Innallaha ma3a Sabireen
While introducing Muhammad (peace be upon him), a writer once exclaimed: "you may be an atheist or an agnostic or you may belong to any of the religious denominations that exist in the world today, you still must know this man." Such an exhortation would sound like an exaggeration. However, after knowing the splendid personality of Muhammad and his message, people not only agree with the above statement, they become more enthusiastic to present Muhammad even in a stronger voice and language. More importantly, the appreciation and veneration of Prophet Muhammad are not limited to the Muslims, many non-Muslims, too, have recorded their tributes to the prophet in the same way.
However, today, not many people seem to be properly informed about the life and message of Muhammad Although historians have described him as the greatest figure in the history, and 1.3 billion people of today's world follow him as the last prophet of God, people at large in the west are either unaware of him or having many incorrect views about him. Recently (and more particularly, after 9/11), people's interest in and awareness of Islam have undoubtedly increased, yet there is no sign of improvement in people's knowledge and understanding about the Prophet. Instead, what is noticeable is that prejudice and intolerance have taken new roots in America, thanks to the media sensationalism and the negative campaign of the Islam bashers. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that even some prominent evangelists didn't hesitate to join the anti-Muslim and anti-prophet chorus. They have exposed their ignorance and prejudice by stating that Islam is an "evil religion" and Prophet Muhammad was a "child abuser".
Muhammad has been misunderstood for another reason. The Muslims who were supposed to be following the footsteps of the prophet, overwhelming majority of them are somewhat indifferent (and in most cases, ignorant) about the sublime teachings of the prophet. Their collective life styles (in fifty plus Muslim majority countries) are far from being reflective of the society modeled by the prophet wherein god- fearing, justice, accountability, pluralism, human dignity, fairness, mutual consultation and egalitarianism were the hallmarks. With few exceptions, the personal life styles of the average Muslims are not distinctive or appealing either. They claim their faith in and love for the prophet and demonstrate those in some occasions, but they are not attentive to enlighten their intellect and purify their heart in the light of the prophet's teachings. By their deviant life styles, those 'Muslims' are contributing only to reinforcing the confusions of others toward Islam and the prophet.
The above scenario, however, should not be taken out of context or proportion and shouldn't cause anyone to stay away from appreciating the personality of Muhammad and his message. Prophet's life examples are worth exploring and provide the best guidance for the entire mankind. He was honest, truthful and trustworthy. Even his greatest enemies couldn't but testify to his integrity and virtues. He didn't claim divinity in any way, rather, he plainly stated (what God asked him to do):
"Say! I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your God is only one God. And whoever hopes for meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work and make none to share in the worship due to his Lord." (Qur'an, 18:110)
Muhammad recognized and revered all the messengers who came before him and asked his followers to do the same. He stated that all the messengers were teaching the same straight path of "Islam" which is complete submission of man before the Commandments of God and he (Muhammad) is the last in the chain of prophets. He also made people aware of the transitory nature of this life and of the consequences of their actions in the hereafter-where life will be eternal. The Prophet's life demonstrated the perfect example of submission and servitude to Almighty God and the attainment of highest human virtues. In other words, in different stages and situations of his life, Muhammad demonstrated the conducts of life that are beneficial to all human beings and are approved and pleasing to Allah. By setting the example of human perfection on the earth, Muhammad impacted most in the history. Unlike other previous prophets and legendary figures, his biography, his way of living, his morals, conducts, habits and virtues, in short, all the details of his life are preserved. His teachings are comprehensive, balanced and pragmatic. Therefore, he is the only one of whole line of Prophets who is a living personality. He is thus the chosen leader and role model for the entire mankind. "Surely, in the messenger of Allah, you have the best example to follow." (Qur'an, 33:21)
Today, what we need is to rediscover him and emulate him in our personal and collective lives. Indeed, that's the guaranteed path of peace, justice and salvation for the whole humanity.