For almost a decade Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be with him) had been inviting the Makkan pagans about their obligation to their Creator and Sustainer, and yet he found no more than a few dozen takers to God’s message. Taif is about 50 miles east of Makkah. Muhammad walked the burning sand and barren lands to Taif to see if the people there would be more receptive to his simple message:
There is only one God.
Why worship idols when only God deserves human submission?
Belief in God and human accountability to Him frees from all bondage.
The rich and the poor, the high and the low all are alike for God.
Only good deeds please God and bring peace on earth and salvation in the Hereafter.
The people of Taif flatly refused to accept this powerful message. It was not easy to give up their ancestral traditions. They mocked him, and some did not hesitate to hurl stones on a hungry and thirsty messenger. But Muhammad did not curse those who thrashed him. Instead he prayed for their future generation to accept God’s message.
Merely seven years after his native Makkans had forced him out of his own home and their city for spreading what they believed was rebellion against their ages old sacred beliefs, he returned triumphant. A huge army of believers in God’s eternal message accompanied him. The people of Makkah were in the forefront in the war against Islam. What else could they expect but massive revenge killing in view of their persecution and torture of the Muslims for the past 20 years.
“What do you expect that I am about to do with you?” Muhammad exclaimed standing by the Ka’bah. They remained silent. The Prophet declared:
“I will treat you as Yusuf treated his evil brothers. There is no reproach against you. You are all free.”
Muhammad’s legacy was not an empire dominated by a Muslim nation. Every reasonable person who dispassionately reads the life of Muhammad – Allah’s Last Messenger – agrees that he left a lasting legacy of ‘peace within and peace without’.
Every human being who accepts the fundamental dictum: Be obedient to God on earth, as each one of us has to go back to Him who created us, and sustains us. There in His presence only what we did and said in this worldly life would be with us. No amount of pleading, bribery, or outside support would bring a respite if our conduct on earth angered God or add an iota to our reward for being a good person. Praying to God or worshipping Him does not add even an ounce to His stature. Obeying God brings peace both within and without.
When Muslims protested the Danish cartoon depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban and a lit fuse ready to blast, the West portrayed the Muslims as angry, intolerant, and unwilling to appreciate the ‘freedom.’ “Freedom of expression” for the West also includes the fundamental right to ‘ridicule’ as long as it is not targeted at their holy cows like secular humanism, blatant violations of human values, inhuman treatment of their opponents, etc. The Western hypocrisy was evident when they joined the chorus of protest against Iranian President’s comments that Holocaust was a ‘myth’. Not long ago the same papers had refused to publish the cartoons of Jesus as they were deemed offensive to their Christian readers.
Thomas Carlyle in Heroes and Hero Worship and the Heroic in History (1840) warned the west to desist from defaming Muhammad. “The lies (Western slander) which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only.”
He asked the world to evaluate Muhammad as “A silent great soul, one of that who cannot but be earnest. He was to kindle the world, the world’s Maker had ordered so.”
Instead of heeding the Muslim plea to treat Muhammad at least as humanely as they treat Jesus, Moses and all other reformers in world history, the world invariably paint him in a bad light along with the caricature of a Muslim soldier, a sword in one hand and the Qur’an in the other. What a false portrayal of a person who revolutionised the world in a decade through God’s message of peace.
When Muslims shed the bedouin image, and came with the simple message of “worship not the stone and wooden idols that you chisel by your own hand, but the real Creator, and the Sustainer of the universe” they levelled the stultified, stratified humanity into the human society of equals. For the next thousand years this message resonated from the Philippines to Spain. It was the most peaceful and progressive period in human history.
Then the Muslims fell into the trap of nationalism, and forgot the very basic message: “Praise is only for God, the Sustainer of the worlds, the most Gracious, the Dispenser of Grace, the Lord of the Day of Judgment.” Nationalism destroyed their universal message although they remained parroting it at least 17 times a day in their five daily prayers. The world pounced and subjugated the Muslim nation.
Despite watching the horrors of the two World wars, and many clashes of the nations that have followed in the last 50 years resulting in the killings of millions and displacement of almost a fifth of human race the world is still lost in the maze of “Me and my national interests.” The Muslims who were asked to always think globally some fifteen hundred years ago and who obliterated the boundaries of race and colour in less than 50 years from the death of Muhammad are now so deeply divided into warring groups, and clashing petty differences that their words no longer mean any thing for the crying humanity. How could their Islam cure the humanity of all ills when it is unable to cure the message-bearer?
The world needs a new torch-bearer of Muhammad’s message of equality, fraternity and freedom from false gods.
At present the primary obligation for the Muslims is what the Prophet had declared: “It is not lawful for anyone who believes in Allah and the Last Day to shed blood therein.”
Muhammad’s rightful place in the world history could easily be restored if the Muslims shed their image of mindless killers. There is no doubt that they are oppressed where they are minorities. But so are they shackled where they are in majority and dominate. Muhammad and his fellows had to bear extreme hardships before the world realized the healing power of Islam. The world will admire it again when the Muslims live by it and create a model community. Till then, we should admire what others say about Muhammad:
“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 level.”
(Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, New York: Hart Publishing Company, Inc., 1978, p. 33.)
“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?” (Lamartine, Histoire de la Turquie, Paris, 1854, Vol. II, pp. 276-277.)