Before Revelation, What Made Ar-Rasul ﷺ Into Who He Was?

Learn how your da’wah can be more effective like ar-Rasul’s, by looking at how Allah prepared him before the revelation (wahyu).

What you should expect:

• Ar-Rasul’s trials and tribulations since birth till appointment as a Prophet

• How the trials and tribulations shape his personality and attributes as a great Prophet

• Practical lessons for today’s Leaders and Daies


1. Before birth – the spark re-awakening the Tawheed

2. Growing up an orphan – preparing ar-Rasul’s endurance and humility

3. Social tarbiyyah – businesses and management

4. Ar-Rasul’s tarbiyyah in leadership

5. Closer to the revelation – ar-Rasul’s spiritual preparation

The 23 years of ar-Rasul’s tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad were very compact, effective and efficient. The timespan was incredibly short compared to the scale of the legacy established, which should (and would) last until the end of time.

Nevertheless, ar-Rasul ﷺ was able to achieve his mission successfully. Of course, the assistance from Allah in the form of mu’jizat (divine miracles) is one factor.

But, one of the factors less discussed and studied was the preparatory phase of ar-Rasul ﷺ before he became who he was – a great leader, dai’e and mujahid. Certainly, ar-Rasul ﷺ didn’t live an empty life for 40 years before the revelation.

What did he have to endure through his pre-revelation life? And how did it affect his 23 compact years of the huge mission?

1. Before birth – the spark re-awakening the Tawheed

Ar-Rasul ﷺ was born in Makkah on the morning of 9 Rabiul Awwal, 571 AD. The year was renowned as the ‘year of the Elephant’, following the Arab’s customs of counting the year after a year named from a significant event.

Briefly, it was the year Abrahah al-Arsham, a zealous Christian governor of Yemen, marched to Makkah to wreck the Kaabah. Kaabah was the centre of the Arabs, where they came to visit every year to perform pilgrimage as a continuation of Prophet Ibrahim’s religious tradition.

Unlike how we often perceive it, the root cause of this attack was significantly politically and economically motivated more than religious, as described by al-Maududi.

Abrahah aspired for Habshah to replace the influence of Kaabah in the hearts of the Arabs, so he could control the geostrategic economic routes of the Arabian lands. With that, the Byzantine empire could overcome the economic restriction imposed by the Iranian empire at that time.

These materialistic objectives were made to be supporting the religious cause – just like how the power struggle was across the centuries until today.

As a strategic move, Abrahah built a magnificent cathedral of al-Qullais in Sana’a. He was claimed to deliberately announce his intention of bypassing Kaabah to provoke the Meccans. Following the reactive befoulment of several Meccans towards al-Qullais, Abrahah managed to secure a valid reason to destroy the Kaabah thus subsequently divert the Arabs’ economic activity to Sana’a.

Ar-Rasul’s grandfather and the de facto leader of Makkah, Abdul Muttalib, was informed of the attack. Yet, he didn’t express any fear or worry – he had faith that Allah will protect the Kaabah.

Abdul Muttalib only asked for his 200 camels that were seized by Abrahah to be returned, saying,

إني أنا رب الإبل، وإن للبيت ربا سيمنعه

“I am the owner of the camels. And Kaabah has its own Owner (Allah), who will protect it.”

The conflict came to an end as recorded in the Quran Chapter al-Fiil (105), where Allah nullified the scheme (يجعل كيدهم في تضليل) of the people declaring war against Him azza wa jalla, and He sent down divine punishment to destroy them, as an irhas (the prologue of miracle) to ar-Rasul’s prophethood.

40 or 50 days later, ar-Rasul ﷺ was born into an Arab society who generally praised Allah more than the 360 idols erected around the Kaaba.

2. Growing up an orphan – preparing ar-Rasul’s endurance and humility

Ar-Rasul’s mission of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad required strong endurance. Going through ar-Rasul’s series of life events before prophethood, we can learn how Allah trained and tested him ﷺ, one after another.

Truly Allah is All-capable of having ar-Rasul born with perfect attributes, that ar-Rasul ﷺ wouldn’t need to experience all the difficulties during his early years. Nevertheless, such is His sunnatullah as well – in human behaviour development and as a lesson for us mankind as ar-Rasul’s legacy.

The bigger our responsibility is, the bigger challenge we are going to face. And the more endurance we have to possess. Preparatory and continuous tarbiyyah would be a must.

Ar-Rasul ﷺ was born an orphan, and being one growing up is never easy. Scholars extracted multiple wisdom of such destiny, which mostly are connected to ar-Rasul’s endurance for his upcoming mission.

It was so that ar-Rasul ﷺ always be reminded that nobility and grace were solely granted from Allah and not from parental lineage, Ibn Al-Imad commented.

Nobody except Allah should ar-Rasul ﷺ rely upon, should he seek strength from. Allah would be the one and only foundation of ar-Rasul’s endurance.

The custom in Mecca was that newborns had to be given to mothers of Badwi nomads living in the adjacent desert. Being an orphan, ar-Rasul ﷺ was rejected by many sitters. In their view, whoever keeps a baby who has no father will not benefit from it.

Just when ar-Rasul ﷺ was raised shortly by his grandfather, his grandfather, too, passed away. Ar-Rasul ﷺ was adopted later by his uncle, Abu Talib, who was also struggling with poverty.

Growing up an orphan and all the difficulties he faced during his early days were a divine tarbiyyah for him ﷺ, so he ﷺ would possess great humility and in-depth understanding of human struggle. Therefore, his prophetic mission to return sovereignty to Allah would never be disconnected from the real conflict within mankind.

