There is no source, no evidence which indicates that the prophethood of Muhammad, upon him be peace, was peculiar to Arabs or only to those who lived during his lifetime. Quite the contrary, all available sources and evidence confirm that his prophetic mission is for all times and for all beings. Even his own life, during which he strove to disseminate Islam all over the world, proves that it is so.
Men such as Alexander of Macedon or the Roman Caesars and Napoleon and Hitler and the imperialist conquerors of Europe and Russia and America, all those sought extensive dominion for the sake of worldly power and authority. But, when the Prophet Muhammad ordered his followers to spread Islam all over the world, his aim was to remove the obstacles which prevent human beings from happiness in this world and the next, to prevent them (who are created as the pearl of creation but can sink to the lowest of the low) from rolling down to the pit of hell, and to enable them, instead, to recover values they had lost and regain the purity they were born with. As the final Messenger of God, always under His Guidance and Command, he strove as long as he lived, before it became too late for others, to stretch the light of Islam as far as possible so that those others might hear the Divine Message. Certainly he succeeded.
Let us go over some points which demonstrate the universality of his mission.
- While he himself was still in Makka, he sent some of the Muslims into Abyssinia. Through the efforts of those believers many Abyssinians had the chance to know and embrace Islam. The Muslims’ going there was, outwardly, an escape from the intense persecution of the pagans, however, the fact that the king Negus and other nobles around him converted to Islam was one of the first signs and evidence of the universality of the prophethood of Muhammad.
- Among the early Muslims there were Bilal from Abyssinia, Suhayb from Rum (Byzantium), Salman from Persia, and so on. Although they were from different nations and races, they were in the first rank of the Muslims. Furthermore, the fact that those people and many more non-Arabs were given higher ranks and esteem than many Arabs shows how Islam set out, from the outset, with a universal perspective.
- Long before the conquest of Iraq and Persia, the Prophet gave Suraqa, who had chased after the Prophet when he emigrated from Makka to Madina, the glad tidings that he, Suraqa, would wear the bracelets of Chosroes, the son of Ormuz, the Emperor of Persia (Ibn al-Athir, al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh, 2, 74). This indicates that the Prophet knew that Islam would be carried to Iraq and Persia, and implies that it had to be carried there. This did happen and Suraqa did wear the bracelets of Chosroes after the conquest.
- While resting in the house of Umm Haram bint Milhan (his paternal aunt and the wife of Ubada bin Samit), the Prophet slept for a short while. When he awoke, he said smilingly: ‘My Umma has been shown to me. I saw my Umma waging war on the seas like kings sitting on the thrones’ (Ibn al-Kathir, al-Bidaya wa l-Nihaya, 7, 152). Forty years later, accompanying her husband, Ubade, on the conquest of Cyprus, she died and was buried in Cyprus. Her grave is still there. As before, it was an indication from the Prophet that his Companions would, and must, carry the Divine Messages overseas.
- Once the Prophet told his Companions. Egypt will be conquered after me. Be kind and benevolent to its people. Deal with them gently. For, there is kinship and duty (dhimma) between you and them. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Umam wa’l-Muluk, 4, 228). So he informed them that the light of Islam would reach Egypt during their lifetimes, and asked them to preserve the kinship established by his marriage to Mary the Copt.
- Before the Battle of Khandaq, while he was digging the ditches, he foretold the conquest of Hira, the fall of the columns of Chosroes’ palace (the fall of the Persian Empire) and the capture of Damascus. It happened as he foretold (al-Bidaya wa l-Nihaya, 4, 99).
Would it be wise now to claim that the prophethood of Muhammad is peculiar to Arabs? Does not such a claim require that the people of Hira, Damascus and Persia were Arabs? There are many ahadith and verses from the Qur’an which indicate very explicitly this prophethood was for all nations and all times. Here are a few of them.
- In one hadith, the Prophet says: Each Messenger was sent to his own nation. I was sent to all mankind (Sahih al-Bukhari, ‘Jihad,’ 122). In another tradition, it is narrated as ‘to blacks and whites’. Confirming this, al-Tabari narrates a different hadith: I was sent to all both as a mercy (rahma) and a prophet. Do complete my mission. May God’s mercy be on you (al-Tabari, 2, 625).
- When Chosroes’ envoy visited him, the Prophet said to him: In the near future, my religion and its sovereignty will reach Chosroes’ throne (al-Kamil, 2, 146).
- Centuries ago, before the conquest of Anatolia and Constantinople, he foretold that the victorious armies of Islam would arrive at the gates of Europe, and gave tidings that Constantinople (now Istanbul) would be conquered by Muslim hands. Many attempts were made to realize this and be worthy of the encouragement in these words of the Prophet: Constantinople will be conquered. Blessed is the commander who will conquer it, and blessed are his troops (Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 4, 335). Since that city was itself a symbol of a large dominion, the Prophet was thus directing his umma to carry Islam all over the world.
- The verses related to the Prophet’s mission in the Qur’an are all clear, and need no explanation and interpretation. They say unmistakably that the Divine Revelation, through the Prophet, was not meant for one family or tribe, or one race or group of people, but for all mankind. Muhammad, upon him be peace, was commissioned to warn all the living, whether jinn or man. Those who reject him and the truth he brought will endure the fate of unbelievers. For instance:
This is no less than a message to (all) the worlds. (38:87)
This is but a warning; an eloquent Qur’an to admonish the living and to pass judgment on the unbelievers. (36:70)
We have not sent you but to all men as a whole, giving them glad tidings, and warning them, but most men understand not. (34:28)
Say: ‘O Men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of God, to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth... (7:158).
The Qur’an expressly tells us that the former prophets were sent each to his particular community or nation, and draws our attention to the difference between them and the Prophet Muhammad. For instance:
We sent Noah to his people. He said: ‘O my people! Worship God! You have no other God but Him...’ (7:59)
To the Ad, We sent Hud, one of their own brethren. He said: ‘O my people! Worship God! You have no other god but Him...’ (7:65)
To the Thamud, We sent Salih, one of their own brethren. He said: ‘O my people! Worship God! You have no other god but Him...’ (7:73)
We also sent Lut; He said to his people... (7:80)
To the people of Madyan We sent Shu’ayb, one of their own brethren... (7:85)
Moreover, almost wherever these prophets are mentioned in the Qur’an, it is stated that they were raised from among their own brethren and sent to their own nation. In this way, the Qur’an leaves no ground for ambiguity on who was a prophet for his own nation and the one who was for all mankind.
Since the day he was given the first revelation, Muhammad, upon him be peace, has been heard and respected almost all over the world. His teachings, which have established a way of life for peoples as far apart as China and Morocco, and touched the hearts of millions in every part of the world, have been and remain the most enduring model for a balanced, civilized life, and given the lead to human development in every field. In spite of the most vicious and sustained oppression of Muslims, the vandalizing of their culture, the misrepresentation of their values and their history, the principles and the ideals of Islam remain fresh and vivid in the hearts of the great majority of Muslims everywhere. Indeed, they are looked up to everywhere, with many, even non-Muslims, agreeing that the grave problems which face mankind can only be resolved by applying those principles. The sheer endurance of Islam, through conquest and defeat, among a great diversity of peoples and languages, cultures and climates, is irreversible proof that the mission of the Prophet Muhammad was not meant for one time but for all peoples and all times.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.