You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad ) a Beautiful Pattern (of Conduct)..."
[Surah al-Ahzab; 33:21]
"And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character."
[Surah al-Qalam; 68:4]
A comprehensive understanding of his character cannot be given in one short essay.
The complexity of his life is such that many Muslim and non-muslim scholars have been driven to write volumes to try and understand what inspired him and the subsequent impact of his life upon human history.
To help attain an idea of his importance one requires a description of his manners and lifestyle.
MANNER OF COMMUNICATION
Muhammad (Sallalahu Alayhi Wasalam) was a man who spoke very little, his sentences would be short yet full of deep meaning.
He listened more than he spoke, sometimes he would be silent for long periods of time.
He was unusually quiet and reserved, generally pensive and sorrowful - always wrapped up in his thoughts and meditations.
Yet when he spoke, his words carried depth and he did not need to speak for long in order to be understood.
Most of his laughter was no more than smiling, and if he was pleased he would lower his gaze. He would get angry only when a matter of principle was mocked or violated and he would not be pleased until the matter was resolved.
Yet he would never get angry for personal reasons - he was always forgiving, and he would never retaliate against personal insults; here he would be patient and gracious.
Though he was a very busy man, he would quite often attend to his own chores by washing and sewing his own clothes and mending his own shoes, though there were many who would have jumped at the chance to do these chores for him.
At home he would divide his time between three portions: his family, himself and God.
His own individual time used to be taken up by his companions who used to visit him regularly, he would receive them in kindness, waiting upon them, serving and honouring them. He would enquire about their needs and try to help them as much as he could.
Sometimes he would also ask about those who were not present.
He would be the last to drink if drinks were served in his home, normally with only one bowl to go round.
When he was talking to his companions he would honour their feelings by never bringing any topics which might hurt them or lower their spirits, and instead of mocking someone he would try to help them with their weaknesses.
The companions used to love staying with him so much that they would overstay in his house, to such an extent that some verses were revealed asking the companions to respect the Prophet's wish for privacy.
For those who were very poor, he was a supporter and guardian, providing food and lodging from whatever little he possessed.
His warmth was such that even little children would run up to him asking him to play with them even though he was over fifty years old; the Prophet would listen and play merry-go-round with them.
Towards his enemies he was still forgiving, and if they were firm with him, then he was firm with them.
History records that those who set out to kill him would later become his closest friends. Though in the later stages of his life, he had access to much wealth, he still lived as a humble servant of God.
His greatest delight ultimately lay in his prayer, especially those that he offered during the darkness of the night. Whose example do you prefer over Muhammad , the Greatest Muslim Personality?
When the Prophet spoke to anyone, he would not just turn his face in order to converse, rather, he would either turn his whole body towards that person, or turn his face and torso in order to speak to the person directly; he was not proud man. It was not his practice to glance to the side when he spoke with anyone. His speech was deliberate and clear so that those sitting in his blessed company would remember what he said. When he wished to stress a point, he would repeat it three times.
It was not his custom to indulge in frivolous talk.
HIS STORY TELLING
The Prophet would often tell his wives stories and each story contained a guiding moral.
HIS MANNER OF LEANING
It has been reported that the Prophet would lean against a pillow placed on his left side, however, he never leaned against anything whilst eating.
During his last illness, Fadl entered his room and found him wearing a yellow band around his forehead. After they had exchanged greetings he asked Fadl to tighten the band around his noble head, which he did. Then, he sat up and stood up supporting himself on Fadl's shoulder and entered the Mosque.
When the Messenger of Allah he would rest his head against one of his wives or companions. When he passed away, his head rested upon Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her.
HIS MANNER OF EATING AND DRINKING
He ate with his right hand and would lick his fingers. Sometimes he used three fingers, at other time five.
He never ate food from a table, nor a small plate, nor did he eat pita type bread. He ate from a leather cloth and did not cut his meat with a knife, rather, he would bite off a piece and chew it.
The Messenger of Allah drank from a large wooden cup with a metal lining. He also drank from a water-skin with a cleaned spout.
When the Prophet drank from the water of Zamzam, he stood. However, on most occasions he sat. He advocated drinking in smallish sips rather than gulping down all at once. This blessed advice not to drink in one gulp is now proven to be detrimental to the liver and stomach.
