The Life of Perfection (Shamayal of Rasulullah saws) Among the People
By Dr. Abidullah Ghazi
Executive Director; IQRA International Educational Foundation
Chicago , IL
Rasulullah saws was a public figure easily accessible to people, men and women, most of the time. The mission of the Prophet and Messenger is to invite people to the way of Allah swt using all means at his disposal. In Makkah Rasulullah saws called people to Islam from the mount of Safa, he invited them to dinner, visited Ukaz Fair and in all public areas. In Madinah he was most of the time available in Masjid al-Nabi and also found time to visit friends and meet people in public areas. Here is a description about his meeting people in the Masjid al-Nabi.
Listening with respect: The Companions of Prophet Muhammad saws had utmost respect for him. He was their prophet, teacher, guide and friend. They sat with respect, spoke with consideration, and listened to him with full attention. It is reported:
“The companions sat in the company of the Prophet with perfect calmness and composure, as if birds were sitting on their heads and would fly away if they moved or spoke aloud.”
The Prophet’s assembly was not the court of an emperor but the classroom of the Messenger of Allah. It had simple dignity. People were seated on the ground or on mats around him. When more people came to attend such meetings, an elevated platform was made of mud so that people who were seated in the back could see him.
First in greeting: The Messenger of Allah always tried to be first in greeting others and said, “Assalam-u-Alaikum,” first. He would shake hands and continue to hold the other person’s hand until the other person would withdraw it.
When someone came to visit him, he would shake his hands and hold them to show his consideration and affection for the visitor.
Time for sermons: The Prophet met the Companions informally most of the time. He led five daily prayers. Sometimes, for the general benefit, special times were arranged for special teachings. Announcement was made and people were told in advance to attend them.
Everyday conversation: The Messenger of Allah did not like to preach all the time. He participated in the general conversation of his Companions.
Equal attention: The Prophet paid equal attention to everyone. People came to him with all kinds of problems. He took full interest in the personal problems of people. Sometimes old women and slaves stopped him on his way to discuss something. He stopped and patiently listened to them. When the conversation was long he would sit on one side of the street to give them sufficient time. He listened to everyone patiently and would not be the first person to leave.
In assembly, when the Prophet spoke, everyone calmly and respectfully listened to him. He turned his face in different directions to pay attention to everyone. When someone else spoke to him, he heard him patiently. All other Companions also listened quietly. Sometimes people unintentionally raised their voices in discussion. Allah sent a revelation to forbid such conduct. Allah swt said:
“Oh Believers, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, do not shout in speaking to him as you (sometimes) shout in speaking to each other. In case your good deeds may be made worthless, while you may not even know.
Indeed, those who subdue their voices in the presence of the Prophet are such persons whose hearts are proven into righteousness. For them there is forgiveness and great reward.” (Al-Hujurat)
Unpleasant talks: The Prophet didn’t interrupt others’ speech. If he did not like it, he ignored it. Occasionally, when some uninitiated Bedouins said something he did not like, he tolerated it without anger. Sometimes, he would politely correct the speaker and inform him his mistake. When he heard something pleasant and correct, he appreciated it and showed his approval.
Honor for the leader: When a leader of the tribe came to visit the Messenger of Allah, he showed him great respect. He said:
“Honor the leader of every people. Because the leaders of people represent the people and by honoring them one honors all their people.”
Do not backbite: If there were disputes or complaints of general concern, the Prophet would listen to them and try to settle them. He condemned backbiting and did not approve of the unfair criticism of his Companions by anyone. Sometimes this was done to gain his favor or to change his opinion toward someone. He forbade his Companions to criticize even the so-called Muslims who were known for their hypocrisy.
The Prophet had instructed his Companions not to bring to him unfair complaints or criticisms of other Companions. He used to say, “When I leave this world I want to go with a clean heart.”
Personal needs inquired: The Messenger of Allah always asked about people’s personal needs. He would help if he could or he asked others to help the needy brother. There were shy, helpless people who did not come to him for their needs. He would ask others if they knew such people who had needs and were not present. He would find such people and see that their needs were met.
The purpose of meetings: The purpose of meetings of the Prophet was to teach people the divine knowledge and worldly wisdom to lead a pure and simple Islamic life. He did not always talk about the Hereafter or religious matters. He spoke as the occasion arose.
