Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
As Social Reformer
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the only personality of the world whose achievements in all fields – religious, political, military, economic, social and cultural – are unparalleled in annals of history. He (PBUH) not only succeeded in uniting the savage and warring Arab tribes under the banner of Islam but also in creating a society based on principles of equality and justice. He (PBUH), thus, demolished all barriers of colour and race. Undoubtedly, he (PBUH) is the greatest benefactor of mankind who liberated human beings from the shackles of race and colour. Unfortunately, his role as a Social Reformer has never been properly highlighted by majority of writers, especially by Ulema/Islamic scholars whose focus remained predominantly on religious aspect, e.g. Salat, Fasting, Zakat, Hajj, with the result that majority of Muslims as well as non-Muslims are not adequately aware of his contributions with regard to reformation of society. In fact, a close study of his life reveals that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) laid down everlasting principles/guidelines that are prerequisites for establishing a harmonious, peaceful society which would protect rights of every human being irrespective of gender, race, colour, and every human being would be able to live a dignified life. Salient features of his contributions in social field are discussed below:
1. Religious Freedom
No compulsion/coercion was ordered in matters of religion, and every individual was free to worship as per his/her belief in the State of Madina (Para 3 of Holy Quran). In the Charter of Madina executed by him upon his arrival in Madina with non-Muslims, i.e. Jews and Christians, he (PBUH) instituted the principles of protection of life, property and liberty not only in religious matters but also in conducting economic activity. These principles were subsequently, i.e. in the 14th century, adopted by English political thinker John Locke (1632-1704) and were followed not only in Europe but also incorporated in the US Constitution. As a result of this Charter, non-Muslims enjoyed complete freedom in matters of worship as well as in conducting business, and they felt completely secure and safe. Some biased writers have tried to give an impression as if Jews were persecuted by Muslims on account of their religion. This is totally absurd. The fact is that the Jews, who were signatory of the Charter of Madina, were bound, like Muslims, to defend Madina in case of any outside aggression. The Jews didn’t accompany Muslims to defend Madina when it was attacked by pagans of Makkah, rather they conspired against them. Thus, military action was taken against them for violating/breaching the clause of the Charter of Madina.
2. Respect for Other Religions
The current wave of extremism in certain Islamic countries does not find any support from the behaviour and conduct of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his companions as extremism didn’t exist in the State of Madina. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) urged Muslim brethren to not only show complete respect to non-Muslims but also avoid passing any derogatory remarks about their gods. Surah Al Kafiroon testifies this. Furthermore, Muslims were quite tolerant on the visit of Christian delegation to Madina. They not only accorded them full protocol but also allowed them to worship inside Masjid-e-Nabvi.
3. Rule of Law
Every individual, irrespective of his position and status, was obliged to follow the law and held accountable. The theory of “Divine Right of Kings,” that kings cannot be held accountable for their actions – a doctrine which existed in Europe but refuted/attacked by John Locke – was never in vogue in the State of Madina and the ruler of the Islamic state is always accountable not only to Allah but also to the people for his actions. Hence , in Madina, no immunity was available to anyone, how much powerful may be. Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself led by example by declaring that even if his beloved daughter commits an illegal act, she will have to face the consequences.
4. Racial Discrimination
This curse, which still exists even in the most civilized countries, was eradicated by the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Although racism was rampant in Arabian society at that time, the Holy Prophet (PBUH), by his teachings and conduct, eliminated it and declared that no one has superiority over others on account of colour, race, and that superiority over others is only on account of piety and good deeds. Example of Hazrat Bilal (RA), — not only a slave but also a black — who occupied a commanding position among the Muslims corroborates this fact.
5. Women’s Rights
These were not only protected but also ensured by his teachings and Quranic injunctions. All the rights required for women to live a decent and dignified life in society were bestowed on them. These include the right to acquire knowledge/education, marriage with her consent and choice, unilateral divorce (Khula) and bridal money. Women were also given right to own property, to conduct business and earn livelihood independently, to get a share in inheritance and to keep their identity intact even after marriage. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself was a role model in this regard as he (PBUH) not only helped his wives in household chores but also took cognizance of their opinions in all matters. He (PBUH) also commanded his followers to accord highest respect to women and treat them with kindness. As a consequence of this phenomenal empowerment of women by virtue of granting of these rights, they subsequently became outstanding scholars, teachers, jurists, successful business owners and even rulers.
