Towards Understanding Islam
OUR earlier discussion brings home the following points:
1. The right course for man is to live in obedience to God, and for the observance of such a of obedience knowledge and faith are absolutely essential: knowledge Of God and His attributes, His likes and dislikes, His Chosen way and of the Day of Judgment; and unflinching faith in the truth and veracity of this knowledge: this is Iman
2. Secondly, God has graciously spared man the arduous task of acquiring this knowledge through his Personal effort alone. He has not put man to this difficult trail. Instead, He revealed this knowledge to the Prophets chosen from amongst men, commanding them to convey the Will of God to other human beings and Show them the right path. This has saved man from formidable misfortunes.
3. Lastly, the duty of the common men and women is to recognize a prophet and, after ascertaining that one Is the true prophet of God, to have faith in him and his footsteps. This is the road to salvation. In this chapter we shall discuss the nature, history, and other aspects of prophethood .
PROPHETHOOD: ITS NATURE AND NECESSITY
You can see that God has most graciously provided man all that he needs in this universe. Every new-born child arrives in the world endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, nose to smell and breathe, hands to touch, feet to walk, and mind to think and ponder. All those potentialities, powers, and faculties that a man needs or can need are most carefully provided and marvelously set in his tiny body. Every minute requirement is foreseen and Provided for. Nothing, which he needs, is left out.
Similar is the case with the world he lives in. Everything essential for life is provided here in abundance air, light, heat, et cetera. The child, on opening his eyes, finds his food in the mother’s breast. Parents love him instinctively and in their has been Implanted an irresistible urge to look after him, to bring him up and to sacrifice their all for his welfare. Under the sheltering care of his system of sustenance the child grows to maturity and in every stage of his life obtains From nature all that he needs. All the material conditions of survival and growth are provided for and he finds that the whole universe is at his service and is serving him on every turn and pass.
Furthermore, man is blessed with all those powers, capacities, and faculties-physical, mental, and moral -which he requires in his struggle for life. Here God has made a wonderful disposition. He has not distributed these gifts to men strictly equally. Their equal distribution would have made men totally independent of each other and marred the possibilities of mutual care and co-operation. Thus although mankind as a whole possesses all that is needed, yet in between men capacities are distributed unequally and sparingly. Some possess physical strength and prowess, others distinguish them selves for their mental talents. Some are born with greater aptitude for arts, poetry, and philosophy, some possess sharpness of tongue, some others military acumen, commercial intelligence, mathematical keenness, scientific curiosity, literary observation, philosophic disposition, etc. These special aptitudes make a man distinct and enable him to grasp even those intricacies which elude the grip of the common man. These insights, aptitudes. and talents are the gifts of God. They are incarnated in the nature of those men whom God has destined to be thus distinguished. They are mostly inborn and cannot be acquired merely be education and training.
Careful reflection upon this disposition of God’s gifts also reveals that the talents have been distributed amongst men in a marvelous way. Those capacities which are essential for the general maintenance of human culture have been endowed to the average human beings, while those extraordinary talents which are required only to a limited extent are given only to a small number of people. The number of soldiers, peasants, artisans, and workers is large; but military generals, scholars, statesmen, and intellectuals are comparatively fewer. Similar is the case with all professions, with all the arts and crafts of culture. The general rule seems to be: higher the capacity and greater the genius, the lesser the number of people who possess them. Super geniuses, who leave an indelible mark on human history and whose achievements guide humanity for ages, are few and far between. Their number is still less.
Here we are faced with another question: Is the fundamental need of human culture confined to the need of experts and specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the like, or does it also need men who may show man the Right Path-the way to God and salvation? Other experts provide man with the knowledge of all that is in the world and of the ways and means to use that, but there must be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself. What man himself is and why has he been created? Who has provided him with all the powers and resources and why? What are the proper ends of life and how are they to be achieved? What are the proper values of life and how can they be attained? This is the most cardinal need of man and unless he knows this he cannot erect the edifice of culture on sound foundations and cannot succeed in life here and hereafter. And our reason refuses to believe that God Who has provided man with even the most trivial of his requirements would ignore to provide for this greatest, most paramount and most vital need. Nay, it can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and sciences. He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition, and highest faculties to know and understand him. To them, He Himself revealed the way of godliness, piety, and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the ends of life and values of morality and entrusted them with the duty to communicate the Divine Revelation to other human beings and to show them the Right Path. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God.
The prophets distinguish themselves in the human life is not in accordance with his ideal. Neither his word nor his deed is prompted by any self-interest. He suffers for the good of others, and never makes others for his own good. His whole life is an example of truth, nobleness, purity of nature, high thinking, and the most exalted form of humanity. His character is without any blemish and even the minutest scrutiny fails to reveal any flaw in his life. And all these facts, all these attributes, make it evident that prophet of God and faith must be reposed in him.
When it becomes quite clear that such and such a person is the true prophet of God, the natural dictate of this realization is that his words should be accepted, his Instructions followed, and his orders. Obeyed. It is quite unreasonable to accept a man as God’s true prophet, and yet not to believe in what he says or not to follow what he ordains; for your very acceptance of him as God’s prophet means that you have acknowledged that what he says is from God, and that whatever he does is in accordance with God’s Will and pleasure. Now, disobedience to him is the disobedience of God-and disobedience of God leads to nothing but ruin and devastation. Therefore, the very acceptance of the prophet makes it incumbent on you to bow to his instructions and accept them without any demur whatsoever. You may not be able fully to grasp the wisdom and usefulness of this or that order, but the every fact that an instruction has emanated from the Prophet is sufficient guarantee for its truth, and there can be no room for doubt or suspicion. Your inability to understand it is no reason for its having flaw or defect; for a common man's understanding is not flawless. It has its own limitations and they cannot be ignored altogether. It is evident that one who dos not know some art thoroughly cannot understand it subtleties, but such a person would be a fool to eject what an expert says, merely on the plea that he himself dose not fully understand the expert, It is noteworthy that in every important worldly affair an expert is needed for advice, and when you turn to the expert you thereafter trust his advice and entirely depend upon it. You rather surrender your own right of judgment and inference and follow him honorably. Every ordinary man cannot be a master in all arts and crafts of the world. The proper way for an average human being is to do what he can and, in respect of things he cannot do, to use all his wisdom and shrewdness in finding out the proper man to guide and help him, and after finding out such a man to accept his advice and follow him. When you are sure that a certain person is the best man available for your purpose, you solicit his advice and guidance, and have complete trust in him. To interfere with him at every step and say, "Make me understand it before you proceed any further," is evidently imprudent. When you engage a solicitor in any legal case, you do not interfere with him on every turn and pass. You rather have faith in him and follow his advice. For your medical treatment you go to the doctor and follow his instructions. You neither poke your nose in medical matters nor test your skill in logic by debating with the doctor. This is the proper attitude in life. So must be done in case of religion. You need the knowledge of God; you require to know the mode of life according to God’s pleasure; and you possess no means for obtaining this knowledge. It is incumbent upon you, therefore, to look for a true prophet of God; and you will have to use utmost care, discernment, and sagacity in your search for him, for if you choose a wrong man for a true prophet, he will put you on the wrong track. If, however, after properly weighing and measuring all considerations, you decide definitely that a certain person is really God’s prophet, then you must trust him completely and obey all his instructions faithfully.
Now it is clear that the Right Path for man is that and that alone which the prophet declares to be so and the correct way of life that only which he informs us to be from God. From this one can easily understand that to have faith in the prophet and to obey and follow him is absolutely necessary for all men, and that a man who puts aside the prophet’s instructions and himself tries to carve out a way for himself, deviates from the Right Path and surely goes astray.
