Allah subhanahu wata'ala calls His beloved Messenger Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam a "mercy to all creation" (Surah Al-Anbiya 21:107). There can be no nobler appellation for a human being to receive from his Maker. Each of us has a share in this mercy offered by Allah (swt). What is this mercy for me? How can I qualify to receive it?
The answer is in the Qur'an itself. For human beings, Muhammad (saws) is a mercy in that he is a perfect model to emulate in confidence and hope with love and admiration. Our success lies in accompanying him in his path. Allah (swt) makes this clear to us in Surah Al Ahzab (33:21): "Verily in the Messenger of Allah you have a beautiful example for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who engages much in the remembrance of Allah." There are other ayahs in the Qur'an that also tell us about the position and importance of Muhammad (saws) in our lives, but this ayah in Surah Al Ahzab sums them all up and goes even further.
What a blessing it is for man to have a model provided by Allah (swt) that we can follow without question or hesitation! What would our condition be without such a model? Hardly two philosophers agree on anything; they are a bundle of contradictions and confusion, always changing and modifying their conclusions. Their brilliance merely highlights their ridiculousness and irrelevance as any help for men. With their brilliance, they attract, but only to painfully disappoint. They hardly know themselves. Their personal lives are mired in impossible contradictions and inconsistencies. What sane person can put his trust in or follow such intellectuals?
Left to our own selves, though, each of us is torn apart by conflicting desires and impulses. Our tastes are always changing and perceptions shifting. What seems attractive and valuable today is a useless burden the next. We are never fully formed and properly shaped, an odd mass of multi-colored fluid. We are lost in a dark and pathless jungle, wandering aimlessly. Confusion and distractions overwhelm us. In the end, we perish. This is a most pitiable and despairing condition for man to be in.
We have been saved from this wretched lot by Allah (swt) and offered a path of light and hope, of all encompassing safety and peace, through His gift of Muhammad (saws). This is the essential nature of the mercy that Muhammad (saws) is for each of us and which we can joyfully partake of.
The ayah in Surah Al Ahzab does more than tell us that Muhammad (saws) is the perfect model for us to emulate; it also makes it clear who will succeed at this. Those who are unaware of the reality of Allah, who feel no need for Allah, who have no sense of the akhirah obviously will be unable to see Muhammad (saws) as a model, let alone follow him. The only ones who will be able to see, accept and follow Muhammad (saws) are those who are conscious of the reality of Allah (swt)and place their hope in Him, remain constantly aware of akhirah, and find joy and fulfillment in the remembrance of Him.
Such a one will always feel utterly indigent and in need of the mercy and grace of Allah (swt), will never harbor any sense of self-sufficiency even in the deepest recesses of his heart. He will be absolutely convinced that success in the akhirah is the only success that really matters, all other brands of success promoted in this world being only mirages. He will then be on his guard so as to never barter his success in the akhirah for anything in the world. He will take heed of Allah's (swt) warning in Surah Al Baqarah (2:86): "...Those who buy the life of the world at the price of the Hereafter; their punishment will not be lightened, neither will they have support". He is aware that any feeling of self-sufficiency only leads to blindness to the fundamental realities of our existence and the true goals of our life and leads one to misplace his hope and confidence. He knows that accompanying Muhammad (saw) in his path is the only way of building a relationship with Allah (swt) on a solid foundation and ensuring His pleasure, and success in the akhirah. As long as one has these goals firmly fixed in one's mind and does not let any other goal intrude,the mercy in Muhammad (saws) will be readily available. He can have his share in the Rahmatal lil 'Alamin.
Note: It is a time-honoured practice for Muslims to praise Allah after each mention of His name by saying "subhanahu wata'ala", which means "glorified and exalted is He". We also pray for the Prophet after each mention of his name by saying 'sallallahu alayhi wa sallam', which means "may God's peace and blessing be on him". In this article these are abbreviated as swt after Allah's name and saws after the Prophet's name.
A. K. M. Mohiuddin is a retired university professor of English literature living in Bangladesh. He can be reached at this address: akmm45 [at] yahoo [dot] com