Who was Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) and what did he represent?

Muhammad (Peace be upon Him): Legacy of a Prophet

Prof. K. S. Ramakrishna Rao

Cn the desert of Ara­bia was Moham­mad born, accord­ing to Mus­lim his­to­ri­ans, on April 20, 571. The name Moham­mad means “high­ly praised.” He is to me the great­est man among all the sons of Ara­bia. He means so much more than all the poets and kings that pre­ced­ed him in that impen­e­tra­ble desert of red sand.

The time he appeared, Ara­bia was a desert– a noth­ing. Out of noth­ing a new world was fash­ioned by the mighty spir­it of Moham­mad — a new life, a new cul­ture, a new civ­i­liza­tion, a new king­dom which extend­ed from Moroc­co to Indies and influ­enced the thought and life of three con­ti­nents — Asia, Africa and Europe. When I thought of writ­ing about Moham­mad, the prophet, I was a bit hes­i­tant because I was to write about a reli­gion I do not pro­fess and it is a del­i­cate mat­ter to do so for there are many peo­ple pro­fess­ing var­i­ous reli­gions and belong­ing to diverse schools of thought and denom­i­na­tions even in same reli­gion. Though it is some­times claimed that reli­gion is entire­ly per­son­al yet it can also be said that it has a ten­den­cy to envelop the whole uni­verse seen as well as unseen. It some­how per­me­ates some­thing or oth­er, our hearts, our souls, our minds, their con­scious as well as sub­con­scious and uncon­scious lev­els too. The prob­lem assumes over­whelm­ing impor­tance when there is a deep con­vic­tion that our past, present and future all hang by the soft del­i­cate, ten­der silked cord. If we fur­ther hap­pen to be high­ly sen­si­tive, the cen­ter of grav­i­ty is very like­ly to be always in a state of extreme ten­sion. Looked at from this point of view, the less said about oth­er reli­gions the bet­ter. Let our reli­gions be deeply hid­den and embed­ded in the resis­tance of our inner­most hearts for­ti­fied by unbro­ken seals on our lips.

But there is anoth­er aspect of this prob­lem. Man lives in soci­ety. Our lives are bound with the lives of oth­ers will­ing­ly or unwill­ing­ly, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly. We eat the food grown in the same soil, drink water, from the same spring and breathe the same air. Even while staunch­ly hold­ing our own views, it would be help­ful, if we try to adjust our­selves to our sur­round­ings, if we also know to some extent, how the mind of our neigh­bor moves and what the main springs of his actions are. From this angle of vision, it is high­ly desir­able that one should try to know all reli­gions of the world, in the prop­er sprit, to pro­mote mutu­al under­stand­ing and bet­ter appre­ci­a­tion of our neigh­bor­hood, imme­di­ate and remote.

Fur­ther, our thoughts are not scat­tered as they appear to be on the sur­face. They have got them­selves crys­tal­lized around a few nuclei in the form of great world reli­gions and liv­ing faiths that guide and moti­vate the lives of mil­lions that inhab­it this earth of ours. It is our duty, in one sense if we have the ide­al of ever becom­ing a cit­i­zen of the world before us, to make a lit­tle attempt to know the great reli­gions and sys­tem of phi­los­o­phy that have ruled mankind.

In spite of the­se pre­lim­i­nary remarks, the ground in this field of reli­gion where there is often a con­flict between intel­lect and emo­tion is so slip­pery that one is con­stant­ly remind­ed of “fools that rush in where angels fear to tread.” It is also not so com­plex from anoth­er point of view. The sub­ject of my writ­ing is about the tenets of a reli­gion which is his­toric and its prophet who is also a his­toric per­son­al­i­ty. Even a hos­tile crit­ic like Sir William Muir speak­ing about the Holy Quran says that: “There is prob­a­bly in the world no oth­er book which has remained twelve cen­turies with so pure text.” I may also add that Prophet Moham­mad is also a his­toric per­son­al­i­ty, every event of whose life has been most care­ful­ly record­ed and even the minor details pre­served intact for the pos­ter­i­ty. His life and works are not wrapped in mys­tery. My work today is fur­ther light­ened because those days are fast dis­ap­pear­ing when Islam was high­ly mis­rep­re­sent­ed by some of its crit­ics for polit­i­cal rea­sons and oth­er rea­sons too. Prof. Bevan writes in Cam­bridge Medieval His­to­ry, Those account of Moham­mad and Islam which were pub­lished in Europe before the begin­ning of the cen­tu­ry are now to be regard­ed as lit­er­ary curiosi­ties.” My prob­lem is to write this mono­graph is eas­ier because we are now gen­er­al­ly not fed on this kind of his­to­ry and much time is need­ed to be spent on point­ing out our mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Islam. The the­o­ry of Islam and the Sword for instance is not heard now fre­quent­ly in any quar­ter worth the name. The prin­ci­ple of Islam that there is no com­pul­sion in reli­gion is well known. Gib­bon, a his­to­ri­an of world repute says, ” A per­ni­cious tenet has been imput­ed to Moham­madans, the duty of extir­pat­ing all the reli­gions by sword”. This charge, based on igno­rance and big­otry, says the emi­nent his­to­ri­an, is refut­ed by the Quran, by his­to­ry of Musalman con­querors and by their pub­lic and legal tol­er­a­tion of Chris­tian wor­ship. The great suc­cess of Mohammad’s life had been affect­ed by sheer moral force, with­out a stroke of sword.

