Prophet Muhammad: On the birth of the most influential person in history
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent the Merciful.
"Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, and those with him are strong against the unbelievers and compassionate to each other among themselves. When you see them, you will find them making Rakuh (bowing down) and Sajud (prostrate in prayers), and craving for the blessings from Allah and His good pleasure.
They have the marks of Sajud (prostration) on their foreheads, the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Torah; and their similitude in the Gospel; they are like the seed, which puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, then becomes thick and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers of the seed, so that through them He may enrage the unbelievers. Yet to those of them, who will believe and do good deeds, Allah has promised forgiveness and a great reward."(Qur'an 48:27-29).
"THE mission and guidance I have been vouchsafed to deliver to the world is like this; a man made a bonfire and when it illuminated the surroundings, insects began to jump into it. You also want to take a leap into the fire in a like manner but I am holding you by your waists to save you from falling into the eternal fire." -Prophet Muhammad
Sometime in June 2000, Michael Hart did a survey of the hundred most influential person in history. At the end of the day he placed Prophet Muhammad at the top. He says as follows:
"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels... Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world's great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader.
"Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive... Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world's great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus.
"There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (in so far as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytiser, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament.
"Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time... the Arab conquests of the seventh century have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history"
Hart's research result is here not being celebrated. Rather, we are recalling that effort for its pertinence and particularly because it is germane to this occasion when the birth of the last of all real Prophets of Allah, the Prophet who came with the last testament to humanity, the Prophet who was raised at the centre of the world to deliver the message of Allah to humanity is being marked.
Hart's book also calls attention to other non-Moslems' assessment of the persona and the message of Prophet Muhammad. Consider the statement of Mahatma Gandhi on the Prophet of Islam: "I wanted to know the best of the life of one, who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind.... 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" Place on a scale the observation of."
While commenting on the ministry of Prophet of Muhammad (upon him be peace), Gibbon made a statement as far back as 1823 as follows: "The good sense of Muhammad despised the pomp of royalty. The Apostle of God submitted to the menial offices of the family, he kindled the fire, swept the floor, milked the ewes and mended with his own hands his shoes and garments. Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed without effort of vanity the abstemious diet of an Arab."
Consider the words of Lamartine on the leader of all Prophets, Muhammad son of Abdullah: "If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws, and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes.
"This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples, dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls.”
On the basis of a book, every letter, which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which blend together peoples of every tongue and race. He has left the indelible characteristic of this Moslem nationality the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and Immaterial God. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the followers of Muhammad; the conquest of one-third the earth to the dogma was his miracle; or rather it was not the miracle of man but that of reason.
Add to the above the following statement from Sedew, a French scholar, who says of the Prophet Muhammad as follows, "he smiled readily and often, yet he was of a serious disposition. He was the most generous of his people, kind to his neighbour, courteous, faithful and trustworthy. He was the bravest of men and the most sensitive"
But who was this man? He is named Abul Qasim Muhammad b. Abdullah b. Abdul Mutallib b. Hashim b Abdul Manaf... b. Adnan. His mother is Aminah daughter of Wahab...Marrat. He was born on Monday, he was commissioned into prophethood on Monday, he left Makkah on migration (hijrah) to Madinah on Monday, he arrived Madinah on Monday, he placed the black stone on its present spot in the Kaaba on Monday, he died on Monday.
Who was Muhammad - upon him be peace and blessings of Allah? He was born an orphan but rose to become a head of state. Moslem parents of today usually assume their presence is sine qua non for the success of their children.
But Abdullah lived till such a time he delivered the seed in the womb of his wife, Aminah, before he transmitted to the great beyond, Aminah also lived till such a time the infant Muhammad could be separated from the womb and the bosom that bore him before she departed this world.
We learn from this the solemn fact that parents are nothing but agents in the hands of the Allah, we partakers in the unknowable scheme of the Almighty; we are puns - children and their forebears- in the chessboard of our creator.
