Islam began in Arabia during the seventh century common era. Islam is the youngest of all monotheistic religions of the western world and despite it’s later development after Judaism and Christianity, there are nearly one billion believers in existence today. This makes Islam the third largest religion in the world today. Generally, there are many misconceptions about the religion of Islam today. To understand the Islamic religion, one must first understand the story of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him (c. 570-632).
His prophecy was so influential that he was able to change the history of the world within twenty-three years, and his message still continues to spread throughout the world today. Muhammad was a revolutionary man. The prophet Muhammad had a career that unfolded over time. His message was that all must return to the worshipping of only One True God, Allah. Muhammad was a leader, who persuaded, legislated and fought for the purpose of religious reformation upon many nations. Youseff Coueiri summarizes the prophets life in that; His message in life were acted out as a drama, with a beginning, a plot and a glorious end.
The revelations that he received response to the immediate problems of both Mecca and Medina. His other utterances and activities complemented and often shed light on obscure versus. Both the Qur’an and his saying (hadiths) entered history as textual inspirations in renewed contexts and novel circumstances, whereby worldly and scholarly historicity never ceased to throw up innovative interpretations. (Coueiri,1990) This essay will focus on Muhammad and how he came to revolutionize Islam. I will discuss the tremendous impact he had on his people by writing about the methods of his revolution and the positive intentions he had from the start.
In addition, I will place an emphasis on how Muhammad influenced the population and swayed his adversaries. Overall, by examining Muhammad’s methods in achieving the faith of his followers, we may conclude that the Prophets influence was that of a revolutionary man. Muhammad revolutionized upon important issues such as women’s rights, war, government, the distribution of wealth and power which is known today as a form democracy. He also promoted compulsory education to all men and women and the protection of minorities. He did all this from the age of forty after his first revelation.
Muhammad was born in 570 CE in Makkah. His father died only six weeks prior to his birth and his mother died when he was only six years old. He went on to be raised by his paternal grandfather named ‘Abd al Muttalib for two years. Shortly after Muttalib’s death, Muhammad was transferred to his paternal uncle. Needless to say, Muhammad was exposed to many hardships in early life. Despite all the emotional challenges, Muhammad earned a living as a successful businessman and trader during his later years. He maintained a very high standard and reputation for being honest and trustworthy.
He was recognized early on as a man by the title ‘Al-Ameen’ meaning reliable and honest. By definition, the word revolutionary is described as bringing about or constituting a great or radical change. A revolution is always instigated by the need for a significant change for the better of society. These changes can take place with regards to government and politics, social or moral issues, including religion. If it is not a change for the better, then it is considered anarchy and not a revolution. Muhammad’s revolution was to return to the basics of religion.
To promote peace and progress through and by the message of One God, that of Allah. The word Islam, finally adopted by Muhammad as the distinctive name of the faith which he preached, means ‘submitting (oneself or one person’s God). Muhammad was the messenger of God. His mission was to restore the worship of One True God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, as taught by prophet Ibrahim and all prophets of God, and to demonstrate and complete the laws of moral, ethical, legal and social conduct and all other matters of significance for the humanity at large…(Zahoor & Haq, 1998)
The main issue was that the Holy Ka’bah was filled with over three-hundred and sixty idols! The original message of the prophet Ibrahim faded, and the worshipping of many other superstitions and traditions became the norm. This was always unacceptable to Muhammad, even well before his role as a prophet, and also to other small groups of men and women. Muhammad and others would retreat to the mountains to escape the tainted Ka’bah so that they could worship according to the ways that prophets Ibrahim and Ismail would of expected.
It was not until then, at the age of forty, that he received his first revelation from the Archangel Gabriel. From this day forward, the history of the revolutionary prophet begins. Often, when one hears of the word ‘revolution’, they immediately think of violence and war. Of course, it is important to remember that the battles fought during Muhammad’s prophecy was not the purpose of his mission, they were a consequence. His message was that of peace and progress. However, the topics of Muhammad’s battles will be discussed later.
For now, it is important to remember that Muhammad realized that Arabia reached a level of moral and religious stagnation. From the day of his first revelation, Muhammad’s life was became dedicated to taking religion to an entire new level. Muhammad brought upon the meaning to the terms equality and brotherhood. Muhammad preached and practiced the belief in equality by leading a classless society and not dividing people on the basis of race or color. He urged the people of the world to raise themselves above racial divisions and to see themselves as all equal.
