Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) – Contribution to Humanity
When Almighty Allah sent His last and the greatest Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him), humankind was immersed in a state of degeneration. The messages of the past prophets had been distorted and ignored, civilization was on the decline and humanity had slumped into an age of darkness, with disbelief, oppression and corruption prevalent everywhere. The condition of the world at that time presented the gloomiest picture ever of human history.
At the time of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) there existed two great powers on earth: one in the East and another in the West. In the East there was the Persian Empire, and in the West, the Roman Empire. As it might be expected, these two powers were actively hostile and almost permanently at war with one another. As a result, they were weak and disunited, though appearing to be otherwise. Despite their disunity and weakness, they made no serious effort to eradicate the causes of their instability.
The Arabs were living under no better conditions. They were families and tribes comprising different attitudes and feelings; but they were all similar in one respect: they were slaves of habits and impulses. They used to take pride in invasion and plunder. Moreover, they were so low in their moral affairs that a number of them used to bury their daughters alive.
Religiously speaking, the Arabs of that era were mostly idol worshippers. Some of them used to make their own gods from sweets, and subsequently, they would eat them when they got hungry. They had replaced the monotheism of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) with the worship of idols, stars and demons, turning the Ka’bah (the center of Islamic creed), which was built for the One and Only Creator, into a pantheon of idols. In addition, tribal rivalries and blood feuds ran among them like the burning desert sands of Arabia.
The people of Makkah used to practice usury (interest based economy) on a large scale with very high interest rates — sometimes a hundred percent. When the debtors were not able to repay — and that was most often the case — they were enslaved or obliged to force their wives and daughters to commit certain sins, in order to be able to collect enough money to repay the debt.
Ignorance was not confined to the Arabs alone. On the fringes of Arabia where the desert gives way to hospitable lands met the ever-changing borders of ‘world arrogance’, the two superpowers of the age: the Persian and the Roman Empires.
The fire-worshipping Persians, with their strange concept of dualism were further plagued by the still weirder Mazdakite doctrine (i.e. a socio-religious movement that flared up in the Sasanian Kavad (488-531 CE) founded by Mazdak son of Bamdad), that advocated communal ownership and even ruled that women were the common property of all men. Like Mani a few centuries earlier, who had claimed a new religion by combining the teachings of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and Zoroaster, Mazdakite’s movement was also a reaction to the corruption of the traditional priestly class. Both creeds died away after the execution of their proponents, who more or less depended on royal patronage. On the other hand, the Sasanian aristocracy aligned with the Zoroastrian clergy was steeped in pleasures, burdening the oppressed masses with heavy taxes and oppression.
At the other end was the Byzantine world, which though claiming to profess a divinely revealed religion, had in fact polluted the monotheist message of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) with the sediments of ancient Greek and Roman pagan thoughts, resulting in the birth of Christianity. In 381 CE, the Greco-Roman Church council rejected the doctrine of Arius of Alexandria, to which most of the eastern provinces of the empire adhered, and in its place the council had coined the belief that God and Prophet Jesus (pbuh) are of one substance and therefore co-existent. Arius and his followers had held the belief in the uniqueness and majesty of God, Who Alone, they said has existed since eternity, while Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was created in time.
There were colonies of Jews scattered across West Asia and North Africa to whom several Messengers had been sent by Almighty Allaah. However, even these divine favors had failed to reform them. The laws sent to Prophet Moses (pbuh) had been distorted and tampered with.
Further to the east lay the once flourishing cultures of China and India which were groping in darkness. Confucianism had confused the Chinese, robbing their minds of any positive thinking. On the other hand, Hinduism had no universal pretensions whatsoever, and was peculiar to the geographical confines of India or more properly Northern India and its Aryan invaders.
In short, wars, bloodshed, slavery, oppression of women and the deprived held sway everywhere, might ruled over right. The world was in dire distress but no one seemed capable of delivering it from darkness. No religion, ideology, creed or cult during those times, could offer any hope to the agonies and frustrations of humankind.
