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Jesus in Islam


 

“Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, he is of those nearest to Allah”;

By: Sadullah Khan
Islamic Center of Irvine* –

“Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, he is of those nearest to Allah”; [Qur’an 3:45]

Belief in Prophets (May Allah’s Peace be upon all of them)

Islam emphasizes the universality of the institution of prophethood. According to the Qur’an, there is not a single nation in the world to which a prophet has not appeared sometime in history: “There is not a people but a warner has gone among them” [Q35:24]. And again: “For every nation there is a messenger” [Q10:47]

The Qur’an mentions about 25 of the Biblical Prophets by name [Q4:163] and we are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Qur’an: “And We sent messengers We have mentioned to thee before, and messengers We have not mentioned to thee” [Q4:164] .

 It is an Islamic article of Faith to believe …

 in all Prophets; from Adam through Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them) [Q2:184] 

 all Prophets were models of excellence who were commissioned to guide humankind [Q2:213]

 the mission of Prophets was to establish justice for all [Q57:25] 

 that Prophets were the embodiments of Righteousness; 

“And Zachariah, John, Jesus and Elijah;

all of these were of the most Righteous.” [Q6:85] 

It is an accepted fact in Islam that the struggle and legacy of the prophets (peace be upon them) serve as universal guides, excellent examples and as sources of hope and inspiration. 

Status of Maryam/Mary

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a prominent figure in Islam and the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an. The Qur’an upholds Mary as one of the four perfect examples of womanhood [Q66:12] . Mary is mentioned more times and more biographical information about her is contained in the Qur’an than in the entire New Testament.

The birth of Jesus Christ is described in twice in the Qur’an – chapter 3 and chapter 19. Reading from the beginning of his birth, we come across the story of Mary, and the esteemed position which she occupies in the House of Islam, before the actual annunciation of the birth of Jesus is made.

The Qur’anic account of Mary includes the pregnancy of her mother, Mary’s birth and the annunciations of the coming birth of Jesus: “Remember how she preserved her chastity, into whom We breathed a life from Us, and made her and her son a token for humankind” [Q21:91]. The Qur’an teaches that Mary is to be revered because she completely submitted herself to God’s will, even though it meant that her own family would accuse her of unchastity when it was discovered that she was pregnant [Q19:16-21] .

 The mother of Jesus (peace be upon them) is accorded highest respect and considered as among the most noble in the estimation of Allah. [Q3:33] Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you, chosen you above the women of all nations.” [Q3:42] 

 The entire chapter 19 titled Maryam/Mary in the Qur’an and another (chapter 3) is titled Al-‘Imran after the family of Mary.

 Jesus /’Isa referred to 9 times in the Qur’an as ‘Isa and 16 times as ‘Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary)

 Mary is considered chaste, virtuous, receiver of God’s spirit, a testimony to the veracity of God’s message and piously obedient [Q66:11] 

 Jesus (pbuh) himself is recorded as saying about his respected mother, 

Uniqueness of Jesus (pbuh)

Virgin birth -The Qur’an gives an account of the birth of Jesus in chapter 3. Mary is described as being a virgin, chosen by God, and considered with great honor. “Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary.” [Q3:45] . Verse 47 relates the response of and to Mary, “She said: O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: ‘Even so: Allah creates what He wills: When He has decreed a plan, He merely says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is!” The Qur’an thus affirms and Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. The birth is seen as a sign (ayah) of Allah’s power and as a miraculous event. And Muslims have a high regard also for Mary. However, the Qur’an presents Jesus as the son of Mary and not as the Son of God, a significant point particularly emphasized.

 Like Adam (pbuh) -Though the unique birth of Jesus with one parent is no indication of divinity just as Adam’s creation was without any parentage [Q3:59] . 

Messiah -It is obvious that Jesus holds an exalted place within Islam. Some of the honorable epithets of Jesus (pbuh) mentioned in the Qur’an are … prophet / nabi, messenger of God / rasul, of the Righteous / min-as-salihin, word of Allah / kalimatu-Llah), spirit from God / ruhun mina’ Llah, positive sign/symbol for humanity / aayatun lin- naas, mercy from God / rahmatan minna, the son of Mary / ibne Maryam, eminent in this world and the next / wajihan fid-dunya wal-aakhirah, and most unique of all… the Messiah / masih. 

 Miracles -The Qur’an speaks of Jesus possessing intellect and eloquence in childhood [Q19:30] and documents some of Jesus’ miracles, including curing the sick, restoring the sight of the    blind and reviving the dead, with God’s permission [Q5:110] . 

The Qur’an specifically mentions two miracles which the Bible does not contain; 

1. The Qur’an records Jesus as an infant verbally defending Mary’s innocence [Q19:27-35]. In Surah 19:27-34, Jesus speaks from the cradle to state his mission. Jesus said, “I am indeed a servant of Allah Who has given me revelation and made me a prophet.” 

2. The Qur’an [Q5:110] also reports that Jesus formed a bird out of clay, and blew into it, and it came to life and flew away.

This last miracle is not recorded in the canonical New Testament but does appear in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.

It must be remembered that all miracles / mu’jizah performed by prophets (pbuh) are done through the agency of the prophets but by the power and authority of God. Jesus’ miracles too are considered basically in the line of his being a prophet and in God’s enabling and permitting him to do so. The Qur’an thus stresses the fact that the miracles of Jesus were performed by the permission and power of God [Q5:110] .

No Easter Commemoration

Millions of Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (pbuh), and this begs the question that if Jesus is important to Muslims, why do Muslims then not commemorate Easter. Though Muslims accept Jesus (pbuh) as a great prophet, revere his exemplary mother Mary, and believe that Jesus is the Messiah; Muslims do not accept the major concepts that are central to the commemoration of the Easter weekend. Among these concepts are…

Divine Incarnation and Trinity [Q4:171][Q112:1-4] -Allah is ONE in an absolute sense, no one shares in His Lordship nor in His divinity; nothing is equal or comparable to God. This is in keeping with the command, “and Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandment is, Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is One LORD.” [Mark 12:29]. In promoting a great human such as Jesus (pbuh) to divinity, does not elevate Jesus as much as it minimizes the concept of the divine; is not making the finite infinite as much as making the perfect imperfect; not an elevation of Jesus, but rather a devaluation of the Divine.

Crucifixion -Christ, according to Muslim belief, did NOT die on a cross [Q4:157] but was rather elevated by Allah and saved from being killed [Q4:158].

Resurrection -Not having died, Jesus could NOT have been resurrected [Q4:156].

Inherited Sinfulness [Q2:285] -Babies are born pure and no one is born bearing the sin of any one and no one bears the burden of another [Q17:15] . 

Redemption / Atonement -Muslims do not believe in the doctrine of Original Sin, so there is no theological need for the all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus through his crucifixion and resurrection. Muslims further believe that each person will be held accountable before God for his/her own actions and thus responsible for their own salvation. Therefore, we will not be able to rely upon anyone else, not even Jesus or Muhammad, to save us from our sins. Sins are those acts we deliberately incur by our choice of actions, we are responsible and hence personally accountable. In Islam there is no notion of redemption for one’s sin by another. Each one is accountable for himself/herself [Q99:7-8] and for each person according to his/her personal striving [Q2:286] .

Jesus is …

Jesus denied by some as a fictional character, accused of being an illegitimate child by some, misconceived as divine by many; considered as a Prophet and Messiah in Islam. People do have differing perspectives on Jesus’ life and teachings, but his spiritual legacy, as a righteous and principled guide, his mission as a Prince of Peace offers an alternative opportunity for people of faith to recognize their shared religious heritage. 

Allah bears testimony to the truthfulness of Jesus; his mission, character, status and his very being. “Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: a statement of truth, about which people dispute.” [Q19:34]. 

All sincere ones would do well to reflect on the verse in the Quran reaffirming Islam’s eternal message of spiritual unity: “Say: ‘We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and message given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves.” [Q2:136]

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Life of Jesus as Revealed to Mary

 

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By: Lex Hixon
IslamiCity* –

Interpretation and Meditation on Holy Quran 3:45-55

The angels called: “Dearest Mary, listen. Allah Most High sends you joyous news of the Divine Word, emanating directly from the Source of Love, whose name is Messiah and who will be known as the noble Jesus. He will be profoundly honored in this world, and in the realm of Paradise he is eternally beloved, abiding with the most intimate companions of Love, deep within the Radiance of Allah. The Messiah Jesus will transmit Truth to humanity, beginning as an infant in his cradle and continuing until he reaches manhood. He will be truly righteous and pure of heart.”

The Virgin Mary turned directly to the Ultimate Source and prayed: “Most precious Allah, how can I bear a child, since no man has known me? ” Allah Most Merciful then awakened Mary spiritually by placing these Divine Words in her heart: “My beloved Mary, the Source of Power can manifest whatever is needed to guide humanity. To project any being or event, Allah simply affirms it and it is. Through your spontaneously conceived child, the Source of Truth will confirm the truth of the Holy Torah. Through this luminous child, the Source of Wisdom will transmit the wisdom of the Holy Gospel. My beloved Jesus will declare to the People of Israel: “Behold, I have come with wonderful sings from the Source of Love and Power. As a child I molded from river clay the likeness of a bird. When I breathed on it, by the mysterious permission of Allah, it became a white dove that took wing before my mother’s eyes. Through me, the Divine Power heals those born blind, cleanses lepers, and reawakens those who have fallen into the sleep of death. I demonstrate the Power of Allah by knowing precisely what people have experienced, what worldly wealth they have stored in their houses, and what spiritual treasure they have hidden within their hearts. These are demonstrations of Love to turn human beings toward the Source of Love. I have come to confirm the Words of Torah that were revealed before me, and also to bring new spiritual freedom. To give the people of Torah confidence in my Prophethood have I come with powerful signs from Allah Most Sublime. By responding wholeheartedly to me, you will be turning toward the Light of Allah. Allah alone is my Source and your Source. The direct path to illumination is to turn your whole life toward the Ever-Present Source.”

The Resonance of Allah continued to spring forth in the heart of the Virgin Mary: “When the noble Jesus teaches thus, he will help to bear and to transmit the Truth of Allah that is flowing through me?” The blessed apostles will respond: “Revered teacher, we will be your humble companions and the instruments of Allah Most High, for we have surrendered our lives to the Source of Life. You can witness our submission. We believe wholeheartedly that you are sent as Holy Messenger from the Source and Goal of Being. May our names be inscribed in the Heavenly Book among those who will follow and serve the Messiah Jesus always.”

“After the bitter scheming of those who live in negation of Love has been brought to nothing by the Power of Allah, the Voice of Truth will call these Divine Words into the heart of His holy servant: “My beloved Jesus, I now draw you back to Me and exalt your being. I now purify and heal you from the harsh touch of those who deny that you are messenger from the Source of Love. Be assured that I will transfigure with My Love all those who sincerely follow you, and awakening from the sleep of death, they will experience the radiant resurrection of Paradise. Be assured as well that all souls will eventually return to Me to resolve the conflict and confusion of their earthly journey.”

Excerpted from “Heart of the Koran” by Lex Hixon also known as Sheikh Nur al Jerrahi.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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The legacy of Abraham


 

Prophet Abraham was born in the city of Ur in the south of what is now modern Iraq. Later he migrated to Harran in northern Syria and them moved to the Land of Canaan (Palestine) around 1900 BC.

By: IslamiCity
IslamiCity* –

The birth of a Great Prophet 

Maqam lbrahim (Station of Abraham) near the Kabah.
The current structure encloses the stone upon which Prophet Abraham stood while he was building the Kabah.

