Muhammad (s.a.a.w.) asked people to shun notions of racial, family or any other form of superiority based on mundane things and said that righteousness alone was the criterion of one's superiority over another. It has already been shown how he mixed with everyone on equal terms, how he ate with slaves, servants and the poorest on the same sheet (a practice that is still followed in Arabia), how he refused all privileges and worked like any ordinary labourer. Two instances may, however, be quoted here:
Once the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) visited Saad Bin Abadah. While returning Saad sent his son Quais with him. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) asked Quais to mount his camel with him. Quais hesitated out of respect but the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) insisted: "Either mount the camel or go back." Quais decided to go back. [Abu Dawood]
On another occasion he was travelling on his camel over hilly terrain with a disciple, Uqba Bin Aamir. After going some distance, he asked Uqba to ride the camel, but Uqba thought this would be showing disrespect to the Prophet (s.a.a.w.). But the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) insisted and he had to comply. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) himself walked on foot as he did not want to put too much load on the animal. [Nasai]
The prisoners of war of Badr included Abbas, the uncle of the Prophet (s.a.a.w.). Some people were prepared to forgo their shares and remit the Prophet's (s.a.a.w.) ransom but he declined saying that he could make no distinctions. [Sahih Bukhari]
During a halt on a journey, the companions apportioned work among themselves for preparing food. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) took upon himself the task of collecting firewood. His companions pleaded that they would do it and that he need not take the trouble, but he replied,
"It is true, but I do not like to attribute any distinction to myself. Allah does not like the man who considers himself superior to his companions." [Zarqani, Vol. 4 pg. 306)]
by Athar Husain
An excerpt from the book entitled "The Message of Mohammad," by Athar Husain.
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
(4:148) Allah does not like speaking evil publicly unless one has been wronged. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
(4:149) (Even though you have the right to speak evil if you are wronged), if you keep doing good -whether openly or secretly -or at least pardon the evil (then that is the attribute of Allah). Allah is All-Pardoning and He has all the power to chastise.
Allah T'ala says in the Holy Quran:
إَنَّ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءنَا وَرَضُواْ بِالْحَياةِ الدُّنْيَا وَاطْمَأَنُّواْ بِهَا وَالَّذِينَ هُمْ عَنْ آيَاتِنَا غَافِلُونَ
أُوْلَـئِكَ مَأْوَاهُمُ النُّارُ بِمَا كَانُواْ يَكْسِبُونَ
Surely those who do not expect to meet Us, who are gratified with the life of the world and content with it, and are heedless of Our signs,their abode shall be the Fire in return for their misdeeds. (The Holy Quran, 10:7-8)
The statement that is being made here is that rejection of the doctrine of the Hereafter necessarily entails the punishment of Hell, and the argument that is being proffered in support of it is that those who are oblivious to the Hereafter commit, because of their disbelief in it, evil deeds which can only lead to them suffering the torments of Hell. This argument is corroborated by the entire record of man's past. It is quite clear that the lives of those who do not believe that they will not be held to account by God for their deeds; who work on the assumption that life is merely confined to the span of worldly existence; who measure human success or failure only in terms of the extent of material comfort, fame and power that a person is able to enjoy; who under the influence of such materialistic notions do not even care to pay attention to those signs of God which point to reality, assume an altogether wrong direction with the result that their life is vitiated. Hence they live a totally unbridled life, develop the worst possible character traits, and fill God's earth with injustice and corruption, with sin and transgression, and ultimately end up meriting the punishment of Hell.
The above argument about the Hereafter is drawn from human experience itself. Although in the present verse the argument is found only in an implicit form, it is spelt out at several other places in the Qur'an. The argument essentially is that unless man's character rests on the consciousness and conviction that he will have to render an account for all his deeds to God, both man's individual and collective behaviour will fail to have sound basis and direction. It would seem, therefore, to be worth asking: why is this so? Why is it that once this consciousness and conviction are altogether ended or greatly enfeebled, the human character turns to iniquity and corruption? Had affirmation of the Hereafter not been in conformity with reality, and conversely, had its denial not been opposed to it, then the evil consequences flowing from the denial of the Hereafter would not have been found with such unfailing regularity. If adherence to a proposition invariably leads to good results, and failure to adhere to it invariably leads to evil consequences, then this definitely proves the proposition to be true.