6. Emphasis on Education and Research
Acquiring of knowledge was made obligatory upon every Muslim man and woman. He (PBUH) highlighted its importance by declaring that even if one has to go to China – remote and distant place – for the sake of acquiring knowledge, one must go. His love for learning is evident from the fact that even the bitterest enemy prisoners captured in the Battle of Badr were engaged to impact knowledge to Muslims .
7. Relentless Struggle
An in-depth study of the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) shows his sustained struggle amidst heavy odds, sufferings, torture from his own relatives and tribesmen. An unflinching commitment and devotion enabled him to achieve his goal, that is, “There is no god but Allah” and life must be lived in complete submission to the will of Allah Almighty.
The Holy Prophet (PBUH) permitted Jihad only in self-defence when there was a danger of extirpation from an enemy. The greatest Jihad is held to battle your own soul, to fight the evil within your own self.
9. Building A Good Character
The best among humans are said to be those people who have the best manners and character; they are kind to others, take care of neighbours, their parents. orphans, elders, animals, spend in charity, help others, especially the poor, feed the hungry, talk politely, observe simplicity in living, are fair in dealings and don’t cheat and harm others by tongue and hands, observe truthfulness, work hard to earn a livelihood, dont do adulteration in food/eatables. Cleanliness was immensely emphasised by him to the extent that it was declared half the belief. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) and his companions (RA) were true embodiment of these characteristics as they never displayed haughty behaviour, and lived simple life. Unfortunately, we do not observe these and, resultantly, are at the lowest ebb of civilized living.
10. No Social Sins
Seven Social Sins/Evils pointed out by Frederick Lewis Donaldson (1860-1953), an Anglican priest, in his sermon in London on March 20, 1925, are: i. Wealth without work; ii. Pleasure without conscience; iii. Knowledge without character; iv. Commerce without morality; v. Science without humanity; vi. Worship without sacrifice and vii. Politics without principle.
These sins didn’t exist in the State of Madina as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) companions (RA) strictly followed his teachings with regard to the above. For example, “worship without sacrifice,” a sin pointed by Donaldson, was nullified by the conduct of early Muslims who scarified everything for the cause of Allah. Similarly, “Commerce without morality,” another sin referred to by him, was non-existent in Madina. Likewise, he strongly denounced those scholars whose knowledge is not accompanied by their sound character and self-practice. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) observed all norms of morality even in political matters. Had the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) been followed in letter and spirit, these sins would have never existed.
11. Welfare of the Downtrodden
It was the cornerstone of the policies of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). Social injustice arising from concentration of wealth in a few hands was duly dealt with; on the one side by moral teachings, and by enacting levy of Zakat, on the other, which was collected from the rich and spent on the poor. Moreover, he (PBUH) encouraged spending on charity and strongly condemned hoarding and excessive profiteering.
12. The celebrated French writer Robert Briffault in his book ‘The Making of Humanity’ pays rich tribute to the achievements of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by saying that “ideas of freedom for all human beings, of human brotherhood, of equality of all men before the law, government by consultation, religious freedom, protection of life and property and allowing of economic activity to followers of other religions, were the ideas that inspired the French revolution and the Declaration of Rights, which guided the framing of American constitution, were not inventions of West. They find their ultimate inspiration from teachings and life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).”
13. William James Durant, a prolific American writer, historian and philosopher, considers Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) The Most Successful Reformer. In his words, “If we judge greatness by influence, he (PBUH) was one of the giants of history. He (PBUH) undertook to raise the spiritual and moral level of people harassed into barbarism by heat and goodness waste, he (PBUH) succeeded more completely than any other reformer, seldom hashed any man so fully realized his dream. When he (PBUH) began, Arabia was a desert of flotsam of idolatrous, when he (PBUH) died, it was a nation.” (The Story of Civilization)
In short, the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a model for all humans. He (PBUH) practiced what he preached and that’s why he (PBUH) was placed at Number One by Michael Hart in his book: “The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History.”
May Allah enable all of us to follow his teachings. Amen!
The writer is a former Chief Commissioner, Inland Revenue Service.