Explore Islam - The Prophet -- His Mission and Greatness

The Prophet -- His Mission and Greatness

Michael Hart, the author of The 100, A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History says:

"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious level.....It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity.....It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history."

The Encyclopedia Britannica describes him as "the most successful of all religious personalities of the world."

Alphonse de La Martaine the author of Historie de la Turquie, has written:

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astonishing results are the three criteria of a human genius, who could dare compare any great man in history with Muhammad? Philosopher, Orator, Apostle, Legislator, Conqueror of Ideas, Restorer of rational beliefs.... The founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?"

What was the achievement of the Prophet that prompted so high a praise from such eminent writers?

How the Revelation Led to a Revolution.

Guided by Divine Revelation, Muhammad (peace be upon him) began the preaching of Islam in his fortieth year. At that time, the Arabs were in the depths of ignorance and superstition; a barbarous set of mutually contending idolatrous tribes, who even buried their baby girls alive. But when the Prophet completed his mission in his 63rd year, they had become transformed into a unified nation of cultured people who were ready to make many a sacrifice to help a needy brother. This wonderful transformation of a whole nation would have been impossible if Muhammad (peace be upon him) had not been moved by God. He taught the people the most elementary things of life such as how to wash oneself, as well as the most important affairs of human society, such as how a country should be governed.

Above all, he taught the arrogant chieftains of Arabia how to fall down in submission and abject surrender before the Almighty Allah, the One and the Only Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe. One can imagine how the obligatory prayer of a Muslim FIVE TIMES A DAY, can discipline a person's life and change one's attitude to this material world. Unlike other religions, Islam teaches a comprehensive view of life. The Prophet taught his Companions that both a person's public life and private life should be led in complete obedience to God.

What is so striking about the Prophet's life is that he did not merely preach wonderful principles of life for others, but he himself practiced all that he preached. His life was a model for every one to follow, and so his close companions faithfully recorded and transmitted his life in such a wealth of detail that it runs into dozens of volumes. One can compare this with the very meager accounts of the life of Jesus, for instance, given in the Gospels, from which the actual teachings of Jesus can be taken out and printed in just three newspaper columns if you omit repetition.

A Shining Example
As made clear in the foregoing section, the Prophet himself built the whole edifice of Islam on the basis of the revelation from God. After the Prophet's time, whenever there was a doubt or a question about the Islamic ruling on a matter, his Companions who outlived him or those who came after them constantly referred to the Qur'an (the Word of God) and the record of the example of the Prophet, known collectively as the Sunnah. Even today this is the practice followed by all the scholars of Islam. If a new situation not visualized in the Prophet's time arises, the ruling given by acknowledged scholars should be on those two bases. So, the individual and collective life of the Muslim society should be lived in accordance with the principles laid down in the same sources, namely the Qur'an and the Sunnah, because what we get there is in fact, Divine Guidance.

A Commander Who Swept the Floor and Milked the Ewes
Much has been written on the Prophet's great qualities as evinced by the first hand narrations of his Companions. He was a shining example to his people. As the great historian, Edward Gibbon says: "The Apostle of God submitted to the menial offices of the family: he kindled the fire; swept the floor; milked the ewes; and mended with his own hands his shoes and garments. Disdaining the penance and merit of a hermit, he observed without effort of vanity, the abstemious diet of an Arab".

He was very kind and considerate to the poorest and the lowest. In his private dealings he was just and particularly careful to respect the feelings of others. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak with equity, and was loved by the common people. He was the most faithful in protecting those under his tutelage; he was courteous and sweet in conversation. Those who saw him were immediately filled with reverence; those who came near him loved him. He was accessible to all and at all times. He visited the sick and was full of sympathy for all. Unlimited was his benevolence and generosity as also was his anxious care for the welfare of the community.

Enemies of Islam
In spite of all this, there have been enemies of Islam, who gave terrible caricatures of the Prophet. But the first point to be noted here is that all those attempts to denigrate the character of Muhammad (peace be upon him) were not by his contemporaries, but by those who came later. Anyone who has studied the Prophet's life can see that the charges against him were not based on facts, but deliberately concocted to malign the Prophet, with a view to counteracting his immense influence on the world. They thought that this was the most effective way to stem the tide of Islam against their own corrupt or floundering ideologies.

