In a time where racism, rampant slavery, and open discrimination based off trivial tribal affiliations were the norm, the Prophet Mohammed stood as a groundbreaking example of how human beings should treat each other.
A look at the Prophet Mohammed and his political activism
The Prophet Mohammed can often be upheld as a figure almost above human beings, as someone who is almost not relateable because of his greatness. While none today can indeed compare to his greatness, it is also important to remember his humanity. The Prophet Mohammed, after all, was still a human being just like the rest of us. His devotion to equality, justice, and goodness are also at the core of his Prophet mission, teaching us that with a devotion to Allah comes responsibilities on how to conduct ourselves within society.
Arguably, one can even say that the Prophet led the way in terms of political activism, teaching us that we must ideologically, physically, and morally strive towards bettering our societies from the bottom up. In our world today, rampant with Islamophobia, hate-speech, racism, and divisive rhetoric coming from the highest levels of government, it becomes more important than ever to remember the Prophet and his message: we must always strive towards what it good and stop those who attempt to oppress others.
So here are three examples of the Prophet Mohammed and his political activism, and how we can learn and utilize these for ourselves today:
Before Prophethood, he ensured the safety of foreign traders and travellers in the region
During the Prophet’s early days before he received the message, he often travelled with his uncle for trade and commerce, witnessing many scenes that must have disturbed him profoundly. Particularly, in a place called ‘Ukaz, an enormous annual fair used to be held during the month of Dhul-Qa’dah, in which bloody quarrels, drunken lewd acts, prostitution, and general corruption were rampant.
Once the tribe of Qureysh were the leading family in the region, the Prophet helped spearhead a league called Hilf-ul-Fudhul, which aimed to stop the rampant corruption and scenes of moral degradation prominent in the region. The League, most importantly, helped victims of previous oppression and protected foreign travellers to the area, who had previously often been cheated, beaten, or disturbed by locals.
The Prophet’s commitment towards ensuring the safety and protection of travellers, traders, and those previously without rights is a profound example of what we may tentatively call political activism – he not only actively fought for the equal treatment of all peoples, regardless of tribal affiliation or social status, but he also helped establish a league that would help formally create a system of protecting rights.
The league was an important step in the Prophet’s wider mission later, and having been formed before his Prophethood he was asked on numerous occasions what he thought of his participation in the league in retrospect. The Prophet’s response was: “If even now (i.e. after the commencement of the prophetic mission) I am invited to a similar agreement I shall accept it”.
The Prophet and Bilal
Bilal, one of the earliest Africans to convert to Islam, was formally a slave. Raised in slavery, Bilal worked under Ummayya bin Khalaf, who was not Muslim. Despite the family who owned him praying to idols, Bilal fell in love with Islam, and secretly became Muslim when he was around the age of 40.
Unfortunately, when Ummayya bin Khalaf found out that Bilal prayed to God, he was mercilessly tortured and abused for this beliefs. On the day that Bilal was tied to the ground, burning from the hot sand and weighed down with an enormous heavy stone on his chest, it was reported that Bilal fell into a swoon and fainted from pain. When he awoke, he found the stone was no longer on his chest and he found the face of the Prophet Mohammad, smiling and looking down on him.
The Prophet Mohammed had reportedly been pained when learning that Bilal had been tortured by his horrendous family for simply being Muslim, and had instructed his companion Abu Bakr to pay off Ummayya bin Khalaf until he agreed to release Bilal from his servitude. The Prophet Mohammed, once Bilal had been released from the holds of slavery, had set him free as an example of how Islam views all human beings: all are born and should remain free, only except in the beautiful servitude towards God.
In a time where racism, rampant slavery, and open discrimination based off trivial tribal affiliations were the norm, the Prophet Mohammed stood as a groundbreaking example of how human beings should treat each other. Setting Bilal free from slavery, bringing him into his inner circle, and appointing him as the first mu’adhdhin, or the one who called the adhan for prayer, set a profound example for all to see. This groundbreaking act can be taken as an example in today’s political activism: we must, no matter who the oppressed are, stand with them, and protect the sanctity of goodness and love over the evils of slavery, discrimination, and social hierarchies.
The Prophet’s love for Bilal was endless, on one occasion it is said that Bilal entered a room where the Prophet and his other companions were seated. The Prophet’s eyes brightened and he exclaimed in his beautiful voice to Bilal: “If we should want to take one particular person as the shining example of good behaviour and adab, then you would be the clear and obvious example”.
Protecting the rights of religious minorities
When the Prophet Mohammed and his companions were forced to migrate to Medina after being tortured, harassed, and attacked by their enemies in Mecca, he soon had to come up with a treaty to live in peace with the minority Jewish community that lived in their new home of Medina. The Prophet never forced conversion, or went to war with the Jewish community, instead he orchestrated one of the greatest charters on the protection of religious minorities.
Knowing that living in peace with all despite apparent differences was more important that forcing a religion upon another, the Prophet set an example for all of humanity: all should be free to practice their religion in peace, so long as there is a mutual understanding of respect. Although the majority of Medina celebrated and embraced the Prophet and his companions as their leaders in Islam, the Prophet ensured the protection of the minority Jews regardless of who was the majority.
This Charter was monumental in the fact that it ensured the Jewish community full rights to practice Judaism without harassment or compromise. All Jewish people who entered into the covenant were protected from insults and taunts, and were guaranteed equal rights and full access to assistance and services. The Jewish community members were also given the full right to completely practice their faith freely with no restrictions. Finally, another groundbreaking point in the Prophet’s treaty was that the peaceful allies of the Jews would also enjoy the same protection and freedoms under the charter.
The Prophet provided an important and timeless example of how to treat all people in society, no matter how much of a minority they might be. He made the monumental point of ensuring that a community means a community of all, no matter what religion or background some may be from. In a time where our own societies seem even more divided with hate, the example set forth by the Prophet remains more important than ever: we must step up within our own political and societal circles to ensure all in society are protected – even those who we would consider a minority.