The sixth century was the darkest phase in human history. People sank into complete moral depravity. They killed each other for no obvious reasons. Women were no better than chattels and beasts. The twists and modifications in earlier scriptures resulted in chaos.
Though Roman and Persian empires at that time were termed as super powers in the world yet strangely people were humiliated and agonised under both the empires in so many ways.
Mankind needed reform and Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was chosen by God to deliver people from darkness into light and lead them to the path of salvation. The Qur’ān (14:1) says: “This is a Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring forth mankind from every kind of darkness into light, and direct them, with the leave of their Lord, to the Way of the Mighty, the Innately Praiseworthy.”
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught people lessons of brotherhood and fraternity and told them to differentiate between right and wrong.
In his magnum opus, Islam and the World, S. Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi says: “Prophets’ advent gave to humanity a new life, a new light, a new faith, a new warmth, a new society and a new culture. It ushered in a new year in the human history, marking the commencement of the real mission of man upon earth.”
Needless to add that Prophet Muhammad’s main mission was, “Let truth prevail at all cost.” His mission was to create such a society in which people, regardless of their faith, live in peace and amity.
As regards religion, the Qur’ān says: “There is no compulsion in the (matters of) religion” meaning that people should not be compelled to change their faith, else it states “To you your religion, and to me mine.”
That is why Prophet Muhammad ﷺ treated Muslims and non-Muslims alike. His influence was not confined merely to social milieu but prompted in political arena also. The Prophet elected a non-Muslim Amr bin Omaiyah Al-Darmi and delegated him as his ambassador. A well-known saying of the Prophet is: “Whoever oppresses the non-Muslim subjects, I shall be their advocate on the Day of Judgement. The Prophet stated: “When you see a funeral, you must stand until it has passed by you.” One day a funeral procession passed by and the Prophet stood up. The people said it was the funeral of a Jew and the Prophet ﷺ responded: “Is he not a human being?”
An eminent Muslim scholar, Syed Sulaiman Nadwi, has rightly said in his book Muhammad and the Ideal Prophet, “He is the Prophet well-informed, the witness to God’s commandments, the bringer of glad tidings, the summoner of the erring to the way of God, the resplendent light which dispels the darkness and shows the right path.”
He further says: “A good number of Hindus, Sikhs, Brahma Samajis and others have written about the Prophet. Europe, too, despite its known hatred for Islam, has a tradition of studies made on the subject even though often they serve the needs of evangelism or for historical and literary purposes. Al-Muqtabas, a literary magazine from Damascus, published a list of European works on the life of the Prophet, some 15 years ago, which listed 13,000 books.”
In this context, we may recall the words of George Bernard Shaw, who says: “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.” (GB Shaw, The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol, 1, No.8, 1936)
Michael H. Heart says: “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise 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 greatest religions, and became immensely effective political leader. Today thirteen centuries after his demise, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.” (The 100 – A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History).
In brief, if we look at the life of the Prophet ﷺ, we will definitely find that he was a man of peace, saviour and messiah for all mankind. As the Qur’ān (21:107) says: “We have sent you forth as nothing but mercy to people of the whole world.”
[Dr. Obaidur Rahman Nadwi is Faculty Member, Darul Uloom Nadwatul Ulama, Lucknow]