LLP (Love, Learn, Play) in the Life of The Prophet Muhammad
By: Basit Jamal
It is a sad tragedy for many religious communities that over time they lose the real essence and goal of their faith tradition. No founder of any religion ever taught with any other aim but to bring flourishing to the lives of people. However, over time the power that religion got in the community attracted politically minded, power hungry people, who wanted to wield the power of religion but not wield the teachings it had. Corrupting their own faith community and over time the community got involved in the politics while forgetting the real purpose was to bring flourishment in their lives through love, learn and play, rather than hate, ignorance and dullness.
The community of prophet Muhammad faced the same fate. But let’s return to what he stood for, spoke for and strived to bring in lives of people. His main teachings were indeed around Love, Learn and Play. Let’s explore.
What is rarely understood by most Muslims in our times is that prophet Muhammad didn’t just believe in One God but rather that the One God was intensely and continuously loving, caring, and merciful through the formula “Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem”. Quran begins with it and it comes in the Quran 114 times. He even asked Muslims to repeat this formula countless times during the day by starting everything they do with this formula. Perhaps hoping that they will realize that just as the servant of the tailor is committed to stitch clothes, the servant of a God of love, care and mercy would be committed to love, care and mercy. He taught that uttering of this formula of God being love, care and mercy defeats evil.
Some specific teachings of prophet Muhammad on love are as following –
“You will not enter Paradise until you have faith and you will not have faith until you become lovers. Shall I show you something that, if you did, you would become lovers? Spread peace!”
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor, should serve his guest generously and should speak what is good or keep silent
“None of you believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself
Though these teachings on love did not suit the kings for whom the ideal was not being a “lover” but being great like “Alexander the Great”, for them greatness depended on mindless conquering and seeking glory through blood shed and how many people they trampled upon, but before trampling on people they had to trample upon the prophet’s teachings on love. However, it is these teachings that Sufis took to their heart and dedicated their lives to Love and thus were many times on the receiving end of politically minded people throughout the history.
The subject tonight is Love
And for tomorrow night as well
As a matter of fact
I know of no better topic
For us to discuss
Unitll we all
- Hafiz Sherazi, a sufi poet
Prophet Muhammad lost his father while still in the mother’s womb and lost his mother at 6yrs of age. There was no chance someone would invest in an orphan’s education. Ending up as a child of desolate valleys rearing flocks of sheep and camels away from the city, he ended up being unlettered. However, he always stressed that the universe is a scripture that was giving messages to all without discriminating between lettered and unlettered. Stressing that each one’s heart should have eyes and not be blind, have ears and not be deaf and have a tongue and not be mute to see, hear and speak the truth present in the universe.
He also stressed on learning how to read and write and gain knowledge of any kind. He was found preaching to those who believed that God was intensely and continuously loving, caring, and merciful (“Bismillah-hir-Rahman-nir-Raheem”) that wisdom is their lost property and they should take it no matter from where they got it.
Some specific teachings of prophet Muhammad on learning are as following –
“Seeking knowledge is an obligation upon every Muslim”
– Ibn Majah
“Verily, the angels lower their wings for the seeker of knowledge”
– Abu Dawud
“Whoever travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy for him a path to Paradise”
“The virtue of the scholar over the worshiper is like my virtue over the least of you”
Putting the scholar above the worshipper ignited the Muslim world. Muslims were found seeking a higher grade than that of a mere worshipper. The Islamic Golden age started with Muslims doing original research and travelling the world gathering knowledge from other communities as well. Giving birth to people like Jabir (Geber), Ibn Khaldun, Al-Khwarizmi and others who gifted Al-Jabr (Algebra) & Algorithms, transformed chemistry for ever, expanded medicine, laid the foundation of modern history writing etc.
It’s sad that this tradition died and the mere worshipper became more important than the seeker of knowledge. Learning was lost and so also the flourishing civilization started to decline. Any individual or a civilization declines when it moves away from learning.
When one thinks of religious personalities the image that we generally see in our mind is of someone with the most serious face whose soul has become old and incapable of child like enthusiasm. This is another thing that organized religion has fallen into — being devoid of the virtue of play. But it has fallen into it, not that it began with it.
The friends of prophet Muhammad used to say about him that they knew of no one who would smile more than him. He would joke with them but even his jokes would never be lies but funny spinoffs of truths that would make one think deeper about reality and breaking the conditioning of the mind. He would encourage poetry and even got a pulpit built for a poet friend of his in the mosque so that people could have light moments even if they were in the middle of being persecuted. In the middle of the oppression the Muslim community was facing prophet Muhammad still knew how to engage play in peoples lives. He was often found playing with kids specially his grandchildren, often being a horse for them. He is known to have recommended people to teach children swimming, horse riding and archery, things that the children of that time were excited about and desired.
Some examples of play in the life of prophet Muhammad are as follows –
Aisha said that her husband (prophet Muhammad) said to her: Come I will race you so I raced with him and I won. After I became heavier he raced me and he won, so he laughed and said this one for that one.
– Abu Dawud
His companions relate that Prophet Muhammad used to sit in their gatherings and it never happened that they were sitting and enjoying themselves and he would talk about some sad or dull matter. He would sit with them, laugh and tell jokes and listen to their humorous stories.”
Prophet Muhammad had a humorous nature and would always be smiling and cheerful in the house
– Sharah Mawahibul Ludunya
Anas ibn Malik reported: The prophet was the best of people in character. I had a little brother who was called Abu ‘Umayr. When the Prophet would come and see him, he said (to joke with him), “What has the little sparrow done?” And he would play with him.
– Bukhari, Muslim
While for Muslims even copying the prophet in the way he cut his nails or wore his socks is considered a model to be copied. The sad part is many do not care to copy him in his attitude towards play. The understanding has become that religion has to be serious and anything non-serious or play is non-religious. However, it is as far from truth as it can be.
When I got to know about the concept of love, learn and play at universal enlightenment and flourishing, I was curious to see whether this was to be found in the life and teachings of prophet Muhammad. I was happy to find LLP throughout the life of the prophet and his teachings. In fact I find my own understanding of his life to deepen when looking at him from the lens of LLP.