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Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

Prophet MuhammadWho is Muhammad (peace be upon him)?
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example to follow for whoever hopes in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.”Qur’an 33:21
Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet in a long chain of Prophets sent to call the people to the obedience and worship of God alone (‘Allah’ in Arabic). Some of these Prophets include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them all).

Just as Moses (peace be upon him) was sent with the Torah (the original uncorrupted revelation sent to Moses) and Jesus (peace be upon him) with the Gospel (the original, uncorrupted revelation – not the present-day versions), Muslims believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent with the Qur’an to demonstrate how its teachings should be applied.

The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife, ‘A’isha, was once asked to describe the Prophet (peace be upon him), and she replied that “his character was a reflection of the Quran” (Muslim, 40), meaning he meticulously implemented the noble teachings of the Qur’an into his daily life. We will demonstrate how he translated these noble teachings into noble actions.

Mission of Mercy

And We (God) have not sent you (Muhammad) except as a mercy for mankind.”Qur’an 21:107

As well as calling people to pray, fast and give charity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) taught that one’s faith in God should also affect one’s treatment of others. He said: “The best of you are they who have the best character.”

Many sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) emphasise the relationship between belief and action, for example: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbour, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should speak what is good or keep quiet.”

The final Messenger (Peace be upon him) taught humans to show mercy and to respect each other:“He who does not show mercy to others, will not be shown mercy.”

In another narration, some people requested the Prophet (peace be upon him) to invoke God to punish the disbelievers but he replied: “I have not been sent as one to curse but as a mercy.”

Forgiveness

Let them forgive and overlook: do you not wish that Allah should forgive you? For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”Qur’an 24:22)

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was the most forgiving of all people and the kindest. If someone abused him, he would forgive him, and the harsher a person was, the more patient he would become. He was extremely lenient and forgiving, especially when he had the upper hand and the power to retaliate.

Muhammad (peace be upon him) was all for forgiveness and no amount of crime or aggression against him was too great to be forgiven by him. He was the best example of forgiveness and kindness, as mentioned in the following verse of the Qur’an: “Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Al-Qur’an 7:199)

Equality

Indeed the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you.”Qur’an 49:13

In the following sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him), he taught that all humans are equal in the sight of God:

“All humanity is from Adam and Adam is from clay. There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab, nor for a black over a white; except through piety.”

“God does not judge you according to your appearance and your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and looks into your deeds.”

It is related that once a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) called another companion in an offensive way, “Son of a black woman!” The Prophet (peace be upon him), became angry and replied, “Do you condemn him because of the blackness of his mother? You still have within you traces of ignorance from the pre-Islamic period.”

Tolerance

Good deeds and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is best, then he with whom you had enmity shall become as a loyal friend.”Qur’an 41:34

“You should not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you should deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.” This is how the final Messenger of God (peace be upon him) reacted to personal attacks and abuse.

Islamic sources include a number of instances where the Prophet (peace be upon him) had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who wronged him, but refrained from doing so.

He taught man to exercise patience in the face of adversity: “The strong is not the one who overcomes people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.”

Practising patience and tolerance does not mean that a Muslim should be a passivist and not defend himself in case of attack. Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) stated that, “Do not wish to meet the enemy, but when you meet (face) the enemy, be patient (i.e. stand firm when facing the enemy).”

Gentleness

By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you.”Qur’an 3:159

A companion who served Muhammad (peace be upon him) for ten years said that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was always gentle in his dealings with him. “When I did something, he never questioned my manner of doing it; and when I did not do something, he never questioned my failure to do it. He was the friendliest of all men.”

On one occasion, the wife of the Prophet (peace be upon him) reacted angrily after being insulted by a person.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) advised her: “Be gentle and calm, O ‘Aisha, as Allah likes gentleness in all affairs.”

He also said: “Show gentleness! For if gentleness is found in something, it beautifies it, and when it is taken out from anything, it makes it deficient.”

Humbleness

And the servants of The Most Gracious (God) are those who walk on the earth in humbleness, and when the ignorant address them, they say: ‘Peace.’ ”Qur’an 25:63

The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to prevent people from standing up for him out of respect. He used to sit wherever there was a place available in an assembly and never sought a prominent or elevated place. He never wore anything to distinguish himself from his companions or appear in higher rank than them. He used to mix with the poor and the needy; he used to sit with the elderly and support the widows. People who did not know him could not tell him apart from the rest of the crowd.

Addressing his companions, he said: “Allah has revealed to me, that you must be humble. No one should boast over one another, and no one should oppress another.”

Such was his humbleness that he was fearful of being worshipped, a privilege only befitting God:

“Do not exceed bounds in praising me as the Christians do in praising Jesus, Son of Mary. I am only the Lord’s servant; then call me the Servant of Allah and His Messenger.”