None of the religions in currency had any universal outlook or even pretensions and were limited to insurmountable geographical and psychological barriers, preaching discrimination and the narrow-minded superiority of a particular race.
Thus, it was in such a chaotic state of depression that Almighty Allaah sent His last great Prophet (peace be upon him) with the universal Message of Islam to save humankind from disbelief, oppression, corruption, ignorance and moral decadence that was dragging humanity towards self-annihilation.
Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was entrusted by Almighty Allah with the most difficult task: not only to rescue mankind from imminent destruction but also to raise it to sublime height, heights hitherto beyond the knowledge of historians and the imagination of poets. If there were not incontrovertible historical evidence to demonstrate his achievements, it would be difficult to believe such greatness.
This man was Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was born in the sixth century. He saved mankind from imminent danger, gave it new life, new ambition, fresh energy, a revitalised sense of human dignity and intellect, as also a new found idealism. It was because of him that a new era came about, an era of spirituality in art and literature, of personal sincerity and selfless service of others, all of which produced an ordered, graceful and kindly culture.
His most precious gifts to man were
1. his devotion to righteousness and aversion to evil
2. his hatred of false gods
3. a passion for establishing justice and morality
Such goals ultimately are the fountainhead and incentive for all reforms and improvements. Whatever great and sublime heights man has attained have been the result of such noble sentiments — indeed, all material resources, means and methods owe their existence to human will and determination.
That great benefactor of humanity replaced barbarism and brutality with the milk of human kindness, magnanimity and courtesy. He struggled unceasingly for the propagation of his noble teachings with complete disregard for his own self, his life or prestige. Precisely because of this struggle, there arose from among an uncivilized and ill-mannered people noble-hearted men who led a graceful and kindly life, men who started a new era of courtesy and warmth in human history, who engendered gentleness and goodness in those around them.
The world obtained a fresh lease of life when
1. justice and fairness became its hallmark
2. the weak were emboldened to claim their rights from the haughty and strong
3. mercy and kindness became the norms
4. It was a time when humanitarianism became a driving force
5. faith and conviction captured human hearts
6. mankind began to take pride in selflessness
7. virtuous behaviour became habitual with people
We list below, in brief, the precious gifts of Islam which have played a key role in the advancement of human values and culture. A new and bright world, quite different from the decaying and disintegrating humanity at the time of its advent, came into being as a result of these Islamic contributions:
1. The clear and unambiguous creed of the Oneness of God.
2. The concept of human equality and brotherhood.
3. The concept of human dignity and man being the masterpiece of God’s creation.
4. Acknowledgement of the proper status of women and the restoration of their legitimate rights.
5. The rejection of despair and the infusion of hope and confidence in human beings.
6. The fusion of the secular and the sacred, the refusal to accept any cleavage between them.
7. The integration of religion and knowledge, making one dependent on the other and raising respect for knowledge by declaring it a means of attaining nearness to God.
8. Emphasis on the use of intellectual faculties in religious and spiritual matters and encouraging the study and contemplation of natural phenomena.
9. Charging the followers of Islam with the responsibility of spreading virtue and goodness in the world, and making it a duty incumbent on them to restore truth and justice.
10, The establishment of a universal creed and culture.
Effective leaders are those who work for their people, those who are humble, and those who neither flaunt their status nor exploit their power. It is hard to come by such individuals in real life, and you rarely come across the perfect combination of humility, knowledge, and charisma that is required of the perfect leaders.
A man who rose to be the initiator of a new way of life that today has about 1.8 billion adherents spread across the world, a man who at the height of his success maintained the humility displayed in his youth. His wisdom, he asserted, was never his own but rather was divine revelation; at the height of his success, he proclaimed, “I am but an ordinary man.” He was Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the prophet of Islam.
