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The Unlettered Prophet (54)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)

Exemplary Personality


When God sends a messenger, He also sends a book of guidance for him. The work of the messenger, as explained before, is to communicate this book to people and to act upon it himself. Even before becoming a messenger, he is the best example of morality and of impeccable character during his time. When he receives the teaching of revelation, he achieves an even higher level of excellence and presents a model of deed and word most beloved by God. This is the reason why people of faith are taught to make the practical example set by the Prophet (sws) to be their standard. This standard is called uswah hasana. The Quran, addressing the People of the Book, said that for everyone of them who had expectations of meeting his Lord and being accountable on the Day of Judgement, and remembered God often, the best example was that of the Prophet (sws), (33:31). Every person of faith should have the goal to mould his life along this perfect example, because this is what is pleasing to God.

The Prophet (sws)’s disposition, noble character, patience and perseverance, trust in God, steadfastness, honesty and penitence are obvious from the day and night routines of his blessed life. However, it seems necessary to mention a few Ahadith here to give our readers a glimpse, so that those desirous of drinking from this spring of purity find an instant guide. Otherwise, to describe the Prophet (sws)’s personality would take volumes.

During his Makkan days, the Prophet (sws) was busy in the struggle to spread the religion of truth and the deniers of Quraysh were using each and every legitimate and illegitimate method to resist him, when the Qur’an praised the Prophet’s character to say: “And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.” (68:4). He gave training of this exalted standard to all of his companions who accepted the faith and taught them to differentiate between good and bad. A few Ahadith are listed below:  

1. It is narrated from Nawas ibn Sama‘an (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “Good manners are akin to doing good. Sin is that which creates a prick in your heart and you wish it not to be known to others.” 

This saying of the Prophet (sws) provides a reference according to which every action can be judged; whether it is to be considered a matter to be rewarded by God or punished. The nature of sin and evil is such that it shakes the conscience of the doer and he wishes to keep it hidden from other’s eyes. A person does not feel shy about good work and noble deeds because they represent his high moral character.


2. Abu Dhar Ghifari (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “No one amongst you should consider even the smallest good deed to be insignificant. If he cannot do anything else, he should at least greet his brother with warmth.  

3. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that a man asked the Prophet (sws): “O’ Messenger of God! Who is the best deserving of all people of my good character? He answered: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Who after her”? The Prophet (sws) answered: “Your mother.” The man asked: “After her?” The Prophet (sws) answered: “Your mother.” The man asked: “Who after her?” The Prophet (sws) answered: “Your father.”  

4. Abu Hurayrah narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “No son can repay the favours of his father. If he can, it is only by buying him to free him if he sees his father bound in slavery.” 

5. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘As stated that the Prophet said that the pleasure of God is in the pleasure of a father and His displeasure is in the father’s displeasure.  

From these sayings of the Prophet (sws), one realizes that after the rights of God, the highest right belongs to the mother, followed by that of the father. But as compared to that of the father, the mother’s rights are three times as much. Nowadays people try to measure these rights in terms of material wealth, but the Qur’an refers to them in terms of the love of parents and their service and training which the child receives from them in his home. 

6. Anas ibn Malik (rta) narrates that a man asked the Prophet (sws): “When would the Day of Judgement come?” The Prophet (sws) asked: “What preparations have you made for it?” He answered: “Nothing except that I have been loving God and His Messenger.” The Prophet (sws) answered: “You shall be amongst those you have been loving.”  

This Hadith tells us that in the Hereafter, we shall be among those who we have loved in this world. The person who raised this question was aware of the fact that love for God and His Messenger is a part of faith. Hence, when he told the Prophet (sws) that this love was his most valued wealth, the Prophet (sws) gave him the glad tidings that he would be with him in the Hereafter. 

7. It is narrated from Abu Hurayrah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “Avoid jealousy. Jealousy consumes good deeds in the way that fire consumes wood.” 

8. Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) narrates that it is a saying of the Prophet (sws) that any person with the slightest bit of arrogance in his heart will not go to Paradise. A man asked that a person likes to wear good clothes and shoes. The Prophet (sws) answered: “God is Himself beautiful and likes beauty. Arrogance is when a person is obstinate in front of truth and thinks of others as insignificant.” 

9. It is narrated from Ibn Mas‘ud (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “When a person keeps saying the truth and keeps searching for truth, his name is written down as the truthful in front of God. Similarly, if a person keeps telling lies and keeps searching for lies, a time comes when his name is written down as a liar.” 

Character is not demonstrated through a sudden attribute. The particular quality must become a habit of the person. If a person tells the truth occasionally, he does not become truthful. For this, it is necessary that the person never utters any lie; does not hesitate to sacrifice his benefit for the sake of truth. When the value of truth becomes so high that he cannot help but tell the truth, only then would he be considered a truthful person by God. The same example can be used for other good qualities as well. Similarly, when bad traits find home within a person, and he makes them part of his daily routine, he is declared to be a bad person by God. 

