In the desert of Arabia, Muhammad was born, according to Muslims historians on April 20, 571. The name means “highly praised”. He is to me the greatest mind among all the sons of Arabia. He means so much more than all the poets and kings that preceded and succeeded him in that impenetrable desert of red sand. When he appeared, Arabia was a desert a nothing.
Out of the nothing of that desert a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhammad a new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom which extended from Morocco to India, and influenced the thought and life of three continents Asia, Africa and Europe.
NEED FOR UNDERSTANDING
When I thought of writing on Muhammad the Prophet, I was a bit hesitant, because to write about religion one does not profess is a delicate matter, for there are many persons professing various religions and belonging to diverse schools of thought and denominations even in the same religion.
Though it is sometimes claimed that a religion is entirely personal, yet it cannot be denied that it has a tendency to envelope the universe seen as well as unseen.
It somehow permeates, sometime or other, our hearts, our souls, our minds their conscious parts subconscious parts, unconscious or whatever part they contain or are supposed to contain.
The problem assumes overwhelming importance when there is a deep conviction that our past, present and future all hang by a soft, delicate, tender-silked cord. If we further happen to be highly sensitive, the center of gravity is very likely to be always in a state of extreme tension.
Looked at from this point of view, the less said about another’s religion the better. Let our religion be deeply hidden and embedded in the recesses of our innermost hearts, fortified by the unbroken seals of our lips.
MAN IS GREGARIOUS
But there is another aspect of this problem. Man lives in society. Our lives are bound up with the lives of so many willingly or unwillingly, directly or indirectly. We eat food grown in the same soil, drink water from the same spring, and breathe the air of the same atmosphere. Even while staunchly holding our own views, it would be helpful if for no other purpose at least to promote proper adjustment to our surroundings, if we also knew to some extent how the mind of our neighbor moves and what are the mainsprings of his actions.
From this angle of vision, it is highly desirable that one should try to know all religions of the world, in the proper spirit, to promote mutual understanding and better appreciation of our neighborhood, immediate and remote. Further, our thoughts are not as scattered as they appear to be on the surface.
They have crystallized around a few nuclei in the form of great world religions and living faiths that guide and motivate the lives of millions. It is our duty therefore, if we have the ideal of ever becoming citizens of the world, to make a little attempt to know the great religions and systems of philosophy that have ruled mankind.
THE PROPHET- A HISTORIC PERSONALITY
In spite of these preliminary remarks, the ground in the field of religion. Where there is often a conflict between intellect and emotion, is so slippery that one is constantly reminded of fools that rush in where angels fear tread. It is also complex from another point of view.
The subject of my writing is about the tenets of a religion, which is historic and it’s Prophets, who is also a historical personality. Even a hostile critic like Sir William Muir, speaking about the Holy Qur’an says that: “There is probably in the world no other book which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text.”
I may also add that the Prophet Muhammad is also a historic personality, every event of whose life has been most carefully recorded and even the minutest details preserved intact for posterity. His life and works are not wrapped in mystery. One need not, in the quest for accurate information, hunt for nor embark on arduous expeditions to sift the chaff and husk from the grain of truth.
My work is further lightened because those days are fast disappearing when Islam was highly misrepresented by some of its critics for reasons political and otherwise.
Prof. Bevan writes in the Cambridge Mediaeval History: “The accounts of Muhammad and Islam which were published in Europe before the beginning of the 19th century are now to be regarded as literary curiosities.” My problem to write this monograph is easier because we are not generally fed now on this kind of history and much time need not be spent on pointing out our misrepresentations of Islam. The theory of Islam and the Sword for instance is not heard now frequently in any quarter worth the name.
The principle of Islam that there is no compulsion in religion is well-known. Gibbon, a historian of worldwide fame says: “A pernicious tenet has been imputed to the Muhammadans, the duty of extirpating all the religions by the sword”.
This charge of ignorance and bigotry says the eminent historian, is refuted by the Qur’an, by the history of Musalman conquerors and by their public and legal toleration of Christian worship. The greatest success of Muhammad’s life was affected by sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword.
MUSTAFA-THE CHOSEN ONE
“Who subdue their anger” (Holy Qur’an 3:134)
To the Arabs who would fight for forty years on the slight provocation that a camel belonging to the guest of one tribe had strayed into the grazing land belonging to another, and both sides had fought till they lost 70,000 lives in all, threatening the extinction of both tribes, to such furious Arabs the Prophet of Islam taught self-control and discipline to the extent of praying even on the battlefield.
WAR FOR SELF-DEFENCE
When repeated efforts at conciliation had utterly failed and circumstances arose that dragged him into the battlefield purely in self-defense, the Prophet of Islam changed the whole strategy of the battlefield.
The total number of casualties in all the wars that took place during his lifetime, when the whole Arabian Peninsula came under his banner, does not exceed a few hundreds in all. He taught the Arab barbarians to pray, to pray not individually but in congregations, to God Almighty, even amidst the dust and storm of warfare. Whenever the time for prayer came and it comes five times every day-the congregational prayer had not to be abandoned or even postponed. A party had to be engaged in bowing their heads before god while another was engaged with the enemy. After finishing the prayers, the two had to exchange their position.
To be continued