By Prophet of Mercy
A one-word answer to the question about the legacy of Prophet Muhammad would be Islam. But to speak specifically of the contribution of the Prophet as a person, we need to study the example he has set for humankind in all spheres of human endeavor.
From another angle, our focus should be on the role of the holy Qur’an in defining the Prophet’s personality as well as his mission. The Sunnah provides a practical demonstration of the provisions of the Qur’an. Together, the Qur’an and the Sunnah effected a revolution that has changed the course of human history.
Professor Ramakrishna Rao sums up the mission of Muhammad in these words:
When he appeared Arabia was a desert — a nothing. Out of nothing a new world was fashioned by the mighty spirit of Muhammad — a new life, a new culture, a new civilization, a new kingdom which extended from Morocco to Indies and influenced the thought and life of three continents — Asia, Africa and Europe.
The true miracle of Muhammad was how he translated the divine revelation he received into practical action that set in motion a chain reaction of revolutionizing the thought patterns and lifestyles of people across continents over centuries. The Prophet showed the way to break free from the worship of the many false gods, to worship the One True God.
Oneness of God
The central doctrine of Islam is the oneness of God: That God is One, and the religion decreed for humanity is also one. The Qur’an is the Word of Allah calling humankind to a life conforming to the will of the One God:
(He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. )(Al-Ikhlas 112:1–4)
The whole universe and everything in it is created by the One God:
(He Who created the seven heavens one above another: No want of proportion will you see in the Creation of (Allah) Most Gracious. So, turn your vision again: See you any flaw? Again turn you vision a second time: (Your) vision will come back to you dull and discomfited, in a state worn out. )(Al-Mulk 67:3–4)
God has created humankind and made it a universal community:
(O humankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain has spread abroad a multitude of men and women )(An-Nisaa’ 4:1)
If we analyze the undercurrents of today’s international conflicts, we will find most of them traceable to race, color, language, nationality, and so forth. If this is the case even in these “enlightened” times, what could the situation have been in the Arabia of the Prophet’s time?
In fact, the Islamic idea that all humankind is one vast universal community has been amply demonstrated through the centuries and is a well-acknowledged fact. In Islam, there is no clergy as in other religions, and so there is no question of any priest posing as an intermediary between Allah and man, because Allah says,
(We are nearer to him (man) than (his) jugular vein. ) (Qaf 50:16)
Every worshipper in the house of Allah is equal to any other to Allah. It is this concept of human brotherhood that is most spectacularly demonstrated in Makkah once every year at Hajj. The white and the black, the brown and the yellow — indeed, people of all color, social class, and political affiliation, hailing from all corners of the planet —, meet and mingle as one nation, forgetting their differences to worship the One God. Moreover, Muslims all over the world turn to Makkah for salah five times a day, standing shoulder to shoulder like a solid wall, and pray to the One True God. We read in the Qur’an:
(O humankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is Well-Acquainted (with all things). )(Al-Hujurat 49:13)
The peace of Islam is not a philosophical idea, but a practical one that has been realized in reality. Islam understands that justice is the key to peace in the world; peace is impossible in a society where oppression and exploitation of the weak is the norm. The Qur’an teaches:
(O you who believe, stand out firmly for Allah as just witnesses, and let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice. Be just, that is nearer totaqwa (piety and fear of Allah), and havetaqwa of Allah. Verily, Allah is Well-Acquainted with what you do. )(Al-Ma’idah 5:8)
We know that despite all the conflicts in the world, the planet is rapidly becoming a global “village.” Therefore, humans must necessarily learn to live close to one another. Rather, they must become a true brotherhood, transcending racial, cultural, and national barriers. Only Islam embraces the whole of humankind as one; therefore, it can effectively address all humans as equals before Allah. Allah, in the holy Qur’an, asks the Prophet to declare:
(Say; “O humankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah to Whom belongs the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth. There is no god, but He )(Al-A`raf 7:158)
Balance and Proportion
Islam teaches that the whole universe was created in balanced proportion, with truth and justice as its backbone.
(And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), in order that you may not transgress (due) balance. )(Ar-Rahman 55:7–8)
(We sent aforetime our Messengers with Clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance (of Right and Wrong), that people may stand forth in justice )(Al-Hadid 57:25)
The above verses stress the principles of balance and justice underlying the creation of the heavens and the earth. So we humans, as the vicegerents of Allah on earth, are ordered to abide by the same principles of balance and justice in our activities on earth.
This is one of the core principles of Islam, from which follow its injunctions in all spheres of human endeavor. We can also note here Islam’s attitude to other religions.
(Say: “We believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and in what was revealed to Abraham, Isma`il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord. We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam). )(Aal-`Imran 3:84)
We cannot see any proclamation of a similar nature in other religions.
As for the freedom of conscience, the Qur’an is categorical.
(Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error. )(Al-Baqarah 2:256)
A Way of Life
Islam visualizes not only a society of religious people, but also an economic system permeated with the spirit of brotherhood that stresses equitable distribution and a constant circulation of wealth. In fact, the Qur’an is filled with exhortations for the spending of one’s resources in the service of man, as well as warnings against unscrupulous hoarders of wealth. The Islamic system promotes the production of wealth through equitable and fair commercial ventures and transactions, while insisting that principles of social justice and fairness are not compromised. Every venture that puts wealth into circulation, promotes employment, and fosters the welfare of the community is appreciated, encouraged, and strongly advocated.
Even in the international sphere, Islam favors the promotion of economic cooperation between different nations as regards resources, and it strongly disapproves of all kinds of exploitation and intimidation aimed at the less-fortunate. The Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes the need for honoring treaties and agreements among individuals and nations. The Prophet himself provides a model for the most scrupulous observance of treaties and engagements notwithstanding disadvantages to Muslims.
In all matters, Islam insists that the highest principles of righteousness and justice be observed.
(Whoever works righteousness benefits his own soul; whoever works evil, it is against his own soul; nor is your Lord ever unjust (in the least) to His Servants. )(Fussilat 41:46)
In short, an objective analysis of the situation in today’s world in light of the holy Qur’an can help us chart out ways and means of finding viable and lasting solutions to our problems. We can see that it is people’s rejection of Allah and His guidance that is the root cause of today’s crises. Naturally, the remedy is that people today should recognize their true Creator and Sustainer and strive to live by His laws.
Rao, K. S. Ramakrishna. Islam and Modern Age. March 1978.