The Life of the Best of Creation ﷺ is a series of insightful lectures in which Shaykh Hamza Yusuf discusses the sīrah of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, studying the celebrated poem Qurrat al-Abṣār by ‘Abd al-‘Azīz al-Lamtī.
Alchemiya, in partnership with DeenStream.com offers the first four parts of this thirteen-part course taught by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf on a Rihla retreat based in Madinah. In these lectures he introduces his English translation of a celebrated poem on the blessed life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Written over 400 years ago by the noble and erudite scholar, Shaykh ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Lamtī, The Discerning Eye’s Delight (Qurrat al-Abṣār) eloquently honours the life, qualities, and countless virtues of the Messenger ﷺ. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s moving commentary of this didactic gem will surely engender a greater love for the Beloved ﷺ.
This series of lectures exploring the life of the Prophet ﷺ were given in Taif in July. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf comments on the clement weather in the city, and tells us that the city is known as the the place that people go in Saudi to escape the summer heat.
He introduces the sīrah poem the Qurrat Al-Abṣār, a Moroccan text by ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Al-Lamtī, a scholar from Meknes, which is studied and memorised in Mauritania, where it is very common for the women to memorise it. Composed of over four hundred lines, it contains many details about the Prophet ﷺ that people don’t generally know.
In the first couple of lectures Shaykh Hamza Yusuf talks generally about the sīrah of the Prophet ﷺ and love of the Prophet ﷺ saying that people should get to know and respect him. On the subject of respect he looks at the usual word in Arabic for respect, which is iḥtirām. The root word, or maṣdar, of iḥtirām is the word ḥaram, meaning sanctuary. He explores this key Islamic concept of the ḥaram – with its root meanings of sanctity and respect, saying that a woman in the Saudi dialect is called a ḥurma, because she is inviolable. This is a similar idea behind the idea of the ḥaram. There are things you don’t do in the ḥaram that you can do in other places.
From this he comments that we should have respect for all people, since we don’t know their standing with Allah. To demonstrate this he gives us the ḥadith about the woman who goes to hell for not feeding a cat and not letting it go free to find food, and the ḥadith about the prostitute who goes to heaven for giving water to a dog.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf gives us other interesting etymological insights, giving a deeper understanding of key Islamic terms, discussing the meanings of love, being excessive in religion, and the importance of meaning. Looking at the Arabic word for “the world”, ʿālam, he points out its root meaning of knowledge, and that its form gives it the meaning of being the instrument of ʿilm [knowledge] i.e. God’s vehicle for giving us knowledge.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf is an engaging speaker whose commentaries show a dazzling command of the religious sciences, sīrah, etymology, history and Arab poetry, coupled with faith, sincerity and wisdom. He spent many years studying in the Arab world and in the Mauritanian desert learning from traditional scholars. He is the cofounder of Zaytuna College.
Discussing the sīrah of the Prophet in this series of lectures he looks at the the lineage of the Prophet ﷺ, the tribal context he was born into and the biblical prophecies that caused many Eastern Christians and North African Christians to become Muslim. He discusses surrounding kingdoms, telling the story of the meeting between Abraha and ʿAbd Al-Muṭṭalib. Narrating the story behind Abraha’s defeat, recorded in the Quranic sūrah al-Fīl, he tells how the elephant refused to attack the Kaʿba and how ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib was confident that Allah would protect the Kaʿba. “From that day forward the Quraysh were known as ahlu Allah, the people of God. And the Arabs … felt that these people had some power with God. This is also very important for the preparation of the Arabs for the advent of the Prophet ﷺ, and the place that the Quraysh would have in the scheme of things. The Prophet ﷺ was born in that year, ʿām al-fīl, the year of the elephant.”
You may also enjoy the lecture series The Character of the Prophet ﷺ by Imam Zaid Shakir, and the feature film A Mercy to Mankind about the events leading up to the birth of the Prophet ﷺ.