Prophethood: Its Nature and Necessity
God has most graciously provided man with all that he needs in this Universe. Generally every new-born child arrives in the world endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell and breathe, hands to touch, feet to walk and a mind to think. 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 requirements is foreseen and provided for.
It is the same with the world he lives in. Everything essential for his life is provided: air, light, heat, water and so on. A child on opening his eyes, finds his food in his mother's breast. His parents love him instinctively and in their hearts 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 at every stage of his life obtains from nature all that he needs. All the material conditions of survival and growth are provided for; he finds that the whole Universe is at his service.
Furthermore, man is blessed with all those powers, capacities and faculties -physical, mental and moral- which he requires in his struggle for life. But God has not distributed these gifts equally. This would have made men totally independent of each other and would have excluded mutual care and co-operation. Thus, although mankind as a whole possesses all that is needed, between men capacities are distributed unequally and sparingly.
Some possess physical strength and prowess, others distinguish themselves for their mental talents. Some are born with a greater aptitude for arts, poetry and philosophy, some possess sharpness of tongue, others military acumen, commercial intelligence, mathematical keenness, scientific curiosity, literary observation or philosophical bent. These special aptitudes make a man distinct and enable him to grasp those intricacies which elude the common man. These insights, aptitudes and talents are the gifts of God. They are innate in the nature of those men whom God has destined to be thus distinguished. They cannot be acquired merely by education and training.
Reflection on this disposition of God's gifts also reveals that man's talents have been distributed in a marvelous way. Those capacities which are essential for the general maintenance of human culture have been endowed to most people, while extraordinary talents which are required only to a limited extent are given only to a small number. There are many soldiers, peasants, artisans and workers; but military generals, scholars, statesmen and intellectuals are comparatively few. The general rule seems to be: the higher the capacity and greater the genius, the fewer people who possess them. Super-geniuses, who leave an indelible mark on human history and whose achievements guide humanity for centuries, are fewer still.
Here we are faced with another question: do people just need specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the life? Or do they also need men to show them the right path - the way to God and salvation? There must clearly be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself: what man himself is and why he has 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 they can be attained.
Our reason refuses to accept that God, Who has provided man with even the smallest of his requirements, would not provide for this greatest and most vital need. It can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and science, He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition and the highest faculties to know and understand Him. To them, He revealed the way of godliness, piety and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the aims of life and values of morality and entrusted them with the duty to communicate Divine Revelation to other human beings. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God.
The Prophets distinguish themselves in human society by their special aptitudes, natural bents of mind and a pious and meaningful way of life, more or less in the same way as other geniuses in art and science distinguish themselves by their extraordinary capacities and natural aptitudes. The genius in man is its own advertisement and automatically persuades others to recognize and acknowledge it.
Thus, a Prophet's mind grasps problems which defy other minds; he throws light on subjects which no one else can; he has insights into such subtle and intricate questions that no one else would have even understood after years of deep thought and meditation. Reasons accepts whatever he says; the heart feels its truth; and experience of the world testifies to every word that flows from his mouth. If, however, we ourselves try to produce the same or a similar work, we inevitably meet with failure. In all affairs his attitude is that of truthfulness, straightforwardness and nobility. He never does or utters wrong, nor does he commit any evil. He always encourages virtue and righteousness, and practices himself what he preaches to others. Neither his words nor his deeds are prompted by self-interest. He suffers for the good of others, and never makes others suffer for his own good.
When it becomes quite clear that a person is a 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 illogical to accept a man as God's true Prophet and yet not to believe in what he says and 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. Disobedience of him is disobedience of God and disobedience of God leads to ruin.
Therefore, the very acceptance of a Prophet makes it incumbent on you to follow his instructions unconditionally. You may not be able fully to grasp the wisdom and usefulness of this or that order, but the very fact that an instruction has emanated from a Prophet is sufficient guarantee of its truth. One's inability to understand it does not mean there is something wrong with it. Rather it is our understanding which is at fault.
Some men admit the integrity and truthfulness of a Prophet, but do not put faith (Iman) in him, nor do they follow him in the affairs of their life. Such men are not only Kafirs, but imprudent: for not to follow a 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 the way to truth." This, too, is a wrong view. You have probably learnt geometry, and you know that between points there can be only one straight line; all other lines must be crooked or willfail to touch the pointin view. The same is the case with the way to truth, which in the language of Islam, is called the Straight Path (al-Sirat al-Mustaqim).
