The prophet peace be upon him spent days and weeks in the cave of Hira. We all know that. But how often do we recognise this personal history in discussions about his influence as a leadership figure? How often do we speak about the battles won, the alliances made, the lessons he taught? We present him as a man with a mission, a productive individual who spared no time, who was constantly goals-oriented with a strong clarity of vision.
While this narrative is true, it only captures a small segment of his ‘making’ as the prophet leader who we seek as our model. The prophet pbuh is also the man in the cave searching for a sense of meaning to his life. He is the shepherd who spent hours at a time under the sun, alone with his deepest inner thoughts and connected with nature. He is the infant suckled and raised by the bedouins, away from the town life of trade and social get-togethers in Mecca. Mohammad became the great prophet pbuh at the age of 40, but until then, what was he occupied with? For what purpose did he work? What was his life plan?
Until the moment that he meets Jibril in the cave of Hira, it seems his plan was to find answers that would fill the emptiness and absence he felt. His plan was to contemplate. Not much in terms of productivity, but that was his pursuit in the time that it was necessary. Did he work? Yes, he was a merchant. Did he establish a family and parent through warm relationships with his children? Did he participate in the extended familial, societal obligations? Yes, he was the honest and trustworthy, but he wasn’t satisfied with immersing himself in set duties given the hollow feeling inside of him that he could not escape. He continued his search for 40 years, until the angel was sent to him.
So he finds his calling, but he is wrapped up, overwhelmed with the enormity of the task at hand. What does Allah advice the prophet leader who is entrusted with the most important mission for humanity? Is he reminded that there is no time to spare? Is he given set goals to meet? What does Allah expect of the leader prophet peace be upon him?
O thou wrapped up in thy raiment! (1) Keep vigil the night long, save a little – (2) A half thereof, or abate a little thereof (3) Or add (a little) thereto – and chant the Qur’an in measure, (4) For we shall charge thee with a word of weight. (5) Lo! the vigil of the night is (a time) when impression is more keen and speech more certain. (6) Lo! thou hast by day a chain of business. (7) So remember the name of thy Lord and devote thyself with a complete devotion
Get up and pray, for you have by day ‘a chain of business’. Yes, you, the productive Muslim, the leader, the one who wants to leave behind a good legacy, ‘keep vigil the night long’. Allah subhanahu wa ta’alah isn’t concerned with how much, he calls on you to connect, to contemplate, to find your purpose. Once our prophet found his mission, he became the most effective reformer the earth has ever met. But he didn’t do it by thinking let me brainstorm on this paper where I will be in 5 years time. He gave himself the opportunity to openly discover meaning in life.
When, in the 24 hours, are we investing in ourselves as the prophet did, in that cave of Hira? How can we expect to find our calling if we haven’t given ourselves the chance to genuinely seek awareness? We contain individuals in school, then university, then push them to find a job. We enroll in courses, clubs, organisations. We do so much in our youth. But are we missing out on the simplicity that gave the prophet clarity of mind and vision?