Abraham was born in a house of idolaters, in the kingdom of Babylon. His father Aazar was a well known idol sculptor that his people worshipped. As a young child, Abraham used to watch his father sculpting these idols from stones or wood. When his father was done with them, Abraham would use them as toys, riding on their backs, and kicking them at times. Then after a while, he would see these same statues in the temple, and people prostrating in front of them! Abraham asked his father: “Why do you take these toys to the temple?” His father said: “They are statues that represent our gods. We worship them, we ask favors from them, and we offer them presents.” Abraham could never accept this this idea, and he felt a repulsion towards the idols.

In search for the Truth 

Time went by, and Abraham became a young man. He used to watch the people entering the temple, lowering their heads, silently offering the statues the best of their food, crying and asking forgiveness from them. He could not comprehend why the people were worshipping the statues that could neither benefit nor harm them. They could not be gods, they have no power. God is Greater than what his people were worshipping, Most Powerful, Most Magnificent. One could not find Him sitting on a table in a temple! 

One night, Abraham went up to the mountain, leaned against a rock, and looked up to the sky. He saw a shining star, and said: “Could this be my Lord?” But when it set he said: “I don’t like those that set.” The star has disappeared, it could not be God. God is always present. Then he saw the moon rising in splendor and said: “Could this be my Lord?” But it also set. At daybreak, he saw the sun rising and said: “Could this be my Lord, this is bigger?” But when the sun set he said: “O my people I am free from all that you join as partners with God! I have turned my face towards Him Who created the heavens and the earth, and never shall I give partners to God.” Our Lord is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and everything. He has the power to make the stars rise and set. Abraham then heard God calling him: “O Abraham!” Abraham said trembling: “Here I am O my Lord!” “Submit to Me! Be a Muslim!” Abraham fell on the ground, prostrating and crying, he said: “I submit to the Lord of the universe!” Abraham kept prostrating until night came again. He got up and went back to his home, in t peace, full of conviction that God has guided him to the Truth. 

Abraham invites his father to Islam

A new life started for Abraham. His mission now was to call his people to the Truth. He would start with his father who was the closest person to him, and whom he loved so much. He said to him in the softest and kindest voice: “O father! Why do you worship that which doesn’t hear, doesn’t see, and cannot avail you in anything? O father, I have got knowledge which you have not, so follow me. I will guide you to a straight path.” His father replied angrily: “Do you reject my gods, O Abraham? If you don’t stop I will stone you. Get away from me before I punish you.” Abraham said: “Peace be on you! I will ask forgiveness of my Lord for you.” 

Abraham confronts his people and rejects their idols 

He left his father after he lost hope to convince him of the right path, and directed his efforts towards the people of the town, but they rejected his call and threatened him. By God, he said, I shall plot a plan to destroy their idols. He knew that a big celebration was coming soon, where everybody would leave town for a big feast on the riverbank. After making sure that nobody was left in town, Abraham went towards the temple armed with an ax. Statues of all shapes and sizes were sitting there adorned with decorations. Plates of food were offered to them, but the food was untouched. “Well, why don’t you eat? The food is getting cold.” He said to the statues, joking; then with his ax he destroyed all the statues except one, the biggest of them. He hung the ax around its neck and left. 

How big was the shock when the people entered the temple! They gathered inside watching in awe their gods broken in pieces. They wondered who might have done this? Then they all remembered that the young Abraham was talking evil of their idols. They brought him to the temple and asked him: “Are you the one who has done this to our gods?” Abraham said: “No, this statue, the biggest of them has done it. Ask them if they can speak.” “You know well that these idols don’t speak!” They said impatiently. “Then how come you worship things that can neither speak nor see, nor even fend for themselves? Have you lost your minds?” 

They kept silent for a while, for he got a point there. Their minds and their senses were telling them that the Truth is with Abraham, but their pride prevented them to accept it, and reject the idols they were worshipping for generations. This they thought would be total defeat. They started yelling at him and shouting: “Burn him! Burn him! Take revenge for your gods !” 

The Miracle: God saves Abraham from the fire. 

The decision to burn Abraham to death was affirmed by the priests and the king of Babylon, Nimrod. The news spread like a fire in the kingdom, and people were coming from all places to watch the execution. A huge pit was dug up and a large quantity of wood was piled up. Then the biggest fire people ever witnessed was lit. The fire flames were so high up in the sky that the birds could not fly over it for fear of being burned ! Abraham’s hands and feet were chained, and he was put in a catapult to throw him into the fire. At that time, Angel Jibreel came to him and said: “O Abraham! Is there anything you wish for?” Abraham could have asked to be saved from the fire, to be taken away, but no, he said: “I only wish that God be pleased with me.” The catapult was released, and Abraham was thrown in the heart of the fire. But God would not allow His Prophet to be killed, He ordered the fire: “O fire! Be coolness and safety for Abraham!” And the miracle happened. The fire obeyed and burned only his chains. Abraham came out from it as if he was coming out from a garden, peaceful, his face illuminated, and not a trace of smoke on his clothes. People watched in shock and said: “Amazing ! Abraham’ s God has saved him from the fire!” 

Abraham debates the Babylonian king, Nimrod

Abraham’s notoriety grew bigger after this event and the king of Babylon felt that his throne was in danger, and that he was loosing power, because he was pretending that he was a god. He sent for Abraham. He wanted to debate with him and show his people that he, the king is indeed the god, and Abraham was a liar. He asked Abraham: What can your god do that I cannot? 

  • My Lord is He Who gives life and death.” Abraham said

  • I give life and death. I can bring a person from the street and have him executed, and I can grant my pardon to a person who was sentenced to death and save his life.” The king said proudly

  • Well my Lord God makes the sun rise from the East. Can you make it rise from the West?

The king was confounded. He was beaten at his own game, on his own territory, in front of his own people! Abraham left him there speechless and went back to his important mission, calling people to worship the one and only God, God.

God blesses Abraham with a son to become a prophet 

Only a woman named Sarah and a man named Lot believed in God, and followed Abraham. He realized that nobody else would listen to him, and decided to emigrate for the cause of God, and to spread His Message elsewhere. Before leaving, he tried once again to convince his father to believe in the One God of all the creation, but to no avail. Abraham said to his father and his people: “We are free of you and of whatever you worship besides God. We have rejected you and there has arisen between us and you enmity and hatred forever unless you believe in God and Him alone.” 

Abraham, Lot and Sarah started their long travel. They crossed Babylon, went through Syria and Palestine calling people to God, helping the poor and doing good deeds. By that time Abraham married Sarah. Their hope was to have children who would spread the Message of God after their death. As for Lot, he emigrated to the land of Sodom and settled there. 

Time went by and no children were born to Sarah. She realized she was sterile. She accepted her fate and submitted to the will of God. Abraham and Sarah moved to Egypt where the king gave Sarah a woman to be her servant. The woman’s name was Hajar. Sarah was seeing Abraham’ s hair getting white, and it grieved her to see his chance of having any child slipping away. She offered Hajar her servant as a wife to her husband, and prayed God to bless Hajar and Abraham with a child. And so came Ishmael, a baby boy born to Hajar. How unselfish Sarah was! For her, the need to have an offspring who would carry the Message after Abraham was greater than her pride. Fourteen years later God rewarded Sarah with a son, Ishaq in spite of her old age. 

Young Ishmael and his mother alone in the desert of Makkah 

Abraham woke up one day and asked Hajar to prepare herself and baby Ishmael for a long travel. Abraham and Hajar kept walking, crossed a fertile land followed by barren mountains till they arrived at the Arabian desert. Abraham took Hajar to a high hill called al-Marwa, made her and her baby sit under a tree, placed a bag of dates and some water near her, and set out homeward. Hajar ran after him and said: “Are you going to leave us in this desert where there is no one to keep us company?” She repeated this many times but he would not look back at her. She asked: “Has God ordered you to do so?” He said yes. “Then He will not neglect us.” She said. Abraham walked away until he got out of their sight, he raised his hands and prayed God: “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring dwell in a valley with no cultivation, by Your Sacred House, in order that they may offer prayers. So fill some hearts among men with love towards them, and provide them with fruits, so that they may give thanks.”

Zamzam 

Hajar went on nursing Ishmael and drinking from the water until it was all used up. She became very desperate as the child was crying of thirst. She left him on the al-Marwa hill and hurried to the nearest hill, as-Safa. She stood there and started searching the valley keenly in the hope that she might see somebody, but she could not see anybody. She descended from as-Safa, crossed the valley running and reached al-Marwa hill to see if she could find someone from there. But could see no one. She kept running between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times. When she reached al-Marwa the last time, she was exhausted, she sat next to the baby. Then she heard a voice. She stood up and said: “O whoever you might be! Have you got something to help me?’ She saw an angel, Angel Jibreel, digging the earth until water flowed ! She built a little basin around it. She scooped water with her hands, drank, filled her water-skin, and nursed her baby. The place from which water flowed was Zamzam. Muslims till this day drink from the holy water of Zamzam, and during Hajj they walk between as-Safa and al-Marwa seven times to commemorate this event. 

Entrance to Zamzam near the Kabah. Also called the well of Ishmael. Millions of pilgrims and local people have been drinking water from this well since Angel Gabriel opened it for Prophet Ishmael.

Some Arabs traveling through Makkah saw birds flying around al-Marwa. “They must be flying around water.” They said. When they arrived at the water, they found Hajar and asked her: “Would you allow us to stay with you, and use the water from your well?” She agreed and was pleased by their company. The people sent for their families, settled there and became permanent residents. Gradually the whole valley became alive. Ishmael grew up and later married a woman from amongst the Arabs.

Meanwhile, Abraham who had not seen his son since he was a baby, came back to Makkah to visit him. Upon arriving, he heard that Hajar had died, but Ishmael was still living there. Abraham was yearning to see his son whom he loved and missed a lot. He saw Ishmael under a tree near Zamzam, sharpening his arrows. When he saw his father, Ishmael rose up, hugged him and greeted him. It was the happiest moment for both father and son. But God wanted to put them to test, and it was a tough test indeed. During one night, Abraham had a dream. He came to Ishmael and said: “O my son ! I have seen in a dream that I am offering you as a sacrifice to God, so what do you think?” They both realized that this was an order from God. Ishmael said without hesitation: “Do what you are commanded, you shall find me very patient.” They had both submitted to the will of God. Abraham laid his son prostrate, put his forehead on the ground and directed a sharp knife towards his neck. At this very moment, God called him: “O Abraham! You have fulfilled the dream! Thus do We reward the good doers !” A ram was sent down from heaven to be slaughtered instead of Ishmael, which Abraham did, and they both had a big celebration that day. This event is celebrated every year by all Muslims. It is Eid al-Adha where Muslims remember the example of submitting to the will of God that was shown by Prophet Abraham.

Abraham and Ishmael kept on calling people to worship God. At that time there was no place built for the worship of God. Abraham wished there could be such a place where people would be in peace, and concentrate solely for the worship of God. His wish was answered when God ordered him to build the Sacred House, the Ka’bah. Abraham said to Ishmael: “O Ishmael, God has given me an order, will you help me execute it?” “Yes I will.” Ishmael said. “God has ordered me to build a house here.” He said, pointing to a hillock higher than the land surrounding it. They went towards the place and started building the foundations of the Ka’bah Ishmael brought the stones and Abraham built the walls, and when the walls became high, Ishmael brought a large stone and put it in front of his father who stood over it and carried on building, while Ishmael was handing him the stones. Both of them went on building and going around the Ka’bah, saying: “O our Lord accept this service from us.” When they finished the building, Angel Jibreel descended from heaven and showed Abraham the rituals of Hajj. Then Abraham stepped on the stone and called on people: “O people obey your Lord.” This large stone which Abraham stepped on is still there to this day near the Ka’bah. It is called Makam Abraham.

