Muhammad`s role as prophet
Muhammad is the prophet through which all the Muslims worship their Lord. So many articles have been written about Prophet Muhammad. According to the earliest Islamic sources, prophet Muhammad`s sole mission was to deliver the Quran (Hamidullah, 1998). Delivery of the Quran is said to be a very noble task for Prophet Muhammad. It was so involving that the prophet did not have time to do any other task on earth. He spent his entire life interpreting the Quran to the world. Muhammad was enjoined from issuing any other religious teachings apart from the Quran (69: 38-47). He was also restricted from explaining the contents of the Quran (75:15-19). According the Islam teachings, God is the sole Quran teacher (55:1-2) and the Quran is believed to be the best Hadith (39:23 & 45:6).
Despite the many literature sources written about the prophet Muhammad, these facts from the Quran are manifested within the historical reality which shows that the actions and words attributed to Muhammad did not appear anywhere up to the second century after he hade died. The prophet`s actions and words (Sunna & Hadith) are taken seriously by Muslims all over the world. However, the Quran prophesied fabrication of the Sunna and Hadith by enemies of the Prophet (Hamidullah, 1998). According to the Quran teachings, God permitted the use of both Sunna and Hadith in order to reach out to people who only believe with their lips instead of their hearts. It is stated that people who are only attracted by Sunna and Hadith are false believers. On the other hand, Hadith books reports that the Prophet was ordered not to write anything else apart from the Quran.
According to earlier religious sources, Muhammad was the prophet of Arabia who played a key role combining the functions of a prophet, author, statesman and reformer. This role made him very famous across the world among many people. Muhammad is widely known by both Muslims as well as the non-Muslims. Muhammad was a prophet by vocation according to the true biblical sense. He had a message for his people which was anchored in the religious belief but aimed at realizing fundamental economic, political and social reforms. The religion founded by Prophet Muhammad was not hampered by bickering barrier or creed to human being`s relationship with God and fellow men. This enabled Muhammad to gain a wide acceptance thus succeeding both as a reformer and prophet. Muhammad is said to be the first person to live and preach here on earth and there is more information about his career as compared to his predecessors. The prophet’s life history is not largely wrapped up in mystery and only a few tales have been attached to his personality.
The biography of Prophet Muhammad is clearly outlined in Ibn-Ishaq`s work (d. 767). This article written by Ibn-Sa`d, one of the 19th century historians, contains very important information about the life and teachings of Muhammad. This encyclopedia reveals very useful information on the prophetic life of Muhammad. However, no other source can provide more accurate and dependable information on Muhammad or give a greater insight into his accomplishments and personality than the Quran. Although the Quran according to the Islamic theology strictly conveys God`s word, it is also a true mirror of Muhammad`s character as well as his accomplishments. Other complementary information is also available in the deeds and sayings of the prophet which have been written in various literatures that were carefully scrutinized by the scholars of early Islamic centuries. The non-canonical texts containing accounts of Muhammad`s eye-witnesses are categorized as hadith and Sunna. Hadith means utterances while Sunna refers to the observed conduct.
Muhammad`s life and teachings are contrasted with what the Arabian society had initially ordained for his fellow Meccans. The available facts about Prophet Muhammad`s life have not been subjected to much interpretation as compared to preceding prophets. This is mainly attributed to circumspection of all the available sources. Muhammad`s prophetic mission started after having a careful soul-searching period and spiritual reassessment that lasted for more than fifteen years (Hamidullah, 1998). He finally began his mission and there was no turning back. Muhammad was forty years old when he received his first revelation while he was contemplating on Mt. Hira. There was a lot of evil doings and inhuman character within the Arabian society at that time. As a result of that, Muhammad was confronted with both the social and spiritual crises. His preaching about monotheism and the social reforms went together. The teachings about having only one God commanded human beings to exercise benevolence and mercy.
The double role played by Muhammad as both a reformer and preacher is clearly evident in his career and life. He sought cohesion of the Arabian society by uniform believes as well as a unified faith. Muhammad knew that he could only accomplish this through worshiping of one God and following the laws that are authorized by sanctity of the divine command. This enabled Muhammad to bring unity in Arabia. Muhammad preached the belief in only one God who was God of Abraham, Jesus and Moses. He also preached about brotherhood of all the Arabs in Islam through submission to God.
Muhammad proved that the entire organization and the institutional believe held by pagan Arabia did not conform to the divine will. Although there was a lot of restiance and opposition, Muhammad was persistent in spreading religion in Arabia (Hamidullah, 1998). He courageously challenged the social and moral norms governing the entire Arabia. He also challenged the institutional practices and values of Mecca under the strong leadership of Qurayshite oligarchy. The Muslims normally avoid depicting Muhammad in line with the Hadith prohibition on creating images of the sentient living beings. The Quran reveals that Muhammad was the last among a series of many other Prophets that were sent by God to save mankind. Muslims are therefore commanded not to make any distinction between them.
One of the historians called Denis Gril strongly believed that the Quran do not openly show Muhammad performing miracles but the supreme miracle performed by Muhammad is identibfied by the Quran itself.
Despite these controversies, Muslim traditions have continued to credit Muhammad with various supernatural events and miracles. For instance, several Muslim commentators and Western scholars interpreted Surah 54:1-2 to be reffering to Muhammad splitting the moon in the presence of Quraysh as they started persecuting his followers (Hamidullah, 1998). The Sunnah also states the sayings and actions of Muhammad together with a wide range of believes and activities ranging from personal hygiene, religious rituals, burial of the dead to mystical questions on the love between God and human beings. The Sunnah is viewed as a model which is emulated by pious Muslims and has greatly influenced the culture of Muslims. All Muslims across the world still use the greetings that they were taught by Muhammad. He taught them to greet each other using a phrase, “may peace be upon you”, which is commonly pronounced in Arabic “as-salamu alaykum”.
Details on several Islamic rituals like daily prayers, annual pilgrimage and fasting are normally found in the Sunnah but they are not in the Quran.
The word “nabi” which is the Arabic term for prophet appears in the Quran 92 times (Hamidullah, 1998). The Islam theology refers to nabi as a person who is able to receive revelations from Allah. Muhammad was given the prophet title more in Medina suras (33 times) as compared to the Meccan suras (2 times). The various sources of information about Muhammad`s prophethood are very important in the understanding of early Islam. This is mainly because they revolve around the Muslim religion. THe entire Quran talks about the life and accomplishments of Muhammad. The study of Muhammad`s life is therefore critical to understanding of Islam. One is able to gain a deeper understanding of Islam through analyzing various sources.
Hamidullah, Muhammad (1998). The Life and Work of the Prophet of Islam. (s.n.)(Islamabad: Islamic Research Institute). ISBN 969-8413-00-6.