Apart from seeing Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the Messenger of God gifted with divine revelation, one can remarkably see him as an ideal example of a perfect human character.
Prophet Muhammad is a person who strove hard for the well-being of his community and of humanity at large. His farsightedness and ability to correctly read events of his time and to anticipate results helped him, along with divine wisdom from God, to address people's emotions and to win their hearts before their minds. His human touch was inescapable, and his personal appeal and gentle approach won the hearts of enemies before those of friends.
In short, he always found his way to his target audience. His cousin and Companion Ali is reported to have asserted this distinctive aspect of the Prophet's character:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to win the hearts of his Companions with his kind approach. He was never harsh or hardhearted. In his meetings, he used to treat all equally; listening to them all and giving all equal chance to participate in the ongoing discussions. He was a very patient negotiator, and he never withdrew himself from the discussion unless the negotiators themselves leave first. Whenever someone asked him for something, he was keen to fulfil his wish. If not, then he will please his heart with kind words. Among people, he was known by good manners and to them all he was like an affectionate father.
Missed by Friends When Absent
A man like Muhammad was the solace to his friends' souls. They would miss him very much if he went to mind personal matters, even if for a short while. This is the feeling you might have when your soul mate is absent; you always wait in anticipation for him or her to come back. That was the case with the Companions and Prophet Muhammad.
Abu Mohammad Al-Hussein Al-Baghawi in his Ma`alim At-Tanzeel (Landmarks of Revelation) mentions that Thawban, one of the Companions who showed this real love, once came to the Prophet with sadness portrayed on his face. Upon seeing him, Muhammad inquired about this noticeable sadness and very pale face.
This reflects how close the Prophet was to his friends and Companions. He would even ask about these things that we may consider trivial or unnecessary. Thawban replied,
O Messenger of God, I do not suffer from any disease. When our daily meetings come to an end, I miss you a lot until we meet the next day. Now, I remember the Last Day where you will be granted a very special status along with the other prophets and messengers. If God destined me to enter Paradise, then we will not meet due to different degrees, as surely my degree in Paradise will be lower than yours. If God destined me to enter the Hellfire, then we will not meet.
Hearing this, the Prophet remained silent for a while to receive the following revelation shortly afterwards:
[And whoever obeys God and the Messenger, these are with those upon whom God has bestowed favors from among the Prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the good, and a goodly company they are.] (An-Nisaa' 4:69)
"Isn't he [the dead Jew] a soul created by God?" - Prophet Muhammad
Situations like the above should not pass unnoticed. The human touch of the Prophet and the way he approached his Companions and people in general did wonders. It ended up with people declaring that Muhammad is dearer to them than their wives, sons, daughters, parents, and selves.
Once the Prophet was once with his Companions. He then stretched his hand to `Umar ibn Al-Khattab. To that kind act, `Umar responded saying, "O Messenger of God, you are the most beloved to me after myself." The Prophet replied, "No, by Him in Whose Hand is my soul, you can't be a real believer until you love me more than yourself." To this, `Umar replied, " Now you are more beloved to me than myself." Then, the Prophet said, "Now, `Umar, your faith is complete" (Al-Bukhari).
These and many other countless events from the Prophet's biography demonstrate that Muhammad was a highly respectable, reputable, beloved, and kind character. Even before being divinely ordered by God to carry the divine message, he was called by his own tribesmen "As-Sadiq Al-Amin" (Arabic for "the truthful and the trustworthy").
People of Other Faiths
"This day is the day of mercy. This is a day when honor cannot be transgressed. This is an honorable day for Quraish."
Muhammad's good manners were not confined to his close friends and Companions. His manners exceeded them to encompass different nationalities and creeds. He taught his Companions how to respect others regardless of their faith, race, color, or creed.
One day, he was sitting among his Companions. A funeral of a Jew from the people of Madinah was passing by, and upon seeing it, the Prophet stood up. His astonished Companions said, "O Prophet of God! He is a Jew." The Prophet taught them how to be respectful Muslims considerate to others' feelings by saying, "Isn't he the dead Jew a soul created by God?"
How far do we go in our hasty judgments on others? How many quick decisions do we make unknowingly and unwisely about our fellow humans? Don't we learn from the above example the respect Muhammad extended to a dead soul? He never derided or cursed a human being or even an animal. He was a caring and lovable character. Violence and harshness are never found in his dictionary.
Dealing With His Enemies
Many are the false, horrible stories one can hear and read about Prophet Muhammad being bloodthirsty and war-loving. Had those who study his character attempted to be objective in their studies, they would have realized that he was really a war-hating and merciful commander. He addressed his Companions on the night of the Battle of Badr saying, "Don't ever wish to meet the enemy, but if you are forced to , then be patient" (Al-Bukhari). "If you are forced to do that" means that confrontation was an option he did not prefer.
Muhammad was someone who declared general amnesty before Amnesty International came to existence in today's world.
He was never offensive in his wars and military campaigns. His enemies ask for confrontation, and he enters wars for solely defending his beliefs and his community. He won the hearts of his enemies on the day he victoriously entered Makkah, without wasting a single soul.
One of the Companions, Sa`d ibn `Ubadah, once felt conceited on that day and raised his voice saying, "Today is the day of fierce war, a day in which inviolable rules will become violable, and a day to let Quraish taste humiliation." Upon hearing him, the victorious leader declared, "No, Sa`d! This day is the day of mercy. This is a day when honor cannot be transgressed. This is an honorable day for Quraish."
He never denied his enemies their dignity or honor. He never stripped them of their human characteristics.
He was someone who declared general amnesty before Amnesty International came to existence in today's world. He declared it before all and in broad daylight saying, "Go, you are free " These very people are those who drove the Prophet and all followers of Islam in Makkah out of their homeland (Makkah). They are the ones who relentlessly and fiercely oppressed him and his followers for more than 21 years.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been and will always be a human being from whom Muslims learn how to love and deal with one another, and form healthy relationships in today's global village. He left his personal impact on people as a human being before God entrusted him with His message.
El-Sayed Amin is currently a PhD candidate in Islamic studies at the University of Birmingham, UK. He is also a lecturer at the Islamic Studies Department in English at Al-Azhar University. Mr. Amin formerly worked as a Shari`ah editor at www.Islamonline.net where he used to write articles on Islam and its relation to other religions. He can be reached at: EMA625@bham.ac.uk