This path begins from man and goes straight up to God, and this path can by definition be one and only one; all other paths must be aberrations. This Straight Path has been indicated by the Prophets, and there is and can be no straight path besides that. The man who ignores that path soon finds himself lost in the maze created by his own fancy. What can you think of a person who loses his way and, when a good man shows him the right one, defiantly declares: "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 tried to start from scratch, it would be a gross waste of time and energy. We never do so in the sciences and arts: why here?
If you go a little deeper into the matter, it will become clear that a person who disbelieves in a true Prophet cannot find any way, straight or otherwise, to God. This is because a man who refuses to believe the advice of a truthful man adopts such a perverse attitude that he ceases to understand the difference between truth and falsehood and becomes a victim of his own obstinacy, arrogance, bias and perversity. This refusal may be due to false arrogance, or blind conservatism and obstinate adherence to the way of one's forefathers, or to slavery to the lower desires of the self, whose gratification becomes impossible by submission to the teachings of the Prophets.
On the other hand, if a man is sincere and truth-loving, the road to reality opens up to him. He will find in the teachings of the Prophets the very echo of his own soul and discover himself by discovering the Prophets.
Above all, a true Prophet is raised by God Himself. It is He Who has sent him to mankind to convey His message to His people. It is His Command that one should put one's faith in the Prophet and follow him. Thus, one who refuses to believe in God's Messenger refuses to follow God's Commandment and becomes a rebel. There is no denying 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. Anyone who rejects the Prophets of God is a Kafir, be he a believer in God or a disbeliever.
Brief History of Prophethood
Now let us look 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 Prophets, Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 from that earliest pair: Adam and Eve. History and religion are agreed on this points. Nor do scientific investigations into the origin of man show that originally different men came into being, simultaneously or at different points of time, in different parts of the world. Most scientists conjecture that one man would have been brought into existence first the entire human race might have descended from that one man.
Adam, the first man on earth, was also the first Prophet of God. He revealed His religion -Islam- to him and told him to convey and communicate it to his descendents: to teach them that Allah is One, the Creator, the Sustainer of the world: that He is the Lord of the Universe and He alone should be worshipped and obeyed; that to Him they would have to return one day and to Him alone they should appeal for help; that they should live righteous lives in accordance with God's pleasure and that if they did so they would be blessed and if they did not they would suffer both here and in the hereafter.
Those of Adam's descendants who were good trod the right path, but those who were bad abandoned their father's teachings. 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 the favour of each one could be won by worship. In this way ignorance gave rise to many forms of polytheism and idolatry, and scores of religious were formulated. This was the age when Adam's progeny had spread over the globe, and formed different races and nations. Every nation had created a different religion for itself, each with rituals of its own. God - the one Lord and Creator of mankind and the universe - was forgotten. Every kind of evil custom grew; many evils began to be considered right and many right things were either ignored or condemned as wrong.
At this stage God began to raise Prophets among every people. Each one reminded his people of the lesson they had forgotten. They put an end to idol-worship and the practice of associating other deities with God (shirk), did away with all customs of ignorance, taught them the right way of living in accordance with God's pleasure, and gave them laws to be followed and enforced in society. God's true Prophets were raised in every land and among every people. They all possessed one and the same religion - the religion of Islam.
No doubt the methods of teaching and the legal codes of different Prophets varied 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 was trying to eradicate. When 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.
Such differences were, however, only superficial. 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 life after death with its just mechanism of reward and punishment.
Man's attitudes towards God's Prophets has been strange. He has ill-treated them and refused to accept their teachings. Some of the prophets were expelled from their lands; some were assassinated; some, faced with indifference, preached the whole of their lives without winning more than a few followers. But despite the harassment, derision and indignity, to which they were perpetually subjected, these Apostles of God did not cease to spread their message. Their patient determination at last succeeded: large groups of people and nations were converted to their creed.
The false tendencies, born of centuries of deviation, ignorance and malpractice, now took another form. Though they accepted their Prophets during their lives and practiced their teachings, after their deaths they introduced their own distorted ideas into their religions. They adopted novel methods of worshipping God; some even took to the worship of their Prophets. They made the Prophets the incarnations of God or 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.