In this matter man guilty of strange errors. There are men who admit the integrity and truthfulness of the prophet, but do not repose Iman (faith) in him, nor do they follow him in the affairs of their life. Such men are not only Kafirs, but also behave in an imprudent and unnatural way: for not to follow the prophet after admitting him to be true means that one knowingly follows untruth. And what folly can be greater than that !
Some people declare, We do not need a prophet for our guidance and we can ourselves find out the way to truth. this too is a faulty view. You have probably learnt geometry, and you know that between two points there can be only one straight line, and all other lines must be crooked or will fail to touch the in point in view. The same is the case with way the to truth, which, in the Language of Islam, is called sirat-i-mustaqeem (the Straight Path). This path begins from man and goes straight up to God, and this Path can evidently be one only one; all other paths would be aberrations and will lead astray. Now this Straight path has been indicated by the Prophet, and there is and can be no straight oath besides that. The man who ignores that path and seeks other errands is only a dupe of his own imagination. He chooses a way and imagines it to be right, but he soon finds himself entangled and is lost in the mazes and meandering created by his own fancy. What can you think of a person who has lost his way and when a good man shows him the right one, he definitely ignores the guidance, declaring, "I will not take your guidance nor accept the way you have shown to me, but I will myself grope in this unknown region and try to reach the object of my search, in my own way"? This, in the presence of the clear guidance of the prophets, is sheer stupidity. If everybody tries to start UP again from the scratch, it would be gross waste of time and energy. We never do so in the field of sciences and arts; why here?
This is a common error, and even a little reflection reveals its flaws and weaknesses. But if you go a little deeper into the matter, you will notice that a person who denies to have faith in the true prophet cannot at all find any way straight or otherwise to reach God. This is so because a man who refuses to believe the advice of a truthful man adopts such a perverse attitude that the vistas of truth become estranged from him and he becomes a victim of his own obstinacy, arrogance, bias, and perversity.
Often this refusal is because of false arrogance, or blind conservatism and obstinate adherence to the way of the forefathers, or slavery of the lower desires of the self, whose gratification becomes impossible by submission to the teachings of the prophets. If a man is engrossed in any of the above conditions, the Path to truth becomes closed to him. He like a jaundiced person cannot look upon things in the uncolored light of reality. Such a man cannot find out any road to salvation. On the other hand, if a man is sincere and truth-loving and if he is not slave to any of the above complexes, the road to reality becomes paved for him, and there is absolutely no ground for him to refuse to believe in the prophet. nay, he finds in the teachings of the prophet the very echo of his own soul and discovers himself by discovering the prophet.
And, above all, God Himself raises the true prophet. It is He who has sent him UP to mankind to convey His message to His people. It His Command to repose faith in the prophet and to follow him. Thus, one who refuses to believe in God’s Messenger actually refuses to follow God’s Commandments and becomes a rebel. There is no denying the fact that one who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the viceroy of a sovereign actually refuses the authority of the sovereign himself. This disobedience turns him into a rebel. God is the Lord of the universe, the true Sovereign, the King of kings, and it is the bounden duty of every man to acknowledge the authority of His Messengers and Apostles and to obey them as His accredited prophets. And one who turns away from the Prophet of God is surely a kafir, be he a believer God or a disbeliever.
Now let us cast a cursory glance at the history of prophethood Let us see how this long chain began, how it gradually unfolded itself and finally culminated in the prophethood of the last of the prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The human race began from one man: Adam. It was from him that the family of man grew and the human race multiplied. All human beings born in this world have descended form that earliest pair: Adam and Eve.1 History and religion are agreed on this point. Scientific investigations about the origin of man too do not show that originally different man came into being, simultaneously or at different points of time, in different parts of the world. Most of the scientists also conjecture that one man would have been brought into existence first and the entire human race might have descended from the same one man.
Adam, the first man on earth, was also appointed as the first Prophet of God. He revealed His religion-Islam to him and enjoined him to convey and communicate it is him descendants: to teach them that Allah is One, the Creator, the Sustainer of the world that He is the Lord the universe and He alone should be Worshipped and obeyed; that to Him they will have to return one day and to Him alone they should appeal for help; that they should live good, pious, and righteous life in accordance with God's pleasure and that if they did so they would be blessed by God with goodly reward, and if they turned away from Him and disobeyed Him they would be losers here and in the hereafter and would be severely punished for this disbelief and disobedience.
Those of Adam's descendants who were good trod the right path shown to them by him, but those who were bad abandoned their father's teachings, and gradually drifted away into devious ways. Some began to worship the sun, the moon, and the stars; others took to the worship of trees, animals, and rivers. Some believed that air, water, fire health, and all the blessings and forces of Nature were each under the control of a different god and that each one of them should be propitiated by means of worship. In this way ignorance gave rise to many forms of polytheism and idolatry, and scores of religions were formulated. This was the age when Adam's progeny had spread fairly over the globe, and formed different races and nations. Every nation had made a different religion for itself, each with formalities and rituals of its own. God the one Lord and Creator of mankind and the universe was altogether forgotten. Not only that; Adam's descendants forgot even the way of life which God had revealed for them and which their great progenitor had taught them. They had followed their own devices. Every kind of evil evil custom grew, and all sorts of notions of ignorance spread them. They began to err in discerning right from wrong: many evils began to be considered right and many right things not only ignored but dubbed as wrong 2.
At this stage God began to raise prophets among every people, who preached Islam to them. Each one reminded his people of the lesson they had forgotten. They taught them God-worship, put an end to idol-worship and the practice of shirk, i.e. associating other deities with God, did away with all customs of ignorance, taught them the right way of living in accordance with God's pleasure, and gave them life-giving laws to be followed and enforced in society. God's true Prophets were raised in all countries: in every land and people. They all possessed one and the same religion the religion of Islam3. No doubt, the methods of teaching and the legal codes of different Prophets were a little different in accordance with the needs and the stage of culture of the people among whom they were raised. The particular teachings of each Prophet were determined by the kind of evils which he faced and endeavored to eradicate. The methods of reform differed as it suited to fight different notions and ideas. When the people were in the primitive stages of society, civilization and intellectual development, their laws and regulations were simple; they were modified and improved as the society evolved and progressed. These differences were, however, only superficial and apparent. The fundamental teachings of all the religions were the same, i.e. belief in the unity of God, adherence to a life of piety, goodness and peace, and belief in the life after death with its just mechanism for reward and Punishment.
Man's attitude to words God's Prophets has been strange. First he maltreated the Prophets and refused to listen and accept their teachings. Some of the Prophets were expelled from their lands; some were assassinated; some, in face of the people in difference, continued preaching the whole of their lives, and hardly won more than a few followers. In the midst of harassing opposition, derision, and indignity to which they were perpetually subjected, these Apostles of God, however, did not cease to preach. Their patient determination at last succeeded: their teachings did not remain without effect. Large groups of people and nations accepted their message, and were converted to their creed. The erring tendencies of the people, born of centuries of persistence in deviation, ignorance, and malpractice, now took another form. Though during the lives of their Prophets they accepted and practiced their teachings, yet after their death they introduced their old distorted notions in to their religions, and altered the Prophet’s teachings. They adopted quite novel methods of worshipping God; some even took to the worship of their Prophets. Some made the Prophets the incarnations of God; some made their Prophets the sons of God; some associated their Prophets with God in His Divinity. In short, man’s varied attitudes in this respect were a travesty of his reason and a mockery of himself; he made idols of those very persons whose holy mission was to smash idols to pieces. By intermixing religion, custom and rituals of ignorance, baseless and false anecdotes and man-made laws, man so changed and Perverted the ideology of the Prophets that after the lapse of centuries it became a hotchpotch of the real and the fictitious and the teachings of the Prophets were lost in a conglomeration of fictions and perversities so much so that it become impossible to distinguish the grain from the chaff. And, not content with this corruption of the Prophet, they further attached fictitious anecdotes and unworthy traditions to the lives of their Prophets and so polluted their life histories that a real and reliable account of their lives becomes impossible to be discerned. Despite these corruption by the followers, in the work of the Prophets has not been altogether in vain. Among all nations, in spite of all interpolation and alteration, some traces of Truth have survived. The idea of God and of the life after death was definitely assimilated in some form or other. A few principles of goodness, truth goodness and morality were commonly admitted throughout the whole world. The Prophets, thus, prepared the mental attitude of their respective People in such a way that a universal religion could be safely introduced a religion, which is quite in consonance with the nature of man, which embodies all that was good in all other creeds and societies, and which is naturally and commonly acceptable to the entire mankind.