Some non-Muslim westerners have been wondering what it is that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented to humanity, particularly after the defamation of his honorable character by the western media.
Here, we deem it our duty to answer the questions regarding what our Prophet gave to humanity and the world. It can be briefly summarized as follows:
1. Through revelation from “The God” (Allah), Muhammad (peace be upon him) transferred humanity from obedience and submission to other men to the worship and submission to God alone, associating nothing with Him. Consequently, human kind became free from servitude to other than God, and this is the greatest honor for mankind.
2. Through revelation from God, Muhammad (peace be upon him) liberated the human mind from superstition, deception and submission to false objects of worship as well as those concepts contrary to reason, such as the claim that God had a human son whom He sacrificed to atone for the sins of humanity.
3. Muhammad (peace be upon him) lay the foundations for tolerance among people. In the Qur’an, God revealed to His Prophet that there is to be no compulsion in the acceptance of religion. Muhammad (peace be upon him) also clarified the rights of the non-Muslims who do not wage war against Muslims and guaranteed protection of their lives, children, property and honor. Even today in many Muslim countries there are Jewish and Christian citizens living in peace and security in contrast to the Spanish Inquisitions in which Muslims were exterminated in an ethnic cleansing that violated all humanitarian principles.
4. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a mercy sent by God to all peoples regardless of race or faith. In fact, his teachings include mercy even to birds and animals, and forbid harming them without right or reason.
5. Muhammad (peace be upon him) showed unparalleled respect for and appreciation of all the prophets who preceded him, among them Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all). God revealed to him words to the effect that one who denies or disrespects any of the prophets cannot be a Muslim. Islam regards all of the prophets as one brotherhood, inviting people to the belief that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah, who is the one true God.
6. Muhammad (peace be upon him) defended human rights for both males and females, for young and old, regardless of social status. He established a set of sublime principles; one example being in the speech he gave during his farewell pilgrimage in which he declared strict prohibition of transgression against people’s lives, property and honor. He laid down these principles long before the world knew of the Magna Charta in 1215, the Declaration of Rights in 1628, the Personal Freedoms Law in 1679, the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Human and Citizen Rights Charter in 1789, and the worldwide Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
7. Muhammad (peace be upon him) elevated the importance of morality in human life. He called for good manners, honesty, loyalty and chastity and strengthened social bonds such as being dutiful to parents and relatives, always putting into practice what he preached. He prohibited and warned against such negative behavior as lying, envy, betrayal, fornication and disrespect of parents, and he treated the problems stemming from these diseases.
8. Through the revelation from God, Muhammad (peace be upon him) invited people to use their minds, to discover the universe around them and to acquire knowledge. He confirmed that God rewards such deeds at a time when scientists and intellectuals in other civilizations were suffering persecution and accusations of heresy and blasphemy, being terrorized in prisons, tortured and often killed.
9. Muhammad (peace be upon him) came with a revelation from God, presenting a religion compatible to human nature – one that satisfies the needs of the soul and those of the body and establishes a balance between worldly deeds and those done for the Hereafter. It is a religion that disciplines human instincts and desires without suppressing them completely as in some other cultures which were absorbed with ideals contrary to human nature, depriving religious men given to worship of such natural human rights as marriage and of such natural reactions as anger toward transgression, expecting them not to defend against aggressors. This led most members of these civilizations to reject religious teachings and become absorbed in the material world, which caters only to their bodies while leaving their souls in a miserable state.
10. Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented to the world a perfect model of brotherhood among human beings. He taught that no race is superior to another for all are equal in origin and equal in their responsibilities and rights. One’s degree of faith and piety is the only criterion for preference. His companions were given equal opportunities to belong to and serve the religion. Among them were his pious companions Suhayb (RA) – a Roman, Bilal (RA)- an Abyssinian, Salman Farsi (RA) – a Persian, and many other non-Arabs.
