Fourteen hundred years ago a man born in Mecca, in present day Saudi Arabia, changed the course of world’s history. To around one and a half billion people, he is the final and the last in the long line of Prophets who brought the word of God to humanity.
According to Michel Hart, no individual influenced the world as much as Prophet of Islam. According to him he is the only person who was supremely successful on both religious and secular fronts.
Ancient scriptures and sociological traditions reaching erudite scholars are unanimous that all the revered founders of religion and honourable guides in the way to righteousness have no example to show that in a short span of less than twenty five years, the most ignorant and barbaric people become the teachers, most civilised and well-mannered people on the earth and less than a century, the followers of the Faith brought by Muhammad (PBUH) encompassed an area ranging from Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean.
The world cannot present any other example of this miraculous success. Muhammad (PBUH) founded Islam, a religion that shaped the lives of millions of Muslims around the world and inspired one of the world’s greatest civilisations.
But today Islam is at the heart of world’s conflict and Muhammad’s (PBUH) name is associated with some of the worst acts of terrorism. People have frequently invoked his name while carrying some of the bloodiest acts of terror during the last few decades. Not only non-Muslims but Muslims also are divided over the legacy of the Prophet.
Many in West see Islam as a religion of some of the most oppressive states of the world, a violent and intolerant faith. But the question is how much of this can be blamed on the prophet himself.
In answering this question, there is a need to dispassionately unravel many aspects of prophet’s life such as his marriages, his relationship with Jews and Christians, the battles he fought, the laws enacted and treatment of non-Muslims after the conquest of Mecca and establishment of Islamic state in Arabia and the underlying circumstances and historical and socio-cultural context of the corresponding events.
One of mistakes that some non-Muslims and even Muslims make is to assume that character and personality of the prophet can be appreciated by going through the Quran and the sayings of prophet the way we usually read an ordinary book.
The verses and snippets from Quran and sayings of prophet taken out of context, without analysing the underlying historical and socio-cultural context & circumstances is the reason for much of the confusion created around religion of Islam as well as the the character of prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Attempts to evaluate the propriety of the events that occurred during the life of prophet from the standpoint of 21th century’s liberal values and morality, is problematic. Our prophet’s message seems to be under threat today more than ever.
However Muhammad (PBUH) left the world with three things – Faith in God, Quran, and the example of his own life. Many people will choose and select examples from his life to support their own arguments while ignoring the rest, but the fact is that he left the Arabian society better that he found it.
When faced with persecution, he preferred to suffer rather than retaliate. Although he fought many wars, he turned his back on war when he could. His victory came through peace not through conflict. And with the victory, he chose the path of reconciliation rather than revenge.
His farewell sermon sums up the mission he struggled for throughout his life and outlines the agenda of a righteous, inclusive, just and egalitarian society. In his his farewell he left us with most important lesson that we are all equal.
No man has any superiority over any other on any basis except by piety and righteousness. A universal message that is as relevant today as it was during 7th century AD. That is the true legacy of our beloved Prophet (PBUH).
Author is a teacher by profession
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.