By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
16 May 2012
The most significant Event
The verse 9-40 of Quran says: “If you help not (your leader, it is no matter), for God did indeed help him…” and refers to the historic event of Hijirat/Migration/flight, when Muhammad the Messenger of God, accompanied by ‘one’ trusty companion were saved from being captured by Makkan pursuers, who had planned his assassination in Makkaa, a city of his birth and his ancestors.
The hostility of Makkans towards him was based on, him preaching the truth of the unique, the only Creator of universe as almighty God, at the exclusion of all other gods and demigods; in order to establish the “unity” of mankind (Quran 10-19) and thus breaking all ancient bondages except for His (21-53). The city; was a temple city thriving on the business of worship of many ancient and pagan gods and statues of goddesses (53-19, 20); as well as being a commercial centre on the caravan trade route.
In the context of the flight, “God and His angels helped them”, as given in the first part of verse the 33-56 quoted in full below; in being able to dodge the enemy. They arrived safely in the distant city, (17-1, 2) of Madinah; to be in the safe custody of Believers who on a visit to Makkaa earlier and having accepted his divine message; were now keenly awaiting his arrival. This migration; in many ways differed from other such demographic movements of Messengers, e.g. of bani-Israril, referred to in the same Chapter:-
1- Generally ‘Refuge’ is sought by oppressed people driven out of their home and in desperation knocking at the doors of others without their prior readiness to accept refugees in their fold. The people of Madinah as Believers and Helpers (9-100), were, on the contrary, well prepared, for the two, and later other’s arrival and also for the momentous change that was to take place in their lives and community as a whole.
2- In the second part of the verse 33-56, the Believers were asked to now support and encourage and FOLLOW the Apostle’s message. In this, they were put through a supreme test the very next year at the battle of Badar when the Makkans had attacked the city of his refuge 3-13. The Believers steadfastly defended their city and protected their wards, against overwhelming odds, Chapter 9, setting in place the foundation of a new State for which their city and surroundings were ‘Blessed’ as in 17-1, and the people were “granted a grade higher than others” 4- 95, 96.
3- The unusual co-operation and affection 8-63, in fraternity /brotherhood 49-10 and of sharing, 21-92 that was forged in Madinah, as in 59-8, 9 - between the once warring tribes; and the assistance given to refugees; fourteen hundred years ago, perhaps has no parallel in history of mankind. It is an example for the world to emulate; particularly the feuding and dirt-poor Muslim world today, where paradoxically some of the richest and generally corrupt people live!
4- It is noteworthy also that the Muslim Hijri calendar begins from that significant event of Muhammad’s flight from Makkaa and NOT from his date of birth or death, as is the case with others, but to commemorate this particular historic and important event. Therefore, it is this event that should be celebrated by the Muslims, to mark the practical example of establishing freedom, equality and fraternity of the early Muslims which is so desperately needed today!
Thus an extremely important event in the annals of Muslim history took place as it established for the first time a unique system that the Messenger Muhammad was given as the mission to‘re-implement’. A system, similar to that which was revealed to all the previous Messengers (42-3) that outlined the entire ‘Social and Economic code for mankind to ensure its Prosperity (2-5).
Lost in Religiosity
The verse 33-56, important as it is, when covered in the velvety cloak of spirituality, perhaps a century later, was embroidered with a chant as a prayer for invoking ‘blessings’, on the Messenger! This is done without so much as spending a penny or a Dime or sweating a bead of sweat, to acquire a ‘reward in the hereafter’!
Recitation of this prayer is generally believed to work wonders. It is said that in 1258 when the Mongol Hulagu Khan on a mission to conquer the world, with the support of coalition of his Muslim friends, was to attack Baghdad, the Priests advised the citizens to recite invocation thousand times in order to ward off the menace. Not surprisingly it did not work and the city was burnt to the ground over ten days of wanton destruction of lives and property; very much similar to the USA’s coalition of its friends did over a decade now. Considering the ‘religious’ tussles in the Abbasid’s court of the time and the beliefs held even today, this story sounds possible!
All Churches have this cunning art of turning over its head, such commands that require practical endeavours, to the easy, subjective and soft options of rituals and prayers, of which this invocation called Darood, a Persian word, that springs from the second part of the verse given below.
Perhaps on lighter note an example is appropriate. In the early fifties there was a cartoon-strip in an English news paper, on a middle-aged couple -- Andy Kapp, a no-hoper and no-gooder, and his long suffering spouse Flo. One day Andy picks a bunch of bouquet of wilting flowers from a graveyard while taking a short cut on his way home from the Pub, and ‘presents’ it to his beloved Flo!
