The Nature of Belief

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Islam in Life | Al-Risala, April 1987, pp. 31-32

When Prophet Muhammad brought the message of Islam to the people of Mecca (the Quraysh), they did not find it acceptable. They could not understand how the religion of Muhammad could be true and that which they had inherited from their forebears be false. Fired with the pride of their own religion, they said to the Prophet:

“O Mohammad! Pray on our behalf to the Lord, who has revealed unto you whatever he has revealed, that He should send to us those forefathers of ours who have passed away. One of those whom He sends to us should be Qusayy bin Kilab, for he was a man of truth. We shall ask him whether what you say is true or false. If he confirms your truthfulness, we shall believe in you and shall thereby recognize your position before Almighty God; we shall then know that He has, in­deed, made you a Prophet, as you say”. (Seerat Ibn Hisham, vol 1, p. 296)

How was it that the Quraysh understood the greatness of Qusayy bin Kilab, but not that of Muhammad ibn Abdullah? For no better ­reason than that Qusayy bin Kilab belonged to their past, while Mohammad bin Abdullah was a man of their own times.

Right from early childhood they had been hearing about the great­ness of Qusayy bin Kilab and it had thus become so fixed in their minds, that it seemed an incontrovertible fact. Muhammad bin Abdul­lah, however had come to them just as an ordinary man, with no legendary attainments, and it was this sole difference which, in their view, made the former great and the latter of no importance.

It is a very common phenomenon for people to accept, without hesitation, those already acknowledged as great before they them­selves reach the age of discretion, and to reject those they have seen attaining greatness with their own eyes.

One factor which contributes to such a mentality is jealousy. It is the great men of today who become the objects of jealousy, never those of the past.

The Quran lists one of the qualities of people of faith as being their capacity to “believe in the unseen”. This verse is concerned directly with faith in God, but, indirectly, it also concerns belief in the Prophet. When a prophet comes to humanity, he is manifestly, a mortal human being. The fact that he assumes a physical form, walks around, eats food, enjoys victories, suffers defeats, and is periodically overwhelmed by adverse circumstances, would indeed appear to testify, to his being an ordinary human being. But there is a prophetic aspect of his life which is hidden from normal view; his being a recipient of God’s grace is not something which is immediately apparent. Anyone can appreciate him in mortal guise, but it is only those who have the capacity to recognize his unique, inner essence, who are able to grasp the fact that he is a prophet.

When a prophet says that he has seen Heaven and Hell and claims that whoever follows him will be successful and that those who do not will be doomed to failure, he becomes to the ordinary man as ‘invisible’ as God Himself. In order to see a prophet as such, one must have the vision to see into the unseen, to recognize things from their inner truth. It is only those who can do so, who will pass the divine test, who will believe in the Prophet and follow him.