We know that battles also are a part of our life in this world. Against oppression or the violation of basic human rights or for achieving lasting peace, we are often forced to fight. In such circumstances, when fighting becomes the last option, Islam allows fighting. The Prophet showed humankind the way, and he taught that oppression is worse than fighting. For the first thirteen years of his prophetic life he was in Makkah. There, he and his Companions were subjected to the most inhuman persecution. But he endured all and asked those who wanted to fight to be patient and forbearing. But they were boycotted and driven out of their homes, and they had to emigrate to Madinah where they were received honorably. In Madinah, the Prophet could preach Islam peacefully. But the enemies of Islam could not tolerate this; so they gathered their forces to destroy the Prophet and Islam. This led to the Battle of Badr. When the powerful army of Makkah came, the Prophet did not opt to flee to a more distant city. He stood his ground, and under Divine command he and his Companions fought to protect their freedom of belief and practice, and of preaching Islam, the religion of God. This battle was a real fight for survival and it determined the course of history.

We know that it is because we have, in different parts of the world, groups of people who are ready to fight for justice and truth, that justice and truth prevail. Indeed it is one of the paradoxes of our earthly life, that often we have to fight for peace.

Be True to Yourself, and to God
The Prophet taught his followers always to be truthful and sincere. One of the worst sins of humankind is hypocrisy. We have to have freedom to speak out what we believe to be true. God created all of us free, and dictators or oppressors take away this freedom and cause immense misery to people. The Prophet taught his people to be committed to the cause of freedom, truth and justice. A large number of the problems of the present day world arise from racism, caste system and ethnic rivalry. The Prophet said: "All are the children of Adam, and Adam was from the earth". He decried anyone who claimed superiority on the basis of the color of skin, tribal pride and other man-made barriers. What the Prophet achieved in Arabia was the establishment of a society based on One God, One Humanity and One Religion, which superseded all narrow considerations of clan or color. The Quraysh leader Abu Sufyan, the rich trader Abu Bakr, the Persian immigrant Salman-al Farisi and the African slave Bilal all became brothers in a family of the Ummah, the Muslim community. This transmutation of the ignorant, race-conscious, cantankerous Arab tribes into the civilized citizens of a new Islamic State was less imaginable to anyone than the alchemy of turning base metal into gold.

Prof. Philip K. Hitti writes in "The History of the Arabs":

"Within a brief span of mortal life, Muhammad called forth of unpromising material, a nation, never welded before and laid the basis of an empire that was soon to embrace within its far-flung boundaries the fairest provinces of the then civilized world."

It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote:

"I have always held the religion of Muhammad 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 itself appeal to every age."

If so, isn't it only reasonable for us to study what Muhammad taught, and follow his teachings?


He who does not thank God does not thank people.

Help the oppressed (sorrowful) people and guide those who have lost their way.

God has revealed to me that you must be humble so that no one oppresses another and boasts over another.

The Compassionate One has mercy on those who are merciful. If you show mercy to those who are on the earth, He Who is in the heaven will show mercy to you.

Part of being a good Muslim is his leaving alone that which does not concern him.

None of you becomes a believer until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.

Let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day either speak good or keep silent; and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his neighbor; and let him who believes in Allah and the Last Day be generous to his guest.

A man asked the Prophet:

"Do you think that if I perform the obligatory prayers, fast in Ramadan, treat

as lawful that which is lawful and treat as forbidden that which is forbidden,

and do nothing further, I shall enter Paradise ?"

He said: "Yes."

The Prophet Muhammad said to Wabisa bin Mabad: "You have come to ask about righteousness?" He said:" Yes." Then the Prophet said: "Consult your heart. Righteousness is that about which the soul feels tranquil and the heart feels tranquil, and wrongdoing is that which wavers in the soul and causes disturbance in the breast even though people again and again have given you their legal opinion [in its favor]."