General conversation: Sometimes the Messenger of Allah participated in whatever conversation people were having at the time. He advised them only if his advice was needed. People sometimes told stories of the past, recited poetry, presented their personal problems and asked religious questions.
Enjoyed humor: The Prophet, on occasion, made some humorous remarks. He also enjoyed the humor of others. However, even in his humor he always told the truth. These humorous remarks cheered the audience but did not make the meeting a place of fun and frolic. It was a place of learning and understanding.
Smile: The Prophet smiled a lot but did not laugh out loud. His Companions also followed his example and refrained from bursting into laughter on any amusing occurrence.
Seated with humility: The Prophet was always seated with a posture which showed both his humility and his identification with the common man. His favorite sitting position was while holding his arms around both his knees. Sometimes he squatted with his weight on his feet, or sat in a more comfortable position with his legs folded sideways.
Latecomers: People sat on the floor in the assembly of the Prophet, who advised latecomers to sit wherever they found room and not jump over a seated person to find a place closer to him. When went someplace, he preferred to sit in any convenient place and not at the most central place.
The purpose of the platform: Before the building of the elevated platform for him, the Messenger of God had no fixed place to sit. The platform was made for the convenience of his Companions and not to show his distinction. Even after the building of a platform, he continued to sit at any convenient spot in the mosque to conduct his everyday dealings.
Regal manners not approved: The Messenger of Allah did not approve of people standing up to honor him. He did not like people to stand before him with folded hands. It was a custom of the imperial courts, and he criticized it. For those who desired such regal treatment to impress others he remarked:
“The persons who desire that people should stand to honor them with hands folded on their chests should seek their place in Hell.”
Standing out of respect or love: One is permitted to stand up to receive someone out of respect and love. The Prophet used to stand up to greet his daughter, Fatima. He kissed her forehead when she came in.
Once, Halimah Sa’adiyah (his foster-mother) came to visit the Prophet. He stood up to receive her and spread his own cloak for her to sit on.
There are several other occasions when the Prophet stood up to greet someone to honor him by this special treatment. Such behavior was dictated by his love and personal consideration for the visitor.
First in greeting: The Prophet Muhammad tried to be the first in greeting people with Assalam-u-Alaikum (Peace by upon you). If some other person greeted him first he replied with Wa Alaikum Al-Salam (and upon you be peace as well).
The impact of his personality: Words are insignificant, even meaningless, if they are not used for communication with others. Words find new effect and meaning when one speaks from personal experience and out of sincerity. The personality of the speaker is a great contributing factor in making the speech effective.
The Prophet’s personality was, of course, the greatest factor in making his teachings effective. First of all, he spoke with the authority of a revelation. Secondly, he was himself a prime practical embodiment of his teachings. Thirdly, he had no personal or selfish motive but was absolutely sincere. Finally, he spoke with beautiful and powerful language. Allah had given him the gift of Jami` Al-Kilam (the gift of effective and meaningful speech).
Effect of his company: People had special feelings of piety when they were with him. Fear of Allah touched their hearts and they had a feeling of holiness and piety. That feeling could not be maintained very long when they left his company.
Abu Hurariah (R) told the Prophet, “When we are with you, Ya, Rasulullah, the whole world appears insignificant. When we are at home with our family the situation changes.”
The Prophet answered, “If you people remained in the same condition, the angels would come to visit you.”
This change in the inner condition disturbed some Companions. Hanzlah (R) felt that this change was perhaps due to his lack of sincerity. He got worried, thinking that he was not a sincere Muslim but perhaps a munafiq (hypocrite). Thus, one day he went to the Prophet in great distress. He said:
“Ya Rasulullah (S), I have become a munafiq (hypocrite). When I am with you and hear from you about paradise and hell, I see these things as real with my own eyes. When I am with my family I forget everything.”
The Messenger of Allah gave him the same answer he gave to Abu Hurairah (R), “If your condition remained the same after you left here, the angels would come to shake hands with you.”
Show of affection: Prophet Muhammad saws loved children. He showed his affection to them in many ways. He would hug them and pat them on their backs. He touched their heads with affection, combing their hair with his fingers. He liked to hold little children in his arms. He made funny faces (such as sticking out his tongue) to please the little children. When he was lying down, he seated them on his legs or chest.