But in pure self-defence, after repeat­ed efforts of con­cil­i­a­tion had utter­ly failed, cir­cum­stances dragged him into the bat­tle­field. But the prophet of Islam changed the whole strat­e­gy of the bat­tle­field. The total num­ber of casu­alties in all the wars that took place dur­ing his life­time when the whole Ara­bi­an Penin­su­la came under his ban­ner, does not exceed a few hun­dreds in all. But even on the bat­tle­field he taught the Arab bar­bar­ians to pray, to pray not indi­vid­u­al­ly, but in con­gre­ga­tion to God the Almighty. Dur­ing the dust and storm of war­fare, when­ev­er the time for prayer came, and it comes five times every day, the con­gre­ga­tion prayer had not to be post­poned even on the bat­tle­field. A par­ty had to be engaged in bow­ing their heads before God while oth­er was engaged with the ene­my. After fin­ish­ing the prayers, the two par­ties had to exchange their posi­tions. To the Arabs, who would fight for forty years on the slight provo­ca­tion that a camel belong­ing to the guest of one tribe had strayed into the graz­ing land belong­ing to oth­er tribe and both sides had fought till they lost 70,000 lives in all; threat­en­ing the extinc­tion of both the tribes to such furi­ous Arabs, the Prophet of Islam taught self-con­trol and dis­ci­pline to the extent of pray­ing even on the bat­tle­field. In an age of bar­barism, the bat­tle­field itself was human­ized and strict instruc­tions were issued not to cheat, not to break trust, not to muti­late, not to kill a child or wom­an or an old man, not to hew down date palm nor burn it, not to cut a fruit tree, not to molest any per­son engaged in wor­ship. His own treat­ment with his bit­ter­est ene­mies is the noblest exam­ple for his fol­low­ers. At the con­quest of Mec­ca, he stood at the zenith of his pow­er. The city which had refused to lis­ten to his mis­sion, which had tor­tured him and his fol­low­ers, which had dri­ven him and his peo­ple into exile and which had unre­lent­ing­ly per­se­cut­ed and boy­cotted him even when he had tak­en refuge in a place more than 200 miles away, that city now lay at his feet. By the laws of war he could have just­lay avenged all the cru­elties inflict­ed on him and his peo­ple. But what treat­ment did he accord to them? Mohammad’s heart flowed with affec­tion and he declared ““This day, there is no REPROOF again­st you and you are all free.”” This day he pro­claimed. ““I tram­ple under my feet all dis­tinc­tions between man and man, all hatred between man and man.””

This was one of the chief objects why he per­mit­ted war in self-defence; that is to unite human beings. And when once this object was achieved, even his worst ene­mies were par­doned. It even extend­ed to those who killed his beloved uncle, Hamzah, man­gled his body, ripped it open, even chewed a piece of his liv­er.

The prin­ci­ples of uni­ver­sal broth­er­hood and doc­trine of the equal­i­ty of mankind which he pro­claimed rep­re­sents one very great con­tri­bu­tions of Moham­mad to the social uplift of human­i­ty. All great reli­gions have preached the same doc­trine but the prophet of Islam had put this the­o­ry into actu­al prac­tice and its val­ue will be ful­ly rec­og­nized, per­haps cen­turies hence, when inter­na­tion­al con­scious­ness being awak­ened, racial prej­u­dices may dis­ap­pear and greater broth­er­hood of human­i­ty come into exis­tence. Miss. Saro­jini Naidu speak­ing about this aspect of Islam says, “It was the first reli­gion that preached and prac­ticed democ­ra­cy; for in the mosque, when the minaret is sound­ed and the wor­shipers are gath­ered togeth­er, the democ­ra­cy of Islam is embod­ied five times a day when the peas­ant and the King kneels side by side and pro­claims, “God alone is great.” The great poet­ess of India con­tin­ues ” I have been struck over and over again by this indi­vis­i­ble uni­ty of Islam that makes a man instinc­tive­ly a broth­er. When you meet an Egyp­tian, an Alge­ri­an and Indi­an and a Turk in Lon­don, it mat­ters not that Egypt is the moth­er­land of one and India is the moth­er­land of anoth­er.”

Mahat­ma Gand­hi, in his inim­itable style, says “Some­one has said that Euro­peans in South Africa dread the advent Islam-Islam that civ­i­lized Spain, Islam that took the torch light to Moroc­co and preached to the world the Gospel of broth­er­hood. The Euro­peans of South Africa dread the Advent of Islam. They may claim equal­i­ty with the white races. They may well dread it, if broth­er­hood is a sin. If it is equal­i­ty of col­ored races then their dread is well found­ed.”

