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The Life of the Prophet is the Exemplary Pattern of Conduct

THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET IS THE EXEMPLARY PATTERN OF CONDUCT

Al-Azhar Magazine - April 1975

When we write or speak about the person or character of the Prophet Muhammad ( peace be upon him) we should keep in mind the following three facts :

Firstly, the Holy Quran declared, in clear verses, that the life of the Prophet is a beautiful pattern of conduct to the believers in all walks of human life.

Secondly, all trustworthy comentators and historians agree in that whatever he had said he could do, his disciples would straightaway have seen him do.

Thirdly, all of his sayings, practices, traits and characters have been authentically recorded and brought to light.

The Holy Quran says:

لَّقَدۡ كَانَ لَكُمۡ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ۬ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرۡجُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلۡيَوۡمَ ٱلۡأَخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرً۬ا

(Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much.) (33: 21)

So a true Muslim should follow, as much as possible, the pattern of the Prophet in all walks of life. The following glimpse will give illustration of the glorious pattern of his life, in personal, domestic and external affairs:

Simplicity: It is only right that, before bringing the simplicity that pervaded his life, I would like to quote the following comments on the Prophet by the famous English historian Mr Bosworth Smith ( in his book Muhammad and Muhammadanism)

“Head of the state as well as of the church, he was Caesar and peope in one; but he was pope without the pope’s pretentions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar. Without a standing army, without a fixed revenue, if every man had the right to say by a right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the powers without its instruments and without its supports…….. ‘I have seen’, said the ambassador sent to the triumphant Quraish at the despised exile at Medina, the Persian Chosroes and the Greek Heraclius sitting upon their thrones; but never did I see a man ruling his equals as does Muhammad”.

On this peak of the Powers, what was the extent of his simplicity in life ? His ordinary dress was of plain white cotton stuff. He never reclined at meals. He ate with his fingers. He lived in a low and homely cottage, built of unbaked bricks. He aides his wives in the household duties, mended his clothes, tied up the goats and even cobbled his sandals, but no approach was suffered to familiarity of action or speech. The Prophet must be addressed in subdues accents and in a reverential style. His word was absolute. Delegations and deputations were received with the utmost courtesy and consideration. Id he gave an alms, he would place it with his own hand in that of the petitioner. He was to all ease of access, yet he maintained the state and dignity of real power.

Moderation and Gentleness: The extreme gentle measure of the Prophet endeared him to all, and it is reckoned as one the Mercies of God. One of his titles is “A mercy to all creatures”. The Holy Quran says:

وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَـٰكَ إِلَّا رَحۡمَةً۬ لِّلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ

(We sent thee not save as a mercy for the peoples.) (21 : 107)

At no time was this gentleness, this mercy, this ling suffering with human weakness, more valuable that after a disaster like that at ‘Uhud’. This quality, as always, bounds and binds the soul of countless people to him. Referring to the gentleness and the magnanimity which he had shown even in the critical circumstances like that of the ‘Uhud’ the Quran says:

بِمَا رَحۡمَةٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ لِنتَ لَهُمۡ‌ۖ وَلَوۡ كُنتَ فَظًّا غَلِيظَ ٱلۡقَلۡبِ لَٱنفَضُّواْ مِنۡ حَوۡلِكَ‌ۖ فَٱعۡفُ عَنۡہُمۡ وَٱسۡتَغۡفِرۡ لَهُمۡ وَشَاوِرۡهُمۡ فِى ٱلۡأَمۡرِ‌ۖ فَإِذَا عَزَمۡتَ فَتَوَكَّلۡ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ يُحِبُّ ٱلۡمُتَوَكِّلِينَ

(It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him). ) (3 : 159)

In the excise of the authority of State he was just and temperate. The long and obstinate struggle against the mission, maintained by the inhabitants of Mecca, might have induced its conqueror to mark his indignation, but he granted a general pardon; and nobly casting into oblivion the memory of the past, with all its mockery, its affronts and persecution, treated even the foremost of his opponents with gracious and even friendly consideration.

