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Lesson Ten
Beginning of the Mission
Finally the appointed moment arrived, the moment which had been foretold by previous Prophets to their followers. At the age of forty, the orphan son of Abdullah attained the exalted station of messengerhood. It was he alone that time had prepared for guiding the world with his message for only this great and heavy responsibility could call for such qualities and virtues as he possessed.
Only in such a vast enterprise could the energies of that quintessence of all existence unfold, for the entire being of Muhammad, upon whom be peace, was prepared to undertake the grave task of prophethood. If he had not been prepared, in the best possible way, to assume that sacred and fateful responsibility, there would have been none other in the world capable of conveying the Divine mission in all its dimensions. It was only the being of Muhammad, upon whom be peace, that was capable of stilling the thirst of the world.
While engaged in worship in a corner of the cave of Hira in the heart of the night, the Prophet who had never studied or attended a school, was suddenly shaken by the summons, "O Muhammad!" followed by the command to recite, this being the beginning of revelation. A wave arose from the limitless ocean of Divinity, rent the breast of the Prophet, bewildered and anxious, and filled to the brim the cup of his spirit.
The shining of a light from the realm of the unseen covered and enveloped his being and shone forth on his fair features, giving rise to new and bright life in the darkness of the night. Then, with a painful tumult in his heart and bearing on his shoulders the heaviest responsibility conceivable, he set out for home from the cave of Hira, destined to become the teacher of all human beings and to assume the leadership of humanity on its long march forward.
What force was it that had disquieted him despite his infinite patience, made him anxious despite all his tranquil courage, and plunged his whole being into painful turmoil? Thereafter the envoy of revelation came repeatedly, reciting verses to him, profound and astounding verses that bore no resemblance from the point of view of style and content either to the words of the Prophet himself, eloquent as they were, or to the conventional prose and poetry of the age.
Although the Arabs of the Age of Ignorance knew neither how to read nor how to write and had no historians, philosophers or scholars, they were famed for the excellence of their poetry and the eloquence of their speech. The Prophet, however, had never participated before the beginning of his mission in the cultivation of the arts of poetry and eloquence. His conduct, on the one hand, and the verses of the Quran, on the other, both testify that he made no compromises in conveying his message.
He conveyed the message that he had been ordered to deliver clearly, unambiguously and in utter contradiction both with the beliefs and inclinations of the people and with his own immediate interests. He loudly proclaimed the revelation he had received to the evil and the ignorant, to a people made degenerate and corrupt by the worship of the idols they had fashioned themselves, and he informed them that their sole salvation lay in the worship of the One God.
The new factor that appeared at a particular time in the life of the Prophet and caused him to engage in unprecedented forms of activity was the wondrous phenomenon of revelation, the heavenly message which he as the most lofty and qualified of men had been chosen to receive. Before then, no preliminary effort or particular inclination had been seen on his part that might have led to the bringing about of the sudden and remarkable transformation of the world he was now about to accomplish.
The factor that had this profound effect on Muhammad, that changed that quiet and reflective man into an explosive source of revolutionary energy and enabled him to bring about such a profound transformation of humanity, from within the intense darkness of the Arabs' Age of Ignorance, was nothing other than revelation. It was a call that penetrated the very depths of the souls of human beings that melted the marrow of their bones, and directed all their strivings to the attainment of perfection.
The command of revelation negated all the false and lying criteria which human beings had regarded as the measure of goodness and considered the sole means of evaluating human characteristics and habits, while, in fact, clothing falsehood in the garment of truth. It brought into operation new and clear criteria which showed human beings the goals to which they should strive to advance and brought about creativity in their lives. The veil of ignorance and silence was torn apart, the human beings' energies were set to work, the power of thought within them was aroused, and their spirits were borne aloft toward the infinite summit of being.
A people who in their ignorance and lowliness would tear each apart on account of the most insignificant things and had lost all virtue, thanks to their various forms of enslavement, now became, through Islam and its great concept of monotheism - the true pillar of humanity and the breaker of idols - so elevated of spirit and so self-sacrificing that they happily abandoned both their lives and their property. The remarkable stories of self-sacrifice on the part of those early Muslims will stand eternally as examples of true nobility.
The Prophet of Islam had the vision and belief of a world leader, but he began to proclaim his Divine summons to monotheism in a relatively restricted sphere, a closed environment where tribal institutions exercised great influence and idols were counted as the most sacred and beloved of objects. It was an environment that was not in any way prepared to accept the message of Divine unity. The heavenly teachings of Islam and the culture to which they gave rise were superior not only to the intellectual atmosphere prevailing in the idolatrous society of the Arabs but also to all the religious doctrines and cultures of that age.
The program for reforming systems of thought and culture that had become corrupt was laid down by a man who had never studied, who was unlettered, and who knew nothing of the religious books or the civilization of his age. At first he invited his relatives to worship the Creator, and then the people of Mecca and the Arabian Peninsula. Finally he proclaimed to the entire world his mission as the last of the Prophets. Ali b. Abi Talib, upon whom be peace, was the first man to accept his religion, and his wife, Khadijah, was the first woman to believe in his heavenly mission. Gradually others, too, proclaimed their belief in the new religion.
