Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) – The world’s most influential social reformer
Islam is by far the most powerful social movement, the world has ever observed. It proved to be a process, which brought revolutionary changes in the socio-economic and political values of, the then, prevailing society. Hazrat Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), as a gift of Allah Almighty (The Most Exalted) for mankind, led the world to a new era of peace and prosperity. Based on pragmatic outlook, this short essay highlights the remarkable image of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) as the most distinguished social reformer of human history.
According to the famous psychoanalyst and ex-president of American Psychiatric Association Dr. Jules H. Masserman (1905-94) a true leader should fulfill the utilities of furnishing people the well being, secure social organization and one set of beliefs. Judged on this criterion Masserman further cited examples of people who can be regarded as leaders. These include: Pasteur and Salk as leaders in the first sense; Gandhi, Confucious, Alexander, Caesar and Hitler as leader of executing the second requirement while Jesus and Buddha as those fulfilling third category. Masserman, after arguing that none of the above mentioned perfectly matches with the norms, boldly suggests that “the greatest leader of all times was Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) who combined all three functions” . Bearing in mind the universally accepted idea of leadership as the process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task , one can easily recognize that a real leader can not only reshape the ideas and beliefs of people, but could also reform society in true sense of words.
Many of world’s renowned historians, including William L. Langer (1896 – 1977) , have given account of the dejected circumstances of the society before Islam. In general the whole world was clutched by extreme paganism, all sort of wickedness and chaos. The poor people and women were treated like animals. People were inundated in social evils, and their demeanor was not administered by any moral convention. The advent of Islam via Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) was a kind of blessing for the society as a whole as it actually brought revolutionary changes in the values. Applying mathematical modeling of social, economic, and historical dynamics it has been established that socioeconomic reform is the distinguishing success of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) .
Numerous examples can be cited on how Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) restructured the society. For the sake of brevity, we only consider a few aspects in a concise way, as otherwise an unlimited space is required to accomplish the job.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), by condescending the practices regarding mistreatment of the women, uplifted their position in the society . For instance Muhammad’s (peace be upon him and his family) denunciation of infanticide has been regarded as the key facet of His (peace be upon him and his family) efforts to lift the position of women. Moreover, His (peace be upon him and his family) endeavors effectively influenced many matters relevant to marriage and legacy. Consequently women were accorded with exceptionally secured standing.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) by setting up the concept of shared society (i.e., Ummah) provided the basis equality of all human beings . It was a milestone in history of mankind in context of sociology and turned out to be a significant factor for the ethical organization and establishment of justice in the society. It ought to be stressed that a salient feature of the societal restructuring was the economic perspective. For the assistance of the underprivileged, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) implemented a comprehensive system  comprising not only of Zakat as per order of Allah Almighty (The Most Exalted) but also Khairat and Sadaqaat clearly favoring equal distribution of capital .
It is also worth mentioning that today’s burning concern of environment was also effectively addressed by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family). A modern anthropologist and an expert in the Middle East and North Africa region and environmental issues, Francesca De Chatel has skillfully analyzed this view. In one of her recent article , Frances, after carefully examining the philosophy of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), has emphasized that a closer reading of his teachings concerning land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds and the equal rights of users reveals that He (peace be upon him and his family) is undoubtedly a strong promoter of environmental protection. She has therefore termed Him (peace be upon him and his family) as “environmentalist avant la letter- a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature”.
As admitted earlier, it is impossible to encapsulate various aspects of life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) as the world’s most prominent communal reformer. Nevertheless it will be best to conclude the essay with the remarks of modern era’s renowned astrophysicist and historian Michael H. Hart concerning ratings of men who contributed for the boost-up of humanity. In his words, “My choice of Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he (peace be upon him and his family) was the only man in history who (peace be upon him and his family) was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels” .
. M. M. Chemers, Efficacy and effectiveness: Integrating models of leadership and intelligence. In Riggio, R. E., Murphy, S. E. & Pirozzolo, F. J. (Eds.) Multiple intelligences and leadership. Mahwah, NJ, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates (2002).
. W. L. Langer, An Encyclopedia of World History: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern, Chronologically Arranged. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, USA. (1968).
. A. Korotayey, V. Klimenko and D. Proussakov, Origins of Islam: Political-Anthropological and Environmental Context. Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. 53/3–4 (1999)
. M. M. Valentine, Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in the Middle East. Lynne Rienner Publishers, USA. (1993).
. S. Ganjoo, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family): The Greatest Benefactor. Anmol Publications, New Delhi, India. (2004).
. M. Bonner, “Poverty and Economics in the Qur’an”, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, XXXV: 3 (2005).
. B. Lewis, “Communism and Islam”, International Affairs, Royal Institute of International Affairs 30 (1), (1954).
. M.H. Hart, “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, Kensington Publishing Corp. New York, USA. (1978)
Prof. Intikhab Ulfat
Chalmers University of Technology
Prof. Intikhab works at the Department of Applied Physics at Chalmers University, Sweden. He also worked at the University of Karachi Pakistan and is affiliated with the Swedish National Laboratory for Synchrotron Radiation.