It is commonly understood that a messenger comes to teach people morals and ethics through his sermons. It is true that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also taught ethics and morals, but it was not the primary goal. This was only a means to achieve a higher goal, and that was to create a revolution in human society to reform its social, cultural, judicial, political, economic affairs. Allama Iqbal has explained this duty of the Prophet in detail in chapter 5 of his book "Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam" thus:
"Muhammad of Arabia ascended the highest Heaven and returned. 'I swear by God that if I had reached that point, I should never have returned.' These are the words of a great Muslim saint, 'Abdul Quddus of Gangoh. In the whole range of Sufi literature, it will probably be difficult to find words that, in a single sentence, disclose such an acute perception of the psychological difference between the prophetic and the mystic types of consciousness. The mystic does not wish to return from the repose of 'unitary experience.' Even when he does return, as he must, his return does not mean much for humanity at large. The prophet's return is creative. He returns to insert himself into the sweep of time with a view to control the forces of history and thereby to create a fresh world of ideals.
For the mystic, the repose of 'unitary experience' is something final; for the prophet, it is the awakening, within him, of world-shaking psychological forces, calculated to completely transform the human world. The desire to see his religious experience transformed into a living world force is supreme in the prophet. Thus his return amounts to a kind of pragmatic test of the value of his religious experience. In its creative act, the prophet's will judges both itself and the world of concrete fact in which it endeavors to objectify itself. In penetrating the impervious material before him, the prophet discovers himself for himself and unveils himself to the eye of history.
Another way of judging the value of a prophet's religious experience, therefore, would be to examine the type of manhood that he has created, and the cultural world that has sprung out of the spirit of his message."
We cannot appreciate how beautifully and effectively the Prophet (PBUH) fulfilled his mission unless we know what the condition of the world was when the Prophet (PBUH) started his divine mission. The famous scholar Dennison presents the picture of the world at the time when the Prophet (PBUH) appeared:
"It seemed then that the great civilization that it had taken four thousand years to construct was on the verge of disintegration and that mankind was likely to return to that condition of barbarism where every tribe and sect was against the next, and law and order were unknown. The old tribal sanctions had lost their power. Hence the old imperial methods would no longer operate. The new sanctions created by Christianity were working division and destruction instead of unity and order. It was a time fraught with tragedy. Civilization might snap at any moment like a gigantic tree whose foliage had overarched the world. Its branches that bore the golden fruits of art and science and literature stood tottering. Its trunk no longer alive with the flowing sap of devotion and reverence but rotted to the core, riven by the storms of war and held together only by the cords of ancient customs and laws.
Was there any emotional culture that could be brought in to gather mankind once more into unity and to save civilization? This culture must be something of a new type, for the old sanctions and ceremonials were dead, and to build up others of the same kind would be the work of centuries … It seems amazing that there should have arisen just at the time when it was most needed a culture of precisely the type outlined above." [Emotion as the basis of civilization by J.H. Denison, page 267-268]
Allama Iqbal has summed it up in his own beautiful style of what was the condition of humankind as a whole at that time:
Humans were worshipping humans; they were ignoble, non-existent, at the bottom
Pirates of humanity Caesars and Chosroes had chained their hands, feet, and neck
Sorcerers, priests, rulers, and their armies – one game (humanity) and hundred hunters
Shah Waliullah said regarding this ignoble state of humanity:
"Because at that time there was chaos in social, political, and economic systems, the goal of the Prophet (PBUH) was to reform these essential areas of human affairs. And at the Prophet's (PBUH) hands, the Roman and Persians empires were destroyed which were the source of this turmoil and the enemies of humanity." [Tafheemaat-e Ilaahiyah, Vol.1, page 66]
Although every messenger of Allah was a revolutionary, there is the basic difference between previous messengers and the last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). All the messengers that came before, came to their isolated towns because there was no means of communication at that time. So, their reform efforts were limited to their local demographics. But Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came at a time which creates a distinct boundary line between the old isolated localized world and the new connected, globalized world. Old demographics and population centers were merging together. The world was on the path to becoming one large global human society. Therefore, the Prophet (PBUH) was not only sent to a particular people at a particular time, but his Prophethood was for all the worlds and for all the times.
The Quran says:
قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا
(7:158) – Say [O Muhammad]: "O mankind! Verily, I am an apostle of God to all of you. [Asad]
O Messenger! Proclaim to entire humankind that I am the Messenger of Allah to all of you collectively.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا
(34:28) – NOW [as for thee, O Muhammad,] We have not sent thee otherwise than to mankind at large. [Asad]
O Messenger We have sent you as Our Messenger to the whole of humankind. With the mission, you should tell people how pleasant the results of following the Divine Law would be; and how awful and destructive the results of opposing it would be.
