Character of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم)
The noble character of Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was one of mercy, gentleness and piety. Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) honoured His Messenger (صلى الله عليه و سلم) with noble characteristics which were not combined in any other person, Allah (سبحانه و تعالى) mentions:
“And We have sent you (O Muhammad ) not but as a mercy for the Aalameen (mankind, jinns and all that exists)” [Quran: Surah al Anbiya’ 21: Ayah 107].
Verily, you (O Muhammad) are upon great moral character. [Quran: Surah al-Qalam 68: Ayah 4]
Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) embodied this character in his personal life and in his interactions with others, both Muslims and non Muslims. Ibn Kathir commenting on the above Ayah, said: The meaning of this Ayah is that the Prophet would emulate the Quran in its commands, its prohibitions, and it became his temperament. His character became accustomed to it and he abandoned his visceral carnal nature. Whatever the Quran commanded he did, and whatever it prohibited he abstained. Along with this, Allah ingrained within him great character traits of modesty, generosity, courage, forgiveness, forbearance, and every beautiful trait [Tafsīr ibn Kathīr 68:4].
With these noble and praiseworthy characteristics, he (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was able to bring people together and soften their hearts, by Allah's (سبحانه و تعالى) leave:
“And by the Mercy of Allah, you dealt with them gently. And had you been severe and harsh hearted, they would have broken away from about you; so pass over (their faults), and ask (Allah’s) forgiveness for them; and consult them in the affairs. Then when you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah, certainly, Allah loves those who put their trust (in Him)” [Quran: Surah Aal ‘Imraan 3: Ayah 159]
Anas ibn Malik reported: I served the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) for ten years. By Allah, he never even said to me “Uff!” and he never said harshly for anything, “Why did you do that?” or, “Why did you not do that?” [Sahih Bukhari 5691, Sahih Muslim 2309 Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi (authenticity agreed upon)].
The day of al-‘Aqabah
The day of al-'Aqabah refers to an incident in which the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) went to the town of Taif to call its people to Islam. Al-Bukhaari (3231) and Muslim (1795) narrated that ‘Aa’ishah (رضی اللہ عنھا), the wife of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) asked the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم): Was there ever a day that was worse for you than the day of Uhud?" This was when the Prophet was injured in a concerted attempt to kill him by the Quraish idolators of Makkah, during the battle of Uhud.
He said: “I suffered at the hands of your people, and the worst that I suffered from them was the day of al-‘Aqabah, when I presented myself to Ibn ‘Abd Yaleel ibn ‘Abd Kulaal, and he did not respond to what I wanted. The Prophet had gone to Taif to invite the leaders and the people of the city of Taif to Monotheism, Islam, but instead they verbally abused him and instructed the other inhabitants of the town to also abuse him and throw stones at him. He was dazed by the ferocity of their unprovoked attack, both verbal and physical, bleeding from his wounds as he left Taif; he continues the story, "So I went, with signs of distress on my face, and I did not recover until I was in Qarn al-Tha’aalib, where I lifted my head and saw that a cloud was shading me. I looked and saw therein Jibraa’eel (عليه السلام), who called me and said: Allah has heard what your people said to you, and how they have rejected you. He has sent to you the angel of the mountains, so that you can tell him to do whatever you want to them. Then he called the angel of the mountains to me and he greeted me with salaam, then said: O Muhammad, Allah has heard what your people have said to you, and I am the angel of the mountains. Your Lord has sent me so that you can tell me what to do. What do you want? If you wish I will bring together the two mountains of Makkah to crush them. The Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said to him: “Rather I hope that Allah will bring forth from their loins people who will worship Allah alone, not associating anything with Him.”
Through the wisdom and mercy of the Prophet the town of Taif was spared and as a fruit of that they all later accepted Islam.
Bravery in Battle
Not only was the Prophet of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) full of mercy but he was also brave when the situation required it. He would pray for most of the night and fast during most of the days. During times of battle, he would command the Muslim armies and also fight with the Muslims against his enemies; enemies who had come to attach and destroy the Muslims. During such battles, Al-Bara (رضي الله عنه) reported: By Allah, when the fighting became fierce, we would seek protection by his side and the bravest among us was the one who confronted the onslaught. It was the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم). [Muslim 1776: Grade Sahih]
On the Death of Prophet Muhammad’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) Son
Narrated by Anas bin Malik (رضي الله عنه): We went with Allah’s Apostle (صلى الله عليه و سلم) to the blacksmith Abu Saif, and he was the husband of the wet-nurse of Ibrahim (the son of the Prophet).
Allah’s Apostle took Ibrahim and kissed him and smelled him and later we entered Abu Saif’s house and at that time Ibrahim was in his last breaths, and the eyes of Allah’s Apostle ((صلى الله عليه و سلم)) started shedding tears.
‘Abdur Rahman bin ‘Auf said, “O Allah’s Apostle, even you are weeping!”
He said, “O Ibn ‘Auf, this is mercy.” Then he wept more and said, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is grieved, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim ! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.” (Sahih Bukhari, Book #23, Hadith #390)
Conquest of Makkah
From the time Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) began his call to islam, the idolators of Makkah had persecuted and oppressed him. They tortured and even killed the poor and weak from among the muslims, those that did not have a powerful clan to protect them. No such protection was available to the slaves that had become Muslims. The Makkans also tried to kill Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) and he was forced to migrate to Madeenah for safety. The Makkans took the properties of the muslims and the wealth they left behind.
