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Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana
> Chapter 2: Faith in God
Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 2: Faith in God
What was the secret of the success of "The most successful of all the religious personalities of the world?" What was the thought upon which was based "the most complete, the most sudden and the most extraordinary revolution that had ever come over any nation upon earth?" How were men's minds prepared for this unparalleled and thorough transformation? How was "a new and earnest life" breathed into a people that were sunk deep in "superstition, cruelty and vice?" How was the "impossible" task performed of uniting into one whole the warring factions that were bent upon destroying each other? What was the root remedy applied to the ills of humanity?
The secret of the Prophet's success, a success admittedly unparalleled to this day, lay in his strong faith in God. He had a deep conviction that God had a plan for the uplift of man, to bring to perfection not one nation or one people but the whole world, and that no power in the world could frustrate the Divine purpose. When the first message came to him that he was commissioned to save a fallen humanity, he actually trembled. From his solitude in the cave of Hira', he came home to his wife trembling, and asked her to wrap him up. It was the magnitude of the task which made him shake. But he set to work immediately. He was at first ridiculed, called an idle visionary, and treated with contempt as unworthy of serious attention. But as he gained ground, opposition started in real earnest, and he and his followers were subjected to the severest persecutions. Cruel tortures were inflicted on them, some of them had to suffer torture even to death. Unbaffled he advised his followers to betake themselves to Abyssinia where a Christian monarch ruled. "There is a land," he said, "where no one is wronged -- a land of justice. Stay there until it shall please Allah to open for you a way out of these difficulties."
He had a deep conviction that difficulties would disappear. His followers thus reached a place of security but he himself stuck to his post, alone and undaunted. He was threatened with murder, and even Abu Talib, his uncle and his sole support, told him that he could no more withstand the united opposition of the Quraish. "Do not charge me," he said to the Prophet, "with a responsibility too heavy for me." But the Prophet stood adamant. "Should they place the sun O uncle!" he said, "in my right hand and the moon in my left, in order to make me renounce this mission, I should not do it. I shall never give it up until it shall please Allah to make it triumph or I perish in the attempt." Failing in the attempt to persuade Abu Talib to hand over the Prophet to them, they approached him directly: "If your ambition is to possess wealth, we will amass for you as much of it as you wish; if you aspire to win honour, we are prepared to swear allegiance to you as our overlord and king; if you have a fancy for beauty, we offer you the hand of the finest maiden of your own choice." The temptations were nigh irresistible. From a destitute, helpless and persecuted man to a mighty potentate rolling in wealth and with beauty by his side was a big lift. But he replied: "I want neither riches nor political power. I have been commissioned by Allah as a warner to mankind, and I deliver His message to you. Should you accept it, you shall have felicity in this life as well as in the life to come; should you reject the word of Allah, surely Allah will decide between you and me."
Referring to this it is said in one of the early revelations:
And they had indeed purposed to turn thee away from that which We have revealed to thee that thou shouldst forge against Us other than that, and then they would have taken thee for a friend. And had it not been that We had already made thee firm, thou wouldst certainly have been near to incline to them a little. (17:73,74)
The Prophet's firm conviction in his final triumph at the time of the severest opposition, when there was not a ray of hope otherwise, may be read through every page of the Holy Quran. To the Prophet the Quran was the great spiritual force bound to conquer the whole world: "And if there were a Quran with which the mountains could be made to pass away or the earth could be travelled over or the dead were made to speak; nay, the command is entirely Allah's" (13:31)
Had We sent down this Quran on a mountain, thou wouldst certainly have seen it falling down, splitting asunder, because of the fear of Allah, and We set forth these parables to men that they may reflect. (59:21)
All opposition to the great truth which he had been appointed to establish was to him a passing phase. Thus in the earliest revelations:
And bear patiently what they say and avoid them with a becoming avoidance. And leave Me and those who reject the truth, the possessors of ease and plenty, and give them a little respite (73:10,11)
The strong faith that all opposition to his mission would fail and that he would succeed in bringing about the reformation with which he was charged runs through every line of the Holy Quran, and the stronger the opposition grew the deeper became his faith in his ultimate success and of the failure of opposition. In another early revelation, it is said, after speaking of Pharaoh and other opponents of the truth:
We overtook them after the manner of a Mighty, Powerful One. Are your unbelievers better than these or is there an exemption for you in the Scriptures? Or do they say, We are a host allied together to help each other. Soon shall the hosts be routed and they shall turn their back. Nay, the hour is their promised time, and that hour shall be most grievous and bitter. (54:42-46)
The Prophet prayed the whole night at the battle of Badr when he saw his three hundred men, his total strength, in danger of being annihilated by one thousand strong and well-armed enemies, saying, "O Lord! I beseech Thee according to Thy covenant and Thy promise," "O Lord! If such is Thy Will, Thou mayst not be served after this," "O Living, O Subsisting One by Whom all subsist! I crave for Thy mercy," and so on; and ultimately he came out of his but reciting the above Quranic verses, showing that, notwithstanding the disparity of numbers and the utter weakness of his men, he was full of faith that this Divine promise was going to be fulfilled on that field. In fact, it was his strong faith in God that bore him up not only during the severest persecutions and trials at Mecca, but also during actual conflicts with the enemy in the battlefields around Medina when in numbers the Muslims were no match for the huge invading forces.
