Muhammad: The Beautiful Spirit of Civil Society

The Bedouins say, “We have believed.” Say, “You have not [yet] believed; but say [instead], ‘We have submitted,’ for faith has not yet entered your hearts. And if you obey Allah and His Messenger, He will not deprive you from your deeds of anything. Indeed, God is Forgiving and Merciful.” [Quran, 49.14].

Take a moment to think about this verse from the Quran. As there are many points of self-reflection to take from it. As we see the faith of some of those who made the testimony of faith was sought to be verified by their conduct. Their submission had been accepted but their true ‘faith’ had not been recognised. We must ask ourselves, where are we at? Is this our state? What is the extent of our faith?

Aa’ishah, may God be pleased with her, related that she heard the Prophet, upon whom be peace, saying: “A believer achieves by his good conduct the same reward as a person who fasts much and prays (the voluntary prayer) during the night.” (Abu Dawood). This is something that we really need to think about, as far too often worship is considered purely in the divine rituals. However, we can see from the prophetic tradition that there is a much wider spiritual dimension which calls one to consider behaviour and conduct.

We see this reinforced through countless prophetic traditions, and specific calls to excellence in manners and conduct. The Prophet, upon whom be peace, said: “Nothing is heavier on the scale of a believing slave (of God) on the Day of Resurrection than good conduct. Indeed God dislikes the rude and disrespectful.” (At-Tirmidhi). 

This is from the blessings of faith, that if a believer can truly believe, and obey God and his messenger, this is the basis of a stronger community and a closer society as everyone benefits from their obedience; regardless of whether they have faith or not. Today we see the rise of anti-social behaviour, uncontrolled substance misuse and ultimately a collapse in the concern for the self and the way one engages wider society. The prophetic tradition is one that seeks to bring order and beatification in conduct so that all can flourish and be respected. It is no surprise that students of scripture will often remind of a wonderful short prophetic reflection, in which the Prophet of God asserts,

 “I am the guarantor of a home in the upper part of Paradise for whomsoever possesses good conduct.” (Abu Dawood). 

And it is fully understood that good conduct is to enrich and infuse civic relations with courtesy, respect and an ability to embrace diversity. The Prophet, upon whom be peace said: “Shall I not tell you of the person for whom Hell is forbidden? – Hell is forbidden for every person who is tolerant, unpretentious and pleasant.” (At-Tirmidhi).

When one considers this perspective it really makes one question, what would society look like, if regardless of which faith or any was prevalent, the ways of the Prophet Muhammad prevailed?

He was a man that consistently called for people to reflect on their conduct and the way they engaged those around them, famously reminding his companions, “Gentleness does not but adorn one’s deeds and when something is devoid of gentleness, it becomes disfigured.” (Muslim). 

This approach he had was a product of how he saw his actual purpose and mission on earth, reminding his companions, “I was only sent to bring good conduct to perfection.” (Ahmad).

Therefore today, it’s important to really consider, what we can learn from the example of the Prophet Muhammad. Undoubtedly, we would all welcome more respect, tolerance, manners and courtesy in the way people behave. These are the basic constructs of a society when all have the opportunity to flourish and understanding prevails over hate and fear. Regardless of whether one accepts his prophethood or not, what is clear is his teachings and his ways have so much to enrich contemporary civil society.

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