Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was both a prophet of Allah and a statesman. His leadership was most comprehensive and dynamic. He was the paragon of virtue and spirituality. He was a noble and compassionate teacher, guide, and reformer. He was a family man. Indeed, he was also a political leader. As a political leader the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) unified the Arabian peninsula, established a great state whose capital was Madinah, defeated his enemies, and had most successful military expeditions. However, his real political leadership was in the realm of morality and spirituality in which he conducted himself perfectly in situations of weakness as well as strength. His way of dealing in Makkah and Madinah indicates his great political leadership.
He was always willing to help others. Allah granted him the special gift to resolve conflicts and disputes. Even before he became the Prophet of Allah, he was able to resolve a major dispute between the people of Makkah. It is reported that the people of Makkah were repairing the walls of the Kabah. When the time came to place the Black Stone in its place in the southeast corner of the Kabah, each tribe wanted to have this honor. Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was asked to be the judge and decide the matter fairly. He resolved this dispute with great wisdom in an amicable way. He spread his own cloak on the ground and placed the Stone upon it. He then asked representatives of each tribe to lift the cloak together. When the Black Stone reached the required height from the ground he went forward and set it in its place.
He always wanted to make peace among people. At an early age it is reported that when some people of Makkah wanted to establish a committee to suppress violence in their society, he immediately joined them. This committee took a pledge of virtue known as the Hilf al-Fudul. Later during his prophetic life he recalled this pledge and praised it highly and said, “Even now if I am called upon in the name of this pledge, I shall not refuse.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a man of ideals but he was also a practical man. He preached the message to all and did not isolate himself from his society. He used any of the good traditions and customs they had and benefited from them. Although his uncle, Abu Talib, did not accept his message of tawheed, he was willing to give him all his support and help in the Islamic work. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) appreciated his uncle’s help. After his uncle’s death he went to Ta’if to seek alliances with some other tribes there. He did not succeed, but it is important to note that he was trying to seek alliances for the cause of Islam.
The Hijrah to Ethiopia is also an example of his political skill in seeking alliances with others. When the persecution increased in Makkah and some of his followers found it difficult to live in that environment, he allowed them to migrate to Ethiopia and seek the help of the Christian King there. In Ethiopia Muslims found peace and they reciprocated the King’s hospitality with prayers and support for the King and his party. Muslims’ relations were so good with the monarch that he grew to love Islam and before his death he became a Muslim.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a skillful and courageous political leader. His enemies could not scare or intimidate him. He never succumbed to any temptations. The people of Makkah tried to turn him away from his message and mission by offering him a great deal of money or anything that he wanted for himself but with one condition that he would give up his mission. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) very firmly, yet politely, turned down all their offers.
In Madinah he established a state where all people were equal, where matters were decided through consultation, and where all people had to follow the same law. It was a state without any favoritism in favor of any family or group. Even a non-Muslim was not to be mistreated under his rule. The story of Tu’mah ibn Abraq is an excellent example of justice and human rights for all people under his authority. Tu’mah, who was a Muslim, stole someone’s armor in Madinah and then he blamed a Jew. Allah sent a special revelation to warn people against such injustice (see Surat An-Nisaa’: 110-112). The Jewish citizen of Madinah was declared innocent and Tu’mah was found guilty.
The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) took great care of his people’s religious as well as economic needs. Not only did he preach, but he was also concerned about their economic well-being. He made treaties and alliances with many tribes. He had great diplomatic skills. He taught the world diplomacy that was built on morality and honesty. He honored all his treaties and he defended his people. He was aware of the surrounding circumstances and made his people ready and alert. He never initiated a battle or a war, but when he was attacked he was firm and decisive. He always emphasized peace and harmonious relations.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was a man of great patience and resolution. There are many lessons for us to learn from his life. The most important aspect of his leadership was that he was always honest and truthful. Even his enemies could not find any flaw in his honesty and truthfulness. The most beautiful example of this we find in the conversation between Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantium, and Abu Sufyan who was a bitter enemy of the Prophet at that time. This conversation took place in the year 628 CE when Heraclius received a letter from the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Heraclius was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem when he received this important letter. After receiving the message, the Emperor sent for his chief of police and told him to search the country for a man from the same tribe as the one who claimed to be a prophet. Abu Sufyan, a leader of the Quraysh, who was a bitter enemy of the Prophet at that time, happened to be trading in Gaza with some of his companions from Makkah. The Emperor’s search party found them there and they were immediately taken to Jerusalem.
Heraclius called them into his court and he had all the senior Roman dignitaries around him. He called for his translator who translated Heraclius’ questions and said to them, “Who amongst you is closely related to the man who claims to be a prophet?” Abu Sufyan replied, “I am the nearest relative (amongst the group) to him.”
Heraclius said, “Bring him (Abu Sufyan) close to me and make his companions stay behind him.” Abu Sufyan added, “Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to ask me some questions regarding that man (the Prophet) and that if I told a lie they (my companions) should contradict me.” Abu Sufyan added, “By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions labeling me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet.”
The first question Heraclius asked me was, “What is the status of his family among you?” I replied, “He belongs to a good (noble) family amongst us.” Heraclius further asked, “Has anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same (that is, to be a prophet) before him?” I replied, “No.” He said, “Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?” I replied, “No.” Heraclius asked, “Do the nobles or the poor follow him?” I replied, “It is the poor who follow him.” He said, “Are his followers increasing or decreasing (day by day)?” I replied, “They are increasing.” He then asked, “Does anybody amongst those who embrace his religion become displeased and renounce the religion afterwards?” I replied, “No.” Heraclius said, “Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a prophet)? I replied, “No.” Heraclius said, “Does he break his promises?” I replied, “No. We have a truce with him but we do not know what he will do.” I could not find the opportunity to say anything against him except that. Heraclius asked, “Have you ever had a war with him?” I replied, “Yes.” Then he said, “What were the outcome of these battles?” I replied, “Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we were.” Heraclius said, “What does he order you to do?” I said, “He tells us to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him, and to renounce all that our ancestors had said. He orders us to pray, to be chaste, and to keep good relations with our kith and kin.”
After this conversation it is reported that Heraclius said:
“I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact, all the Messengers come from noble families amongst their respective peoples. I questioned you whether anybody amongst you ever claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If your reply had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s statement. Then I asked you whether anyone from his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom. I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he is now saying, and your reply was in the negative. So I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah. I then asked you whether the rich people followed him or the poor. You replied that it was the poor who followed him. And in fact all the Messengers are followed by the poor in the beginning. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing, and in fact this is the way of true faith, till it is complete in all respects. I further asked whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded it. Your reply was in the negative, and in fact this is (the sign of) true faith when its light enters the hearts and mixes completely. I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative and likewise Messengers never betray. Then I asked you what he ordered you to do. You replied that he ordered you to worship Allah and Allah alone and not to worship anything along with Him and forbade you to worship idols and ordered you to pray, to speak the truth, and to be chaste.
If what you have said is true, he will very soon occupy the place underneath my feet and I knew it (from the scriptures) that he was going to appear, but I did not know that he would be from among you, and if I could reach him I would go immediately to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.”
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi