WHEN the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper published cartoons denigrating the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in 2005, many Muslims reacted by holding violent protests all over the Islamic world. Around 100 people died in riots as protests spread after the publication of the cartoons — one of which depicted the Prophet with a bomb in his turban — in numerous Western newspapers in 2006.
Ibrahim Hussain Malabari, a Canadian Islamic scholar of Indian origin and former director of the Islamic Center in Toronto, reacted to such Prophet bashing in a different but proactive manner by capturing the opportunity to highlight the real qualities of the Prophet and his mercifulness.
Malabari published a book entitled Mercy: Prophet Muhammad’s Legacy to All Creation. The book comes at a time when Islamophobes around the world have launched a strident campaign against the Prophet, unfairly accusing him of promoting terrorism and violence.
“This book is unique in kind, novel in presentation, and simple in style,” says Shaikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, a globally renowned Islamic scholar and president of the International Federation for Muslim Scholars.
“In Muslim tradition, Muhammad can best be characterized as a remarkable personality who inspired confidence and commitment despite persecution and oppression, a shrewd military strategist, and a righteous, pious, trustworthy, compassionate, and honest man,” writes John L. Esposito, director, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., in the forward of the book.
“Post-9/11 Western audiences have been exposed to a never-ending stream of publications and statements that vilify Muhammad and portray him principally as a ruthless warrior, intent upon the spread of Islam primarily through conquest,” Esposito writes. As a result of these smear campaigns, he says, the multifaceted human dimension of Prophet Muhammad and his role as a spiritual paradigm or model is obscured or buried, and he describes Malabari’s book as a welcome addition to the literature on the Prophet. “Malabari offers us a volume that, drawing on the Islamic tradition and Muslim literature, reveals a profound dimension of Muslim spirituality that focuses on Muhammad as a Prophet of Mercy.” He believes that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will benefit from this richly textured account of Prophet Muhammad’s compassion for all creation: “In a world in which Islam is too often simply identified with politics, religious extremism and terrorism, ‘Mercy: Prophet Muhammad’s Legacy to All Creation’ is a compelling reminder of the richness of Islamic spirituality.”
“Can anyone who loves the Prophet stand idle while watching the enormous Prophet-phobia spreading all over the world?” Malabari asks. “How should we defend him? By murdering those who slander him, destroying property, or issuing death-threats? No, for such activities were not part of his noble character,” he said. “Rather, one must defend him by demonstrating his mercy toward humanity as a whole, including enemies, and to all creation,” he points out.
The book has received praise from prominent international figures. Dr. Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia states, “The incessant drumbeat of civilizational conflict has made it incumbent upon Muslims living in the West to rearticulate a vision of the religion in light of the timeless challenges humanity faces today. By expounding on the role of compassion in Islam and as embodied in the life of its Prophet, the author has rescued a discourse now threatened by misconception, innuendo and Islamophobia and refocused attention where it rightly belongs — on the universal pursuit of peace. This is the strength of Malabari’s contribution: A book that should be read by anyone who believes in justice, loves mercy and seeks to tread the path of mutual understanding.”
Professor Khurshid Ahmed, a renowned economist, a prolific author and a senator in Pakistan, states, “Prophet Muhammad was a mercy, not only to mankind but to all of creation. This is a dimension that needed articulation based on objective research. Malabari’s book is a piece of original research and innovative interpretation. It is a unique contribution to the study of the life and impact of the Prophet of Islam. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first study of the seerah from this perspective and its relevance increases manifold because of the ecological crisis presently faced by the developed and under-developed world, primarily because of the one-dimensional approach to economic development and the misguided view of “conquest of nature” as against nature and the humans being partners in a common effort to fulfill the Divine Will on the earth. This book, on the life of the Prophet, offers light which may enable humankind to overcome the crisis that is threatening the future of civilization.”
Rashid Al-Ghannoushi, a Tunisian philosopher calls the work “a book unlike no other.” He states, “This distinguished author fills gaps and presents answers for many bewildering question concerning the life of the Prophet (s)... traversing through Prophetic history and vast spiritual horizons....”
In the first chapter of the book, Malabari discusses in detail the concept of the Prophet’s mercy and its wider implications. The book tries to show that the various attempts to depict the Prophet as a prophet of war and hatred are unfounded and based upon biased scholarship that cannot withstand the close scrutiny of historical facts and sources.
The study examines the larger consequences of the Prophet’s unique position by seeking to enumerate his important and substantial contributions to humanity and civilization.
The final section explains how the Prophet’s enemies have defamed, degraded, and slandered him throughout history. “My analysis shows that this negative campaign has always been rooted in a deep-seated fear and hatred of Islam,” Malabari said. “Although modern Europe proclaims the virtues of rationality and objectivity, I point out that the West’s vilification of the Prophet of Mercy never went beyond the crude and simple-minded polemics and slander of the pagan Quraish,” the author argues.
In the context of the present encounter between Islam and the West, the best place to begin the dialogue is to study the merciful Prophet’s personality. Once he has been properly and objectively understood, a bridge can be built and more positive approaches can be developed to bring the two great civilizations of Islam and the West closer together.
The book was initially released at the “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” conference in Toronto, Canada in December 2008. A second release of the book took place in the World Assembly of Muslim Youth’s (WAMY) headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Releasing the book, the preeminent scholar and vice president of The International Federation of Muslim Scholars, Shaikh Abdulla Bayyah, said that the book is a timely one, and it will play a prominent role in removing many misunderstandings in the mind of the West. At a time when prophet-phobia is spreading worldwide, this book highlights the aspects of mercy in the Prophet’s life in a style that is comprehensible to non-Muslims.
WAMY’s assistant secretary general Doctor Muhammad Badahdah praised the book and wished that the book should be translated to other languages like French, Spanish, and Russian. The plan for translating the book to other languages, including Arabic, is presently underway.
In a letter to Malabari, Prof. Khurshid Ahmad said, “I hope this book would be circulated all over the English speaking world.”
Malabari concludes his book by stating:
“Millions and millions of volumes have been written about Prophet Muhammad (s), in all languages, from east to west, and from north to south. Such volumes continue to be written today and will continue to be written until the last day, and will never be exhausted. No scholar, however learned and brilliant he or she may be, can exhaust the deep expanse that is the story of the Prophet of Mercy (s).” As the great encyclopaedist al-Qalqashandi (d. 1418) states, “Paper has become unable to contain a depiction of him. The ink-pots have dried up before exhausting his greatness.”
“How could they? How can the deepest ocean be exhausted? The many volumes written on this great story represent nothing but a drop from that vast and profound ocean. From my experience, the more one studies the Prophet’s (s) life, the more one realizes that he or she is just an elementary student standing on the shore of a magnificent ocean, or standing in front of the brilliant sun surrounded by its rays of light. No matter how much one might try, all of that light can never be embraced. He was the glorious light that illuminated our world, all of the worlds, all of creation. He shines in the thicket of modern-day jahiliyya, attracting deprived hearts, and inspiring craving souls.”