By Prof. U Muhammad Iqbal
“And verily the Hereafter will be better for you than the present.” (93:4)
There are facts and facts. Some facts do not touch our lives at all and so they are blissfully irrelevant to us and we can afford to live without them. Some facts do touch our lives but they do so for a few fleeting moments only. Some facts affect us for a considerably longer duration. However, there are two facts – Allah alone is God and Muhammad is His final Messenger (may Allah bless and greet him). They are pressingly relevant to every individual on this planet even if he prefers to ignore these two facts. They are everlastingly relevant in the three worlds – this world, the world of Barzakh, and the world after Resurrection. Allah is the Lord of the three worlds and He is the Sole Arbiter of our destinies. Allegiance to the Qur’an sent through Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) is the light of life in this world (57:28), a lodestar (Imam) in the world of Barzakh, and perfection of light on the way to and in paradise (66:8, 57:19).
RELEVANCE TO THE MUSLIMS
The Qur’an, which is Allah’s Rope having cosmic dimensions, has been given to both Muslims and Non-Muslims through the Prophet. Muslims cling to this Rope and consequently they will not go astray.
As long as the Book remains relevant to the Muslims, the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) will remain equally relevant. Their relevance is for all times to come. Both are integral to each other. In fact, there is the word Munadi in 3:193. It is translated by Allama Yusuf Ali as ‘One calling’ and by Zafar Ishaq Ansari as the ‘Crier’. According to many, the Munadi is the Prophet himself; according to Muhammad bin Ka’ab Qardi, the word refers to the Qur’an. The reason he advances is that “Not everyone has seen Allah’s Messenger.” (Quoted in Rujoo Ilal Qur’an, Dr. Majdi Hilali, Urdu translation. P.239) If the two interpretations are syncretized, the result is that the functions of the Messenger and the Message are rendered identical and integral to each other.
Muslims are asked to obey the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) again and again. One specific way of obeying him is: “Take what the Messenger assigns to you, and deny yourselves that which he withholds from you.” (59:7) This verse is a standing order and it ensures his relevance to Muslims, generation after generation. They have to find out what the Prophet’s instructions are in order to obey them and his instructions are detailed and comprehensive and deal with practically every aspect of human existence, both in individual and collective spheres.
Allah and His angels shower their affection upon the Prophet. (33:56) Allah is so pleased with him that He promises His love to anyone who obeys the Prophet. (3:31) “He that obeys Allah and His Messenger – (Allah) will admit him to Gardens beneath which rivers flow; and he who turns back, (Allah) will punish him with a grievous Penalty.” (48:17)
Another standing order that ensures the relevance of the Prophet to Muslims, generation after generation, is this: “O ye who believe! Send ye blessings on him and salute him with all respect.” (33:56) “Assist and honour him.” (48:9) One way of honouring him is to invoke God’s blessings on the Prophet and his family. The privilege of being in the holiest company of God and His angels during this invocation is the reward of keeping the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) relevant to us.
When a Muslim asserts, Iyyaka Nabudu, “We worship and serve you only (now) and will always worship and serve you only,” he is fulfilling the order given in the Bible, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Deut, 8:3, St. Matt. 4:10). Implicit in this assertion and pledge that Muslims will worship and serve Allah only is the solemn understanding that they will worship and serve Allah only in the manner as shown by the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him). He had advised his followers, “Offer obeisance to Allah in the same manner as you see me doing so.” This advice is applicable to all rituals pertaining to Hajj too. In fact, he remains the model for all normal and diurnal activities. In this way, Muslims relive his activities as though he is contemporaneous with us. So vibrantly relevant are his activities!
Any activity, social or religious, whose format is not traced to the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him) becomes suspect and Muslims prefer to shun it. The wide-ranging influence that he exerts in all these matters over the Muslims is so profound, dynamic, and compulsive despite the gap of the centuries that Michael Hart paid tribute to it by saying that the Prophet is second to none measured by this standard.
Muslims are passionately devoted to conforming to the standard and the pattern of behaviour associated with the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him). He has told them that their lives are being evaluated both formatively and summatively and their duty is to uphold the total quality management of their lives. With regard to the formative evaluation, this is his observation: Verily man returns after completing his prayer. However, in his record of activities, even one-tenth, one-ninth, one-eighth, one-seventh, one-sixth, one-fifth, one- fourth, one-third and one–half of his prayer is not entered. (Rujoo ila Al-Qur’an, Urdu translation, P.256) This observation makes the Muslims aware that every activity is being monitored and evaluated and they should constantly aim at the efficiency of performance. The closer the activity is to the pattern set by the Prophet (may Allah bless and greet him), the greater will be its efficiency. In this way his relevance is made vibrant and priceless.
In order to make faith perfect, love for Allah and Prophet Muhammad is most essential. When such is the case, can objects of love be rendered irrelevant any time? Passage of time can make their relevance more luminous only!