The Contribution to Social Life
The heritage left behind by the Prophet for the day to day life in personal life, social life etc. for the whole mankind is another evidence of his prophethood. The examples are limitless and some of them are given below.
1. Moral behavior
Personal cleanliness; emphasis on preservation and nourishment of all life forms, including plants and animals; rituals and spirituality of prayers; fasting and charity; righteous conduct and good deeds; and rights of parents, children, spouses, and neighbors.
Teaching to enhance human relations and to avoid breaking relationships; encouraging mutual consultation in all affairs; prohibiting bigotry and racism; and emphasizing kindness and hospitality toward others, especially the weak and the poor.
3. Financial guidelines
Encouraging charity, rights of the poor, respect for workers, and rejection of exploitation; and circulation of wealth among all classes.
4. Marriage And Family
In Islam the man intending to marry a woman pays a dower (Mahr) to her. This is not the purchase money paid to the woman as done during the pre-Islamic days and even now in some societies. This is a gift as token of love, and has fixed rate. It can be waived off by the woman at her own choice and not under pressure. This is entirely different from the system where dowry is paid by the woman’s father in most of the Asian countries, which is a severe burden on women in these societies.
5. Social Behavior And Obligations
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) took a generation of brutes and changed it to an exemplary society where the best among them was one with most God fearing action. The inherent selfishness in men was so much changed that a thirsty soldier in the battlefield would sacrifice his share of water to a brother soldier and face death contentedly in the path of Allah. He brought peace in the society by teaching them that, one who goes to bed full and knows that neighbor is hungry is not a perfect believer. He encouraged people to be merciful to fellow human beings when he advised them to show mercy to people on earth so that Almighty Allah will have mercy on them in heaven.
6.Business & Trade
Islam censures economic exploitation as strongly as social excesses and individual dishonesty. It will not be an exaggeration to say that absolute honesty in business and commerce is really an Islamic concept, while people of other faith have been throughout the history mercenary nations notorious for their greed. Throughout his mission the Prophet (peace be upon him) urged his followers to adopt trade as their profession to earn a Halaal (lawful in Islam) living, while exhorting them to observe truthfulness and honesty in their business transactions. At every possible moment, he encouraged them to be lenient to those who fallen into debt and showed them the excellence of contributing towards helping a brother in such a condition.
Today we hear every one talking about the Ozone layer and the Green House effects. But Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) educated the desert Arabs about the excellence of planting trees when he said, never a Muslim plants a tree, but he has the reward of charity for him. What is eaten out of that is charity, what is stolen out of that, what the beast eats of that and what birds eat of that is charity for him. In fact, none impose a loss to him but it becomes a charity on his part.
There was no restriction for any person to approach the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and ask any questions from him. He was leader, a ruler yet he was the Prophet which was over-riding fact. There were numerous incidents where the people went to him and obtained guidance in their mundane day to day life. The Prophet (peace be upon him) pointed out that the leadership is not only an honor but a responsibility as well. He said that, a just ruler will be one of those seven groups of people who will be given shade by Allah on the day (judgment day) when there will be no shade from the blazing sun.
9. Responsibilities And Rights
In the first Islamic society, the members were so much changed, that everyones rights were well protected and preserved. All they asked in return was a ticket to the ever-lasting life of paradise. He taught them that, Clothing an under-clad Muslim, entitles you to a garment from the Paradise. Feeding a hungry Muslim will make you eligible (by Allahs will) for the fruit of Paradise, and if you provide water to a thirsty Muslim, Allah will provide you with a drink from the Sealed Nectar. He clearly showed the disgrace of begging, and promoted the habit abstaining from asking others for help unless it is very essential. He warned that those who beg for no valid reason will be raised on the last day, without any flesh in their faces. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) transformed a pagan society to a noble society, which was able to bear the torch of enlightenment to all the nations in the world within one generation and this is the shortest time in history.