The Ideal Husband

And live with them (your spouses) in kindness.”Qur’an 4:19

The Prophet’s beloved wife, Aa’isha, said of her noble husband: “He used to repair his shoes, sew or mend his clothes and do what ordinary men did in their houses.”

Not only was he a devoted husband, he also encouraged his companions to follow his example: “The most perfect of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals. And the best among them are those who are best to their wives.”

The Ideal Example

Indeed you (O Muhammad) are on an exalted standard of character.”Qur’an 68:4

What has preceded is only a glimpse of how Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived his life. The examples of kindness and mercy mentioned may come as a surprise to some people given the portrayal of Islam in the media and its constant misrepresentation.

It is important when trying to understand Islam that one goes directly to its sources: The Qur’an, and the sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that anyone does not judge Islam based on the errant actions of a few Muslims.

Comments from Non-Muslims

Mahatma K Gandhi, a major political and spiritual leader of the Indian independence movement, remarked: “It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.”

George Bernard Shaw, the British playwright, declared: “The world is in dire need of a man with the mind of Muhammad; religious people in the Middle Ages, due to their ignorance and prejudice, had pictured him in a very dark way as they used to consider him the enemy of Christianity. But after looking into the story of this man I found it to be an amazing and a miraculous one, and I came to the conclusion that he was never an enemy of Christianity, and must be called instead the saviour of humanity. In my opinion, if he was to be given control over the world today, he would solve our problems and secure the peace and happiness which the world is longing for.”

The Forgiveness of Muhammad

The Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, was described as a “Mercy for all the Worlds”, as God said in the Quran:

“We have sent you as a mercy for all the worlds.” (Quran 21:107)

The recipients of this quality were not limited to just the Muslim nation, but it also extended to non-Muslims, some of who spent all their effort trying to harm the Prophet and his mission.  This mercy and forgiveness is clearly demonstrated in the fact that the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, never took revenge on anyone for personal reasons and always forgave even his staunch enemies.  Aisha said that the Prophet never took revenge on his own behalf on anyone.  She also said that he never returned evil for evil, but he would forgive and pardon.  This will, God willing, become clear after a deep analysis of the following accounts of his life.

In the earlier portion of his mission, the Prophet traveled to the city of Taif, a city located in the mountains nearby to Mecca, in order to invite them to accept Islam.  The leaders of Taif, however, were rude and discourteous in their treatment of the Prophet.  Not being content with their insolent attitude towards him, they even stirred up some gangs of the town to harass him.  This riff-raff followed the Prophet shouting at and abusing him, and throwing stones at him, until he was compelled to take refuge in an orchard.  Thus the Prophet had to endure even more obstacles in Taif than he had had to face in Mecca.  These ruffians, stationed either side of the path, threw stones at him until his feet were injured and smeared with blood.  These oppressions so grievously dejected the Prophet and plunged him into in such a state of depression that a prayer, citing his helplessness and pitiable condition and seeking the aid of God, spontaneously came from his lips:

“O God, to You I complain of my weakness, lack of resources and humiliation before these people.  You are the Most Merciful, the Lord of the weak and my Master.  To whom will You consign me?  To one estranged, bearing ill will, or an enemy given power over me?  If You do not assign me any worth, I care not, for Your favor is abundant upon me.  I seek refuge in the light of Your countenance by which all darkness is dispelled and every affair of this world and the next is set right, lest Thy anger should descend upon me or Your displeasure light upon me.  I need only Your pleasure and satisfaction for only You enable me to do good and evade the evil.  There is no power and no might but You.”

The Lord then sent the angel of mountains, seeking the permission of the Prophet to join together the two hills and crush the city of Taif, between which it was located.  Out of his great tolerance and mercy, the Messenger of God replied,

“No!  For, I hope that God will bring forth from their loins people who will worship God alone, associating nothing with Him.” (Saheeh Muslim)

His mercy and compassion was so great that on more than one occasion, God, Himself, reprimanded him for it.  One of the greatest opponents of Islam and a personal enemy, was Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the leader of the hypocrites of Medina.  Outwardly proclaiming Islam, he surreptitiously inflicted great harm to the Muslims and the mission of the Prophet.  Knowing his state of affairs, the Prophet Muhammad still offered the funeral prayer for him and prayed to God for his forgiveness.  The Quran mentions this incident in these words:

“And never (O Muhammad) pray for one of them who dies, nor stand by his grave.  Lo!  They disbelieve in God and His Messenger, and they died while they were evil doers.” (Quran 9:84) 

Abdullah ibn Ubayy worked all his life against Muhammad and Islam and left no stone unturned so as to bring him into disrepute and try to defeat his mission.  He withdrew his three hundered supporters in the battle of Uhud and thus almost broke the backbone of the Muslims at one stroke.  He engaged in intrigues and acts of hostility against the Prophet of Islam and the Muslims.  It was he who tried to bring shame to the Prophet by inciting his allies to falsely accuse the Prophet’s wife, Aisha, of adultery in order to discredit him and his message.