As we have said above, in the beginning separate Prophets used to appear among different nations or groups of People, and the teachings of each Prophet were meant specially and specifically for his each people. The reason was that at that stage of history, nations were situated separately and were so cut off from each other that one was bound up within the geographical limits of its own territories and the facilities for mutual intercourse were just non-existent. In such circumstances it was very difficult to propagate a common World Faith with its accompanying system of the life of this world. Besides, the general conditions of the early nations were widely different from one another. Their ignorance was great, and among the different Peoples it had given different forms to their moral aberration and distortions of Faith. It was, therefore, necessary that different Prophets be raised to preach the Truth to them and win them over to God's ways to gradually eradicate evils and aberrations; to root out the ways and modes of ignorance and teach them to Practice the noblest Principles of simple, Pious, and righteous life, and thus train and bring them up in the arts and crafts of life. God alone knows how many, and developing him mentally, morally, and spiritually. Anyhow, man continued to make Progress and at last the time came when he grew from his infancy, and entered the age of maturity.
With the progress and spread of commerce, industry, and arts, intercourse was established between nations. From China and Japan, as the distant lands of Europe and Africa, regular routes were opened both by sea and land. Many people learnt the art of writing; knowledge spread. Ideas began to be communicated from one country to the other and learning and scholarship began to be exchanged. Great conquerors appeared, extended their conquests far and wide, established vast empires, and knit many different nation under one Political system. Thus nations came closer and to one another, and their differences became less and less.
It became Possible under these circumstances that one and the same faith, envisaging a comprehensive and all-embracing way of life, catering to the moral, spiritual, social, cultural, political, economic, and all other needs of man and embodying both religious and seculars elements be sent by God for the entire mankind. More than two thousand years ago mankind had attained caliber that it all seemed to crave for a universal religion. Buddhism, though it consisted only of some moral principles and was not a complete system of life, emerged from India, and spread as far as Japan and Mongolia on one side, and to Afghanistan and Bokhara on the other. Its missionaries traveled far and wide in the world. A few centuries later, Christianity appeared. A although the religion taught by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) was none but Islam, his followers reduced it into a hotchpotch called Christianity, and even this overt and Israelis religion was spread in the far- off places of Persia and Asia Minor and info the distant climes of Europe and Africa. From these events it is clearly inferred that the conditions of mankind in that age a demanded a common religion for the whole human race and they were so prepared for it that when they found no complete and true religion in existence, they began to propagate among the nations the prevalent religions, howsoever defective, incomplete, or unsatisfying they might be.
At such a crucial stage of human civilization, when the mind of man was itself craving for a world religion, a Prophet was raised in Arabia for the whole world and for all nations. The religion he was given to propagate was again Islam-but now in the form of a complete and full-fledged system, covering all aspects of individual and material life of man. He was made a Prophet for the entire human race and was deputed to propagate his mission to the whole world. He was Muhammad the Prophet of Islam (Peace be upon him).
If we cast a glance at the world at the atlas, we find that the other country could have been more suitable for the much needed world religion than Arabia. It is situated right in the middle of Asia and Europe is not far away from it. At the time of Mohammed's appearance the central part of Europe was inhabited by civilized and culturally advanced nations; and thus these people were more or less at about the same distance from Arabia as were the people of India. This fact gave Arabia a central position.
And look at the history of that era and you will find that no other people were more suited for the endowment of this prophethood than the Arabs Great nations of the world had been struggling hard for world supremacy, and in this long struggle and incessant strife, they had exhausted all their resources and vitality. The Arabs were a fresh and virile people. The so-called social progress had produced bad habits among the advanced nations, while among the Arabs no such social organization existed, and they were, therefore, free form the inactivity, debasement and indulgences arising out of luxury and sensual satiety. The pagan Arabs of the fifth century had not been affected by the evil influence of the artificial systems and civilization of the great nations of the world. They processed all the good human qualities, which the people untouched by the 'social progress' of the time, ought to possess. They were brave, fearless, generous, faithful to their promises, lovers of freedom, and were Politically independent -not subject to the hegemony of the imperial Powers. They lived a very simple life, and were strangers to the life of luxury and indulgence. No doubt, there were certain undesirable aspects of their life as well, as we shall maintain later on, but the reason for the existence of such aspects was that for thousands of years no prophet had risen among them, nor had there appeared a reformer who might have civilized them and purged their moral life of all evil impurities. Centuries of free and independent life in sandy deserts had bred and nourished extreme ignorance among them. Nor had there appeared a reform who might have civilized them and purged their moral life of all evil impurities. Centuries of free and independent life in sandy deserts had bred and nourished extreme ignorance among them. They had, therefore, become so hard-hearted and firm in their traditions of ignorance that to make them human was not the task of an ordinary man. At the same time, however, they did possess a capacity that fi some person of extraordinary powers were to invite them for reform and gave them a noble ideal and a complete program they would accept his call and readily rise to act effectively for the achievement of such a goal, and spare no strife for or sacrifice in the cause. They would be prepared to face without the least scruple even the hostility of the entire world in the cause of their mission. And verily it was such a young, forceful, and virile people that were needed for disseminating the teachings of the World Prophet: Muhammad (Peace be upon him)
And then look to the Arabic language. If you study that language and fathom deep into its literature, you will be convinced that there is no other language than Arabic which is more suited to give expression to high ideals, to explain the most delicate and subtle problems of Divine knowledge, and to impress the heart of man and mould it into God’s submission. Small phrases and brief sentences express a world of ideas, and at the same time they are so forceful that they steal into the heart, their every sound moves man to tears and ecstasy. They are so sweet that it is felt as if honey were being poured into the ears; they are so full of harmony that every fiber of the listener's body is moved by their symphony. It is such a rich and powerful language that was needed for the Quran, the Great Word of God. It was, therefore, the manifestation of God’s great wisdom that He chose the land of Arabia for the birth place of the World Prophet. Let us now see how unique and extraordinary was the blessed personality chosen by God for the mission of the World Prophet.
MUHAMMAD’S PROPHETHOOD: A RATIONAL VINDICATION
If one were to close one’s eyes and imagine oneself in the world of 1400 years ago, one would find that it was a world completely different from ours, having not even the least semblance to the rough and tumble that we find around ourselves. How few and far between were the opportunities for the exchange of ideas! How limited and undeveloped were the means of communication! How little and meager was man’s knowledge! How narrow was his outlook! How enveloped was he in superstition and wild and sophisticated ideas!
Darkness held the sway. There was only a faint glimmer of learning, which could hardly illumine the horizon of human knowledge. There was neither wireless nor telephone, neither television nor cinematography. Railways and motor cars and airplanes were undreamed of, and printing presses and publishing concerns were unknown. Hand-written books or copyists alone supplied whatever scanty literary material was there to be transmitted from generation. Education was a luxury, meant only for the most fortunate, and educational institution were every few and between.
