The Wise Model of the Prophet: Peaceful Activism
The topic for today is the method of the Prophet of Islam. As you know, the Prophet of Islam was sent to Arabia, specifically to Makkah. At that time, Makkah was controlled by polytheists. They conducted business in Makkah. The culture prevalent there was also under the administration of these polytheists. The Prophet was commanded by God: “O Messenger arise and warn.” In this verse, ‘inzar’ means to perform the task of dawah, or conveying God’s message to people. This is why the Prophet began to engage in dawah from the very first day. Some people refer to the Prophet’s mission as ghazawah (or campaigns of war and battle), but this is not right in my opinion. The current meaning of ghazawah is to fight. The only way to work in the previous times, involved some or the other fighting or skirmish. This is why people always kept swords with them whenever they went out of home. Even in my youth age, this culture was prevalent. For example, when people travelled for Hajj, they perceived that there might be some conflict which is why they always carried some means for their protection.
The Prophet was commanded to engage in dawah. But due to the context of his times, he was also enjoined: “Do not let them dispute with you over the matter, rather be patient for the sake of your Lord.” But the point is that the Makkans inevitably did seek to fight and clash, as this was part of their culture. So, this Quranic verse means that you should manage the situation in such a way that the other party or opponents should not be able to engage in any confrontation or conflict with you. You should manage the performance of your task without clashing with others. This can be called peaceful activism in today’s language. This is the formula of peaceful activism: manage the situation. This in Hindi is called ‘jugaad’, or managing the situation such that you are able to do your work, while at the same time you do not need to indulge in any fighting. This is the meaning of peaceful activism. This method was adopted in India as non-violent activism.
It is indeed strange that it has been said about the Prophet that in him you all have the best model (uswa-e-hasanah). This is a very important issue. That is, the best model is to manage the situation in such a way that you can perform your work without having to do any fighting or quarrelling. The Prophet lived in a tribal age in which there were always clashes. Then how did the Prophet manage this situation and avoid clashing with people? This management on the part of the Prophet is called uswah-e-hasanah. That is, using great wisdom to manage the situation.
If you read about the history of seventh century Arabia, you will understand how the Prophet worked. That is, many a times the other party tried to drag the Prophet into battle. This is what some people refer to as ‘ghazawah’ (or wars of the Prophet), but all of these were actually only skirmishes. This means that the Prophet managed controversy in such a way that he reduced it to a skirmish. All the ghazawahs which people say the Prophet participated in were actually skirmishes and not real fighting. An Orientalist has written that Muhammad followed a unique method in Arabia, that is, he brought about a bloodless revolution. This means that he achieved his goal without resorting to confrontation or shedding of blood. The opponents of the Prophet always were bent on fighting, but the Prophet on his part always managed the situation. That is, he didn’t allow the matter to be escalated to war, rather he finished it by reducing it to a minor skirmish. This is a very unique method which the Prophet followed. That is, he reduced ghazawah to a skirmish. I have written about this in my books. That is, I have explained how the Prophet reduced ghazawah to skirmish.
The model set by the Prophet was: the other party would try to initiate war, but you should reduce it to a minor skirmish and thus put an end to it. This was the pattern the Prophet followed in the Madinan period right up to the Peace Treaty of Hudaybiyah. This was a unique strategy of the Prophet – reducing a potential warlike situation to a trivial skirmish. I have written in detail on this subject. You can read about this.
I pray to God to guide Muslims so that they understand this wisdom of the Prophet. In following this pattern, there will indeed be clear victory for Muslims. The other party would try to engage you in war, but you should reduce it to a skirmish.
By: Maulana Wahiduddin Khan