THE MESSAGE OF THE PROPHET’S SEERAT – PART 2

This is the second part of the tribute to the Holy Prophet Muhammad SAW by the late Pakistani Islamic Scholar, Shaikh Abdul A’la Mawdudi  entitled “The Message of the Prophet’s Seerat”, which was delivered in a lecture to the Muslim Students Association of the Punjab  University on October 22, 1975). 

The Holy Qur’an as the Most Authentic Source of Guidance for Mankind

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) bequeathed to mankind his greatest miracle, which was put forth in a Book known as the Holy Quran with the definite claim that it was the Word of God which had been revealed to him. On scrutiny, we positively feel that this Book is free of interpolations. The Book does not incorporate a single maxim of the Holy Prophet (PBUH); rather, the inclusion in this Book of any sayings of the Prophet (PBUH) has been scrupulously avoided.

In this Book, the Holy Prophet’s life (PBUH), the history of the Arabs and the events which occurred during the period of the revelation of the Qur’an have not been mingled with the Divine verses. The Qur’an is the pure Word of God. Not one word therein is not divine. Not a single word has been deleted from its text. The Book has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Muhammad (PBUH). From the time the Book began to be revealed, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had dedicated its text to the scribes. Whenever some Divine Message was revealed, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) would call a scribe and dictate its words to him.

The written text was then read to the Holy Prophet (PBUH), who having satisfied himself that the scribe had committed no error in recording, would put the manuscript in safe custody. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) also used to instruct the scribe about the sequence in which a revealed message was to be placed in a particular Surah. In this manner, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) continued to arrange the texts of the Quran in systematic order until the end of the chain of revelations. Again, it was ordained from the beginning of Islam that a recitation of the Holy Qur’an must form an integral part of worship. Hence the illustrious Companions would commit the Divine verses to memory as soon as they were revealed. Many of them learned the entire text by heart and an even greater number memorized different portions of it.

Besides, those of the Companions who were literate used to keep a written record of several portions of the Holy Qur’an. In this manner, the text of the Holy Qur’an was preserved in four different ways during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH):

  1. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had the whole text of the Divine Messages from beginning to end committed to writing by the scribes of revelations.
  2. Many of the Companions learned the entire text of the Qur’an, syllable upon syllable, by heart.
  3. All the illustrious Companions, without exception, had memorized at least some portion of the Holy Qur’an, for the simple reason that it was obligatory for them to recite it during worship. An estimate of the number of the illustrious Companions may be obtained from the fact that one hundred forty thousand Companions participated in the Last Pilgrimage performed by the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
  4. A considerable number of the literate Companions kept a private record of the text of the Qur’an and satisfied themselves as to the purity of their record by reading it out to the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

It is an incontrovertible historical truth that the text of the Holy Qur’an extant today is, syllable for syllable exactly the same as the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had offered to the world as the Word of God. After the demise of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), the first caliph Hadrat Abu Baker (PBUH) assembled all the Huffaz (those who have memorized the Qur’an) and the written records of the Holy Qur’an and had the whole text written in Book form. In the time of Hadrat ‘Uthman (PBUH) copies of this original version were made and officially dispatched to the capitals of the Islamic world. Of these copies extant in the world today, one is in Istanbul and the other in Tashkent.

Whoever is so inclined may compare any printed text of the Holy Qur’an with those two copies. He shall find no variation. And how can one expect any discrepancy, when there have been several million Huffaz in every generation since the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and in our own time? Should anyone alter one syllable of the original text of the Qur’an, these Huffaz would at once expose the mistake. In the last century, an Institute of Munich University in Germany collected forty-two thousand copies of the Holy Qur’an including manuscripts and printed texts produced in each period in several countries of the Islamic world.

Research was carried out on these texts for half a century, at the end of which the researchers concluded that apart from copying mistakes, there was no discrepancy in the text of these forty-two thousand copies, though they belonged to periods spanning the first century Hijrah to the 14th century Hijrah and had been procured from all parts of the world. This Institute, unfortunately was destroyed in the bombing raids on Germany during World War ll, but the findings of the research project survived. Another point that must be kept in view is that the word in which the Qur’an was revealed is a living language in our own time. It is still current as the mother tongue of some hundred million people from Iraq to Morocco. In the non-Arab world also hundreds of thousands of people study and teach this language.

