Geographical, historic, literary and cultural background of Arabian peninsula
When Allah Ta’ala decided to reveal the Qur’an Shareef and sent it down for the guidance of mankind, He did not choose those people for it who were well advanced in education, culture, trade and commerce, civilization, art and other sciences, nor did He choose those countries for it who were superpowers in the world those days. On the other hand He chose those tribal people of Arab for this unparalleled historical job, who were highly uneducated, uncultured and having no significant business. Those people who were living primitive type of life rearing cattle in the deserts, using their milk, meat and skin. There were no schools, no colleges or uni-versities, there were no signs of any civilization. These people were scattered fighting with one another for decades for trivial things and were insignificant in the world of their times, when Roman and Persian empires were touching the skies.
It is very essential first to understand the historical, educational, cultural, economic and geo-political background of the Arabs who were the first addressed people of the Qur’an Shareef. For proper understanding of the immense greatness of the Qur’an Shareef and its miraculous and Divine nature, it is mandatory to have the prior knowledge about the conditions in which the Messenger of Allah-Hadhrat Muhammad (SAW), on whom the Qur’an Shareef was revealed, was brought up before prophethood. Last but not the least, one should also know the fate of other religions at that time in different parts of the world and about the political, cultural and educational status of other leading civilizations of those times.
When you look at history, you will see that in 6th century C.E. whole mankind was enveloped in darkness, morality had touched the lowest ebb, humanity was the rarest commodity avail-able in the world, Christianity and Judaism had lost their origi-nal structures, baseless imaginary philosophy was in vogue and no ray of light was seen in any part of the world which could come to the rescue of humanity which was breathing its last.
Arabia is a big peninsula located in south west Asia. To its north lie Syria, Algeria and Iraq, the Suez Canal and the Red Sea to its west, Gulf of Aden and Sea of Oman to its south and to its east lie the Persian Gulf and Its area is about 3 million kilometres.
Alama Aaloosi in Baloogul Arab writes:
“Most of the Arab population, from which the Arabs came out and spread in all directions were located in that Arabian Peninsula which is located in the center of the world and is the most moderate place and the most blessed area is that part where Khana Kaaba is situated and also Madina-Al-Munawarah and its adjoining areas.”
Sultan Umadudin Ameer Humat writes in Taqweemul-Baldan that
A loaded camel can cover the entire length of Arabian Peninsula in seven months and eleven days.
Muslim geographers have divided the Arabian Peninsula into five regions:
1. Hijaz extends from Aila (Al-Aqabah) to Yemen and has been so named because the range of mountains running parallel to the western coast separates the low coastal belt of Tihama from Najd.
2. Tihama inside the inner range is a plateau extending to the foot hills.
3. Yemen, south of Hijaz.
4. Najd, the north central plateau extends from the mountain ranges of Hijaz in the west to the desert of Bahrain in the east and encompasses a number of deserts and mountain ranges.
5. Aruz which is bounded by Bahrain and mountain ranges, and Hijaz to its west lying between Yemen and Najd, it was also known as Yamamah.
Commenting on the religio-political conditions of the different countries of the world in 6th century C.E. when the Sun of Islam was about to dawn, Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadvi writes about that age of ignorance.
The age of ignorance
Great religions of the world had spread the light of faith, morals and learning in the ages past, but every one of these had been rendered a disgrace to its name by the sixth century of the Christian era. Crafty innovators , unscrupulous dissemblers and impious priests and preachers had, with the passage of time, so completely distorted the scriptures and disfigured the teachings and commandments of their own religions that it was almost impos-sible to recall the original shape and content of these reli-gions. Could the founder or the prophet of any one of them have returned to earth, he would unquestionably have refused to own his own religion and denounced its followers as apostates and idolaters.
Judaism had, by then, been reduced to an amalgam of dead rituals and sacraments without any spark of life in it. Also, being a religion upholding racial snobbery, it has never had any message for other nations or the good the humanity at large. It had not even remained firmly wedded to its belief in the unity of God (which had once been its distinguishing feature and had raised its adherents to a level higher than that of the followers of ancient polytheistic cults), as commended by the Prophet Abrahim (AS) to his sons and grandson Yaqooob (AS). The Jews had, under the influence of their powerful neighbours and conquerors, adopted numerous idolatrous beliefs and practices as acknowledged by modern Jewish authorities:
“The thundering of the Prophets against idolatry show, however, that the cults of the deities were deeply rooted in the heart of the Israelitish people, and they do not appear to have been thoroughly suppressed until after the return from the Baby-lonian exile.... Through mysticism and magic many polytheistic ideas and customs again found their way among the people, and the Talmud confirms the fact that idolatrous worship is seductive."
The Babylonian Gemara (popular during the sixth century and often even preferred to Torah by the orthodox Jewry) typically illustrates the crudeness of the sixth century Jews’ intellectual and religious understanding by its jocular and imprudent remarks about God and many an absurd and outrageous belief and ideas which lack not only sensibility but are also inconsistent with the Jewish faith in monotheism.
Christianity had fallen a prey, in its very infancy, to the misguided fervour of its overzealous evangelists, unwarranted interpretation of its tenets by ignorant church fathers and iconolatry of its gentile converts to Christianity. How the doctrine of Trinity came to have the first claim to the Chris-tians' dogma by the close of the fourth century has been thus described in the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
“It is difficult, in the second half of the 20th century to offer a clear, objective, and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution and theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity. Trinitarian discussion, Roman Cathol-ic as well as other, presents a somewhat unsteady silhouette. Two things have happened. There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitar-ianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of histor-ians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th cen-tury. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought.”
Tracing the origin of pagan customs, rites, festivals and religious services of the pagans in Christianity, another histor-ian of the Christian church gives a graphic account of the per-sistent endeavour of early Christians to ape the idolatrous notions. Rev. James Houston Baxter, Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of St.Andrews writes in The History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge:
“If paganism had been destroyed, it was less through annihi-lation than through absorption. Almost all that was pagan was carried over to service under a Christian name. Deprived of demi-gods and heroes, men easily and halfconsciously invested a local martyr with their attributes and labelled the local statue with his name, transferring to him the cult and mythology associated with the pagan deity. Before the century was over, the martyr-cult was universal, and a beginning had been made of that imposi-tion of a deified human being between God and man which, on the one hand, had been the consequence of Arianism, and was on the other, the origin of so much that is typical of medieval piety and practice. Pagan festivals were adopted and renamed:by 400, Christmas Day, the ancient festival of the sun, was transformed into the birthday of Jesus.”