This is the legacy of Abraham, the father of the prophets. From him descended all the great prophets that included Jacob, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad . Abraham devoted all his life calling others to the worship of The One Almighty God. Alone he stood against his people, his father, and even the mighty king of Babylon, and never wavered in his commitment to God.

And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said: “I will make thee a leader to the Nations.” ..[Quran 2:124]

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Seven Phases of Prophet Muhammad’s Life


 

The Prophet’s mission in its most fundamental analysis was to interpret and spread the Quranic ideology.

By: Javeed Akhter
IslamiCity* –

Traditional scholarship’s divides Prophet Muhammad’s life into Makkan and Madinahn phases. This is chronologically valid and represents the two broad aspects of his life before and after the watershed event of the Migration. It is historically important and marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. 

Additionally I believe Muhammad’s struggle can be naturally divided into seven phases. Each phase brings forth a different aspect of his personality and highlights a different facet of his mission. Studying the Messenger’s mission for its various phases and analyzing its internal dynamics is important as it gives the narrative relevance for today. Since his life is better documented than the lives of other prophets and leaders of major world religions, it is possible to build this analysis on a historical foundation. 

The Search for Light in a Period of Darkness: The Seeker of Truth

As his biography (Seera) is recorded we find Prophet Muhammad pondering over societal ills for years. The society he was born in was in a state of moral, religious, economic and social chaos. It is difficult to resist drawing analogies between the seventh century world and the state of the human morality in today’s world at the beginning of the new millennium. The nuclear man-woman two-parent family, as a core unit of society has eroded seriously in the West. Brazen sexual exploitation in the media is commonplace and illicit sex condoned and even accepted. Violence at home, against women, children, and violence in the streets, is frightfully routine. Substance abuse is widespread, with United States as the largest consumer of drugs in the world. Alcoholism is rampant, especially among college students, with only feeble attempts being made to address the problem. African- Americans have been liberated as slaves for a century and a half, yet many are still trapped in an unending cycle of poverty and discrimination, which is in a way a form of economic slavery. Because of a system that allows unrestrained growth of wealth without encouraging proper redistribution, economic disparities and injustices continue to grow at an alarming rate. 

There are many excellent characteristics in Western societies, especially in the US that include the freedom of thought, speech and assembly, a tolerant attitude toward eccentricities in human nature and an ambition to be a just and compassionate society. These qualities of the ordinary American however are not always reflected in the policy makers and political leaders.

The unraveling of the moral fabric in today’s society must weigh heavily on the minds of individuals with insight. They can draw personal solace and inspiration from the Prophet’s life. The Arab tribal society of the Seventh century, whose structure was based on greed, debauchery, and violence, was changed in a very short time, by the Prophet, into a society with one of the highest moral standards in history. Compassion, humility, devotion to God and egalitarianism replaced the old well-entrenched tribal attitudes of pride in wealth, family and class and self-centered behavior. Women, for the first time in history, had rights and dignity, and the vulnerable and weak sections of the society were protected. Sexuality was removed from public prurience and became private and wholesome. Wealth was re-circulated so that even the poorest segments of the society were infused with energy and indigence became nearly extinct.

The Warner and Exhorter

During one his meditative trips to a cave near Makkah, Prophet Muhammad receives the revelation. Divine revelation is the reaffirmation of the fact that celestial knowledge is essential in guiding the inherently limited human intellect. The profundity of this realization that he is the recipient of this divine revelation and the enormity of the task ahead overawes him. Initially he shares the message only with his closest family and a few loyal supporters. It is both fascinating and revealing that even the individual who would later be rated as the most influential man in human history had these initial periods of doubt and uncertainty about his mission. It was the reassurance from the Quran and the confidence and support of his wife Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), and his close companions which provided him the support he needs-surely a lesson for us lesser mortals!

The Stoic Optimist

The next facet of his life is of bringing about proactive change by inviting people (Dawa) to Islam. With it comes the inevitable hostility of the entrenched powers in the society. Change is always threatening, and the greater the change, the more threatening it is. This would be true of the change against any established system of practices, whether it be economic, social or behavioral. It would also be true for change in personal behavior like wearing immodest clothing, promiscuity, and consumption of intoxicants. Changing attitudes that valued pride in wealth and country or class and color of the skin over all else would also be difficult. Not surprisingly the struggle for change becomes life threatening. Muhammad (Peace be upon him) had to lay his life on the line and on several occasions the nascent Muslim community faced the possibility of total extinction. Fortitude in the face of adversity is the salient feature of this phase. The patience and stoicism Muhammad displays during this phase has been a source of strength to many a Muslim who has found himself beleaguered by apparently hopeless circumstances

The Pluralistic Leader 

The Migration, which marks the beginning of the next phase, involves careful planning and meticulous execution. He demonstrates that self-help and reliance on Allah go together and are both essential for success. With his nomination by the community in Madinah to a position of leadership, he shows another facet of his personality: the capacity to create a truly pluralistic society with equity and dignity for all religious and ethnic groups. In a very short period after the Migration to Madinah, Muhammad proves he is capable of uniting various factions and setting exemplary standards of cooperation between them. He makes a seamless switch from being a person under constant persecution to a leader with a large administrative and judicial responsibility. The “Covenant (Constitution) of Madinah” that lays out the rules of living in a pluralistic society is a document that needs to be studied carefully and implemented to the fullest extent in today’s inescapably multi-religious and multi-cultural world. 

The Courageous Yet Reluctant Warrior

After a brief respite, his mission is consumed by the need to fight wars of survival. These three wars in four years, Badr, Uhad and Ahzab, besides posing a physical threat, must have been extremely distracting and demanding of his time and energy. Yet the work of building the community goes on. 

It is important to remember that even though faced with very aggressive proponents the Prophet and his followers never initiated or instigated any wars. Muhammad and the Muslims engaged in these battles with great discipline, avoiding injury to the innocent and using only the minimum force needed. Women, children and non-combatants were not to be harmed. When the enemy stopped fighting, he was to be given immediate sanctuary. Striking a blow in anger, even in battle, was prohibited. He uses innovative strategies in the battles, which include the use of the trench as a defense. During the digging of the trench he is an active participant. He consults frequently (Shura) with his companions and follows the majority opinion (Ijma’), even when it sometimes goes against his own judgment. 

The Statesman Par Excellence and Teacher

During the next phase, he shows the capacity to compromise and demonstrates the foresight and wisdom to realize that peace, even at seemingly unfavorable terms, is better than hostility. The “Treaty of Hudaybia” also needs to be studied and emulated by all who negotiate with their opponents. The peace dividend, following this treaty with the Quraysh, is huge and results in an exponential increase in the number of Muslims.

This also allows the building of a model and just society that functions in a coherent manner. Wealth is allowed to be accumulated but has to be circulated fairly into even the tiniest capillaries of the community’s economic system. It is an egalitarian society with equity and justice for all, governed by mutual consultation, equality before the law and protection of its most vulnerable members, women, children, orphans, indigents and slaves. 

As illustrated by many incidents from this phase of his life, the Prophet proves to be an exemplary statesman. He mediates disputes, defuses potentially explosive situations with ease, allowing the parties to the conflict to walk away as friends and allies. He is unafraid to take risks but is never reckless and compromises for the sake of peace. His emissaries to other nations bring with them a message of cooperation seeking common ground. When he gives a pledge, he always keeps it. If the other party breaks the pledge, he does not flinch from measures that are appropriate to maintain the sanctity of the pledge. 

The Compassionate Ruler and Spiritual Leader.

The final phase begins with the conquest of Makkah, which is a demonstration of meticulous planning and the use of overwhelming force to achieve a victory with practically no loss of life on either side of the battle front. The stunning magnanimity and humility shown during victory by Muhammad and his companions is unmatched in history. He is humble in victory, compassionate, and forgiving to even his most intractable opponents.

The final sermon consolidates the social, economic, and moral changes that have been brought about in the society. It is time to prepare for the end.

The anatomy of the mission, its growth and evolution in some ways parallels the various stages of human life itself. These various phases reflect not only the growing sophistication of the message but also the increasing maturity of the audience to whom the message is directed. The audience grows in its understanding of what it would take to bear the burden of passing on the message to posterity. The Prophet’s mission in its most fundamental analysis was to interpret and spread the Quranic ideology. This Quran centered spirituality remains the constant theme through all of the phases of his life. The Quran says about him “Indeed there is for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern” (Quran 33:21). His wife Ayesha (may Allah be pleased with her) calls him the living embodiment of the Quran. It is this complementary bequest of the Quran and Sunna that is our special blessing. 

Over time, many differences based on dogma, politics, personality cults and egos have emerged amongst the followers of Islam. In spite of many heterodox sects, the core messages of Quran, and its realization in the life of the Prophet are alive and potent, and continue to provide spiritual solace, intellectual satisfaction and societal discipline to many making Islam the fastest growing religion in the world.

Javeed Akhter

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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Prophets: Perfect Model for Humanity

 

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There is no denying the fact that everything that has contributed towards the welfare of mankind and helped man to raise himself to the level of vicegerent of God on earth, has been brought about by the combined effort of all men.

By: Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi
IslamiCity* –

History has preserved the life-stories of men, thousands in number, who had achieved eminence in one field or the other. All of them have left their imprints on the pages of history. There are amongst them emperors surrounded by the splendor of royal courts, an array of military commanders and generals, philosophers lost in their thoughts, mighty conquerors intoxicated with power, poets singing to cheer their own solitude with sweet songs and the affluent rolling in riches . All of them have attraction of their own for the sons of Adam. Whether it be Hannibal of Carthage, or Alexander of Macedonia, or Caesar of Rome, or Darius of Iran, or yet Napoleon of France, the life of each has a fascination for the posterity. Similarly alluring are the lives of all philosophers from Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Diogenes of the ancients to Spencer of England. Even the lives of Nimrod and Pharaoh, Abu Jahl and Abu Lahab  and Korah depict yet another trait of human nature and character; but the question is, who amongst these, can be deemed as a model of goodness and virtue fit to be followed by other human beings? Great generals and conquerors, indeed were they, who swept everything before them by their sword, but did they also succeed in leaving an ennobling example of their lives to be followed by others? They had won brilliant victories, but were they able to cut the shackles of superstition and credulous beliefs? Did they solve any social problem besetting equality and brotherhood of human beings? Did they succeed in restoring our moral and spiritual health and happiness or in eradicating the faults and failings of our desires? Did they present any model of moral rectitude and decorous behavior for the posterity?

World has given birth to great poets. But, these were painters of fantasy, merely starry-eyed utopians unfit to be assigned any place in the Republic of Plato.

There have been sages and philosophers who have plumbed the secrets of nature beyond the limits of perception and changed the concept of things and materials. They have, nevertheless, failed to produce any blueprint for the practical guidance of humanity. For their flight of imagination lacked practical wisdom, they could never provide man with any guidance in the discharge of his obligations. Aristotle was the precursor of ethical philosophy now studied in every university. His brilliant exposition of ethical impulsions is esteemed highly both by the learned and the learners, but how many of them have been able to betake the path of virtue by reading his dissertations? Teachers well-versed in ethical philosophy can be found almost in every institution of higher learning, who know all about its premises and principles, but has their impact been ever felt beyond their class-rooms? On the contrary, we find that very often their conduct and behavior are no better than those of the man on the street. To walk in the right path one has not to hear the sermons but to see the living examples of cardinal virtues.

