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Before the advent of Islam, all mankind had degenerated into the worst of states and the darkest of stages.
Not only Arabia was predominated by such pagan ignorance; the whole world suffered from it. There were two great states: Persia and Byzantium. They ruled most of the world at that time. Both had a historic civilization but what was its basis and what was the mental, psychological and material standard of its people?
In Persia, a 'Khosrau" rules. He was not merely a ruler, he was a 'god'. The ceremonies of greeting were nearest to those of worship. People were really slaves to that god. Living whatever their rank and class was in the way that Khosrau or his inherited royal traditions would allow. Only a handful of people enjoyed the riches of the country - that is, the court of Khosrau that held sway over the masses; while the latter were in an object state or poverty, slavery and humiliation. The aspects of 'pomp' and civilization were all confined to the palace. As for the people they were important as far as they served the interests of these ruling masters with that 'god' at their head. Yes, there were arts and material production, but all was used, along with people, for the sake of those interests. The official worship was that of fire. Morals had collapsed and Mazde's communism and permissiveness, dissolution and anarchy had spread. What mental, spiritual and material contempt man - under that great civilization - had lived in!
In Byzantium conditions were not better. Caesar was surrounded with the same haloes as Khosrau, and people were as in every state of ideological ignorance, masters and bondsmen. These bondsmen fought and died in great numbers only in the cause of the 'Empire" and the personal glories of Caesar and his commanders. Like Persia, there were arts, material production and building, but for whose sake: The masters of the bondsmen? Are there for bondsmen other than serving their masters? There was a creed! - a pagan creed guarded by the church and the clergy: God is One of three! Christ was the son of God! Bishops and monks were lords ruling the domain of minds and spirits contrary to God's revelations and taking the property of people unlawfully; whereas, Caesar was ruling the physical domain in accordance with the Roman Law (i.e. not in accordance with Divine Law). People were servants of the court on the one hand and servants of the Pope and his bishops and monks on the other.
Beyond the great empires there were the Chinese and Indian civilizations in Asia.
In India, as everywhere else, there were lords and bondsmen. But bondsmen there had a peculiar position. They were believed to have been created from the god's foot, so they were considered unclean. They had to endure all humiliation, contempt and torture they underwent. On the one hand, that was their fate; and on the other, it was their sole way to salvation through transmigration of souls. Man according to them, spends his fixed life, then his soul passes into another new body. If the enslaved untouchables were satisfied with their fate, surrendered to humiliation and carried out the hardest and dirtiest pieces of work, their souls might pass into other persons superior to slaves and get thereby to their pursued salvation, though they wouldn't acquire the rank of their masters who were created from the deity's head or arm!
There were countless forms of worship offered to countless deities, but they had one thing in common, that is - ERROR. Perhaps the most curious thing was 'temple prostitutes' who stayed in temples for the sake of deity! No, for the sake of Satan! But stranger still, might be the 'cow worship' - men wallowing in its dung and bathing its urine, for the sake of god's "blessing" If the cow could have spoken it would have laughed at its worshippers and would have been surprised to see man, whom Allah has honored, satisfied with such degradation!
At the end of the earth there was China, a vast expanse of land ruled by an emperor or saint like all rulers of the time. Rites of worship and sacrifices were offered to him and people prostrated themselves before him. The god worshipped was Buddha, whose images were graven and worshipped by people. In Buddhism, as in the Indian religions, the body was despised and tortured for the redemption of the soul and worldly life was scored and rejected for the attainment of immortality. Immortality! But where? And in what form? It is immortality with Buddha in the world of imagination. There were arts, material production and wisdom but all was of no avail, for people themselves were lost.
Arabia was drowned in religious ignorance, like the rest of mankind. There were three religions, all of which were misguidance. Jews who were living in the outskirts of Medina, had distorted their Holy book centuries before, stuffed it with lies and legends, changed the divine revelation and renounced it wholly, complying with their whims and interests.
