By Vanidas Elayavoor
(Elayavoor is a renowned Malyali writer. These excerpts are taken from his book ‘In Obeisance to Holy Qur’an: Towards Understanding Islam and Qur’an’ with publisher’s permission)
Individuals grow and sometimes become a ‘movement’ themselves. They represent the time and history of a nation. Referring to such people, Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Give the names of ten powerful personalities, and I will tell you the whole of human history, without ever studying. Tell me about the Prophet of Islam and I will tell you all about the Prophe tof Islam and the whole history of Islam. Present me with Napoleon, I will expound for you the whole history of modern Europe.” The leaders who lead and control the society are such great personalities who have become ‘movements’. The crowd is not the cardinal factor in social transformation. Significant are personalities, who act like ‘movements’. Of course people’s participation is significant. But it is just participation, not initiation. Initiation is made by great minds and great personalities. Political philosophers would say that real democracy is the system of government in which people’s participation is directly revealed. But the truth lies beyond it.
Great minds who work as dynamic forces can be classified into two. One, absolute individual minds. Sri Buddha belongs to this category. They try to transform society by means of wonderful philosophical acumen. For the purpose of transformation they disseminated spiritual thoughts and ideas. In the other category are others who possessed great personalities. Intelligentsia, pragmatists and the enlightened category of the people join and support them. Gradually their joint endeavour becomes a movement. They try for social change with the participation of the enlightened section of society.
Prophet Muhammad stands aloof from both these categories. He declares that he is only a guide and messenger of God. He said that he has been putting together the ideas of the prophets of the past and that he has nothing of his own to contribute. Prophet Muhammad, who is so humble, doubted whether people would listen to him and obey him. Allah repeatedly told him:
“You are only a messenger of God. Don’t forget it. Make people afraid of God and give them good tidings. You are not the one to cause a change. You are only a messenger.”
This voice has been a strange one in the world of the prophets. It is not the declaration of a surprising philosophical exposition that we have heard; it is a statement of a humble believer who wanted to convey the message of God, the Most Compassionate and Merciful. Muhammad was not educated. He was not even literate. He did not have any experience in establishing contacts with the experts in the fields of knowledge and science. Branches of knowledge such as anthropology, history and religious philosophies, etc. were unknown to him. He had to undergo a life full of hardships, sufferings and sorrows from the early days. He had no knowledge of philosophy, literature, history, ethics, etc. as it was not essential for the trade he was engaged in. However he had cared for the social affairs occasionally, especially after he attained adulthood.
It was true that after the attainment of prophethood, unbelievable changes were taking place in Muhammad.
He displayed unusual wisdom and incomparable maturity. He had the authority of a highly experienced exponent in the presence of those who desired to know more. He had deep and clear consciousness about this and the Other World. He stood strong in the forum of truth and righteousness. He, like the head of a family, could pour out love and goodwill to all. He, like a dedicated revolutionary, marched steadfast to his destination. He could establish himself as an authority in the areas of science and knowledge. He had strength to follow the religious observances, according to his ideology.
The manifestation of the integrated personality of Muhammad caused surprise in the minds of people around him. Actually it was out of the vacuum that they experienced the outgrowth of plenty-ness. They saw the blooming garden of spring in the wasteland. How could it happen? It was a universal surprise beyond rationalisation or logical thought.
He reminded his followers very often that he was only an ordinary man and not a superman. Therefore superhuman qualities should not be ascribed to him. There are evidences in the Qur’ān that when the prophet’s approaches and policies took a wrong turn or they appeared to be defective, the Qur’ān had stepped pointing them out, through revelations. Such revelations made it clear that the Prophet was an ordinary man and was subject to shortcomings and imperfections a human being is liable to and he was only a humble, obedient messenger of God.
Once, the Prophet was talking to a sworn enemy of Islam by name Abu Jahl, who usually found pleasure in cursing Islam. Just then, a true believer Adullah Ibnu Ummu Makhtum, who was blind, came to the Prophet. He was a dedicated and righteous person. The Prophet felt a little displeasure towards the blind man who had approached him for more details about the faith of Islam. And the thoughts that passed through the Prophet might have been like this – ‘I am speaking to a non-believer Abu Jahl. His arguments were strong and clever. If I do not rebut him, that would be interpreted as the weakness of the faith. Even exchanging polite words with Ibn Ummu Makhtum would be an interruption in the communication with Abu Jahl. It would be a great achievement for Islam, if Abu Jahl is convinced and converted. However Ibn Ummu Makthtum has become a true believer now. He need not show so much haste to know and learn more about Islam. He can approach me any time, later.’
Allah felt that the prophet’s thoughts and conclusions were not right. Immediately, therefore, there was a revelation to correct him.
The Prophet frowned and turned away because the blind man came to him rather interrupting him. But what could tell (you) that perhaps he might grow in purity or that he might receive admonition and the reminder might profit him. As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, to him you attend. Though it is no blame to you if he doesn’t grow in purity, But as to him who came to you striving earnestly, and with fear, to him you were unmindful. (80: 1-10)