Powerful kings and emperors have also appeared on the stage of this world. They have extended their dominions, played with the life and property of their fellow beings, extracted wealth through taxes and tithes from some and bestowed their bounties on others. They have demeaned on to exalt the other. The Book of God presents, in the words of the Queen of Sheba, this rare picture of their doings on the earth:

“Lo! kings, when they enter a township, ruin it and make the honor of its people shame.” (Quran, 27:34)

The swords of mighty kings have hanged over the heads of criminals in thoroughfares and market places, but they have failed to reach the guilt concealed in the minds and hearts of men. They have enforced law and order in the habitations and townships, but the kingdom of spirit has ever been beyond their reach, or, rather, their own courts and castles have been the breeding dens of moral confusion and spiritual anarchy. What else have the kings like Alexanders and Caesars left for us? How many lawgivers has the world seen from Solon to this day? Their laws were not only short-lived but also failed to cleanse the hearts and purify the morals. Subsequent rulers always placed a new set of laws on the statute book, albeit more often to further their own interests than to enforce the rules of equity. The world has not changed even today. Still, the legislatures in every country make and unmake laws endlessly, but seldom their labors are for the benefit of the people whom they profess to represent. It is more the interest of the powers that be which they seek to promote. 

The prophets adorn and illuminate the soul of man: the zealous preachings  of Noah, the unshakable principle of God’s oneness upheld by  Abraham, the patrimony of resignation to Divine will bequeathed by Isaac, the self-sacrifice of Ishmael, the indefatigable efforts of Moses, the faithfulness of Aaron, the self-resignation of Jacob, the lamentations of David, the wisdom of Solomon, the litanies of Zachariah, the chastity of John, the piety of Jesus, the penitence of Jonah, the strenuous exertion of Lot and the endurance of Job have made the life of man winsome and bright

These are, broadly, the higher sections of society which could be expected to work for the welfare of humanity. If you give further thoughts to the matter you would see that whatever light of goodness and virtue you find in the world today, it owes its existence to the pure-hearted souls whom you know by the name of prophets and messengers of God. Wherever you come across compassion and justice and a sincere desire to alleviate the sufferings of the poor and the downtrodden, no matter whether these are found in the cave of a mountain or a dense forest or a populous city, they are due to the call given by one of these men of God. The Quran tells us:

“There is not a nation but a warner hath passed among them.”
(Quran, 35:24)

“For every folk a guide.” (Quran, 13:7)

The lustre of their teachings is to be found today in every country and nation; savages and the civilized people of the world are both equally indebted to them for edification of their souls. Of all the groups of men we have mentioned afore, the most august are they, for they rule not over the bodies of men like the kings, but their authority is enshrined in the hearts of the people. Their kingdom is not of lands and countries, but of hearts and spirits: they do now wield the sword, yet they obliterate the stains of guilt and iniquity at one stroke; they are not dreamy-eyed songsmiths, yet the sweetness of their speech delights the soul; they are neither senators nor law-makers, yet the laws given by them regulate the conduct of statesmen and judges, kings and subjects from age to age. This is not a question of faith or conviction but a matter of fact and history. One has to see whether it has actually been so or not. The edicts of Patliputra’s Ashoka are engraved on the pillars of stones, but those of the Buddha are inscribed in the hearts of people. The decrees of the rulers of Ujjain, Hastinapur, Delhi and Kannauj are no more to be found today, but the Dharma Shastra of Manu still prevails. The statutes of Hamurabbi, the King of Babel, have long been buried under the dust, but Abraham’s teachings are still alive! Pharaoh’s imprudent demand to pay divine honors to him was a transient as the clouds, but Moses still lives in his teachings. How long did the laws of Solon remain in force, but the laws of Torah are still the measure of justice! The Roman Law which persecuted Jesus Christ became extinct long ago, but the doctrines of love that flowed from the lips of Jesus still redeem the wrongdoers and wash them of their sins. The Abu Jahls of Mecca, the Chosroes of Iran and the Caesars of Rome are all dead and gone, but the Lord of Madina still rules over the hearts of people in every part of the world.

If these facts are correct, one would have to concede, not on grounds of faith, but through reason and logic of stubborn facts, that no other class of people except the prophets has worked for the welfare and happiness of mankind in its truest sense; theirs was the endeavor consisting of virtue and goodness, purity of heart, moderation and temperance. They all came to this world as messengers of God to preach the gospel of Truth and Faith, and they left their footsteps of righteousness to be followed by the coming generations. It is from their teachings alone that the rulers and the ruled, the rich and the poor and the learned and the illiterate can derive equal benefit.

“That is Our argument. We gave it unto Abraham against the folk. We raise unto degrees of wisdom whom We will. Lo! thy Lord is Wise, Aware. And We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob; each of them We guided; and Noah did We guide aforetime; and of his seed (We guided) David and Solomon and Job and Joseph and Moses and Aaron. Thus do we reward the good. And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. And Ishmael and Elisa and Jonah and Lot. Each one (of them) did We prefer above  (Our) creatures, With some of their forefathers and their off-spring and their brethren; and We chose them and guided them unto a straight path. Such is the guidance of Allah wherewith He guideth whom he will of His bondmen. But if they had set up (for worship) aught beside Him, (all) that they did would have been vain. Those are they unto whom We gave the Scripture and command and prophethood. But if these disbelieve therein, then indeed We shall entrust it to a people who will not be disbelievers therein. Those are they whom Allah guideth, so follow their guidance.” (Quran 6:84-91)

These luminous verses of the Quran speak of a particular group among men, some of whom have been mentioned by name, who had been sent to cure the spiritual ailments of mankind and restore its moral health. They were men, holy and angelic in spirit, who preached the word of God in different times and climes and in every land. Whatever of moral rectitude and righteousness, purity and chastity man possesses today, it is all their legacy, and in following their footsteps alone lies the salvation and well-being of humanity. The prophets adorn and illuminate the soul of man: the zealous preachings  of Noah, the unshakable principle of God’s oneness upheld by  Abraham, the patrimony of resignation to Divine will bequeathed by Isaac, the self-sacrifice of Ishmael, the indefatigable efforts of Moses, the faithfulness of Aaron, the self-resignation of Jacob, the lamentations of David, the wisdom of Solomon, the litanies of Zachariah, the chastity of John, the piety of Jesus, the penitence of Jonah, the strenuous exertion of Lot and the endurance of Job have made the life of man winsome and bright. To these consecrated souls can be traced every virtue and goodness found in the world today.

There is, however, no denying the fact that culture and civilization, progress and improvement, in short, everything that has contributed towards the welfare and material progress of mankind and helped man to raise himself to the level of vicegerent of God on earth, has been brought about by the combined effort of all men. Astronomers have discovered the movements of heavenly bodies, chemists have found out the properties of substances, physicians have searched the medicines for curing diseases, architects have developed the science and designs of structures and artisans have give birth to useful crafts and fine arts, and all of them have thus a share in the making of our world. We ought to be thankful to all of them. Nevertheless, we are even more obliged to offer our thanks to those who have decorated the world within us. They are the physicians who have cured us of our greed and envy, diagnosed the ailments of our souls and refurbished its lost energy and vigor. They elaborated our behavior patterns and aptitudes, ideas and intentions and showed us the way of attaining purity of heart and sublimity of spirit. It was through the efforts of these God moved souls that the cultural attainments were refined and embellished, the link between man and God, the slave and the Lord, was established. How could the world have attained its excellence if we had been denied the knowledge received through prophetic teachings? We are, verily, indebted more to these men of God than to any other class or group of person. This is the compliment due to the prophets of God and it ought to be paid by all of us whenever their name comes on the lips of anyone. And, this is the benediction taught by Islam to be offered for them: “O God! Have mercy and peace on all of them.”

Excerpted from the book “Muhammed, the Ideal Prophet” by Saiyid Sulaiman Nadwi. He was a student of Allama Shibli Nu’mani whose masterpiece, Sirat-Un-Nabi, he edited and presented to the world after his teacher’s death.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Prophet of Mercy


 

About Muhammad – Head of the state as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but, he was pope without the pope`s claims, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar – Reverend R Bosworth Smith

Quba, the first mosque of Islam, was originally built by the Prophet Mohammad and his fellow emigrants from Makkah on their arrival in Madinah in 622. That year marks the beginning of both the Muslim era and the Muslim calendar.

For thirteen years in his birthplace of Makkah, the Prophet Muhammad called people to the worship of the One True God, to do good and renounce all that was false. But the powers with interests to protect remained implacably hostile and made life intolerable for those who had submitted to the truth.

In constant search for fertile soil to plant the message of truth, the noble Prophet eventually migrated – not fled – northwards to Yathrib. The green oasis became known as the Madinah or the City of the Prophet and was to become the territorial base from which he won the hearts of multitudes and consolidated Islam’s place in the landscape of the peninsula.

The leaders of Makkah and a large part of its citizenry remained stubbornly hostile and sought – through wars, siege and alliances – to destabilise the fledgling community. The Prophet, who desired security and peace for people, negotiated a truce with the pagan Makkans on terms that many of his followers were deeply unhappy about. This was in the fifth year after the hijrah or migration to Madinah.

The truce turned out to be beneficial to the whole peninsula but the Makkans eventually broke it by mounting a bloody aggression against an ally of the state of Medinah. The Prophet could not overlook this breach and in the eighth year after the hijrah, he mobilised an impressive force and moved on Makkah. Ten thousand converged on the city, reaching there in the month of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The Quraysh realised that there was no hope of resisting, let alone of defeating, the Muslim forces. What was to be their fate – they who had harried and persecuted the believers, tortured and boycotted them, driven them out of their hearths and homes, stirred up others against them, made war on them, and killed many?

They were now completely at the mercy of the Prophet.

Revenge was easy. He could have laid waste the city and wiped out its inhabitants. But revenge was not his object. He did not lead his confident army into Makkah like any tyrant, full of arrogance, forgetting the Almighty, the Cause of all causes, and intoxicated with self-conceit.

Far from it. In the words of an early biographer, he entered with great humility and gratitude, prostrating himself repeatedly on the back of the camel he was riding, before the One God, thankful to Him for all He had provided, declaring an all-embracing amnesty and peace, in place of any thought of avenging past material or mental afflictions, and in fact demonstrating what God wills of Godly men: “… enter the gate prostrating and say ‘Amnesty’.” (The Quran, 2:58; 7:160).

He ordered Bilal, the Ethiopian, to go on the rooftop of the Ka’bah to call the adhan. The noble Prophet led the congregational prayer and then addressed the assembled citizens in the compound around the Ka’bah. He reminded them of what they had done to him and the Muslims, and said, “The arrogance and racial pride of the heathen days has been wiped out by God today. All human beings are descended from Adam, and Adam was made of clay.”

He recited the following verse of the Quran:

“0 human beings! We have indeed created you of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Surely the most honorable of you with God is the one among you who is most deeply conscious of Him. Surely, God is Knowing, Aware. (The Quran, 49:13

During the annual pilgrimage of Hajj, Muslims from all over the world gather in the plaza before Makkaha’s Sacred Mosque.

He then asked them in a voice full of compassion and tenderness:

‘0 people of Quraysh! What do you think I will do with you?’

