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Jan 13, 2013 No Comments ›› Infidel

Excerpted from The Huffington Post: In seventh century Arabia, a middle-aged man had a vision to create a new religious and social order for a largely pagan and tribal society. The man, Muhammad, told his band of followers to behave wisely and civilly. “The best among you,” he said, “are those who have the best manners and character.” More than 1,000 years later, Muhammad’s wisdom would be echoed again, this time in the British colony of Virginia, by a 13-year-old schoolboy jotting down a lengthy set of behavioral rules that would later be published as “Rules of Civility.” The schoolboy was none other than George Washington, who would one day become the first president of the United States of America.

Muhammad and Washington may seem like an unlikely connection, but in fact, they share strikingly similar biographies. Muhammad and Washington were students of history, restorers of justice and fierce warriors who led their respective nations through successful revolutions. Both men united a large swath of political territory and served as the founding father for two unprecedented social movements — Islam and the United States of America — whose universal ideals would both spread throughout the world respectively.

Washington’s contemporary, Richard Henry Lee, once said that he was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Washington’s nemesis, Britain’s King George III, said that Washington was “placed in a light the most distinguished of any man living” and had “the greatest character of the age.” Similarly, Muslims worldwide see Muhammad as the perfect human being. In “The Prophet of Islam,” Professor K.S. Rao said we witnessed “the union of the theorist, the organizer and the leader” in him. Even a non-Muslim, such as Mohatma Gandhi, called Muhammad “a treasure of wisdom not only for Muslims but for all mankind.”

The connection between Muhammad and Washington can be explored further in the Holy Quran, the Islamic Scripture which documents God’s revelations to Muhammad, and “Rules of Civility,” a book which outlines Washington’s advice for the proper conduct of young American gentlemen. For Muslims, the Holy Quran is the literal word of God, while “Rules of Civility” is less concerned with religious affairs and more focused on social rules and behavior. The Holy Quran and “Rules of Civility” have different frames, but both texts — in a wider sense — offer guidance toward achieving a more peaceful and noble life.

Muhammad and Washington advised their peers to keep their mouths free of foul language. In the Holy Quran, offensive name-calling is forbidden: “Let not some men among you laugh at others … Nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames: Ill-seeming is a name connecting wickedness” (49:11). In “Rules of Civility,” Washington said “[u]se no reproachful language against anyone, neither curse nor revile” (Rule 49). He added: “[s]peak not injurious words, neither in jest nor earnest” and “[s]coff at no one, although they give occasion” (Rule 65). Muhammad and Washington taught their peers to improve relations with others by using kindness and positive words. Both men hoped that using civil language would help groups avoid misunderstandings and create a more harmonious society.

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