If you are true in your love of Muhammad then We are with you This world is nothing;
We will give you Our pen and tablet to write your own destiny
When Iqbal penned this famous verse on behalf of the Creator, he probably had in mind a state of love and adoration for the Prophet (pbuh) different from the love and adoration we practice for the Prophet (pbuh) these days. Indeed ours is a celebratory love, that is usually evident in private parties where we sing his praises, or in public gatherings where we assemble to hear the stories of his awe-inspiring life, and more recently in slogan chanting marches that help create a spectacle of our love for the media to behold.
For if we were to be truly in love with our Prophet (pbuh) our celebratory love would transform itself into a performing love, the results of which would be easy to witness. Today even with one eye struggling to keep open and look above the sand in which our heads are buried , the sorry state of Muslim life would be clear to see. Far from the promise of having the power to write our own future, we can hardly keep our present condition from being helplessly tossed around at the mercy of forces beyond our control. From Syria to Burma, from India to Kashmir, from China to US the fault lines are deepening as an intolerant world seeks new victims to bully and oppress in the name of national interest and security
Today our love for the Prophet (pbuh) has sadly come to be expressed as a one-day celebration not a life embracing phenomenon. True love for the Prophet (pbuh) would be demonstrated by a life of integrity and compassion, discipline and dignity, excellence and achievement. That was what he provided as an example throughout his life. True love for the Prophet (pbuh), one would have to agree, is expressed more through deeds than through words of praise. The insanity of ‘Hollywood love’ is what we have come to adopt in the community, as our love for the Prophet has become a noun, not a verb, where it is a feeling to enjoy not a sacrifice to make. Is it any great mystery then that our condition among the nations of the world and our plight among the people of the planet is as unfortunate as it has ever been.
As people of faith and as vicegerents of Allah we were given a sacred trust to shoulder. Unfortunately this responsibility we have long abdicated. We have chosen to live lives of indifference and irrelevance. We have decided to follow a level track, not climb the ‘steep ascent’ (Quran 90:11), the road more easy to travel, and the path less hazardous to pursue.
Yet he in whose love we gather and march so often did show us another way. That was the way he travelled, picking the burdens of people he hardly knew, bloodied by the stones of people who hated him, accepting the boycott and blockade of his clan that denied him, standing up for the rights of the poor and deprived while belonging to a community of privileged and endowed, keeping true to his promises even when it hurt his own self-interest, relentless in the pursuit of justice, forgiving his enemies, demonstrating humility in victory and patience in defeat.
What a way he showed us to live. What a way we have learned to live. He showed us the way for unity, establishing a fraternity of Arabs and non-Arabs. Today we are divided in the name of language , culture and geographic origins. Our tribalism has surfaced under new names. Sometimes we call it ethnic pride, sometimes it goes as cultural diversity, sometimes it masquerades in the guise of identity politics. No matter what reason or logic, what argument or excuse, what denial or justification we may forward, the unity we must admit, exists only in our imagination, tribalism pure and simple reigns in reality.
He showed us the power of seeing the big picture, the vision for a brighter future, one that sacrificed the short term for the long term. Yet today we are consumed with our personal agendas, intoxicated with the gratification of the immediate, indifferent to the realities of the community’s future. He showed us to be fearless in battle, to be fighting fit in war and peace, to raise our arms in defense of the oppressed, the weak and the ones in bondage.
Today we live in fear, threatened by our own inadequacies, abstaining to march for the rights of others, deaf to the silent cries of the unborn, refusing to speak truth to power, indifferent to the issues that concern our neighbors, insensitive to the plight of refugees. He showed us the way to conquer and relent. We have learned to overcome and dispense justice in the streets by the brutal force of violent mobs.
He showed us to live as good neighbors. We have learned to live as strangers, barely acknowledging the existence of our neighbors. He showed us to bear hurt and hostility with patience and grace. We have learned to whine and wail at every thorn that is placed in our path. He showed us at Hudaibiya that real dignity and honor resides within us and could not be removed or reduced by the expressions or descriptions of others. Sadly today we throw a tantrum of rage and violence, killing people in defense of his honor, and go explaining to the world that we do it thus because we love him so. Even a non-Muslim would eloquently remind us “When they go low, we go high”. How naïve of us to ask others to behave and not change the course of our own misbehavior.
Our veneration for the Prophet (pbuh) can ring true only if we are to mend our ways and embark upon a journey of strength, that will follow the map and markings he left for us to pursue. Our celebrations of his Milad can only be meaningful if we are willing to make the tough choices for building our lives in the image of his life, striving to be undeniably good, to be aware of our individual selves and our surroundings, to grow our capacities to their fullest, to let go our fears, to become empowered and peaceful, to become a blessing for all humanity.
May Allah guide us to become His beloved Prophet’s (pbuh), true followers.