Do you know this man: Muhammad the son of ‘Abd Allah?
In the desert of Arabia was Mohammad born. The name means highly praised. When 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.
The principles of universal brotherhood and doctrine of the equality of mankind which he proclaimed represents one very great contribution 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.
Islam 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 kneel side by side and proclaim; God alone is great.”
Every year, during the Hajj, 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 your command; you are 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.
The prophet of Islam brought the reign of democracy in its best form. The Caliph Ali cousin 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 (the Ka’bah) 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’bah to call for prayer.” At that moment, the prophet announced to the world, this verse of the holy QUR’AN 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 Qur’an 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 (‘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 Qur’an 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 Qur’an 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, posses 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 maintain rights granted to them.”
A historian once said a great man should be judged by three tests: Was he found to be of true metal by his contemporaries? Was he great enough to raise 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 satisfied to the highest degree in case of Prophet Mohammad.
The first is: Was the Prophet of Islam found to be of true metal 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 Messenger 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 one possessed. They tried violence to cure him. But the best of them saw that a new light had dawned on him and they hastened to him to seek the enlightenment.
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.
Sumayyah, an innocent woman, 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 to 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 Brittanica 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.
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. 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 which he marshaled. Gifted men with genius for preaching are rare.
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 softer 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 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 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 womb of future.
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 illusion, nor without purpose. It has been created with the truth. The numbers 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 gives birth to the scientific spirit of the observation and experiment which was unknown to the Greeks.
Science owes a great more to the Arab’s culture; it owes its existence. 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 Mathematics in form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and these methods 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 Qur’an 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.
In Islam faith can not be divorced from the action. Right knowledge should be transferred into right action to produce the right results. How often the words came in Qur’an — Those who believe and do good thing, they alone shall enter paradise. Again and again, not less than fifty times these words are repeated as if too much stress can not be laid on them. Contemplation is encouraged but mere contemplation is not the goal. Those who believe and do nothing can not exist in Islam. Those 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 his divine being but also as regards his divine attributes.
As regards 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 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 Qur’an 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 Qur’an 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 seem best to Me. cosmic plans 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 on test. In this sphere of life there is not to reason why, there is but to do and die. If you live in accordance with God; and if you die, die in the path of God. You may call it fatalism, but this type of fatalism is a condition of vigorous increasing effort, keeping you ever 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 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.
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.