Not willing to compromise his Message
Let us look at some of the options that were available to Rasoolullah(SAW) when he started preaching his message.
- He(SAW) could have accepted the kingship of Quraysh and then made changes.
- He(SAW) could have compromised and then tried to gradually make changes.
- He(SAW) could have addressed social evils and become a social reformer first to get some local support then he could have presented his theological message.
But he didn’t choose any of those options…No compromise. Instead he did what all Anbiya have always done – he proclaimed his message, directly, in so many words. This is one of the many proofs of Divine guidance and the best example of Tawakkul on Allah(SWT) because who other than the one who is being directed by Allah(SWT) can do what he did?
This unwillingness to compromise is the theme in his entire life.
He(SAW) didn’t accept the Islam of Banu Thaqeef of Ta’aif when they came with the condition that they would accept his Risala and pray but wouldn’t pay Zakat – even though he needed support very badly at that time. Some people advised him to soften his stance and said that he should accept the Islam of the Banu Thaqeef and that they would perhaps pay Zakat in due course. However Rasoolullah(SAW) refused to change his stance and said that the one who separates Salah from Zakat was not a Muslim. It was based on this ruling that Abu Bakr Siddique(RA) declared war on those who refused to pay Zakat after Rasoolullah(SAW) passed away. When he was asked how he could declare war on Muslims, he quoted the ruling of Rasoolullah(SAW) who said that the one who refused to pay Zakat was not a Muslim.
The greatest damage to a cause is done by those who, perhaps in a well-meaning way, soften stances regarding principles. When that happens the clarity of differentiation is lost and the message loses significance.
This stance of complete integrity stands out in the Da’awa of Muhammad(SAW) in that he was not willing to compromise his message, water it down or dilute it in any way to please anyone. This is one of the many proofs of the Divine nature of the message which naturally Muhammad(SAW) being the bearer of the message felt and knew that he had no authority to change.
There was huge moral and psychological pressure on him to accept at least in part, the religion of his polytheistic family and tribesmen and to go easy on them and their traditions and customs. He refused.
They tried every means of persuasion. As I’ve mentioned, they offered him gold, women, power and authority. They offered to make him their king. They threatened him with death. They even told him that they would be willing to worship his god one day if he would agree to worship their gods on the other day. They told him that they would accept his Message of monotheism if he would stop saying that polytheism and idol worship was wrong. Finally when his uncle Abu Talib who had given him his protection asked him directly, he replied, “My Uncle, even if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand, I will not give up this message that I have been charged with.”
Before I go further let me reflect on what we do today in the name of all sorts of apologetic stances in Islam where we are willing to bend over backwards, water down the message, allow all sorts of innovations into it and do anything but speak clearly and directly. Just ask yourself, ‘If Rasoolullah(SAW) were alive today and took the stance he took in Makkah, how many of us would be willing to stand by him? Today we are even afraid to follow his Sunnah and to be recognized as his followers. What a shame! May Allah(SWT) help us.
For a leader, the most critical thing is to differentiate from the rest on the basis of his message. If the leader compromises his message for the sake of popularity, material gain, followership or anything else, the uniqueness of the message will be lost and it will lose its value as a clear standard on which to model all actions. This is naturally not easy to do, as there are a lot of societal and other pressures to conform to existing norms, values and customs. To stand out as different, especially when this means to go directly against the existing system is not easy. But it is an essential criterion that distinguishes the leader.
Only a piece of cloth and if it is washed and is drying on a clothesline it has no special status. But when that same piece of cloth is raised on the flag pole and is unfurled and flaps in the breeze, people salute it. The flag has not changed its nature, but it has now differentiated on the basis of its nature. As long as it was one of the clothes on the line, it had no status. But once it stands out alone, clearly visible, a symbol of the identity of the state that it represents, it acquires respect and honor and is saluted.
For people to follow the leader, his identity, the goal he is leading towards and what the followers will gain as a result of following him, must all be clear, unambiguous and inspiring. A flag is a symbol but only when it is flying high.
When those who oppose Islam see that they can’t stop the Da’aee from preaching, they try to force him to water down the message to make it more ‘palatable’ to those who have the disease of hypocrisy in their hearts. People who have no intention of subjugating their desires to the orders of Allah(SWT) but who don’t mind pretending piety and agreeing to support the Messenger as long as he is willing to change or alter the message to suit their lifestyles and desires. This attitude of Fatwa shopping is visible today in the Muslims themselves where they go in search of those who are willing to twist the rules of the religion to permit them to indulge in their false desires. Such ‘Ulama’ are appreciated and rewarded. But those who have the integrity to admonish them and to speak the truth and forbid evil are maligned, persecuted and oppressed.
It is critical for the leader not to be seduced with the promise of followership and never to change, dilute or modify the message to suit anyone in the desire to get converts. The message distinguishes the leader. If he compromises that message then he has lost everything.
This is the biggest argument in favor of differentiation and against assimilation and losing one’s identity that I can place before you. Someone who does not have the confidence to differentiate and is content with being one sheep in a flock is completely unfit to be a leader. For people to follow the leader, his identity, what he stands for, the goal he is leading towards and what the followers will gain as a result of following him, must all be clear, unambiguous and inspiring. Being a leader means to take hard decisions and getting used to being lonely sometimes. The tiger walks alone. Sheep have lots of company.