MANNERS AND MORALS OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD
When the Revelation came to Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the first order conveyed to him from Allah was :
“Read in the name of thy Lord who creates – man from a clot; Read and thy Lord is most Generous, who taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not” 1
With this Quranic verse Allah informed His Prophet that the basis of the Message was dependence on Allah and the Message itself would not be understood except through knowledge and learning.
Second time, the Revelation came with this :
“O, Thou who wrappest thyself up, Arise and warn ; and thy lard do magnify ; and thy garments do purify ; and uncleanness do shua“, 2
pointing out to him that his mission was to purify peoples souls from dirt and evil and remove from their hearts all kinds of uncleanness. Allah also ordered His Prophet,
“Call to the way of thy lard with wisdom and goodly exhortation” 3
The Holy Quran which was revealed on Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) contains the Islamic laws and rulings and these depend on two principles, emancipation and purification.
Regarding emancipation, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) freed minds from darkness, low people from slavery, women from persecution and bondages, and peoples from domination. The Quran says,
“Have We not expanded for thee thy breast, and removed from thee thy burden which weighed down thy back and exalted for thee thy mention ?” 4 and “And when they commit an indecency they say: We found our fathers doing this, and Allah has enjoined it on us. Say: Surely Allah enjoins not it decency. Do you say of Allah what you know not ?” 5
Slavery was abolished by Islam and no one had to be subjugated by anyone else except in only one case, when fighters were taken prisoners. By this Islam wanted only to discontinue and limit aggression.
Islam wants all peoples to be equal and indicates that it is justice that was sought by all the Prophets and contained in all Divine Messages. The Quran says :
Certainly We sent Our messengers with clear arguments, and sent down with them the Book and the measure that men may conduct themselves with equity. “6
It does not like subjugation or weakness ; Allah says :
“for if they prevail against you, they would stone you to death or force you back to their religion, and then you would never succeded”. 7
To the Quran power and strength lead to “armed” peace. It says :
“And make ready for them whatever force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy. ” 8
As regards purification, Allah wants people to be clean and honest and communities to be friendly and compassionate, Islam dislikes cowardice, parsimony, flattery, hypocrisy, haughtiness and arrogance. Islam, which was preached by Muhammad, prevents people from killing any soul which Allah has made sacred except in the course of justice and from touching the property of orphans except in the best of manners. To build up a welfare society the Prophet asked the wealthy to help the poor and the needy and warned merchants to give not short measures and weight and refrain from adulteration, deception and williness. On these two principles, emancipation and purification, Muhammad’s message was based and to achieve them he struggled all his life. And he was rewarded by victory.
“This day those who disbelieve your religion became despaired, so fear them not, and fear Me. This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour to you and chosen for you Islam as a religion” 9
Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), the most successful of all the religions personalities of the world, was sublime in his manners and morals. Regarding his morals and manners Allah says in the Quran, “And surely thou hast sublime morals”. 10 The Prophet himself deeply realised the cardinal importance of morals when he says :
“Verily I have been raised (as a Prophet) to complete the evaluation of morals”.
The word “morals” covers the whole range of human actions. It is not one aspect of human ethics, but is all inclusive of man’s behaviour with man and man’s behaviour towards his Creator. That is why, when on a particular occasion, someone asked Sayeda `Aisha about the manners and morals of the Prophet, she said :
“His morals were the Quran”.
This important statement of `Aisha explains the meaning of the term “morals” on one hand, and on the other sums up the whole range of Muhammad’s morals and manners. His morals are the Quran, meaning that all the Prophet’s morals and manners are the translation of the precepts given in the Quran. In other words, his daily life was a true picture of the Quranic teachings. He was an embodiment of all that is enjoined in the Holy Quran. Just as the Book of Allah is a code of high morals for the development of the manifold faculties of man, similarly the Prophet’s life is a practical demonstration of all those morals. Thus, a believer has a twofold standard for guidance, the Quran in the way of percept, and Muhammad’s life as a perfect example.
Muhammad stands unique in affording a perfect model to humanity in almost all the spheres of life. For this very reason, Allah reveals in His Book :
“Certainly you have in the Messenger of Allah an excellent examplar for him who hopes in Allah and the Last Day’, and remembers A1lah much”. 11
The Quranic verse is very important in pointing to the most significant truth and distinguishing characteristic of the Prophet as the best exemplar and the highest model of virtue for the believers under all circumstances. If he had not taken revenge on tyrants for the wrongs inflicted on innocent persons, if he had not overcome his persecuting enemies and forgiven them, if he had not overlooked the faults of those attached to him, he could not have been an excellent exemplar, as he is pronounced to be. If he had not led the armies, he could not have served as a model for a general leading armies into battle. If he had not made laws for the guidance of his followers, he could never have been regarded as an outstanding example to a legislator. If he had not decided cases, he could not have served as a light to judges and magistrates. If he had not married , he would have left men unguided in practically half of their every day duties and could not have shown how to be a kind and affectionate husband and a loving father. If he had not established the city state of Madina and had not worked as its supreme head, the statesmen and rulers of the world would have been left unguided. Indeed it is the distinguishing characteristic of his life that he not only gave practical rules of guidance in all walks of life, but through his own life gave a practical illustration of all those rules of conduct. An important point worth noting here is the moral qualities which are latent within man remain in a dormant state unless they are called into action. Hence, no one can claim the possession of a high moral quality unless he has had occasion to display it, acquitting himself creditably.
