May 15, 2003 Thursday Rabi-ul-Awwal 12, 1424
Muhammad (pbuh), A perfect human model
By Muhammad al-Ghazali
THE Prophet (peace be on him) has been presented in the Qur'an as the best model for the believers. The Qur'an reminds us time and again that the Prophet is not only the communicator of Divine guidance to humanity, but he alone is the perfect model for following this guidance (33:21). This is because abstract guidance without any concrete example is not sufficient for human beings.
Since Allah knows His creatures best, he did not leave human beings to themselves. He explained to them the right way to felicity here and bliss hereafter. And further, He set for them a concrete historical and human example to pursue the straight path to success. This was done as soon as human existence on earth was inaugurated with the advent of Adam (AS), our ancestor and father of all humanity.
Allah continued to remind humanity, through his prophets and messengers, of the purpose of their creation, throughout history. Before the end of time, He consummated His Guidance by sending His best Prophet and invested him with the ultimate guidance for all space-time conditions and climes.
It is not an accident of history that in the periods following the demise of the Prophet no significant development has taken place in the world of religion. Nothing new and original has come to the notice of humanity since 632 A.D., that could give a new religious orientation to human life.
All religions that exist today regarded as major religions of the world by all the scholars predate the Prophet's era. Change of focus, stress and emphases did take place in different religious traditions. But no major change has occurred in the basic religious orientation of any segment of humanity. Hence the doctrine of the finality of the prophethood after Muhammad (peace be on him) is fully substantiated by the very fact of human history.
No other religion after the Prophet's era could provide a complete and harmonious pattern of human life covering the entire gamut of human existential reality. It is only the claim of the Qur'an un-challenged and un-matched by any religion to this day that in the Prophet's living pattern there was the best model of moral perfection for all human individuals and groups in all space-time situations.
What exactly is so unique in the sunnah of the last Prophet that makes it the model par excellence? There are indeed many features in the Prophet's life that are singular and outstanding.
These features have been elaborated in the vast compendia of ahadith so meticulously preserved by the doctors of hadith in strict conformity with the highest standards of historical examination.
In fact, Muslim scholars had been the first to develop a full-fledged science of hadith to collect, sift, analyze, examine and authenticate the whole record of Prophet's eventful life spread over 23 years of his active and fruitful mission. These scholars should be rightly credited, therefore, with evolving a methodology of biographical research that is without parallel to this moment in any other culture.
To cover, therefore, all those prominent characteristics of the sunnah that make it unique in the arena of religions and cultures, the space available here is not sufficient.
In fact writers and biographers, historians and scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim had been striving since ages to highlight the various dimensions of this greatest phenomenon of history, namely, the sunnah, but it continues to provide new inspiration and light to the seekers of knowledge and wisdom and guidance.
With the onward progress of human thought, the relevance of the Prophet's sunnah to the contemporary man is becoming more and more conspicuous and convincing. Every subsequent study brings forth fresh fragrance from this interminable fountainhead of knowledge and wisdom.
It is, therefore, necessary to confine oneself to some particular aspect of this vast and varied field of human endeavour that has been dedicated to highlight the Prophet's sunnah.
The most striking facet of the sunnah, which is also perhaps the most important factor of its immortality in history is this human dimension. We find other religions turning their back on human nature and its demands. In fact a great many teachers of religion tried to invent a cult of spirituality out of this neglect of the natural human condition and its legitimate demands. The obvious result of this was a rapid decline in the centrality of religion as a potent force in human society.
The teaching and practice of Prophet Muhammad took a positive, healthy, constructive and respectful attitude to human nature and all its innocent urges and native ambitions. What the current systems of law so boastfully regard as human rights', were prescribed as solemn obligations' by the Prophet. This means that it is not merely our right to protect our life, honour, freedom, possessions and achievements, but rather it is our sacred obligation to protect and promote what essentially is a Divine bounty.
That is why the Prophet said: he who is killed while defending his honour and property is a martyr. All legitimate efforts to preserve and protect one's self-esteem and valid possessions have thus been granted a sanctity. The wage-earner has been hailed as beloved of Allah by the Prophet in another famous hadith.
The demands of human nature had been considered so sacred by the Prophet that these sometimes have precedence over the pure ritual acts of worship. The sick have licence to postpone fasting.
They are allowed to pray while sitting, laying in bed or even by the movement of the gaze when the condition is critical. If it is time for a meal and one is hungry, he should first eat and then pray. If one is praying and the time of the prayer is running out, and there is some human being crying for help for survival, the command of the Prophet's Shariah is that he should leave his prayer and save the human life.
In fact, the Qur'an expressly gives permission to utter disbelief should this be required of a believer under duress (see 16:106).
The Prophet once said that at times when he is leading the prayer, he intends to recite Qur'an longer, but when he hears a child crying for his mother (who has joined the prayer behind the Prophet), he shortens the prayer to relieve the child and his mother from anxiety. Thus relieving an ordinary human anxiety takes precedence over the highest religious activity, namely, prayer behind the Prophet.
These are but few examples from the vast treasure of knowledge and guidance available in the collections of hadith. These provide an evidence of the fact that due consideration for the natural demands of human life is the uppermost in the prescriptions of the Prophet's sunnah. Naturally enough, if human nature and its requirements are a creation of Allah as they obviously are then it does not befit the mercy and clemency of Allah to ask us to neglect it or offend it.
We are taught in the Prophet's sunnah that we should maintain a harmonious balance between the demands of our animality and spirituality.
For we have been created as humans. We need not pretend to be angels which we can never become.
All we are required to strive for is to maintain a balance between our celestial and terrestrial pulls and pushes. This inner tension is part of human nature. It could only be relieved by striking an equilibrium and balance, between the two forces. Achieving this balance has been indeed the real challenge for mankind in all times and climes. To meet this challenge, we have no other means available save emulating the model par excellence of the Prophet (peace be on him).
Otherwise, we should be tilted to one side of life and neglect the other. This tilt will disturb the inner harmony and rhythm of life.
It is quite easy to unilaterally pursue one aim in life and forget all other obligations. This unilateral attitude might also yield some timely gain or momentary benefit. But this disturbance of the balance whether in favour of animality or spirituality will destroy the prospects of total and holistic human perfection for which ample abilities have been granted to us. We should, therefore, strive to understand the unique model of the sunnah and try to inculcate its perennial values in our lives. Only then we would be truly realizing our ideal in life: felicity here and bliss hereafter.
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