The Exemplary Personality of the Prophet (sws)
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

We Muslims  have been asked to follow the Prophet (sws). Can you shed some light on his exemplary conduct?


In the towering personality of the Prophet (sws), human attributes reached their pinnacle. For more than six decades, he graced this world, and throughout this period his character remained immaculate. The following words of the Qur’ān bear ample testimony to the lofty stature of his personality:

And you are at an exalted standard of character. (68:4)

The Prophet (sws), in his life adopted the principle in which good deeds are done towards fellow human beings irrespective of the attitude they adopt in return. It was this high moral character which, in the words of the Qur’ān, became an example for the Muslims:

You have indeed in the Prophet of Allah an exemplary character. (33:21)

It is said that ‘No man is a hero to his valet’; yet the personality of the Prophet (sws) was a glaring exception to this principle. The closer a person came to his person, the greater was his testimony regarding his nobility. In the short space of an answer, it is very difficult to encompass all the facets of his personality. I will confine myself to citing the views of three people of his own times: Khadījah, his first wife. Anas (rta), his personal attendant and Abū Sufyān when he was a great enemy of Islam

After he received his first revelation at the age of forty, he first of all made it known to Khadījah. Her remarks at his apprehensions were: ‘No it will not be so I swear by God; He will never make you sad for you are kind to your relatives, you speak the truth, you are faithful in trust, you bear the affliction of the people, you spend in good works what you gain in trade; you are hospitable and you assist your fellow men.

Anas (rta), says that never once in ten years of his service did the Prophet (sws) ever scold him on some error by saying: ‘Why have you done this?’ or reprimanded him on forgetting to do something by saying: ‘Why have you not done this?’

When Abū Sufyān was called to the presence of the great Roman emperor Heraclius, he was minutely questioned by the monarch about the Prophet (sws). In spite, of being one of the greatest enemies of Islam at that time, he could not point a finger to the Prophet’s integrity. Here is an account of the conversation between him and Heraclius which shines with the brightness of the midday sun among the testimonies of a foe of Islam:

Narrated ‘Abdullāh bin ‘Abbās (rta); Abū Sufyān Ibn Harb informed me that Heraclius had sent a messenger to him while he had been accompanying a caravan from Quraysh. They were merchants doing business in Syria at the time when Allah’s Prophet had truce with Abū Sufyān and the Quraysh. So Abū Sufyān and his Companions went to Heraclius at I^lyā (Jerusalem). Heraclius called them in the court and he had all the senior Roman dignitaries around him. He called for his translator who, translating Heraclius’s question said to them: ‘Who amongst you is closely related to that man who claims to be a Prophet?’ Abū Sufyān replied: ‘I am the nearest relative to him [amongst the group]’.

Heraclius said: ‘Bring him [Abū Sufyān] close to me and make his companions stand behind him.’ Abū Sufyān added: ‘Heraclius told his translator to tell my companions that he wanted to put some questions to me regarding that man [the Prophet] and that if I told a lie they [my companions] should contradict me.’ Abū Sufyān added: ‘By Allah! Had I not been afraid of my companions labelling me a lair, I would not have spoken the truth about the Prophet (sws). The first question he asked me about him was:

‘What is his family status amongst you?’

I replied: ‘He belongs to a good (noble) family amongst us.’

Heraclius further asked: ‘Has anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same (ie 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 are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.’ I could not find 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 was the outcome of the battles?’

I replied: ‘Sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we.’

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 speak the truth, to be chaste and to keep good relations with our kith and kin’.

Heraclius asked the translator to convey to me the following:

‘I asked you about his family and your reply was that he belonged to a very noble family. In fact all Prophets come from noble families amongst their respective peoples. I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you claimed such a thing, your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following the previous man’s claim. Then I asked you whether anyone of 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 said, 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 Prophets have been followed by this very class of people. 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 you whether there was anybody, who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded his religion. Your reply was in the negative, and indeed this is [the sign of] true faith, when its delight enters the hearts and mixes with them completely. I asked you whether he had ever betrayed. You replied in the negative and likewise the Prophets 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 any thing 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 this 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 you, and if I could reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet him and if I were with him, I would certainly wash his feet.’ (Bukhārī: No. 7)

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