Enough of Islam bashing”No religion is higher than humanity” – Abdul Sattar Edhi

At 82 years of age, Abdul Sattar Edhi is not well known outside of South Asia, but in Pakistan he is a living legend. From humble beginnings as a peddler, Edhi has built a massive social service organization with thousands of staff and hundreds of centers dotting his country. In recognition of his work, the government of Pakistan has nominated Edhi for the Nobel Peace Prize. Regardless of whether or not he wins the award, his example is powerful and his message is one we should all take to heart.
After fleeing western India for newly created Pakistan, Edhi’s family found themselves safe from mob violence and ethnic cleansing, but destitute. It was then that the peniless 20-year-old young man began what would become his life’s mission. Edhi’s earliest charity work was with an organization in Karachi that only served members of his own ethnic community. Unable to accept the insular mindset of the organization, he soon quit. With little money of his own, Edhi went to the streets and begged. Eventually he was able to scrounge together enough cash to purchase a van, which he used mostly to retrieve discarded bodies from across Karachi. Edhi recovered cadavers “from rivers, from inside wells, from road sides, accident sites and hospitals… When families forsook them, and authorities threw them away, I picked them up,” he explained in his 1996 autobiography. Edhi treated these rotting, forgotten corpses with a dignity that must have eluded them during life; carefully he washed them and gave them proper burials.Thanks to Edhi’s tireless work and fundraising, his “poor man’s ambulance” service grew into a full-fledged fleet of vehicles, which in turn blossomed into a network of housing, health, education, and emergency service centers for the poor in cities all over Pakistan. Edhi’s organization provides a critical safety net for the most vulnerable members of society: the poor, the elderly, the handicapped, and the women and children. These are the first people to be sacrificed when families have financial or domestic problems, and every day in Pakistan, they find shelter, food, education, and a caring touch—free of charge—at Abdul Sattar Edhi’s 375 centers. Edhi’s wife, Bilquis, a nurse by profession, manages the organization’s orphanages; the couple and their staff had rescuednearly 35,000 babies by 2011—90 percent are females—and successfully found adoptive families for half of these infants.

Edhi’s work is marked by a spirit of independence. He refuses to align himself with political parties or charasmatic politicians, no matter how much they woo him. His impartiality has its benefits—when
Edhi and his ambulances arrive at the scene of gun battle between police and gangsters or between feuding tribes, fighters on both sides cease fire until bodies are carried into the vans. Once Edhi and his men leave, the shooting resumes. Edhi has long resisted government efforts to fund his organization, and continues to reject funding from foreign NGOs. To collect money, he simply stands by the roadside and waits to receive donations from the people. “Even the poorest man gives me money,” he explains. The credibility of Edhi’s charity centers and the consequent generosity of the Pakistani people allows his organization not only to work domestically, but also to provide disaster relief to countries around the world.

Despite managing an annual income of over 450 million rupees (US $4.96 million), Abdul Sattar Edhi leads a remarkably simple life. He has no house of his own, and instead spends nights at his organization’s centers. He is usually seen wearing a faded and unadorned shalwar kamis—the traditional Pakistani dress of a knee-length cotton shirt and matching pants—or a faded set of blue overalls: “I’ll wear the same sort of dress and focus {instead} on humanity,” he says.

This concept of “humanity” (insaaniyat in Urdu) has special significance to Edhi. For him, this quality is has less to do with biology than with compassion and mercy. Despite all of our knowledge and technological sophistication, “we have not become human.” “Even now,” he laments, “we don’t believe in humanity at large, but are segregated into tribes.” Built upon compassion and justice, his life’s work is his sermon to the world

Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) introduced Islam, which is the culmination of the core teachings, values and essence of all the 1,24,000 prophets sent by Allah from time to time in different lands. The Prophet of Islam’s wise sayings, glorious actions and attitudes are everlasting guidelines for mankind towards virtue and righteousness. He is the supreme role model in every aspect of their lives.

Allah the Exalted says in the Glorious Quran “O Prophet! Surely We have sent you as a witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a warner, And as one inviting to Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving torch. And give to the believers the good news that they shall have a great grace from Allah. And be not compliant to the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Disregard their annoying talk, and put thy trust in Allah. Allah is sufficient as a Protector”. (33:45-48).

