Perfection in practice

[CONTENTS] The application of knowledge in practice is what makes a man attain the highest stage of certainty, for the truth of the certainty of a thing cannot be realized unless every side of it is put to a practical test. This is what happened in Islam. Whatever injunctions are contained in the Quran were beautifully illustrated in practice in the life of Prophet Muhammad and in the lives of his companions who were thus enlightened with true light. For the fulfillment of this purpose, the All-Knowing divided the life of our Prophet into two distinct periods: the period of sufferings, adversities and persecutions, and the period of triumph and prosperity. This was done in order to provide occasion for the display of both sorts of moral qualities: those which can be proved in time of suffering, and those which cannot be proved except in triumph and prosperity. In this way, he had all his moral qualities brought to the test of practice, and the two periods of his life enabled him to display them in the highest degree.

The thirteen years at Mecca represent the time of suffering, and a study of the life of Prophet Muhammad during that time shows clearly that there is not a single moral quality which could be manifested in suffering by the righteous that was not displayed by him. His complete trust in God, his refraining from showing the slightest impatience, his calm and serenity, his noble and dignified manner, his unshaken activity and zeal in the performance of the duties entrusted to him, his perseverance, his fearless courage, and numerous other moral qualities, so deeply impressed that even the unbelievers bore testimony to the great miracle of his perseverance under the hardest trials and sufferings and were ultimately convinced that all this was because of his perfect trust in the Supreme Being.

Then followed his life at Medina, a period of triumph, victory and prosperity, suited for the display of another division of moral qualities. His forgiveness, charity, sympathy, courage and other high moral qualities were so well displayed that a large number of the unbelievers embraced Islam. He freely forgave those who had persecuted and tortured him, extended shelter to those who had expelled him from Mecca, helped the poor among them, and showed kindness to his bitterest foes when their lives were completely at his mercy. The high morals thus displayed by Muhammad convinced the Arabs that their Prophet could not but be from God, and a truly righteous man. Their invertebrate hatred was by these noble morals at once converted into fast friendship.

One of these great and noble moral qualities is described in the following verse:

"Say: My prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are surely for Allah, the Lord of the worlds " - 6 : 163.

It should not be imagined that death in the way of God and for the good of mankind, here spoken of, means that the Prophet was under any delusion like ignorant and insane people that a suicidal end of his own life would, in any way, benefit others. Nay, he hated all such ideas and the Quran regarded those who entertain these notions as guilty of a serious crime:

"And cast not yourselves to perdition with your own hands and do good (to others)" - 2:195.

It is a plain truth that one man cannot relieve another of headache by breaking his own head.

Such a step is at the best an unwise act. In short, the reference to the Prophet's death in the way of God and for the benefit of mankind simply denotes that Muhammad (pbuh) had devoted his life to the service and welfare of mankind out of sympathy, and that with his prayers and preaching, and the adoption of every wise method for the regeneration of his people, as well as by bearing patiently their persecutions, he sacrificed his own life and all his comforts in this path. With reference to this sacrifice of his life, the Quran elsewhere says: 

"Perhaps thou (Muhammad) wilt kill thyself with grief because they believe not" - 26 3.

"So let not thy soul waste away in grief for them (Allah is Knower of what they do) " - 35 : 8.

The way in which a man may sacrifice his life for his people is to encounter all difficulties, and work hard for their welfare by adopting measures which are likely to better their condition.

It is mere folly to think that true sacrifices for a people, who are deeply immersed in sin or involved in error, consist in committing suicide. To regard this act of folly as leading to the salvation of those who have gone astray is the height of absurdity. It betrays, if not want of sense, at least a weakness of character and a lack of moral courage. It is a faint-hearted man who seeks shelter in death from the difficulties which he is unable to face. In whatever way may suicide be explained afterwards, it cannot be doubted that it is an act of folly resulting from weakness of mind.

In order to furnish a perfect example of high moral qualities, a man must pass through prosperity as well as adversity. If he is persecuted and subjected to sufferings and hardships, and has no occasion of wreaking his vengeance on his enemies, he cannot be said to possess the quality of forgiveness of injuries. What he would have done if he had the power to avenge himself on his enemies is impossible to ascertain. To know that a man possessed high moral qualities it is, therefore, not sufficient to know that he showed meekness and forbearance when he was powerless against his enemies and was persecuted by them, but also that he freely forgave those enemies when he was completely triumphant, and when they were completely at his mercy.

If he never went into the field of battle, his courage would be a moot point, and we could not say whether he would have shown martial daring or cowardice. If he never experienced affluence, it would be difficult to say whether he would have amassed riches or given them in charity. The grace of God granted the Prophet suitable opportunities for the display of all kinds of morals such as meekness, charity, courage, forgiveness, justice, etc., in a highly excellent degree which is without a parallel in history.*

* The error of the opponents of Islam lies in a misconception of the attributes of the Divine Being. They think that a revealed law should, on no account and under no circumstances whatsoever, enjoin a resistance of evil or the punishment of evil-doers, and that Divine love and mercy should not be manifested except in thc form of meekness. With them the most reverential attitude towards God consists in limiting His perfect attributes to humbleness and lowliness. This is a serious error. Anyone who can think for himself will see that the Divine laws of Nature, though they are a mercy for mankind, are not always manifested in a mild and gentle form. The Divine Physician out of His infinite mercy, gives us sometimes sweet syrup to drink and, out of His mercy too, administers a bitter dose on other occasions. Both are manifestations of His mercy. Thus it is His mercy which requires that the wicked should be destroyed when He sees that they aim at the extirpation of the righteous and act corruptly on the earth and shed innocent blood. For this purpose, He sends punishment upon the wicked either from earth or from heaven, for He is as Wise as He is Merciful.

It may be added here that it is a fact that forgiveness was not extended to the implacable foes of Islam who were bent upon the extirpation of Truth, and who ruthlessly massacred the innocent Muslims or put them to excruciating tortures and cruel persecutions. Pardon to such people would have meant the annihilation of the righteous believers. 

The object of the wars undertaken by the Muslims at the bidding of Prophet Muhammad was not to cause bloodshed. They had been expelled from their homes to seek shelter elsewhere and many innocent Muslims, men and women, had been murdered in cold blood. But their relentless persecutors had not stopped there. In obedience to the Divine commandment of self-defense, the sword was allowed to be taken up against those who had drawn the sword for the utter extirpation of Islam:

"Permission (to fight) is given to those on whom war is made, because they are oppressed. And surely Allah is able to assist them" - 22:39.

According to authentic reports, this is the earliest permission given to Muslims to fight. There is nothing to show that this verse was not revealed at Mecca. On the other hand, it was owing to this revelation that in the well-known oath of allegiance taken at Aqaba, Prophet Muhammad required a promise from the Medina deputation that they would defend him against his enemies just as they would defend their own children. The words in which the permission is granted show clearly that war was first made on the Muslims by their opponents; and secondly, that the Muslims had already suffered great oppressions at the hands of their persecutors - Publisher.

The object of these wars was, therefore, to remedy an evil by abating the bloodshed caused by the persecutors of the believers. Had the faithful Muslims not defended themselves under these circumstances against the outrages of their cruel persecutors, the result would have been the slaughter of more innocent lives, including women and children, and Islam would have been nipped in the bud.