By: Huda Jawad
How can we describe a personality so great that history has not been able to contain it? What of the presence that has survived limitless attempts to demean its greatness? How does one pay due respect to the Mercy of Mankind and its greatest teacher? Indeed, as the season of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny) unfolds, many Muslims find themselves seeking the best method we can honour our beloved Prophet.
This is where the immense contradiction the Muslim world faces today manifests itself. The Prophet Muhammad was a man of gentleness, and yet, Muslims continue to suffer from harshness towards themselves and others. The Prophet was a man of forgiveness, and yet we hold grudges and seek revenge. The Prophet was a man of the hereafter, and yet we are individuals concerned with this world. Above all, the Prophet Muhammad is the most outstanding exemplar of a man of God, and yet we are surrounded with men of materialism.
The character of the Prophet Muhammad is the standard by which we should all conduct ourselves. But although we have recognized his greatness and perfection, we have yet to implement his examples and teachings into ourselves. Indeed, the Holy Qur’an mentions the status of the Prophet Muhammad before Muslims: "Certainly a Messenger has come to you from among yourselves; grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you; to the believers is he most kind and merciful." (9:128)
It now becomes apparent that the beauty of Islam is found in its teachings being practical and implementable. God did not just list commandments for us to follow and laws to obey. Instead, He blessed mankind with the most esteemed leaders and teachers who practically implemented every single one of those commandments and laws.
The Prophet forgave and showed patience towards the shortcomings of others. It is well-known that even those who mistreated the Prophet were visited by him during their illnesses or times of grief, including the woman who tormented the Prophet every day on his way to prayer. He said, "Forgiving is the best of all deeds. Pardoning is incumbent upon you, for verily pardoning [others] only increases the servant’s honour, so pardon each others’ faults, and God will grant you honour." (al-Kafi)
Meaningful and Kind Speech
The Prophet Muhammad was the first to greet others. The Prophet of Islam spoke in short, meaningful sentences and never disrupted the speech of others. The gatherings in which the Prophet was present were dignified, with a clear level of modesty, dignity, truthfulness, and pleasantness. He advises us "Say a good (word) to derive benefit, and avoid speaking evil words to be safe."
The Prophet said, "The first thing that shall be put in the Scales (on the Day of Judgment) are good morals." The morals and ethics of the Prophet were recognized by God in the Qur’an: "And truly you (Muhammad) possess great morals." (52:4) It is through the exalted morals of the Prophets that God was able to lead otherwise ruined and corrupt societies towards the ark of salvation. Consider then the impact of our morals and behaviour on ourselves, our communities, and our social spheres.
Attaining Honour Through Humility
When attending gatherings or entering a room, the Prophet did not seek out a specific place to sit and instead sat anywhere. The Prophet Muhammad held the status of prophecy and divine leadership, and yet his humility and modesty in dealing with the people and his way of life were so simple and gentle that when he was among the people and a newcomer wanted to speak to him, he would need to inquire and ask, "Which one of you is the Prophet?" During journeys and trips, the Prophet would do work just like everyone else, including collecting firewood. He declared, "I do not like to be treated as if I were privileged, because God does not like any of His creatures to consider himself privileged or to be treated as if he were privileged over others."
He also reminds us, "Humility adds nothing to God’s servants but dignity. Be humble, therefore, and God will grant you dignity." The Prophet also said, "There are four distinguishing marks of the humble ones: they pay constant attention to Allah in private and in public, they carry out good works, they contemplate about the Day of Resurrection, and they engage in intimate supplication with God."
Respect: A Sign of a Muslim
The Prophet respected everyone, regardless of their social class, profession, religion, or race. He was patient, loving, and peaceful with everyone he met, and through his great conduct Islam spread throughout Arabia. Our Prophet stayed away from things that lacked value and listened attentively to the speech of others.
A Perfect Exemplar
The perfection of the Prophet Muhammad cannot be expressed by the writer, poet, historian, scholar, or observer. Instead, we must turn to the most perfect divine book, the Holy Qur’an to understand the superiority and status of the Prophet Muhammad: "Certainly you have in the Messenger of God an excellent exemplar for him who hopes in God and the latter day and remembers Allah much." (33:21)