By intermixing religion, rituals born of ignorance, baseless and false anecdotes and man-made laws, men so changed and perverted the teachings of the Prophets over the centuries that they became lost in a welter of fictions to the extent that it became impossible to distinguish the grain from the chaff. Not content with this, they made up so many stories about their Prophets that real and reliable accounts of their lives became impossible to discern. Despite all this, thwork of the Prophets was not altogether vain. Traces of truth survived. The idea of God and of life after death was assimilated in some form or other. A few principles of goodness, truthfulness and morality were accepted throughout the world. The prophets thus prepared the mental attitude of their respective peoples in such as way that a universal religion could be safely introduced - a religion which accords with the nature of man, which embodies all that was good in all other creeds and societies, and which is acceptable to mankind.
As we have said above, in the beginning separate Prophets appeared among different nations or groups of people, and the teaching of each Prophet was meant specially and specially for his people. The reason was that at that stage of history, nations were so cut off from each other geographically that opportunities for mutual intercourse were non-existent. In such circumstances it was very difficult to propagate a common World Faith with an accompanying common system of law.
In addition, the ignorance of the early nations was so great that it had given different forms to their moral aberrations 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; to gradually eradicate evils and aberrations; to root out ignorance and teach them the simple, pious and righteous life - God alone knows how many thousands of years were spent in thus educating man, and developing him mentally, morally and spiritually.
With the progress and spread of commerce, industry and the arts, intercourse was established between nations. From China and Japan, as far 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 another and learning and scholarship began to be exchanged. Great conquerors appeared, extended their conquests far and wide, established vast empires, and knit many different nations under one political system. Thus nations came closer and closer 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, meeting the moral, spiritual, social, cultural, political, economic and other needs of men and embodying both religious and secular elements could be sent by God to the whole of mankind. More than two thousand years ago mankind had reached such a mental awareness that it seemed to be craving for a universal religion.
Buddhism, though it consisted only of a set of 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 Afghanistan and Bokhara on the other. Its missionaries traveled far and wide in the world. A few centuries later, Christianity appeared. Although the religion taught by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) was pure Islam, his followers reduced it to a hotchpotch called Christianity, and even this overtly Israelised religion spread to far-off Persia and Asia Minor and to the distant climes of Europe and Africa. From these events it is evident that the conditions of mankind in that age demanded a common religion for the whole human race. Indeed, when people found no complete and true religion in existence they began to develop existing religions, however defective, incomplete and unsatisfying they might have been. 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 fully-fledged system, covering all aspects of the life of man. He was Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him)!
The Prophethood of Muhammad
If we cast a glance at the world atlas, we find that no other country could have been more suitable than Arabia for the much-needed world religion. It is situated right in the middle of Asia and Africa, and Europe is not far away. At the time of Muhammad's (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) appearance, central Europe was inhabited by civilized and culturally advanced nations; these people were about the same distance from Arabia as were the people of India.
Look at the history of that era, too, and you will find that no other people were more suited to be endowed with this Prophet than the Arabs. Great nations of the world had long been struggling for world supremacy; as a consequence they had exhausted their resources and vitality. The Arabs were a fresh and virile people. 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 from the inactivity, debasement and decadence 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 social systems and civilizations of the great nations of the world. They possessed all the good human qualities of a people untouched by the ‘social progress’ of the time. They were brave, fearless, generous, faithful to their promises, lovers of freedom and politically independent - not subject to the hegemony of any of the imperial powers.
There were also certain undesirable aspects of their life as well, as we shall mention later on, but the reason for this 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 its impurities. Centuries of free and independent desert life had bred and nourished extreme ignorance among them. They had, therefore, become so fixed in their traditions of ignorance that to humanize them was beyond an ordinary man.
At the same time, however, if some person of extraordinary powers were to give them a noble ideal, they would readily rise to act for the achievement of such an ideal. They would be prepared to face the hostility of the entire world in the cause of their mission. It was just such a young, forceful and virile people that was needed to disseminate the teachings of the World Prophet, Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him).
Take also the Arabic language. The more you study its literature, the more you will be convinced that there is no other language more suited to express high ideals, to explain the most subtle aspects of Divine knowledge, and to impress the heart of man and mould it into submission to God. Small phrases and brief sentences express a whole world of ideas; they are so powerful that their very sound can move men to tears and ecstasy. They are so sweet that it is as if honey were being poured into one's ears; they are so full of harmony that every fiber of the listener's body is moved by their symphony. It was a rich and powerful language such as this that was needed for the Qur'an, the Great Word of God.