HIS BREAD AND FOOD
His bread was made from stone ground barley flour which has a coarse texture. A sieve was never used to refine the flour therefore large particles of grain often remained which were extracted. As for the quantity of bread, there was never sufficient bread in his household with which to fill his stomach.
Many a night he and his family went to bed without having eaten because there was no food. It was the custom of the Holy Family to give away their food to those in need, seeking a reward from Allah, the Most High.
He advocated the use of olive oil not only for cooking but for massage. He also used vinegar and would eat the meat of fowl. He ate honey, the meat of goat and lamb with a preference for the meat of a shoulder of lamb.
Amongst the other things he ate were dates. One day the Prophet found some dates that had fallen on the ground. He told his companions he would have eaten them if he could have been sure they were not originally intended to be given in charity, for it is forbidden that he or his family should eat from charity. He also ate cucumber and water melon with dates. Dates were also soaked in water to provide a sweet drink, however, they were never left long enough to ferment.
The Prophet would drink water and milk. Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said that he liked a drink that was cold and sweet. When he was given milk he would supplicate saying: "O Allah, grant us blessing in it and increase it for us." He also told his companions that there is nothing that serves both as food and water other than milk.
It was the custom of the Prophet to feed his companions before he himself ate.
HIS MANNER BEFORE AND AFTER EATING
The Prophet always said: "Bismillah" before he started to eat. One day as he and his companions were eating a hungry man joined them and forgot to say Bismillah, as he was about to take the last bite he remembered and said: "Bismillah in its beginning at end", whereupon the Prophet informed that until that point satan, the stoned and cursed, had been eating with him, but when he heard him say this he vomited all that he had eaten.
One day Omar, Abi Salamah's son entered while food was being served. The Prophet invited him to sit down and told him: "O my son, come near and recite Bismillah and eat with your right hand from the portion which is in front of you." He also told his companions to use their right hand alone to eat and drink with as satan eats and drinks with his left hand.
After he finished eating he would thank Allah saying: "Praise be to Allah who fed us, and given us drink, and made us Muslims."
Each night before he slept, the Prophet would lay down on his right side and supplicate: "O Allah, In Your Name I live and die." When he awoke he would supplicate: "Praise be to Allah, who restored to us life, having caused us to die and to Him shall be the Resurrection."
Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, reported that before he slept he would cup his hands together, blow on them then recite the chapters Al Ikhlas, Al Falak, and An Naas then wipe his hands over the parts of his body he could reach, this he did three times starting with the head, then his face, followed by the front part of his body.
Everything our beloved Prophet said was an act of worship, and the following are but a few of the numerous examples.
Although he was absolutely sinless and promised the highest rank in Paradise, a rank in which no other prophet has attained, it did not prevent him from offering multiple voluntary prayers, which is an indication of our own need to increase and maintain the number of voluntary prayers we offer. The importance for us to offer voluntary prayer was often stressed by the Prophet .
Our beloved Prophet would offer such long prayers that his legs became swollen. One of his companions asked him why he offered such lengthy prayers when Allah had forgiven him all his sins. The Prophet replied, "Should I not be a grateful worshipper?"
It was his practice to sleep after the Isha prayer for the first portion of the night, then awake to offer his voluntary prayers until the time one would take breakfast before fasting. At that time he would offer the last prayer of the night, which is the Witr prayer. Then, he would return to his apartment and sleep until the call for the Dawn prayer was made, when he would make either the major or minor ablution in readiness for the prayer.
The voluntary night prayers of the Prophet would commence with two short units of prayer followed by very long units of prayer that varied in number. Sometimes he would offer ten units of prayer followed by the Witr making a total of thirteen -- this number was never exceeded – then at other times he would offer eight units of prayer followed by the Witr prayer. Whenever he was unable to offer his prayer during the night, Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said that he would offer twelve units of prayer before mid-day. She also commented that he offered his prayers in the most perfect manner. There was a time when she asked him: "O Messenger of Allah (sa) do you sleep before you offer Witr?" He replied: "O Ayesha, my eyes sleep, but my heart remains awake." This blessed state is a special gift bestowed upon the prophets.
