by Dr Anwar Abbas El-Hadiz, Imam Masjid Rincon
This now past week Muslims around the world commemorated the birthday of the founder and prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh). Muslims from around the world began flocking to Meccas on holy pilgrimage as the Hajj began as well. This week has been a time for Muslims to reflect and to strengthen their faith in God. It’s also been a time for us to examine our own lives and evaluate honestly if we are taking on the life of the Prophet as our own personal pattern and example to be emulated in our lives. For, in the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Allah has given us a beautiful pattern of conduct and example to follow and emulate as taught in Sura 33 of the Holy Qur’an.
“You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah
a beautiful pattern of conduct
for anyone whose hope is God and the final day.”
Sura Al-Ahzab 33:21
Muslims should not only examine themselves on the Prophet’s birthday but every day. We should evaluate our conduct and see if we truly are living the high standards and values of the Qur’an and if we are not then we must begin to live them.
One thing about the Prophet Muhammad that I want to focus on in this post today is the way he treated the Christians, Jews, and other minority religions. For one thing he did not impose Muslim law (Sharia) on them but Christians and Jews were judged by the standards set in their respective faiths. Judgments were handed down to them in accordance with the punishments outlined in their own faiths. Sharia law did not apply to them and Muhammad (pbuh) certainly did not impose it on them and this is historical fact.
When we review the life of the Prophet and pay particular attention to the way he treated people of other faiths we can see that he truly was a champion of human rights long before any of our modern champions of human rights. He esteemed freedom of worship and conscience and he gave members of other faiths, particularly Christians and Jews, protections. He made agreements with the Christian and Jewish communities in the lands he ruled and he called on all Muslims to respect them. In his treaty with the monks of Mt Sinai he ordered Muslims to respect Christian Churches and judges and forbad Muslims from fighting against the Christians. It is by such treaties and agreements that the Prophet made clear that Islam was to respect people of other faiths not attack them and not persecute them.
In the Treaty of Maqnah the Prophet guaranteed that the Jews could live in peace and security under Islamic rule. He specifically guranteed the Jews living in his lands that they would not be subjected to “oppression or violence” by Muslims. Likewise, in the Constitution of Medina the Prophet guaranteed that the Jews “shall maintain their own religion and the Muslims theirs,” meaning that under his rule he would not impose Islam on them nor force them to convert to it.
Within these various documents and by example of his own behavior the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) made it clear that people of other faiths living in Muslim lands would NOT be required to embrace Islam but would be allowed to practice their own faiths. Further, it was also made clear by the Prophet that Christians and Jews were to be treated as friends of Muslims rather than foes. The Prophet said, “Muslims should treat Jews as they would their own friends.” Clearly by the Prophet’s own example he rejected fanaticism, elitism, and racism. Clearly religious tolerance was one of his high values that we are suppose to be emulating in our own lives as true Muslims today.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an orphan as his parents died and he was raised by an uncle. When he began to establish Islam and receive the Revelations of the Qur’an the Meccans were idol worshipers in those days and most of them rejected him and even despised him to the point that they pursued him and his first followers with the intent to kill them. Thus, Muhammad (pbuh) knew first-hand what it was to be hated and despised. He felt the sting of that hatred directed towards him as did all of the first Muslims and he wished it upon no one. That’s one reason he made these agreements with the Christians and Jews because he did not want them to feel that sting of hatred. Another reason was that he did not want non-Muslims thinking that Muslims were persecutors and killers but he wanted them to see the high values practiced by himself and the first Muslims. He was a wise man and he knew that there was no better teacher than by personal example so he lived those high values and morals set forth for all Muslims in the Qur’an for the whole world to see. This is exactly what all true Muslims are suppose to be doing today as well.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) clearly saw humanity as being the very heart of Islam and his final sermon makes this obvious. He delivered that sermon on Mt Arafat in 632 AD and he specifically stated in that sermon that no Arab was superior to any non-Arab nor was any white man superior to any black man and visa versa. He encouraged all Muslims to be superior in their piety and good behavior and he encouraged tolerance of diversity as well. Thus, from the Prophet’s final sermon diversity became a value of true Islam.