It was, therefore, a manifestation of God's great wisdom that He chose Arabia as the birth-place of the World Prophet. Let us now see how unique and extraordinary was the blessed personality chosen by God for this mission.
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. How few and far between were the opportunities for the exchange of ideas! How limited and undeveloped were the means of communication! How meager was man's knowledge! How narrow his outlook! How enveloped was he in superstition and wild ideas!
Darkness held sway. There was only a faint glimmer of learning, hardly strong enough to light up the horizons of human knowledge. There was neither radio nor telephone, neither television nor the cinema. Railways and cars and airplanes were undreamed of, and printing presses were unknown. Handwritten books or copyists alone supplied what little literary material thwas to be transmitted from generation to generation. Educawas a luxury, meant only for the most fortunate, and educational institutions were very few and far between.
The store of human knowledge was scanty, man's outlook was narrow, and his ideas of men and things were confined to his limited surroundings. Even a scholar of that age lacked in some respects the knowledge possessed by a layman of today, and the most cultured person was less refined than the modern 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. People used to spend a whole lifetime acquiring the modest information which is now everybody's heritage. Things which are classed as `myth and `superstition' today were the unquestionable truths of that age. Acts which we now regard as barbarous were then the order of the day. Methods which appear obnoxious to our moral sense today constituted the very soul of morality; incredulity had assumed such proportions and had become so widespread that people refused to consider anything as sublime unless it appeared in the garb of the supernatural, the uncanny and even the impossible. They had developed such inferiority complexes that they could not imagine human beings possessing saintly souls.
Arabia - The Abyss of Darkness
In that benighted era, there was a territory where darkness lay even heavier than elsewhere. The neighboring countries of Persia, Byzantium and Egypt possessed a glimmer of civilization and a faint light of learning. But Arabia stood isolated, cut off by vast tracts of desert.
Arab traders travelling great distances, which took them months, carried their wares to and from these countries, but they had little chance to find out anything about them. In their own country, they did not have a single educational institution or library. No one seemed interested in the cultivation and advancement of knowledge. The few who were literate were not educated enough to understand the existing arts and sciences. Although they did possess a highly developed language capable of expressing the finest shades of human thought in a remarkable manner, a 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 decadent were their moral standards.
It was a country without a government. Each tribe considered itself to be an independent sovereign unit. There was no law except the law of the strongest. Loot, arson and murder of innocent and weak people was the order of the day. Life, property and honor were constantly in jeopardy. Tribes were always at daggers drawn with one another. Any trivial incident was enough to spark off a ferocious war. Indeed, Bedouins from one tribe thought they had every right to kill people from other tribes.
Whatever notions they had of morals, culture and civilization were primitive in the extreme. They could hardly discriminate between pure and impure, lawful and unlawful. Their lives were barbaric. They reveled in adultery, gambling and drinking. Looting and murder were part of their everyday existence. They would stand stark naked before each other without any qualms of conscience. Even their women-folk would strip nude at the ceremony of circumambulating the Ka'bah. They would bury their daughters alive lest anyone should become their son-in-law. They would marry their step-mothers after the death of their fathers. They were ignorant of even the rudiments of everyday life such as proper 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 knew nothing about the teachings of the Prophets of old. They had an idea that Abraham and Ishmael were their fore-fathers, but they knew next to nothing about their religious preachings 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 the Prophets Hud and Salih. The Jews and Christians had passed on to them certain legends 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. Some idea of the religious conceptions of those people can still be got today by looking at those Israelite traditions which Muslim commentators of the Qur'an have conveyed to us. The picture presented of the institution of prophethood and of the character of the Israelite Prophets is the very antithesis of all that those noble followers of truth stood for.
The Savior is Born
In such a dark age and in such a benighted country a man is born. His parents die when he is very young 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 flocks of sheep and goats in the company of Bedouin boys. When of age, he takes to commerce. All his associations and all his dealings are with the Arabs alone, whose condition has just been described.
