THE PROPHET OF ISLAM
By Syed Abdul Huq
One of the prominent attributes of the Prophet of Islam was his forgiveness. This quality indicative of self-abnegation and freedom from fear found matchless expression in his life. He passed through a variety of situations punctuated by circumstances of adversity and prosperity and in every situation this trait of his character illustrated itself in its full glory. Forgiveness is a rare quality and the recognition of its existence in any given character is dependent upon a set of special circumstances. It is difficult to distinguish this quality from the meekness of resignation and the weakness of submission unless it is evident that the person, wronged and persecuted when helpless, has subsequently found himself powerful enough to exercise the law of retaliation and to take his revenge for the wrongs done to him but, inspite of such privileges of his position, forgoes his rights and forgives his enemies. It is a unique event of history that these requisite conditions opportunely occurred in the life of the Prophet of Islam.
In order that this heroic quality may be brought into full relief as it revealed itself in the life of the Holy Prophet, it would be in the fitness of things to make allusions to a few facts of his life. For this purpose his life may be divided into two historical periods. The one that relates to that part of his life which he spent in Mecca, the place of his birth, and the other to that during which he took refuge and lived in Medina. In the Meccan period of his life he was weak and helpless. Yet impelled by the demands of his prophetic mission he propagated the religion of Islam. The propagation of this religion caused a great commotion among his compatriots. They resolved to stop him from preaching this religion. With this object in view they adopted methods of persuasion and pressure and artfully played upon his feelings of hope and fear. At last when they found that all their attempts were of no avail against the indomitable will and unshakable determination of the Holy Prophet, they became implacably hostile to him. They subjected him to all sorts of persecution. Emboldened by his helpless condition they insulted and abused him, threw thorns in his way, threw dirty and filthy things upon his holy person, pelted him with stones and tried to strangle him to death. They ostracized and confined him with his kith and kin for three long years in a ravine into which they allowed no supplies of the means of subsistence. When children so cruelly confined cried out from the pain of hunger the enemies of the Holy Prophet raised peals of laughter. Such was the sadistic level to which they had descended themselves. These measures of cruelty did not, however, produce the desired effect. They, therefore, decided to put an end to the life of the Holy Prophet and took practical steps in this direction. It was at this juncture that he left Mecca and migrated to Medina.
In Medina matters took a different shape of things. The Holy Prophet received a hearty reception and before long was able to add a good number of converts to his fold. The Muslims of Mecca who had dispersed for safety to different places gradually gathered around the Holy Prophet. In course of time he organized the people into a well defined social unit of an ideal form and directed their corporate life on Islamic lines. This unit assumed the status of a power to be reckoned with. It maintained internal peace and order, defended itself against external attacks and made treaties of peace, good behaviour and mutual help with peoples of neighbouring settlements. A similar treaty was made with the Meccans. They, however, violated the Muslims to advance to Mecca. Thus the Prophet of Islam at the head of ten thousand of his followers entered and occupied the city of Mecca.
This triumphant entry of the Holy Prophet gave him absolute authority and complete control over the lives of the Meccans. Recollecting the crimes of which they were guilty they entertained no doubt about the fate to which they should, after their own fashion of treatment to the vanquished on such occasions, be doomed. There was, therefore, a general morbid atmosphere of dismay among the Meccans. At this critical situation arising from the miserable plight of the Meccans on the one hand, and the glorious victory of Muslims on the other, the Holy Prophet stood like a pillar of peace. Unlike the conquerors of this earth, who let loose a reign of terror against their conquered foes, expose them to the shame of dishonour, subject them to every conceivable form of cruelty and involve them into a promiscuous slaughter without any regard to age and sex, the Prophet of Islam gave orders to his disciplined followers in arms that none should be dishonoured, no property should be touched and no blood should be shed. Then came to him in succession the notable Meccans who had distinguished themselves by the enormity of their crimes. The following are a few instances of the treatment of kindness, clemency and mercy they received at the hands of the Holy Prophet.
Abu Sufyan was one of the most inveterate enemies of the Holy Prophet. His aim was to nip Islam in the bud. He was, therefore, chiefly responsible for all aggressive battles that were fought against the Muslims. Now after the fall of Mecca he was helpless and being conscious of the crimes of which he was guilty he had no courage to face the Holy Prophet. He had, however no alternative to making submission to him. Therefore accompanied by Abbas, he appeared before the Prophet of Islam. Omer (Allaah be pleased with him), infuriated by his sight, sought permission to put an end to his life. But the Holy Prophet not only stopped him from killing Abu Sufyan, but proclaimed that whoever entered Abu Sufyan's house for refuge was also safe.
Hindh, the wife of Abu Sufyan, was a very cruel-hearted woman. She had bitter hatred for the Holy Prophet. She used to accompany the fighters in their campaigns against the Muslims and incite them to cruel deeds. The extent of cruelty to which she allowed herself to be carried by her hatred may be imagined from an incident. In the battle field of Ohed, when she learnt that Hemza, the beloved uncle of the Holy Prophet, was killed by Vahshi, she hurried to the spot where Hemza's dead body lay and tearing out the liver from it and cutting out nose and ears strung them together and wore them as a garland. When the Holy Prophet saw the mutilated and disfigured condition of his uncle's dead body, tears came to his eyes. This woman, Hindh, was much distracted by the fall of Mecca. However, to save herself from the doom to which she thought she was justly entitled, she veiled herself completely and appearing before the Holy Prophet in disguise professed acceptance of Islam. Her identity was, however, discovered. Yet the Prophet of Islam did not refrain from forgiving her. The effect of this generosity was so great that Hindh exclaimed:
"O Muhammad! Hitherto your tent was most hateful to me: but it is dearest to me today."