There were also small groups who had false beliefs, such as the Trinity, the deification of Jesus or considering him a son of God. Arab idolaters throughout Arabia worshipped idols which were placed inside Al-Kaba, the Holy House of God (Allah), the place which Abraham and Ismael had been ordered by Allah to build in order that Allah alone should be worshipped without ascribing any partner to Him. Yet, they claimed they were followers of Abraham. A variety of myths had nested in their minds. Angles, for example, were the daughters of Allah and they were worshipped on the that account. The jinn (i.e. genies) belonged to Allah and were therefore worshipped. Idols were carved and then worshipped by people. Many new-born girls were buried alive for fear of shame or poverty. Women were scorned and wronged. Wine was drunk, games of chance (i.e. maysir) were used, and adultery was allowed. Life was spent in drinking, amusement and plundering raids. Man was lost as was his case in all states of religious ignorance. That was the state of the world before Muhammad was sent to save mankind from the darkness of error.
In this extremely dark atmosphere there shone a light; it was Muhammad, son of Abdullah, (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
The Jews in Medina, before the prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), had often said to its inhabitants, "The time of a prophet has almost arrived. We shall fight with him against you and defeat you. The Jews, in fact, depended in their claim upon the Torah, which indicates that the old copies of the Torah not only mentioned Prophet Muhammad's name and description, but also pointed to his prophethood and its approximate time.
In his 'Muhammad in the Bible', Prof. Abdul Ahad Dawud, former Bishop of Uramiah, quotes the following verses from Haggai, ii; 79, which he has translated from an Assyrian copy of the Bible, "And I will shake all nations and the Himada of all the nations will come - and in this place I will give shalom, says the Lord of hosts".
The word 'Himada' is derived from an archaic Hebrew or rather Aramaic root 'hemed'. In Hebrew 'hemed is generally used in the sense of great desire, covet, appetite, and lust. In Arabic, the verb 'hamida' means 'to praise and so on. What is more praised and illustrious than that which is most craved for, coveted and desired. Whichever of two meanings be adopted, the fact that Ahmad is the Arabic form of Himda remains indisputable and decisive. The Qur'an 6:61 declares that Jesus announced unto the people of Israel the coming of an apostle from Allah whose name was to be 'Ahmad'.
The Gospel of St. John, being written in Greek, uses the name 'Pariclytos', a barbarous form unknown to classical Greek literature. But Periclytos, which corresponds exactly with Ahmad in its signification of 'illustrious', glorious', and praised, in its superlative degree, must have been the translation into Greek of 'Himda' or probably 'Hemida' of the Aramaic form as uttered by Jesus Christ. Alas! There is no Gospel extent in the original language spoken by Jesus.
As to the etymology and significance of the Hebrew words 'shalom' and 'shalama', and the Arabic words 'salam' and 'Islam', I (i.e., Prof. Abdul Ahad) need not detain the reader by dragging him into linguistic details. Any Semitic scholar knows that 'shalam' and 'Islam' are derived from one and the same root and that both means peace, submission, and resignation.
Allah chooses his prophets from the best of mankind. And Muhammad (PBUH) is the best of humanity in general, and of prophets in particular. Allah takes care of, and refines His prophets before charging them with prophethood and without their knowledge or expectation. They would thereby be, psychologically, spiritually and morally, more qualified to carry out their message and fulfill the task as fully as Allah wills. This applies to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to an extent unequalled before. Even in his early youth, he had the manner of a solemn deep-thinking man and enjoyed the noble feelings of man.
Character of the Gracious Prophet (PBUH)
The Pre-Islamic period was full of corruption, pleasure-seeking and waste of time, though there were some respectable, sober men here and there, but they were rarely young men; for a young man would be unusual if he didn't seek pleasure and entertainment at that time. If he added to his solemnity the avoidance of liquors which were drunk even by respectable old men, shunning of those idols set up beside the Holy Mosque (i.e., Ka'bah), keeping away from inequity, along with other noble qualities, he would undoubtedly draw other's attention since none of the old men possess such qualities, not to speak of the youths.
One of his traits was so outstanding and deep-rooted that it attracted the attention of Qurashi people - that was honesty. They used to call him "the Honest" (Al-Amin). People trusted him with their property owing to their confidence in his honesty and trustworthiness.
