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What the world owes to Islam and its Prophet
The principles, values and freedoms of which we can be proud of today are found in a book compiled some 1,400 years old. This book was given to us through the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who, through his example and teachings, prepared the world for a spiritual, moral and social revolution, the like of which had never been witnessed before.
Through the light of his exemplary practices and words, he readied the world for advancements in all areas of human activity, including faith, science, medicine, culture, architecture, education, economy and civilisation. He came to bring man out of the pits of extreme darkness, ignorance and barbarianism, and to grant life, knowledge and understanding to the world.
It was through him that the world learned the way to live, the purpose of life and how to achieve it. Had it not been for his love, sympathy and compassion for the world, dare I say, we would still be grovelling in the depths of human error and conjecture, taking stones as idols, or the heavenly bodies that were created to serve us, as gods. With his advent and spiritual power, the idols of the ego were also smashed and the Unity of God was firmly established in the earth, never again to fade away.
Everything that we have in the world, the progress and advancements that we have made is due to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This is no baseless exaggeration. After him, Muslims took inspiration from the book that God had revealed to him to make great discoveries and advancements in all areas of human aspiration. Even in this age, the first Muslim Noble Laureate, Dr. Abdus Salam, on being asked what had inspired him for his revolutionary work in Theoretical Physics, replied, "it was the Qur'an." Thus, Muslims obeyed The Holy Prophet's commandments that 'seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim man and Muslim woman' and 'seek knowledge even if you have to go as far as China to get it'. Therefore, he has made it obligatory for every Muslim to seek knowledge as best they can.
The Islamic Golden Age saw the Muslims make leaps in advancements which brought the world to a new age of discovery and technology which eventually lead to the renaissance of the West. Many of the things that we have today bear their roots in early Islamic civilisation.
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More and more, we hear of human rights, women's rights, worker's rights and even animal's rights. Little do people realise that all the goodly freedoms we enjoy, and the principles which we value today, were laid down firmly by the Holy Prophet 1,400 years ago and impressed upon the Muslims. The Prophet (peace be upon him) taught that all humans are equal, all have equal rights and no one is superior to another regardless of race, gender or even position in society. As for workers, he taught that no worker should be given more work than he can bear, and that his wages should be paid before his perspiration dries off, thus putting an end to exploitation of workers 1,400 years ago. It is unfortunate though, that even today in many countries of the world, we hear of child labour, horrific work conditions and exploitation of the needs and desperation of the poor.
Such a furore is created about Islam and women's rights today, but Islam came and freed women in the then prevalent uncivilized Arab society and gave them rights which were to be followed the world over in future centuries. Indeed we see that the rights of divorce, inheritance and other freedoms were secured for women 1400 years ago, whereas some of these rights and freedoms were only legalised in the west less than a century ago!
Women in Islam can marry whoever they choose and have the right of divorce. They are free to go out and seek employment or to stay at home and take care of the household with the only stipulation that they do not neglect the rights and needs of their family. Moreover, while men are obligated in Islam to spend their wealth on the wife and family, any income that women earn is wholly theirs and can be spent however they wish. Were women in Britain in the early twentieth century given even half of these freedoms?
The Prophet is the man who taught us, 'Paradise lies under the feet of the mother' and 'the best of you are those who are best in treatment to your wives'. Does all this leave room for any allegation against Islam about women? Most certainly not.
The rights the Prophet Muhammad established did not end with humans alone. He even taught that animals were part of God's creation and should be taken care of. In an age where we see animal rights groups and organizations to protect animals, Islam had established their rights some 1,400 years ago. The Prophet taught through a parable that a woman who took off her shoe, dipped it into a well and gave the water to quench the thirst of a dog, gained the pleasure of God and earned Paradise through this one simple act of kindness. This is but one example of the Prophet's teaching towards animals.
In Britain, we live in a welfare state. The very concept of a welfare state was put forth by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when he made it a duty of the state to take care of the poor, orphaned, sick and elderly. Indeed, in subsequent years, his caliphs put into practice the welfare state all over the Muslim world. One significant example is that of Hadhrat Umar, his second successor, who upon hearing the cries of children, whose mother could find no food to feed them, took it upon himself to go to the state treasury stockpile and himself carried essential food items to her home. When his servant offered to carry the load, Umar replied, 'will you also carry my burdens on the Day of Judgment?' Such was the standard of responsibility that the Holy Prophet instilled in his followers and future leaders of the Muslim world. Hadhrat Umar, being the head of the state, was responsible for the well-being of every citizen and took it upon himself to fulfil their needs. Do any of our politicians today have this sense of responsibility and standard of duty towards their citizens? Politicians and governments are meant to serve the nation and the citizens, not the other way around!
High moral qualities such as honesty, charity, gratefulness, forgiveness, cleanliness and love were taught by him. He himself demonstrated all these qualities and more, throughout his life. Indeed from the very beginning, before his claim to Prophethood, he was given the titles 'The Truthful', 'The Trustworthy' by the very same people who would later oppose him tooth and nail. He taught moderation in all things and led a simple life. Despite coming into much wealth, he gave it all away considering everything to be the property of God, and and that he was no more than a humble servant of God; sent to serve His creation.
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He cleansed us of idol worship, arrogance, selfishness, ignorance and pride. He gave us the means to clean and purify our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls so that we may prepare for the next life and the meeting with our Maker.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his majestic spiritual power, brought man from barbarity to humanity. From ordinary human beings, he made them into highly developed moral beings. From that, he taught the way to become spiritual and heavenly beings, worthy of approval by our Creator.
It was his deep anguish and distress for humanity that caused him to spend his nights praying and weeping for the world. Such was his compassion for the world that God declared that He had sent Muhammad as a 'Mercy for Mankind'. Such was his deep love and heartfelt concern for the world that because of his tears of sorrow for humanity, God gave him that, which He had not given to any other people before; a perfect and complete teaching and way of life. His grief for humanity, and nights spent weeping for mankind shook the heavens and God responded to his prayers by giving him the very means to save humanity.
This is why Muslims hold him in such high regard, higher than their parents or any other loved ones. He came as the Saviour of Humanity and as a Mercy for all Mankind.