By the time sixth century reared its head, the antagonism between Christians of Syria, Iraq and Egypt on the question of human and Divine natures of Christ had set them at one another’s throat. The conflict had virtually turned every Christian semi-nary, church and home into a hostile camp, each anathematizing the other and thirsting after its adversary’s blood. Men debated with fury upon shadows or shades of belief and staked their lives on the most immaterial issues, as if these differences meant a confrontation between two antagonistic religions or nations. The Christians were, thus, neither inclined nor had time to set their own house in order and smother the ever-increasing viciousness in the world for the salvation of humanity.
In Iran, from the earliest times, the Magi worshipped four elements (of which fire was the chief object of devotion) in the oratories or fire-temples for which they had evolved a whole mass of intricate rituals and commandments. In actual practice, the popular religion included nothing save the worship of fire and adoration of Hvare-khshaeta or the Shining Sun. Certain rituals performed in a place of worship were all their religion demanded, for, after performing those rites they were free to live as they desired. There was nothing to distinguish a Magi from an uncon-scientious, perfidious fellow.
Arthur Christensen writes in L’Iran Sous Les Sassanides:
“It was incumbent on the civil servants to offer prayers four times a day to the sun besides fire and water. Separate hymns were prescribed for rising and going to sleep, taking bath, putting on the sacred cord, eating and drinking, sniffing, hair-dressing, cutting of the nails, excrement and lighting the candle which were to be recited on each occasion with the greatest care. It was the duty of the priests to compound, purify and tend the sacred fire which was never to be extinguished, nor water was ever allowed to touch fire. No metal was allowed to rust, for metals, too, were hallowed by their religion,”
All prayers were performed facing the sacred fire. The last Iranian Emperor, Yazdagird III, once took an oath, saying: “I swear by sun, which is the greatest of all gods”. He has ordered that those who had abjured Christianity to re-enter their origi-nal faith should publicly worship the sun in order to prove their sincerity. The principle of dualism, the two rival spirits of good and evil, had been upheld by the Iranian for such a long time that it had become a mark and symbol of their national creed. They believed that Ormuzd creates everything good, and Ahriman creates all that is bad; these two are perpetually at war and the one or the other gains the upper hand alternately. The Zoroastrian legends described by the historians of religion bear remarkable resemblance to the hierarchy of gods and goddesses and the fabulousness of Hindu and Greek mythology.
Buddhism, extending from India to Central Asia, had been converted into an idolatrous faith. Wherever the Buddhists went they took the idols of the Buddha with them and installed them there. Although the entire religious and cultural life of the Buddhists is over-shadowed by idolatry, the students of religion have grave doubts whether the Buddha was a nihilist or how this religion could at all sustain itself in the absence of any faith or conviction in the Primal Being.
In the sixth century C.E. Hinduism had shot ahead of every other religion in the number of gods and goddesses. During this period 33 million gods were worshipped by the Hindus. The tenden-cy to regard everything which could do harm or good as an object of personal devotion was at its height and this had given a great encouragement to some sculpture with novel motifs of decorative ornamentation.
About the religious condition of India during the reign of Harsha (606-648 C.E), a little before the time when Islam made its debut in Arabia, a Hindu historian, C.V.Vadiya, writes in his History of Mediaeval India.
“Both Hinduism and Buddhism were equally idolatrous at this time. If anything, Buddhism perhaps beat the former in its intense idolatry. That religion started, indeed, with the denial of God, but ended by making Buddha himself the Supreme God. Later developments of Buddhism added other gods like the Bodhistvas and the idolatry of Buddhism especially in the Mahaya-na school was firmly established. It flourished in and out of India so much that the word for an idol in the Arabic has come to be Buddha itself.”
C.V.Vadiya further says:
“No doubt idolatry was at this time rampant all over the world. From the Atlantic to the Pacific the world was immersed in idola-try; Christianity, Semitism, Hinduism and Buddhism vying, so to speak, one with another in their adoration of idols.”
Another historian of Hinduism expresses the same opinion about the great passion for multiplicity of deities among the Hindus in the sixth century. He writes:
“The process of deification did not stop here. Lesser gods and goddesses were added in ever growing numbers till there was crowd of deities, many of them adopted from the more primitive peoples who were admitted to Hinduism with the gods whom they worshipped. The total number of deities is said to be 33 crores, i.e., 330 millions, which like the phrase ‘Thy name is legion’, merely implies an innumerable host. In many parts of the country the minor gods receive as much or even more reverence than the major gods.”
The Arabs had been the followers of the Abrahamic religion in the olden times and had the honour of having the first House of God in their land, but the distance of time from the great par-riarchs and prophets of yore and their isolation in the arid deserts of the peninsula had given rise to an abominable idolatry closely approximating the Hindu zeal for idol worship in the sixth century C.E. In associating partners to God they were not behind any other polytheistic people. Having faith in the compan-ionship of lesser gods with the Supreme Being in the direction and governance of the universe, they held the belief that their deities possessed the power to do them good or harm, to give them life or death. Idolatry in Arabia had reached its lowest ebb; every region and every clan or rather every house had a separate deity of its own.
Three hundred and sixty idols had been installed within the Ka’ba and its courtyard - the house built by Abrahim (AS) for the worship of the One and only God. The Arabs actually paid Divine honours not merely to sculptured idols but venerated all types of stones and fetish: angels, Jinn and stars were all their deities. They believed that the angels were daughters of God and the Jinn His partners in divinity, and thus both enjoyed supernatural powers whose mollification was essential for their well-being.
Social and moral condition
This was the plight of great religions sent by God, from time to time, for the guidance of humanity. In the civilized countries, there were powerful governments and great centers of arts and culture and learning but their religions had been gar-bled so completely that nothing of their original spirit and content was left in them. Nor were there any reformers or heaven-ly minded guides of humanity to be found anywhere.
Crushed under vexatious and burdensome taxes levied by the Byzantium Empire, the allegiance to any alien ruler was consid-ered by the populace as less oppressive than the rule of Byzanti-um. Insurrections and revolts had become such a common feature that in 532 A.D. the public discontent voiced most dramatically in Constantinople by the Nika (win of conquer) revolt took a toll of 30,000 lives. The only pastime of the chiefs and nobles was to squeeze wealth, on different pretexts, from the harassed peasan-try, and squander it on their pleasure and amusement. Their craze for merriment and rivalry very often reached the depths of hide-ous savagery.
The authors of the Civilization, Past and Present have painted a lurid picture of the contradictory passions of the Byzantine society for religious experience as well as its love for sports and recreation marked by moral corruption.
“Byzantine social life was marked by tremendous contrasts. The religious attitude and monasticism were widespread throughout the empire, and to an extraordinary degree even the most commonplace individual seemed to take a vital interest in the deepest theo-logical discussions, while all the people were much affected by a religious mysticism in their daily life. But, in contrast the same people were exceptionally fond of all types of amusements. The great Hippodrome, seating 80,000 wide-eyed spectators, was the scene of hotly disputed chariot races which split the entire populace into rival factions of ‘Blue’ and ‘Green’ .... The Byzantines possessed both a love of beauty and a streak of cruel-ty and viciousness. Their sports were often bloody and sadistic, their tortures were horrible, and the lives of their aristocracy were mixture of luxury, intrigue, and studied vice.”
Egypt had vast resources of corn and shipping on which Constantinople largely depended for its prosperity, but the whole machinery of the imperial government in that province was direct-ed to the sole purpose of wringing profits out of the ruled for the rulers. In religious matters, too, the policy of suppressing the Jacobite heresy was pursued relentlessly. In short, Egypt was like a milch-cow whose masters were interested only in milching her without providing any fodder to her.
Syria, another fair domination of the Byzantine Empire, was always treated as a hunting ground for the imperiousness and expansionist policy of the imperial government. Syrians were treated as slaves, at the mercy of their masters, for they could never pretend to have any claim to a kind or considerate be-haviour upon their rulers. The taxes levied were so excessive in amount and so unjust in incidence that the Syrians had very often to sell their children for clearing the government dues. Unwar-ranted persecution of poverty, enslavement and impressed labour were some of the common features of the Byzantine rule.
The Persian Empire
Zoroastrianism is the oldest religion of Iran. Zarathushtra, the founder of Zoroastrianism, lived probably about 600-650 B.C. The persian empire, after it had shaken off the Hellenistic influence, was larger in size and greater in wealth and splendour than the Eastern Roman or Byzantine empire. Ardashir I, the architect of Sasanian dynasty, laid the foundation of his kingdom by defeating Artabanus V in 224 C.E. In its heyday of glory the Sasanid Empire extended over Assyria, Khozistan, Mesia, Fars (Persia), Adharbayjan Tabristan (Mazandaran), Sfaraksh, Marjan, Marv, Balkh (Bactria), Saghd (Sagdonia), Sijistan (Seastene), Hirat, Khurasan, Khwarizm (Khiva), Iraq and Yemen, and, for a time, had under its control the areas lying near the delta of the river Sind, Cutch, Kathizwar, Malwa and few other districts.
Ctesiphon (Mada’in), the capital of the Sasanids, combined a number of cities on either banks of the Tigris. During the fifth century and thereafter the Sasanid empire was known for its magnificence and splendour, cultural refinement and the life of ease and rounds of pleasure enjoyed by its nobility.
Zoroastrianism was founded, from the earliest times, on the concept of universal struggle between the ahuras and the daevas, the forces of the good and the evil. In the third century Mant appeared on the scene as a reformer of Zoroastrianism. Sapor I (240-271) at first embraced the percepts uttered by the innova-tor, remained faithful to them for ten years and then returned to Mazdaism. The Manichaeism was based on a most thorough-going dualism of the two conflicting souls in man, one good and the other bad. In order, therefore, to get rid of the latter, preached Mant, one should pracitse strict asceticism and abstain from women. Mant spent a number of years in exile and returned to Iran after the accession of Bahram I to the throne, but was arrested, convicted of heresy, and beheaded. His converts must have remained faithful to his teachings, for we know that Mani-chaeism continued to influence Iranian thought and society for a long time even after death of Mant.
Mazdak, the son of Baudad, was born at Nishapur in the fifth century. He also believed in the twin principle of light and darkness, but in order to put down the vile emanating from darkness, he preached community of women and goods, which all men should share equally, as they do water, fire and wind. Mazdakites soon gained enough influence, thanks to the support of Emperor Kavadh, to cause a communistic upheaval in the country. The rowdy element got liberty to take forcible possession of wives and property of other citizens. In an ancient manuscript known as Namah Tinsar the ravages done to the Iranian society by the application of the communistic version of Mazdaeism have been graphically depicted as under:
“Chastity and manners were cast to the dogs. They came to the fore who had neither nobility nor character, nor acted uprightly, no had any ancestral property; utterly indifferent to their families and the nation, they had no trade or calling; and being completely heartless they were ever willing to get into mischief, to mince the truth, vilify and malign others; for this was the only profession they knew for achieving wealth and fame.
The result was that the peasants rose into revolt in many places, bandits started breaking into the houses of nobles to prey upon their property and to abduct their womenfolk. Gangsters took over the possession of landed estates and gradually the agricultural holdings became depopulated since the new owners knew nothing about the cultivation of land.”
Ancient Iran had always had a strange proclivity to sub-scribe to the extremist calls and radical movements since it has ever been under the influence of irreconcilable political and religious concepts. It has often been swinging, as if by action and reaction, between epicureanism and strict celibacy; and, at others, either yielded passively to despotic feudalism and king-ship and preposterous priesthood, or drifted to the other extreme of unruly and licentious communism; but has always missed that moderate, poised and even temper which is so vital for a healthy and wholesome society.
Towards the end of the Sasaniyan Empire, during the sixth century, all civil and military power was concentrated in the hands of the Emperors who were alienated from the people by an impassable barrier. They regarded themselves as the descendants of celestial gods; Khosrau Parviz or Chosroes II had lavished upon himself this grandoise surname: “The immortal soul among the gods and Peerless God among human beings; Glorious is whose name; Dawning with the sunrise and Light of the dark-eyed night."
The entire wealth of the country and its resources belonged to the Emperor. The kings, grandees and nobles were obsessed with amassing wealth and treasure, costly gems and curios; they were inter-ested only in raising their own standard of living and luxuriat-ing in mirth and merriment to an extent that it is now difficult for us to understand their craze for fun and festivity. He can alone visualize their dizzy rounds of riotous living who has studied the history, literature and poetry of ancient Iran and is also well informed about the splendour of Ctesiphon, Aiwan-i-Kisra and Bahar-i-Kisra, tiara of the emperors, the awe-striking court ceremonials, the number of queens and concubines, slaves, cooks and bearers, pet birds and beasts owned by the emperors and their trainers and all. The life of ease and comfort led by the kings and nobles of persia can be judged from the way Yazdagird III fled from Ctesiphon after its capture by the Arabs. He had with him, during his flight, one thousand cooks, one thousand singers and musicians, and one thousands trainers of leopards and a thousand attendants of eagles besides innumerable parasites and hangers-on but the Emperor still felt miser-able for not having enough of them to enliven his drooping spir-its.
