Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

One of the qualities of the Prophet of Islam was his great vision, as a result of which he urged his followers to adopt a wise approach in all their dealings. A number of sayings on this subject have appeared in books of Hadith. The Prophet’s entire life was filled with examples of wisdom. While discharging his responsibilities, he adopted the way of wisdom on all occasions and at all stages. We continue to bring you examples from his life:

No Premature Action

After he received prophethood, the Prophet of Islam lived for thirteen years in Makkah where the majority of the Makkans opposed him, tormenting him in every possible way. Owing to his mission however, about two-hundred men and women accepted Islam. These Muslims would say to the Prophet again and again that they wanted to fight against this oppression. But the Prophet always exhorted them to exercise patience.

Despite injustice and oppression on the part of the enemy, the way of patience and avoidance of clashes should be adopted.

For instance, when Umar Farooq asked for the Prophet’s permission to fight against the oppression of the Quraysh, the latter replied:

O Umar, we are small in number. (Seerat Ibn Kathir, Vol. 1, p. 441)

During the last days in Makkah about two hundred people in Madinah embraced Islam. When these people learned that the Prophet and his companions were being targeted for oppression, they too asked for the Prophet’s permission to fight against the oppressors, but the Prophet gave them the same reply:

Show patience, for I have not been given permission to do battle. Despite being subjected to all kinds of injustice and oppression for a period of fifteen years, the Prophet unilaterally adopted the path of patience and tolerance. Then for the first time, on the occasion of the battle of Badr, the Prophet went out along with his companions to encounter the enemy. He took this step only when he had received God’s clear promise that He would send His angels to the aid of His Messenger. (The Quran, 8:9)

The way of the Prophet was not to retaliate immediately against any act of oppression. He felt that, despite injustice and oppression on the part of the enemy, the way of patience and avoidance of clashes should be adopted. Practical steps were to be taken only when it was certain that they would yield the desired result.

Avoiding Confrontation

During the thirteen-year period in Makkah, the majority continued to oppose the Prophet, while only a small number of people supported him. When the Makkans found that mere opposition was not enough to extirpate his mission from Makkah, they resolved to remove him from their path by killing him. They unanimously decided that all the leaders of Makkah should attack him together and thus put an end to the movement of monotheism forever.

This was a very precarious situation. One option, which appeared to be the only one, was for the Prophet, along with his companions, to meet the enemy on the battlefield. But the Prophet saw this matter from the point of view of the resultant effect. Since in those circumstances armed confrontation was not going to yield the desired result, the Prophet followed the principle of avoidance and migrated to Madinah from Makkah.

Practical steps were to be taken only when it was certain that they would yield the desired results.

The way of the Prophet of Islam was not to follow a collision course at a time of strife or controversy, but to move away from the point of conflict. Such a course enables one to conserve one’s energies in order to utilize them more fruitfully at a later stage.

Concession To Others

An enduring principle of Islam is that which is called ‘softening of the heart’. It means to unite people by attempting to produce a soft corner in their hearts. This end can be achieved only by making concessions to others, giving due respect to their sentiments and not harming their interests.

This policy of sympathising with others is an important part of the Islamic movement. It is to be desired at all times in all human societies. The Prophet of Islam followed this rule throughout his life. For instance, when he came to Madinah after emigration, many families of Jews and idolaters settled there, along with the believers. On reaching there the Prophet issued a statement known as the covenant of Madinah. In this the Prophet declared that each group would enjoy the freedom of their culture and religion; that the controversial matters of all tribes would be settled according to their respective tribal traditions; and that no coercion would be resorted to in matters of religion and culture.

The way of the Prophet of Islam was not to follow a collision course at a time of strife or controversy, but to move away from the point of conflict.

The Prophet made special concessions to the Jews in many matters. By doing so, the Prophet aimed at fraternizing with the Jews, in order that they might be brought closer to his faith. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 2:150) The way of the Prophet was not to return opposition for opposition. It was rather to make allowances in the face of opposition. His thinking was not to bring people into his fold by means of suppression. On the contrary, his way was to soften their hearts and bring them to his side through affection and kindness.

Accepting The Status Quo

Whenever a controversy arises between two people or two groups, a practical working arrangement ultimately becomes established. An attempt to change this status quo in most cases results in futility or in all-out strife. What normally happens is that the status quo continues. If not, mutual retaliation results in further losses. In this pointless engagement, precious opportunities are also wasted.

In such a controversial matter, the Prophet’s method was to accept the status quo. The great benefit of this status-quoism is that it gives one the respite to consolidate one’s energies. By removing oneself from the scene of controversy, one may strengthen oneself so greatly that a time will come when ultimately the balance of power will change without any major confrontation.

The Prophet of Islam adopted this wise course on the occasion of the drawing up of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah. When the Makkans heard that their opponents had gathered at Hudaybiyyah, they too reached there to stop the Muslims from going any further. The Prophet at this juncture was on his way to Makkah to perform the rite of Umrah (minor pilgrimage). Thus a situation of deadlock came to be created at Hudaybiyyah. The Prophet did not resort to breaking this deadlock in order to move ahead. Instead he withdrew and came back to Madinah. It amounted to accepting the status quo already established between the Prophet and the other party. This wisdom gave the Prophet an opportunity for further consolidation, which became a reality within a period of a mere two years. It was at that stage that the Prophet’s victorious entry into Makkah became a possibility.

Ease In Difficulty

The Prophet of Islam was successful in taking over Makkah in 629 A.D. Then he set off from Makkah for Taif, along with his companions. In those days there were no well-laid roads in and around Makkah, and on the journey they had to walk along a narrow path, which lay between two hills.

The way of the Prophet was not to return opposition for opposition. It was rather to make allowances in the face of opposition.

When the Prophet reached that point, he asked his companions what its name was. They replied that it was called Azzaiqa, meaning the 'narrow path.' The Prophet said:

No, it is rather a broad path. (Seerah ibn Hisham, Vol. 4, p. 127)

On this journey the Prophet was accompanied by ten-thousand of his companions. If they had attempted to go along this path walking several abreast, it would certainly have been difficult to do so, due to its narrowness. But because they went along it in single file, despite its being narrow, it was easy to do so. It was this practical wisdom, which the Prophet pointed to in his reply. We find an important secret of life in this incident: the necessity to adapt our strategy to circumstances. This practice relates to all matters in life. By being adaptable all life’s difficulties could be resolved.

The Policy of Gradualness In Reform

Aisha, the Prophet’s wife, has been recorded as saying that: The first verses of the Quran to be revealed; those making mention of heaven and hell, were short ones. It was only when people became conditioned to accept Islamic teaching that verses dealing with what is lawful and unlawful, began to be revealed. And if injunctions like: ‘Do not drink wine,’ and ‘do not commit adultery,’ had been revealed first, people would have refused to abandon these practices. (Fathul Bari, Vol. 8, p. 655)

This tradition tells us of a very important policy of the Prophet. It is the same practical wisdom, which is called gradualness. The reform of human beings is a very difficult and complex task. Generally because people have become accustomed to certain ideas and habits, they hold them to be right and proper. That is why they do not readily accept anything new. In such a situation the only way to reform people is to follow the path of wisdom and do everything gradually.

The Prophet of Islam first of all influenced the mind-set of the people in Arabia. And only when they had developed the ability to accept reforms, did he introduce the commands of the Shariah (Islamic law) to them. If the Prophet had attempted to impose the laws of Shariah upon them, without striving for their intellectual purification—this being against human nature—his efforts towards revolution in Arab society could never have been crowned with success.

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