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Muslim Patience

3243 2008/06/02 2024/07/12

this period of muhammad's life is one of the noblest and greatest pages of human history. neither he nor his followers sought wealth or reputation, power or sovereignty. rather, they were seekers after the truth and believers therein. to those who did harm him, muhammad prayed for guidance, for liberation from the yoke of vile paganism and from its immorality and villainy. it was for this noble spiritual objective that muhammad suffered persecution. the poets insulted him; the tribe plotted against him, threw stones at his house, threatened his folks and followers, and came close to killing him near the ka'bah. the more they persecuted, the more patience and resolve muhammad showed in his mission. the believers repeated and were encouraged by muhammad's pledge that he would not abjure this cause even if given both sun and moon. great sacrifices became small, and death itself became a welcome alternative. one must appreciate the strength of these men's faith and the depth of their commitment at a time when the new religion was not even complete and the qur'an was not yet fully revealed. no doubt muhammad's gentleness, good character, truthfulness, resoluteness, strength of will, and conviction were contributing factors. but there were other factors besides.

muhammad lived in a free country very much like a republic. as far as social eminence and nobility of lineage, he ranked among the highest and best. muhammad did not have much wealth, but he had all he needed, and so did banu hashim. to them belonged the sidanah of the ka'bah and the siqayah and all that they wished by way of religious titles. therefore, muhammad stood in no need of money, prestige, political power, or religious eminence. in this respect, muhammad was quite different from the prophets that preceded him. moses, for instance, was born in egypt when pharaoh was worshipped by its people as god. it was he who called to them, "i am your supreme god." [qur'an, 79:24]. the priesthood assisted pharaoh in tyrannizing over the people and in exploiting them. the revolution that moses led by command of his lord was a revolution against the political as well as the religious order. did moses not seek to reduce pharaoh to the equal of the most ordinary peasant in front of god, even though that peasant was of the meanest class who drew their water from the nile with the shadoof? pharaoh's divinity, moses thought, as well as the social order on which it stood, must all be destroyed. the revolution must first be political. consequently, from the very beginning the mosaic call was met by pharaoh with all-out war, and miracles were necessary that the mosaic call might be believed by the rank and file. when, for instance, moses threw his stick on the ground, it became a living serpent devouring what pharaoh's magicians had created. these miracles, however, turned out to be futile, for moses had to flee from his country of birth. his flight was assisted by another miracle, that of the splitting of the waters of the sea. as for jesus, he was born in nazareth, in palestine, a province under the yoke of roman colonialism. he called men to patience in their suffering of injustice, to forgiveness after repentance and to forms of love and mercy which the rulers regarded as tantamount to rebellion against their tyranny. the miracles of resurrecting the dead, healing the sick, and all that jesus did with the support of the holy spirit were necessary for the success of his cause. in their essence, the doctrines of jesus and muhammad were built on the same premises and led to the same conclusions, with differences in detail not relevant for our present discussion. the point is that these various factors, especially the political among them gave to the call of jesus the orientation it took. as for muhammad, since his circumstances were what we have just seen, his message was spiritual and rational. at every stage of its development, it rested on a foundation of truth, goodness, and beauty for their own sakes. because of its distance from any political struggle, muhammad's message did not disturb the republican regime of makkah in the least, nor was it disturbed thereby.


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