The Prophet Muhammad is introduced in the Qur’an in these words:
[And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind.] (Al-Anbiyaa’: 107)
This shows that his distinctive quality was that he was a blessing incarnate in word and deed.
According to a tradition recorded in the Sahih of Imam Muslim, when the Prophet’s opponents greatly increased their persecution, his Companions asked him to curse them. At this the Prophet replied, “I have not been sent to lay a curse upon men but to be a blessing to them.” His opponents continued to treat him and his Companions unjustly and cruelly, but he always prayed for them.
Once he was so badly stoned by his enemies that the blood began to spurt from all over his body. This happened when he went to Ta’if, where the Hijaz aristocracy used to while away their summer days. When he attempted to call them to Islam, instead of listening to his words of wisdom, they set the street urchins upon him, who kept chasing him till nightfall. Even at that point, when he was utterly exhausted and bleeding from head to foot, all he said was, “O my Lord, guide my people along the true path, as they are ignorant of the truth.”
His heart was filled with intense love for all human kind irrespective of caste, creed, or colour. Once he advised his Companions to regard all people as their brothers and sisters. He added, “You are all Adam’s offspring and Adam was born of clay.”
All this tells us what kind of awareness he wanted to bring about in man. His mission was to bring people abreast of the reality that all men and women, although inhabiting different regions of the world, and seemingly different from one another as regards their colour, language, dress, culture, etc., were each other’s blood brothers. Hence a proper relationship will be established between all human beings only if they regard one another as sisters and brothers. Only then will proper feelings of love and respect prevail throughout the world.
According to a hadith, the Prophet once said, “A true believer is one with whom others feel secure. One who returns love for hatred.” The Prophet made it clear that one who would only return love for love was on a lower ethical plane. We should never think that we should treat people well only if they treat us well. We should, rather, be accustomed to being good to those who are not good to us and to not wronging those who harm us.
The Prophet once borrowed some money from a Jew. After a few days the Jew came to demand payment of his debt. The Prophet told him that at that moment he had nothing to pay him with. The Jew said that he wouldn’t let him go until he had paid him back. And so the Jew stayed there, from morning till night, holding the Prophet captive. At that time the Prophet was the established ruler of Madinah and could have easily taken action against him. His Companions naturally wanted to rebuke the man and chase him away. But the Prophet forbade this, saying, “The Lord has forbidden us to wrong anyone.” The Jew continued to hold the Prophet captive until the following morning. But with the first light of dawn, the Jew was moved by the Prophet’s tolerance, and he thereupon embraced Islam. In spite of being a rich man, he had detained the Prophet the day before on account of a few pence. But now the Prophet’s noble conduct had had such an impact on him that he was willing to give all his wealth to the Prophet, saying, “Spend it as you please.”
According to another hadith, the Prophet once said, “By God, he is not a believer, by God, he is not a believer, by God, he is not a believer, with whom his neighbours are not secure.” This hadith shows how much he loved and cared for all human beings. One of the lessons he taught was that we should live among others like flowers, and not like thorns, without giving trouble to anybody.
In another hadith the Prophet said, “If a believer is not able to benefit others, he must at least do them no harm.” This shows that to the Prophet the man who becomes useful to others leads his life on a higher plane. But if he fails to do so, he should at least create no trouble for his fellow men. For a man to be a really good servant of God, he must live in this world as a no-problem person. There is no third option.
The Prophet’s own example was testified to by Anas ibn Malik, who served the Prophet for ten years. He said that the Prophet never ever rebuked him. “When I did something, he never questioned my manner of doing it; and when I did not do something, he never questioned my failure to do it. He was the most good-natured of all men.” Such conduct gained him the respect even of his enemies, and his followers stood by him through all kinds of hardship and misfortune. He applied the principles on which his own life was based in equal measure to those who followed his path and to those who had harmed or discountenanced him.
In the present world, everyone’s thinking, tastes, aptitude, likes, and dislikes can never exactly coincide. For many reasons, differences do arise in this world. But then, what is the permanent solution to the problem? The solution lies in tolerance. The Prophet’s entire life served as a perfect example of this principle. According to his wife `A’ishah, “He was a personification of the Qur’an.”
That is to say, the Prophet moulded his own life in accordance with the ideal pattern of life that he presented to others in the form of the Qur’an. He never beat a servant, or a woman, or anyone else. He did, of course, fight for what was right. Yet, when he had to choose between two alternatives, he would take the easier course, provided it involved no sin. No one was more careful to avoid sin than him. He never sought revenge on his own behalf for any wrong done to him personally. Only if God’s commandments had been broken would he mete out retribution for the sake of God. It was such conduct which gained the Prophet universal respect.
In the early Makkan period when the antagonists far exceeded the Prophet’s Companions in number, it often happened that when the Prophet would stand to pray, his detractors would come near him and whistle and clap in order to disturb him, but the Prophet did not even once show his anger at such acts. He always opted for the policy of tolerance and avoidance of confrontation.
When the opposition became very strong, the Prophet left Makkah for Madinah. But his antagonists did not leave him in peace. They began to attack Madinah. In this way a state of war prevailed between the Muslims and non-Muslims.
Since the Prophet avoided war at all costs, he strove to bring about a peace agreement between him and the Makkans. After great efforts on his part, the non-Muslims agreed to the finalizing of a 10-year peace treaty, which was drafted and signed at Al-Hudaybiyyah.
While the Hudaybiyyah treaty was being drafted, the Makkans indulged in a number of extremely provocative acts. For instance, the agreement mentioned the Prophet’s name as “Muhammad the Messenger of Allah.” They insisted that the phrase “the Messenger of Allah” be taken out and replaced by “son of Abdullah.” The Prophet accepted their unreasonable condition and deleted the appellation with his own hands. Similarly, they made the condition that if they could lay their hands on any Muslim they would make him a hostage, but if the Muslims succeeded in detaining any non-Muslim, they would have to set him free. The Prophet even relented on this point. For the restoration of peace in the region, the Prophet accepted a number of such unjustifiable clauses that were added by the enemy. In this way he set the example of peace and tolerance being linked with one another. If we desire peace, we must tolerate many unpleasant things from others. There is no other way to establish peace in society.
Once the Prophet was seated at some place in Madinah, along with his Companions. During this time a funeral procession passed by. On seeing this, the Prophet stood up. One of his Companion remarked that the funeral was that of a Jew. The Prophet replied, “Was he not a human being?”
This incident illustrates how an atmosphere of mutual love and compassion can be brought about in the world only when we consciously rise above all insidious demarcation of caste, colour, and creed. Just as the Prophet did, we, too, must look at all men as human beings who deserve to be respected at all events.