Which teachings constitute the most comprehensive guidance to mankind? How should man develop himself to learn, appreciate and live in accordance with such teachings? Every rational individual should seriously ponder over these sensible questions to make life more meaningful and truthful.
To be dynamically effective, one’s life should function as an integrated whole system conforming to Allah’s Law. As such, everything in man (his physical, economic, political, socio-cultural, psychological, educational, moral and spiritual being) needs proper guidance. Such guidance should enable him to enjoy better life here and in the hereafter. It should enable him to spend wisely his temporary journey on earth for everlasting happiness in the eternal world hereafter.
To be truly guided, man has to make use of Allah’s innate gift to him as a rational-thinking creature. He should be able to think intelligently, to reflect deeply, to assess objectively and to decide reasonably what teachings comprise the best guidance for him to follow. This is obviously necessary because some hypocrites who falsely claimed to be “prophets of Allah” has emerged to distort the Truth. With all pretensions, these false prophets had come up with their own man-made laws and heresies, side by side with the teachings of Allah (S.W.T.) (Subhanahu wa ta’ala, meaning: the Exalted, Most Glorious) and His true messengers, like Jesus Christ and Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) (Salallahu ‘alayhi wa salam, meaning: May the peace and blessings of Allah (S.W.T.) be upon him.)
Moreover, there were those who fabricated wrong concepts and ideas aimed primarily at destroying Islam, “a divinely-ordained path for human life” (S. Qutb, 1982, p. 2). In Time Magazine (April 16, 1979 issue), Edward Said reported that “over 60,000 (sixty thousand) books have been written against Islam by the Christian West.” One of the major skepticisms against Islam revolves on the personality of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) and his great mission to mankind. Without substantial evidence nor sensible explanation to defy the rational beliefs of the Muslims, those critics brand the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) as an “impostor’ and likewise claim that “he is the author of the Holy Qur’an.” They also question the authenticity of the Prophet’s Ahadith (teachings and traditions). These claims and fabrications are absolutely unfounded.
The Holy Qur’an is the Divine Word of Allah (S.W.T.) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) through the Archangel Gabriel to save mankind from darkness unto light (Qur’an 14: 1). Allah (S.W.T.) sent it as the Book in truth and the balance to judge between right and wrong (Qur’an 42: 17). Since it is the Book of Allah (S.W.T.) , He Himself guards it from corruption (Qur’an 15: 9) for man to learn wisdom (Qur’an 12: 2) and, hence, receive the most righteous guidance (Qur’an 17: 9). Allah (S.W.T.) enlightens mankind to the truth when He says:
“Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care) ? Had it not been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy?” (Qur’an 14: 82)
“Say: ‘lf the whole of mankind and Jinn were to gather to produce the like of the Qur’an they could not produce like thereof even if they backed up each other with help and support. “ (Qur’an 17: 88)
Allah the Almighty sent Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) (the seal of all the prophets) as His universal Messenger to mankind, giving them glad tidings, and warning them against sin (Qur’an 34: 28). Allah (S.W.T.) sent him to perfect all moral values and to serve as the best example for mankind to follow (Qur’an 33: 21). The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) came at a time when almost the entire world had forsaken the path of piety, righteousness and truth. He came during the era of darkness and ignorance. Superstitions and multiplicity of conflicting beliefs and inhumane practices shaped the lives of men and women. To enlighten the world with Allah’s word and divinely-inspired teachings, Allah (S.W.T.) sent Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.). Allah’s choice of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), an unlettered man, signifies that the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) is not the author of the Holy Qur’an. Indeed, the Qur’an could never be the creation of human mind, but could only emanate from the only True God, Allah (S.W.T.) To preserve Allah’s Word, the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) not only shared with his followers every Revelation he received from Allah (S.W.T.) through the Archangel Gabriel but also ordered his learned companions to commit it to writing. During his time, many of his Companions memorized the whole text of the Holy Qur’an, which was already recorded then. When the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) died, Abu Bakr (r.a.) (Radhiallahu anha, meaning: May Allah (S.W.T.) be pleased with him) who was the first rightly guided Caliph kept a complete copy of the Holy Qur’an. Under the leadership of Uthman, the third rightly guided caliph, the reproduction of the Holy Qur’an started. In today’s modern world, the Holy Qur’an has remained exactly the same as its original form. Mankind should, therefore, than Allah (S.W.T.) for sending His Messenger (s.a.w.s.) the message of the Holy Qur’an.
