Innallaha ma3a Sabireen
Muhammad (PBUH) and the West
Omar Afzal, Ph.D.
Anyone who wishes to understand how the world has lost its war against ignorance, injustice and inequality, he should look into how the world treated Muhammad and his message during the last 1400 years.
Muhammad received the call from God around the age 40, called the people in and around Makka to answer His call, and was forced to leave his hometown at the age of 53 with a handful of his companions. They believed in his message despite extremely repressive measures used by his opponents, and had decided to make Islam the only priority of their life. Seven years later Makka fell to him without shedding a drop of blood. When he died at the age of 63, Islamic community had extended to the far corners of Arabia. In the next 50 years, Islam's borders extended to the three known continents, and Muslims had established a civilization that dazzled the world for the next thousand years. Despite all their deficiencies, Muslims adhered to Muhammad's ideals and led the world till they relegated Islam to a few rituals. Europe learned from the Islamic ideals, and slowly captured the Muslim lands in the last two hundred years. With the ascendancy of the West came the quest for the 'final ideology'. Crusades had closed the western mind to Islam
9/11 provided the Islam-bashers a long stick to hit the Muslims, Islam, the Qur'an and Muhammad. Appalling hate speeches and remarks about Islam and Mohammad have become commonplace among some Christian pastors, radio talk shows, media pundits and on the Internet. Two leading American conservative writers, Paul Weyrich and William Lind in their new booklet titled "Why Islam Is a Threat to America and the West?" quip: "Islam is, quite simply, a religion of war", American Muslims are a "fifth column in this country" and "they should be encouraged (?) to leave." Ann Coulter suggested that the only way to remove the 'Islamic threat' is that "we should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Rev. Jerry Vines, of the Southern Baptist Convention called Muhammad a "demon-obsessed pedophile."
This is part of how the West has tried to preserve its flock for fourteen hundred years from looking into what Islam really is, and how Mohammad's message changed the human history in just eleven years. One finds immense mass of derogatory material claiming that the Qur'an spawns terrorism, Islam is the religion of sword, Muslims repress women and minorities, and resist all the "goodies" of the modern culture. The refrain is that Muhammad's religion is untrue because of his so-called 'moral deficiencies'.
One is often puzzled by these gibes. They are coming from those who wish to convince the world about a human being as the "God", a "Messiah, the son of Living God", as Peter is quoted. Joining the chorus are those who claim exclusive rights on God for a chosen race, or worship everything from a mouse to a monkey and an elephant as their God, and so on. The secular humanists join the flock by projecting Islam as antiquated. They don't want to admit that the most comprehensive laws and extensive sermonizing about ethical behavior has failed to motivate human beings to refrain from misconduct, or control the strong urges to exploit for unlawful gains.
A SIMPLE Intelligence test
Muhammad did not claim that he is "God", or God's son. Muslims don't believe that he is an incarnation of God on earth. He believed in ONE God, worshipped him and practiced God's culture - total obedience to Him.
During his early life till he was almost 40 years old he was known for his integrity, honesty and intelligence. He told the poor, illiterate and uncivilized tribesmen of Makka: Believe in God, and you will reach the pinnacle of glory and attain the success in both the worlds. When he asked his own people to give up idol-worship and accept Islam - God's culture as their way of life, they refused. They laughed at him, and rebuked him for giving up the religion of his forefathers. When he showed no inclination to compromise they finally banished him.
He took refuge in a distant city at the age 53. During the next six years he endured exile, hunger and wily conspiracies to annihilate his small group of followers numbering only in hundreds. His unflinching conviction about Islam sustained him in extremely adverse circumstances and gained a large following. He returned to his hometown seven years later. He could easily avenge years of abuse and ill treatment. But he forgave everyone, including the person who chewed the heart of his uncle after killing him only five years back. Those who were baying for his blood for years and had assembled a grand alliance by Machiavellian machinations to erase the Muslims just two years ago were amazed to see him declare unconditional amnesty, despite pressure from his army commanders. The number of all those killed in wars against him did not exceed even hundreds. In the last four years of his life he was the undisputed 'king of Arabia' but when he died he left nothing valuable in his household.
How could an imposter endure extreme hardships, and for what? Who would give up the comfortable life of a merchant to starve in Makka's barren hills? How could a morally corrupt person resist the joys of power, status and wealth that came with success? Why would he not devour the fruits of a long struggle after gaining total control on the lives and property of millions? How could he gather a staunch following?
Mohammad stands alone among the world leaders who did not seek nor accepted a reward. Instead, he established a model human society that lived by God's words, and vowed to continue his mission. What did Muhammad stand for?
