He was an Arab, spoke the Arabic language, traveled mainly in Arabic-speaking areas, and spoke with tribes in Arabia in their language. Still, Islam’s holy scripture, the Quran, describes him as “Mercy to the worlds.” What is so special about the seventh-century Prophet born and raised in Arabia? Why does Islam identify him as a role model of humanity that professes more than 4,500 religions?
Non-Muslims can easily argue that Muslims have exaggerated the status of their Prophet and elevated him above all. After all, they say every religious community considers its leaders the best. However, Muslims counter the argument by asserting that Allah described Prophet Muhammad as Mercy to the known and unknown worlds.
Yet, Muslims’ responses puzzle many. Why should a non-Muslim accept the Quranic claim, and what have Muslims done to prove to the world that Prophet Muhammad is mercy to them as he is mercy to Muslims?
Mercy is a trait that helps individuals and communities overcome their deficiencies and weaknesses. When Muslims describe Allah, the Creator of the universe, as the most merciful, they believe that by following divine guidance, they can control their deviations and overcome weaknesses. Similarly, they think that the message shared by the Prophet and the life he lived can help people, regardless of their faith, to overcome their deficiencies.
Islamic literature attributes four significant reasons for this unique qualification of Prophet Muhammad.
He is the only Prophet in the history of prophets who ensured that the divine words he received through the angel Gabriel were preserved in writing and memory during his lifetime under his supervision.
He is the only Prophet who introduced the idea of equality in its broadest sense at a time when almost every human society followed discrimination based on caste, creed, race, ethnicity, language, and geography. Furthermore, he was an Arab, and his primary audience in the seventh century consisted of Arabs. Still, he taught them that an Arab is not superior to a non-Arab, and in the eyes of the Creator, the noblest is the one who commits to good deeds and character.
To him goes the credit for convincing a male-dominated chauvinistic society of Arabia that women are not inferior and occupy the same dignity and respect in human society and in the eyes of God that men enjoy.
He focused on human dignity and argued that religious commitment has no meaning without preserving the weakest’s human rights.
A history of the world’s ancient religious texts reveals that almost none of the religious leaders had the opportunity to compile in writing what they attributed as divine guidance. Long after their departure, their followers or disciples attributed words to them and were not alive to verify and approve them. Prophet Muhammad was an exception to this precedence. He ensured to preserve every word of divine guidance in his lifetime. Without the preservation of the Quran, the world would have never known the revealed words. With the advice of God preserved in writing, anyone can refer and relate to them to make their choices. It is the most significant contribution a Prophet can make to the world. Without authentic and authoritative words attributed to God, humans would always be skeptical about their origin and truthfulness.
The other three reasons emerge from his understanding of divine teachings, and his life is living evidence of that.
Unfortunately, in general, Muslims have not projected him as a mercy to the world in their actions. Instead, their literature often promotes unsubstantiated stories that raise questions in the eyes of non-Muslims about his character and message. Instead of giving preference to divine words that he is a mercy to the known and unknown worlds, they give credence to writers who, based on their limited knowledge and research, denied him the status he deserves. Despite their claims of the Prophet’s universality, they project him as a Muslim or Arab Prophet, a great disservice to him and the world.