Friday, 13 November 2009

Not a Pop Star Leading My Way

As a Christian boy growing up in the suburbs of New York City, like so many, I used to plaster pictures of my favorite sports and pop stars all over my bedroom walls. For years, I woke up every day to the smiling, air-brushed faces of Michael Jordan, Van Helen, Andre Agassi and many others.

At that stage in my life, these superstars who adorned my walls were special to me. For through their God-given talents, I was drawn to my personal conception of human excellence.
Though the excellence they represented was in specific physical, and some might say trivial endeavors, their stardom magnified in me a burgeoning desire to explore and unlock my own human potential…

As fond as I was of my heroes, looking back, I now realize that my admiration of them was my way — reflective of cultural influences perhaps — of meeting the need for models on the path to self-actualization. For whether we realize it or not, we all seek examples of greatness as a means to unlocking our own.

A Universal Teacher of True Humanity
So just how is it that a young, white, middle-class Christian-American man such as the present author and others like me could come to embrace an 'ancient' Arab figure as his ultimate role model and guide for living?
Muhammad (peace be upon him), as I began learning over eight years ago, represents all that is good about being human.

'Stuck in time', 'archaic', 'stone-aged', and 'backward' are some of the terms used to describe Muslims because of their stubborn reverence for a man who lived over 1,400 years ago and who continues to inspire the hearts and souls of so many.
To Muslims, he is not the embodiment of greatness due to his worldly accomplishments, but rather because he represents the highest attainment of God-given human potential; a potential that lies hidden within us all.

Mahatma Gandhi once said:

I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind.... I became more than ever 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, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission…”
(A statement published in Young India, 1924)

Guidance to Human Perfection
By loving Muhammad and by following his well-documented example, we express our desire to be the best that we can be, to achieve intimacy with Allah, through none other than being complete human beings. For by being such, we will fully embrace our role and purpose in the Divine order of Creation.

Living in Muhammad's footsteps is a life of meaning, purpose, direction and continuous progress; for to achieve our human potential, we need examples.
We all need a guiding light, one that can be termed "complete" if not in an absolute sense (that we must reserve for God Himself), then at least in a human sense.

Someone said to the Prophet, "Pray to God against the idolaters and curse them." The Prophet replied, "I have been sent to show mercy and have not been sent to curse." (Muslim)
Rather than making enemies, Muhammad's way was to make allies.

"What actions are most excellent? To gladden the heart of human being, to feed the hungry, to help the afflicted, to lighten the sorrow of the sorrowful, and to remove the sufferings of the injured."
{Sahih Bukhari}

No comments: