Friday Sermon: Excursions in Islam 6: Prophet Muhammad (PBOH)

By Babatunde Jose

“Verily you have in the Prophet of God an excellent model, for him who fears God and the Last Day and who remembers God much” (Quran 33:22).

Religious belief is a continuous conversation between inspirational and transcendent reality and current events in the mundane sphere. We look into the sacred past for lessons that can elucidate our present. Most religions have a rallying point in personalities that exemplify their religious faiths; in Gautama Buddha, Buddhists see the supreme reality of Nirvana; Christians achieve being born again in Jesus with a glimpse of the divine presence of God. These paradigmatic personalities shed light on the often dark conditions in which most of us seek salvation in our flawed world.

The life of Prophet Muhammad (c.570–632 CE) was as crucial to the nascent Islamic ideal of his time as it is today. His career reveals the unfathomable activity of God in our world, and illustrates the perfect surrender (Islam), that every human being should make to the divine. According to the traditions, Muslims were to imitate the way Muhammad lived to the smallest details in their daily existence; Sunnah.

Largely as a result of the efforts of the early historians such as Muhammad ibn Ishaq (d. 767); Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Waqidi (d. c. 820); Muhammad ibn Sa‘d (d. 845); and Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 923)  we know more about Muhammad than about nearly any other founder of a major religious tradition.

After the Prophet’s death, Muslims ruled a vast empire, stretching from the gates of China to Andalucía (Spain). The first essays in Muslim history were written to address perplexities emanating from contemporary living. How could Muslims apply the Prophet’s insights and practice to their own times?

Writing about the Prophet Muhammad was never a wholly antiquarian pursuit. The process continues today. Some Muslim fundamentalists have based their militant ideology on the life of Muhammad; Muslim extremists believe that he would have condoned and admired their atrocities. But mainline Muslims are appalled by these claims, and point to the extraordinary pluralism of the Quran, which condemns aggression and sees all rightly guided religions as deriving from the one God. According to Esposito and Mogahed; ‘the Quran balances permission to fight the enemy with a strong mandate for making peace’- Esposito, John L.; Mogahed, Dalia (2007). Who speaks for Islam? What A Billion Muslims Really Think. (Gallup Press). See also Quran 8:61.

There is a long history of Islamophobia in Western culture that dates back to the time of the Crusades. Western people have always found it difficult to see Muhammad in a more objective light: Christian critics insisted that Muhammad was a charlatan who imposed his religion on a reluctant world by force of arms; they called him a lecher and a sexual pervert.  But can that be correct? Are these assertions supported by historical exegesis?

The Western world is indeed engaged on a new crusade against the Islamic world. Muhammad was not a man of violence. We must therefore approach his life in a balanced way, in order to appreciate his considerable achievements. We appeared to have learned nothing from the tragedy of the 1930s, when this type of bigotry made it possible for Hitler to kill six million Jews.

As a paradigmatic personality, Muhammad has important lessons, not only for Muslims, but also for Western people. His life was a Jihad or “struggle.” Muhammad brought peace to war-torn Arabia(Pax Arabica), and we need people who are prepared to do this today in our polarized world; not the buccaneers and rascals that rule the world today. Muhammad would never have asked his people to take Clorox nor ask them to ingest untested drugs. His life was a tireless campaign against greed, injustice, and arrogance, which are the bane of our society today, particularly in this clime. Political leaders today are tainted with the tar of corruption, hedonism and profligacy. A race of vipers and most untrustworthy people, who lie, cheat and fornicate in office and desecrate the Alter of God. They are mostly anti people in their actions and are never tired of serving mammon. Unlike the prophet who lived a life of frugality, deprivation and service to his people, these people live lives of self aggrandizement and stealing from the people; unrepentant sinners!

Paradoxically, Muhammad became a timeless personality because he was so rooted in his own period. We cannot understand his achievement unless we appreciate what he was up against. Muhammad midwife a new way of life called Islam and to the credit of his efforts and that of his successors, that creed has waxed strong and is today the second largest and fastest growing religion in the world. Today 24% of World population is Muslim (1.9 Billion). No wonder he was proclaimed the ‘greatest personality who ever lived’ not by his fellow Muslims but by Michael H. Hart’: The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.

According to a renowned Hindu scholar Swami Lakshmi Shankaracharya ‘peace and humanity is the core teaching of Islam. But, unfortunately, most of the Muslims don’t follow Islamic teachings and they hardly learn from the life of Prophet Muhammad’.

Through his actions he taught his people enduring lessons on equality, companionship and respect: Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous of you (Quran 49:13)

He was the leader not just in all spheres of life in this world but a man of religion, a general, a father, an elder brother, a husband, a friend and above  all a Prophet of God.

He could have used the passion that his followers had for him in whatever manner he pleased; to luxuriate in extravagance, sumptuousness, luxury and opulence like our modern day political Tsars. He could have deserved it too. Yet he slept on a crude straw mat that left his back marked, he prayed on the bare earth which left his forehead stained and he wore clothes that had torn many times over and that he himself had mended; many nights he went to bed hungry. He had many attributes that made him an extraordinary leader respected by friends and foes. He was compassionate: And was considered by his Companions to be the most loving, kind, and empathetic of all of them. “O Messenger of Allah! It is a great Mercy of God that you are gentle and kind towards them; for, had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would all have broken away from you” (Quran 3:159).

He was patient and composed. He suffered throughout his life from all kinds of abuse, but he dealt with them patiently and mercifully. He was called by his enemies a liar, lunatic and even a magician. However, he was determinant, and he followed his path inviting people to worship just Allah and to loathe idols that helped in nothing.

He was merciful. When he conquered Mecca without bloodshed, and regardless of how people there inflicted him with every kind of suffering, eventually forcing him to migrate to Medina, and then waged war on him, he told them: “You may go free! No reproach this day shall be on you; may Allah forgive you.”

He denied all forms of racism, and considered all humans equals. He said: “There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a non-Arab over an Arab. Neither is the white superior over the black, nor is the black superior over the white except by piety.”

Indeed, he was a mercy to the world as Allah said in his book: Indeed, in this [Quran] is notification for a worshiping people. And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” (Quran 21:106-107)

A good shepherd guides his flock, unites them, works for their welfare without taking advantage of them and cares for each individual. Not only did he care for the well-being of each and every member of his flock, he was uncompromising in his determination to protect the integrity of his mission. Today, we have leaders who lack compassion, vision and mission. All they care about is they.

In their book; Mohammed: Calling and Work of the Prophet in Arabia; the Grail Message, it is reported that; “Mohammed sees the essence of his mission in combining Judaism and Christianity to make a united, living faith. Judaism seems to him rigid and broken-off, since it rejects Jesus; Christianity, through many an interpretation by the church, no longer contains for him the pure Truth as Jesus had brought it. . . .” “Gladdening as it is to experience Mohammed’s recognition and fulfillment in the book, equally painful is the depicted manifold human failing that confronts him. Basically it is the same happening as with every Grace form the Light, only in different form: The place of the Living Truth is taken by the dead dogma. Where the spiritual power of the light would have led in helping love to upbuilding, to peace, to true happiness, the power of the Darkness dominates, directed only to the earthly, and brings men discord, destruction and hatred.”

Muhammad—as a prophet who transformed Arabia and much of the world with his teachings—could not have achieved success without being a good leader. At the end of the day: Unless and until our interpretation of scripture and the life of the Prophet resulted in a major life change, it was incomplete. Scripture is a mirror, in which we see both our ugliness and beauty: Its purpose is not to teach us about God’s work in the past but to spur our own quest for holiness in the present. There is therefore much to learn from the Quran and the life of our Prophet, May The Peace And Blessing Of God Be Upon Him.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

Words on Marble: “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capability to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. The world must doubtless attach high value to the predictions of great men like me. I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today. The medieval ecclesiastics, either through ignorance or bigotry, painted Islam in the darkest colors. They were in fact trained both to hate the man Muhammad and his religion. To them Muhammad was Anti-Christ. I have studied him — the wonderful man, and in my opinion far from being an Anti-Christ he must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much-needed peace and happiness. But to proceed, it was in the 19th century that honest thinkers like Carlyle, Goethe and Gibbon perceived intrinsic worth in the religion of Muhammad, and thus there was some change for the better in the European attitude towards Islam. But the Europe of the present century is far advanced. It is beginning to be enamored of the creed of Muhammad.” Sir George Bernard Shaw (26 July 1856 – 2 November 1950)


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