Muhammad's silence during the meetings of Quraysh, his wisdom and equanimity when he talked, won their respect and admiration; so they consulted him about their affairs and were satisfied with his counsel. The most famous even in this regard was the appeal of Quraysh (i.e., Makkans) to him for a decision concerning the Black Stone. They had decided to rebuild the Holy Ka'bah twice its former height because of the ruin of some parts of it. They worked together. But they differed about the Black Stone; for each tribe competed with the others to enjoy alone the honor of putting it back in its place. They almost fought with each other, but at last agreed to take the counsel of the first man to come to them. That first man was Al-Amin (the HONEST) (Muhammad) who took off his mantle spread it on the ground, put the Black Stone on it and asked a man from each tribe to carry with him the mantle holding in edges. Then he took the Stone in his hands and put it in its place. All went away satisfied with the Al-Amin''s (HONEST) decision.
In his wife Khadija's (May Allah be pleased with her) description of him soothing his fears on receiving the first revelation, she gave a portrait of his manners and their impressions on people's minds. She said to him, 'Surely, Allah never will discredit you! You are kind to your relatives, truthful, protecting orphans, generous to the poor, hospitable and helpful to the victims of misfortune!
He was, during the hours of silence, much given to meditation. He spend a month of retirement every year in Hira' cave on top of the Mountain of Light (in Arabic, Jabal-un-Nur), in worship of Allah in accordance with Abraham's monotheistic religion, away from the distortions added through prevailing idolatrous ignorance.
Allah was preparing him for the serious task - for the Message addressed to the whole humanity. The Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (PBUH) told the truth when he said:“ My Lord has disciplined me in the best refined manner.”
The Prophet Muhammad's character is the greatest character throughout human history, unmatched by any other character, not only amongst great men, but also amongst prophets. If we are to judge by the standards of human greatness, let us consider the case of a political leader, dedicating his life to political leadership. He found his nation dispersed, with no common cause or link, and was able, by means of his wise leadership and impressive character, to unite the divided nation and found the link which firmly connected its various warring factions. He drew for it a purpose which united it and removed its differences. Then he raised it to a lofty, respectable position among other nations. Shouldn't we call him a 'great man', though he devoted merely to such a task?
Suppose there was a social reformer who found injustice and corruption predominant; therefore, he took it upon himself to establish social justice and eliminate perversion and decay from society. He realized the balance between the individual and society, between the ruler and the ruled, and cased the rich to sympathize with the poor, so that the whole community lived as if it were one large family. Isn't such a man really GREAT?
What if this was only one aspect amongst many others enjoyed by the great prophet's character? How if he has excelled every other specialist politician, though the latter was devoted to such a task?
Suppose there were a social reformer who found injustice and corruption predominant; therefore, he took it upon himself to establish social justice and eliminate perversion and decay from society. He realized balance between the individual and society, between the ruler and the ruled, and caused the rich to sympathize with the poor, so that the whole community lived as if were one large family. Isn't such a man really GREAT?
How if this was one part of Muhammad's character? How if he, in this regard, surpassed those specialized in this field?
Suppose there was a moral reformer who found moral corruption prevalent in his society and devoted himself to the improvement of social manners. Through his patience and struggle he was able to establish an ethic (moral code) that ruled their conduct, so that lying, drinking, adultery and gambling disappeared; an owner felt his property was secure even if he was a weakling, an orphan or a woman; and conscience ruled human relations. Won't we agree that such a man was truly a great one?
How, then, if that was only one side of the outstanding character of the Prophet, and his influence was greater than that of any reformer in history who was devoted to his career?
Suppose, too, there was an educator who devoted himself to education and was able to bring up a generation of extraordinary people, everyone of whom was a leader in his domain of activity and an example of good conduct and towering personality, as firm as a mountain and of noble character. Doesn't such a man deserve to be called a great educator? How, then if this was only one of several aspects of the Prophet, who excelled in this respect even the greatest of educators in history, especially with the generation he had educated to introduce summit leaders in every field of life?
