By Abul A`ala Al-Mawdudi
We may now look at the life and work of this noble man in the context not only of the Arabian society but also of the entire world as it stood in that period. He is totally different from the people among whom he is born and passes his youth and early manhood and attains finally his full stature.
Even his worst enemies never accuse him of telling a lie. He never uses obscene and abusive language. He has a charming personality and winning manners with which he captivates the hearts of those who come into contact with him. In his dealings with people he always follows the principles of justice and fair play. He remains engaged in trade and commerce for 38 years, but he never enters into any dishonest transaction.
Those who deal with him in business have full confidence in his integrity. The entire nation calls him Al-Amin (the Truthful and the Trustworthy). Even his enemies deposit their valuable belongings with him for safe custody. He is the embodiment of modesty in the midst of a society which is immodest to the core. Born and bred among a people who regard drunkenness and gambling as virtues, he never touches alcohol and never indulges in gambling. His people are uncouth, uncultured and unclean, but he personifies the highest culture and the most refined aesthetic outlook.
Surrounded on all sides by cruelty, he himself has a heart overflowing with the honey of human kindness. He helps orphans and widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one; rather, he suffers hardships for others’ sakes. Living among those for whom war is bread and butter, he is such a lover of peace that his heart melts for them when they take up arms and cut each other’s throats. He stays aloof from the feuds of his tribe, intervening only to bring about reconciliation.
Brought up in an idolatrous race, he regards nothing in the heavens and the earth worth worshipping except the One True Allah. He does not bow before any created thing and does not partake of the offerings made to idols, even in his childhood. Instinctively he hates all worship of any creature and being except Allah. In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this man, in the midst of such a benighted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon-light illumining a pitch-dark night or to a diamond shining in a heap of dead stones.
The Divine Teachings of the Prophet Muhammad
After spending a great part of his life in such a pure and civilized manner there comes a revolution in his being. He has had enough of the darkness and ignorance around him. He wants to swim clear of the horrible sea of corruption, immorality, idolatry and disorder which surround him. He finds society out of harmony with his soul. He withdraws alone to the hills, spending days and nights in total seclusion and meditation. He fasts so that his soul and his heart may become still purer and nobler.
He muses and ponders deeply. He is in search of a light to melt away the encompassing darkness. He wants the power to bring about the downfall of the corrupt and disorderly world of his day and lay the foundations of a new and better world. Suddenly his heart is illuminated with the Divine Light giving him the power he has yearned for. He comes out of the confinement of his cave, goes to the people, and addresses them thus: “The idols which you worship are a sham. Stop worshipping them from now on. No mortal being, no star, no tree, no stone, no spirit is worthy of human worship. Therefore bow not your heads in worship before them. The entire universe with everything that it contains belongs to Allah Almighty. He Alone is the Creator, the Nourisher, the Sustainer and, consequently, the real Sovereign before Whom all should bow down and to Whom all should pray and render obedience. Thus worship Him alone and obey only His commands. “Loot and plunder, murder and rapine, injustice and cruelty — all the vices in which you indulge — are crimes in the eyes of Allah. Leave your evil ways. He hates them all. Speak the truth. Be just. Do not kill anyone. Do not rob anyone. Take your lawful share. Give what is due to others in a just manner. “You are human beings and all human beings are equal in the eyes of Allah. None is born with the slur of shame on his face; nor has anyone come into the world with the mantle of honor hung around his neck. He alone is high and honored who is God fearing and pious, true in words and deed. Distinctions of birth and race are no criteria of greatness and honor. One who fears Allah and does good deeds is the noblest of human beings. One who does not love Allah and is steeped in bad ways is doomed. ‘There is an appointed day after your death when you shall have to appear before your Lord. You shall be called to account for all your deeds, good or bad, and you shall not be able then to hide anything. The whole record of your life shall be an open book to Him. Your fate shall be determined by your good or bad actions. In the court of the True Judge — the Omniscient Allah — the question of unfair recommendation and favoritism does not arise. You will not be able to bribe Him. No consideration will be given to your pedigree or parentage.