The store of human knowledge was scanty, man’s out look was narrow, and his ideas of man things were confined to his limited surroundings. Even a scholar of that age lacked in certain respects the knowledge possessed by a layman of today, and the most cultured person was less refined than our own man in the street. Indeed, humanity was steeped in ignorance and superstition. Whatever light of learning there was seemed to be fighting a losing battle against the darkness prevailing all around. What are considered to be matters of common knowledge today could hardly be acquired in those days even after years of calculated thought and patient research. People used to undertake hazardous journeys and spent a whole lifetime in acquiring that modest information which is everybody’s heritage in the present age of learning. Things, which are classed as 'myth' and 'superstition' today, were the unquestionable truths of that age. Acts, which we now regard as heinous and barbarous, were then the order of the day.
Methods whish appear obnoxious to our moral sense today constituted the very soul of morality, and one different way of life also. Incredulity had assumed such mighty proportions and had become so wide- so read that people refused to consider anything as lofty and sublime unless it the garb of the supernatural, the extraordinary, the uncanny, and even the untenable. They had developed such an inferiority complex that they could never imagine a human being to possess a godly soul and the saint to human.
In that benighted era, there was a territory where darkness lay heavier and thicker. The neighboring country of Persia, Byzantium and Egypt possessed a glimmer of civilization and a faint light of learning. But Arabia could receive no share from their cultural Influences. It stood isolated, cut off by vast oceans of sand. Arab traders plodding great distances, which took them months, carried their wares to and from these countries, but they could hardly acquire any grain of knowledge on their journeys. In their own country, they did not have a single educational institution or library. None seemed to be interested in the cultivation and advancement of knowledge. The few who were literate were not educated enough to have anything to do with the existing arts and sciences. They did possess a highly developed language capable of expressing the finest shades of human thought in a remarkable manner. They also possessed a literary taste of high order. But the study of the remnants of their literature reveals how limited was their knowledge, how low was their standard of culture and civilization, how saturated were their minds with superstitions, how barbarous and ferocious were their thoughts and customs, and how uncouth and degraded were their moral standards and conceptions.
It was a country without a government, every tribe claimed sovereignty and considered to be an independent unit. There was no law except the law of the jungle. Loot, arson, and murder of innocent and weak People was the order of the day. Life, Property, and honor were constantly at stake. Different tribes were al ways at daggers drawn with one another. Any trivial incident was enough to cause blaze out in ferocious fury, which sometimes even developed into a countywide conflagration ceaselessly continuing for several decades. Indeed, a Bedouin could not understand why he should let off a person of another tribe, whom, he thought, he had every right to kill and plunder4.
What ever nations they had of morals, culture, and civilization, were primitive and uncouth. They could hardly discriminate between pure and impure, lawful and unlawful, civil and uncivil. Their life was wild, their methods were barbaric. They reveled in adultery, gambling and drinking. Loot and plunder was their motto, murder and rapine their very habits. They would stand stark naked before each other without any qualms of conscience. Even their womenfolk would become nude at the ceremony of circumambulating the Ka'ba. Out of sheer foolish nations of Prestige, they would bury their daughters alive lest anyone should become their son-in-law, They would marry their stepmothers after the of their fathers. They were ignorant of even the rudiments of everyday routine of eating, dressing, and washing.
As regards their religious beliefs, they suffered from the same evils, which were playing havoc with the rest of the world.
They worshipped stones, trees, idols, stars, and spirits: in short, everything conceivable except God. They did not know anything about the teaching of the Prophets of old. They had an idea that Abraham and Ishmael were their forefathers, but they know next to nothing about their religious preaching and about the God Whom they worshipped. The stories of ‘Ad and Thamud were to be found in their folklore, but they contained no traces of the teachings of Prophets Hud and Sail. The Jews and the Christians had transmitted to them certain legendary folktales relating to the Israelite Prophets. They presented a harrowing picture of those noble souls. Their teachings were adulterated with the figments of their own imagination and their lives were tarred black. Even today, an idea can be had of the religious conceptions of those people by casting a cursory glance at those Israelite traditions which Muslim commentators of the Quran have conveyed to us. Indeed, the picture which has been presented there of the institution of prophethood and of the Israelite Prophets is the very antithesis of all that those noble followers of truth had stood for.
In such a Dark Age and in such a benighted country a man is born. In his very childhood his parents die and, a few years later, the sad demise of his grandfather also occurs. Consequently, he is deprived even of that scant training and upbringing which an Arab child of his time could get. In his boyhood he tends he flock of sheep and goats in the company of Bedouin boys. When of age, he takes to commerce. All his association and all his dealings are with the Arabs alone condition has just been described. Education has not even touched him; he is completely unlettered and unschooled. He never gets a chance to sit in the company of learned of learned man, for such men were totally non-existent in Arabia. He dose have a few opportunities to go out of his country, but those journeys are confined to Syria and are nothing more than the usual business trips undertaken by Arab trade caravans. If he men there or has the occasion to observe any aspects of culture and civilization, those random meeting and stray observations cannot be given any place in the making of his personality. For such things can never have that profound influence on anyone which may lift him to tally out of his environment transform him completely, and raise him to such heights of originality and glory that there remains no affinity between him and society he is born. Nor can they be the means of the acquisition of that profound and vast knowledge which may transform an unlettered Bedouin into a leader not only of his own country and age but of the world at large and of all ages to come. Indeed, whatever the measure of the intellectual and cultural influence of those journeys one might suppose, the fact remains that they could in no case impart to him those conception and principles of religion, ethics, culture, and Civilization which were to tally nonexistent in world of those days, and they could in no way create that sublime and perfect pattern of human character which was nowhere to be found in those days.
We may now look at the life and work of this noble man in the context not only of the Arabian society but also of the entire world as it stood in that period.
He is totally different form the people among whom he is born and with whom he passes his youth and early manhood, attaining finally his full stature. He never tells a lie. His whole nation is unanimous in testifying to his truthfulness. Even his worst enemies never accuse him of telling a lie on any occasion whatsoever during his entire life. He talks politely and uses obscene and abusive language. He has a charming personality and winsome manners with him.
In his dealings with the people he always follows the principles of justice and fair play. He remains in trade and commerce for years, but he never enters into any dishonest transaction. Those who deal with him in business have full confidence in his integrity. The entire nation calls him "Al-Ameen"(the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies deposit their costly belongings with him for safe custody and he scrupulously fulfils their trust. He is the very embodiment of midst of a society which is immodest to the core. Born and bred among a people who regard drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never touches alcohol and never indulges in gambling. His people are uncouth, uncultured and unclean, but he personifies in himself the highest culture and the most refined aesthetic outlook. Surrounded on all sides by heartless people, he himself has a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He helps the orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one; rather, he goes all out to suffer hardships for others’ sake. Living among those for whom war is bread and butter, he is such a lover of peace that his heart melts for them when they take up arms and cut each other’s throats. He keeps aloof form the feuds of his tribe, and is foremost in bringing about reconciliation. Bred up in an idolatrous race, he is so clear-minded and possesses such a pure soul that he regards nothing in the heavens and the earth worth worshipping except the One True God. He dose not bow be fore any created thing and dose not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. Instinctively he hates all kinds of worship of all creatures and beings besides God. In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this man in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon-light illumining a pitch-dark night or to a diamond shining in a heap of dead stones.
