The Universality of Islam
By: Ayatullah Ja'far Subhani
The Peace Pact of Hudaybiyah relieved the Prophet of worries from the southern part of Makkah and hence a group from amongst the chiefs of Arabia got attracted towards Islam. In the meantime the Prophet seized the opportunity and started correspondence with the rulers of the time, the chiefs of the tribes and the religious leaders of the Christians and presented his religion to the nations living during that period. lt was a religion which had by that time gone a step forward from a merely simple belief and had assumed the shape of a universal faith and could bring entire humanity under the banner of monotheism and sublime social and ethical teachings.
This was the first step which the Prophet took after nineteen years' conflict with the obstinate Quraysh. And if the internal enemies had not kept him busy in bloody battles he would have invited the distant nations to Islam much earlier. However, the cowardly attacks of the Arabs obliged him to spend a major part of his time in the defence of Islam.
The letters which the Prophet wrote to the princes, kings. chiefs of the tribes and distinguished spiritual and political personalities shed a light on the method of his invitation. At present the texts of 185 letters which the Prophet wrote for the propagation of or invitation to Islam or by way of agreements and pacts are available with us and the traditionalists and historians have preserved them in their records.[ The great scholars of Islam have collected the letters of the Prophet as far as they could. The following two books are most valuable in this regard: (i) al-Wasa'iqus Siyasah by Prof. Muhammad Hamidullah Hyderabadi, Professor of Paris University. (ii) Makatibur Rasul by the contemporary scholar Ali Ahmadi.] All these letters show that the method of invitation to, and propagation of Islam, adopted by the Prophet was that of logic and not that of war and sword. When the Prophet felt secure from the attacks of Quraysh he made his voice reach the inhabitants of the world by sending letters and missionaries.
Some indiscreet persons view the universal prophethood of the Prophet of Islam with suspicion and doubt and imitate the melody sung by some hired writers whose leader is an orientalist named Sir William Muir, who says: "the idea of the universality of the message of Muhammad came into existence later and from the time of the commencement of his prophetic mission till his death Muhammad invited only Arabs to Islam and he was not acquainted with any place other than Arabia".
This British writer has followed the method peculiar to his own race. Notwithstanding numerous verses which testify that the Prophet invited the entire humanity to monotheism and to his own prophethood, he (Sir William Muir) conceals facts and says that the Prophet's invitation was extended to the Arabs only. We quote below some verses of the Holy Qur'an which go to show that the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam is meant for the entire mankind: Muhammad, tell them: O' mankind! Certainly I have come to you all as the Messenger of Allah. (Surah aI-A,raf, 7:158) (It should be noted that the people addressed are not only the Arabs but the entire mankind).
We have sent you as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner to the entire mankind, but most people do not know. (Surah Saba, 34:28)
The Qur'an is nothing but a reminder from Allah to mankind. (Surah al-Qalam, 68:28)
No religion other than Islam will be accepted from anyone. Whoever follows a religion other than Islam will be loser in the Hereafter (Surah Ale Imran, 3:85). This verse supersedes all religions except Islam and makes it obligatory for the entire mankind to follow only Islam.
The Qur'an has been revealed, to warn to those who are living and the words of Allah may be fulfilled against the unbelievers. (Surah Yasin, 36:70)
It is Allah Who has sent His Messenger with guidance and a true religion that will prevail over all other religions, though the polytheists may be averse. (Surah Tawbah, 9: 33 )
Now we ask the British writer as to how he says, in spite of the universal invitation manifested in these verses, that the idea of the universality of Islam came into existence later? Is one justified in doubting the universality of the prophethood in spite of these and other verses and the messengers sent to far-off places and the texts of the letters of the Prophet which are recorded in the pages of history? (Some of the original letters sent by him to different persons at far-off places are extant and adorn various museums of the world).
The British writer says with shameless impudence that Prophet Muhammad was not acquainted with any place other than Arabia (the Hijaz) although he went to Syria along with his uncle when he was sixteen years of age and during his manhood he traded on behalf of Khadijah and used to accompany the trade caravans.
