By: Nasser El-Morshidy
Some non-Muslims unreasonably attack the noble character of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H). Due to their lack of knowledge about his teachings and life, they mistakenly judge his character by the actions of extremist Muslims. Unfortunately, those who criticize him do not make an effort to read authentic Islamic sources about the Prophet (P.B.U.H). If they read his biography and his teachings objectively, they would not be able to resist the feeling of admiration for the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H).
Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was born in 570 CE in Makkah, in Saudi Arabia. Since his father died before his birth and his mother shortly thereafter, he was raised by his grandfather and later by his uncle. He grew up illiterate. As a young man, he came to be known as truthful, honest, trustworthy, generous, sincere and kind. Recognizing his outstanding character, the people in Makkah granted him the title Al-Amin (The Trustworthy).
When Muhammad (P.B.U.H) turned forty years old, he received the first revelation from Allah (S.W.T) through the Angel Gabriel. These revelations continued for twenty three years and were compiled into the Holy Book of Muslims known as the Holy Qur'an. Muhammad (P.B.U.H) began his mission by calling his relatives and friends to worship Allah (S.W.T) alone. After three years, he delivered the same message to the whole people of Makkah. For that, the Makkans persecuted him and tortured his followers for the next ten years. In 622 CE, he emigrated with his followers from Makkah to Yathrib, in Saudi Arabia, that was later renamed Madinah.
Consequently, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) established with his followers the first Islamic state in Madinah. There were some military confrontations with the Makkans that came to an end when the Muslims conquered Makkah in 629 CE. Before Muhammad (P.B.U.H) died, the majority of the population in the Arabian Peninsula had adopted Islam. Moreover, he sent letters to the rulers of neighbouring countries calling them to believe in Islam. Muhammad (P.B.U.H) completed his fruitful mission and passed away in 632 CE.
The teachings of Muhammad (P.B.U.H) mainly focus on the worship of Allah (S.W.T), the Creator of the universe; and on cultivating good manners, right conduct, virtue, and morality. He was indeed a model of honesty, justice, mercy, compassion and truthfulness. It comes as no surprise that Muslims love the Prophet (P.B.U.H) more than themselves, their families and the whole world. The Holy Qur’an clearly states that Muhammad (P.B.U.H) is the most outstanding role model for Muslims. “You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a good example for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” Qur’an 33:21
There are numerous sayings of Muhammad (P.B.U.H) that encourage Muslims to practice good behavior: to keep one’s promises, to be true in speech, to support the needy, to be kind to one’s parents, to be good to one’s neighbours, to be generous to one’s guests, to do one’s work efficiently, etc. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: "Those of you who will be closest to me on the Day of Judgment are those who have the best manners." (Ahmed)
On many occasions, the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) made it clear that kindness and mercy are among the main characteristics of Muslims. He called on his followers to be kind towards the weak, young and elderly so that they receive the mercy of Allah (S.W.T). The Prophet (P.B.U.H) clearly warned that those who do not show mercy and kindness to others will not receive the mercy of Allah (S.W.T). Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “He who does not show mercy to people will not be shown mercy by Allah.” (Bukhari)
Not only did Muhammad (P.B.U.H) call upon Muslims to be kind and merciful to fellow humans, but he also extended this exhortation to animals. When he was once among some of his companions, he said: "While a man was walking along a road, he became very thirsty. He found a well, got down into it, drank, and climbed out again. He then saw a dog panting and licking dust because of severe thirst. The man said, 'This dog is suffering from the same state of thirst I did.' So he went down the well, filled his shoe with water, held it in his mouth, climbed out, and gave the water to the dog. Allah appreciated his deed and forgave him his sins." They asked the Prophet: "Shall we be rewarded for showing kindness to the animals?'' He replied: "A reward is given in connection with every living creature." (Bukhari)
Furthermore, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) teaches Muslims to be tolerant, kind and forgiving. He never took revenge on his own behalf. The history of his life shows that he was always tolerant towards his enemies. For example, when the Prophet (P.B.U.H) conquered Makkah and had full control over those who persecuted him and tortured his followers, he did not take revenge against them but instead he forgave and pardoned all of them.