After spending a great part of his life in such a chaste, pure, and civilised manner there comes a revolution in his being. He feels fed up with the darkness and ignorance massed around him. He wants to swim clear of the horrible sea of ignorance, corruption, immorality, idolatry and disorder which surround him on all sides. He finds everything around him out of harmony with his soul. He retires to the hills, away from the hum and drum of habitations. He spends days and night in perfect seclusion and meditation. He fasts so that his soul and his heart may become purer and nobler still.
He muses and ponders deep. He is in search of a light which might melt away the encompassing darkness. He wants to get hold of that power with which he might bring about the downfall of the corrupt and disorderly world of his day and lay the foundations of a new and better world.
Lo! A remarkable revolution comes over his person. All of a sudden his heart is illuminated with the Divine light, giving him the power he had yearned for. He comes out of the confinement of his cave, goes to the people, and addresses them in the following strain:
"The idols which you worship are a mere sham. Cease to worship them from now on ward. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit, is worthy of human worship. Therefore, bow not you heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to God Almighty alone. He alone is the Creator, the Nourisher, the Sustainer, and, consequently, the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and to whom all should pray and render obedience. Thus worship Him along and obey only His commands. Loot and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty-all the vices in which you indulge are crimes in the eyes of God. Leave your evil ways. He hates them all. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone. Do not rob anyone. Take your lawful share. Give that is due to other in a just Manner. You are human beings and all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. None is born with the slur of shame on his face, nor anyone has come into the world with the mantle of honor hung around his neck. He alone is high and honored who is God-fearing and pious, true in words and deeds. Distinctions of birth and glory of race are no criteria greatness and honor. One who fears God and dose good deeds is the noblest. One who fears God and does good deeds is the noblest of human beings. One who is shorn of love of God and is steeped in bad manners is doomed. There is an appointed day after your death when you shall have to appear before your Lord. Your shall be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you shall not be able then to hide anything. They whole record of life shall be an open book to Him. You fate shall be determined by your good or bad-actions. In the court of the true Judge-the omniscient does not arise. You shall not be able to bribe Him. No consideration will be given to your pedigree or parentage. True faith and good deeds alone will stand you in good stead at that time. He who will be fully equipped with them shall take his abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness; while one devoid of them shall be cast in the fire of Hell."
This is the message with which he comes. The ignorant nation turns against him. Abuses and stones are showered at his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated on him. And this continues not for a day or tow but uninterruptedly for thirteen long troublesome years. At last he is exiled. But he is not given respite even there. He is tormented in various ways in his abode of refuge. The whole of Arabia is incited against him. He is persecuted and hounded down continuously for full eight years there. He suffers it all, but doses not budge an inch from the stand he has taken. He is resolute firm and inflexible in his purpose and stand.
One might inquire: how is it that his nation became his sworn enemy? Was there any dispute about gold and silver or other worldly possessions? Was it due to any blood feud? Did he ask for anything from them? No! The whole enmity was based on the fact that he had asked them to worship the One True God and to lead a life of righteousness, pity, and goodness. He had preached against idolatry and the worship of other beings besides God and had denounced their wrong ways of life. He had cut at the roots of priest craft. He had inveighed against all distinctions of high and low between human beings, and had condemned the prejudices of clan and race as sheer ignorance; and he wanted to change the whole structure of society which had been handed down to them from time immemorial. In their turn, his countryman told him that the principles of his mission were hostile to their ancestral traditions and asked him either to up or to bear the worst consequences.
One might ask: what for did he suffer all those hardships? His nation offered to accept him as their king and to lay all the riches of the land at his feet if only he would leave preaching his religion and spreading his message5. But he chose to refuse the tempting offers and to suffer for his cause, instead. Why? Was he to gain in any way if those people became pious and righteous?
Why was it that he cared not a jot for riches and luxury, kingship and glory, and ease and plenty? Was he playing for some higher material gains so that these blessings sank into insignificance in comparison with them? Were those so tempting that he could elect to go through fire and sword and bear tortures of the soul and torments of the body with equanimity for years? One has to ponder over it deeply to find an answer.
Can anyone ever imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, fellow-feeling and kind-heartedness towards his fellow-beings that a man may ruin his own happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose betterment he is striving his utmost should stone him, no quarter even in his exile, and that, in this all, he should refuse to refrain from striving for their will-being?
Can any insincere person undergo so much suffering for a false cause? Can any dishonest speculator and visionary exhibit such firmness and determination for his ideal as to stick to his guns to the very last and remain unruffled and unperturbed in the face of dangers and tortures of every conceivable description when a whole country rises up in arms against him?
This faith, this perseverance, and this resolution, with which he led his movement to ultimate success, is, therefore, an eloquent proof of the supreme truth of his cause. Had there been the slightest touch of doubt and uncertainty in his heart, he could never have been able to brave the storm which continued in all its fury for twenty-one long years.
This is one side of the revolution wrought in his being. The other is even more wonderful and remarkable.
For forty years he lived as an Arab among Arabs. In that long period he was not known as a statesman, a preacher, or an orator. None had heard him imparting gems of wisdom and knowledge as he began to do hereafter. He was never seen discoursing upon the principles of metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economics, and sociology. Not to speak of being a great general, he was not even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no word about God, the Angels, the revealed Book, the early prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgment, the Life after, Death, Hell and Heaven. No doubt he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and was highly cultured; yet there was nothing so deeply striking and so radically extraordinary in him which could make men expect something great and revolutionary from him in future. He was know among his acquaintances as a sober, calm, gentle, law-abiding citizen of good nature. But when he came out of the cave with a new message he was completely transformed.
When he began preaching his Message the whole of Arabia stood in awe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory. It was so impressive and captivating that his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into the recesses of their hearts or the very marrow of their beings and carry them off their feet and make them bid goodbye to their old religion and culture. It was so matchless that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers, and orators of the highest caliber failed to bring forth its equivalent in beauty of language and splendor of diction when he threw the challenge to his opponents to put their heads together and produce even a single line like the one he recited.
Along with this, he now appeared before his people as a unique philosopher, a wonderful reformer, a renowned molder of culture and civilization, an illustrious politician, a great leader, a judge of the highest eminence and an incomparable general. This unlettered Bedouin, this dweller of the desert, spoke with such learning and wisdom the like of which none had said before and none could say after him. He expounded the intricate problems of metaphysics and theology. He delivered speeches on the principles of the decline and fall of nations and empires, supporting his thesis by the historical data of the past. He reviewed the achievements of the old reformers, passed judgments on the various religions of the world, and gave verdicts on the differences and disputes between nations. He taught ethical canons and principles of culture. He formulated such laws of social culture, economic organization, group conduct, and international relations that even eminent thinkers and scholars can grasp their true wisdom only after life-long research and vast experience of men and thing. Their beauties, indeed, unfold themselves progressively as man advances in theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
This silent and peace-loving trader who had never handled a sword before, who had no military training, who had but once participated in a battle and that also just as a spectator, turned suddenly into such a brave soldier that he did not even once retreat in the fiercest battles. He become such a great general that he conquered the whole of Arabia in nine years, at a time when the weapons of war primitive and the means of communication poorest. His military acumen and efficiency developed to such a high pitch and the military spirit which he infused and the military training which he imparted to motley crowd of Arabs (who had no equipment worth the name) wrought such a miracle that within a few years they overthrew the two most formidable military powers of the day and became the masters of the greater part of the then known world.
This reserved and quiet man who, for full forty years, never gave indication of any political Interest or activity, appeared suddenly on the stage of the world as such a great political reformer and statesman that, without, the aid of radio and wireless and press, he brought together the scattered inhabitants of a desert of twelve hundred thousand square miles, -a people who were warlike, ignorant, unruly, uncultured, and plunged in internecine tribal warfare-under one banner, one law, one religion, one culture, one civilization, and one form of government6.
