The Prophet of Islam: An epitome of sublime manners

J.S. Ifthekhar

Messengers and Prophets sent down by Allah (SWT) for the guidance of humanity are always a role model and an ideal. Their every action is worth emulation and sets precedence in deriving rules. No wonder they occupy the highest echelons of morality and integrity in all spheres of life. Their worship is a picture of khushu-khuzu (veneration and humbleness), their dealings honest and straight-forward, their conduct and interaction with people truthful, frank and sincere. Their character, of course, is impeccable and unblemished.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the last messenger of Allah, was no different. He was a complete man in the fullest sense of the word. Even today people turn to him for inspiration and guidance. Millions the world over imitate every act of his life, right down to minute details. In fact, nobody has influenced humanity so much and so hugely as him. Muslims love him more than their own lives and look up to him for a way out of the moral, social and political chaos that engulfs the world today.

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His egalitarian message is as relevant today as it was 1400 years ago. Especially in the present strife-torn times marked by oppressive social and economic discrimination, the Prophet’s teachings of justice and fair play hold out hope. As science advances many of the Quranic predictions are proving amazingly accurate, validating the truth of the divine message revealed to the Prophet centuries ago. The Quranic description of the evolution of embryo in the uterus, the origin of the universe, the healing property of honey and other such assertions made in the scriptures establish the absolute truth of the divine message. It further shows that the Quran, the greatest of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) miracles, has the final say in matters which are beyond human perception.

The best of human beings, the Prophet remains a beacon of light for humanity. During his short span of 63 years, he comes across as an apostle, orator, warrior, and restorer of rational dogmas and of a cult without images. There is no aspect of his life that doesn’t inspire and enthuse humanity. Even non-believers are fascinated by his sterling character and acknowledge his greatness. His honesty and fairness earned him the sobriquet – Al Amin (the trustworthy).  Astrophysicist, Michael H. Hart, in his book “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, placed the Prophet of Islam first in the list of 100 most influential persons in history. French writer, Lamartine, feels none could be compared to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) if the greatness of purpose, the smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius.

The Seerah of the Prophet never fails to inspire us emotionally. What stands out, of course, is his flawless character, a thing the Muslim community needs today more than anything else. Our ability to handle life’s challenges is a measure of our strength of character. And in the Prophet’s life, there is much to be learned.

A man of simple and elegant manners, the Prophet never put on superior airs. Once a Bedouin approached him but was too awestruck to speak. “Fear not. I was born out of a Qurayshi woman who ate dried meat”, the Prophet said – putting the man at ease. Though he occupied the high office of prophethood, he did not hesitate to attend to his personal works himself. He cobbled his shoes, milked the goat and took part in the household chores. What’s more, when his Companions wanted to stand up when he comes as a mark of respect, the Prophet refused. He mixed with people and chatted with them. He abstained from pestering his companions with sermons and knowledge all the time. He never snubbed anyone nor passed any uncharitable comment behind their back.

When Sa’d ibn Hishaam ibn Aamir asked Hazrat Aiysha (R.A) about the Prophet’s character, she said, “Don’t you read the Quran’? He said, “Of course”. Then she said, “The character of the Prophet was  Quran itself”. What it means is that the Prophet’s attitude embodied everything that is contained in the Quran.

The Quran describes the Prophets character as Wa Innaka La’ala Khuluqin Azeem (And indeed, you are of a great moral character). Often the basis of moral turpitude is the dichotomy between the word and the deed. Usually, people sound very sincere in their talk but when it comes to action they are found wanting. But in the life of Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), one doesn’t see this difference. What he preached to others he was the first to practice. This was necessary since the Prophet’s main duty was da’wah (inviting people to Islam) and without his possessing good manners and friendly disposition, the impact on listeners wouldn’t be much.

While all aspects of the Prophet’s life are exemplary, what stands out is his character. He was humble and unassuming. He laid great stress on good manners and justice for all. He showed mercy to both animate and inanimate creatures. He wanted balance and moderation in thought and practice and followed it himself. He once remarked: “Allah doesn’t look at your outward appearance and wealth but he looks at your hearts and deeds”. On another occasion, the Prophet said: “I was sent in order to complete and consolidate good manners”.

There are a number of sayings of Prophet which shows the importance he attached to good manners. In a Hadeeth, he says: “The best among the believers are those of best manners”. He also stated that “Good manners of a believer raise him to the level of a person who fasts all day and prays all night”.
Other ethical issues the Prophet emphasized include clemency, honesty, valor, modesty, loyalty and kind speech. He also laid a lot of stores by time management, self-control, and accountability.

The Messenger of Allah always encouraged people to be just and fair and practiced it himself. Once a woman of Banu Makhzoom, a respectable clan of Arab, was caught stealing. People wanted that she should escape punishment and used the good offices of Hazrath Osama Bin Zaid, who was very dear to the Prophet, to recommend for clemency. The Prophet was very angry and said “Do you intercede regarding one of the punishments prescribed by Allah? He then addressed the people and said, “By  Allah, if Fatima, daughter of Muhammed (PBUH), were to steal, I would have her hands cut off”. This clearly shows how the Prophet did not differentiate between the rich and poor and treated everyone equally.

His generosity was such that he never turned away the poor and needy. If he did not have money he would borrow from others and fulfill the needs of others. And if any dinar or dirham remained unspent, he became restless till he distributed them. Such was his magnanimity that when he passed away, there was no oil in his house to light the lamp. While he did not like to turn away the needy, he disapproved of the act of seeking alms.

An epitome of virtue, the Prophet was at his best in endurance and controlling anger. Once the Prophet was walking attired in a Najrani coarse garment when a bedouin accosted him and pulled his garment. Anas ibn Maalik, who was with the Prophet, saw the latter’s neck getting bruised by the edge of the garment. The bedouin said: “O Muhammad order for me to get from Allah’s money in your possession”. The Prophet did not get angry at the harsh behavior of the bedouin and on the contrary, smiled and gave the order.

There are innumerable such incidents which explain the exemplary manners and sublime conduct of the Messenger of Allah in the face of adversity. A close study of the Prophet’s Seerah shows how practical and realistic are his sayings, actions and gestures. One feels compelled to adopt them to gain comfort and happiness in this world and the hereafter. The Prophet of Islam gave utmost importance to human dignity and prohibited every form of harm and damage to mankind, even if it is unintentional. Likewise, he forbade homicide, perfidy, treachery, perversion, spying, libel and slander, mistrust, corruption, arrogance, despair, suicide, oppression and transgression.

All through his life, the Prophet called for fulfilling human rights after fulfilling the rights of the Creator. If Islam spread throughout the world in a short span of time, it is not because of the use of the sword as is wrongly propagated, but by the display of good manners by Muslim merchants in their dealings. Their excellent deportment enabled people to see the beauty and brilliance of Islam. Today the entire mankind is in dire need of such noble manners and splendid values.

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