Honor and devoutness alone are the standards to judge others and not through the power of a man as seen by race or nationality. Muhammad did not just preach equality, he also practiced it during his life time. In fact, one of Muhammad’s closets friends was a former Negro slave named Bilaal. Muhammad also had an Iranian lieutenant called Salmaan, and many others, all of which he did not view as different due to language and heritage. They were all of the same brotherhood. O mankind We have created you from male and female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may come to know one another.
Verily, the most honorable among you in the sight of God is the one who is most God-conscious. Indeed God is All-Knowing All-Aware. (Qur’an: Surah al-Hujurat,49:13) A typical misconception is that Muhammad’s Islamic traditions oppress women. On the contrary, the prophet came to father the orphans and support those women who were weak and needed help during times of crisis. He cared deeply for women and children. The prophet displayed his care by taking woman and their children into his custody to provide food and shelter.
The prophet also aspired to granting women an equal opportunity to an education. Furthermore, his mission was to give women the right to hold property and inheritance, and most importantly, to give women the right to vote and pray. He held great respect for all his wives and their children. He also felt strongly about family values. According to Qur’an, Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and [show] kindness to parents. If one or both of them attain old age while with you, do not say ‘uff to them but speak to them with honor and kindness.
Treat them with humbleness and say ‘My Lord have mercy upon them, as they raised me when I was small. (Qur’an: Surah al-Isra’, 17:23-24) It is important, however, that one differentiates between Islamic law and the oppression that some Muslim countries induce towards women. In other words, some Muslim countries do carry forward laws which are limiting to women, such as the restriction to drive a car or be employed, and to stay at home and wear the veil. Such countries do not rule by any kind of Shari’ah (Islamic law) and thus introduce their own cultural judgments on the issue of women equality.
With reference to marriage, parents simply suggest a number of appropriate men for their daughter and do not force the girl to make a decision against her will. Just as in Western culture, both parties are allowed to bring terms or conditions to the marriage and although rare, divorce is an option in worst case scenarios. Ultimately, Islam sees the woman as an individual in her own right regardless of whether she is single or married. Both wife and husband are expected to dress appropriately under all circumstances. Furthermore, it was the Qur’an and the Islamic faith that set limits to the number of wives (four maximum) that a man can marry.
However, this is strictly based on the ability of the man to provide equally for all of his wives. This makes the institution more humane, thereby dissolving the practice of treating women as physical property and ultimately granting them equal rights. In addition, all wives require separate housing. Generally, polygamy is not encouraged, although its purpose is to provide compassion and tenderness towards widows and orphans. As mentioned earlier, the battles fought during Muhammad’s prophecy was a consequence of his mission. Islam does not condone the killing of innocent people.
War is considered a last resort to defend oneself. The Qur’an states “Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors” To maintain peace around Medina, Muhammad “undertook visits to neighboring tribes in order to establish treaty relations with them which would make Medina secure against attacks by them” In around 629 CE, Muhammad’s received reports of numerous violent attacks on his people in Medinah. Many men had died and leaving women as widows due to the horrific attacks.
To prevent such events in the future , “ if the Holy Prophet learnt that any tribe or clan was preparing to invade Medina, he would lead a force against it or dispatch a force under the leadership of someone else to take suitable action to put an end to their intended aggression” Finally, Muhammad and an army of about three thousand people, mostly consisting of Muslims of Medinah and of other Arab communities, made their way to Makkah. As intimidating as this may sound, the prophet sent warnings to citizens of the city of Makkah, that all those who remain in their home, or in Abu Sufyan’s home, or in the Ka’bah would be protected and safe.
The prophet then entered Makkah and made his way to the Ka’bah. There was no violence or fighting on his behalf. “Muhammad then pointed at each idol and said ‘Truth has come and Falsehood will neither start nor will it reappear’ and one by one the idols fell down” Now the Ka’bah is removed and cleansed of all three-hundred sixty idols. The Ka’bah is now reinstated for its initial purpose of worshipping One True God as originally built by prophets Ibrahim and Ismail. The prophet promised peace among all in Makkah. Even the prophets worst enemies fled prior to Muhammad’s arrival in Makkah.
Amazingly, they returned shortly after when they discovered that the prophet had no intention of retaliating against them. Eventually, even the worst of the prophet’s enemies took into their hearts the message of Islam. It was now 630 CE and almost all Arabia accepted Islam. A revolution had well taken place at this point in time! The revolutionary prophet was accessible at all times. He maintained himself as a humble man all throughout his life. He did not expect to be treated as a king or any other form of superiority over others. He was a brother to all, and all were brothers to him.
