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How does the conduct of the Holy Prophet relate to my life in the 21st century?

Allah, our Lord, created human being in the best form and granted him with the blessing of life. The Almighty did not then leave man to go astray. He sent mankind guidance in the form of 124,000 Prophets of truth:

“And verily, We raised in every nation a messenger.” (16:36)

These messengers had come with true guidance to all people in every age. They suffered many afflictions, they led the direction to the right path and they taught man in what manner to make progress in life. There were some who followed their path and there were those who turned away. Allah says:

“Verily, we showed him the right way, then he is either grateful or ungrateful.” (76:3)

Allah provides opportunities for man to develop his intellect and distinguish between good and evil through His Prophets of highest spiritual standing. Each Prophet came for a specific time and a particular nation, but for the last messenger, Allah declares:

“We have not sent you but as a bearer of glad tidings and as a warner to the whole of mankind, but most people do not know.” (34:28)

The Prophet was not meant for one family or tribe, one race or set of people. He was sent to all mankind, to whom, if they turn towards Allah, are good tidings of forgiveness and if they away, as a warning of punishment. The mission of the Holy Prophet was a universal one, not just as guidance for the pagans of Arabia but for the whole of humanity in every age.

Prophethood ended with Prophet Muhammad, the universe shall never see another prophet after him and he is messenger to all until the day of judgement, whom the Quran has addressed as “Messenger of Allah and Seal of the Prophets”.   

The Holy Prophet’s conduct was the ideal, is the ideal and always will be the ideal for humankind. Quran defines him as the ideal example in the following verse:

“Verily, in the messenger of Allah you have an excellent pattern for him who has hope in Allah and the last day and remembers Him much.” (33:21)

This verse conveys to us that the Prophet is the perfect exemplar in the rational, functional, individual, social and dynamic behaviour of a believer. Just as the Prophet’s demeanour was a role model in his life, so it is after him and the Quran makes no exception in this.          

To understand how the Prophet’s way of living relates to us in the 21st century, we must examine every aspect of the Prophet’s character.

We are most fortunate that unlike other religions, we have before us continuous narrations to shed light on every angle of the Prophet’s personality

Ayatullah Nasir Maqarim says in his ‘Tafseer-e-Namoona’ Volume 17, pg 227:

“Today it is the utmost duty among the Muslims, especially among the enthusiastic and faithful youth, that they should study every word of the Prophet’s character, find a dwelling for it in their hearts ad proclaim it as an exemplary ideal for themselves in every aspect of their lives. This is the most significant means of reaching prosperity. This and only this is the key to attaining success and felicity.”

If we honestly make the Prophet’s manner our mode, then his every motion and every rest, his etiquette, his staunch faith, his trust in God, his sincerity, his courage, his devotion, his referring to Allah in every affair and his steady refusal to surrender in the face of oppression, afflictions and tribulations, are all examples for us.

Imam Ali(a.s) instructs us:
“ Follow the mode of life and character of your Holy Prophet because it is the best way of leading a good life. Adhere to his traditions and implicitly obey his teachings because they are the best guide to a noble life.” Nahjul Balagha, Sermon no: 108

In another place in Nahjul Balagha Imam Ali says about Prophet Muhammad:
“From among His Prophets, He has selected him to be His greatest apostle, to be the source of learning and the fountain of knowledge, to be the Divine light to illuminate the darkness of ignorance, with his teachings and to glorify the seat of Islam.” Sermon 106

The Quran has ordered many times that we should follow the Prophet. The best way of relating our life to the Prophet is to follow his example by bowing down in obedience to Allah:
“Say O Muhammad: If you love Allah then follow me; Allah will love you…. Obey Allah and the messenger.” (3:31-32)  

As Imam Ali tells us:
“The friend of Muhammad is he who obeys Allah, even though they may have no blood relationship…” (saying no: 95)

The Quran has made clear to us many aspects of the character of the Prophet. Some are presented here as lessons to be learnt today:

  •   The clearest characteristic of the Prophet has been mentioned many times is that his every word, his every action is for Allah and only Allah.