During Ramadan he would offer many of the Taraweeh prayers in the Mosque, and told his companions that those who stand with sincere faith and hope in prayer during the Night of Al Kadr will have their sins forgiven. When he did not offer his Taraweeh prayer with the congregation he would offer them at home.
When he was ill, the Prophet (sa) would offer his prayer sitting down until between thirty and forty verses remained when he would stand and recite them, then he would bow and prostrate, he did the same in the second unit of prayer.
Omar said that he offered two units of prayer before and after the mid-day prayer, and two units of prayer after the evening prayer and two units of prayer after the night prayer with the Prophet .
Other than the obligatory fast of Ramadan, the Prophet observed voluntary fasts. Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said that after the migration to Medina the Prophet did not fast an entire month except for the month of Ramadan. She also said in another hadith that he would fast most of the month of Shabaan.
We are also told that he would fast some days of a month and none at all in another. Of the days he is known to have fasted Monday and Thursday received his special attention. Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, reported the Prophet saying: "I was born on a Monday, and the sending down of the Qur’an commenced on a Monday." Abu Hurayrah, may Allah have mercy on him, said: "Deeds are presented (to Allah, the Most High) on Mondays and Thursdays. I desire that my deeds be presented whilst I am fasting."
Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said: "Some months he would fast on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays, whereas in other months he would fast on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays." She also said that he did not fast on specific days, but whenever suitable. Abdullah, the son of Masood, reported that he seldom fasted on a Friday.
He would also fast on the 13th, 14th and 15th day of the Islamic month, also on the tenth of Muharram and the 10th of Dhul Hijjah. After the Prophet's migration he observed some Jews observing the fast on the tenth of Muharram, which is the fast of Ashura. He asked them why they were fasting and was told that it was the day on which Allah, the Most High, saved Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, from Pharaoh, and that it was also the day on which Allah, the Most High, drowned Pharaoh. They told the Prophet that Prophet Moses, peace be upon him, would fast that day out of gratitude and happiness whereupon our beloved Prophet Muhammad said, "We are more entitled than you to follow Moses, peace be upon him." Thereafter the Prophet obligated his followers to fast on that day. This fast was obligatory until the command came to fast the month of Ramadan, thereafter the Prophet said the fast of Ashura was voluntary. To distinguish the Islamic fast of Ashura from that of the Jews, the Prophet would fast either the day before Ashura or the day after.
HIS RECITATION OF THE HOLY QUR’AN
Lady Umm Salamah, may Allah be pleased with her, said: "He recited every word separately and distinctly." She also said: "He recited: 'Praise be to Allah, Lord of the worlds' and paused, then recited, 'the Merciful, the Most Merciful and paused. He paused again after 'Owner of the Day of Recompense.'"
When Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, was asked whether the Prophet (sa) recited softly or audibly, she replied that he recited both ways. One day Umm Hani who lived in Mecca, said she heard the recitation of the Prophet from the roof-top of her house. Scholars say this was not due a loud voice but rather to the stillness of the night the voice travels further.
When he opened Mecca, he rode his camel, Kaswa, reciting the following verses repeatedly:
“Indeed, We have opened for you
(Prophet Muhammad) a clear opening,
that Allah forgives your past and future sins,
and completes His Favor to you,
and guides you on a Straight Path.”
The companion, Katadah, said that Allah gave each of His prophets a beautiful feature and a beautiful voice, and that our Prophet had both beautiful features and voice, but he did not recite in a tone similar to that of singers.
As previously explained, everything our beloved Prophet did was out of humility, sincerity and love of Allah as well as seeking mercy for us. His crying was the same.
One day Abdullah, the son of Masood, was asked by the Prophet to recite some of the Qur’an to him, whereupon Abdullah asked, "O Messenger of Allah should I recite it to you when it has been sent down to you?" The Prophet said, "I love to hear it from another person." So Abdullah started to recite the chapter "Nisa" When he reached the verse 41
“How then shall it be
when We bring forward
from every nation a witness,
and bring you (Prophet Muhammad)
to witness against those!”
tears flowed from both the Prophet's eyes.
Upon the death of one of the Prophet's daughters, Barakah, the longtime maid of the Prophet who was with him when his mother died, started to weep loudly. The Prophet drew her attention to it, for uncontrolled weeping is forbidden. Whereupon she said: "Do I not see you crying?" he replied: "That crying is not prohibited, it is a mercy from Allah." Then he said: "A Muslim is at peace at all times, even when his soul is being taken away, he is busy uttering the praise of Allah."
