In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
“Say: Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited for you: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty – We provide sustenance for you and for them; come not near to shameful sins, whether committed openly or secretly, and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause. This He has commanded you that you may understand. And come not near to the orphan’s property, except to improve it, until he (or she) attains the age of full maturity; and give full measure and full weight with justice. We burden not any person, but that which he can bear. And whenever you give your word, say the truth even if a near relative is concerned, and fulfil the Covenant of Allah, This He commands you, that you may remember.” (6:151-2)
A visitor to Mecca was warned not to listen to the words of Muhammad (peace be upon him), for they would enchant him. Being a man of reason, he ignored this ill advice and approached Muhammad in the Holy Mosque. Upon hearing the above words of the Holy Qur’an, he was immediately overcome by the realisation that these teachings would solve all the major problems within his own community. This man was a traveller from Medina, a city which was soon to become the new home of Muhammad (peace be upon him), and a place in which he established a community based on the above principles of Godliness, justice and compassion.
Muhammad was deputed by His Lord to teach mankind to worship none but God, and to associate no partners with Him, freeing them from the oppression of idolatry and the chains of superstition. He taught that a person ought only to submit to God; not to society, not to rulers, not to the majority; but only to God. He taught that absolute submission to God was absolute freedom.
In teaching freedom, he also taught us to avoid shameful sins. He urged us to be true to ourselves, our values and our ideals, rather than succumbing to sinful desires which were ultimately destructive. Once a person chooses the path of sin, they begin a journey of sometimes slow, but always inevitable, self-destruction.
Muhammad taught the sanctity of life. At a time when revenge and honour killings were widespread, and men and women were killed for petty reasons, Muhammad taught that a soul could not be killed except in the course of justice, although forgiveness was always best. At a time when new-borns were sometimes buried alive because their parents feared an inability to provide for them, Muhammad taught that God will provide, for parent and child. Today, in a world where lives are lost in frightening numbers in a matter of seconds every day, we must not forget the sanctity of life. Today, in a world where lives are terminated before they even leave the sanctuary of the mother’s womb, we must not forget the sanctity of life.
Muhammad taught justice and truth, the foundations of ethics and social conduct. He taught that “the heavens and the earth stand upright by justice”. He commanded that justice should be upheld and established at all times, that truth should be spoken, even if it harms our personal or family interests. He stated that “an hour of justice is better than seventy years of worship”. We all know well how injustice and lies, especially when committed by those in power, can destroy our world. Muhammad taught that adhering to these two simple principles, in the smallest and greatest of things, would help towards solving our family, social and global problems.
Muhammad was a teacher who practiced all this, always adhering to one consistent personal trait: that of compassion. If he did not see a friend for more than three days, he would call on him, if he crossed by a child, he would smile and initiate a greeting, if he sat with a group of companions, he would be sure to spread even his gaze among them equally, so that all felt respected and honoured. His community became accustomed to his compassion. A woman sent her son to ask Muhammad for charity, instructing him that if Muhammad, as was often the case, had nothing to give due to his own poverty, the boy should ask for the very shirt that Muhammad was wearing. True enough, Muhammad closed his door, removed his shirt, and passed it to the boy from behind his door. He was then confined to his house for days until he could afford a shirt again.
Another time, he sent Ali, his cousin, his only son-in-law and his closest companion and trustee, to buy him a shirt. Ali returned with a shirt that cost 12 dirhams. The Prophet wanted something less expensive, so he took Ali with him to the market. He exchanged the shirt for one that cost 4 dirhams, and he was walking back home with a spare 8 dirham. He soon met a poor man whose own shirt was tattered and ruined, so he gifted him 4 dirham to buy a shirt for himself. He then came across a young girl who was a maid working for a wealthy family. She was crying as she had lost the 4 dirhams she was given to buy groceries. He replaced her 4 dirham with the last of his money, but she continued to cry, saying that she had been sitting here crying for a long time, and she would be punished for being late. So he volunteered to accompany her home to ward off any punishment. He knocked on the door and greeted the owners of the house, thrice before any reply came. They, so honoured by his visit, did not punish the young girl, and in fact, freed her from her position altogether. When the Prophet asked why they waited for his third greeting to answer, they said: ‘we wanted to hear the sweetness of your voice thrice’.
The final act of Muhammad’s leadership, the final Mercy which he gifted to the world, was the appointment of Ali as his successor, a man from the same light as Muhammad, who upheld the principles of Muhammad, especially those of justice and truth. When Ali was given the chance to lead the Muslim community, he established social welfare, equality amongst people of different races, and complete accountability of the Muslim leadership. Ali became the Voice of Human Justice, and lived and died for truth and justice.