Muslims are busy working on survival. We are dealing with internal strife, external stress, political and social upheaval and plain old fear. Most of our energy is concentrated in our own communities, our families and – when we have a minute or two – ourselves. We are exhausted. It is hard to even imagine mustering up the energy to do more. But the question still tickles in our heads and hearts: are we delivering on behalf of the Prophet ﷺ? Are we carrying the responsibility of the gift of the message of Islam?
The Time is Right
In the seventh year after the Hijra, the Prophet ﷺ signed a peace treaty with Quraish. It was the first time in twenty years that the Muslims were free of impending attack, plunder and war. Only days after the peace treaty, the Prophet ﷺ turned his attention to the countries and lands that surrounded the Arabian Peninsula. This was in and of itself an example for all times and people and places. He had not yet rested in the new peace, and yet he was reaching out to nearby kings and leaders. He did not do this haphazardly, but with elegance, gentleness, and cultural sophistication. His boundless energy, rooted in his status as Prophet and his connection to Allah (subhanahu wa ta'ala), sprang forth to send goodness to faraway lands.
It was the custom to send a message sealed with an official seal, and so he had one specially made. This is the ring that was made of silver and had Muhammad the Messenger of God written upon it in three lines. It was read from the bottom to the top, so that at the top of the design was the sacred name of God, Allah. He sealed each letter with this seal and called for seven companions to serve as emissaries. He chose companions who were familiar with the lands he was to send them to. They had been there, knew the customs and the lay of the land. He understood and respected that peoples varied in their ways, and his was the work of a Prophet. He was concerned with the message of tawhid, not the spread of an Arabism nor the accumulation of power. His message offered Islam to each of the leaders.
Our Own Ill-Preparedness
In our day and time, we have become hypersensitive about the idea of missionary work. Muslims are both tired of and offended by the money and effort put into converting Muslim peoples to Christianity. Their success is our depression. On the other end of the spectrum, Muslims living as minorities in Western countries often insulate themselves to protect themselves and their children from the rampant immorality and convoluted belief systems of the larger society. And our own voices have quieted as we wonder how to speak proudly of our religion without offending anyone.
Instructions to the Messengers of the Messenger
The Prophetﷺ gathered his messengers around him and said, “Allah has sent me as a mercy and sent me to everyone…” The Prophet ﷺ reminded them that he was here on this earth to spread mercy and love among people. He ﷺ continued, “Therefore, convey as such on my behalf, may God’s mercy be upon you..” He asked his messengers to go forth and deliver the message of mercy and love. “And be sincere to your Lord with His people, for verily the one who has been put in charge of the affairs of people and is not sincere to them will be deprived of heaven.” He ﷺ called on them to purify their hearts, to go forth without prejudice or negativity, to be sincere to the people they were sent to. The Prophet ﷺ called these non-Muslim people God’s people, and indeed every single human being on the face of the earth is God’s person. He warned them that lack of sincerity with humanity would have a grave effect on their afterlife. Finally, he said to them, “Go forth and do not dispute with me as the disciples of Jesus son of Mary did.” His companions responded, “How did the disciples dispute, O Messenger of God?” He answered, “He called them to what I called you to, so those who were sent to a place nearby were willing and resigned themselves to it, and those who were sent to a distant location were loath to go and they refused. So Jesus complained of that to his Lord and lo! Each awoke on the morrow speaking the language of the people he was directed to go to.” The companions of the Prophet ﷺ said, “We will deliver on your behalf and we will never dispute with you over anything, so command us and send us wherever you wish.”
He sent all seven of his messengers on the same day to different lands. They went forth and delivered their messages with varying results.
Becoming the messengers of the Messenger
If we are to deliver on Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ behalf, we need to pay heed to his words and actions.
- The time is right: the Prophet ﷺ did not wait for a ‘perfect’ time to communicate with the leaders and kings in faraway lands. He took advantage of his first moment free of war. Likewise, we should not wait for the best time to reach out in mercy. We can use every corner and wrinkle of time we have, to stretch ourselves and find the hearts of others.
- Be elegant: The Prophet ﷺ had a ring made so that he could fulfill the custom of the seal on letters. He could have had any seal made, but he had a beautiful impression created that declared his prophethood and the ultimate oneness of God. We must be elegant in how we present ourselves. Stand tall and with dignity, wear clean, pressed clothes, and exude the beauty of good character.
- Know the message: The Prophet ﷺ did not come to teach the particulars of Islam. He came as a mercy. Wudu, prayer, hijab, and all other details of religiosity are part of that mercy. When we are interacting with our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and co-activists, we need to talk about that mercy, demonstrate it, and live it. Our religion is a mercy. The word mercy means to have compassion, forgiveness, grace, clemency, and love for people. We need to be the messengers of the Messenger and spread love and mercy.
- Know the audience: All people are God’s people, and our Prophet is a messenger to every single one of them. Like the messengers of the Messenger of God, we are responsible to look at each person as the recipient of mercy. Can we be wise and sure of ourselves, while being understanding and compassionate? Can we speak with confidence about Islam while respecting those around us? This is the job of the messengers of the Messenger of God.
- Grow sincerity: To be sincere is to be authentic and genuine. We love the people in our lives who are sincere with us because we feel safe with them. We talk about safe spaces, but what we really need are safe people. Prophet Muhammadﷺ is calling for each of us to be a safe person. Everyone we interact with should feel our sincerity, love and mercy.
- Get to work without fussing: The Prophet ﷺ asked his companions to carry the message without arguing. Can we carry the message without arguing? The message of goodness, kindness, and ethical living? Can we stand up and be counted as Muslims wherever we go? The messengers of the Messenger of God had to go into enemy territory, to uncomfortable and unsure places, and they had to go proudly, claiming their Islam. Are we ready to do this? Can we carry the message of the Messenger of God?
The day of the dawah table is over. It was never very successful anyway. It is time to replace it with the Sunnah of our beloved. He recognized the appropriate time, respected custom and culture, was clear about his message, and knew his audience. The Prophet ﷺ directed his companions to be sincere and not to procrastinate or grumble about the work. We have an opportunity to be the messengers of the Messenger of God. Let us go forth in mercy and make him proud.
By Anse Tamara Gray , 25 Jul 2018