Every year, our Muslim brothers and sisters observe the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him. He is revered as the last prophet of Islam and the greatest gift to the world because he spent his life interacting with different groups of people, spreading the teachings of the oneness of God and the viewpoint that one must live totally submitted to God. This is the very meaning of the word Islam.
Youman Nabi is a day set aside to reflect on the life and teachings of this great Prophet.
In this edition of Government in Action, Mr. Wazir Baksh, Head of Education and Training, Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT), and Mr. Omar Haniff, Deputy Imam, Queenstown Jama Masjid, Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) share their thoughts on the life of the Prophet and the impact of his teachings.
The life of the Prophet Muhammad
Mr. Wazir Baksh: Youman Nabi is the Day of the Prophet, literal translation… Basically it concerns his birth. When we look at the birth, we have to look at the person and the importance of his birth in the sense [of] why he came and why [he came] at [that] point in time in human history… We need to understand that the Prophet Muhammad… is not the founder of the religion of Islam. He was… the culmination of a line of Prophets that came from the beginning of creation until his time. He is the last of prophets.
According to Muslim tradition, there was over 124,000 prophets that came [at] different times in history to different peoples, different tribes, [and] different nations. However, Muhammad… is the last of those prophets that came and he came for the entire world.
Mr. Omar Haniff: Not only in Guyana, but all over the world, the Muslims have celebrated the birth of Muhammad… because we consider that to be the greatest gift that mankind has received for, he embodied the submission to Allah, submission to God Almighty. He embodied it in every sense and so he is the perfect example as the slave of God Almighty.
We have much to be grateful for in his coming to the world. For he did not only serve as a religious leader, but he left a political system and a social system. He took care of the welfare of people.
The Prophet Muhammad transformed not only the religious perspectives of those around him, but their social, political, and moral views. The impacts of his teachings can be felt even today.
Mr. Baksh: Muhammad coming to the world at that point in time was important because… [it was] in [that] 6th century Christian era; historians define[d] it as the darkest phase in human history…. [With] the challenges that the masses of the people faced under the Byzantians, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese, all the civilisations that existed then, rulers, and high taxations, people started to rebel… Muhammad was raised in Mecca, a barren desert… with ordinary people… He came with this message for mankind.
His coming indeed brought positive transformation to the world [and] in all these areas of the world… Those people [found peace] because of this message.
Mr. Haniff: He was… not only a prophet of Allah but he was a statesman… a father, a husband, a community person, so many things. So, there isn’t a sphere of life that you cannot get an example of what it is [that] pleases God. There isn’t any sphere of life that you cannot get guidance from [The Prophet’s] life.
In the time that he came, the Arabs were not a people who were known to be literate. They weren’t people who practiced reading and writing. They committed everything to memory… However, the first word of revelation in the Quran is to read and within 100 years of his declaring his prophethood, the Muslims became the leaders in every scientific field. And so, we see a remarkable achievement for humanity in that Islam laid the foundation for much of the scientific advancements that we enjoy today.
It is the duty of all Muslims, who are physically and financially able, to make pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia to make the Hajj. While there, the Muslims from around the world pray in the direction of the Kaaba, the House of Allah. Although this ritual is more closely related to the Prophet Abraham, it was the Prophet Muhammad who made Mecca a place solely dedicated to God.
Mr. Baksh: That was the first place of worship. Historically, we believe that it was built by Adam… but [over the years] it’s flooded and… been destroyed. So, Abraham rebuilt it with his son Ishmael.
When Abraham built that place, he invited people to visit the house of God because the house was designed to worship God. So, people came, as the Quran describes, on camels. They came walking… the tradition of the Hajj started in the time of Abraham.
However, in [that] period of history, [worship] was distorted again. People [would] go for Hajj but… each tribe [had] idol worshiping… So, they contaminated the pure teachings of Abraham. So, when the Prophet Muhammad came… after he liberated Mecca, he broke down all the idols from the Kaaba. There were over 300 idols… From then, until this day, there [has been] no idols there.
Mr. Haniff: Most of the world was steeped in idol worship and so his companions, they had that 13 years of intense training and conviction… in the oneness of God. All of creation… was created by one God and is under the control of the Supreme Power and that that power is overwhelming. You cannot escape it. So, the idols are something they would’ve developed a high level of disdain for. When he returned from Medina and conquered Mecca, he destroyed the idols.