The Prophet’s truthfulness and honesty even before the call were undisputed. He had earned such renown for these qualities that the people called him “Al-Amin”, the trustworthy. Such a blotless, pious and honorable life he had led throughout that on behalf of Muhammad Allah himself reveals in the Quran :
“I have lived among you a lifetime before it. Do you not then understand ?” 12
The argument is that if as they (the Meccans) admitted, he had never told a lie in his lifetime even for the sake of personal advantage, how could he now, that he had passed the age of youth and passions, speak falsehood ? How aptly Justice Ameer Ali has summed up the Meccan life of the Prophet in the following lines 13
“We have seen this wonderful man as an orphan child who had never known a father’s love, bereft in infancy of a mother’s care, his early life so full of pathos, growing up from a thoughtful childhood to a still more thoughtful youth. His youth as pure and true as his boyhood, his manhood as austere and devout as his youth. His ear open to the sorrows and sufferings of the weak and the poor, his heart ever full of sympathy and tenderness towards all Allah’s creatures. He walks so humbly and so purely that men turn round and point `There goes Al-Amin, the true, the upright, the trusty. A faithful friend, a devoted husband, a thinker intent on the mysteries of life and death, on the responsibilities of human actions, the end and aim of human existence, he sets himself to the task reclaiming and reforming a nation, nay, a world, with only one loving heart to comfort and solace him. Baffled, he never falters, beaten, he never despairs. He struggles on with indomitable spirit to achieve the work assigned to him. His purity and nobleness of character, his intense and earnest belief in Allah’s mercy bring round him ultimately many a devoted heart and when the moment of the severest trial comes, like the faithful mariner, he remains steadfast at his post until all his followers are safe and then he takes himself to a hospitable shore such as we have seen him”.
Now it would be very instructive and enlightening here to discuss briefly some of the salient features of Muhammad’s manners and morals.
The first and foremost quality of his character, which attracts our attention is his honesty and truthfulness. The following quotation from Ameer Ali’s (The Spirit of Islam) will throw light on this point : “At the dawn of the seventh century of the Christian era, in the streets of Mecca might often be seen a quiet thoughtful man, past the meridian of life, his arch mantle thrown across his shoulders, his tailasan drawn low over his face, sometimes gently sauntering, sometimes hurrying along, heedless of the passers, heedless of the gay scenes around him, deeply absorbed in his own thoughts – yet withal never forgetful to return the salutation of the lowliest, or to speak a kindly word to the children who loved to throng around him. This is Al-Amin, the trusty. He has so honourably and industriously walked through life that He has won for himself from his compatriots the noble designation of the true and trusty”.
The next great trait of his character was simplicity. In fact, this was the keynote of his character. He was simple in dress and simple in living. He had little attraction for comforts. He regarded poverty as his pride. He was never conspicuous outwardly in the midst of hit Companions. No work was too low for him. Sometimes he would himself mend his shoes and clothes and would work like a labourer with his Companions. He worked like a labourer in the construction of the mosque of Madina. Again, when a ditch was being dug to fortify Madina against the impending incursion of the enemy, he was seen working among the rank and file. In brief, he never despised any work, humble, notwithstanding the dignity of his position as Prophet and head of the state.
A radiant trait of his character was that he extended equal justice to all, irrespective of friend and foe. The highest standard of justice placed before him by Allah was :
“Let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably. Be just ; that is nearer to observance of duty. And keep your duty to Allah” 14
This was always before him.
Notwithstanding the deep-rooted malice of the Jews against Islam, when a case between a Jew and a Muslim once came up before the Prophet for hearing, he decreed in favour of the Jew, regardless of the fact that the Muslim, even perhaps the whole of his tribe, might thereby be alienated.
Muhammad warned his own daughter Fatima that her own deeds would alone avail her on the Day of Judgement. Once again he said :
“Should Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, commit theft, I would certainly cut off her hand”.
Forgiveness was another great quality of him. Even Allah Himself praises his kind heartedness and reveals
“Thus it is by Allah’s mercy that thou art gentle to them. And hast thou been rough, hard-hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around thee”. 15
Allah has further praised him by saying.
“And We have not sent thee but as a mercy to the nations. ” 16
A single instance from his life is sufficient to prove his mercy and forgiveness. At the time of the conquest of Mecca, he declared a general amnesty and forgave his arch enemies. This stands unparalled in the history of mankind.
Modesty was another bright feature of his character. According to him,
, “modesty is a part of faith”.
The Prophet’s Companions used to say that he was more modest than a virgin. He would never point out others’ faults by name. He would rather express his dislike in a general way.
From his earliest days he had a deep love and sympathy for the widows, the orphans and the helpless. He would even stand by the oppressed and the slightest pain to another would melt his heart. Without fail, he would visit the sick to enquire about their health and console them. He would feed the hungry, himself going without food and would look after the needs of his Companions. Muhammad also laid down the best example of an affectionate husband and a loving father. He raised the standard of woman and gave her a high and respectable position in a degraded society like that of Arabia. He is reported to have said
“The best of you is one who is best for his family, and I am best amongst you for my family”.
All the biographers of the Prophet agree on the point that he had an unflinching and firm faith in the final triumph of his mission. No amount of calamity, distress and hardship could deviate him from the right path he had chosen for himself. The words “despair” and “despondency” were not in his dictionary. The most furious storms of hardship and persecution failed to move him an inch from his post. Even all sorts of temptation would not induce him to leave his mission. He would make the best of all available. Allah given means and then leave the rest to His grace.