“As we speak today about the Prophet Isa (as), we acknowledge that there are many ways of looking at him and that he represents many things to many people. At the same time, as is the case with each prophet, there is a great deal of misunderstanding and misrepresentation of this prophet, cultural ‘baggage’ that has been accepted as true and undeniable. I will not attempt to outline those today; rather, I will stay to my purpose in these duruus, to point out the relevance of his (Isa’s as) life to all human beings: past, present and future, insh’Allah.”- Shaykh A.A. Rashid
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE SPEECH ON THE PROPHET ISA (as) by Shaykh Ahmed Abdur Rashid. Links to full speech (pdf) below.
Time, place, person, and circumstance reveal a great deal to the seeker as each of us tries or should try to place our self in those contextual forms. The lives of these Ambiyaa’ are best understood if and when we progress enough in our own spiritual journey to fulfill our inner and outer duties, in respect to this world we inhabit and interact within. In other words, it’s hard to understand until you can understand. Isa’s (as) teaching is fresh and different; he exemplifies not only faith but love, not only submission but also courage, not only compassion but forgiveness. These become the cornerstone to the teachings and life of the Prophet Muhammad, his mission of akhlaaq, and comprehensive inclusive teaching, not for just family or community, or tribe, but for all humanity while still respecting the faith and practices of others. This is a quantum leap in prophecy.
Much attention and debate is put in today’s world on this event of the miraculous conception as some kind of watershed between the rational and scientific and those of faith and belief, and those who scorn faith and belief. But as Muslims and Sufis, we understand that we can be both rational and faith-full. Maryam (as) herself was incredulous when she received this message from Jibreel (as), but her piety prepared her, in more ways than one, to be the “bearer” of the Messenger.
ADAB, THE FRUIT OF LOVE
One of the common factors among the ambiyaa’ is a perfected adab. This can be seen clearly in Prophet Isa (as), who is also known as the Prophet of Love. To understand adab, we have to understand love. This is a little convoluted, but I want you to try to grasp it. If we are to understand adab, we have to understand love. The sustaining of adab, over time, through all challenges, is the fruit of mahabbat/Divine love. It’s not just to have love for one moment, or adab in one circumstance. It’s the sustaining of it that is the fruit of mahabbat. The fruit of mahabbat sustains adab, and the seeds of mahabbat preserve adab. If a person is to have true adab, they have to have Divine love. If they are to promote or uplift the character of human beings, then they have to have mahabbat. It is such love that we see as all-inclusive in the life of the Prophet Muhammad (sal). We see that kind of deep love for the Divine in both the Prophet Isa (as) and his mother—a love that manifests as service and grace and nobility, self-sacrifice, loneliness, personal fulfillment, personal loss, a love that gives healing and breeds self-less sacrifice.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
The Prophet Muhammad (sal) accepted many distinct roles of religious, social, political, and even military leadership. When we look at the Prophet Isa (as), we can see that in a traditional model of the teacher he led primarily by example. The Prophet Isa (as) was an exemplar in adab, in remembrance of Allah, and in service to his community. Although his birth was a message from Allah, it wasn’t until he was around thirty years old that Allah : activated the Revelation of Prophethood to Isa (as) and he began to teach.
In our heart we can seek the spiritual wealth, not the wealth of this world. This is the spiritual poverty of the faqeer. To be of the fuqahaa’ is to find the spiritual wealth before material wealth. Prophet ‘Isa (as) also said that there is another kind of spiritual poverty—one that we should seek. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) What did He mean? We must be humble in our spirit. In other words, when we come to Allah, we must realize our spiritual emptiness and not be self-satisfied, thinking we don’t really need Allah .
THE ADAB OF LISTENING
One of the greatest adabs is the adab of listening. This is the first adab of every prophet. Every prophet must be quiet enough—inside and out—to hear, to hear the revelation, to hear the message of Allah, to hear the response to his call. This is the adab that the Prophet Isa (as) displayed and fostered in others—from his birth, when he first spoke and created a context for listening; and in the years of his prophethood, when he traveled and spoke and listened to the poor, and sick, and downtrodden.
INNER REFLECTIONS OF THE AMBIYAA
If we want to understand something more inward about Prophet Isa (as), something more than his life and the differences between himself and between Christianity and Islam, a good place to look is Ibn Araby (raa). His perspective is fairly basic: that each of the saints /walis of Allah, all of the shuyukh (all of the awliyaa’u-Llaah), take their maqaam at some point from one of the prophets. We look at it vis-a-vis the lataa’if. Each lateefah has a prophet, and a color, etc. Prophet Adam, Prophet Enoch, Prophet Ibrahim, Prophet Daoud, Prophet Musa, the Prophet Isa, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon all of them) all have their identities with one of the previous prophets.
DEATH, ASCENSION and RETURN
Just as with his miraculous birth, the end of his life is also known only by Allah and must be accepted on faith. Rather than conjecture and doubt about what is possible, what is logical, or “what really happened,” we are shown by Allah a way of Truth that is part of a great and miraculous universe, greater than our comprehension. If we leave this story with nothing but the understanding that we cannot fully understand, we’ve understood something very important. When we look with eyes that see at the universe around us, we see miracles all around us. We begin to understand that the birth of every healthy child is a miracle, the last breath of every person a gift, food on our table each day a blessing and sign from Allah. Do the explanations of science or logic or history make those miracles any less miraculous?
THE TEMPLATE FOR TRUST
These prophets represent a dynamic, living process. There is no quid pro quo in the dunya. There is no redemptive suffering. One changes because of their own will, their own submission to Allah, their own good actions, their own faith, their own trust. There is no savior. We have to understand that when we are looking at the Prophet ‘Isa (as) and the Prophet Muhammad (sal), we are looking at people, but we are also looking at what they believe. Until you know why you believe what you believe, until you understand why these prophets are linked together and why the Prophet (sal) is the final prophet, [you will not understand] that the onus of all spirituality lays on us. It is not that Allah is absent, but Allah becomes present through our shuyukh and through other awliyaa’u-Llaah.
Discover more from Shaykh Rashid’s talk on the Prophet Isa (calayhi-s-salaam) in the following venues:
Previous Talks in this series:
Mar 17, 2013: The Prophet Musa (as)
Feb 3, 2013: The Prophet Ibrahiim (as)
Dec 2012: The Prophet Nuh (as)
Nov 2012: Adam and Hawa (as)