03.22.08

A Commentary on the Prophet’s Birth Poem

Posted in Islam at 11:31 am by Haider

There is nothing that I would hate more than for my poem on the Prophet’s birth to be read as an empty propaganda piece. One of the things I strongly criticise about Muslims is how they’ve built up a devotion to the Prophet without really knowing what the Prophet is like, or what he represents to them in terms of his character. They were simply fed, from their childhood to the mosques they attend as adults, how great the Prophet is, but without elaborating on what kind of a man he was.

They praise him for being the chosen one, for being a mercy to mankind, for taking the Arabs out of ignorance, for being a man of peace, for being the final messenger, and so on and so on, without being clear about what this praise really means. Usama Bin Laden can begin a letter with the words: “In the name of God the Most Compassionate, the Ever Merciful,” then go on to order the killing of all Westerners in Islamic lands. What does God’s mercy mean, if He approves of, and even sanctions, the killing of Westerners, even if they are civilians?

I, therefore, would like to put the poem I’ve written in perspective, and to explain what I mean by it, and how I justify every verse in it.

My Lord I ask you for your aid, and my words to lift,
In honour of your greatest treasure and most precious gift
A gift that lit the world and graced the lives of those on earth
And I take this time to say these words in tribute on his birth.

These verses may not only seem exaggerated, but outright lies. Rather than be the “light of the world,” Islam today seems to be dragging mankind to the dark ages. Many problems encountered on a personal, social and global level seem to be caused by Islam, or an ideological element that Islam shares with other religions or ideologies. And judging by the Islamic teachings being propagated by Muslims today, these verses certainly seem to be unfounded. But this is why I said in the introduction to the poem that it was written in praise of the Prophet as I seem him. I will explain throughout the rest of the commentary what I believe to be the true teachings of the Prophet.

For now, I will make the point that the religion the Prophet (peace be on him and his family) came with wasn’t intended to miraculously change the world overnight. It wasn’t meant to be a magic potion that cured every ill mankind is suffering from. There is a narration that when the Prophet was appointed as a messenger, Satan shrieked in agony for having lost his opportunity to lead mankind astray. But no Muslim would deny that during the lifetime of the Prophet many sins were committed, many people were led astray, there was a lot of hypocrisy, etc, etc. The advent of Islam didn’t completely get rid of these things. Today, Satan is having a field day with the Muslims. If anything, Satan’s accomplishments have been magnified with the advent of Islam. Sins and crimes are being committed in the name of God, and justified through His religion!

The way Islam has been handled throughout the centuries has meant that it introduced more harms than good. Far from being a call to reason, it has been used as a cry for dogmatism and blind faith. Then where is the “light” that the Muslims speak of?

In my opinion, the teachings of Islam hold the ideological seeds for growing a rational, moral community. The fact that Muslims have not understood Islam as such does not mean that it isn’t what it is, nor does it mean that these seeds have been lost forever. I can still find the teachings that endorse reason, science, open-mindedness, freedom, happiness on earth, etc. Islam has the potential to enlighten the world, and has to some degree in the past. But it must be understood the way it was meant to be understood, which is how its light will shine.

He’s the one who called us to the belief in God the one
And whosoever embraces God has most truly won.

The belief in one God, especially at the time of the Prophet, was extremely liberating, because it meant that people did not have to please opposing gods, with opposing demands. Placing God at the top of our pyramid of hierarchies means that we will always seek to walk one path in life, without conflicts or contradictions. But the Prophet didn’t simply call for the belief in a God. His concern wasn’t simply the number of gods one worships. What’s important about the belief in God is the attributes we associate to God. Islamic teachings not only emphasise on the oneness of God, but also His attributes. To believe in a malevolent God is very different than believing in a benevolent one.

He’s the one who shattered for us the statues we would dread
And how the idols
do exist, but only in our head.

The Prophet wasn’t concerned with the actual statues, but what they represented to us, and how the Arabs perceived a value in them that did not exist. They thought that the statues were able grant them favour or strike them with calamity. The Prophet came to shatter the belief that made us depend on wood and stone for our well being.

He’s the one who showed us that knowledge is our light
And ignorance, the darkness, is the source of our plight.

The Arabs, to a large degree, operated mindlessly, and did not pursue knowledge, or think about their lives and their conditions. They simply adopted their beliefs from their forefathers, and based their views on life on the beliefs they inherited. The Prophet’s call was for us to seek knowledge and understanding, which is why he placed a lot of significance on learning and conveying knowledge.

He’s the one who placed his trust in the use of reason
And to abandon it was, to him, the worst form of treason.

Throughout the Holy Koran, the message of the Prophets has always been for individuals to use their minds, and not to rely on the conclusions of others. There are a number of verses that assert the importance of pondering, and which praise those who reflect and use their intellects. If a man reasons and makes a mistake, he is forgiven, but if he knowingly accepts a belief purely out of custom, he will be questioned.

He’s the one who told us that we must discard superstition
And never to adopt our beliefs out of custom and tradition.

One of the things the Prophet fought against were the superstitious beliefs that people clung to, as well as the acceptance of beliefs because their society has always held such beliefs, or because it is from the heritage of one’s tribe. The very fact that the Prophet was calling people to a new religion meant that he wanted them to decide for themselves, and not to be content with what they have been brought up to accept. For one to promote reason, he cannot expect people to hold on to unfounded beliefs that aim to connect things that have no rational connection (which is the essence of superstition).

He’s the one who God has sent in order to reform
Our moral code for us to live in upright, human, form.

