PROPHET MUHAMMAD: A BRIEF LOOK AT THE IMPECCABLE LIFE OF THE FINAL PROPHET
Throughout its history, the world has produced countless illustrious individuals. But, as a rule, they were figures who distinguished themselves in limited areas, such as political or military leadership. The stories of earlier prophets have become so polluted with fiction that an accurate and authentic account of their lives is no longer available. But this is not the case with Prophet Muhammad, who accomplished so much in so many diverse fields. Every detail of his private life and public speech has been documented and carefully preserved up to the present day. In fact, no biography of any human being has been preserved as well as his.
The Prophet’s personality was noble and balanced, and his lifestyle was all-encompassing. Within his sayings and his biography can be found that which concerns and relates to all people at all times: in ease or hardship, peace or war, victory or defeat. And within them can be found every feature of his character.
The devout worshipper
His greatest pleasure was in prayer, for that is when a believer is closest to his Lord. He would stand in prayer at night so long that his feet would swell, and would weep until his beard was wet. He used to fast often, usually on specific days of the week and month. He was constantly aware of his Lord, remembering Him in every situation and fearing His displeasure. He constantly sought forgiveness for his human errors and confided, “Indeed, I repent to Allah a hundred times daily.” (Ahmad and Muslim) His praises and supplications reflected the highest degree of sincerity and servitude and the highest aspirations one can have for himself and others.
He was indifferent to worldly things and content with little, even though he was eventually granted victories, war booty and sovereignty over the Arabian Peninsula. He did not refuse the good things of life when they were available and would be grateful for them. But, when they were not available, he would not seek them out or regret the shortage. He would live mostly on dates and water and often months passed when no fire was lit for cooking in his house. He slept on a simple straw mat and said, “What do I need of this world? It is like the shade of a tree in which a rider naps at noon; then he moves on and leaves it.” (Ahmad and at-Tirmidhi)
But while the Prophet encouraged people to perform acts of worship, he warned them against going to extremes in the practice of religion. He disapproved of taking on acts of voluntary worship beyond what could be done with ease, in order to prevent the overenthusiastic from neglecting other responsibilities or from exhausting themselves physically or spiritually. Rather, he taught moderation in this respect, and that a little done consistently is better than a lot later abandoned.
Member of a family and community
Despite his extraordinary spirituality and indifference to the world, he was not heedless of central aspects of life, nor did he neglect its duties and responsibilities. He did not forget that he was a husband, father, grandfather, relative, neighbor, friend and leader, and that each of these roles bore obligations toward others. He was a human being; just like all people, he would be pleased, angry, happy and sad. He would joke with his companions at times, yet not speak except the truth. When he was angry, it did not prevent him from justice and morality, and when he was sad, he bore it with patience and acceptance.
He was a husband who, despite his great concerns and responsibilities, was fair and just with his wives,*pleasing them as much as possible, settling problems among them, considering their feelings and appreciating the individuality and circumstances of each one. Among his wives were those who were young and old, a daughter of his sworn enemy and a daughter of his closest friend. They represented the spectrum of society. One was occupied with raising orphans, another was characterized by fasting and praying a great deal at night, and several were known for scholarship. He sought good marriages for his daughters and was an affectionate father to his children and grandchildren. He was concerned with the rights of relatives, including the non-Muslims among them. He was loyal to his friends and companions and observed the rights of neighbors, even towards those who were insensitive and abusive.
Head of state, teacher and adviser
He became the head of an emerging state surrounded on all sides by enemies. He established political ties with the various factions among the local inhabitants and drew up a constitution. He received delegations and sent messages to other heads of state. He knew that man has a responsibility to develop the earth and civilize it, and was a perfect example of balance and moderation. He produced a well-disciplined nation out of chaotic tribalism and provided peace in place of war. He advised people to spend within their means, neither to be so excessive as to make themselves bankrupt, nor to withhold from those in need. It is said that a person’s true morals show during power and predominance. When the Prophet enjoyed power and influence, he demonstrated the highest level of morality, even toward those who opposed him in combat.
Commander of the army
Muhammad was a prophet of mercy and a prophet of battle. His message was primarily one of mercy, but he was obliged to turn to battle when certain powers refused mercy and morality and sought to deprive others of them and of their natural rights and individual freedoms. He was a commander who gathered statistics about military capabilities, sent scouts to gather intelligence and drew up battle plans. Aware that the Creator had ordained for every occurrence a cause, he applied these natural laws in order to achieve success. He made full use of all available means, applied strategies and called upon his Lord for assistance. After that, he could expect divine support, knowing that he had fulfilled his obligation.
The total number of days the Prophet was required to spend in defensive warfare comes to less than a year. His most famous battles did not last for more than one day, and the total number of the enemy slain during battle has been recorded at 759. With very few exceptions, enemy captives and the wounded were treated with benevolence and justice. After the conquest of Makkah, there were no reprisals. Only four of the enemy were executed, and that was due to their previous crimes rather than their status as war captives.
The prophet was no more than a human being, but he was a man with a noble mission. During the 23-year period of his prophethood, he changed the entire Arabian Peninsula from paganism to worship of the one true God, from tribal wars to national unity, from anarchy to disciplined living, from barbarism to the highest standards of moral excellence. No other man in history excelled in so many different aspects of life. He not only taught and established the religion, but founded a state, initiated numerous political and social reforms, built a powerful and dynamic society and completely revolutionized the realm of human thought and behavior – all within just over two decades.
Some have asserted that the message he brought was a product of his own mind. But if that was so, why did he not take credit for it? He could have claimed supernatural qualities, enjoyed recognition, accepted a high position of leadership, and avoided adversity and opposition. In fact, wealth, leadership, and the best of this world were presented to him numerous times. But the prophet maintained the opposite: that he was a human being like everyone else, that he spoke nothing of his own accord, and that the Qur’an, the like of which humanity could not produce, was a message from God, revealed to him by God, to whom alone belongs all glory and praise. All of the legislation he pronounced, the principles he taught and the great achievements for which he could have attained personal renown and advantage were attributed to the guidance and support of God alone. At the time of his death, in spite of his nation’s increasing material wealth, he possessed nothing of worldly value. His character, generosity, righteousness and integrity all stand as irrefutable evidence of his prophethood.
While it was still in its early stages, the Qur’an disclosed that the Prophet’s message was indeed a global one. Allah addressed His Prophet therein, saying: “And We have not sent you but as a mercy to [all] the worlds.”(21:107) “And We have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind, as a bringer of good tidings and a warner, but most of the people do not know.” (34:28) The Prophet and his followers made every effort to spread the message of truth to all nations and peoples. From the commencement of his mission, his companions came from a wide range of lands and races. Among them was Bilal, an African, Suhaib, a Byzantine, Salman, a Persian, and Ibn Salam, a Jewish scholar. All were united in the brotherhood of faith.
As the Prophet undertook to follow and teach the directives that came to him through the divine revelation, great changes came about in peoples who would otherwise have been unnoticed by history. But the resulting historical events are, in themselves, given less importance by Muslim scholars than the human factor that caused them – the direct relationship between the positive attitudes and efforts of men and the result bestowed upon them by God in the form of success and blessing in this worldly life, even before that of the Hereafter.
* It is noteworthy that in a world which had previously allowed men an unlimited number of wives, it was Islam that came to regulate the practice by limiting the number of wives to four and establishing the condition of fair treatment as a prerequisite to polygyny. But, for reasons known to God, the prophets were not restricted to four wives as are Muslims in general.
The Global Messenger (with some editing)