The Inspiring Example
By Dr. M. H. Durrani
No reform in any community can possibly be worked out unless its members entertain some regard for the reformer and are willing to obey him. But no worldly riches or power, nor even any amount of one's working miracles, can inspire others with that love, respect and obedience which always follows advanced spirituality. According to the Holy Qur'an, the Prophet was perfectly sinless. (Ch.53 v.2).
The words of Muhammad (on whom be Salaam) were not the dictates of a potentate. Nay, he always disavowed possession of things which might influence others in his favour. In the words of the Qur'an, he would often say:
"I say (not) unto you, in my possession are the treasures of God, neither do I say: Verily I am an angel; only what was revealed to me do I follow".
Still he commanded all the submission and homage unimaginable. Truly, his words were the words of the beloved, to be respected and cared for by the lover. If such is the mental attitude of the people towards their teacher, no wonder "he is the most inspiring one among all other religious personalities", in working out reforms. But one should first reach the height of the ladder of spirituality before one aspires to that success.
In describing his Prophetic Mission, the Qur'an said: "Mercy to the world". Prophet Muhammad (praise the Lord) is the only example in history where all the fine traits of a great personality are blended together in the most perfect manner. Thus, his work gave evidence of his mission. Love, Mercy and Compassion were revealed in every act of his life. His heart went out in tender sympathy to all people. The poorest and the humblest were not afraid to approach him. Even little children were attracted to him. They loved to climb upon his knees and gaze into the pensive face, benignant with love.
Such is the character of the Holy Prophet as revealed in his life. What he achieved was through integrity of character, piety and virtue. His life is a model of perfection and there is nothing mysterious or supernatural about it. In a sublime manner he fulfilled all his obligations to the Creator and His Creation. The great are always, by virtue of their greatness, clearly visible; and remain within the sphere of consciousness. The Holy Prophet being very close to the Almighty, learnt all those "Attributes". What actually the Almighty wanted to see in a man, whatever the Holy Prophet preached, was all from Him. It is said in the Qur'an that:
"He does not speak of his own desire." (Ch.53 v.3).
So he did not suppress one word of truth, rather he uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtfulness, kind attention, in his dealings with the people. He was never rude, nor spoke a severe word to anyone. Yes, he denounced hypocrisy, unbelief and iniquity, but always in love, tears were in his voice as he uttered his admonitions. His life was of self-denial and thoughtful bukes. His life was of self-denial and thoughtful care for others. Every soul was precious in his eyes.
All the teachings of the Holy Prophet were for the purpose of leading men to the consciousness of their nearness with Allah. He had to begin at the external man because people then, so as now, were living mostly in external things, and teach him to do good to others even to their enemies, and so forth. These were external steps for them to take a sort of lopping off the ends of the branches; but were steps which lead on up to the place of desire and attainment, where finally as being promised, the Master could tell them how they might find the Kingdom of heaven.
It is said that Christ changed water into wine, but he could not change the nature of his disciples into what he desired them to be. He wishes they could possess a grain of faith. And his apprehensions proved true when the trial came. One mostly trusted "betrayed him". If others "deserted him", one given the keys of the heaven "cursed" and "disowned him". Call them what you will, infirm in faith, or weak in spirituality, the fact remains the same. The followers of Moses also did not care much for their liberator. They did not listen to him on his way to the Promised Land. But the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (on whom be Salaam) would always say:
"Like the Companions of Moses, we will not say: "(O Moses) 'Go thou and thy Lord and fight." We will fight on your right and left, in your front and at your back."
These were not mere lip expressions. Invariably they were put to the hardest trials, and their word always proved true.
To follow the Holy Prophet is an act of love for his inspiring example.
So, we have to follow the Holy Prophet in all spheres of life. This is not merely a question of obedience, but that of following him with earnestness, devotion and love. His love should dominate all aspects of our lives. Then and only then we can make our hearts worth adoring Allah and His Prophet, which is indispensable for all Muslims. Thus, love for the Holy Prophet is an abiding stimulus. It is neither a fancy, nor a sentiment, nor an evanescent emotion. It is a principle, calm, steady, un-decaying, deeper than love of house, kindred, rest and recreation or life.
"Say, if it be your fathers, your sons, brothers, your mates or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline or the dwellings in which ye delight, that are dearer to you than God and His Apostle, or the striving in His cause, then wait until God brings about His decision; and God guides not the rebellious." (Ch.9 v.24).
This love for God which is described here as the sine qua non of a true believer is, in reality, the love of the highest ideal of ethical conduct which is symbolized in the person of God.
The highest moral standard and dynamic energy displayed by the early Muslims was not only the result of any emotional attachment to the person of the Holy Prophet but to this ethical ideal represented in the lofty conception of Allah. It is said in the Qur'an:
"Muhammad is no more than an apostle... if he died or was slain, will ye then turn back on your heels." (Ch.3 v.144).
