The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.)’s Life following His Prophet-hood
If the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, had cherished selfish aims and intentions, and if he had not been a Prophet chosen by God to guide people into truth, he would not have had to wait until he was forty to emerge with the claim of Prophethood.
Muhammad (s.a.w.) was unlettered. Until he was forty, no one heard him utter an eloquent speech, talk on religious and metaphysical issues, formulate any laws, and handle a sword. But, this reserved and quiet man, who had never given any indication of political interest or activity before, appeared on the stage of the world, as a greatest reformer expounding the intricate problems of metaphysics and theology, delivering speeches upon the principles of the decline and fall of nations, teaching ethical canons and formulating the laws of social culture, economic organization, group conduct and international relations, the world history has ever known. He turned suddenly into such a brave soldier that he did not even once retreat in the fiercest battles. He changed people’s modes of thought, world-views, and their beliefs, habits and morals.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was not only an undefeatable commander, nor a most eminent statesman, nor a most influential spiritual and moral teacher. He is the only example where all the excellences in all the aspects of life have been blended into one personality.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was not only an undefeatable commander, nor a most eminent statesman, nor a most influential spiritual and moral teacher. He is the only example where all the excellences in all the aspects of life have been blended into one personality. He is a man of wisdom and a seer and also a living embodiment of his own teachings. He is a great statesman as well as a military genius. He is a legislator and also a teacher of morals. He is a spiritual luminary as well as a religious guide. His vision penetrates every aspect of life and there is nothing which he touches and does not adorn. His orders and commandments cover a vast field from the regulation of international relations down to the habits of everyday life like eating, drinking, sleeping, and cleanliness of the body. On the foundations of his teaching he established a civilization and a culture and produced such a fine, sensitive, and perfect equilibrium in the conflicting aspects of life that there is to be found not even the slightest trace of any flaw, deficiency or incompleteness. What shortcoming and imperfection does he have when compared with other Prophets so that he is not confirmed as a Prophet and Messenger of God?
Muhammad (s.a.w.) lived as the humblest of all
Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings lived a very simple life, as the poorest of his community. He spent all the money he had earned by the trade before His Prophethood to spread his Message. In spite of his greatness, his behavior toward all people was that of the humblest person, that of an ordinary being. In the struggles and endeavors of his whole life he did not seek any reward or profit for his own person, nor did he leave any property for his heirs. He did not ask his followers to earmark anything for him or his descendants, so much so that although he and his family were the poorest of his community, he forbade not only his family but also his progeny from receiving from the benefit of zakat.
Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was extremely merciful toward all the creatures of God.
Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was extremely merciful toward all the creatures of God. In Makka, his people inflicted on him every kind of suffering, eventually forcing him to emigrate to Madina, and then waged wars on him for five years. However, when he conquered Makka without bloodshed in the twenty-first year of his Prophethood, he forgave all of his enemies. His mercy even encompassed hypocrites and unbelievers. Although he recognized the hypocrites of his time, he never disclosed them so that they could enjoy the rights of full citizenship to which their outward confession of faith and practice entitled them.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was particularly compassionate towards children. When he saw a child crying, he sat beside him or her and shared his or her feelings. He felt the pain of a mother for her child more than the mother herself. Once he said: I stand in prayer and wish to prolong it. However, I hear the cry of a child and cut the prayer short for the anxiety which the mother praying in the congregation is feeling. He took children in arms and hugged them. Sometimes he bore them on his shoulders.
The Prophet’s compassion encompassed not only human beings, but also animals. We hear from him that a prostitute was guided to truth by God and ultimately went to Paradise because she gave water to a poor dog dying of thirst, whilst another woman was condemned to the torments of Hell because she left a cat to die of hunger.
Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was extremely mild in his relations with people.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was extremely mild in his relations with people. He was never angry with anybody because of what was done to him. When his wife ‘A’isha, may God be pleased with her, was made the object of a slander, he did not think to punish the slanderers even after ‘A’isha was cleared. Bedouins often came to his presence and behaved impolitely, but he did not even frown at them.
The Prophet was also the most generous of people
The Prophet was also the most generous of people. He liked to distribute whatever he had. After Prophethood he and his wealthy wife Khadija spent everything they had in the way of God. When Khadija, may God be pleased with her, died, they had no money to buy a shroud, and God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, had to borrow money in order to bury the first person to embrace Islam and his first supporter.