Suppose there were a military commander, who devoted himself to his career and brought up an army of heroes - soldiers and commanding officers - accustomed to endurance of inconvenience, steadfastness in adversity and daring despite danger. He led them in battles and won. They obeyed his orders and instructions and raced to places of danger seeking martyrdom. Shouldn't he be described as a great commander?
If such a commander had trained his soldiers not only to acquire individual manners, but also to fight in the cause of ideals and values, would it suffice to describe him only as a great leader?
How then, if the gracious Prophets had exceeded in this respect every other military commander throughout human history and this was only one aspect of the various aspects of his great character?
Suppose a man gave himself up to worship. His spirit was highly pure, and his heart always remembered Allah, whether in his prayer or work, in private or in public. So he was friendly to other people, sincere in his work, and ruled completely by fear of Allah and observance of His orders. Suppose such a man was able to collect a number of worshipers of Allah and bring them up to develop a strong relationship with the Almighty. They would remember Him (Allah) in all circumstances and would be influenced by faith in all their deeds, thoughts and feelings. Their love and fear of Allah were stronger than all earthly pleasures and temptations. Should we not say he was a great soul in himself and a great teacher to his companions?
This and others were parts of the gracious Messenger's character in which he was superior to those persons devoted to, and specialized in them. What are we to call the man who combined in his gracious person all those personalities, each of which would be sufficient to make him great?
The greatness of Muhammad (Peace and blessing upon him) does not lie only in the combination of those several personalities in his own persons, in fact he enjoyed a superior degree of greatness , one aspect did not distract him from another Political activity did not distract him from military, social, moral, educational or spiritual tasks. Even all those did not distract him from his family, so he was a perfect husband and father.
If we compare the character of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with that of the other prophets we will grasp his superiority to them. All the great qualities enjoyed by them separately were all infused in his great personality par excellence. Noah was known for his endurance of his folk's obstinacy; Abraham for his clemency; Moses for his wise leadership of the sons of Israel; Jesus Christ for his spiritual aspect against the prevailing materialism. But Muhammad's character embodied all those characteristics and his influence was much greater in every one of those aspects. He was the final of prophets and his message was the epitome and the crowning of prophethood.
In the Glorious Qur'an, Allah tells us:“ This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed my favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam.” (Qur'an ,5:3).
So the message of Islam confirms belief in all previous prophets and revelations. Jews disbelieved in Jesus Christ and Muhammad. Christian disbelieved in Muhammad and believed in Jesus Christ not as a messenger but as a god or son of God. It is the Muslims alone who believe in all prophets from Adam through Noah till Muhammad (PBUH). Both Jewish and Christian nations are unfit to rule humanity, for they cannot get rid of hatred and prejudice.
Only the Muslim nation is well qualified for the leadership of mankind (it led mankind once for several centuries) because it is the only nation that rules without any hatred owing to the Divine guidance that made it fit for leadership, especially its belief in previous prophets of Allah without discrimination or malice whatsoever. Moreover, the message of Islam is addressed to the whole mankind.
Allah addresses Muhammad:“ We sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples.” (Qur'an 21:107).
According to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):“ Every prophet before me was sent to his own people, but I have been sent to the whole of mankind.”
It is also an all-embracing message. Earlier messages were limited to certain aspects of human life, and were limited in space as well. All of them included the major question of divinity (i.e. belief in the 'Oneness of God' and offering Him pure worship). They also included instructions and rules that suited the conditions and circumstances of each nation and aimed at the betterment of morals and the elimination of corruption.
The stage had come when the human mind was mature enough to accept a world religion which would last on earth till the Day of Judgment; such a world message must embrace, too, all human requirements in all fields of life, which is true of the Message of Islam. For it includes like other messages the major question of Divinity which is essential for the integrity of human life, and also canons and laws ruling all aspects of life: economic, political, social, intellectual, spiritual, ethical, etc. But it never opposes scientific progress. In fact, it was ISLAM that moved Muslims to set out a great scientific movement, the most important effect of which was the experimental method of scientific research which Europe learned from the Muslims in Andalusia, North Africa, Sicily and South Italy, and upon which our present scientific renaissance has been based.
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