By Varsha Sharma, New Age Islam
The Islamic month Rabi ul Awwal is an auspicious occasion to rejoice the greatest bounty of God, as He sent the seal of the prophets, Muhammad PBUH, as “Rahmatul Lil Aalameen” (mercy for all worlds). He announced it in the holy Quran: “We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures” (21:107). God did not send the Prophet PBUH especially for the Arabs or merely for the Muslim community, He rather chose him to be the guiding light for the entire humanity. Therefore, God calls him “Siraj al-Munir” (a lamp of divine radiance). Testifying to this divine truth, the holy Quran says: “So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him, - it is they who will prosper.” (7:157).
Since the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as “Rahmatul Lil Aalameen” (mercy for all worlds), he presented Islam, the religion of his predecessors from the Prophet Adam to Jesus Christ, as an all-inclusive faith with special rights and regards for the non-Muslim communities. He epitomized his teachings of tolerance, inclusiveness and love for all by displaying a gentle attitude and magnanimous behaviour towards non-Muslims. He showed the exalted standard of character and reached the highest rank of morality, as the holy Quran says in Surah al-Qalam (68:4), in his dealings with non-Muslim communities. Right from his childhood days, the Prophet PBUH was known as “Muhammad al-Amin” (fully trustworthy Muhammad) and he kept intact this moral highness of his personality traits later in his young age through to his prophetic career. This became evident when, after his secret preaching for three years, God ordered him to convey his message openly (l5: 94). The Prophet climbed up on to the mountain of Safa and called out all Arab peoples and tribes, from Banu Abdul-Muttalib and Banu Fihr to Banu Ka'b, and announced: “O people, if I inform you that there is an army behind this mountain advancing ahead and is fully ready to attack you, would you believe me?” They replied in unison: “Yes by all means, we would consider such a report from you as absolutely true and authentic, because we have never heard you telling a lie.”
These Arab tribes who gathered round the Prophet PBUH were all idolaters and non-Muslims, but they held him in high estimation even though they were rigid in their kufr (denial of the truth). They saw in front of them a man of impeccable personality noted for his total truthfulness, trustworthiness honesty, social activism, fight against oppression and exploitation and sincerity standing on a mountain. It was only the total trustworthiness of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) that compelled those people to confirm his statement.
While dealing with other human beings, he never ever discriminated between Muslims or non-Muslims or believers and non-believers and treated them alike. He just kept in his mind the beautiful divine message revealed to him, saying that all human beings were on the equal footing before God, except for piety and righteousness: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”(Al-Hujraat: 13).
It was this broader Islamic notion of human equality and universal brotherhood that the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) strengthened by his harmonious manners and humane behaviours with non-Muslims. One of the glorious examples of his humane behaviour with non-Muslims was seen when the Prophet was sitting with a group of his companions and a Jewish funeral passed by. The Prophet of Islam stood up to show his respect for the deceased. When some Muslims asked him as to why he stood up for the funeral of a Jew, who used to be an arch enemy of Islam, the Prophet replied with full clarity and in his spirited words: “Was this not a human soul?”
This was the essence of the Prophet Muhammad’s beautiful behaviour with non-Muslims that helped Islam spread far and wide appealing to peoples of all faiths. Today, Muslims need to realise why they have been reduced to a cult of rigid dogmas and narrow practices contradicting the way that Prophet (peace be upon him) chose to live, follow and preach Islam. They should remember that the only way they can represent true Islam is to adopt the ennobling personality traits of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) such as complete trustworthiness, truthfulness, helpfulness and generosity of spirit.
Varsha Sharma is pursuing M.A. in Comparative Religions from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi She contributed this article to New Age Islam,