THE birthday of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who was born in 570 AD, in the month of Rabiul Awwal, is being celebrated. Many Muslims are celebrating this event with fervour, through gatherings and processions. Buildings have been lit up in green and decorated in green flags. Sweets will be distributed. The Prophet himself fasted on the day to thank God for His blessings.
Today, the day has evolved into a festive occasion, to commemorate the birth of the man who communicated the final word of God through the kindest and most compassionate manner to the worst of his enemies.
The Holy Prophet is the source of faith for Muslims, having brought to them God’s words contained in the Quran. He explained the meaning of God’s message and provided religious content where necessary. The message from God revolves around worshipping Him and living this life with justice, peace and good words and by doing good deeds. The Prophet demonstrated its implementation through his personal example. He was love personified, and especially so towards those who had hurt him. He embraced diversity and was mindful of the opinions of others. He spoke softly and by his demeanour alone, was successful in bringing people towards the religion of Islam. As the Quran says: “...Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate!” (41:34)
The Prophet (PBUH) embraced diversity and was mindful of others’ opinions.
The Prophet of Islam sought to settle all disputes, whether individual or collective, through mediation and dialogue. His way was to listen to all the parties concerned and then come to a decision on the basis of equity and fairness. The battles he fought were mostly started by his enemies because, as per God’s instructions, he was asked not to fight unless the others did. In every battle he fought, he gave instructions for the elders, women, children and all non-combatants as well as the natural resources to be protected.
The Prophet’s kindness and fair treatment of prisoners of war is exemplary and is quoted even by his detractors. Captives who were wealthy were let go after payment of an amount and those who were poor were asked to teach the children of Muslims in lieu of payment. This was the respect with which people who worshipped idols and who had confronted him on the battlefield were treated. They were fed fresh dates and bread while Muslim soldiers ate stale food.
During the early stages of prophethood, some idolaters had accepted Islam but remained insincere. He would still listen to each one of them and deal with them with love and kindness. The Quran testifies to his compassion: “...Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee: so pass over (their faults), and ask for (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in affairs (of moment). ...” (3:159).
When, years later, he entered Makkah as a victor, having conquered his land without a single drop of blood being shed, he declared a general amnesty for all who had tortured, starved and killed his companions and forced him to migrate in extreme penury.
While Muslims profess their deep love for him and are ready to die in his name, one must ask if their love extends to emulating him in their approach to life and behaviour towards their fellow beings. Consider the horror being perpetrated in Yemen. Bombs are exploding everywhere and are targeting even small children, and the region is prevented from receiving aid. Yemen is in the grip of a famine of massive proportions. It is, undeniably, a crime against Islam. These are the wars of today’s Muslim world, when the worst affected are the ill and the young.
One of the worst crimes against the Prophet is the incitement of hatred and violence in his name, seeking revenge for petty personal reasons, hurling false accusations and acting as vigilantes. His sanctity is being misused as a tool with which to oppress vulnerable people, destroying their means of livelihood. Innocent victims suffer abuses and are hounded without being given a fair chance to be heard. The Prophet had instructed his followers never to taunt, abuse or curse anyone. He was never unkind to anyone, even as he was pelted with animal entrails while praying, when trash was thrown in front of his house every day and attempts were made to kill him. On his part, he forgave every act that was carried out against his person and property and was kind to his tormentors. His soft-hearted approach was such that the Quran, at one point, had to instruct him to deal severely with the deniers of faith.
It is time to ponder upon the sincerity of our professed love for him, demonstrated through our rituals, even as many behave in a manner that is exactly the opposite of his message of universal mercy.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018