Aside from the the Holy Qur’an, Allah (S.W.T.) has endowed the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) with wisdom, the Ahadith (plural of Hadith), through which the readers can learn how he spent his life as the best example to humanity. Hadith literally means “statement”, which is otherwise known as “Sunnah” (a mode of life, practice, custom or tradition). Ahadith generally refer to “the records of utterances, discourses, practices, usages, sayings and the way of life led by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) ever since he assumed prophethood in the fortieth year of his life (609 A.C.) to the year of his death (632 A.C.) when he was 63 years old.” (M. Azizullah, 1972, p.1)
Hadith plays a very vital role in perfecting the way of life of the Muslims. It is sacred, inviolate and majestic and it is revered next to the Holy Qur’an in the entire Muslim world. It provides detailed specifications for what is determined in generality by the Qur’an. It covers the secondary obligations which facilitate primary ones. In fact, the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) successfully conveyed the Qur’an to mankind through the Ahadith. H. A. Gibb, a scholar from the West, presents an objective analysis of this fact (S. A. Husain, 1975, p. 5):
“The Qur’an is comparatively short and even in this small book the greater part has no direct bearing on dogmatic, ritual legal, political and social questions. The general principles by which all these matters should be regulated are to be found in the Qur’an but not all of them are set out with equal clearness and detail. It is, therefore, essential to interpret and elaborate the relevant texts. The natural, and indeed, the only possible, interpreter whose judgment can be trusted is the Prophet through whom they were revealed. According to the Qur’an itself the Prophet was possessed not only of the kitab, the written book but also of the hikma, the wisdom, whereby ultimate principles can be applied to the details and episodes of ordinary life. Consequently, his actions and sayings, transmitted by chain of reliable narrators form a kind of commentary and supplement to the Qur’an.”
Some of the Ahadith were also written during the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.s.). He, however, ordered his Companions to rub out whatever they had written down of his own statements. He feared that people might be confused and mixed Ahadith with the Holy Qur’an. Knowing the importance of every Hadith, the Prophet’s Companions and later learned Muslim scholars made a compilation of Ahadith after the Prophet’s death. In their collection of Ahadith they were cautious because of the Prophet’s warning that: “He who deliberately and knowingly attributes to me something which (S.W.T.) have not said will certainly have his place reserved for him In hell.” Great measures of diligence in the compilation of Ahadith were then observed.
The deliberate fabrication or distortion of Ahadith started when civil war erupted in the Muslim state after the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) had passed away. There were people who fabricated Ahadith to create division, hostility and conflict in the ranks of Muslims. To get rid of spurious traditions and teachings that had crept into the authentic Ahadith leading Muslim scholars developed a scientific way of confirming the authenticity of each Hadith (A Salahl, February 14, 1986, p.7).
The scientific bases for the acceptance of Ahadith have always been the most trustworthy and accurate yardstick for historical confirmation. Assad Rustom comments that the scientific method employed in determining the authenticity of Hadith by Judge Ayyad in his Mustalah Al Hadith (Methodology of Hadith) “rises to the highest degree of knowledge and precision. In fact, none of the great people of history in Europe or America can possibly write a better one on any of its subjects, though even centuries have passed since it was written.” (A. A. Tabbarah, 1978, p. 478)
There are many anthologies of Ahadith, the most known and most reliable of which are the following:1. Sahih Al-Bukhari, compiled by Muhammad lbn lsmael Al-Bukhari; 2. Sahih Muslim, compiled by lmam Muslim lbn Al-Hajjaj; 3. Sunan Al-Abu Dawud, by Abu Dawud Suleiman lbn Al-Ash’ath; 4. Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, by Muhammad lbn lssa Al-Tirrnidhi; 5. Sunan Al-lbn Maja, by Abu Abdullah Muhammad lbn Al-Kazwini; and 6. Sunan An-Nasai, by Abu Abdul Rahman Ahmed lbn Shou’aib An-Nasai. (lbid; also M. Azizullah, pp. 25-26).
Of the six compilations, Al-Bukhari’s compilations is the most authentic and accurate of all works written on Ahadith. According to Dr. Muhammad .M. Khan of the Islamic University of Medina, Saudi Arabia, religious scholars of Islam agreed that ‘the most authentic book after the book of Allah (i.e., Al-Qur’an) is Sahih Al-Bukhari.” (Khan’s translations of Sahih Al-Bukhan, Vol. I, p. xiv)
In the selection of authentic Ahadith, lmam Bukhari chose only 7,275 Ahadith out of 600,000. Next to Sahih Al-Bukhari is Sahih Muslim. lmam Muslim reportedly collected only 9,200 out of the 300,000 Ahadith. These two compilations command greatest respect among Muslims worldwide, with the four Sunans enjoying close popularity as well. Overall, all of the six compilations are termed Sahih Sittah (six authentic traditional works). (M. Azizullah, op. cit.)
