Chapter-VIII

 

Verse 13 of the ‘Song’ is:

לחיו כערוגה הבשם מגדלות מרקחיםשפתותיושושיםנטפותמורעבר[1]

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

For convenience sake the verse is being divided into two parts. Firstly, the study of its first clause, ‘His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers’, will be undertaken:

The first main word of the verse is ‘cheeks’. The original Hebrew word for this ‘cheek’ is ‘לחי’ (lehiy). The Strong’s Dic. has recorded its meanings as:

From an unusual root meaning to be soft; the cheek (from its fleshiness);[2]

The Heb. and Aramaic Lexicon has given the meanings of this word as (1) chin, (2) jawbone, and (3) cheek. It has also recorded its meaning as ‘beard’ with reference to Arabic.[3]

It shows that the original Hebrew word for ‘cheeks’ actually means ‘soft and fleshy cheeks’; and it also implies ‘beard’. 

The next main word of the verse is ‘bed’ for which the original Hebrew word is ‘ערוגה’ (‘Aroojah). According to Strong’s Dic. it means:

Something piled up, i.e. bed, furrow.[4]

It implies that the original Hebrew word for this ‘bed’ means ‘piled up’.

The third important word of the clause is ‘spices’ for which the original Hebrew word in the Bible is ‘בשם’ (besem). Strong’s Dic. has recorded its meanings as:

Fragrance; by implication spicery[5]; also the balsam plant:- smell, spice, sweet (odour).[6]

The fourth main word of the clause is ‘sweet’. The original Hebrew word for it is ‘םרקח’ (merqah). The Strong’s Dic. has recorded its meanings as:

From 7543; a spicy herb:- X sweet.[7]

And the meanings of entry No. 7543 are:

A primary root; to perfume; make [ointment].[8]

It can thus be appreciated that the original Hebrew word for this ‘sweet’ means ‘made fragrant through applying perfume’.

The last main word of the clause is ‘flowers’. The meanings of the original Hebrew word for it, i.e ‘םגדל’ (mijdal), have been recorded in the Strong’s Dic. as under:

From 1431; a tower (from its size or height); figuratively a (pyramidal) bed of flowers.[9]

Keeping in view the above lexical explorations, the correct translation of the original Heb. clause, which has been rendered into English as: ‘His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers’ will be as below:

His raised up fleshy and soft cheeks, and the thick beard thereupon, seem as if they are heaps of fragrances which have been made fragrant through applying sweet-smelling perfumes. They are like the beds of small fragrant herbs and the pyramids of sweet-smelling flowers.

If someone tries to trace these qualities in the person of Jesus Christ (pbAh), he is bound to face utter disappointment. On the other hand, if it be tried to trace these qualities in the person of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh), the outcome will be as follows:

Anas was his servant and he remained with him for ten years. His report is:

عَنْ أَنَسٍ مَا شَمَمْتُ عَنْبَرًا قَطُّ وَلَا مِسْكًا وَلَا شَيْئًا أَطْيَبَ مِنْ رِيحِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلموَلَا مَسِسْتُ شَيْئًا قَطُّ دِيبَاجًا وَلَا حَرِيرًا أَلْيَنَ مَسًّا مِنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم[10]

I never found ambergris, musk or any other perfume smelling better than the sweet smell radiating from the body of the Prophet (pbAh). And I never touched anything, may it be silk brocade or any other silken fabric, which could be softer in touch than the body of the Apostle of Allah (pbAh).[11]

Anas reports in another tradition:

عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ قَالَ دَخَلَ عَلَيْنَا النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلمفَقَال[12]َ عِنْدَنَا فَعَرِقَ وَجَاءَتْ أُمِّي بِقَارُورَةٍ فَجَعَلَتْ تَسْلِتُ الْعَرَقَ فِيهَا فَاسْتَيْقَظَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلمفَقَالَ يَا أُمَّ سُلَيْمٍ مَا هَذَا الَّذِي تَصْنَعِينَ قَالَتْ هَذَا عَرَقُكَ نَجْعَلُهُ فِي طِيبِنَا وَهُوَ مِنْ أَطْيَبِ الطِّيبِ[13]

The Prophet (pbAh) came to our house and took a midday nap there. He perspired. My mother brought a bottle and began to pour the sweat in that. The Prophet got up. He said, ‘What is this that you are doing?’ She said, ‘This is your sweat. We mix it in our perfume. It becomes the most fragrant perfume.’[14]

عَنْ أَنَسٍ قَالَ )(...)(كَأَنَّ عَرَقَهُ اللُّؤْلُؤُ )(...)(وَلَا شَمِمْتُ مِسْكَةً وَلَا عَنْبَرَةً أَطْيَبَ مِنْ رَائِحَةِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم[15]َ

The sweat of the Prophet (pbAh) was like pearls. (...). I never found musk or ambergris smelling better than the fragrance of the Apostle of Allah’s (pbAh).

