For a long time, a need was felt for a brief book that captured the essence of the way of life and teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, and at the same time served as an easy introduction for the layperson to the greatest personality that mankind has ever known. Despite many reference and scholarly books on the subject, only a few give a glimpse of the magnificent character and conduct of the final messenger of God in the way that the works of Grand Ayatollah Imam Muhammad Shirazi do.
The life and teachings of the Prophet were central and omnipresent to the many books written by Imam Muhammad Shirazi, where he extensively referred to the Prophet's teachings or his policies, citing the stance that the Prophet maintained in various events, or the policies he had adopted with respect to particular issues. He based his analyses on the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad may Allah bless him and his impeccable family.
Presented in this book are extracts from three different works by the author about the Prophet Muhammad and some of his teachings. However, this is not intended to be a collection of all the works by the author about the Prophet Muhammad, which number tens of books.
This work is not intended to be a comprehensive chronological presentation of the life of the Prophet, nor does it aim to detail all his teachings. It is intended to give some idea about the historic transformation initiated by the Prophet and the change he induced in the course of mankind's life.
To help appreciate the significance of the universal renaissance that the Prophet Muhammad began some fourteen centuries ago, it is necessary to be aware of the status quo that prevailed at the time prior to start of his prophetic mission, even if outlined very briefly. As an eyewitness of the state of affair of the human society at the time, Imam Ali says:
“Allah sent Muhammad sometime after the other messengers, and after the nations of the world had been slumbering for a long time. Strife had become entrenched, affairs disparate, and wars raging. The light of the world had become obscured, and vanities had become foremost. The leaves of life had then become yellow, its fruits rare, and its water dried up. The lighthouse of guidance had crumbled, and the signs of ruin had become manifest. The world scowled upon its people, frowned in the face of those who sought after it. Strife was the only fruit, carrion the only food, fear the only motto, the sword the only clothing.”
In another speech Imam Ali describes the “Age of Ignorance” that prevailed before the prophetic mission:
“Allah sent Muhammad when the people were astray and in confusion, lost in strife. Their vain desires had overcome them, and arrogance had brought them down. The ignorance of the times had made them make light of the ignorant ones. They were helpless, caught in the earthquake and calamity of ignorance. So Muhammad went to great lengths to give wise counsel and walked the right path and called to wisdom and fine preaching.”
It was with this kind of background that the Prophet of Islam began his mission to teach and educate the masses, to promote virtue and prohibit vice; to encourage them to reflect upon and therefore reform their state of affairs and determine their destiny.
This work is a small presentation of events in which the prophet was involved, to help reflect on the supreme personality that has left its mark on the course of humanity, and it shall continue to do so for as long as man lives on this planet.
On some occasions in this work some of the events may be similar or the same, this is because it was decided that the chapters that were taken from the various books by the author remain intact as much as possible and with minimum alteration, although some minor editing were made.
In the majority of cases the events are cited without much or any comments or analysis. This is due to a number of reasons:
- To keep this work as short and brief as possible, and not lengthy and tiresome;
- To allow the reader to draw his/her own conclusion(s), which in most cases are self- explanatory. Even the quotes from western intellectuals that have been cited by the editorial board have been placed towards the end of the book, so that these may not influence the mind of the reader prior to reading this work.
The book is comprised of six chapters. Chapters Two to Five are extracted from the author's original works. Chapter One presents a short outline by the editor, of the biography of the Prophet Muhammad. This part was included to give the reader a glimpse of the life of the Prophet from his birth up to his death.
Chapter Two addresses some of the moral qualities and values of the Prophet; whether in their outward manifestation such as his interactions with others be it friends, foes, or even animals, or in innate and personal virtues such as his humility, abstinence, steadfastness, bravery, and prayers. This part is taken from the author's work, Al-Sirah al-Fawwahah, 'The Perfumed Path', which is a brief presentation of the life and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Chapter Three outlines the general policies and stances that the Prophet took at times of conflict. It addresses the etiquettes and strategies the Prophet adopted for battle, his efforts to avoid fighting by giving his opponents the choice of war or peace, his tolerance towards his opponents and his forgiveness of traitors, his teachings on the treatment of prisoners and the prohibition of torture, his conduct upon victory, and finally his position in the eyes of his foes. An overview of this topic is extracted from the author's work, As-Sabil ila Inhad al-Muslimin, 'Towards a Muslim Renaissance', and the rest of this part is taken from author's, Wa li Awwal Marrah fi Tarikh al-Kalam, 'The Prophet Muhammad: Unique in World History', Imam Shirazi's two volume biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
Chapter Four sheds some light on the Prophet's social policies as well as his personal conduct mostly when the Islamic community took hold in the city of Medina. The Prophet continued to win hearts and minds of the public through his social and fiscal policies. This part is taken from the author's work As-Sabil ila Inhad al-Muslimin, 'Towards a Muslim Renaissance'.
Chapter Five presents various teachings and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad on a variety of ethical and social issues that signify the characteristics of an Islamic society. Such teachings, which in general address every aspect of life in this world, and also matters concerning the hereafter, are traditionally referred to as the hadith of the Prophet, and the conduct of the Prophet, and the manifestation of those teachings - known as Sunnah - are adhered to by the devotees. This part is taken from the author's work Al-Sirah al-Fawwahah, 'The Perfumed Path' of the Prophet Muhammad.
The author's works “Wa li Awwal Marrah fi Tarikh al-Kalam”, 'The Prophet Muhammad: Unique in World History' and the relevant chapters of Al-Sirah al-Fawwahah, 'The Perfumed Path', were translated by Ali Adam, and the work As-Sabil ila Inhad al-Muslimin, 'Towards a Muslim Renaissance' was translated by Yasin T. Al-Jibouri.
Chapter Six is a selection of statements by western thinkers about the Prophet Muhammad.
At the end of the book a section is provided on transliteration that is used for some of the Arabic words and names that appear in this book. The significance of this book lies in the fact it presents the role model to humanity in the person of the Prophet Muhammad who gave the best possible that can be given and sacrificed with all he had in order to guide humanity to the path that guarantees prosperity for it in this world and in the hereafter, and indeed he succeeded in doing so in the best possible manner.
It is therefore not unexpected when non-Muslim intellectuals consider him to be the most influential person in the history of mankind, as the American scholar Michael H. Hart states in his work “The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History”:
Muhammad was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.
The writer George Bernard-Shaw says:
I hold the religion of Muhammad in the highest esteem for its astounding vitality. It seems to me to be the only religion which is equipped to suit the changing faces of life and which is appropriate for all ages. I have studied the life of this amazing man and I believe that he deserves to be called the savior of the human race.
And thus the prophet not only deserves to be a role model for humanity, but in fact he is the best role model mankind can ever find. The Almighty states in the Quran,
Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah an excellent exemple.
Addressing the Prophet himself, the Almighty states:
And indeed you have sublime ethics.
And finally Imam Ali peace be upon him declares, “Whoever seeks a role model, let the Prophet be his role model; otherwise, he shall have no safeguard against perdition.”