One of them, Suhayl ibn Amr, who had fought against the Prophet, replied on behalf of the Makkans:

‘We think (you will treat us) well, noble brother, son of a noble brother.’

A radiant smile flashed across the face of the beloved Prophet of God and, in a spirit of magnanimity and tolerance, he said:

“I shall speak to you as Yusuf [Joseph] spoke unto his brothers: ‘There is no reproach against you today; God will forgive. He is the most Merciful and the most Compassionate.’ ” (Quran,12:92)

And he added:

‘No more responsibility burdens you today.
‘Idhhabuu… wa antum at
tulaqaa Go,
for you are free.’

Instantaneously Makkah was transformed, and overnight practically the entire population was won over to Islam. Nothing else could have won them over so profoundly and sincerely. They were not the inhabitants of a defeated and occupied country, but equals with the victors in rights as well as obligations. When a Messenger of God is the liberator of a town, nothing less exalted could be expected.

Without leaving a single companion of his to garrison the city, the Prophet soon returned to Madinah, leaving Makkah to be governed by a Makkan just converted. He never had to regret this later. This is how human hearts are won. In the entire episode, thirteen lives were lost.

‘I am the Prophet of Battle; I am the Prophet of Mercy,’ he is reported to have said. But it was destined for Muhammad to demonstrate that even in battle, he was the “Prophet of Mercy”.


The above account has been partly compiled from the book, Battlefields of the Prophet, by the renowned scholar Muhammad Hamidullah. This book lists the number of people killed in battle on both sides in all the engagements led by the Prophet. This number is given as less than 500 (see box). It is clear neither revenge nor hatred, greed nor domination was ever the driving passion in the wars that the noble Prophet engaged or were forced into. His purpose was primarily to win over people to the truth. He did not see his enemies as irredeemable infidels, but as potential forces for the good, for their own selves and for others. And he gave them the opportunity and the space to transform themselves.


Casualties in the main military expeditions led by the Prophet

Engagement

Opposing
force

Opposition
killed

Muslim
force

Muslims
killed

Badr

950

70

313

14

Uhud

3,000

22

700

70

Khandaq

12,000

8

3,000

6

Khaibar

20,000

93

1,500

15

Mu’ta

100,000

 

3,000

13

Hunain

 

70

12,000

70

Taif

 

 

12,000

12

 

Casualties in Twentieth Century Conflicts

 ‘I have lived throughout most of the twentieth century without, I must add, suffering personal hardship. I remember it only as the most terrible century in western history.’
 -Isaiah Berlin

 

War and Conflicts of the twentieth century

Military & Civilian deaths

Belgian repression in the Congo Free State 1886-1908

6,500,000

First World War 1914-1918

8,500,000

Russian Civit War 19f 7-1922

2,825,000

Stalin’s regime 1924-53

20,000,000

Italian campaign in Abyssinia 1935-1936

160,000

Second World War 1939-1945

71,000,000

Post-War Expulsion of Germans from East Europe 1945-47

2,384,000

Chinese Civil War 1945-1949

3,000,000

Mao Zedong’s regime 19491975

40,000,000

Korean War 1950-1953

1,200,000

Tito’s Regime 194480

250,000

French repression in Algeria 1954-1962

1,000,000

Vietnam War 1965-1973

1,033,000

Cambodia, Khmer Rouge 1975-1978

1,500,000

Soviet Union war against Afghanistan 1979-1989

2,000,000

Iran-Iraq War 1980-88

1,000,000

Gulf War 1990-1991

150,000

Bosnia 1992-1995

280,000

Sources: Britannica & other Internet resources including http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatx.htm

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2007 in Articles

 

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In Search of the Prophet

 

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I found my source of adoration for you in the love and respect that the Almighty has proclaimed for you; in the honor that He bestowed upon you; in His confirmation of you as “the ultimate exemplar”; “seal of Prophets” and “mercy unto all existence”.

O Prophet of Allah, where shall I find the source of my adoration for you? I have memorized hundreds of your sayings since my youth, taught your seerah (example) to numerous students, grown a beard, used the miswaaq, sang and proudly taught others odes (qasidahs) in praise of you. But I did not find you in these rituals nor did any of these make me any more like you; rather they merely flung me into the fray of insignificant debates in the arena of so many of the sunnahless Muslims who see your sunnah only as an endless array of harsh laws and practices or as some justification for their cultural tendencies. O Allah, save me from being of those who consider the sunnah of Thy beloved as being expressed only through aimless imitations and who know Thy Prophet only as a conveyor of commands and warnings.

O Prophet of Allah, I did not truly find you in the books of fatawa (religious edicts), nor in grand seminars and conferences throughout the world, and certainly not in the harsh arguments between groups proclaiming mutually exclusive rights over you.

I found my source of adoration for you in the love and respect that the Almighty has proclaimed for you; in the honor that He bestowed upon you; in His confirmation of you as “the ultimate exemplar”; “seal of Prophets” and “mercy unto all existence”. Allah has elevated the very memory of you and has made His boundless love accessible through obedience to you.

I catch but a dimension of you through the instances of compassion you extended to others; how you played with the poor orphaned boy when other children refused to play with him, how you prolonged your prostration out of consideration that your change in posture may inconvenience or hurt your beloved grandson who had climbed on your back; how you commanded your army away from the anthill in order not to disrupt the ants’ activities; how you blessed with Paradise the sinful woman for saving the life of a cat by making the water of the well accessible with her shoes; how you intervened and prevented a man from abusing his wife by teaching him that “the best of men are those who treat their wives the best”; how you patched your clothes, mended your shoes and did your daily household chores; how you wrestled with your nephew and raced with your wife; how you joked with the kids and carried the baggage of the elderly; how you hosted the Christians of Najran in your mosque and stood up to honor the bier of a Jew. 

O Prophet of Allah, why is it that so many of us who claim to be of you refuse to be like you. We sing for you and dress like you, but do not come near fulfilling the expression of love, care and beauty that generated from yourself. Why is it that we see in you that which suits our cultural, organizational and chauvinistic interests, yet ignore the essence of what is essential to your being. Others who are not of you proclaim the multi-dimensional and multi-faceted nature of your personality. “The personality of Muhammad is most difficult to get the whole truth of it. Only a glimpse of him I can catch. What dramatic succession of picturesque scenes? There is Muhammad the Prophet; there is Muhammad the General; Muhammad the King; Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Businessman; Muhammad the Preacher; Muhammad the Philosopher; Muhammad the Statesman; Muhammad the Orator; Muhammad the Reformer; Muhammad the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad the Protector of Slaves; Muhammad the Emancipator of Women; Muhammad the Judge; Muhammad the Saint.. In all these magnificent roles and in all these departments of human activities he is equally a hero.” (Professor Ramakrishna Rao). O Prophet! Your life-example is an integrated biography, history and law; it is above all a model of excellence. 

O Prophet of Allah, you have certainly been adored by many much more worthy than I. Yet, neither the inability to capture my appreciation of you with the eloquence of poets nor my weakness as a believer debars me from qualifying as one who adores you; for in the commemoration of your being do I find the dignity and honor of my existence.

Imam Sadullah Khan is Professor of Islamic Studies at California State University in Dominguez Hills.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2007 in Articles

 

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Muhammad in the Bible

Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Torah and the Gospel… (Holy Qu’ran: VII – 157; Translation: Yusif Ali)

BIBLE PROPHECIES ABOUT THE ADVENT OF MUHAMMAD

Abraham is widely regarded as the Patriarch of monotheism and the common father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Through His second son, Isaac, came all Israelite prophets including such towering figures as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. May peace and blessings be upon them all. The advent of these great prophets was in partial fulfillment of God’s promises to bless the nations of earth through the descendents of Abraham (Genesis12:2-3). Such fulfillment is wholeheartedly accepted by Muslims whose faith considers the belief in and respect of all prophets an article of faith.

BLESSINGS OF ISHMAEL AND ISAAC

Was the first born son of Abraham (Ishmael) and his descendants included in God’s covenant and promise? A few verses from the Bible may help shed some light on this question;

  1. Genesis 12:2-3 speaks of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants before any child was born to him.

  2. Genesis 17:4 reiterates God’s promise after the birth of Ishmael and before the birth of Isaac.

  3. In Genesis, ch. 21. Isaac is specifically blessed but Ishmael was also specifically blessed and promised by God to become “a great nation” especially in Genesis 21:13, 18.

  4. According to Deuteronomy 21:15-17 the traditional rights and privileges of the first born son are not to be affected by the social status of his mother (being a “free” woman such as Sarah, Isaac’s mother, or a “Bondwoman” such as Hagar, Ishmael’s mother). This is only consistent with the moral and humanitarian principles of all revealed faiths.

  5. The full legitimacy of Ishmael as Abraham’s son and “seed” and the full legitimacy of his mother, Hagar, as Abraham’s wife are clearly stated in Genesis 21:13 and 16:3. After Jesus, the last Israelite messenger and prophet, it was time that God’s promise to bless Ishmael and his descendants be fulfilled. Less than 600years after Jesus, came the last messenger of God, Muhammad, from the progeny of Abraham through Ishmael. God’s blessing of both of the main branches of Abraham’s family tree was now fullfilled. But are there additional corroborating evidence that the Bible did in fact foretell the advent of prophet Muhammad?

MUHAMMAD: The Prophet Like Unto Moses

Long time after Abraham, God’s promise to send the long-awaited Messenger was repeated this time in Moses’ words.
In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses spoke of the prophet to be sent by God who is:

  1. From among the Israelite’s “brethren”, a reference to their Ishmaelite cousins as Ishmael was the other son of Abraham who was explicitly promised to become a “great nation”.

  2. A prophet like unto Moses. There were hardly any two prophets ,who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad. Both were given comprehensive law code of life, both encountered their enemies and were victors in miraculous ways, both were accepted as prophets/statesmen and both migrated following conspiracies to assassinate them. Analogies between Moses and Jesus overlooks not only the above similarities but other crucial ones as well (e.g. the natural birth, family life and death of Moses and Muhammad but not of Jesus, who was regarded by His followers as the Son of God and not exclusively a messenger of God, as Moses and Muhammad were and as Muslim belief Jesus was).

THE AWAITED PROPHET WAS TO COME FROM ARABIA

Deuteronomy 33:1-2 combines references to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. It speaks of God (i.e. God’s revelation) coming from Sinai, rising from Seir (probably the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem) and shining forth from Paran. According to Genesis 21:21, the wilderness of Paran was the place where Ishmael settled (i.e. Arabia, specifically Mecca).

Indeed the King James version of the Bible mentions the pilgrims passing through the valley of Ba’ca (another name of Mecca) in Psalms 84:4-6.

Isaiah 42:1-13 speaks of the beloved of God. His elect and messenger who will bring down a law to be awaited in the isles and who “shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgement on earth.” Verse 11, connects that awaited one with the descendants of Ke’dar. Who is Ke’dar? According to Genesis 25:13, Ke’dar was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of prophet Muhammad.

MUHAMMAD’S MIGRATION FROM MECCA TO MEDINA: PROPHECIED IN THE BIBLE?

Habakkuk 3:3 speaks of God (God’s help) coming from Te’man (an Oasis North of Medina according to J. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible), and the holy one (coming) from Paran. That holy one who under persecution migrated from Paran (Mecca) to be received enthusiastically in Medina was none but prophet Muhammad.