Muhammad felt displeased in situations where he entered a room and was treated with more respect than others. He was a leader of all men, a model for all men, and a benefactor for all men but he was not a man of superpower or a mystic figure. He was the messenger of God and “Whoever slanders my Companions, upon them shall be the damnation of God, and of the Angels, and of the whole people. ” Speaking from a political perspective, the revolutionary prophet brought about many characteristics of equality. Firstly, Muhammad proposed the selection of a head of state, who was a person that would gain the confidence of the population.
From thereon, this person was to look over the affairs of the state and gain sovereignty through self regulation. Furthermore, the prophet felt that to achieve a balance of political power is to abolish hereditary succession. In other words, overrule the kingship where the son or daughter automatically receives a position of power regardless if they are capable or if citizens approve. This system was looked upon by the prophet as ineffective. Al-Mawdudi explains “the positive or negative nature of an economic policy hinges on the moral qualities which animate those who are in control of its operation. There was no immediate solution to a perfect economy, however, it was clear that the prophet sought the distribution of wealth among all the citizens. Naturally, this standard could not be met with a tyrannical leader whose political objectives are poisoned with selfishness. Achieving a balance of power and wealth distribution can only be lead by the inspiring ideas of the prophet. Coincidentally, the prophet himself never owned anything of major value. He was not a wealthy man as measured in monetary terms and nor did he wish to be so.
After the establishment of the City of Medina and as the head of the first Islamic State, prophet Muhammad declared that education be mandatory among men and women. Even today, let alone fourteen-hundred years ago, instilling the value of a good education is a national priority to our citizens. Ironically, the prophet himself was raised illiterate, and was unable to read and write throughout his whole life. Nor did the prophet have any knowledge of religion prior to receiving his first revelations. Ironically, the prophet who revolutionized the idea of educating all his people, remained illiterate himself till his death.
Eventually, the combination of Eastern and Western academic theories lead to great advances in subjects such as mathematics, astronomy, physics, astronomy, art, literature, history to name just a few. As a matter of fact “Many crucial systems such as algebra, the Arabic numerals, and also the concept of zero (vital to the advancement of mathematics), were transmitted to medieval Europe from Islam. Sophisticated instruments which were to make possible the European voyages of discovery were developed, including the astrolabe, the quadrant and good navigational maps. ” Revolution by the prophet is brought upon by Peace, Progress and Prosperity.
These are the words that describe the protection which minorities receive on behalf of Allah and the prophet. They are non-Muslim minorities whom are called “Zimmi. ” The Zimmi’s are protected by the State as well as society. Prophet Muhammad had warned many people that it was wrong to harm a Zimmi. The following uncut excerpt best describes the permissible and welcoming belief of the Islamic faith upon other traditions; It is a function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world.
History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the Caliph Omar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city. Proclaiming to their inhabitants that their lives, and properties were safe, and that their places of worship would never be taken from them. Islamic law also permits non-Muslim minorities to set up their own courts, which implement family laws drawn up by the citizens in an Islamic state are considered sacred whether the person is Muslim or not. Ahmad, Humad) Revolutions throughout history are rarely initiated by just one person. Usually, changes in social conditions, politics and government evolve slowly through time and by a lot of effort by many people. Take for example the French or Russia revolution.
The prophet Muhammad was the revolutionary leader of a new religion which, despite all the difficult challenges he and many of his followers endured, achieved the primary goal, which was “to return to original Islam as the religion of oneness of God (tawhid). Furthermore, “This belief led to the insistence on purifying Islam of pagan customs and foreign accretions. A pronounced hostility was thus displayed towards innovations and traditions, particularly the excessive veneration of saints, the practice of magic and association with unbelievers. ” The prophet succeeded in achieving milestones long ago that we, as a modern society today, are still striving to achieve. To revolutionize religion, war, women rights, racism, education, protection of minorities, politics, and government, all in one life time is a tremendous achievement.
Muhammad may not have developed answers to all these issues, but at the very least he educated the minds of his followers and also of his adversaries. In just twenty three years, and after fourteen hundred years, the prophet still lives in the hearts of millions of Islamic people. In the name of Allah, and through the messenger of God, the Islamic religion is still growing today. The prophet Muhammad was a revolutionary man. His revolution existed and succeeded during his time. The prophet’s revolution is still in progress today.