The existence of age old intercultural and interreligious interactions among the diverse religious denominations especially Hindus and Muslims has paved an easy way for understanding the religious ‘other’. Hindu Scholars have been highly interested in working on different dimensions of Islam including its Sacred text – The Quran, Prophet Muhammad(SAW), History (medieval Muslim history of India), Sufism and Muslim philosophy. In the long array of Hindu intellectuals, Ramakrishna Rao— who worked as HOD Philosophy, University of Mysore—stands out in Muslim circles for his famous booklet on Sirah (Biography of the Prophet), Muhammad – The Prophet of Islam (1983).
Muhammad – The Prophet of Islam is one of the important works in the field of Sirah literature. The author calls Prophet as the “Perfect Model for Human Life” as he presents him as perfect in all the fields as statesmanship, businessman, warrior, orator, refuge of orphans, emancipator of women, judge and so on. It is a six chapter book with a brief note on non-Muslim verdict on Muhammad (SAW) and the Qur’ān. At the outset, the author says that he was afraid to make the Prophet as the subject of his book. The motivational premise for him in writing this book was to promote proper adjustment with the surroundings, as he said, ‘we should know the minds of our neighbors and try to know their religion for better and mutual understanding.’
In the first chapter, the author quotes Sir William Muir about the historicity of the Qur’ān, “There is probably in the world no other book which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text,” the author believes that the Prophet Muhammad is also a historic personality and his every event of life has been carefully recorded and every minutes’ detail has been preserved for future generations (p. 7). Islam has been misrepresented by some of its critics for some vested political and other interests. Their critique on the spread of Islam was that Islam spread through power and sword. Thus, in that context, the work has a unique feature as it is free of bias and clears the criticism by writing that there is ‘no compulsion in religion of Islam.’
The Second chapter ‘Mustafa – The Chosen One’ provides the account of the pre-Islamic Arabia whom Prophet taught self-control and a well disciplined life. He admits that the wars fought during the time of Prophet Muhammad ((SAW)bore minimum casualty that does not exceed a few hundred in all. The battlefield was humanized in the age of barbarism and how bitterest enemies were pardoned. In this chapter he quotes Sarojini Naidu, Mahatma Gandhi, Professor Hurgronje, Goethe, and G.B. Shaw to support his stand. Rao has extensively discussed the rights granted to a woman in the Islam.
In the third chapter (Al-Ameen – The Trustworthy), he quotes Thomas Carlyle who maintains, “the natural voice of humanity, of piety and equity, dwelling in the heart of this wild son of nature, speaks” and Syed Ameer Ali regarding the character of Prophet Muhammad(SAW) and a quote from The Encyclopedia Britannica. (p. 19). The fourth chapter (As-Sadiq – The Truthful), presents the different stages of the life of the Prophet(SAW); an orphan boy – persecuted refugee – a statesman. He presents the Prophet as the real hero in all matters and aspects of life. In the eyes of friends and foes he was Al-Ameen and As-Sadiq. (pp. 20-1) The most important thing he mentions is that the Prophet(SAW) being the leader of the Arabia equal to that of Khusros and Caesars, limited his resources and his family would go hungry many nights successively as they could not get anything to eat (p.23). Muhammad ((SAWwas more than honest as claimed by the author in chapter five – A perpetual Legacy to the world – as Muhammad was human to the marrow of his bones. To humanize man was the main object of his mission and he was selfless to the core. The Prophet(SAW) en his enjoined followers towards the study of nature and its laws. To understand the Glory of God, the Qur’ān also maintains: “We (Allah) did not create the Heavens and the Earth, and all between them merely in (Idle) sport; We created them not except for just ends; but most of mankind do not understand.” (Al-Qur’ān – 44:38-39). Chapter six (Muhammad((SAW) – the Messenger of God), describes Islam as the complete way of life followed by the non-Muslims verdicts on the Qur’ān and the Prophet Muhammad(SAW). The Qur’ān says that God has created man to worship Him, as the author says, but this worship is not confined to prayer only but it includes work for the benefit of humanity and develop the notions of honesty, justice and good manners (p. 29).
As an inspiration numerous, readers made an in depth study of his message and led their lives on the pattern of Prophet.
Keeping in view the realities of today’s world it is imperative that we understand the pluralistic ideals and approaches that have the full sanction of Islam as we should not neglect the contribution of non-Muslims towards Islam. Sincere efforts are needed to make the recognition and appreciation of their works to make good understanding and develop Islamic Studies in India. Religion can be used as a motivational force to uphold the notions of pluralism and co-existence in ones religion locally and globally to develop the Islamic studies. Rao brought out this work at a time when Islam was highly misrepresented by some of its critics for their vested political or other interests. He rejected the theory that ‘Islam spread through sword’ in light of the well known principle of Islam enshrined in the Qur’ān that is, ‘there is no compulsion in religion’. The current-day socio-political scenario of India demands of deep inter-religious understanding especially of Islam and Hinduism for nurturing a peaceful pluralistic society with high conscience of social fabric and works like that of R. Rao can help sustain this venture aptly.
— The author is a Doctoral Candidate at the Department of Islamic Studies, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org