By Prof. Shahul Hameed
The basic pillar of the Islamic creed — namely, Shahadah or testimony of faith — is as follows: There is no god but Allah; Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. The first part of the Shahadah expresses the transcendent Oneness of Allah, and the second part upholds the unique human example of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as Allah’s servant and Messenger.
This means that the role of Muhammad was twofold: He was Allah’s Messenger who conveyed to the humanity the will of Allah revealed to him. In this way, as Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad represented Almighty Allah’s will before his fellow humans. At the same time, he was a perfect human being who realized and implemented Allah’s will in his own life. This being the case, Prophet Muhammad is considered a role model for the whole of humanity and, in particular, the leader of those humans who submit to the Creator by following in his footsteps.
In other words, the Prophet received the divine guidance and was its exemplar and practitioner par excellence. For this reason, the Prophet himself was the best enunciator and explicator of the Qur’an. Therefore, the best commentary on the Prophet’s life is the Qur’an itself. When asked about his character, `A’ishah, the Prophet’s wife, said, “His character was the Qur’an” (Ahmad).
Addressing the Prophet, Almighty Allah says in the Noble Qur’an:
In fact, the Qur’an and its teachings cannot be entirely understood and practically adhered to apart from the Sunnah of the Prophet. The reason is that the Prophet’s exemplary life was the Qur’an’s realization in the human life. So, for all practical purposes, the scope of the Sunnah is as it were contiguous with that of the Qur’an.
Almighty Allah also says in the Qur’an:
[Indeed you have in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah.] (Al-Ahzab 33:21)
This means that the believers must take the Prophet as their role model in all spheres of life. Thus, we can see that Almighty Allah has decreed that the example of Prophet Muhammad should necessarily serve as a practical demonstration of the precepts laid down in the Noble Qur’an. In this respect, Almighty Allah says:
These are all very powerful words from the Almighty about the norm set by the Prophet as the expression of Allah’s own will.
Anyone who has studied the Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammad can see how this noble Book groomed the Prophet step by step until he became not only the spiritual leader of his people and the whole humanity but also the temporal head of a new political entity that he himself shaped from scratch. This is a miracle, indeed.
Islam teaches that Almighty Allah has created humans to be the representatives of the willful obedience to Allah’s will and commands on earth. But how could we have known the purpose of our existence and our role if we had not received clear and practical instructions as to what Allah wants us to do? For this, Allah sent the Prophets to teach people what they should know about Him, the universe, and their destiny, as well as to guide and help them lead a meaningful life on earth.
It was from the Prophets that we obtained answers to all our questions pertaining to life, death, and the Day of Judgment. Through their model lives, they taught us how to live in this life as good humans.
Indeed, the humans were groping along through the darkness of ignorance, injustice, and inequality until these Prophets came and led them to the light of truth. When Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) appeared, the Arabian Peninsula was steeped in ignominy and ignorance. The superstitions prevailing at the time had turned those people into callous beasts.
But the Prophet was able to instill into them (not merely into a few persons but also into millions who lived in several places) a culture and enlightenment that made them the best and the noblest of the whole world.
If we study the life as well as the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, we can clearly see that his achievement as a Prophet could never have been realized if he had not been chosen, sent and guided by Almighty Allah.
This means that the real miracle of Muhammad was the fact that he received revelation from Almighty Allah to lead the people from the depths of darkness into the light of truth. This was no ordinary magical performance; the nature of this divine revelation, as well as its content, amply demonstrates otherwise. The miraculous nature of the Qur’an is evident to anyone who has conducted even a cursory study of its impact on the Arabs of those days.
The barbarous tribes were so superstitious that they used to kill their own newborn female babies. They used to bow down before stone idols and indulge in internecine warfare for decades in an unceasing fury of tribal vendetta. These types of people were transformed into a compassionate and cultured community. In their new mould, they stood shoulder to shoulder for Prayer five times a day like a solid, concrete wall, irrespective of tribe, race, color, language, or social position. They surrendered their pride and prestige and prostrated themselves before Allah, the One and Only God of the universe.
With the Qur’an in hand, Prophet Muhammad was able to instill into his followers such human qualities as gentleness, forgiveness, and spirit of brotherhood so much so that those primitive people became concerned more with the well-being of their less fortunate brothers than with themselves.
By the grace of the All-Merciful Allah, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gave shape to the teachings of Islam with a model society whose hallmark was truth, justice and peace. This achievement was obviously far beyond the capability of all humans (no matter how accomplished they might have been in their respective spheres) unless they were guided and aided by Almighty Allah Himself. In fact, not only did the Prophet receive the Qur’an into his heart and soul but also he was its living model who managed to lead millions out of the depths of darkness toward light.