No doubt, as and when we read in history books that Alexander the Macedonian wished to become the ruler of the world, or Napoleon was anxious to build up a world-empire, we are not at all surprised, but when the orientalists hear that the Prophet of Islam invited under the command of Allah, two great emperors of the world (with whose subjects the Arabs had trade relations) to embrace Islam, they, with all their obstinacy and baseless doubts, declare this to be something impossible.
THE MESSAGE OF PROPHETHOOD IS SENT TO FAR OFF PLACES
Like all other important matters the question of inviting the rulers of various countries to Islam was also placed by the Prophet before a big consultative council for discussion. One day he said to his companions: "All of you should be present tomorrow morning so that I may consult you about a very important matter". On the following day he addressed his companions, after morning prayers, as follows: "Exhort the servants of Allah to do good. Allah has disallowed Paradise to one, who becomes the guardian of the affairs of the people, but does not endeavour to guide them and show them the right path. You should rise and convey the message of Islam to far-off regions and should make mankind hear the voice of monotheism. However, you should not oppose me in the manner in which the disciples of Prophet 'Isa opposed him".
The Prophet was asked as to how the disciples of Prophet 'Isa opposed him. He replied: "Like me, he also deputed some pesons to act as his messengers in different areas. From amongst them those who had to cover a short distance obeyed his command but those who had to travel a long distance disobeyed him".
Thereafter the Prophet of Islam sent six most proficient persons to different places along with letters in which his universal prophethood was reflected. These ambassadors of guidance proceeded to Iran, Byzantium, Ethiopia, Egypt, Yamamah, Bahrain and Hira (Jordan) on the same day.
When the letters of the Prophet had been written by special scribes people who were acquainted with the etiquette of the royal courts of those times, submitted to the Prophet that he should seal the letters, because the various rulers did not condescend to read unsigned letters (and in those days signatures were subscribed by means of a seal). In view of this a silver seal-ring was prepared, as ordered by the Prophet himself, and the sentence Muhammad Rasulullah (Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah) was engraved upon it. The engraving was in this order that the word 'Allah' was at the top, 'Rasul' in the middle and 'Muhammad' at the bottom. This order and subtlety was resorted to prevent imitation and forgery. The reader was required to commence reading the signatures from the bottom till he reached the word 'Allah' (Muhammad Rasul Allah). He did not content himself with even this and having stuck down the envelope of the letter with a special wax (instead of the 'lac' of the present times) affixed the seal on it.[ Tabaqat-i Kubra, vol. I, page 258; Seerah-i Halabi, vol. III, page 271.]
CONDITIONS OF THE WORLD AT THE TIME OF THE COMMUNICATION OF UNIVERSAL INVITATION
In those days the power of the world was in the hands of two big empires and the rivalry and wars between them had continued since long. War between Iran and Rome started in the days of Achaemenians and continued till the period of Sasanians. East was then ruled by the Iranian Emperor and Iraq, Yemen and a part of Asia Minor were treated to be satellites and colonies of Iran. The Roman State was then divided into two blocs (viz. Eastern and Western) because in 395 A.D. Theodosius the Great, the Roman Emperor, divided his empire between his two sons and thus brought into existence two countries with the names of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire. The Western Empire was overthrown in 476 A.D. at the hands of the savages and barbarians of Northern Europe. However, the Eastern Roman Empire which had its capital at Constantinople and which also controlled Syria and Egypt held the reins of world politics in its hands at the time of the advent of Islam. It continued to exist till 1453 A.D. when Constantinople was conquered by Sultan Muhammad II Fateh (i.e. the Conqueror). Its existence then came to an end and it was completely shattered.
Arabia was surrounded by these two super powers. However, as its land was not fertile and its inhabitants were nomads and were scattered, neither of the two empires showed inclination to conquer it. Their pride, tyranny and mutual wars also prevented them from becoming aware of the revolutions and political changes in this region and they could not at all visualize that a nation far away from civilization would put an end to their empires with the strength of its faith, and the areas which had fallen into darkness on account of their tyranny would be illuminated with the bright dawn of Islam. If they had gained knowledge about the existence of this shining light they would have extinguished it at the very first stage.