The Dynamism of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.)
“And Remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: O children of Israel! I am the Prophet of God (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Prophet to come after me whose name shall be Ahmed.” (61:6)
Belief in Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the last and final Prophet is the cardinal tenet of Islam.
The special features which marked the previous Prophets (AS) and the proofs which establish prophethood, were all present in the person of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). He had the mercy and compassion of Prophet Jesus (AS), power and authority of Prophet Moses (AS), patience of Prophet Noah (AS) and the majesty of Prophet Abraham (AS). The Prophecies of the previous prophets (AS) concerning Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the life he led under divine inspiration, the miracles bestowed upon him and his exemplary conduct, established his status as the Prophet of Allah beyond any doubt.
The inner dynamism, perfection, flexibility and comprehensiveness of Islam explain its unique position as the eternal religion capable of satisfying spiritual and other needs of mankind till the end of the world. A major difference in the message of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is that what was revealed to Muhammad (SAW) was not just a program, but a universal law; programs change but universal laws never change.
The Holy Qur’an as revealed to the last messenger, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is a Book of laws for human life valid for all times, places and peoples and is an example of perfection.
Imam Ali (AS) in regard to the mission of the Prophets (AS) says:
“From his (Adam) progeny Allah chose Prophets and took their pledge for His revelation and for carrying His message at their trust. In course of time many people perverted Allah’s trust with them and ignored His position and took compeers along with Him.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 1)
Then considering the appointment of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the seal of the Prophets he says:
“In this way ages passed by and times rolled on, fathers passed away while sons took their places till Allah deputed Muhammad (SAW) as His Prophet, in fulfillment of His promise and in completion of His Prophethood. His pledge had been taken from the Prophets (AS), his traits of character were well reputed and his birth was honorable. The people of the earth at this time were divided in different parties, their aims were separate and ways were diverse. They either likened Allah with His creation or twisted His Names or turned to other than Him. Through Muhammad (SAW) Allah guided them out of falsehood and with his efforts took them out of ignorance.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 1)
The Prophet’s (SAW) trials in Mecca
Muhammad (SAW) was inclined to worship in solitude in a cave on Mount Hira outside the city. It was while praying, at the age of forty, during the sacred month of Rajab, that he heard a voice command him, ‘Read.’ ‘I cannot read,’ he replied. But the voice again commanded him, ‘Read: in the Name of the Lord who creates ... man from a clot. Read: And your Lord is the most Bounteous. Who teaches (writing) by the pen, teaches man that which he knew not.’ (96:1-5)
In Meccan society of the Prophet’s (SAW) time there was no respect for morality and there was widespread corruption, moral corruption above all and total neglect of weaker sections of society. In fact the Qur’an was preaching a new way of life which was not acceptable to the kafirs of Mecca.
There was concept of tribal morality but in urban areas like Mecca a new society was emerging and new moral code was absolutely necessary. Also, the tribal code, even if followed meticulously, was far from enough for the new society emerging in Mecca.
The Qur’an gave a universal code of morality with emphasis on equality, justice, truth, non-violence (there is great deal of emphasis on non-violence as a value in Islamic ethics), compassion and human dignity. These values, as can be seen, are quite universal and transcend narrow tribal limits. The pagan Arabs and their leaders rejected this universal morality, as they were too proud of their tribal code. Any one not belonging to their tribe could be fought against and considered inferior. And all non-Arabs were inferior to Arabs. There was no concept of human dignity.
The Meccan chapters of the Qur’an lay great emphasis on social justice and taking care of the weak. The powerful merchants of Mecca who had become international traders were neglecting even tribal morality, let alone accepting universal morality of the Qur’an. According to the tribal morality of Arabia, the tribal chiefs should take care of orphans, widows and the poor. Even they were being totally neglected. The Meccan chapters of the Qur’an exhort them to take care of these weaker sections of society.
Also, the tribal chiefs of Mecca looked down upon the poor, the slaves and women. All those who were from lower strata of society had no worth for them.
They looked down upon the Prophet (SAW) as he was a poor orphan, too low in their esteem and now this poor orphan was claiming to be Prophet (SAW) and exhorting them how to behave. And, he was also exhorting them not to accumulate wealth (something they were very much after) and spend it for the welfare of weaker sections of society in the name of Allah.
The tribal chiefs referred to as kuffar by the Qur’an vehemently opposed the Prophet (SAW) for these reasons and not merely because the Prophet (SAW) exhorted them not to worship idols. They could have gladly accepted worshipping one God if the Prophet (SAW) had not insisted on giving up accumulation of wealth and living a life of luxury. What they did not like was that the Prophet (SAW) gave equal respect to slaves and treated them as dignified human being as per the Qur’anic injunction in: We have given dignity to all children of Adam. (17:70)
Thus, this new morality of Islam wanted to create a new human person what is called in the Qur’anic terminology a mu’min - a believer, a faithful - a believer in and faithful to the Qur’anic values and morality. The leaders of Mecca were not prepared to give up life of luxury, life of ease and comfort and were too proud to accept equality of all human beings, of poor and rich, of slave and free beings, of men and women.
The firmness of the Prophet (SAW)
The Prophet (SAW) was not prepared to make any compromises on these issues. And all tribes had their own gods and goddesses and their identities were tied up with them. This led to social fragmentation and tribal wars. Islam wanted to end this by preaching the unity of God and consequently, the unity of all human beings. While the Prophet (SAW) would not compromise on this, the kuffar would not accept this and hence the conflict between Muslims and them.
We should also bear in mind that in pre-Islamic society there was great deal of violence and it is this violence which continued when the Prophet (SAW) began to preach. Some people who do not know the history of pre-Islamic Arabia or are prejudiced against Islam see violence as a product of Islam.
The Prophet’s (SAW) mission was to establish a just and peaceful society. And the tribal chiefs of Mecca were a powerful obstacle in his project. Without justice it was not possible to have peace. When the Prophet (SAW) talked of justice, the powerful merchants of Mecca began to inflict violence on him and his followers. All weaker sections of society had rallied round the Prophet (SAW), the poor, the slaves, the women and the youth. The Prophet’s (SAW) clearest choice was justice and peace.
Thus, the Qur’an wants to establish a just society for benevolence of human beings with compassion and wisdom. Violence has no place in ushering in such a society.
“Then Allah chose for Muhammad (SAW) to meet Him for His own nearness, regarded him too dignified to remain in this world and decided to remove his from this place of trial. So He drew him towards Himself with honor. May Allah shower His blessing on him and his progeny.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 1)