This Book was written by Moulvi Ali Mehdanvi (1874-1955) in the 1940s against a backdrop of the turbulence that preceded the partition of India. He reminds his readers that nothing should away them away from humanism which is the keystone of religiosity.
Dr. Farhat Nasreenis an associate Professor of History at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Her Published monographs on the Revolt of 1857 and Biodiversity are entitled Kashful Baghaavat Gorakhpur - Unveiling of the revolt at gorakhpur and Biodiversity and Indian culture respectively.
The following narrative sheds a fresh and welcome light on every facet of the life and achievements of
Mohammad, the Final Prophet of Islam, in his quest to
propagate Islam. It traces his career from the time of his birth to the point of his being at the zenith of his
mission as a religious leader. It tells of his becoming an
orphan at an early age, then losing one cherished
guardian after another, his becoming a trader and then
marrying Khadija, a rich business woman of whose
mercantile caravans he had been placed in charge. The
period of his prophet hood, which began at the age of
forty, and the course of his hard-won progress in
propagating monotheism in the face of extreme adversity are dealt with in painstaking detail.
On the basis of thorough-going research, each significant event is faithfully chronicled against the backdrop of 6th and 7th century tribal Arabia, where polytheism was the order of the day and society was vitiated by the unchecked licentiousness and dishonest practices of city and desert dwellers alike.
The author attributes the Prophet's phenomenal success in spreading the word of Allah, in circumstances which remained unpropitious for the greater part of his life, to his unwavering determination to establish belief in and worship of the One God as the only possible way of life. This determination stemmed from his unshakable
belief in the rectitude of his mission, the purity and
nobility of his character and, ultimately, from his own
faith in Allah. The author gives many insightful instances of how the Prophet's great personal charisma, frequently Khuluq Azeem aided by divine intervention, played a crucial role in his success in persuading even his direst enemies to
enter the fold of Islam and in his ability to inspire
recent converts, by his own example, to adhere staunchly to their new faith in the face of severe societal persecution.
The author's observations about how the Prophet and
his companions survived the vicissitudes of tribal
ostracism, enforced migrations and the ensuing great
personal sacrifice and material deprivation are aptly
illustrated by judiciously chosen quotations from the
Quran and Hadith.
One of the most important points stressed by the author is the universality of the Prophet's message of divine truth. It not only made its impact upon his immediate environs, but, thanks to his own efforts and those of his companions, it also spread far and wide beyond the borders of Arabia to become a major world religion.
By the pen, and that they write! By the grace of your Lord, you are not a mad man. Most surely, you will have a never ending reward. For you are truly of a sublime character (Khuluq Azeem), Soon you will see, as will they, which of you is a prey to madness. Your Lord knows best who has fallen by the wayside, and who has remained on the true path. Do not
give into the deniers of truth. They want you to make concessions to them and then they will reciprocate. Do not yield to any contemptible swearer of oaths, or to any defamer or one who spreads slander, or to one who places obstacles in the way of good being done or to the wicked transgressor, who is ignoble and besides all that, base- born; just because he has wealth
and sons, when Our revelations are recited to him, he says, 'These are just ancient fables.' Soon We will brand him on the nose.
Quran 68: 1-16
The above cited surah (chapter of the Quran) is entitled, 'The Pen'. It was revealed at Macca and is one of the relatively early surahs of the Quran, in terms of revelation; however, being at number sixty eight in the text, it is situated towards its end. It came at a time when the opponents of Muhammad had become openly contemptuous of him; they called him insane and ridiculed what he preached. The tide of antagonism was at a high.
The surah opens with the mysterious letter Nun, whose exact meaning could not be deciphered by anyone, some dare say; not even by the Prophet, but God knows best. In a way it symbolizes the limitations of human knowledge and the resultant necessity of faith. Faith cannot be rationalized with a magical quickness that the hubristic humans often demand. Swearing by the Pen in the inceptive lines emphasizes the importance of acquisition of knowledge but
the preceding mysterious Nun has already humbled
knowledge before faith. It is interesting to note that
Muhammad's ultimate victory which is being prophesized here would have seemed improbable to a contemporary disbeliever but disbelief was falsified by future events.
However till such time that those events unfolded the
believers were to wait with unflinching faith, patience and humility. For those who have witnessed the veracity of this forecast from a distance in time, the truth of Quran is clearly manifest and the surah is a reminder to submit fully to God's designs and to have faith in Him; have faith in His promise, justice, mercy, kindness and oneness. In a broader sense it
comprises of three themes. The first lines address the
Prophet; reassure him of his correctness, augment his self - confidence and reply to his enemies. They remind him to remain steadfast in his mission and not to make any compromises in faith and reassure that those who think that Muhammad's words are some piece of fiction or fancy will indeed be punished. In the second part people are warned by the example of conceited men who thought that they could harvest their orchard without the will and blessings of the Almighty. This section warns disbelievers that the punishment which may befall them in this world, which itself would seem like a huge loss to them, would indeed be nothing in comparison to what sentence awaits the transgressors in the other world.
The third section promises paradise to believers and
reasserts monotheism as a fundamental principle of Islam. God says that He is alone enough to deal with those who reject this message and that their sequential undoing is a thing that He would certainly engineer. The spirit of the surah preaches the Prophet to be patient, and promises that despite the spells of evil eye and accusations that 'He is certainly mad', in the end the wrongdoers shall be ruined. The surah earnestly advices people to be heedful of the
message being delivered by Muhammad.
