9. Qualities and character
of the Holy Prophet
Brief as this treatment of the Prophet's life is, it would be
incomplete without a few words as to his manners and morals. When
his wife, A'isha, the most privy to his secrets, was questioned
about his morals, her reply was, "His morals are the Quran."
In other words, the highest morals that were depicted in the Holy
Quran were possessed by him.
Simplicity and sincerity are the keynotes of the Prophet's character.
He would do all sorts of things with his own hands. He would milk
his own goats, patch his own clothes and mend his own shoes. In
person would he dust the house, and he would tie his camel and look
after it personally. No work was too low for him. He worked like
a labourer in the construction of the mosque, and again in digging
a ditch round Madina. In person would he do shopping, not only for
his own household but also for his neighbours or for helpless women.
He never despised any work, however humble, notwithstanding the
dignity of his position as Prophet and King. He thus demonstrated
through personal example that man's calling does not really determine
his nobleness or his meanness.
His actions and movements were characterized by homely simplicity.
He did not like his companions to stand up on his arrival. Once
he forbade them, saying, "Do not stand up for me as do the non-Arabs;"
and added that he was a humble creature of God, eating as others
eat and sitting as others sit. When a certain man wanted to kiss
his hand, he withdrew it remarking that that was the behaviour of
the non-Arabs to wards their kings. Even if a slave sent him an
invitation he accepted it. He would take his meals in the company
of all classes of people, even of slaves. When seated among people,
there was nothing about him to make him conspicuous.
The Prophet had a deep love for his friends. While shaking hands
with them, he would never be the first to withdraw his hand. He
met everybody with a smiling face. A report from Jarir ibn Abdullah
says that he never saw the Prophet but with a smile on his face.
He would talk freely, never putting on artificial reserve to give
himself an air of superiority. He would take up children in arms
and nurse them. He disliked backbiting and forbade his visitors
to talk ill of any of his friends. He would ever take the lead in
greeting his friends and shaking hands with them.
The Prophet's generosity even towards his enemies stands unique
in the annals of the world. Abdullah ibn Ubayy, the head of the
hypocrites, was a sworn enemy of Islam, and his days and nights
were spent in plotting mischief against the Muslims. Yet at his
death, the Prophet prayed to the Lord to forgive him and even granted
his own shirt to enshroud his body. The Makkans, who had all along
subjected him and his friends to the most barbarous tortures, were
not only awarded a general amnesty but were let off even without
a reproof. Twenty long years of persecutions and warfare were absolutely
forgiven and forgotten. "The magnanimity with which Muhammad
treated a people who had so long hated and rejected him is worthy
of all admiration," says Muir. The fact is that no other example
is met with in history of such magnanimous forgiveness of inveterate
enemies, who had shed innocent blood, who had shown no pity for
helpless men, women and children, who had exerted themselves to
their utmost to kill the Prophet and to annihilate the Muslims.
The prisoners of war were almost always set free even without demanding
a ransom. It was only in the case of the prisoners of Badr that
ransom was demanded; after that, hundreds of prisoners and in one
case, in the battle with Hawazin, as many as six thousand, were
released without taking a penny as ransom. At the battle of Uhud,
when he was wounded and fell, down, a comrade asked him to curse
his persecutors. His reply was: I have not been sent to curse
but as an inviter to good and mercy. O Lord ! guide my people, for
they know not." Once a Bedouin pulled him and threw his wrap
round his neck. When asked why he should not be repaid in the same
coin, he pleaded that he (the Prophet) never returned evil for evil.
In the administration of justice, the Prophet was scrupulously
even-handed. Muslims and non-Muslims, friend and foe, were all alike
in his eyes. Even before the Call, his impartiality his honesty
and integrity were of household fame, and people would bring their
disputes to him to settle. At Madina, tie Jews and the idolaters
both accepted him as the arbitrator in all their disputes. Notwithstanding
the deep-rooted malice of Jews against Islam, when a case between
a Jew and a Muslim came up before him, he decreed in favour of the
Jew, regardless of the fact that the Muslim, nay, even perhaps the
whole of his tribe, might thereby be alienated. In his dealings
with his worst enemies he was always true to the Quranic injunction
"Let not hatred of a people incite you not to act
equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety." [5:8]
On his deathbed, immediately before he breathed his last, he had it
"If I owe anything to anybody, it may be claimed;
if I have offended anybody, he may have his revenge."
