By Na’eem Siddiqui
Before studying the life history of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), we must have a clear idea of the mission for which he worked all his life. We have to understand its true nature, scope, and features. If we scan the wide range of historical characters, we will come across great reformers, founders of philosophical systems, and great rulers and revolutionaries who changed the course of history. But the common feature of all of them is that, while they influenced only one aspect of human life, they left loopholes open for evils to creep into other aspects.
It is hard finding any movement or ideology that truly succeeded in transforming the whole nature of humans by changing their entire being from within and without, as well as their community life. But, this is what Prophet Muhammad accomplished in a way that was unique in history; indeed, no such example can be found elsewhere.
The transformation was such that the human society from the mosque to the market, from the school to the court, and from home to the public field (the entire gamut of human life) was changed. As a result of this change, there were goodness and virtue wherever the change reached. In fact, the human life received a new base, and the foundation was laid for a real progress and a virtuous life on an international scale.
At the time of the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), the entire world was steeped in darkness. Belief in multiple gods and worship of idols had shaken the foundation of civilized life. The light of civilization had faded over the then known world from Egypt to India and from Greece to China. Banners of the Roman and Persian empires immersed in the worst forms of tyranny, and terrorism fluttered over the degraded humanity.
Not only did the rulers claim to be the representatives of God but, in some cases, they also claimed to be gods with whom fiefdoms and religious orders were allied. The combined forces of the three had strangled the common people, who were already overburdened with heavy taxes, bribes, and grafts and were forced to labor under duress.
No one seemed to take any notice of this malaise, and no one provided any remedy or escape from this course. The then going overlords sank in moral degradation, and the devastating wars and frequent changes in ruling dynasties further grounded the common people under heavier strain, instead of giving any relief to them.
The Roman and Persian empires were frequently at war. At intervals, large territories passed from one empire to the other. After consolidating their powers, the new masters unleashed even greater forces of oppression.
Churches and temples on changing hands became places of worship of the conqueror. All over the world, armed clashes were the order of the day, and the humanity suffered most. The common people were deprived of the most essential necessities of life, and they could not even raise their voice in protest.
Teachings of the Prophets and the wise were lost in corruption and erroneous interpretations, and whatever remained of religion had become a profitable trade in the hands of religious orders, which were in alliance with the ruling class.
When the despaired humanity found no way of escape and the crisis reached a critical stage, the light of the rescuer of the humanity emerged. The very country where Prophet Muhammad was born was steeped in utter moral degradation. The great civilizations of Ur and Nineveh, of `Aad and Thamud, and of Aden and Saba’ were lost in ancient history, and there were barbarism and disruption all over Arabia.
Debauching, drinking, and gambling were rampant. Idol-worshipping Quraish was trading in religion with the Ka`bah in its custody. Tribes fought with one another on flimsy grounds. The Jews were engaged in religious controversies. The usurers of Makkah and Ta’if had large-scale dealings in money lending at exorbitant interest rates, and trafficking in slavery was rife. In short, the humans lived according to their whims, and the strong were oppressing the weak.
Unable to reform their surroundings, those who hated evil retired to forests, mountains, and caves and became recluses. In the midst of this degradation, Prophet Muhammad had to liberate the humanity and prove to the world that his great mission will cause a phenomenal success. He stood up single-handed to change the entire human outlook by spreading the teachings of Islam revealed to him by Almighty Allah.
Prophet Muhammad boldly faced the situation and reformed the humanity. To resolve the cultural crisis brought about by the clashes between the Persians and the Romans, he rose as a third power that consolidated itself and challenged both empires and defeated them, restoring freedom to the common people.