The High Morality of the Prophet
as a verse of the qur'an reveals, "… muhammad is the messenger of allah and the final seal of the prophets." (surat al-ahzab: 40), the prophet muhammad (saas) was sent to mankind as the last prophet. he was a living example of the sublime morality of allah's last revelation. he was a friend of allah and inspired humanity by his nearness to him. he was his representative, noble in his eyes, and a friend to all believers.
as allah has revealed in another verse, "we will impose a weighty word upon you..." (surat al-muzammil: 5), he charged his last prophet, muhammad (saas) with a heavy responsibility. due to the prophet (saas)'s strong faith in allah, he fulfilled that responsibility in the best possible way, called mankind to the path of allah and islam, and illuminated the way for all believers.
although we have never seen the prophet (saas), we can still do our very best to come to know his exemplary behavior, his sayings and the pleasing morality he displayed, by means of the verses of the qur'an and the hadiths (the sayings and teachings of the prophet (saas). we can try to be like him, in order to be close to him in the hereafter. people today, and the young in particular, take many individuals as role models, imitate the way they behave, speak and dress, and try to be like them. yet, since the great majority of these people are not on the right road themselves, they lack proper morality and attitudes. it is therefore a serious responsibility to lead people to the truth and the best morality and behavior. a muslim needs to try to emulate the behavior and the morality of the prophet muhammad (saas). allah confirms that in a verse:
you have an excellent model in the messenger of allah, for all who put their hope in allah and the last day and remember allah much. (surat al-ahzab: 21)
those muslims who follow the way of the prophet (saas) need to be foremost in their morality and behavior, and to invite others to adopt that same morality. as the prophet (saas)'s words "the most perfect believer in respect of faith is he who is best of them in manners." (1) make clear, morality is one the most important components of true faith. it is therefore an important religious duty to learn about and practice the very best examples of it.
the prophet (saas)'s trust in allah: an example to all people
those situations the prophet (saas) was involved, as they are related in the qur'an, demonstrate his resignation, and submission to allah. for instance, the prophet (saas)'s words when he and his friend were hiding in a cave after leaving mecca are one of the finest examples of that submission. the qur'an says:
if you do not help him, allah did help him when those who disbelieved drove him out and there were two of them in the cave. he said to his companion, "do not be despondent, allah is with us." then allah sent down his serenity upon him and reinforced him with troops you could not see. he made the word of those who disbelieved undermost. it is the word of allah which is uppermost. allah is almighty, all-wise. (surat at-tawba: 40)
whatever the situation might have been, the prophet (saas) always submitted to allah, in the knowledge that there was beauty and goodness in all that he created. these words of the prophet (saas) to his people as related in the qur'an are a telling instance of that submission:
if good happens to you it galls them. if a mishap occurs to you, they say, "we made our preparations in advance," and they turn away rejoicing. say: "nothing can happen to us except what allah has ordained for us. he is our master. it is in allah that the believers should put their trust." (surat at-tawba: 50-51)
the prophet (saas), by his submission to allah, was an example to all muslims, and he warned that people would never have the power to alter anything that came from allah:
"… when you ask for anything ask it from allah, and if you seek help in allah. know that if the people were to unite to do you some benefit they could benefit you only with what allah had recorded for you, and that if they were to unite to do you some injury they could injure you only with what allah had recorded for you. the pens are withdrawn and the pages are dry." (2)
the prophet (saas) ever only sought to please allah, expecting nothing in return from others
one of the fundamental tenets of islam is that a person must found his whole life on the love and fear of allah, and carry out all his obligations solely to win the good will and mercy of allah and to attain his paradise. in one verse, allah tells believers: "say: 'my prayer and my rites, my living and my dying, are for allah alone, the lord of all the worlds.'" (surat al-an‘am: 162)
in the following verse, believers are told to live their religion solely for allah, and not for any other purpose: "except those who repent and put things right and hold fast to allah and dedicate their religion to allah alone; they are with the believers. allah will give the believers an immense reward." (surat an-nisa': 146) anyone who holds fast to allah, knows that there is no other god than allah, lives his life solely to gain his good pleasure, and never, ever abandons his faith in him, shows he has true faith.
no sincere believer tries to gain the love, good will, praise of anyone other than allah in his actions and religious duties. the finest examples of such sincere believers are the prophet muhammad (saas) and other prophets (peace be upon them all).
throughout the period of his mission, the prophet muhammad (saas) experienced all manner of difficulty. deniers and polytheists, from among his own people, insulted him most terribly, even calling him a magician or a madman. others wanted to kill him and even schemed to do so. despite all that, the prophet (saas) tried to teach people of all backgrounds and cultures about the qur'an, and therefore about proper morality and good behavior.
as is revealed in the verses of the qur'an, some people had not the slightest idea of the basics of good manners, for which reason it never entered their minds that they might appall someone who possessed superior morality. the prophet (saas) displayed the greatest patience in this circumstances, turning to allah and asking for his help in all situations and encouraging believers to patience and submission. in the qur'an, allah advises the prophet (saas) to be patient despite the words of unbelievers:
so be patient in the face of what they say and glorify your lord with praise before the rising of the sun and before it sets. (surah qaf: 39)
do not be grieved by what they say. all might belongs to allah. he is the all-hearing, the all-knowing. (surah yunus: 65)
believers must remember the kind of things allah's messenger (saas) was patient for, and take him as a model when dealing with their own difficulties. those who despair at the slightest problem, who are unable to bear the smallest objection, who stop preaching the religion of allah, or who lose hope when their business dealings go wrong, must be aware that such behavior is incompatible with allah's holy book and the sayings and deeds of the prophet (saas). believers must always be patient, take allah as their helper and give thanks to him, adopt the superior morality of the prophet (saas), and hope for the mercy, compassion and paradise of our lord.
the prophet (saas) was always tolerant of those around him
throughout his life, however, he showed an interest in each and every one, warned them about their mistakes and failings, and tried to educate them in all matters, from cleanliness to matters of faith. that compassionate, tolerant, understanding and patient attitude of his was the means by which many peoples' hearts warmed to islam and developed a genuine love for the prophet (saas). allah describes this pleasing attitude adopted by the prophet (saas) towards those around him in the qur'an:
it is a mercy from allah that you were gentle with them. if you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. so pardon them and ask forgiveness for them… (surah al ‘imran: 159)
the prophet (saas) never pressured those around him to accept the religion, nor imposed conditions on them. instead he always used the pleasantest ways to tell them about it. he always supported the community of the faithful with his strong conscience, and was a benefactor to them at all times. on account of these traits, the prophet (saas) is described in many verses as "your companion." (surah saba': 46: surat an-najm: 2, surat at-takwir: 22).
those believers who were able to comprehend the conscientiousness of the prophet (saas) regarded him as closer to them than all others, and humbled themselves towards him. in one verse, allah states:
the prophet has closer ties to the believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers… (surat al-ahzab: 6)
imam ghazali, the great islamic scholar, summed up the prophet (saas)'s treatment of those around him in light of the information found in the hadiths:
"... everyone thought that the prophet honoured him more. whoever came to him could see his face... he used to call his companions by their surnames with honour and he used to give one surname who had no surname... he was very affectionate and kind in dealing with the people... nobody could speak loudly in his assembly." (3)
the prophet (saas)'s human love, kind thought and compassion, which turned those around him to true religion and warmed their hearts to faith, is that superior morality which all muslims should seek to reproduce.
the exemplary justice of the prophet (saas)
in the qur'an, allah commands believers to "be upholders of justice, bearing witness for allah alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. whether they are rich or poor, allah is well able to look after them. do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth..." (surat an-nisa': 135). with the rules he imposed on muslims, his just and tolerant attitude towards those of other religions, languages, races and tribes, and his way of not discriminating between rich and poor, but treating everybody equally, allah's messenger (saas) is a great example to all of mankind.
the prophet (saas) abided by allah's commands, even with such difficult people, and never made any concessions in his implementation of justice. he became an example for all times with the words, "my lord has commanded justice…" (surat al-a‘raf: 29).
during the time of the prophet (saas), christians, jews and pagans were all treated equally. the prophet (saas) abided by the verse "there is no compulsion where the religion is concerned…" (surat al-baqara: 256), explaining the true religion to everyone, but leaving them free to make up their own minds. the noble attitude of the prophet (saas), being in total harmony with the morality of the qur'an, should be taken as an example of how members of different religions today should be treated. during his final sermon, the prophet (saas) called on muslims in these terms:
"there is no superiority for an arab over a non-arab and for a non-arab over an arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious." (4)
in our day, the only solution to the fighting and conflict going on all over the world is to adopt the morality of the qur'an, and, like the prophet (saas), never to depart from the path of justice, making no distinction between different religions, languages, or races.
