Prophet Muhammad: A Mercy to Nations

Speech at the Ahmadiyya Convention at Columbus, Ohio, USA (1–2 August 1992)

by Mr. Yasin Sahukhan

The Light & Islamic Review (US), September/October 1992 Issue (Vol. 69, No. 5, pp. 15–18)

The Holy Quran says:

وَ مَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنٰکَ اِلَّا رَحۡمَۃً لِّلۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۰۷﴾

“Wa ma arsalna-ka illa rahmat-al-lil-alamin”

“And We have not sent thee but as a mercy to nations” (The Holy Quran, 21:107).

While the words no doubt contain a reference to the merciful dealings with the Prophet’s opponents, the real significance is that the Prophet’s advent will prove a mercy not only to the Arabs by making them a foremost nation in the world, but to the whole of humanity. The Prophet’s being a mercy to all nations of the world is to show that ultimately all nations will be received into Divine mercy which was manifested through him.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad was an excellent exemplar as declared by the Holy Quran:

لَقَدۡ کَانَ لَکُمۡ فِیۡ رَسُوۡلِ اللّٰہِ اُسۡوَۃٌ حَسَنَۃٌ

“Laqad kana lakum fi rasul-illahi uswatun hasana”

“You have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemplar” (The Holy Quran, 33:21).

And in this perfect and most excellent exemplar Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the most successful of all religious personalities of the world, is found the perfect manifestation of Divine Light. That light of high degree was not in any earthly or heavenly object. It was only in the perfect man whose highest and loftiest and most perfect example was our master, the Chief of the Prophets, the Chief of all living ones, Muhammad, the chosen one, peace be upon him. That light was bestowed on this man and, according to their ranks, upon all those who bore the same colour to some degree. This dignity was found in its highest and most perfect form in our master and guide, the immaculate Prophet, the righteous one, testified to by the righteous, Muhammad Mustafa — sall-allahu alai-hi wa sallam (saw).

Reform brought about Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)]:

At the advent of the Holy Prophet, Arabia was plunged in ignorance, evil, sin and crime, being the worst place on earth. There was no government, might was right, idol worship was rampant. Besides the 360 idols set up in Kabah for each day of worship, every tribe had an idol of its own. The Jews and the Christians tried to bring reformation among the Arabs, but failed. From such debasing idolatry, the Holy Prophet uplifted the whole of Arabia in a brief span of twenty years. Not only was idolatry extirpated root and branch from the soil of Arabia, but such enthusiasm for the unity of God was kindled in the hearts of the self same Arabs that it carried them far and wide over the length and breadth of the then known world to uphold the belief in Tawhid — the One God. It is a well-known and undeniable fact that only the Holy Prophet established monotheism in its purest form, and the worship of one God was taught in the most unequivocal terms.

The very first ordinance in the Holy Quran puts this perspective of Religion before us in the following words:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا النَّاسُ اعۡبُدُوۡا رَبَّکُمُ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَکُمۡ وَ الَّذِیۡنَ مِنۡ قَبۡلِکُمۡ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَتَّقُوۡنَ ﴿ۙ۲۱﴾

“O men! Serve your Lord Who created you and those before you so that you may guard against evil” (The Holy Quran, 2:21)

Again, it says:

الَّذِیۡ جَعَلَ لَکُمُ الۡاَرۡضَ فِرَاشًا وَّ السَّمَآءَ بِنَآءً ۪ وَّ اَنۡزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً فَاَخۡرَجَ بِہٖ مِنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ رِزۡقًا لَّکُمۡ ۚ فَلَا تَجۡعَلُوۡا لِلّٰہِ اَنۡدَادًا وَّ اَنۡتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۲۲﴾

“Who made the earth a resting place for you and the heaven a structure, and sends down rain from the clouds, then brings forth with it fruits for your sustenance, so do not set up rivals to Allah while you know.” (The Holy Quran, 2:22)

The world had very erroneous conceptions of human capabilities. Evil had been taken as its backbone; nothing sublime or beautiful was in humanity.

Holy Prophet Muhammad for the first time declared that human nature was potentially perfect, that every child is born sinless according to nature. He taught that it was free from every taint of evil. Sin, he declared, was an acquisition, an after-acquirement and not a heritage. Human nature, as the Quran says, was capable of unlimited progress, but with inclination to degradation as well; man could soar to the highest of the high, but can also go to the lowest of the low, and the religion Muhammad brought was to work out the former and check the latter.

لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا الۡاِنۡسَانَ فِیۡۤ اَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِیۡمٍ ۫﴿۴﴾ ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنٰہُ اَسۡفَلَ سٰفِلِیۡنَ ۙ﴿۵﴾

“Certainly We created man in the best make. Then We render him the lowest of the low” (The Holy Quran, 95:4–5).

For universal brotherhood, man must live in society. He cannot be happy without it. We must serve others and be served by them. But the self-seeking nature in us, if not properly controlled, makes havoc among us, and creates all the trouble around us. Oppression, persecution, crimes, disputes, war — all these are the outcome of self-seeking tendencies and the social nature in man. We need some sort of sacrifice in favour of those around us. We need to cultivate a spirit of brotherhood to improve the said tendency. In this respect, the Holy Prophet Muhammad can rightly claim to have discovered the specific remedy. He laid down the principles of universal brotherhood, and succeeded in establishing them in his own lifetime. Through this institution he purged Arabia of all its troubles. The pre-Islamic God was a tribal God everywhere whether in the East or in the West. He was the God of Abraham and Jacob, He was the Mazda of the renowned ancestors in Persia, but the Quran speaks of God as being the Rabb-ul-Alamin — the Creator, the Nourisher and the Sustainer of all the worlds, of all the nations and races, and Who made no distinction between man and man.

For the first time it was established that there was no intermediary between man and God; that the divine precepts were accessible to everyone. The door of the Lord is forever open to every striver after Him. The Quran says:

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ جَاہَدُوۡا فِیۡنَا لَنَہۡدِیَنَّہُمۡ سُبُلَنَا ؕ

“Those who strive after Us, We guide them into Our ways” (The Holy Quran, 29:69).

وَ اِذَا سَاَلَکَ عِبَادِیۡ عَنِّیۡ فَاِنِّیۡ قَرِیۡبٌ ؕ اُجِیۡبُ دَعۡوَۃَ الدَّاعِ اِذَا دَعَانِ ۙ فَلۡیَسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِیۡ وَ لۡیُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِیۡ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَرۡشُدُوۡنَ ﴿۱۸۶﴾

“And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am near: I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should hear My call and believe in Me, that they may walk in the right way” (The Holy Quran, 2:186).

Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) is also the Prophet who “strikes at the root of the idea of a favourite nation whose members alone may be entitled to salvation”. The Quran brought a Gospel of Peace to the whole world when it proclaimed:

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا وَ الَّذِیۡنَ ہَادُوۡا وَ النَّصٰرٰی وَ الصّٰبِئِیۡنَ مَنۡ اٰمَنَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡیَوۡمِ الۡاٰخِرِ وَ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا فَلَہُمۡ اَجۡرُہُمۡ عِنۡدَ رَبِّہِمۡ ۪ۚ وَ لَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۶۲﴾

“Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Christians and the Sabians — whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve” (The Holy Quran, 2:62).

Tributes to the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)]:

Every man ought to be judged by what he does, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad accomplished within twenty years what centuries of the labours of the other reformers could not accomplish, notwithstanding the temporal power at their back. He swept away centuries-old idolatry, superstition, credulity, ignorance, prostitution, gambling, drinking, oppression of the weak, internecine war and a hundred other evils from a whole country. History cannot show any other reformer who brought so wonderful and complete a transformation on so large a scale within so short a time. Sir William Muir wrote:

“Never was reform more hopeless than at the advent of Muhammad, and never was it more complete when he departed.”

The author H. Hirschfeld writes in his book New Researches:

“Never has a people been led more rapidly to civilization, such as it was, than were the Arabs through Islam … and to it was also indirectly due the marvellous development of all branches of science in the Muslim world.”

A single sentence in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Ed., under its article on the “Koran” is sufficient to establish the truth of this statement:

“Of all the religious personalities of the world, Muhammad was the most successful.”

The Perfect Model:

Whatever injunctions are contained in the Quran were beautifully illustrated in practice in the life of Prophet Muhammad. For the fulfilment of this purpose, the Omniscient, All-Knowing God divided the life of our Prophet into two distinct periods: the period of suffering, adversities and persecution, and the period of triumph and prosperity. This was done in order to provide occasion for the display of both sorts of moral qualities: those which can be proved in the time of suffering, and those which cannot be proved except in triumph and prosperity. In this way he had all his moral qualities brought to the test of practice, and the two periods of his life enabled him to display them in the highest degree.