The Quran states explicitly:
“ Your companion (Muhammad) does not err, nor does he go astray, nor does he speak out of his own desire, it is but a revelation revealed.” (53:2-4)

From this, we understand that whatever the Prophet said was the word of Allah and from the following verse, we understand that every action of the Prophet was for Allah:

“So you (O Muhammad) did not slay them (Kufar) but we slew them and you did not throw the dust but Allah did it…” (8:17)

Allah says :
“Say O Muhammad: Verily my prayer and my sacrifice, my life and death, (all of them) are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.” (6:163)

There was no greater manifestation of a perfect submission to Allah than that of the Holy Prophet. It was due to this very submission to the will of Allah that the Prophet became the “Abd”, Servant of Allah. This position of servitude to Allah has been displayed as foremost to the position of Prophethood itself. In tashahud, we say: I testify that Muhammad is the servant  and messenger of Allah.  

As the Holy Prophet always carried out the commands of Allah in letter and in spirit, no matter how much the odds were against him, he is addressed as Abdullah throughout the Quran.

If we take this lesson from the conduct of the Prophet, with regard to submission to Allah, whether it is an aspect of our individual or social life, today in the 21st century, we can become a page of the Prophets character.

The Holy Prophet spent the first 40 years of his life, including his youth, in a non-Muslim, polytheist and ignorant society. It was a society in which corruption was widespread, good was unheard of and humanity had plunged to the deepest of the deep. In this time, the Prophet did not preach the Kalima, nor did he reveal the Quran. Instead, by way of conduct only, the people were made to acknowledge his superiority in sincerity, honesty and his brilliant manners. It became such that those who would profess to be his bitterest enemies referred to him as al-Amin and al-Sadiq.

Following this exemplar, we too can present our conduct to others  as followers of Prophet Muhammad, in this very age and society. The Holy Quran has mentioned the Prophet’s akhlaq and good nature and has addressed him:

“Verily, you stand on an exalted standard of sublime morality.” (68:4)

In another verse, the geniality of the Prophet is described:

“Thus it is a mercy of Allah that you are lenient to them( the people).” (3:159)

In another verse, we are told of the Prophet’s amiability:

“Have we not expanded for you O Muhammad your breast?” (94:1)     

It was this warmth in character that meant that anyone who came near him, was touched by his reverence and forever became his. This was one of the most important factors in helping the Prophet in his tabligh- his akhlaq.

Let us glance at the Prophet’s leaving of Mecca, in the darkness of the night, how friendless and helpless he was! Yet there was no less courage and endurance in his character.  Now let us take a look at the Prophets un-equalled return to Mecca, 8 years later. It had been on this very soil that the Prophet had been showered by stones, on this very soil his blood had fallen and these very walls had seen him wounded and shelter less, and now he had come with 12,000 companions by his side.

On hearing a companion, Sa’ad ibne Ubadah, utter, “Today is a day of revenge”, the Prophet turned to him and said, “Do not say this, O Sa’ad. Instead, announce that today is a day of mercy. Today such great conduct will be carried out by us towards the Meccans as my brother Yusuf carried out towards his brothers. Then the Holy Prophet quoted this verse:

“He (Yusuf) said: There is no reproach on you today; may Allah forgive you ; and He is the most merciful of the merciful.” (12: 92)

It was due to this great demeanour of the Prophet that the Quran called out to him:

“We sent you not but as a mercy unto the worlds” (21:107)    

These are just a few examples from the Prophet’s life which if we take heed of in this century, we shall never go astray. If we ignore it, we shall become cursed in the eyes of Allah, just as Abu Lahab was cursed.  

To relate ourselves to the Prophet’s conduct today in the best manner, we can turn to Imam Ali’s saying:

“I have not disobeyed  Allah or His Prophet for even one moment of my life” (Sermon 195)

If we take only one element of the Prophet’s life and follow it today, it shall be enough:

“You should follow your Prophet, the pure, the chaste, may Allah bless him and his descendents. In him is the example for the follower and consolation for the seeker of consolation. The most beloved person before Allah is he who follows His Prophet and treads on his footsteps.” (Imam Ali, Sermon 158)

Just as the Prophet was the beacon of light for people then, which led them to become Ammar and Abu-Zar, today we too can follow his shining example to become Miqdad and Suleiman.

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