After writing the title of this post, I had to sit back and take a deep breath. How can I begin to explain the significance Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has in my life? (Note: ﷺ is an Arabic symbol that translates to “may the peace and blessings of God be upon him.” Muslims say/write this every time his name is mentioned out of respect.) Muslims everywhere look to him as their role model, the exemplar Muslim, the best of all creation, and a mercy to mankind. We have numerous narrations from his life passed down from generation to generation. These narrations not only discuss issues of practice, but also illustrate his beautiful character—a character that Muslims all around the world try to embody.
The Prophet ﷺ played with children and respected women. He walked with his head down out of humbleness and embodied ultimate trust in God. His companions said his face was more radiant than the full moon [Shamaa’il]. He gave people his full attention when speaking with them. He turned his whole body toward them, and made each person feel like his best friend. Imagine that today. The Prophet ﷺ would be that person who never pulled his phone out during dinner. He would never let a text message interrupt his conversation with another person. We all know this is a characteristic that is admired in another human being, to give someone undivided attention, and yet we allow our minds to remain very fragmented.
I remember one evening many years ago, my aunt gathered my cousins and I in her living room. We were told prior to the gathering to prepare something about the Prophet ﷺ and be ready to share what we learned with one another. During my research, I came across the story of Ta’if, and it brought tears to my eyes and sent a chill down my spine.
Ta’if was a town near where the Prophet ﷺ lived. He traveled there to spread the message of Islam after suffering the loss of his beloved wife and uncle. But upon his arrival to the town, he was treated with the utmost disrespect. He was kicked out. In addition to verbal abuse, he was subject to physical violence at the hands of people throwing so many stones at him that his body bled. After coming to a safe place, he stopped and prayed to God. Instead of ranting about the difficulties he faced, the Prophet ﷺ complained of his own weakness to God, as if there was something lacking within him that caused the people of Ta’if to react in such a way. He was afraid that maybe God was displeased with him. On the contrary, God sent angels to the Prophet ﷺ who offered to destroy the town of Ta’if for the grief and pain its people inflicted. However, the Prophet ﷺ declined this offer out of his mercy, that perhaps their offspring would accept Islam. Now 1400 years later, the people of Ta’if are all Muslim.
The character of the Prophet ﷺ shone through with such brightness in that moment. He essentially received a green light from God to allow the angels to destroy the town of Ta’if and everything it contained. But out of his pureness, mercy, and forgiveness, the Prophet ﷺ chose peace over revenge. This is no easy task. Remember this was one of the lowest times of the Prophet ﷺ’s life. He had recently lost his wife, Khadija, the mother of all his children and the woman who supported him after he received the first revelation. He also lost his uncle, Abu Talib, the one who protected him from his enemies in Makkah. While still mourning the passing of these very important pillars in his life, he went to Ta’if and there endured even more pain. Those people kicked him when he was already down. So many of us would have reacted in the opposite way of the Prophet ﷺ. We would perhaps complain to God, ask “why me?” and most likely say many horrible things about the people who mistreated us. The Prophet ﷺ instead looked inward, questioned if there was anything he could do better, and gave those people a second chance.
This sacrifice of the Prophet ﷺ allowed for the spreading of Islam. He will be the only one on the Day of Judgment concerned for people other than himself, just as he was after leaving Ta’if. He loves and cares for the wellbeing of people without having ever met them. This is but one story that comes to my mind when thinking about the beautiful character of my Prophet ﷺ, but books can be and have been written about him and his life, his traits, and mannerisms. For Muslims everywhere, he is the most interesting and most influential man in the world. May blessings and peace be upon the Beloved Messenger of God.