Chapter 2: Sublime Qualities of the Prophet Muhammad
The Prophet Muhammad, the final Messenger and Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, had the greatest of morals in all aspects of life. When Imam Ali son of Abu Talib, peace be upon them, was asked about this he said: 'How can I describe the morals of the Prophet when God himself has testified that they are 'sublime' when He said:
And most surely you have sublime morals. (67): 4.
The Prophet's wife, when asked about his morals answered: 'The morals of the Apostle of God were an embodiment of the Quran.' 1
Before the advent of his prophetic mission he acted under the supervision of God and was being prepared according to a divine plan to be a living embodiment of loftiness and eminence. This divine preparation was alluded to by Commander of the Faithful Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib who knew the Prophet better than anyone else among the Muslims, when he said: “From the time that he was weaned, God placed him day and night in the company of the greatest of His angels to show him the path of virtue and the most excellent morals of the world.”2
It is related that Husayn, son of Imam Ali, peace be upon them both, said: “I asked my father about how the Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, would spend his time indoors. He said: 'When he sought the refuge of his house he would divide his time into three parts; one part for God, one part for his family, and one part for himself. Then the part that was for him, he would divide between himself and the people; both those close to him and the general public, and he would spare all the time that he could for them.
His policy regarding the time he set aside for the Muslim community was to favor the virtuous with his manners and he divided his time according to their virtue in the religion. Among them were those who had a single need, those who had two needs, and those who had a number of needs. He would concern himself with them and occupy them with what would benefit both them and the community by asking about them and getting them to inform him of what was needed. He would say: 'Let those present inform those who are absent and whoever is not able to inform me of his needs then let someone else do it on his behalf.”3
Imam Husayn relates: “Then I asked my father about how the Apostle of God spent his time outside the house. He said: 'The Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, would guard his tongue except in matters that concerned him. He would work to unite the people and not divide them. He would honor the nobles of every people and place them in authority over them.
He would warn the people against discords. He would be on his guard with the people at all times but would never withhold from them his smile or good manners. He would miss those of his companions who were absent and would ask the people about the affairs of the people, and would encourage what was beautiful and good and discourage what was ugly and bad.
He was balanced and did not go to extremes and would never become heedless for fear that the people would become heedless and divert from the right path. He was prepared for every situation and would not fall short of the truth nor go beyond it. It was the best of the people who followed him. In his view the best of them were those who gave the best counsel and the highest in station were those who gave the best solidarity and support.”4
Imam Husayn relates: “Then I asked my father about his gatherings. He said: 'Whenever the Apostle of God sat down to a meeting or stood up from one he would always be in remembrance of God, glory be to His name. Whenever he sat with some people he would always stay until the end of the gathering and would order others to do the same. He would give each of those present his due so that everyone would think that they were the most honored person present.
Whenever he sat with someone or stood with him about a matter, he would patiently wait until the other person was satisfied and left. If anyone asked him for anything he would either give him what he asked or speak to him some kind words. His openness and good manners enveloped the people and he was to them as a father; for him all of them had equal rights.
His gatherings were gatherings of kindness and modesty, patience and trust, where voices were not raised and sanctity was not trampled upon. There the people vied with each other to be the most just and the most virtuous and God-conscious. They would respect the elders and treat the young with mercy and give preference to those in need and protect the stranger.”5
Imam Husayn also relates that his father said: “The Apostle of God was constantly smiling, and very easy to get along with.
He was not uncouth or hard-hearted, loud voiced or immodest. He would not seek to find faults with people, or to flatter people.
He would ignore and avoid that which he did not like. However, no one would lose hope from him nor would he disappoint anyone.
He forbade himself three things: showing off, excess in anything and interfering in those things, which did not concern him.
He held back three things from the people: he would not condemn or rebuke anyone, nor would he seek out another's secrets, and would only speak in matters in which he sought a divine reward.
When he spoke his companions lowered their heads as though birds had landed upon them6 and when he fell silent they spoke. They would not vie with each other to speak, and when he spoke they would pay attention until he had finished. They spoke with him as they spoke normally; he would laugh with them when they laughed and be amazed when they were amazed. He would bear the uncouth language and questions of a stranger with patience.
