Alex Broekhuijse: An Essence of Balance- Muhammad as a Leader and a Prophet

When one considers the origins of the muslim faith, nation, and community, one will always notice one essential aspect; the prophet Muhammad was able to produce a nation that was able to grow and develop through its ability to bind people by their faith. There are several unique characteristics of Muhammad that permitted him to produce the primary islamic nation in the way he did. Primarily is his humanitarianism that allowed him to push his people to dedicate themselves not only to their faith, but also to their state and their fellow believers. Secondly Muhammad’s personal and political motivation that allows to approach his decisions with both a political and a faith based motivation. The most significant characteristics of the prophet that made and make the islamic community work so especially well was his ability to balance a political and a religious motivation, and similarly instill mutual love and humanitarianism deeply into his new community.

In seventh century Arabia the concept of a faith based nation gaining the strength that Islam did seemed like an impossibility. Muhammad was able to assemble Islam in the way he did because he was able to approach the founding of a nation and a religion at an identical moment. By making faith as essential to the state as its own government, Muhammad was able to produce an independent community for his followers that is entirely centered around their shared faith. In his text Themes of Islamic Civilization, John Alden Williams describes this unique structure of the primary Islamic community as, “What was most significant about the umma of muslims in history was that it transcended national and tribal loyalties rooted in the accident of birth, and was a community of believers, bound together in a brotherhood more vital than that of blood” Instead of being identified by their origins, they are bound by their beliefs. In seventh century Arabia, there was constant struggle. Soldiers in the wars in Arabia were forced to fight for their country because it was where they were born; by following Muhammad however, his believers were able to fight for something they chose to be a part of. This sense of choice in their loyalty produces a stronger bond between civilians.

Muhammad was able to further this feeling of loyalty through his own unique approach to political thinking. Muhammad had to balance his duties as a political leader and his duties as a leader of a faith. In his text Armstrong describes this duality in thinking as, “…he had to delve deeply and painfully into his inner being to find a solution that was not only politically viable but spiritually illuminating.” Faith can be the most powerful motivator for many people, and when duties to the state become duties to one’s faith, they feel a union to the state that is difficult to disrupt. Muhammad was such a successful political and religious leader because he was able to establish that essential balance between faith and government, and similarly blend church and state instead of dividing the two.

Born from this blending of church and state is the essence of humanitarianism in Islam, the inclusion of which allowed Muhammad to bind his people together out of loyalty to the faith, the state, and each other simultaneously. Helping and caring for others is an essential part of muslim life. The concept of Khums, or one fifth, requires muslim individuals to give one fifth of their net for the year to six people: Allah, his Messenger, The near relative of the Messenger, an orphan, the needy, and a person who has gotten lost from their own home and cannot return. This concept of equality and sharing your wealth with others produces a strong feeling of community. You are not just working for yourself or your goals, but instead you are working to help your community, your state, and your God. Armstrong effectively illustrates the importance of social justice to the muslim community in his text, stating that “Social justice was, therefore, the crucial virtue of Islam. Muslims were commanded as their first duty to build a community characterized by practical compassions, in which there was a fair distribution of wealth.” When people give to their community and to their faith, they become more dedicated. It gives them a feeling that they are invested in their society and its success. Muhammad was able to build this society so well because of the implementation of this sense of care for all other members of the community. Similarly the promotion the success of your community is equivalent to promoting your faith and dedication to your God. Armstrong aptly details this experience as “The political and social welfare of the ummah would have sacramental value for muslims. If the ummah prospered, it was a sign that muslims were living according to gods will…” When helping your state and your community becomes the essence of how you serve your God, the individual gains a new, stronger dedication to their state. Muhammad was an especially strong political and religious leader because he was able to promote the development of his community through the use of people’s compassion over their hate and anger.

Muhammad was able to be such an effective political and religious leader because he knew the ability to produce balance within his community. By merging his faith and his state, he was able to balance the devotion each of his citizens had to their state. By attempting to balance finances for each individual through the promotion of humanitarian efforts made by each individual, Muhammad was able to eliminate a very powerful tension between many individuals, and similar;y promote a sense of mutual care and respect between each citizen. The combination of these efforts allowed Islam to escape the boundaries of traditional religion and eliminate the barrier between church and state.

1.   Williams, John Alden. Themes of Islamic Civilization. Berkeley: U of California, 1971. Print,  5.

2.    Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print, 7

3.    Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print, 

4.    Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. New York: Modern Library, 2000. Print,