Jabir says:

عَنْ جَابِرٍ أَنَّ النَّبِيَّ صلى الله عليه وسلملَمْ يَسْلُكْ طَرِيقًا أَوْ لَا يَسْلُكُ طَرِيقًا فَيَتْبَعُهُ أَحَدٌ إِلَّا عَرَفَ أَنَّهُ قَدْ سَلَكَهُ مِنْ طِيبِ عَرَقِهِ أَوْ قَالَ مِنْ رِيحِ عَرَقِهِ[16]

If someone happened to walk along a way, which the Prophet (pbAh) had previously traversed, he could definitely be led to believe from the fragrance spread out of the body or sweat of the Prophet (pbAh) that he had passed by that way.

It had been noted above in chapter IV of this book that ‘he was of brilliant and rosy colour’. It presents a clear and faithful picture of the words ‘sweet flower’.

‘Utbah bin Farqad Sulami reports:

[98]حدثتني أم عاصم امرأة عتبة بن فرقدالسلمي قالت   كنا عند عتبة أربع نسوة ما منا امرأة إلا وهي تجتهد في الطيب لتكون أطيب من صاحبتها وما يمس عتبة الطيب إلا يمس دهنا يمسح به لحيته وهو أطيب ريحا منا وكان إذا خرج إلى الناس قالوا ما شممنا ريحا أطيب من ريح عتبة فقلت له يوما إنا لنجتهد في الطيب ولأنت أطيب منا ريحا فمما ذاك فقال أخذني الشرا على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلمفأتيته فشكوت ذلك إليه فأمرني أن أتجرد فتجردت وقعدت بين يديه وألقيت ثوبي على فرجي فنفث في يده على ظهري وبطني فعقب بي هذا الطيب من يومئذ[17]

The sense of the tradition has been recorded by ‘Abd al-Haq as follows:

Once during the lifetime of the Prophet (pbAh) I got a heat rash. I requested the Prophet (pbAh) for its treatment. He asked me to put off my shirt [from the affected place]. I put off my shirt and sat before him. The Prophet (pbAh) moved his hand gently over my body, hence this fragrance on my back and belly.[18]

Matthew Henry has applied this sentence of the ‘Song’ to Jesus Christ (pbAh) and has explained it as follows:

His cheeks (the risings of the face) are as bed of spices, raised in the gardens, which are the beauty and wealth of them, and as sweet flowers, or towers of sweetness. There is that in Christ’s countenance which is amiable in the eyes of all the saints, in the least glimpse of him, for the cheek is but the part of the face. The half discoveries Christ makes of himself to the soul are reviving and refreshing, fragrant above the richest flowers and perfumes.[19]

After the study of the above passage it can be observed that the worthy commentator is the king of the world of letters and the master of rhetoric. But the words of King Solomon (pbAh) cannot be applied to Jesus Christ (pbAh) through verbosity, eloquence, and credulity. It requires objective study and authentic references. Although the writer was an erudite scholar, it was impossible for him to afford some credible evidence in favour of his assertion; and how could he present it when there is none on the record whatsoever. He has adroitly endeavoured to cover the unavailability of the evidential data through his eloquence, but how can the lack of evidence be made up with the verbosity in the realm of historical presentations!

After the proper lexical study of the Hebrew words of the clause it would be appreciated that its sense could be as follows:

His raised up fleshy and soft cheeks, and the thick beard thereupon, seem as if they are heaps of fragrances which have been made fragrant through applying sweet-smelling perfumes. They are like the beds of small fragrant herbs and the pyramids of sweet-smelling flowers.

It can be summed up in two key words: ‘softness and fragrance’. The above historical record establishes that it is the exact description of the features of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh), whereas it has nothing to do with Jesus Christ (pbAh).