He would say: 'If you see someone in need then aid him'. He would not accept praise except from his equals. He would never interrupt another person when he was speaking until he asked permission or until the speech had ended or the other person stood up to leave.7
It is related that Zayd ibn Thabit said: ‘When we sat with the Prophet and we began to talk about the afterlife he would join in with us. If we began to talk about worldly affairs he would also join in with us. If we began to speak about food and drink he would also join in with us.’8
It is related that Imam Ali said: ‘The Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, whenever he saw that one of his companions was dejected he would joke with him to delight him.’9
Anas said: 'Whenever the Apostle of God he passed by some children, he would always greet them.'10
Asma daughter of Zayd relates: 'The Prophet, when he passed by some women, he greeted them.'11 Whenever any of his companions or anyone else called him he always said: 'At your service.'12 He would always call his companions by their kunyas13 to honor them and win their hearts over and would always give a kunya to those who did not have one after which that person would be known by this kunya. He would also give kunyas to the ladies who had children and those who did not. He would also give kunyas to youngsters to soften their hearts.”14
The Apostle of God was among the most courteous of people. He would not hold back even on cold mornings from going to a male or female servant or a child and washing their face and hands for them. Whenever someone asked him something he always paid attention and would always wait until the other person had left so that he himself would not be the first to leave. Whenever someone offered him his hand he would accept it.15
Ibn Abbas relates: 'The Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, would sit upon the earth, and eat upon the earth. He would milk the ewe, and respond to the invitation for food from the freeman and the slave even for the simple trotter meal.'16 Imam Sadiq peace be upon him relates: 'Whenever the Apostle of God entered a meeting place he would always sit in the lowliest place in the gathering.'17
The prophet's wife was asked: 'What does the Prophet do in private?' She said: 'He sews his clothes and mends his shoes and does what a man usually does when he is with his wife.'18
He used to say: 'There are five things I will not stop doing until I die; eating on the floor with the servants, riding on the saddle of a donkey, milking goats with my hand, wearing wool, and greeting children, so that these may become traditions of humility for others after I am gone.'19
Imam Hasan, peace be upon him, in a tradition about the manners of the Apostle of God says: 'No, I swear by Almighty God that he would never lock himself behind doors, nor let doormen or guards keep him concealed, he would not be occupied by being served with morning or afternoon meals, . . . but rather he was in full view. Whoever wished to meet the Prophet of God could do so. He would sit upon the ground and place his food on the ground and wear rough clothes and ride upon a donkey and let others ride behind him...'20
It is related that Ibn Abi Awfa said: 'The Apostle of God did not disdain or consider himself to be above walking with widows or paupers and fulfilling their needs.'21 Anas ibn Malik relates: 'No-one was more beloved to his companions than the Apostle of God. When they saw him they would never stand up as they knew how much he hated that.'22
'When he spoke those present would lower their heads as though birds had landed upon them and when he fell silent they would speak and they would not vie with each other to speak.'23
Orwah ibn Masud al-Thaqafi described the depth of the Muslims' love for the Apostle of God and their commitment and obedience to him, when the Quraysh sent him as a delegate for the question of the peace treaty of al-Hodaybiyah. Orwah said addressing the Quraysh: 'O people, I swear by Almighty God that I have been in the presence of kings, and I have been in the presence of the Caesar of Rome and the Chosroe of Persia and the Negus of Abyssinia, but, by God, I have never seen a king whose companions revere him as the companions of Muhammad revere him. When he orders them they make haste to implement his orders. When he performs his ablutions they almost kill each other for seeking blessings from the water of his ablutions. When he speaks they lower their voices and they do not stare at him out of reverence for him.'24
Anas ibn Malik relates: 'I saw the Apostle of God when the barber was cutting his hair. His companions had surrounded him seeking to catch his hair in their hands as it fell.'25
It is related that Imam al-Riza, peace be upon him, said: 'I heard my father relating from his father, from my great grandfather from Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari26, who said: 'The Apostle of God was in a tent of leather. I saw Bilal of Abyssinia27 who had just come out with the leftover water from the Apostle of God's ablutions. The people rushed to him and whoever succeeded in getting some would wipe his face with it. Whoever did not get any would take it from the hand of his companion and wipe his face with it.'28
Anas ibn Malik said: 'I served the Apostle of God for some years and he never swore at me ever, nor did he ever hit me, nor did he rebuke me, nor did he frown in my face, nor did he reproach me for being tardy in carrying out his orders. If anyone of his wives reproached me he would say: 'Let him be, for if a thing is ordained it will be.'29
It is related that Anas said: 'I was walking with the Apostle of God and he was wearing a rough cloak from Najran. A Bedouin Arab approached him and pulled him so violently by his cloak that I saw that the Apostle of God's shoulder had been marked by the rough cloak. Then the man said: 'O Muhammad, give me some of God's wealth that you have!' The Apostle of God turned to him and laughed and ordered a gift for him.'30
During one of the battles, one of his companions said to him:
'Invoke God against the Polytheists!' The Prophet said: 'I have been sent as a mercy and guidance and have not been sent to curse people.'31 The Apostle of God used to say: 'My Lord has enjoined upon me seven things: he has enjoined upon me sincerity in secret and in public, and that I forgive those who have wronged me, and that I give to those who have withheld from me, and that I maintain bonds with those who cut off from me, and that my times of silence are spent in thought, and that whatever I see I derive a lesson from it.'32
When he left the tribe of Thuqayf after having been insulted and tormented by them one of his companions said: 'O Apostle of God, invoke God against them.' He said: 'O God, give guidance to the tribe of Thuqayf and bring them to us so that they learn Islam.'