According to the Prophet, the world is like a tree under which people sit to be shaded during a long journey. No one can live forever in the world, so people must make in the world the necessary preparation for the second part of the journey which will end either in Paradise or Hell. The mission of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was to guide people to truth, so he would spend whatever he had, his life, and his possessions, to this end. Once ‘Umar, upon him be peace and blessings, saw him lying on a rough mat and wept, saying: ‘O Messenger of God! While kings sleep in soft weather beds, you are lying on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God and therefore deserve more than any other people an easy life.’ The Messenger answered him: Do you not agree that [the luxuries of] the world be theirs but those of the Hereafter ours?
Islam does not approve of monastic life. It came to secure justice and the well-being of mankind, but warns people against over-indulgence. It is for this reason that many Muslims have chosen an ascetic life. Although the Muslims generally became rich after the death of the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, some like the Caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and ‘Ali preferred an austere life. This was partly because they felt to live as the poorest of their people and partly because they chose to strictly follow the Prophet’s example.
The Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, was the most modest of people. As he attained a higher rank each and every day, he increased in humility and servanthood to God. He preferred being a Prophet-slave to being a Prophet-king.
In the construction of the Mosque in Madina after the Hijra, he carried two sun-dried bricks while everybody else carried one. In the digging of the ditch around Madina to defend the city in the Battle of the Ditch, the Companions bound a stone around their bellies because of hunger, but the Messenger bound two, because he was more hungry than anybody else. Once, a man saw him and, due to his awe-inspiring appearance, began to tremble out of fear. The Messenger calmed him, saying: Brother! Don’t be afraid. I am a man, like you, whose mother used to eat dry bread. Again, a woman suffering from insanity pulled him by the hand and said: ‘Come with me and do my housework.’ God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, went with the woman and did the work. As reported by ‘A’isha, his wife, the Messenger patched his clothes, repaired his shoes and helped his wives with the housework.
‘Ali, the Fourth Caliph, may God be pleased with him, describes the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings:
Whoever attempted to describe Muhammad (s.a.w.) would say: ‘I have, either before him or after him, never seen the like of him, upon him be peace and blessings.’
· God’s Messenger was the most generous of people in giving out and the mildest and foremost of them in patience and perseverance. He was the most truthful of people in speech, the most amiable and congenial in companionship and the noblest of them in family. Whoever sees him first is stricken by awe of him but whoever knows him closely is attracted to him deeply, and whoever attempts to describe him says: ‘I have, either before him or after him, never seen the like of him, upon him be peace and blessings.’
Other than conveying God’s Message to people, in other words, performing the mission of Divine Messengership, who bears such an austere life as Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, lived, and what else other than a Prophet, can such a man as Muhammad (s.a.w.), upon him be peace and blessings, be? And what substantial argument can one put forward against his Prophethood?
The Tolerance of the Prophet towards Other Religions
(part 1 of 2): To Each Their Own Religion
Many mistakenly believe that Islam does not tolerate the existence of other religions present in the world. This article discusses some of the foundations the Prophet Muhammad himself laid in dealing with people of other faiths, with practical examples from his lifetime
The dealings of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, with other religions can best be described in the verse of the Quran:
“To you be your religion, to me be mine.”
The Arabian Peninsula during the time of the Prophet was a region in which various faiths were present. There were Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, polytheists, and others not affiliated with any religion. When one looks into the life of the Prophet, one may draw on many examples to portray the high level of tolerance shown to people of other faiths.
In order to understand and judge this tolerance, one must look into the period in which Islam was a formal state, with the specific laws laid down by the Prophet in accordance with the tenets of religion. Even though one can observe many examples of tolerance shown by the Prophet in the thirteen years of his stay in Mecca, one may incorrectly think that it was only due to seeking to raise the profile of the Muslims and the social status of Islam and in general. For this reason, the discussion will be limited to the period which commenced with the migration of the Prophet to Medina, and specifically once the constitution was set.
The best example of the tolerance shown by the Prophet to other religions may be the constitution itself, called the ‘Saheefah’ by early historians. When the Prophet migrated to Medina, his role as a mere religious leader ended; he was now the political leader of a state, governed by the precepts of Islam, which demanded that clear laws of governance be laid out to ensure harmony and stability in a society which once had been distraught by decades of war, one which must ensure the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Jews, Christians and polytheists. Due to this, the Prophet laid down a ‘constitution’ which detailed the responsibilities of all parties which resided in Medina, their obligations towards each other, and certain restrictions which were placed on each. All parties were to obey what was mentioned therein, and any breach of its articles was regarded as an act of treachery.
