Seerah episode 17: Prophet’s Teenage Years

— Ismatul Anbiya – the Prophets & Messengers of Allah are protected by Allah from falling into any reprehensible behavior

  • A few Prophets did have a few questionable behaviors, but those were divinely decreed to teach us a lesson (e.g. Musa (as) getting into a confrontation with a man who was whipping a slave)
  • For the most part, the Prophets are dignitaries of Allah & they were protected from bad behaviors

— One day, young Muhammad (saw) was playing with rocks with other boys around his age. We have to understand that Muhammad is also a human being and so he would go through phrases of his life as a normal human being. So he also played with his friends.

  • Traditional clothing of those days was in 2 pieces: a lower garment like a lungi (izaar) that covered your lower body & an upper garment (a shawl type) that covered your upper body. It was similar to the clothing that the hujjaj wear
    • Very young boys, on the other hand, will be given one garment that would be wrapped around the chest, so that they can run around & play
  • Some of the boys took off their lower garments & placed a bunch of rocks in it. They slung the garment full of rocks over their shoulder & carried it as a knapsack
    • As a result, their lower half was uncovered
    • They were kids, so they didn’t really see a problem with this
  • Muhammad didn’t feel comfortable taking his cloth off, so he just use his hands to carry them (the rocks were heavy, painful, sharp)
    • Other boys urge him to follow their method. “Come on, it’ll be just be for a little while. We’ll move the rocks & then we’ll just put our clothes back on.”
  • Muhammad was a child & influenced by peer pressure, so he thought, “Ok, no biggie. I’ll do that.”
    • He started to remove his garment to put the rocks in. All of a sudden, he felt like he got slapped hard in the back of his head, but he couldn’t see who had just smacked his head.
    • Then he heard a voice saying, “Put your izaar back on.”
    • He was a kid; in that situation what else can you do but say, “Yes, sir.”
  • He put his izaar back on. Then he just carried the rocks in his hands even if they were heavy & painful; he didn’t take his garment off to use as a knapsack

— Another similar incident like this is narrated by Muhammad’s Uncle Al Abbas

  • Muhammad was a bit older, in his mid-teens. Renovations of Kab’ah were taking place. Everyone wanted to get in on it, because Kab’ah was a special place. Everyone wanted a piece of that action. High ranking members (Families) of Quraysh were given first preference to renovate – in this case, Banu Hashim, Muhammad’s clan
  • Al-Abbas was there, carrying rocks & bricks to renovate the Kab’ah. Muhammad was also one of the first ones to carry rocks & bricks
  • A display of manhood was to carry a big old rock. The bigger rock you carried, the bigger man you were
    • Men were removing their lower clothing & readjusting their upper cloth, but still, there was chance of being exposed
    • They wrap up the rocks/bricks in their lower garment to sling over shoulder
  • Muhammad was struggling to carry the heavy bricks. His uncle Al-Abbas suggests to his nephew  to use the lower garment to carry the rocks
    • Muhammad started to remove his lower garment
    • All of sudden, Muhammad collapsed as he was on the verge of removing his cloth
    • His eyes rolled up to stare into the sky for some time. Then he stood up and said, “Izaari! Izaari! Where’s my izaar? Where’s my izaar?” Then put his izaar back on
  • Abbas asks nephew what’s wrong
    • Muhammad replied, “I have been forbidden from walking around, not fully clothed. I’ve been told not to expose my body in public.”

— Muhammad comes from a very elite clan (Banu Hashim), of a very elite tribe (Quraysh)

  • Much of the Quraysh tribe was very elitist. It was not deemed acceptable for members of Banu Hashim to have some menial task/physical labor for a career, because the men of Quraysh had the most prestigious career of being international merchants (going to as-Sham & Yemen)
    • It was looked down upon to take up a menial job like getting into construction, or being a deliverer, etc.
  • Muhammad was too young to be traveling for business, & Abu Talib wasn’t having any of it because of Bhaira’s encounter. Muhammad wanted to help out Abu Talib because of his financial difficulties. He wanted to help Abu Talib. As we have learnt before, Abu Talib was not a well-off man. Muhammad couldn’t be a merchant, & he couldn’t do physical labor for “honor” reasons.
    • Only one type of work was left available to him – shepherding
    • Shepherding was attributed to good leadership & qualities. So people can say that someone is doing that shepherding to gain training to become a leader.
    • So the young Muhammad becomes a shepherd, to help out his family
  • There’s a lot of good qualities that you can learn in shepherding. A shepherd has to be cautious, responsible, patient, alert, & gentle with his flock. You need to have all these qualities to become a good shepherd.
    • Isa (as) said to his disciples: “Shepherd well.”
      • To lead his people well after he’s gone
      • Many of the prophets have been shepherds. They gained good qualities in shepherding so that they would be able to handle the duty of becoming a prophet.