Children who see their parents on a daily basis easily forget their creator. In the morning and in the evening you hear them shout: "my daddy, my mummy! But those who have no parents call on Allah on a permanent basis. In other words, while the former shouts my daddy! My mummy! The latter shouts ya rabbi! ya rabbi! (my lord! My lord!)
Before he was commissioned as a prophet, his nudity was never seen, he never drank alcohol, never ate from a feast dedicated to idols and never sworn by other than Allah. He was light in complexion, his shoulders were broad, his face usually shined brightly as if on a dark night. He had black hair, tender skin, broad chest, moderate height, high forehead.
He was sweet in speech and usually keep silent most of the time. He usually walked rapidly and lightly with long strides. His clothing generally consisted of two pieces of cloth. He used to begin and end speeches with 'bismillah." He used to look more on to the ground than he did to the heavens out of respect and awe to the authority in the heavens. He never repelled evil with evil but with good.
Who was that man? He was the unlettered Prophet who was given a book, which made knowledge the most worthwhile investment one could bequeath to the world. He never had a chance of learning from a scholar but was blessed with a book, which makes scholarship the best profession known to humanity.
He was given a book which talks about astronomy and space exploration at a time the NASA and the powers that be in the U.S. had not been born. He was given a book, which talks about biology and reproduction at a time the human physiology was still unknown and uncharted.
He was given a book, which talks about geology and archaeology at a time oceanography and oil exploration had not occurred to humanity, he was given a book which talks about economics and the evil of round-tripping at a time stock market had not been conceived, he was given a book, which talks about numerology at a time algebra and the only formula I remember of the mathematics I was taught in my post-primary school- the almighty formula- had not been discovered.
Prophet Muhammad was taught to read a book, which is itself all about reading- a book which contains a hundred and fourteen chapters, six thousand six hundred sixty-six verses which were revealed both in Makkah and Madina. Whereas the Qur'an is known and seen today as a book, it is equally a book which is a seal of all revealed books.
Who was that man, Muhammad? He was a man who began his life as an orphan and ended his life as a state man; he was employed by the most wealthy of his era and soon became the consort, the husband of the most-sought after woman of his clime (Khadijah).
He was a bachelor who never engaged in "sampling" before he got married and having got married, he remained a faithful and a confidant to his wife. Muhammad was blessed with children, boys and girls; Muhammad was a man who buried all his children except one while he was alive! Each time he buried his child, he never asked the popular question among the faint at heart, why me?
Muhammad was married to women, who were blessed with the fruit of the womb, he was also, and ironically too, a man who was married to a woman, who was destined never to taste the joy of motherhood. To be married and be blessed with a child is a blessing; to be married and to be barren is not a curse!
Muhammad was a leader of a group who later became the leader of a community who later became the leader of a nation. In his person, we have insights into the elements, which make the ideal leader- that leader that the world is in acute need of today. He was just, compassionate, kind, deracinated, detribalised and gender-sensitive. He was contented with the little that today could offer; he never yearned to own billions of dollars and naira as is the sole concern of our politicians today- billions that generations yet unborn will never exhaust.
Prophet Muhammad knew the world for what it is - beautiful, alluring and fragile like the balloon. He knew and taught us that the person, who covets the world, will never be satisfied with the world. He taught us that the world is like a fountain, which makes the greedy thirsty, but the more he sips from the world, the thirstier he becomes.
Anas b. Abi Malik served the Prophet Muhammad for ten years and for a decade was never rebuked for a moment nor did the Prophet ever spoke a harsh word to him. He says further: "I joined the service of the Prophet when I was eight; I served him for ten years. Not even for once did he rebuke me for any fault of mine"
Prophet Muhammad once had a she-camel named Adba which used to run faster than other camels. But one day, a Bedouin entered the city of Madinah and boasted that his camel is capable of beating that of the Prophet in a race. Soon the camels were set up against each other in a race and the Bedouin's camel eventually overtook that of the Prophet. The companions were sad over the incident. But the Prophet quickly intervened saying: "It is Allah who elevates in this world and then when He wants He lowers"
In other words, we have in his persona a prophet, who would never let a moment pass by without deriving meaning from it for humanity. This is because moments of life are meant to be lived, to be encoded with meaning, to be endowed with life; a life that nourishes, that enlivens, that brings humanity back to its origin.
