Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), the last and final Prophet in the chain of Prophets starting from Adam, was sent to the world to complete human character. The Holy Qur'an gives an introduction and outline of the Prophet’s character. It says: “You have been (formed) with tremendous character”. (68:4). Through Hadith we could analyse his complete character. He is the representative of God on earth. His words and deeds are taken into account for human personality development by the believers. Major Leonard opines: “If ever a man devoted his life to God’s service with a good and great motive, it is certain that the Prophet of Arabia is that man.... Muhammad was not only the greatest but the truest man that humanity has ever produced.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) lived and died for mankind. He taught humanity all beneficial things, and prohibited everything harmful. Since the establishment of Islamic faith in the Arabian continent scholars and thinkers began to study the personality of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him). While some people understood him, some others misunderstood him. Nobody could ever find a flaw in his words and deeds. The Holy Qur'an introduces him as the perfect man. “Tell them, (O Prophet): ‘I am only a human being like you. It is revealed to me that your God is One God; so direct yourselves straight to Him, and seek His forgiveness. Woe to those who associate others with Allah in His Divinity’.”(41:6).
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) is an attractive personality in the history of human civilization. In his personal, family and social lives he set example for mankind. His chief achievement, according to modern thinkers, is the establishment of a virtuous State in the Arabian continent.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannica: “Although greatly maligned by European scholars – whose opinion still retain some influence – Muhammad came to be viewed more objectively in the 19th century. By his contemporaries, Muhammad was admired for his courage, resoluteness, and impartiality and for firmness that was tempered by generosity. He won men’s hearts by his personal charm. He was gentle, especially with children. Though he was sometimes silent in thought, for the most part he was engaged in purposeful activity. He worked vigorously and spoke rapidly. He became for the later Muslims an example of virtuous character, and stories presented him as realizing the Islamic ideal of human life.” (Ed.15, 1988, pp. 4-5).
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India, and Gandhiji, father of modern India, are two among several scholars and thinkers of the world to praise the high personality of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him).
George Bernard Shaw once said, “I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. Prophet Muhammad PBUH) was humble in every aspect. When some people addressed Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God! O, The best one of us! O, our master and the son of our master! The Prophet said: “O people say less than you have said and do not be tempted by the devil. I am Muhammad, the slave of God and His Messenger. I do not like to be raised above the status given to me by God the Exalted.”
Michael Hart in his The 100: A Ranking of the most Influential Persons in History assigned the first position among the most influential selected hundred great men of the world of all times. The reason for his selection was that: “He (Prophet Muhammad) was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels”.
The Prophet said: “God adorned Islam with good character and beautiful actions. Good company, good manners, modest talk, doing good to others, spreading peace, visiting the ill – pious or sinner, treating good with a neighbour – believer or non-believer, showing honour to a Muslim having honour, to accept invitation, to forgive, to settle disputes among the people, to give charity, to greet first, to pardon the faults of the people, to give up songs and jests which Islam prohibited, not to backbite, to speak the truth, to give up miserliness, greed, deceit, to give up bad treatment with enemy, not to cut off blood tie, to give up bad conduct, enmity, oppression etc. are the attributes of a believer.”
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) never cursed anybody. Once when he was in the battlefield, he was asked: “O Messenger of God, it would have been better if you would have cursed the enemies. He said: “God sent me as a mercy and not as great cursor.” The Holy Qur'an says: “We have sent you only as a mercy for (everybody in) the universe” (68:4). The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) never put burden on people. He used to select easier of two things, and keep away if there is any sin therein or anything to cut off relationships. He used to fulfil the needs of anyone who required his help, whether a slave or a free man.
Stanley Lanepoole, the famous historian, judges Prophet Muhammad’s life in the following words: “He was gifted with mighty powers of imagination, elevation of mind, delicacy and refinement of feeling. He is more modest than a virgin behind the curtain, it was said of him. He was, most indulgent to his inferiors, and would never allow his little page to be scolded whatever he did. Ten years, said Anas, his servant, “I served the Prophet and he never said as much as “uff” to me. He was very affectionate to his family. He was very fond of children; he would stop them in the streets and pat their little heads. He never struck anyone in his life. He visited the sick... mended his own clothes, milked the goats, and waited upon himself. He never first drew his hand out of another man’s palm, and turned not before the other had turned.”
Prophet Muhammad’s personality and character influenced human beings all over the world. He was in fact the saviour of human beings. The great impact he made in the Arab world paved the way for Islamic civilization in Europe, which in turn supplied materials for European reformation and renaissance. Thomas Carlyle wrote: “Muhammad was a man of truth and fidelity, true in what he did, in what he spoke, in what he thought; he always meant something; a man rather taciturn in speech, silent when there was nothing to be said, but pertinent, wise, sincere when he did speak, always throwing light on the matter.”
In Islam, behaviour has been given great importance. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) taught the believers to behave neatly and honestly with people. Honesty, integrity, sincerity, generosity, equality and so on should be visible in the behaviour of a person. Prophet (PBUH) said: “Those who behave kindly with women are best among men”. The Holy Qur'an reminds us of the greatness of proper behaviour. Behaviour of a person at different times, at different occasions, with different persons is all mentioned in the Quran.
Few sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) related to behaviour are given below:
No father has given his child anything better than good manners.
True modesty is the source of all virtues.
Whoever is humble to men for God’s sake, may God exalt his eminence.
The servants of Almighty are they who walk on earth in humbleness.
