It is given to understand from numerous references in the Qur'an that Muhammad (S.A.W) had himself committed a number of sins. How can this be so ?

MM AKBAR
      
This has been the claim of the missionaries who have laboured to assert the Christian contention that all men are sinners. By way of quoting certain verses of the Qur'an completely out of context, they claim that Muhammad  (S.A.W) had, indeed, been a sinner and it was Jesus Christ alone who never sinned and that it is possible only for Jesus Christ, who had himself never sinned, to save mankind from their sins.

The Qur'an's stand has been that all prophets, including Jesus Christ, were of exemplary character and were men who never sinned. But for the person who goes through the stories of the Bible, it become apparent that Jesus Christ himself, like all the other prophets who had preceded him, was a sinner and not a person to be taken as an exemplar. If the making of wine - the cause of all strife, sorrow, anarchy and poverty as Solomon had described it (Proverbs 23:21-32) - and the providing of it to people constitute a sin it must be conceded that Jesus was a sinner. For Christ had himself done such a thing at the marriage feast in Caanan (John 2:1-10). If abusing and deriding one's mother, who had given birth to him and raised him to maturity, is a sin, then it must be admitted that Jesus was a sinner. Can it be said that Jesus, who is reported to have said to his mother, 'Woman, why do you involve me ?' was one who respected and revered 'his mother? (John 2:4). If addressing a community with usages like 'Ye generation of vipers!' is a sin, Jesus will again end up a sinner. If the destruction of a harmless plant in a fit of uncontrolled personal anger, for a fault that was not its own, is a sin then Christ becomes a sinner yet again. For after all Christ is reported to have caused a fig tree to wither away for no fault of its own. (Mathew 21:19). In reality, however, even though Christ was never a sinner, the Bible actually tends to make a sinner out of that great prophet.

In the life of Prophet Muhammad (e), on the other hand, we see nothing of this sort. History is witness to the fact that nobody, not even his greatest antagonists, believed that he committed sins of any kind. Indeed, the number of incidents which serve to show that even the hardest opponents of Islam, like Abu Jahl, had recognized the truthfulness and purity of Muhammad (e), are legion. The statement of Abu Sufyan, one of the chief antagonists of Islam, which he made before Heraclius, the emperor of Rome, is but one amongst them.

Muhammad (e) is the one person who is to stand as the perfect exemplar for all those who are to come up to the Last Day. The truth of the matter, therefore, is that nobody can attribute a single sin to his life. Nevertheless, the Holy Qur'an does correct him on more than one occasion. The incidents wherein he disregarded the blind man and in which he had demanded the disbelievers who had inflicted losses upon him and his followers form a few of these occasions. These are but lapses which, in an ordinary retrospection, would hardly appear to be grievious sins. In the vision of the Qur'an, however, it is not befitting for a prophet who is to enlighten humanity, to have even such minor flaws in his character. The Qur'an teaches that such flaws in the conduct of a messenger who is to be the role model for all those who are to come up to the Last Day are, indeed, inappropriate and needs to be corrected as well. In fact, if the Qur'an was to leave such lapses to go uncorrected, it would necessarily mean that doing and saying likewise would then be not incorrect at all. It has been, therefore, that the Qur'an reprimanded the Prophet on every such occasion in the strongest possible terms.

It has mainly been three verses of the Qur'an which are misconstrued to show that Muhammad (e) had, indeed, been a sinner. However, an impartial enquiry into the nature of these verses will reveal the personality of the Prophet in an even more magnificent light.

1. 'Verily We have granted thee a manifest Victory: that God may forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow; fulfil His favour to thee; and guide thee on the straight way; and that God may help thee with powerful help.' (H.Q. 48:1-3)

Here, it is the Arabic term Danb that has been translated to mean 'fault'. This term does have the meanings of fault, crime, sin and the like. The claim has gone to the effect that since the statement ' ..... forgive thee thy faults of the past and those to follow ...' has been used with reference to Prophet Muhammad (e) himself, even the Qur'an has affirmed that he did, indeed, commit sins.

Here, the faults which are said to have befallen the Prophet are clear from the context of the revelation itself. These are the first verses of a chapter that was revealed when the Prophet was halfway back home after the treaty of Hudaibiya. There were certain conditions of the treaty that gave the first-impression of defeat and surrender. It is this treaty, however, which was referred to as a 'manifest victory' here. Moreover, within the span of a few years it became clear to the companions of the Prophet that the treaty was, as the Qur'an had foreseen it, a great and manifest victory, indeed. The treaty of Hudaibiya was solemnized in the sixth year of the Hijra. It was the mistakes in the propagation of the message which the Prophet had carried out for the past nineteen years that were referred to here by the terms 'faults'. The errors mentioned in the foregoing section are a few among such lapses.

By the term 'faults' which appears in this verse is not meant any sin or crime that is of a punishable nature; it has only been errors or failings that have proceeded from the natural limitations of a very human kind. It has only been the errors due to the violations of an etiquette so lofty of standards, as befitting the code of conduct of the messengers of God, that has been intended here.

Here, there is an issue of particular significance. Going by the claims of the critics it has been alleged  that the Qur'an is the composition of Muhammad  (e). In that case, will it not then give the impression that he has, of himself, openly admitted, albeit through the Qur'an, that he did, indeed, commit mistakes? How can this be explained away? An individual is accepted by all, including his opponents, in society as truthful and honest. Then he proceeds to admit that he has committed mistakes in a book that he has apparently written himself for the advancement of his own interests. How can this ever be sensible? It is simply the fact that the Qur'an is not the composition of the Prophet which is once again brought to the fore.

In reality, it is the Lord Creator Himself who declares that Muahmmad  (e) was at fault and for that he was forgiven. The Prophet had, moreover hastened towards being as even more grateful person to the Merciful One Who had so graciously forgiven  his faults. Indeed, it was asked of the Prophet who had so engaged himself in his nightly prayers as to get his feet all swollen up: 'Has not Allah forgiven thee all thy sins of the past as well as the future?' Forthwith came the Prophet's response: 'Should I not be a grateful servant then?'

2.  'So be thou (O Muhammad) patient. Verily, the promise of Allah is true. And be thou engaged in seeking forgiveness for thy sins and in glorifying your Lord in the evenings and at dawn' (H.Q )
3.  'Know, therefore, that there is no god but God, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and woman who believe: for God knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.' (H.Q 47:19)

It is the duty of every believer to strive to the best of his, or her capacity for the cause of the divine religion. In this aspect, too, his role model is the Prophet. Indeed, a Muslim cannot be the one who says, 'I have tried to the best of my ability' and then withdraws. For it will always be the anxiety that 'I have not yet accomplished the task that the Creator has entrusted to me' which will be foremost in his mind. While recognizing the very real possibility of his committing mistakes he should ever go forward with the prayer, 'Lord, forgive me the failings to which I have succumbed while moving ahead in Thy cause' always on his lips. This will be a demonstration of his deep sense of humility. In this way any pride in his accomplishments can also be done away with.

This is the implication of the statement 'ask forgiveness for thy fault' made to the Prophet. Even the Prophet himself, who had laboured in the cause of God much more than anyone else, had no right, whatsoever, to take pride in his own achievements. In the midst of all his labour and toil in the cause of God; it was, nevertheless, his lot to repent unto his Lord and to earnestly beseech His forgiveness. Then what would be the condition of the others? These verses have sought to teach humility. They do not at all mean that Muhammad (pbuh) sinned. After all, this was why the Prophet said, 'I seek forgiveness from Allah one hundred times each day.' Nobody ever said that this meant he committed one hundred sins every day.