Games with children: He loved to play with children. One of his favorite sports was to make the children stand in a straight line. Then he would stand at a distance, spread his hands, and tell them while running to them: “Come running to me. Whoever touches me first will get a prize.”
All the children ran to him. In their efforts to be the first to touch him, they would fall all over him. He enjoyed this sport, gave prizes to the winners, and hugged and kissed the participants.
Children loved him: Whenever the Messenger of Peace passed by the children, he tried to be the first in saying Assalam-u-Alaikum. When he was riding he would give children rides on his camel or donkey.
He was very popular with children. When they saw him, they would start running towards him. He would warmly greet them, pick them up, hug them and kiss them. He always tried to give them dates, fruit, and sweets to eat.
Love for grandchildren: The Prophet loved his grandchildren, Hasan and Husain, and Umamah, and enjoyed playing with them. Although everyone showed extreme respect to the Prophet, little Hasan and Husain were very free with their grandfather. When he offered prayers, they offered their prayers with him. Sometimes they would leave their prayers and climb up on him.
Sometimes, the Prophet made a longer sajdah (prostration) to allow Hasan and Husain time to move away. Sometimes he would support them with his hand and stand up.
He liked to carry them on his shoulder. He humorously called this a camel ride.
Love for Little Anas: Anas came to work for the Prophet when he was eight years old. He served the Prophet for ten years. Anas reported:
“Rasulullah (S) never admonished or ridiculed me for anything. If some member of his family was angry with me for some reason, the Prophet told him, ‘Leave Anas alone. If something is destined to happen it does happen.’ “
Forgetful Anas: Young Anas spent most of his time in the service of the Prophet. Once the Prophet asked him, “Anas will you do me a favor?”
Anas replied naughtily: “No, I shall not.”
Though he said so, he in fact, intended to do whatever the Prophet asked of him.
The Messenger of Allah knew that Anas was being naughty. So he asked Anas to go and do a job for him. As Anas went out, he forgot about the job and joined the other children in their game.
The Prophet waited for some time. Then he came out looking for Anas. He saw Anas all absorbed in the game. Quietly he came from behind Anas, caught him by his hair, and gently pulled. Anas turned around and saw the Prophet Muhammad standing behind him and smiling. Anas suddenly remembered that he was supposed to do a job for the Prophet.
The Prophet asked Anas: “Did you go where I sent you?”
Anas was embarrassed. He replied: “Right away, Ya, Rasulullah (S). I will go there right now.”
Then Anas left to do the work the Prophet Muhammad had asked him to do.
Consideration for babies: He was always very pleased to see mothers caressing and loving their children. He once said: “When Allah blesses someone with children and they give their children love and they meet their parental obligation, Allah makes them safe from the fire of Hell.”
Clear and concise speech: The Prophet Muhammad spoke clear and concise language. He spoke with utmost clarity. Anas reported that:
* The Prophet sometimes repeated his point three times to make it clear.
* Sometimes his silence was long.
* He did not deliver long discourses but made short speeches.
* He did not lose his temper or show anger.
* He did not shout and shriek.
Speech with ease: A’ishah (R) reported that the Prophet conversed with such ease that if someone wished, he could count the words.
Each subject distinct: A’ishah (R) also reported to the Companions of the Prophet that the Prophet’s speech was not like their speech - fast and continuous. It was slow and clear. Each subject was distinct from the other subject. His listeners understood him with perfect clarity and could memorize what he said.
Making hand gestures: The Prophet Muhammad sometimes used hand gestures in conversation. Hind Abi Halah reported, “When the Messenger of Allah pointed at something he pointed with full arm; he expressed surprise by turning his hand; to stress a point, he pressed the thumb of his right hand on the palm of left hand.”
Approval and disapproval: Hind Abi Halah reported:
“While conversing with others, the Messenger of Allah showed his approval of something by a smile and look downward. He showed his disapproval of
something by looking away from the person.”
Lectures: When the Prophet delivered a speech in the mosque he stood, supporting himself with his staff. When he spoke on the battlefield, he stood supported on his bow.
