Complete certainty in His Belief and Message
The first thing that stands out about the Messenger(SAW) of Allah(SWT) is the total certainty that he had in the truth of his message; his faith in Allah(SWT) and in the fact that he himself was Allah(SWT)’s Messenger and had been sent to convey that message to all of mankind.
Picture the scene for yourself. Rasoolullah(SAW) climbed on the hill of As-Safa and called out, ‘Wa Subaha!’ People came rushing to him from the Haram and the market surrounding it, not only because this was the alarm call demanding that people leave everything else and attend to the emergency but also because it was Muhammad(SAW), As-Sadiq-ul-Ameen (The Truthful and Trustworthy – the title that the Quraysh gave to their favorite son) who was calling them. So if he called out, ‘Wa Subaha!’ it must be important. So they gathered around him at the base of As-Safa. Today when we go for Umrah and after completing Tawâf when we go to As-Safa for Sayii we need to stop and reflect on what this hill has seen. That this was the place where Rasoolullah(SAW) stood and announced to the world for the first time since Ibrahim(AS), the message of Tawheed.
Rasoolullah(SAW) said to them, “O people, if I told you that there is an army behind this hill would you believe me?” They said, “You have never lied to us and we will believe you.”
He(SAW) said, “I have come to warn you of a severe punishment (in the Hereafter, if you don’t leave polytheism and worship Allah(SWT)).”
Abu Lahab the closest relative of Muhammad(SAW) the Messenger of Allah(SWT), his father’s brother, spoke for many of them when he said, “Tabbal-laka saaral yawm a-li haatha jamaatana?” (May evil befall you for the rest of this day; is this why you gathered us here?) According to Abu Lahab talking about the Aakhira was a waste of time and he considered being called out of his shop a loss. Such people don’t mind spending time to talk about anything in the Duniya but not about salvation or the Aakhira. To this day, if you say that you are going to speak about how to make a million dollars, people will take time out and even pay money to listen to you. But if you say that you want to tell them how to escape the Fire and enter Paradise, they will accuse you of wasting their time.
Abu Lahab considered talking about the Aakhira a waste of time and he considered being called out of his shop a loss so he cursed his nephew. But his nephew was the Messenger(SAW) of Allah(SWT) and Allah(SWT) doesn’t like those who curse His Messengers. So Allah(SWT) said:
Perish the two hands of Abu Lahab and perish he! 2. His wealth and his children (etc.) will not benefit him! 3. He will be burnt in a Fire of blazing flames!
This Sura is one of the many proofs of the Divine origin of the Qur’an, for those who need proof, because it predicted that Abu Lahab would die without Islam.
All that Abu Lahab had to do to ‘prove’ the Qur’an wrong was to simply even pretend to accept Islam and thereby the prediction would have been proved wrong. But he didn’t and many years later he died without Islam of a horrible disease where his corpse was left rotting because people didn’t want to touch it to bury him. Eventually after three days, his sons using long poles, pushed his corpse into a pit and threw stones to fill the pit. So Abu Lahab was stoned by his own sons and will be in the Fire of Jahannam as Allah(SWT) promised.
The first leadership lesson we learn is that it is essential for the leader to have complete faith in himself; in his own vision, his strategy, his method and in the belief that anyone following him would certainly benefit from doing so. If the leader demonstrates the slightest doubt in his message, the power of his leadership will be seriously compromised. People follow leaders for many reasons – Some because they believe in the message, others because the leader is powerful, still others because of various affiliations with the leader.
If the leader remains firm on his path, then gradually his followership increases and the trickle becomes a flood. Remaining firm and unwavering is the single most important condition for this.
In his entire life of Prophethood of 23 years, there is not a single instance even in the worst of hardship that it could be said that the faith and certainty of Muhammad(SAW) in his message and responsibility wavered in the slightest. That in itself is a miracle and a proof of the Divine mission that he had been entrusted with. This faith, combined with the fact that Muhammad(SAW) was a man with noble qualities, widely known to be completely truthful and trustworthy, having beautiful manners, a flawless character, great wisdom, excellent judgment and great kindness made him highly credible. Many believed to begin with, not because they believed in the message but because they believed Muhammad(SAW) and believed that if he said it, then it must be the truth. The importance of the personal character of the Messenger is clear from this and cannot be overemphasized and can seriously support or compromise his message.
In today’s world where Islamic Da’awa organizations use all sorts of methodologies, some good, some bad in the name of inviting to Islam, it is good to remind ourselves of the Da’awa of the Anbiya and its special characteristics; that they did it for the pleasure of Allah(SWT) alone and didn’t seek any reward from the people, directly or indirectly.
