Monday, January 28, 2013

Muhammads Everywhere

Nobody told me, before I was to fly off to the UK, that I would be entering a land of Muhammads*. Which was, I guess , a pleasant(?) surprise for me.

For the last 20 years of my life, I’ve been addressed as Mikhail. Or Mike. Or Michael. Or Mickey. Or Mikey. Or Mike Callum. Or Kappa Mikey. Or even (for a brief period of time in Standard 1), as Mata Kail**.

But never as Muhammad.

So when my tutor read out the name on the attendance list:

I was obliged to reply:
“Which one?”

There were, after all, two Muhammads in my PBL group: Muhammad Ishack, from Mauritius; and myself, Muhammad Mikhail.

In my Anatomy group, it was even trickier: there were 6 Muhammads (in a group of about 13).

So it did strike me at first as impersonal to be called Muhammad. There was even a tinge of insult there: a small part of me felt that, as a Muslim, I was being subtly categorized as 'just another Muhammad'.

But then again, should I really be offended?

Humor me, for just a moment, and allow me to talk about Muhammad.

No, not the Muhammad writing this post but about the Muhammad born over 1400 years ago as the rahmatul lil alamin (blessing to all worlds).

By any standards, this guy was preettty cool.

And hey, don't just take my word for it. Take the words of Michael H. Hart (incidentally, a non-Muslim) who, in his 1978 book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History", ranked Muhammad as no. 1. 

Hart described the Prophet as "supremely successful" in both the religious and secular realms.

And the description makes sense; after all Muhammad was a man who was a successful businessman, a hugely influential social reformer, a fearless warrior, a visionary statesman, a spiritual guide.

But there is a danger here...the phenomenal successes of the man who somehow change the spiritual, political, economic and social landscape of the world may mask the actual man behind this whole event.

So allow me to talk about the man.

Muhammad was born into a noble bloodline, but he was not well-to-do. In fact he was born to a single mother (his father had died a few months prior to his birth). At his death, Muhammad (in terms of material wealth) died a poor man.

Muhammad did not partake in the immoral acts of his community before the Revelation was bestowed upon him at age 40. In fact, even before this he was known as "Al-Amin" - "The Trustworthy" (which you gotta admit is a way better nickname than "Mata Kail").

Muhammad did not (as some have the impression) spend all his time preaching from a stage set up in a mosque somewhere. In fact he lived very much a normal life, he was even known to walk through the markets of his town regularly.

The fact of the matter is, despite all his great successes, Muhammad the man was (consistently!) a caring father, a romantic lover, an awesome teacher, and a great neighbour.

And yet be so humble to continuously remind the people around him that he is not divine.
He is only a man, like you and I.
He eats, he drinks, he marries, and he dies.

For all this, Muhammad bin Abdullah has won my admiration, my respect, and InsyaAllah my sincere love.

Peace be upon you, the blessing to all worlds.

I am truly honored to have you as my namesake.

*in 2010 "Mohammed has become the most popular name for newborn boys in Britain." - Daily Mail.
**the Malay word for fishing hook.