That all attempts at the reformation of Arabia before his appearance had failed, he knew for certain, but he was also certain that he would succeed in reclaiming not only the idolaters but also the spoiled followers of the Book:
Those who disbelieved from among the followers of the Book and the idolaters could not have obtained freedom from sin until there had come to them the clear proof, A Messenger from Allah, reciting pure pages, Wherein are all the right Books. (98:1-3)
If their hearts were hard as stones, or even harder than stones, he was yet hopeful that he would make streams flow from these stones and they would ultimately bow before God:
Then your hearts hardened after that, so they were like rocks, nay harder still, and there are rocks from which rivers gush, and there are some of them which split asunder and water flows from them, and there are some of them which fall down from fear of Allah. (2:74)
The Prophet was, however, not only confident that his message would breathe life into Arabia; he had a still deeper faith that he had a message for the whole of humanity and that it was bound to succeed in the end. His idea of the Divine plan for the uplift of humanity was not limited to any one nation or any one generation. His well-known prayer, which is now the prayer of millions of his followers, five times a day, begins with the words:
All praise is due to Allah, the Nourisher to perfection of all nations.
This was, therefore, the basis of his religion. According to him the Divine plan was gradually to bring the whole of humanity to perfection. He was not raised as a Messenger for the Arabs only; he was the Messenger of God for the whole of humanity:
Say, O people! I am the Messenger of Allah to you all, of Him Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. (7:158)
It shows a boundless faith in his ultimate triumph to reform the whole of humanity when it is repeated thrice: "He it is Who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth that He may cause it to prevail over all the religions." (9:33; 48:28; 61:9)
If a deep-rooted faith in God was the secret of the Prophet's own wonderful success, it was also the foundation stone of the great reformation which he brought about. He did not start by applying himself to this or that vice or superstition or degrading usage or evil custom; he applied himself, first of all, solely to grounding men in faith in God. Almost the whole of his Mecca revelation has but one theme: God is the Creator of all, He is the Nourisher of all, He reveals Himself to man, He makes His will known to man, He is the Holy One, He is nearer to man than his own soul, He is the Beneficent One, the Merciful One, the Loving One, the Affectionate, the Forgiving One, the Giver of all gifts, the Ample-giving, He listens to every man's prayer, He loves good and hates evil, He loves those who serve the poor and those in distress, He loves the truthful ones, and so on.
The man who has faith in God is like a live wire and those who come in contact with him, imbibe faith from him. Full of faith as the Prophet's own heart was, full to overflowing, it had a magic effect on those who came in contact with him, and their hearts were filled with the same strong faith. The current of faith which was thus transmitted from the heart of the Prophet to the hearts of those who sat at his feet was further strengthened by the constant stress which revelation laid on the existence of God. The whole of nature testified to the existence of God:
Do they not look up to the heaven above them, how We have made it and adorned it and it has no gaps. And the earth We have spread it forth and cast upon it mountains and We have made to grow therein of all beautiful kinds, To give sight and as a reminder to every servant who turns (to God) again and again! And from the cloud We send down water abounding in good, then We cause to grow thereby gardens and grain that is reaped, and the tall palm-trees having flower spikes closely set one above another, A sustenance for the servants, and We give life thereby to a dead land; thus is the resurrection. (50:6-11)
Such were the arguments drawn from the material universe that it must have a Creator. Another class of arguments regarding the existence of God related to the human soul in which was implanted the consciousness of Divine existence. An appeal is again and again made to man's inner self:
Or were they created from nothing? Or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? (52:35-36)
God-consciousness was thus shown to be part and parcel of human nature. Sometimes this consciousness is mentioned in terms of the unimaginable nearness of the Divine Spirit to the human spirit:
We are nearer to man than his life-vein. (50:16)
This meant that the consciousness of the existence of God in the human soul was even clearer than the consciousness of its own existence. But it differed in different natures according as the inner-light of man was bright or dim. Thus God was to the Muslim the central fact of human life, and he therefore turned to Him again and again to seek help and guidance from Him. Faith in God assumed a practical shape in the form of prayer. Five times a day did he pray to God, the essential part of the prayer being the short Opening chapter of the Holy Quran:
All praise is due to Allah, the Nourisher to perfection of the worlds,
The yearning of man's soul after God is manifested in his prayer to God, but this yearning becomes more manifest when man finds himself in distress:
And when distress afflicts a man, he calls upon his Lord, turning to Him frequently, and when He grants him a favour from Himself, he forgets that for which he called upon Him before. (39:8)
Man was not only told to pray to God in all circumstances, in ease as well as in distress, and to seek help and guidance from Him on all occasions, but it was further impressed on him that God did listen to the prayer of man:
And your Lord says: Call upon Me and I will answer you. (40:60)
He was further taught to rely on God in all circumstances so that he should not lose heart in failures and difficulty:
With none but Allah is the direction of my affair to a right issue; on Him do I rely and to Him do I turn. (11:88; 13:30)
