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Seerah of the World Leader (PBUH) -1: Why Series of Prophets for the Guidance of Mankind

15 May 2017
Seerah of the World Leader (PBUH) -1: Why Series of Prophets for the Guidance of Mankind

(From the Book Seerat Sarwar e Aalamﷺ)

THE Lord of creation, the Creator and Sovereign of the entire universe, created man* on earth (which is merely a part of His boundless realm). He also endowed man with understanding, with the ability to distinguish between the good and evil, with the freedom of choice and volition, and with the power to exercise his latent potentialities. In short, Allah bestowed upon man a kind of autonomy and appointed him His vicegerent on earth. 

Although man enjoys this status, Allah made it abundantly plain to him that He alone is man's Lord and Sovereign, even as He is the Lord and Sovereign of the whole universe. Man was told that he was not entitled to consider himself independent and that only Allah entitled to claim absolute obedience, service and worship. It was also made clear to man that life in this world, for which he has been placed and invested with a certain honor and authority, was in fact a temporary term, and was meant to test him; that after the end of this earthly life man must return to Allah, Who will judge him on the basis of his performance, declaring who has succeeded and who has failed. 

The right way for man is to regard Allah as his only Sovereign and the only object of his worship and adoration, to follow the guidance revealed by Allah, to act in this world in the consciousness that earthly life is merely a period of trial, and to keep his eyes fixed on the ultimate objective - success in Allah's final judgement. Every other way is wrong. 

It was also explained to man that if he chooses to adopt the right way of life - and in this choice, he was free - he would enjoy peace and contentment in this world and be assigned, on his return to Allah, the Abode of eternal bliss and happiness known as Paradise. Should man follow any other way - although he was free to do so - he would experience the evil effects of corruption and disorder in the life of this world and be consigned to external grief and torment when he crossed the borders of the present world and arrived in Hereafter. 

Guidance to Be a Muslim

Having explained all this, the Lord of the Universe placed man on earth and communicated to Adam and Eve, the first human beings to live on earth, the guidance which they and their offspring were required to follow. These first human beings were not born in a state of ignorance and darkness. On the contrary, they began their life in the broad daylight of divine Guidance. They had intimate knowledge of reality and the Law which they were to follow was communicated to them. Their way of life consisted of obedience to Allah (i.e. Islam) and they taught their children to live in obedience to Him (i.e. to live as Muslims). 

Deviation: 

In the course of time, however, men gradually deviated from this true way of life and began to follow various erroneous ways. They allowed true guidance to be lost through heedlessness and negligence and sometimes, even deliberately, distorted it out of evil perversity. They associated Allah with a number of beings, human and non-human, real as well as imaginary, and adored them as deities. They adulterer the Allah-given knowledge of reality (al-'ilm in the Qur'anic terminology) with all kinds of fanciful ideas, superstitions and philosophical concepts, thereby giving birth to innumerable religions. They disregarded or distorted the sound and equitable principles of individual morality and of collective conduct (Shari'ah in Qur'anic terminology) and made their own laws in accordance with their base desires and prejudices. As a result, the world became filled with wrong and injustice. 

It was inconsistent with the limited autonomy conferred upon man by Allah that he should exercise His overwhelming power and compel man to righteousness. It was also inconsistent with the fact that Allah had granted a term to the human species in which to show their worth that He should afflict men with catastrophic destruction as soon as they showed signs of rebellion. Moreover, Allah had undertaken from the beginning of creation that true guidance would be made available to man throughout the term granted to him and that this guidance would be available in a manner consist ant with man's autonomy. To fulfil this self-assumed responsibility Allah chose to appoint those human beings whose faith in Him was outstanding and who followed the way pleasing to Him. Allah chose these people to be His envoys. He had His messages communicated to them, honoured them with an intimate knowledge of reality, provided them with the true laws of life and entrusted them with the task of recalling man to the original path from which he had strayed [These men were the Prophets and Messengers of Allah - Ed]. 

These Prophets were sent to different people in different lands and over a period of time covering thousands and thousands of years. They all had the same DEEN (religion, system of life); the one originally revealed to man as the right way for him. All of them followed the same guidance; those principles of morality and collective life prescribed for man at the very outset of his existence. All these Prophets had the same mission - to call man to his true deen and subsequently to organize all those who accepted this message into a community (ummah) which would be bound by the Law of Allah., which would strive to establish its observance and would seek to prevent its violation. All the Prophets discharged their mission creditably in their own time. However, there were always many who refused to accept their guidance and consequently those who did accept it and became a 'Muslim community' [That is, a group of people committed to the true guidance of Allah as revealed to His Prophets. Here the word Muslim is not used in the sense of the followers of the last Messenger of Allah, Muhammad (peace be upon him), but in the wider sense, meaning all those who, at various periods, both before and after the advent of the Last Prophet, committed themselves to live in submission to Allah -Ed] gradually degenerated, causing the Divine Guidance to be lost, distorted or adulterated. 

At last the Lord of the Universe sent Muhammad (peace be upon him) to Arabia and entrusted him with the same mission that He had entrusted to the earlier Prophets. This Last Messenger of Allah addressed the followers of the earlier Prophets (who had by this time deviated from their original teachings) as well as the rest of humanity. The mission of each Prophet was to call men to the right way of life, to communicate Allah's true guidance afresh and to organize into one community all who responded to his mission and accepted the guidance vouchsafed to him. Such a community was to be dedicated to the two-fold task of molding its own life in accordance with the Allah's guidance and striving for the reform of the world.1

Prophethood and Primordial Covenant:

اَوۡ تَقُوۡلُوۡۤا اِنَّمَاۤ اَشۡرَكَ اٰبَآؤُنَا مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَكُنَّا ذُرِّيَّةً مِّنۡۢ بَعۡدِهِمۡۚ اَفَتُهۡلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ الۡمُبۡطِلُوۡنَ‏ 

(Al- Quran 7:173) Or say: 'Our forefathers before us who associated others with Allah in His divinity; we were merely their offspring who followed them. And would You destroy us for that which the unrighteous did?