The common people were, on the other hand, extremely poor and in great distress. The uncertainty of the tariff on which each man had to pay various taxes gave a pretext to the collec-tors of taxes for exorbitant exactions. Impressed labour, burden-some levies and conscription in the army as footmen, without the inducement of pay or any other reward, had compelled a large number of peasants to give up their fields and take refuge in the service of temples or monasteries. In their bloody wars with the Byzantines, which seemed to be never ending and without any interest or profit to the common man, the Persian kings had been plying their subjects as common fodder.
The remarkable achievement of ancient India in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, medicine and philosophy had earned her a lasting fame, but the historians are agreed that the era of her social, moral and religious degradation commenced from the opening decades of the sixth century. For shameless and revolting acts of sexual wantonness were consecrated by religion and even the temples had degenerated into cesspools of corruption. Woman had lost her honour and respect in the society and so had the values attached to her chastity. It was not unoften that the husband losing in a game of chance dealt out even his wife. The honour of the family, especially in higher classes claiming a noble descent, demanded that the widow should burn herself alive with the funeral pyre of her dead husband. The custom, upheld by society as the supreme act of fealty on the part of a widow to her late husband, was so deeprooted that it could be completely suppressed only after the establishment of British rule in India.
India left behind her neighbours, or, rather every other country of the world, in a legacy involving an inflexible and callously inhuman stratification of its society based on social inequality. This system which excluded the original inhabitants of the coun-try as exteriors or outcastes, was formulated to ensure the superiority of conquering Aryans and was invested with an aura of Divine origin by the Brahmins. It canalized every aspect of the people’s daily life according to heredity and occupation of different classes and was backed by religious and social laws set forth by the religious teachers and legislators. Its comprehen-sive code of life was applicable to the entire society, dividing it into four distinct classes:
1. The Brahmins or priests enjoying the monopoly of performing religious rites;
2. The Kshatriyas or nobles and warriors supposed to govern the country;
3. The Vaisyas or merchants, peasants and artisans; and
4. The Sudras or the non-Aryans serfs meant to serve the first three castes.
The Sudras or the dasas meaning slaves (forming a majority in the population), believed to have been born from the feet of Brahma, formed the most degraded class which had sunk socially to the lowest level. Nothing was more honourable for a Sudra, ac-cording to the Manu Shastra, than the Brahmins and other higher castes.
The social laws accorded the Brahmin class distinctive privileges and an honoured place in society. “A Brahimin who remembers the Rig Veda”, says the Manu Shastra, “is absolutely sinless, even if he debases all the three worlds.” Neither any tax could be imposed on a Brahmin, nor could he be executed for any crime. The Sudras, on the contrary, could never acquire any property, nor retain any assets. Not allowed to sit near a Brah-min or touch him, the Sudras were not permitted to read the sacred scriptures.
India was drying up and losing her vitality. Divided into numerous petty states, struggling for supremacy amongst them, the whole country had been given to lawlessness, maladministration and tyranny. The country had, furthermore, severed itself from the rest of the world and retired into her shell. Her fixed beliefs and the growing rigidity of her iniquitous social structure, norms, rites and customs had made her mind rigid and static. Its parochial outlook and prejudices of blood, race and colour car-ried within it the seeds of destruction. Vidya Dhar Mahajan, formerly Professor of History in the Punjab University College, writes about the state of affairs in India on the eve of Muslim conquest:
“The people of India were living in isolation from the rest of the world. They were so much contented with themselves that they did not bother about what was happening outside their frontiers. Their ignorance of the developments outside their country put them in a very weak position. It also created a sense of stagna-tion among them. There was decay on all sides. There was not much life in the literature of the period. Architecture, painting and fine arts were also adversely affected. Indian society had become static and the caste system had become very rigid. There was no remarriage of widows and restrictions with regard to food and drink became very rigid. The untouchables were forced to live outside the towns.”
The idea of virtue, of morals, was unknown to the ancient Bedouin. Extremely fond of wine and gambling, he was hardhearted enough to bury alive his own daughter. Pillage of caravans and cold-blooded murder for paltry gains were the typical methods to still the demands of the nomad. The Bedouin maiden, enjoyed no social status, could be bartered away like other exchangeable goods or cattle or be inherited by the deceased’s heir. There were certain foods reserved for men which could not be taken by women. A man could have as many wives as he liked and could dispose of his children if he had not enough means to provide for their sustenance.
The Bedouin was bound by unbreakable bonds of fidelity to his family, blood relations and, finally, to the tribe. Fights and forays were his sport and murder a trifling affair. A minor incident sometimes gave rise to a sanguine and long drawn warfare between two powerful tribes. Oftentimes these wars were prolonged to as many as forty years in which thousands of tribesmen came to a violent end.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages the torch of knowledge flickered dimly and all the literacy and artistic achievements of the classical past seemed destined to be lost for ever under the young and vigorous Germanic races which had risen to political power in the northern and western parts of Europe. The new rulers found neither pleasure nor honour in the philosophy, literature and arts of the nations outside their frontiers and appeared to be as filthy as their minds were filled with super-stition. Their monks and clergymen, passing their lives in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of their delirious brains, were abhorrent to the company of human beings. They still debated the point whether a woman had the soul of a human being or of a beast, or was she blest with a finite or infinite spirit. She could neither acquire nor inherit any property nor had the right to sell or transfer the same.
Robert Briffault writes in the Making of Humanity:
“From the fifth to the tenth century Europe lay sunk in a night of barbarism which grew darker and darker. It was a barbarism far more awful and horrible than that of the primitive savage, for it was the decomposing body of what had once been a great civiliza-tion. The features and impress of that civilization were all but completely effaced. Where its development had been fullest, e.g., in Italy and Gaul, all was ruin, squalor and dissolution.”
The era of darkness and depression
The sixth century in which the Prophet of Islam was born was, to be brief, the darkest era of history: it was the most depressing period in which crestfallen humanity had abandoned all hopes of its revival and renaissance. This is the conclusion drawn by noted historian, H.G.Wells, who recapitulates the condi-tion of the world at the time when the Sasanid and Byzantine Empires had worn themselves out to a death-like weariness:
“Science and Political Philosophy seemed dead now in both these warring and decaying Empires. The last philosophers of Athens, until their suppression, preserved the texts of the great litera-ture of the past with an infinite reverence and want of under-standing. But there remained no class of men in the world, no free gentlemen with bold and independent habits of thought, to carry on the tradition of frank statement and enquiry embodied in these writings. The social and political chaos accounts largely for the disappearance of this class, but there was also another reason why the human intelligence was sterile and feverish during this age. In both Persia and Byzantine it was an age of intoler-ance. Both Empires were religious empires in a new way, in a way that greatly hampered the free activities of the human mind.”
The same writer, after describing the events leading to the onslaught of the Sasanids on Byzantine and eventual victory of the latter throws light on the depth of social and moral degrada-tion to which both these great nations had fallen, in these words:
“A prophetic amateur of history surveying the world in the open-ing of the seventh century might have concluded very reasonably that it was only a question of a few centuries before the whole of Europe and Asia fell under Mongolian domination. There were no signs of order or union in Western Europe, and the Byzantine and Persian Empires were manifestly bent upon a mutual destruction. India also was divided and wasted.”
World wide chaos
To be brief, the entire human race seemed to have betaken itself to the steep and shortest route to self-destruction. Man had forgotten his Master, and had thus become oblivious of his own self, his future and his destiny. He had lost the sense to draw a distinction between vice and virtue, good and bad; it seemed as if something had slipped through his mind and heart, but he did not know what it was. He had neither any interest nor time to apply his mind to the questions like faith and hereafter. He had his hands too full to spare even a moment for what consti-tuted the nourishment of his inner self and the spirit, ultimate redemption or deliverance from sin, service to humanity and restoration of his own moral health. This was the time when not a single man could be found in the whole country who seemed to be anxious about his faith, who worshipped the One and only Lord of the world without associating partners to Him or who appeared to be sincerely worried about the darkening in the world, so graphi-cally depicted by God in the Qur’an Shareef:
“Corruption doth appear on land and sea because of (the evil) which men’s hands have done, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return.”
Why was Arabia selected for the Quranic revelation
In the previous lines we have seen the religio-political condition of the world in the sixth century C.E. when the Qur’an was about to dawn. We have seen the Roman and Persian empires were far more advanced in education, culture and civilization and Arabs were living a very primitive way of ignorant life, cut off from the powerful and advanced neighboring empires. Under such circumstances why Allah Ta'ala chose these bedouin tribesmen as the first addressed people of the Qur’an Shareef is most beautifully discussed by Hadhrat Maulana Abul Hassan Ali Nadwi, I thought it better to quote it in his words only---
It was the will of Allah Ta'ala that the glorious sun of the humanity’s guidance, which was to illuminate, the world without end, should rise from the orb of Arabia. For it was the darkest corner of this terrestrial globe, it needed the most radiant daystar to dispel the gloom setting on it.
Allah Ta'ala had chosen the Arabs as the standard-bearers of Islam for propagating its message to the four corners of the world, since these guileless people were simple-hearted, nothing was inscribed on the tablets of their mind and heart, nothing so deep-engraven as to present any difficulty in sweeping the slate clean of every impression. The Romans and the Iranians and the Indians, instinctly thrilled by the glory of their ancient arts and their literatures, philosophies, cultures and civilizations were all crushed by the heavy burden of the past, that is, a conditional reflex of touch-me-notism had got itself indelibly etched in their minds. The imprints in the memory of the Arabs were lightly impressed merely because of their rawness and ignorance or rather their nomadic life, and thus these were liable to be obliterated easily and replaced by new inscriptions. They were,in modern phraseology, suffering from unperceptiveness which could readily be remedied while other civilized nations, having vivid pictures of the past filled in their minds, were haunted by an obsessive irrationality which could never be dismissed from their thoughts.
The Arabs, simple minded and straight forward, possessed the iron will. If they failed to entertain a belief, they had no hesitation in taking up the sword to fight against it; but if they were convinced of the truth of an idea, they stayed with it through fire and water and were ever prepared to lay down their lives for it.
It was this psyche of the Arab mind which had found expres-sion through Suhayl b. Amr while the armistice of Hudaybia was being written. The document began with the words: “This is what Muhammad, the Apostle of the Allah has agreed”. Suhayl promptly raised the objection, “ By Allah, If I witnessed that you were Allah’s Apostle I would not have excluded you from the House of Allah Ta'ala and fought you”. Again, it was the same Arab turn of mind which is reflected in the summons of Ikrama b. Abu Jahl. Pressed hard by the assailing charge of Byzantine forces he cried out, “What a dolt you are! I have wielded the sword against the Apostle of Allah Ta'ala. Will I turn my back upon you ?” Thereafter he called his comrades, “ Is there any one to take the pledge of the death on my hands?” Several persons immediately offered themselves and fought valiantly until they were all maimed and came to a heroic end.
The Arabs were frank and unassuming, practical and sober, industrious, venturesome and plain-spoken. They were neither double-dealers nor liked to be caught in a trap. Like a people true-souled, they were always out-spoken and remained firm once they had taken a decision. An incident, occurring before the Hijrah of the Prophet, on the occasion of the second pledge of 'Aqaba, typically illustrates the character of the Arabs.
Ibn Is’haq relates that when Aus and Khazraj plighted their faith to the Prophet at 'Aqaba’ 'Abbas b. Ubada of Khazraj said to the People, “ O men of Khazraj, do you realise to what you are committing yourselves in pledging your support to the Prophet? It is to war against one and all. If you think that in case you lose your property and your nobles are killed you will give him up to his enemies, then do so now; for, by Allah, it will bring you shame in this world and the next. But if you have decided that you will be true to your words if your property is destroyed and your nobles are killed, then pledge yourselves; for, by Allah, it will bring you profit and success in this world and the next. The Khazraj replied: “ We will pledge our support even if we lose our property and our leaders are killed; but, O Apostle of Allah, what will we get in return for redeeming our pledge?” “Paradise” , said the Prophet in the reply. Thereupon they said, “ Stretch forth your hand”; and when the Prophet did so, they took their Oath.”
And, in the truth and reality, the Ansar lived up to their word of honour. The reply given to the Prophet on a subsequent occasion by Sa’d b. Mu’aadh perfectly expressed their feelings. Sa’d had said to the Prophet(SAW),
“By Allah, if you continue your march and get as far as Bark Al-Ghimad, we would accompany you and if you were to cross this sea, we would plunge into it with you.
“My Lord, this occasion has interrupted my march although I wanted to go ahead and proclaim Thy name in all the lands and seas”
These were the words uttered despairingly by Uqbah b. Nafi on reaching the shore of Atlantic ocean. What Uqba said on finding his victorious advance blocked by the ocean speaks volumes of seriousness, absolute trust and iron will of the Arabs in accom-plishing the task considered truthful by them.
The Greeks, Byzantines and the Iranians were peoples of a different mettle. Accustomed to improving the shining hour as god-sent opportunity, they lacked the grit to fight against the injustice and brutality. No ideal, no principle was attractive enough for them: no conviction or call was sufficiently potent to tug at their heartstrings in a way that they could imperil their comfort and pleasure.
