The character of the Prophet (Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam) - Part1
by Shaykh Ahmed Abdul Mujeeb Qasmi Nadvi (translated by Muhammad Owais Jafrey)
Shamaa’il is a comprehensive Arabic word. It means temperament, disposition, and nature, attributes of character, grace and charisma of personality. Historians and biographers writing about Prophet (SAW) have encompassed all aspects of his great personality. Some have gone to the painstaking minute details of even counting his gray hairs. There is no other person in human history whose life has been so thoroughly scrutinized by followers and foes like that of our beloved Prophet (SAW). Unlike all men of historical importance, or those who made history, his (SAW)’s private and personal life is like an open book. Non-Muslim writers, who are objective and unbiased have acknowledged that he (SAW) was unique and unsurpassed in merit, superior in wisdom and intellect and most exalted in his undisputed leadership. Let me quote just a few opinions of celebrated Western orientalists.
Michael H. Hart writes: “My choice of Muhammad [SAW] to lead this list of world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Of humble origins, Muhammad [SAW] founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.”
J. H. Denison wrote: “It is this unparallel combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad [SAW] to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
S.P. Scott says: “If the object of religion be the inculcation of morals, the diminution of evil, the promotion of human happiness, the expansion of the human intellect, and the performance of good works will avail in the great day when mankind shall be summoned to its final reckoning, it is neither irreverent nor unreasonable that Muhammad [SAW] was indeed an apostle of God.”
Alphonse de Lamartine writes: “Philosopher, orator, apostle, and legislator, and warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, and the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire that is Muhammad [SAW]. All regards, all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may ask, is there any man greater than him [Muhammad SAW]?”
Jules Masserman wrote in the Time magazine of July 15, 1974: “…the greatest leader of all times was Muhammad [SAW].”
Montgomery Watt wrote: “Secondly, there is wisdom [in him] as a statesman. The conceptual structure found in the Qur’an was merely a framework. The framework had to support a building of concrete policies and concrete institutions. In the course of this book, much has been said of Muhammad [SAW]’s far sighted political strategy and his social reforms. His wisdom in these matters is shown by the rapid expansion of small state to a world empire, and by the adoption of his social institutions to many different environments and their continuance for thirteen centuries…”
Sir William Muir says: “A remarkable feature was the urbanity and consideration with which Muhammad [SAW] treated even the most insignificant of his followers. Modesty and kindliness, patience, self denial and generosity, pervaded his conduct, and riveted the affections of all round him. He disliked saying “No”. If unable to answer a petition in the affirmative, he preferred silence…”
Sir George Bernard Shaw writes: “If any religion had a chance of ruling over England, nay Europe within the next hundred years, it could be Islam… I have always held the religion of Muhammad [SAW] in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make it appeal to every age. I have studied him – the wonderful and in my opinion far from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Savior of Humanity…I believe that if a man like him is to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness. I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad [SAW] that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today.”
These are just few quotations from the non-Muslim scholars. Imagine what has been, is being and will continue to be written by those who are in Prophet (SAW)’s Ummah. We are in the month of Rabi-ul-Awwal, the month of Prophet (SAW)’s birth, which brings his personality into focus more than in any other month. Remembering him and reminding others about SAW’s personality and teachings can bring us close to that ideal model mentioned in verse 21 of Surah Ahzaab as such:
“The Messenger of Allah is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Him often.”
Praising Prophet (SAW) personality either in prose and poetry demands great care and caution. His (SAW)’s companions took great pains and used similes and metaphors which on one hand expressed their overwhelming love for him and on the other did justice with his (SAW)’s grace and attributes. One of the great poets and companion of Prophet (SAW) Hassaan bin Thaabit(RA) pours out his heart in these two couplets:
“My eyes have never witnessed any one more handsome than you, Yaa Rasul Allah,
no woman has ever given birth to child excelling in grace than you, Yaa Rasul Allah
chaste and pure of any possible flaw and deficiency by birth, it seems though
you have come into being so perfect by your own sweet will, Yaa Rasul Allah.”
