Communication as an essential attribute

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What does communication mean as an essential attribute of Prophethood?

The third attribute of Prophethood is communication of Islamic truths or, in other words, ‘enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.’

We say ‘Islamic truths’ because every Prophet came with the same Divine Religion based on submission to God. Communication of this Message was the ultimate reason for sending the Prophets.

God manifested His Compassion and Munificence through the mission of the Prophets, which is itself the embodiment of Divine Compassion and Munificence.

Just as God shows us a manifestation of His Mercifulness through the warmth and light of the sun, He also manifested His Mercy and Compassion for humankind through His Prophets. He chose the Last Prophet, whom He sent as a mercy for all the worlds, as the one to establish the Message of compassion and mercy eternally. If he had not been sent to revive and revise the Messages of the previous Prophets in such a way as to encompass the whole of humankind, we would all be wandering around in the terrifying desert of unbelief, misguidance and ignorance.

Philosophers, sociologists and psychologists have throughout history searched for answers to such vital questions as, ‘Who am I?’, ‘Where have I come from?’, ‘What is my final destination?’, ‘What is the purpose of life?’, ‘What does our dying mean?’, ‘Is death absolute non-existence or only a door to a new, eternal life?’ Man has tangled with such questions during his earthly existence and it is only through the enlightenment of the Prophets that he has found true satisfaction and peace of mind. Through them he has been convinced that this earthly life is just a ‘way-station’ on his perpetual journeying from the world of spirits to the world of eternity, and a field to be planted with seeds for harvesting in the eternal world that follows. This world is reached through the intermediate realm of the grave. With this realization, he has been relieved of his anxieties and the world has been transformed for him into a flowery garden of recreation and a gathering place of friends.

It is to convey this Message and to illuminate the path to happiness here and in the Hereafter that the Prophets were sent.

We will discuss three essential points in the way a Prophet conveys the Divine Message.

The Prophets made a comprehensive invitation to God

There was no fragmentation or compartmentalization in the way of the Prophets. They dealt with people and life in a holistic manner and never ignored or neglected any of man’s faculties. They appealed to man’s intellect, reason, spirit and all his outer and inner senses and feelings.

The position of a Prophet in relation to Divine Revelation is like that of a corpse in the hands of one who washes it. God directs and guides him in whatever fashion is required to lead his people. Without this Divine direction, he would not be able to guide anyone. Neglect of the intellect, for instance, would result in a community of poor, docile mystics. Negligence of the heart or spirit, on the other hand, would result in crude rationalism devoid of any spiritual dimension. Man comprises intellect, spirit and body and each must be assigned its due part of the Message. Also, man is an active being. Therefore, he should be led to activity according to the purpose of his life as determined by God and communicated by the Prophets. God did not leave him to become a passive recluse, nor allow him to be an ‘activist’ without reason and spirit, or a ‘rationalist’ without spiritual reflection and activism. It is only when the intellect, spirit and body are harmonized, and man is motivated towards activity in the illuminated way of the Divine Message, that he can become a complete being and attain true humanity. This was the aim of the Prophets, upon them all be peace, and should be the aim of all those who wish to be their followers. The Qur’an declares:

Say (O Muhammad): ‘This is my way: I call (people) to God with wisdom and insight, I and those who follow me.’ (Yusuf, 12.108)

The Prophets asked no wage from people

A Prophet does not live for himself. Dedicated to his mission wholly, a Prophet is an altruist and lives for the happiness and good of others. His happiness lies in seeing people devoted to God for ultimate salvation but he never expects from people anything in return for what he does; his reward is from none but God alone. This is a very important and indispensable aspect of a Prophet’s communication of the Divine Message, one frequently emphasized in the Qur’an:

O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but God. (Hud, 11.29)

The Prophets left the results to God

The Prophets were charged with conveying the Divine Message to people. They did their best to this end and patiently faced many misfortunes and even torment. They fulfilled their responsibilities without worrying about the result of their call to God. They knew with all certainty that it is only God who will bring about the desired result.

The three fundamentals briefly outlined above set the principles for everyone who wishes to take up the Divine responsibility to call to God in every subsequent age, in every place.