In another account it is said: 'The Prophet never struck a woman or a servant and indeed, he never struck a single thing with his hand except when he was fighting in the way of Almighty God. If ever he was harmed he would never take revenge on the person who had harmed him except when something sacrosanct of his had been desecrated, then he would take action.
It is related that Imam Hasan said: 'The Apostle of God would not be angered by the mundane world or the matters belonging to it, but if the truth was transgressed against then nothing could withstand his anger until he could succor it. He would not become angry for his own affair nor would he succor it.'33
The Apostle of God was persevering and steadfast to the utmost degree. For example, when Abu Talib informed him of what the Quraysh had been plotting for him and for the Clan of Hashim in general he said: 'O uncle, if they were to put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left hand on condition that I forgo this mission, I would not forgo it until God makes it prevail or I perish in the process.'34 He would encourage the first Muslims to stand up to opposition and to stay with the truth and would say: 'There were those before you whose flesh and nerves would be raked to the bone with steel rakes and they would not relinquish their religion, and saws would be placed upon the middle of their heads and they would be sawn in two and they would not relinquish their religion. God will fulfil this mission until one will be able to ride from Sana to Hadharalmaut fearing nothing but God and the wolf for his flocks, but you are too hasty.'35
When he visited the city of al-Taif, he was treated in the worst possible manner by the people of the city, who incited the children and slaves against him and they began stoning him until wherever he put his foot there was a stone, and they split open his head and wounded his body. However he did no more than pray and supplicate to Almighty God saying: 'O God, to you I complain of my weakness and my lack of means and my insignificance in the eyes of the people, O Most Merciful One, you are the Lord of the enfeebled ones and you are my Lord. To whom will you deliver me? To an enemy from afar who is scowling at me, or an enemy whom you have given dominion over my affair? As long as your anger is not upon me then I do not care, although Your protection is what I prefer.'36
His most difficult days were during the battles of Ohud and the Confederates (al-Ahzab). In the battle of Ohud the forces of polytheism routed the Muslims after they had disobeyed the orders given by the Prophet Muhammad. Only ones to remain at the heart of the fighting were the Apostle of God, Imam Ali, and certain sincere companions. The Prophet was severely injured; his nose was broken and his face was split open and he lost copious blood until false news spread that he had died. Despite this however, he remained steadfast until God put an end to the adversity.
In the campaign of the Confederates, the believers were under extreme pressure which the Holy Quran speaks of saying:
And when they came upon you from above you and from below you and when your eyes trembled and your hearts came into your mouths and you began to have doubtful thoughts about God. There the believers were tested and were shaken most severely (33): 11.
The Muslims were in danger of being annihilated by the army of the Confederates who had laid siege in Medina, and the Apostle of God witnessed all this, which was of such severity that the perseverance of great men vanquished before it. However, the Apostle of God remained steadfast and optimistic of victory during this trial and rose above it with his endurance, and by this he gave hope to the believers and raised their spirits and gave them strength and strengthened their trust in Almighty God. He made plans to confront the situation with the utmost poise and determination until God gave victory to His servant and Apostle, and defeated the Confederates Himself.
The Apostle of God was a supreme example in abstinence. It is related that Ibn Abbas said: 'Once, Omar entered into the presence of the Apostle of God who was seated upon a mat of straw fibres which had left marks upon his side. Omar said: 'O Prophet of God, it would be better if you got a couch for yourself!' He said: 'What have I got to do with this mundane world? As far as myself and this world are concerned, I am like a rider who has travelled on a hot summer's day and taken shade below a tree for an hour or so and then left it and continued his journey.'37
Ibn Abbas also said: 'The Apostle of God used to go without eating every other night and his family could find nothing to eat. Mostly their bread was of barley.'38
It is related that once he washed his robe and was without a robe [until it dried], or he gave his clothes to a poor person and was without clothes as he did not own another robe so he covered himself with a straw mat.
In certain Quranic commentaries it is said that the meaning of God's words:
Taha! 39 We sent not this Quran down upon you so that you might become distressed (20): 1-2.
is that you are not required to be so harsh with yourself to the extent that you don't have more than one set of clothes to your name so that when you give your clothes to a poor person or wash your clothes, you are without clothes and have to cover yourself with straw matting. This was an indication from God that He would be pleased with the Prophet even if he was less of a model in abstinence.
He was also a model of mercy and kindness. It is related:
'The Prophet if he heard, during prayer, a child crying he would hasten the end of prayer so that the child's mother, who was praying with the Prophet, could go to the child.
Someone said to him: 'O Apostle of God, you made the prayer lighter today!' He said: 'I heard a child crying and I feared that his mother would be concerned.'40 It is related that the Apostle of God smiled when some prisoners of war were brought before him. One of the prisoners said: 'O Muhammad, you take us prisoner and then you smile?' He said: 'I smiled because I want to take you towards felicity and Paradise, whereas you want to flee towards wretchedness and Hellfire.'