Every year, dur­ing the Haj, the world wit­ness­es the won­der­ful spec­ta­cle of this inter­na­tion­al exhi­bi­tion of Islam in lev­el­ing all dis­tinc­tions of race, col­or and rank. Not only the Euro­peans, the African, the Ara­bi­an, the Per­sian, the Indi­ans, the Chi­ne­se all meet togeth­er in Med­i­na as mem­bers of one divine fam­i­ly, but they are clad in one dress. Every per­son in two sim­ple pieces of white seam­less cloth, one piece round the loin the oth­er piece over the shoul­ders, bare head with­out pomp or cer­e­mony, repeat­ing “Here am I O God; at thy com­mand; thou art one and alone; Here am I.” Thus there remains noth­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the high from the low and every pil­grim car­ries home the impres­sion of the inter­na­tion­al sig­nif­i­cance of Islam.

In the opin­ion of Prof. Hur­gron­je “the league of nations found­ed by prophet of Islam put the prin­ci­ple of inter­na­tion­al uni­ty of human broth­er­hood on such Uni­ver­sal foun­da­tions as to show can­dle to oth­er nations.” In the words of the same Pro­fes­sor “the fact is that no nation of the world can show a par­al­lel to what Islam has done not even in the real­iza­tion of the idea of the League of Nations.

The prophet of Islam brought the reign of democ­ra­cy in its best form. The Caliph Umar, the Caliph Ali and the son in law of the prophet, the caliph Mansur, Abbas, the son of Caliph Mamun and many oth­er caliphs and kings had to appear before the judge as ordi­nary men in Islam­ic courts. Even today we all know how the black Negroes were treat­ed by the civ­i­lized white races. Con­sid­er the state of BILAL, a Negro Slave, in the days of the prophet of Islam near­ly 14 cen­turies ago. The office of call­ing Mus­lims to prayer was con­sid­ered to be of sta­tus in the ear­ly days of Islam and it was offered to this Negro slave. After the con­quest of Mec­ca, the Prophet ordered him to call for prayer and the Negro slave, with his black col­or and his thick lips, stood over the roof of the holy mosque at Mec­ca called the Ka’ba the most his­toric and the holi­est mosque in the Islam­ic world, when some proud Arabs painful­ly cried loud, “Oh, this black Negro Slave, woe be to him. He stands on the roof of holy Ka’ba to call for prayer.” At that moment, the prophet announced to the world, this verse of the holy QURAN for the first time : «“O mankind, sure­ly we have cre­at­ed you, fam­i­lies and tribes, so you may know one anoth­er. Sure­ly, the most hon­or­able of you with God is MOST RIGHTEOUS AMONG you. Sure­ly, God is Know­ing, Aware.”»

And the­se words of the holy Quran cre­at­ed such a mighty trans­for­ma­tion that the Caliph of Islam, the purest of Arabs by birth, offered their daugh­ter in mar­riage to this Negro Slave, and when­ev­er, the sec­ond Caliph of Islam, known to his­to­ry as Umar the great, the com­man­der of faith­ful, saw this Negro slave, he imme­di­ate­ly stood in rev­er­ence and wel­comed him by “Here come our mas­ter; Here come our lord.” What a tremen­dous change was brought by Quran in the Arabs, the proud­est peo­ple at that time on the earth. This is the rea­son why Goethe, the great­est of Ger­man poets, speak­ing about the Holy Quran declared that, “This book will go on exer­cis­ing through all ages a most potent influ­ence.” This is also the rea­son why George Bernard Shaw says, “If any reli­gion has a chance or rul­ing over Eng­land, say, Europe, with­in the next 100 years, it is Islam”.

It is this same demo­c­ra­t­ic spir­it of Islam that eman­ci­pat­ed wom­en from the bondage of man. Sir Charles Edward Archibald Hamil­ton says “Islam teach­es the inher­ent sin­less­ness of man. It teach­es that man and wom­an have come from the same essence, pos­sess the same soul and have been equipped with equal capa­bil­i­ties for intel­lec­tu­al, spir­i­tu­al and moral attain­ments.”

The Arabs had a very strong tra­di­tion that one who can smite with the spear and can wield the sword would inher­it. But Islam came as the defend­er of the weak­er sex and enti­tled wom­en to share the inher­i­tance of their par­ents. It gave wom­en cen­turies ago right of own­ing prop­er­ty, yet it was only 12 cen­turies lat­er, in 1881, that Eng­land, sup­posed to be the cradle of democ­ra­cy adopt­ed this insti­tu­tion of Islam and the act was called “the mar­ried wom­an act”, But cen­turies ear­lier, the Prophet of Islam had pro­claimed that ““Wom­an are twin halves of men. The rights of wom­en are sacred. See that wom­en main­tained rights grant­ed to them.””

Islam is not direct­ly con­cerned with polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sys­tems, but indi­rect­ly and in so far as polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic affairs influ­ence man’s con­duct, it does lay down some very impor­tant prin­ci­ples to gov­ern eco­nom­ic life. Accord­ing to Prof. Mas­signon, it main­tains the bal­ance between exag­ger­at­ed oppo­sites and has always in view the build­ing of char­ac­ter, which is the basis of civ­i­liza­tion. This is secured by its law of inher­i­tance, by an orga­nized sys­tem of char­i­ty known as Zakat, and by regard­ing as ille­gal all anti-social prac­tices in the eco­nom­ic field like monopoly, usury, secur­ing of pre­de­ter­mined unearned income and incre­ments, cor­ner­ing mar­kets, cre­at­ing monop­o­lies, cre­at­ing an arti­fi­cial scarci­ty of any com­mod­i­ty in order to force the prices to rise. Gam­bling is ille­gal. Con­tri­bu­tion to schools, to places of wor­ship, hos­pi­tals, dig­ging of wells, open­ing of orphan­ages are high­est acts of virtue. Orphan­ages have sprung for the first time, it is said, under the teach­ing of the prophet of Islam. The world owes its orphan­ages to this prophet who was him­self born an orphan. “Good all this” says Car­lyle about Moham­mad. “The nat­u­ral voice of human­i­ty, of pity and equi­ty, dwelling in the heart of this wild son of nature, speaks.”

