The Greatness of Muhammad (peace be on him)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) was the final messenger and had the perfect character, and the perfect religion.
Though there were messengers and prophets before him, Abu Sa’id reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
نْ أَبِي سَعِيدٍ قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ أَنَا سَيِّدُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ وَلَا فَخْرَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ مَنْ تَنْشَقُّ الْأَرْضُ عَنْهُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلَا فَخْرَ وَأَنَا أَوَّلُ شَافِعٍ وَأَوَّلُ مُشَفَّعٍ وَلَا فَخْرَ وَلِوَاءُ الْحَمْدِ بِيَدِي يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَلَا فَخْرَ
“I am the master of the children of Adam, and it is no boast. I will be the first for whom the earth is split on the Day of Resurrection, and it is no boast. I will be the first to intercede and whose intercession will be accepted, and it is no boast. The banner of praise will be placed in my hand, and it is no boast.” (Ibn Majah)
Status of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) compared to all other prophets
This is the truth about his status and he stated it without any arrogance. Out of all the prophets, he has been giving the honour to intercede on behalf of all humanity for reckoning to begin on the Day of Judgement.
As stated in Surat al Baqarah, we believe in all His prophets – we do not accept some and reject others, thus we make no distinction between them as special people chosen by God to disseminate His message. However this does not mean they are all equal in status, as Allah elevated some of them above others. And the best of them, was Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him).
آمَنَ الرَّسُولُ بِمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ رَبِّهِ وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ ۚ كُلٌّ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَمَلَائِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِنْ رُسُلِهِ ۚ وَقَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا ۖ غُفْرَانَكَ رَبَّنَا وَإِلَيْكَ الْمَصِيرُ
Aamanar-Rasoolu bimaaa unzila ilaihi mir-Rabbihee walmu’minoon; kullun aamana billaahi wa Malaaa’ikathihee wa Kutubhihee wa Rusulihee laa nufarriqu baina ahadim-mir-Rusulih wa qaaloo sami’naa wa ata’naa ghufraanaka Rabbanaa wa ilaikal-maseer
“The Messenger [Muhammad (Peace be upon him)] believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and [so do] the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. They say: “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers” – and they say: “We hear, and we obey. [We seek] Your Forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the return [of all].” (2:285)
It is not atypical that Allah Almighty preferred some over others, as we see this pattern throughout His creation. He has given certain aspects of creation more eminence than others, certain days over others, such as Friday, and certain months over others, such as Ramadan and He preferred some places over others, such as Makkah. And similarly, Allah chose Muhammad (peace be on him) above all others in creation and told us to follow him.
Allah Almighty made him the role model for all humanity.
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَنْ كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Verily, you have in the Prophet of Allah an excellent model, for him who hopes to meet Allah and the Last Day and who remembers Allah much. (33:21)
This is why Allah Almighty commanded us to follow him. Following him is known as ‘itiba’.
Follow me – internally and externally
قُلْ اِنْ كُنْتُمْ تُحِبُّوْنَ اللّٰهَ فَاتَّبِعُوْنِيْ يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّٰهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوْبَكُمْ ۭوَاللّٰهُ غَفُوْرٌ رَّحِيْمٌ
Say (O Prophet): If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins. Allah is Most-Forgiving, Very-Merciful. (3:31)
Guidance is dependent on following the Prophet (peace be on him) physically and morally.
Physically we can copy the way he ate and drank and prayed. This is the outward, and it is straightforward. Morally, emulating his character and personality is much harder. This is the internal aspect.
As he was the personification of Quranic values, such as justice and mercy, this means working on ourselves to improve that status of our heart, our conduct, our compassion. It means training ourselves to lower our gaze, rein in our anger, meticulously guard what escapes our tongues, and treat all of creation well, including animals and the environment. This is the core of his message and Allah set the standard for us in the Prophet (peace be on him).
Working on our flaws is CPD for the akhirah
Yet we all have flaws and shortcomings. When we get a job in a company, we do not come with all the skills we need for it, so we are sent on a course to acquire those skills, to sharpen them and maintain them. This enables us to be fit for our job and do it properly. This is CPD, (Continuous Professional Development). CPD for the akhirah is learning from the character of the Prophet (peace be on him).
When you have shortcomings in your professional life, you do your best to improve your qualifications, skills, and your network. This is how you handle issues pertaining to the dunya. Yet, when it comes to the akhirah, you are more likely to lack persistence and resolve. You say you tried but it didn’t work. We need more of a growth mindset to work on our flaws.
There are some people who by birth are kinder than others. We have all met lovely people and you feel connected to them when you meet them, whilst others whom you are put off and from whom you want to keep as much distance as possible. Unfortunately, that person might be one of us. We need to assess if we have an issue in our own character first. You might not be kind, or you might not be generous. You might lack insight into this. Some people have more self-awareness than others. But we all have blind-spots. That is why we need loyal friends to tell us our flaws, so we can work on them.
Not many accounts of the Prophet (peace be on him) dwell on the fact that he had a wonderful sense of humour.
We are moulded and shaped by our environment. Some of our qualities are learned by nature, and others by nurture. Some people are harsh. However, they do not realise it because they have developed the qualities of those around them. If you live with kind people, you imbibe this quality from them, if you are surrounded by rough people, by nurture, you will become rough.
You can change what you have learned by nature and nurture. There is always room to change your character and improve. We have the ability to change ourselves, if we decide to. It requires the will to do it. If you are sincere then you can change.
The proof that we can change is Ramadan. Those who are smokers or addicts manage to quit their habits during at least during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan. If you want to change it does not happen overnight, but it is mind over matter.
From a scientific point of view, you can kill a bad habit and adopt a new one by being consistent over 30-40 days, which is the length of Ramadan. It is training and your willingness and sincerity can take you miles.
The life of the Prophet (peace be on him) was not just theory, but the theory and the practice. His companions could see that he already espoused the qualities he advocated.
Most well renowned for his honesty, Muhammad (peace be on him) had told the truth long before his prophethood, and hence was known as As-Sadiq ul-Ameen (the truthful and the trustworthy) since his youth.
These two characteristics were the traits which gave credibility to the message he was delivering. When he climbed Mount Safa and addressed the tribes and his clansmen saying:
“O Banu ‘Abd Al-Muttalib, O Banu Fihr, O Banu Lu’ay; would you believe me if I say that there is an enemy at the foot of this mountain behind, ready to launch an attack on you”; will you believe me?” They said: “Yes. You are Al-Ameen (trustworthy) and Al-Sadiq (truthful) and we have never seen you speak lies.
Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying, assidqu amana wal khadibu khiyana:
Truth leads one to Paradise and virtue leads one to Paradise and the person tells the truth until he is recorded as truthful, and lie leads to obscenity and obscenity leads to Hell, and the person tells a lie until he is recorded as a liar. (Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be on him) was not attached to the material world. He was generous – he would give and give and give, and never stopped giving. Many accepted Islam because they would be so impressed by his generosity. In some instances, the Prophet (peace be on him) would look across a valley full of sheep and cattle, and tell someone they could have it, as far as the eye could see. They would be dumbfounded and embrace Islam from their heart and their whole tribe would follow.
Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him say good words or remain silent. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be generous to his neighbour. Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him be hospitable to his guest. (Bukhari and Muslim)
The leader should be genuinely caring. It is not a pretence to merely get their votes. He should be down to earth.
The Prophet (peace be on him) accepted the invitations of slaves and when he visited them, they could only serve him bread and vinegar and he would compliment their food, saying it was the best food he had eaten.
The Prophet (peace be on him) was the perfect leader. He was in touch with them. He could feel the pulse of the community and understand their needs. He knew the rich from the poor, the educated from the illiterate, the young and the old. His insight was based both on information, as he would ask about them and also on his sixth sense, as he could read people’s minds from their faces. He was very intuitive. We see this quality when Wabisa bin Ma’bad came to him, and he knew before he asked his question what he wanted to know.
Wabisa bin Ma’bad reported God’s Messenger (peace be on him) as saying, “Have you come to ask about righteousness and sin, Wabisa?” When he replied that he had, he joined his fingers and striking his breast with them said, “Ask yourself for a decision, ask your heart for a decision (saying it three times). Righteousness is that with which the soul is tranquil and the heart is tranquil, but sin is that which rouses suspicion in the soul and is perplexing in the breast, even if people give you a decision in its favour.” (Ahmad and Darimi)
The Prophet (peace be on him) would choose the right people for the right positions.
A good leader can identify the talents of his team and nurtures them. You might be less qualified or creative than your team, but you know how to manage them, put them together and bring the best out of them. Do not be afraid that there are more talented people than you in your team. It is an honour for you to work with them.