10. Safwan ibn Sulaym (rta) narrates: “We asked: ‘O Messenger of God! Can a mu’min be a coward?’ The Prophet (sws) answered: ‘Yes.’ It was then asked: ‘Can a mu’minn be a miser?’ The prophet (sws) answered: ‘Yes.’ Then it was asked: ‘Can a mu’min be a liar?’ The Prophet (sws) answered: ‘No.’”  

Thus, a person of faith cannot be a liar. The reason for this is that the Muslim ummah has come into existence through giving evidence. A person who cannot fulfill this requirement refutes his own existence as a member of the ummah due to his wrong deeds: 

11. Abu Hurayra (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said that it is enough for a man to be a liar if he hears something and passes it on without confirmation.

 12. It is narrated from ‘A’ishah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) never took revenge for anything against his person. However, if anyone desecrated anything declared sacred by God, he would take revenge against him on behalf of God.

 13. Sa‘id al-Muqbari (rta) narrates that whenever the Prophet (sws) started to do something good, he would remain steadfast upon it and always continue to do it.

 14. Umm Salamah (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said that God likes the deeds that are done on a continuous basis, even though they may be less in number. 

In other words, instead of going for some good deed all of a sudden in a passion, God likes humans to adopt good deeds on a constant basis, even if the deed is small. The reason is that the good that is carried out continuously becomes a source to develop one’s character, whereas demonstrating it for a short time does not produce much effect on a person’s character.  

15. A’ishah (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) preferred to begin everything from the right side. He took special care of this while doing ablutions, combing his hair or wearing shoes. When he was in company and was to distribute something, he would begin from the right, even if there was a child sitting to his right and an elderly person to his left.  

Differentiating between the right and left and connecting them with good and bad deeds establishes a reference in one’s mind, which teaches a person to distinguish between good and evil.  

16. Abu Sa‘id al-Khudri (rta) said that the Messenger of God was more modest than a virgin wearing a shawl. If he did not like something, they would see his feelings reflected on his face.  

17. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) was the most generous of all when doing good for others. During Ramadan, when Gabriel (rta) came to him to help him recite the Qur’an, he became more generous than the fastest of winds during these days. 

The Prophet (sws) was extremely kind towards his ummah and very caring of its needs. He would identify the things which could potentially endanger the people of faith in the future. In this context, he used various ways to explain how certain sins were not insignificant, but very dangerous in terms of their impact. Thus, they were to be avoided totally. Consider some related Ahadith:


1.   Abu Hurayrah (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) said: “Protect yourself from seven sins.” He was asked which ones were these. He answered: “Associating someone with God; using magic on someone or get it done; killing someone without a legal reason; usurping the wealth of an orphan; committing adultery; casting accusations on innocent, blameless women and running away from the battlefield during jihad.”  

2.   Abu Bakrah (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) said: “Should I not give you news of three biggest sins? They are: associating someone with God; ending relations with parents and giving false evidence or lying.” Abu Bakrah (rta) says that when he said this, he was lying down with his back resting against the wall. Then he sat up and repeated the last great sin so many times that we wished for him to become quiet. 

3.   ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “Four qualities, if found in anyone, make him a total hypocrite. If one of these is present in him, until he gets rid of it, he would retain an element of hypocrisy. The four qualities are: He embezzles when entrusted by someone to keep their wealth safe, when he talks, he lies, when he makes a promise, he breaks it, when he argues, he begins to abuse.”  

4.   It is narrated from Hudhayfah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “By Him who holds my life in His Power, you must advise/instruct to do good and stop from evil. Otherwise, it is likely that due to negligence in this, God may impose punishment upon you. Then if you call Him, He may not listen to your prayer.” 

The love and good wishes of the Prophet (sws) for his ummah are also proved by the following incident: 

Anas (rta) said that an orphan girl lived with Umm Salaym (rta). One day when the Prophet (sws) saw her, he said: “You are that girl. How big you have grown. May God not extend your life.” Hearing this, the child went crying to Umm Salaym (rta). She asked: “Daughter, what has happened?” She answered that the Prophet (sws) has given her bad wishes for her life not to be extended. Hearing this, Umm Salaym took on her shawl and went to the Prophet (sws). The Prophet (sws) asked: “Umm Salaym, How is it that you are here?” She said: “O Prophet of God! You have cursed my child!” He asked: “What curse?” She answered: “The child says that you have cursed her not to have a long life.” The Prophet (sws) laughed and said: “Umm Salaym! Perhaps you are unaware of the condition I have placed in front of God. My condition is: ‘O God! I am a human being. Like other human beings, I also become happy and sometimes I become angry. If I ever curse anyone from my ummah, which s/he does not deserve, please convert this curse into a good prayer, purity and your proximity which you will grant her/him on the Day of Judgement.