He conversed almost daily on some subject. He spoke more formally on alternate days. On special occasion, he called special meetings by announcing them in advance.
Pure Arabic speech: Before his prophethood the Messenger of Allah was not known for excelling in the art of speech. Oratory, poetry, and storytelling were the attributes of a man of learning in Arab society. Though only very few people in Arabia knew how to read and write, everyone tried to have excellence in speech.
The custom of the Quraish to send children to wet nurses in the desert villages was primarily to have their initial training in the pure Arabic language. The language of Makkan metropolis was influenced by many languages and dialects. The normal time of two to four years that the child lived with the wet nurse was the formative period in which he learned his initial Arabic vocabulary and developed a pure Arabic accent.
The Prophet stayed for four years with Halimah (R), who belonged to the tribe of Sa’ad Ibn Baker of Hawazin. This tribe was famous for its pure and chaste Arabic.
The Messenger of Allah emphasized his heritage of Arabic in these words: “I am most fluent in speech amongst you, I am from the tribe of Quraish and my speech is the speech of the tribe of Sa’ad Ibn Baker.”
This emphasizes the aspect of his heritage and training in the language. Early training and heritage of family are two important aspects of one’s future role in life.
The Prophet was born, however with a special gift of meaningful speech. This gift was evident only partially before his prophethood as he was known to be a gentle, soft spoken, conciliatory person. He did not use his speech in any public leadership role. The divine gift of speech assumes its full significance with the beginning of his prophetic mission.
Before the first experience of revelation the Prophet was known by the titles of Al-Sadiq (the truthful) and Al-Amin (the trustworthy). These titles pertained to the integrity of his character and not to his proficiency in speech. It was indeed the experiences of Revelation - the squeezing of the arm the close embrace of Jibril, of powerful physique Shadid Al-Quwa - that opened both the Prophet Muhammad’s heart and also his tongue.
The Prophet Muhammad described his speech thus: “I am the most fluent in speech among the Arabs. I am born with the gift of simple, meaningful speech.” (Jawa-mi al-Kalam).
His speech was thus a special gift of Allah. It was simple, lucid, and extremely effective. He talked with the Companions all the time; most of his speech was teaching and many times he repeated himself, but we know how attentively the Companions listened to him and how deeply they were influenced by his discourses.
Style of sermons: His sermons were both simple and sincere. His experience of the divine was expressed through his emotions and words. When, therefore, he enjoined people to do good and fear Allah to save themselves from the punishment of the grave and the fire of hell, it touched the hearts of people and many times they wept openly.
His purpose was to reach the souls of the people, to cleanse and soften them to make them obedient to Allah’s commandments. His concern was to fulfill his prophetic duty to Allah, to transform his Ummah into great moral force here and to save it from the wrath of Allah.
It is reported: “In his speeches he spoke forcefully. His voice was raised and his eyes turned red.”
Body language: His body language at the time of speech was also important. “He constantly waved his hand as if raising the moral of an army before a battle. His body moved constantly and one could even hear the cracking sound of his bones. He sometimes closed his fist and then opened it.”
Abdullah Ibn Umar reported about one such Khutbah (sermon). He said, “Rasulullah (S) said, ‘When God Almighty will hold both heaven and earth in his hands,’ saying this he closed his fist then opened it. In speech his entire body would bend first to one side then to the other. When I looked at the pulpit it was shaking so fiercely that I feared it might collapse.”
Occasion of his sermon: The Prophet Muhammad gave sermons on alternate days. The sermons of two Eids and Fridays were on fixed dates and times, so they attracted large audiences. On other special occasions he just stood up and gave extemporaneous speeches without any special preparation.
He spoke from the Masjid platform, in the plains and valleys, and from the top of the hills, from the elevated stage and from the camel’s back. He addressed people in times of peace, inviting to Tawhid (Oneness of God), social justice and to fear the day of judgment and in the thick of battle, enjoining them to have faith in Allah and to become his fearless soldiers. The impact of the sermon on his audience was always great.
The simple words he spoke to the fleeing Muslims at the Battle of Uhad and the Battle of Hunain turned the tide in their favor. The battles, which had almost been lost, were won after his words reached the ears of Muslims and they rallied to his call.