Ali, upon whom be peace, said: "One day the Prophet summoned his relatives and addressed them as follows: 'Children of AW al-Mutallib! I bring you something more excellent than anything the Arabs have ever brought you. I bring you as a gift the means of your salvation in this world and the hereafter, a Divine Command to which I invite your submission. Which among you will help me, so that he will be my brother, my successor and my legatee among you?' "All remained silent but I, who was younger than all of them, said: 'O Messenger of God, I will help you!' Muhammad, upon whom be peace, then said: "This is my brother, my successor and my legatee among you; listen to this words and accept them.' "[20]
With his extraordinary powers of leadership and mature political sense, the Prophet began to refashion human beings by concentrating on their inner beings. He strove to awaken the sense of monotheism that was innate in them by drawing their attention to the mysteries of creation and acquainting them with the infiniteness of the universe. The Prophet had been born into an environment where human beings engaged in empty boasting out of their shortsightedness and tribal mentality, where privileges were based on unjust social conditions and prejudices.
Now he arose and swept aside all those false privileges. He established new values and concepts with respect to labor, life and social relations, in the framework of a series of rules and ordinances, and strove to concentrate all the goals and thoughts of the human being on a program for liberating peoples from slavery, and delivering the oppressed from the tyranny of emperors and kings. Even for those who do not regard these exalted aims as having a heavenly origin will admit that they are among the most exalted and previous values observable in human history. The preaching of the Prophet remained hidden for three years. He established Islam secretly.
Throughout the thirteen years that he concentrated his mission on Mecca, the leaders of the polytheists, who understood well the gravity of their situation, resisted him with obstinate hostility, doing their utmost to preserve the beliefs and customs of the Age of Ignorance and to silence the liberating cry of Islam. They conducted themselves with extreme ferocity against all who had converted to Islam. They fettered and chained those defenseless ones for their crime of having accepted Islam and left them lying hungry and thirsty on the ground beneath the burning sun of Mecca.
They placed heavy stones on their bare breasts in an effort to make them forswear the religion of Muhammad. Yasir and Sumayyah, those two heroes, were subjected to the most barbaric of torturers and every day endured the weight of the heavy stones the Quraysh used to place on their breasts beneath the fiery rays of the sun. These were the first martyrs of Islam: the husband died under torture and the wife was martyred by Abu Jahl.[2l] By applying these methods, the idolaters wanted to stifle Islam while it was still in the cradle.
For it was a life and death struggle: if the call of the Prophet were to advance, they would lose forever their sovereignty and the empty privileges they had enjoyed. Envy, too, played an important role in intensifying their hostility to Islam. The continuation of this unpleasant situation turned the city of Mecca into a prison and a place of torture for the defenseless Muslims. The polytheists made it forbidden even to listen to the verses of the Quran, and they appointed certain people to go out and meet incoming caravans and warn them not to make contact with the Muslims.
Because of the pressure and cruelty of the Quraysh, a number of Muslims decided to leave Mecca and migrate to Ethiopia, in order to have there a safe and tranquil environment in which to practice their religion, and worship the One God, free from harassment by the unbelievers. Even then the opponents of Islam did not abandon their persecution of them. The Quraysh sent two envoys to the ruler of Ethiopia in order to persuade him to send back the Muslims.
But the ruler received the migrants hospitably and extended his protection to them, so that they were able to carry out their devotional duties in freedom in the land of Ethiopia. When the envoys of Quraysh presented gifts to the Emperor in an effort to have the refugees sent back to Mecca, he answered that since they had chosen him out of all rulers which whom to seek refuge, he could not expel them without first investigating them.
When Ja'far b. Abi Talib, the spokesman of the migrants, spoke of the beliefs of the Muslims concerning Jesus, upon whom be peace, the Emperor was much impressed and said: "I swear by God that Jesus had no station beyond what these Muslim say." Although the corrupt ministers of the Emperor were displeased by his words, he praised the beliefs of the Muslims and gave them complete freedom, turning over to them the gifts that the Qurayshi envoys had brought. He said that when God had given him power, He had not required any bribe of him, and that it was therefore inappropriate that he should now benefit from such gifts.[22] Thus light triumphed over darkness, and the forces of polytheism and ignorance retreated in defeat and despair.
The Tactics of the Enemy
When the enemies of Islam saw that their power was crumbling in the face of the new order of monotheism and realized that Islam was felling all their idols, both material and mental, just like an axe felling trees, they first resorted to threats. When they saw that threats were useless, they tried by means of promises and the award of privileges to turn the Prophet back from the path on which he had embarked.
But these efforts, too, proved fruitless as he rejected with disgust all their promises of power and wealth, with all the firmness demanded of the bearer of a heavenly mission. He proclaimed: "I swear by God that if you were to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I would never abandon my mission until the religion of God spreads over the globe or I lose my life in propagating it."[23]
Ya'qubi writes as follows in his history: "The Quraysh told Abu Talib that his nephew was vilifying their gods, accusing them of insanity and proclaiming that their ancestors were in error. They asked him to tell the Prophet that they would give him all of their wealth if he would abandon his preaching. Muhammad, upon whom be peace, answered: 'God did not raise me up as a Prophet in order that I might accumulate the wealth of this world; rather, He raised me up to convey His message to mankind and to call men to Him.'" Then the enemy changed its tactics once more, and employed every conceivable weapon against this movement in order to destroy the newly constructed edifice of Islam.