This applies to all times and to all of humanity. It was not just for the time of the Prophet (PBUH). It is mentioned in Surah Al-Juma'ah:
وَآخَرِينَ مِنْهُمْ لَمَّا يَلْحَقُوا بِهِمْ وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ
(62:3) – And [to cause this message to spread] from them unto other people as soon as they come into contact with them: for He alone is almighty, truly wise! [Asad]
The message of the Messenger is not confined to his nation only. This message is also for those who will come after these people. In other words, the Messenger has been sent to humanity at large, the present and future generations. That is why the Quran has been preserved for all times to come (15:9). The Messenger's task of passing on the message would continue forever by his followers, through the Quran.
That is why the Quran says about Allah, His Book, and His last Messenger:
(1:2) – The Sustainer of all the worlds [Asad]
إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا ذِكْرٌ لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
(38:87) – This [divine writ], behold, is no less than a reminder to all the worlds. [Asad]
This message is a guidance for the whole of humanity.
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا رَحْمَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
(21:107) – And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds. [Asad]
The code of Divine Laws according to which you become the rightful inheritors of this earth has now been given to the people through you; so, O Messenger! Proclaim to all people that their correct and complete development can only be achieved through obeying these Divine Laws. The nation that rejects these Laws will be deprived of Divine blessings (9:61). Your Messengerhood shall thus become a source of real blessings for all humanity. That is why Allah proclaimed His final eternal Book complete and unchangeable:
وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلًا ۚ لَّا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ
(6:115) – for, truly and justly has thy Sustainer's promise been fulfilled. There is no power that could alter [the fulfillment of] His promises. [Asad]
Allah's laws based on truth and justice have been set forth in this Book in complete form. None has the authority to make any change in these laws (18:27). And this system will prevail over all systems:
هُوَ الَّذِي أَرْسَلَ رَسُولَهُ بِالْهُدَىٰ وَدِينِ الْحَقِّ لِيُظْهِرَهُ عَلَى الدِّينِ كُلِّهِ وَلَوْ كَرِهَ الْمُشْرِكُونَ
(61:9) – He it is who has sent forth His Apostle with [the task of] spreading guidance and the religion of truth, to the end that He make it prevail over all [false] religion, however hateful this may be to those who ascribe divinity to aught but God. [Asad]
It is Allah Who has sent His Messenger with a Code of Guidance and a system of life-based on absolute truth. His aim is that it will ultimately triumph over all other systems in the world, no matter how detestable this may be to those who want to obey the laws of others other than those given by Allah.
The Revolution Created by the Prophet (PBUH)
This revolution was limitless. But it is obvious that it had to start from the place where the Prophet (PBUH) started his divine mission. What kind of extraordinary transformation happened to the Arabian society because of Prophet's (PBUH) led revolution? Let us find its evidence from non-Muslim scholars. Pringle Kennedy says:
"How in a few years all this was changed, how by 650 A.D. a great part of this world became a different world from what it had been before, is one of the most remarkable chapters in human history." [Arabian Society At The Time Of Muhammad, by Pringle Kennedy, page 18]
Thomas Carlyle, in his unique style, writes:
"To the Arab Nation it was as a birth from darkness into light; Arabia first became alive through it. A poor shepherd people, roaming unnoticed in its deserts since the creation of the world: a Hero-Prophet was sent down to them with a word they could believe: see, the unnoticed becomes world notable, the small has grown world-great; within one century afterward, Arabia is at Grenada on this hand, at Delhi on that;—glancing in valor and splendor and the light of genius, Arabia shines through long ages over a great section of the world. Belief is great, life-giving. The history of a Nation becomes fruitful, soul elevating, great, so soon as it believes. These Arabs, the man Mahomet, and that one century—is it not as if a spark had fallen, one spark, on a world of what seemed black unnoticeable sand; but lo, the sand proves explosive powder, blazes heaven-high from Delhi to Grenada! I said the Great Man was always as lightning out of Heaven; the rest of men waited for him like fuel, and then they too would flame." [On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle page 76]
The famous historian Gibbon says in this connection:
"The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or ambiguity, and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets. It was based on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish. In the Author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his nature deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection. These sublime truths, thus announced in the language of the prophet, are firmly held by his disciples, and defined with metaphysical precision by the interpreters of the Koran. A philosophic theist might subscribe to the popular creed of the Mahometans; a creed too sublime, perhaps, for our present faculties."