He is completely illiterate and unschooled. He never gets a chance to sit in the company of learned men, for such men were non-existent in Arabia. He does 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 meets any learned men there, such random meetings are so rare as to play no part in the forming of his personality. Nor can they be the means of the acquisition of that profound and vast knowledge which transformed an unlettered Bedouin into a leader not only of his own country and age but of the whole world and of all ages to come. These journeys cannot have given him those conceptions and principles of religion, ethics, culture and civilization: they were non-existent in the world of those days. And they cannot have created that sublime and perfect human character which was nowhere to be found in those days.
Diamond in a Heap of Stones
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 from the people among whom he is born and passes his youth and early manhood and attains finally his full stature. Even his worst enemies never accuse him of telling a lie. He never uses obscene and abusive language. He has a charming personality and winning manners with which he captivates the hearts of those who come into contact with him. In his dealings with people he always follows the principles of justice and fair play. He remains engaged 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-Amin(the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies deposit their valuable belongings with him for safe custody.
He is the embodiment of modesty in the 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 the highest culture and the most refined aesthetic outlook.
Surrounded on all sides by cruelty, he himself has a heart overflowing with the milk of human kindness. He helps orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one; rather, he suffers hardships for others' sakes. 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 cuteach other's throats. He stays aloof from the feuds of his tribe, intervening oto bring about reconciliation. Brought up in an idolatrous race, he regards nothing in the heavens and the earth worth worshipping except the One True God. He does not bow before any created thing and does not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. Instinctively he hates all worship of any creature and being except 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.
A Revolution Comes
After spending a great part of his life in such a pure and civilized manner there comes a revolution in his being. He has had enough of the darkness and ignorance around him. He wants to swim clear of the horrible sea of corruption, immorality, idolatry and disorder which surround him. He finds society out of harmony with his soul. He withdraws alone to the hills, spending days and nights in total seclusion and meditation. He fasts so that his soul and his heart may become still purer and nobler.
He muses and ponders deeply. He is in search of a light to melt away the encompassing darkness. He wants the power to bring about the downfall of the corrupt and disorderly world of his day and lay the foundations of the new and better world.
Suddenly his heart is illuminated with the Divine Light giving him the power he has yearned for. He comes out of the confinement of his cave, goes to the people, and addresses them thus:
"The idols which you worship are a sham. Stop worshipping them from now on. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit is worthy of human worship. Therefore bow not your heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to God Almighty. 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 alone 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 what is due to others 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 has anyone 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 deed. Distinctions of birth and race are no criteria of greatness and honor. One who fears God and does good deeds is the noblest of human beings. One who does not love God and is steeped in bad ways is doomed".
“There is an appointed day after your death when you shall have to appear before your Lord. You shall be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you shall not be able then to hide anything. The whole record of your life shall be an open book to him. Your fate shall be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge -the Omniscient God- the question of unfair recommendation and favoritism does not arise. You will 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 has them shall take his abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while he who is 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. Abuse and stones are showered on his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated on him; and this continues not for a day or two but uninterruptedly for thirteen long, troubled years. At last he is exiled. But he is not given respite even there. He is tormented in various ways in his place of refuge. The whole of Arabia is incited against him. He is persecuted and hounded continuously for full eight years there. He suffers it all, but does not budge from the stand he has taken. He is resolute, firm and inflexible in his purpose.
Why all that Enmity?
One might ask: 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 lives of righteousness, piety and goodness. He had preached against idolatry and the worship of other beings besides God, and had denounced their way of life. He had cut at the roots of priestcraft. He had inveighed against all distinctions of high and low between human beings, and had condemned the prejudices of tribe and race as sheer ignorance; and he wanted to engage the whole structure of society which had been handed down to them from time immemorial.
In their turn, his countrymen told him that the principles of his mission were hostile to their ancestral traditions and asked him either to give them up or to bear the worst consequences.
Why 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 stop preaching his religion and spreading his message. But he chose instead to refuse the tempting offers and to suffer for his cause.
Why? What had he to gain, if those people became pious and righteous?
Why was it that he cared nothing for riches and luxury, kingship and glory, and ease and plenty? Was he playing for some higher material gain so that these blessings sank into insignificance in comparison with them? Were those gains 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 these questions deeply to find the answer.
Can anyone imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, fellow-feeling and humanity than that a man may ruin his own happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose betterment he is striving should stone him, abuse him, banish him and harass him even in his exile, and that, in spite of all this, he should continue striving for their well-being?
Can anyone who is insincere undergo so much suffering for a false cause? Can anyone who is dishonest exhibit such determination to stick to his guns in the face of dangers and tortures of every description when a whole country rises up in arms against him?