It is related that Maysarah ibn Mabad said: 'A man came to the Prophet and said: 'O Apostle of God, we were a people of the Ways of Ignorance, and we worshipped idols and killed our children. I had a daughter and she was always delighted when I called her. So one day I called her and she followed me and we went to a nearby well belonging to my family. There I took her hand and threw her into the well. The last thing I heard from her was her saying: 'Daddy, daddy.'' The Apostle of God wept until his eyes were blinded with tears.'41
The Apostle of God's forgiveness and kindness was not confined to human beings but also encompassed animals. Once he saw a she camel that had been hobbling but was still loaded and it was evidently heavy for her when she was standing. He said: 'Where is her owner? Tell him that he should be prepared for a suit against him on the morrow.'42
Abd al-Rahman ibn Abdullah said: 'We were on a journey with the Apostle of God when we saw a small bird with two chicks. So we took the two chicks and the bird came flapping its wings in distress. When the Apostle of God came he said: 'Who has bereaved this bird of her children? Return her children to her.'43
He was once sitting when a pussy-cat came and slept on his sleeve. When he wanted to get up, he did not want to disturb her, so he cut off the piece of his sleeve on which she was sleeping on.
He used to say that an animal has six rights over its master: when he stops he should begin by feeding it, and if he passes by water he should offer it the chance to drink, and he should not strike it except for a good reason, and he should not make it bear more than it is able, and he should not make it walk more than it is able, and he should not sit upon it for prolonged periods while it is stationary.'44
Imam Ali, Commander of the Faithful said: 'Whenever the fighting became intense we would shield ourselves with the Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, and no one would be closer to the enemy than him.'45
Imam Ali also said: 'For the sake of the pleasure of God he went through every adversity and swallowed every bitter morsel. Those nearest to him were fickle and those furthest from him conspired against him. The Arabs prepared to make war upon him until they brought their enmity to his doorstep from the furthest outpost.' Anas said: 'The Apostle of God was the bravest of the people and the best of the people and the most generous of the people.' He said: 'One night the people of Medina were alarmed by a noise, so they set out towards it, wanting to know what was going on. The Apostle of God, who had gone before them, met them there and was saying: 'Do not fear.' He was on the horse belonging to Abu Talhah with his sword round his neck, 'Do not fear, it had just been startled.'46
On the day of the battle of Ohud the Prophet suffered broken ribs and his head was laid open to the bone and his lips were wounded and blood poured onto his face. He witnessed his uncle Hamzah being killed and disembowelled. But despite all this he remained patient and concerned with Almighty God and did not panic or waver but showed great patience. It is narrated that Salim the servant of Abu Hudhayfah was wiping the blood from the Prophet's face saying: 'How can people prosper when this is the way they treat their Prophet who calls them to Almighty God.'47
The Prophet Muhammad was passionate in his submission to God.
It is related by Husayn son of Imam Ali who spoke on the subject of the humility of the Apostle of God during his prayers saying: 'He would weep until his prayer mat became wet with tears for fear of God, but not because he had sinned for he was without sin.' On the subject of his great humility during prayer, Mutrif - son of Abdullah ibn al-Shukhayr relates of his father that he said: 'I saw the Prophet praying and his chest was humming as a boiler hums.'48 This is an indication of the reverberation in the Prophet's chest of the sound of his weeping.
In a tradition, the Prophet's wife speaks of the strength of his commitment to God saying: 'The Apostle of God used to speak with us and us with him. When the time came for the prayer though, it was as if he did not recognise us nor we him.'49
Commander of the Faithful - Imam Ali, points out the importance of prayer to the Prophet and his commitment to it when he says in a tradition: 'The Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, took great pains with his prayer even after he had been promised Paradise. This was due to God's words:
‘And order your family to prayer and persevere in it (20): 132.’