A his­to­ri­an once said a great man should be judged by three tests: Was he found to be of true met­tle by his con­tem­po­raries? Was he great enough to rise above the stan­dards of his age? Did he leave any­thing as per­ma­nent lega­cy to the world at large? This list may be fur­ther extend­ed but all the­se three tests of great­ness are emi­nent­ly sat­is­fied to the high­est degree in case of prophet Moham­mad. Some illus­tra­tions of the last two have already been men­tioned. The first is: Was the Prophet of Islam found to be of true met­tle by his con­tem­po­raries?

His­tor­i­cal records show that all the con­tem­po­raries of Moham­mad (both friends foes)acknowledged the ster­ling qual­i­ties, the spot­less hon­esty, the noble virtues, the absolute sin­cer­i­ty and every trust­wor­thi­ness of the apos­tle of Islam in all walks of life and in every sphere of human activ­i­ty. Even the Jews and those who did not believe in his mes­sage, adopt­ed him as the arbiter in their per­son­al dis­putes by virtue of his per­fect impar­tial­i­ty. Even those who did not believe in his mes­sage were forced to say “O Moham­mad, we do not call you a liar, but we deny him who has given you a book and inspired you with a mes­sage.” They thought he was pos­sessed. They tried vio­lence to cure him. But the best of them saw that a new light had dawned on him and they has­tened him to seek the enlight­en­ment. It is a notable fea­ture in the his­to­ry of the prophet of Islam that his near­est rela­tion, his beloved cous­in and his bosom friends, who know him most inti­mate­ly, were not thor­ough­ly imbued with the truth of his mis­sion and were con­vinced of the gen­uine­ness of his divine inspi­ra­tion. If the­se men and wom­en, noble, intel­li­gent, edu­cat­ed and inti­mate­ly acquaint­ed with his pri­vate life had per­ceived the slight­est signs of decep­tion, fraud, earth­li­ness, or lack of faith in him, Mohammad’s moral hope of regen­er­a­tion, spir­i­tu­al awak­en­ing, and social reform would all have been fore­doomed to a fail­ure and whole edi­fice would have crum­bled to pieces in a moment. On the con­trary, we find that devo­tion of his fol­low­ers was such that he was vol­un­tar­i­ly acknowl­edged as dic­ta­tor of their lives. They braved for him per­se­cu­tions and dan­ger; they trust­ed, obeyed and hon­ored him even in the most excru­ci­at­ing tor­ture and sever­est men­tal agony caused by excom­mu­ni­ca­tion even unto death. Would this have been so, had they noticed the slight­est back­slid­ing in their mas­ter?

Read the his­to­ry of the ear­ly con­verts to Islam, and every heart would melt at the sight of the bru­tal treat­ment of inno­cent Mus­lim men and wom­en. Sumayya, an inno­cent wom­en, is cru­el­ly torn into pieces with spears. An exam­ple is made of ” Yas­sir whose legs are tied to two camels and the beast were dri­ven in oppo­site direc­tions”, Khab­bab bin Arth is made lie down on the bed of burn­ing coal with the bru­tal legs of their mer­ci­less tyrant on his breast so that he may not move and this makes even the fat beneath his skin melt.” “Khab­ban bin Adi is put to death in a cru­el man­ner by muti­la­tion and cut­ting off his flesh piece-meal.” In the mid­st of his tor­tures, being asked weath­er he did not wish Moham­mad in his place while he was in his house with his fam­i­ly, the suf­fer­er cried out that he was glad­ly pre­pared to sac­ri­fice him­self, his fam­i­ly and chil­dren and why was it that the­se sons and daugh­ters of Islam not only sur­ren­dered to their prophet, their alle­giance but also made a gift of their hearts and souls to their mas­ter ? Is not the intense faith and con­vic­tion on part of imme­di­ate fol­low­ers of Moham­mad, the noblest tes­ti­mony to his sin­cer­i­ty and to his utter self-absorp­tion in his appoint­ed task ?

And the­se men were not of low sta­tion or infe­ri­or men­tal cal­iber. Around him in quite ear­ly days, gath­ered what was best and noblest in Mec­ca, its flow­er and cream, men of posi­tion, rank, wealth and cul­ture, and from his own kith and kin, those who knew all about his life. All the first four Caliphs, with their tow­er­ing per­son­al­i­ties, were con­verts of this peri­od.