The Prophet established Islam not just as a religion to be practiced but he established Islam as the way of living and being for the Muslim. Islam is meant to be lived and not simply practiced nor believed in. The same is true of Christianity and Judaism. Our religions have no value if they are not lived and only simply practiced. We must live our faiths daily and adhere to the morals and values set by our faiths.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught his followers that Muslims are to not only be respectful and tolerant but to be wise, intelligent, to act with wisdom and honor, and to behave civilly not as barbarians. He even told his followers, “The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.” As Muslims we should see the Prophet as the perfect man, pattern, and example and we are suppose to be emulating his values, morals, and behavior in our own lives every day.
The Prophet knew what it was to be cruelly mocked and made fun of because he had experienced it first hand. He felt the anger and he felt the sorrow that mockery causes one to feel and he did not wish others to feel the same. This is made clear in Sura 49 which says:
“O you who believe! let not (one) people laugh at (another) people
perchance they may be better than they,
nor let women (laugh) at (other) women,
perchance they may be better than they;
and do not find fault with your own people nor call one another by nicknames;
evil is a bad name after faith, and whoever does not turn, these it is that are the unjust.”
Clearly this is God’s command to the Muslim that we are not to be calling each other vile names nor are we to be mocking others in any way. Thus, mockery is not the appropriate nor acceptable conduct of a true Muslim. Instead of mocking one another we are suppose to be using kindness and wisdom to imporve our relationships with others and we are suppose to speak to them civilly at all times instead of with hatred and contempt.
The Prophet detested arrogance and egotism and deemed such behavior and thinking NOT to be appropriate for Muslims. This is because Allah Himself detests egoticism and arrogance in men as is made clear in Sura 24.
“Tell your men to lower their gaze
and to be mindful of their chastity;
in this they will be more considerate for their own
well being and purity.”
As true Muslims we must avoid being arrogant and egotistical. Such egotism and arrogance was not part of the behavior of Muhammad and Allah detests such behavior because it is following in the footsteps of Satan and evil. The Muslim is suppose to be humble and modest in his/her behavior. There is an ancient bit of Chinese wisdom that says, “The wise man walks with his head bowed in humbleness.” That is what Muslims are suppose to be doing. That is what Christians and Jews are suppose to be doing. None of us are suppose to be walking around with our noses in the air steeped in our own egotism and self pride! This very wisdom is put another way in the Qur’an.
“The servants of the Merciful
are those who walk on the earth
Thus, egotism and arrogance are sins in Allah’s sight and Muslims are not suppose to be engaging in these behaviors and thinking. The Arabic word “ujb” warns us against arrogance and the dangers of it and the dangers of exaggerating our own achievments. Instead of telling others how wonderous and fantastic we think we are or how righteous we are we are suppose to be walking in humbleness and acting with self discipline. The Prophet was not arrogant nor egotistical. He never went all about telling others how fantastic he was or how glorious his accomplishments were because Allah clearly revealed to him that such behavior of egotism was sinful.
I recently saw on the news what is being called the dirtest man on the planet who lives in Iran. Frankly he is disgusting for me to look at! He says he’s a Muslim so why doesn’t he clean himself up as the Qur’an demands of all Muslims?
“Allah loves those who keep themselves pure and clean.”
Being dirty and unclean is not the practice of a true Muslim! Making others feel disgust when they look at you is not the appropriate behavior or practice of a Muslim! This man is revolting and makes me feel shame as a Muslim because his face is black with dirt and his clothing is revoltingly filthy! Someone ought to tell this man about the above Sura teaching in the Qur’an and he ought to clean himself up since he claims to be a Muslim! His filth has now gained him international media attention and he’s all over the news today giving us clean Muslims a very bad name! Maintaining a clean appearance and using good hygiene is the practice of a true Muslim.
Cleanliness, compassion, tolerance, justice, fairness, mercy, intelligence, wisdom….these are just some of the high values and morals that the Qur’an teaches and that we see in the conduct of the Prophet that ALL MUSLIMS are suppose to be living and emulating in their own lives today. Are we doing that? Or do we just pay lip service to these things? As I said, Islam like Christianity and Judaism are meant to be LIVED not simply practiced or believed in! It’s time we take honest stock in ourselves and evaluate ourselves and see that, sadly, many of us are not living up to these values and morals and make the necessary changes in our lives so that we do live up to them. Instead of always seeing the speck in the eye of others we need to see the beam in our own and do something about it!