RELEVANCE FOR NON-MUSLIMS
The first Persian Muslim is Salman. He symbolises the eternal quest for truth. Islam did not seek him; he sought Islam. He travelled from Persia to Palestine and from Palestine to Paran in search of the Truth. He migrated from Zoroastrianism to Christianity and from Christianity to settle down in Islam. He made Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) so dear and so relevant to himself that, as a reward, he was exalted to become a member of Ahle Baith!
Not all Non-Muslims can be expected to follow the trail blazed by Salman (may Allah be pleased with him). By demonstrating how truly relevant the Prophet is to themselves and how rewarding this relevance is, Muslims can transmit the message that the Prophet is an embodiment of mercy in all the three worlds and that Islam is the Straight Way to Truth about God, Knowledge about the Hereafter, and Bliss in Paradise.
Non-Muslims, who believe in One Supreme Lord whose mercy endureth for ever and whose chief and distinguishing feature is Daya, can ill-afford to ignore the serious and solemn claim advanced by Prophet Muhammad that he is addressing mankind in the capacity of the Last Messenger of that Supreme Lord. They should not reject his claim and his message without a proper and personal investigation and merely on the basis of a doctored and distorted representation.
Non-Muslims, who are agnostic humanists, may do well to study two Qur’anic predictions. “It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though the pagans may detest it.” (61:9) From Day One Islam had been subjected to most violent and ferocious opposition in the Arabian Peninsula and still Islam managed to come on top and opposition simply withered away. In Medina, Islam had to contend with betrayal of confidence and internal sabotage and aggression and yet came out unscathed. When Islam emerged on the world screen, two well-entrenched imperial powers blocked its way but they were brushed aside not by means of superior man- or fire-power. The saga of Islam is a proof that Truth cannot but triumph – Satyameva Jayate. It has stood the test of time for more than one thousand and four hundred years. Even now there is opposition and Islam is being painted as a religion of falsehood and terrorism and there are organisations like Columbia International University in South Carolina, whose avowed aim is to wipe out Islam from the face of the earth and they are not without resources. (Radiance, Feb.24- Mar.1, p.18) If Islam survives and spreads in spite of its political enfeeblement, the Qur’anic prediction given above deserves some credence.
The second prediction worthy of consideration by them is this: And verily the hereafter will be better for you than the present. (93:4) Maulana Maudoodi comments on this prediction as follows: Allah gave this good news to Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless and greet him) at a time when very few followers had thrown in their lot with him, his community as a whole was ranged against him, on the face of it the chances of success were nowhere to be seen, the lamp of Islam flickered in Makkah, and, to extinguish it, storms raged all around it. At that time, Allah reassured his Messenger, “Initial adversities should not put you off. Every succeeding epoch will prove to be brighter and better than the preceding one. Your strength, your pomp and glory, your reverence and significance will steadily increase and your influence and impact will range wider and wider. This promise is not confined to this world. The special stature reserved for you in the Hereafter will be far, far superior to what you obtain in this world.” (Tafheemul Qur’an)
MODERNITY OF HIS TEACHINGS
The Prophet’s teachings have a touch of modernity about them. For example: in order to protect women from false allegations of sexual misconduct, trial by ordeal is not enforced. Instead, trial by jury is recommended. (24:4) The Prophet was against residential or commercial encroachment upon the roads. This was his administrative rule. The validity of this rule goes on increasing as a result of urbanisation, increase in population, and the exponential growth of vehicular traffic. When this rule is violated, it results in misery. In 2001, a Chennaite boy fell into a deep pit and could not be saved. The rescuers could not drive their vehicles and move the rescue machinery fast. A newspaper report blames the encroachments. “The rampant encroachments that are allowed on all Chennai roads pose the first challenge to rescuers.” (The Hindu, Sept. 1, 2001, p.3) The Prophet gave importance to public perceptions. A sincere companion suggested to him that a certain hypocrite should be killed as he posed a security threat. The Prophet turned down the suggestion and said, “Do you want people to say that Muhammad kills his own camp-followers?”
As a ruler, as a spiritual leader, and as a human being, whatever he said or did or tacitly approved carried a stamp of wisdom and sagacity, impressed the minds and fascinated the hearts. His charisma was such that some contemporaries of his who loathed him came to love him most.
To make the Prophet perennially relevant, his historicity was ensured, his statements were recorded in his life-time, his religion was made easy, complete, and kept in consonance with the divine purity of human nature, his approach to life’s challenges was comprehensive, his message was miraculously preserved in the form of the Qur’an, and he himself was not transformed into an object of worship. People hailing from different continents, speaking different languages, and belonging to different races and social strata were among the first converts to Islam signalling the global nature of the religion. In the call for Prayer, the name of the Prophet is included to make the fact of his relevance to one and all loud and clear. His relevance is not nominal but practical, profitable, and even futuristic.