Some of the fears being expressed in the wake of the upset victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election may be exaggerated. But there is enough reason to worry over the rise of the far or hard right in the US and across Europe. A crude sort of nationalism to which US President Barack Obama made reference in his address to the Greek people on his final foreign trip on Nov. 15 is the main component of the far right’s philosophy. Another, equally worrying, is the opposition to immigrants that in some cases is Islamophobia in disguise. All of this has given a new dimension to the campaign of vilification against Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him) that has been going on for some time now in the West. There are also oblique references to Samuel Huntington’s discredited theory about the “clash of civilizations.”
The real problem, as I see it, is not a clash of civilizations but our ignorance of or indifference to civilizations other than our own. We, Muslims, are not entirely blameless on this score. We have not made serious or sustained efforts to explain to others what Islam and its Prophet (pbuh) stand for. Not many non-Muslims know how the Prophet (pbuh) welded warring Arabian tribes into a well-knit nation. He had no weapon other than a message of peace and brotherhood. How this was accomplished by a man of humble origins will continue to be one of the most fascinating episodes in human history.
Yes, he was born in a modest house in Makkah. The birth took place on Rabiul Awwal 12, on a Monday in the Year of the Elephant, which corresponds to 571 CE. Both his father, Abdullah Bin Abdul Muttalib, and mother, Amina Bint Wahab, were well-known people. The Prophet (pbuh) never knew his father, who had died in the months before his birth. It was left to his grandfather to name him Muhammad.
While we complain that non-Muslims do not know anything about Islam and its Prophet (pbuh), we have to ask whether enough Muslims know enough about Islam. Going by some of the things some of us do in the name of Islam, the answer, unfortunately, is in the negative.
So Muslims should make a serious effort to learn the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) and abide by the Holy Qur’an, which was revealed to him. They should emulate his behavior and realize the importance of tawhid (monotheism) with which he began his message, as shown in Allah’s direction in the Holy Qur’an: “Say (Muhammad), I pray unto Allah only, and I ascribe to Him no partner.” (Surah Al-Jinn 72:20).
Most important, we should take Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as our role model. We should follow his guidance in all things, large and small. Almighty Allah has blessed this Ummah by preserving the Sunnah and Sirah of His messenger. Despite the passage of time, both remain with us, unchanged. They provide a living example of the life of the Prophet (pbuh). They also instill love and respect for him in the hearts of Muslims. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an: “Indeed in the Messenger of Allah, you have a good example to follow.” (Surah Al-Ahzab: 33:21).
I began this article with a reference to the lurch toward the hard right and a nationalism narrowly defined by color, race, religion or culture in the West. This is happening when the world is passing through a very dangerous period. Wars, famine, hunger and disease are ravaging parts of the globe. Even in so-called advanced societies, life is far from trouble-free. We find violence in schools and on the streets, depression, poverty, dysfunctional families and a host of other problems that appear to be proliferating instead of showing any signs of abating.
To make matters worse, there is a crisis of identity in the Muslim world. While social problems are few thanks to our strong family values, there is a growing indifference to other challenges that confront us. Bigotry and intolerance are not confined to some parts of the world or to any particular sect. The same is true of extremism and obscurantism.
We are in the habit of blaming others for our ills and problems. As a people, we are not given to soul-searching or introspection. We have failed to question why we remain divided at home and despised abroad. We overlook the causes that have prompted our young to join the forces of evil. We gave power to self-appointed guardians of religion. We did not challenge them.
What have we done to alleviate our own suffering? We grovel in mortification and wallow in self-pity, unable to muster the courage to call a spade a spade and find solutions to our problems. We don’t have to follow others. The life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is before us — a guidance that, if only we follow it, will lift the veil of darkness engulfing us and lead us to safety.
Those of us who are in prominent positions in society should lead by example, for it would be disastrous if we ourselves lacked true awareness and piety.
If we love the Prophet (pbuh) and believe in his message, we have to follow him in everything we do and refrain from doing anything that would bring discredit to a great religion.
We must leave behind anything that is abominable — all that is indecent, whether in speech or in action. If an injustice is done to you, respond with a kind act by forgiving the one who wronged you. Do not take revenge; vengeance is the province of Allah. Free yourself by forgiving others and working to strengthen your relationships.
The Prophet (pbuh) has taught us how we should treat the less privileged among us. He never tired of urging us to help the weak, the needy and women. Work hard and share with other workers, even if your work is digging in the ground or removing rubble, and be happy in carrying out the tasks you are performing in order to show your humility.
Do not use abusive or rude language, even in jest. Do not direct evil deeds at any of your brothers or sisters. Let politeness and propriety in speech be your way of life. Be merciful to people and to animals. Be unafraid to speak the truth, even if it is against you.
This is what the Prophet (pbuh) taught us. Of all the prophets, there is none whose life has been as open to scrutiny as that of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
We owe it to ourselves to learn everything about him. Can there be a more ennobling experience than to follow the example of a man who was sent by God as an example for all of humanity?
There are enough sane people in the West to fight the forces of xenophobia and populism that are raising their ugly heads there. But we should make things easier for them by fighting such dangerous elements in our midst. Here again we have the example set by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).