In an attempt to refute the above argument it is sometimes contended that even atheists who reject the Hereafter and follow a materialistic approach to life often lead lives that are on the whole good and decent, that they hold themselves free from corruption and injustice. Not only that but also that their actual conduct is characterized by righteousness and benevolence. However, only a little reflection will make apparent the fallacy underlying this argument. For if one were to examine any atheistic or materialistic philosophy or ideology one will not find in them any basis for righteous behaviour which draws such lavish praise from so-called 'righteous' atheists. Nor can it be established by logical reasoning that an atheistic philosophy of life provides any incentive to embrace such virtues as truthfulness, trustworthiness, honesty, faithfulness to one's commitment, benevolence, generosity, preferring the interests of others to one's own, self-restraint, chastity, recognition of the rights of others, and fulfilment of one's obligations. The fact is that once God and the Hereafter are relegated to oblivion, the only practicable course left for man is to anchor his morality on utilitarianism. All other philosophical ideas which are expounded are merely theoretical embellishments and have no relevance for man's practical life.
As for utilitarian morality - no matter how hard we might try to broaden its scope - it does not go beyond teaching man that he ought to do that which will yield to him or to his society some worldly benefit. Now since utility is the criterion of all acts, such a philosophy tends to make man cynical, with the result that in order to derive benefits, he will not differentiate between truth and lie; between trustworthiness and treachery; between honesty and dishonesty; between loyalty and perfidy; between observing justice and committing wrong. In short, a person under the spell of utilitarian ideas will be ready to do a thing or its opposite, depending on what serves his interests best. The conduct of the British is illustrative of this stance. It is sometimes contended that though the British have a materialistic outlook on life and generally do not believe in the Hereafter, they are more truthful, fairer, and more straightforward and faithful to their commitment.
The fact, however, is that the tenuous character of moral values under a utilitarian moral philosophy is amply illustrated by the character of the British.
For their actual conduct clearly shows that they do not consider moral values to have any intrinsic worth. This is evident from the fact that even those values which are held by the British to be good in their individual lives are brazenly flouted when they act as a nation. Had the qualities of truthfulness, justice, honesty and faithfulness to one's committed word been regarded as intrinsic virtues, it would have been altogether out of the question for the elected rulers of Britain to cynically violate all moral principles in governmental and international affairs and yet continue to retain the confidence of the British people. Does such a behaviour of a people who do not take the Hereafter seriously prove that they do not believe in absolute moral values? Does it also not prove that, guided by concern for material interests, such people are capable of following mutually opposed views simultaneously? (The same arguemnt can be made against the United States and many other governments and societies of today.)
Nevertheless, if we do find some people who, in spite of their not believing in God and the Hereafter, consistently adhere to some moral virtues and abstain from evil, there should be no mistaking that their righteous conduct and piety represents the continuing influence which religious ideas and practices have over them - even if unconsciously - rather than their subscription to a materialistic philosophy of life. If they possess any portion of the wealth of morality, there can be no doubt that it was stolen from the treasure-house of religion. It is ironical that such persons are now using the same wealth derived from religious sources, to promote an irreligious way of life. We consider this an act of theft because irreligiousness and materialism are altogether bereft of morality. (slightly edited version of text taken from Tafheemul Quran)
Prophets and Books
According to a report in Musnad Ahmed collection of Ahadith, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, said: "From Adam to me, Allah sent a hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, of whom three hundred and fifteen were entrusted with a Book." The question is why were there so many more Prophets than Books? To reflect on this is to gain an understanding about the very institution of Prophethood. If the role of a Prophet were simply to deliver the Book, as some mis-guided people in our time try to argue, there should have been as many Books as Prophets. But the very fact that there have been many Prophets without a new Book, firmly establishes the need for the Prophets as a source of guidance in its own rights.