The Prophet (P.B.U.H) also spoke highly about the value of justice. He instructed Muslims to be just towards other people even toward their enemies. Muslims should stand firmly against injustice practiced in any form and by anyone. Muhammad (P.B.U.H) made it clear that resisting injustice and oppression of a tyrant or a dictator is the best way of carrying out Jihad - struggling for the sake of Allah (S.W.T). He said: “The best Jihad is a truthful word in the presence of an unjust ruler.” (Tirmizi)
Accordingly, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) taught Muslims not to discriminate against people because of their race or descent, declaring that all humans are equal. He clearly stated: “All mankind is descended from Adam and Eve, an Arab is not better than a non-Arab and a non-Arab is not better than an Arab; a white person is not better than a black person, nor is a black person better than a white person except by piety and good actions.” (Tirmizi). This clear-cut declaration is part of the last sermon of Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in 632 CE, when discrimination was practised worldwide.
Moreover, The Prophet
(P.B.U.H) recommended Muslims to be absolutely fair and just towards
non-Muslims. He made it clear that abusing the rights of a
non-Muslim is an abominable act to the extent that he himself will
stand against the perpetrator on the Day of Judgement. Muhammad
(P.B.U.H) said: “Whoever persecutes a Zimmi (non-Muslim living in
a Muslim country) or usurps his right or asks him to do work beyond
his capacity or takes something from him unwillingly, I shall be a
plaintiff against him on the Day of Judg
In putting his trust in Allah (S.W.T), Muhammad (P.B.U.H) was an exemplary role model to all Muslims. He taught Muslims to have complete trust and reliance on Allah (S.W.T) and to submit faithfully to Him. The Prophet (P.B.U.H) said: “When you ask for anything, ask it from Allah, and if you seek help, seek help from 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 harm you, they could harm you only with what Allah had recorded for you. The pens are dry and the pages are withdrawn.” (Tirmizi)
According to the Prophet (P.B.U.H), sincerity is a basic condition for acceptance of good deeds. He instructed Muslims to stay away from hypocrisy, reminding them that Allah (S.W.T) definitely knows our intentions and rewards us accordingly. Therefore, actions aiming at showing off are not accepted by Allah (S.W.T). Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said: “The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended.’ (Bukhari).
Muhammad (P.B.U.H) also taught Muslims to be hopeful and optimistic up to the very last moment of life. He said: “If the Day of Judgment erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.” (Ahmed). He warned all Muslims against feeling desperate or seeking death even during the darkest moments of life. He said: “No one of you should wish for death because of some harm that has befallen him, but if he must do that then let him say: ‘O Allah, keep me alive so long as life is good for me, and cause me to die when death is good for me.” (Bukhari)
On many occasions, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) rejected mistakes of some of his followers when they tried to elevate him to a status beyond human. For example, when Ibrahim -the son of the Prophet (P.B.U.H)- passed away, the sun eclipsed. Some people said that the sun eclipsed in sadness over the death of Ibrahim. Upon hearing this, Muhammad (P.B.U.H) declared: "The sun and the moon are signs of Allah. They are eclipsed neither for the death nor birth of anyone. On beholding an eclipse of either of them, go immediately to perform prayer." (Ahmed)
Recognizing the merits of the character of the Prophet (P.B.U.H), many well-known non-Muslim intellectuals have held in high regard Muhammad (P.B.U.H), considering him one of the greatest religious and state leaders of all times. For example, in his book “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”, Michael H. Hart ranked the Prophet (P.B.U.H) first on the list of the most influential people in history. He 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." (p.33)
In conclusion, I would like to quote the words of the famous French writer of the 19th century, Lamartine, in his book “Histoire de la Turquie”. He said about the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H): "Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?" (Vol. I: 280)