From Merchant to Messenger

The Prophet Muhammad's struggle for legitimacy as revealed in the Koran

A Teacher and His Pupil

From Merchant to Messenger87:6 We shall make you recite; so you will not forget;

87:7 Except what Allah wishes. He certainly knows what is proclaimed and what is hidden.

87:8 And We shall ease your travel on an easy course.

87:9 So remind, if the reminder will avail.

Allah, as mentor, took His job seriously and was careful to temper Muhammad’s enthusiasm for His Revelations so that He did not pass them on half-baked, so to speak.

20:113 Thus We have revealed it as an Arabic Qur’an and expounded therein in detail some of our warnings, so that they may fear God, and so that it may be a reminder for them.

20:114 Exalted be Allah, the True King. Do not hasten [to discuss] the Qur’an before its revelation to you is complete, and say: “Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

It was the responsibility of the teacher “to expound clearly.”

75:16 Do not wag your tongue with it (the Qur’an) to hurry on with it.

75:17 It is incumbent upon Us to put it together and to recite it.

75:18 Then, when We recite it, follow its recitation.

75:19 Then, it is incumbent upon Us to expound clearly.

The Pupil Admonished


80 At-Takwir

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

80:1 He (Muhammad) frowned and turned his back;

80:2 When the blind man (‘Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktum, a poor man anxious to learn the Qur’an, who importuned the Prophet) came to him.

80:3 How do you know? Perhaps he might cleanse himself.

80:4 Or remember, and remembrance then might profit him.

80:5 As for him who has grown wealthy,

80:6 You attend to him closely;

80:7 And it does not bother you if he does not cleanse himself.

80:8 Yet he who comes to you running,

80:9 While fearful,

80:10 You do not take any notice of him.

80:11 Yet, it (the Qur’an) is only a reminder,

80:12 Whoever wishes will remember it;

80:13 In scrolls highly honoured,

80:14 Lifted up and purified,

80:15 By the hands of scribes (this refers to the angels who were writing the scrolls of the Qur'an under the direct guidance of Allah, Moududi),

80:16 Honourable and pious.

A Question of Wages

6:90 Those are the ones whom Allah has guided; so follow their guidance. Say: “I ask you no reward for it (the Qur’an); it is only a reminder to mankind.”

At this juncture, God would prefer that His spokesman not even hint at seeking payment for what he is revealing on His behalf.

23:72 Or are you asking them for a reward? But, the reward of your Lord is better, and He is the Best Provider.

23:73 And You are surely calling them to a straight path.

23:74 Those who do not believe in the Hereafter are deviating from the Path.

23:75 If We show them mercy and lift their affliction, they would persist in their arrogance, wondering aimlessly.


68:45 And I will give them respite; My cunning is certain.

68:46 Or will you ask them for remuneration? They (the Meccan unbelievers) are surely burdened with debts.

68:47 Or are they in possession of the Unseen, and so they are writing it down?

Allah eventually gave His tacit approval to Muhammad asking for compensation and reminding his audience that God sees everything. 

34:47 Say: “Whatever wage I asked you for is yours [to give]. My wage is with Allah and He is a witness of everything.”

Know that those payments are for information on the “path leading to his Lord.”

25:56 We have only sent you forth as a bearer of good news and a warner.

25:57 Say: “I do not ask for any wages for this, except for him who wishes to follow a path leading to his Lord.”

What to make of a revelation where God has Muhammad concede that “friendship towards kinsmen” is reward enough (42:23)?

42:22 You see the wrongdoers in awe of what they have earned, although it is bound to catch up with them; but those who believe and do the righteous deeds shall be consigned to the greenest gardens, wherein they have whatever they desire from their Lord. That is the great bounty.

42:23 That is good news which Allah announces to His Servants who believe, and do the good deeds. Say: “I ask you no reward for it (this message, Muhammad Assad) except kinship towards kinsmen.” Whoever performs a good deed, We shall increase its goodness. Allah is truly All-Forgiving, Thankful.

42:24 Or will they say: “He has imputed falsehood to Allah”? Had Allah willed, He would have put a seal upon your heart. He obliterates falsehood and confirms the Truth by His Words. Surely, He knows the secrets hidden in the breasts.

The question of wages would become moot with the change of mission for Muhammad, from simple messenger to holy warrior, with Allah’s declaration of war (see Jihad in the Koran: "Announcing a Universal War," Boreal Books) against the unbelievers and the booty it generated.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,' and whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,' his life and property will be saved by me except for Islamic law, and his accounts will be with Allah, (either to punish him or to forgive him.)"

Bukhari 52.196

Narrated Jabir bin Abdullah:

The Prophet said, "I have been given five things which were not given to anyone else before me.

1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey.[20]

2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum (dry ablution i.e. washing oneself before prayer using sand or dust if no water available), therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due.

3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me (and my followers) yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me.[21]

4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection).[22]

5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind."

Bukhari 7.331.


[20] Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "I have been sent with the shortest expressions bearing the widest meanings, and I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy)."

Bukhari 52.220

[21] 8:68 But for a prior ordinance of Allah, you would have been afflicted on account of what you have taken (an ordinance which made it lawful for Muslims to take spoils and captives) by a terrible punishment.

[22] Muhammad is one of the few to whom Allah will grant the right to intercede on someone else’s behalf. Unlike lesser mortals, he will not have to go through a formal application process to do so.

34:23 Intercession will not avail with Him except for him whom He gave permission; until fear is lifted from their hearts, then they will say: “What has your Lord said?”, they will say: “The truth, and He is the All-High, the Great One.”


After submitting the application for permission, both the intercessor and the person for whom intercession is being provided are awaiting the reply in a state of restlessness and awe. At last, when the permission is granted and the person perceives satisfaction in the face of the intercessor, he feels a little comforted and asks the intercessor: “What has your Lord said?” The intercessor says, “The truth”: permission has been granted. What is meant to be impressed is this: “O foolish people! Such will be the awe of the great court of Allah! How dare you entertain the notion that anybody will have you forgiven by his own power, or dare behave stubbornly and tell Allah: These are my favorites: they will have to be forgiven!”