They were also a divine tarbiyyah for him ﷺ, so he ﷺ would possess great endurance through his mission of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad later.

As a legacy of his mission, are we more of arrogance than humility in our Islamic works? Are we having great endurance to face the powerful opposition of taghut?

3. Social tarbiyyah – businesses and management

Aside from divine tarbiyyah for ar-Rasul ﷺ in the aspects of spiritual and personality, Allah also destined him to be properly trained in social aspects.

As early as during his 12 years of age, ar-Rasul ﷺ was brought along by his uncle and caretaker, Abu Talib, to do businesses in Syam.

Managing a successful business is not an easy task. One needs to deeply understand human’s interests, psychology and necessity.

One needs to understand sociology, supply and demand, and be strongly visionary to solve people’s problems.

One needs to be skilled in persuasive communication, human interaction, and risk and resource management.

Imagine how great ar-Rasul ﷺ rose in entrepreneurship that Khadijah, later to be his wife, approached him when he ﷺ was 25 and entrusted him with her prosperous business.

Imagine how great those ar-Rasul’s skills were, which was later translated into the 23 strategic and effective years of divine mission.

4. Ar-Rasul’s tarbiyyah in leadership

Since his youth, Allah had ar-Rasul ﷺ developed an interest in goat shepherd. Sometimes he took care of Banu Sa’d’s goats, and sometimes he took care of the Meccans’.

Goats are known to be stubborn. Later, so did the disbelievers of Allah. Herding goats is challenging, and it trained ar-Rasul’s patience and leadership quality.

One of the highlights of his leadership was the event of al-Tahkim. When ar-Rasul ﷺ was 35, Kaabah had to be reconstructed due to major flooding. As a highly respected and revered worshipping place of the Arabs, all tribes were assigned different responsibilities to build each part.

A dispute arose at the “Hajar al-Aswad” stage, where the tribes fought for nights to the extent of bloodshed over the privilege to lift and return it to its place. Abu Umayyah bin al-Mughirah al-Makhzumi proposed that the first person to enter Masjid al-Haram in the morning will receive the honour. 

Allah destined that ar-Rasul ﷺ to be the one. Instead of having the privilege to himself alone (like common leaders today would do), ar-Rasul ﷺ instead brought people together. He sought excellent leadership, diplomacy and unity.

Ar-Rasul ﷺ came up with a solution where all tribes came together to return Hajar al-Aswad to the rightful place. There would be no single hero – every tribe got to play their part.

This anecdote of seerah was not new to us, the Leaders and the Dai’es. Yet the event taught us the quality of leadership needed by the Arabs and the ummah.

The event showed the brilliant solution from an in-depth understanding of the Arabs’ sociology of jahiliyyah that persists from then until today: their disunity due to the struggle for power and honour among tribes.

5. Closer to the revelation – ar-Rasul’s spiritual preparation

Last but not the least was the divine guidance for ar-Rasul ﷺ to be concerned with the society, and how corrupted and deviated were the existing Jahili ways of life from the guidance of Allah.

Allah guided him ﷺ to seek for spiritual strength through his seclusion in the mountain of al-Nour.

As Allah sent His first revelation of al-Alaq, He guided him ﷺ the solution of the issue, that is a world system founded on divine sovereignty.

Allah sent down His Word emphasising Himself as the Sovereign Lord and Creator. He ordained for Himself to be the fundamental, source and direction in seeking knowledge to solve the solution of the ummah, thus abandoning the corrupted man-made way of life and systems.

His seclusion prepared him ﷺ to return to the ummah and face the conflicts. Seclusion didn’t make him ﷺ avoid the sick ummah permanently just to save himself alone in the Hereafter.

With our Islamic works requiring our attention, resources and time to be among people and their conflicts, we need our regular spiritual reconnection with Allah.

It would be our self-purification, so we put our hope and reliance on nobody but Allah alone. So that we put His interest before ourselves and the others’ interests. So that we could remind ourselves that this is His cause, that we are calling people to Him and not to us, and that His reward in the Hereafter is the only reward we are seeking, not the worldly rewards from people that could sway our intention.

Divine tarbiyyah for the upcoming trials and tribulations, and the end goals

The later 23 years of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad were not easy years. They were years filled with trials and tribulations.

Even then and until the end of time, taghut will always strongly oppose the cause of faith and the struggle to establish divine systems.

Before prophethood, ar-Rasul ﷺ have gone through series of tarbiyyah by Allah, preparing him ﷺ to carry the heavy task that he would dedicate all his life for.

What we as the Muslim Leaders and Dai’es have to take note of is that like before prophethood, tarbiyyah and proper preparation are paramount. However, what sort of preparation will be determined by our end goal.

If our end goal is an only spiritual achievement, only spiritual tarbiyyah will matter to us. Likewise, if our end goal is solely political, we will only be concerned with political knowledge and skills.

Yet, ar-Rasul’s divine preparation pre-revelation was as comprehensive as the mission and the end game of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad were – to return sovereignty to Allah and establish his systems in the world.

Allah prepared ar-Rasul ﷺ in his belief and faith, his mental and spiritual, his physical and endurance, his leadership and human skills, his understanding of society, as well as his fundamental skills which later proven necessary for his political and military career.

Now, who are we to confine and cherry-pick our end goals, our approaches, and our preparations of tarbiyyah, da’wah and jihad, when we are continuing his legacy ﷺ?

Further reading  

Safiy al-Rahman al-Mubarakfuri. 1988, Al-Rahiq al-Makhtum Bahs fi Sirah alNabawiyyah. Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah.

Tariq Ramadan. 2007. In the Footsteps of The Prophet, Lessons from the Life of Muhammad, Oxford University Press, Inc.

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