"It is not the propagation, but the permanency, of his religion, that deserves our wonder: the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Mecca and Medina, is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries, by the Indian, the African, and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran. The Mahometans have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man. "I believe in one God, and Mahomet the Apostle of God," is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honors of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue, and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion." [Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of Roman Empire, page 287 and page 352]
And famous scholar Robert Briffault says:
"It is highly probable that but for the Arabs modern European civilization would never have arisen at all; it is absolutely certain that but for them, it would not have assumed that character which has enabled it to transcend all previous phases of evolution. For although there is not a single aspect of European growth in which the decisive influence of Islamic culture is not traceable, nowhere is it so clear and momentous as in the genesis of that power which constitutes the paramount distinctive force of the modern world and the supreme source of its victory of natural science and the scientific spirit. … What we call science arose in Europe as a result of a new spirit of inquiry, of new methods of investigation, of the method of experiment, observation, measurement, of the development of mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs." [Robert Briffault, The Making of Humanity, page 191]
"It is in the first three centuries of the present millennium that the rebirth of Europe took place. The term 'Renaissance' applied to the Italian and Italianate culture of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries is a misnomer stamped upon our notions by the traditions of that culture itself. The gaudier splendor of European life at that epoch was the outspreading of overblown blossoms whose buds the previous centuries had called to life and unfolded. To that antecedent impulse, it owed its worth. The invention of printing, to a far greater extent than the study of ancient literature, strengthened and accelerated the process. The paramount part played by Arab culture in the awakening of Europe, on which I have dwelt at some length proportionate to the grossness and insistence of current misrepresentation, would be difficult to exaggerate. But there is no need to magnify the intrinsic worth and quality of that culture. Admirable as was that quality, and supremely momentous as its action and influence proved." [Robert Briffault, The Making of Humanity, page 222]
The Prophet's (PBUH) Revolutionary Divine System
So, these statements of non-Muslim scholars provide enough evidence of how the Quranic universal welfare system (Deen) established by the Prophet (PBUH) served as a catalyst for the positive transformation of the world, which it is now desperate to adopt.
The Prophet (PBUH) laid the foundation and built the infrastructure of this divine system, and the rightly-guided Khalifas advanced and expanded it. But, after them, the Mulukiyyah took over and changed the direction of the Islamic train from the track of Deen and put it on their man-made religious track. So, Deen was changed into religion. And the Prophet's (PBUH) revolutionary program no longer remained. Custodians of religion under the service of kings and capitalists changed the Prophet's (PBUH) program of collective Deen into personal salvation based on mechanical religious rituals. The divine laws, on whose foundation the human life system is built, are eternal and unchangeable and always active just as the divine laws of nature. The only difference is that when a group of humans stands up and decides with utmost unwavering fortitude to implement the divine system of life in the eternal and shining footsteps of the Prophet (PBUH), then the time-frame of these laws is speeded up, and they start working according to human time-frame as they did for the Prophet (PBUH) and the rightly-guided Khalifas.
But when there is no group like this, then these laws go back to their own time frame, which is extremely slow compared to the human time frame. According to the Quran, Allah's one Day could be ten thousand years (32:5) or even fifty thousand years (70:4). The working of these laws is such that they have a strict watch over human systems. Humans establish their systems, and after some time, find that it is creating chaos and trouble, then they establish another revised system. This way, they go through a trial and error process, and each time they inch toward the divine system of the Quran. No matter how much they try on their own, they are bound to adopt the divine trajectory sooner or later. And history is witness that once humans develop a better system, it always moves in the direction of the universal divine system of sustenance. The human system is bound to move toward this system by its own trial and error process because the human-created system is always chaotic and disruptive. But this process may take thousands of years or even hundreds of thousands of years. Right now, the world is going through chaos and turmoil globally and is desperate to adopt a system that will be peaceful and progressive as a whole. Let us see what kind of system the world is yearning for.
The Quranic System of Government
In the Quranic system, no one – including the Prophet (PBUH) – can demand one's own obedience from any human being. The Quran makes this point absolutely clear which serves as the essence and foundation of the Islamic system of government and the last word on this topic, and a charter of real freedom for humankind. Allah says:
مَا كَانَ لِبَشَرٍ أَن يُؤْتِيَهُ اللَّـهُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحُكْمَ وَالنُّبُوَّةَ ثُمَّ يَقُولَ لِلنَّاسِ كُونُوا عِبَادًا لِّي مِن دُونِ اللَّـهِ وَلَـٰكِن كُونُوا رَبَّانِيِّينَ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تُعَلِّمُونَ الْكِتَابَ وَبِمَا كُنتُمْ تَدْرُسُونَ
(3:79) – It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the prophethood that he should afterward have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah; but (what he said was): Be ye faithful servants of the Lord by virtue of your constant teaching of the Scripture and of your constant study thereof. [Pickthall]
That is, the fundamental principle of Deen is that no human being – even though Allah may have given him a Code of Laws or the power to enforce it or even Prophethood – has the right to say to the others: "You should obey me rather than Allah." What he should say is: "You should be amongst those who belong to Allah by following His Book which you study and teach it to others."