True faith and good deeds alone will stand you in good stead at that time. He who has them shall take his abode in the Heaven of eternal happiness, while he who is devoid of them shall be cast in the fire of Hell.” This is the message with which he comes. The ignorant nation turns against him. Abuse and stones are showered on his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated on him; and this continues not for a day or two but uninterruptedly for thirteen long, troubled years. At last he is exiled. But he is not given respite even there. He is tormented in various ways in his place of refuge. The whole of Arabia is incited against him. He is persecuted and hounded continuously for fully eight years there. He suffers it all, but does not budge from the stand he has taken. He is resolute, firm and inflexible in his purpose.
Why All that Enmity?
One might ask: how is it that his nation became his bitter enemy? Was there any dispute about gold and silver or other worldly possessions? Was it due to any blood-feud? Did he ask for anything from them? No! The whole enmity was based on the fact that he had asked them to worship the One True Allah and to lead lives of righteousness, piety and goodness. He had preached against idolatry and the worship of other beings besides Allah, and had denounced their way of life. He had cut at the roots of priest-craft. He had inveighed against all distinctions of high and low between human beings, and had condemned the prejudices of tribe and race as sheer ignorance; and he wanted to change the whole structure of society which had been handed down to them from time immemorial. In their turn, his countrymen told him that the principles of his mission were hostile to their ancestral traditions and asked him either to give them up or to bear the worst consequences.
Why Prophet Muhammad Tolerated the Tyrannies of His People?
Why did he suffer all those hardships? His nation offered to accept him as their king and to lay all the riches of the land at his feet if only he would stop preaching his religion and spreading his message. But he chose instead to refuse the tempting offers and to suffer for his cause. Why? What had he to gain, if those people became pious and righteous? Why was it that he cared nothing for riches and luxury, kingship and glory, and ease and plenty? One has to ponder these questions deeply to find the answer. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had to face tempests of adversity in the cause of truth. He faced all the opposition and oppression with a smile. He stood firm, undeterred by criticism and coercion.
When the natives saw that the threats failed to frighten him and the severest tribulations heaped upon his person and his followers could not make them budge, they played another trick – but that too was destined to fail! A deputation of the leading Quraish called upon the Noble Prophet and tried to bribe him by offering all the worldly glory they could imagine. They said: “If you want to possess wealth, we will amass for you as much as you wish; if you aspire to win honor and power we are prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty, you shall have the hand of the most beautiful maiden of your choice.”
But they wanted him to abandon his mission. The terms were extremely tempting for any human mortal. But they had no significance for the Great Prophet. His reply fell like a bombshell upon the deputation: “Pray! I want neither wealth nor power. I have been commissioned by Allah to warn mankind. I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have joy in this life and eternal bliss in the life hereafter; should you reject it, surely Allah will decide between you and me.”
On another occasion, he said to his uncle, who, under pressure from the leaders of Arabia, was trying to persuade him to abandon his mission: “O Uncle! Should they place the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left in order to make me renounce this mission, it would not be so. I will never give it up till it should please Allah to make it a triumph or I perish in the attempt.”
This was the character of the Prophet of Islam!
Can anyone imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, fellow-feeling and humanity than that a man may ruin his own happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose betterment he is striving should stone him, abuse him, banish him and harass him even in his exile, and that, in spite of all this, he should continue striving for their well-being? Can anyone who is insincere undergo so much suffering for a false cause? Can anyone who is dishonest exhibit such determination to stick to his guns in the face of dangers and tortures of every description when a whole country rises up in arms against him? The faith, perseverance and resolution with which he led his movement to ultimate success are eloquent proof of the supreme truth of his cause. Had there been the slightest doubt and uncertainty in his heart, he could never have been able to brave the storm, which continued unabated for twenty-one long years.
In fact, he (peace be upon him) was ordered by his Lord to deliver His message to mankind, he never was moved by any earthly desires, that is why he never turned to anything except saving humankind from the abyss of the destruction.
Source: Taken from Toward Understanding Islam by Abul A`ala Al-Mawdudi with modifications.