The faith, perseverance and resolution with which he led his movement to ultimate success is eloquent proof of the supreme truth of his cause Had there been the slightest doubt and uncertainty in his heart, he could never have been able to brave the storm which continued unabated for twenty-one long years.
This is one side of the revolution wrought in his being. The other is even more wonderful and remarkable
A Changed Man at Forty - Why?
For forty years he lived as an Arab among Arabs. During that long period he was not known as a statesman, a preacher or an orator. No-one had heard him imparting gems of wisdom and knowledge as he began to do hereafter. He was never seen discoursing on metaphysics, ethics, law, politics, economics and sociology. Let alone being a great general, he was not even known as an ordinary soldier. He had uttered no word about God, the Angels, the Revealed Books, the early Prophets, the bygone nations, the Day of Judgement, Life after Death, Hell and Heaven.
Although he possessed an excellent character and charming manners, and was highly cultured, there was nothing so striking about him which could make men expect something great and revolutionary from him in the future. He was known among his acquaintances as a sober, calm, gentle, law-abiding citizen of good nature. But when he came out of the cave with his Message he was transformed.
When he began preaching his Message the whole of Arabia stood inawe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory. It was so impressive and persuthat his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into their hearts or the very marrow of their beings and convert them from their old religion and culture. It was so unique that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers and orators of the highest caliber failed to match it in beauty of language and splendor of diction when he threw the challenge to his opponents to produce even a single line like the ones he was reciting.
His All-embracing Message
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 desert dweller, spoke with learning and wisdom, the like of which none had said before and none could say after him.
He expounded the complex problems of metaphysics and theology. He delivered speeches on the decline and fall of nations and empires, supporting his thesis with historical fact. He reviewed the achievements of the old reformers, passed judgements 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 laws of social culture, economic organization, group conduct and international relations whose wisdom even eminent thinkers and scholars can grasp only after life-long research and vast experience of men and things. Their beauties, indeed, unfold themselves progressively as man advances in theoretical knowledge and practical experience.
This silent and peace-loving trade who had never even handled a sword before turned suddenly into such a brave soldier that he was never known to retreat however fierce the battle. He became such a great general that he conquered the whole of Arabia in nine years, at a time when the weapons of war were primitive and the means of communication very poor. His military acumen and his ability to transmit the skills of war to a motley crowd of Arabs (who had no equipment worth the name) meant that within a few years he had overthrown the two most formidable military powers of the day and become the master of the greater part of the then known world.
This reserved and quiet man who, for forty years, never gave any 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 the media, he brought together under one banner, one law, one religion, one culture, one civilization and one form of government 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.
He changed their modes of thought, their customs and their morals. He turned the uncouth into the cultured, the barbarous into the civilized, the evil-doers and bad characters into pious God-fearing and righteous persons. Their unruly and obstinate 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 civilization.
He accomplished this feat not through any worldly lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his humanity, his moral personality and his 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 deviate from truth and righteousness. He did not oppress even his deadly enemies who were after his life, who had stoned him, who had turned him out of his native place, who had set the whole of Arabia against him - nay, not even those who had chewed the raw liver of his dead uncle in a frenzy of vengeance. He forgave them all when he triumphed over them. He never took revenge on anyone.
Although 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 mud-cottage. He slept on a mattress, wore coarse clothes, ate either the simplest food of the poor or went without food at all. He used to spend whole nights standing in prayer before his Lord. He came to the rescue of the destitute and the penniless. He felt not the least insult in working like a laborer. Till his last moments there was not the slightest tinge of royal pomp or hauteur of the high and mighty in him. Like any ordinary man he would sit and talk with people and share their joys and sorrows. He would so mingle with the crowd that a stranger would find it difficult to single out the leader of the people and the ruler of the nation from the rest of the company.
He never sought any reward or profit for himself, nor left any property to his heirs. He dedicated his all to his Millah. He did not ask his adherents to earmark anything for him or his descendants, so much so that he forbade his progeny to receive the benefit of poor-tax (Zakah).