He was also taught to seek refuge in God whenever he found himself in danger of being led astray or in affliction:
I seek refuge in the Lord of men, the King of men, the God of men. (114:1-3)
In God was contentment of mind to be sought:
Those who believe and whose hearts are set at rest by the remembrance of Allah; now surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (13:28)
God was indeed the Creator and the Ruler Supreme, but He was also the Friend of Man:
And surely the unjust are friends of each other, and Allah is the Friend of those who have regard for their duty. (45:19)
The kindness and mercy of God are boundless, beyond the conception of man; He is Merciful to the believers and to the unbelievers, to the righteous and to the sinners alike:
O My servants who have acted extravagantly against their own souls! Do not despair of the mercy of Allah, for Allah forgives the sins altogether. (39:53)
The very first revelation that came to the Prophet, and that commissioned him with the task of the reformation of mankind, speaks of the love of God which brought about the creation of Man:
Recite in the name of the Lord Who created.
In a saying of the Prophet, God is spoken of as saying:
I desired that I should be known, so I created man.
Wadud, or the Loving God, is one of the attributes of the Divine Being:
He it is Who originates and reproduces, And He is the Forgiving, the Loving. (85:13-14)
It is the attribute of love in the Divine nature that is reflected in man's love to God:
And they give away food out of love for Him to the poor and the orphan and the captive. (76:8)
God being Holy and Good, there is a special manifestation of Divine love towards those who eschew evil and do good:
Allah loves those who do good to others.(2:195; 3:134, 148)
Interwoven with the basic principle of faith in God is the great idea of the accountability of human actions. Every good deed has its reward, and every evil deed has its requital. Every man is responsible to God for what he does. In fact, man's highest responsibility is not to society or to the State but to God:
Every soul is held in pledge for what it earns. (74:38)
Everything done or said by man is preserved and bears its fruit; nothing is wasted:
Nay! But you give the lie to the judgement. And surely there are guardians over you, Honourable recorders; They know what you do. (82:9-12)
A man is judged by the preponderance of good or evil in him, and it is in this connection that the setting up of a balance is spoken of:
And We will set up a just balance on the day of Resurrection, so no soul shall be dealt with unjustly in the least, and though there be the weight of a grain of mustard seed, We will bring it and Sufficient are We to take account. (21:47)
An action leaves its effect upon the doer as soon as it is done, for God is "Quick in reckoning" (2:202; 3:19,199). That effect is not seen by the human eye, but will be palpably manifest on the day of Resurrection when man's vision becomes keener by the removal of his earthly environments:
Certainly thou wert heedless of it, but now We have removed from thee thy covering, so thy sight this day is sharp. (50:22)
Thus God not only made man, but He also takes account of everything done by him, and this is really the essence of faith in God. It was this significance of faith in God which the Holy Quran stressed, and which the Prophet impressed upon his followers to bring about a transformation in their lives. While this was the basis of a future life, paradise and hell being only the ultimate manifestations of this great law of good and evil, life on this earth was also an expression of the same law, good leading to a good and evil leading to an evil end:
Your striving is surely directed to various ends. So as for him who gives gifts and guards against evil, and accepts what is good, We will ease his way to the state of ease. And as for him who is niggardly and considers himself free from need (of God), and rejects what is good, We will ease his way to a difficult end; And his wealth will not avail him when he perishes. (92:4-11)
The law of good and evil applied not only to individuals but also to nations. Every nation had a book of deeds according to which it was judged in this very life:
And thou shalt see every nation kneeling down; every nation shall be called to its book; this day you shall be requited for what you did. This is Our book that pronounces against you with truth; surely We were writing what you did. (6:103)
Faith in God, built up on these foundations, received further strength from the spiritual experience of humanity which was the surest evidence of the existence of God. God had been revealing himself in all ages to all nations; such was the broad basis of the Prophet's faith in God. Man could make all discoveries in the sphere of the finite and he could conquer all forces of nature, but God was Infinite; and outside the sphere of man's discoveries:
Vision comprehends Him not, and He comprehends all vision. (6:103)
So out of His great mercy, He revealed Himself to man; He revealed Himself to man through His chosen servants in every age and in every country:
Surely We have revealed to thee as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave to David a scripture. And We sent messengers We have mentioned to thee before and messengers We have not mentioned to thee. (4:163, 164)
Only mortals to whom God revealed Himself were sent as reformers because none but a mortal could serve as a model for men:
Had there been in the earth angels walking about as settlers, We would have sent to them from heaven an angel as a messenger. (17:95)
God had thus been revealing Himself to all nations, and Divine revelation was recognised as a universal fact. While revelation in its highest form -- revelation through the Holy Spirit -- was peculiar to prophets, in its lower forms -- in the form of the infusion of an idea into the mind, of a dream, a vision or inspiration -- revelation was granted to others as well, to men as well as to women:
And it is not for any mortal that Allah should speak to him except by infusing an idea into the mind or from behind a veil or by sending a messenger and revealing by His permission what He pleases. Surely He is Exalted, Wise.