A TASTE OF HIS HUMILITY AND BLESSED CHARACTER
Allah, Himself testifies to the magnitude of the Prophet's character in the chapter "The Pen" verse 4:
“'Indeed, you are upon a mighty morality."
Although our beloved Prophet was chosen by Allah, the Most High, to be the His greatest prophet he remained a very humble person. He was always ready to visit the sick, attend funerals, ride a donkey. He did not look down upon using a rein woven from palm fiber or sitting upon a saddle made from palm leaves during the hostilities of Krayzah. He would accept invitations, even the invitation of those called slaves. Such was his manner that he would never refer to them as "slaves" but rather as being "youths" and so placated their heart.
He never hesitated to accept the invitation of the poor; even when they served bread and old fat as he would neither offend rich or poor.
Unlike emperors, kings and leaders, our beloved Prophet disliked it if any one stood up when he entered.
When he entered his house he would divide his time into three portions, one portion for Allah, another for his family, and the other for himself, yet from his own portion he would give half his time to his close companions who would visit him and ask questions, convey messages or requests from others.
He taught his close companions things that were beneficial for his entire nation and told them to convey whatsoever he taught them, and encouraged them to ask on behalf of those less able to present their question. He never withheld a reply.
He told his companions that whosoever informs a king of the need of another unable to express his need, Allah, the Most High, will keep that person steadfast on the Day of Judgement.
He never wasted time listening to gossip, but as a matter of etiquette he would join in the conversation of his companions, no matter if they were speaking about religious or worldly affairs .
Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said that he never hit anyone except in Jihad, nor did he hit women.
He respected and honored those who were respected and honored in their nation. He warned them of the punishment of Allah, mediated between people, praised and encouraged good deeds. He explained the harmful effects of bad things, removed and prevented them.
He followed the middle course in all matters and never neglected to guide his followers. He was always truthful, and when he spoke to anyone that person felt the most honored.
When he was asked for something, he never refused, and when he had nothing to give he would speak with kind words to the asker. He never refused to answer the question of a traveler and would say: "When you see someone in need, help them."
One day a needy person went to the Prophet and asked for something. The Prophet did not have anything to give him at that time, so he told him to go and purchase whatever he needed and charge it to him. Omar heard the conversation and reminded him that he had already given away everything he possessed and told him that Allah had not made him responsible for that which was beyond his means. Without hesitation, an Ansar spoke up saying "O Messenger of Allah, spend whatever you will, do not fear any decrease from the Lord of the Throne", whereupon the Prophet smiled and said, "Allah, the Most High, has commanded me to do this."
One day Rubayyi, the daughter of Muawwidh brought some fresh dates and small cucumbers to the Prophet .The Prophet had just been given some jewelry so he gave her either a handful of jewelry or gold.
When someone joined him for any reason he would remain seated until that person left. His endearing disposition was not just for a few, but for everyone, he was like a father to them.
He never thought it to be beneath him to mend his clothes nor help with the daily chores. He was always kind to children and would ask Allah to bless them. It was not his custom to concern himself with idle conversation nor yet to interrupt when someone was speaking. His gatherings were full of knowledge, modesty, patience and honesty. He neither degraded nor disgraced anyone. If someone had sinned, it was not made public. Little ones were loved, the needy given preference whilst strangers and travelers were cared for.
Those in his household loved him dearly, not once did he rebuke them for not having done a certain thing, nor did he ever ask why someone had done such a thing.
He never used obscene language, nor did he shout and talk in the bazaars. It was not his way to avenged a bad deed with a similar deed, rather, he would forgive it and it would not be mentioned thereafter. He never sought the faults in anyone.
Everyone received their rights, whether they were Muslims or non-Muslims. Even the unbelievers of Mecca testified to his honesty.
He was not short-tempered, nor did he humiliate anyone. He was very appreciative of the blessings of Allah no matter whether they were small or great.
He did not criticize his food, nor over-praise it. He never became angered over any materialistic matter. When someone exceeded the limits in religious matters or against the truth, he became angry in a way that no one could endure, and turn away. He either forgave the offender or paid no attention to him.