Cruelty, severness and harsh treatment were nowhere shown in the conduct of the Prophet. Not less marked was the forbearance shown to his severe enemies who for so many years persistently opposed hi mission and resisted his authority, nor the clemency, with which he received the submissive advances of tribes that before had been the most hostile, even in the hour of victory.

Honesty and Friendship: Besides the gentleness of his nature, the Prophet was known from his earliest life for his trustworthiness. Hence the title of ‘Al-Amin’. He was a faithful friend. If he turned in conversation towards a friend, he turned to but with his full face and whole body. In shaking hands he was not the first to withdraw his own, nor was he the first to break off in converse with a stranger, nor to turn away his ear. He loved all of his companions with the close affection of brotherhood, and they were ever reciprocated by a warm and self-sacrificing love.

In Domestic Life: The conduct of the Prophet in the domestic life was exemplary. As a husband his affection and devotion was entire. As a father he was loving and tender. In his youth, he lived a virtuous life, and at the age of 25 he married a forty year old widow. During her lifetime – for 25 years- the prophet was a faithful husband to her alone, that he passed all the years of youth and men-hood until she died three years before the Hijra.

After her death the Prophet married Sauda and Aysha, the latter of whom was his only virgin wife, and she was the daughter of his intimate and illustrious friend and helper, Abu Bakr. A remarkable feature was the consideration with which the Prophet treated even the most insignificant of his followers. Modesty, kindness, patience, self-denial and generosity pervaded his conduct and riveted the affection of all around him.

The Prophet disliked saying ‘no’. If unable to answer a petitioner in the affirmative, he preferred silence. If anything displeases him, it was, rather from his face than by his words that could discover. He never smote anyone but in the service of God, not even a woman or a servant. He was not known ever to refuse an invitation to the house even of the meanest, not to decline an offered present, however small.

His Habits In Disposition: He took in hand no work without bringing it to a close. If he had the choice between two matters, he would choose the easier, so that no sin accrued therefrom. He never took revenge excepting where the honour of God was concerned. He would say “I sit at meals as a servant does, and I eat like a servant for I really am a servant’. He hated nothing more than lying.  Whenever he knew that any of his followers had erred in a matter, he would hold himself aloof from them to advise him. In his private and public dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and the poor, the powered and the weak, with acquity. He received the common people with affability and listened to their complaints. His temper was always under great control, so that even in the self-indulgent affairs of domestic life, he was kind and tolerant. His servant Anas said: “I served him from the time I was eight years old, and he never scolded me for anything though things were spoiled by me”.

His Cleanliness and Devotion: The Prophet was scrupulous as to personal cleanliness, and observed frequent ablutions. When seated by a friend he did not haughtily advance his knees towards him. He possessed the rare faculty of making each individual in a company think that he was the favoured guest. If he met anyone rejoicing at success, he would seize him eagerly and cordially by the hand. With the bereaved and afflicted, he sympathised tenderly.

Thorough and pious in all his actions, the Prophet used to stand for such a length of time at prayer that his legs would swell. When demonstrated with, and asked with exclamation, O Messenger! God had forgiven you all the faults of the past and future ones, as the Holy Quran stated:

إِنَّا فَتَحۡنَا لَكَ فَتۡحً۬ا مُّبِينً۬ا (١) لِّيَغۡفِرَ لَكَ ٱللَّهُ مَا تَقَدَّمَ مِن ذَنۢبِكَ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ وَيُتِمَّ نِعۡمَتَهُ ۥ عَلَيۡكَ وَيَہۡدِيَكَ صِرَٲطً۬ا مُّسۡتَقِيمً۬ا (٢)

(Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory, That Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, and may perfect His favour unto thee, and may guide thee on a right path,) (48: 1-2)

The Prophet’s reply was:“Shall I not behave as a thankful servant should?” He never entered a company but he sat down and rose up with motion of God. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity.

At his death, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not leave a Dinar or Dirham nor anything but his grap mule and his arms. ‘Trust in God’ was his comfort and support in times of trial and despondency.

 
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