He changed their modes of thought, their very habits and their morals. He turned into the cultured, the barbarous into the civilized, the evildoers and bad characters into pious, God-fearing, and righteous persons. Their unruly and stiff-necked natures were transformed into models of obedience and submission to law and order. A nation which had not produced a single great man worth the name for centuries gave birth, under his influence and guidance, to thousands of noble souls who went forth to far-off corners of the world to preach and teach the principles of religion, morals and civilization7.
He accomplished this feat not through any worldly lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his captivating manners, his endearing moral personality, and his convincing manners, his endearing moral personality, and his convincing teaching. With his noble and gentle behavior he befriended even his enemies. He captured the hearts of the people with his unbounded sympathy and the milk of human kindness. He ruled justly. He did not swerve from truth and righteousness. He did not oppress even his deadly enemies who were after his life, who had pelted him with stones, who had turned him out of his native place, who had pitched the whole of Arabia against him nay, not even those who had chewed raw the liver of his dead uncle in a frenzy of vengeance8. He forgave them all when he triumphed over them. He never took revenge from anyone for his personal grievances or the wrongs perpetrated on his person.
In spite of the fact that he became the ruler of his country, he was so selfless and modest that he remained very simple and sparing in his habits. He lived poorly, as before, in his humble thatched mud-cottage. He slept on a mattress, wore coarse clothes, ate the simplest food of the poor, and sometimes went without any food at all. He used to spend whole nights standing in prayer before his Lord. He came to the to the rescue of the destitute and the penniless9. He felt not the least humility in working as a laborer. Till his last moments there was not the slightest tinge of kingly pomp and show or hauteur of the high and the rich in him. Like an ordinary man he would sit and walk with people and share their joys and sorrows. He would so mix up and mingle with the crowd that a stranger, an outsider, would find it difficult to point out the leader of the people and the ruler of the nation from the rest of the company.
In spite of his greatness, his behavior with the humblest person was that of an ordinary human being. In the struggles and endeavors of his whole life he did not seek any reward or profit for his own person, not left any property for his heirs. He dedicated his all to Millat. He did not ask his adherents to earmark anything for him or his descendants, so much so that he forbade his progeny from receiving the benefit of Zakat (or poor-tax), lest his follower at any future time may dole out the whole share of Zakat to them.
His Contribution to Human Thought
The achievements of this great man do not end here. In order to arrive at a correct appraisal of his true worth one has to view it in the background of the history of the world as a whole. That would reveal that this unlettered dweller of the desert of Arabia, who was born in the ‘dark ages’ some 1400 years ago, was the real pioneer of the modern age and the true leader of humanity. He is not only the leader of those who accept his leadership but of those also who do not acclaim him as such: even of those who denounce him! the only difference being that the latter are unaware of the fact that his guidance is still imperceptibly influencing their thoughts and their actions and is the governing principle of their lives and the very spirit of the modern times10.
It was he who turned the course of human thought from superstition-mongering, love for the unnatural and the inexplicable, and monasticism towards rational approach, love for reality, and a pious, balanced worldly life. It was he who, in a world which regarded only supernatural happenings as miracles and demanded them for the verification of the truth of a religious mission, inspired the urge for rational proof and the faith in them as the criterion of truth. It was he who opened the eyes of those who had been accustomed till then to look for the signs of God in the natural phenomena. It was he who, in place of baseless speculation, led human beings to the path of rational understanding and sound reasoning on the basis of observation, experiment, and research. It was he who clearly defined the limits and functions of sense perception, reason, and intuition. It was he who brought about a rapprochement between the spiritual and the material values. It was he who harmonized Faith with Knowledge and Action. It was he who created the scientific spirit with the power of religion and who evolved true religiosity on the basis of the scientific spirit.
It was he who eradicated idolatry, man-worship and polytheism in all forms so thoroughly and created such a firm faith in the Unity of God that even those religions which were based entirely on superstitions and idolatry were compelled to adopt a monotheistic theme. It was he who changed the basic concepts of ethics and spirituality. To those who believed that asceticism and self- annihilation alone formed the standard of moral and spiritual purity –that purity could not be achieved except by running away from worldly life, disregarding all the urges of the flesh and subjecting the body to all types of tortures-it was he who showed the path or spiritual evolution, moral emancipation, and attainment of salvation through active participation in the practical affairs of the world around them.
It was he who brought home to man his true worth and position; those who acknowledged only a God incarnate or a son of God as their moral preceptor or spiritual guide were told that a human being like them having no pretension to Godhead could become the vicegerent of God on earth; those who proclaimed and worshipped powerful personages as their gods were made to understand that their false lords were mere. It was he who stressed the point that no person could claim holiness, authority, and kingship as birthright and that none was born with the stigma of untouchability, slavery, or serfdom on his person. It was he and his teaching which inspired the thoughts of the unity of mankind, equality of human beings, true democracy and real freedom in the world.
Leaving aside this realm of thought and moving a bit further one will find countless practical results of the leadership of this unlettered person firmly impressed on the laws and ways of the world. So many principles of good behavior, culture and civilization, purity of thought and deed, which are prevalent in the world today, owe their origin to him. The social laws which he gave have infiltrated deep into the structure of human social life, and this process continues up to this day. The basic principles of economics which he taught have ushered in many a movement in world history and hold out the same promise for the future. The laws of governance which he formulated brought about many an upheaval in the political notions and theories of the world and continue to assert their influence even today. The fundamental principles of law and justice which bear the stamp of his genius have influenced to a remarkable degree the administration of justice in the courts of nations, and form a perpetual source of guidance for all legists to come. This unlettered Arab was the first person who set on foot for the first time practically the whole framework of international relations, and regulated the laws of war and peace. For no one had previously even the remotest idea that there could be an ethical code of war also and that relation between different nations could be regulated on the ground of common humanity11.
In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all the great men of all times who are famous as heroes of nations, that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them possessed a genius capable of making any deep impression on more than one or two aspects of human life. Some are the exponents of theories and ideas but are deficient in practical action. Some others are men of action but suffer from paucity of knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only; others are masters of strategy and maneuvering. Some have concentrated on one aspect of social life in a manner that other aspects have been overlooked. Some others have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual verities but have ignored economics and politics. Some other have taken to economics and politics, but neglect morals and the spiritual side of life. In short, one comes across heroes who are adepts and experts in one walk of life only. His is the only example where all the excellences have been blended into one personality. He is a philosopher and a seer and also a living embodiment of his own teachings. He is a great statesman as well as a military genius. He is a legislator and also a teacher of morals. He is a spiritual luminary as well as a religious guide. His vision penetrates every aspect of life and there is nothing which he touches and does not adorn. His orders and commandments cover a vast field from the regulation of international relations down to the habits of everyday life like eating, drinking, and cleanliness of the body. On the foundations of his theories he established a civilization and a culture and produced such a fine equilibrium in the conflicting aspects of life that there is to be found not even the slightest trace of any flaw, deficiency, or incompleteness. Can anyone out any other example of such a perfect and all-round personality?
Most of the famous personalities of the world are said to be the products of their environment. But his case is unique. His environment seems to have played no part in the making of his personality. It also cannot be proved that historically his birth synchronized with the order of things in Arabia at that time. What one can say at the most is that the circumstances in Arabia cried aloud for the appearance of such a person who could weld together the warring tribes into one nation and lay the foundation of their economic solidarity and well-being by bringing other countries under their sway-in short, a national leader who would have all the traits of an Arab of those days and, through cruelty, oppression, bloodshed, deceit, and hypocrisy, or by any other fair or foul means, could have enriched his own people, and left a kingdom as a heritage for his successors. One cannot prove any other crying need of the history of Arabia of that time.
