OF THE HOLY PROPHET
(Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam)
By Maulana Kausar Niazi,
Minister for Religious Affairs, Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
Extracts from article published in Nairaret of Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Sydney, January 1977.
Consultation with the representatives of the people in matters of home and foreign policy lies at the root of modern democracy. But this principle was first enunciated by Qur'aan which says:-
"And whose affairs are (decided) by counsel among themselves." (42: 38).
It is true that the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) did not prescribe any specific form of consultation, but the reason was that forms of consultation keep on changing with the needs of time. Modern representative democracy is one of these forms of consultation.
Another foundation of modern democracy is the principle of equality before law. But this principle was first clearly enunciated by the Holy Prophet. He is once reported to have said:-
"Some nations before you were destroyed because they inflicted punishment on the lower classes of
people but did not punish the member of the higher classes (when they committed a crime).
By him in whose hand is my life, if my daughter Fatimah did this, I will cut her hand."
Yet another principle of modern democracy is the principle of religious toleration and the recognition of man's freedom of conscience. Now the principle of religious toleration was most emphatically stated by the Qur'aan which says:-
"There is no compulsion in religion." (2: 256)
The Prophet himself set an example of religious toleration when he signed a treaty with the Christians of Najran. The following are the terms of this treaty as narrated by Ibn Al-Qayyuim:-
"From Mohammad, the Prophet to the bishop Abu Harith and the bishops of Najran and their priests and
monks and those who are their followers and their friends, and those who live in their charges; all of
them will be under the protection of God and His Prophet; no bishop will be removed from his bishopric,
no monk will be removed from his monastery and no priest will be removed from his post and there will
be no change in the rights enjoyed by them so far." (Ibn Al-Qayyim: Zad-al-Mead, Vol. III, p. 41)
It is difficult to conceive of more generous terms to a religious order which came under the suzerainty of a newly victorious religion.
Emancipation of Women:
The modern world prides itself on having brought equality and dignity to woman but the process was initiated by the Prophet. It was under the Holy Prophet that women first received their property rights which had been denied to them by previous civilizations. The Qur'aan declared the equality of men and women in the following verses:-
"And women have rights similar to those against them in a just manner." (2: 228)
"They are an apparel for you and you are an apparel for them." (2: 187)
These teachings were re-echoed by the Holy Prophet himself in his address on the occasion of the farewell pilgrimage when he said:-
"O people, you have rights against your women and they have rights against you and
I direct you to be good and fair to your women."
(Ibn-Hisham: Seerat-al-Nabi, Cairo Vol. IV, pp. 275, 276.)
If women in modern times have acquired some more rights, it is because modern life gives them opportunities which they lacked in the primitive conditions of Arabia at the time of Islam, but it is because of Islam that they have emancipated themselves from age-lock shackles.
The Holy Qur'aan has made it clear that it does not like an economic order of society where wealth does not circulate equitably among all its members.
"Whatever Allaah restored to His Messenger from the people of the towns, it is for Allaah,
for the Messenger, and for the near of kin and orphan and the needy and the way farer so that it may
not be taken by turns by the rich among you." (59: 7).
Condemning the hoarding of wealth and commanding the Muslims to spend it for the public welfare, the Qur'aan says:-
"And those who hoard up gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allaah,
announce to them a painful chastisement." (9: 34).
How much regard Islam has for the poor and the needy persons is revealed by the following verses:-
"Hast thou seen him who belies religion? That is he who is rough with the orphan and
urges not the feeding of the needy." (107: 1).
"And what will make thee comprehend what the uphill road is? It is to free a slave or to feed in a day
of hunger an orphan nearly related or a poor man lying in the dust." (90: 12-16).
In a tradition reported by Ibn Abbas, the Prophet says:-
"He is not a believer who takes his full share of meals, while his neighbour remains hungry by his side."
(Mish-kat Chapter on Mercy to mankind, p. 424)
We thus find that the modern welfare state including Communism do not go beyond the stage of economic justice envisaged by the Holy Prophet.
Stress on Knowledge and Observation:
The Holy Prophet appeared at a stage of history when Christianity was encouraging monasticism and Neo-Platonism was teaching its followers to close their minds and eyes and make their escape into ecstasy. If these two trends had continued, all science and knowledge would have perished. But the Holy Prophet reversed this trend, and by laying stress on the acquisition of worldly knowledge and the employment of the human power of observation, he laid the foundation of modern experimental science. The Holy Qur'aan is most insistent that man should observe natural phenomena and discover the signs of God in the external world. In the following verse the Qur'aan warns its followers that they will be held responsible for the use they make of their faculties of seeing, hearing and thinking.
"And follow not that of which thou has no knowledge. Surely, the hearing and the sight and the heart,
of all of these it will be asked." (17: 36).
The Holy Prophet himself stressed the importance of all knowledge including scientific knowledge in the following tradition:-
"Wisdom (knowledge) is the lost property of a believer. Wherever he finds it,
he is more entitled to it than others." (Tirmidhi: Abwab-al-Ilm, Vol. 4, 155).
The Prophet also laid it down as a duty on all his followers, men and women, to acquire knowledge.
These teachings caused the birth of Muslim science in the Middle Age and without the work done by Muslim scientists in glorious period of Islamic ascendancy, neither Copernicus, nor Galileo and Newton could have made their impact on the world. Therefore, modern science owes a great debt of gratitude to the teachings of the Holy Prophet.
The modern world is still bogged down by a narrow and selfish nationalism which stands in the way of the universal brotherhood of man. Similarly, the modern world has not been able to overcome racial prejudices and distinctions. The Holy Prophet denounced national and racial prejudices in his address on the occasion of the farewell pilgrimage. He said:-
"O Peoples! Your God is one, your father is one. No Arab has superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab
has superiority over an Arab, neither a white man enjoys superiority over a man of black colour, nor
does a black man enjoy superiority over a man of white colour, except by piety."
(Nail-al-Autar, Cairo, p. 88 1952 Vol. 5).
Although both the French Revolution and the Communist Revolution started with high sounding international ideals and a universalistic scheme of values, neither of them got out of the web of narrow nationalism!