Prophet Muhammad: A True Role Model
As Gentle as Jesus
In the early years of Muhammad’s prophethood there was fierce
persecution at the hands of the polytheists of Makkah. Muhammad and the
new Muslims suffered terribly from chastisement, ridicule, slander, an
unjust boycott and physical torture. In spite of this, Muhammad
remained steadfast, patient and took a non-reproachful attitude
throughout those 14 years. Even some of his relatives took part in the
vanguard of assailants. His uncle, known in the Qur’an as Abu Lahab,
threw stones at him and forced his sons to divorce their wives who were
two of Muhammad’s daughters. Abu Lahab’s wife, apart from shouting
profanities at him, used to tie bundles of firewood and thorns and
throw it in Muhammad’s path. Neighbors threw goat dung on his back
while he prayed.
In all cases Muhammad (peace be upon him) would never return abusive
language, slander or ridicule any of them. He would invoke God for help
and justice, and in many cases ask God to guide them to Islam. While
the Makkan polytheists were torturing the family of Yasser, Muhammad
comforted them. He raised his hand in prayer and said, “Be patient, you
will verily find your abode in Paradise.”
Although the voice of Islam was public, Muhammad advised some of his
followers, particularly those who didn’t have a tribe or influential
family to protect them, to conceal their faith. The Muslims were in a
very weak position and it was in their best interests to show restraint
from their enemies at all times.
Muhammad taught love, restraint, patience and foreboding to all his
Companions. These exemplary qualities formed the foundations of a good
character for fellow Muslims.
The Strategic Planner
For the ultimate and long-term success of any mission it is vital to
devise and implement a strategy. Despite Muhammad being illiterate and
new to leadership, at the onset of his prophethood he got ahead with
planning. Just one important example of this is how he and the early
Muslims of Makkah made two secret pledges with the people of Madinah to
instill peace and understanding between the Muslims of both cities. It
was only after the second pledge - namely, the Greater Pledge of Aqabah
- that the Prophet assigned 12 people to quietly spread the message of
Islam. This was 13 years after receiving his first revelation. It was
through this gradual elucidation of Islam to the people of Madinah that
mutual support, trust and sacrifice were fostered between them,
preparing them for the eventful immigration of the Makkan Muslims to
Even the actual immigration of Muhammad was cleverly planned to escape
the pagan Arabs’ assassination attempts. It started during the night
leaving his cousin, Ali, in his bed as a decoy. Muhammad and his
closest friend and supporter, Abu Bakr, at first proceeded south,
instead of north, to further dupe their assailants. Trusted persons
delivered provisions throughout their route. They where greeted by the
people of Madinah more than two weeks later.
Pre-Islamic Arab culture was fraught with racism. Arabic poetry, the
pride of the Arabs, boasted of their perceived superiority as a race.
When Muhammad (peace be upon him) began to preach Islam to his fellow
Arabs there was fierce opposition to most of his teachings including
Islam’s egalitarianism between races, tribes and nations. The essence
of this concept was embedded in the Qur’anic verse: “We have made you
into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”
Muhammad, however, did more than talk about equality between races. He
never showed favoritism towards any tribe, and he befriended many of
those who did not belong to a high-ranking tribe.
Two of his closest friends were both former slaves. Bilal was from
Abyssinia and Salman was from Persia. It is important to take the
historic details into context. South Saharan Africans were commonly
used as slaves and Persians at that time were a declining superpower
vehemently hated by the Arabs. Muhammad cherished the companionship of
both men. Bilal, who was one of the first Muslims, was given the honor
of chanting the call to prayer, or Adhan: the same chant that we hear
from mosques all around the world today. Salman was known as a member
of the Prophet’s household, although this was a title only given to the
Prophet’s kin. Salman was an exception due to his close friendship with
Braving the Storm
Although prophets throughout time held extraordinary characteristics,
it must not be forgotten that they were prone to all forms of human
The first revelation of the Qur’an descended upon Muhammad when he was
privately meditating in a cave in the desert. He had no previous
warning that he was to be a prophet. When the Angel Gabriel appeared
squeezing his chest telling him to read, he was exhausted and
terrified. Muhammad replied that he could not read and yet still
Gabriel told him to read. After a third time he recited the words:
“Read, in the name of your Lord Who created…” Muhammad ran shaking to
his wife for comfort and some sense of the matter. He asked her to
cover him with his mantel as he shivered from fear. It was after
speaking to a Christian monk, familiar with the scriptures, that he
learned he was to be a prophet. It took several months before he
received the subsequent revelations and then became informed of his
duty as God’s last messenger on earth.
For Muhammad, delivering the message of the Qur’an was a daunting task,
as he knew too well how his fellow people would react. He knew about
their greed, violence, idol worshipping and pagan tendencies. He
expected that they would chastise him and consider him an enemy. He
needed exemplary courage and guts to stand before his tribesmen and
women and tell them that their concept of God and that of the
forefathers will only destroy them.
Unquestionable allegiance to one’s tribe and family was sacrosanct.
Never, in the history of pre-Islamic Arab tradition, written or
unwritten, in conversation or poetry, did one publicly voice anger at a
member of his tribe. Yet, in the Qur’an, there is the mention of the
prophet’s uncle and his wife who will be thrown into hell for their
denial of God’s Oneness and their aggressive ploys to stop Muhammad
from delivering his message.
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was not the type to voluntarily cross red
tape, nor break the sacred taboos of his tribesmen. He actually
respected many of the traditions of his people and held to them as long
as they did not go against Islam. His character was considered flawless
even among the most uncouth of them. Considering this public rejection
of his family and people was so unprecedented and yet out of Muhammad’s
character, the Prophet’s people should have seen that these were not
the words of their humble tribesman, but only of God.
This well-respected man, nicknamed ‘The Trustworthy’, suddenly had to
challenge all the laws and customs of his people that went against the
Oneness of God. This required tremendous courage even if it meant
cutting ties with his kinsmen.
Model Father Figure
Despite Muhammad’s duties as a Prophet and later as a statesman, his
responsibilities at home remained within his priorities. Of his seven
children only his four daughters survived, as his sons died in infancy.
Although his daughters lived long enough to marry and have children of
their own, only Fatima, his youngest, outlived him.
Muhammad’s paternal emotions stretched beyond his own children and
grandchildren. He fostered an orphan boy named Zaid and treated him as
if he was his own son to the extent that he was called Zaid ibn
Muhammad. It was some time later after a revelation from God that he
was told that only one’s natural child had the right to take the
father’s name. Henceforth, Zaid was known as Zaid ibn Harith. But that
didn’t diminish Muhammad’s love for him.
Anas Ibn Malik, the famous narrator of hadith, used to do errands for
the Prophet when he was a young boy. When asked about his work with the
Prophet, Anas said that the Prophet never asked him: why did he do this
and why did he not do that. He never scolded or shouted at Anas.
When Muhammad used to pass by young children, they would gather round
to greet him. The Prophet would pass his hand over the cheek of every
child making sure not to exclude any of them.
According to all the Hadith, the Prophet was known never to have
chastised, beat or ridiculed any child - nor any adult for that matter.
So many of the aspects of nurturing children found in good parenting
books today are embedded in the skills of Muhammad himself.