Unbelieving people are also spoken of as seeing significant and truthful dreams -- the lowest form of revelation. Thus in the history of Joseph:
And two youths entered the prison with him. One of them said, I saw myself pressing wine; and the other said, I saw myself carrying bread on my head of which birds ate. (12:36)
Both the youths and the King were unbelievers, and the three dreams were interpreted by Joseph as speaking of the future, being thus prophetical in their essence.
Revelation was thus a universal human experience, and in its lower forms, others than prophets had experience of it. There was one further fact in this connection on which the Prophet laid the greatest stress. Truth thus revealed to man through Divine messengers had Divine sanction behind it. Wherever and whenever a prophet appeared in the world, he stood in the minority of one to a whole nation which not only rejected the truth revealed to him but did its utmost to destroy him. But opposition to truth, however strong it was, had always been brought to naught. Powerful rulers and powerful nations were destroyed when they opposed the truth, and the lonely messenger of God, persecuted by all, was made triumphant and succeeded in establishing the truth:
Hast thou not considered how thy Lord dealt with `Ad, The people of Aram, possessors of lofty buildings, The like of which were not created in the lands; And with Thamud, who hewed out the rocks in the valley; And with Pharaoh, the lord of hosts, Who committed inordinacy in the cities, So they made great mischief therein; Therefore thy Lord let down upon them a portion of the chastisement. (89:6-13)
This spiritual experience of humanity, an experience to which sacred history bore testimony in every age and every country, was the crowning argument which grounded faith deep in the hearts of the Prophet's followers. And now in the person of the Prophet himself they had a further living experience, seeing with their own eyes how truth was gaining ground day by day in the face of the severest opposition, and how it ultimately swept away every vestige of falsehood from the vast peninsula of Arabia.
They were further trained from the first to obey every order of God in the form of the call to prayer. Five times a day in the midst of their daily work, the call went forth that they must give up all work and resort to the mosque to bow their heads before God, standing side by side, the master and the servant, the high and the low, the rich and the poor. "God is the Greatest" was the refrain of this call, and implicit obedience to the orders of God became ingrained in them. Faith in God was thus translated into practice, and willing and thorough submission to His orders became the rule of life for a Muslim.
This prepared the Prophet's way to a thorough reformation of those who accepted him as their guide. Every order which came from on High was to be obeyed implicitly. The why and wherefore of it was not questioned. It was God's order and must be obeyed. Deep-rooted faith in God had given them a new outlook on life. The iron chains of customs and usages now appeared to them as threads which it did not require any great effort to break. One after another all such usages were swept away as the details of the new law came from on High. The new spirit not only changed the individual; it transformed society, and thus the whole nation.
The evil of drink is perhaps the hardest to combat. The United States tried to uproot it by law and failed hopelessly. The Arabs were addicted to it as much as any nation of today. It was towards the end of the Prophet's life that the order came:
O you who believe! Intoxicants and games of chance and sacrificing to stones set up and dividing by arrows are only an uncleanness, the devil's work; shun it therefore that you may be successful. The devil desires only to cause enmity and hatred to spring up in your midst by means of intoxicants and games of chance and to keep you off from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer; will you then desist? (5:90, 91)
As these verses were promulgated and a crier went forth proclaiming that wine was prohibited, every jar of wine in a Muslim house was emptied of wine and broken into pieces, so that wine flowed in the streets of Medina like water. And to this day, the Muslims, in whatever country they may be living, are as a nation free from this evil to a far greater extent than any other nation. it was not only that evil usages and customs and evil habits were swept away, but faith had infused into the Arabs and later on into other nations that accepted the message of Islam, a new life which made them the vanguards of civilisation, the torch-bearers of physical, moral and spiritual advancement in the world.
Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana
> Chapter 2: Faith in God