رَسُولًا يَتْلُو عَلَيْكُمْ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ مُبَيِّنَاتٍ لِيُخْرِجَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ مِنَ الظُّلُمَاتِ إِلَى النُّورِ
Rasūlan yatlū ‘alaykum āyātil-lāhi mubayyinātin li-yukhrjal-ladhīna āmanū wa-‘amilus-swālihāti minaz-zulumāti ilan-nūr
A Messenger who recites to you the clear communications of Allah so that he may bring forth those who believe and do good deeds from darkness into light.
(Sūrat Talāq, No. 65, Āyat 11)
The Holy Prophet (s) was sent by God to lead people from darkness into light. He was to lead them from the darkness of polytheism and ignorance, sin and evil, to the light of Tawhīd (Oneness of God), knowledge, virtue and goodness. He would transform their beliefs and values, teach them to think differently, speak differently and act differently . . . to be different. Those who believed in God and were doing good deeds would be guided to be firm and pure in their ideology.
What the Prophet taught was a shift of focus. Once the human being became God centered the parameters of his world would take a complete turnabout. Such was the revolution brought about by the Prophet.
The Prophet changed people by appealing to their fitrah and natural instinct. This automatically leads the human to God when not polluted by external influences. He used gentleness and understanding to further his mission and persisted with hard work and determination. His exemplary character, the love he showed various strata of society, and the fairness with which he dealt with people, all contributed to the success of his mission.
The Holy Prophet (s) worked to change the social structure of the people. He elevated the status of people; women, slaves, the poor and restored the rights of people. He reduced the power of the wealthy chiefs who controlled society. He condemned racism and tribal rivalries. He opened the minds of the people to education and learning, freeing them of superstitions and traditions. All this was done in the span of 23 years of his life.
Ja‘far bin Abū Tālib talks about these monumental changes in the court of King Negus in Abyssinia:
O King, we were a people in a state of ignorance and immorality, worshipping idols and eating the flesh of dead animals, committing all sorts of abomination and shameful deeds, breaking the ties of kinship, treating guests badly, and the strong among us exploited the weak. We remained in this state until Allah sent us a Prophet, one of our own people, whose lineage, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and integrity were well-known to us . . .
John Esposito in his book ‘Unholy War, Terror in the name of Islam’ says:
Muhammad’s insistence that each person was personally accountable not to tribal customary law but to an overriding Divine Law shook the very foundations of Arabian society… Muhammad proclaimed a sweeping program of religious and social reform that affected religious belief and practices, business contracts and practices, male-female and family relations.
Society was changed by the Prophet (s). The above verse reminds us that we are indebted to the Prophet of Islam for leading us to the light of faith and values. It is by the mercy of God that such a Messenger was sent to humanity.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūne