[certainly you have in the messenger of allah an excellent exemplar for those who hope in allah and the latter day and remember allah much](al-ahzab 33:21)
we will try to explore some unique aspects of the character and biography of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). in doing so, let's sincerely pray that many of us will start a process of change to acquire many of these traits of our beloved prophet and apply them, in sha` allah.
in 610 ce, prophet muhammad, the last and the seal of all prophets (peace and blessings be upon them all), began receiving the revelation.
almighty allah says:
[muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of allah and the seal of the prophets, and allah is ever-aware of all things.] (al-ahzab 33:40)
muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) provided a model of how people should live as individuals and as members of the society. the truths revealed to and taught by him stress that this world did not spring up by itself but was created by one god (allah), who continues to watch over it. all human beings are allah's servants and are accountable before him for their actions. death is not the end of humans' life; rather it is the beginning of another eternal world, where the righteous will enjoy the bliss ofparadise and the wicked will dwell in raging hellfire.
prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) changed the tide of the human history and captured the imagination of the world by allah's will. he taught a religion that is based on:
1- worshipping one immortal god (almighty allah)
2- believing in reality, not superstition
3- teaching the humans to utilize nature (instead of worshipping it), thus paving the way for the scientific era
4- giving political power to the people and not hereditarily keeping it in the hands of one monarch or chieftain
5- showing the people all over the world — through the example of the prophet — how to live, cooperate, and work in an atmosphere of justice and peace, not cruelty and oppression
6- teaching that if one always fears to displease almighty allah, then there shouldn't be anything else that one should fear
7- teaching that if one rises above negative impulses and pessimism, one can overcome all enemies, and if one sacrifices this world for the next, one will eventually have the best of both worlds
prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was entrusted, for more than 23 years, with propagating allah's words and message to the humanity. it was this role that brought him to a collision with his people. he was inflicted with all forms of adversity, from the pain of hunger to the trepidation of battle. yet, throughout the 23 years of his mission, the prophet always remained just and steadfast in his actions. his conduct was governed by a fear of displeasing allah. during this mission, he changed the history of arabia and laid the foundations of a permanent change in the world's history.
within 100 years, this religious revolution caused the decline and then defeat of the persian, sassanid, and byzantine empires. islam swept through:
1- iraq and iran to bukhara, uzbekistan, in the east
2- syria and palestine to egypt and then north africa in the west
contrary to the claims we hear today, the divinely revealed message of islam came with the objective of reviving and confirming allah's religions of islam, which were revealed to abraham and his offspring, ishmael and isaac, and their descendents, including moses (judaism) and jesus (christianity).
this noble religion, whose book is surely preserved by almighty allah himself for eternity, has opened new, unexplored opportunities for the human race. it brought the age of democracy and freedom of speech to the world. it also helped make new discoveries in the world of science by encouraging the humans to use their most valuable gift — the mind or intellect. islam encourages the human race to seek religious truth and to explore the scientific phenomena to raise the standard and quality of life.
a big question arises: how could the prophet and his well-taught and faithful companions spread islam in a very few years and with very little human losses? let's look at the prophet's character so that we might all be able to learn from this good exemplar.
his exemplary conduct
prophet muhammad had a perfectly balanced personality. he was patient, truthful, and magnanimous. he presented the highest example of human nobility. he disciplined himself by staying aloof from quarrels and quibbles. he never engaged in foul utterances or abuse. even before prophethood, he was called as-sadiq al-amin (the truthful and trustworthy).
he had every opportunity to live a comfortable life and even become the king of arabia. but, he refused all this for the sake of establishing the new world order of islam in pursuit of truth.
time occupies an important place in the teachings of the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). the companions (may allah be pleased with them all) were taught in the prophetic school. they used to divide their time in the following way:
1- a portion for worshipping almighty allah
2- a portion for self-examination
3- a portion for reflection over the mysteries of creation
4- a portion for eating, drinking, and enjoying social life
let's visit some stories from the biography of prophet muhammad, so as to get acquainted with some of his sublime manners.
prophet muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) lived among others as an equal. no bitter criticism or provocation would make him lose his composure, and no praise could make him vain. he lived in such taqwa(piety and fear of allah)that he was always an example of modesty and leniency. he spoke little. he walked in a way that suggested his reverence of and humbleness before almighty allah. criticism never angered him. he would assert that he is allah's servant and would act as befits a servant of allah.
he was so keen to assert the difference between him as a human prophet and almighty allah as the omnipotent creator. once, a companion said, "if it is the will of allah and the will of the prophet." the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) showed his disapproval of this and said:
"are you trying to equate me with allah? rather, one should say, 'if allah alone wills."(ahmad)
toward the end of the prophet's life, his egyptian wife, mariyah al-qibtiyah, gave birth to a beautiful child, ibrahim, around the end of the 8th year of hijrah. ibrahim died in the 10th year of hijrah (632 ce) when he was still one year and a half. the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) wept the death of his son. in his deepest grief, he uttered these words:
"allah knows, ibrahim, how far we feel sorrowful for your departure. the eyes tear and the heart grieves, but we will say nothing except what pleases allah."(al-bukhari)
the death of ibrahim coincided with a solar eclipse. people from ancient times believed that solar and lunar eclipses might be caused by the death of some important person. the people of madinah began attributing the eclipse to the death of the prophet's son, ibrahim. greatly displeased by this, the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gathered the people and addressed them, saying:
"eclipses of the sun and the moon are not caused by the death of any human being; they are two of allah's signs. when you see the eclipse, you should show gratefulness to almighty allah and offer prayer to him."(al-bukhari)
on one of the journeys of the prophet, the group of travelers embarked on roasting a goat. one volunteered to slaughter the animal, another to skin it, and another to cook it. the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said that he would collect the firewood. although his companions were quite ready to do all the work, the prophet wanted to help and participate in the teamwork. he never assumed superiority over his companions.
three years after the hijrah to madinah, the makkan opponents mounted an assault against the newly emerging muslim community, and the battle of uhud took place. the muslims initially had the upper hand till some mistakes were committed in the battlefield that caused the makkans to attack the muslims from the rear. the prophet was left alone, encircled by the armed forces of the enemy; they advanced toward him, and the prophet started calling out his companions.
once a disbeliever from the makkans, threw a stone at the prophet and injured his face. this caused the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) to bleed profusely and to fall down. when the companions found him in this state, he said, "how can those who tinged the face of their prophet(i.e. wounded him in the face), who calls them to their lord, ever succeed (in the hereafter)?" (ibn `asakir)
even with this light objection,jibreel(angel gabriel) was ordered by almighty allah to descend down with the following qur'anic verse:
[it is no concern at all of you (muhammad) whether he (allah) relent toward them or punish them, for they are evildoers.](aal `imran3:128)
acting upon this verse, the prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), as related by `abdullah ibn mas`ud, would say the following supplication: "my lord, forgive my people, for they know not what they do." (ibn hisham)