Sometimes leaders are insecure and afraid that people who are under them are in fact more talented than them. A weak leader side-lines them and removes them to minimise the threat to his leadership, but a strong leader encourages them and utilises their talents by giving them good roles and allows them to shine. We see this beautifully exemplified in the appointing of the brilliant Khalid bin Waleed as the military leader.
The Prophet (peace be on him) knew the varied abilities of Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali and Hudayfah bin Yaman (may Allah be pleased with them). Hudayfah is not as well known as them, yet he was the secret-keeper of the Prophet (peace be on him).
Know your reality
The Prophet (peace be on him) did not live in an ivory tower nor was he confined to the mosque. In our terms today, he watched the news and did his homework. He was not just au fait with what was happening in his community but also kept abreast with what was going on further afield, and political scene, with the Romans and the Persians and. Afterall his message universal, and so he had to have a plan to reach as many nations as possible.
Other prophets were sent to a limited number of people, but the Prophet (peace be on him) had a greater task. Jabir bin `Abdullah narrated that the Prophet (peace be on him) said:
I have been given five things which were not given to anyone else before me. 1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month’s journey. 2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. 3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me, yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me. 4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection). 5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only, but I have been sent to all mankind. (Bukhari)
We see in the seerah that the Prophet (peace be on him) had a plan and made long-term preparations. He did not jump from one step to another. Each phase has to be sequential.
We see in the Year of Delegations, he sent letters to the world leaders. In Surat Ar-Rum, Allah Almighty revealed that the Romans were defeated and that the Muslims would be victorious in a few years:
The Byzantines have been defeated
In the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome
Within three to nine years. (30:2-3)
The Prophet (peace be on him) was aware of this, but he strived to achieve the success of his mission.
The best ambassadors
He chose the best people to represent the message of Islam when he sent them as ambassadors. He carefully chose those who had the best looks and appearance, the language and eloquence and the skills for the job. He asked them to learn the language of the communities they were being sent to. The Prophet (peace be on him) would make dua for them to do this and they would learn the language in just a few months.
When we are giving dawah, turning up with a long beard, a short abaya and old trainers is not the right way. It is not the sunnah, as some people mistakenly believe. You are representing the message of Allah. The sunnah is having the right character, right education and understanding and being presentable.
There was a teacher who had many followers whom I went to meet when he was in town, and he was so generous but I was put off by him when he said that he had not followed the news for the last ten years.
The Prophet (peace be on him) would train those who had potential. They had skills they may not even have been aware of themselves. For instance, he mentored Ibn Omar and Abdullah Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with them). He said:
“Abdullah is a good man. Would that he offer the night prayer (Tahajjud)!” So after that day ‘Abdullah (bin ‘Umar) started offering Tahajjud. (Bukhari)
He identified gaps in them and guided them how to improve themselves. He trained them how to be connected to Allah.
Ibn Abbas reported: I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) when he said to me, “Young man, I will teach you some words. Be mindful of Allah and He will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him before you. If you ask, ask from Allah. If you seek help, seek help from Allah. Know that if the nations gathered together to benefit you, they could not benefit you unless Allah has decreed it for you. And if the nations gathered together to harm you, they could not harm you unless Allah has decreed it for you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried.” (Tirmidhi)
He encourage them to do physical training to prepare them for battle, so he did not focus on one aspect and neglect another. Abdullah ibn Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said:
“Every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock. The leader of people is a guardian and is responsible for his subjects. A man is the guardian of his family and he is responsible for them. A woman is the guardian of her husband’s home and his children and she is responsible for them. The servant of a man is a guardian of the property of his master and he is responsible for it. No doubt, every one of you is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The Prophet (peace be on him) was encouraging us to be good leaders, and instilled the qualities of good leadership in those around him – you have to love and care about your followers, and be genuine.
The Prophet (peace be on him) allowed his team to make mistakes but he corrected their mistakes wisely and kindly until they became better and well rounded. Under his supervision, they became capable of taking on more responsibility and then he would send them on great missions, for instance he sent Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Ali (may Allah be pleased with them) to Yemen.
Shaykh Haytham Tamim – New Muslim Group 23rd November 2021.
Recommended reading: 11 Leadership Qualities that changed the world. Nabeel Al Azami
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- Responding to attacks on Islam with wisdom
- Jumuah – the special offer you shouldn’t refuse
- Monopolies on basic necessities are un-Islamic
- Ghazali on remembering death
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