As the Prophet established a peace sanctuary called Madinah after his migration from Makkah, he negotiated treaties with the Jews and the pagans of Madinah. Muslims consider these treaties to be the first written surviving constitution in the world. The constitution guaranteed freedom of religion, self-governance, and legal autonomy in all matters. It called for the common defense of Madinah, and declared the Jews, pagans, and Muslims of that treaty to be one nation.
It was he who turned the course of human thought from superstition– mongering, love for the unnatural and the inexplicable, and monasticism towards a rational approach, love for reality, and a pious, balanced worldly life. It was he who in a world, which regarded only supernatural happenings as miracles and demanded them for the verification of the truth of a religious mission, urged that rational proof should be the criterion of truth. It was he who opened the eyes of those who had been accustomed to look for the signs of God in natural phenomena.
It was he who, in place of groundless speculation, led human beings to the path of rational understanding and sound reasoning on the basis of observation, experiment and research. It was he who clearly defined the limits and functions of sense perception, reason and intuition. It was he who brought about a rapprochement between spiritual and material values. It was he who harmonized Faith and Knowledge and Action, who, in short, evolved true religiosity on the basis of the scientific spirit.
It was he who eradicated idolatry, man-worship and polytheism in all forms so thoroughly and created such a firm faith in the Unity of God that even those religions, which were based entirely on superstition and idolatry, were forced to adopt a monotheistic approach.
It was he who changed the basic concepts of ethics and spirituality. Those who believed that asceticism and self-annihilation alone led to moral and spiritual purity – that purity could only be achieved by running away from life, disregarding all the desires of the flesh and subjecting the body to all types of tortures – he showed the path of spiritual evolution, moral emancipation and attainment of salvation through active participation in the affairs of the world around them.
It was he who brought home to man his true worth; those who acknowledged only a God-incarnate or a son of God as their moral preceptor or spiritual guide were told that human beings with no pretensions to Godhead could become vicegerents of God on earth; those who proclaimed and worshipped powerful personages as their gods were made to understand that their false lords were mere ordinary human beings and nothing more. It was he who stressed the point that no person could claim holiness, authority and over lordship as his birthright and that no one was born with the stigma of untouchability, slavery or serfdom. It was he and his teaching, which inspired thoughts of the unity of mankind, equality of human beings, true democracy and real freedom.
It was he who brought laws through the Holy Qur’an, which penetrated deep into the structures of society, and this process continues up to this day. The basic principles of economics, which he taught, have ushered in many a movement in world history and hold out the same promise for the future. The laws of governance, which he formulated, brought about many upheavals in political theories and continue to have influence even today. The fundamental principles of law and justice, which bear the stamp of his genius, have influenced to a remarkable degree the administration of justice in the courts of nations. This unlettered Arab was the first person to formulate a framework of international relations and lay down laws of war and peace. No one previously had even the remotest idea that there could be an ethical code of war and that relations between different nations could be regulated on the basis of common humanity.
The rise of the Islamic civilization between the 7th and 13th centuries owes itself to this principle. Few individuals in any civilization have been able to accomplish religious, gender, educational, racial and conflict-resolution reforms all at once. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the founder of Islam, reformed his society in all five respects which laid the foundation of the Arab and Muslim civilization.
The following points intend to provide a better sense of his efforts and to show where today things have gone wrong:
Some intolerant Muslims today persecute non-Muslims for proselytizing or blasphemy. In contrast, the Islamic Holy scripture Quran states that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). However, few know of its context. Before the migration of Prophet Muhammad to Madina, some polytheists in the town had dedicated their children to be raised in the monotheistic Jewish tradition. After converting to Islam, the parents objected to this when the Jewish guardians took the children with them. However, the Prophet refused them permission to forcibly take back their children or to convert them to Islam in the light of this Quranic verse.
Moreover, the Prophet permitted Najrani Christian priests to offer their prayers in his mosque and to have an open religious dialogue before an audience. Moreover, he later wrote them a decree that declared “No compulsion is to be on them; No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses; they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.”