The Prophet didn’t come to introduce morality. Morality always existed in some form. The Prophet came to perfect the moral code that we are to live by. What this moral code is I will have to leave for another post, because it’s an extremely broad subject.

He’s the one who made us see the harms of our sins
And taught us that our blind desires is where it all begins.

Most sins are sins because they are committed out of blind desire. The physical act of sex isn’t frowned upon in Islam, but to have sexual intercourse with someone you don’t know or care about is a practice devoid of purpose, apart from fulfilling an urge. It is the pursuit of desires out of desire is where sin comes from, and we are meant to guide our actions according to reason, and to recognize the consequences of our actions, and how they relate to our values, before we can choose what to do and what to avoid.

He’s the one who broke the chains of slavery to man,
And taught us that we’re all born free, according to God’s plan.

In Islam, no man belongs to another man, physically or intellectually. One does not have to obey others and he should not be forced into serving them. A man must exercise his free will in order to choose what to do and how to lead his life. This is what morality requires.

He’s the one who set for us an example of how to be
And taught us how to live in honour, and with human dignity.

The Prophet did not simply come with a set of teachings for us to use, but represented these teachings in his person. This is why he was referred to as the walking Koran.

He’s the one who dared not judge by blood or by breed,
And taught us that we’re only known by our word and deed.

Islam only recognizes a man’s actions as representative of him. Where he is born, to which family, in which race, etc are all irrelevant. We must focus on our actions and our words in order to gain recognition.

He’s the one who made us stop fighting against each other,
And taught us that we’re family, and to respect our dear brother.

The Arabs were often engaged in warfare, more often than not, out of petty differences. The Prophet’s moral code meant that the Arab tribes had to abandon some of their thoughts and customs. Rather than associating with one’s tribe, and seeing other tribes as potential threats, the Prophet highlighted the commonality and kinship that existed amongst them. And while the Prophet did engage in warfare, the use of physical force was only sanctioned in Islam in order to defend the Muslims against the injustices they were experiencing.

The Prophet of Mercy and the Messenger of Peace,
He’s Muhammad, God’s beloved, and His Masterpiece!

The Prophet is merciful because he did not come to cast judgment on the sinners and to punish the criminals. Rather, he came to teach the sinners how to abandon their sins, and how the criminals can abandon their crimes. He acknowledged people’s weaknesses, and helped them to overcome them.

He is the messenger of peace because, ultimately, Islam calls for peace, and only recognizes the use of physical force when it is necessary to do so.

And while all human beings have the potential of being great, and leading moral lives, the Prophet represents what a human should be like, as God intended mankind to be. And while we are all God’s work, the Prophet is his masterpiece.

6 Comments »

  1. Computerchi said,

    March 23, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Very good. But I guess this will open many new subjects, such as:
    – Why was their slavery in Islam?
    – Why was Islam spread by the sword?
    – How come muslims killed the prophet’s grandson?
    – And why are you so in love with your own poem?

    What I like though, is the fact that you are asking yourself the tough questions, and you are creating a conversation throug reason not through telling the reader what they should think.

  2. Haider said,

    March 23, 2008 at 10:57 am

    When I first posted the poem I realised that the issues you’ve raised will ring in people’s ears, that’s why I gave this commentary.

    But I am also working on a a huge project on how to understand Islam, which will hopefully put the issues you’ve mentioned in perspective, or at least offer the tools on how they should be dealt with.

    And if the poem isn’t of “galactic proportions,” the Understanding Islam project could be! 😛

    Speaking of why I love my poem (and writings in general), I would have to write a post on my reasons. I’ll start working on it soon 🙂

  3. Seth said,

    March 24, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Haider, I hate to say it, but it seems that niether your poem, nor your commentary, had it’s desired effect.

    Computerchi, the whole idea is to turn the focus AWAY from the way that Islam has been practiced, and TOWARDS a better understanding of how it could be practiced. None of your questions seem to indicate that your focus has shifted. Slavery, war, and political assassination are not exclusively Muslim shortcomings, but universal ones, that to be understood must not be viewed through an Islamic paradigm.

  4. Haider said,

    March 25, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Dear Seth, I’m not sure if we agree what the desired effect is 🙂

    I accept that the commentary isn’t exhaustive (it lacks specific references to historical incidents, or Islamic teachings). However, the poem is intended to be an expression of what I value in the Prophet. As it stands – and as a poem – it’s not intended to be proof that what I’m saying is true. But since many Muslims have the habit of making things up, I simply wanted to show that I’m not saying what I said about the Prophet without support.

  5. Seth said,

    March 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    No no no. You misunderstood my sarcasm. The first paragraph of my comment was just a sarcastic way of leading into telling Computerchi that she wasn’t reading the poem with the right mindset (“..the whole idea is to turn the focus AWAY from the way that Islam has been practiced, and TOWARDS a better understanding of how it could be practiced”). This is also what I meant by “desired effect”-to have the vantage point from which we view Islam to change, or shift.
    I certainly didn’t mean you hadn’t done a good job on either the poem or the commentary. I enjoyed both,and I am eagerly anticipating your Understanding Islam project. I was just being a smart-ass trying to poke fun at Computerchi.

  6. Seth said,

    March 25, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    What was your “desired effect”? As I said, I feel that it was to alter the reader’s perspective. I believe this to be a desired effect in every piece of art. If you disagree, a post explaining your Theory of Art would be of immense appeal to me (I see parts of it in your ‘Why I Love My Writings’, but these examples tend to make me feel as if we do agree on your desired effect).

    Do you get any of your work published? If not, are you considering doing so in the future, with your Understanding Islam project and later works?

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