The mercy of the Prophet even extended to those who brutally killed and then mutilated the body of his uncle Hamzah, one of the most beloved of people to the Prophet.  Hamzah was one of the earliest to accept Islam and, through his power and position in the Quraishite hierarchy, diverted much harm from the Muslims.  An Abyssinian slave of the wife of Abu Sufyan, Hind, sought out and killed Hamzah in the battle of Uhud.  The night before the victory of Mecca, Abu Sufyan accepted Islam, fearing the vengeance of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him.  The latter forgave him and sought no retribution for his years of enmity.

After Hind had killed Hamzah she mutilated his body by cutting his chest and tearing his liver and heart into pieces.  When she quietly came to the Prophet and accepted Islam, he recognized her but did not say anything.  She was so impressed by his magnanimity and stature that she said, “O Messenger of God, no tent was more deserted in my eyes than yours; but today no tent is more lovely in my eyes than yours.”

Ikrama, son of Abu Jahl, was a great enemy of the Prophet and Islam.  He ran away after the victory of Mecca and went to Yemen.  After his wife embraced Islam,  she brought him to the Prophet Muhammad under her protection.  He was so pleased to see him that he greeted him with the words:

“O emigrant rider, welcome.”

Safwan ibn Umaya, one of the chiefs of Mecca, was also a great enemy of Muhammad and Islam.  He promised a reward to Umair ibn Wahab if he managed to kill Muhammad.  When Mecca was conquered, Safwan ran away to Jeddah in the  hope of finding a berth that would take him to Yemen by sea.  Umair ibn Wahab came to Muhammad and said, “O Messenger of God!  Safwan ibn Umayya,  a chief of his tribe, has run away from fear of what you might do to him and threatens to cast himself into the sea.”  The Prophet sent him a  guarantee of protection and, when he returned, he requested Muhammad to give him two months to come to a decision..  He was given four months, after which he became a Muslim by his own will.

Habir ibn al-Aswad was another vicious enemy of Muhammad and Islam. He inflicted a serious injury to Zainab, daughter of the Noble Prophet when she decided to migrate to Medina.  She was pregnant when she started her migration, and the polytheists of Mecca tried to stop her from leaving.  This particular man, Habbar ibn al-Aswad, physically assaulted her and intentionally caused her to fall down from her camel.  Her fall had caused her to miscarry her baby, and she herself, was badly hurt.  He had committed many other crimes against Muslims as well.  He wanted flee to Persia but, when he decided to come to Muhammad instead, the Prophet magnanimously forgave him.

The tribe of Quraish the were archenemies of Islam and, for a period of thirteen years while he was still in Mecca, they would rebuke the Prophet, taunt and mock him, beat him and abuse him, both physically and mentally.  They placed the afterbirth of a camel on his back while he prayed, and they boycotted him and his tribe until the social sanctions became unbearable.  They plotted and attempted to kill him on more than one occasion, and when the Prophet escaped to Medina, they rallied the majority of the Arab tribes and waged many wars against him.  Yet, when he entered Mecca victorious with an army of 10,000, he did not take revenge on anyone.  The Prophet said to the Quraish:

“O people of Quraish!  What do you think I will do to you?

Hoping for a good response, they said: “You will do good.  You are a noble brother, son of a noble brother.”

The Prophet then said:

“Then I say to you what Joseph said to his brothers: ‘There is no blame upon you.’  Go!  For you all free!.”[1]

Rarely in the annals of history can we read such an instance of forgiveness. Even his deadliest enemy Abu Sufyan, who led so many battles against Islam, was forgiven, as was any person who stayed in his house and did not come to fight him.

The Prophet was all for forgiveness and no amount of crime or aggression against him was too great to be forgiven by him.  He was the complete example of forgiveness and kindness, as mentioned in the following verse of the Quran:

“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” (Quran 7:199)

He always repelled evil with the good of forgiveness and kind behavior for, in his view, an antidote was better than poison.  He believed and practiced the precept that love could foil hatred, and aggression could be won over by forgiveness.  He overcame the ignorance of the people with theknowledge of Islam, and the folly and evil of the people with his kind and forgiving treatment.  With his forgiveness, he freed people from the bondage of sin and crime, and also made them great friends of Islam.  He was an epitome of the verse of the Quran:

“Good and evil are not alike.  Repel evil with what is better.  Then he, between whom and you there was hatred, will become as though he was a bosom friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Footnotes:

[1] “Mukhtasar Seeratur Rasool”, Muhammad ibn Sulayman at-Tameemi.

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