It had to be so because life emulates life. We need live human beings to inspire us; to show right from wrong in every day struggles of life; to confront us and pose questions; to answer questions; to clarify misconceptions; to hold our hand; to be the model. We certainly need principles to guide our thoughts and actions. But we also need real life examples to relate the principles to real life situations. For most of our living experience involves judgment calls. Politeness is a desirable moral value. But when does politeness turn into weakness? Firmness is also a desirable attribute. But when does it turn into arrogance? How do we balance our duties towards Allah with those towards other human beings? How do we balance both with duties towards ourselves? We are constantly faced with conflicting claims on our resources, energies, and attention. How do we resolve those conflicts, without doing any injustice? These are real life questions that require real life answers.
This point is beautifully established in the Opening Chapter (Surah Fatiha) of Qur'an. It is a short surah, consisting of only seven verses, and it consists of a prayer for guidance: O' Allah! Show us the Straight Path. Yet two of the seven verses are used to describe the Straight Path in terms of people. "The path of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy Grace. Not the path of those who earn Thine wrath nor of those who go astray."
It would have been simpler to just refer to the Straight path as the Path of the Qur'an. But the longer description has been used to emphasis the fact that human beings need a human model to provide complete guidance.
Of course Prophets were sent to provide the needed guidance. It is also obvious that whatever a Prophet declares is binding on all his followers. "To accept a person as a Prophet of God and then to refuse to accept his commands, is so ridiculous that I would not have believed any sensible person would ever offer this proposition," says prominent Hadith scholar Maulana Manzoor Naumani. But this most irrational of ideas has been promulgated by a segment of Western educated Muslims. They say, without a sense of irony, that we accept the Qur'an but not the Hadith.
Anyone who says that he accepts the Qur'an but rejects the hadith cannot be serious. Or he has not read the Qur'an either. For the Qur'an says:
"And We have sent down unto you the Message so that you may explain clearly to the people what is sent for them and so that they may give thought." (Al-Nahal 16:44).
It also declares:
"Allah did confer a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, purifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error." (Aale Imran 3:164).
So it is the job of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, to explain the Qur'an. And it is the job of the believers to obey him.
"He who obeys the Messenger obeys Allah indeed" (Nisa 4:80).
And even more emphatically it says:
"And obey Allah and obey His Messenger."( Al-Taghabun 64:12).
It is to be noted that here the Qur'an did not say "Obey Allah and His Messenger." By using the command "obey" independently the fact has been firmly established that the status of an order given by the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, is the same as that given by Allah.
Even a casual reader of the Qur'an can notice that it gives commands without giving many details. For example it refers to salat (ritual prayers) 67 times. But it never explains how the salat has to be performed. The question is not just how a follower of the Qur'an is to follow that command, but the bigger question is: why the omission in the first place? Is it an oversight, in which case one cannot consider it to be the Book of Allah, or is it simply because another source for those details had been provided? Similarly the Qur'an approvingly mentions many other practices, like the call to prayer (adhan) and the Friday prayer, but never gives commands about them. Again, why? Is there any other explanation possible except for the obvious one that there is a parallel source of instruction in the person of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam?
Actually in the form of Hadith, Muslims have an unprecedented branch of knowledge. Just a list of all the books written on the subject would take several thousand pages, says prominent hadith scholar Habib-ur-Rahman Azami. Other religions also claim to possess revealed scriptures. But no other religion has an example corresponding to Hadith. "Hadith is a branch of knowledge whose equivalent is not to be found in other religions," says Dr. Hamidullah.
For the design-your-own-religion crowd, that may be a problem, But for the sincere follower, it is a great favor and blessing of Allah. We have been entrusted with a unique treasure trove of guidance. An appreciation of that favor is the first step towards benefiting from that treasure.