The obedience of Allah is not just abstract and theoretical. As it is mentioned here, in the Islamic system, the obedience of Allah is to be done practically through the Book of Allah. The Quran will be the constitution of the Quranic state. All affairs of the state must be decided within the laws of the Quran (5:44, 5:45, 5:47). Human beings – whether individuals or groups – have no right to law-making. The duty of the government is to enforce Quranic laws, not make its own laws. This was the practical way that the Quran proclaimed freedom to all humankind.
If we practically implement it anywhere, then its beneficial results will attract others towards it. The Prophet (PBUH) spent 13 years in Makkah and started inviting people to Islam. But they not only did not listen to it, but this message sounded strange to them as no messenger had come to them before the Prophet (PBUH). After a constant effort by the Prophet (PBUH), only a few accepted Islam, and then the Prophet (PBUH) took his companions and migrated to Madina and practically established the Deen there. And within few years after the establishment of the Deen, Islam expanded very fast, so much so that:
وَرَأَيْتَ النَّاسَ يَدْخُلُونَ فِي دِينِ اللَّـهِ أَفْوَاجًا
(110:2) – And you will see that people will enter Allah's Deen in crowds.
You will see how quickly the results ensue. However, at this juncture, keep it clearly in mind that when succor and victory are achieved according to the Divine Laws when opposition from these people dies off, the avenues of Deen open up; and you will see how people start joining the Divine Order in groups after groups. Very soon – during the period of Khalifa' Umar (R) – this divine system of Deen stretched from Egypt to Iran as one nation of Islamic brotherhood. Even today, if this divine system of Deen is established anywhere, then the world will see how other countries – who are so distressed with their own wrong systems – are attracted by its fruitful humanistic results. Suppose no nation steps up to implement this system. In that case, the trial-and-error approach will take over and push this system forward at its slow speed with one iteration after another iteration; and who knows how long it will take; and in the meantime, humanity will be going through many destructive periods along the way as there is no way to move towards the humankind's welfare and development without this system? As Allama Iqbal put it in his book, The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam:
"The main purpose of the Quran is to awaken in man the higher consciousness of his manifold relations with God and the universe. It is in view of this essential aspect of the Quranic teaching that Goethe, while making a general review of Islam as an educational force, said to Eckermann: 'You see this teaching never fails; with all our systems, we cannot go, and generally speaking no man can go, farther than that.'" [page 7]
And this is the meaning of the Prophet (PBUH) being the last one and the declaration of the Prophethood's finality. The prophet's (PBUH) messengerhood is beyond space and time. The Prophet (PBUH) is the messenger for the last human on earth. He who does not believe in this fact and is waiting for some messenger to come, then his Iman on Islam is false. He cannot be counted in the Ummah of the Prophet (PBUH).
In the present darkness, the Prophet's (PBUH) example is the source of light in the ocean of humanity, and it points to the shore. The extreme darkness that has engulfed humanity now is not a depressing sign for humanity, but a sign of hope and optimism.
Let us see which place in the world is fortunate enough to catch the first ray of the sunshine of humanity (PBUH). Once this happens, the leadership of humanity will be in its dominion, which will be celebrating it by proclaiming to the world:
إِنَّ اللَّـهَ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ ۚ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا
(33:56) – Verily, God and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence,] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender! [Asad]
These laws are framed to make this society a model for humanity. By virtue of obeying these laws, humanity will receive all the help from the Divine System and the heavenly forces. This very help and support are also available to the central authority of that system, in the light of the ever-shining example of the Prophet (PBUH). However, this does not mean that that society need not do anything further because Allah the Almighty and His heavenly forces are out to help and support it. No! It is of prime importance that this society becomes a continuous source of strength and it must keep unswervingly dedicated to the divine mission as the Prophet (PBUH) did, and only then forces of nature (Malaaikah) will provide their support and take this divine mission to its final destination and complete success.
There is only one way to achieve this, and that is: to show from the deepest core of the heart complete obedience to the divine revolutionary program as the Prophet (PBUH) showed it to the whole world.