The tone and style of the Ahadith differ from that of the Holy Qur’an. The latter, being the wind of Allah (S.W.T.) is absolutely unique. The Holy Qur’an embodies a distinct form of eloquence and magnificence. T. Hussein says:
“The Qur’an is neither prose nor poetry; it is only the Qur’an and cannot be named otherwise. Evidently it is not poetry because it is not limited by the restriction of verification, and likewise it is not prose because it has its own conditions, not shared by other modes of expression – like the fawassel at the ends of verses, and like the particular melody which dominates them.” (Tabbarah, 1978, pp. 449450 )
Moreover, the Holy Qur’an came down with more polished speech and more forceful style than the Ahadith. In the verses of the Holy Qur’an the reader learns that Allah (S.W.T.) is Omnipotent, Just, Wise and Merciful. Allah’s tone of speech, as evident in the Holy Qur’an, never gets weak even where it expresses a sense of mercy. On the other hand, the style the Prophet’s speech, as seen in the Ahadith is conversational and instructive. The reader of the Ahadith feels the presence of a person speaking in the presence of Allah (S.W.T.) (Tabbarah, ibid.). This proves that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) could never be the author of the Holy Qur’an. He is only a Messenger, whom Allah (S.W.T.) had granted the opportunity to successfully convey to mankind through the Ahadith the Divine Message of the Holy Qur’an.
Man who lives in accordance to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) finds internal and external peace. He can easily establish harmony with his immediate environment (with his family, relatives, neighbors and friends) and those outside his community. The teachings encourage smooth interpersonal relationships between and among nations. They assure mankind of universal brotherhood, equality, justice, dignity and honor, guidance and salvation. They are very practical, so full of common sense and so full of truth. They apply to every situation, every age, and every man of all walks of life. They revolve around the Islamic way of life which transcends and penetrates far beyond all barriers of race and status of wealth or prestige.
More significantly, the Ahadith prove Muhammad’s universal prophethood. No other great man and prophet had come up with such teachings so full of moral guidance that awakens the mind and shakes the heart of every rational being on earth. It was Allah’s miracle that the unlettered Prophet (s.a.w.s.) who grew in the Dark Age, rose to teach the whole of humanity and perfected morality. This historical fact shows a clear sign for those who deny Muhammad (s.a.w.s.) as Allah’s universal Messenger to all nations. Everyone should believe that behind the Great Prophet (s.a.w.s.) was Allah (S.W.T.). Allah the Almighty blessed him with wisdom to propagate the Truth.
The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) died, but he left humanity with everlasting teachings. His comprehensive and universal teachings will continue to guide mankind as long as there exist people who seek for the truth. Every faithful believer who learns his teachings will always bear in mind that “... the best word is the Book of Allah, and the best way is the way of Muhammad and the foulest thing is fabrication and every fabrication is departure from the straightway.” (Muslim) He will think of the warning that “whoso fabricates anything and ascribes it to our religion, he is accursed.” (Bukhari and Muslim). Teachings such as these will subsequently preserve Islam: the Religion of Truth. The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) tells nothing but the truth when he says: “Allah did not send me to reproach (and curse) people but as a mercy to them and as one calling them to the Truth.” (Muslim) In his teachings, he enjoins every man to speak the truth and refrain from falsehood. He says: truth leads to piety which paves the Way to Paradise... and falsehood leads one to vices and evils land one in hell.” (Bukhari and Muslim) The Prophet’s teachings are indeed so full of truth. They guide mankind to the right path in this world and In the hereafter.
Through the Prophet man learns that one imbibes the faith by acknowledging Allah (S.W.T.) as his only True God, Islam as his religion and Muhammad as his prophet. (Muslim). The Prophet (s.a.w.s.) teaches the truth that Jesus Christ (s.a.w.s.) is a prophet like him. There is no prophet between them. But the Christians raised Jesus (s.a.w.s.) to the status of Allah’s son (Bukhari and Muslim). It is a grievous sin to join others with Allah for “there is no Allah but Allah.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Nasai) “Allah says: ‘I am Allah - there is no Allah besides Me: (S.W.T.) am the King of (all) kingdoms, and the King of (all) kings...” (Nasai) Moreover, the Prophet (s.a.w.s.) prophesied the second coming of Jesus Christ (s.a.w.s.) as a just judge to abolish the practices contrary to Islam. In his return, he would succeed in correcting the misconceptions which the Christians have developed about him (Bukhari and Muslim). The truth about Jesus Christ, therefore, is that he was a prophet of Allah (S.W.T.) and hence, he could never be the son of Allah (S.W.T.) nor the God himself.
Through Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s.), everyone who seeks for Truth realizes that Islam is the divinely-ordained path for human life. Every essence of his teachings serves as guidance to Truth. His teachings constitute the most comprehensive, practical, sensible and truthful guidance to all peoples in all walks of life and in all conditions of human endeavor. The universality of his mission, therefore makes him the World’s Great Prophet.
An excerpt from the Author’s book, "Teachings of the World’s Great Prophet”, with foreword by Dr. Maneh Al-Johani, Secretary General of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). Published with no copyright by the Wisdom Enrichment Foundation (WEFOUND), Mindanao State University, Marawi City Philippines in 1988).