He was once asked, who will be under the shade of Allah's throne on the day of resurrection?
He responded saying: the king who is just; the young person who remembers Allah often, the one who remembers Allah in seclusion and tears flows from their eyes; the one who loves to stay in the mosque, two people who love for the sake of Allah and parts for His sake, the man who a beautiful and dignified lady tries to seduce in isolation and he declines and says, " I fear Allah," the one who gives in charity such that no one knows about it" Who was Muhammad? A friend to the Christians; a neighbour to the Jew.
He was once asked: Who is the most honourable person? He said, the most pious. They said again, we want to know the most honourable person. He said, Yusuf the prophet of Allah, who happened to be the son of the prophet of Allah and the son of a friend of Allah."
He was asked: Who is the most afflicted of all creatures of Allah? He said, "Prophets of Allah, then those, who are like them, then those who are like them. A man would be tested in accordance with his religious status."
In 610 he received the first revelation in the Quran. This occurred in a cave in Makkah where he had repaired to reflect over the circumstance of the people of his time, the circumstance of humanity today, young and old, who were steeped in ignorance, men and women, who neck-deep in debauchery, the rich and the poor, who were engaged in macabre dance of savagery and self-assured destruction.
Makkah before 610 A.D was like the modern cities of today, cities where women's nudity are paraded as if in shopping malls, where chastity is abhorred the same way the unbeliever detests death, where the injustice is the order of the day as is the situation in the contemporary world where justice has been manacled.
Prophet Muhammad took refuge in the cave and soon heard a call or command: Recite! (or read!) In the name of your Lord Who created- created man from clots of blood. Recite! Your Lord is the Most Gracious, who taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not. (96: 1-5)
The above verses speak about knowledge, how to acquire it and to whom knowledge should be dedicated. They establish the primacy of intellectualism over and above the abyss and the oddities of ignorance. The verses marked the beginning of a journey - ten years of prophethood calling in Makkah during which the Prophet together with those who heeded his call were subjected to the most harrowing of all treatments; thirteen years of sojourn in Madina during which Islam realized its full potentials.
When the Makkans fought him it was not because they detested his character, they fought him because he was calling them to higher values- values which would outlast the trappings and momentary pleasures of this world.
Who was Muhammad? He started his life as an employee and displayed much trust and confidence in the discharge of his duties. He taught humanity that in order to be a good leader one must begin by being a good follower.
He never embezzled the proceeds of the business, which he was mandated by Khadijah to discharge for her. Millions never disappeared from the treasury the care of which he was saddled. He was known as a trustworthy person. The young and the old in Makkah used to put their properties and wealth under his watch. He was kind, gentle and compassionate.
The biography of the Prophet of Islam images the history of Makkah- and that of Madina. Makkah was a place where Islam was oppressed. Madina was a space where Islam gained its freedom, Makkah was a place the Prophet was born, Madina was destined to be the place where he would be buried, Makkah was the laboratory in which the concept of martyrdom was experimented with. Madina was the terrain in which the idea of religious freedom and multiculturalism was operationalised.
When taken together, Makkah and Madina became the twin cities of
Prophet Muhammad, the duality of the triple cities of Islam, the third being Jerusalem in Palestine.
When taken together, Makkah and Madina became for the Prophet what it has become for Muslims and forever too: cities where humanity is taught how to behave, first outside power and second, inside power, cities where men are made not only by virtue of the action they took but equally by serving as witnesses, and active ones for that matter, to others in action.
Prophet Muhammad left this world without an estate. No road was named after him. You get Madina today and you would not hear of a stadium named after him. You get to Makkah today and you would not hear about a hospital named after him. But Muhammad lives on - in the minds of billions of Moslems, but Muhammad lives on in the books written by his followers and traducers.
His name is mentioned at least five times everyday, on the mountains and in the desert, on the oceans and on the land. He left behind a religion which, when its adherents are conquered, usually conquer the conqueror.
George Bernard Shaw says, "if any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam."•