By Sarah Nawazish Rizvi

Verily it is his jurisprudence that lives on till eternity and which have the potential of evolving with expanding diametrical stretches of Time and Space. ‘Deen’, loosely translating into ‘religion’ is a metaphor for intellectual, psychical and mental growth, which borders on ‘Ijtihad’, accentuated by the Holy Prophet (SAW). The law of jurisprudence that he laid is most systematic and most methodical body of knowledge; a process; a metamorphosis, ranging from the principle guidelines of nurturing a child, right from the time of conception till death, from the very banal rituals of how to make ablution after physical excretion to the very crucial division of rights and duties in a familial unit, law of inheritance, divorce and Nikkah (marital contract). 

The breadth of Deen-e-Islam encloses within its folds teachings pertaining to the prenatal and the afterlife. The Holy Prophet’s (SAW) proficient command over human psychological, psychical and physical limitations as well as demands establishes Him as the most ‘Humane’ and ‘Human’ of leaders. The interesting feature is that although He commands extraordinary reverence, but the grounds for it are not ‘supernatural’. He excels as a leader, teacher, guide and mentor in all aspects of human life in ‘human’ capacity, and interestingly the higher his grandeur, the greater is the level of empathy people feel with him. There is no gulf, which separates the leader from his followers. The shackles of ‘VIP’ culture find no niche in the entirety of his lifetime. Hence nepotism was abolished and a precedent was set that no privileges or prerogatives are endowed upon the kith and kin of an authority. The absolutely unblemished conduct and immaculate bearing of the Prophet (SAW) encouraged followers globally. Ever since his advent, much before the formal declaration of ‘Nuboowat’ (Prophethood), He spent his time in observance of strict moral rectitude, abstinence and meditation in the Cave of Hira. Even the worst enemies of Islam deemed him ‘Righteous’ and ‘Truthful’ and admitted that they were biased against His teachings, not his character.

He conferred respect on an ordinary individual and his opinion.  Holy Prophet (SAW) held the most ‘all-embracing’ appeal to the people irrespective of the distinctions of caste, colour and creed. People belonging to different schools of thought, and even religion, despite their prejudice for Islam, did not hesitate in inviting the Prophet of Islam (SAW) to ‘mediate’ in their internal problems or entrusting their most precious belongings in his care. It was largely due to the fact that he emphasized ‘Justice’ as the kernel of a civilized society, and more so, of the state of Madina and later the entire ‘Hijaz’ (the then Saudi Arabia). Minorities felt more secure and protected within the parameters of the Islamic state because rule of law and justice prevailed. Hazrat Ali (A.S), the disciple of the Holy Prophet (SAW) rightly remarked that one could establish rule through ‘infidelity’, but not through ‘injustice’; thereby eliminating all Machiavellian notions of power dynamics. In Madina alone, the Holy Prophet (SAW) entered into agreements and contracts of socio-political nature between Muslims and non-Muslims to promote peaceful overtures.  Unlike ‘religious leaders’ the Holy Prophet (SAW) stands out because of his increasingly existential approach. He spells out clearly that unless one’s existential needs are met, one is doomed to resort to crime. ‘Existence precedes essence’; and one cannot be expected to lead a healthy, balanced life till the former is satiated. The poor man who barely makes both ends meet is not offered a far-fetched, futuristic ideal of ‘heavens hereafter’ in case he is steadfast, but practically taken care of through Zakat. Religion was not reduced to a dose of opium offered to the poor. The Holy Prophet (SAW) laid that the amount of Zakat paid to the needy must be such that he does not remain deserving of Zakat. Russell’s preoccupation with ‘power’ and Marx’s notion of capitalism have been aptly addressed in Prophet’s (SAW) guidance. Islam has always disregarded accumulation of wealth in a few hands. The Prophet (SAW) stressed the even distribution of wealth and equal opportunity for all. By attributing absolute sovereignty with Allah, the phenomenon of tyranny and absolute power has been completely ruled out. The Prophet (SAW) despite being at the helm of affairs was not totalitarian in approach. He interacted with his followers on an equal footing. In many Ghazwas he implemented ‘division of labour’ and distribution of responsibilities among the followers, by first assuming his own role. In Ghazwa-e- Khandaq everyone was busy collecting stones. When he seized his shirt, two big boulders were seen tied to his stomach. This implies that he instead of working at par toiled harder. One could say that since war is a critical period, strategically it was important for him to participate. But we witness that during peace, when he was en route with his companions, he implemented the same plan, dividing responsibilities among the people. When everyone was given his task, he announced that one of the responsibilities was left, that of gathering timber. He volunteered to perform this job.