The great military genius Khaled bin Waleed (RA) while on an expedition was met by a tribal chief who asked him about Prophet (SAW)’s personality. Khaled (RA) replied that he was not competent to do justice with the description. This increased the chief’s quest for an answer, and he repeated his request to which Khaled replied: “He (SAW) is the reflection of the grandeur of the One (SWT), Who has sent him.” [Al-Mawahib - 248]
Umro bin al-Aas (RA) said: “No one was dear to me and no one commanded more respect in my sight than Prophet (SAW). I was so much spell bound by his awe that never could I dare to look at him full glance. In spite of trying hard, I didn’t get the ability to describe his appearance, because I couldn’t look at him from head to toe to my heart’s content.” [Shifa’ 2:30]
Just like he (SAW) was distinguished among all the Messengers and Prophets, so he (SAW) also excelled all of them in attributes.
Sharfuddin Busairee (RehmA) in his famous Qaseeda-e-Burdah writes: “It is he, who reaches perfection and excellence in all internal and external attributes. The Creator of every soul selected him to be His beloved. He (SAW) is unique in merit and qualities; his grace is indivisible, unrivalled and unequalled, all aspects of beauty have culminated in him to their total and absolute perfection. Where ever one can spot exaltation and beauty, it is but a charity extended from that spring source of grace.” [Zia un Nabi : 439]
Allaama Qartabi said: “Total grace of Prophet (SAW) was not exposed to us by the divine will. Had it been, we couldn’t have then been able to witness it with our limited eye sight. We are totally incapable to see its dazzling intensity.”
Sahih Bukhari and Muslim quote Ber’aa bin Aazib (RA) mentioning Prophet (SAW) as: “His (SAW)’s face was more graceful, and his morals, [manners and etiquette] were more endearing and attractive than all other people.”
Abu Hurairah (RA) as quoted by Imaam Tirmizi, Ahmad and Baihaqi said: “I have never seen anything excelling in beauty than the face of Prophet (SAW). It seemed as though the sun dawns from his blessed countenance.”
Some one asked Ber’aa bin Aazib (RA): “Did Prophet (SAW) face shine like a sword?” He (RA) replied: “No, it was like the moon which is round and for the onlooker has cool light with its soothing, charming and peaceful effect.
Imaam Tirmizi quotes Jaabir bin Samrah, who said: “Once I saw Prophet (SAW) dressed in red in a moon lit night. I repeatedly looked at the moon and Prophet (SAW)’s countenance for comparison and reached the conclusion that his (SAW)’s face excelled in beauty.”
Ka’b bin Malik said: “While in a happy mood, Prophet (SAW)’s countenance resembled the moon.” [Bukhari]
Seeing at his face even once was an enough proof for the one who had insight that he (SAW) was Allah’s Messenger. It had happened many times that a mere sight of Prophet (SAW)’s face changed the heart of disbelievers and they embraced Islam. Abdullah bin Salaam was a leading Jewish scholar of Madinah. He says: “People were swarming out to welcome and see a glimpse of Prophet (SAW), when he came to Madinah. I also decided to go and visit the place he was staying. As soon I saw his [blessed] face, I knew for sure that he (SAW) was Allah’s true Messenger and I immediately embraced Islam.
Ummul Momineen Aa’isha (RAnha) said that whenever Prophet (SAW) used to visit my abode, his features used to stand out emitting light. Ibne Asaakir quotes Ummul Momineen, who said: “Once while sewing at night and I dropped my needle. It was dark; I had no lamp and failed to locate the needle. All of a sudden Prophet (SAW) entered and my Hujra (abode), and it lit up with light and I was able to find the needle.”
I have mentioned just a few attributes of Prophet (SAW)’s grace and beauty attesting to his towering personality. It refreshes the spirit, enhances love and longing for him, which is a part and parcel of faith. Salaam o Darud on our beloved Prophet (SAW), the greatest benefactor of humanity to the degree and count of Allah (SWT)’s own knowledge.
May Allah enable us to realize the importance of the gift of life and the countless blessings we have been bestowed with and utilize our time prudently and wisely and the way it pleases Allah (SWT) and His Messenger (SAW). Aameen!
SWT = Subhanahu Wa Ta'Ala
SAW = Sallallaho Alaihe Wasallam
AS = AlehisSalam
RA = Radhiyallaho anhu
RAnha= Radhiyallaho anha
The Friday Khutbahs are published to enhance your knowledge of Islam. The references of Quran and Hadith are the approximate translation of the Arabic text. The editors have not verified the accuracy of the the English translation. The scholarly reader is encouraged to refer to the original Arabic script if there is any doubt. Kindly notify us if the translation can be enhanced.