Unspoiled by the nicety, polish and ostentatiousness usually produced by the display of wealth and luxury of an advanced culture, the Arabs had not developed that fastidiousness that hardens the heart and ossifies the brain, allows no emotions to catch the flames and always act as an inhibition when one’s faith or conviction demands stirring of the blood. This is the listless apathy which is hardly ever erased from one’s heart.
Candidly honest and true souled, the Arabs had no taste for intrigue and duplicity. They were courageous, intrepid fighters accustomed to a simple and hard life filled with dangers and spent most of their time riding on horse-back across the water-less desert. These were the rules of iron essential for a nation required to accomplish a great task, especially in an age when adventure and enterprise were the laws of Medes and Persians.
The common ignorance of the Arabs, exempted from the shame or reproach it involves, had helped to conserve the natural briskness and intellectual energy of these people. Being strangers to Philosophism and sophistry, ratiocination and lame and impotent quibbling, they had preserved their soundness of the mind, dispatch, resoluteness and fervidness of spirit.
The perpetual independence of Arabia from the yoke of invaders had made the Arabs free as birds; they enjoyed the benefits of human equality and beauty of living nature; and were not ac-quainted with the pomp or majesty or haughty demeanour of the emperors. The servile temperature of the ancient Persia had, contrarily, exalted the sascinian monarchies to supernatural be-ings. If any king took a medicine or was given phlebotomy, a proclamation was made in the capital that all and sundry suspend their trades and business on that day. If the king sneezed, nobody durst raise his voice to say grace, nor was anybody expected to say ‘Ameen’ when a king set up a prayer. The day any king paid a visit to any noble or chief was regarded an event so memorable that the alienated family of fortunate grandee instituted a new calendar from that day. It was an honour singular that the gran-dee was exempted from payment of taxes for a fixed period be-sides enjoying other rewards, fiefs and robes of honour.
We can imagine what a state audience of the king must have been like for those who were allowed to appear before him. By etiquette, all the courtiers, even the highest nobles and digni-taries, were required to stand silently with their hands folded on the navel, and their heads bowed in reverence. Actually, this was the ceremonial etiquette prescribed for the state audience during the reign of Chosroes I (531-579), known as Anuushirvan (of the immortal soul) and Adil (the just). One can very well visualize the pompous ceremonials in vogue during the reign of Sasanid kings justly reputed as tyrants and despots.
Freedom of speech and expression (and not censure or criticism, in the least) was a luxury never indulged in by anyone in the vast kingdom of the Sasanids. Christensen has related, on the authority of Tabrri, a story about Chosroes I, passing under the name of ‘The Just’ among the Sasanid kings, which demonstrates the freedom of expression allowed by the Iranian kings and the price paid for the impudence of speaking out the truth.
“He assembled his council and ordered the secretary for taxes to read aloud the new rates of collection. When the secretary had announced the rates, Chosroes I asked twice whether anyone had any objection to the new arrangement. Everybody remained silent but on the third time of asking, a man stood up and asked respectfully whether the king had meant to establish a tax for perpetuity on things perishable, which, as time went on, would lead to injustice. “Accursed and rash!” cried the king, “To what class do you belong?” “I am one of the secretaries”, replied the man. “Then”, ordered the king, “beat him to death with pen-cases”. Thereupon every secretary started beating him with his pen-case until the poor man died, and the beholders exclaimed: “O king, we find all the taxes you have levied upon us, just and fair!”
The horrible condition of the depressed classes in the then India, who were condemned as untouchables by the social and religious laws promulgated by the Aryans, baffles all human understanding. Subjected to a gruesome indignity, this unfortunate class of human beings was treated pretty much the same way as pet animals except that they resembled the species of man. According to this law, a Sudra who assaulted a Brahmin or attempted to do so, was to lose the limb with which the assault was made. The Sudra was forced to drink boiling oil if he made the pretentious claim of teaching somebody. The penalty for killing dogs, cats, frogs, chameleons, crows and owls was the same as that for killing the Sudras.
Unworthy treatment of their subjects by the Sasainan Emperors had not been the lot of the common man in Byzantium, but in their pride and policy to display the titles and attributes of their omnipotence, the Caesars of Rome had all the signs of their oriental counterparts.
Victor Chopart writes about the arbitrary rule and majesty of the Roman Emperors.
“The Caesars were gods, but not by heredity, and one who rose to power would become devine in his turn, and there was no mark by which he could be recognised in advance. The transmission of the title of Augustus was governed by no regular constitutional law; it was acquired by victory over rivals, and the Senate did no more than ratify the decision of arms. This ominous fact became apparent in the first century of the principate, which was merely a continuance of the military dictatorship.”
If we compare the servile submission of the common man of Byzantium and Persia with the spirit of freedom and pride, as well as the temperament and social conduct of the pre-Islamic Arabs, we would see the difference between the social life and natural propensities of the Arabs and other nations of the world.
“May you be safe from frailty”, and “Wish you a happy morning”, were some of the salutations very often used by the Arabs to hail their kings. So solicitous were they of preserving their dignity and pride, honour and freedom that many a time they even refused to satisfy the demands of their chiefs and rulers. A story preserved by Arab historians admirably describes the rudimentary Arab virtues of courage and outspokenness. An Arab king demanded a mare known as Sikab from its owner belonging to Bani Tamim. The man flatly refused the request and instantly indicted a poem of which the opening lines were:
Sikab is a nice mare, good as gold,
Too precious it is to be gifted or sold.
And, in the concluding verse he said:
To grab it from me, make no effort,
For I am competent to balk your attempt.
The virtues common to Arabs, men and women, were their overweening pride, loftiness of ambition, chivalrous bearing, magnanimous generosity and a wild, invigorating spirit of free-dom. We find all these features of Arab character depicted in the affair leading to the murder of ‘Amr b.Hind, the king of Hira. It is related that ‘Amr b. Hind once sent to ‘Amr b. Kulthum, the proud cavalier and noted poet of Banu Taghliv, inviting him to pay a visit to himself, and also to bring his mother, Layla bint Muhalhil, to visit his own mother. ‘Amr came to Hira from Jazira with some of his friends, and Layla came attended by a number of her women. Pavilions were erected between Hira and the Euphrates. In one of these pavilions ‘Amr b. Hind entertained ‘Amr b. Kulthum, while Layala found quarters with Hind in an adjoining tent. Now, ‘Amr b. Hind had already instructed his mother to dismiss the servants before calling for desert, and thus cause Layla to wait upon her. Accordingly, Hind sent off her servants at the appointed moment and asked her guest, “O Layla, hand me that dish.” Layla felt insulted and exclaimed in shame, “Let those who want anything, fetch it for themselves”. Hind insisted on her demand despite Layla’s refusal. At last Layla cried, “O shame! Help Tahglib, help!” ‘Amr b. Kulthum got his blood up on hearing his mother’s cry and seizing a word hanging on the wall, smote the king dead with a single blow. At the same time, the tribesmen of Banu Taghlib ransacked the tents and made rapid strides back of Jazira. ‘Amr b. Kulthum has narrated this story in an ode which is a fine illustration of the pre-Islamic ideal of chivalry. It was included in the Sab’a Mu’allaqat or the Seven Suspended Odes.