The verse describes the purpose of the primordial covenant. The purpose is to make every person responsible for his deeds so that if he rebels against God he will be held fully accountable for that rebellion. Because of the covenant, no one will be able either to plead for acquittal on grounds of ignorance, or blame his misdeeds on his ancestors. In other words, this primordial covenant has been mentioned as the reason for the inherent awareness in every single person that God is the only Lord and Deity. Thus, none can totally absolve himself of his responsibility on the plea that he was altogether ignorant, or transfer the blame for his error to the corrupt environment in which he was brought up. Now, it can be argued that even if the covenant did take place, no human being remembers its occurrence. No human being is aware that a long time ago, at the time of creation, he had affirmed, in response to God's query, that God indeed was his Lord. This being the case, it can be further argued that no charge can be legitimately brought against man on the ground of a covenant with God which he no longer remembers to have made. In response to this it can be said that had the covenant been made fully in man's conscious memory, it would be meaningless for God to put man to the test in this world. Hence, there can be no denying that the covenant is not preserved in man's conscious memory. But it has doubtlessly been preserved in man's sub-conscious mind. In this respect, the primordial covenant is no different from other pieces of knowledge in man's sub-conscious mind. Whatever man has so far achieved in the way of culture and civilization can be attributed to his latent potentialities. All external factors and internal motivations simply account for helping the actualization of those potentialities. Neither education nor training nor environmental factors can bring out anything which is not potentially found in the human mind. Likewise, external factors have no power to root out man's latent potentialities. External factors may, at the most, cause a person to deflect from the course dictated by sound human nature. However, man's sound nature is inclined to resist the pressure of external forces and exert itself in order to find an outlet. As we have said earlier, this is not peculiar to man's religious propensity alone, but is equally true of all his mental potentialities. In this regard, the following points are particularly noteworthy: 

(1) All man's potentialities exist in the sub-conscious mind and prove their existence when they manifest themselves in the form of human action. 

(2) The external manifestation of these potentialities requires external stimuli such as instruction, upbringing. and attitudinal orientation. In other words, our actions consist of the responses of our inherent potentialities to external stimuli. 

(3) Man's inner potentialities can be suppressed both by false urges within him as well as external influences by trying to pervert and distort those latent potentialities. The potentialities themselves, however, cannot he totally rooted out. 

The same holds true of man's intuitive knowledge regarding his position in the universe and his relationship with his Creator. In this connection the following points should be borne in mind: 

(1) That man has always had such intuitive knowledge is evident from the fact that this knowledge has surfaced throughout history in every period and in every part of the world, and which no power has so far been able to extirpate. 

(2) That this intuitive knowledge conforms to objective reality, is borne out by, the fact that whenever this knowledge has influenced human life, it has had beneficial results. 

(3) That in order to manifest itself in his practical life, man's intuitive knowledge has always required external stimuli. The stimuli have consisted of the advent of the Prophets (peace be on them), the revelation of the Heavenly Books, and the striving of those who have tried to follow them and invite others to do the same. It is for this reason that the Qur'an has been designated as mudhakkir (the reminder): dhikr (remembrance); tadhkirah (admonition). and the function of the Qur'an has been characterized as tadhkir(reminding). What this suggests is that the Prophets, the Heavenly Books and those who invite people to the truth do not seek to provide human beings with something new, something which exists outside of them. Their task rather consists of bringing to the surface and rejuvenating what is latent, though dormant, in man himself. 

Throughout the ages man has always positively responded to this 'Reminder'. This itself is testimony to the fact that it is embodied in a knowledge which has always been recognized by; man's soul. 

Forces arising from ignorance and obscurantism, lust and bigotry, and the erroneous teachings and promptings of devils - human as well as jinn - have always attempted to suppress, conceal, and distort the fact that the truth preached by the Prophets is embedded in man's soul. These attempts gave rise to polytheism, atheism, religious misdirection and moral corruption. Despite the combined efforts of the forces of falsehood, however, this knowledge has always had an imprint on the human heart. Hence, whenever any effort was made to revive that knowledge, it has proved successful. 

Doubtlessly those who are bent on denying the truth can resort to a great deal of sophistry in order to deny or at least create doubt and confusion about the existence of this knowledge. However, on the Day of Resurrection the Creator will revive in man the memory of the first assembly when man made his covenant with God and accepted Him as his Only Lord. On that occasion, God will provide evidence to the effect that the covenant always remained imprinted on man's soul. He will also show how from time to time man tried to suppress his inner voice which urged him to respond to the call of the covenant; how again and again his heart pressed him to affirm the truth; how his intuition induced him to denounce the errors of belief and practice; how the truth ingrained in his soul tried to express itself and respond to those who called to it; and how on each occasion he lulled his inner self to sleep because of his lust and bigotry.2  

*Used for man and woman both.

1Introduction to Tafheem ul Quran translated by Dr. Dr. Zafar Ishaq Ansari 

2 Tafheem ul Quran, Surah Al A’raf. Reference note 135.

 

-Author Syed Abul A'ala Maududi, compiled in Urdu by Naeem Siddiqui, and Abdul Wakeel Alvi, compiled in English by Syed Jawed Anwar.

 

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