— Muhammad recalls that he never really had a strong desire to indulge in the typical things that teenage boys take part in

— There were other shepherds around Muhammad’s age as well. They would all socialize while on the job when their flocks would get together

  • These young shepherds would often tell each other of the stories/events of the night before. Almost similar to what our young kids are doing now.
    • “Yo, bro, I hit up a crazy party last night.”
    • “You look really tired.”
    • “Yo, you got no idea what went down!”
  • They’d ask Muhammad what he did. “Nothing. I just went home and slept.”
    • The other boys would invite Muhammad over to a party. They knew that Muhammad is a very straight-laced & decent guy, so they would tell him, “You don’t have to do anything. Just swing by. Just check out the party for a bit.”
  • Peer pressure is a big deal during teenage years, so Muhammd makes arrangements to have another shepherd cover his shift.
    • Muhammad was on duty that evening with the flock. He asked one of the other young men to cover his shift so he can check out the party.
    • “Yeah, man, I got your back. You need to party,” replied the other

— Later in the evening, Muhammad makes his way to the party. As he gets near the house where the party is held, he can hear loud party noises & obviously drunk rowdy boys. He could also hear women singing. Many times there were entertainment slave girls who would be rented out for these types of occasions.

  • Muhammad hears all of this as he’s just outside the house; before he could take another step, he literally just passed out
  • Muhammad recalls, “I didn’t wake up until I felt the sun on my face”
  • Party’s over

— The next day Muhammad goes to work with the other shepherds, who inquire about his absence at the party

  • Muhammad said, “I tried to come, and I just fell asleep.”
  • “Man, you’re so lame.” The boys put more pressure on Muhammad to come to the party. “Tonight, you GOT to come to this party.”
  • Muhammad replied, “I’m working tonight.”
  • “Don’t worry, that guy will cover your shift.”

— With another shepherd covering his shift, Muhammad starts making his way to the party again that night. He’s outside the party casa again, & he can hear the loud obnoxious rowdiness of the other party-goers.

  • Before he can take another step forward, Muhammad passes out again & woke up only when the sun was shining on his face
  • Muhammad goes to work that morning. The other boys say, “Where were you?! You didn’t show up again.”
    • Muhammad says later on, “I swear by Allah, I had never had desire to go back to something like that.”

— Muhammad has been protected from such events, but not sheltered. He was cognisant of what was going around him, but he remained pristine by divine decree.

  • When the time of Prophethood comes and he starts spreading his message, Muhammad has a general idea of what’s going on in his society, about the parties, the alcohol, etc. He has the ability to say, “I know exactly what you guys are up to.”
    • This knowledge was relevant to the Prophet’s method of preaching. He was exposed to things even though he never partook in them due to divine intervention

— Even before receiving his Prophethood, Muhammad used to do tawaaf around the Kab’ah; he wouldn’t worship the idols there, but just do tawaaf. He sometimes took his adopted son Zayd bin Haritha to do tawaaf around the Baytullah

  • In the Haram, there was an idol (named either Isaaf or Na’ilath) made of copper,
    • As the mushrikoon would do tawaaf, they would rub their hand on the idol everytime they passed by it. That was their way of acknowledging their god
  • As Muhammad & Zayd walked by the idol during their regular tawaaf, Zayd stretches out to rub his hand on the idol
    •  “Lata masohu, don’t touch the idol,” says Muhammad as he pulled Zaid’s hand away from the idol
  • Zayd was a very young boy. He sees everybody else pass the idol & reach their hand toward it, so he’s imitating them.
    • As Zayd & Muhammad pass that idol again during tawaaf, Zayd stretches his hand out again to touch the idol
    • Then Muhammad again pulls Zayd’s hand away, saying, “Don’t touch the idol. Didn’t I tell you not to do this?”

— From early on, Allah had instilled within Muhammad this natural hesitation for shirk or other inappropriate activities

  • When you’re talking with another Arab/Muslim, & they something surprising, you say, “Say wallahi”
  • Similarly, in the early days, people would say, “Aksim billati al uzza.” Swear by Allat and Al Uzza, which were the two most prominent idols of that time
    • Whenever people would say this to the young Muhammad, he’d always tell them, “If you want me to take an oath to prove to you what I’m saying, don’t ask me to swear by Allaat and Al Uzza. There’s nothing I dislike more than those two things.”
    • Then Muhammad would distance himself from that conversation

— Muhammad grew up to become the most dignified & exemplary man in his community. He had the most excellent character & the most excellent company (Khadijah, Zayd bin Haritha, Bilal, Abu Bakr, Ali, etc.)

  • He was known by his entire society as “Al-Amin”. Even people who didn’t know his name knew him as Al-Amin, because of his well-known reputation of his great character. People trusted him.


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