Allah(SWT) said about His Anbiya:
They are those whom Allah had guided. So follow their guidance. Say: ‘No reward I ask of you for this (the Qur’an). It is only a reminder for the ‘Alamin.’
The Anbiya came to be followed and their way is the only way which is certified by Allah(SWT) and which Allah(SWT) taught them.
The Da’awa of the Anbiya is characterized by the following;
- Direct & clear, no compromise
- No convoluted complex philosophies
- Conscious of the power of Allah(SWT)
- Reliance only on Allah(SWT)
- Seeking no reward from the people
- Working only for Allah(SWT)’s pleasure
So what was the message?
1488 years ago a window opened in the heavens and Allah(SWT) spoke to man. Jibreel(AS) came to Muhammad(SAW) hugged him and commanded, ‘Iqra’ (read). Muhammad(SAW) replied, ‘I can’t read.’ This happened 3 times. Then Jibreel(AS) delivered the message that he had been sent with and recited the first Ayaat of Sura Al-Alaq; the very first set of Ayaat of the Qur’an to be revealed.
Read! In the Name of your Rabb, Who has created (all that exists) 2. Has created man from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood) 3. Read! And your Rabb is the Most Generous 4. Who has taught (the writing) by the pen 5. Has taught man that which he knew not.
Al-Alaq 96: 1-5
This was the first communication between the Creator of the Universe and His Messenger(SAW); sent with His other Messenger Jibreel(AS). It was a meeting of two different forms of creation from different dimensions. It was the first time that Muhammad(SAW) had experienced such a meeting and so naturally he was terrified.
Muhammad(SAW) went home to his wife Khadija (RA) in a high state of fear, shivering and said, ‘Zammilooni, Zammilooni’. (cover me with something). He was afraid that the one who he saw may have been a Jinn because he hated anything to do with Jinn or sorcerers. He explained to her what had happened to him and his fear that it would destroy him, but she said, ‘Allah(SWT) will not forsake you because you support the needy, you help the poor and you are generous towards guests.’
It is interesting that all the qualities she named were to do with treatment of people, with manners and kindness. This is something that we seem to have relegated to the back burner in our lives and that is the reason for our sad situation globally. We were sent to give to the world. The world loves those who give, those who are considerate and generous and hates those who are grasping, scheming and seeking to take from others. Need I go further for us to be able to look in the mirror to see what fits our image today? Rasoolullah(SAW) and his Sahaba set an example which is conspicuous by the fact that those who claim to follow them don’t practice their ways. So what is the meaning of ‘following’? We need to ask ourselves and correct our lives before it is too late and we are left standing alone before our Rabb with the Sahaba as witness against us.
When we look at great leaders in all times and especially at Rasoolullah(SAW) we see that the basic qualities of goodness, kindness, compassion, willingness to forgive transgressions against themselves, concern for others and the willingness to help, truthfulness, trustworthiness, generosity and the willingness to stand up for the weak and helpless; were all in the leader from the very beginning; long before he started to preach his message. It was these qualities that endeared him to people, inspired their respect and love and enhanced his credibility with them. From this it would be safe to say that these qualities are the basis of inspiring leadership.
These are the qualities which make the leader worthy of respect and of being followed. It is logical to say that people are not likely to follow someone they neither like nor respect. Anyone aspiring to lead must seriously examine his own character and assess where he or she stands with respect to these qualities and make every effort to bridge any gap because these qualities will decide his success or failure as a leader.
Muhammad(SAW) not only had these qualities at a level of excellence but he was iconic and seen as a role model in them. People gave him the title of As Sadiq-ul-Ameen (The Truthful and the Trustworthy). This was a very big honor for a young man in a tribal society where being trusted was a measure of his eminence. Muhammad(SAW) was trusted in full measure which gave him access to the councils of his elders and people looked up to him for advice.
We have become used to living in impersonal urban societies where our personal qualities at best affect our personal circle of friends and relatives. But in tribal societies a man’s success or failure was dependent on his reputation for being trustworthy. A man’s word was his honor and to be dishonored was a sentence of death. That is why to be called a liar was a killing matter because people dealt with you only if they saw you as being trustworthy. Business transactions often involving large sums of money were sealed between parties by word of mouth, only on each other’s promise to honor the deal.
There was no question of anyone reneging on the deal except the lowest of the low who would break a promise. Lying, cheating and breaking a promise were all serious crimes. Even before Islam the Arabs of Al-Hijaz lived by these noble rules even though as we have mentioned, their lives were immoral and cruel. It may sound strange to say that a man would not lie but wouldn’t hesitate to kill another man or to behave immorally but such dichotomy existed among the Native Americans and the people who first opened the American West for example, for the same reasons.