What one can say at the most in the light of Hegel’s philosophy of history or Marx’s historical materialism is that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader who could create a nation and build up an empire. But the Hegelian or Marxian philosophy cannot explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the best morals, to purify humanity of all dross, and to wipe out prejudices and superstitions of the days of ignorance and darkness, who looked beyond the watertight compartments of race, nation, and country, who laid the foundations of a moral, spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the world and not for his country alone, who practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics, and international relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced and temperate synthesis between worldly life and spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered a masterpiece of wisdom and foresight exactly in the same way as it was considered in his lifetime. Can anyone honestly call such a person as the product of the all-pervading darkness of Arabia?
He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. Rather, when we look at his achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends all limitation of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers, passes beyond centuries and millenniums and comprehends within itself entire human activity and the whole of human history.
He is not one of those whom history has cast into oblivion, and he is not praised only because he was just a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity who marches with the time, who is modern in every age and in every era, as he was in his own age of history. Truly, his teachings are as modern as tomorrow morn.
Those whom people style as makers of history’ are only ‘creatures of history’. In fact, in the whole history of mankind, he is the unique example of a ‘maker of history’. One may scan the lives and circumstances of the great leaders of the world who brought about revolutions and one will find that on each such occasion the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for propitious moment to burst out. In harnessing these forces in time for action the revolutionary leader played the part of an actor for whom the stage and the role is set beforehand. One the other hand, amidst all ‘makers of history’ and revolutionary figures of all times, he is the only person who had to find ways and means to bring together the wherewithal of revolution, who had to mould and produce the kind of men he wanted for his purpose because the very spirit of revolution and its requisite paraphernalia were nonexistent in those people among whom his lot was cast.
He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful personality and molded them according to his liking. By his iron will he prepared the ground for revolution, molded its shape and features, and directed the currents into a channel as he wished and desired. Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such brilliance and splendor?
One may ponder over this matter and wonder how, in the dark ages 1400 years back in a benighted region of the earth like Arabia, an unlettered Arab trader and herdsman came to possess such light, such knowledge, such power, such capabilities, and such finely-developed moral virtues?
One may say that there is nothing peculiar about his Message. It is the product of his own mind. If it is so, then he should have proclaimed himself as God. And if he had made such an assertion at that time, the peoples of the earth who did not hesitate in calling Krishna and Buddha as gods and Jesus as the Son of God, just out of their own fancy, and who could without compunction worship even the forces of nation like fire, water and air would have readily acknowledged such a wonderful person as the Lord God Himself.
But lo! His assertion is just to the contrary. For he proclaimed that: I am a human being like yourselves. I have not brought any thing to you of my own accord. It has all revealed to me by God. Whatever I possess belongs to Him. This message the like of which the whole humanity is not able to produce, of my own mind. Every word of it has been sent down by Him and all glory to Him Whose Message it is. All the wonderful achievements which stand to my credit in your eyes, all the laws which I have given, all the principles which I have enunciated and taught-none of them is from me. I find myself thoroughly incompetent for producing such things out of my sheer personal ability and capabilities. I look to Divine Guidance in all matters. Whatever He wills I do, what He directs I proclaim.
Hearken! What a wonderful and inspiring example of honesty, truth, and honor it is! A liar and a hypocrite generally tries to ascribe to himself all the credit for the deeds of others also, even when the falsehood of his statement can be easily proved. But this great man does not appropriate the credit of any of these achievements to his own person even when none could contradict him, as there was no method of finding out the source of his inspiration.
What more proof of perfect honesty of purpose, uprightness of character, and sublimity of soul can there be! Who else can be a more truthful person than he who received such unique gifts and embellishments through a secret channel and still he out rightly points out the source of all his enlightenment and inspiration? All these factors lead to the irresistible conclusion that such a man was the true Messenger of God.
Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth and veracity, a great apostle of God, His Messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truth and straightforwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements-all stand as unimpeachable proofs of his prophethood. Any human being who Studies his life and teachings without bias will testify that verily he was the true prophet of God and the Qur’an-the Book he gave to mankind-the Book of God. No unbiased and serious seeker after truth can escape this conclusion.
Furthermore, this must also be clearly understood that, now, through Muhammad (peace be upon him) alone can we know the straight path of Islam. The Qur’an and the example of Mohammad are the only reliable sources that are a available to mankind to learn God’s Will in its totality. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the Messenger of God for the whole of mankind and the long chain of prophets has come to an end with him. He was the last of the prophets and all the instructions which it was God’s will to impart to mankind through direct revelation were sent by Him through Muhammad (peace be upon him) and are enshrined in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Now, whoever be a seeker of truth and anxious to become an honest Muslim, a sincere follower of the way of God, it is incumbent upon him to have faith in God’s last prophet, accepted his teachings and follow the way he has he pointed out to man. This is the real road to success and salvation.
This brings us to the question of the finality of prophethood. Let us now consider this aspect of the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him).
We have already discussed the nature of prophethood and this discussion makes it clear that the advent of a prophet is not an everyday occurrence. Nor is the presence in person or the prophet essential for every land, people, and period. The life and teachings of the prophet are the beacon-light to guide a people to the Right path and as long as his teachings and his guidance are alive he is, as it were, himself alive. The real death of a prophet consists not in his physical demise but in the mitigation of his teachings and the interpolation of his guidance. The earlier prophets have died because their followers have adulterated their teachings, interpolated their instructions, and besmirched their life-examples by attaching fictitious events to them. Not one of the earlier books-Torah, Zabur (psalms of David), injeel (Gospel of Jesus), etc-exists to day in its original text and even the followers of these books confess that they do not possess the original book. The life histories of the earlier prophets have been so mixed up with fiction that an accurate and authentic account of their lives has become impossible. Their lives have become tales and legends and no trustworthy record is a available anywhere. Not only that the records have been lost and their life precepts forgotten but even this cannot be said with certainty as to when and when and where a certain prophet was born and bred, how he lived and what code he gave to mankind. In fact, the real death of a prophet consists in the death of his teachings.
Judging the facts on this criterion no one can deny that Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his teachings are alive. His teachings stand uncorrupted and are incorruptible. The Qur’an-the book he gave to mankind-exists in its original text, without the slightest alteration of letter, syllable, jot, or title. The entire account of his life-his sayings, instructions and actions-is preserved with complete accuracy, so much so that even after the lapse of thirteen centuries its delineation in history is so clear and complete that it seems as if we are seeing him with the eyes under our brows. The biography of no other human being is so well preserved as that of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). In each and every matter of life we can seek the guidance of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and take a lesson from his life-example. That is why there is no need of any other prophet after Muhammad, the last prophet (peace be upon him).
Furthermore, there are three things which necessitate the advent of a new prophet; it not just the replacement of a departed prophet. These may be summed up as follows:
1. That the teachings of the earlier prophets have been interpolated or corrupted or they have died and their revival is needed. In such a case a new prophet is raised so that he may purge the impurities from the lives of the people and restore religion to its pristine form and Purity, or
2. That the teachings of a prophet who has passed away were incomplete and it is necessary to amend them, improve upon them, or add something to them, when a new prophet is sent is sent to effect these improvements or
3. That the earlier prophet was raised particularly for a certain nation or territory and a prophet for another nation, people, or country be required12.
These are the three fundamental conditions which necessitate the raising of a new prophet. A careful perusal of the facts shows that none of these conditions exists today. The teachings of the last prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), are alive, have been fully preserved, and made immortal. The guidance he has shown unto mankind is complete and flawless, and is enshrined in the Holy Qu’ran. All the sources of Islam are fully intact and each and every instruction or action of the Holy Prophet can be ascertained without the least shadow of doubt. Thus as his teachings are totally intact, there is no need of any of new prophet on this count.
