“The time will come soon when the best property of a Muslim will be some sheep which he takes to the peaks of the mountains and to places where the rain falls in order to flee out of fear that his deen will be tempted.” (hadith)
A Muslim leader has the important responsibility to make sure Allah’s followers are provided spiritual Truth so that they will be protected from the dunya (temptations of the temporal world). This is exemplified in the above sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, blessings and peace upon him, by the use of metaphor. Mountain peaks are symbols of revelation; where a human designee is blessed with direct messages from Allah, and the rain represents spiritual Truth brought to humanity through Scripture. If a believer does not stay submitted to God by constant mindfulness and study of their respective Scriptures as well as following their Prophet or Messenger then their deen will be compromised by the influence of the dunya.
The Prophet Isa (Jesus — peace be upon him), responded to the questioning of the Jews regarding whether he was the Messiah or not at the time of the Feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem by telling them that they refused
to believe because they “are not of my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:10–30)
The sheep followed the particular voice of their shepherd who would lead them into the greenest pastures and to still waters so they could drink and be refreshed. It was also the responsibility of the shepherd to protect his sheep from all predators, especially at night, by sitting guard at the gate to the sheep pen thereby even placing his own life at risk. In the above Parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus is explaining that those who listen, follow, and put into the practice his teachings will be given eternal life and entrance into the Paradise. Therefore, because of the believers submission to God, they will be protected from the temptations of the dunya. And, to clarify for Muslims, Jesus is not stating he is the same as God, or a partner with God, but that He is in full submission to God so as God’s Messenger or Prophet has been given guardianship over new believers just as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was and is entrusted with his followers.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told his companions that, “Allah did not send any Prophet but that he herded sheep.” This is a sign of the physical world mirroring the spiritual world — the sheep who will be fed, watered and protected are the ones who follow and hear only the voice of their Shepherd. Likewise, true believers are expected to follow the Messengers or Prophets and put into practice the teachings of Scriptures; in this way we will be protected from the temptations of the Shaytan and the lure of the temporal world.
In the Tawrat (Torah and Old Testament), King David was chosen by the Prophet Samuel (who was the last Judge of the time of Judges, and the first Prophet to begin the time of the Prophets in Israelite history) by God’s clear direction. David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse and was a shepherd. Samuel is drawn to Jesse’s oldest, tall son and thinks surely this is the one that God has chosen to be king, but soon discovers God had chosen the lowly youngest son, the one responsible for taking care of the sheep. God tells Samuel, “Don’t look at his appearance or how tall he is, because I have rejected him (the first born). God does not see as humans see. Humans look at outward appearances, but the Lord looks into the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
Indeed, it is Allah alone who chooses His Prophets or Messengers and it frequently is a decision that does not agree with the expectations of human leaders. The Prophet Isa (SAW) did not study under great Hebrew scholars and came from a small place in Galilee that was considered uncultured and yet his spiritual understanding of the Tawrat far exceeded that of any known Hebrew scholar. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) couldn’t read or write, so wasn’t able to study the Tawrat or Injil, but was given clear, direct revelation from the Archangel Gabriel to recite. Both of these Prophets were rejected by many because they didn’t meet the expectations or academic standards of the day to provide them with the human authority to teach. However, it is Allah (God) who alone has provided His Prophets with authority, inspiration, and revelation to teach — therefore they are the best teachers. However, human understanding is limited and so we must always remember that Allah knows best.
Muslims, are you following the voice of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)? Or is his voice lost in the cacophony of the modern world? Whose voice are you following? Many Jews of Jesus’ day refused to follow him because their great scholars turned away many prospective believers because Jesus didn’t meet their grand expectations. How could a carpenter’s son from Galilee who didn’t have the reputation of studying under the greatest Hebrew scholars have any authority or understanding? Yet, it is Allah alone who provides the rain filled streams for our refreshment, so why do you allow yourself to be led away from the guidance of your Messenger? Falsehood is spreading, and many Islamic scholars are leading many believers astray by misleading and erroneous interpretation because they themselves are not following the voice the Prophet (SAW). However, the Qur’an teaches that we will individually be held responsible for whether we accepted the Truth or not, and will not be allowed the excuse that it was a leader who led them astray.