He used to order his family to prayer and made himself steadfast in it.'50
The Prophet would wait with intense longing for the time of prayer to arrive due to a tremendous yearning to stand before God in prayer. He would say to Bilal, the muezzin.51 who would give the call to prayer: 'Give us comfort O Bilal,'52 as he found his comfort in prayer and turning towards God. He persisted in worship for so long that his feet became raw, and in turning to God, and in his thankfulness for the great bounties he received from Him. When he was asked about his relentless endeavor, he said: 'Am I not to be a grateful servant?'53
When Umm Salmah, the Prophet's wife, was asked about the Apostle of God's prayers at night she said: 'There is no comparison between your prayers and his. He would pray then he would sleep for the same amount of time as he had prayed. Then he would pray for the same amount of time that he had slept. Then he would sleep for the same amount of time that he had prayed. Then he would rise in the morning.'54
The Prophet himself in a speech to his close companion Abu Dharr al-Ghifari55, spoke of the extent of his connection and commitment to God by way of prayer when he said: 'O Abu Dharr, God has given me happiness through prayer and has made prayer beloved to me just as food is beloved to a hungry person and water to a thirsty person. Except that if a hungry person eats he becomes full and if a thirsty person drinks he becomes satiated, but I will never have my fill of prayer.'56
The Apostle of God was also greatly disposed to fasting and seclusion, to supplication and asking forgiveness from God, to praising God and making pilgrimage and giving alms. He used to say: 'One who fasts is in a state of worship even if he is upon his bed, as long as he does not slander another Muslim.'57 He also said: 'The sleep of one who fasts is worship and his breathing is a glorification of God.'58
It is related that Imam Jafar Sadiq said: 'The Apostle of God used to fast until it was said of him: 'He never breaks his fast.' Then he would eat during the day until it was said of him: 'He never fasts.' Then he fasted on alternate days. Then he fasted on Mondays and Thursdays. Then he began to fast for three days of every month: the first Thursday of the month, the Wednesday in the middle of the month, and the last Thursday of the month.'59
Imam Jafar Sadiq also said: 'During the last ten days of the holy month of Ramazan, the Apostle of God would tighten his belt and seclude himself from his wives. He would keep vigil at night and devote himself to worship.'60 88 It is related that Anbasah, the Worshipper said: 'Up until his death, the Prophet fasted the months of Shaban and Ramadan and three days of every month: the first Thursday, the middle Wednesday, and the last Thursday.'61 It is related that Imam Ali said: 'The Apostle of God fasted continuously for as long as God wished. Then he stopped this and fasted the fast of the Prophet David, peace be upon him: a day for God and a day for himself62 for as long as God wished. Then he stopped this and fasted Mondays and Thursdays for as long as God wished. Then he stopped this and fasted 'the white days': three days every month...'63
He also said: 'Almighty God has said: 'Fasting is for Me and I reward it.'64
When he was seriously ill with his fatal illness, the Apostle of God came to the mosque and said: 'My Lord, mighty and majestic is He, has passed judgement and has sworn that he will not overlook the wrong of any wrongdoer. So I adjure you by God, any man of you who has been wronged by Muhammad let him stand and take his requital. For requital in this world is preferable to me than requital in the next in front of the angels and the prophets.' One man stood up who was named - 'Sawdah ibn Qays.' He said: 'May my mother and father be your sacrifice, O Apostle of God, when you came from al-Taif, I was there to greet you. You were on your camel and in your hand was your riding crop. When you wanted to set out you raised your crop and it hit my stomach and I do not know whether it was deliberate or by accident.'
The Prophet said: 'God forbid that I did it deliberately.' Then he said: 'O Bilal, go to the house of Fatimah and bring me my riding crop.' Bilal left and began calling in the alleys of Medina: 'O people, have you heard of one offering himself up for requital before the Day of Resurrection? Here is Muhammad offering himself up for requital before the Day of Resurrection!' Then Bilal brought the riding crop to the Apostle of God who said: Where is the Shaykh? (Meaning Sawdah).
The Shaykh stood up and said: 'Here I am O Apostle of God, may my father and mother be your sacrifice.'
The Prophet said: 'Come and take your requital from me to your satisfaction.' The Shaykh said: 'Then uncover your stomach O Apostle of God.' So he uncovered his stomach.
The Shaykh said: 'By my father and mother O Apostle of God, do you give me permission to put my mouth to your stomach?' The Prophet gave his permission.
The Shaykh said: 'I seek refuge in the place of requital on the stomach of the Apostle of God from Hellfire on the Day of Hellfire.' The Prophet said: 'O Sawdah ibn Qays, are you forgiving me or are you taking requital?'
Sawdah said: 'Indeed, I am forgiving O Apostle of God.' The Apostle of God said: 'O God, forgive Sawdah ibn Qays as he has forgiven your Prophet Muhammad.'65 Asking for Forgiveness The Apostle of God would often say: 'Glory and praise be to you O God, forgive me, verily you are The Oft Forgiving, The Most Merciful.'66
Imam Ali Riza relates: 'The Apostle of God would not stand up from a gathering however brief without seeking forgiveness from Almighty God twenty five times.'67
It is related that Imam Jafar Sadiq said: 'The Apostle of God used to seek forgiveness from Almighty God seventy times every day and repent to Him seventy times every day.'68
It is related that Imam Ali said: 'Whenever the Apostle of God saw something he liked he said: 'Praise be to God by whose blessings good things come to pass.'69 Imam Sadiq said: 'Whenever the Apostle of God found something that pleased him he would say: 'Praise be to God for this blessing.' If he found something, which disturbed him he would say: 'Praise be to God in all circumstances.'70 Imam Jafar Sadiq said: 'The Apostle of God would praise God every day three hundred and sixty times,... saying: 'Great praise be to God, Lord of the worlds in all circumstances.'71
