Two phases of the Holy Prophet's life
For this reason, God the Exalted divided the life of the Holy Prophet (lpbD) into two phases: one phase of adversity, suffering and sorrow, and the other of victory, so that during the phase of adversity the high moral qualities that come into play in the face of such misfortunes would be demonstrated, and so that in the phase of victory and authority those high moral qualities that cannot be demonstrated in the absence of authority would be exhibited.
Thus, both types of moral quality were perfectly illustrated in the life of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who passed through both phases and conditions. During the period of trials in Mecca, which lasted for thirteen years, the Holy Prophet (lpbD) demonstrated in practice all the high qualities that a perfectly righteous person should demonstrate at such a time: faith in God, perfect serenity in the face of suffering, firm and constant performance of his duties, and fearlessness. Observing his constancy, many of the unbelievers believed in him, and thus bore witness that only he who has complete faith in God can show such constancy and such perseverance in suffering.
During the second phase, that is, during the phase of victory, authority and prosperity, he demonstrated lofty qualities such as forbearance, forgiveness, benevolence and courage, so that a large number of the infidels believed in him, seeing him put those lofty qualities into practice. He forgave those who had persecuted him, promised safety to those who had expelled him from Mecca, granted great wealth to the needy among them, and having gained authority over his bitterest enemies, forgave them all. Upon learning of his high morality, many of them affirmed that such qualities could only be demonstrated by one who comes directly from God, and is truly honoured. Thus was erased from their hearts in an instant all the rancour that his enemies had long felt towards him. His best quality was the one expounded by the Holy Quran in the following words:
Say to them, "My prayers, my sacrifices, my life and my death, are all for Al'lah" (6:163).
This means that the sole purpose of his life was to demonstrate the glory of God, and to protect His creatures, so that through his continued death they might live. This mention of his death for God and for the sake of His creatures should not lead us to think that he, at any time, contemplated his own destruction (God forbid), imagining like the insane and the ignorant, that his suicide would benefit others. He was free from such absurd ideas, and opposed them completely. The Holy Quran regards the one who commits suicide as an offender, and promises severe punishment:
i.e. do not commit suicide, nor become instruments of your own destruction (2:196).
It is evident that if X were suffering from a stomach ache, it would be futile for Y to break his head out of compassion for X. This would not be a virtuous act. This would not be a virtuous act, but would constitute unnecessary suffering due to ignorance. In these circumstances, the virtuous thing would be for Y to care for X in the most helpful and appropriate way, for example, by seeking the help of a doctor and the necessary medicines. By breaking his head, Y would not help X at all, but would inflict unnecessary pain on a noble part of his body. In short, the true meaning of the above verse is that the Holy Prophet (lpbD) had dedicated his life, out of compassion, to the welfare of mankind, and through his prayers and supplications, in the face of his own persecution, and through all wise and due means, sacrificed his life and comforts for this cause; as God the Glorious says:
"Perhaps you will risk your life regretting that they do not want to believe" (26:4) and:
"Do not consume your soul sighing for them" (35:9).
Therefore, the wisest way to sacrifice one's life in the service of the people is to face all difficulties in order to achieve their welfare, in accordance with the beneficial law of nature, and to devote one's life to devising projects for that purpose, and not to break one's head over the perilous situation in which a people find themselves due to their mistakes and misfortunes, nor to bid farewell to life after taking two or three grams of strychnine, assuming that by this absurd act the people would be saved. This is not a manly method, but represents a feminine tendency. The faint-hearted have always resorted to suicide when unable to cope with difficulties. Whatever explanation may be offered in this connection, there can be no doubt that such an act is an utterly absurd one.