Whoever sees an evil action-- let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith."

Be in the world as though you were a stranger or a wayfarer.

(Explaining the above hadith, the Umar Ibn Abdullah used to say: "At the evening do not expect to live till the morning, and at the morning do not expect to live till the evening. Take from your health for your illness and from your life for your death.")

A person came to the Prophet and said: "Who among the people is most deserving of good treatment from me? The Prophet said: "Your mother". He again asked: "Then who is the next one? The Prophet said: "Again it is your mother" (who deserves the best treatment from you). He asked again: "Then who is the next one?" The Holy Prophet said : "Again, it is your mother". He asked again: "Then who?" Thereupon the Prophet said: "Then it is your father."

Verily Allah does not look to your faces and your wealth but He looks to your heart and to your deeds.

Beware. Every one of you is a shepherd and every one is answerable with regard to his flock. The Khalifa (the ruler) is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects (as to how he conducted their affairs). A man is a guardian over the members of his family and shall be questioned about them (as to how he looked after their physical and moral wellbeing). A woman is a guardian over the household of her husband and his children and shall be questioned about them (as to how she managed the household and brought up the children). A servant is a guardian over the property of his master and shall be questioned about it (as to how he safeguarded his trust). Beware, every one of you is a guardian and every one of you shall be questioned with regard to his trust.

It is obligatory upon a Muslim that he should listen to the ruler appointed over him and obey him whether he likes it or not, except when he is ordered to do a sinful thing. If he is ordered to do a sinful act, a Muslim should neither listen to him nor should he obey his orders.

Whoever likes to be granted more wealth and his lease of life to be prolonged, and then he should keep good relations with his relatives.

A person said to the Prophet: "O Allah's Apostle! What do you think about my good deeds which I used to do during the period of ignorance (before embracing Islam), like keeping good relations with my relatives, freeing slaves and giving alms etc; shall I receive the reward for that?" Allah's Apostle said, "You have embraced Islam with all those good deeds which you did."

The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah's Cause.

The Prophet said, "By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer! By Allah, he is not a believer!" It was asked: "Who is that, O Allah's Apostle?" He answered: "That person whose neighbor does not feel safe from his evil."

The best among you are those who have the best manners and character.

The worst people in the sight of Allah on the Day of Resurrection will be the two-faced people who appear to some people with one face and to other people with another face.

The signs of a hypocrite are three: Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie; and whenever he promises, he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted, he betrays (proves to be dishonest).

A man came to the Prophet and said, "I keep away from the morning prayer only because such and such a person prolongs the prayer when he leads us in it. The narrator added: I had never seen Allah's Apostle more furious in giving advice than he was on that day. He said, "O people! There are some among you who make others dislike good deeds and cause the others to have aversion (to congregational prayers). Beware! Whoever among you leads the people in prayer should not prolong it, because among them there are the sick, the old, and the needy."

The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.

When Allah's Apostle sent Mu'adh bin Jabal to Yemen, he said to him: "Facilitate things for the people (treat the people in the most agreeable way); do not make things difficult for them; give them glad tidings; and let them not have aversion (i.e. to make the people hate good deeds). You should both work in cooperation and mutual understanding, obey each other."

A Bedouin urinated in the mosque, and the people rushed to hit him. Allah's Apostle ordered them to leave him and pour a bucket (full) of water over the place where he had passed urine. The Prophet then said, " You have been sent to make things easy (for the people) and you have not been sent to make things difficult for them."

Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should not hurt his neighbor, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should serve his guest generously, and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should say what is good or keep quiet.

Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to mankind.

If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allah says: 'No vision can grasp Him.' (Holy Qur'an 6: 103) And if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the Unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: "None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allah."

Allah's Apostle used to say at the time of difficulty, "None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Majestic, the Most Forbearing. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the Lord of the Heavens and the Lord of the Honorable Throne.

The Prophet mentioned the following (as Allah's Saying): "If My slave comes nearer to Me for a span, I go nearer to him for a cubit; and if he comes nearer to Me for a cubit; I go nearer to him for the span of outstretched arms.