The importance of understanding the Seerah of the Prophet

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Safar 11, 1425 2004-04-01


by Zafar Bangash (Reflections, Crescent International Vol. 33, No. 2, Safar, 1425)

Allah refers to His noble Messenger (salla-Allahu alaihi wa sallam) as the "best of exemplars" (33:21) as well as a messenger for all humanity (7:158). While not a biography of the Prophet, the Qur'an sheds much light on his multifaceted personality in numerous ayaat, just as the life of the Prophet is itself essential to understanding the Qur'an; yet Muslims have come to view him through a very narrow prism, based on personal preferences. This has led to a distortion of his great personality, and has also deprived Muslims of the opportunity to order their lives and affairs in accordance with the commands of Allah when He reminds us: "obedience to the Messenger is obedience to Allah" (4:80).

Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala says that the Messenger, upon whom be peace, was sent with clear signs and guidance in order to bring those who commit themselves to Allah, and undertake the tasks commanded by Him to maintain peace, justice and balance in society, out of darkness and into light (65:11). This clearly precludes our viewing him only as a spiritual-fitness enthusiast who urged people merely to participate in sessions of dhikr (meditation), withdrawing themselves from the affairs of the world. There are even attempts to project the Prophet (saw) as a pacifist who took up arms only reluctantly because his enemies left him no choice. According to this view, if the Makkan chiefs had allowed him to pray in the Masjid al-Haram there would have been no conflict; he would have lived in peace with the mushriks of Makkah. This is as far removed from the Prophet's
true mission as anything can get; Allah has specifically stated that the Messenger was sent with the deen of haqq so that it becomes dominant over all other systems (9:33). Further, Allah (swt) has declared that He does
not share His Power and Authority with anybody in His dominion (17:111); those are His exclusive domain. Anyone who sets up rivals with His Authority is guilty of shirk.

Like the mushriks of yesteryear, the mushriks of today have a far better grasp of the true import of the Prophet's message and mission than most Muslims appear to have. It was this realization that led the mushrikeen to torture and persecute the Muslims in the early days of Islam. Today, the Muslims face a similar test: the contemporary mushriks are determined to destroy Islam, or at best allow it to exist only as a set of rituals devoid of all action-oriented content and meaning. The main difference seems to be that today the mushriks also enjoy the support of munafiq rulers in the Muslim world.

The rest of the Muslims have a choice: do we want to reduce Islam to a set of rituals, or see it as a way of life to bring an end to the corruption and oppression that is rampant in the world today? Defying and challenging
oppressors and tyrants means sacrifices and difficulties; there are no easy options in this struggle. In a well-known hadith the Prophet (saw) has said to us, "if you stand and walk with the oppressor, you are aiding and abetting oppression and will be punished accordingly."

For Muslims to make the Prophet's Seerah a model to break out of our present state of darkness, we have to go beyond our obsession with his miracles and rituals; we must move out of talking about his domestic life - important as it is - to the tough tasks and heavy burdens of the battlefields of Badr, Uhud, Khaybar and Hunain; we must see him both as a Messenger and as a ruler and a commander. Only then will he become our "model" as well as the "best of exemplars."

The reason the Ummah is in such a terrible state today is not that the enemy is so strong; but because the Muslims are so weak: we have abandoned the teachings of the Qur'an and the Sunnah and Seerah of the noble Messenger. The vast majority of Muslims live their Islam only part-time, not as a framework in which their entire lives-everywhere, at the school, market, home and workplace alike-must be lived. Even this part-time Islam is reduced almost completely to ineffectual rituals. Not surprisingly, Allah has turned His face away from the Muslims as a result of this abandonment of duty. His promised help will materialize only when we strive to strengthen His cause in earnest, and by that means strengthen ourselves.

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