The method of conveying the message

Constant, continual striving is not only an essential feature of the delivering of the Message but it is actually an important element of the Prophetic method.

A Prophet is, so to speak, obsessed with how he is to perform his duty. To this end, he considers all the circumstances and does everything permitted, without concerning himself with God’s domain, never worrying about the results. He knows that it is not in his power to make anyone accept the Message, that his duty is only to convey the Message and to do everything possible and permissible by God so that people become convinced of its truth. On this point, the Qur’an declares:

Assuredly, you [O Muhammad] guide not whom you like but God guides whom He wills. And He knows best those who receive guidance. (al-Qasas, 28.56)

Many Prophets lived with no one accepting their Message. However, they did not lose heart, weaken in resolve, or resort to means not permitted by God, like violence, terror or deception, despite having to suffer every kind of hardship and tortures of the most pitiless sort. When the Last Prophet – Muhammad – upon him be peace and blessings, was severely wounded in the Battle of Uhud, some of his Companions requested him to invoke God’s curse on the enemy, but he prayed for them instead, saying:

O God, forgive my people and guide them to truth, because they do not know.1

He made this supplication with his face bleeding profusely, since he had once said:

I am now as if I was seeing a Prophet who, while his face was bleeding prayed for his people: ‘O God, forgive my people, because they do not know.’

All the Prophets reacted in the same way to the torments and false accusations they suffered from their people. For example:

The leaders of the people of Noah said: ‘Verily, we see you in clear deviation.’ He said: ‘O my people! There is no deviation in me, but I am a Messenger from the Lord of the Worlds! I convey unto you the messages of my Lord and give sincere advice to you. And I know from God what you know not.’ (al-A’raf, 7.60–2)

The leaders of Hud’s people, who were unbelievers, said: ‘We see you surely in foolishness; and we think you are among the liars.’ He said: ‘O my people! There is no foolishness in me, but I am a Messenger from the Lord of the Worlds. I convey unto you the messages of my Lord and I am a trustworthy adviser to you’. (al-A’raf, 7.66–8)

Nothing changed during the history of Prophethood. The Prophets conveyed the messages of their Lord without thinking of any return other than God’s pleasure. There is no people to whom a Messenger was not sent, as expilicitly affirmed in the Qur’an:

Whoever goes right, then he goes right only for his own soul’s benefit. And whoever goes astray, then he goes astray only to his own loss. No laden soul can bear another’s load. And We never punish until We have sent a Messenger. (al-Isra’, 17.15)

And verily We have sent among every people a Messenger (saying): ‘Worship God (alone), and shun all false deities’. (al-Nahl, 16.36)

After he received the first Revelation in the cave, Hira, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, returned home in a great excitement. Wrapped up in his vestment, God ordered him:

O you who wrapped up in your vestment, arise and give warning! Magnify your Lord! Cleanse your garments, and keep away from all pollution. Do not show favour, seeking worldly gain! Be patient for the sake of your Lord! (al-Muddaththir, 74.1-7)

Again, he received the following order:

O you folded in garments! Keep vigil the night long, except a little; half of it, or a little less, or a little more, and recite the Qur’an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. We are about to address to you words of great gravity. (al-Muzzammil, 73.1-5)

Every Prophet conveyed God’s Message to his people without becoming wearied or daunted. The harsh reactions of people could not hinder a Prophet from his duty. For example,

[Noah] said: ‘O my Lord! Day and night I have called my people. But my call has only added to their aversion. Each time I call on them to seek Your pardon, they thrust their fingers in their ears and cover themselves with their garments, persisting in sin and magnifying themselves in insolent pride. Further, I have called to them aloud. Further, I have spoken to them in public and in private, saying: “Ask forgiveness from your Lord: for He is Oft-Forgiving.”’ (Nuh, 71.5-10)

When a people rejected the call of a Prophet and persisted in unbelief and corruption on earth, God’s wrath usually fell upon them. We read in the Qur’an the story of several devastated peoples, and we see their ruins all over the world.

1.Qadi Iyad, Shifa’ al-Sharif, 1.105; Bukhari, Anbiya’, 54; Muslim, Jihad, 105.

 

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