Old enemies made peace with each other in order to destroy the Prophet. By attempting to blacken the fair name of the Prophet and sully his reputation, they wished both to quench the fire of hatred they felt in their hearts and to neutralize his summons and call. Everywhere they proclaimed that he was a magician, a sorcerer, a madman, a poet, and they stirred up the ignorant against him. This is the same satanic strategy that the enemies of truth always use in order to undermine and defeat great personalities. The Quran makes it plain that this strategy was not peculiar to the Age of the Prophet of Islam.
It proclaims: "Never was a Prophet raised up for earlier peoples without men saying that he was a sorcerer or mad. Is this a legacy of denial they have transmitted from one age to the next? No, these people are themselves rebellious and transgressors." (51:52-53) The Prophet, however, consistently refrained from adopting an attitude of anger toward his enemies. Although their fanatical prejudice, their shortsightedness, their blind traditionalism, and their calumnies increased the difficulties that he was facing, they were never able to arouse his anger. Instead, he sought always to bring them to see the truth, by means of spiritual instruction. Neither pressure nor promises, neither deprivation nor difficulty, were able to shake the determination of the Prophet.
Nor did the spreading of cunning and baseless accusations yield any result, for the compelling logic of the Quran and its re-echoing melody were too profound and too exalted not to leave an effect on the mind of whoever heard it; or to captivate and transform them. Even enemies were sometimes compelled to admit the truth. Tabarsi writes in his commentary on the Quran: "When Walid, the celebrated sage of the Arabs, heard the Prophet recite the verses of Surah Fussilat, he was profoundly affected.
The Banu Makhzum gathered around him and he described the Quran to them as follows: 'It has a distinctive charm and a unique beauty. Its branches are laden with fruit and roots are blessed. It is an elevated form of speech, higher than all others.' Thus he spoke and went on his way, and the Quraysh thought he had embraced the religion of Muhammad, upon whom be peace."[25]
Although the Prophet had vast resources of patience, he was sometimes distressed by the foolish conduct of his people. He would go into a corner until Divine command summoned him back to his grave responsibilities, for to desist for a single instant in striving toward the sacred goals that had been set for him was impermissible; he had to shun all rest and retreat. (See 74:1-4) One of the distinctive factors enabling the Prophets to succeed in the movements they launched was their steadfastness and power of endurance.
The Quran mentions the method followed by the Prophets in their struggles as follows: "Ishmael, Idris and Dhu 'l-Kifl were all steadfast and patient in fulfilling their missions." (21:98) All the envoys of God endured hardship and suffering when they were faced with denial and rejection, but they remained steadfast until the aid of God secured them their triumph.

Lesson Eleven
The Beginning of Migration
As a result of the oppressive atmosphere in Mecca and the unbridled persecution of the Muslims that threatened them constantly with imprisonment, torture and death, and in recognition of the fact that the Muslim warriors were not yet ready for battle, the command was given to migrate. The Prophet gave instructions that the Muslims leave the city one by one and proceed to Yathrib.
The Quraysh understood well the danger this represented, and they stooped to all kinds of illicit means to prevent the Companions of the Prophet from departing, even taking their wives hostage. But true to their original decision, the Muslims began gradually to leave the center of polytheism, ignorance and oppression, leaving behind their attachments and their families in order to migrate. The people of Yathrib took them into their embrace. Most of the Muslims had left, and Mecca was almost empty.
This unusual situation and the disquieting news arriving from Medina greatly worried the Quraysh. Since the previous ill conduct of the leaders of unbelief and rejection had not yielded any results, they arrived at a grave and perilous decision: they planned to kill the Prophet. It was agreed that as soon as night fell, the designated assassins should go about their work.[26] They surrounded the house of the Prophet at night, waiting in front of the door for the Prophet to emerge at dawn.
They kept his room under surveillance throughout the night and were convinced that the son of Abdullah, who had not a single protector in the city, would be unable to escape their siege of his house and that his fate would be sealed at dawn. However, the Messenger of God ordered Ali, upon whom be peace, to sleep in his bed - Ali whose very spirit had been formed in Islam and who thought nothing of dying for the sake of God and the life of the Prophet. The Prophet then left the house secretly, in the company of Abu Bakr.
At this point a man chanced by the house and asked those who were thirsting for the blood of the Messenger of God whom they were waiting for. When they replied, "Muhammad," he told them, "he has escaped your grasp." When dawn rended the breast of the horizons, they were astonished to see Ali, upon whom be peace, rise up from the bed of the Prophet. It is not quite clear how the Prophet managed to break through the circle that had been thrown round his house without arousing attention. What is certain is that God had willed to deliver His chosen Messenger from the grasp of those vile and lowly persons.
The Prophet left Mecca in the heart of the night and took refuge in a cave, and then continued on to Medina using back roads. Once he reached the city, it was clear that the treacherous plan of the Quraysh had ultimately harmed them and benefited Islam and the Muslims. The powerful hand that had protected the burning torch of Islam for thirteen years against all harm was able with ease to bring this conspiracy to naught. Before the migration of the Prophet, a number of citizens of Medina had come to Mecca to seek the support of the Quraysh in the tribal wars that for years had pitted the Aws against the Khazraj.
Despite the warnings of the Quraysh, they had listened to the words of the Prophet, upon whom be peace, and had been deeply affected, even transformed, by them. The next time that they came to Mecca in order to perform the pilgrimage, they had formally accepted the summons of the Messenger of God and embraced Islam. After leaving Mecca and returning to their native city, they expended great efforts to enlighten the people of Yathrib and convey the Divine message to all classes of the population. This represented in itself a massive blow to the foundations of idolatry.
