The prophets adorn and illuminate the soul of man: the zealous preaching of Noah, the unshakable principle of God's oneness upheld by Abraham, the patrimony of resignation to Divine will bequeathed by Isaac, the self-sacrifice of Ishmael, the indefatigable efforts of Moses, the faithfulness of Aaron, the self-resignation of Jacob, the lamentations of David, the wisdom of Solomon, the litanies of Zachariah, the chastity of John, the piety of Jesus, the penitence of Jonah, the strenuous exertion of Lot and the endurance of Job have made the life of man winsome and bright. To these consecrated souls can be traced every virtue and goodness found in the world today.
There is, however, no denying the fact that culture and civilisation, progress and improvement, in short, everything that has contributed towards welfare and material progress of mankind and helped man to raise himself to the level of vicegerent of God on earth, has been brought about by the combined effort of all men. Astronomers have discovered the movements of heavenly bodies, chemists have found out the properties of substances, physicians have searched the medicines for curing diseases, architects have developed the science and designs of structures and artisans have given birth to useful crafts and fine arts, and all of them have thus a share in the making of our world. We ought to be thankful to all of them. Nevertheless, we are even more obliged to offer our thanks to those who have decorated the world within us. They are the physicians who have cured us of our greed and envy, diagnosed the ailments of our souls and refurbished its lost energy and vigour. They elaborated our behaviour patterns and aptitudes, ideas and intentions and showed us the way of attaining purity of heart and sublimity of spirit. It was through the efforts of these God-moved souls that the cultural attainments were refined and embellished, the link between man and God, the slave and the Lord, was established. How could the world have attained its excellence if we had been denied the knowledge received through prophetic teachings? We are, verily, indebted more to these men of God than to any other class or group of persons. This is the compliment due to the prophets of God and it ought to be paid by all of us whenever their name comes on the lips of anyone. And, this is the benediction taught by Islam to be offered for them— 'O God! Have mercy and peace on all of them.'
For nothing in this fleeting world is eternal, these impeccable guides of humanity had also to make their exit from this fleeting world and go to their everlasting home after they had completed the task for which they had been sent by God. The subsequent generations have thus to preserve the records of their lives, sayings and doings. In fact, the documented portraits of the masters of old and the records of their achievements going by the name of history and biography are the only means for conserving the arts and sciences, discoveries and ideas of the earlier generations. We have undoubtedly some lesson in every past experience and, for that reason, the purification of our spirits and morals depends on following in the footsteps of these exalted teachers of morality and their pure-hearted followers. People have hitherto drawn "inspiration from their sublime examples and shall continue to do so in future also. We are, therefore, duty-bound, more than anything else, to preserve the accounts and endeavours of the prophets for our own guidance and betterment.
But, no philosophy, no education and no teaching, howsoever elevated and exalted, can inspire the people unless its preacher or teacher has a loving personality capable of commanding the affection and reverence of his followers.
Recently, when I was returning home in February, 1924, after a brief visit to Hijaz and Egypt, I happened to enjoy the company of the celebrated poet, Dr. Rabindranath Tagore, who was coming back from America by the same ship. A fellow passenger asked Tagore: "How is it that Brahmo Samaj has not succeeded in its mission although its creed was exceedingly fair, it enjoined reverence to all religions and their founders; and its fundamental principles, being exceedingly logical and satisfying were formulated in the light of modern science and philosophy?" The poet-philosopher reached the core of the matter when he replied:
"It could not fare well because it had no personality behind it to set up a practical example and attract and inspire the people." Truly, no religion can succeed without the shining example of a gifted teacher.
We, thus, need men of God, pure-hearted and impeccable, who are specimen of human perfection; for our guidance and salvation. May Allah bless them all.
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