On attaining age, Muhammad (Peace be upon him) seems to have confined himself to Mecca, mixing with the Meccans, frequenting their consultation "House" and performing pilgrimage. This I say because the probability is that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in this period did not show signs of detracting from Quraish's worship or of denouncing their gods. He was named the "Trusty" and lived comfortably in conformity with the established traditions and institutions sanctified by the Arabs. So he lived on until he became a young man of twenty five. It then happened that Khadijah, daughter of Khowailid, wanted to send a trading caravan to Syria. His uncle Abu Talib suggested to him that he should be the head of this caravan, Muhammad accepted, Khadijah consented, and so he travelled to Syria for the second time accompanied by Maisarah, one of the retainers of Khadijah. One tradition says that he there met Nastor the monk. If so, Muhammad is now the young man who can appreciate what he hears, comprehend the speech of the Christian monk, learn what the latter might say about the essentials of his religion and discuss it with him. Nastor probably felt more admiration for Muhammad (Peace be upon him) than Bahira. It will be understood that during his long residence in Mecca he had the opportunity of meeting many people, especially such monotheists as Zaid son of Nofile and Waraka son of Noufal, in addition to some of the freed Christian slaves. If then he argued with Nastor, his argument would be not without some knowledge and experience. It is probable that he had the opportunity of meeting with other people in Syria through whom he acquired further experience.
His trade having prospered, he went back home safe to render to Khadijah a full account, restoring to her capital, profits, and property, in the best condition possible, having protected all against marauders or fraud. She found in him the man of youth and vigour, whose talk was that of the experienced old, whose right opinion and deep thought was beyond his age, of charm and power in speech and exposition. Khadijah was impressed; and proceeded to plan something. She secretly sent someone who praised and recommended to him his marrying her. To this he did not object. It is possible that he saw in the offer an opportunity to obtain leisure to settle with the conflicting thoughts which might have been started in him by his journeys, his knowledge, and keen intellect, a possible inner conflict which might have been akin to that state of enquiry and doubt which usually attacks youths at that stage of life, leading sometimes to atheism if not met in time.
Muhammad's marriage to Khadijah contributed largely to the success of the Islamic call when it came. He remained Khadijah's husband for 15 years before he received the divine mission, and became the father of her children. During this period he developed again the tendency to live in isolation. He was yearning to go back to desert-life where he would be alone with his own thoughts. Where would he then go? To the place where was buried the martyr Zaid son of Nofile, to that place where the Hanifite monotheists of Quraish used to meet, to the Cave of Hira. There, tradition says, he used to stay one month every year. This recurrent solitude might have converted his doubt into conviction. He looked into what his people worshipped, and found it degrading to man's reason. He might have looked into Christianity and found it a religion that devotes most care to the hereafter, and little concern for the present world. He might have looked into Judaism, and found it narrow, the religion of a class whose book bears many a contradiction to Arab tradition and ethical usage. From this tumult he was only relieved by the Angel Gabriel coming to him in one of his contemplation moments to give him a new message and reveal a new religion. So runs the divine text, to the effect:
"Did He not find thee wandering and direct (thee)" The personality of the honoured Prophet, then, combined both moral and physical courage, both deep thinking and awful doubt, till he was thus divinely delivered and guided to the Right Faith.
The tragic events and trials he had undergone, the bereavements he had suffered, and the long periods he remained away from home, seem to have stirred in him the deepest springs of love and mercy, as may be evidenced by the kind treatment he used to accord to slaves, liberating whom he could, and by his habitual relief of the poor and the wretched Khadijah who knew him best, told him on the famous occasion: "God will never forsake you. You never forsake your relatives, you always carry the weary, relieve the distressed, honour the guest, and give help in misfortune".
This undoubtedly, is the type of personality capable of delivering the Call, discharging the big Mission, and transferring the Beduin Arabs to a state where they could carry the big trust, the trust of establishing the Faith. Such a personality is capable of discharging the trust, as indeed was done by the Prophet despite his illiteracy. But what sort of illiteracy. The illiteracy of letters, of reading and writing, not of mental awareness or intellectual initiative Muhammad (Peace be upon him), in the nature of the case, could not have been illiterate in the mental and spiritual sense, since he was to be charged with so sacred a mission. He should have been the foremost of his nation, and the best of his time in enlightened capacity to be equal to the task. And such was Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He was endowed with an eloquent tongue, a charming power of expression, and a broad mind. This is illiterate Muhammad as the writer conceives him - illiterate as regards the alphabet and the symbols used in writing:
"And thou (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) was not a reciter of any scripture before it (the Qur'an) nor didst thou write it with thy right hand" (Surah, Al-Ankabout verse 48).
He was not a writer, nor a reader, it is true, but he was a preacher, indeed a genius in every sense of the word. A man may read and write and yet not understand or learn. Another may be good at reading and writing and yet be not cultured. A third may have read much without being able to assimilate what he has read, or make use of what he has learnt. Life teems with these varieties of people. But history tells of a different type of people, like Muhammad (Peace be upon him), of illiterate geniuses, like Jesus. Such, through divine guidance, are the rare makers of epochs, the moulders of history despite their ignorance of reading and writing. Such are the extra ordinary product of time very rarely presented to the world.
That is Muhammad the Messenger whom God sent to an illiterate but clever nation, a nation believing in her right of existence:
"He it is who hath sent among the illiterates a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations, and to make them grow, and to teach them the Book and Wisdom, though heretofore they were in error manifest" (Surah Al-Jumu'ah, verse 2).
Illiteracy is not a blemish in the Prophet, but rather a miracle, another of the miracles of his Mission.
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