A model for humanity
By Prof. Mohammed Rafi
IN contemporary times, people in general and Muslims in particular need to emulate Mohammad’s (peace be upon him) humane and practical approach to life. He showed that Islam is not a theoretical philosophy. He preached and practised a code of life, its commandments and prohibitions, and rendered good actions and service to mankind in all spheres of human activity.
Within a short span of time, he had successfully ushered in an era of tolerance and liberalism and had revitalized a decadent social order. He was able to mould the character of his fellowmen, reform them and change their thoughts, put new ideals before them and elevate them to the higher plane of a better, harmonious life. Subsequently, the Muslim ummah, not based on relations of blood, race, colour or class, came into being through sheer adherence to permanent divine values.
He never compelled anyone to become a Muslim. Through his exemplary behaviour people were drawn to him. He lived for 40 years among the people before inviting them to Islam. It was quite difficult for them to accept a human being like them as a nabi. He would plainly say that he was but a man like others and that he had no treasures, nor did he claim to know the secrets of the future. The Quran testifies to this: “Say (O Muhammad) I am only a man like yourselves” (18:110).
The Prophet always showed composure and balance while confronting the tribulations of life. The insistent demand of the people that he should work miracles to convince them made him despondent. He changed the attitudes and characters of people through his behaviour. They were astonished to see his reaction towards the citizens of Taif who had been very unkind to him. He did not curse anyone, but prayed “may Allah guide the people of Taif”. Following the defeat at Uhud, the companions asked him to curse the people of Makkah. He said, “I was not sent to curse people. I was sent as an inviter to the truth and as a mercy to the people.”
Edward Gibbon (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire) writes, “Even at the zenith of his worldly power the good sense of Mohammad despised the pomp and royalty — he submitted to the menial offices of the family, he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes and mended with his own hands his shoes and his woollen garments. He observed the abstemious diet of an Arab and a soldier.”
How many of us claiming to be his followers practise these? His life was very simple. He would put on whatever kind of cloth he could get. He would eat whatever was placed before him. He would sit wherever he could find room, whether on a mat, carpet or the ground. He was a model family man, very loving to the children.
As a role model we must remember that he taught us to obey Allah’s commands, give alms, speak the truth, to give back safe and whole what is entrusted to us by others, to be affectionate to our neighbours, to shun wicked acts and to avoid bloody quarrels.
To the Christians of Najran and the adjoining areas he promised the security of God and his own pledge. “No cross or image shall be destroyed, they shall not be oppressed, they shall not be required to furnish provisions for the troops” were his standing orders.
Contrary to some modern-day notions, he disliked wars and when he migrated to Madina he brought an end to the tribal wars which had been rampant for more than a century. He invited the followers of all faiths and advised them to unite and establish a city-state to forge a common defence and security against all adversaries. Surprisingly, his advice was readily accepted even by the tribes of Aws and Khazraj.
The Meesaq-e-Madina (charter) is the first constitution of the world. Today, as the world’s population is increasing and the number of people adhering to different faiths continues to grow, this document should be widely propagated. It stifles all forms of priestly and clergy rule. Following this ideal, the Islamic commonwealth included within its fold Jews, Sabians, Christians and others as citizens like the Muslims. They were accorded religious, social and political rights through this charter.
Today, when extremism and fanaticism have engulfed all faiths, it must be remembered that Mohammad strictly obeyed the divine command, “Revile not those unto whom they pray besides Allah, lest they wrongfully revile Allah through ignorance” (6:109). But Muslims seem to have forgotten this important aspect of Islam, and as a result, we see many bloody conflicts and the needless loss of life in the name of Islam. Mohammad had taught that the greater holy war is the war inside us against our own weaknesses and failings.
One of his sayings shows his respect for all religions. “When the bier of anyone passes by thee, Muslim or non-Muslim, rise to thy feet”. As a result of his teachings which laid the foundation of human rights and values, Muslim communities all over the world, even as far as China, India, Japan, Africa and the West, show that Islam still has the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If Muslims truly follow his teachings in all aspects of social life, the opposition between eastern and western societies can be replaced by cooperation.
