Prophet’s inspiring message for a progressive society

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S M Zafar

THE Holy Prophet (PBUH) is the first citizen of the Muslim social order, and it is through the evolution
of his personality that we comprehend the vigour, strength and greatness of the order itself. He is its founder and law giver. He pruned and reformed it bit by bit, completing the message during his own lifetime. With that was ushered in a new and unprecedented epoch in the human history. The Prophet is, therefore, the human norm combining the Divine Message on which the social order was established and also its complete implementation (through personal example) testifying that it was not a Utopia. It is, no doubt, a matter of pride and satisfaction that the life and personality of the Prophet is known and that the Muslim social order was established in full gaze of history.
Social order: The Last Prophet (PBUH) lived within the framework of his social order gives a singular distinction to his Message. The deeds and personality of the Prophet permeates the Muslim society and has become a part of the social order. Thus the individuals belonging to a Muslim social order are expected to receive the imprints of his personality and conversely that the totality of the Muslim society must reflect and be not different from the personality and the character of the Prophet himself. It is perhaps pertinent to mention here that Islam for the first time in history has put forward before man the ideal of an organized good social order. Before Islam, religion had generally stressed individual goodness aiming thereby at creating good individuals. It belonged to Islam to show up palpably and force-fully that a good individual could not be created in a vacuum and that all attempts and emphasis on exclusively individual improvements tended to produce extremists and failures in the society.
In the Muslim social order, an individual is expected to improve himself not for his personal sake only, but because he is thereby to contribute in the total goodness and improvement of the society. Every Muslim is a part of the social order and as the Holy Prophet, by living within the social order, cultivated the social order itself, so is a Muslim expected to tend and invigorate it. By himself living a full and successful life within a social order, which also improved with the evolution of his personality, the Holy Prophet gave an unambiguous message that Islam underlines the affirmation of a social and material advancement provided by this world rather than an escape from it. If God merely expected a simple innocent piety from man, Man’s creation was obviously superfluous because this was being adequately performed by the angels as Quran tells us. Islam has, therefore, recognized such individual merits, which if harnessed in the interest of the society, can yield a collective benefit to it. To some, it might appear a worldly pursuit, but that is prima facie only. A worldly quality when used to advance wellbeing of the social order is as much recognized in Islam as piety or other good qualities. Is this not what is meant by saying that Islam recognizes no lines of division between the sacred and the secular, between the spiritual and the temporal, between the religious and the profane? Islam knows full well that without the so-called temporal and material conditions, the ‘moral and spiritual cannot fully unfold themselves, and even if some individuals might have spiritual ascendancy by escaping the world. Islam is not interested in those few. It expects the total society to move forward.
We have it in an authentic Hadith that once the Holy Prophet went outside Madina to wage a campaign against the attacking enemy. It was the month of Ramadan. The Muslims had to set up their camps which entailed quite hard work. In the late afternoon, some people, who had kept the fast, got exhausted and gave up the work for Jihad. Others were not fasting (seeing that the Jihad was on). At this the Holy Prophet smiled gently and said. “Today those who are not fasting have far outdistanced those who are fasting”. The Holy Prophet, therefore, drew logical conclusion from this positive spirit of Islam when he proclaimed, “There is no Rahbaniyat (Hermitage) in Islam”. It was right along this line of thinking that our political thinkers reached the definite conclusion very early in Islam that the qualities required of a man charged with public office should, above all, be positive qualities which can help the Muslim community.
Vital question: Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, founder of one of the four principles of the Muslim jurisprudence, was once asked as to who was more competent to lead a military expedition: a strong and dissolute person or a righteous weakling? Imam Ahmad replied, “In the case of the dissolute, but strong person, his strength will be at the service of the Muslims, while he alone will suffer the consequences of his wantonness, but a righteous weakling on the other hand, enjoys the results of his righteousness himself while the Muslims shall suffer from the consequences of his weakness.”
It is also widely known that the Holy Prophet in order to further his mission, invited and sought the support of the influential people. The Holy Qur’an itself makes reference to this fact in one of the earliest Surahs. From the very beginning, therefore, Islam had realized the importance and value of acquiring worldly means and pressing them into service for enabling man to realize higher values. This is the reason why the Qur’an usually terms the worldly goods as Khair (Goodness) and insists on its acquisition.
Intellect: The condemnation of al-dunya which occurs in the Holy Qur’an frequently does not mean the condemnation of the material wealth as such. It means to get so totally absorbed in the zest to acquire wealth by fair or foul means that one may be prepared to sacrifice all higher values for the sake of wealth only. To sum up then the clear-cut Message of the Last Prophet is to establish a good, healthy and progressive social order. Acquisition of knowledge and skill which would provide facilities and convenience to the Muslim society is also an Islamic virtue. The students in engineering colleges, medical schools and other universities, imbibing knowledge should know that if they use these talents in the name of God for the wellbeing of their society, they would be recognized by the Muslim social order. So should it be known to the soldiers, the businessmen and others.
May I conclude by quoting two sayings: one of the Holy Prophet and another of Hazrat Ali? “The first thing created by God was the intellect.” (The Prophet) “God did not distribute to His servants anything more to be esteemed than intelligence.” [(Hazrat Ali).
—The writer is legal luminary and former Federal Minister and Senator based in Lahore.

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