace be upon him), as Ibn Katheer recorded in his tafsir of the Quran,

<‘If you wish, I will give you [treasures] from the stores of the earth and keys [to riches] no Prophet before you has ever been given or will be given to anyone after you. And all of that will not decrease what Allah has kept in store for you at all. Or if you like, [it will be kept for] both [treasures] to be given to you in the next life.’

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied,

‘Keep them both for me in the next life.’

So Allah (Gorified is He) revealed His saying,

Blessed be He who, if He wishes, will grant you better than that: Gardens with rivers flowing under them; and He will grant you Palaces Surah Furqan: 10 Tafsir of the Great Quran

Another narration states,

and said,

‘Oh Muhammad, your Lord sent me to you.” The angel continued, “Will He make you a Prophet king or a slave Messenger?’

Gibrael said,

‘Be humble in front of your Lord, Oh Muhammad.’

So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

‘Of course, a slave Messenger’>

related by Ahmed

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was given the choice of having much in this life and this not decreasing anything that Allah has kept for him in the next life and being a slave Messenger, and he (peace be upon him) chose to be a slave Messenger. He made this choice only because of his wish to not indulge in this temporary worldly life and keep away from its luxuries hoping for the everlasting rewards in the next life.

There have been many reports and incidents that indicate the asceticism of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with regards to this worldly life, choosing what Allah has stored for him in the next life. One of the clear proofs of this include:

What made the Prophet (peace be upon him) chose asceticism when, if he wanted this worldly life, he could have had it?

The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his home

Truly, a person is amazed by what the scholars of the Prophet’s biography have described about the Prophet’s home and the little that was in it. It did not have anything that attracts one’s eyes of furniture and the like.

‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) entered upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) one day and saw him (peace be upon him) resting on a mat which had left marks on the side of his body. ‘Umar then looked at the Prophet’s cupboard and saw only a small amount of barley there, about four round handfuls of it, and another small amount of leaves in another corner of his room.

And as a result, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

‘What makes you cry, Oh Ibn Al-Khattab.’

I replied, ‘O Prophet of Allah, why should I not cry when this mat has left a mark on the side of your body, and I do not see anything in your cupboard but [the little] I see. However, Caesar of Rome and Khosrau of Persia live surrounded by fruit and rivers, and you, the chosen one, Oh Messenger of Allah, have the stores I have just seen.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied,

‘Oh Ibn Al-Khattab, don’t you like for them to have this life, but we have the next life?’

I replied, ‘Of course.’>

related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

And in another narration ‘Umar said,

<‘Oh Prophet of Allah, do you not want a bed which is better than this?’

The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied,

‘I have nothing to do with this world! The parable of me in and this world is nothing but like a rider who is travelling one summer’s day so he takes shade under a tree for an hour of the day and then moves on, leaving it (the tree)’>

related by Ahmed

The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in all his matters and circumstances.

[Muhammad was not a man who had worldly desires, despite of what he has been unfairly and harshly accused of, accusations that would be difficult and unjust if he was actually a man of desires. He was not concerned about any worldly desires at all. In fact, he was as far as he could possibly be from having worldly desires. Truly, his asceticism is clear in his home, food, drink, clothes and all others matters and circumstances in his life. His normal food was bread and water, and sometimes months passed and there was no fuel to light a fire in his house]

[Thomas Carlyle].

[Scottish author, satirical critic and historian].

The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his food and drink

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to have just enough food and drink to be able to live. If we contemplate on the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him), considering how he lived, we would notice something amazing; he (peace be upon him) remained hungry for long periods of time, not finding anything to eat although he was the chosen one, the Messenger of Allah. Abu Hurayrah said,

“The family of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not eat their fill for three successive days until he died.”

related by Al-Bukhari

Another example of his asceticism and meager possessions is that they could not light a fire in their home for months on end. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) told ’Urwa about this, saying,

“We used to wait for the new moon once, twice, three times: three new moons covering two full months, and there was no fire in the Messenger of Allah’s house to cook [food].” ‘Urwa asked, “What sustained you?” Aisha said, “The two black things i.e. dates and water, except that Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) had neighbours from the Ansar who had some milch she-camels and they used to give the Prophet (peace be upon him) some milk from it, and he used to give us some to drink”

related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

A poor lady and her children entered upon Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) one-day complaining that they were hungry, but there was nothing in the Prophet’s home except one date. Aisha gave it to the woman. The woman divided it among her children and did not eat any of it, and then got up to leave. The Prophet (peace be upon him) entered and Aisha told him what had happened. He (peace be upon him) said,

Whoever suffers difficulties for their daughters, it will be a barrier for him from the hell-fire related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

Another time, some guests knocked on the door of the Prophet (peace be upon him). At that time, the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not find anything to offer them, so he sent a messenger to his other houses, asking his wives if they had something to offer. However, he did not find anything at any of their houses but water. Therefore, he sent a messenger to his Companions asking them to offer something to his guests.

related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

In fact, the situation reached the extent that he used to tie a stone around his stomach because he was so hungry

[classified as authentic by Albani in his collection of authentic hadiths].

‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) also saw the Prophet suffer from pangs of hunger, not finding even a poor quality date to satisfy his hunger. He then noticed the luxuries that the people had at that time and so said,

“Indeed, some days the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) used to remain hungry all day, not finding even a bad date to put in his stomach”

(i.e. a poor quality date)

related by Muslim

Prophet Muhammad’s noble qualities

One day Fatima came with a piece of barley bread, so the Prophet (peace be upon him) ate it. One of the Companions said,

“This was the first bite of food your father has eaten for three days”

related by Ahmed

These were the circumstances of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his family until the last day of his life. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) said,

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) died and there was nothing in his house that a person could eaten but some barley grain”

related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

She also said,

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) died [in a state of] being unable to satisfy his hunger with bread and oil twice in [any] one day”

related by Muslim

Does asceticism contradict with enjoying the blessings Allah has blest you with? State proof to support your answer.