Allah the Exalted says in the Glorious Quran “O Prophet! Surely We have sent you as a witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a warner, And as one inviting to Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving torch. And give to the believers the good news that they shall have a great grace from Allah. And be not compliant to the unbelievers and the hypocrites. Disregard their annoying talk, and put thy trust in Allah. Allah is sufficient as a Protector”. (33:45-48).

The Prophet (pbuh) preached an all-encompassing way of life (Deen), founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated countless social and political reforms, established a dynamic and powerful society to practice and represent Islamic teachings, and completely revolutionised the worlds of human thought and action for all times to come.

Over the centuries, many eminent non-Muslim scholars have rated Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) most highly and have given due recognition to his greatness.

Mahatma Gandhi, speaking on the character of the Prophet (PBUH) said: “I wanted to know the best of one who holds today’s undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet (PBUH), the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to this friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life.” (Young India, 1924).

Sir George Bernard Shaw writes in his book The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol 1, No 8, 1936): “I have always held the religion of Muhammad (PBUH) in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion, which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him — the wonderful man and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity.

“If a man like him were to alive today he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad (PBUH) that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”

Sarojini Naidu, the famous poetess of India, says: “It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: ‘God Alone is Great’. I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother.” (S Naidu, Ideals of Islam, vide Speeches & Writings, Madras, 1918, p 169).

The advent of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) marked the end of ignorance and darkness and the coming of the age of enlightenment, salvation and hope for mankind. According to R V C Bodley in The Messenger: The Life of Mohammed, there are more professing Christians in the world than professing Muslims, but there are more practising Muslims in the world than any other group practising their faith.

Thomas Carlyle was simply amazed as to how one man, single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilised nation in less than two decades.

Alphonse of Lamartine, in his well-known work, Histoire de la Turquie, observes: “If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad (PBUH)? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and the souls.

“On the basis of a Book, every letter of which has become law, he created a spiritual nationality which blended together peoples of every tongue and of every race. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational beliefs, a founder of twenty terrestrial empires and one spiritual empire. Of all standards by which human greatness can be measured, we may well ask… is there any man greater than Muhammed (PBUH)?”

Michael H Hart, a Christian American, astronomer, mathematician, lawyer, chess master and scientist, in his 572-page book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (New York, 1978, p 33), has ranked the great men in history with respect to their influence on human history. For the second time he ranked the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the most influential man in the human history.

In the introduction Michael H Hart writes: “Muhammad (PBUH) had a much greater personal influence on the formulation of the Muslim religion than Jesus had on the formulation of the Christian religion”. Michael, widely known as a historian, mathematician and astronomer, searched history, seeking for men who had the greatest influence on mankind. He put Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the No 1, Jesus No 3 and Moses No 40.

Historian, John William Draper in his well-known work, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, observes: “Four years after the death of Justinian, 569 AD, was born at Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race.”

Sir William Muir, the well-known British historian, in his Life of Mohammed says: “Our authorities, all agree in ascribing to the youth of Muhammad (PBUH) a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the people of Mecca. The fair character and honourable bearing of the unobtrusive youth won the approbation of his fellow-citizens; and he received the title, by common consent, of Al-Ameen, the Trustworthy.”

James Michener in his well-known work, Islam The Misunderstood Religion writes: “Orphaned at birth, he was always particularly solicitous of the poor and the needy, the widow and the orphan, the slave and the downtrodden. At 20 he was already a successful businessman, and soon became director of camel caravans for a wealthy widow. When he reached 25, his employer lady Khatija, recognising his merit, proposed marriage. Even though she was 15 years older, he married her, and as long as she lived remained a devoted husband.

“Forced now to fight in defence of the freedom of conscience which he preached, he became an accomplished military leader, Although he repeatedly went into battle outnumbered and out speared as much as five to one, he won some spectacular victories.”