His Contribution to Human Thought
The achievements of this great man do not end here. To arrive at a full appreciation of his worth one has to view them against the background of the history of the world as a whole. This reveals that this unlettered dweller of the desert of Arabia, who was born in the ‘dark ages’ some 1400 years ago, is the real pioneer of our modern age. He is not only the leader of those who accept his leadership but also of those who do not, even of those who denounce him - the only difference being that the latter are unaware that he is still imperceptibly influencing their thoughts and their actions and is the governing principle of their lives and the guiding spirit of the modern times.
It was he who turned the course of human thought from superstition-mongering, love for the unnatural and the inexplicable, and monasticism towards a 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, urged that rational proof should be the criterion of truth. It was he who opened the eyes of those who had been accustomed to look for the signs of God in natural phenomena.
It was he who, in place of groundless 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 spiritual and material values. It was he who harmonized Faith and Knowledge and Action, who, in short, 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 superstition and idolatry were forced to adopt a monotheistic approach.
It was he who changed the basic concepts of ethics and spirituality. Those who believed that asceticism and self-annihilation alone led to moral and spiritual purity - that purity could only be achieved by running away from life, disregarding all the desires of the flesh and subjecting the body to all types of tortures - he showed the path of spiritual evolution, moral emancipation and attainment of salvation through active participation in the affairs of the world around them.
It was he who brought home to man his true worth; those who acknowledged only a God-incarnate or a son of God as their moral preceptor or spiritual guide were told that human beings with no pretensions to Godhead could become vicegerents of God on earth; those who proclaimed and worshipped powerful personages as their gods were made to understand that their false lords wmere ordinary human beings and nothing more. It was he who stressed the point that no person could claim holiness, authority and overlordship as his birthright and that no-one was born with the stigma of untouchability, slavery or serfdom. It was he and his teaching which inspired thoughts of the unity of mankind, equality of human beings, true democracy and real freedom.
Laws which he gave have penetrated deep into the structures of society, 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 upheavals in political theories and continues to have 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. This unlettered Arab was the first person to formulate a framework of international relations and lay down laws of war and peace. No one previously had even the remotest idea that there could be an ethical code of war and that relations between different nations could be regulated on the basis of common humanity.
The Greatest Revolutionary
In the cavalcade of world history the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all others that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted with him. None of them possessed a genius capable of making a deep impression on more than one or two aspects of human life. Some are brilliant theoreticians but are lacking when it comes to practical action. Some are men of action but with little knowledge. Some are renowned as statesmen only, others are masters of strategy. Others again have devoted their energies to ethical and spiritual problems but have ignored economics and politics. In short, one comes across heroes who are expert 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 as well as 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. 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 personal hygiene. On the foundations of his philosophy he established a civilization and a culture without the slightest trace of a flaw, deficiency or incompleteness. Can anyone point to another 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 in unique. His environment seems to have played no part in the making of his personality. At most one might accept in the light of Hegel's philosophy of history or Marx's historical materialism that the time and environment demanded the emergence of a leader who could create a nation and build an empire. But Hegelian or Marxist philosophy cannot explain how such an environment could produce a man whose mission was to teach the highest morals, to purify humanity and to wipe out prejudice and superstition, who looked beyond the artificial compartments of race and nation-state, who laid the foundations of a moral, spiritual, cultural and political superstructure for the good of the whole world, who practically, not theoretically, placed business transactions, civics, politics and international relations on moral grounds and produced such a balanced synthesis between worldly life and spiritual advancement that even to this day it is considered a masterpiece of wisdom and foresight. Can anyone honestly call such a person a product of the all-pervading darkness of Arabia?
He does not only appear to be independent of his environment. When we look at his achievements we are irresistibly drawn to the conclusion that he actually transcends the limitations of time and space. His vision breaks through all temporal and physical barriers, passes beyond centuries and millenniums and encompasses within itself 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 a good leader in his own time. He is that unique and incomparable leader of humanity who marches with time, who is modern in every age and in every era.
Those whom people style ‘makers of history’ are only ‘creatures of history’. In fact, in the whole of the 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 such occasions the forces of revolution were gathering momentum for the destined upheaval, were taking their course in certain directions and were only waiting for the right moment. In harnessing these forces the revolutionary leader played the path of an actor for whom the stage and the role is set beforehand. On the other hand, the Prophet is the only person who had to genuinely create a revolution; he had to mould and produce the kind of men he wanted because the spirit of revolution and its necessary conditions were nonexistent.
He made an indelible impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples by his forceful personality and molded them to his way of thinking. By his iron will be prepared the ground for revolution and directed events into the channels he wanted Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such brilliance and splendor?
