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(This article is based on and adjusted from a Malay article by Muhammad Haniff Hassan and Sharifah Thuraiya S A Alhabshi, entitled “Kelompok radikal salah tafsir sifat nabi”, Berita Harian, 9 March 2009.)
By Ustaz Muhammad Haniff Hassan
Belief in Muhammad as the Final Prophet and Messenger of Allah is a fundamental pillar of faith in Islam.
However, the belief constitutes the command upon Muslims to take the Prophet as the role model in life, emulate him in every aspects of life and adhere to his commands as stipulated in the Qur’an, “Verily, in the Apostle of God you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe] to God and the Last Day, and remembers God unceasingly.” (The Qur’an, 33:21).
In this context, it is thus pertinent to ask; what is the most basic character of the Prophet that we are going to follow and recommend others to follow?
Every child would surely opt for a compassionate, loving and caring rather than one who is harsh and violent. This has become the universal dream of all children, regardless of their religion.
The role played by the Prophet in educating and bringing people to the right path is a parable of a father nurturing his children. The Qur’an states, “He it is who has sent unto the unlettered people an apostle from among themselves, to convey unto them His messages, and to cause them to grow in purity, and to impart unto them the divine writ as well as wisdom – whereas before that they were indeed, most obviously, lost in error.” (The Qur’an, 62:2)
We would as such love to have a compassionate and loving Prophet as much as we would yearn for the same attribute from our respective fathers. Portraying this kind of personality is a logical way of describing the beautiful nature of the Prophet’s character and personality.
Radical groups who wage attacks in the name of Islam are not excluded from the above stated disposition.
Ironically, while they yearn for a compassionate and loving father ever since they were young, these groups are more inclined towards a negative portrayal of the Prophet’s image i.e. fierce, harsh and violent – as depicted in some selected hadiths that they usually quote:
“I am sent with the sword when the Day of Resurrection is around the corner, until Allah alone is worshiped, and there is no partner for Him. My livelihood is under the shade of my spear, and he who disobeys my orders will be humiliated.” (Narrated by Ahmad)
“I am sent to slaughter (the non-believers).” (Narrated by Ahmad)
These hadiths are used in their propaganda to lure other Muslims to participate in their “jihad”.
In reality, these radical groups have given the Prophet the image of a father that is contrary to their own childhood desire.
This thus make them synonymous with those idolaters reproached by Allah for describing Him with something they hate most i.e. having daughters. This was mentioned by God in the Qur’an: “And [thus, too,] they ascribe daughters unto God, who is limitless in His glory – whereas for themselves [they would choose, if they could, only] what they desire.” (The Qur’an, 16:57).
Being too engrossed with the idea of “jihad”, the radical groups had actually dishonoured the Prophet.
They failed to understand those hadiths in the light of other hadiths and Qur’anic verses that portray the opposite of what they had described.
Examples of such verses are, when God says: “Indeed, there has come unto you [O mankind] an Apostle from among yourselves: heavily weighs -upon him [the thought] that you might suffer [in the life to come]; full of concern for you [is he, and] full of compassion and mercy towards the believers.” (The Qur’an, 9: 128).
In another verse, God says: “And it was by God’s grace that thou [O Prophet] didst deal gently with thy followers: for if thou hadst been harsh and hard of heart, they would indeed have broken away from thee. Pardon them, then, and pray that they be forgiven. And take counsel with them in all matters of public concern..” (The Qur’an, 3:159).
And in another verse: “And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds.” (The Qur’an, 21:107).
In a hadith, the Prophet has said: “The most beloved religion to Allah is the true (al-hanifiyah) and tolerant religion (al-samhah).” (Narrated by Ahmad)
Apart from these verses, history has shown the kind and tolerant behavior of the Prophet. Upon regaining the city of Mecca, the Prophet freed all dwellers whom before the conquest were his enemies, except a few individuals.
To them, the Prophet said, “O Quraish people, what do you think I will do to you?” They said, “We do not expect from you except a kind treatment.” The Messenger of God said, “I will say to you what Joseph had said to his brothers [who had tortured him]: “Let no reproach be on you this day” (The Qur’an, 12:92). Go! Surely, you are all free.” (Narrated by Al-Bayhaqi)
The problem of the radicals is that – they always ignore the comprehensive approach taken by Muslim scholars in elaborating the hadiths – by placing the hadiths into the context and taking other hadiths and Qur’anic verses into account.
Scholars are in the opinion that those hadiths portraying the Prophet as being fierce referred to his attitude towards hostile enemies that were waging war against him.
They were not at all general positions one should take towards all non-Muslims because such position does not complement the Qur’anic position towards non-Muslims such as the following verses;
“Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds-shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.” (The Qur’an, 2:62)
“[But] they are not all alike: among the followers of earlier revelation there are upright people, who recite God’s messages throughout the night, and prostrate themselves [before Him].” (The Qur’an, 3:113)
The supposedly harsh attitude highlighted does not describe the principal nature or personality of the Prophet. Rather, it was a reaction that took place in certain exceptional situations.
Many scholars have concluded that the wars waged by the Prophet during his lifetime were defensive wars. They were fought against the enemies who initiated the enmity towards the Prophet and his followers.
Advice for the Public
People should stay alert and vigilant lest they should get influenced with the propaganda of the radicals even though it is supported by verses form the Qur’an and hadiths.
If you read anything about Islam but it contradicts your humane nature (such as insulting, stigmatizing or justifying killing a fellow human being), then stay alert.
Abu Wabisah bin Ma’bad relates: I went to the Prophet and he asked me: “Have you come to inquire me after virtue?” I said: “Indeed”. He said: “Ask your heart. Virtue is that which satisfies the soul and comforts the heart; and sin is that which perturbs the soul and troubles the heart, even if people should pronounce it lawful and should seek your views on such matters.” (Narrated by Hasan and Al-Darimi)
If there are issues or information that go against your conscience but are supported with verses from the Quran or hadith, seek advice from the specialists. The Qur’an states, “If you do not know this, ask the followers of earlier revelation.” (The Qur’an, 21:7).
When we remove something out of its context, we are putting ourselves in the perils of misinterpretation which may cause us to accept anything even though it is contrary to our own humanly instincts and dispositions.
All the above reviews and tips will help us to restrain ourselves from being swayed with the views that depict our beloved Prophet as harsh and violent.
Muhammad Abd Al-Salam Faraj (2000), The Absent Obligation, Birmingham: Maktabah Al-Ansar, pp. 14-5. This book was written by a leader of the Egyptian Tanzim Al-Jihad who was responsible for the assassination of Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, in October 1981 and remains primary reference book for Muslim extremist and violent groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS today. The same view can be found in many other texts belong to Al-Qaeda and ISIS. See Dabiq, no. 3, pp. 29-30; Dabiq, no. 4, pp. 10-13; Dabiq, no. 5, p. 3; Dabiq, no. 7, 20-4; Dabiq, no. 9, pp. 46 and 52-3; Dabiq, no. 53; Inspire, no. 1, p. 5; Inspire, no. p. 55.
See also Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri (1996), The Sealed Nectar; Biography of the Noble Prophet, UK: Dar-us-Salam Publications, p. 396.