On the last Inside Islam Radio show, the topic was the Prophet Muhammad’s relevance to the world today. After spending some time in the Middle East this summer and then recently seeing again the film “The Message,” I realized that people do not know that much about the Prophet Muhammad. One cannot truly understand Islam without knowing about the Prophet and his centrality in Islam.
Even though it has been almost 9 years since the September 11th attacks and the United States is now at war with two Muslim countries, many still do not understand Islam. However, part of this lack of understanding stems from what people know or think that they know about the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, there is a tendency to base their knowledge of Islam and the Prophet on the violent actions of a few Muslims.
After having a discussion about “The Message,” it became obvious that the actions of a few Muslims and events like the Danish cartoon controversy have made some think that the Prophet Muhammad was a violent man and that violence defines Islam and Muslims. This is problematic because for Muslims the Prophet Muhammad is central to their worldview. Muslims relate stories from his life and memorize his sayings. He is considered to be the ultimate role model and in their everyday lives Muslims emulate him not only in ritual practices but in their every day decisions, asking: What would the Prophet Muhammad do in this situation?
In order to appreciate the true nature of the faith and its core beliefs, one must first learn about the Prophet Muhammad and what he means to the adherents of Islam. He was called the “walking Qur’an” because he embodied the text. For most Muslims, the peaceful and compassionate nature of the Prophet Muhammad that was portrayed in “The Message” is his true character, an image not reflected in the media or in the actions of the few Muslims who justify violence with their faith.
Although the Prophet Muhammad was not actually shown in the film, his actions were reflected by the other characters and their reactions to him. In the film, the Prophet’s character that Muslims revere is demonstrated: he opted for peaceful means whenever possible and only engaged in fighting when the Muslims were continuously being attacked by the Meccans; he was concerned for the oppressed in the Mecca who were neglected by their society; he deeply respected the women in his life; he suffered alongside his followers; and when the Meccans were defeated, he did not take revenge. All these aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life represent for Muslims the true Muhammad and that’s why when they hear his name mentioned they say “Peace be upon him” and mean it.
Do you think that knowing about the Prophet’s life is necessary to understand Islam and Muslims today? Why do you think that the Prophet occupies a central role in the Muslim worldview? Is the Prophet Muhammad’s role in Islam different than prophets in other religious traditions? Please share your thoughts below.