Rabi-al-Awwal should be a month not only of celebration, but also of reflection and renewal. We can heap praises upon praises for our beloved Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, but we will never be able to surpass what Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala has said in praise of His beloved Messenger(saws): 'We sent thee not but as a Mercy for all creatures' (Surah Al-Anbiya 21:107), and 'thou standest on an exalted standard of character' (Surah Al-Qalam 68:4) and 'You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah the best example for any one whose hope is in Allah in the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah' (Surah Al-Ahzab 33: 21 ). Thus what would really benefit us in this month of Rabi-al-Awwal is to take a close look at ourselves to see how we fare as the Ummah of Muhammad (saws) and what remedy we should seek.
We can ask ourselves: How well have we emulated Muhammad (saws) in our own lives and in the affairs of our communities? How would he feel if he were to visit us today? Would he feel happy to see the way we are? Or would he feel sad and disappointed? Will he be a witness against us on the Day of Judgment as Allah (swt) says in the Qur'an: "How then if We brought from each people a witness, and We brought thee as a witness against these people?" (Surah Al-Nisa 4:41).
Let us look at the traditional Muslim lands where Islam has resided for over a thousand years: except for a very few, what a dismal scene they present. There is no unity of purpose or action. Muslims are confused and do not seem to know what they want and where they are going. They are blown hither and thither by every passing wind - all the ever-changing intellectual, political, social and economic fads and trends.
Civil and sectarian strife plague these societies. The integrity and cohesion of the communities are shattered to the point that Muslims do not hesitate to kill Muslims inside the masjid itself. The life, property and honour of one Muslim are not safe from another Muslim. Even children and women are not safe. The bond between one Muslim and another is so weakened that even praying side by side day after day hardly generates any warmth. The rich are greedy and heartless; the rulers are haughty and arrogant. Corruption, tyranny and oppression rule their societies.
Hardly anything is left intact of the way of Muhammad (saws) in these so-called Muslim lands. In the affairs of the communities and the states hardly a reference is made to Allah's Messenger (saws). We have rendered him unnecessary in our practical affairs. We seek solutions to our problems in our own twisted intelligence or in sources alien to and sharply at odds with what Muhammad (saws) taught. Judging by what we do and how we live, would it be an exaggeration to say that deep inside we have lost our trust in him? We call these lands abodes of Islam, but living and practicing Islam there is not easy. The few who still try to do so find their lives constricted by obstacles created by their societies and states. They have become strangers in their own homes.
Only Allah (swt) knows whether a cohesive society enshrining the teachings of Muhammad (saws) will emerge anywhere soon or ever again. However, each of us still needs to salvage his own soul. We can do that only by clinging to the way of Muhammad (saws). Of course it will be a lonely and hard struggle in today's surroundings. Still it is worth it, for the rewards are great, both here and hereafter. In this world we will have our Lord's mercy and forgiveness and the peace of heart that only Allah (swt) alone can give. In the hereafter we will be saved from disaster on a Day of unimaginable distress and will be blessed with supreme felicity. Who these fortunate ones will be Allah (swt) has told us in Surah Al-Ahzab (33: 21). The yearning to be saved in the Akhirah and remembrance of Allah (swt) in the heart determine one's choice of Muhammad (saws) as the only ideal guide.
Muhammad (saws) was Allah's (swt) chosen Messenger for mankind and will remain so to the end of this world. The way of Muhammad (saws) remains the only sure way to worship Allah (swt), to attain His pleasure and to receive His mercy and forgiveness on the Day of Judgment. Blessed are those who can recognize him as such and find the courage and will to follow him, no matter what the circumstances around them. They put their trust in Allah (swt) alone and remember that life is a test, that success in the Hereafter is the only real success and that Allah's mercy and help are always available if only they can prove their sincerity and constancy. There is no room for despair.
That individuals can and do still find Muhammad (saws) irresistible, and commit themselves to his way can best be seen in the entering of new men and women into the folds of Islam. They appear from strange backgrounds and strange settings. They surprise and baffle us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. But their appearance is a constant reality that no one can fail to notice. This confirms the truth that Allah (swt) has His own way and His own plan, a plan that no one can frustrate or defeat. Victory is His alone. Allah's (swt) light ever shines, never disappearing or growing dim. Rather it is our eyesight only that grows dim and blind, and in fact, it is not really our eyes, but our hearts, as Allah (swt) has told us in the Qur'an, that become blind (Surah Al-Hajj 22: 46, Surah Al-Zumar 39:22, and Surah Al-Hadid 57:16)
The best tribute to Muhammad (saws) would be for us to emulate him as closely as possible even in these depraved times in which we live. As Muslims we have promised Allah (swt) to do so. In this blessed month of Rabi-al-Awwal let us make a fresh commitment to be true to our promise as individuals and communities. Our salvation lies in that. It is the only way we can redeem ourselves in these dark hours of humanity when we hear diverse calls from every corner summoning us to damnation.
Let us make Rabi-al-Awwal a time for self-renewal. Let us resolve not to be the cause of anguish for Muhammad (saws) on the Day of Judgment, the thought of which caused him so much distress while he lived (Surah Al-Nisa 4:41). Let us also pray that Allah (swt) grants us the wisdom, trust, sincerity, courage and steadfastness to dedicate ourselves to the way of His dear Messenger (saws). Let us vow to become worthy of our claim of belonging to the Ummah of Muhammad (saws) so that the gates of Allah's (swt) mercy, forgiveness and help open for us in this blessed month.
A. K. M. Mohiuddin is a retired university professor of English literature living in Bangladesh. He can be reached at this address: akmm45yahoo. com