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Ignorance to Enlightenment:

The Achievement of Prophet Muhammad – Peace be upon him

By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi

Allah has been truly gracious to the believers in sending them a Messenger from among their own, to recite His revelations to them, to make them grow in purity, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom – before that they were clearly astray. (Al ‘Imran 3:164)
Basic mission of Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him- was to guide humanity. He came to lead human beings to the right path, from the darkness of Shirk to the light of Tawhid, from the corruptions of injustice and sin to the ways of peace and virtues, from the narrowness of this worldliness to the bliss and salvation of the eternal world. Arabs before Islam were living in Jahiliyah. Jahiliyah was not only the time when they did not have any schools, books, reading and writing; it was actually an era of total ignorance, lawlessness or what the Qur’an calls “being clearly astray.” Their thoughts were the thoughts of Jahiliyah (zann al-jahiliyah, 3:154), their rules were the rules of Jahiliyah (hukm al-jahiliyah, 5:50), their fashions were the fashions of jahiliyah (tabrruj al-jahiliyah, 33:33) and their zeal and outrage was always for the sake jahiliyah (hamiyah al-jahiliyah, 48:26) During the first Hijrah to Abyssinia, Ja’far ibn Abi Talib –may Allah be pleased with him- spoke before Najashi, the king of Abyssinia. He described the condition of Arabian society before Islam in this way:
O King, We were the people of Jahiliyah, we used to worship idols, eat the dead, commit shameless deeds, break the ties of relations, mistreat our neighbors and the strong among us used to oppress the weak. We were in this condition until Allah sent a Messenger among us from our own people… (Al-Bukhari 1649)
From history we learn that there were ten major problems of Jahiliyah:
1. Shirk or atheism – They worshipped many gods and goddesses or in general they did not care for any divinity or worship.
2. Tribalism and racism – The whole society was divided in tribes. A person’s main commitment was to his tribe and race. They had tribal, racial and color prejudices.
3. Exploitation of the poor and needy – Slavery was common and the rich used to exploit the poor and needy.
4. Injustice and double standards – They had no sense of justice and fairness. Good thing was whatever a person considered good for himself and for his tribe; and bad thing was whatever one considered bad for oneself and for one’s tribe. People did not believe in any universal standard of good or bad.
5. Infanticide – It was common to kill children, especially the girls because of a misguided sense of shame or fear of poverty.
6. Shamelessness – They had no sense of shame. Sometimes they used to have nude Tawaf around the Ka’bah.
7. Drunkenness – Alcohol and other intoxicants were common and they were fond of them.
8. Usury and interest – The whole economy was based on interest. Different types of riba practices existed at that time.
9. Adultery and fornication – It was common among men and women to have illicit relations. There were different types of marriages and different styles of sexual relations.
10. No belief in the Akhirah or in the accountability of the Day of Judgment – They did not believe that there can be resurrection and there will be another life after death.
Besides these injustices and corruptions, they had no organized religion, no sacred scripture, no religious laws and values and no central authority and government.
In a short period of time, the Prophet – peace be upon him- changed all these things. Their belief system, their ethics, their morality, their social, economic and political conditions were changed. He gave them a sacred book that Allah revealed to Him. He gave them a system of worship. He gave them sacred laws and rules. He established institutions of learning and education for them. He united them into one brotherhood and sisterhood of faith. He made them most honest and most civilized people. He also gave them a mission to guide the humanity to the right path.
The Prophet – peace be upon him - achieved all this in a very short period of time. No wonder, the American scholar Michael Hart in his book on the one hundred most influential and successful people in history, called Prophet Muhammad – peace be upon him - the number One man in history. A French historian said, “If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?” (Peace be upon him.) There are many other objective and honest historians who have given similar testimonies.
How did the Prophet accomplish all these things? He did this by the help of Allah, by His continuous guidance and by His glorious Book the Qur’an. He did this by his wonderful personality, by his kind and compassionate character and demeanor. He did this by his commitment and sacrifices.
Muslim Ummah also continued on this successful path that the Prophet – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- laid out for them. They made great contribution to culture and civilization. They were successful as long as they were true to his teachings and took his example seriously. Humanity at large and Muslims themselves have now gone down into the same evils of ignorance and Jahiliyah. The ten major sins of the old Jahiliyah have now re-emerged in the same or even in more ugly forms. The challenge is that who will save the humanity today.
We should remember the Prophet and should study his Sirah with this commitment and determination that we have to save ourselves, our families and the societies around us from all evils. We should dedicate ourselves to his Sirah and Sunnah and follow his example.
Indeed, for you in Allah’s Messenger there is a fine example to follow; for him who aspires to Allah and the Last Day and often remembers Allah. (Al-Ahzab 33:21)
(Khutbah at ISOC – Rabi’ul Awwal 4, 1428/ March 23, 2007)




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