The invocation is very similar in sentiments, to express affection for the Messenger. It is recited in response to the second part of the verse, the common translation is, 33-56—“God and His angels send blessings on the messenger. Oh you who believe send your blessing on him too, and salute him with all due respect”. Y-Ali.
An immediate cry from the listeners takes place in the form of a chant of Salutation for the Messenger, as an act of reverence and as part of worship too. But on reflection, this appears irreverent and illogical to say the least, consider these:-
-Believers are taught to respond with the invocation in Arabic, to God —“Allaah-humma salley a’laa… Oh God send blessings on the Messenger…exalt and protect him… etc!.” There are other versions of this with inclusions such as the family/clan -- aal of the person Muhammad bin Abdullah, in a skewed up meaning of the word qurbaa that is ‘near of kin’ as in verse 42-23. Although, the word means ‘relatives’ in general, and not as a title for all the descendants of Messenger Muhammad from his daughters side.
In the second part Believers are to follow the example set in the first part of 33-56. But in response Muslims remind God to do His duty that He has already done! This is very much like the salawaat (saw/pbuh) Muslims recite every time they take the Messenger’s name, although God has assured in Quran that He is “well pleased with them 9-100” and therefore has blessed them.
Conventionally speaking, one always ‘salutes’ one’s elders and seniors, like soldiers to their Officers. Then if God salutes the Messenger, does that mean that God treated the Messenger as ‘senior’ to Himself? The whole thing defies logic to the point of tears. But that is religion. (Greetings appear many times as “Salaamun” in Quran).
With apologies to an Urdu poet Shakeel, a parody of his couplet could be:-
Ay Muhammad teray Islam peh ronaa aayaa
Janey kyun aaj terey naam peh ronaa aayaa
[Oh Muhammad I cried for your Islam!
Know not why today I cried on your name!]
Therefore it suggests that the meaning of salley/sallu/slawaat and other derivatives such as salaat etc, is not just reverence or prayer, which are merely subjective rituals in spirituality of besieging God to do something on their behalf. But to undertake some practical action as a duty, ordained in the Book.
This is not the place to raise issues of ‘prayers’ – namaz, a Persian word for salaat, on prayer rug- musalla-. However it may be sufficient to draw one’s attention to Surah 107 as a whole, when given such subjective meanings. The verse mocks such worshipers, the musalleen who undertake it “to be seen by others”, that is, advertise their piety; but forget their OBLIGATIONS; of performing duties imposed upon them! Hence salaat/sallu etc, it seems is not the limbering on the prayer rug, but specifically of performing duties.
The duty in the second part of 33-56, is an objective instructions for action, to encourage and follow the messenger (3-146, 9-99,120) just as God and His angels had done, so that the Messenger when he was ALIVE fulfilled his ‘given mission’ to propagate God’s message. A continual process therefore of ‘strive and endeavour’ 20-15, 53-39, with intellectual arguments16-125!
Now that the Messenger has passed away, obviously there is no one left to encourage and support physically. The Nation can only follow the Book that was delivered as a ‘completed Deen’- 5-4, and mankind to fulfil its duty to the Creator through service to others, as in 5-59 – “As to those who turn for friendship to God, HIS Apostle and the fellowship of Believers…” In other words, ‘stretch your arms to help others rather than raise them in prayers’, as Mother Teresa is supposed to have said. And emulate 59-8 & 9. But, this has been so cheaply relegated to ritualistic chant, in religion.
Another Urdu poet who has expressed his dislike for the ‘organised Churches’ for the havoc they have wrought in the world and kept the truth covered under the religious cloak, Pundit Anand Rai ‘Mulla’ goes much further and addresses the clergy:
Tujhhe mazhab mitaanaa hee preygaa ru-e-hasti say
Teray haathhon bohut toheen-e-Adam hoti jaatee hai
[You will have to eradicate Religion from the face of the earth,
[For at your hands mankind is hugely suffering humiliation!
It is therefore one’s Niyyat (‘niyyah’ meaning intention, an Arabic word not found in Quran, yet another holy opium pill of religious inaction!); to pay respect to the poet and to send a gift, but alas, one can only place a bouquet of flowers on his grave now, so that people like Andy may take those home to their loved ones and put them to practical use without effort. In the meantime one must invoke ‘blessings’ on such brave souls!
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is an Indian-origin Engineer (Retd.) based in Australia for over forty years.