This is the column by eminent Arab media figure and Editor in Chief of Saudi Gazette newspaper Khaled AlMaeena on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), published by Saudi Gazette today.
Not a day passes without some depressing news from one Muslim country or another. Either it is a terrorist attack in Afghanistan or the Syrian Air Force bombing its own people. Iraq continues to be hit with violence of the most gruesome kind. Mali now joins the list of Muslim countries facing internal turmoil and external intervention. People continue to be killed in Pakistan either in drone attacks by the US or in inter-sectarian strife. Why?
I think no one who reflects on the worsening conditions in the Muslim world can fail to ask these questions: Is this the community envisaged by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), who was born on 12 Rabi Al-Awwal, and is this the world we would have witnessed if Muslims had proved true to their religion and had lived according to the guidance provided by their Prophet (peace be upon him) and the teachings of the Holy Qur’an?
Muslims may complain of many things but they cannot complain that they have no role model. They have the perfect role model in their Prophet (peace be upon him).There is no other prophet on whose life so much light has been shed. Living in the full glare of history, his sayings and actions have been documented as no other prophet’s have. Recorded in minute detail, their authenticity has not been questioned by fair-minded scholars and honest historians.
It is extremely difficult for the Muslims of today to imagine and much less to endure the hardships that the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions underwent. In the ninth year of his mission, the Prophet (peace be upon him) — having been persecuted and terrorized by his people in Makkah — headed for Taif, home of the Banu Thaqif tribe. If anything, he was treated even more rudely by the tribal elders, who told him to leave the place and even sent street urchins after him to beat him and pelt him with stones. He bled profusely. His entire body was covered with blood and his sandals became clogged to his feet because of the severity of the beating and torture he was subjected to. Those who would resort to violence at what they perceive to be insults to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Islam should realize that he bore no ill will toward his tormentors. Instead, he made a heartrending invocation to God Almighty beseeching mercy for the people who had persecuted him. Those Muslims who are intolerant and become violent at the slightest provocation are doing a great disservice to their religion and the principle of tolerance it espouses.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) noticed the continued absence of a woman in Makkah who used to insult him and throw garbage on him as he walked the streets, he asked people about her and visited her after learning that she had fallen ill.
Over 14 centuries have gone by since he left us, but his message still lives on. It can lead us from darkness to light as it once led the Arabs from backwardness to the heights of success and glory. His life was one of mercy, compassion, care, consideration, kindness and tolerance for all. His sayings, known as Hadiths, bear testimony to this. One particular theme he was never tired of stressing concerns the rights of women. You should look at what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said and did in order to realize what an honorable and respectable position Islam affords women. However, it is sad to see that many Muslims ignore this or behave in a way that gives a very wrong impression about women’s position in an Islamic society. “Fear Allah in respect of women,” the Prophet (peace be upon him) said. On another occasion he said: “The best of you are they who are best to their wives.”
Here is another Hadith: “A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good.” According to him, “The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is.”
In what was considered a revolutionary idea at that time, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught his companions to remain in their mothers’ service, saying that Paradise lies beneath their feet. Today, we violate the Prophet’s teachings over this and so many other things, which creates so many problems for us and brings a bad name to our religion.
Start with the self-appointed guardians of faith. They preach piety, but are they pious? Do they live by the tenets of Islam? They preach, but do not practice. What about those who spew hate, abuse and defame others – all in the name of religion? Have they not read about the Prophet’s attitude and behavior toward all those around him including the ones who abused him and tried to kill him?
Do people in authority follow the precepts of the Prophet (peace be upon him)? If they did, so many Muslim countries would not be in ferment, providing an opportunity for outsiders to intervene in their affairs or to set one section of the people against another. Are our bureaucrats punctual and sincere? Do they cater to the public’s needs? The functioning of government departments throughout the Muslim world in the holy month of Ramadan tells its own story. Most of our problems are self-inflicted. There is no point in crying that enemies are plotting our destruction or hatching conspiracies against us. Of course that is what enemies everywhere have been doing throughout history. The question is whether we should help enemies by our own actions or inaction.
Take, for example, scientific progress and economic development. Muslims once led Europe in science and the pursuit of knowledge. All experts agree that without the Arabic numbering system, which included decimals and the cipher (zero), modern science and business would have been impossible. The first university of Europe was established by Muslims in Spain. From the 8th to the 10th centuries, Baghdad flourished as the world’s most civilized city. Its university was attended by 6,000 students from all over the world.
Aristotle and Plato were rediscovered by Muslim scholars who translated many Greek manuscripts into Arabic. Even non-Muslim historians admit that Muslims were the originators of modern chemistry, meteorology, mathematics, sociology and geography. Muslim surgeons were also the first to dissect the human body. The first known telescope was built for a Muslim ruler. We should remember that we are the followers of a Prophet (peace be upon him) who said that one should seek knowledge even if it means traveling as far as China. Today, as we stumble through a confused and turbulent world and as uncertainly and depression grip large parts of the Muslim world, we should go back to the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This is the only way to get rid of the social ills from which we suffer.
Unfortunately, we say one thing and practice something else. The Holy Qur’an says: “Allah will never change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” Surah Al-Ra’d – Ayah 11 (13:11). Let us teach ourselves and our children about the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) with a firm resolve that we will use it in our daily lives. Let us be more tolerant, more forgiving and show compassion to all people irrespective of their race or religion. This is the best way to show our love and respect for our Prophet (peace be upon him).
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