Eventually with the Makkans, seeing the Muslims were becoming more numerous and powerful made a treaty with Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) but then proceeded to violate it. Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) took an army of 10,000 muslims to conquer Makkah. When Makkah fell, Propher Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) had the means and the ability and the right to punish the Makkans for their attrocities against the Muslims; to right the wrongs done to him and his followers. Yet in spite of having the just cause to meet out harsh justice, he forgave all those who surrendered to him in the taking of Makkah.
Dislike of Self Grandeur
Anas (رضی اللہ عنہ), one of the Prophet's (صلى الله عليه و سلم) companions, said that there was no person whom they loved more than the Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم), yet when he came to them, they did not stand up for him because he hated their standing up for him, as other people do with their great people. Narrated in Mosnad Ahmad, #12117, and Al-Tirmizi, #2754
Even when Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) was the leader of the Muslim nation and had access to their wealth, as any ruler of the time would have, he chose instead to live by his own earnings and not take from the treasury of the Muslims. Aa’isha (رضی اللہ عنھا), Prophet Muhammad’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) wife, said, “O my nephew, we would sight three new moons in two months without lighting a fire (to cook a meal) in the Prophet’s houses.” Her nephew asked, “O Aunt, what sustained you?” She said, “The two black things, dates and water, but the Prophet had some Ansar neighbors who had milk-giving she-camels and they used to send the Prophet some of its milk." (Saheeh Muslim, #2972, and Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #2567)
Sahl Ibn Sa’ad (رضی اللہ عنہ), one of Prophet Muhammad’s (صلى الله عليه و سلم) companions, said, “The Prophet of God did not see bread made from fine flour from the time God sent him (as a prophet) until he died.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari, #5413, and Al-Tirmizi, #2364)
Firmness for the Cause of Allah
An envoy of the pagan leaders, Otba, came to Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) saying, “...If you want money, we will collect enough money for you so that you will be the richest one of us. If you want leadership, we will take you as our leader and never decide on any matter without your approval. If you want a kingdom, we will crown you king over us...” Only one concession was required from Muhammad (صلى الله عليه و سلم) in return for that, to give up calling people to Islam and worshiping God alone without any partner. The Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) replied with the following answer: 'In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, ...' And he recited to Otba the Ayahs of the Quran 41:1-38.(Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, vol. 1, pp. 293-294.) The Following are some of these Ayahs:
A revelation from (God), the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful; a Book whereof the Ayahs are explained in detail; a Quran in Arabic, for people who know, giving good news and warning, yet most of them turn away, so they do not listen. (Quran, Surah Fussilat 41: Ayahs 2-4)
On another occasion, in response to his uncle’s plea to stop calling people to Islam, Muhammad’s ((صلى الله عليه و سلم) answer was as decisive and sincere: "I swear by the name of God, O Uncle!, that if they place the sun in my right-hand and the moon in my left-hand in return for giving up this matter (calling people to Islam), I will never desist until either God makes it triumph or I perish defending it." (Al-Serah Al-Nabaweyyah, Ibn Hesham, vol. 1, pp. 265-266. )
Good Character and the Good Muslim
The primary mission of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) having brought Islam to the Muslims was to instill good character within them in every aspect of their lives. Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: Verily, I have only been sent to perfect righteous character. [Musnad Aḥmad 8729, Grade: Sahih]
Good character is the result of a pure heart that is free from spiritual diseases like envy, malice, and arrogance. A person with good character has integrity and is not overly attached to worldly things at the expense of righteousness. Abdullah ibn Amr (رضي الله عنه) reported: It was said to the Messenger of Allah, “Which of the people is best?” The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: Everyone who is pure of heart and truthful in speech.
They said, “Truthful in speech we know, but what is a pure heart?”
The Prophet said: It is a heart that fears Allah and is clean. There is no sin in it and neither aggression, malice, nor envy. [Sunan Ibn Mājah 4216, Grade: Sahih].
An-Nawwas ibn Sam’an (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: Righteousness is good character and sin is what waivers in your heart and you hate for people to find out about it. [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2553, Grade: Sahih].
And, the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم) said: Consult your soul, consult your heart. Righteousness is what reassures your soul and your heart, and sin is what wavers in your soul and puts tension in your chest, even if the people approve it in their judgments again and again. [Sunan al-Dārimī 2533, Grade: Hasan]
And, in another narration, narrated from al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali (رضي الله عنه,the grandson of the Prophet (صلى الله عليه و سلم)) who said: I memorized from the Messenger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم): “Leave that which makes you doubt for that which does not make you doubt, for truth leads to reassurance and lies lead to uncertainty.” [Tirmidhi (2442), Ahmad (1630) and Ibn Hibbaan (722) Graded: saheeh by al-Albaani].
The Messeger of Allah (صلى الله عليه و سلم) equated the goodness of a Muslim to his character and manners, particularly in his relationships with others:
Abdullah ibn Amr (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: The best of you are those with the best character. [Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3366, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi]
Abu Huraira (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: The most complete of the believers in faith are those with the most excellent character, and the best of you are the best in behavior to their women. [Sunan al-Tirmidhī 1162, Grade: Sahih]
Jabir ibn Samurah (رضي الله عنه) reported: The Messenger of Allah, (صلى الله عليه و سلم), said: Verily, obscenity and immorality are not part of Islam. Verily, the best people in Islam are those with the best character. [Musnad Aḥmad 20320, Grade: Sahih]