By Sadia Dehlvi
Jan 24, 2013
As Rabi ul Awwal, the month of Prophet Muhammad’s birth visits us again, it is an occasion to reflect on his life and teachings. Muslims believe the Prophet is a blessing that God has conferred upon humanity, for the Quran declares him as Rehmat al Alameen, mercy for all the worlds.
In just 23 years of his life as prophet, Muhammad united nomadic warring Arab tribes into submission to One God. The revelations of the Quran alone did not transform them for they were largely illiterate. It was essentially the Prophet’s character that appealed to the rough Arabs. After humiliating and battling the Prophet for years, they handed him the keys of their hearts after recognising his qualities of honesty, humility, justice, compassionate and generosity.
Muhammad said’ I have come to perfect noble character’. After his death, when his wife Ayesha was asked of his character, she said,‘ His character was the Quran. He approved of what the Quran approved and disapproved of what the Quran disapproved.’
When someone declared love for the Messenger of God, the Prophet replied, ‘Be ready for poverty’. Love for the poor and associating with them is to follow Muhammad, for, in honouring them, we honour the Prophet. This prophetic legacy of poverty is worth remembering at a time where a good life is increasingly becoming the managed pursuit of pleasure.
Choosing poverty over wealth, Muhammad said, ‘Poverty is my pride’. He slept on the floor on a mattress of stuffed palm fibre and had two pillows in his room for guests. He often remained hungry for days, helped his wives in household chores like cooking and sweeping, mended his own shoes and tattered cloaks. He admonished those who treated slaves unjustly, saying, ‘Let them eat what you eat and wear what you wear’. No silver or gold coin remained overnight in his house, as he would not sleep till he had given it away. He disliked miserliness, and did not approve of giving something shoddy and inferior in charity. He reminded people that the Quran proclaimed, ‘you will not attain righteousness until you spend of what you love’.
In a mystic sense, poverty is also understood as man’s lowliness before God, extending to resignation of Divine will and constant gratitude in the wake of both affliction and bounties.
Similar to all great religious leaders, Prophet Muhammad strived for moral excellence amongst his followers. He taught that the path leading to God consists of kindness, righteousness, patience, forgiveness and moderation. He stressed that women be respected, according a high status to mothers declaring, ‘Paradise lies beneath the feet of Mothers.’
Emphasising purification of the heart he said, ‘Surely in the breasts of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?’ When questioned on virtue, he answered, ‘Ask your heart for a fatwa. Virtue is when the soul feels peace, and sin is what creates restlessness in the soul and rumbles in the bosom.’
On another occasion when asked as to what is the best of Islam, Muhammad replied, ‘The best Islam is to feed the hungry and to spread peace amongst those you know and those you do not know’. He said one’s greatest enemy is the ego, calling the battle against one’s own self, ‘the greater jihad’.
Muhammad said, ‘Adorn yourself with the attributes of God’. The Prophetic model exists in order for us to progress from self-centeredness to move towards God-centeredness, so that we can ultimately become mirrors of the Divine.