Youngsters and women enjoy liberty to make ‘choices’ such as choosing one’s spouse. Nothing has been imposed. It is this concept of ‘freedom’, which lies at the base of his teachings and exerts universal thrust. Freedom to choose for oneself and face the repercussions is what Islam prepares a thinking mind for. The ability to rationalise and intellectualise has to be ingrained in the human mind. The modalities of ‘how’ and ‘why’ are to be addressed. The followers of the Prophet (SAW) are conversant with the power of reasoning and logic-based ratiocination.  Once the Holy Prophet (SAW) entered a mosque and was faced with two groups of people, one busy offering prayers and the other engaged in intellectual discourse. The Holy Prophet (SAW) appreciated them both, saying that both the groups were busy carrying out good deeds, but categorically mentioned that he would prefer to sit with those discussing intellectual matters.

Women were emancipated and granted the right to ‘choose’. Hazrat Sumayya therefore stands out as a heroic martyr of Islam. One who was so clear in her conceptual knowledge of Islam, that even the worst punishment could not deter her from practising what she believed was right. It is said that her limbs were tied to horses and made to run in opposite directions, yet she did not fret. Had she lacked the independence of mind and decision-making power, she could easily have given in to the face of this hardship.

The institution of judiciary was strong and judges were men of unimpeachable repute of morality. Their remuneration was high so that bribes could not shake their sense of justice. The society that Holy Prophet (SAW) founded was one where justice and fair play ruled. A structure where everyone and anyone was respected, where mutual consultation was the norm of the day, laid down the foundations of the first ever democracy. The Holy Prophet (SAW) always encouraged debate and promoted a favourable aura to raise ‘questions’, than meekly follow dictates. He facilitated group discussions among his disciples to arrive at conclusive resolutions.

Throughout different phases of history, what remains a constant among various variables is the strength of Holy Prophet’s (SAW) character. The incident of Taif in which he was brutally tortured without reason, and his humanitarian approach of forbearance and greeting the perpetrators with ‘prayer’ stand out in sheer contrast. More so when he conquered Makkah, again with his force of character, he declared general amnesty despite being in a position to punish all those who had been committing crimes against Islam. He allowed the non-Muslims to pay respects to the temples-turned-mosques. Even in wars, which he never initiated, and invariably fought on the defensive, He always ordered His men not to meddle with public property or to vandalize natural habitats. He asked them not to maltreat women or children or those who surrendered and stopped fighting. The prisoners of one of the wars were asked to educate Muslim children as a penalty. Yet where Islam emphasizes fortitude and forgiveness, it nevertheless stresses the need of a proper scheme of check and balance where the wrongdoer has his share of punishment in proportion to the degree of crime he has committed.

The Holy Prophet (SAW) is a universal academician because he strived to propagate the message of ‘freedom’, freedom in all shapes and forms. By freeing man rationally, he made him transcend. Introducing him to the ‘hereafter’ and the Day of Reckoning, he expanded the parochial outlook of man, which dwells on the ‘here’ and the ‘now’ only. His masterpiece is to bring out the ‘fine’ from within a rude and crude man. He never sat in palatial courts, rather worked in contradistinction to imperialistic designs. He was accessible, within the range of common man. He attached weight to their suggestions. It is this freedom that made a simpleton Negro like Bilal rise and be placed at the echelon of ‘Moazan e Rasool’ (SAW). It was Holy Prophet’s (SAW) teachings that Bilal who was a slave became so empowered as to fight off despotism. Today if Islam is portrayed in a negative light it is not the fault of Islam. Our misconceptions, grudges, distorted interpretations by some self-proclaimed pious Mullahs have wrought havoc with what Islam truly is. The determinant of Islam’s propagation during Prophet’s (SAW) time was his humane and best conduct. That is why Islam endured in all these regions and wherever it was later ‘imposed’ on gunpoint it failed to prevail. That is why when mud-slinging, libellous cartoons are promoted, what hurts the Muslims is the fact that the man who taught the entire humanity respect for individual freedom is made the butt of mockery most ill-founded and unjustifiable. It was Holy Prophet (SAW) who established a fine critical and analytical approach among people. Criticism, based on facts and figures is thus encouraged, but character assassination based on utter fabrication is a crime itself. In short the Holy Prophet (SAW) is an embodiment of Mercy, and such attempts at humiliating his personality only highlight lack of knowledge and insight of those committing this offence It is ironic that he who deemed war as ‘Jehad’ of a smaller degree, while training of the ‘Nafs’; the animal and the libidinal instincts as ‘Jehad e Akbar’, or bigger Jehad, could be accused of any inhuman designs. He is a message of peace for all and malice to none.

Muslims attach exceptional esteem with the persona of the Holy Prophet (SAW). To an unapprised audience, be it Muslim or otherwise, it may sound hyperbolic. Yet an objective, cross-sectional analysis of his life adduces sufficient testimony to hold him as the ‘universal academic’ beyond doubt. It is indeed a matter of immense gratitude for the humanity that Allah, the Lord of the Pen and the Board sent prophets to offer them tutelage, culminating in the arrival of the Final Prophet (SAW).