Love, Tolerance, And Jihad In The Life Of The Prophet Muhammad
The blessed life of the Pride of Humanity, peace and blessings be upon him, was interwoven with threads of peace and tolerance as if it were a beautiful piece of lace. To begin with, peace is fundamental to Islam. There are many verses in the Qur’an connected with this matter. For example, in one of these the Prophet is addressed:
But if the enemy inclines toward peace, do you (also) incline toward peace, and trust in God: for He is the One that hears and knows (all things). (Al-Anfal 8:61)
Even in an atmosphere in which two armies have fought against each other and blood has been spilled, if the enemy forgoes fighting and wants to make a treaty, then the Muslims are commanded not to react emotionally, but to make a treaty, putting their trust in God. Thus, a universal principle regarding this subject has been established. Consequently, to talk about fighting or conflict is completely contrary to the basic spirit of a religion that enjoins treaties and reconciliation, not only in time of peace, but even during wartime.
The mission of the Prophet was to communicate the faith as he had been enjoined by God. He did this without any prejudice. This was true to such an extent that, the Prophet, this man of love and peace, visited even the most hardhearted unbelievers, such as Abu Jahl and ‘Uqbah ibn Abi Mu’ayd, many times without displaying any resentment. He desired that all people should be able to feel Paradise in their hearts. He often said:
Pronounce there is no deity but God and be saved.1
What he meant by this was: “To attain fulfillment in your heart, help the seed of belief which has been sown in your heart to grow into paradise and secure your other world.” Once Abu Jahl answered this invitation in a disrespectful and mocking way, “Hey, Muhammad, if you are doing this to make us witnesses of your call before God, do not invite me to religion again. I will bear witness there.” This unbeliever always answered without respect. But in spite of Abu Jahl’s insults, the Glory of the World, peace and blessings be upon him, talked about Islam every time they met and never changed his exemplary style; these insulting words, attitude, and behavior never affected him.
One event that is connected with the Pride of Humanity’s vast love, compassion, and tolerance for humankind took place during the conquest of Mecca. After the conquest was complete, everyone gathered around the Prophet and, looking into his eyes, they began to wait for him to make a decision concerning their fate. Up until the last moment a small group, among whom was Abu Jahl’s son, Ikrimah, had opposed the Muslims’ entrance to Mecca. Once more their feelings of violence and revenge were inflamed. At a moment when the atmosphere was incredibly tense, the Messenger of God asked the Meccans who were waiting with anticipation and anxiety, “What are you expecting me to do to you?” Some of the Meccans who knew well what a noble, forgiving, and generous person he was did not refrain from showing their feelings and said, “You are the most generous of the generous, the noblest of the noble.” The Prophet’s goal was neither possessions nor property, neither sovereignty nor power, nor the conquest of land. His aim was to save people and conquer their hearts. This Man of Love and Affection gave his decision concerning his enemies, saying:
I say to you as Joseph once said to his brothers. There’s no blame for the actions that you have performed before. God will forgive you, too. He is the Most Merciful of the Merciful. Go, you are all free.2
What this approach actually meant could be expressed as follows:
“Do not suffer any internal pain. I have no intention to punish anyone. Everyone’s behavior displays his or her character. This is how I do things.”
After the return to Madina, Ikrima ibn Abu Jahl, who had spilled blood even during the conquest of Mecca, was convinced by his wife Umm Hakim to return from where he had escaped, and he was taken before the Prince of Prophets, peace and blessings be upon him. Before he entered the Prophet’s presence, those around him said that if he asked for forgiveness, the Messenger of God would forgive him. In all probability, before Ikrima came into his presence the Prophet had warned those around him, “Ikrima is coming. Do not hurt his feelings by saying unbecoming things about his father.” As soon as Ikrima stepped inside, the Messenger said warmly, “Welcome to the one who emigrated by boat.” Never expecting words full of this much love and affection, Ikrima later said, “As long as I live I will never forget this behavior of the Prophet.” Four years after Ikrima became Muslim, he was martyred at Yermuk. Murmuring the words, “O Messenger of God, have you found the goodness you expected as compensation for the evil done by the one who emigrated by boat?” he joined the other martyrs.3
As I stated above, the Messenger’s call was his mission to represent the truths he told to others. In other words, it was his duty to practice in his life the things he said. He always practiced a thing before calling on others to do the same. The things we have explained so far comprise the general character of the Prince of Prophets, peace and blessings be upon him. However, some try their best to misinterpret the existence of and encouragement to jihad in the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah as being in conflict with our Prophet’s universal love and affection. But jihad can mean an armed struggle as an action tied to special conditions that is sometimes necessary to carry out in order to protect such values as life, property, religion, children, homeland, and honor. It is also resorted to sometimes when it is necessary to remove obstacles from the path that leads to raising God’s Word. Today these two situations are constantly confused; sometimes this is due to ignorance and sometimes it is done intentionally. Love, affection, and tolerance, in their broadest dimensions, were enjoyed during the Age of Happiness, a time full of peace and happiness, a time which in the words of the Prophet was, “the best of centuries.” As a matter of fact, this period represented the apex of Muslim civilization; it was a golden time when peace, love, and understanding were given their true position in society.
By M. Fethullah Gülen
- Ibn Kathir, al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah, 3:62-63.
- Al-Iraqi, al-Mughni an Haml a-Asfar, 3:179.
- Ibn Athir, Usd al-Ghabah, 3:567-570; Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-’Ummal, 13:540-541.