The Ency­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­ni­ca says that “Moham­mad is the most suc­cess­ful of all Prophets and reli­gious per­son­al­i­ties”. But the suc­cess was not the result of mere acci­dent. It was not a hit of for­tune. It was recog­ni­tion of fact that he was found to be true met­al by his con­tem­po­raries. It was the result of his admirable and all com­pelling per­son­al­i­ty. The per­son­al­i­ty of Moham­mad! it is most dif­fi­cult to get into the truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dra­mat­ic suc­ces­sion of pic­turesque sce­nes. There is Moham­mad, the prophet, There is Moham­mad the Gen­er­al; Moham­mad the King; Moham­mad the War­rior; Moham­mad the busi­ness­man; Moham­mad the preacher; Moham­mad the philoso­pher; Moham­mad the states­man; Moham­mad the Ora­tor; Moham­mad the Reformer; Moham­mad the Refuge of Orphans; Moham­mad the Pro­tec­tor of Slaves; Moham­mad the Eman­ci­pa­tor of Wom­en; Moham­mad the Law-giver; Moham­mad the Judge; Moham­mad the Saint.

And in all the­se mag­nif­i­cent roles, in all the­se depart­ments of human activ­i­ties, he is like, a hero. Orphan-hood is extreme of help­less­ness and his life upon this earth began with it; King­ship is the height of the mate­ri­al pow­er and it end­ed with it. From an orphan boy to a per­se­cut­ed refugee and then to an over­lord, spir­i­tu­al as well as tem­po­ral, of a whole nation and Arbiter of its des­tinies, with all its tri­als and temp­ta­tions, with all its vicis­si­tudes and changes, its lights and shades, its ups and downs, its ter­ror and splen­dor, he has stood the fire of the world and came out unscathed to serve as a mod­el in every face of life. His achieve­ments are not lim­it­ed to one aspect of life, but cov­er the whole field of human con­di­tions.

If for instance, great­ness con­sists in the purifi­ca­tion of a nation, steeped in bar­barism and immersed in absolute moral dark­ness, that dynam­ic per­son­al­i­ty who has trans­formed, refined and uplift­ed an entire nation, sunk low as the Arabs were, and made them the torch-bear­er of civ­i­liza­tion and learn­ing, has every claim to great­ness. If great­ness lies in uni­fy­ing the dis­cor­dant ele­ments of soci­ety by ties of broth­er­hood and char­i­ty, the prophet of the desert has got every title to this dis­tinc­tion. If great­ness con­sists in reform­ing those wrapped in degrad­ing and blind super­sti­tion and per­ni­cious prac­tices of every kind, the prophet of Islam has wiped out super­sti­tions and irra­tional fear from the hearts of mil­lions. If it lies in dis­play­ing high morals, Moham­m­mad has been admit­ted by friend and foe as Al Amin, or the faith­ful. If a con­queror is a great man, here is a per­son who rose from help­less orphan and a hum­ble crea­ture to be the ruler of Ara­bia, the equal to Chos­roes and Cae­sar, one who found­ed great empire that has sur­vived all the­se 14 cen­turies. If the devo­tion that a lead­er com­mands is the cri­te­ri­on of great­ness, the prophet’s name even today exerts a mag­ic charm over mil­lions of souls, spread all over the world.

He had not stud­ied phi­los­o­phy in the school of Athens of Rome, Per­sia, India, or Chi­na. Yet, He could pro­claim the high­est truths of eter­nal val­ue to mankind. Illit­er­ate him­self, he could yet speak with an elo­quence and fer­vor which moved men to tears, to tears of ecsta­sy. Born an orphan blessed with no world­ly goods, he was loved by all. He had stud­ied at no mil­i­tary acad­e­my; yet he could orga­nize his forces again­st tremen­dous odds and gained vic­to­ries through the moral forces that he mar­shaled. Gift­ed men with genius for preach­ing are rare. Descartes includ­ed the per­fect preacher among the rarest kind in the world. Hitler in his Mein Kamp has expressed a sim­i­lar view. He says “A great the­o­rist is sel­dom a great lead­er. An Agi­ta­tor is more like­ly to pos­s­es the­se qual­i­ties. He will always be a great lead­er. For lead­er­ship means the abil­i­ty to move mass­es of men. The tal­ent to pro­duce ideas has noth­ing in com­mon with capac­i­ty for lead­er­ship.” “But”, he says, “The Union of the­o­rists, orga­niz­er and lead­er in one man, is the rarest phe­nom­e­non on this earth; There­in con­sists great­ness.”

In the per­son of the Prophet of Islam the world has seen this rarest phe­nom­e­non walk­ing on the earth, walk­ing in flesh and blood. And more won­der­ful still is what the Rev­erend Bosworth Smith remarks, “Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Cae­sar and Pope in one; but, he was Pope with­out the Pope’s claims, and Cae­sar with­out the legions of Cae­sar, with­out a stand­ing army, with­out a body­guard, with­out a palace, with­out a fixed rev­enue. If ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by a right divine it was Moham­mad, for he had all the pow­er with­out instru­ments and with­out its sup­port. He cared not for dress­ing of pow­er. The sim­plic­i­ty of his pri­vate life was in keep­ing with his pub­lic life.