The first article of the constitution was that all the inhabitants of Medina, the Muslims as well as those who had entered the pact from the Jews, Christian, and idolaters, were “one nation to the exclusion of all others.” All were considered members and citizens of Medina society regardless of religion, race, or ancestry. People of other faiths were protected from harm as much as the Muslims, as is stated in another article, “To the Jews who follow us belong help and equity. He shall not be harmed nor his enemies be aided.” Previously, each tribe had their alliances and enemies within and without Medina.
The Prophet gathered these different tribes under one system of governance which upheld pacts of alliances previously in existence between those individual tribes. All tribes had to act as a whole with disregard to individual alliances. Any attack on other religion or tribe was considered an attack on the state and upon the Muslims as well.
The lives of the practitioners of other religions in the Muslim society was also given protective status. The Prophet said:
“Whoever kills a person who has a truce with the Muslims will never smell the fragrance of Paradise.” (Saheeh Muslim)
Since the upper hand was with the Muslims, the Prophet strictly warned against any maltreatment of people of other faiths. He said:
“Beware! Whoever is cruel and hard on a non-Muslim minority, or curtails their rights, or burdens them with more than they can bear, or takes anything from them against their free will; I (Prophet Muhammad) will complain against the person on the Day of Judgment.” (Abu Dawud)
To Each Their Own Religion
In another article, it states, “the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs.” In this, it is clear that anything other than tolerance would not be tolerated, and that, although all were members of a society, each had their separate religion which could not be violated. Each was allowed to practice their beliefs freely without any hindrances, and no acts of provocation would be tolerated.
There are many other articles of this constitution which may be discussed, but emphasis will be placed on an article which states, “If any dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble should arise, it must be referred to God and His Messenger.” This clause maintained that all inhabitants of the state must recognize a higher level of authority, and in those matters which involved various tribes and religions, justice could not be meted out by individual leaders; rather it must be adjudicated by the leader of the state himself or his designated representatives. It was allowed, however, for individual tribes who were not Muslims, to refer to their own religious scriptures and their learned men in regards to their own personal affairs. They could though, if they opted, ask the Prophet to judge between them in their matters. God says in the Quran:
“…If they do come to you, either judge between them or decline to interfere…” (Quran 5:42)
Here we see that the Prophet allowed each religion to judge in their own matters according to their own scriptures, as long as it did not stand in opposition to articles of the constitution, a pact which took into account the greater benefit of the peaceful co-existence of the society.
The Tolerance of the Prophet towards Other Religions
(Part 2 of 2): Religious Autonomy and Politics
There are many other examples during the lifetime of the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, in addition to the Saheefah that practically portray the tolerance Islam shows for other religions.
Freedom of Religious Assembly and Religious Autonomy
Given consent by the constitution, the Jews had the complete freedom to practice their religion. The Jews in Medina at the time of the Prophet had their own school of learning, named Bait-ul-Midras, where they would recite the Torah, worship and educate themselves.
The Prophet emphasized in many letters to his emissaries that religious institutions should not be harmed. Here in a letter addressed to his emissary to the religious leaders of Saint Catherine in Mount Sinai who has sought the protection of the Muslims:
“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by God! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are declared to be protected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”
As one can see, this Charter consisted of several clauses covering all important aspects of human rights, including such topics as the protection of minorities living under Islamic rule, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war.
On another occasion, the Prophet received a delegation of sixty Christians from the region of Najran, then a part of Yemen, at his mosque. When the time for their prayer came, they faced the direction of east and prayed. The Prophet ordered that they be left in their state and not harmed.
There are also examples in the life of the Prophet in which he cooperated with people of other faiths in the political arena as well. He selected a non-Muslim, Amr-ibn Umaiyah-ad-Damri, as an ambassador to be sent to Negus, the King of Ethiopia.
These are only some of the examples of the Prophet’s tolerance of other faiths. Islam recognizes that there are a plurality of religions on this earth, and gives the right to individuals to choose the path which they believe to be true. Religion is not to be, and was never, forced upon an individual against their own will, and these examples from the life of the Prophet are an epitome of the verse of the Quran which promotes religious tolerance and sets the guideline for the Muslims’ interaction with people of other faiths. God says:
“…There is no compulsion in religion…” (Quran 2:256)