The Qur'an, therefore, brings to their notice that the real cause for which they strive is not dependent on the life or interest of one person, however great he may be but on the highest ideal, God, Who never dies, Who represents the healthiest ideal of life on this earth. When the Holy Prophet actually died, and there was fear of revolt, Abu Bakr rose to the occasion and pointed out to the people the truth behind the whole movement initiated by the Holy Prophet:
"Those who accepted Islam thinking they worshipped Muhammad should know that Muhammad has died; but those who joined our ranks for the sake of a great ideal should know that God, the embodiment of that ideal, is living and shall live forever."
The love for God for these people was love and active striving for the establishment of an Ideal State or a world community based on the highest moral principles, the benefits of which would be open to all mankind irrespective of any national, racial or class consideration. Such a universal and lofty ideal is possible only if people submit, of their own free will, to God who represents in His person the best ethical values.
No Bacchanalian orgies elsewhere could surpass the Arab indulgence in alcohol those days. They had three meals, but they worshipped Bacchus five times a day. When the time came for the Prophet to introduce total abstinence among them, the streets of Medina overflowed with the detestable contents of the wine-barrels which were emptied at one magic word of the Prophet. One word from the mastermind, and the five times were fixed for the worship of God. Such radical revolutions in the morals of people cannot be worked without one's being at the climax of spirituality and Muhammad (on whom be Salaam) was so. His duties increased with his ministry, but nothing could keep him back from his communion with God and spending his days in action but nights in long prayers. Even in the busy life of Medina one could see his feet swelling, as for nights together he was in the presence of God, and continued this till he left the world.
There are various activities most necessary for human society. But Christ, as reported in the Evangelical records, could not be a guide in them. A king on throne, a judge on the bench, a statesman in his cabinet, and general in the field, are as necessary units of human society as a teacher of morality.
To fast and see visions, to pray away the midnight hours and to talk with God through the watches, as Cardinal Newman wrongly thinks, is NOT whole spirituality. The week-day side of our life in the words of J.R. Ruller, D.D.;
"has a great deal more to do with spiritual life, with the building of our character, with our growth in grace, than many of us think. On the other hand, no day can be made beautiful whose secular side is not so full and complete as its religious side."
But what else is the religious side? Where lies the dividing line between the religious and the secular when you lead a life of purity and chastity, of charity and benevolence? Are not our physical conditions closely connected with the moral and spiritual? Even eating and drinking play a great part in our moral and spiritual world. Christ himself made no difference between secular and religious life. It was for Muhammad (on whom be Salaam) to bring home to the world so clearly that every act of a person has a religious bearing, a religious significance; his whole life from the cradle to the grave is a series of religious performances. There is no sharp line between Islam and Politics. There is no such thing as "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's." Nothing belongs to Caesar. Islam does not acknowledge Caesar's place in the scheme of things because all things between heaven and earth belong to Allah. All Power and Authority are His - none can share these with Him. Was Christ a recluse or a man of action? Yes, his life was one both of prayer and action. His nights he passed in communion with God and mornings found him doing all sorts of good offices to those in need and distress. He was not the less spiritual when he was in the company of publicans and tax collectors.
In this respect Muhammad (on whom be Salaam) is the only glorious illustration of true spirituality.
Once an orphan, then a persecuted citizen, fleeing for his life, he was a spiritual and a temporal chief. But could this taste of power change his method of living? Did he surround himself with the pomp of power? Did he keep a retinue or bodyguard, or did he indulge in any one of those outward manifestations of earthly glory in which the monarchs of the earth, ancient and modern, have loved to clothe themselves? Did he amass wealth or leave a large fortune behind? In not one single respect did he change. Power notwithstanding, and stupendous power too, for he exercised a power which the greatest of monarchs might have envied, he remained to the last simple, unostentatious, free from pride, living for his flock and living with it with a self-sacrifice rarely seen in life. Here is a great builder of temporal and religious power, but meek, merciful, and "pure in heart", who inherited the earth but did hunger and thirst for righteousness.
In his case, lip-words became reality and action. This is real spirituality, which remains unflinching and unscathed even in affluence and prosperity. One who is humble in poverty, has still to put his spirituality to test if he dips deep into the well of riches and power and remains unaffected.
All these facts lead to this conclusion that he Prophet of Islam was truly superior to all the prophets. He was an
Inspiring Example of Godly life, a model of virtue and goodness, a symbol of truth and veracity, a great Apostle of God, His Messenger to the whole world. His life and work, his truth and straight-forwardness, his piety and goodness, his character and morals, his ideology and achievements, all stand as infallible proof of his superiority in Apostleship.
Anyone who studies his life and teaching will testify that verily he was the Most Holy Prophet of God and the Qur'an, the book he gave to mankind, the Book of God for all ages. No serious seeker after truth can escape this conclusion. And he shall not remain quiet, rather he shall invite upon people to say:
"O ye that believe, send ye salaams on him and respect him with all respect." (Ch.33 v.56).