By Yvonne Ridley
Some religions will say love is the core of their being and it is, undoubtedly, a highly commendable and endearing quality.
But the Islam brought to us by the Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be with him) is based on a charter of social justice and fairness regardless of any individual’s beliefs, skin colour or nationality.
And it is that social justice which brings many new converts into Islam …the fastest growing religion in the world today.
Anyone can love their neighbour, but how easy is it to show that same love, compassion and justice to your enemy?
By following the example of the Prophet converts from the West are embracing a faith with a social order, justice and way of life superior to anything in the world today.
Yes, our detractors will say Muslims follow a barbaric, primitive religion brought into the world over 1400 years ago by an illiterate Arab, but the enemies of Islam really need to look into the mirror and ask what their contribution to civilisation is.
It is worth remembering that another great man, Mahatma Ghandi, was once asked what he thought of Western Civilisation and he smiled wryly, before replying that he thought it would be a good idea.
But his own views about Muhammad were just as enlightened in a statement published in Young India in 1924, when he said: “I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.”
The Prophet brought us a code for living which, I would argue, is quite superior to anything available today. Ghandi, it seems, is still right about the West!
In this uncertain world the US Bush Administration has brought us a harsh new language which includes phrases and words like rendition flights, kidnap, torture, and detention without trial.
Human rights have gone down the pan. It has become increasingly obvious that the concept of fundamental justice is not common to all people in the so-called Christian world of the Bush fundamentalists.
And the Bush gang’s attitude towards women is even more deeply alarming when you consider the President of the United States insisted the war in Afghanistan would liberate the women there.
I have walked through the killing fields of Afghanistan and, as in Iraq, the lot of the women has worsened.
In fact the last time I visited the prison where I was once held by the Taliban in Kabul, it was jammed full of young girls aged between 12 and 16 whose only crime was to run away from home because they did not want to be sold off as child brides, forced into marriage with men three times their age.
One of the first things the Prophet Muhammad did as a Muslim was to stamp out the practice of infanticide of baby girls, and then he went on to introduce rules which outlawed forced marriages.
He made it perfectly clear that all women are equal in spirituality, worth and education by endorsing God’s Word through the pages of the Holy Qur’an.
It was pretty radical and shocking then, but sadly the thought of empowered women sharing an equal platform with men is still regarded as equally daunting in some parts of the world.
But perhaps the wisest words uttered by the Prophet came on the ninth day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. (632 CE) in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Makkah.
The occasion became known as the Farewell Pilgrimage. One of the gifts that I treasure is a copy of that speech which hangs on the wall of my family home, and for those of you who may not have encountered it, let me share a section of it.
“O People! Just as you regard this month, this day, this city as Sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that he will indeed reckon your deeds.
“Allah has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity…
“O People! it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.
“O People! listen to me in earnest, worship Allah, say your five daily prayers, fast during month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat (obligatory charity). Perform Hajj if you can afford to.
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly.
“Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves. Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.”
As part of this sermon, the Prophet (peace be to him) recited them a Revelation from Allah which he had just received and which completed the Holy Qur’an, for it was the last passage to be revealed.
To thunderous acclaim, the Prophet concluded with the Word of God, revealing: “This day the disbelievers despair of prevailing against your religion, so fear them not, but fear Me (Allah)! This day have I perfected for you your religion and fulfilled My favour unto you, and it hath been My good pleasure to choose Islam for you as your religion (Surah 5, Ayah 3)”.
Of course not only Muslims admired the Prophet as we can see from the words of the Reverend Bosworth Smith who in 1874 summed up perfectly his life and times by writing: “Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope’s pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue. If ever a man ruled by a right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without their supports. He cared not for the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.”
I am often asked why there is so much hate towards Islam and our beloved Prophet and the reply is always the same: “Fear”.
It is very hard for the greatest super powers in the world to comprehend and accept the power wielded by a man without an army, a man who had no desire for political greatness or pretensions about himself. And if the likes of George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair cannot understand what moved and inspired such a great man then they have no chance of understanding his great faith which continues to inspire millions more.
In many ways, it is Muhammad’s legacy which is even more feared and this was recognised by Sir George Bernard Shaw who sent tremors through Europe’s Establishment when he wrote in 1936: “If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam.
“I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity.
“I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness.”
So who am I to disagree with one of Ireland’s greatest literary critics, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925, and one of the greatest ever essayists on matters of social justice?
If he were alive today, the Prophet would probably shrug his shoulders at such praise and remind us all he is but a human being and that we should all remember to submit to Allah.