Table of Contents

Abbreviations Used in the Essay
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Foreword: Dr. John O Voll
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Editor's Note: Sabreen Akhter
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Acknowledgments
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Objectives of the Review
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Attitudes towards Prophet Muhammad
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I. The Seeker of Truth
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II. The Recipient of the Mantle of Prophethood/ The Warner and the Exhorter
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III. The Stoic Optimist
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IV. The Pluralistic Leader
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V. The Courageous Yet Reluctant Warrior
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VI. The Statesman par excellence and the Teacher
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VII. The Compassionate Ruler and Spiritual Leader
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Does this essay cover any new ground?
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Appendices
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The Sources for This Essay

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Does this Essay Cover Any New Ground?

My attempt in this essay has been to study the internal dynamics of Muhammad's (S) "struggle," in a holistic manner rather than giving mere details of the events of his life. In essence, it is an analytical, rather than an anecdotal or narrative essay. I have attempted to obtain some insight into his actions during the course of his struggle.
Traditional scholarship's divides his life into Makkan and Madinan phases. This is chronological valid and represents the two broad aspects of his life before and after the watershed event of the Migration. It does not do justice however either to the complexity of his struggle nor reveal its holistic nature. I believe Muhammad's (S) struggle can be naturally divided into the seven phases I have described. Studying the Messenger's mission for its various phases is important because it provides precedent and gives the narrative relevance for today. Unlike many of the other messengers in history, Muhammad's (S) mission came to a successful end, with many remarkable events in between. Since his life is better documented than the lives of other leaders in the major world religions, it is possible to build this analysis on a historical foundation. When we study the lives of Moses (Musa), Gautama Buddha, Jesus ('Isa), and other messianic and charismatic leaders, we cannot help but sense that their stories have many missing chapters.
For instance Moses (Musa) appears to have constantly struggled to keep his unruly followers in tow. He had trouble keeping them compliant with even the minimum objectives of giving up idol worship and practicing monotheism. The dogmatic concepts, which rankle the outside observer most, are those of the exclusive nature of God (Yahweh: the God of the children of Isra'il) and the concept of a chosen community that believes they alone have been elected for redemption. Moses (Musa) spent his life leading his followers through years of constant wanderings. It was left to his successor Joshua to establish a settled structured society. Jews have suffered numerous injustices through the centuries and consequently Jewish thinking appears to have become a captive of their long and often tragic history.
Buddha's mission was also structurally one-dimensional in that it only addresses issues of personal behavior and morality. It doesn't allow God any role on this earth (Buddhism is non-theistic) nor outline principles for establishing and organizing society. Since Buddha left God's chair vacant, his followers soon enthroned him on it, as the massive statues to Buddha bear witness.
Jesus ('Isa) ministry was very brief and in many respects incomplete. Its abrupt end must have left immense confusion and disappointment in the minds of his followers. A number of core theological concepts had not yet become fully clear to those who received his mission during his lifetime, and many different individuals and councils addressed these in later centuries. This may help to explain the controversy, which produced complex concepts like Trinity, which later became central in Christian theology. Although Jesus ('Isa) left behind a practical precedent in areas of personal behavior, in other areas of community life, such as governance, his followers found few practical examples upon which to rely.
In many areas the contrast between Muhammad's (S) struggle and that of the others is dramatic. He began with years of pondering over societal ills. Then came the revelation, and the realization that divine knowledge is essential in guiding the inherently limited human intellect. The profundity of this realization and the enormity of the task ahead of him overawed him. Initially he shared the message only with his closest family and a few loyal supporters.
Next began the phase of proactive change in his mission, and with it the inevitable hostility of the entrenched powers in the society. Change is always threatening, and the greater the change, the more dangerous the threat seems. This would be true of the change against any established system of practices, whether it be economic, social or behavioral. It would also be true for change in personal behavior like wearing immodest clothing, promiscuity, and consumption of intoxicants. Changing attitudes that valued pride in wealth and country, or class and color of the skin over all else would also be difficult. Often the struggle for change became life threatening. Muhammad (S) had to lay his life on the line and on several occasions the mission faced the possibility of total extinction. Fortitude in the face of adversity was the salient feature of this phase.
The Migration, which marked the beginning of the next phase, involved careful planning and execution. He demonstrated that self-help and reliance on Allah go together and are both essential for success. With his nomination by the community to a position of leadership, he showed another facet of his personality: the capacity to create a truly pluralistic society with equity and dignity for all religious and ethnic groups.
The period following the Migration was consumed by the need to fight wars of survival. However it allowed him to set down exemplary rules of engagement for just warfare: defensive with clear moral objectives; all collateral damage was to be avoided and POWs should be treated humanely; there would be no revenge, and actions would not be motivated by anger. He always led by example and often had to put his own life in danger. These three wars in four years, besides posing a physical threat, must have been extremely distracting and demanding of his time and energy. Yet the work of building the community went on.
During the next phase, he showed the capacity to compromise and demonstrated the foresight and wisdom to realize that peace, even at seemingly unfavorable terms, is better than hostility. The peace dividend, following the treaty with the Quraysh, was huge and resulted in exponential increase in the number of Muslims.
This was followed by the phase of building an exemplary, moral, and just society, a society functioned in a coherent manner with regard to accumulation and fair distribution of wealth allowed to circulate into even the tiniest capillaries of the community's economic system. It was a pluralistic society with equity and justice for all, governed by mutual consultation, a society based on egalitarianism, equality before the law and protection of its most vulnerable members women, children, orphans, indigents and slaves.
Then came the conquest of Makkah, which was a demonstration of meticulous planning and the use of overwhelming force to achieve a victory with practically no loss of life on either side of the battle front. The stunning magnanimity and humility shown during victory by Muhammad (S) and his companions is unmatched in history. The final sermon, consolidated social, economic, and moral changes that had been brought about in the society. It was time to prepare for the end.
The anatomy of the mission, its growth and evolution in some ways parallels the various stages of human life itself: prenatal (pre Wahy), natal and immediate neonatal (Wahy and its immediate aftermath), early childhood (open invitation to Islam and brazen hostility), youthful coming of age (new avenues for expansion and migration), young adult life (a clear change in direction of the mission and the major battles), mature middle age (the peace treaty and peace dividend), and finally old age and the completion of his mission. These various stages reflect not only the growing sophistication of the message but also the increasing maturity of the audience to whom the message was directed. The audience also grew in sophistication and in understanding of how to carry the burden of passing on the message. None of this implies that the message was immature, or a work in progress or internally inconsistent at any time.
The Prophet's mission was very simply to interpret and spread the Qur'anic ideology. This Qur'an centered spirituality remained the constant theme through all of the phases of his life. The power of the Qur'anic concepts continues to spread even today, making Islam the fastest growing religion in the world. Over time, many differences based on dogma, politics, personality cults and egos have emerged amongst the followers of Islam. In spite of many heterodox sects, the core messages of Qur'an, which are Tawhid (every action and thought governed by monotheism in it's purest form) and Taqwa (personal piety) and the Jihad (striving toward the establishment of a just and moral society) are alive and potent, and continue to provide spiritual solace, intellectual satisfaction and societal discipline to many.