Equality, justice and happiness
Fifteen hundred years later the world is still struggling to achieve what Muhammad accomplished within a short span of twenty-three years. On receiving the call from God he told us that:
There is only One God (none shares an iota of Godhead with Him, as a son or His incarnation.
Only He is worthy of worship, and obedience, and none else.
We will appear before God, and give an account to Him alone of whatever we said or did.
All are created equal and have equal rights to enjoy God's bounties.
We should try to establish God's kingdom on earth (a just society) using God-given resources and human faculties. If we believe in God (Allah is just an Arabic term for 'the God') and accept that He created us on this earth for a purpose, then what else could God repeatedly tell to make our life fulfilling and peaceful on earth? This is the eternal truth. And God appointed Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and thousands more in every corner of the globe, in every human settlement to remind us of His message.
As long as the humanity was scattered into small cantons, separated by space and time and communication was extremely limited, God's message was lost or distorted soon after the death of a messenger and his early disciples. But it was the same message all along. Muhammad just cleared the thick dust that had covered it over the centuries.
Mohammad's genius was in establishing a just society in his lifetime. He showed us that what God was expecting from human beings was not a utopia. They could easily translate God's words into a living reality, a thriving human community, a "kingdom of God" on earth, if they decided to live by it.
The Muslims took this powerful message and raced to the known reaches of the inhabited world, from distant islands in the Pacific to the unfathomed Atlantic. Within fifty years of Muhammad's death Muslim civilization spread from Spain to Malacca and the world's two superpowers vanished in thin air. For the next thousand years Muhammad's ideals dominated the world.
Slowly, the Muslims lost the vigor of his ideals and rituals replaced the conviction. Now they are 1/5 of the world population. They were assigned the duty to take God's message to the rest, but 4/5 of the world does not know Mohammad or his message, and Muslims are doing very little to tell. When will the Muslims showcase a real Islmic society for the modern world?
Muhammad's message, and not his sword, overpowered the two most powerful and dominant cultures of his time. The Roman Empire and the Iranian monarchy could not impede the fast-moving ideological flood. Muhammad changed the way mankind perceived God-Human relationship. Muslims not only recited: "We worship God" in ritual prayers all day long but put it into practice every minute of their life. Islam's interpretation of the monotheistic faith in God is most unique and has its own genius. Belief in God acts as the strong motivating force as well a controlling mechanism of human behavior. Nothing else, neither education nor legislation and strict enforcement may have the same impact on human society as much as God-consciousness - loving Him and accepting human accountability to Him alone.
End of history?
Fukuyama in his book 'The End of History' states: The Capitalist system is the eternal salvation for man on earth. Islam, despite its weakness and disintegration, threatens this new victorious way of life." But Fukuyama's dream society based on capitalism is cracking under its own weight. The breakdown of the civil society in America is quite evident to every keen observer. Lack of a purpose in life has destroyed individual integrity. The family - the bedrock of every civilization has disintegrated. Religious rituals make no sense as God is thrown out of the window, or confined to Sunday mass. Moral values have lost their significance in the deluge of the pop culture. Business ethics did not stop Enron, WorldCom and other giants from collapse. A secular democratic society built on the shaky grounds of information and law enforcement is showing the symptoms of collapse. The truth is that the western civilization is facing perhaps its greatest test.
ISLAM ATTRACTING MORE
In post 9/11 era when the "war on terrorism" has closed many minds to anything associated with Islam it is puzzling to many that Muhammad's ideals are attracting new adherents everywhere.
There is no dearth of newsroom commentators and political strategists who, day in and day out, proclaim: "Islam has been at war with the West, indeed the entire Non-Muslim world, ever since the days of Muhammad." Huntington tried to define the struggle in terms of "clash of civilizations".
Despite all this ho hum, nobody could clearly identify what is attracting young affluent white Americans and poor, hungry Hutus alike to Islam. Nicolas D. Kristof (NYT, July 9, 2002) acknowledged that Islam "is spreading rapidly" and has "admirable qualities" like a profound egalitarianism and lack of hierarchy that confers dignity and self-respect among believers, greater hospitality, an institutionalized system of charity, Zakat, to provide for the poor, etc (though he is worried about the implications of the spread of Islam for the status of women and for the genital mutilations of the girls, as if it is what Islam stands for). He pointed out that "focusing on the moral deficiencies of other people simply underscores our own."
Islam is winning because it logically fulfils human desire to have faith in God, longing for a fulfilling life on earth, and provides a human model Muhammad - to follow in everyday life. Those who malign Muhammad and Islam should look to what the new converts are saying.