the prophet (saas) was a bearer of glad tidings
in the verse "o prophet! we have sent you as a witness, and a bringer of good news and a warner" (surat al-ahzab: 45), allah describes the prophet (saas) as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. the prophet (saas) always warned people against the sufferings to be experienced in hell, and told them of the desirable future that awaited the good in this world, and of the infinite life of the paradise in the hereafter. this characteristic of the prophet (saas) is revealed in the qur'an thus:
we have sent you with the truth, bringing good news and giving warning. do not ask about the inhabitants of the blazing fire. (surat al-baqara: 119)
those who take the prophet (saas) as a model and abide by his sunnah must, like him, give people the same glad tidings and warn them. the prophet (saas) himself described how such people ought to behave:
"make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them)." (5)
giving welcome news increases believers' enthusiasm and morale, and encourages them to be more determined and persevering in their labors in the way of allah. someone who hopes to be rewarded with paradise will of course have a very different attitude and state of mind than someone who regards those labors as monotonous, or carries them out of habit or a sense of obligation. that is why allah has commanded his messenger (saas) to: "spur on the believers." (surat an-nisa': 84)
the prophet (saas) relieved muslims of difficulties
the prophet (saas) lifted burdens from the faithful, and was a guide to them in tasks that they failed to understand properly, which were otherwise had been too difficult. people are easily prone to making their lives difficult, and to imposing rules upon themselves, by which they falsely believe they have solved their problems. this particular human characteristic is one of the reasons why the religion has been distorted through the years. many societies have dreamed up rules that did not actually exist in the religion, and then made themselves and others believe that they would only be truly god-fearing when they adhered to them. one of the prophet (saas)'s most important qualities was the way he lifted such burdens that people had imposed on themselves. allah speaks of that quality of the prophet (saas) in a verse:
those who follow the messenger, the ummi, whom they find written down with them in the torah and the gospel, commanding them to do right and forbidding them to do wrong, permitting them good things and prohibiting them bad things, relieving them of their heavy loads and the chains which were around them. those who believe in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him, they are the ones who are successful. (surat al-a‘raf: 157)
the prophet (saas) was most considerate and compassionate towards the faithful
the prophet (saas) was a compassionate man, full of love and understanding. he took an interest in the physical and spiritual problems of his friends, relatives and all those around him, and took all appropriate measures to ensure their health, security and happiness. he took them under his wing, and always bore in mind their lot in the hereafter by encouraging them to remain godly. these features of the prophet (saas), that are an example for all of humanity, are revealed in verses:
a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. your suffering is distressing to him; he is deeply concerned for you; he is gentle and merciful to the believers. (surat at-tawba: 128)
the faithful, who were taught by the prophet (saas), and abided by the verses of the qur'an, behaved compassionately even towards prisoners of war. verses speak of this, too:
they give food, despite their love for it, to the poor and orphans and captives: "we feed you only out of desire for the face of allah. we do not want any repayment from you or any thanks. truly we fear from our lord a glowering, calamitous day." (surat al-insan: 8-10)
the prophet (saas) reminded his companions to be compassionate, and was the greatest model for them in that regard:
"those who have mercy will receive the mercy of the most merciful. have mercy on those who are on earth, the one in heavens will have mercy on you." (6)
the importance the prophet (saas) attributed to cleanliness
as well as their purity of heart and morality, muslims are also known for the cleanliness of their bodies, clothes, homes and the food they eat. a muslim's hair, hands, face and body must always be clean. his clothes must always be clean, neat and well cared for. the places where he works or lives must always be clean, tidy, sweet-smelling and be a relaxing atmosphere. once again, it is the prophet (saas) who is the best example of this characteristic of muslims. the prophet also advises the faithful to be clean in one of the hadiths:
"surely, islam is pure, therefore be pure, because he can never enter paradise who is not pure." (7)
the prophet (saas) was always considerate and courteous
some of those who surrounded the prophet (saas) were less than well-mannered and cultured. it can be seen from a number of verses that they could not understand how thoughtless they were and that their behavior could make others uncomfortable. for instance, verses speak of people entering houses by the back instead of the front, arriving when the prophet (saas) was dining, or else taking up his time by talking for a long time. the prophet muhammad (saas), on the other hand, was very thoughtful, courteous, patient and civilized, and treated such people nevertheless with the greatest tolerance. also, in the most pleasant manner, he warned those around him against behavior that would make others uncomfortable, and thus won their sympathy, teaching them through patience and perseverence. that comportment made him an excellent example for all believers.
because of his being both a messenger of allah and a head of state, the prophet (saas) was in constant contact with people from all walks of life, from the wealthy leaders of states and tribes to poor, defenceless women and orphans. he was able to communicate with and win the hearts of people whose social status, ways of life and customs were very different from one another, he exhibited understanding, patience and a desirable attitude.
anas bin malik (ra), who was raised in the prophet (saas)'s household and served him for many years, spoke of his matchless kindness:
"allah's messenger (saas) that when he shook hands with anyone he did not withdraw his hands till the other man withdrew his. similarly, he did not turn away his face from anyone till that man turned his face to the other side. and he was never seen to put forward his knees in front of one with whom he was sitting." (8)
the prophet (saas) taught thousands of people during his life, and was a means by which those who knew nothing of religion and morality came to be morally superior, well-behaved, thoughtful and self-sacrificing. even after his death, the prophet (saas) is still teaching by means of his words, attitudes and behavior, and is a most noble guide and teacher. (for further reading, see the prophet mohammad (saas) by harun yahya)
1 sunan abu dawud, book 40, number 4665