In the Quran, Allah (swt) describes his Prophet ﷺ in two very important ways:
1. The Job Titles of the Prophet ﷺ
“Oh Prophet, we have sent you as a Witness, and a Bringer of Glad Tidings, and as a Warner. And as a Caller towards God by His permission, and as an Illuminating Lamp.” (Qur’an, 33:45-46)
2. The Job Description of the Prophet ﷺ
“Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses and purifying you and teaching you the Book and wisdom and teaching you that which you did not know.” (Qur’an, 2:151)
In this series, we will explore each one of these aspects of the Prophet ﷺ. In the final chapter, we will examine how we can try and follow the Prophet’s Sunnah by approaching these qualities in our own way.
- Bringer of Glad Tidings
- Caller to God by His Permission
- Illuminating Lamp
- To Recite the Verses of God
- To Purify The People
- To Teach them the Book
- To Teach them New Things they did not previously know
In part I, we will discuss the title: Witness (شَاهِدًا)
First, let us examine the grammar used in this verse. When Allah (swt) says: “يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِنَّا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ شَاهِدًا” the ending of the word شَاهِدًا places it in a state of nasb (accusative) in grammar. In the way this word is being used, not only does it mean: “We sent you as a Witness”, but rather: “We sent you with the specific purpose that you be a Witness.”
What does it mean for a Prophet ﷺ to be a شَاهِدًا?
This word means to give information about something that one has beheld with his own eyes; what one knows to be a certainty. In this case, the Prophet’s ﷺ first and foremost role, was to testify to the people that Allah is One, and the he himself was Allah’s messenger. Additionally, that the Book of Allah was true, that Heaven and Hellfire exist, and that all would eventually return to Allah.
Shah Walilullah ad-Dehlawi translated شَاهِدًا as “bearer of witness to the Truth.”
This has a very lofty and important meaning that goes beyond simply speaking, and according to Mawdudi, entails three kinds of evidence.
1. Verbal evidence: The Prophet ﷺ explains, teaches, and spells out the realities and principles of existence and of Allah’s religion. He proclaims without fear the Being of Allah and His Absolute Unity, the existence of the angels, the Hereafter, and the entire narrative of existence from pre-creation to the entering of people into Hell and Paradise. He elucidates for people the “concepts, principles, and rules pertaining to morality and civilization and social life that God has revealed to him, and reject as wrong all the concepts and ways which are prevalent and are opposed to them, even if the whole world rejects them as wrong and violates them in practice.”
When one remembers the kind of opposition and enmity the Prophet ﷺ and his followers faced on upon simply speaking the truth, from being attacked in Makkah to being stoned and kicked out of Taif, we begin to feel a sense of gravity and weight that this part of the job alone has upon the shoulders that bear it.
2. Practical evidence: Any witness who calls something to be truth is required to demonstrate what he has claimed. We know that Aisha (ra) said of the Prophet ﷺ: “His character was the Qur’an.” He embodied the Qur’an’s entire message in his everyday life as a human being.
What is even more amazing is that he stated in a hadith: “Relate from me, even if it is one ayah.”
This is truly one of the most incredible of the Ahaadith in existence. Why? Because when one looks at any person of celebrity, protection of his/her personal details, embarassing facts, and life narrative are of utmost importance. Often times, politicians must hire entire teams to scrub and protect their backgrounds, and pay off others to keep their personal details out of public sight.
Yet we have a messenger who proudly proclaims: “Relate from me.” Take anything from me, tell people about it, proclaim it, teach it, share it. Nothing is held back, nothing is kept secret, absolutely nothing needs to be covered or protected – because every movement, every word, every smile, every laugh, every whisper, every blink, every facial expression – was a lesson, a guide, an example, a gift for us -his nation. No other human being, except for the Messenger of God ﷺ, has opened up his personal, social, family, and innermost life for all the people to see, scrutinize, and reflect upon. And this was a sign of his Prophethood.
Thus, his position as a practical witness extends beyond his teaching us how to worship. Rather, his witnessing teaches us how to exist. We learn how the verbal evidence he has given, translates into physical witnessing before the angels on our shoulders who are writing our deeds; before the people on the earth who are exposed to our actions, and before Allah (swt) who will hold us to account for what we do. The example in the Messenger (ﷺ) is that there is no difference between his words and his actions. There is no distinction between what is in his heart, what emanates from his lips, and what is executed by his limbs. This, according to the scholars who write extensively on tazkiyyah, is the manifestation of sincerity, and the highest rank of Witnessing to the Truth.
3. Witness in the Hereafter:
When the Court of Allah (swt) is established in the Hereafter, the Prophet ﷺ will give evidence that he conveyed the message to humanity, without making any change in it, as a proof to his people that they could not claim that it was his fault if they did not believe and act upon the revelation he brought.
The thought of testifying against his people and upon his nation weighed heavily upon the Prophet ﷺ.
Abdullah bin Masud relates: Allah’s Apostle said to me, “Recite (of the Qur’an) for me,” I said, “Shall I recite it to you although it had been revealed to you?” He said, “I like to hear (the Qur’an) from others.” So I recited Surat-an-Nisa’ till I reached: “How (will it be) then when We bring from each nation a witness, and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?” (4:41) Then he said, “Stop!” And behold, his eyes were overflowing with tears.”
This witnessing of the Prophet ﷺ is the foundation of the rest of his mission. His bringing glad tidings, warning, calling towards Allah, and teaching people, is first based on his witnessing that set up the basic and most fundamental facts of creation and existence.
It can be inferred from the order in which Allah (swt) lists these job titles of the Prophet ﷺ, that since Witness (شَاهِدًا) of the essential facts comes first, Knowledge is the most fundamental and critical piece that precedes worship. Knowledge of Who is to be worshipped and why we should worship must be testified to and understood before any act of worship is undertaken.
May the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad, the Witness to all Mankind ﷺ.