The ancient world had divided life into two compartments, religious and the secular ; and the result was that a wedge had been driven between those who selected one of these as the pursuit of their life. Oftentimes, the two groups were at loggerheads with one another, for, the ‘world’ and ‘religion’ were to them incompatible spheres of human life. Every man had to choose one of the two since nobody could be expected to travel in two boats simultaneously. The prevalent view was that the path of salvation Jay not through the rough and tumble of life, but away from the social, economic and political problems of worldly pursuits. No concept of religion which bars the gates to material progress and acquisition of power, riches and fame could be of interest to intelligent, capable and ambitious persons with the result that a great segment of humanity had delivered itself from the rigorous discipline of asceticism which bad come to be associated with religion. By withdrawing themselves from the virtuous energies, these men had prevented the great importance of morals from appearing perceptibly in public affairs. The State had revolted against the Church and made itself free from all obligations to it. This hideous schizophrenia not only divested what was called worldly, from the gifts of spiritual beatitude, but also gave birth to the modern faithlessness and agnosticism of Europe which is now threatening to inundate the entire world, if only, because of its political and cultural supremacy. The present wave of crass materialism, loss of faith and moral debasement is but a direct consequence of the division between the spirit and matter invented by the old pagan civilizations.
The Prophet of Mercy, who was sent to the humanity as a Warner as well as a messenger of glad tidings, converted the entire life of man into devotion to God by denying the existence of any cleavage between the spiritual and temporal spheres of human affairs. He demolished the wedge between the men of religion and those of the world and commended all of them to unite their efforts for attaining the pleasure of God and service of humanity. It was because of him that the world could see the ascetics who wore crowns on their heads and the warriors who spent their nights in devotions and prayers.
It would be difficult to conceive of a more complete transformation of life than the one brought about by the fusion of the secular and the sacred, which would require several volumes to be explained in detail. Iqbal has very succinctly versified the significance of this concept in one of his immortal poems.
On monastic order was laid the foundation of Church,
How could mendacity contain the royalty in its confines?
The conflict was deep, between hermitry and king- ship,
One was triumphant, the other subdued.
Politics got rid of religion,
Helpless was the high priest.
When the world and religion parted ways,
Avarice was the ruler, King and Vizier.
Daulism was the doom of mind and matter,
Daulism made the civilization blind.
This is the miracle of the dweller of desert,
Whose warnings reflected the tidings-glad;
That the humanity’s only refuge was this,
That (the mystic) Junaid unites with Ardsher (the king) !
Yet another radical change brought about by the Prophet of Islam in the life of man was to make him conscious of the ultimate end of his life. Unaware of his goal and
objective, man had his eyes fixed on profane and paltry objects. He directed his whole intelligence and labour to the acquisition of some more wealth or land or fame or power. Virtue having been associated with the pleasurable things, the main object of the vast majority of people was to sublimate their conceptions of happiness and longing with the satisfaction of carnal desires, song and colour, merrymaking, fun and amusement. Revelry of the rich and powerful soon brought up a class of parasites whose whole business was to tickle the fancy of their patrons. But Muhammad told man that the great business of mankind was to exert himself and strive to attain the perfect knowledge of God; to contemplate on His nature and attributes and lead his wandering soul to divine propinquity through realisation of the Unlimited ; to search out the Unity of the Cause of all causes in the sterling diverse phenomena of nature ; and to seek his pleasure through being kind and just and virtuous. He told man that these were the objectives whose achievement conferred a rank on him envied by the angels of God.
Thus, the prophethood of Muhammad made a clean sweep of the existing order of things in the world. The longing and desire of man was now centered on a new objective: love of God took possession of his being; the pleasure of God became the immortal thirst of human heart and mercy and kindness to God’s creatures was recognised as the greatest virtue which became the sole object of his endeavour. It was then, after the advent of Islam that the leading feature of all the countries, Arabia and Iran, Syria and Egypt, Turkistan and Iraq, North Africa and Spain, became the search for higher and tender virtues, in the pursuit of which we find engaged thousands of love-lorn souls. During this period we find innumerable men of God preaching love of God, kindness and com- passion to every sentient being, merits of virtuous living, acquisition of knowledge for attaining the pleasure of God, revulsion to cruelty and indecency and the grace of humility and modesty. They taught the lesson of human dignity and brotherhood of man and made this earth a kingdom of God.
If you peep into the souls of these elevated souls, you would witness the unbelievable flights of their imagination, purity of their innermost feelings and nimbleness of their perceptions. You would see how they were ever willing to put their own life at stake for others, made their own children and family sufrer for the good of all and sundry, compelled the autocratic kings and potentiates to do justice to the weak and the poor and how rightfully just they were even to their enemies. Of a fact, it would have been difficult for us to believe today what a fine specimen of humanity, what a sublime soul, were these men of God if the historians and biographers had not preserved a truthful record of their lives and doings.
The striking change in the manners and morals of the people was indeed a miracle worked by the holy Prophet of Islam. Iqbal mentions these gifts of Prophet Muhammad in some of his inimitable verses.
He slept on a mat of rushes,
But the crown of Chosroes lay beneath the feet of his followers;
He chose the nightly solitude of Mount Hira,
And founded a nation, law and government;
He passed his nights with sleepless eyes,
That his Millet might sleep on Chosroes throne
In the hour of battle, iron was melted by the flash of his sword.
At prayer time, tears fell like drops of rain from his eyes.
In his prayer for Divine help, his Amen’ was a sword,
Which extirpated the lineage of kings.
He inaugurated a new Order in the world,
He brought the empires old to an end:
In his sight the high and the low were one,
He sat with the slave at table one;
He burnt clear the distinctions of birth and clan.
His fire consumed all this trash and bran.
Another poet, Hali, has summed it up in a verse wherein he says;
Springtide that now overfills the world,
Is the outgrowth of saplings planted by him.
Verily, God saith in truth: “We have sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples.”