Prophet Muhammad SAW: The Humble Leader

Humility: The Essence of Greatness

Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, a French political philosopher and social critic, said, “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

This reminded us of the building of the first mosque in Madinah: The Prophet had recently completed a tiring and stressful journey, but when he saw his people enthusiastically laying bricks for the mosque, he insisted he would join them; thus, laying the foundations of a society in which nobody’s status was too high, and no work was too menial.

Through his actions that day, he taught his people enduring lessons on equality, companionship, and respect:

Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is the one who is the most righteous of you (Al-Hujurat 49:13).

Sharing Chores and Errands

The Prophet ate with his people, he shared the same bread and drank from the same flask. When his people went hungry, he starved too.

He lived with his Companions as one of them and their problems were his own: He laughed with them when they were happy, and he cried with them when they were sad.

On the battlefield, he was always with his soldiers, and at home he helped his wives with their chores.

He could have had luxury, yet he slept on a crude straw mat and prayed on the bare earth.

The Prophet SAW was once traveling with a group of people, and it was time to rest and cook food. As work was divided and everybody was assigned a task, the Prophet insisted he would contribute too and began to collect firewood.

His Companions argued that there was no need for the Prophet to work; after all, he was the Prophet of God, how could they let him collect firewood!

But he remained adamant saying that since he was part of the traveling party, he too would participate in the work to be done, for he hated to be privileged (Al-Mubarakpuri, 1979).

Truth & Honesty

For most of his followers, the high status of the Prophet SAW is unquestionable. While he lived, he was considered even by his detractors to be a man of truth and honesty.

The genuineness of the message he bought was authenticated by the millions who accepted the new faith he preached with such great passion, willing to sacrifice all they had for their religion and for the man who led them to it.

He was their leader not just in all spheres of life in this world but in the life of the hereafter too, a man of religion, a general, a father, an elder brother, a husband, a friend, and also a Prophet of God.

He could have used this passion that his followers had for him in whatever manner he pleased. And he could have had luxury and deserved it too.

Yet he slept on a crude straw mat that left his back marked, he prayed on the bare earth which left his forehead stained, and he wore clothes that had torn many times over and that he himself had mended. (Al-Bukhari).

Another wonderful example of the Prophet’s humility occurred at the signing of the treaty of Hudaibiyah between the Muslims and the leaders of Makkah at the time.

Making Compromises is a Tough Call

The Muslims, led by the Prophet, had journeyed toward Makkah in order to perform the pilgrimage at the Ka`bah, but the leaders of Makkah did not want this to happen.

To prevent the impending conflict, the Prophet agreed to a treaty with the leaders of Makkah that stipulated the Muslims to go back that year without entering Makkah; however, they would be given the right to enter Makkah for three days every year for the next 10 years.

This treaty, especially some of its other clauses, were seen as a step backward by many Muslims who felt that there was no need for them to compromise when they had both political strength and military prowess, but the Prophet wanted to avoid unnecessary violence and agreed to the treaty.

One incident that highlights the Prophet’s modesty occurred at the actual signing of this treaty: He was mentioned in the document as “Muhammad, the Messenger of God”, a fact that the leaders of Makkah took offence to, saying that if they had recognized the Prophet as the Messenger of God, there would have been no need for the treaty at all.

Tempers flared in the Muslim camp, this was too much of an insult.

The Prophet SAW, however, reacted calmly and wisely. He could neither read nor write and so asked a Companion to show him where his name was written. He then asked for the part “Messenger of God” to be removed and had his father’s name written instead. (This was a common way of referring to people at the time).

He was simply “Muhammad son of Abdullah” (Al-Mubarakfuri 1979).

Gentleness Sets the True Leader Apart

On another occasion, a man new to the Muslim gathering came to visit the Prophet SAW.

The man was filled with awe that made him nervous and anxious; this was natural for the man as his belief told him he was visiting the Prophet of God and the leader of the powerful Muslim nation.

When the Prophet SAW realized the man’s uneasiness, he comforted him saying:

“Brother, don’t be afraid; relax and be at ease.
I am not a great monarch or king.
I am only a son of a lady who ate cured meat.” (Ibn Majah).

He SAW preached the word of God and continued to conquer the hearts and souls of millions.

But even today he is remembered, by the same title he insisted be used when he was alive. This title is simply `Abd Allah (Arabic for the Slave of God).

What Gandhi Said

Gandhi had this to say:

I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind…. I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.

SOURCE: Author: Sariya Contractor