The cleansing of [Mecca] and the removal of these idols would’ve been something of value to his companions of that time to see that this place has now been returned to the purpose for which it was initially erected, which is to worship one God on earth.
Since Youman Nabi is less of an outward celebration and more of an inward observance, commemorative events of this day are relatively simple, focusing on togetherness, and lessons from the Prophet’s life.
Mr. Baksh: There are two views in Islamic theology. [In] one, you stay at home because the Prophet never did… This practice came at a later time. And others say its fine [to go out…] In the Muslim community in Guyana… they will invite people to the Mosque, they will recite the Quran, which is the final book, in Arabic. They will have a few people doing lectures on the life of the Prophet, highlighting and reminding people of his… teachings. They will share food and eat… They’ll get some goodies for the kids. It’s as simple as that.
It’s very solemn and very… social in the sense that people will talk and chat and laugh…It’s a time for gelling in the community
Mr. Haniff: We celebrate that day by reminding ourselves of his life, the things that he did and the way he lived his life and try to remind ourselves and the community about the values he brought and call ourselves and the community to return to those values… As is the tradition in Muslim culture, we don’t have dancing and music… but we have lots of food.
While expressing the great difficulty of choosing just one of the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings which was most personally impactful, since there are so many positive things to learn from the Prophet’s life, both Mr. Baksh and Mr. Haniff were able to share the following sentiments.
Mr. Baksh: I think his mercy. The Quran describes him as the mercy to the worlds… Look at Arabia where people used to bury their girl children alive… and have only male kids because they were essential in tribal culture then. Look at people for… very little things [would] fight with each other… Two tribes would fight for 40, maybe 100 years, generation after generation, killing and what have you… When he came, he brought about this revolution in women’s rights… you’ll see many women in his society, they accepted the faith because of his teaching and his mercy, his kindness.
Mr. Haniff: I’m a teacher and I deal with a lot of kids. I’m fascinated by His ability to touch and interact and to really be able to influence and deal with people at all levels… His ability to interact and to influence and garner the support and love, not only love but commitment from all levels of society… He could speak to the kings and he could speak to the peasants. He could speak to the children. He could speak to the elderly. He interacted with all of them in way [s] that… he was not misunderstood by anyone and he understood everyone’s state and level.
That’s quite remarkable for me, that he could be able to touch not only his peers’ lives, but everyone’s [life]. And everyone would look to him for guidance and for advice. Children would come to him. Old people would come to him. [Women] would come to him… the educated, the uneducated, everyone would come to him. And he would be able to interact with them at their level.
Mr. Baksh and Mr. Haniff offered wishes, not only to their Muslim brothers and sisters, but to all Guyanese on the occasion of Youman Nabi.
Mr. Baksh: I think everybody needs to learn… and know Muhammad.
If you look into his life and character, there is so much we can learn from him as a final Messenger of God that came for mankind… I think we should. We owe that to ourselves and there are so many things that… if we follow his teachings, we can bring about the same kind of transformation in the humans, especially in these times when we’re so individualistic. We sit on our Facebook and our phone… This interpersonal relationship is almost dying. This way… will help us a lot to develop more connectivity in a direct way among human beings. We cannot survive by ourselves… Human beings are interdependent… We depend upon each other and I think his teaching can help us a great way… regardless of our belief system.
Mr. Haniff: My prayer for myself, my family, the Muslim community, and for the Guyanese community is that we take a strong, hard, look at the life of Muhammad… On this day we remember him. This is the day we were blessed with him coming into this world and he has brought much for us, for our development.
This is what we find in his life as a Muslim, an example for uprightness and righteousness… If you want to live a life that is valuable, not only for yourself, but for your community, a life in which you will be a great contributor to society, then look at the life of Muhammad and there is a lot for you to take from. And I [pray] that all of Guyana and the world would do that.
The Prophet Muhammad is known as the Mercy to the Worlds. From his life and his teachings, we, as Guyanese, can learn to extend mercy and grace to our fellow citizens. We must do this as we pursue a united and transformed Guyana.