The grammar of the Arabic language, its lexicon, its phonetic system and its phraseology, have remained intact for fourteen hundred years. A modern Arabic speaking person can comprehend the Holy Qur’an with as much proficiency as did the Arabs of fourteen centuries ago. This, then, is an important attribute of Muhammad (PBUH), which is shared by no other Prophet or Leader of Religion. The Book which God revealed to him for the guidance of mankind today exists in its original language without the slightest alteration in its vocabulary.

Authenticity of the Character and Precedent of the Holy Prophet (PBUH)  

Now take the second attribute of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) by which he stands unique among all Prophets (PBUT and leaders of religion. Just as the Book transmitted to him, amounts of his character have also been preserved to serve as a beacon for us in all walks of life. From early childhood to the close of his life, a large number of those who saw him, witnessed the events of his life and heard his conversation, addresses, exhortations or warnings, had retained them in memory and passed them onto their successors. Some of the research scholars believe that the number of those who had passed on to the next generation eyewitness accounts or reports of events that they had heard during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) number a hundred thousand people. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself dictated some commands and handed or dispatched them to certain people. These were later bequeathed to the succeeding generations.

There were at least six Companions (PBUT who had recorded the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and tested the authenticity of their records by reading them out to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). These writings were also inherited by posterity. After the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), some fifty Companions (PBUT undertook to collect accounts of the circumstances and incidents of the Prophet’s life and his holy utterances. The material gathered from this source also came into the hands of those who later accomplished the task of collecting and compiling the Traditions of the Holy Prophet (PBUH).

Besides, as I have mentioned earlier, the number of the Companions who transmitted orally their knowledge of the Holy Prophet’s character (PBUH) runs to one hundred thousand, according to the estimate of some researchers. Little wonder, when we take into account the fact that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) performed his last Hajj, known as the Farewell Pilgrimage, in the company of one hundred and forty thousand people! All these believers saw him at the time of Hajj, learned from him the rituals of Hajj and listened to the addresses which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) delivered during this last Pilgrimage. It is improbable that when this assembly, who had attended such an important occasion as the Hajj, disperse to their own homes, their friends, relations and fellow-citizens should not have questioned them on the circumstances of their journey or failed to ascertain from them the injunctions about Hajj. One can well judge from this, after the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had departed from the world, how eagerly the people must have questioned those who had seen him and listened to his speech, on the details of his life, his sacred utterances, commands and instructions.

The procedure that had been adopted from the beginning regarding the traditions bequeathed to the later generations by the illustrious Companions (PBUT was that whoever ascribed an event or saying to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) had to state his source and furnish a chain of evidence. In this way, the sources of a particular tradition were traced through all connecting links back to the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) in order to determine whether their connection with the person of the Prophet of God (PBUH) was demonstrably true. If any links were found to be missing in the chain of transmission, the authenticity of the tradition fell into suspicion. When in the case of a tradition, a complete line of evidence had been set up to the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), and even one of the reporters along the line had been recognized as unreliable, the tradition was discarded. If you ponder this a while, you will realize that circumstances relating to no other man in history have been recorded with such rigorous scrutiny.

It is the distinction of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) that no tradition ascribed to him has been accepted, save on authority. And while looking for the authority of a tradition, it was not considered sufficient to establish a chain of evidence up to the time of the Holy Prophet (PBUH), but each one of the successive transmitters was carefully scrutinized as well so as to determine his or her reliability. For this purpose, the circumstances of all the reporters were thoroughly investigated and full-scale books were compiled. Setting forth details as to who was trustworthy and who was not; what sort of character and personality each of them had; whose memory was sound and whose was weak.

Furthermore, the reporter who had actually met the source from whom he had derived the tradition was distinguished from the one who merely named the source without ever having met him. Information about all these reporters has been documented on such a comprehensive scale that today we can easily determine in the case of each tradition whether it has been derived from trustworthy or fake sources. Is there any other person in the history of mankind whose life story has been derived by such authentic means? Is there another single instance in which, while discovering the history of one individual person, comprehensive books were compiled on the life stories of thousands of reporters who had narrated some tradition about that person? The primary motive behind the vigorous campaign of the modern Christian and Jewish scholars is to cast doubt on the authenticity of the tradition is jealousy, for they know full well that the authority on the genuineness of their own Scriptures as well as for that of the histories of their Prophets is non-existent. It is owing to this jealousy that they have dispensed with all intellectual honesty in their criticisms on Islam, the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). (To be continued next week)