By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
21 Oct 2012
“In the history of the world there will not again be any man, never so great, whom his fellowmen will take for a god. The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only”1. – Thomas Carlyle
Personally, what I like best about Muhammad (pbuh) is that in spite of leading a very difficult life since his inception, he would smile and say ‘All praise be to Allah’. He was born on 20th April 570 C.E. in Mecca. His father, Abdullah died before his birth. When he was six years old his mother, Aminah also died. His grandfather, Abdul Muttalib took over guardianship of the child. Two years later his grandfather also died. From then on, he came under the guardianship of his uncle, Abu Taalib.
The pre-Islamic era was full of superstition and barbarism. It was known as the Age of Ignorance. The people of that time were so corrupted in thought and morals that they would cut their idols into pieces and eat them. Their excuse was that they had seen their fathers doing it. They also used to bury their daughters alive. Humans were worse than animals. Their concept of morality was just the opposite of our concept of morality: bloodthirsty were exalted, bloodshed was considered a virtue, and adultery and fornication were more common than legal marriage.
Muhammad (pbuh) kept himself segregated from these “morals”. Amidst the din, he felt that he could not concentrate, so he used to retire to a cave on top of Mount Hira. He preferred to be left alone. During one of the nights, he heard a voice which said “Read”. Terrified, he said that he cannot read. The voice asked him to:
“Read! In the name of thy Lord who created. He created man from a clot of blood. Read! And your Lord is Most Generous. Who has taught by the pen. He taught man that which he knew not”.
Some people accuse him of either being a madman or a liar. They say that Muhammad (pbuh) thought he heard something, that it was the creation of his mind, and hence he is a madman. Some others say that he is a liar and he wanted to gain power so he lifted verses from the Bible, refined it a little and made a religion out of it. Both these arguments are untenable. Just one incident is enough to prove that he was neither a madman nor a liar: when Muhammad’s son died there was an eclipse. Hundreds of people came up to him and said that since he is a Prophet, the Heavens are sad because of his son’s death. Muhammad got angry at them. He said that he is an ordinary man, and the Sun and the Moon are the Signs of Allah but they do not bother about the death of a Prophet’s son.
Had he been a madman, he would not have said such a thing. And had he been a liar, he would have praised his people.
Some people accuse Muhammad (pbuh) of spreading his religion at the point of the sword. This is one of the gravest errors many have repeated. The best reply is given by De Lacy O’Leary:
“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myth that historians have ever repeated.”2
Physically one man cannot fight the entire nation. It is one man against all men. Only through discourse and logic can one win the opponent. Similarly when Muhammad (pbuh) was given the responsibility to spread Islam, he could not have forced other people to accept it. The Pagan Arabs wanted to drink, he said ‘Don’t drink’, the Pagan Arabs wanted to gamble, he said ‘no gambling’; they wanted limitless number of women for their carnal satisfaction, he said ‘limit the number to 4 only if you can do justice to each of them’. Whatever he preached it was against the political and social situation of that time. How could one man coerce all the people to accept to him and his ideas? The only possible way was:
“Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching. And argue with them and reason with them in the ways that are best and most gracious”.
Indeed there was use of sword. It was the sword of the intellect.
Muhammad (pbuh) is also accused of being a promiscuous man who had numerous numbers of wives. He is even accused of being a child molester. But this is again a misunderstood conception of the man.
Muhammad was a handsome man. He had piercing eyes, as if they would peek inside the soul. He had white teeth and he walked distinctly. At 25, being a very eligible bachelor, got an offer from Khadija, who was 40 years old, to marry and he gladly accepted the offer. Until her death he remained monogamous and loyal to her.
Scientifically a man is polygamous by nature, especially more so when he is young. When the person grows old, his prowess declines! Muhammad was in his 50s when he took up next wife. In the Arabian culture it was praised to marry for the betterment of the tribe. Almost all his later marriages, with the exception of one of two, were for political reasons. At that time virginity was considered very important, hence widow remarriage was very poor. Esposito, a professor of Islamic Studies says that Muhammad’s marriages were for the uplift of widows.
“..many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection”3.
It is time we read about the man objectively to understand him. According to Michael H Hart, Muhammad (pbuh) is ‘The Most Influential Person in History’, and being number 1 he at least deserves this much4.
1. ‘Heroes and Hero Worship’ by Thomas Carlyle
2. ‘Islam at the Cross Road’ by De Lacy O’Leary
3. ‘Islam: The Straight Path’ by Esposito
4. ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History’ by Michael H. Hart