God’s Messenger of Peace
April 4, 2007
by Charles Mercieca, Ph.D.
President, International Association of Educators for World Peace
Dedicated to United Nations Goals of Peace Education
Environmental Protection, Human Rights & Disarmament
Professor Emeritus, Alabama A and M University
Although historians are not fully sure as to the exact year Prophet Mohammad was born, there seems to be a general consensus that he was born on April 20, 570 and died on June 8, 632 when he was 56 years old. This was not an ordinary man by all means. He was deeply spiritual and often communicated with God, like a good son communicates with a beloved father. Initially, he was a shepherd and later became a merchant. He spent each Ramadan fasting and praying outside Mecca, in a cave on Mount Hira.
Initiation of the Qur’an
According to Islamic belief, the Archangel Gabriel visited Mohammad periodically, to whom he gave several messages. These messages later became known as the Qur’an. Soon after Mohammad’s acceptance of Islam, he taught by both word and example the belief in one God. Allah in Arabic means God, the creator of heaven and earth and the source of everything that exists and could possibly exist. Mohammad also warned that people should assume responsibility for their actions - for which God will hold them thoroughly accountable.
Seeing that Mohammad’s teachings were taken very seriously by many, the elite of Mecca started to harass Mohammad, even persecuting those who adhered to his teachings. Following the death of his beloved wife Khadija and his close uncle Abu Talib, Mohammad left Mecca and settled in Medina in 622, where he was the proclaimed leader of the first Muslim Community. Following eight years of struggle with Meccan forces, the Muslims eventually conquered Mecca - from which they removed anything that was viewed as idolatrous.
In March 632, Mohammad led a pilgrimage that was known as Hajj. After his return to Medina he fell ill and died a few days later on June 8 of the same year. Although Mohammad was spiritually gifted, he was a quite unfortunate person. His father Abdullah died six months before he was born, so he was brought up initially by his wet nurse and his paternal grandfather Abd al-Muttalib. At the age of six he lost his mother. From then on he could never experience the love and affection of any of his dear and beloved parents.
When he was 8 years old, his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib also died. From that moment he was looked after by his uncle Abu Talib, who was then the new leader of the Hashim clan of the Quraish tribe. The Quraish were considered the most powerful in Mecca, which at that time was a great commercial center. Within a short period of time, Mohammad began to accompany his uncle on various journeys. This rendered him well-traveled and knowledgeable about the ways of other people. His maturity and ability to comprehend the various characters and personalities of people was aided tremendously by his journeys.
Initial Public Life
Mohammad eventually became a merchant and quickly gained a reputation for his reliability and honesty. It was at this time that he married Khadijah in 595, who was a forty year old widow. She bore him six children, all of whom arrived before he received his first revelation. On Mount Hijira, Mohammad received his first revelation, which made him feel apprehensive, even a little afraid. However, he was greatly encouraged by his wife Khadijah, who concluded that such revelations emanated from a good source.
Following such revelations, which are essentially the teachings we find the Qur’ran, Mohammad became reassured and began preaching. Although the number of his followers increased, the number of those opposing him was also increasing, especially among the merchants who offered him considerable privileges to abandon his preaching. For Mohammad, the year 619 became the “year of sorrow” since this was when both his dear wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died.
In 622, Mohammad went to Medina as a mediator to solve a feud between the Arab factions of Aws and Khazraj. He resolved their differences by absorbing both into his Muslim community, thus preventing bloodshed among Muslims. Mohammad saw that there were also three major branches of Jews who had similar differences. He solved those feuds with the drafting of the Constitution of Medina that established alliances and federations among all of the various groups living there at that time.
He wanted to see Jews, Muslims and Christians living together like one big family with love and respect for each other. Some of Mohammad’s children died in their infancy, but the one that carried his dynasty was his daughter Fatima. It has been stated that Mohammad revealed enormous respect not only toward his daughter Fatima but also toward the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. One of his excellent assets was his desire and attempt to solve conflicts through dialogue instead of war.