One constant habit of the Prophet (sws) was that he was not fond of complex solutions. ‘A’ishah (rta) says that whenever he was faced with an issue which had two aspects: a simple one and a complex one, he would always adopt the former. However, if there was any chance of one of these being connected with a sin, he would not go near it. He would also advise his companions to always adopt simple solutions in religion, not to make it difficult and not to create fear of religion within people. He would discourage the companions who tried to impose unnecessary conditions upon themselves for worship or in society. The Qur’an (9:128) praises this attribute: “That which causes hardship for you creates suffering for the Messenger.”

A prominent attribute of the prophet (sws) was his softness in speaking and softness of heart. ‘A’ishah (rta) was asked how he lived inside the house. She answered that when he was at home, he was very soft spoken, forgiving, helping in house chores and keeping away from any crude or immoral talk. He had never lifted a hand to any of his wives. Praising this quality, the Quran says: “It is part of the Mercy of Allah that thou dost deal gently with them Wert thou severe or harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from about thee,” (3:159). Due to this quality, one group of the hypocrites stayed with him and was also treacherous. Ultimately, he was instructed to give up his soft attitude towards the hypocrites and become harsh to them. 

A few Ahadith demonstrating his softness are given below:


1.   It is narrated by ‘A’ishah (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said that whatever possesses softness and malleability provides it beauty and when it is taken out of it, it makes it ugly and flawed.  

2.   ‘A’ishah (rta) says that the Prophet (sws) said that God will treat people with softness and He likes the same from others. He bestows so much in reward for a habit of softness that He does not for harshness or anything other than a soft attitude. 

3.   It is narrated from Jarir (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “He who has been deprived of softness is deprived of all goodness.”  

The Prophet would constantly give advice to fulfill the rights of society. Here are two related Ahadith: 

1.   It is narrated from Anas (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: “Help your brother, whether or not he is the oppressor or oppressed.” One man asked: “O’ Messenger of God! I can help someone if he is oppressed. But if he the oppressor how can I help him?” He answered: “Create a barrier to his oppression or stop him. This would mean that you are helping him.” 

2.   Abu Hurayrah (rta) narrates that the Prophet (sws) said: “If anyone calls others towards the path of guidance, his reward shall be equal to the sum of that for all those people who follow him, but there would be no reduction in the reward of these people. If anyone is claimant for misguidance, all the sins of those who follow him would be upon his neck but there would be no reduction in the sins of these people.” 

As far as the worship of the Prophet (sws), his harsh treatment of the disbelievers and his love and compassion for the believers is concerned, the Qur’an is witness to this itself. It was said: 

Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. and those who are with him are strong against disbelievers, compassionate towards each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves [in prayer], seeking Grace from Allah and [His] Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, [being] the traces of their prostration. (48:29)     

This tells us that the Prophet (sws) was a foe as strong, immovable, undefeatable and hard as a mountain for the disbelievers, but for the believers, he was extremely kind, compassionate, supportive, soft and flexible in all respects. His days and nights were spent in seeking the pleasure of his Lord and his connection with Him was strong and durable. Signs of prostration were visible on his face. The same attributes produced their effects in the lives of his companions who had been trained by him. Obviously, these qualities should be found in every person of faith who believes in him.

Various Ahadith and narratives contain details of the Prophet (sws)’s bravery and courage in the battlefield. He demonstrated his great leadership in the three main battles of Badr, Uhud and Ahzab. Many companions have narrated that he was the epitome of courage and they were forced to hide behind him when the enemy attacked savagely. When there was danger of attacks by groups of the disbelievers on Madinah, he would take rounds of the city alone and assured people that they would be safe: there was no danger.

His concentration during worship was higher than all his companions. If a man brave enough tried to emulate him, he would find it very difficult and the Prophet (sws) himself stopped him, saying that his relationship with his Lord was of a different nature. Other people would not be able to do the same. He prayed so much at night that his feet would become swollen. When he was asked that since he was such a favoured servant and messenger of God, why did he put himself to so much trouble, he would answer: “Shouldn’t I then be His grateful servant?”

We are not clear about our connection with the Prophet (sws) and neither is there an effort to understand his mission. People celebrate his birthday through the ‘Īd Milad al-Nabi and think that they have fulfilled their obligation for belonging to the ummah of the Prophet (sws). This is deceiving oneself. A previous chapter has covered the rights of the Prophet (sws) in depth and we have tried to present an overview of the kind of life he loved best. To prove that one is a devout and loyal Muslim, it is necessary to fulfill every one of the Prophet (sws)’s rights in the manner in which it should be fulfilled. The noble example set up by him should be emulated in our lives, our homes and our societies. It should be remembered that God judges our beliefs and deeds on the principles He has made for us. He will not see what we liked or did not like. He will not use our deeds as the reference point.

With the greatest of mercies of God Almighty and the blessings He has bestowed on me, this book has come to an end. I do not have the words to express my gratitude to my Lord. Without His support and help, an ignorant person like me would not have been able to pick up his pen to write a biography of this great Messenger. May God Almighty accept this humble effort.


(Translated by Nikhat Sattar)




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