The thirteen years at Makka represent the time of suffering, and a study of the life of Prophet Muhammad during that time shows clearly that there is not a single moral quality which could be manifested in suffering by the righteous that was not displayed by him. His complete trust in God, his refraining from showing the slightest impatience, his calm and serenity, his noble and dignified manner, his unshaken activity and zeal in the performance of the duties entrusted to him, his fearless courage, and numerous other moral qualities, so deeply impressed that even the unbelievers bore testimony to the great miracle of his perseverance under the hardest trials and sufferings and were ultimately convinced that all this was because of his perfect trust in the Supreme Being.

Then followed his life of Madina — period of triumph, victory and prosperity, suited for the display of another division of moral qualities. His forgiveness, charity, sympathy, courage, and other high moral qualities were so well displayed that a large number of unbelievers embraced Islam. He freely forgave those who had persecuted and tortured him, extended shelter to those who had expelled him from Makka, helped the poor among them, and showed kindness to the bitterest foes when their lives were completely at his mercy. It is stated that the Holy Prophet took hold of the two sides of the gate of the Kabah on the day of the conquest of Makka and said to the Quraish:

“How do you think I should treat you?”

They said:

“We hope for good: Thou art a noble brother and the son of a noble brother.”

Then the Prophet said:

لَا تَثۡرِیۡبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡیَوۡمَ ؕ یَغۡفِرُ اللّٰہُ لَکُمۡ ۫ وَ ہُوَ اَرۡحَمُ الرّٰحِمِیۡنَ ﴿۹۲﴾

“I say as my brother Joseph said: ‘No reproof be against you this day. Allah may forgive you, and He is the most Merciful of those who show mercy’” (The Holy Quran, 12:92).

What a generosity! To Wahshi, murderer of Hamza, the Holy Prophet’s uncle, and to Hindah, who had chewed his liver, was also extended this generous clemency. Habbor, who had stoned the Holy Prophet’s daughter while on her way from Makka to Madina so badly that the injuries led ultimately to her death, was also forgiven. World history fails to produce the like of the Holy Prophet’s generous forgiveness of such arch enemies

“And We have not sent thee (O Muhammad) but as a mercy to nations.”

The high morals thus displayed by Muhammad convinced the Arabs that their Prophet could not but be from God, and a truly righteous man. Their inveterate hatred was by these noble morals at once converted into fast friendship.

Sacrifice for Mankind:

One of these great and noble moral qualities is described in the following verse:

قُلۡ اِنَّ صَلَاتِیۡ وَ نُسُکِیۡ وَ مَحۡیَایَ وَ مَمَاتِیۡ لِلّٰہِ رَبِّ الۡعٰلَمِیۡنَ ﴿۱۶۲﴾ۙ

“Say: My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are surely for Allah, the Lord of the worlds” (The Holy Quran, 6:162).

It should not be imagined that death in the way of God and for the good of mankind, here spoken of, means that the Prophet was under any delusion like ignorant and insane people that a suicidal end of his own life would, in any way, benefit others. (Contrast this with the Christian doctrine of atonement.) Nay, he hated all such ideas and the Quran regards those who entertain these notions as guilty of a serious crime:

وَ لَا تُلۡقُوۡا بِاَیۡدِیۡکُمۡ اِلَی التَّہۡلُکَۃِ ۚۖۛ وَ اَحۡسِنُوۡا ۚۛ

“And cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands and do good (to others)” (The Holy Quran, 2:195).

It is plain truth that one man cannot relieve another of headache by breaking his own head. Such a step is at best an unwise act. In short, the reference to the Prophet’s death in the way of God and for the benefit of mankind simply denotes that Muhammad had devoted his life to the service and welfare of mankind out of sympathy, and that with his prayers and preaching, and the adoption of every wise method for the regeneration of his people, as well as by bearing patiently their persecutions, he sacrificed his own life and all his comfort in this path. With reference to this sacrifice of his life, the Quran elsewhere says:

لَعَلَّکَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفۡسَکَ اَلَّا یَکُوۡنُوۡا مُؤۡمِنِیۡنَ ﴿۳﴾

“Perhaps thou (Muhammad) wilt kill thyself with grief because they believe not” (The Holy Quran, 26:3).

فَلَا تَذۡہَبۡ نَفۡسُکَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ حَسَرٰتٍ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ عَلِیۡمٌۢ بِمَا یَصۡنَعُوۡنَ ﴿۸﴾

“So let not thy soul waste away in grief for them, surely Allah is Knower of what they do,” (The Holy Quran, 35:8)

The way in which a man may sacrifice his life for his people is to encounter all difficulties, and work hard for their welfare by adopting measures which are likely to better their condition. It is mere folly to think that true sacrifices for a people, who are deeply immersed in sin or involved in error, consist in committing suicide. To regard this act of folly as leading to the salvation of those who have gone astray is the height of absurdity.