In his dealings with others he never placed himself on a higher pedestal.
Once while he held the position of a king at Madina, a Jew whom he
owed some money came up to him and began to-abuse him. Umar was enraged,
but the Prophet rebuked him, saying:
"It would have been meet for thee to have advised
both of us - me, the debtor to repay the debt with gratitude, and
him, the creditor, to demand it in a more becoming manner."
And he paid the Jew more than his due. On another occasion when he
was out in the wood with his friends, the time for preparation of
food came. Everybody was allotted a piece of work, he himself going
out to pick up fuel. Spiritual and temporal overlord though he was,
he would yet do his share of work like an ordinary man. In his treatment
of his servants, he observed the same principle of equality. A report
from Anas says that during the ten years that he was in the Prophet's
service at Madina, where he ultimately became the master of the whole
of Arabia, he was not once scolded by him. He never kept anybody in
slavery. As soon as he got a slave, he set him free.
In charity the Prophet was simply unapproached. He never gave
a flat refusal to a beggar. He would feed the hungry, himself going
without food. He never kept any money in his possession. While on
his deathbed, he sent for whatever there was in his house and distributed
it among the poor. Even for the dumb creatures of God his heart
overflowed with mercy. He spoke of one who drew water from a well
to quench the thirst of a dog as having earned paradise with this
act of kindness. He spoke of a deceased woman that she was undergoing
punishment because she would tie up her cat and keep it hungry.
Form his earliest days he had a deep sympathy for widows and orphans,
the poor and the helpless. He would ever stand by the oppressed.
He vindicated the rights of women over men, of slaves over their
masters, of the ruled over the rulers, and of the subjects over
the king. Negro slaves were accorded the same position of honour
as the Quraish leaders. He was the champion of the oppressed and
the ill-treated ones. He was very fond of children, and while walking
along he would pat and stroke those whom he met on the way. Without
fail would he visit the sick to enquire after their health and console
them. He would also accompany a funeral.
Humble and meek in the highest degree, he had yet the courage
of the bravest of men. Never for a moment did he harbour fear of
his enemies. Even when plots to take his life were being hatched
in Makka, he moved about fearlessly day and night. He told all his
companions to emigrate from Makka, himself remaining almost alone
among infuriated enemies. With his pursuers at the mouth of the
cave in which he had hidden himself, he could yet console his companion,
saying, "Allah is with us." On the field of Uhud when the
whole of his army fell into a trap, he shouted aloud, regardless
of all danger to his own person, to rally the confused soldiers.
In the battle of Hunain when the Muslim rank and file took to flight,
he advanced alone towards the enemy, calling aloud, "I am the
Prophet." When one night a raid was suspected, he was the first
to reconnoitre the outskirts of Madina, riding his horse without
saddling it. On a certain journey, while resting under a tree all
alone, an enemy came upon him, and unsheathing his sword shouted
out: " Who can save thee now from my hands?" Calmly the Prophet
replied, "Allah." And the next moment the same sword was
in the Prophet's hand who put to his enemy the same question, on
which he assumed a tone of abject humility, and the Prophet let
The Prophet's integrity and sincerity were of universal fame throughout
Arabia. His worst enemies had often to confess that he had never
told a lie. When he once pledged his word, he kept it under the
most trying conditions and even at a heavy lost. He faithfully observed
the truce made at Hudaibiya, though he had to refuse shelter to
Muslims escaping from the persecution of the Makkans. His biographers
are all at one in their admiration of his unflinching fortitude
and unswerving steadfastness. Despair and despondency were unknown
to him. Hemmed in as he was on all sides by a gloomy prospect and
severe opposition, his faith in the ultimate triumph of the truth
was never for one moment shaken.