The interrogation of the very early revealed verses of Quran is the best method to identify the early messages of Prophet Mohammad (ﷺ). These early Meccan chapters demonstrated the vision of Islam, its core ideas, and the conditions needed for its experience in real life. Mecca put forth the expectations, and Medina later embodied them. Aisha described this transition when she said: “Medina was liberated by Quran.”
The early verses focused on the social diseases of poverty, hunger, and the exploitation of the weak by the powerful. People who are traumatized and overwhelmed by such social conditions find it very difficult to connect with a message that does not address their suffering. Mohammad, like all the prophets, was the first to own their issues, bring them to the consciousness of the society, and suggest ways to change the status quo. After all, he received the message from the Creator and the most Powerful, and also the most Merciful and the most Compassionate.
If we examine the first four chapters of Al-Alaq, Al-Qalam, Al-Muddathir, and Al-Muzzammil, we find the clear rejection and transgression of the greedy rich, powerful, and elite class.
“Nay, but man does transgress all bounds, in that he looks upon himself as self-sufficient.” [96:6-7]
“Because he possesses wealth and sons, when to him our signs are recited, he cries: tales of the ancients.” [68:14-15]
“Leave me alone with whom I created, to whom I granted resources in abundance.” [74:11-12]
“Leave me alone with those in possession of the good things of life who deny the truth.” [73:11]
As you can see, “shirk” was not directly analyzed and refuted but these verses showed the conditions that provided the right environment for “shirk” to prevail and to be exploited by the rich and powerful elite as a necessary tool to protect their social, economic, and political gains and interests.
These same chapters provided Mohammad and his followers with the necessary tools and skills to face these challenges and remove the obstacles of injustice that may come between man and the belief of the merciful Lord of all people and worlds:
- Knowledge: acquired by the skills of reading and writing.
“Read in the name of your Lord.” [96:1]
“Nun. By the pen and by the record which they write- You are not by the grace of your Lord, mad or possessed.” [68:1-2]
If reading and writing are the actions, “in the name of your Lord” and “by the grace of your Lord” are the directions given to these actions. Knowledge is not for the sake of knowledge, but the tool that brings us closer to Allah, our highest goal in life. Read your books, read yourselves, and read the environment and society you live in. Understand the issues and be part of the solution.
- Inner Development and Rehabilitation: Social transformation is difficult and daunting. It requires significant amounts of preparation commensurate with the mission and the degree of the challenge. Prayer, especially at night, remembrance of Allah, recitation of Quran, patience, and perfecting the moral conduct were the tools and the skills to produce the perfect model for the people to emulate.
“Stand to prayer by night but not all night.” [73:2]
“And recite Quran in slow, measured rhythmic tones.” [73:4]
“But keep in remembrance the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him wholeheartedly.” [73:8}
“And have patience with what they say.” [73:10]
“And you stand on an exalted standard of character.” [68:4]
Mohammad (ﷺ), the perfect model, is ready to receive the weighty and perfect revelation. “We shall send down to you a weighty message.” [73:5]
- Preaching the new values: Mohammad must muster all his potentials, capabilities, knowledge of society, wisdom, and devotion to Allah to stand up and warn against the prevailing unjust practices, and replace them by new ones dictated by the values of the new message.
“O you wrapped up, arise and deliver your warning.” [74:1-2]
Mohammad rose up to the challenge. He warned his people tirelessly and was not weakened by the obstacles and predicaments along his way.
“And don’t be weakened by the increasing obstacles, and for your Lord’s cause be patient and constant.” [74:6-7]
Mohammad worked hard. He slept less and prayed a lot until his feet swelled up. He realized what he is up to. Khadija, his wife, became worried about him and asked him to be easy on himself. He replied to her: “The time for sleep is gone, O Khadija.”
It is the time for serious tasks and missions. As time went by, Mohammad (ﷺ) tolerated better the weighty message of Quran and became more capable of carrying the heavy burden.
“Have We not expanded your chest, and removed from you your burden which did gall your back, and We raised your esteem? Verily, with every difficulty, there is relief. Verily, with every difficulty, there is relief.” [94:1-6]
By Dr Walid Khayr