The people of Medina were exhausted by the long tribal wars, and they saw in the call of the Messenger a message of hope and a means of deliverance from the consuming fire of civil strife. In order to appreciate the need of society at that time for the great movement of Islam and to grasp the role played by Islam in putting an end to corruption and misguidance, we must understand the situation prevailing in the Arabian Peninsula. Ali, upon whom be peace, said: "God sent Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, to warn people away from the path in which they were engaged, and He appointed him trustee of His heavenly decrees.
At that time, O Arabs, you aware following the worst of beliefs and customs, and you lived in the most deprived of all lands. You slept in the midst of rough stones and poisonous snakes, drank foul water, ate no proper food, split each other's blood, disregarded the ties of kinship. There were idols among you, and sin had rendered you impotent."[27]
The migration of the Most Noble Messenger to Medina, which marked the beginning of the Islamic era, was the start of a new chapter in the history of Islam. Thereafter blows rained down continuously on the forces of corruption and falsehood. The Prophet's cause took root in Medina. His call went from house to house, and a new society crystallized. The powerful logic and creativity of the ideas set forth by Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, were such that the previous cultural, moral and social structures of the people of Medina thoroughly collapsed, together with all the customs that dominated their lives.
The chains of slavery and the fetters of cruelty and oppression were torn asunder; the powerful were pulled down from their thrones of arrogance. The immortal shari'a brought by the Prophet to mankind as a gift of new norms of justice and elevated culture, and Medina became swiftly transformed into a religious, social and military base for the Islamic cause.
The experiences they had gone through in Mecca, the continued harassment and torture of the believers, the sundering of old ties and the forging of new ones, the continuous deepening of spiritual maturity - all this contributed to the development of the migrants, so that just as Medina became a center of spiritual and political power for the whole of Arabia, so, too, it became a base for the ultimate diffusion of Islam throughout the world. It was from there that the Prophet of Islam presented his message to the nations of the world.
He summoned all human beings to unite beneath the banner of monotheism and its vital, life-giving teachings, so that in less than half a century the religion he had founded brought under its sway the great and prosperous nations of that day. It fell like a rain of mercy and blessing on souls and hearts that were anxious to receive it.
Those who fail to grasp the profound causes of events attribute the swift progress and diffusion of Islam to mere chance. In fact, none of the major events of the world can be attributed to chance, and this is especially true of the emergence of the founder of an ethical, philosophical and legal system. Can it have been a matter of pure accident that the spark of such a phenomenon should have appeared but once in the history of Arabia, without anything similar occurring there ever again.
If certain sociological factors caused the emergence in Arabia of such a vast movement, why should another hero comparable to the Prophet not have arisen in the same area, because of the same factors? Why should this one particular event stand forth from all others, as a unique and self-contained instance? If a revolutionary movement occurs in a given society as the product of certain social conditions, it is impossible that it should happen suddenly, without any precedent or connection to prior developments. On the contrary, it is like a wave that gradually expands, until the conditions become fully ripe for the emergence of a leader.
When propagating his message, the Prophet of Islam did not represent the latest in a chain of ideological movements such as occur in every society. No groundwork had been laid, in the environment where he grew up, for the lofty concepts, values and ideas that he presented nor did any foundation exist on which he might have built. The revolutionary wave of Islam derived its force exclusively from the being of the Prophet; it came about without any preliminary. It was not a question of the revolutionary movement, comprising the Companions of the Prophet, serving as a nucleus around which the message grew; on the contrary, that movement was itself an extension of the person of the Prophet.
The movement was a part of his person; his person was not part of the movement. From this point of view, the revolutionary movement of the Prophet of Islam is utterly different from all other movements in history. In Islam, we encounter a comprehensive, all-embracing movement that concerns itself with all aspects of life, for it represents a profound revolution in all human values and concepts. The teachings of Islam shook the very foundations of tribal society, and so vast and lofty was the Islamic ideal that it conceived the idea of a world society, bringing together all human beings under the banner of monotheism.
It is useful to hear these facts as others have expounded them. Nehru, for example, the well-known Indian statesman, writes as follows: "It is strange that this Arab race, which for long ages had lived a sleepy existence, apparently cut off from what was happening elsewhere, should suddenly wake up and show such tremendous energy as to startle and upset the world. The story of the Arabs, and of how they spread rapidly over Asia, Europe and Africa, and of the high culture and civilization which they developed, is one of the wonders of history. "Islam was the new force or idea which woke up the Arabs and filled them with self-confidence and energy. This was a religion started by a new Prophet, Muhammad.
Within seven years of the flight, Muhammad returned to Mecca as its master. Even before this he sent out from Medina a summons to the kings and rulers of the world to acknowledge the one God and his Prophet. Heraclius, the Constantinople Emperor, got it while he was still engaged in his campaign against the Persians in Syria; the Persian King got it; and it is said that even Tai-Tsung got it in China. They must have wondered, these kings and rulers, who this unknown person was who dared to command them! From the sending of these messages we can form some idea of the supreme confidence in himself and his mission which Muhammad must have had.