Indeed the incident of the migration of the prophet and his persecuted followers is vividly described in Isaiah 21:13-17. That section foretold as well about the battle of Badr in which the few ill-armed faithful miraculously defeated the “mighty” men of Ke’dar, who sought to destroy Islam and intimidate their own folks who turned -to Islam.

THE QUR’AN (KORAN) FORETOLD IN THE BIBLE?

For twenty-three years, God’s words (the Qur’an) were truely put into Muhammad’s mouth. He was not the “author” of the Qur’an. The Qur’an was dictated to him by Angel Gabriel who asked Muhammad to simply repeat the words of the Qur’an as he heard them. These words were then committed to memory and to writing by those who hear them during Muhammad’s life time and under his supervision.

Was it a coincidence that the prophet “like unto Moses” from the “brethren” of the Israelites (i.e. from the lshmaelites) was also described as one in whose mouth God will put his words and that he will speak in the name of God, (Deuteronomy 18:18-20). Was it also a coincidence the “Paraclete” that Jesus foretold to come after Him was described as one who “shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak (John 16:13)

Was it another coincidence that Isaiah ties between the messenger connected with Ke’dar and a new song (a scripture in a new language) to be sang unto the Lord (Isaiah 42:10-11). More explicitly, prophesies Isaiah “For with stammering lips, and another tongue, will he speak to this people” (Isaiah 28:11). This latter verse correctly describes the “stammering lips” of Prophet Muhammad reflecting the state of tension and concentration he went through at the time of revelation. Another related point is that the Qur’an was revealed in piece-meals over a span of twenty three years. It is interesting to compare this with Isaiah 28:10 whichspeaks of the same thing.

THAT PROPHET- PARACLETE- MUHAMMAD

Up to the time of Jesus (peace be upon him), the Israelites were still awaiting for that prophet like unto Moses prophecied in Deuteronomy 18:18. When John the Baptist came, they asked him if he was Christ and he said “no”. They asked him if he was Elias and he said “no”. Then, in apparent reference to Deuteronomy 18:18, they asked him “Art thou that Prophet” and he answered, “no”. (John 1: 1 9-2 1).

In the Gospel according to John (Chapters 14, 15, 16) Jesus spoke of the “Paraclete” or comforter who will come after him, who will be sent by Father as another Paraclete, who will teach new things which the contemporaries of Jesus could not bear. While the Paraclete is described as the spirit of truth, (whose meaning resemble Muhammad’s famous title Al-Amin, the trustworthy), he is identified in one verse as the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). Such a designation is however inconsistent with the profile of that Paraclete. In the words of the Dictionary of the Bible, (Ed. J. Mackenzie) “These items, it must be admitted do not give an entirely coherent picture.”

Indeed history tells us that many early Christians understood the Paraclete to be a man and not a spirit. This might explain the followings who responded to some who claimed, without meeting the criteria stipulated by Jesus, to be the awaited “Paraciete”.

It was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was the Paraclete, Comforter, helper, admonisher sent by God after Jesus. He testified of Jesus, taught new things which could not be borne at Jesus’ time, he spoke what he heard (revelation), he dwells with the believers (through his well-preserved teachings). Such teachings will remain forever because he was the last messenger of God, the only Universal Messenger to unite the whole of humanity under God and on the path of PRESERVED truth. He told of many things to come which “came to pass” in the minutest detail meeting, the criterion given by Moses to distinguish between the true prophet and the false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:22). He did reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment (John 16:8-11)

WAS THE SHIFT OF RELIGIOUS LEADERSHIP PROPHESIED?

Following the rejection of the last Israelite prophet, Jesus, it was about time that God’s promise to make Ishmael a great nation be fulfilled (Genesis 21:13, 18)

In Matthew 21:19-21, Jesus spoke of the fruitless fig tree (A Biblical symbol of prophetic heritage) to be cleared after being given a last chance of three years (the duration of Jesus’ ministry) to give fruit. In a later verse in the same chapter, Jesus said: “Therefore, say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof” (Matthew 21:43). That nation of Ishmael’s descendants (the rejected stone in Matthew 21:42) which was victorious against all super-powers of its time as prophesied by Jesus: “And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:44).

OUT OF CONTEXT COINCIDENCE?

Is it possible that the numerous prophecies cited here are all individually and combined out of context misinterpretations? Is the opposite true, that such infrequently studied verses fit together consistently and clearly point to the advent of the man who changed the course of human history, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Is it reasonable to conclude that all these prophecies, appearing in different books of the Bible and spoken by various prophets at different times were all coincidence? If this is so here is another strange “coincidence”!

One of the signs of the prophet to come from Paran (Mecca) is that he will come with “ten thousands of saints” (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV). That was the number of faithful who accompanied Prophet Muhammad to Paran (Mecca) in his victorious, bloodless return to his birthplace to destroy the remaining symbols of idolatry in the Ka’bah.

Says God as quoted by Moses:

And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19)


About the author:

Dr. Jamal Badawi was born in Egypt where he completed his undergraduate education. He completed his Ph.D. from the Indiana University and subsequently joined the faculty of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Canada. 

In addition to teaching in his formal field of education (Management), he has been teaching a course on “Islamic Religious Tradition” which is part of the offerings of the Religious Studies department at the same university.

Dr. Badawi has also taught a course on Islam at Stanford University (USA) and gave a series of lectures on the Quran at Oxford University (UK).

Dr. Badawi is the author of several works on Islam, the last of which is ‘Gender Equity in Islam’. He also researched, designed and presented 352 half hour TV programs on Islam broadcasted from several local cable stations and radio stations in the US and Canada, in addition to their use in several countries overseas. Audio and video copies of these programs were made available to users in nearly 35 countries around the world. Sets of these programs are included in the library collections of several universities.

Dr. Badawi is a member of the Consultative Council of North America, a member of the Juristic Council of North America and the founder/chairman of the Islamic Information Foundation, a non-profit educational foundation registered in Canada and the US.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2007 in Articles

 

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The Prophet of Islam – His Biography

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Prelude

In the annals of men, individuals have not been lacking who conspicuously devoted their lives to the socio-religious reform of their connected peoples. We find them in every epoch and in all lands. In India, there lived those who transmitted to the world the Vedas, and there was also the great Gautama Buddha; China had its Confucius; the Avesta was produced in Iran. Babylonia gave to the world one of the greatest reformers, the Prophet Abraham (not to speak of such of his ancestors as Enoch and Noah about whom we have very scanty information). The Jewish people may rightly be proud of a long series of reformers: Moses, Samuel, David, Solomon, and Jesus among others.

Two points to be note: Firstly these reformers claimed in general to be the bearers each of a Divine mission, and they left behind them sacred books incorporating codes of life for the guidance of their peoples. Secondly there followed fratricidal wars, and massacres and genocides became the order of the day, causing more or less a complete loss of these Divine messages. As to the books of Abraham, we know them only by the name; and as for the books of Moses, records tell us how they were repeatedly destroyed and only partly restored.

Concept of God

If one should judge from the relics of the past already brought to light of the homo sapiens, one finds that man has always been conscious of the existence of a Supreme Being, the Master and Creator of all. Methods and approaches may have differed, but the people of every epoch have left proofs of their attempts to obey God. Communication with the Omnipresent yet invisible God has also been recognized as possible in connection with a small fraction of men with noble and exalted spirits. Whether this communication assumed the nature of an incarnation of the Divinity or simply resolved itself into a medium of reception of Divine messages (through inspiration or revelation), the purpose in each case was the guidance of the people. It was but natural that the interpretations and explanations of certain systems should have proved more vital and convincing than others.

Every system of metaphysical thought develops its own terminology. In the course of time terms acquire a significance hardly contained in the word and translations fall short of their purpose. Yet there is no other method to make people of one group understand the thoughts of another. Non-Muslim readers in particular are requested to bear in mind this aspect which is a real yet unavoidable handicap.

By the end of the 6th century, after the birth of Jesus Christ, men had already made great progress in diverse walks of life. At that time there were some religions which openly proclaimed that they were reserved for definite races and groups of men only, of course they bore no remedy for the ills of humanity at large. There were also a few which claimed universality, but declared that the salvation of man lay in the renunciation of the world. These were the religions for the elite, and catered for an extremely limited number of men. We need not speak of regions where there existed no religion at all, where atheism and materialism reigned supreme, where the thought was solely of occupying one self with one’s own pleasures, without any regard or consideration for the rights of others.

Arabia

A perusal of the map of the major hemisphere (from the point of view of the proportion of land to sea), shows the Arabian Peninsula lying at the confluence of the three great continents of Asia, Africa and Europe. At the time in question. this extensive Arabian subcontinent composed mostly of desert areas was inhabited by people of settled habitations as well as nomads. Often it was found that members of the same tribe were divided into these two groups, and that they preserved a relationship although following different modes of life. The means of subsistence in Arabia were meager. The desert had its handicaps, and trade caravans were features of greater importance than either agriculture or industry. This entailed much travel, and men had to proceed beyond the peninsula to Syria, Egypt, Abyssinia, Iraq, Sind, India and other lands.

We do not know much about the Libyanites of Central Arabia, but Yemen was rightly called Arabia Felix. Having once been the seat of the flourishing civilizations of Sheba and Ma’in even before the foundation of the city of Rome had been laid, and having later snatched from the Byzantians and Persians several provinces, greater Yemen which had passed through the hey-day of its existence, was however at this time broken up into innumerable principalities, and even occupied in part by foreign invaders. The Sassanians of Iran, who had penetrated into Yemen had already obtained possession of Eastern Arabia. There was politico-social chaos at the capital (Mada’in = Ctesiphon), and this found reflection in all her territories. Northern Arabia had succumbed to Byzantine influences, and was faced with its own particular problems. Only Central Arabia remained immune from the demoralizing effects of foreign occupation.

In this limited area of Central Arabia, the existence of the triangle of Mecca-Ta’if-Madinah seemed something providential. Mecca, desertic, deprived of water and the amenities of agriculture in physical features represented Africa and the burning Sahara. Scarcely fifty miles from there, Ta’if presented a picture of Europe and its frost. Madinah in the North was not less fertile than even the most temperate of Asiatic countries like Syria. If climate has any influence on human character, this triangle standing in the middle of the major hemisphere was, more than any other region of the earth, a miniature reproduction of the entire world. And here was born a descendant of the Babylonian Abraham, and the Egyptian Hagar, Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, a Meccan by origin and yet with stock related, both to Madinah and Ta’if.

Religion

From the point of view of religion, Arabia was idolatrous; only a few individuals had embraced religions like Christianity, Mazdaism, etc. The Meccans did possess the notion of the One God, but they believed also that idols had the power to intercede with Him. Curiously enough, they did not believe in the Resurrection and Afterlife. They had preserved the rite of the pilgrimage to the House of the One God, the Ka’bah, an institution set up under divine inspiration by their ancestor Abraham, yet the two thousand years that separated them from Abraham had caused to degenerate this pilgrimage into the spectacle of a commercial fair and an occasion of senseless idolatry which far from producing any good, only served to ruin their individual behavior, both social and spiritual.