The second and the last clause of the verse is:

His lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

The first important word in the clause is ‘lips’. The original Hebrew word for it is ‘שפה’ (shaphah)[20], which means:

The lip; by implication language, speech, talk, words.[21]

The next important word of this part of the verse is ‘lilies’. The original word for it is ‘שושן’ (shoshan). It means:

From an equivalent of 7797, i.e. a prim. root; to be bright, i.e. cheerful:- be glad, X greatly, joy, make mirth, rejoice.[22]

The next main word of this part of the verse is ‘dropping’. The original word for it is ‘נטף’ (nataph)[23]. It means:

a primary root; to ooze, i.e. distill gradually; by implication to fall in drops; figuratively to speak by inspiration, prophesy.[24]

The last word of the verse is ‘myrrh’. Its original Hebrew is ‘מר’ or ‘מור’ (murr or more). It means:

From 4843 [which is ‘to be or make bitter’]; myrrh (as distilling in drops, and also as bitter).[25]

After getting explained the meanings of all the important original Hebrew words of this clause, its correct sense would be:

His lips are bright and beautiful like a lily flower. The rejoicing, greeting, and bright word that comes out of them, is altogether prophecy and inspiration. [The implied brightness of ‘lilies’ includes the brightness and light that radiated physically from the lips of Prophet Strong’s Dic. of the Heb. Bible  (pbAh)].

Broadman Commentary on the Biblehas made the following observations on it:

The comparison of lips to lilies refers not to colour but to the open lily blossom which dispenses its nectar to bees [i.e. its usefulness and benefits].[26]

The Expositor’s Biblehas explained the clause as:

Cheeks fragrant as spices; lips red as lilies.[27]

The explanation of the Pulpit Commentary of this verse is also worth reading. It asserts:

‘The cheeks’ are compared to towers of plants; that is, there is a soft elevation in them. (...) the Targum says, ‘Like the rows of a garden of aromatic plants, which produce deep, penetrating essences, even as a (magnificent) garden aromatic plants’–perhaps referring to the ‘flos juventae,’ the hair on the face, the growth of the beard. ‘The lips’ are described as the organs of speech (...). They drop words like liquid fragrance.[28]

As to the attributes of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh) the relevant record has been preserved in the Islamic tradition. Umm Ma’bad describes the style of speech of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh). It is interestingly pertinent to the present study:

إن صمت فعليه الوقار وإن تكلم سماه[29] وعلاه البهاء[30](...)حلو المنطق فصلا[31], لا نَزْرٌ[32]ولا هذر[33], كأن منطقه خرزات نظم يتحدرن (...)له رفقاء يحفون به إن قال سمعوا لقوله وإن أمر تبادروا إلى أمره (...)لا عابس ولا [34]مُفْنِد[35]

When he was silent, there appeared a grace in him. When he uttered something, it seemed as if the sound of his words had prevailed over the surroundings. (...). His speech was sweet and lucid. He was neither talkative nor uncommunicative (hard to grasp), and tight-lipped. His discourse was as if a string of pearls was slipping softly and systematically (out of his mouth). (...). His companions kept surrounding him, listened to him attentively, and rushed to comply with his commands. He was neither rude-looking nor weak in intellect or judgment who confounded [things] in his speech. [36]

Hind bin Abi Halahwas the step-son of the Prophet (pbAh). He was an expert reporter of his features. He describes:

His mouth was like a briefcase full of rubies.[37]

The mother and aunt of Abu Qursanah say;

We have observed a kind of light emitting out of his mouth.[38]

Ibn ‘Abbas reports:

عَنْ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ قَالَ كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَفْلَجَ الثَّنِيَّتَيْنِ إِذَا تَكَلَّمَ رُئِيَ كَالنُّورِ يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بَيْنِ ثَنَايَاهُ  [39]

The incisors (front teeth) of the Apostle of Allah (pbAh) were split apart. When he uttered something, a sort of light seemed to radiate from among his teeth.

Anas states:

As he spoke, a kind of brightness would emit from his teeth.[40]

‘A’ishah says:

ما كَانَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَسرُد[41]ُ سَردِكُم هذا ولكِنَّهُ كان يتكلمُ بِكلامٍ بَيِّنٍ فَصْلٍ. يَحْفَظُهُ من جلس إليهِ.[42]

The Apostle of Allah did not speak speedily like you. He rather uttered the words so lucidly and separately that someone sitting by him would learn it by heart.

In the light of the lexical study of the Hebrew Words of the clause it can safely and faithfully be translated as follows:

His lips are bright and beautiful like a lily flower. The rejoicing, greeting, and bright word that comes out of them, is altogether prophecy and inspiration. The implied brightness of ‘lilies’ includes the brightness and light that radiated physically from the lips of the Prophet (pbAh).

After going through the above data regarding Prophet Muhammad (pbAh) it would be appreciated that it depicts the exact picture of his attributes and features.

The qualities of the lips (and, by implication speech) of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh) have been reproduced from lucid traditions. Their concordance to the attributes described by King Solomon (pbAh) does not depend on some allegory, symbolism, or figurativeness. But there is clearly a literal application in them. On the other hand, they can by no means be applied to Jesus Christ (pbAh) through any stretch of sense.  

________