Perhaps no historical character has been subjected to vile criticism, false accusations and fabricated assertions by his opponents than Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Yet no one has been the recipient of more profound and genuine love and respect than him.
Both love and hostility linger on, and are nurtured despite the fact that 14 centuries have passed since Muhammad had departed this world. Neither feeling would have lingered had Muhammad been an ordinary person, or had his contribution to human life been of temporary nature.
Today we see both feelings surfacing in different ways and shapes, in areas of our world that are wide apart, and among people of different races, cultures, beliefs and life perspectives. Books like Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, the Danish cartoons, as well as videos and websites dedicated to attack Islam and its Prophet are manifestations of the hostile trend. The large demonstrations that swept the Muslim world against such productions symbolize the deep seated love Muslims feel toward Muhammad, God’s last messenger.
Yet both types of manifestation are extreme, held by small sections of Muslims and non-Muslims. Before the beginning of the 21st century, the great majority of non-Muslims did not take much interest in Islam or its Prophet, despite sustained efforts, over the last third of the 20th century, to distort the image of Islam and to associate it with terrorism. On the other hand, most Muslims today follow the traditional way in their approach to their faith and to the man who delivered its divine message.
Extreme tendencies are hardly appropriate in any generation, let alone in our modern world with its easy and varied ways of communication. By nature, they remain confined within certain areas and among small communities. However, they sometimes acquire a self-energizing force that gives them speedily increasing momentum, and they can stage sweeping revolutions. The end result is almost always a negative one.
When we study the history of Islam and the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), we clearly see that his approach was a very moderate one, seeking to win hearts and influence minds and ways of thinking. He never promised anyone any type of material gain. He never sought to achieve supremacy for any class, race, tribe or community. Even the least privileged individual was, to him, a person who had every right to learn of God’s message and to make a choice whether to accept or reject it.
Muhammad’s community is described in the Qur’an as ‘the middle community’, to stress its central role in the life of humanity and its moderate approach. Yet Islam is uncompromising in establishing the truth and defending it. It accepts no injustice, no matter who is the perpetrator. It tells its followers that they must always maintain justice, even with their enemies: “Believers, be steadfast in your devotion to God, bearing witness to the truth in all equity. Never allow your hatred of any people to lead you away from justice. Be just, this is closer to righteousness.” (5: 8)
Steering away from all types of extremity, we will be publishing a series of articles that highlight the true character of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). We hope that this will help our non-Muslim readers to understand our view of him. It will also help Muslims to formulate a better understanding of God’s last messenger and why they should follow his guidance in all aspects of life.