Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
Ali was not only an unusually talented judge, jurist, scholar, warrior, ruler and statesman, he was also a gifted poet and literary figure. His whole family was poetically gifted. In fact, the entire Abdul Muttalib clan was, with the exception of Ali’s cousin and Abul Muttalib’s grandson Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam.
That, however, was part of the divine arrangement for Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, to prepare and equip him to convey God’s message to the world accurately and faithfully, without exaggeration or flourish, which poets are often prone to.
Listen to the Qur’an tell the story: Wa maa ‘allamnaahush shi’ra wa maa yambaghee lah.
Paraphrase: “We did not teach him poetry and it is not right for him to be a poet.”
But the poetic DNA flowed pretty generously in the veins of Patriarch Abdul Muttalib’s children, whether it was Ali or Fatima or Abu Talib or others. The sole exception being Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who was later to become the most eloquent man coming out of Adam’s genes, such that when he spoke poets and orators bowed their heads and stood still in awe and admiration.
But if you ask me, not just mortal men and women but poetry itself blushed and language and oratory genuflected respectfully when they were asked to stand next to the simple prose that was to come out his mouth later in life, when God Almighty made him his messenger.
How beautiful the words of the Hadith are that flowed from his mouth, with each word flashing out like a nugget made out of the purest of moonbeams, sunshine, stardust, lightening and all the light in the universe rolled into one. Those with open eyes and a sound and pure heart can see it as clear as daylight even today.
So, it is to Harat Ali, the fourth Khalifah or ruler elected by Muslims to succeed Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, that the following little poem is traced back:
Za-‘amal munajjimu wat-tabeebu kilaahumaa / An laa ma’ada fa-qultu dhaaka ilaikumaa,
In sah-ha qaulukumaa, fa-lastu bi-khaasirin; / Au sah-ha qaulee, fal-wabaalu ‘alaikumaa.
Paraphrase: The scientist and the physician both claim that there will be no resurrection, I say to them, you are welcome to your views. For, if you are right, I should not have a problem. But if it turns out that what I am saying is right, then you will be in serious trouble.
Let me restate the same thought in some kind of blank verse of my own.
“For sure we know,” Claim the scientist and the doctor, / “That death will be the end of all life.”
“And there shall be no rising from the dead,” they say, / “Once our bodies and bones turn into dust.”
I say to them: “Welcome you are to your views, Gentlemen! / But to this you must give serious thought.
I shall face no jeopardy if what you say turns out right, / But if what I say turns out to be true, then imagine your plight!”
I have personally not come across a stronger or more persuasive argument on this score.
ISLAM IS GOD’S RECIPE FOR ETERNAL LIFE
Islam guarantees human beings – all human beings who care to come to it – a most wonderful life in both worlds: here as well as hereafter.
How can it be otherwise, Islam being a life-giving system conferred as a boon by the maker of life on all life-forms that he creates? It is according to Islam that they all live out their lives, except human beings and some others, who have been given a measure of freedom and choice in whether or not to do so.
“Fiddunyaa hasanah wa fil aakhirati hasanah,” says the Qur’an, meaning “Hasanah” in this world and “Hasanah” in the next world. That means “Fun” here and “Fun” there, to borrow an American cultural expression.
“Fun” is a unique American expression for all things enjoyable. But when I use the expression “Fun,” I use it strictly to stand for only things that are good, nice, right, lawful, decent and, above all, Halaal fun.
The expression “Hasanah” thus stands for all things good, wonderful and salubrious. And what is life if not the potential repository of all “Hasanaat” – plural: all sorts of good and wonderful things in human life that come as blessings from God Almighty?
And what could be more self-evident than the fact that the essence of life is communication, successful communication: with oneself; with others; with the entire environment that envelops us from every direction?
Above all, what could be clearer than the fact that the secret to a happy life both here and hereafter is successful communication with the maker and master of the universe, God Almighty, himself?
That is why I say Islam is all about communication.
And Islam, of course, is all about the Qur’an, the best and finest and most complete communication, that the master of the world sent down through a prophet and messenger as a mercy to all his worlds.
So, communication done right is a mercy and a blessing from the Almighty. And the abuse and misuse of communication, especially to create mischief on earth and deprive God’s creation of its God-given rights and protections, is one of the worst forms of affront toward God Almighty.
The Qur’an refers to such egregious behavior as Zulm and declares it to be one of the things God dislikes most. For, Allah is God of love, mercy and Rahmat, and he sent his Rasul and messenger in this world as a harbinger and embodiment of his Rahmah to the worlds.
The Qur’an addresses the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Salaam, thus: Wa maa arsalnaaka illaa rahmatal lil-‘aalameen.
Paraphrase: We sent you not, O our prophet and messenger Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, except as an embodiment of our message of love and mercy to all the worlds.
Thus, life, Qur’an and communication together constitute a most amazing triple token of love and mercy from God the most high to humans who are among the most cherished and honored of his creation and slaves.
GOD IS MASTER AND HUMANS ARE HIS SLAVE!
What a master God is! And how privileged we are that he has honored us by making us his slaves!
And what an incredibly beautiful, merciful, honorable and ennobling form of master-slave relationship he established between himself and his creation, including human beings!
And how so many people around the world abused that beautiful master-slave relationship between themselves and the people they came to control and “enslave” through wars and otherwise!
And how sadly and grievously did so many cultures and civilizations exploit, abuse, massacre and even annihilate large segments of humanity by making them what they called their “slaves,” giving that expression a bad name forever.
SLAVE-TRADE AND COLONIALISM
The latest of these abuses being the horrors of centuries of slave-trade in African men, women and children across the Atlantic; the wiping out of hundreds of peoples, nations and civilizations of the so-called “Indian” populations, communities and “tribes” in the Americas; and centuries of plunder, abuse and exploitation of the people, places, treasures and resources of the so-called Third World in the name of Colonialism.
This gruesome new chapter in the history of humanity began with the decline of Muslim power in Europe, such as it was, and the rise and global expansion of European nations, beginning at the end of the 15th Century. It was no coincidence that the age of European exploration began more or less during that period. Nor was it a coincidence that Columbus set sail Westward in 1942, which put him on course to the Americas, the very year in which Muslims rule in Spain formally ended.
As for Muslims, during the 1000 years of their world domination preceding that critical turning point in history in 1492, they had slaves too. But they treated their slaves with dignity and compassion, so much so that they made their slaves commanders, generals, scholars, courtiers, royal advisers, rulers and kings. Muslims even created slave dynasties that ruled over vast and powerful Muslim domains.
Thus, in general, Muslim treatment of their slaves was a little bit like God’s own treatment of his slaves – compassionate, respectful and honorable – and it was nothing like the treatment of the rest of the world of their slaves, especially the treatment of African slaves by European nations beginning with the fall of Muslim Spain.
The world would have been saved many unspeakable horrors and one of the saddest, cruelest, darkest and most disgraceful periods of its history if, beginning with the 16th Century, the newly rising nations, cultures and civilizations of the West had learned from Islam, or even emulated the example of the Muslims such as it was, in their treatment of the lands and peoples they conquered, colonized, controlled and enslaved.
What a different world it would have been!