The same Arab tradition of democracy tempered by aristocracy is to be witnessed in the meeting between the Arab envoy, Mughira b. Shu’ba, and Rustam. He found the latter sitting on a throne. Mughira made his way direct to Rustam, as was an Arab’s wont, and sat down on the throne by the side of Rustam. Rustam’s courtiers, however, lost no time in getting Mughira down from the throne of their chief. There upon Mughira said, “We had heard that you are a sagacious people but now I see that none is more blockheaded than you. We Arabs treat everybody as an equal and enslave no man save on the battlefield. I had presumed that you would also be con-ducting yourselves similarly towards your own people. You should have better told us that you have exalted some amongst you as your gods; for, we would have then known that no dialogue was possible between us and you. In that case we would not have dealt with you in the way we have done, nor came to see you, although it was you who invited us here.”
There was yet another reason for the advent of the last Prophet(SAW) in Arabia and it was Ka’ba, the House of Allah Ta'ala, built by Abraham and Ismaiel as the centre for worship of one God.
“Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca, a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples.”
There is a mention of the valley of Baca in the Old Testa-ment. The old translators of the Bible gave this word the meaning of ‘a valley of weeping’, but better sense seems to have pre-vailed later on. According to more recent versions of the Biblical schol-ars, the word ‘signifies rather any valley lacking water’, and ‘the Psalmist apparently has in mind a particular valley whose natural condition let him to adopt that name.Now, this water-less valley, which can easily be identified with the valley of Makkah, has been thus mentioned in the Book of Psalms.
“Blessed are they that dwell in thy house;
they will still be praising thee. Salah.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
Who passing through the valley of Beca make it a well.”
The birth of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the city of Makkah was really an answer to the prayer sent up by Abraham and Ismaiel (AS) while laying the foundation of Ka’ba. They had beseeched Allah Ta'ala in these words:
Our Lord! And raise up in their midst a messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Thy revelations, and shall instruct them in the Scripture and in wisdom and shall make them grow. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Mighty, Wise.
A standing norm of Allah Almighty is that He always answers the prayers of those who are pious and devoted and pure in heart. The Apostle of Allah (SAW)occupy, without doubt, a higher place than the most devout and the godliest believers. All the earlier scriptures and prophecies bear witness to this fact. Even the Old Testament testifies that the supplication of Abraham (AS) in regard to Ismaiel met the approval of the Lord. The Book of Genisis says:
“And as for Ish’ma-el, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceeding-ly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.”
That is why the Prophet (SAW) is reported to have said: “I am the (result of the) prayer of Abraham and prophecy of Jesus”. The Old Testament still contains, not withstanding its numerous recensions and alteration, the evidence that this prayer of Abraham (AS) was answered by Allah Ta'ala. Mark the very clear reference in the Book of Deuteronomy to the advent of a prophet.
“Thy Lord thy Allah will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.”
Now, this being a prognosis by Moses (AS), “thy brethren” clearly indicates that the prophet promised by Allah Ta'ala was to be raised from amongst the Ishmaelites who were the cousins of Israelites. Allah Ta'ala again reiterates His promise in the same Book:
“And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him”.
The words ‘put my words in his mouth’ occurring in this oracle very clearly indicate the advent of the Prophet who was to recite and deliver to his people the Divine revelation exactly as he received them. This prediction has been substantiated by the the Qur’an Shareef also.
“Nor doth he speak of (his own) desire.”
Again, the Qur’an Shareef says about the revelation vouchsafed to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW):
"Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it. (It is) a revelation from the Wise, the Owner of Praise."
But, quite unlike the Qur'an Shareef, both the Bible and its followers ascribe the autorship of the `Books' included in the Bible to the `ancient sages' and the `great teachers' and never to the Divine Author Himself. Modern Biblical scholars have reached the conclusion that:
"Ancient Jewish traditions attributed the authorship of the Pentateuch (with the exceptions of the last eight verses describ-ing Moses death) to Moses himself. But the many inconsistencies and seeming contradictions contained in it attracted the atten-tion of the Rabbis, who exercised their ingenuity in reconciling them.”
As for the ‘books’ for part of the new testament, they have never been treated, either literally or in the contents to be of Divine origin.These books really contain a biographical account and ancedotes of Jesus, as narrated by the later scribes, rather than a Book of revelation sent unto the Master.
We now come to the geographical position of Arabia, which, being connected by land and sea routes with the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, occupied the most suitable place for being chosen as the center of enlightenment for radiating Divine guidance and knowledge to the entire world. All the three conti-nents had been cradles of great civilizations and powerful empires, while Arabia lay in the center through which passed the merchandise of all the countries, far and near, affording an opportunity to different nations for exchange of thoughts and ideas. Two great empires, Sasanid and Byzantine, on either side of the Arabian peninsula, governed the history of the world. Both were large, rich and powerful, and both fought each other constantly; yes, Arabia jealously guarded her indepen-dence and neither allowed either of two powers to lay its hands on it, barring a few territories lying on its frontiers. Except-ing a few peripheral tribes, the Arab of the desert was extreme-ly sensitive to his regal dignity and untrammeled freedom, and he never allowed any despot to hold him in bondage. Such a country, unimpeded by political and social constraints, was ideally suited to become the nucleus of the Universal message preaching human equality, liberty and dignity.
For all these reasons Allah Ta'ala had selected Arabia, and the city of Makkah within it, for the advent of the Prophet (SAW) to whom Divine scripture was to be sent for the last time to pave the way for proclamation of PEACE throughout the length and breadth of the world from age to age.
“Allah knoweth best with whom to place His message.”
Arabia's Era of Depression
For their manly qualities of head and heart, the Arabs deserved, or, were rather the only people entitled to the honour of the advent of the last Prophet of Allah (SAW) amongst them and to be made responsible for propagation of the message of Islam. But, in no part of the peninsula was there any indication of an awak-ening or a vexation of spirit showing the sign of life left in the Arabs. There were scarcely a few Hanif (true religion of Ibrahim (AS)), who could be counted on one’s fingers, feeling their way towards monotheism but they were no more than the glow worms in a dark and chilly rainy night incapable of showing the path of righteousness to anybody or providing warmth to one being frozen to death.