Now, it is clear that steadfastness in the face of adversity, and non-resistance in the face of the enemy by a person who never had the opportunity to take revenge, cannot be considered moral qualities, because we do not know how such a person would have reacted if he had had the opportunity to take revenge. If a person does not face adversity before gaining authority and prosperity, his true moral qualities cannot be manifested. It is evident that we cannot attribute high moral qualities to a person who spends his whole life in a state of weakness, destitution and hardship, a constant victim of persecution, and who never attains to power, authority and prosperity. If he has never had the opportunity to take part in battle, we cannot tell whether he is brave or cowardly. We cannot know his character if we do not know how he would have treated his enemies in case of victory, nor how he would have spent his wealth in case of prosperity. Would he have saved his fortune, or would he have distributed it among the poor? And had he been on the battlefield, would he have fled or behaved as a fearless fighter? In the case of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) Divine grace provided him with adequate opportunities to manifest his moral qualities. He showed generosity, bravery, humility, forbearance and fairness on due occasions, and with such perfection that it would be futile to look for equal qualities in any other person. In both phases of his life, in weakness and in power, in hardship and in prosperity, he revealed to the whole world the high degree of the moral qualities he possessed. God granted him the opportunity to display all possible high moral qualities. The Holy Prophet (lpbD) so clearly demonstrated all the excellent moral qualities - courage, generosity, perseverance, forbearance, humility, etc - that it would be impossible to find similar demonstration in any other person. It is also true that God severely punished those who had carried the persecution of the Holy Prophet (lpbD) to the extent of setting out to destroy Islam. To forgo punishment in such a case would have been tantamount to allowing the destruction of the righteous at the hands of their enemies.
The reason for the wars of the Holy Prophet (lpbD)
The motive of the Holy Prophet's (pbuh) wars was not to shed blood unnecessarily. Muslims had been driven out of their ancestral homes; many innocent Muslims - men and women - had been martyred, and yet their enemies were unwilling to stop their persecutions, but continually obstructed the progress of Islam. In these circumstances, the Divine law of security demanded the protection of the persecuted against total destruction. Therefore, those who had killed by the sword perished by the sword. The motive of the wars, then, was to put an end to the slaughter wrought by the wicked, and to repel evil. The wars took place at a time when the wicked were trying to destroy the righteous. In such circumstances, had Islam not taken action in its own defence, there would have been the slaughter of thousands of innocent women and children, and the end of Islam.
Our opponents are profoundly mistaken in supposing that the revealed Guidance should never, under any circumstances, teach resistance to the enemy, and that it should always teach without exception love and clemency through humility and gentleness. For them, the most reverent attitude before God, the Lord of Honour and Glory, is to ascribe to Him only the qualities of meekness and gentleness. But those who reflect and meditate will easily perceive that such people are evidently and gravely mistaken.
When we contemplate the Divine law of nature, we see clearly that it consists indeed in mercy. But this mercy does not manifest itself through meekness and tenderness on all occasions. Like a skilled physician, mercy sometimes administers a sweet syrup, sometimes a bitter medicine. Divine clemency treats us the same way we treat our bodies. Each of us loves our whole body, and we do not want a hair to be plucked from our head. And yet, although all the limbs are unloved, and we do not wish to lose or harm any of them, it is clear that the love we feel for the various limbs differs in degree and intensity. In fact, our love for the principal members, on whom the realisation of our purposes largely depends, prevails in our hearts. Likewise the love we feel for the whole of our body exceeds that for any particular member. For this reason, when faced with a situation in which the safety of an upper limb depends on the amputation or severance of a lower limb, we resign ourselves to such an operation. We mourn the loss or injury of a beloved limb, but for fear that the disease will eventually destroy the upper limb as well, we reluctantly accept the amputation. This example helps us to understand that when God observes that His righteous servants are in danger of being destroyed at the hands of idolaters, which would cause great disturbances, He manifests His proper design from the heavens or the earth, for the protection of the righteous and the suppression of disturbances; for besides being Gracious, He is also Wise.
All praise belongs to Al'lah, Lord of the Universe.
(lpbD) - peace and blessings of God be upon him.
(We bring to an end the series of "THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM". God willing, we will start a new series: "THE GLOBAL CRISIS AND THE PATH TO PEACE").