The Prophet’s Tearful Eyes
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the perfect role model in all situations, including those that do not have a religious aspect. This is due to the fact that he lived in accordance with the Qur’an and was keen to implement its values and principles. A well-known Hadith speaks of lady Ayesha (RA) being asked about the Prophet’s manners. Her answer was simple: “His manners were the Qur’an.” What she meant was that the Prophet was keen to implement the Qur’an, its morality and social values in every situation.
The Prophet (PBUH) read the Qur’an in all situations, and reflected on its meanings in order to give a practical example of putting the Qur’an into practice. Moreover, the Prophet (PBUH) appreciated the Qur’an as no one else could do, since he had the experience of receiving it from on high. Needless to say, no one could recite the Qur’an better than the Prophet (PBUH). Yet, he sometimes asked some of his companions to read the Qur’an for him. Abdullah ibn Masoud reports: “The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to me: ‘Read something of the Qur’an for me.’ I said: ‘Messenger of God! You want me to read for you when it is to you that the Qur’an was revealed from on high?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ I read Surah 4, Women, until I reached the verse that says: ‘How will it be (on Judgment Day) when We shall bring a witness from every community, and call you as a witness against these people?’ (4: 41) He said to me: ‘This will do for now.’ I looked at him and I saw his eyes tearful.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Al-Tirmidhi and others.)
Several points need to be highlighted in this Hadith. The first is that the Prophet (PBUH) wanted to listen to the Qur’an being read by someone else. He chose Abdullah ibn Masoud (RA) who was one of the best of his companions in reading the Qur’an. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH) said once: “Whoever wants to listen to the Qur’an as fresh as it is when revealed should listen to Ibn Masoud.” This is a great testimony for Abdullah (RA).
Why was the Prophet (PBUH) in tears as he listened?
Perhaps it was the verse being read that gave him tears. It speaks of the Day of Judgment, when a witness is brought forward from every community. The Prophets (Peace on them) will be the witness of their own communities. It is a difficult task, because their testimonies will determine fate of their followers, and the Prophet (PBUH) was so keen that his community should earn Allah's acceptance and pleasure.
The situation that brings a person closest to God is during prayer. When one is attentive to prayer, thinking of Allah and his position in front of Him, he feels his humility. It is this closeness to Allah, and feeling His great presence, and one’s own worthlessness that makes one realize that one has missed so many chances of drawing closer to Him. This is true of all of us: we often prefer comfort to the fulfillment of duty, and we often yield to temptation.
Being in tears during one’s worship is perfectly understandable. The Prophet (PBUH) has been reported to be in tears in his worship on many occasions. But this reflected his sensitive approach to the Qur’an and Islamic worship generally. Perhaps his attitude to the Qur’an is best summed in the Hadith reported by one of his companions: “People said to the Prophet (PBUH): ‘Messenger of God! You have grown gray! He said: ‘Surah Hood and its sisters have made me grow gray.’” (Related by Al-Tirmidhi).
Another version of this Hadith mentions that it was Abu Bakr (RA) who made this remark about the Prophet (PBUH) having gray hair. He answered him: “It is so because of Surahs Hood (10), Al-Waqi’ah (56), Al-Mursalat (77), Al-Naba’ (78) and Al-Takweer (81).”
The Prophet’s remarks about these surahs refer to what they include of the description of the Day of Judgment and what people may face on that day. It is certainly a fearsome day and what will happen to those who are deprived of Allah's grace sends fear into the hearts of all believers. Moreover, these surahs speak of the universal upheaval that will accompany the approach of the Day of Judgment. This is when everything will be in a state of destruction. What could man, a weak creature, do on that day. Only a true believer hopes to be safe.