Islam upholds the dignity of labour and Mohammad himself worked along with others in the construction of the first mosque at Quba and in the digging of the trench in the battle of Khandaq. He emancipated slaves and women from bondage. The slaves were placed on an equal footing with their masters and they were elevated to the rank of generals and commanders. Bilal was appointed the first muezzin of Islam and was respectfully addressed as Syedna (chief) Bilal. Women were given the right of divorce and inheritance in the property of their deceased husbands and fathers.
The Prophet was successful in bringing into existence a new type of man — self-respecting, self-reliant, conscious of his worth and desirous of enhancing it with the ambition to set up a better social order in the world. Jeffery Lang in his book Struggling to Surrender writes “To swear that Mohammad is the messenger of God is to accept his life as an example and to affirm that his actions set the standard for mankind’s conduct regardless of time and place. If Muslims are to convince western civilization that Islam provides a better way, then they would have to either soften their commitment to Mohammad’s example or invest their time and effort to argue their case convincingly.”
A model which can serve as a standard for every class of people under different circumstances and states of human emotions will be found in the life of Mohammad. For the rich there is his example as a tradesman; for the poor is his example as an internee of Shu’ayb Abi Talib and the emigre of Madina. For the vassal, there is the man who endured the hardships imposed by the Quraish of Makkah; for the conqueror there is the victor of Badar and Hunayn. In defeat, one can take a lesson from the discomforted at Uhud. As a teacher, one can learn from the holy mentor of the school of Suffah; as a student from the man who sat before Gabriel.
As a preacher, direct your vision to the man delivering sermons at Madina; if you are an orphan, do not forget the child of Aminah and Abdullah left to the tender care of Halimah. As a travelling salesman, cast a glance at the leader of caravans on the way to Basra; as a judge or arbiter, at the Prophet entering the Kaaba before sunrise and installing the Hajr-i-Aswad. If you are married, draw a lesson from the behaviour of the husband of Khadijah and Aisha; if a father, go through the biography of a tender and loving man who rejoiced at the birth of girls.
Whenever anyone came, he moved quickly to give him a seat. He was quick to smile and greet the person, and was never harsh or offensive, and rarely angry. He was generous in praise, averse to conflict or too much comfort. He always rose to the challenge of history.
Abdullah Ibne Ubaiy withdrew one-third of the Muslim army in Uhud, but Mohammad did not seek slaughter or vengeance. He said, “We will have mercy and treat him kindly as long as he remains with us”. Fadallah came with the intention of killing him and felt nervous when Mohammad met him with calm and a smiling face. Mohammad advised him kindly to seek God’s forgiveness and Fadallah lived the rest of his life saying, “I came to kill him and left with no man more beloved and dear to me.”
In short, whoever and whatever you may be, you will find a shining example in the life of Mohmmad. All that Muslims need to know of him is readily accessible. There was never a span of time, howsoever small, that he spent away from the gaze of his companions.
Mohammad laid the greatest emphasis on human rights and tolerance. He made his followers realize the importance of observation and knowledge, and was able to divert man’s attention to the vast and limitless universe and find the clue to God’s greatness. He disclosed a concept of life compatible with nature. Through his lifetime of struggle and exemplary behaviour he emphasized that the Quran was not a collection of dogmas, but a code of life which regulated everything that involved human life. He never preached what he could not practise. His last words were not about property, dominance or kingdom, but the protection of the weak and downtrodden. Today Muslims all over the world are miserably placed. This is because they have failed to live up to the ideals set forth by Mohammad.
By Muhammad al-Ghazali
THE entire history of mankind in the post-Muhammadan period provides testimony to the Prophet’s impact on humanity. With the emergence of the Prophet (SAWs) on the stage of history, humanity clearly entered a new decisive and final stage of religious consciousness and cultural development.
When the Qur’an proclaimed in unmistakable terms that the institution of Prophethood had reached its final stage with Prophet Muhammad (SAWs), this proclamation was also fully attested by the subsequent course of human history.
No new Prophet or messenger, nor any other Divine scripture succeeded the Prophet (SAWs) or the Qur’an. The Qur’an and the Prophet’s Sirah remain the authentic touchstone of the truth and the reliable source of Divine call to humanity.
The foremost thrust of the Prophet’s teaching that changed the erstwhile religious perspective was to liberate humanity from the animistic notions of the past that involved a deification of the phenomenal world. The primitive religiosity of man largely prevailing in the world before Prophet Muhammad (SAWs), was to invest everything beneficial or harmful in this universe, with a supernatural sanctity or even at times with divinity.
