Muhammad (Peace be upon Him)

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)