After the fall of Mec­ca, more than one mil­lion square miles of land lay at his feet, Lord of Ara­bia, he mend­ed his own shoes and coarse woolen gar­ments, milked the goats, swept the hearth, kin­dled the fire and attend­ed the oth­er menial offices of the fam­i­ly. The entire town of Med­i­na where he lived grew wealthy in the lat­er days of his life. Every­where there was gold and sil­ver in plen­ty and yet in those days of pros­per­i­ty many weeks would elapse with­out a fire being kin­dled in the hearth of the king of Ara­bia, His food being dates and water. His fam­i­ly would go hun­gry many nights suc­ces­sive­ly because they could not get any­thing to eat in the evening. He slept on no soft­en bed but on a palm mat, after a long busy day to spend most of his night in prayer, often burst­ing with tears before his cre­ator to grant him strength to dis­charge his duties. As the reports go, his voice would get choked with weep­ing and it would appear as if a cook­ing pot was on fire and boil­ing had com­menced. On the very day of his death his only assets were few coins a part of which went to sat­is­fy a debt and rest was given to a needy per­son who came to his house for char­i­ty. The clothes in which he breathed his last breath had many patch­es. The house from where light had spread to the world was in dark­ness because there was no oil in the lamp.

Cir­cum­stances changed, but the prophet of God did not. In vic­to­ry or in defeat, in pow­er or in adver­si­ty, in afflu­ence or in indi­gence, he is the same man, dis­closed the same char­ac­ter. Like all the ways and laws of God, Prophets of God are unchange­able. An hon­est man, as the say­ing goes, is the noblest work of God. Moham­mad was more than hon­est. He was human to the mar­row of his bones. Human sym­pa­thy, human love was the music of his soul. To serve man, to ele­vate man, to puri­fy man, to edu­cate man, in a word to human­ize man-this was the object of his mis­sion, the be-all and end all of his life. In thought, in word, in action he had the good of human­i­ty as his sole inspi­ra­tion, his sole guid­ing prin­ci­ple. He was most unos­ten­ta­tious and self­less to the core. What were the titles he assumed? Only true ser­vant of God and His Mes­sen­ger. Ser­vant first, and then a mes­sen­ger. A Mes­sen­ger and prophet like many oth­er prophets in every part of the world, some known to you, many not known you. If one does not believe in any of the­se truths one ceas­es to be a Mus­lim. It is an arti­cle of faith.

Look­ing at the cir­cum­stances of the time and unbound­ed rev­er­ence of his fol­low­ers” says a west­ern writer “the most mirac­u­lous thing about Moham­mad is, that he nev­er claimed the pow­er of work­ing mir­a­cles”. Mir­a­cles were per­formed but not to prop­a­gate his faith and were attrib­ut­ed entire­ly to God and his inscrutable ways. He would plain­ly say that he was a man like oth­ers. He had no trea­sures of earth or heav­en. Nor did he claim to know the secrets that lie in the womb of future. All this was in an age when mir­a­cles were sup­posed to be ordi­nary occur­rences, at the back and call of the com­mon­est saint, when the whole atmos­phere was sur­charged with super­nat­u­ral­ism in Ara­bia and out­side Ara­bia.

He turned the atten­tion of his fol­low­ers towards the study of nature and its laws, to under­stand them and appre­ci­ate the Glo­ry of God. The Quran says «“God did not cre­ate the heav­ens and the earth and all that is between them in play. He did not cre­ate them all but with the truth. But most men do not know”». The world is not an illu­sion, nor with­out pur­pose. It has been cre­at­ed with the truth. The num­ber of vers­es invit­ing close obser­va­tion of nature are sev­er­al times more than those that relate to prayer, fast­ing, pil­grim­age etc. all put togeth­er. The Mus­lim under its influ­ence began to observe nature close­ly and this gave birth to the sci­en­tific spir­it of the obser­va­tion and exper­i­ment which was unknown to the Greeks. While the Mus­lim Botanist, Ibn Baitar, wrote on Botany after col­lect­ing plants from all parts of the world, described by Myer in his Gesch. der Botanikaa-s, a mon­u­ment of indus­try, while Al Byruni trav­eled for forty years to col­lect min­er­alog­i­cal spec­i­mens, and Mus­lim Astronomers made some obser­va­tions extend­ing even over twelve years. Aris­totle wrote on Physics with­out per­form­ing a sin­gle exper­i­ment, wrote on nat­u­ral his­to­ry, care­less­ly stat­ing with­out tak­ing the trou­ble to ascer­tain the most ver­i­fi­able fact that men have more teeth than ani­mal. Galen, the great­est author­i­ty on clas­si­cal anato­my informed that the low­er jaw con­sists of two bones, a state­ment which is accept­ed unchal­lenged for cen­turies until Abdul Lateef takes the trou­ble to exam­ine a human skele­ton. After enu­mer­at­ing sev­er­al such instance’s, Robert Prif­fault con­cludes in his well known book “The mak­ing of human­i­ty”, “The debt of our sci­ence to the Arabs does not con­sist in start­ing dis­cov­ers or rev­o­lu­tion­ary the­o­ries. Sci­ence owes a great more to Arabs cul­ture; it owes is exis­tence”. The same writer says ” The Greeks sys­tem­atized, gen­er­al­ized and the­o­rized but patient ways of inves­ti­ga­tion, the accu­mu­la­tion of pos­i­tive knowl­edge, the min­ute meth­ods of sci­ence, detailed and pro­longed obser­va­tion, exper­i­men­tal inquiry, were alto­geth­er alien to Greek tem­pera­ment. What we call sci­ence arose in Europe as result of new meth­ods of inves­ti­ga­tion, of the method of exper­i­ment, obser­va­tion, mea­sure­ment, of the devel­op­ment of Math­e­mat­i­cal in form unknown to the Greeks. That spir­it and the­se meth­ods, con­cludes the same author, were intro­duced into the Euro­pean world by Arabs.

