By DR. HASEEB AHMED
In this Section
My choice of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) to lead, the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” This bold but meticulous observation of a renowned writer Michael H. Heart in his celebrated book, The 100: A Ranking of the most Influential Persons in History, (New York: Heart Publishing Company. Inc, 1978, p.33), leads open-minded persons to probe into realities of life of the last Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). To consider Muhammad merely a spiritual leader of Muslims is to rob him of his magnanimity and to belittle the expanse and amplitude of the message he disseminated. The Qur’ān and the proclamations of Muhammad make it clear that he is guide for whole universe. His message is for all mankind irrespective of time and place. He is in fact benefactor of humanity.
Born in a barbaric tribe of Arabia where the darkness of ignorance prevailed, where loot, arson, robbery, lechery and injustice were order of the day, where only might was right, Muhammad brought about a drastic change in the lives of the people. He wiped out evil in all its forms from the face of the earth, established peace and paved way for progress and salvation.
The value system he propounded is relevant even in today’s world. First and foremost is the equality of all human beings irrespective of caste, tribe, colour, region or sex. According to Islam, ‘No Arab is greater than a non-Arab. A black is in no way inferior to the white, nor is a white superior.’ “The creator made you into Nations and Tribes, that you may know each other (not that you despise each other). The most honoured of you is he who is the most Righteous of you” (The Qur’ān: 49-13).
Reacting to this virtue, Mahatma Gandhi opines that “Europeans ruling over South Africa may well dread Islam and spreading of Islam among the African tribes. If Africans embrace Islam, there is a threat to white supremacy, because I have seen that after becoming a Muslim the very moment he is fit to eat and drink from the same plate and tumbler from which any other Muslim (even a white-Muslim) eats or drinks” (Mahatma Gandhi in Jagath Maharshi p.2)
A great historian of undisputed reputation A.J. Toynbee observes: “The extinction of race consciousness, as between Muslims, is one of the outstanding achievements of Islam, and in the contemporary world there is, as it happens, a crying need for propagation of this Islamic virtue.” (Civilization of Trial: New York).
There is no gender bias in Islam. Man and women both are equal. ‘Whosoever does good work; male or female… shall be admitted into Paradise.” In those days of Muhammad, Arabs denounced girl child. They thought girls and their security are burden for tribes that were always prone to war. They used to bury the female infants alive. It was Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) who raised the slogan: “One who brings up at least two girls will be very close to me in the Heaven.” Woman as daughter, sister, wife and mother is to be regarded with respect. ‘The wife must be fed with the same what you eat’ and ‘Heaven lies under the feet of mother’ are values much relevant in present day’s deformed society where we cry out to stop female foeticide and to save girl child.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) metamorphosed the wicked individuals into good Samaritans by convincing them to shun self pride and imbibe humility. He taught that nobility in conduct carries weight. “The insistence upon kindliness and consideration in the daily life is one of the main virtues of Islam” (H.G wells, The Outline of History, London).
Man must respect and recognise the rights of other fellow beings. Parents are pathways to paradise. One, who eats full, when his neighbour sleeps hungry, cannot be a Muslim. If you encroach upon even a small piece of land that does not belong to you, the weight equal to that of seven earths will be hung by your neck as punishment on the Day of Judgment. Life of an individual is regarded invaluable in Islam. “If anyone slew a person – unless it be for murderer or for spreading (grave) mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people (in the world). And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people” (The Qur’ān, 5:32).
All individuals are answerable for their deeds on the Day of Judgment. Even if a goat with horns strikes a goat sans horns, justice will be restored.
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) struggled against all odds to enforce economic justice. Being Messiah of the poor and downtrodden, he ordered to pay the wages of a labourer before his sweat dries. Servants must not be treated inhumanly. He not only preached but also put into practice the most successful system of ‘Zakat’ that bridges the class cleavage. Socrates, Edmund Burke, Mahatma Gandhi and many others envisioned a world where the distinction between the rich and the poor be vanished. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) proclaimed that it is one of the objectives of his mission to collect the surplus from the rich and return the same to the poor.
In addition to saying prayers five-time a day and fasting during the month of Ramadhan, it was mandatory for every Muslim to deposit his ‘Zakat’ into government’s exchequer called ‘Baitulmal,’ from where it would be canalised to the needy. In a very short span of time the situation got changed. Poverty alleviation was accomplished. It is a historical fact that after implementing the zakat system, there was nobody who was eligible to receive charity (‘Zakat’) in Madina and charity was then sent to neighbouring countries like Yemen. Paying Zakat was so important that Caliph Abu Bakr made his intentions clear that he would not hesitate to wage a holy war against those rich Muslims who would avoid paying the ‘Zakat’.
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) imposed ban on usury, hoarding, black-marketing, corruption and bribe. Abdullah bin Amr reports that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) cursed the receiver as well as the giver of bribe (Hadith). He said that corruption breeds fear and harassment among the people. Concealing defects of commodities and cheating consumers by trader is a crime.
Hoarding is an offence in Islam. According to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), when there is acute shortage of a commodity, if a person keeps that commodity in his warehouse for more than forty days, with a view to make more profit, he will not be forgiven even if he distributes the whole commodity in charity. His law was tough on crimes like rape and murder. Wine, which is a source of evils, was strictly prohibited. The need for prohibition of liquor is felt even today as we witness frequent agitations from one or the other place by women or villagers to end liquor trade from their area.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) did not leave any stone unturned to promote literacy. The revelation of the Qur’ān began with word ‘Iqra’ meaning ‘Read’. In the Battle of Uhd, Muslims detained some enemy soldiers as war prisoners. They were released on the condition that each one of them must teach how to read and write at least three illiterates in Madina. The Prophet proclaimed that one erudite is greater than one thousand worshippers. He had a school where education was imparted. The disciples were called ‘ashab-e-suffa’. To sustain international relations, to communicate with foreign countries, he ordered one of his followers to learn Hebrew (language of Jews).
Today’s world is highly concerned about the hazards of environment. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) curtailed all polluting agents. He prohibited urinating (thereby polluting) in the streams of water. He said, “Use water judiciously even if you are sitting on the bank of a river or lake.” He promoted tree plantation by saying, “Though you see the Doomsday approaching, don’t give up planting a tree.” He restricted extravagance in all forms. ‘One who wastes is Satan’s brother.’
Tolerance is the most desired virtue of a glorious community. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) advocated communal harmony, integrity and universal brotherhood. “To dishonour the gods of others is to dishonour your own god”, “let there be no compulsion (on anyone) regarding faith (religion)” (The Quran-2:256).
During the regime of Caliph Umar, one non-Muslim woman from Egypt complained that the ruler of her area dismantled the house and annexed it to the Mosque. On enquiry the ruler Amr ibn al Aas explained his side: ‘The existing mosque was insufficient as the number of devotees was growing day by day. The woman was offered more than the market price for her land. She did not accept it. So, in view of public interest, her house was acquired and the mosque was extended on that land and the price of her land had been deposited in the government treasury so that she can withdraw it at any point of time.’ Siding with the woman, the caliph ordered to demolish the new part of the mosque and to rebuild the house as it had been before.
Thus the revolution Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) brought about in socio-economic, political and cultural spheres of human life has the quality to sustain the tests of all times.
[DR. HASEEB AHMED is Asst. Professor, Maulana Azad College, Aurangabad, Maharashtra. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]