The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with regards to his clothing

With his ability to own the most expensive clothes, he chose to abstain from wearing such garments. Abu Burdah (may Alah be pleased with him) entered upon Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her). She took out a coarse garment and Mulabbada [rough textured] wrap, then said,

“The Prophet’s soul was taken when his only possesions were these”

related by Al-Bukhari

Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

“I was walking with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he was wearing a Najrano cloak with a thick border.”

related by Al-Bukhari

One of the Companions was walking in Madinah when a man said,

“Lift up your wrap in order to avoid physical and spiritual impurities.”

The Companion said,

“I looked [to see who was talking] and saw that it was the Prophet (peace be upon him),

so I said to him,

‘Oh Messenger of Allah, it is [just] a simple wrap (it will not make me proud).’” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“Am I not an example for you [in how I dress]?” I looked at him and saw that his wrap reached the middle of his shin

related by Nisa’i

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“Oh Allah, make me live as a poor person, die as a poor person, and resurrect me with the poor on the Ressurection Day” related by At-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah

Does the concept of asceticism in Islam contradict pursuing worldy benefits and a person taking care to look presentable? State proofs to support what you say.

The asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with regards to money

People usually love money, but the asceticism of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with regards to money was amazing! Abu Thar (may Allah be pleased with him) said,

‘It would not please me to have gold equal to the mountain of Uhud unless nothing of it remains with me for more than three days, (due to giving it out as charity)

not even a single Dinar of it, except something I keep to repay debts…’

He (peace be upon him) continued walking and said,

‘The rich are in fact poor (with little reward) on the Resurrection Day, except those who give [their wealth] here, there and everywhere, on their right, left and behind themselves. But such people are few’

related by Al-Bukhari

When some people talked about the distribution of the booty, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

“I have only one fifth of the booty [Fa’y], and this one fifth is returned to you”

related by Abu Dawud

That is, the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not take for himself the fifth which was his right of the booty. In fact, he used to give it away to the Muslims in charity! Despite all of this, his tongue did not stop asking for his state of poverty and ascetic life to continue. He (peace be upon him) used to supplicate his Lord, saying,

Oh Allah, provide the family of Muhammad with just a bare subsistence related by Al-Bukhari

‘Umar ibn Al-‘As said when he was preaching to the people in Egypt,

“Your way of life is very different from that of your Prophet (peace be upon him). As for the Prophet, he was the most ascetic person in the world, but you are the ones who are the most desirous for this world”

When the Prophet (peace be upon him) died, he did not leave a palace, treasure, gardens or storehouses. ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him) told us all that he left, saying,

“The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not leave anything but his weapons, a white mule and some land which he had left to be given in charity”

related by Al-Bukhari

In fact, the Prophet (peace be upon him) had prohibited all of that for them (his family) as he said,

The Prophets cannot be inherited from; whatever we leave behind is charity related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was truly the most ascetic person in the world, accepting the order of his Lord for him to live the life of a poor, ascetic person, and for him to give his wives the choice to live an ascetic life with him or to be sent to their families’ homes. All of them (may Allah be pleased with them) chose to remain with him in that state.

Even his daughter, Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), one day went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) complaining of the difficulties which she was experiencing. She hoped that her father would give her a servant to alleviate the difficulties she was suffering, but he (peace be upon him) did not have any advice for his daughter and her husband better than his words,

Shall I not tell you what is better than a servant for you two? When you retire to your bed or when you rest, say ‘Allahu akbar’ thirty-three times, ‘SubhanAllah’ thirty-three times, and ‘Al-Hamdulillah’ thirty-three times. This is better for you than a servant related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim

The Prophet was a perfect example of asceticism. He asceticism was greater than those before him as well as those who came after him. He (peace be upon him) was truly the master of the ascetics. The world was at his feet but he refused to live in it as anything but the life of one who is poor; he used to take from the world only the least amount on which he needed to live. If the Prophet (peace be upon him) wanted this worldly life, he could have had it as he (peace be upon him) was one of the greatest leaders in this world, but his heart wanted what his Lord had kept for him in the next life.

Do you know a leader, king or president who was as ascetic as the Prophet in this life? Why is this the case?

Does being ascetic mean that the person lives a difficult, troublesome and unhappy life? Or does it mean the person will live a happy, easy life?

How can we follow the example of the Prophet (peace be upon him)?

1.Make your heart yearn for what Allah has kept for the next life. Beware of filling your heart and life with the love of this worldly life.

2.Know that the world is a means and a path, not the aim of life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

Be in this life like one who is a stranger or one travelling from one place to another related by Al-Bukhari

So be careful that your path makes you reach your final aim.

3.Know very well that money is a means and not an aim in itself, so take from it only what is enough to help you have the basics of life,

as the Prophet (peace be upon him) told us,

related by Ibn Hiban

4.{ Seek the abode of the AfterLife with what Allah has given you,

this is the basic state of affairs in life,

and do not forget your portion of this world. And do good as Allah has been good to you Surah Al-Qasas: 77

5. Know that this worldly life is given to both the righteous and unrighteous, but the next life is only for the righteous. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said,

If this world was equal, with Allah, to [the worth of] the wing of a fly, the disbeliever would not even get some water to drink in it related by Muslim