HOW SCHOLARS RATE THE MESSENGER
The Creator of the universe and all living and non-living beings has made Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) to pass through all stages of human experiences in this world. He was an orphan; a shepherd; a social worker; a model husband; a responsible family head; a successful business person; a devoted Imam; an able administrator; a forgiving leader; best in behaviour; greatest law giver; best in personality; greatest of all Messengers of Almighty and best of all human beings. All good human qualities belong to him. That may be the reason for selecting him as the best of all great personalities of the world by Michael H. Hart who studied the contribution of hundred great personalities of the world.
William Muir in his Life of Muhammad writes, “When Ayesha was questioned about Muhammad, she used to say: “He was a man just such as yourselves; he laughed often and smiled much.” (Quoted in Dictionary of Islam by Thomas Patrick Hughes, p. 387). Indeed, the Prophet’s personality is highly attractive and thanks to his tremendous virtuous qualities many rulers of the world during his life time and the period that followed embraced Islam. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was right when he wrote: “Nevertheless it is true that the Prophet of Islam vitalized people and filled them with faith and enthusiasm.” (Discovery of India, p. 228, OUP, Delhi, 1997).
MODEL TO HUMAN LIFE
Even though the Prophet’s tradition comes directly from Prophet Ibrahim whom the Christians of Europe call Abraham, he lived as an ordinary person. His life from birth to demise was a model to all aspects of human situations. His orphanage, wealthy days, days of poverty, years of persecution and times of political authority and power are human situations to be imitated and followed by other men when they come across them. We have to study how the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) faced and handled those situations of different varieties in a natural manner.
Regarding Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), Gandhiji expressed the view: “I want to know the best of life of one who holds today undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind. I became more convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for pledges, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. Those and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.” (Young India, 1924).
Of all those scholars who studied the life of holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) very few failed to realize the positive side of the Prophet on two subjects – one, regarding his married life, and the other, the spread of Islam. H.G Wells, who wrote well about Islam and Muslim contribution to the world culture, holds the view that the Prophet’s life was “not in accordance with the rules of the Quran”. In fact, the Prophet had only one wife till the age of fifty, when Khadija was an old lady of sixty. All other marriages were in accordance with the situation to save the destitute women or widows except Ayesha. And more important is that he treated all equally.
Contrary to H.G. Wells’ view, many scholars have judged the married life of the Prophet correctly. In the book titled 100 great kings, queens and rulers of the world, it is stated; “One man Muhammad, by force of his tremendous personality, completely transformed the life of this people (the Arabs). He was considered an oddity, however, for his kindness to animals and his complete lack of interest in women.”
From the life history of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) we should perceive how the Messenger faced and solved different types of situations he had to come across. He was one among those who lived that time, and not as a super human being like some people. He used to say, “Don’t praise me as you have praised the son of Mariam (and made him a god). I am only servant of Almighty Allah.”
The second complaint that Islam spread by sword becomes utter nonsense when we come to know that the Prophet pardoned all those who persecuted him and his followers at Makkah after victory over the enemies. No such examples can be seen in the history of mankind. No revenge was taken over those who had driven him from his home, those who had tried to kill him and those who had caused the war. The enemies could know the real motive of the Messenger, and, consequently, they embraced Islam. Such incident is also rare in the history of mankind.
Spain was ruled by Muslims for seven centuries. Did they force anyone to embrace Islam? This was the case of India also. In India, people of those times were devoted and god-fearing, and hence, they were attracted by the spiritual nature of Islam. Sisir Kumar Mitra writes; “The social organization of the Hindus was suffering from many defects. It is to them that a cause might be traced of growing discontent among a large section of the people, which drove them to seek spiritual help from the Sufis. Many embraced Islam, and many became admirers of the littoral teachings. The fame of Moinudeen Chisti and his spiritual activities spread over India, and even high-caste Brahmins fell under his influence. At Pushkar in Ajmer, there is even today a class of people who call themselves Hussaini Brahmins’. (Vision of India, p. 228-230).
Thomas Carlyle was right when he wrote, “Much has been said of Muhammad’s propagating his religion by sword. It is no doubt nobler that it propagated peacefully in the way of preaching and conviction. (On Heroes and Hero Worship, p. 80).
The Divine Law delivered to Prophet Noah was completed through Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to them). Due to this reason Islam spread through practising Muslims. Perceval Spear writes, “Islam was carried to the people, and made converts by wandering preachers or holy men known generically as sufis or pirs. (A History of India, p. 20).
To the Jews and Christians who reject Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him), Thomas Carlyle gives this advice, “Our current hypothesis about Muhammad that he was an impostor, a falsehood incarnate, that his religion is a mere mass of quackery and fatuity begins really to be now untenable to any one. The lies, which well-meaning zeal has heaped round this man, are disgraceful to ourselves only. (On Heroes and Hero Worship, p. 57).
GREATEST OF HUMAN BEINGS
Micheal H. Hart was the first to study the life history of famous personalities of the world. Analysing the history of hundred top most personalities of the world from time immemorial he assigned Prophet Muhammad to the first among all. He gave this reason for that. Hart writes, “My choice of Muhammad to lead the world’s most influenced persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.”
How, then is one to assess the overall impact of Muhammad on human history? Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the liver of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world religions all figure provisionally in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Muslims in this world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (in so far these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytiser, and the author of large portion of the New Testament. Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles.
In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith and in establishing the religious practices of Islam. The Qur'an was copied faithfully during Muhammad’s lifetime and all its Surahs and verses collected together in the authoritative form not long after his death. The Quran, therefore, closely represents Muhammad’s ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words. It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St .Paul on Christianity.
Muhammad was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the leading force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time.
In short, all those who studied the Prophet’s (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) life history have appraised positively. The personality of Muhammad, the Prophet has influenced many great thinkers of the world as we have seen above. Now, it is the turn of European thinkers to discover the Final Messenger of Al-mighty Allah.