Secondly, God has completed His revealed guidance through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Islam is the complete religion for mankind. God has said that, "Today I have perfected your Faith-religion-for you, and have completed My bounty upon you," and a thorough study of Islam as a complete way of life proves the truth of these Qur’anic words. Islam gives guidance for life in this world and in the hereafter and nothing essential has now been perfected and there is no ground for new prophethood on the plea of imperfection13.
Lastly, the Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not meant for any particular people, place, or period. He was raised as the world prophet-the messenger of the truth for the entire mankind. The Qur’an has commanded Muhammad (peace be upon him) to declare: "O mankind, I am God’s Messenger to all of you." He has been described as "a blessing for all (the people of) the worlds" and his approach has been universal and human. That is why after him there remains no need for new prophethood and he has been described by the Qur’an as khatam-un-Nabiyyin (the last of the chain of the true prophets)14. Now there fore, the only source for the knowledge of God and His Way is Muhammad (peace be upon him). We can know of Islam only through his teachings which are so complete and so comprehensive that world does not need any new prophet; it needs only such people as have full faith in Muhammad (peace be upon him) who become the standard-bearers of his message, propagate it to the world at large, and endeavor to establish the culture which Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave to Man. The World needs such men of character as can translate his teachings into practice and establish a society which is governed by Divine Law, whose supremacy Muhammad peace be Muhammad (peace be upon him) and on its success hinges the success of Man.
5 The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to face tempests of adversity in the way of truth. He braced all the opposition and oppression with a smile on his lips. He stood firm, underterred by criticism and coercion. when the natives felt that the threats failed to frighten this man and the severest tribulations at his and his followers' person not even made them move an inch, they played the other trick- but that too was destined to doom!
A deputation of the leading Quraish called upon the Holy Prophet and tried to bribe him by offering all the worldly glory they could imagine. They said: "If you want to possess wealth, we well amass for you as much as you wish; if you aspire to win honour and power, we are prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty, you shall have the hand of the most beautiful maiden of your own choice."
But they wanted that he should abandon his mission. The terms were extremely tempting for any human mortal. But they had no significance in the eyes of the Great Prophet. His reply fell like a bomb-shell upon the deputation of the leaders of Arabia. They thought they had played the trump. But they were disappointed. The Holy Prophet said: "Pray! I want neither pelf nor power. I have been commissioned by God as warner to mankind. I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have felicity and joy in this life and eternal bliss in the life hereafter: should you reject the word of God, surely God will decide between you and me."
On another occasion he said to his uncle, who, on the pressure from the leaders of Arabia, was trying to persuade him to abandon his mission: O uncle! should they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, in order to make me renounce this mission, IT SHALL NOT BE. I will never give it up till it should please God to make it a triumph or I perish in the attempt."
This was the character of the Prophet of Islam! - Editor.
"The first peculiarity then, which attracts our attention is the subdivision of the Arabs, into innumerable bodies ... each independent of the others: restless and often at war amongst themselves; and even when united by blood or by interest, ever ready on some insignificant cause to separate and give way to an implacable hostility. Thus at the era of Islam the retrospect of Arabian history exhibits, as in the Kaleidoscope, an ever varying state of combination and repulsion, such as had hitherto reabortive any attempt at a general union ... The problem had yet to be solved, by what force these tribes could be subdued or drawn to one common centre; AND IT WAS SOLVED BY MUHAMMAD" (emphasis ours).
7 It would be instructive to refer here to an important speech of Ja'far Ibn Abi Talib. When the oppression upon the Muslims of Mecca reached its limits, Prophet Muhammad asked some of them to migrate to the adjoining State of Abyssinia. A group of Muslims migrated to that country. But the Quraish who were perpetrating every conceivable oppression upon the Muslims did not sit idle. They pursued the emigrants, asked King Negus of Abyssinia to forcibly return his immigrants. In the court of King Negus, Ja'far made a speech and threw light on the revolution that the Holy Prophet had brought about. An extract from his speech is given below:
"O King! we were ignorant people, given to idolatry. We were used to eat corpses even of dead animals, and to do all kinds of disgraceful things. We did not make good our obligations to our relations, and ill-treated our neighbours. The strong among us would thrive at the expense of the weak, till, at last, God raised a prophet for our reformation. His descent, his righteousness, his integrity and his piety are well known to us all. He called us to the worship of God, and exhorted us to give up idolatry and stone-worship. He enjoined us to speak the truth, to make good our trusts, to respect ties of kinship, and to do good to our neighbours. He taught us to shun everything foul and to avoid bloodshed. He forbade all indecent of things: telling lies, misappropriating orphans' belongings, and bringing false accusations against the chastity of women. So we believed in him, followed him, and acted upon his teaching.
8 On the occasion of the Battle of Uhud, Hinda, the wife of the chief of the pagan Arabs, actually chewed the raw liver of the Prophet's uncle, Hamza.
9 The Prophet said: "Anyone who dies in debt or leaves behind dependants who are in danger of becoming destitutes, they should come to me because I am their guardian." His whole life bears ample testimony to this.
10 Arthur Leonard says: "Islam, in fact, has done a work. She has left a mark on the pages of human history, which is so indelible that it can never be effaced. . . that only when the world grows will be acknowledged in full."
John Davenport, a leading scientist, observed: "It must be owned that all the knowledge whether of physics, astronomy, Philosophy or mathematics, which flourished in Europe from the 10th century, was originally derived from the Arabian schools, and the Spanish Saracen may be looked upon as the father of European philosophy."- Quoted by A. Karim in Islam's Contribution to Science and Civilization.
Bertrand Russell, the famous British philosopher, writes: "The supremacy of the East was not only military. Science, philosophy, poetry, and the arts, all flourished. . . in the Muhammedan world at a time when Europe was sunk in barbarism. Europeans, with unpardonable insularity, call this period 'The Dark Ages': but it was only in Europe that it was dark-indeed only in Christian Europe, for Spain, which was Mohammedan, had a brilliant culture.- Pakistan Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 3 (emphasis ours).
Robert Briffault, the renowned historian, acknowledges in his book The Making of Humanity: "It is highly probable that but for the Arabs, modern European Civilization would never have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of human growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory- natural sciences and the scientific spirit. What we call science arose in Europe as a result of a new spirit of inquiry: of new methods of investigation, of the method of experiment, observation, measurement, of the development of mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs."
Stanwood Cobb, founder of the Progressive Education Association, says: "Islam ... was the virtual creator of the Renaissance in Europe."- Quoted by Robert L. Gullick Jr. in Muhammad the Educator.
11 For details, see Abul A'la Maudoodi's Al-Jihad fil- Islam
(1) Islam's teachings are eternal they have been revealed by Allah Who knows all about the past, present, and future and who Himself is eternal. It is the human knowledge that is limited. It is the human eye which cannot see into the dim vista of future, not God whose knowledge is above all the limitations of time and space.
(3) In human life there is a beautiful balance between elements of permanence and change. Neither is everything permenant, nor is everything changeable. The fundamental principles, the basic values, do not invite change. It is the outward forms which change with the passage of time and which are changed keeping in view certain principles which are to be observed. And Islam has catered for the needs of both permanence and change. The Qur'an and the Sunnah propound the eternal principles of Islam while through Ijtihad they are applied to every age according to its own needs. Islam is the only religion which has established a machinery for the perennial evolution of human society in accordance with the fundamental principles and permanent values of life.
The Qur'an says: ''Muhammad is the Messenger of God and last of the Prophets '' (xxxiii:40).