It is the same prac­ti­cal char­ac­ter of the teach­ing of Prophet Moham­mad that gave birth to the sci­en­tific spir­it, that has also sanc­ti­fied the dai­ly labors and the so-called mun­dane affairs. The Quran says that God has cre­at­ed man to wor­ship him but the word wor­ship has a con­no­ta­tion of its own. Gods wor­ship is not con­fined to prayer alone, but every act that is done with the pur­pose of win­ning approval of God and is for the ben­e­fit of the human­i­ty comes under its purview. Islam sanc­ti­fies life and all its pur­suits pro­vid­ed they are per­formed with hon­esty, jus­tice and pure intents. It oblit­er­ates the age-long dis­tinc­tion between the sacred and pro­fane. The Quran says if you eat clean things and thank God for it, it is an act of wor­ship. It is say­ing of the prophet of Islam that a morsel of food that one places in the mouth of his wife is an act of virtue to be reward­ed by God. Anoth­er tra­di­tion of the Prophet says ““He who is sat­is­fy­ing the desire of his heart will be reward­ed by God pro­vid­ed the meth­ods adopt­ed are per­mis­si­ble””. A per­son was lis­ten­ing to him exclaimed ‘O Prophet of God, he is answer­ing the calls of pas­sions, is only sat­is­fy­ing the crav­ing of his heart. Forth­with came the reply, ““Had he adopt­ed an awful method for the sat­is­fac­tion of his urge, he would have been pun­ished; then why should he not be reward­ed for fol­low­ing the right course””.

This new con­cep­tion of reli­gion that it should also devote itself to the bet­ter­ment of this life rather than con­cern itself exclu­sive­ly with super mun­dane affairs, has led to a new ori­en­ta­tion of moral val­ues. Its abid­ing influ­ence on the com­mon rela­tions of mankind in the affairs of every day life, its deep pow­er over the mass­es, its reg­u­la­tion of their con­cep­tion of rights and duty, its suit­abil­i­ty and adapt­abil­i­ty to the igno­rant sav­age and the wise philoso­pher are char­ac­ter­is­tic fea­tures of the teach­ing of the Prophet of Islam.

But it should be most care­ful­ly born in mind this stress on good actions is not the sac­ri­fice cor­rect­ness of faith. While there are var­i­ous schools of thought, one prais­ing faith at the expense of deeds, anoth­er exhaust­ing var­i­ous acts to the detri­ment of cor­rect belief, Islam is based on cor­rect faith and right­eous actions. Means are as impor­tant as the end and ends are as impor­tant as the means. It is an organ­ic uni­ty. Togeth­er they live and thrive. Sep­a­rate them and both decay and die. In Islam faith can­not be divorced from the action. Right knowl­edge should be trans­ferred into right action to pro­duce the right results. How often the words came in Quran– «Those who believe and do good works, they alone shall enter par­adise.» Again and again, not less than fifty times the­se words are repeat­ed as if too much stress can­not be laid on them. Con­tem­pla­tion is encour­aged but mere con­tem­pla­tion is not the goal. Those who believe and do noth­ing can­not exist in Islam. The­se who believe and do wrong are incon­ceiv­able. Divine law is the law of effort and not of ide­als. It chalks out for the men the path of eter­nal pro­gress from knowl­edge to action and from action to sat­is­fac­tion.

But what is the cor­rect faith from which right action spon­ta­neous­ly pro­ceeds result­ing in com­plete sat­is­fac­tion? Here the cen­tral doc­trine of Islam is the Uni­ty of God. There is no God but God is the piv­ot from which hangs the whole teach­ing and prac­tice of Islam. He is unique not only as regards to His divine being but also as regards His divine attrib­ut­es.

As regards to the attrib­ut­es of God, Islam adopts here as in oth­er things too, the law of gold­en mean. It avoids on the one hand, the view of God which divests the divine being of every attrib­ute and rejects, on the oth­er, the view which likens him to things mate­ri­al. The Quran says, On the one hand, there is noth­ing which is like him, on the oth­er, it affirms that he is See­ing, Hear­ing, Know­ing. He is the King who is with­out a stain of fault or defi­cien­cy, the mighty ship of His pow­er floats upon the ocean of jus­tice and equi­ty. He is the Benef­i­cent, the Mer­ci­ful. He is the Guardian over all. Islam does not stop with this pos­i­tive state­ment. It adds fur­ther which is its most spe­cial char­ac­ter­is­tic, the neg­a­tive aspects of a prob­lem. There is also no one else who is guardian over every­thing. He is the mean­der of every break­age, and no one else is the mean­der of any break­age. He is the restor­er of every loss and no one else is the restor­er of any loss what-so-over. There is no God but one God, above any need, the mak­er of bod­ies, cre­ator of souls, the Lord of the Day of Judg­ment, and in short, in the words of Quran, to him belong all excel­lent qual­i­ties.