The Final Testimony
One may wonder how, in the dark ages 1400 years ago in a benighted region of the earth like Arabia, an illiterate 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, that it is that product of his own mind. If this is so, then he should have proclaimed himself God. And if he had done so at that time, the peoples of the earth who did not hesitate in calling Krishna and Buddha gods and Jesus the Son of God, and who could without compunction worship such forces of nature as fire, water and air - would have readily acknowledged him as such.
But he argued just the opposite. For he proclaimed: I am a human being like yourselves. I have not brought anything to you of my own accord. It has all been revealed to me by God. Whatever I possess belongs to Him. This message, the like of which the whole of humanity is unable to produce, is the message of God. It is not the product 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 incompetent to produce such things out of my sheer personal ability and capabilities. l 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, integrity, truth and honor those sentiments are! Liars and hypocrites often try to take all the credit for the deeds of others, even when they can easily be found out. But this great man does not claim any of these achievements for himself even when no-one could contradict him as they was no way of establishing 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 more truthful than he who received such unique gifts through a secret channel and still pointed out their source? All these factors lead to the irresistible conclusion that such a man was the true Messenger of God.
Such was our Holy Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). He was a prodigy of extraordinary merits, a paragon of viand goodness, a symbol of truth, a great apostle of God and His Messenger to the entire world. His life and thought, his truthfulness 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 he was the true Prophet of God and the Qur'an -the Book he gave to mankind- the true Book of God. No serious seeker after truth can come to any other conclusion.
It must also be clearly understood that now, through Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) alone can we know the straight path of Islam. The Qur'an and the life-example of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) are the only reliable sources that are available to mankind to learn God's Will in its totality. Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and are enshrined in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. Anyone who seeks to become a sincere Muslim must have faith in God's last Prophet, accept his teachings and follow the way he has pointed out to man. This is the road to success and salvation.
The Finality of Prophethood
This brings us to the question of the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 of the Prophet essential for every land, people and period. The life and teachings of the Prophet are the beacon 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 ending of the influence of his teachings. The earlier Prophets have died because their followers have adulterated their teachings, distorted their instructions, and besmirched their life-examples by attaching fictitious events to them. Not one of the earlier books - Torah, Zabur (Psalms of David), Injil (Gospel of Jesus), for example - exists today in its original text and even the adherents of these books confess that they do not possess the original books. 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 available anywhere. It cannot even be said with certainty when and where a certain Prophet was born, how he lived and what code of morality he gave to mankind. Thus the real death of a Prophet consists in the death of his teachings.
By this criterion no-one can deny that Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 a word, syllable or even letter having been changed. The entire account of his life -his sayings, instructions and actions- is preserved with complete accuracy. It is as though it all happened yesterday rather than thirteen centuries ago. The biography of no other human being is so detailed as that of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). In every thing affecting our lives we can seek the guidance of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and the example of his life. That is why there is no need of any other Prophet after Muhammad, the last Prophet (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him).
Furthermore, there are three conditions which necessitate the advent of a new Prophet over and above the need to replace a deceased Prophet. These may be summed up as follows:,
1. That the teachings of the earlier Prophets have been distorted or corrupted or they have died and their revival is needed.
2. That the teachings of the Prophet who has passed away were incomplete and it is necessary to amend them, improve on them or add something to them.
3. That the earlier Prophet was raised for a particular nation or territory and a Prophet for another nation, people or country is required.
None of these conditions exist today. The teachings of the last Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 Qur'an. 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.
Secondly, God has completed His revealed guidance through the Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and Islam is a 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 for human guidance has been left out. There is no ground for new prophethood on the plea of imperfection.
Lastly, the Message of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) was not meant for any particular people, place or period. He was raised as the World Prophet – the messenger of truth for the whole of mankind. The Qur'an has commanded Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 world” 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-an-Nabiyyin (the last of the chain of the true Prophets).
The only source, therefore, for the knowledge of God and His Way is Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him). We can know of Islam only through his teachings which are so complete and so comprehensive that they can guide men through all ages to come. The world does not need a new prophet; it needs only such people as have full faith in Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) to become the standard-bearers of his message, propagate it throughout the world, and endeavor to establish the culture which Muhammad (blessings of Allah and 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 (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) came to establish.
This is the mission of Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) and on its success hinges the success of Man.