Jabir ibn Abdullah quotes the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: “I have been given five privileges which were not given to anyone before me: I have been supported by fear traveling a month ahead of me; the earth has been assigned to me as a place of worship and a source of purification.

“Anyone from my community may pray wherever he is when prayer is due. War gains have been made lawful to me while they were not made lawful to anyone before. I have been allowed to intercede on behalf of my followers. Prophets before me used to be sent to their own local communities while I am sent to all mankind.” (Related by Al-Bukhari).

The Prophet outlines these five privileges, acknowledging God’s favors and expressing his gratitude. He is in no way boasting about them. He is also highlighting them to his community so that they will remain grateful to God for them.

The first privilege is that the Prophet was supported by fear being struck into the hearts of his enemies.

A question arises here: Is this privilege special for the Prophet only or extended to his community in later generations? There is no clear indication given by the Prophet on this point.

Many scholars are of the view that it is special for the Prophet only, but some of them say that it applies to the Muslim community in all generations, provided that it adheres to Islam in all its affairs.

The second privilege concerns prayer, which is an essential element in all divine religions. The Prophet says: “There is no goodness in a religion that does not include prayer.”

The Prophet stresses here the fact that Muslims offer their prayers anywhere and can use the earth for dry ablution if they have no water.

This is an important privilege because earlier prophets had to offer their prayers in their temples or special places of worship. We all make use of this privilege all the time.

We conduct our congregational prayers in mosques, as well as in our places of work, schools, colleges, or at home.

A Muslim who works all day long in an office or a factory where there are hundreds of employees who are non-Muslims can easily take a few minutes to offer his prayers at his place of work, without disrupting his work.

If water is not available, we can use the concession of dry ablution, using plain earth in a symbolic gesture that makes our prayers valid.

Having said that, we should remember that there are clearly outlined exceptions. Prayers cannot be offered in graveyards, on rubbish heaps, in slaughterhouses, camel stables, on the open road, in bathrooms, or in some other particular places. These are well-defined, even though there are differences among schools of thought concerning some of them.

Third privilege: Earlier prophets were not allowed to take war gains. This is because such earlier prophets were of two kinds. One kind was not required or allowed to go to war with any opponents. Therefore, they had no war gains to think about. The other kind went into the war as God permitted or required them to do, but they were not allowed to take war gains. If they scored a victory and the defeated enemy left behind any spoils of war, those prophets and their armies were allowed to take nothing of such war gains. All of that must be left on the battlefield and burnt by fire. Prophet Muhammad was allowed to take such gains, keeping one-fifth for the state and dividing four-fifths among his soldiers. This remains valid for the Muslim community.

The last two privileges belong only to Prophet Muhammad.

The first is the intercession on behalf of his followers. This is a privilege that he exercises on the Day of Judgment when all people gather and face the reckoning. No one can intercede on behalf of anyone, except Prophet Muhammad who is allowed to request God Almighty for compassion. His entreaties are answered. Some scholars give other interpretations of this privilege. One interpretation suggests that this is a reference to the fact that Prophet Muhammad’s prayers were always answered. If he prayed to God on behalf of anyone, God was certain to answer such prayer in the best form and measure. Another interpretation says that it refers to answering his appeal on the Day of Judgment that no one who has even an iota of faith in his or her heart should remain in hell. The first interpretation that it is an appeal for compassion to be shown by God to all those gathered on the Day of Judgment is more accurate.

The Prophet was also given a most important privilege, which is the fact that his message is addressed to all mankind for the rest of human life on earth, while earlier messages were addressed to particular communities. Thus, his message is universal, complete, and suitable to all communities and all generations. Other Hadiths speak of other privileges given either to the Prophet or to the Muslim community. However, the ones mentioned in the Hadith we are discussing are of a wider perspective, and more concerned with the special position of Islam as God’s final message to mankind.

– By Adil Salahi