Regard­ing the posi­tion of man in rela­tion to the Uni­verse, the Quran says «“God has made sub­servient to you what­ev­er is on the earth or in uni­verse. You are des­tined to rule over the Uni­verse.”» But in rela­tion to God, the Quran says «“O man God has bestowed on you excel­lent fac­ul­ties and has cre­at­ed life and death to put you to test in order to see whose actions are good and who has devi­at­ed from the right path.”» In spite of free will which he enjoys, to some extent, every man is born under cer­tain cir­cum­stances and con­tin­ues to live under cer­tain cir­cum­stances beyond his con­trol. With regard to this God says, accord­ing to Islam, it is my will to cre­ate any man under con­di­tion that seems best to me through cos­mic plans that finite mor­tals can not ful­ly com­pre­hend. But I will cer­tain­ly test you in pros­per­i­ty as well in adver­si­ty, in health as well as in sick­ness, in heights as well as in depths. My ways of test­ing dif­fer from man to man, from hour to hour. In adver­si­ty do not despair and do resort to unlaw­ful means. It is but a pass­ing phase. In pros­per­i­ty do not for­get God. God-gifts are given only as trusts. You are always on tri­al, every moment you are on a test. In this sphere of life there is not to rea­son why, there is but to do and die. If you live, then you have to live in accor­dance with God; and if you die, then die in the path of God. You may call it fatal­ism but this type of fatal­ism is a con­di­tion of vig­or­ous increas­ing effort, always keep­ing you on the alert. Do not con­sid­er this tem­po­ral life on earth as the end of human exis­tence. There is a life after death and it is eter­nal. Life after death is only a con­nec­tion, a link, a door that opens up hid­den real­i­ty of life. Every action in life, how­ev­er insignif­i­cant, pro­duces a last­ing effect. It is cor­rect­ly record­ed some­how. Some of the ways of God are known to you, but many of his ways are hid­den from you. What is hid­den in you and from you in this world will be unrolled and laid open before you in the next. The vir­tu­ous will enjoy the bless­ing of God which the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the hearts of men to con­ceive of they will march onward reach­ing high­er and high­er stages of evo­lu­tion. Those who have wast­ed oppor­tu­ni­ty in this life shall under the inevitable law, which makes every man taste of what he has done, be sub­ju­gat­ed to a course of treat­ment of the spir­i­tu­al disease’s which they have brought about with their own hands. Beware, it is a ter­ri­ble ordeal. Bod­i­ly pain is tor­ture, you can bear some­how. Spir­i­tu­al pain is hell and you will find it almost unbear­able. Fight in this life itself the ten­den­cies of the spir­it prone to evil, tempt­ing to lead you into iniq­ui­ties ways. Reach the next stage when the self-accus­ing spir­it in your con­science is awak­ened and the soul is anx­ious to attain moral excel­lence and revolt again­st dis­obe­di­ence. This will lead you to the final stage of the soul at rest, con­tent­ed with God, find­ing its hap­pi­ness and delight in him alone. The soul stum­bles no more. The stage of strug­gle pass­es away. Truth is vic­to­ri­ous and false­hood lays down its arms. All com­plex­es will then be resolved. Your house will not be divid­ed again­st itself. Your per­son­al­i­ty will get inte­grat­ed around the cen­tral core of sub­mis­sion to the will of God and com­plete sur­ren­der to his divine pur­pose. All hid­den energies will then be released. The soul then will have peace. God will then address you «O Thou soul that art at rest, and restest ful­ly con­tent­ed with thy Lord return to thy Lord. He is pleased with thee and thou are pleased with him; So enter among my ser­vants and enter into my par­adise. »This is the final goal for man; to become, on the one hand, the mas­ter of the uni­verse and on the oth­er, to see that his soul finds rest in his Lord, that not only his Lord will be pleased with him but that he is also pleased with his Lord. Con­tent­ment, com­plete con­tent­ment, sat­is­fac­tion, com­plete sat­is­fac­tion, peace, com­plete peace. The love of God is his food at this stage and he drinks deep at the foun­tain of life. Sor­row and defeat do not over­whelm him and suc­cess does not find him in vain and exult­ing.

The west­ern nations are only try­ing to become the mas­ter of the uni­verse. But their souls have not found peace and rest. Thomas Car­lyle, struck by this phi­los­o­phy of life writes “and then also Islam-that we must sub­mit to God; that our whole strength lies in resigned sub­mis­sion to Him, what­so­ev­er he does to us, the thing he sends to us, even if death and worse than death, shall be good, shall be best; we resign our­selves to God.” The same author con­tin­ues “If this be Islam, says Goethe, do we not all live in Islam?” Car­lyle him­self answers this ques­tion of Goethe and says “Yes, all of us that have any moral life, we all live so. This is yet the high­est wis­dom that heav­en has revealed to our earth.”


Noble Life of the Prophet (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam)

Dr Ali Muhammad As-Sallaabee

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Muhammad (Sallaho Alaihe Wassallam): His Life Based on the Earliest Sources

Martin Lings (Abu Bakr Sirajud-deen)