Vahshi who had killed Hemza, the dear uncle of the Holy Prophet in the battle field of Ohed, apprehended after the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims that he would be visited with capital punishment. Therefore he left Mecca and took asylum in Tayef. Later Tayef also capitulated to the power of the Muslims. He had thereafter no definite place of refuge. He was, therefore, wandering about in search of safety for his life. In the course of such wanderings, he was counselled by those interested in his safety that he should surrender himself to the Holy Prophet. When he could no longer ignore the advice of his well-wishers he presented himself before the Holy Prophet. No sooner did the Holy Prophet look at him than he said
"Vahshi, go, you are free. But make it a point not to make your appearance before me, for it would recall to me my uncle's end."
Ikrama was the son of Abu-Jehel, who had distinguished himself by the virulence of his animosity against the Holy Prophet. Abu- Jehel was directly responsible for various measures of cruelty inflicted upon the innocent Muslims and took a leading part in waging the battle of Badr at the most critical time in the history of Islam. His son Ukrama was not insignificant in his hostile attitude to the Holy Prophet. He had participated in almost all the battles that were fought against the Muslims. But the fall of Mecca brought about a different state of affairs. He, therefore, ran away to Yemen. His wife, who had remained in Mecca and accepted Islam, subsequently went to him and, relating to him the Holy Prophet's generosity of treatment to his fallen foes, brought him with her to Mecca. When they both came to his presence, the Holy Prophet accorded to Ukrama such a hearty reception as would not be afforded to any man of Ukrama's antecedents.
Habbar-bin-Aswad was one of the enemies of the Holy Prophet. He was guilty of serious crimes against the Muslims. He was one of those miscreants who had way-laid the Muslims on their way to Medina on migration. On this occasion Habbar-bin-Aswad wantonly pushed down from the camel the Holy Prophet's daughter Zainab, who was pregnant at the time. The injuries she had sustained caused an abortion. After the conquest of Mecca he was at a fix. Ultimately he decided to supplicate to the Holy Prophet. He said:
"O Prophet of God! I wanted to flee to Iran. Then I remembered your acts of kindness and generosity. The reports of my misdeeds that reached you were correct. I repent for the evils deeds I had done and have now come to ennoble myself through Islam."
The Holy Prophet graciously forgave him.
Safwan-bin-Umayya was a rich man of influence among the Quresh. In common with other non-believers he was highly inimical to the religion of Islam and, apart from cooperating with them in their attempts to suppress it, adopted measures of action that he could individually command. On one occasion before the Holy Prophet's migration to Medina, he hired the services of Umair-bin-Waheb to kill the Holy Prophet. Umair gave a temper of poison to his sword and went to do his job. He was not successful in his attempt as from his looks and manners suspicions were raised to such an extent that Omer (Allaah be pleased with him) wanted to kill him. The Holy Prophet, however, saved him and, on his confession of the whole plot, let him off. This incident had occurred before the fall of Mecca. Now that the city of Mecca was completely within the undisputed sway of the Prophet of Islam, Safwan felt himself exposed to the risk of his inevitable end. Therefore he fled to Jeddah and planned his escape by sea to Yemen. Umair, who had previously been hired by him for the Holy Prophet's assassination, relating this piece of news in terms of appeal, said :
"O Prophet of God! Safwan-bin-Umayya is the head of his clan. Struck by panic he had run away to consign himself to the sea."
The Holy Prophet declared amnesty to him. Umair felt encouraged and asked that he might be given something as a token of the amnesty for the satisfaction of Safwan. Thereupon the Holy Prophet gave him his turban. Umair conveyed the tidings to Safwan. But he felt no satisfaction and said that he was afraid of losing his life. Hearing his remarks Umair, whom Safwan had previously sent to kill the Prophet, enthusiastically affirmed:
"Safwan! You have no idea of the forbearance and forgiveness of the Prophet of Islam." Safwan ultimately mustered up his courage and having appeared before the Holy Prophet asked him if he had been forgiven. The Holy Prophet's confirmation dispelled his lingering misgivings and he then asked for an interval of two months to enable him to consider the question of the acceptance of Islam. The Holy Prophet said - 'Not two but four months time is given to you.'"
These are only a few of the numerous instances in which the Holy Prophet accorded forgiveness to individual offenders. Apart from measures of such limited scope, he proclaimed general amnesty and ensured collective security to the whole mass of his enemies. A particular phase of his generosity with which he treated his enemies was most impressive. On the day of his victory he stood in the court-yard of Mecca where his presence was not previously tolerated and where when he was engaged in offering his prayers filthy intestines of the camel were thrown on his sacred person. There around him stood the elite of Quresh in absolute submission. All of them were guilty of crimes against the Holy Prophet and his followers. Among them were those who had ridiculed and jeered at him, abused and vilified him and pelted him with stones and made several attempts to kill him. Among them were also those who had subjected the innocent Muslims to brutal atrocities and taken leading part in the battles fought against the Holy Prophet and his followers. These haughty tyrants and relentless persecutors, defeated and debased, now stood before him with the burden of their crimes over their heads. At the back of the Holy Prophet were formations of the armed warriors of Islam ready to pounce on their enemies and hack them to pieces. What they awaited at the moment was a gesture of hand or a word of command from the Prophet of Islam. At this awful moment the Holy Prophet, looking to his enemies, asked them:
'How do you think I should act towards you?'
'With kindness and pity,'
replied his enemies.
Thereupon the Holy Prophet said;
"Go, I attach no blame to you today. You are free."