A Message to Medina, the Beginning of Giving Back

Dear Prophet Muhammad,

Why do I love you? And why would you have ever loved me?

Yesterday, someone asked why I love you and I think the questioner regretted his question. I could never have given him a short answer. So, instead, I tried different elaborations that didn't satisfy either of us.

So I sit here today to write you a note. And I know you'll receive it, letter by letter, faster than Facebook or Twitter, through the traveling angels that bring you our greetings and wishes of peace.

Do I love you for the beauty and enlightenment of your presence? That enlightenment that has been passionately sung of in songs, poems, books and never spoken of in regards to any other human being? That presence that inspired the people of Medina to sing spontaneously when they saw you entering their city for the first time? That same presence that your wife Aisha said lit up her room in the middle of the dark of night? That compelled that woman of the Ansar to ask about you before she asked about her father, her brother and her son?

Or do I love you for the beauty of your words? Those words that have the power to gather together, like, "I was sent to complete the stations of character." And "Deeds are measured by their intentions." These words captured the soul of a boy in the depths of Middle Asia, 200 years after your death. His name was Bukhari. And he spent his life searching the earth for your words, collecting them in country after country. One day he pulled out his daily chunk of bread and found an ant on it. As he studied the ant, wondering where it came from, he realized that he had brought it with him, on the bread, from another town. So he reversed his steps and went back to that town to return the ant to its own place. He understood your words.

Or do I love you because you freed me from the slavery of this life? You did it to me simply when you showed me, through your life story, that you don't need anyone except your Creator. That freedom shone through your Companions. A simple Bedouin in a patched robe entered the castle of Rustam -- a king of the Persian Empire -- and walked past the guards, the luxury, the wealth. The Bedouin sat down humbly next to Rustam and said, "I came to give you an exit from the constriction of this world to its expansion."

Or is it your courage when you stood alone, 1,400 years ago, in a world that had enslaved Africans and weakened the position of the women, the children, the elderly and the poor, and you announced to everyone that human beings are as equal as the teeth of a comb? You said that no one is better than another person except in their consciousness of God. That we are all from Adam and Adam is from soil. Then you sent forth these principles to the kings of the earth.

Or do I love you for the integrity that exuded from every action of your actions until it settled deep within your companions? So much so that when one of your enemies treacherously kidnapped one of your companions, Khobaib, and imprisoned him in one of their houses, he remained patient and simply asked for a blade with which to shave. They gave him a blade, then one of the children of the house approached Khobaib. So Khobaib sat the child next to him and was gentle with him. When the mother of the child noticed that her son was sitting so close to the prisoner who held a blade, she panicked. But Khobaib asked her, "Oh mother, are you worried about your child? Don't be worried. We are the companions of Muhammad. We do not deceive." They killed Khobaib the next day.

Or do I love you, dearest beloved, for your gentleness in the household? You used to broom your house, knit your garments and fix your slippers. You also put the burden of putting food on the table (and that includes cooking it) on the man. You let children climb upon your back and you used to run races with your wife. You raised excellence in domestic behavior above excellence in worship, trade, building mosques, public policy and statehood put together when you said: "The best of you is the best to his family."

Or your generosity? When you would go home and there was no food in your house -- most of the days of your life -- and whenever you had food, your generosity got you busy spreading it to those who needed it until you forgot about yourself. Then the day came when God gave you so many sheep that they covered the area between two mountains. And a Bedouin nearby, who didn't believe you were a prophet, looked at those herds, so you asked him, "Do you like sheep?"

And he said, "Yes."

So you said, "Take them, they are yours."

The man ran toward the herds, glancing back at you in disbelief, thinking you would turn back on your word. Later, when he reached people, he said to them, "Surrender! I come to you from the best of people. Muhammad gives in the spirit of those who don't fear poverty."

Or do I love you for the purity of your mercy? Your enemies injured you along with many of your Companions. And between you and revenge from them was a simple gesture of raising your hand to your Lord and He would respond to you. So you raised your hand and you said, "Oh God, guide the people because they don't know."

Or is there something in my heart of the love that settled in the heart of your best friend, Abu Bakr, the truthful? During your narrow escape from Mecca, he was with you, the second of two. When both of you became thirsty, on your way to Medina, Abu Bakr started searching for a shepherd who might have milk. Finally he found one and brought some milk to you so that you could drink. He described the moment he saw you drinking saying, "The Prophet drank until my thirst was quenched."

Or do I love you because of your mystical love relationship with your Lord? The one described many times between the covers of God's book, like, "Surely you have a sublime character" (68:4) and "So wait patiently (oh Muhammad) for your Lord's decree, for verily you are in Our sight" (52:48) and "Your Lord will surely give to you, and you will be satisfied" (93:5).

Maybe your Creator has planted in my heart love for you because of His love for you.

But strangest of all is that with all your descriptions and status and accomplishments, you love me. I became sure of this after I heard that each prophet, from the prophets of God, has used all his prayers in his lifetime, whereas you have saved a special prayer for us, oh my beloved, to be an intercession for us on the day of judgment. And no one does this except the lover to his beloved ones.

So you love me? I'm the one who lies to protect myself before my mother, my child, my friends, my colleague, my president, while you taught me, "The believer does not lie." I am the one who triumphs in my own pride over those who oppose me (and, of course, if I don't triumph, I hide resentment in my heart). And you say to those who hurt you for more than 20 years, "There isn't any blame between us. God will forgive you and He is the Most Merciful of Merciful." I am the one who passes not a single day without falling short on at least one promise. And you waited three days, in the same place, for a man who forgot his appointment with you. Just because you promised?

Then the dark day arrives when people who don't know you start to mock you with my descriptions. They see the excesses of my lies and the height of my self-centeredness and my desires and the lack of my fidelity, and they think it is your teachings!

So instead of me standing up and explaining to them your beauty -- the least I could do in return for all the goodness you've bestowed upon us -- I find myself confirming their perceptions by screaming, cursing, terrorizing and terrifying them.

They don't know that the screaming is part of me dying from shock that they don't know you except through me. Messenger of God, I am not strong enough for this mission and I swear I am not worthy.

Then another dark day comes, similar to this day, then a third and a fourth. And each day another part of me dies.

And I don't want to live dead. I've had enough today, my master, from the taste of this slow death. So I ask of the One who has forbidden us to torture any living creature, the One who has sent you as a mercy to all the worlds, one of two things: To either take me up to Him and give whatever is left from my life to someone who can show your true beauty to His people.

Or to stop repeating these dark days and to compensate them with bright days that make Earth's inhabitants know the truth of your beauty. And we hear, across all the horizons, people praising you. Until we give you the good news, when we meet you in Heaven, that our era was the brightest of eras after your era.

I'm still searching, my master, for a word that combines love, humility, yearning and forgiveness. And until I find that word, I just want to say that I love you, I yearn for you, I miss you. I am ashamed before you and I'm really really sorry. May the peace and mercy of God be upon you, and His blessings.

This message to the Messenger is from Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Canada in the hope that we might come to know him more intimately, peace be upon him, and understand better the pain generated by incorrect understandings about him that manifest as crude films or violent protests.