Muhammad(SAW) had all the noble qualities of his people without their weaknesses which enhanced his honorable status in their eyes. It is human nature to recognize your own weakness and to respect someone who does not have it. That is why the people of Makkah looked up to and loved Muhammad(SAW) very much and that is what his wife Khadija (RA) referred to in order to comfort him.
Khadija (RA) took him to her cousin, a Christian scholar and monk called Waraqa bin Naufal and he asked Rasoolullah(SAW) to explain what had happened. When he heard the story of the encounter – an encounter between two different beings in creation, between two different worlds across boundaries of time and space, he responded and said, “That was Al-Mamoos-al- Akbar – Greatest Angel – who descended on Musa. I wish I was young (so that I could help you) when your people drive you out of your land.”
Muhammad(SAW) was astonished and questioned the statement of Al Waraqa bin Naufal and asked, “Will they drive me out of my land?” He was surprised because he was the most beloved of people and from the most noble family and lived in a culture where it was impossible to drive anyone out of their land/tribe especially not someone like him with his lineage and ancestry. Yet here was Waraqa who was predicting that the same people who loved him more than anyone else would not only oppose him but would actually do the unimaginable in tribal Arab society, drive him out of his motherland. Waraqa said, ‘Anyone who presented the people with something similar to this was always driven from his land.’ This was the advantage of knowledge of history and the study of the scholar that he had perspective and could see the results of the action.
This is because the conflict of Da’awa is the conflict between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, between the Anbiya and Shaytaan. It is the original primordial conflict which will remain until the Last Day when Allah(SWT) will establish the Judgment and all debts will be paid. But in this life this struggle continues.
To this day we see the truth of these words, for nobody opposes the Muslim if he simply wants to practice his religion quietly. But the moment he brings it into the public space, either in the form of his dress (clothes, beard, turban, hijab) or in the form of Da’awa, opposition is swift and severe. Strange to see if one realizes that all that a person who is presenting Islam is doing, is to speak about an alternate way of being; one which will save the practitioner from the Hellfire and give him entry to Jannah.
For any leader this complete certainty is the single most critical requirement on which hinges his very credibility. One can only give what one has. So if the leader wishes to transfer his own passion into the hearts of his followers, his own belief can’t be shaky. The leader will be tested in his faith and must stand firm and demonstrate his total commitment until it becomes clear to all concerned. Then he will see the tide turn and people will be won over to his side, as happened in the case of Muhammad(SAW) as well. People listen with their eyes. They don’t care what you say until they see what you do. When they see the leader walking his own talk then they realize that he means business and will start to consider his message seriously. Then as they see the benefits that accrue, more and more start to follow him.
Rasoolullah(SAW)’s character was such that even his enemies had to acknowledge his truthfulness and sincerity. One of the most famous stories that illustrates this is about Abu Sufyan’s meeting with Heracles, the Byzantine Emperor. This was before Abu Sufyan became Muslim and was the leader of the opposition against Muhammad(SAW) and his most powerful enemy in Makkah.
In the period following the Treaty of Hudaibiya between the Quraysh of Makkah and Rasoolullah(SAW), he sent letters to the kings of neighboring countries inviting them to Islam.
Rasoolullah(SAW) said to the Sahaba, ‘I want to send some of you to foreign kings. Don’t dispute among yourselves about me as the Bani Israel disputed about Eesa son of Mary.’ They said, ‘Ya Rasoolullah(SAW), ‘We will never disagree about you over anything. Order us to go forth.’ To go to foreign kings, who for the most part were hostile, was no easy task. It was a journey fraught with danger but the spirit of the Sahaba was such that each one vied with the other for the honor of being selected as the Ambassador of Rasoolullah(SAW).
The second lesson we learn is that if the character of the leader is pure and he is sincere in his mission, then even his enemies will be forced to speak in his favor. This is very clearly visible in the life of Rasoolullah(SAW). Even those who try to malign him are reduced to making false allegations and slander because they can find nothing in his character which can be criticized. Their slander is clearly visible for what it is; frustrated anger that will not allow them to accept the truth.
On the other hand the vast majority in any situation which is primarily neutral watch and listen and gradually their hearts are drawn to the one who is noble and truthful. And gradually a following is created. However in the work of Islam we must never lose sight of the fact that in the end it is only the pleasure of Allah(SWT) that matters; not the number of followers or the extent of popularity. This is what happened in the case of
Rasoolullah(SAW) where in a period of 23 years he went from being the most hated to becoming the most beloved of people. But it took 23 years. Patience is not easy. But patience always pays.
References: Excerpt from Sheikh Mirza Yawar Baig Publications