Seerah episode 20: Muhammad the Businessman & A Marriage Proposal.

— Muhammad (saw) was in his early 20s; he was at the age where he was looking to establish himself financially

— In his teens, he was a shepherd, like the Prophets of the Past. He could not take any other menial task because of his status as the grandson of the great leader Abdul Mutallib

  • After the incident with Bhaira the Monk, who warned Abu Talib about the possible dangers his nephew Muhammad could face, Abu Talib forbade his nephew from going on long business trips
  • Muhammad wanted to help out his family because Abu Talib’s family weren’t very well off, so he decided to do business locally in Makkah

— To be able to do business, Muhammad had to have some money, which he didn’t have.

  • Abu Talib was not wealthy, so he couldn’t provide Muhammad with the merchandise he needs to be a businessman. Muhammad himself is an orphan, so he didn’t inherit any money either
  • Muhammad decided to go into the business of brokering deals, basically working on commission
    • Someone is wholesaling and someone is in retailing
    • Muhammad would go around trying to broker deals; he would hook up the wholesaler with the retailer

— In his early days of doing local business, Muhammad had a partner named As Saib bin Abi Saib (aka Abu Saib). They were able to make money for themselves & build up some seed money

  • Abu Saib was a very honest & noble businessman
  • Muhammad was also building reputation as an honest businessman, as Sadiq al-Amin

— 20 years after Prophethood (almost 40 years of doing business with this Abu Saib), the son of Abu Saib, Abdullah, had accepted Islam

  • When Muhammad arrived in Makkah during the conquest of Makkah (Fath Makkah), he met his old business partner in the city. They reminisced about the old days.
  • The Prophet paid  Abu Saib a compliment. “Abu Saib is the best business partner. La yushari wa la yumari – he would never undercut someone when doing business, and he would never cheat/lie when doing business.”
    • This was the character of the Prophet – to remember people, to remember the good of people, & to pay compliments to people
    • Abu Saib wasn’t even Muslim at this time (he accepts Islam later on). The Prophet remembered his business partner after all this time (more than 20 years later) & gives him a good shout-out. Imagine you are being praised by the Prophet himself!

— After Muhammad earned some seed money for himself by brokering deals, he was ready to do some real business

  • He went to his uncle Abu Talib & persuaded him to be able to go make an actual business trip
  • One narration says that Muhammad went on his first business trip on behalf of his uncle, where he really established a reputation for himself as an honest man

— Khadijah bint Khuwaylid

  • She had been married twice; both of her husbands passed away
  • She was born into wealth & married into wealth, & she possessed a lot of business assets. She is very rich.
    • Khadijah invested her wealth by hiring businessmen to do business in Bilad al Shaam (modern day Syria). The businessmen would take goods from Makkah & sell them in Bilad al Shaam, and would bring back goods from that region to sell in Makkah.
    • She couldn’t travel alone for business due to unsafe roads, so she needed to find someone trustworthy to take care of her money & her business
  • When Khadijah started to hear about the reputation of a young man named Muhammad around Makkah, she called him in
    • She offered him twice the amount of commission that she’d offer anyone else. It’s possible that Muhammad initially declined her request , so she doubled the offer
    • Other narrations says that Muhammad told Khadijah that his uncle didn’t want him to travel for business, so Khadijah went directly to Abu Talib and spoke to him.
      • She assured Abu Talib that Muhammad will be fine, & she offered to let her slave named Maysara to travel with Muhammad to as-Sham. Maysara was a very skilled fighter & archer; he was a bodyguard of Khadijah
      • Abu Talib, looking out for the best interest of Muhammad, was the one who asked Khadijah to double her offer

— While traveling to as-Sham, Muhammad & Khadijah’s slave Maysara stopped at the regular rest area where he met Bhaira years ago

  • Another monk resided at that monastery now, not Bhaira
  • While Muhammad was resting underneath the tree, the monk comes down from the monastery & meets Maysara at the water well, asking him who the man underneath the tree was
    • Maysara replied, “That’s Muhammad ibn Abdullah. He’s from the people of the Quraysh; they’re the caretakers of the Haram.”
    • The monk tells Maysara, “No man will sit underneath that tree at this time or place except for a prophet.”
      • This was a sign he read in the scriptures

— Muhammad & Maysara carries on to as-Sham, arrive back with plenty of goods & profits. Those goods were sold with a lot of profit in Makkah. More than what they used to have.

  • While traveling back from as-Sham, it was extremely hot. Maysara noticed that Muhammad seemed very calm, and it was because he was being covered by a shade while traveling. Maysara recalls, “It was as if two angels were providing shade for Muhammad.”

— They get back to Makkah. Muhammad sits down with Khadijah, & gives her a full & precise breakdown with Maysara of the business dealings

  • Khadijah was impressed by the attention to detail & the honesty Muhammad displayed
  • The accounts are settled & Khadijah gives Muhammad his commission, who goes about his way.
  • Khadijah then asks Maysara what Muhammad is like in business, & whether they should continue to do business with him.
    • Maysara says nothing but good things about him; that Muhammad is very honest & intelligent.
    • He also tells her about the extraordinary things he saw regarding Muhammad (such as the clouds providing shade for him constantly)

— After this, Muhammad did a couple of more business deals with Khadijah, which earned lots of profits

  • By now, Khadijah is becoming more and more interested & impressed by Muhammad
  • She asks one of her cousins, Waraqah bin Nowfal, “Do you know anything about Muhammad?”
    • Waraqah tells her that he knows Muhammad in general, & of his reputation as Sadiq-al-Ameen
  • Khadijah was still relatively young & wealthy, so she’d get a lot of proposals, but she’d worry that these men wanted to marry her for her money only, not her character
    • Khadijah asked her cousin Waraqah what he thought of a marriage between herself & Muhammad
    • Waraqah encourages Khadijah to pursue the marriage

— Nafisa, or Nufaisa (Khadijah’s friend) also tells Khadijah to pursue the marriage proposal

  • Nafisa offers to speak on Khadijah’s behalf in regards to the proposal.
  • She goes to Muhammad, & asks him, “What do you think of Khadijah as a person?”
  • Muhammad: “She’s an exemplary woman. She’s honest & trustworthy. I’ve only seen good from her.”
  • Nafisa: “Would you be interested in marrying her?”
  • Muhammad: “Yes, is she interested in marriage?”
  • Nafisa: “Yes, I wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t.”
  • Muhammad: “Then, yes, if she’s interested, then I am also interested in the marriage.”

— Nafisa & Muhammad go to Abu Talib to speak about the proposal

— Lessons from this episode

  • Prophet did business. Not only that, but he was an honest businessman.
    • “A trustworthy & honest businessman will be in the ranks of the prophets and the martyrs and the pious and the righteous.”
  • The Prophet is an example of how to establish relations with people
  • The number one priority for marriage is considering the person’s character
    • The Prophet and Khadijah considered each other’s character. Deen is important, but one of the most important manifestations of deen is character
    • We have 2 extremes today when it comes to marriage proposals
      • Social & material qualifiers – which family does he come from? How good-looking are they? How much money do they have? What type of education do they have?
      • Opposite extreme where marriage is considered solely based on superficially religious qualifiers – does he have a beard? Does she wear a hijab? Does he wear a kufi? Does he wear a thobe? What kind of hijab does she wear? How much Qur’an has she memorized?
      • Character is a part & parcel of our deen & a manifestation of our deen, because character shows the sincerity of one’s deen. A person may be outwardly religious, but may not have internalized his deen

Link to next episode


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