By MAULANA WAHIDUDDIN KHAN
Excerpted from- WISE Up- Knowledge ends Extremism 2017
God, as the Creator of the universe, selected a person from among human beings, giving him all the fundamental knowledge necessary for construction and development. This is the divine guide, a prophet, whose advice makes it possible for man to begin his journey in a state of enlightenment, so that he may receive the blessings of both worlds. In Islam, this Prophet goes by the name of Muhammad who was chosen by God as His final Messenger, as seen in the Qur’an: “We’ve not sent you, [O Muhammad] except as mercy to the worlds” (21:107). Muhammad was born in 570 CE and, from an early age, exhibited signs of exemplary behavior. As he grew older, he became known as the most chivalrous among his people, tolerant and forbearing, truthful and trustworthy, always the good neighbor. He would stay aloof from all quarrels and quibbles and never indulged in foul utterances, abuse, or invective. People even left their valuables in his custody, for they knew that he would never betray them. His unimpeachable trustworthiness won for him the title of “Al-Amin,” a faithful custodian, an unfailing trustee.
Without doubt the Prophet had every opportunity for worldly advancement. He was born into a noble family of Mecca and his virtues guaranteed his success in life. Then at the age of twenty-five, he married one of the richest women in Mecca, a forty-year-old widow named Khadijah who became impressed with the Prophet’s high qualities and offered herself to him. Not only did marriage with Khadijah provide the Prophet with wealth and property, it also threw open to him a vast field of business in Arabia and beyond. The Prophet had every opportunity, then, of leading a successful and comfortable life. But he forsook such opportunities and worldly gains to seek out the answer to the all-important questions of truth and falsehood: What is our true role in life? What does the Lord require of us, as His servants? Whence do we come and whither will we go after death?
Unable to find answers to these questions in the centers of human activity, he betook himself to the stillness of the desert where, in 610 CE, God turned in mercy to His Prophet, illuminating his path and guiding him on his journey. The angel of the Lord appeared before him in human form and taught him the words that appear at the beginning of the ninety-sixth chapter of the Qur’an. The Prophet’s quest had finally been rewarded. His restless soul had joined in communion with the Lord. Not only did God grant him guidance; He also chose Muhammad as His Prophet and special envoy to the world. The Qur’an speaks of this in verse 93:7, which states, “Did He not find you wandering, and give you guidance?” Thus, God found Muhammad intent on finding the truth, but in a quandary as to which way to turn, so He showed him the right path. It is this quest for truth, coupled with the willingness to be guided by the Almighty that constitutes the exemplary model all Muslims should follow in their lives.
Having received God’s guidance himself, the Prophet set out on his mission to spread the truth and guide mankind to God and the hereafter. One task of the Prophet, therefore, was to initiate proper intellectual training, so that they might not only learn the apparent meaning of religious teachings but also understand the wisdom behind them. The Prophet of Islam not only presented God’s religion theoretically, but also diligently followed it in practice. Therefore, he is not only one who has told us what to do, but is also one who has demonstrated a practical example of what he preached: “‘Truly, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model for him who fears Allah and the Last Day and who frequently remembers Allah’” (33:22). Thus, the Prophet’s life serves as the best example for the believer. God’s true servant is one who adopts the model presented by God’s Prophet throughout his life.
The actual goal of his prophetic mission was to help people lead their lives in accordance with the straight path laid down by God, so that they might have an eternal share in God’s mercy. Addressing the Prophet of Islam, God says in the Qur’an: “Call men to the path of your Lord with wisdom and mild exhortation. Reason with them in the most courteous manner. Your Lord best knows those who stray from His path and best knows those who are rightly guided” (16:125). To this extent, the Prophet Muhammad gave mankind what may be called the knowledge of the divine scheme of things. That is, the Prophet tells us what God’s scheme in life is for man and the universe. This is essential for an understanding of life on earth. This is among the greatest gifts of the Prophet to modern man. It was the Prophet’s aim to build a society of upright individuals, and such a society can only be formed if each separate individual behaves with moral rectitude.
However, gaining political power to realize God’s vision for change was never the goal of the Prophet. In contrast to the Prophet, however, many present-day Muslim leaders and reformers consider it necessary to capture political power or at least gain access to it, in order to bring about their vision for reform. Regardless of their location, all of their efforts have been directed toward bringing political centers under their influence and they will stop at nothing to bring about the total destruction of those who oppose them in their endeavor. The Prophet, however, never concerned himself with the political institutions of the day. For example, he never sought a position in the Dar-an-Nadwa tribal parliament as a replacement for his grandfather who passed away; instead, he chose to concentrate all of his efforts on working peacefully for the success of God’s mission.