And this confidence and faith he managed to give to this people, and with this to inspire and console them, this desert people of no great consequence managed to conquer half the known world. "Confidence and faith in themselves were a great thing. Islam also gave them a message of brotherhood - of the equality of all those who were Muslims. A measure of democracy was thus placed before the people. Compared to the corrupt Christianity of the day, this message of brotherhood must have had a great appeal, not only for the Arabs, but also for the inhabitants of many countries where they went."[28]
This profound and amazing transformation in human history was originated with one man acting entirely alone. He had no material resources at his command, had never engaged in scientific or technical study, and had never even taken anything from the learning of others. This cannot be regarded as a natural or normal occurrence; it is, on the contrary, eloquent testimony to the superhuman capacities of that outstanding personality. Were his enemies in Arabia not to have engaged him in internal wars, he would have summoned other peoples to Islam more swiftly and energetically. But the unrelenting attacks of his enemies compelled him to devote the major part of his time and resources to the defense of Islam.
An Answer to the Opponents of Islam
Opponents of Islam make the criticism that Islam relied on military force in order to secure its progress. However, we see that the Prophet never initiated hostilities against any group or people, whether it be the Jews or the Quraysh or the Byzantines. History bears witness that all the wars waged by the Most Noble Messenger, upon whom be peace and blessings, were defensive in nature: the purpose was always to respond to the attacks of the enemy, with the exception of certain cases where the Muslim were convinced that the enemy would persist in its aggressiveness and treachery and were correspondingly ordered to take the initiative in defending themselves.
In the following verses from the Quran, the initial reason for legislating jihad - i.e., responding to the attacks of an aggressive enemy - is clearly laid forth: "Permission is given to the warriors of Islam to fight against their enemies, for they have suffered oppression at their hands. God is able to aid them, and they are people who have been expelled from their homeland without due reason. Their crime was this, that they said, "God is our Lord." (22:3940) "Fight in the way of God against those who do battle with you, but be careful not to transgress the bounds, for God loves not the transgressors." (2:190) {88 they break their oath after concluding a treaty and vilify your religion, fight against the leaders of the unbelievers, for they observe no pledge or treaty; only then may they cease their violations." (9:12)
Were the Muslims carrying weapons at the very dawn of Islam when the polytheists began turning to Islam in droves? Did the Muslims start a war in order to diffuse and propagate the religion of God? Everyone knows that in the very beginning, far from attacking any group or nation, the Muslims were themselves the victims of aggression. Moreover, if it be supposed that the early Muslims embraced Islam without understanding its veracity, later generations were under no compulsion to follow them; it was the profundity of the Divine teachings that elicited their belief, in accordance with love, willingness and free choice.
If we assumed that Islam was imposed on people through coercion and threats, a corollary of this assumption would be that conversion to Islam was compulsory wherever Islam was strong. We see, however, that Islam gave human beings the choice of either accepting Islam or simply assenting to its governmental institutions while retaining their own religion. If Islam did not respect freedom of opinion, it would never have provided for the second possibility. Islam never took advantage of its position of strength to force people to accept the religion of God.
Apart from all this, faith and belief are a matter of the heart; they can never come into being without an inward inclination on the part of the human being, purely through the exercise of compulsion and force. In order to change the beliefs and ideas of people, instruction, teaching, deduction and logic are called for; force and coercion can never remove beliefs that have taken root in people's minds.
Islam had a recourse to military force and began an armed struggle at a time when people had been deprived of freedom of thought and denied the opportunity to choose the correct path. Islam issued its proclamation of war in order to defeat the oppressive tyrants who were preventing the Islamic call from being preached freely and to put an end to the stifling of thought. Only then would the masses of humanity be able, in an atmosphere of liberty to choose with absolute freedom a correct path in life. If Islam had not acted thus, truth would have been stifled in the cradle.
In order for the religion which has human happiness as its aim and wishes to reform all of human affairs to reach its lofty goals, and in order for those persons who have the capacity to learn and assimilate the teachings of that religion to come into contact with it, without encountering any obstacle, a position of dominance must be attained. It is obvious, moreover, that power can be defeated only by power. In order to destroy the forces that were standing in the path of the diffusion of the light of truth and were fighting against the formation and development of sound and exalted modes of thought, does any path exist save confrontation and battle against the agents of corruption?
The obstinate chiefs of the Quraysh wished to exploit the ignorance and weakness of the people, to continue ruling over their lives, their property and their honor, and to preserve forever the customs of ignorance that underlie their hereditary rule. They could not tolerate the influence, still less the prevalence, of a religion that was seizing them by the throat and dragging them down from their thrones of arrogance and self-worship. They understood well that the spread of Islam would utterly destroy their ancient, rotting customs and all their pomp and splendor.
Hence they rose up with all their beings to fight against this religion and the laws it was bringing, in a struggle the purpose of which was the defense of their ancestral customs and traditions and their hereditary lordship and rule. Was it possible for Islam to respond to such ideas and motivations purely with logic and proof? If a certain group of people tries to place a government in difficulty, drawing the sword and lighting fires everywhere, can the government in question save itself without resort to military force? How else can it defeat the miscreants7 Thus the Quran says: "Fight against them until disorder is brought to an end and the religion of God is established. If they cease causing disorder, do not fight against them. " (2:190)
No one can deny that in such cases it is a necessary final resort to take up weapons, because disorder, corruption, and violence will end only when the glint of the sword flashes and the hands of the miscreants are severed Islam is not, then, a religion of violence and war, nor was the Prophet of God one who sought to destroy the enemy in battle despite the availability of other means. At a time when the Muslims were being harassed and tortured by the polytheists in Mecca for the crime of having accepted Islam, a Divine command entrusted them with the duty of delivering the oppressed masses from the grasp of cruel tyrants and cleansing the surrounding area of all forms of slavery and domination, by recourse to military force.
