Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah in the year 570. Since his father died before his birth and his mother died shortly thereafter, he was raised by his uncle who was from the respected tribe of Quraysh. He was raised illiterate, unable to read or write, and remained so till his death. His people, before his mission as a prophet, were ignorant of science and most of them were illiterate. As he grew up, he became known to be truthful, honest, trustworthy, generous, and sincere. He was so trustworthy that they called him the Trustworthy.1 Muhammad(peace be upon him) was very religious, and he had long detested the decadence and idolatry of his society.
At the age of forty, Muhammad(peace be upon him) received his first revelation from God through the Angel Gabriel. The revelations continued for twenty-three years, and they are collectively known as the Quran.
As soon as he began to recite the Quran and to preach the truth which God had revealed to him, he and his small group of followers suffered persecution from unbelievers. The persecution grew so fierce that in the year 622 God gave them the command to emigrate. This emigration from Makkah to the city of Madinah, some 260 miles to the north, marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar.
After several years, Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers were able to return to Makkah, where they forgave their enemies. Before Muhammad died, at the age of sixty-three, the greater part of the Arabian Peninsula had become Muslim, and within a century of his death, Islam had spread to Spain in the West and as far East as China. Among the reasons for the rapid and peaceful spread of Islam was the truth and clarity of its doctrine. Islam calls for faith in only one God, Who is the only one worthy of worship.
The Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him) was a perfect example of an honest, just, merciful, compassionate, truthful, and brave human being. Though he was a man, he was far removed from all evil characteristics and strove solely for the sake of God and His reward in the Hereafter. Moreover, in all his actions and dealings, he was ever mindful and fearful of God.
THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD A MERCY FOR ALL CREATION
“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 he was ‘the Qur’an walking’, 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) emphasize the relationship between belief and action, for example: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should not hurt his neighbor, 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.”
“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.” Qur’an 7:199
“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.”
“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).”
“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.”
“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 always helped with the housework and would at times mend his clothes, repair his shoes and sweep the floor. He would milk, protect and feed his animals and do household chores.”
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.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT HIM
A great deal has been written about the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him). Below are just some statements said by well-known figures:
Lamartine (the famous historian) mentioned, “If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and outstanding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad?”
He concluded, “As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”
(Histoire De La Turqvie, Paris 1854 – Vol. II, pp. 276 – 277)
In his book, The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History, Michael H. Hart stated: My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
Hart concluded that, “it is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
In his book, The Genuine Islam, Sir George Bernard Shaw said:
I believe that if a man like him were to assume the leadership of the modern world he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring to this world much needed peace and happiness.
Shaw added that, “He was by far the most remarkable man that ever set foot on this earth. He preached a religion, founded a state, built a nation, laid down a moral code, initiated numerous social and political reforms, established a powerful and dynamic society to practice and represent his teachings and completely revolutionized the worlds of human thought and behavior for all times to come.”
(The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, 1936)
Mahatma Gandhi pointed out:
I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. 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. (Young India Newspaper)
Wolfgang Goethe (the famous European poet) be¬lieved that:
He is a prophet and not a poet and therefore his Koran is to be seen as a divine law and not as a book of a human being, made for education or entertainment.
(Noten and Abhandlungen zum Weststlichen Dvan, WA I, 7, 32)
The Encyclopedia Britannica (Vol. 12) cited:
…A mass of detail in the early sources show that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were like-wise honest and upright men. “…Mohammad is the most successful of all Prophets and religious personalities.”
Thomas Carlyle, in his book, Heroes and Hero-worship, stated:
How one man single-handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades.” …”The lies (Western slander) which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man (Muhammad) are disgraceful to ourselves only.
In a more recent work, John Esposito (a univer¬sity professor of religion and international affairs, Director of the Center for International Studies at the College of the Holy Cross, and Founding Director of PABT Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, USA) pointed out in his book, Islam: The Straight Path, that: “Muhammad was among those great religious figures, prophets and founders of religions, whose remarkable character and personality inspired uncommon confidence and commitment. His pheno¬menal success in attracting followers and creating a community-state that dominated Arabia could be attributed not only to the fact that he was a shrewd military strategist but also to the fact that he was an unusual man… Muhammad’s followers found him righteous, trustworthy, pious, honest and compassio¬nate.” (Esposito, 2004)
He clarified that “Muhammad was not the founder of Islam; he did not start a new religion.”
Professor Esposito stressed this fact:
Islam brought a reformation; it was the call once again to total submission (Islam) to Allah and the implementation of His will as revealed in its complete form one final time to Muhammad, the last, or ‘seal,’ of the prophets. Thus, for Muhammad, Islam was not a new faith but the restoration of the true faith…
Refer the Book: Have You Discovered the Truth about Him? by Naji Ibrahim Arfaj