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Islamic Personalities ( 24 Oct 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Muhammad: The Greatest Reformer, the Most Influential Man in History


By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

24 October 2012

It is very easy for anyone to praise his or her hero, to boost him to the skies. But when the praise comes from the outsider, it is praise indeed.

Allah praises Muhammad (pbuh)

“Most certainly O Muhammad you are on the pinnacle of behaviour” (Ch 68 V 4)

It is reported that Allah said to him: “But for you, I would not have created the spheres.1

As I said in the beginning the real tribute comes from the outsider. Michael H Hart, an American, Astronomer, Mathematician and Historian studies the most influential men in history and gives a list of the top 100 most influential men. He lists them in order of their impact or influence over mankind. This man puts Muhammad at number 1. The main reason for putting Muhammad at the top was because Muhammad was “supremely successful” in both religious and secular realms. He writes “Muhammad was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels”, and this “entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”2 

Muhammad (pbuh) is the last and final Messenger of God. It is because of him that there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, second only to Christians with 2.3 billion3. After returning successfully to Mecca, Muhammad did not establish a religious state; he established a secular state in which everyone was given freedom of religion. 

In the Time Magazine, there were a series of essays under the heading 'Who Were History’s Great Leaders?’ Jules Masserman, a US Psychoanalyst, picked Muhammad as his greatest leader. He chose his greatest prophet Moses at number two. He says that leaders must fulfil three functions: a. Provide for the well being of the led; b. Provide a social organization in which people feel relatively secure and; c. provide them with a set of beliefs. He writes:

"People like Pasteur and Salk are leaders in the first sense. People like Gandhi and Confucius, on one hand, and Alexander and Caesar on the other, are leaders in the second and perhaps the third sense. Jesus and Buddha belong in the third category alone. Perhaps the greatest leader of all time was Muhammad, who combined all three functions. To a lesser degree, Moses did the same.4"  

Muhammad worked for the betterment of the society; he turned the disorganized Arab people into a meaningful group. The system of zakat (charity) gave the poor financial security, they were all united in times of war and they all believed that there is no god but Allah. The people still today are influenced by him and his teachings. Muslim, as a whole do not drink alcohol, they do not gamble, they pray five times a day, they pay zakat, they fast. There are black sheep in every community but in totality Muslims follow this man the most. Although now we see that because of the deliberate faulty teachings Muslims are getting confused regarding what to do and whom to follow?

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad?”, said LaMartaine  in 1854.

Muhammad’s goal was to spread the message of Islam, free from all superstition, barbarism, violence. His purpose was to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry that existed then.

Muhammad had a very humble beginning. There was no silver spoon to feed him. Two words describe his life: simple and struggling. Muhammad had no education to back him up, no royalty to back him up, and no political party to back him up.

Indeed with his great purpose and smallness of means he produced outstanding result: over 1.6 billion people follow him.

La Martaine concludes about Muhammad (pbuh)

"Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of Rational beliefs.... 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? 5"

His greatness lies in the acts of reformation. He turned Arabia upside down and in a century’s time it became the diamond of the world. Because of his teachings the “Dark Ages” still had a glimmer of light as the Muslims were shining in every field. They were at the top of the world; they were top scientists, poets, writers, architectures, astronomers etc.

Muhammad is the greatest reformer who preached against the social evils of the day. He condemned female infanticide.

"And when the female (infant) buried alive (as the pagan Arabs used to do) shall be questioned. For what sin she was killed? (At-Takwir 81:8-9)

Muhammad was against killings that were very common at that time.

“If anyone kills any human being, Muslim or non-Muslim, it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity and if anyone saves any human being, Muslim or non Muslim, it is as though he has saved the whole of humanity.” Ch 5 v 32)

Muhammad bought slaves and freed them. He said that treating and freeing of slaves will lead people to get closer to Heaven and distant from the fires of hell.

Muhammad gave women the right to inherit. Annemarie Schimmel states that "Compared to the pre-Islamic position of women, Islamic legislation meant an enormous progress; the woman has the right, at least according to the letter of the law, to administer the wealth she has brought into the family or has earned by her own work.6

According to sociologist Robert N.Bellah, Islam was “remarkably modern” for the time. This was because of the equality of all Muslims. Leadership position was open to all. All persons are equal in the sight of Allah but they can gain a higher status through taqwa i.e., God consciousness, piety.

Muhammad’s last few words were:

All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good deed.7

(This article is highly inspired by the comment made by Mr. Ghulam Mohiyuddin on my previous article Muhammad: The Most Misunderstood Man in the World8: “Our Prophet was one of the greatest reformers the world has known. Unfortunately his followers failed to realize that reform is an ongoing process, and banned reform!”

1.    Al-Ajluni, Kashf al-Khafa’, 2:232.

2.    The 100 : A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, p. 33

3.    Time magazine, July 15, 1974, article titled Who were history's greatest leaders?

4.    "Executive Summary". The Future of the Global Muslim Population. Pew Research Center. 27 January 2011

5.    'Historie de la Turquie,' Paris, 1854

6.    Annemarie Schimmel, Islam-: An Introduction, p.65, SUNY Press, 1992

7.    The Last Sermon of Muhammad delivered on the Ninth Day of Dhul Hijjah 10 A.H (c. 630 AD)