Verse four of this chapter which says that: For you
(Muhammad) are truly of a sublime character (Khuluq Azeem), is also translated as: Surely thou (Muhammad) art upon a mighty morality or as: And surely thou (Muhammad) hast sublime morals or as: And verily, you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character. At the level of linguistics and diction, the verse is rather simple. These lines are sharply focused on the personal moral and religious attributes of Muhammad, who is the addressee here and it
therefore seemed likely that others would not feature at all in its interpretation, but interpreters have established a link of lessons between God and the commonest of believers through it. Therefore the words Khuluq Azeem and personality of Muhammad for whom they were used, have become a cardinal scale to weigh morality of men.
The words Khuluq Azeem are sometimes understood to imply all aspects of conduct based on the Quran and sometimes as kind and generous nature, sometimes beautiful character and etiquette and are sometimes glossed even as Islam itself. In Al Tabari's commentary, the discussion focuses mainly on Muhammad's personal morality and attributes. He says: And the Most High says to his Prophet 'You are 0 Muhammad indeed on a great level of character and that is the character of the Quran with which you were taught by Allah' i.e. Islam and its laws. The Prophet was stationed so favourably in the eyes of Allah because of the internalization of Quranic ideals in his mind
as well as body.
Ibn Hisham recorded that when Aisha was asked to share something about the character of the Prophet, she said that 'his character was the Quran and it is mentioned so therein, had the one making this enquiry not read it?' Ibn Kathir comments that the Prophet submitted to all the commands of Allah; be they concessions or prohibitions. He was quick and final in his disassociation with polytheistic beliefs; he was firm in honoring commitments and agreements and
was kind and gentle with everyone in everyday transactions. His patience was rock solid. He not only conveyed His message in the face of grave opposition but actually lived by the instructions of Allah, to the last word; literally.
Khuluq implies the etiquettes which a person acquires due to his own efforts and he follows them with such conviction that he becomes a personification of those mannerisms and morality. Thus khuluq differs from al-khiyaam which implies something that is inborn, because khuluq can be cultivated with conscious, determined and sincere efforts; irrespective
of anyone's predisposition towards righteousness. Imam Abu'l Qasim al -Junaid said that khuluq implicates being a strong adherent of Islam and therefore having qualities like, sense of justice, strength to forgive, generosity, humility,
confidence, modesty, self-control, dignity, truthfulness,
kindness, bravery and patience etc. According to him
Muhammad's morality was called mighty because he
focused exclusively on Allah; notwithstanding his presence in a world which has an innate quality of being overtly material.
Al Waasiti rationalizes that Muhammad had forsaken
everything that eyes could see or the mind could imagine, in exchange for proximity to God and thus his morality becomes incomparable. He realized that it is only and only the Creator who is important, the created people and things are not worthy of devotion. Most of the interpretations of Khuluq Azeem, be they traditional or non-traditional, have been Muhammad centric in nature.
Al Tha'labi adduces an anonymous exegetic who states that Muhammad's morality was described as mighty because he embodied in himself the noblest of attributes; Makaarim al Akhlaaq. The phrase Makaarim al Akhlaaq meaning noblest of moral attributes, resonates an old Arab classification. It is so believed that Arabs, even in times of rampant paganism acknowledged that there is a perfect moral code which should ideally be followed. As the Quranic laws unfolded, the natural moral code which the Arab
culture was distantly coherent with; corresponded perfectly with the Islamic moral code. Muhammad, it is believed by the Muslims, was the super perfection of this moral code. Al Tha'labi cites a hadis (sayings of the Prophet) that Muhammad had himself said that he was sent as Prophet to complete or perfect the noblest of moral attributes. Another hadis is cited to the effect that Muhammad was a moral reformist. In this light Tha'labi overemphasizes the linguistic similarity between Khuluq Azeem and Makaarim al Akhlaaq and interprets that Muhammad was sent to
complete the natural moral code. Al Tha'labi cites yet
another tradition in which Muhammad says that God
Himself has been his mentor in moral matters. This
establishes the link of tutorship, in which God taught
Muhammad good behavior and he in turn was to teach it to others. The secret of this progression is contained in just two words spoken for Muhammad. He cites yet another hadis in which Muhammad said that a believer can attain the rank of a sincere worshipper of Allah by good moral behavior (husn khuluqih) in everyday transactions. The one who displays excellent etiquettes towards all, at all times is as good as someone who worships Allah day and night, fasts regularly and fulfills all the rituals associated with faith. He claims that Muhammad had said that on the Day of Judgment the weight of good moral conduct will play a substantial role in determining a soul's allotment to hell or heaven. He had urged believers to cultivate good moral conduct because it is crucial for attaining eternal and success. Al Tha’labi concludes his commentary by quoting another hadis which states that morally upright individuals are the most beloved of God, they are people who are humble in demeanor and amicable; while the most hated are the ones who spread rumors, sow dissent among believers and find faults where there are none. Thus Al Tha’labi declares on the basis of the above cited saying of Muhammad that Muslims are supposed to emulate his exquisite mannerisms and that the moral character believers is extremely vital for Islam. With this the words Khulaq Azeem, used for Muhammad per se become an ideal for all believers, and place an unmistakable emphasis on observance of supreme morality in every way; every day.
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