Dr Marcus Dods, in his work, Mohammad, Buddah and Christ writes: “Certainly he had two of the most important characteristics of the prophetic order. He saw truth about God which his fellowmen did not see, and he had an irresistible inward impulse to publicise this truth.”
John Davenport in his well-known work, An Apology for Mohammad and the Koran, admits the honesty and sincerity behind Muhammad’s (PBUH) claim of being an apostle of God, when he says: “It is strongly corroborative of Muhammad’s (PBUH) sincerity that the earliest converts of Islam were his bosom friends and the people of his household, who all intimately acquainted with his private life, could not fail to have detected those discrepancies which more or less invariably exist between the pretensions of the hypocritical deceiver and his actions at home.”
Again John Davenport states: “With all that simplicity which is so natural to a great mind, he performed the humblest offices whose homeliness it would be idle to conceal with pompous diction; even while Lord of Arabia, he mended his own shoes and coarse woollen garments, milked the ewes, swept the hearth, and kindled the fire. Dates and water were his usual fare and milk and honey his luxuries. When he travelled he divided his morsel with the servant. The sincerity of his exhortations to benevolence was justified at his death by the exhausted state of his coffers.”

W Montgomery Watt writes in his Mohammad at Makkah: “His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement — all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad (PBUH) as imposter raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad (PBUH).

“Thus, not merely must we credit Muhammad (PBUH) with essential honesty and integrity of purpose, if we are to understand him at all: if we are to correct the errors we have inherited from the past.”

Bosworth Smith, a well-known writer, in his well-known book Mohammad and Mohammadanism, adds: “Head of the State as well as of the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope’s pretensions, Caesar without the legion of Caesar. Without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue, if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Muhammad (PBUH), for he had all the power without its instructions and without its supports.”

Stanley Lane-Poole, in his work The Speeches and Table Talk of the Prophet Mohammad says: “The day of Muhammad’s (PBUH) greatest triumph over his enemies was also the day of his grandest victory over himself. He freely forgave the Quraish all the years of sorrow and cruel scorn in which they had afflicted him and gave an amnesty to the whole population of Mecca. Four criminals whom justice condemned made up Muhammad’s (PBUH) proscription list, when he entered as a conqueror to the city of his bitterest enemies.

“The army followed his example, and entered quietly and peacefully; no house was robbed, no women insulted. One thing alone suffered destruction: Going to the Kaaba, Muhammad (PBUH) stood before each of the 360 idols, and pointed to it with his staff, saying, ‘Truth has come and falsehood has fled away!’ and at these words his attendants hewed them down, and all the idols and household gods of Mecca and round about were destroyed. It was thus Muhammad (PBUH) entered again his native city, through all the annals of conquest there is no triumphant entry comparable to this one.”

Dr Annie Besant in her book The Life and Teachings of Muhammad Madras, 1932, p 4 says: “It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great Prophet of Arabia, who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher.”

Bright future

According to celebrated South African preacher Ahmad Deedat, “the triumph of Islam has already started and is gaining hold over all ideologies. Though not in the name of Islam, but in the name of reformation and amendments, the laws of Islam are being introduced in many parts of the world”. For example, the universal brotherhood of man, the abolition of the caste system and untouchability, the right of women to inherit property, widow remarriage, opening the places of worship to all including women, prohibition of all intoxicants, non-interest banking, disregard for idol worship, resistance to oppression, and above all the Islamic concept of the Unity of God and mankind are sweeping the world.

Islam cultivates a culture that develops and deepens a sense of belongingness, togetherness and unity. Slowly but surely, people around the world are realising the importance of Islamic vision of universal brotherhood and are rallying together to link and support one another.
There are other attractions too. Islam has created the world’s largest community of teetotallers.

On the whole, no system can show the Muslim world a candle where sobriety is concerned; where charity is concerned; where austerity is concerned; where unity and brotherhood is concerned; and where God-consciousness or seeking refuge with the Creator in terms of prayers, patience, charity and fasting is concerned.

A look at the UN studies shows that the rate of crime, social diseases and afflictions such as Aids, STDs, unwed teenage pregnancy, teenage motherhood, single parenting and rape are almost non-existent or the lowest in Muslim countries.

The reason is not far to seek. Islam is a complete way of life, governing dress, economics, business, eithics, justice punishment, politics, marriage and inheritance, because it carries within itself the essence of the teachings of all prophets from Adam to Jesus and the last and final Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon all of them).

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