Islam is a religion, a way of life, given to us by Allah (SWT) through His messenger, our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This, although a very simple sentence, can and has caused a tremendous amount of confusion and problems in the past. While some have completely neglected the role of Muhammad (PBUH) and denied the use of his Sunnah, others have incorrectly elevated his role and have associated features with Muhammad (PBUH) that only belong to Allah (SWT). In this article, I will attempt to dissect the problem and clarify it conceptually.
Allah (SWT) and His systems
Allah (SWT) created the human beings and this world with certain systems in place. We see the use of these systems when we study the sciences. For instance, the human body is part of Biological, Physiological, Anatomical, Psychological, and other scientific system. If a person ingests too many carbohydrates, it has certain effects on the body. If someone sleeps too much, it also has certain effects that affect all of the systems. Other systems that have been discovered in the environment include Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, Geology, and others. It is also possible that there are systems that exist and have not yet been discovered by human beings.
Thus we know that Allah (SWT) puts a system in place as part of His Qadr (destiny). A lot of times people have confused themselves and others with this term. I will not go into any details because of the controversy associated with it. As for my personal belief, Qadr specifically pertains to life, death, and Rizq (sustenance) and generally concerns the different set of systems placed in and around the universe. Regardless, most people will agree that our entire universe observes certain laws and acts according to one or more systems.
Why were prophets sent to humans?
Whenever Allah (SWT) intended to bring about a change or intervene in His own system, He sent a prophet. The prophets (Peace be upon them all) were sent to correct the doings of humans and re-align them towards the path of God.
Allow me to explain. We know that Shirk and Kufr came into Arabia over many years. The very first idol was brought to Makkah by Amr bin Luhay who was traveling through Damascus and saw people worshipping idols. He liked the concept and brought one back to Makkah. Following his footsteps, more idols were periodically brought to Makkah. At the time of Conquest of Makkah, there were hundreds of idols placed in and around Kaaba. This goes to show that Shirk and Kufr didn’t come overnight but prospered over time through a system of human understanding (or lack thereof).
In order to intervene in this systematic degradation of people’s beliefs, Allah (SWT) sent Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This was a divine intervention in a divine system. Similar to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), other prophets also came to correct the systematic deterioration of their people.
What does the Quran say about our Prophet?
Quran is the only direct source of divine guidance from God Al-Mighty. It is the only unchanged and authentic source of knowledge and guidance in Islam. Therefore, if one intended to truly understand the role of our Prophet (PBUH), one must first and foremost turn towards the Quran. First the Quran clarifies the role of all the prophets by stating in (2:213):
“Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. And none differed over the Scripture except those who were given it – after the clear proofs came to them – out of jealous animosity among themselves. And Allah guided those who believed to the truth concerning that over which they had differed, by His permission. And Allah guides whom He wills to a straight path.”
This role of “the one who gives glad tidings and warns” is also associated with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the Quran. This implies that prophets were practical and wise individuals who presented the positive and negative aspects to the people. It was left up to the people to accept or reject the message. However, at times, prophets presented the people with miracles to instill instant belief inside the hearts of individuals. The reason Quran is considered the greatest miracle of Prophet Muhammad is because it will continue to instill belief inside people’s hearts until the last day.
It is interesting to note that the word “Muhammad” occurs four times in the entire Quran.
In all four occurrences, Allah (SWT) is visibly clarifying the role of the Prophet. “Muhammad is not but a messenger, Muhammad is not a father but a messenger, He was given a message” etc. In other words, Muhammad (PBUH) albeit a human being of the greatest character, holds an importance to us because of the nature of his relationship with Allah (SWT), being His messenger.
Now Allah (SWT) does refer to Muhammad (PBUH) in many different verses in order to clarify his role. For instance, Allah (SWT) says in (33:45):
“O Prophet, indeed We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner.”
Why is this important?
The role of our beloved Prophet (PBUH) is important to know and understand so we Muslims do not commit the same mistakes as our predecessors. Christians have been guilty of elevating the role of their Prophet Jesus (PBUH) so high that he was declared the Son of God or even God Himself.
As for us, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is a messenger sent by Allah (SWT) to “humanize” the Quranic teachings. He clarified to us the message of Allah (SWT) in a manner understandable to us. This is why his Sunnah always comes after the words of Allah (SWT). Alhamdulillah, we are all grateful to Allah (SWT) for His Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).