The Islamic Religion: An Evolutionary Perspective-II-M.S. Srinivasan

The Ministry of the Mohammad And the Islamic Synthesis:

If Koran was the divine origin of Islam, the Prophet was its living human source.  Since Koran was revealed to the Prophet, we can say for all practical purposes, that Islam and its achievement on earth are the result of the inspiration and leadership provided by a single great Soul: Prophet Muhammad.

The Prophet of Islam was of a different kind from some of the other founders of religion.  Unlike Christ or Buddha, Muhammad was not only a spiritual teacher.  He was a mystic, no doubt, but he was also a warrior, social reformer, mentor and religious preceptor.  He was the archetypal and complete Leader, providing at once, the political, social and spiritual leadership to the community which formed around him.  He led not by words, but by his action and by his living example.  As a result, the Hadis, which was the chronicle of Prophet’s ministry, is considered by Muslims as “Koran in action.”

The other unique achievement of Prophet’s ministry is that by his living example and teachings he has established in the consciousness of the Islamic community the need or the idea of a practical synthesis between the religious and secular life and a sober balance between this worldly and other-worldly concerns.  The seeds of this synthesis were perhaps in Koran like for example the following verse: “There are those who pray our lord ‘give us (what we desire) in this world’ but they shall have no share in the other world.  And there are others who pray ‘Our Lord, give us what is good in this world and in the world to come and guard us against the torment of hell fire.  These shall have their share according to their deeds.”(2:200-01)

But it was Muhammad who by forging and living this synthesis in his own personal life, set the example, which moulded the communal consciousness of Islam.  The Prophet of Islam lived a simple life of utter dedication and surrender to God, even while discharging his many-sided responsibilities as a ruler, head of family and a community mentor and spiritual preceptor, and the messenger of God with a mission.  Even when he became the absolute and undisputed monarch of Arabia, he was humble and simple, forgiving and compassionate, shunning all luxuries and ostentation.  In the moving words of an Indian scholar, Prof. Ramakrishna Rao.

After the fall of Mecca, more than one million square miles of land lay at his feet, Lord of Arabia, he mended his own shoes and coarse wooden garments, milked the goats, swept the hearth, kindled the fire and attended the other menial offices of the family.  The entire town of Medina where he lived grew wealthy in the later days of his life.  Everywhere there was gold and silver in plenty and yet in those days of prosperity many weeks would elapse without a fire being kindled in the hearth of the king of Arabia.  His food being dates and water.  His family would go hungry many nights successively because they could not get anything to eat in the evening.  He slept on no soften bed but on a palm mat, after a long busy day to spend most of his night in prayer, often bursting with tears before his creator to grant him strength to discharge his duties.  As the reports go, his voice would get choked with weeping and it would appear as if a cooking pot was on fire and boiling had commenced.  On the very day of his death his only assets were few coins, a part of which went to satisfy a dept and rest was given to a needy person who came to his house for charity.  The clothes in which he breathed his last had many patches.  The house from where light had spread to the world was in darkness because there was no oil in the lamp.”

This brings us to the nature of the synthesis arrived by Islam.  The Prophet of Islam seemed to have showed not much interest in worldly affairs other than those activities and responsibilities which were directly related to the fulfillment of his divine mission.  It was reported by the close disciples of the Prophet, that Prophet showed interest only in questions related to religion.  When people asked him questions on worldly affairs he dismissed them by telling, “In worldly matters, you know better than me”.  But to his disciples and follower he never preached renunciation of the world nor did he encourage a suppression of the legitimate needs and desires of the body, heart and mind.  He taught his followers to live a balanced life, to live in the world satisfying and fulfilling all the earthly desires and responsibilities, but under the uplifting guidance and control of the ethical and religious ideal of Koran, like charity, humility, chastity and total surrender and submission to God.  There is an interesting episode narrated in the Hadis.  Some of the followers said to the Prophet “Messenger of God, the rich have borne away the rewards.  They pray as we do, fast as we do and beside make alms with the surplus of their wealth”.  Muhammad answers “How can you say you don’t have anything to give alms.  To say ‘glory to god’ is an alm.  To say ‘God is most Great is an alm’.  Whenever you do what is good and approved it is an alm.  Similarly when you reject what is not good or approved it is an alm.  Each time you perform the conjugal act it is an alm.”  And when his disciples exclaimed in surprise, “What, we can satisfy our carnal appetites and gain a reward”, the Prophet said: “If someone satisfies his appetites illicitly he is committing a sin.  But if he satisfies them lawfully, gains a reward.”  The Muhammad was also reported to have said, “He who satisfies the needs of his heart will be rewarded by God, if the method adopted are permissible.”  Similarly with the needs of the mind for knowledge.  One of the frequently quoted sayings of the Prophet is “seek knowledge, from all sources, even from China.”

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