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Essay No. 6 in a series of essays on Community
For more info contact: [email protected]

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): our Prophet and Messenger
Jan 2006

By: Saif Manzoor

Historians from every generation have written extensively on the life of
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These biographies, written with different
perspectives in different times, places and languages, cover every aspect of
Prophet’s life including his personal life as a husband or a father, his
strategies as a leader, his battles as a military commander, his achievements
as a reformer and most important his legacy as a Prophet.

Therefore, we find it challenging to write anything new, which adds to our
knowledge, on the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). We fully understand
that it requires more than a three page essay[i].

However, in this essay, to express our deepest respect and affection to our
Prophet (PBUH), we have selected three significant achievements, out of
many, relating to three different aspects of his life: as a reformer he abolished
female infanticide in Arabia; as a strategist he planned and achieved a
peaceful surrender of Mecca; and as a leader he laid the foundation of a
community which grew and prospered long after him.

The Reformer

Female infanticide[ii] is a horrible practice, which was very common at the
turn of 7th century in the misogynistic[iii] culture of pre-Islamic Arabia. It was
an old custom among Arabs to kill a certain number of female children. As a
reformer Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) eradicated female infanticide in Arabia
of his times.  

Historians and Anthropologists have given many underlying reasons for this
gruesome practice. The primary reason for infanticide is thought to be
economic, as a family was not prepared to support girls who were an
economic liability in their culture. But there is evidence of such practices
equally among rich and poor families; therefore, there may be other reasons
for this practice.

Another reason which is put forward was to balance the ratio of women and
men. Men in Arabia faced more dangers than women did. The traditional male
role took its toll in lives, in wars and revenge killings. As a result, adult women
would have outnumbered men substantially, without killing the female baby.
Historians also put forward a third reason that, in a patri-lineal[iv] system, it
was both a matter of pride and economic success to have more sons and
therefore, the baby girls were killed.

Because of these reasons, the female child was often buried alive. Quran
mentions about this practice in chapter 81[v] and denounces the practice as
a great sin, and exhorts men to trust in God to provide the need of their
children[vi].

Prophet (PBUH) himself had four daughters and could very well understand
the horror and ugliness of this practice. Even before God commanded him to
be a Prophet he never believed or practiced such acts. From the beginning of
his vocation as a Prophet he denounced this practice. Female infanticide was
eradicated when the Islamic community was established in Medina and as
more tribes and people joined them, this practice vanished in the optimistic
political and economic situation of Al-Islam[vii].

The Strategist

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers were forced to migrate from
Mecca in 622 A.D after their life became impossible, due to the genocidal
hatred of Quraish towards them. They immigrated to Medina, a small town,
and founded a Muslim community. At that time who could speculate that
within eight years the same immigrants will enter the city as victors?

Mecca was very important to Muslim community both as a strategic city and
also because it housed Kabba, the spiritual and geographical center of Islam.
Therefore, from the day one, reconciling with Mecca and bringing them within
the folds of Muslim community was the long-term strategy of Prophet
Muhammad (PBUH). Thus began a eighth years long war of attrition, which
saw changing fortunes, battles, treasons and treaties all ending with the,
almost, peaceful surrender of the establishment of Mecca to the Muslim
Community.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) knew as a strategist that the strength of Mecca
lay in their caravan trade via the Syrian route and their ability in making
alliances or confederacy with Arab tribes by using their statesmanship and
money. On the other hand, their weakness lay in the malaise of their times i.e.
their vices and too much reliance on money.

At the beginning the Muslim community was severely deficient in resources
and no match to the prosperity of Mecca, but their strength lay in their
solidarity and the message which was offering a new social and political deal
to the whole Arabia by giving them an opportunity to unify above the tribal and
clan identities.

After Prophet was given the permission in Quran to retaliate, to those who
expelled them from their homes, he embarked on a strategy of diminishing
the strengths of Mecca by blocking their caravans, propagating the message
of Muslim community by inviting Arab tribes near Medina to join the
community and bolstering the image of Muslim community by showing that
they can challenge Mecca. This strategy not only weakened Mecca
economically as their Syrian trade came to a halt but it also frustrated
establishment of Mecca so much that eventually they capitulated and
surrendered to Muslim community of Medina.

The Community Leader

At the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the political system revolved
around the tribe, which was essentially based on blood-kinship, or
confederation of tribes against common enemies. Membership of a tribe was
necessary for security of life and property, since unprotected groups of
individuals were completely at the mercy of enemies. In return for such
security the tribe demanded supreme loyalty.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) founded a community, which was beyond the
boundaries of tribal kinship. It was based on an ideology and for this
community God said that we have perfected the God’s chosen system for you.
As the leader of this community he set the example for all the aspects of life
within the community. This aspect of his life is one of the greatest legacies he
has left behind.

Conclusion

Few people in human history are successful as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in
both secular and religious terms. As the head of a state or the Muslim
community he left behind a system, which not only prospered after him but
expanded at a rapid pace. And as a Prophet he left behind a book which still
kindles the light of God in the heart of the believers.

Notes & References
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[i] Therefore, to cover this subject in more detail, we will shortly begin a
series of essays.

[ii] It is the practice of intentionally causing the death of a female infant. This
practice is still performed in ignorant societies in different parts of the world.

[iii] Misogyny is an exaggerated aversion towards women. Compared with
anti-woman sexism, misogyny is usually regarded as directed against women
by some men, though women can also harbor misogynistic views. In feminist
theory, misogyny is recognized as a political ideology similar to racism or anti-
Semitism, existing to justify and reproduce the subordination of women by
men. The etymology of misogyny comes from the Greek and means to hate
(misein) woman (gyne).

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogynistic

[iv] Based on or tracing descent through the male line.

[v] And when the female (infant) buried alive shall be questioned. For what sin
she was killed? [81:8-9]

[vi] [7:31] And kill not your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them
and for you. Surely, the killing of them is a great sin. [6:137-140] Indeed lost
are they who killed their children, from folly, without knowledge.

[vii] Muhammad (PBUH) at Medina, by W. Montgomery Watt, page 270-271.
Do you have any comments?

Asad Khan, U.S

This is a very relevant essay to show the world who was our Prophet (s.a). The
recent controversy with the cartoons demand that Muslims highlight the life and
achievements of their messenger. Thanks.
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