When he was happy, it was as if he almost closed his eyes, as for his laugh, it was, for the most part, a smile in which his blessed front teeth glittered like shining white hailstones.
When he gestured towards something he would do so with his hand rather than by just pointing with one finger. The scholars say that this was yet another act of his humility as he would raise one finger as reference to Allah.
When he was surprised by something he would turn his hand. He often spoke and used his hands. Sometimes he would hit the palm of his right hand with the underside of his left thumb.
As for his modesty, he was more bashful than a virgin behind her veil. Lady Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, said that neither did she see his private parts nor he hers.
There was a time when the companions went to the Messenger of Allah complaining of severe pangs of hunger. They showed him the stones they had strapped against their stomach to prevent it from swelling whereupon the Prophet showed them the two stones strapped to his.
There was also the time when the Prophet and seven of his companions had nothing to eat except leaves. As a result their mouths became very ulcerated.
When a young Jewish boy was taken seriously ill, he went to visit him and through his kindness towards him the boy embraced Islam before he died and saved from the fires of Hell.
He even visited the hypocrite Abdullah, the son of Ubay, who had for a long time gone out of his way to try to ridicule the Prophet .
There is a beautiful hadith that tells the story of a Jewish rabbi. After the Prophet migrated to Medina some of the sincere and knowledgeable Jews embraced Islam. Zayd, the son of Sanah was a knowledgeable Jew who awaited the coming of the lasts prophet. Zayd had studied his Scriptures well that detailed the time of the next prophet's appearance together with his characteristics.
When the Prophet arrived in Medina he was able to recognize all but two of the prophesied fine characteristic in the Prophet and up until that time remained unsure as to his prophethood. The signs were that his gentleness would overcome his anger and that the more foolish a person acted towards him, the more patient he would become.
One day as he was with the Prophet a bedouin came to him in a distressed state telling him that his tribe had embraced Islam, and that he had told them that if they became Muslims they would never again go hungry.
Now that drought had stricken his land and food was in very short supply he told the Prophet he feared they would leave Islam on account of his promise and so he had come to ask the Prophet for his help. Rather than rebuking the man for giving such an unprecedented promise, the Prophet turned to a companion who informed him that there was nothing left to give. Zayd had been listening intently to the conversation and told the Prophet that he knew of a date palm grove from which he could purchase unripe dates that could be harvested when ripe and that the Prophet could repay him later. In the meantime he gave the bedouin some gold to buy food for his tribe to tide them over until the date harvest, with the instruction to deal fairly with it.
Some time later, after the dates had been harvested and given to the bedouin, Zayd went to the Prophet .The Prophet had just returned for attending the funeral of one of his companions and was sitting near a well when Zayd went up to him, tugged at the hem of his robe and chided him for not having repaid his debt and accused all of Abdul Muttalib's children as being poor payers. Omar happened to be present and jumped to the Prophet's defense saying, "O enemy of Allah, what are you mumbling. I swear by Allah, that if I did not fear, I would have your head severed!" The Prophet looked up and smiled at Omar and told him, "Omar, this person and I are in need of something more. He should have told me to take care that I fulfill his rights, and should have advised in a better manner when presenting his claim. Go, take him and fulfill his rights, and because he was scolded give him, in compensation, twenty extra measurements of dates as his right.
Omar and Zayd went together and as Zayd received his rights he asked, "Why have you given an excess amount of dates?" Omar replied, "The Messenger of Allah has commanded me to give it to you." Then Zayd asked Omar if he knew who he was and Omar replied that he did not, so he replied: "I am Zayd, the son of Sanah" whereupon Omar inquired, "The learned man of the Jews?" whereupon Zayd told him he was the very same. Then Omar asked him what had caused him to behave in such a bad manner towards the Prophet .He replied, "Two signs from the signs of the prophethood were left which I was not able to examine. The first was the gentleness of the Prophet which overrides his anger. The second was that the more foolishly a person acts towards him the more tolerant he becomes. Now I have examined both, therefore I make you a witness to my acceptance of Islam and give half my wealth to the nation of Prophet Muhammad (sa).
Omar and Zayd returned to the Prophet (sa) and Zayd embraced Islam. Later on he became a martyr.