He gave orphans a place of honor in society. He reformed marriage and social customs. And he abolished primogeniture – the custom of the oldest child inheriting everything and the younger ones getting nothing. In its place he introduced the most egalitarian laws of inheritance the world has known, giving females, for the first time, partnership with males in inheritance and giving a share of the deceased’s wealth to a wide slew of heirs and relatives.
All this in the 7th century!
That was not all. He also replaced idol worship and superstition with the enlightened worship of one true God. He introduced universal literacy, made education compulsory for all and made systematic observation and basic rationality not only the key to solving human problems but also the preferred pathway to the divine and to addressing the puzzles of the universe.
At the social level, he eliminated racism and all other forms of prejudice and discrimination. He rid society of alcohol, drug dependence, prostitution, gambling, child abuse, domestic violence, cruelty to animals and other major vices and crimes.
On the political front, he introduced, for the first time in history, complete freedom of conscience and of belief and expression. He also introduced the notion and practice of universal suffrage and ruler accountability as part of the foundation of God’s kingdom on earth.
In the areas of economics and finance, he replaced usury with compassionate and interest-free economic transaction at all levels and in all aspects of life. He reformed trade and business practices and declared exploitation and profiteering illegal.
In the domain of interfaith relations, he did something so profound, so advanced and so unthinkable that the world to this day is unable to fully comprehend its true nature and scope. In one stroke, he changed the entire equation of interfaith relationships and dealings from one of dialogue, negotiation, understanding, compromise, accommodation, tolerance and acceptance to one of full and equal partnership for the other side.
He unilaterally – and irrevocably – made Jews and Christians full and equal partners in his own faith along with his own followers, the Muslims. He declared Jews and Christians – Who would believe this? Or when has the world seen a parallel to this, right down to today? – to be a part of the larger community of believers along with his own followers.
He thus created a new universal fellowship of faith in which Jews, Christians and Muslims were equal partners. He made it plain that no one could be a believer in Muhammad (God bless him!) till that person also was a believer in Moses and Jesus and Abraham and Mary, mother of Jesus. May God bless them all! As a result, no one today blesses the names of Mary and Jesus, Abraham and Moses, Jacob and Isaac, Jonah and Noah, as often and as fervently as do the 1.3 billion Muslims of the world. If that is not changing the world, what is?
And if the world, after the passage of 14 centuries to this profound and unprecedented and unrivalled revolution in religion, is neither fully aware nor appreciative of this change, doesn’t such a world need changing one more time? Doesn’t such a world need being raised to a higher, nobler level of existence where each human being will treat all human beings with the same respect, love, justice and equality that they demand for themselves?
The message and the method of La Ilaha Illa Allah! needed no other miracle, test or argument to establish their credibility in the world. It was for this reason that one part of the world after another threw open its doors for this message and its bearers; and it was for this reason that one people after another throughout history threw open the gates of its hearts, minds and souls to them – to the message, the method and the devotees of La Ilaha Illa Allah! For, the miracle was there from the beginning for all to see.
The same miracle still is around, with its sparkle and power undiminished, if only there were no blinkers in people’s eyes; if only prejudice and hate did not blind our sights or mar our souls; if only our petty fears and insecurities did not turn us into cowards; if only fights over real estate and over worldly possessions did not turn us into slaves of our physical and material passions; if only our greed for power and domination did not turn our hearts into stone and cold steel; if only we had not allowed truth to become a handmaiden to the personal ambitions, agendas and goals of individuals, groups, nations and societies; and if only human beings feared and loved God Almighty more than they loved themselves and feared one another.
It was Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, who then vouched in the strongest and most unambiguous terms for the inspired origins of the Old and the New Testaments as being rooted in the faith and traditions of the great prophets and patriarchs Noah and Abraham – God bless them! He pronounced Moses, God bless him, to be his brother in faith, declaring his fight for the liberation of his people against the Pharaohs of Egypt as his own fight and as an example for his own followers for all time to come.
He then set about defending and vindicating the honor and reputations of blessed Mary and Jesus – God bless him – with a passion and with a success that remain unmatched throughout history. And he did it at a time when no one else would do it; and he did it in a way that no one could rival. That is why, today, sadly unbeknownst to much of the world, nearly a billion and a half Muslims all over the world venerate and love Jesus and his mother Mary – may God bless them both – more than they love their own mothers or offspring.