by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 42, No. 11, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1435)
Merely verbalizing love for the noble Messenger (saws) will not bring glory to Muslims; emulating his noble example in practice will. A pre-requisite is to understand the Sirah in its totality, not through anecdotal episodes.
There is no Muslim who does not have deep love for the noble Messenger (pbuh). This is Allah’s (swt) command to His faithful servants articulated in the majestic Qur’an. Muslims express their love for the Prophet (pbuh) in many different ways based on their level of understanding and commitment.
Closely related to this is the aspect of unity among Muslims. Again, this is spelled out very clearly in the noble Book. Muslims are referred to as one Ummah (21:92; 23:52) with all its varied and important implications. In a set of ayat, the Qur’an says,
O you have become firmly committed [to Allah]! Be on guard [against Allah’s corrective justice] as is due to Him, and do not pass on before you have surrendered yourselves to Him [become Muslims]. And hold fast, all together, to the bond with Allah, and do not separate from one another. And remember the blessings that Allah has bestowed upon you; how, when you were enemies, He brought your hearts together, so that through His blessings, you became brethren… (3:102–103).
Allah (swt) is addressing the committed Muslims (the category referred to as al-ladhina amanu in the Qur’an) telling them “…to hold fast to the bond of Allah and do not separate from one another.” He is also reminding them that previously, they were enemies but Allah (swt) brought their hearts together. Allah (swt) does not say He made them all of one ethnicity or language. Instead, He says their hearts were reconciled and brought together. This was done through the exemplary personality of the noble Messenger (pbuh) who was sent as a mercy to all the worlds (21:107). It was his mercy and grace that brought the warring tribes of Madinah together. His was a gentle personality that preferred compassion and justice instead of retribution. This was demonstrated at the time of Makkah’s liberation when all his former enemies and tormentors stood trembling before him. He could have ordered their execution but he chose instead to forgive them.
He administered justice with compassion, and compassion with justice to all and sundry. His noble personality combined in it all the elements in perfect balance. He was chosen by Allah (swt) to be the last and final messenger to deliver His final message to all humanity. As a result of his exemplary character, he converted the savage tribes of the Arabian Peninsula into the best of human beings in a short span of 23 years. Muslims truly became one Ummah above tribe or class distinctions under the leadership of the noble Messenger (pbuh). His success has forced even non-Muslims (Alan Hart, for instance) to admit that he was the most brilliant leader humankind has ever known.
But we must ask: what has happened to the two billion Muslims today that hardly register on the global scene? Muslims are so badly divided along national, tribal and sectarian lines that the concept of the Ummah appears non-existent. Where is the Muhammadi Ummah, raised as the “best community” that is supposed to be a model for all humanity (3:110)?
True, there is much external interference in Muslim societies but that is to be expected. The Muslims’ enemies are not there to foster unity among them but we must examine the Muslims’ own conduct. Why have some Muslims embarked on campaigns of denunciation of fellow Muslims as kafirs and even resorted to wholesale slaughter? Does declaring everyone we disagree with a kafir serve the interests of Islam and Muslims? Did the noble Messenger (pbuh) ever indulge in such behavior? Possibly, those involved in the indiscriminate killing of Muslims and non-Muslims through car and suicide bombings as well as gruesome beheadings also read the Qur’an and may even insist they love the noble Messenger (pbuh). On what basis do they justify their behavior then?
Suppose these groups were to kill all the people they disagree with; would that establish justice and peace in society? Those Muslims that claim to be faithful to their social contract with Allah (swt) — that is, have made a faith-commitment to Him — must evaluate their behavior in light of the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh). Allah (swt) reminds us of our base social reality in His glorious Book: we were divided and disunited, and our psychological makeup was one of enmity and hostility yet through His ni‘mah (favor and prerogative), we became brothers and friends (3:103; 49:10).
The attitude of some contemporary Muslims has reverted back to that of pre-Islamic peoples where dog-eat-dog attitude and the law of the jungle prevailed.
The attitude of some contemporary Muslims has reverted back to that of pre-Islamic peoples where dog-eat-dog attitude and the law of the jungle prevailed. Muslims will have to make the transition from a fragmented understanding of the Qur’an, and the Sunnah and Sirah of the noble Messenger (pbuh) to the consolidated meanings with all its socio-political implications to assume their rightful place in the world as the “best community.” Racism, tribalism and sectarianism have no place in this higher calling.
No people in history have ever achieved progress through wholesale slaughter. True, they may have achieved temporary success but were quickly overpowered by others with more refined values. In these troubled times, only Muslims can provide the kind of leadership the errant humanity needs. That, however, will only be realized if Muslims are true to their din as explained in the noble Book and as exemplified by the noble Messenger (pbuh).