"On Failing the Inheritance of the Prophets"

Dr. Abou El Fadl reminds that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in his persona sums up the entire legacy of the entire line of prophets. He has embodied all of them in his single being as the last and final prophet. All of the prophets came with a singular message to humanity, and it was perfected over a long, protracted educational process about the implications of creation and being God’s creatures. Muslims are told that the Prophet Muhammad perfected the message, and that after the death of the Prophet Muhammad, the Muslim nation or ummah, are the necessary inheritors of the entire legacy. They bear the heavy responsibility of carrying this message. If no one bears the responsibility for this message, then it is as if the prophecy of Muhammad and that of all the previous prophets are extinct. 


The Muslim Ummah is not a tribal, ethnic, racial or nationalistic category but a moral and ethical category. God reminds in the Quran that Muslims are the best of nations because of ethics; and also in direct proportion to the command to enjoin the good and resist the evil.


In order to fulfill this command and take the responsibility seriously, Muslims must first be able to recognize what is good and the opposite of good in the first place. There are two parts to this process. First, is substantive: it is analytical, critical, and philosophical--being able to investigate and understand goodness in the first place. The second is determining how to actually implement or make effective the results of that inquiry. The prophets were the embodiment of Islam - both in the recognition of the maker of the universe, and in living a life worshipping the maker of the universe, which meant not being subservient or slave to anyone or anything else other than Allah - not even personal desires. Allah tells us to turn our compass towards a higher purpose and higher reason. 


The common bond that unites all is the pursuit of good and the avoidance of what is not good. At a minimum, this means goodness should fulfill the objectives of Sharia: the preservation of life, the intellect, honor, etc. In addition, as are apparent in the laws of nature and creation, every living being wishes to avoid pain, and to live in freedom, justice and dignity. These God-given intuitive states of being should also be affirmed, protected and elevated as a matter of the responsibility of pursuing good and avoiding evil.


So how is it that this nation of Muslims could fall so far behind when it comes to principles of social and political justice, and upholding the rights of the poor and destitute, and human rights at large? How could it be that the Muslim world suffers from the most genocides, and has the highest percentage of political prisoners in the world? Muslim theologians and imams defend despotism, authoritarianism and injustice, and justify unjust imprisonment, torture and rape. Every imam or theologian that does this is effectively saying there is no more philosophical justification for the Prophet Muhammad to be the last prophet.


As the line of prophecy concluded with the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims have inherited the Islamic legacy and the Islamic message from Prophet Ibrahim to Prophet Muhammad. It is their responsibility to carry the torch of the Prophet. What happens if Muslims fail to carry the torch of the Prophets? Muslim leaders today have instituted dictatorship, despotism and suffering. If Muslims accept this, then what is the Ummah about? Delivered 27 September 2019.

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