Society

In spite of the comparative poverty in natural resources, Mecca was the most developed of the three points of the triangle. Of the three, Mecca alone had a city-state, governed by a council of ten hereditary chiefs who enjoyed a clear division of power. (There was a minister of foreign relations, a minister guardian of the temple, a minister of oracles, a minister guardian of offerings to the temple, one to determine the torts and the damages payable, another in charge of the municipal council or parliament to enforce the decisions of the ministries. There were also ministers in charge of military affairs like custodianship of the flag, leadership of the cavalry etc.). As well reputed caravan-leaders, the Meccans were able to obtain permission from neighbouring empires like Iran, Byzantium and Abyssinia – and to enter into agreements with the tribes that lined the routes traversed by the caravans – to visit their countries and transact import and export business. They also provided escorts to foreigners when they passed through their country as well as the territory of allied tribes, in Arabia (cf. Ibn Habib, Muhabbar). Although not interested much in the preservation of ideas and records in writing, they passionately cultivated arts and letters like poetry, oratory discourses and folk tales. Women were generally well treated, they enjoyed the privilege of possessing property in their own right, they gave their consent to marriage contracts, in which they could even add the condition of reserving their right to divorce their husbands. They could remarry when widowed or divorced. Burying girls alive did exist in certain classes, but that was rare.

Birth of the Prophet

It was in the midst of such conditions and environments that Muhammad was born in 569 after Christ. His father, ‘Abdullah had died some weeks earlier, and it was his grandfather who took him in charge. According to the prevailing custom, the child was entrusted to a Bedouin foster-mother, with whom he passed several years in the desert. All biographers state that the infant prophet sucked only one breast of his foster-mother, leaving the other for the sustenance of his foster-brother. When the child was brought back home, his mother, Aminah, took him to his maternal uncles at Madinah to visit the tomb of ‘Abdullah. During the return journey, he lost his mother who died a sudden death. At Mecca, another bereavement awaited him, in the death of his affectionate grandfather. Subjected to such privations, he was at the age of eight, consigned at last to the care of his uncle, Abu-Talib, a man who was generous of nature but always short of resources and hardly able to provide for his family.

Young Muhammad had therefore to start immediately to earn his livelihood; he served as a shepherd boy to some neighbors. At the age of ten he accompanied his uncle to Syria when he was leading a caravan there. No other travels of Abu-Talib are mentioned, but there are references to his having set up a shop in Mecca. (Ibn Qutaibah, Ma’arif). It is possible that Muhammad helped him in this enterprise also.

By the time he was twenty-five, Muhammad had become well known in the city for the integrity of his disposition and the honesty of his character. A rich widow, Khadijah, took him in her employ and consigned to him her goods to be taken for sale to Syria. Delighted with the unusual profits she obtained as also by the personal charms of her agent, she offered him her hand. According to divergent reports, she was either 28 or 40 years of age at that time, (medical reasons prefer the age of 28 since she gave birth to five more children). The union proved happy. Later, we see him sometimes in the fair of Hubashah (Yemen), and at least once in the country of the ‘Abd al-Qais (Bahrain-Oman), as mentioned by Ibn Hanbal. There is every reason to believe that this refers to the great fair of Daba (Oman), where, according to Ibn al-Kalbi (cf. Ibn Habib, Muhabbar), the traders of China, of Hind and Sind (India, Pakistan), of Persia, of the East and the West assembled every year, traveling both by land and sea. There is also mention of a commercial partner of Muhammad at Mecca. This person, Sa’ib by name reports: “We relayed each other; if Muhammad led the caravan, he did not enter his house on his return to Mecca without clearing accounts with me; and if I led the caravan, he would on my return enquire about my welfare and speak nothing about his own capital entrusted to me.”

An Order of Chivalry

Foreign traders often brought their goods to Mecca for sale. One day a certain Yemenite (of the tribe of Zubaid) improvised a satirical poem against some Meccans who bad refused to pay him the price of what he had sold, and others who had not supported his claim or had failed to come to his help when he was victimized. Zuhair, uncle and chief of the tribe of the Prophet, felt great remorse on hearing this just satire. He called for a meeting of certain chieftains in the city, and organized an order of chivalry, called Hilf al-fudul, with the aim and object of aiding the oppressed in Mecca, irrespective of their being dwellers of the city or aliens. Young Muhammad became an enthusiastic member of the organization. Later in life he used to say: “I have participated in it, and I am not prepared to give up that privilege even against a herd of camels; if somebody should appeal to me even today, by virtue of that pledge, I shall hurry to his help.”

Beginning of Religious Consciousness

Not much is known about the religious practices of Muhammad until he was thirty-five years old, except that he had never worshipped idols. This is substantiated by all his biographers. It may be stated that there were a few others in Mecca, who had likewise revolted against the senseless practice of paganism, although conserving their fidelity to the Ka’bah as the house dedicated to the One God by its builder Abraham.

About the year 605 of the Christian era, the draperies on the outer wall of the Ka’bah took fire. The building was affected and could not bear the brunt of the torrential rains that followed. The reconstruction of the Ka’bah was thereupon undertaken. Each citizen contributed according to his means; and only the gifts of honest gains were accepted. Everybody participated in the work of construction, and Muhammad’s shoulders were injured in the course of transporting stones. To identify the place whence the ritual of circumambulation began, there had been set a black stone in the wall of the Ka’bah, dating probably from the time of Abraham himself. There was rivalry among the citizens for obtaining the honor of transposing this stone in its place. When there was danger of blood being shed, somebody suggested leaving the matter to Providence, and accepting the arbitration of him who should happen to arrive there first. It chanced that Muhammad just then turned up there for work as usual. He was popularly known by the appellation of al-Amin (the honest), and everyone accepted his arbitration without hesitation. Muhammad placed a sheet of cloth on the ground, put the stone on it and asked the chiefs of all the tribes in the city to lift together the cloth. Then he himself placed the stone in its proper place, in one of the angles of the building, and everybody was satisfied.

It is from this moment that we find Muhammad becoming more and more absorbed in spiritual meditations. Like his grandfather, he used to retire during the whole month of Ramadan to a cave in Jabal-an-Nur (mountain of light). The cave is called ‘Ghar-i-Hira’ or the cave of research. There he prayed, meditated, and shared his meager provisions with the travelers who happened to pass by.

Revelation

He was forty years old, and it was the fifth consecutive year since his annual retreats, when one night towards the end of the month of Ramadan, an angel came to visit him, and announced that God had chosen him as His messenger to all mankind. The angel taught him the mode of ablutions, the way of worshipping God and the conduct of prayer. He communicated to him the following Divine message:

With the name of God, the Most Merciful, the All-Merciful.
Read: with the name of thy Lord Who created,
Created man from what clings,
Read: and thy Lord is the Most Bounteous,
Who taught by the pen,
Taught man what he knew not. (Quran 96:1-5)

Deeply affected, he returned home and related to his wife what had happened, expressing his fears that it might have been something diabolic or the action of evil spirits. She consoled him, saying that he had always been a man of charity and generosity, helping the poor, the orphans, the widows and the needy, and assured him that God would protect him against all evil.

Then came a pause in revelation, extending over three years. The Prophet must have felt at first a shock, then a calm, an ardent desire, and after a period of waiting, a growing impatience or nostalgia. The news of the first vision had spread and at the pause the skeptics in the city had begun to mock at him and cut bitter jokes. They went so far as to say that God had forsaken him.

During the three years of waiting. the Prophet had given himself up more and more to prayers and to spiritual practices. The revelations were then resumed and God assured him that He had not at all forsaken him: on the contrary it was He Who had guided him to the right path: therefore he should take care of the orphans and the destitute, and proclaim the bounty of God on him (cf. Q. 93:3-11). This was in reality an order to preach. Another revelation directed him to warn people against evil practices, to exhort them to worship none but the One God, and to abandon everything that would displease God (Q. 74:2-7). Yet another revelation commanded him to warn his own near relatives (Q. 26:214); and: “Proclaim openly that which thou art commanded, and withdraw from the Associators (idolaters). Lo! we defend thee from the scoffers” (15:94-5). According to Ibn Ishaq, the first revelation (n. 17) had come to the Prophet during his sleep, evidently to reduce the shock. Later revelations came in full wakefulness.

The Mission

The Prophet began by preaching his mission secretly first among his intimate friends, then among the members of his own tribe and thereafter publicly in the city and suburbs. He insisted on the belief in One Transcendent God, in Resurrection and the Last Judgment. He invited men to charity and beneficence. He took necessary steps to preserve through writing the revelations he was receiving, and ordered his adherents also to learn them by heart. This continued all through his life, since the Quran was not revealed all at once, but in fragments as occasions arose.

The number of his adherents increased gradually, but with the denunciation of paganism, the opposition also grew intense on the part of those who were firmly attached to their ancestral beliefs. This opposition degenerated in the course of time into physical torture of the Prophet and of those who had embraced his religion. These were stretched on burning sands, cauterized with red hot iron and imprisoned with chains on their feet. Some of them died of the effects of torture, but none would renounce his religion. In despair, the Prophet Muhammad advised his companions to quit their native town and take refuge abroad, in Abyssinia, “where governs a just ruler, in whose realm nobody is oppressed” (Ibn Hisham). Dozens of Muslims profited by his advice, though not all. These secret flights led to further persecution of those who remained behind.

The Prophet Muhammad [was instructed to call this] religion “Islam,” i.e. submission to the will of God. Its distinctive features are two:

  1. A harmonious equilibrium between the temporal and the spiritual (the body and the soul), permitting a full enjoyment of all the good that God has created, (Quran 7:32), enjoining at the same time on everybody duties towards God, such as worship, fasting, charity, etc. Islam was to be the religion of the masses and not merely of the elect.
  2. A universality of the call – all the believers becoming brothers and equals without any distinction of class or race or tongue. The only superiority which it recognizes is a personal one, based on the greater fear of God and greater piety (Quran 49:13).

Social Boycott

When a large number of the Meccan Muslims migrated to Abyssinia, the leaders of paganism sent an ultimatum to the tribe of the Prophet, demanding that he should be excommunicated and outlawed and delivered to the pagans for being put to death. Every member of the tribe, Muslim and non-Muslim rejected the demand. (cf. Ibn Hisham). Thereupon the city decided on a complete boycott of the tribe: Nobody was to talk to them or have commercial or matrimonial relations with them. The group of Arab tribes called Ahabish, inhabiting the suburbs, who were allies of the Meccans, also joined in the boycott, causing stark misery among the innocent victims consisting of children, men and women, the old and the sick and the feeble. Some of them succumbed yet nobody would hand over the Prophet to his persecutors. An uncle of the Prophet, Abu Lahab, however left his tribesmen and participated in the boycott along with the pagans. After three dire years, during which the victims were obliged to devour even crushed hides, four or five non-Muslims, more humane than the rest and belonging to different clans proclaimed publicly their denunciation of the unjust boycott. At the same time, the document promulgating the pact of boycott which had been hung in the temple, was found, as Muhammad had predicted, eaten by white ants, that spared nothing but the words God and Muhammad. The boycott was lifted, yet owing to the privations that were undergone the wife and Abu Talib, the chief of the tribe and uncle of the Prophet died soon after. Another uncle of the Prophet, Abu-Lahab, who was an inveterate enemy of Islam, now succeeded to the headship of the tribe. (cf. lbn Hisham, Sirah).

The Ascension

It was at this time that the Prophet Muhammad was granted the mi’raj (ascension): He saw in a vision that he was received on heaven by God, and was witness of the marvels of the celestial regions. Returning, he brought for his community, as a Divine gift, the [ritual prayer of Islam, the salaat], which constitutes a sort of communion between man and God. It may be recalled that in the last part of Muslim service of worship, the faithful employ as a symbol of their being in the very presence of God, not concrete objects as others do at the time of communion, but the very words of greeting exchanged between the Prophet Muhammad and God on the occasion of the formers mi’raj: “The blessed and pure greetings for God! – Peace be with thee, O Prophet, as well as the mercy and blessing of God! – Peace be with us and with all the [righteous] servants of God!” The Christian term “communion” implies participation in the Divinity. Finding it pretentious, Muslims use the term “ascension” towards God and reception in His presence, God remaining God and man remaining man and no confusion between the twain.

The news of this celestial meeting led to an increase in the hostility of the pagans of Mecca; and the Prophet was obliged to quit his native town in search of an asylum elsewhere. He went to his maternal uncles in Ta’if, but returned immediately to Mecca, as the wicked people of that town chased the Prophet out of their city by pelting stones on him and wounding him.

Migration to Madinah

The annual pilgrimage of the Ka’bah brought to Mecca people from all parts of Arabia. The Prophet Muhammad tried to persuade one tribe after another to afford him shelter and allow him to carry on his mission of reform. The contingents of fifteen tribes, whom he approached in succession, refused to do so more or less brutally, but he did not despair. Finally he met half a dozen inhabitants of Madinah who being neighbor of the Jews and the Christians, had some notion of prophets and Divine messages. They knew also that these “people of the Books” were awaiting the arrival of a prophet – a last comforter. So these Madinans decided not to lose the opportunity of obtaining an advance over others, and forthwith embraced Islam, promising further to provide additional adherents and necessary help from Madinah. The following year a dozen new Madinans took the oath of allegiance to him and requested him to provide with a missionary teacher. The work of the missionary, Mus’ab, proved very successful and he led a contingent of seventy-three new converts to Mecca, at the time of the pilgrimage. These invited the Prophet and his Meccan companions to migrate to their town, and promised to shelter the Prophet and to treat him and his companions as their own kith and kin. Secretly and in small groups, the greater part of the Muslims emigrated to Madinah. Upon this the pagans of Mecca not only confiscated the property of the evacuees, but devised a plot to assassinate the Prophet. It became now impossible for him to remain at home. It is worthy of mention, that in spite of their hostility to his mission, the pagans had unbounded confidence in his probity, so much so that many of them used to deposit their savings with him. The Prophet Muhammad now entrusted all these deposits to ‘Ali, a cousin of his, with instructions to return in due course to the rightful owners. He then left the town secretly in the company of his faithful friend, Abu-Bakr. After several adventures, they succeeded in reaching Madinah in safety. This happened in 622, whence starts the Hijrah calendar.

Reorganization of the Community

For the better rehabilitation of the displaced immigrants, the Prophet created a fraternization between them and an equal number of well-to-do Madinans. The families of each pair of the contractual brothers worked together to earn their livelihood, and aided one another in the business of life.

Further he thought that the development of the man as a whole would be better achieved if he coordinated religion and politics as two constituent parts of one whole. To this end he invited the representatives of the Muslims as well as the non-Muslim inhabitants of the region: Arabs, Jews, Christians and others, and suggested the establishment of a City-State in Madinah. With their assent, he endowed the city with a written constitution – the first of its kind in the world – in which he defined the duties and rights both of the citizens and the head of the State – the Prophet Muhammad was unanimously hailed as such – and abolished the customary private justice. The administration of justice became henceforward the concern of the central organization of the community of the citizens. The document laid down principles of defense and foreign policy: it organized a system of social insurance, called ma’aqil, in cases of too heavy obligations. It recognized that the Prophet Muhammad would have the final word in all differences, and that there was no limit to his power of legislation. It recognized also explicitly liberty of religion, particularly for the Jews, to whom the constitutional act afforded equality with Muslims in all that concerned life in this world (cf. infra n. 303).

Muhammad journeyed several times with a view to win the neighboring tribes and to conclude with them treaties of alliance and mutual help. With their help, he decided to bring to bear economic pressure on the Meccan pagans, who had confiscated the property of the Muslim evacuees and also caused innumerable damage. Obstruction in the way of the Meccan caravans and their passage through the Madinan region exasperated the pagans, and a bloody struggle ensued.

In the concern for the material interests of the community, the spiritual aspect was never neglected. Hardly a year had passed after the migration to Madinah, when the most rigorous of spiritual disciplines, the fasting for the whole month of Ramadan every year, was imposed on every adult Muslim, man and woman.

Struggle Against Intolerance and Unbelief

Not content with the expulsion of the Muslim compatriots, the Meccans sent an ultimatum to the Madinans, demanding the surrender or at least the expulsion of Muhammad and his companions but evidently all such efforts proved in vain. A few months later, in the year 2 A. H., they sent a powerful army against the Prophet, who opposed them at Badr; and the pagans thrice as numerous as the Muslims, were routed. After a year of preparation, the Meccans again invaded Madinah to avenge the defeat of Badr. They were now four times as numerous as the Muslims. After a bloody encounter at Uhud, the enemy retired, the issue being indecisive. The mercenaries in the Meccan army did not want to take too much risk, or endanger their safety.

In the meanwhile the Jewish citizens of Madinah began to foment trouble. About the time of the victory of Badr, one of their leaders, Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf, proceeded to Mecca to give assurance of his alliance with the pagans, and to incite them to a war of revenge. After the battle of Uhud, the tribe of the same chieftain plotted to assassinate the Prophet by throwing on him a mill-stone from above a tower, when he had gone to visit their locality. In spite of all this, the only demand the Prophet made of the men of this tribe was to quit the Madinan region, taking with them all their properties, after selling their immovable items and recovering their debts from the Muslims. The clemency thus extended had an effect contrary to what was hoped. The exiled not only contacted the Meccans, but also the tribes of the North, South and East of Madinah, mobilized military aid, and planned from Khaibar an invasion of Madinah, with forces four times more numerous than those employed at Uhud. The Muslims prepared for a siege, and dug a ditch to defend themselves against this hardest of all trials. Although the defection of the Jews still remaining inside Madinah at a later stage upset all strategy, yet with a sagacious diplomacy, the Prophet succeeded in breaking up the alliance, and the different enemy groups retired one after the other.

Alcoholic drinks, gambling and games of chance were at this time declared forbidden for the Muslims.

The Reconciliation

The Prophet tried once more to reconcile the Meccans and proceeded to Mecca. The barring of the route of their Northern caravans had ruined their economy. The Prophet promised them transit security, extradition of their fugitives and the fulfillment of every condition they desired, agreeing even to return to Madinah without accomplishing the pilgrimage of the Ka’bah. Thereupon the two contracting parties promised at Hudaibiyah in the suburbs of Mecca, not only the maintenance of peace, but also the observance of neutrality in their conflicts with third parties.

Profiting by the peace, the Prophet launched an intensive program for the propagation of his religion. He addressed missionary letters to the foreign rulers of Byzantium, Iran, Abyssinia and other lands. The Byzantine autocrat priest – Daughter of the Arabs – embraced Islam, but for this, was lynched by the Christian mob; the prefect of Ma’an (Palestine) suffered the same fate, and was decapitated and crucified by order of the emperor. A Muslim ambassador was assassinated in Syria-Palestine; and instead of punishing the culprit, the emperor Heraclius rushed with his armies to protect him against the punitive expedition sent by the Prophet (battle of Mu’tah).

The pagans of Mecca hoping to profit by the Muslim difficulties, violated the terms of their treaty. Upon this, the Prophet himself led an army, ten thousand strong, and surprised Mecca which he occupied in a bloodless manner. As a benevolent conqueror, he caused the vanquished people to assemble, reminded them of their ill deeds, their religious persecution, unjust confiscation of the evacuee property, ceaseless invasions and senseless hostilities for twenty years continuously. He asked them: “Now what do you expect of me?” When everybody lowered his head with shame, the Prophet proclaimed: “May God pardon you; go in peace; there shall be no responsibility on you today; you are free!” He even renounced the claim for the Muslim property confiscated by the pagans. This produced a great psychological change of hearts instantaneously. When a Meccan chief advanced with a fulsome heart towards the Prophet, after hearing this general amnesty, in order to declare his acceptance of Islam, the Prophet told him: “And in my turn, I appoint you the governor of Mecca!” Without leaving a single soldier in the conquered city, the Prophet retired to Madinah. The Islamization of Mecca, which was accomplished in a few hours, was complete.

Immediately after the occupation of Mecca, the city of Ta’if mobilized to fight against the Prophet. With some difficulty the enemy was dispersed in the valley of Hunain, but the Muslims preferred to raise the siege of nearby Ta’if and use pacific means to break the resistance of this region. Less than a year later, a delegation from Ta’if came to Madinah offering submission. But it requested exemption from prayer, taxes and military service, and the continuance of the liberty to adultery and fornication and alcoholic drinks. It demanded even the conservation of the temple of the idol al-Lat at Ta’if. But Islam was not a materialist immoral movement; and soon the delegation itself felt ashamed of its demands regarding prayer, adultery and wine. The Prophet consented to concede exemption from payment of taxes and rendering of military service; and added: You need not demolish the temple with your own hands: we shall send agents from here to do the job, and if there should be any consequences, which you are afraid of on account of your superstitions, it will be they who would suffer. This act of the Prophet shows what concessions could be given to new converts. The conversion of the Ta’ifites was so whole hearted that in a short while, they themselves renounced the contracted exemptions, and we find the Prophet nominating a tax collector in their locality as in other Islamic regions.

In all these “wars,” extending over a period of ten years, the non-Muslims lost on the battlefield only about 250 persons killed, and the Muslim losses were even less. With these few incisions, the whole continent of Arabia. with its million and more of square miles, was cured of the abscess of anarchy and immorality. During these ten years of disinterested struggle, all the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and the southern regions of Iraq and Palestine had voluntarily embraced Islam. Some Christian, Jewish and Parsi groups remained attached to their creeds, and they were granted liberty of conscience as well as judicial and juridical autonomy.

In the year 10 H., when the Prophet went to Mecca for Hajj (pilgrimage), he met 140,000 Muslims there, who had come from different parts of Arabia to fulfill their religious obligation. He addressed to them his celebrated sermon, in which he gave a resume of his teachings: “Belief in One God without images or symbols, equality of all the Believers without distinction of race or class, the superiority of individuals being based solely on piety; sanctity of life, property and honor; abolition of interest, and of vendettas and private justice; better treatment of women; obligatory inheritance and distribution of the property of deceased persons among near relatives of both sexes, and removal of the possibility of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few.” The Quran and the conduct of the Prophet were to serve as the bases of law and a healthy criterion in every aspect of human life.

On his return to Madinah, he fell ill; and a few weeks later, when he breathed his last, he had the satisfaction that he had well accomplished the task which he had undertaken – to preach to the world the Divine message.

He bequeathed to posterity, a religion of pure monotheism; he created a well-disciplined State out of the existent chaos and gave peace in place of the war of everybody against everybody else; he established a harmonious equilibrium between the spiritual and the temporal, between the mosque and the citadel; he left a new system of law, which dispensed impartial justice, in which even the head of the State was as much a subject to it as any commoner, and in which religious tolerance was so great that non-Muslim inhabitants of Muslim countries equally enjoyed complete juridical, judicial and cultural autonomy. In the matter of the revenues of the State, the Quran fixed the principles of budgeting, and paid more thought to the poor than to anybody else. The revenues were declared to be in no wise the private property of the head of the State. Above all, the Prophet Muhammad set a noble example and fully practiced all that he taught to others.


Taken from Introduction to Islam by Muhammad Hamidullah (Centre Culturel Islamique, Paris, 1969), with some changes to make it more readable. The changes are marked by pairs of brackets like around this paragraph.

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2007 in Articles

 

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