Only thus could the newly emergent Islamic society continue to grow and develop in freedom. The Quran says: "Why do you not rise up in jihad in the path of God and for the sake of delivering the oppressed ? A group of men, women and children in Mecca are prisoners to the cruelty of the unjust, and they say: 'O Lord, deliver us from this realm of the oppressors and set us free, and send us one who will lead us and aid us."' (4:75) The battle implied here is one waged against oppressors who are fighting against God, freely indulging in the oppression of mankind, and depriving human beings of their share of the justice and luminosity that is contained in God's religion.
This is in contrast to the wars waged by the conquerors known to us from history, of whom it certainly cannot be said that they were fighting for the sake of justice, equal human rights and happiness for the whole of mankind! If a people sought to defend its life and dignity and refused to accept humiliation, did not these world-conquering warriors become infuriated and order massacres and plundering to take place? Did Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, have an aim similar to theirs? Did he engage in bloodshed to satisfy his own whims so that men would bow reverentially before his splendor and might and he might seize their property for his own use? Did not their conquests augment their arrogance and self-worship, and did they not use the booty of war to enhance the opulence of their rule? However ignorant and unjust a person might be, no one can attribute any of this to the Prophet of Islam.
The war waged by Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings, was a war of monotheism against polytheism. It was a struggle of light against darkness, and represented the last resort for the destruction of misguidance and the diffusion of virtue and justice. He was a reformer devoted to advancing the true life of the human being and he progressed unceasingly toward that lofty goal. When the Prophet first proclaimed his mission, all the Arab tribes were prepared to submit to his rule and assign him all kinds of privilege, but he decisively rejected their proposals.
He wished to unite the masses of mankind beneath the banner of virtue and Divine unity, to establish the government of reason and piety, and to guide mankind on the path to eternal felicity. Today, after the passage of more than fourteen centuries, the triumph of the Prophet is fully apparent. The book that he brought, which includes within it the essence of all heavenly scriptures, guarantees the happiness of mankind, and the noble name of this lofty personage is reverentially mentioned by millions of human beings. His name resounds from all the minarets in the world with a great spiritual splendor, and it will always continue to do so, morning and evening, in accordance with a Divine promise, penetrating the souls of men and illumining their hearts. For God said in the Quran: " We have elevated and borne on high your goodly name. " (94:4)

Lesson Twelve
Let Us Know the Quran Better
The means for establishing the messengerhood of the Prophet of Islam are those we have already expounded. The conditions and clear signs which must exist in every bearer of a heavenly message must be shown to exist also in the Prophet of Islam.
Prophethood and messengerhood are closely and inseparably linked to the miracle that proves the relationship of the claimant to prophethood with the supra-natural realm; the miracle is the clearest and most objective evidence that disarms those who would illogically deny prophethood, for it demonstrates that the claim of the Prophet is founded on a reality.
All the Prophets had but a single aim in fulfilling their Divine missions; their teachings are all of a similar type, notwithstanding the peculiarities of the mission of each, and the truths they expounded concerning the supra-natural realm differ only with respect to the degree of detail. It is true that there are differences with regard to acts of worship and social dealings; a common principle is implemented in differing ways that take into consideration the specific characteristics of each age and represent an evolutionary process.
It appears that one of the reasons for the variation in miracles is that in the times of earlier Prophets, people were inclined to believe only on the basis of material observations of visible objects that lacked any spiritual content. The fetters imposed on human thought by the seers and sages of those times caused people's attention to be limited to a particular realm, which, in turn, was the most significant factor in separating them from God and causing their minds to stagnate. The destruction of such a limited mode of thought was therefore of necessity a principal aim of the Prophets.
The Prophets were entrusted by God with the duty of attacking this source of error by confronting the seers and soothsayers with deeds of a type similar to that which they performed, but enjoying a special advantage that placed them beyond the reach of all competition. By the power of the miracle they negated and destroyed that particular cause of the human beings' separation from God-the concentration of their attention on the dazzling acts performed by the soothsayers of the age which enslaved their spirits.
By demonstrating their own miracles and setting forth the realistic principles of Divine religion, they opened the doors of guidance, growth, and development toward perfection, and linked all dimensions of human life and activity to God. All of this survives from the real nature of the miracle. The Prophet of Islam began conveying his heavenly message in the midst of a society where people's minds revolved exclusively around eloquent speech and the composition of beautiful and attractive poetry and literary excellence.
Precisely this concentration on a field of activity that cannot be counted among the basic and vital concerns of the human being was an important factor in prolonging the stagnation of thought and lack of attention to the source of all existence. Under these conditions, God equipped His Prophet with a weapon, the Quran, that apparently belonged to the same category as the literary works of the age but possessed unique and astonishing characteristics that were beyond the capacity of the human being to reproduce.
The Quran's sweetness of speech, the attraction exerted by the verses of God's book, filled the hearts of the Arabs with new feeling and perception. Their deep attention was drawn to this Divine trust that had come to them, this inimitable work. Fully versed as they were in the arts and subtleties of rhetoric, they realized that the extraordinary eloquence of the Quran was beyond the power of man to produce.