The Apostle of God said: 'Give in charity even if you only give just one date, for it feeds the hungry and extinguishes your sin as water extinguishes fire.'72
He also said: 'When a person performs well his almsgiving, God will guarantee that the wealth he leaves behind will be well looked after.'73 He also said: 'Whoever wishes to prevent misfortune, then let him begin each day by giving alms.' In one of his recommendations to Imam Ali, the Apostle of God, said: 'As for almsgiving, do your utmost, until people say that you have been profligate when in fact you have not been profligate.'74 It is related that Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari said: 'Never was the Apostle of God asked for something and he said no.'75
In a tradition of Imam Ali's about the morals of the Prophet he says: 'He was never asked anything and said - no. He would never send away anyone who asked him something without either giving him what he asked or speaking to him some kind words.'76
It is related that a man came to the Prophet and asked him for something and the Prophet gave him it. Then someone else asked him and he gave him what he wanted. Then another man came and asked him for something and the Prophet promised it to him. At this Omar ibn al-Khattab stood up and said: 'O Apostle of God, you were asked and you gave, then you were asked again and you gave, then you were asked once more and you gave your promise. You do not have to commit yourself if you do not have the means.' This speech upset the Apostle of God. Then in a show of support Abdullah ibn Hadhafah al-Sahmi stood up and said: 'Spend, O Apostle of God, and do not fear a decrease from the Owner of the Throne [i.e. God].' The Prophet was visibly pleased by this, smiled, and replied: 'This is what I have been ordered to do by God.'77
The Apostle of God, would always joke with people and seek to delight them.78 It is related that Imam al-Kazim, peace be upon him, said: 'Often a Bedouin Arab would come and give him a gift and then he would say: 'Give me the price of my gift!' And the Apostle of God would laugh. When he was downcast he would say: 'Remember what the Bedouin did? If only he would come again.'79
Once, a man came to him and said: 'Give me a mount O Apostle of God!' He said: 'I will give you the child of a she- camel.' The man said: 'And what can I do with the child of a she-camel?' He said: 'Do you know of any camels that are not born of a she-camel?'80
Once he said to a woman who mentioned her husband: 'Is he the one who has white in his eye?' She said: 'He has no white in his eye.' When she told her husband he said: 'Do you not see that my eye is more white than it is black?'81 An old woman of the Ansar said to the Prophet: 'Pray for me so that I may enter Paradise!' He said: 'But old women do not enter Paradise!' The woman wept and the Prophet laughed and said: 'Have you not heard the Almighty's words describing the women of Paradise:
Indeed We created them and made them virgins, loving, and equal in age (56): 35-37
Imam Ali said in describing the Prophet: 'He was the most open handed of people, and the most lenient of them, and the most noble. Whoever met him and knew him loved him...'82
Imam Ali relates: 'He was the most concerned of the people for the people, and the kindest of the people to the people.'83 He also said: 'The Apostle of God whenever he shook hands with anyone he would never withdraw his hand until the other person withdrew his hand first. Whenever he spoke with anyone about a need or a matter he would never leave until the other person left first. If anyone vied with him to speak he would always remain silent. He was never seen pointing his feet at anyone who sat with him. He would never send away someone who asked him something without giving him it or saying some kind words to him . . . when he looked at something it would be with a glance from his eye. He would never speak to someone in a way they disliked . . . he would never criticise or praise food...'84
The Apostle of God never criticised food. If he liked it he would eat it and if he disliked it he would leave it.'85 Imam Jafar Sadiq said: 'The Apostle of God used to divide up his glances between his companions and would look towards one and then towards another equally.'86
It is related that Abu al-Darda said: 'Whenever the Apostle of God spoke he would smile while speaking.'87 Anas ibn Malik relates: 'Whenever anyone sat with the Apostle of God and later stood up to leave, he would also stand up to see him off out of respect.'88
Anas also relates: 'If the Apostle of God missed one of his Muslim brethrens for three days, he would ask about him. If he was absent from town, he would pray for him and if he was present he would visit him and if he was ill he would also visit him.'89
It is also related of him that 'he did not treat anyone harshly and would accept the apology of one who offered it. He was always smiling except at the times when the Quran descended upon him or he was giving a sermon. He would often laugh but without guffawing . . . if ever anyone; freeman, bondsman or woman came to him he would always aid him or her in their needs. He was not uncouth or hard- hearted nor one to bellow in the marketplaces. He would never requite a bad action with a bad action but would forgive and pardon. He would offer a greeting whenever he met anyone and whoever spoke to him regarding a matter he would listen with patience until the person was satisfied and left. If he met a Muslim he would offer his hand to him...'90
Once, he was in debt to a Jewish man. The man came to retrieve what he was owed but the Apostle of God said to him: 'I have nothing to give to you.' The man said: 'Then I will not leave your side, O Muhammad, until you fulfil the debt. He said: 'Then I will sit with you.'
So he sat with him until he had prayed the noon and afternoon prayers, then the sunset and evening prayers and the dawn prayer. The companions of the Apostle of God were threatening and intimidating him and when the prophet saw this he said: 'What are you doing to him?' They said: 'O Apostle of God, do you let a Jew detain you?' He said: 'My Lord did not send me to wrong a covenanter or anyone else.'