Although Mohammad revealed great respect for all people from every walk of life, profession and spiritual orientation, he seemed to hold that the Muslim faith would generate in people a greater respect for God and for each other. To this end, he sent letters to heads of states asking them to consider converting to the faith of Islam. This however was merely a request which would open the way to dialogue. Later on though, there were Muslims who went as far as to condone punishment for Muslims who may be converted to other religions.
Compassion and Love
We need to keep in mind that Mohammad was a real man, a sincere man of God who revealed love and mercy toward all of His children. During the decade of the eighties, the Virgin Mary is said to have revealed to six little children of Medjugorje in Bosnia and Hezegovina, that God does not belong to any religion, that God’s religion was described only by one word: love. She said that all the people of the world were God’s children and that God loves them all equally and dearly, therefore He would not want to see any of His creations hurt.
From the way this Blessed Mother spoke, it was quite obvious that the various organized religions of this world are paths that lead to heaven provided they are built on genuine love and respect for one’s neighbor. We should all be certain that the Prophet Mohammad was absolutely aware of this, for his love of God was anchored in actions as well as words. This explains adequately why Mohammad always sought solutions to human problems via peaceful means and not through warring ventures. He seemed fully convinced that violence breeds violence, and that more violence would breed more violence.
When Muhammad married Khadijah at the age of 25 he remained married to her alone, until she passed away 25 years later. When she passed away he did not have in mind to marry again but reluctantly yielded to his friends’ advice to marry again. It was proposed that he should marry either Sawda bint Zama, a widow, or Aisha. Then Muhammad asked to marry them both. Later on, he had some additional wives as well.
Even so, these marriages would have been more for social and political purposes, to help unite various tribes, establishing a spirit of harmony, and respect among them. Some historians view Mohammad as the statesman of Medina, whose job was to bring about harmony and peace among all people. Other historians tend to view Mohammad more as a rebel because of the drastic changes he brought into the society of his times. He instigated great reforms in social security, family structure, slavery and improved rights for women.
Muslims also view Mohammad as the last of all prophets of God / Allah. They see his mission as one whose aim was to restore to humanity the monotheistic concept of God, just as all previous prophets did - going all the way back to Abraham. Historians have referred to Mohammad as one who was beloved by all around him, because he was viewed as a gentle and honest man of God. He was a pacifier who succeeded in bringing peace to so many without bloodshed.
Regarding the visual representation of Mohammad, Muslims differ in opinion. Many believe that such visual depictions of Mohammad may lead to idolatry - so they do not promote or permit the prophet’s image at all. Coincidentally, in many other religions icons and statues of their religious leaders abound, like Buddha in Buddhism, Krishna in Hinduism, and Jesus in Christianity.
The fact that the vast majority of Muslims view attempts to portray the physical attributes of Mohammad as inappropriate, even blasphemous - explains why monuments of this great servant of Allah are not found. Of course, it also explains why the film industry has not produced anything about him, as they have done in the past with Jesus, Moses and other prophets. Muslims utter the words: Peace be upon him, each time they mention the name of Mohammad, out of respect and sincerity.
From the very beginning of Islam there have been quite a few factions, which Mohammad himself witnessed during his lifetime. In this regard, one of the greatest contributions Mohammad wished to make toward the development and strengthening of Islam was to bring these factions together in harmony and peace through mutual love and respect. To this end, we need to be able to make a distinction between the ends and means. If we differ on the ends, then we may be in serious trouble with each other.
If we differ on the means then there should be no problem at all, since the means serve only as an instrument to achieving a desired end. The desired ‘end’ for all of us, should be God. All the means we use to reach this end should be respected, once they prove to be successful and as long as those means do not abuse, or harm others while achieving any particular desired aim.
Let us give an illustration. Suppose we all need to be in New York for a specific event. Some may choose an airplane as their means, others may prefer a train, while yet others may opt for a private car. The various religions might be viewed as diverse means of reaching the same end: God, the Allah of Islam.
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