The more one reflects on Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam – saws), the more one is bound to marvel at this noble Messenger of Allah (subhanahu wa ta’la) and to grasp the truth of these words in the Qur’an: “Surely you have been created in an exalted stature.” (Al-qalam, 68:4) Let us consider just five aspects of our beloved Prophet’s character.
First, we see in Muhammad (saws) a perfect integration of words and deeds, of all aspects of his inner and outer life. He practiced what he preached. There was no discord in his character. His speech and actions perfectly reflected his true nature. This is why his keenly observant and sensitive wife Ayesha (radi Allahu ta’la anha), when asked years later what he had been like, could say without a moment’s hesitation that the character of Muhammad (saws) was the Qur’an itself.
Muhammad (saws)’s life was a seamless and rounded whole. His entire life was one of worship. Yet this life of intense worship never stood in the way of his everyday life. He had a unique capacity to transform the minutest mundane activity into an act of worship. He saw every activity of life in its proper perspective, as part of a divinely ordained scheme. With perfect ease and grace he fulfilled all his roles as a man as well as those of his divine destiny. Thus his life was one of unimaginable beauty and harmony.
In real life we see people who are painfully fragmented and full of irreconcilable contradictions. Our beliefs clash with our actions. Our emotions and desires are in conflict with each other and repeatedly overthrow our best instincts. We make solemn pledges to ourselves only to break them. We are a hodgepodge of ideas, impulses and actions that make very little or no sense. We hardly know what we want and where we are heading. Nothing in us is in its place. Inside us is a huge boiling cauldron endlessly cooking strange broths.
A second feature of the character of Muhammad (saws) is the combination of tenderness and firmness. Many direct and personal accounts testify that he was a very gentle and shy person. At the same time he was a man of resolve, never lacking in courage and will. Time after time he demonstrated this; take Hudaibiyyah, for example. What is hard to fathom is how his tender heartedness could never shake that resolve or weaken the call of duty. While making hard decisions and taking firm action he was never harsh or vindictive. He felt no joy in the pain and suffering of even his fiercest opponent. His tenderness always tempered and mitigated the hardness the situation imposed on him. The rareness of such a blend of softness and firmness can be gauged if we look around us. On the one hand we find people who are gentle and kind but who lack strength of will, and on the other, people who are resolute but show no tenderness or sympathy.
Thirdly, Muhammad (saws) presents the unique sight of a man of both contemplation and action. The tumult and bustle of action could not prevent him from reflection. His contemplative nature was never put on hold. In our world this is hardly ever the case. While men of contemplation are found deficient in action, the men of action are seldom given to much reflection. Even if we can recall a few rare cases in history of men with both qualities, exercising those qualities simultaneously in any given moment, as Muhammad (saws) did, is unheard of.
A fourth quality worth noticing is how unobtrusively and gracefully Muhammad (saws) wielded his authority. He had unparalleled power and influence over his followers; they would haven given their leader anything to earn his satisfaction. Yet he was never aloof, overbearing or impatient with his followers, and never imposed himself or encroached on their rights. Without any of the well known trimmings of power he led men and women in every kind of situation. To the end he remained one of them, absolutely humble, approachable and affectionate. His care and concern for their welfare, his love and sympathy for them never diminished. He was ever ready to serve them and attend to their multifarious needs and demands. At times he was even indistinguishable in the company of his followers. Any child could take him by the hand in the streets of Madinah. Great leader though he was, he treaded Allah’s earth softly and humbly, ever as His most obedient servant.
Finally, let us consider Muhammad’s (saws) use of language. He was always brief, clear and to the point; anyone could understand him. He expressed the weightiest of matters in the simplest of words. Yet nothing of substance was ever lost. His words were the most appropriate and appeared in their most fitting order. Not a single word could be replaced or rearranged. On his tongue words followed smoothly in natural succession. He never tried to be witty or attempted to impress. Yet he was marvelously eloquent, expressive and deeply moving. One needs just to take a look at some of his du’a to see how high language can soar and what feelings it can arouse. The most consummate of writers have not yet been able to attain what this ‘unlettered’ man of seventh century Arabia did with language.
These five qualities are by no means the only features of Muhammad’s (saws) character. But they unmistakably show how unparalleled he was as a human being, how he climbed the summit of human perfection. Muhammad (saws) was guided and shaped by Allah (swt) in such a way that he could function as the best model for human beings. Muhammad (saws) was like perfect yielding clay that Allah (swt) moulded and shaped to fulfill His design for mankind.
Allah (swt) has given mankind three signs through which we can recognize His power and glory and accept Him as the only one worthy of worship. The physical world of nature around us, with its beauty and harmony, is the earliest sign. The two other signs came together: the Qur’an, His glorious Book, and the Messenger who received, followed and taught it, Muhammad (saws). Like the other two signs, nature and the Qur’an, Muhammad (saws)’s character is also a wonder and a sign. Thus as Muslims we admire, love and follow him.
A. K. M. Mohiuddin is a retired university professor of English literature living in Bangladesh. He can be reached at this address: akmm45yahoo. com