When sun arose the Jewish man said: 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is His servant and Apostle. Divide my wealth in the way of God. I swear that I have only done what I have done so that I may see the description of you in the Torah, for I have read it there. 'Muhammad son of Abdullah, whose birthplace is Mecca and who will emigrate to Tayyibah, (Medina) he is not uncouth or hard hearted nor stern, nor does he adorn himself with indecencies or obscene language.' I testify that there is no deity but God and that you are the Apostle of God. Here is my wealth, so do with it as God orders.' This man was a very rich man too.91
Once, Jurayr ibn Abdullah al-Bajali came to the Apostle of God's gathering but the place was full and he could not find a place. 'So he sat outside the house. When the Apostle of God saw him he took his robe and folded it up and threw it to him and said: 'Sit on this.' Jurayr took it and put it to his face and kissed it.'92
It is also related that he would accept the invitation to food of the freeman and the bondsman alike even if it were for trotter meals. He would always accept a gift even if it were a sip of milk. He would not stare in the face of anyone. He angered for the sake of his Lord and not for his own sake. He would attend funerals and visit the sick. He would sit with the poor people and eat with the paupers and give them food with his own hand. He would accept the apologies of anyone who apologised to him. He would not be superior to his servants in his food or clothing.93 It is related that Anas ibn Malik said: 'I served the Prophet for nine years and he never said to me 'you should have done this' and he never criticized me ever.'94
Anas relates: 'I was a companion of the Apostle of God for ten years. I have smelled all types of perfume, but nothing was finer than his perfume. If one of his companions met him he would stay with him until the other man was the one to leave. If one of his companions met him and they shook hands he would not withdraw his hand until the other person did so. He never exposed his knees in front of anyone who sat with him'95
It is related that Abu Said al-Khudari said: 'The Apostle of God was extremely modest and if ever he was asked for a thing he would give it.'96 125 Abu Said al-Khudari also said: 'The Apostle of God was more modest than a virgin girl in her chamber. If he disliked something we could tell by his face.'97
One of his characteristics was that he never frowned. If he heard someone saying something, which he disliked, he would not confront him about it but would say, “What is the matter with some people who do or say such things?” He would thus prohibit something without mentioning the name of the perpetrator.
It is related that Imam Sadiq said: 'The Apostle of God, may Allah bless him and his family, said: 'My Lord has ordered me to cultivate seven characteristics: to love the paupers and approach them, and to say often the words: 'there is no power or strength except through God', and to maintain the bonds of kinship even if they should cut their ties with me, and to look to those who are lower than me and not to look to those who are above me, and not to be affected in the way of God by the aspersions of the blamers, and to speak the truth however bitter it may be, and not to ask anything of anyone.'98
In conclusion, some western scholars have noted that among the reasons that the people gathered round the Apostle of God from the very first day until this day, are his three characteristics:
• His faithfulness, for his companions at the time of his death are those who were with him from the very first day of his mission in Mecca.
• His simple and abstinent way of life from his early days until death despite the fact that he became a great ruler with wealth coming to him in abundance.
• His down-to-earth manners to the utmost degree. He was like any one of the people and did not consider himself superior to them.
- 1. The White Path (al-mahajjah al-abayad); vol.4, p.120.
- 2. The Path of Eloquence; Sermon192, The Sermon of Disparagement.
- 3. Sunan al-Nabi; p. 14.
- 4. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 13.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. A figure of speech, depicting their motionlessness and attentiveness.
- 7. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p 14.
- 8. Bihar al-Anwar; vol.16, p. 235.
- 9. Sunan al-Nabi; p. 60.
- 10. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 16.
- 11. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 229, Hadith 35, chap. 9.
- 12. Sunan al-Nabi; p. 52.
- 13. Agnomens. Usually of the form Abu or Umm of so-and-so i.e. the father or mother of so-and-so. Translator.
- 14. Sunan al-Nabi; p. 52.
- 15. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 228, Beirut edn.
- 16. Ibid. p, 227, chap. 9, Hadith 34.
- 17. Ibid; p. 240.
- 18. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 16, Beirut edn.
- 19. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 220, chap. 9, hadith 11.
- 20. Ibid. vol. 16, p. 228.
- 21. Ibid. p. 437.
- 22. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 229, chap. 9, hadith 35.
- 23. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 15.
- 24. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 20, p. 332, chap. 20.
- 25. Ibid. vol. 17, p. 32, chap. 14, hadith 14.
- 26. Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari was one of the devout and loyal companions of the Prophet Muhammad (s) who went on to live long enough to meet the Prophet's fifth appointed successor, Imam Baqir, as foretold by the Prophet - some seventy years after the Prophet's death. He was companion to Imam Ali as well in the times of the Messenger of God. Jabir paid homage of allegiance to every one of the Prophet's successors. Jabir is considered as one of the reliable narrators of the Prophetic hadith.
- 27. Bilal was a black African slave who was bought off from his Quraysh masters by the Prophet and set free, and he went on to become the Prophet's assistant.
- 28. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 17, p 33, chap. 14, hadith 14; Beirut edn.