It was impossible for someone to hear the Quran and understand its meaning without being profoundly affected by its power to attract. From the beginning of revelation, the Quran was, then, the most important factor in bringing the human being to God's religion. Moreover, if the Prophet of Islam had performed some miracle other than the Quran, it would have had no meaning for that people, given their mental structure.
The path would have been open for all kinds of doubt and hesitation. But the Arabs of that age who were addressed by the Quran could never have any doubts about its extraordinary eloquence, for they were well aware of all the mysteries of rhetoric and had living among them masters of language and literary composition.
At the same time, since the Quran is intended to be an eternal miracle, revealed to make science and learning blossom among human beings, it is also a scientific miracle. It has expounded, in the most eloquent fashion, truths of a metaphysical nature together with everything that touches, however slightly, on the happiness of wretchedness of the human being. Although those who are not acquainted with the Arabic language cannot fully appreciate its miraculousness, they can perceive the miraculous nature of the meanings and truths it contains.
The limitation in time of the miracles performed by the earlier Prophets was an indication of the impermanence of their religions and the laws that they brought. By contrast, the miracle attesting to the prophethood of the Prophet of Islam cannot be temporally limited, because his message is universal and represents the culmination of all preceding religions; his prophethood requires an eternal miracle, a brilliant and eloquent proof of its immortality.
A permanent message must display to mankind a permanent and everlasting miracle, one which advances with time, so that just as it offered convincing proof to people of the past, it may do the same to people of the future. A short-lived miracle that is imperceptible to later generations cannot be a source of reference or judgment for the future. For this reason, the Quran is presented as a permanent and everlasting miracle, the final manifestation of God's revelation.
The Quran itself says: "The true and well-formulated message of your Lord has now been completed, and none is able to change it." (6:115) From the very first day when he presented his religion as a universal school of thought, the influence of which was not to be contained by geographical or ethnic boundaries, the Prophet of Islam displayed this proof of his messengerhood to the whole of mankind, as a living proof that his mission and the revolutionary movement he inaugurated represented the final chapter in the history of prophetic missions and movements.
The Quran does not represent an ideological weapon for temporary use in moving from an inferior social system to a superior one at a given stage in history; it represents the permanent ideology of the human being living in the social and intellectual order of Islam. The miracle accompanying the mission of the beloved Prophet of Islam brings to an end all the previous messages, limited as they were to a certain time.
In its unique style, the Quran provides the human being with all necessary guidance by means of either recalling the circumstances leading to the revelation of various verses or of recounting of historical narratives or of describing the events that took place during the life of the Prophet, or by means of various similes and comparisons that touch on the different concerns of human life and guide the human being in the direction of higher degrees. By analyzing the stories and events contained in the Quran, which include also a distinctively Quranic mode of Judgment, it is possible to deduce certain general principles.
Although the gradual and orderly descent of the Quranic revelation was regarded as a defect by superficial and ignorant people, it should, in fact, be recognized as a principal factor in the triumph of the Prophet's message, given the conditions of the age and the events with which he was confronted. Just as chronic diseases require long-term treatment, a continuous struggle against the factors that constantly prevent the human being from perceiving the truths of existence and stand in the way of his growth and development must be grounded on a firm ideational basis and a comprehensive social organization.
Only then will it be able to implement its goals over a period of time and guide human beings to its ultimate purpose their liberation from self-alienation. Solutions whose efficacy does not transcend events limited in time and space will be unable to solve the problems of the human being. Islam represents the only system which is able to answer those problems because of the attention it pays to all phenomena.
For Muslims, the miraculousness of the Quran is a matter of religious belief; for scholars and researchers, it is a matter of scientific belief. The Quran possesses a remarkable comprehensiveness and richness, with respect to its worldview and scientific content, and its ability to guide the individual and society. There are still many matters contained in the Quran that call for investigation and await discovery by further research.
The Extraordinary Richness of the Quran
The Quran represents the principal source of all researches concerning the Islamic school of thought. Moreover, in every age and every part of the world, it can serve as the basis for a developed and free society which enables all the hidden capacities and potentials of the human being to blossom in all their dimensions; it lays down a path to the ideal society and the government of God.
More than fourteen centuries have passed since the revelation of the Quran. Throughout this period, mankind has undergone numerous changes, and passing through repeated stages of development and growth, it has attained a more comprehensive awareness of the mysteries of creation. Nonetheless, the Quran has at all times retained its proud and dignified presence on the stage of human history.
When this miracle first came into existence, at a time when the foundations of human thought had not fully developed, it served to prove categorically the messengerhood of the Prophet of Islam. In the present age, as the human being discovers in the treasure house of the Quran, more and more remarkable indications, commensurate with his own growth in perception, knowledge and civilization, the Quran still stands as a permanent historical miracle and a living universal proof for the veracity of the Seal of the Prophets. The increase in the volume of human knowledge and the opening up of new horizons of thought have given us the chance to benefit more fully from the Quran than past generations.
If the Quran had been able to establish itself only during a certain segment of time and in a limited spatial environment, it would not have been able thus miraculously to advance together with time. The reason for the eternal vitality and authenticity of the Quran is that it has always been a source for spiritual guidance and command in the face of the changing events of time. History bears witness that the emergence of the Seal of the Prophets and his mode of activity within society marked the beginning of a new stage in human thought and ratiocination and in the development and expansion of the will and independence of the human being.
