It is time again for Muslims to reminisce the birth of the last Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam (SAW). The Prophet (SAW) was born in the city of Makkah on Monday, the night of the 12th of the Islamic lunar month of Rabiul Awwal, 570 AD. Today is also the night of 12th Rabiul Awwal, 1,441 years after hijrah (AH) of the Prophet (SAW) from Makkah to Madinah. This week’s discourse is dedicated to the birth of the greatest personality in human history, Prophet Muhammad (SAW). As usual, the federal government declared Monday, November 11, 2019 a public holiday to enable Muslims mark this year’s Eid ul-Maulid.
Fourteen centuries after his death, the Prophet (SAW) yet lives on. His way of life remains a reference point for resolving all the socio-political, ethnic and religious challenges confronting us today as a people and a nation. His beautiful pattern of conduct leads us every now and then from darkness to light. Allah (SWT) states in Qur’an 33:21 “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for those whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day, and who engages much in the remembrance of Allah”.
Muhammad (SAW) lived a life of mercy, compassion, care, understanding, perseverance, kindness, and tolerance. His sayings and deeds bear testimony to this. His care for those around him and even for those who caused him harm provides shining examples of a perfect model. His love for orphans was deep, and the kindness that he exhibited to the needy, the poor and the vulnerable knew no bounds. He taught Muslims to demonstrate a character that would inspire others to feel safe and secured including their lives and properties.
Unfortunately, today’s world is rather full of envy, hatred, hypocrisy, betrayal, sadism, mistrust, intolerance, religious bigotry, crass materialism and brazen transgression of all the bounds set by Allah (SWT). Virtues and ethical values, including honesty, integrity, modesty, justice, kindness, sympathy, selflessness, are daily becoming rare commodities in the world of human character. Man’s only assured saving grace from this troubling world is his recourse to the teachings of the Prophet (SAW). But because of what the eyes of today’s men and women covet, they instead find role models in unworthy individuals who are, at best, moral vacuums.
Our perfect role model is truly the Last Messenger of Allah (SWT). His life, his management of human resources and animals, friends and enemies, have remained an inspiration for our present and future generations. Let us therefore learn and also teach our children about the life of the Prophet (SAW) to improve our conduct and become better human beings. Let us be more tolerant, more forgiving and more compassionate to humanity irrespective of race and religion.
Perhaps, if there is any aspect of the Prophet’s life from which modern-day Muslims, especially in Nigeria have so much to learn, it is Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s relationship with non-Muslims. The growing mistrust among adherents of the two major religions (Islam and Christianity) in Nigeria makes the study of the life of the Prophet (SAW) most imperative. The rising misgiving, apprehensions, bigotry and Islamophobia as they relate to mutual coexistence in the West, the Middle East and Nigeria collectively give some discomfiting concern to followers of these two most popular religions in the world; Islam and Christianity.
Islamophobia and bigotry both symbolize ignorance of religion that still exists around the world. The attempt to address these two phenomena gave birth to the dialogue of civilizations and religions; now codenamed interfaith dialogue. The spike in religious violence is a global phenomenon. The relatively high incidence of hostilities in multi-faith societies is, most often, stirred by religious hatred or intolerance. Interfaith dialogue seeks to build bridges of understanding between diverse religions. Through interfaith dialogue, a future that is embroidered in peace and collective co-operation could be guaranteed.
If the majority of Islamophobists and bigots had had sufficient knowledge of the true teachings of Prophet Isa (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (SAW), their perception of religion would not have been as it were and they wouldn’t have had any cause to think or behave the way they did or still do. Indeed, non-Muslims were highly respected by the Prophet (SAW). A few examples would be cited in the succeeding paragraphs to illustrate the worth of non-Muslims in the eyes of the Prophet (SAW).
It is narrated on the authority of Jabir bin Abdullah, who said “There passed a bier (funeral procession) and the Prophet (SAW) stood up for it and we also stood up along with him. We said: “Messenger of Allah (SAW)! That was the bier of a Jewish lady.” Upon this, he (SAW) remarked: “Verily, death is a bewildering matter, so whenever you come across a bier, stand up!” This narrative implies that everybody deserves a certain level of respect, at least for being a human being. Thus, irrespective of a person’s religion, and whether the person is alive or dead, every individual is worthy of a respectful gesture. This narrative negates the position of those who argue that people of other faiths do not deserve respect. If the Prophet (SAW) had considered a dead non-Muslim worthy of respect, then a living non-Muslim deserves more of such respect. Nonetheless, respect must also be earned.
Apart from visiting the sick among non-Muslims, the Prophet (SAW) and even his companions also gave and accepted gifts from non-Muslims. During the period of the truce sanctioned by the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, the Prophet (SAW) gave Abu Sufyan (the then leader of the polytheists of Makkah) a generous sum of 500 dinars (gold) to assist the poor population of Makkah during their brief period of severe food shortage. This financial aid to Makkans was offered by the Prophet (SAW) despite their belief in idols and their persecution of Muslims, in addition to other inhuman atrocities committed against the Muslims of Makkah and Madinah. This was even as these same Makkans were responsible for the murder of some close companions and relatives of the Prophet (SAW).
The permissibility of marriage between Muslim men and Ahl ul-Kitab women further support harmonious coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims. Islam’s sanction of interfaith marriage reveals the extent to which a Muslim is allowed to express love and kindness to non-Muslims. This illustrates that Islam allows genuine friendship with non-Muslims.
If contemporary Muslims can moderate their life conform to the teachings of the Prophet (SAW), they can create a united mankind through mutual understanding and interaction with non-Muslims especially when the efforts of the former are mutually reciprocated by the latter. May Allah (SWT) touch the heart of contemporary men and women to appreciate and tolerate the diversities, which Allah (SWT) intended in His wisdom to be a mercy for mankind, amin.