Through his character, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) inspired people to change their lives; through his message, he empowered people to find the real purpose in their lives, and through his leadership, he motivated them to work as a team to serve humankind.
He transformed his environment within 23 years, and his followers changed the world in less than fifty years after his departure in 632 CE. What was so unique in his character, message, and leadership? Why did people responded to him then and respond to him now?
Monotheism was not a new idea that he introduced. Leadership was never absent in any community, and the philosopher and sages were always present to guide humans. Yet he did what others could not in a recorded human history stretching almost 7,000 years.
A man who stood on a mountain alone, inviting a handful of people to realize the real purpose of life through consistency in their words and actions, created the biggest ever shift in human thoughts and effort. Humans are far from perfection, and nations are still at odds with each other. Justice is a distant dream, and equality is still an illusion. But freedom, justice, equality, and human rights are the goals that every nation considers as its declared goals.
Behind this monumental reconstruct, one can see the face of Muhammad, the apostle of God, as viewed by Muslims, who forbade his followers to preserve his facial features in any form or shape except in his character's description.
That character is full of one and only one dominant feature, the quest for dignity for every human being and every creation. It was the dignity of all he stood and lived. He understood that the purpose of divine creation was to empower every human to live a dignified life regardless of the status at birth. His concern was to liberate humans from the shackles of slavery and injustice and the chains of superstition of human domination over the other based on class, creed, wealth, status, or even righteousness. He knew that once human beings achieve dignity, they can conquer all the obstacles they come across, and he offered his life as an example of all that he preached. His concept of dignity included all included his enemies, even with those who planned to kill him. Ninety-nine point nine percent of his followers were his bitter enemy, ready to destroy his character and kill him. Yet, through his example, he brought out the best in their behavior to show dignity to all human and physical universe.
By dignity, he meant that all humans have their origin in God and all deserve an autonomous life, without being dependent on others.
It meant they have the right to acquire knowledge and choose a path based on their understanding. It meant freedom of expression. It meant courage, to tell the truth, and to fearlessly speak the truth. Above all, it meant to empathize with every fellow human beings.
His quest for dignity led women to find equality, slaves to find freedom, people to have a place in the echelons of power, and the poor and needy to work harder for their higher mobility. It also led people to demonstrate discipline and organization in their work.
Dignity is divine because only a higher authority can think for all without any biases. Elegance is the essence of human existence. Only people free from any shackle achieve their best, and self-respect is the motivational force that brings about the change in human society.
Prophet Muhammad restored the confidence in people around him in their ability and right to live a dignified life. In this context, Muslims understand the divine words preserved in the Quran:
"And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds" (21:107). "And as a guide towards the truth have We bestowed this [revelation] from on high; with this [very] truth has it come down [unto thee, O Prophet]: for We have sent thee but as a herald of glad tidings and a warner," (17:105), "VERILY, in the Apostle of God you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe] to God and the Last Day, and remembers God unceasingly" (33:21).