Prophet Mohammad (PBUH): The Man who devised a Secure World:
Square shaped Holy Ka’aba in Makkah in
the Arabian Desert has always been a sacred place for pilgrimage.
From generations, Quraysh – among the most respected tribes in
Makkah, was charge de affairs....Read
Prejudice is like
poison. Unless purged out of one’s mind in early stages, it can
spread like cancer and make one incapable of differentiating between
right and wrong. Of the many kinds of prejudice, the worst is to
believe that one’s own religion is superior to all others, which may
be tolerated but never taken seriously or accepted as equally valid
as one’s own.
misunderstood of the major religions today is Islam, which, after
Christianity, is the second most widely practiced religion in the
world. It also gains more converts than any of the other religions.
Prejudice against Islam was spread in Christendom from the time
Muslims gained dominance in the Middle East, North Africa and Spain.
Christian crusaders failed in their missions to crush Islam in its
homeland but continued to vilify its founder, Mohammed.
The emergence of
militant Islamic groups like Al Qaida and Taliban gave them reasons
to do so. The attack on the World Trade Centre in New York and the
Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001 provided fresh
ammunition to vilifiers of Islam.
Islamophobia has been deliberately spread throughout the non-Muslim
world. The two principle contentions of the anti-Islamists are that
Islam was spread by the sword and that its founder-Prophet was not
the paragon of virtue that Muslims make him out to be.
It can be proved
by historical evidence that Islam was not forced upon the people; it
was readily accepted by millions because it offered them new values,
principally equality of mankind and rights to women that were
unheard of in those times. In countries like Indonesia and Malayasia,
Islam was not forced on the population by Muslim invaders but by
extremely sensitive to criticism of their Prophet. A popular adage
in Persian is:
diwaana basho, ba Mohammed hoshiar! — “say what you
like about God, but beware of what you say about Mohammed.”
They regard him as
the most perfect man who ever trod upon the earth, a successor of
Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham and Christ. He was the last of the
Prophets. If you honestly want to know how Muslims see him, you
ought to take a good look at his life and teachings, which he
claimed had been revealed to him by God. It would be as wrong to
judge him by the doings of Al Qaida and Taliban or by the
pronounced by Ayatollahs and half-baked
You do not judge
Hinduism of the Vedas and Upanishads by the doings of Hindus who, in
the name of Hindutva, destroy mosques, murder missionaries and nuns,
vandalize libraries and works of art. You do not judge the teachings
of the Sikh gurus by the utterances of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale
and by the murder of innocents by his hooligans. Likewise, judge
Mohammed by what he taught and stood for and not by what his
so-called followers do in his name.
Mohammed was born
in Mecca in 570 A D. He lost both his parents while still a child
and was brought up by his grandfather and uncle. He managed the
business of a widow, whom he later married. She bore him six
children. He took no other wife until she died.
He was 40 years
old when he started having revelations while in trance. They
proclaimed Mohammed as the new messiah. Such revelation kept coming
at random, sometimes dealing with problems at hand, at other times
with matters spiritual. They were memorized or written down by his
admirers and became the Quran, which means recitation.
It should be kept
in mind that Mohammed was not preaching ideas of his own but only
reiterating most of what was already in the Judaic creed. Allah was
the Arabic name for God before him. Similarly, Islam was ‘surrender’
Mecca was the main
market city of the Bedouin tribes. They gathered at the Kaaba, the
huge courtyard with the black meteorite embedded in it during two
pilgrimages — the bigger Haj and the lesser Umrah.
Judaic traditions regarding food which is
halaal (lawful) or
such as pig meat), names of the five daily prayers and circumcision
of male children.
asserted the oneness of God that did not accept of any equal such as
the stone goddesses worshiped by different tribes. Mohammed never
forced people to accept his faith and indeed quoted Allah’s message
of freedom of faith. “There must be no coercion in matters of faith
la ikra f’il deen.”
Further: “And if God had so willed, He would have made you all one
single command; but He willed otherwise in order to test you by
means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then with one another
in doing good works!”
As might have been
expected, Mohammed’s mission roused fierce hostility. Many attempts
were made to assassinate him but he had miraculously escaped.
Ultimately, in 622 AD he was advised to flee from Mecca to Medina.
This is known as the
Hijra (emigration) and recognized as the
beginning of the Muslim calendar.
Meccans made a few
attempts to capture Medina but were ousted. Muslim armies led by
Mohammed triumphed and returned to Mecca as conquerors. By the time
Mohammed died in Medina in 632 AD, the Arabian peninsula was united
as a confederacy of different tribes under the banner of Islam.
Most of the
ill-founded criticism against Mohammed is directed towards the
number of women he married after the death of his first wife,
Khadijah. This has to be seen in the perspective of Arabian society
of the time. Tribes lived by warring against each other and looting
caravans. There were heavy casualties of men, creating serious
gender imbalance. Widows and orphans of men killed had to be
provided with homes and sustenance. Otherwise they took to
prostitution or begging. So they were given protection by being
taken in marriages. Also, matrimonial alliances were a good way of
creating bonds between different tribes.
nothing not acceptable to his people. He went further: he was the
first teacher to proclaim that the best union was a monogamous
marriage and fixed the maximum limit to four, provided a man could
keep all of his wives equally happy — which was most unlikely.
verse in the Quran reads: “And if you have reason to fear you might
not act equitably towards orphans, then marry from among other women
who are lawful to you, even two or three or four; but if you have
reason to fear you might not be able to treat them with equal
fairness, then only one.” Bear in mind that at that time polygamy
was the norm in patriarchal societies all over the world.
To make a
beginning in clearing your mind of anti-Muslim prejudices, I suggest
“Muhammad: A Prophet for
Our Time”. Armstrong is the leading writer on
comparative religions today. She is not Muslim.
The Telegraph, Kolkata,
February 16, 2008