Saturday, April 14, 2012

Muhammad and The Birth of New Era (4/4)

In Part 3, we have seen that the Arabs and Arabia, and more specifically the Quraysh in Makkah, were chosen to carry out the Final Message of Allah because of the covenant between Allah and Abraham.  God had sent many prophets and messengers to every nation, but Abraham was singularly favored because of his status as the khalil or the beloved of Allah.  The first fulfillment of this covenant was through his second son Isaac, and the second and last fulfillment was through his first born, Ishmael.  

To carry out the final and last message, a special type of people with special character was chosen.  In the 6th century, none was more suitable than the sons of the desert, the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula.  In spite of the apparent negative qualities as we have described in Part 3, upon closer examination, the Arabs had what it takes to be the leading nation to carry out the final message. 

Firstly, because their nature blended well with the message to be carried out. 

Islam is not a complex philosophical thought, but a comprehensive and yet a simple way of life.  Its teachings are meant to be simple for anyone to understand and to practice in their daily lives.  It is not merely food for thought, but a guide for people to lead their lives.  It is not a technology to be mastered and perfected, but a way of life to live with and die by.  

While it has spiritual element, the connection is only as far as to establish the relationship with the unseen world, the world of ghaib.  It accepts the spiritual domain, but it does not regard everything as spiritual or mystical. 

In short, it is a simple and clear way of life with a simple and clear belief system, meant to be understood and practiced by everyone.  It does not take a philosopher, a mystic, or a spiritualist to understand Islam, although it has ample room for people of these inclinations. 

Given what Islam is, and against the backdrop of the 6th century, no nation was more suitable to carry out and spread this message than the Arabs.  

The Greeks and the Romans would be ill suited for the job, for they were too philosophical in their outlook.  They had turned the simple teaching of Jesus into a complex philosophical treatise.  The simple Oneness of God, for instance, had been turned into a complex trinitarian abyss that no one can understand properly.  This can be attested from the saying of St. Augustine: “Anyone who denies Trinity is in danger of losing her salvation, but anyone who tries to understand it is in danger of losing her mind.”  

Neither the mystical world of the Persian would do the job, for while there is a room for mysticism in Islam, it does not treat everything in a mystical way.  The high spirituality of India, together with their pantheistic outlook, was also ill suited to carry the simple and clear message of oneness of God.  Nor would the Confucian ethics of the Chinese, which was devoid of clear deity.  

These people of high culture and great civilization did not have the required simplicity to carry out the simple message.  

On the other hand, the natives of the American continent, or the Turkish people in the Central Asia, or the people in the South East Asia, were filled with superstitions.  They too were unsuited to be the bearer of the new religion.  

All else considered, the only people left to carry out this simple message was the simple sons of the desert, the Arabs of Arabian Peninsula.

Secondly, the new message had to be carried by people who would spring to action without too much deliberation.  It had to be carried by people who were independent minded, aggressive and did not fear death.  

The Arabs in the 6th century had these qualities.  They were simple minded but not stupid; they were aggressive and passionate, yet can be very kind; they valued freedom greatly but were obedience to their leaders.   And they would spring to action at the slightest provocation.  Slight insult on the honor of their tribe was enough to start a war.  

They were simple minded folks who would not question too much.  Although most of them did not embrace the new religion as soon as it come, and in fact fought it tooth and nail, but once they embraced it, they held it like no one would.  

Thirdly, the Arabs were proud people who had not been masters at the world stage.  Their lives had been confined only in their desert.  They did not look beyond their tribes.  

While they did not fear the great Roman and Persian empires, and refused to be made the vassal to either of these empires, they had no interest to confront these empires either.   In fact, before Islam came, they had nothing to offer to these two empires.  So long as the Romans and the Persians left them to mind their own business, the sons of the desert were happy.  

But once the purpose—the new religion—was given to them, the Romans and the Persians were no longer great in their eyes.  Rather, the Arabs looked at these people as the targets to spread their message.  With the new found way of life, they crushed the mighty Persian Empire and decimated the great Byzantium Empire in a matter of only a few years.  

Fourthly, Islam had special connection with them.  It was not a new faith to the Arabs.  It was the faith of their forefather, Abraham.    When Muhammad came, it was only presented in the new mould to suit for their time.  

They were made to recall that the Kaabah, which was built two thousand five hundred years ago, was meant to be the center of worship of the One God.  The time was not yet ripe 2,500 years ago, but by the 6th century, the world was ready.  Islam was nothing but a continuation of what their forefather had been preaching.  

Thus, the simple minded but not simpleton Arabs, once seized and absorbed with the new faith, the simple way of life, were given the new meaning in their lives.  Refusing to be the slaves of any nation, but embraced the notion of being the slaves of Allah, they went spreading the new message with the zeal not seen before.  

While God had put the foundation two thousand five hundred years before, it was only by the 6th century that the world was ready for the last message.   The world by then was sophisticated and modern enough for the last and final prophet to be sent.  And the message—revealed as Quran, and exemplified in real life through the Sunnah or the Way of the Prophet—was ready to be preserved in the memory of people as well as written in books.  

While the Arabs were mostly illiterate at that time, writing was common to some of them, and their language had reached the level of sophistication required.  Muhammad had more than enough companions to record whatever message was revealed.  Some of his companions preserved it in their memory.

To sum up, Arabia was chosen because it was untainted with complex philosophical thinking.  If Islam was sent to China, India, Persia and Rome, it would have been  shot down by philosophical debates and thus would not see the light of the day.  It would also not be put into action because these people had been “civilized”  and had led sedentary lives.   

That philosophical debate was to come a century and a half later, when the Muslims had copied the Greek philosophy as well the literature of other nations.  By then, however, Islam was ready to face all these philosophies, beliefs, cultures, technologies, etc., because the new religion was already well established. 

The absorption of these philosophies and literature had ushered in the new era in knowledge and learning.  Islamic cities throughout the vast region became the centers for learning.  Baghdad was bigger and more illustrious than Athens, while Cordova was more illustrious than Alexandria.  

But by then, the Arabs had lost their vitality.  They too had been sanitized by philosophy and by civilized, sedentary lives.  After dominating the world for about three centuries, they were reduced to mere figureheads.   The Abbasid caliphs were powerful only for the first one hundred years or so.  After that, they were forced to share their power with their subjects, whom they made wazirs or prime ministers.  Another hundred years or so, they were no more than puppets.  The center of power had shifted to the Persian and Turkic people.  

But in the 6th century CE, the Arabs were ready for Islam, and Islam was ready for the world.  The Arabs had all the qualities to carry this last message in its pristine simplicity, and the world was sophisticated enough to preserve this message for eternity.  With the advent of Islam, the revelation ceased to be sent, for the chain of prophethood had been completed.  There is no more need for the new prophet after Muhammad, upon him be peace, was sent.  

No comments:

Post a Comment