Since we are marking the Islamic Unity Week that spans Rabi al-Awwal 12 and 17, the two dates of the month believed by the Sunnis and Shi’ites respectively to be the auspicious birthday of the Almighty’s Last and Greatest Messenger, Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny), here we present you an interesting feature in this regard.
By unity of the Islamic Ummah we mean that Muslims, beside preserving their religious beliefs, should stress the commonalities of the fundamentals of faith, such as adherence to the holy Qur’an, which is the Final Revelation of God to mankind, and diligently following the Sunnah and Seerah or Practice and Behaviour of the Prophet, in order to avoid schism, divisions, and political disputes. The Prophet set the practical precedent for us and his dynamic life is an inspiration for us to bridge the gaps and narrow the differences that crept in over the past fourteen centuries. The Prophet preached unity and solidarity. He even invited the Christians and Jews as “People of the Book” to come to an understanding with Muslims, but unfortunately the leaders of these creeds, especially the Israelites rejected the concept of universal brotherhood, and even plotted against Islam and Muslims. It is thus only Islamic unity that ensures the peace and progress of Muslims, and makes them immune to the cultural, political, economic, and military assaults of the enemies of Islam. Imam Ali (PuH) as the divinely-decreed vicegerent says the Prophet fostered social solidarity by removing class differences and bringing hearts of the believers closer to each other.
As per the commandments of God Almighty, the Prophet campaign against polytheist thoughts and tendencies by teaching the dynamics of monotheism. He lifted the intellectual levels of the community by awakening minds to the vices rampant in the society, and teaching them virtues and moral ethics. At the same time, he opposed oppression and corruption by emphasizing upon justice and peaceful co-existence with respect for social rights and dignity. The important point to be noted was the Prophet’s personal behaviour and good temperament that attracted people towards Islam. This is indeed a vital factor in forging unity and promoting the spread of Islam for enlightening fellow humans, in view of the fact that kindness and forgiveness were among the hallmarks of the characteristics of Prophet Mohammad (blessings of God upon him and his progeny). One of the most outstanding examples of the Prophet’s forgiveness was his granting of general amnesty to the people of Mecca, despite the fact that they had teased and tortured him, expelled him from his hometown, and imposed bloody battles upon him. Yet, when Mecca surrendered peacefully, without a fight to the Muslims, the Prophet showed his magnanimity by refusing to wreak vengeance upon them. As a matter of fact, he welcomed them in the ranks of Muslims and gave them opportunity to repent and reform, while the Meccans were at his mercy and no power could have stopped him, if had wished to avenge the calamities he and the Muslims had suffered at the hands of the Arab infidels. His famous declaration on the Day of the surrender of Mecca, was that: Muslims are brothers to each other, and should knit ranks for the development of the community.
This exemplary behaviour of the Prophet, resulted in the attraction of people of various walks of life to the brotherhood of Islam, and resolved long standing differences. We should compare our behaviour to that of the Prophet in order to find out where we are headed, and why the rulers of Muslim countries are not only not treading the footsteps of the Prophet, but are aiding and abetting their own mortal enemies to disintegrate them. The Messenger of Mercy removed differences practically by uniting fratricidal tribes into fraternal Muslim believers. This paved the way for emergence of the united political system under a single leadership that soon made Muslims torchbearers of science and civilization, at a time when Christian Europe was plunged in darkness. During his 10-year residence in Medina, following his migration from his hometown Mecca, the Prophet concluded contracts among various groups, as part of building the united Muslim Ummah. He entered into a pact with the people of Medina and won their hearts that helped lay foundations of the united Islamic state in which even non Muslims enjoyed full citizenship rights. The rights of Christians and Jews who lived in the Islamic community were respected and guaranteed by the Prophet. He would call on Muslims to grant refuge to non Muslims if they seek protection and to provide them with all facilities and public welfare. This policy resulted in the spread of Islam and establishment of Muslim Brotherhood, without the superficial differences of race, language, social class, political power, and ethnicities.
On arrival in Medina, the Prophet concluded the Pact of Brotherhood between the Meccan migrants and the people of Medina who had assisted him. He next joined in fraternal bonds 740 of his close companions, pairing together every two of them on the basis of their characteristics, sharing of habits (whether good or bad), and above all their natural inclinations and friendship towards each other. For instance, Salman Farsi the Iranian and the Arab Abu Zar Ghffari were paired as brothers, while another pair was Meqdad ibn Aswad and Ammar ibn Yasser – because of their lofty degrees of faith and firm adherence to the path of truth which would become manifest both during his lifetime and after him when these four would stand firmly beside his divinely-decreed vicegerent. Of the others paired together were Zubair and Talha; Abu Bakr and Omar ibn Khattab; and Osman ibn Affan and Abdur-Rahman ibn Auf, etc. The brotherhood accord was so firm and binding that when one such pair was martyred in a battle the infidels had imposed upon Muslims, he instructed the two to be buried in a single grave. This pairing was on the commandment of God, and after it was over, the Prophet grasped the hand of his dear ward and cousin, Imam Ali ibn Abi Taleb (AS), in his own hands and declared him his brother in this world and in the hereafter.
The Prophet’s another initiative for materializing the unity of Islamic Ummah was to negate ethnic and lingual differences amongst Muslims. There was to be no discrimination of superficial basis, racial prejudices, and social status. The Arabs and the non Arabs were equal as Muslims. He removed all ethnic, lingual, colour and class barriers, saying there is no difference between a Qurayshite nobleman and a black African slave. He appointed Bilal the Abyssinian as the Muezzin or official caller to the daily prayers, even though this non Arab Muslim couldn’t correctly pronounce certain Arabic alphabets. If the Roman refugee Suhayb had the honour of becoming the Prophet’s companion, he hailed the Iranian Salman as “Minna Ahl al-Bayt” or from us the people of the house – an honour no Arab companion ever achieved. Then years later, before his departure from the mortal world, after completion of his 23-year mission on earth, Prophet Mohammad (SAWA) spelt the supreme formula for a monolithic Muslim ummah by saying:
“I am leaving among you the two weighty things; the Book of God (Qur'an) and my progeny the Ahl al-Bayt. Hold fast to them and you will never go astray for the two will never part with each other even when they return to me at the Pool (of Kowsar on Judgement Day)."
What a wonderful legacy did the Prophet leave behind! It is now for us to do some real soul-searching and find out whether we have remained loyal to the instructions of our Prophet; and if not, what has made us drift away from either the holy Qur’an or from the Infallible Ahl al-Bayt. Thus, trivial jurisprudential differences do not mean the Muslims are divided.