To achieve this, the Prophet adopted a “positive status quoism” plan of action to avoid disrupting social order (which often results in futility or all-out strife), which left him free to take advantage of available opportunities to spread the Word of God in a peaceful and non-confrontational manner. For instance, rather than removing the nearly 360 Meccan idols from the Kabah—a sanctuary built by the Prophet Abraham for the purpose of worshiping a monotheistic God—the Prophet used this opportunity to preach the teachings of the Qur’an to the polytheists when they gathered for their idol worship. By doing so, he was able to peacefully convey the truth of monotheism to large numbers of people without disrupting or forcing them from their way of life. It is through this example that the Prophet conveyed one of the core teachings of Islam—there is no compulsion in religion. Subsequently, the Prophet was successful in spreading monotheism across Arabia and brought an end to the long history of religious persecution that had plagued Arabian society.
However, even though the Prophet, as a leader and messenger, brought about a miraculous revolution in society, he never believed himself to be greater or better than other people. He never made others feel small, unwanted or embarrassed. Abdullah bin Masood, a companion of the Prophet, narrates that on the occasion of the battle of Badr, when they set forth, they did not have enough mounts. There was one camel for three of them, so they mounted by turns. Ali (the Prophet’s son-in-law), Abu Lubaba (a leading member of the Banu Aws in Medina), and the Prophet shared one camel. When the two companions had to take their turns, they would both ask the Prophet to mount instead of them, saying that they would continue on foot. The Prophet would reply, “You are not stronger than me in walking, and I am not less in need of God’s reward than you.” (Musnad Ahmad).
The Prophet had equal respect in his heart for all human beings, regardless of religious or political differences, and recognized each individual’s right to personal dignity. Everyone was equally a creature of God, and everyone served to remind him of God as a perfect Creator. Hatred was totally against his nature. The Prophet upheld equality and condemned hatred even though he suffered through all kinds of injustice and oppression for a period of thirteen years while living in Mecca, and he unilaterally adopted the path of patience and tolerance no matter the situation. The way of the Prophet of Islam was not to retaliate immediately against any act of oppression. He felt that, despite injustice and oppression on the part of the enemy, the way of patience and avoidance of clashes should be adopted. The Prophet of Islam adopted this principle throughout his life. His policy was to adopt a nonviolent method rather than a violent method. The Prophet would exhort his followers to live in peace with their fellow men, saying, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure—one who returns love for hatred.”
An outstanding example of this magnanimity, which the Prophet displayed throughout his life, can be found in his treatment of the Quraysh after Mecca had been conquered. The very people who had been relentlessly persecuting the Prophet and his followers for the previous twenty years, were now at the Prophet’s mercy. But, rather than punish them for past crimes, he forgave them all. When the Quraysh were brought before him in chains he simply said to them, “Be on your way: you are all free men.”
This was the example the Prophet set for mankind. He had high moral character, so that even if badly treated by others, he went on returning good for evil. People harmed him, yet he would pray for them. He would remain patient in the face of oppression and, regardless of the provocation, he would refrain from becoming incensed. In setting this example, his aim was to fashion souls that were God-oriented, that found God so great that everything else paled in significance. He wanted everyone to have such boundless peace of mind that nothing could disturb them. The Prophet’s mission therefore was the spiritual purification of man—to make man a better human being through his guidance and example. As the Qur’an says, “Our Lord, and send among them a messenger from themselves who will recite to them Your verses and teach them the Book and wisdom to purify them. Indeed, you are the Exalted in Might, the Wise” (2:129).
The Qur’an says, “Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in Allah and the latter day and remembers Allah much” (33:21). This means that Islam has given the Prophet Muhammad to the world as a shining example and has established him as a role model for all time to come. All those who claim to be Muslims are therefore honor-bound to follow in his footsteps. However, the truth is that the example of the Prophet is open to more than one interpretation, and it may happen that the wrong—or right—interpretation is made. Only if one is sincere will one interpret the situation correctly, and this can only be achieved through the realism that comes from the fear of God. When sincere people consider these incidents in the Prophet’s life, they are not just seeking a meaning that will serve their ends; rather they are seeking to ascertain the exact nature of the example imparted by the Prophet. Thus, the consideration that should be uppermost in a believer’s mind is what serves the interests of Islam, not his/her own personal interests.
Unfortunately, some present-day Muslims attempt to legitimize their own personal movements by calling them “Muhammad” or “Islamic” even though their deviant actions are sure to be rejected by God as unworthy. Daesh and violent extremists today fall into this category of the unworthy. They call themselves Muslims and justify their claims by misinterpreting the Qur’an and the Hadith, thus positioning themselves falsely as role models for other Muslims. But their actions deviate from the very example set by the Prophet. Daesh even went so far as to launch a suicide attack in the Prophet’s own mosque during Ramadan, an act of senseless violence that would have received the harshest condemnation from the Prophet had it occurred during his lifetime.
From all sides, Daesh stands in total opposition to the exemplary way of life set forth by the Prophet Muhammad. Whereas the Prophet adopted the policy of avoidance of war by planning for peace. These individuals are planning to destroy the world of peace through their violent actions. It is thus imperative for Muslims today to engage all efforts in the positive construction of Islam and Muslims, and present Islam to the world as a non-violent religion with a peaceful ideology exemplified through the life of the Prophet Muhammad. There simply is no other path to peace and success for modern man.