Pre-Islamic Arab society had racial biases against non-Arabs just as American society had up till the 1960’s. The Prophet managed to purify these primitive sentiments by his personal example. His closest companions Bilal bin Riba (an Abyssinian) and Salman Farsi (a Persian) were both former slaves who went on to command enormous respect in the first Muslim society. In his famous last sermon, the Prophet declared “a white has no superiority over black, nor does a black over a white, except by piety and good action”.
The Prophet famously declared that “learning is obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman” and that “he who gives the best upbringing and education to his daughters shall enter paradise.” In his unlettered and oral society, he encouraged his followers learn writing so to be able to transmit Quran’s message far and wide.
Not surprisingly, it was this initial encouragement which ultimately led to the Islamic golden age of science which advanced medicine, astronomy, algebra and philosophy and also contributed to the Western Renaissance.
Carly Fiorina, ex-CEO of Hewlett-Packard (Minnesota, USA) pays tribute to the civilization of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) thus:
“..One of its languages became the universal language of much of the world, the bridge between the peoples of a hundred lands. Its armies were made up of people of many nationalities, and its military protection allowed a degree of peace and prosperity that had never been known. The reach of this civilization’s commerce extended from Latin America to China, and everywhere in between.
And this civilization was driven more than anything, by invention. Its architects designed buildings that defied gravity. Its mathematicians created the algebra and algorithms that would enable the building of computers, and the creation of encryption. Its doctors examined the human body, and found new cures for disease. Its astronomers looked into the heavens, named the stars, and paved the way for space travel and exploration.
This kind of enlightened leadership — leadership that nurtured culture, sustainability, diversity and courage — led to 800 years of invention and prosperity.”
In the pre-Islamic society, some proud pagans practiced ‘honor’ killings and female infanticide to offset their ‘shame.’ The numerous reforms which the Prophet instituted in the 7th century included the end of ‘honor’ killings, the right of a woman’s approval in her marriage, her right to ownership of private property, to seek unilateral divorce if the husband was abusive and to re-marry as a widow or divorcee. Some of these rights did not exist even in the West until the early 20th century. Moreover, as the Prophet taught, while a husband was supposed to provide for his wife, the wife was under no obligation to share her wealth or property with the husband.
Islam’s “Geneva Convention”
Quran permitted war only in the interest of establishing religious freedom or for self-defense (22:40). The Prophet was himself driven out of his city for preaching his religion, his followers were persecuted or killed and their bodies were mutilated. Yet, he himself forbade retaliation in kind or the holding of slaves except as prisoners captured in such conflicts. His instructions for humane treatment of prisoners during a conflict were exemplary: no women, children, hermits or other non-combatants were to be harmed and that prisoners or slaves were to be fed the same food and clothed the same clothes as the Muslims themselves. It is not surprising that his humane teachings quickly won the hearts of his former enemies which rapidly led to the conversion of Arabia to Islam. Islam’s global spread and appeal owed itself to Prophet Muhammad’s social reforms.
He declared killing non-combatants to be illegal, placed severe restrictions on how warfare could be conducted, and even paid compensation for the killing of some dogs by one of his commanders.
As one can see, this Charter consisted of several clauses covering all important aspects of human rights, including such topics as the protection of minorities living under Islamic rule, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.
Thus, we conclude that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) was the saviour of mankind. He showed us solutions for all the problems of Humanity and had one single purpose for each one of us. That was to establish worship of one true Creator (Almighty Allah) and save us from the fire of Hell after our death. Hence, we invite you to read Holy Quran and read the message of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) for the success in this life and the life after death.
“I believe if a man like him (Prophet Muhammed) were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring much needed peace and happiness. George Bernard Shaw
“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, which is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”
Lamartine, HISTOIRE DE LA TURQUIE, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276-277