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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 6: The Service of Humanity


Chapter 6:
The Service of Humanity:

In the earliest preachings of the Prophet as much stress was laid on prayer to God as on service to humanity, perhaps more on the latter. In fact, prayer to Him was meaningless if it was not accompanied with service to humanity. It would be a mere show, severely condemnable. One of the short, earliest, chapters is devoted entirely to this:

Hast thou considered him who gives the lie to religion? That is the one who treats the orphan with harshness, And does not urge the feeding of the needy. So woe to those who pray, Who are heedless of their prayers, Who make a show of their prayers, And refuse small acts of kindness (to their fellow-beings). (107:1-7)

Prayer, therefore, had no value if it did not lead to the service of humanity. Of the two, prayer to God and service of humanity, the latter was the more difficult task. It was an uphill road:

And (have We not) pointed out to man the two conspicuous ways? But he would not attempt the uphill road. And what will make thee comprehend what the uphill road is? It is the setting free of a slave, Or the giving of food in a day of hunger, To an orphan near of kin, Or to the needy one lying in the dust. (90:10-16)

The orphan and the needy were not only to be helped; they were to be honoured:

Nay! But you do not honour the orphan; Nor do you urge one another to feed the needy; And you eat up the heritage, devouring it indiscriminately; And you love wealth with exceeding love. (89:17-20)

Wealth was not given to man for amassing; the needy had a right in the wealth of rich:

And in their properties is a portion due to him who begs and to him who is denied (the fortunes of life). (51:19)

In a very early revelation, the possessors of wealth who do not help the poor are threatened with destruction:

We will try them as We tried the owners of the garden when they swore that they would cut the produce in the morning; And were not willing to set aside a portion for the needy. Then there encompassed it a visitation from thy Lord while they were sleeping; So it became as black, barren land. And they called out to each other in the morning: Go early to your tilth if you would cut the produce. So they went, saying in low tones one to another, No needy one shall enter it today upon you. And in the morning they went, having the power to prevent (the needy). But when they saw it, they said: Surely we have gone astray; Nay! we are deprived of everything. (68:17-27)

From his early life the Prophet was a staunch supporter of the cause of the weak and the oppressed. When quite young, he became a member of the Hilfal-Fudzul, an alliance formed to vindicate the rights of the weak and the oppressed against tyranny. Each member of this alliance was bound in honour to defend the helpless against all manner of oppression. The credit of taking the lead in the formation of this humanitarian organisation belonged to the Prophet and his family, the Banu Hashim.

When deputation after deputation of the Quraish went to Abu Talib to persuade him to deliver the Prophet to them to be put to death, Abu Talib sang his praise in the memorable words which have come down to us in one of his poems. What! said he, shall I make over to you one "who is the refuge of the orphans and protector of the widows." And when on receiving the Call, Muhammad trembled for fear that he might not be able to achieve the grand task of the reformation of humanity, his wife consoled him in these words:

Nay, I call Allah to witness that Allah will never bring thee to disgrace, for thou unitest the ties of relationship and bearest the burden of the weak and earnest for the destitute and honourest the guest and helpest people in real distress. (Bukhari,1:1)

Human sympathy was implanted in the Prophet's very nature, so that he had not only a deep concern for the physical ills of humanity, but a still deeper concern for its moral degradation and spiritual fall. The Holy Quran bears clear witness to this:

Perhaps thou wilt kill thyself with grief because they do not believe. (26:3)

Maybe thou wilt kill thyself with grief, sorrowing after them if they do not believe in this announcement. (18:16)

When he rose to kingship, one of his first reforms was the suppression of the iniquitous law which deprived orphans and women of their share in inheritance. The Arabs had a strong tradition that "only he could inherit property who smites with the spear." In a country where fighting was going on day and night, the value of such a tradition cannot be overestimated. Yet it was at the very time when the Prophet stood in need of defenders of the community and the faith, that the law was laid down which abolished all such discriminations against the weak and the helpless, and placed the woman and the child on a par with the soldier who fought for their protection:

Men shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, and women shall have a portion of what the parents and the near relatives leave, whether there is little or much of it: a stated portion. (4:7)

And give to the orphans their property, and do not substitute worthless things for their good ones, and do not devour their property as an addition to your own property; this is surely a great crime. (4:2)

I may add a few out of a large number of the Prophet's sayings which impressed upon his hearers that the service of humanity was a great goal of life:

Whoever does the needful for his brother, Allah does the needful for him; and whoever removes the distress of a Muslim, Allah removes for him a distress out of the distresses of the day of Resurrection. (Bukhari, 46:3)

Thou wilt see the faithful in their having mercy for one another and in their love for one another and in their kindness towards one another; like the body -- when one member of it ails, the entire body ails.(Ibid., 78:27)

Your slaves are your brethren; Allah has placed them under your control; so whoever has his brother under his control, he should feed him from what he eats and should give him clothes to wear from what he wears; and do not impose on them a task which should overpower them; and if you do impose on them such a task, then help them in the doing of it. (Ibid., 2:22)

One who manages the affairs of the widow and the needy is like one who exerts himself hard in the way of Allah, or one who stands up for prayer in the night and fasts in the day. (Ibid.,69:1)

I and the man who brings up an orphan will be in paradise like this. And he pointed with his two fingers, the forefinger and the middle finger. (Ibid.,78:24)

Allah has no mercy on him who is not merciful to men. He is not of us who does not show mercy to our little ones and respect to our great ones. (Miskhat, 24:15)

He had a tender heart even for animals. It is related that he passed by a camel that had grown extremely lean; so he said:

Be careful of your duty to Allah regarding these dumb animals; ride them while they are in a fit condition, and eat them while they are in a fit condition. (Abu Dawood, 15:43)

A prostitute was forgiven: she passed by a dog panting with its tongue out, on the top of a well containing water, almost dying with thirst, so she took off her boot and tied it to her head-covering and drew forth water for it; she was forgiven on account of this.

His Companions asked: Is there a reward for us in doing good to beasts? He replied: "In every animal having a liver fresh with life, there is a reward. (Mishkat, 6:6)

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Books Section > The Living Thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Chapter 6: The Service of Humanity

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