Thus, man humbled himself before sun and moon, stars and galaxies, sky and earth, rivers and oceans, even beasts and animals. This pantheistic notion constructed for man’s servitude and compelled him to bow before millions of gods and deities.
Another less primitive but equally obscurantist view that was held by a number of other creeds was to see this world as an evil satanic scheme which undermines the spirituality of man. These creeds also enfeebled man before the diabolical and devilish influences of this world represented by corporeality and matter and body and flesh and thus took a negative view of man and this phenomenal world.
These creeds and cults projected this world as a prison house in which man is placed by destiny and from which the deliverance should be sought by emancipating oneself from all sanguine, social, marital and material involvement. While one view imposed on man a direct servitude of this material world, the other painted the world in evil and adversarial terms.
The Prophet’s sound and rational teaching dealt a powerful blow to all such obscurantisms and superstitions. He taught in unambiguous terms that man’s habitat and environment have been created for the service of man. He reminded that this world has been created, designed and tailored to suit the survival of man and to serve the needs of human life. Said he in one of his oft-quoted sermons: ‘indeed this immediate world has been created for you, but you have been created for the ultimate world of the hereafter’. For the eternal home of lasting bliss which will be the final abode of mankind is really worth man’s while.
It was precisely this teaching of the Prophet (SAWs) clearly articulated in the Qur’an that gave rise to the crystallization of the empirical methodology of natural sciences. For unless one has the satisfaction of knowing that this world is not essentially man’s enemy, but friendly and compatible to humanity’s well-being and amelioration, natural science is hardly tenable. Science and all its modes and methods of inquiry and investigation seem to proceed clearly from the monotheistic doctrine of Islam taught by the Qur’an and the Prophet. The Qur’an contains profuse statements that fully substantiate this contention.
All these statements of the Qur’an as explained by the Prophet’s teachings are premised on the doctrine that nothing created by Allah is futile and fruitless. But on the contrary, everything that He has created, He has created for a definite purpose. And the noblest of these purposes has been assigned to man under the terms of his august office of ‘vicegerent’. In this way, the Prophet (SAWs) emerges as a great benefactor of humanity.
People might still be persisting in their polytheistic or pantheistic views of religion, but the enterprise of science is definitely a monotheistic enterprise. Sooner or later, humanity is going to reach the stage when it is no longer possible to disbelieve in One Supreme God Who alone is the Creator, Sustainer and Controller of this cosmos.
The logical flow of the overwhelming scientific evidence that is continuously pouring in will also eventually shatter the myth that reason and revelation or theology and science were incompatible. Those shallow interpreters of science in post-medieval Europe who, fascinated by Newtonian physics, Darwinian biology and Freudian psychology, tried to dismiss theo-centric worldview and circulated the view that science had rendered god irrelevant, are now open to serious criticism by scientists themselves. The findings of ecological sciences, inter-alia, have furnished an un-controvertible evidence that the entire cosmos is serving the interest of human kind.
Another conspicuous impact of the Prophet’s dispensation which is a logical corollary of the first doctrine is the elevation of the status of man. In the first place, the emergence of a man of the Prophet’s calibre on the scene of history in itself brought the status of man to great heights unknown to mankind previously. The Prophet repeatedly reiterated the lofty locus of man. He reminded him that his destiny lay in his own hands. He put great premium on the value of human endeavours and achievements. The Prophet rejected all erstwhile claims to pre-natal distinctions of race or colour, or clan or caste. He blotted out from the innocent face of humanity the stigma of original sin.
Moreover, he declared in his last public sermon that all notions of mutual superiority among humans are false, and that man had been created in the best form and invested with unlimited potential for self-development. Thus he was fully eligible to fashion his own destiny. He could make or unmake success or failure by his own conscious deeds and misdeeds. What is more, the Prophet equalized genders. He recognized full value of woman and her natural God-given gifts and talents.
The course of human cultural career subsequent to the Prophet (SAWs) is an ample self-evident commentary on these monumental cataclysmic reforms introduced by the Prophet (SAWs) and fully promulgated in the socio-cultural, moral and spiritual dispensation established by him and by his companions.
These are only some aspects of the many significant changes in thought and behaviour, vision and perspective that the Prophet of Islam effected in the world. Humanity as a whole and not merely the community of his loving followers owe to the Prophet (SAWs) a great debt.