For in his growth to maturity, the human being now advanced in his investigations from the stage of mere observation to that of thought; an exact and profound examination of phenomena took the place of simplistic assumption. All this is indicated by the fact that the human beings' acceptance of true faith was no longer on the basis of miracles involving supranatural or extraordinary phenomena, as was the case with the mission of previous Prophets. Human beings turning to faith on the basis of knowledge and thought - something to which the Quran repeatedly invites human beings - represents in itself the miracle wrought by the heavenly message of Islam. Reliance on sensory miracles would not have been compatible with the nature of the final Divine message and its aim of liberating the human being and fostering the growth of his intellect. God, therefore, prepared the human being in the course of many thousands of years to receive the final guidance.
Our investigations of the Quran can be of value only when we empty our minds of all pre-existing notions and attitudes, because fanatical convictions concerning the contents of the Quran will yield nothing but mental stagnation and immobility. This is a pitfall that every alert and fair-minded researcher must seek to avoid. It is an undeniable reality that the Quran is too elevated a book to be the product of ideas held by a group of scholars. It is even more impossible for it to have been produced by a single individual or to have been borrowed by him from other sources, particularly an individual who was unlettered, had not even studied, and had grown up in the degenerate environment of the Arabian peninsula at that time, an environment which was totally alien to science and philosophy.
When we consider the system and program of action proposed by the Quran for the uplift of the human being and compare it with the laws and systems of the past, we realize that it borrowed nothing from them and bore no resemblance to them. It represents an entirely new phenomenon, original and unprecedented in its fundamental nature, and among its lofty aims are the transformation of human societies and their restructuring on the basis of justice, equality, and freedom for the oppressed and deprived masses. The Quran speaks in detail of the history of earlier Prophets and their communities, referring constantly to the events that occurred during their careers.
When we encounter the narratives contained in the Quran, the events that it relates, we are brought into direct contact with reality, in an unparalleled fashion. Every reference they contain, direct and indirect, acquaints us with the very substance of truth. It is, then, totally impossible that the narratives of the Quran should have been borrowed from the Torah or the Gospels. The Quran always presents the stories of the Prophets in a positive framework by changing and modifying them so as to purge them of unworthy excesses and elements contrary to pure monotheism, reason, and sound religious thinking. A copying would have resulted in mere imitation, and would have been entirely negative.
Dr. Maurice Bucaille, the French scholar, expresses himself as follows on this point: '"In the West, Jews, Christians and Atheists are unanimous in stating (without a scrap of evidence, however) that Muhammad wrote the Quran or had it written as an imitation of the Bible. It is claimed that stories of religious history in the Quran resume Biblical stories. This attitude is as thoughtless as saying that Jesus Himself duped His contemporaries by drawing inspiration from the Old Testament during His preachings: the whole of Matthew's Gospel is based on this continuation of the Old Testament.... What expert in exegesis would dream of depriving Jesus of his status as God's envoy for this reason?
"The existence of such an enormous difference between the Biblical description and the data in the Quran concerning the Creation is worth underlining once again on account of the totally gratuitous accusations leveled against Muhammad since the beginnings of Islam to the effect that he copied the Biblical descriptions. As far as the Creation is concerned, this accusation is totally unfounded. How could a man living fourteen hundred years ago have made corrections to the existing description to such an extent that he eliminated scientifically inaccurate material and, on his own initiative, made statements that science has been able to verify only in the present day? This hypothesis is completely untenable. The description of the Creation given in the Quran is quite different from the one in the Bible."[29]
Taking these factors into consideration, no truth-loving individual can conceive of an origin other than Divine revelation for the Quran which is not only a book, but also a proof of messengerhood and a manifestation of the miraculousness that supported the Prophet. The Quran thus came to be the profound, brilliant and eternal miracle of God's Messenger enabling the teachings and laws of Islam to retain their validity through time. The Divine commands and instructions were made manifest in phrases and sentences that were marked by miraculousness, thus implementing God's will for the preservation of religion when faced with the assaults of rancorous enemies and for the frustration of their conspiracies.
Through the permanence and stability of the mould in which God's Commands are uniquely set, these enemies who would reach out against them in order to change and distort them are permanently prevented from attaining their goal; the eternal teachings and laws of God will last throughout time, immune from change or distortion. Another aspect of the miraculousness of the Quran which has had a great effect is the revolutionary transformation it brought about in human civilization. A matter calling for serious attention in the study of Islam is the fact that it received no assistance from factors external to itself when it began to create the nucleus of a universal society out of a scattered and disunited people that lacked all science and free thought and did not even seek to unify its constituent tribes; and when it began, moreover, to found a uniquely, vast and spiritual civilization.
All the factors for changing the world, for putting forward an international law with the slogan of unity among races, peoples, and social classes, for creating a movement for the liberation of thought and the ennobling of knowledge, were derived from the very text of the Quran, from the culture that emerged from the Quran and from the Islamic order. Islam never relied on a government or a power situated outside the society it had itself brought into being.
Even the aggressors who attacked the Islamic lands and triumphed over the Muslims, thanks to their military superiority, lost their dominance in the end when they were confronted with the spiritual power of Islam, and they adopted the religion of the people they had conquered. This history of nations does not record any other example of a victorious aggressor adopting the religion of the people it had defeated.

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