This was an era of darkness and depression in the history of Arabia- a period of darkest gloom when the country had reached the rock-bottom of its putrified decadence, leaving no hope of any reform or improvement. The shape of things in Arabia presented a task far more formidable and baffling than ever faced by any messenger of Allah.
Sir William Muir, a biographer of the Prophet (SAW), who is ever willing to find fault with the Prophet and cast reflection upon him, has vividly depicted the state of affairs in Arabia before the birth of Muhammad (SAW) which discred-its the view held by certain European orientalists that Arabia was fermenting for a change and looking forward to a man of genius who could respond to it better than another. Says Sir William Muir: “ During the youth of Muhammad, this aspect of the peninsula was strongly conservative; perhaps it was never at any period more hopeless.”
Reviewing the feeble stir created by Christianity and Judaism in the dark and deep ocean of Arabia paganism, Sir William Muir remarks,
“In fine, viewed thus in religious aspect, the surface of Arabia had been now and then gently rippled by the feeble efforts of Christianity; the sterner influence of Judaism had been occasionally visible in the deeper and more troubled cur-rents; but the tide of indigenous idolatry and of Ishmaelite superstition, setting from every quarter with an unbroken and unebbing surge towards the Ka’aba, gave ample evidence that the faith and worship of Makkah held the Arab mind in a thralldom, rigorous and undisputed”.
R. Bosworth Smith is another European Biographer of the Prophet (SAW) who has also reached the same conclusion.
“One of the most philosophical of historians has remarked that all the revolutions which have had a permanent influence upon the civil history of mankind, none could so little be antic-ipated by human prudence as that effect by the religion of Ara-bia. And at first sight it must be confessed that the science of history, if indeed there be such a science, is at loss to find the sequence of cause and effect which it is the object and the test of all history, which is worthy of name, to trace it.”
Need of a new Prophet
The old world was completely disarranged by the middle of the sixth century and man had fallen to such a depth of depravity that no reformer, revivalist or religious preacher could have hoped to put a new life in the humanity worn to its bones. The problem was not to fight any particular heresy or to reshape a given mode of Divine service, no the question was how to curb the social evils of any society; for, there has never been any dearth of social reformers and religious preachers in any age or place. How to clear the contaminating debris of idolatry and fetishism, superstition and paganism, piling up from generation to generation during the past hundreds of years over the true teachings of the prophets sent by Allah Ta'ala, was, indeed a task, exceedingly toilsome and unwieldy. It was a Herculean task to make a clean sweep of this wreckage and then raise a new edifice on the foundations of piety and godliness. In short, the question was how to remake man who could think and feel differ-ently from his predecessors as a changed man, re-born or brought back to life again.
“Is he who was dead and we have raised him unto life, and set for him a light wherein he walketh among men, as him whose similitude is in utter darkness whence he cannot emerge?”
In order to solve the problem of man once for all, it was necessary to root out paganism so completely that no trace of it was left in his heart, and to plant the sapling of monotheism so deeply that it should be difficult to conceive of a more secure foundation. It meant to create a penchant for seeking the pleas-ure of Allah Ta'ala and humbling oneself before Him, to bring into existence the longing to serve humanity, to generate the will to keep always to the right path and to sow the seeds of that moral courage which restrains all evil passions and desires. The whole problem, in a nutshell, was how to rescue humanity, that too willing to commit suicide, into making a firm endeavour which makes a begining in the form of a virtuous life, like that of an elect and godly soul, and then leads on to the paradise promised by Allah Ta'ala to those who are Allah Ta'ala fearing and just.
Advent of the holy Prophet (SAW) was thus the greatest Divine blessing on mankind; that is why it has been so elegantly clothed in words by the Writ of Allah Ta'ala.
"And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate. And remember Allah's favour unto you: How ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace; and (how) ye were upon the brink of an abyss of fire, and He did save you from it. Thus Allah maketh clear His revelations unto you, that haply ye may be guided."
No task more delicate and baffling and no charge more onerous and gigantic than that entrusted to Muhammad (SAW), the Apostle of Allah Ta'ala, was imposed on any man since the birth of man on this planet. And never has a man accom-plished such a huge and lasting revolution as the Last Prophet(SAW) for he has guided millions of men of many nationalities to the path of justice, truth and virtue by putting a new life in humanity at the throes of death in the sixth century. It was the greatest marvel of human history, the greatest miracle the world has ever witnessed. The well-known French poet and litterateur, Lamartine, bears witness to the grand accomplishment of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in a language of incomparable elegance and facility.
“Never has a man set for himself, voluntarily or involuntar-ily, a more sublime aim, since this aim was superhuman; to sub-vert superstitions which had been interposed between man and his Creator, to render Allah unto man and man unto Allah; to restore the rational and sacred idea of divinity amidst the chaos of the material and disfigured gods of idolatry, then existing. Never has a man undertaken a work so far beyond human power with so feeble means, for he had in the conception as well as in the execution of such a great design no other instrument than him-self, and no other aid, except a handful of men living in a corner of the desert.”
Lamartine goes on further to enumerate the achievements of the Great Prophet(SAW):
“...And more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the reli-gions, the ideas, the belief and the souls. On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become Law, he created a spiritu-al nationality which blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. He has left us as the indelible characteristic of this Muslim nationality, the hatred of false gods and the passion for the One and Immaterial Allah. This avenging patriotism against the profanation of Heaven formed the virtue of the fol-lowers of Muhammad; the conquest of the one-third of the earth to his dogma was his miracle; or rather it was not the miracle of a man but that of reason. The idea of the unity of Allah, proclaimed amidst the exhaustion of fabulous theogonies, was itself such a miracle that upon its utterance from his lips it destroyed all the ancient temples of idols and set on fire one third of the world.”
This universal and enduring revolution whose objective was the rejuvenation of humanity or re-building of the world anew, de-manded a new prophethood surpassing the apostleship of the old, for the new prophet had to hold aloft the banner of Divine guidance and righteousness for all times to come. Allah Ta'ala has Himself explained the reason for it.
“Those who disbelieve among the people of the scripture and idolaters could not have left off (erring) till the clear proof came unto them,
“A message from Allah, reading purified pages containing correct scriptures.”
DARUL ULOOM ILAHIYAH
INSTITUTE OF ISLAMIC RESEARCH
ILAHI BAGH, BUCHPORA, SRINAGAR, 190011, KASHMIR, INDIA