Published:  12:25 AM, 10 November 2019

The last and the greatest

The last and the greatest

On the auspicious day of Eid-e-Miladunnabi we celebrate the birthday of the holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) whose chequered life has a special significance not only to the world of Islam but to the whole of mankind.

For God, in His infinite Mercy, sent him as Rahmatal-lil-Alameen -- a divine blessing not for one age or clime, but "for all mankind to the end of the world." It is not a tall story. The teachings of Muhammad (pbuh) have indeed wrought a marvelous and mighty work. As a result, not only the Muslims but numerous non-Muslim scholars and historians also hail the Prophet of Islam as the greatest and most influential single figure in history.

It is almost universally acknowledged that religion in some form or other has always played a vital role in every society. Muhammad's (pbuh) contribution to mankind is to make religion a permanent force of vitality by giving it a natural and scientific basis and by differentiating between the real precepts of religion and the elements of superstition that had crept into various religions. (In fact, one of the titles the Holy Qur'an claims for itself is Furqan, i.e. the Differentiator).

The last and greatest Prophet had the foresightedness to emphasise and stress the universal concepts of world's natural religion such as the Unity of God, the unity of human race, belief in the revealed scriptures of the world, the emphatic assertion that every country and nation had a Prophet, and that all religious personalities of the world should be venerated and respected. In this age of internationalism a true and intelligent follower of Muhammad (pbuh) feels much consolation when he finds that the words of the Holy Qur'an guide him towards the fact that "mankind is one family."

In the early days of his mission Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had the unstinted support of his economically independent wife. In the fearful opposition of the Qureish extending over his thirteen years of preaching in Makkah, he enjoyed the loving protection of his unbelieving uncle, with his whole clan. His small but devoted band of followers suffered all sorts of inhuman persecution rather than recant, and would even migrate to distant and unknown lands rather than make any compromise with their enemies.

When on the death of his wife and uncle he was forced to leave Makkah for Medina, a strong band of admirers who would sacrifice their all was already there to welcome him in their midst. Opposition had to be there because of the radical reforms which his religion proposed. But neither was faithful support nor ungrudging sacrifice wanting from those who accepted him as the Apostle of God.

And as soon as the mist of misunderstanding that invariably surrounds the personality of all true reformers lifted at the end of a few wars of defence which the holy Prophet had to wage, the total admiration of the nation came flowing to him like a river in flood.

So much so that when, towards the very end of his life, he went on a pilgrimage to Makkah, he found himself in the midst of a vast concourse of ardent monotheists like himself, numbering 1,24,000, paying a similar visit to this most ancient House of God.

The historic Farewell Address delivered on this occasion, for its brevity and eloquence, meaningful and profound grasp of the realities of life, surpasses all other sermons. At the end of the sermon he asked his God, Who had appointed him for this task, "O Lord, have I conveyed Your Message?" We know not what reply he received from his Lord, but the human beings that were listening to him with reverence and emotion replied in one voice, "By God, surely you have."

Thus the Prophet of Islam was first established in honour and prestige by his own country and people before his Faith sallied forth in the world and brought into his fold millions of men and women who would equally sacrifice their all for him and his religion. It is a unique feature of his mission and as such constitutes a miracle that supports his claim to prophethood.

A man with the most unflinching faith in Allah and the Holy Qur'an, Muhammad (pbuh) always regarded Islam as the most perfect religion -- the one and only Deen approved by his Creator and Lord. No threat or lure could deviate him from the Straight Path towards the One and Only God. But although he refused to compromise with any other faith, he never nurtured or encouraged any hatred for the followers of other faiths.

He was kind and merciful not only to the Christians, Jews, and Sabeans, but to the pagans as well, always upholding the Qur'anic maxim that "there is no compulsion in religion." This attitude towards pluralism enabled him to permit sixty Christian delegates from Najran to offer their prayers right inside the Masjid-e-Nabobi in Medinah when the holy Prophet himself was leading the Magrib prayers.

Syed Ashraf Ali, renowned Islamic scholar, served as DG of Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh. He passed away in January 2016

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