- 29. Ibid. vol. 16, chap. 9.
- 30. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 230, chap. 9, hadith 35.
- 31. The White Path (al-mahajjah al-abayad); vol. 4, p. 129. Second Edition.
- 32. Sunan al-Nabi; p.71.
- 33. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 15.
- 34. Ibn Athir; al-Kamil fi al-Tarikh; vol. 1, p. 587, Beirut edition.
- 35. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 18, p. 210.
- 36. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 19, p. 17, chap. 5, hadith 9.
- 37. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 35.
- 38. al-Wafa bi-Ahwal al-Mustafa vol. 2, p. 298.
- 39. The Holy Quran: ‘Taha’ is another name for the Prophet.
- 40. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 88, p. 41, chap. 2, hadith 2.
- 41. al-Wafa bi-ahwal al-mustafa vol. 2, p. 541.
- 42. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 7, chap. 11, p. 276.
- 43. Akhlaq al-Nabi wa Adabuh; p. 75.
- 44. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 61, chap. 8, p. 210, hadith 16.
- 45. Nahj al-balaghah; al-Salih, hadith 9, p. 520. 5th edition.
- 46. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 19.
- 47. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 20, chap. “The Ohud Campaign”, p. 102, hadith 2.
- 48. The Morals and Etiquettes of the Prophet (Akhlaq al-Nabi wa Adabuhu); p. 178.
- 49. Ibid; p. 178.
- 50. The Path of Eloquence, Sermon no. 199.
- 51. More properly 'muadhdhin' (Translator's note).
- 52. Traditions of the Prophet (Sunan al-Nabi); p. 268.
- 53. Tafsir al-Burhani of al-Bahrani; vol. 3, p. 29; Qum edition.
- 54. al-Wafa bi-Ahwal al-Mustafa vol. 2, p. 505.
- 55. Abu Dharr became one of the most devout sincere companions of the Prophet Muhammad, and the latter confirmed his sincerity and honesty when he said, “There is no one under the sky, and over the land, more truthful than Abu Dharr”, as quoted in Sunan al-Tarmadhi, Chapter al-Manaqib, hadith 3737; Musnad Ahmad, hadith 6232; Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 22, p. 330.
- 56. Traditions of the Prophet (Sunan al-Nabi); p. 268.
- 57. Means of the Shia; vol. 4, chap. 1, p. 291, hadith 12; Beirut edition.
- 58. Ibid; p. 293, hadith 23.
- 59. Ibid; p.305, hadith 5.
- 60. al-Kafi vol. 4, p. 155, hadith 3.
- 61. Means of the Shia; vol. 4, chap. 1, p 309, hadith 17.
- 62. That is, he fasted on alternate days.
- 63. Means of the Shia; vol. 4, chap. 1, p. 321.
- 64. Means of the Shia; vol. 4, chap. 1, p. 292, hadith 15.
- 65. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 22, chap. 2, p. 507, hadith 9.
- 66. The White Path (al-Mahajjah al-Abayad); vol. 2, p. 315.
- 67. al-Kafi; vol. 2, Seeking Forgiveness, p. 504, hadith 4.
- 68. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, chap. 9, p. 258; Beirut edn.
- 69. Traditions of the Prophet (Sunan al-Nabi); p. 329.
- 70. Ibid; p. 328.
- 71. al-Kafi; vol. 2, p. 503, hadith 3.
- 72. The White Path (al-Mahajjah al-Abayad); vol. 2, p. 107.
- 73. Ibid; vol. 2, p. 108.
- 74. Means of the Shia (Wasail al-Shia) vol. 4, p. 273, Beirut edn.
- 75. Ibid. p. 263.
- 76. The Noble Morals (Makarim al-Akhlaq); p. 23.
- 77. Mustadrak Wasael al-Shia, vol. 7, p. 235.
- 78. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 298, hadith 2, chap. 10.
- 79. al-Kafi; vol. 2, p. 663, hadith 1.
- 80. Manaqibu Ali Abi Talib; vol. 1, p. 101.
- 81. Ibid.
- 82. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 190, chap. 8, hadith 27.
- 83. Ibid; vol. 10, chap. 1, p. 5, hadith 1.
- 84. Ibid; vol. 16, chap. 9, p. 236.
- 85. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 30.
- 86. al-Kafi; vol. 2, p. 671, hadith 1, chap. al-Nawadir.
- 87. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 21.
- 88. Ibid; p. 17.
- 89. Ibid; p. 19.
- 90. Manaqibu Ali Abi Talib; vol. 1, p. 146-147.
- 91. Bihar al-Anwar; vol. 16, p. 216, hadith 5.
- 92. Ibid p. 235.
- 93. Manaqibu Ali Abi Talib; vol. 1, p. 146.
- 94. Makarim al-Akhlaq; p. 16.
- 95. Ibid 117.
- 96. Ibid.
- 97. Ibid.
- 98. al-Khisal; vol. 2, chap. ‘The Seven Characteristics’, hadith 12.