The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)

The Hero Code: The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa)

Qasim Choudhary, USA

© Shutterstock

When we think of heroes, our inner child can’t help conjuring up images of characters like Superman who possess otherworldly abilities. Growing up, like many of us, Admiral William H. McRaven aspired to be Superman and emulate his favourite hero. An early epiphany, however, made it clear to the young Admiral that the hard truth is that Superman is not coming to save the day. In another inspirational book, The Hero Code, Admiral McRaven explores the various qualities true everyday heroes and leaders possess. From the underappreciated nurses working the late-night shift to the teachers tirelessly educating our future generations.

According to McRaven, there is a hero in all of us and to imbibe within ourselves virtuous qualities we need to see them in the lives of others. We need to build those qualities through small steps that eventually become the foundation of our character. [1] Flipping through the various essential qualities of leadership as outlined by Admiral McRaven, the exemplary leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) beamed before my eyes. After all, it is the Prophet Muhammad (sa) who leads the list of the world’s most influential people. [2] Let’s have a look at a few qualities mentioned by Admiral McRaven and see how the Prophet (sa) expressed them in his persona.

1) Humility

‘An able yet humble man is a jewel worth a kingdom’ [3] – William Penn

The Prophet Jesus (as) declared, ‘Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.’ [4] But it is not just Christianity that extols the virtues of humility. The Holy Qur’an tells us that, ‘the servants of the Gracious God are those who walk on the earth humbly.’ [5]

According to Admiral McRaven, ‘humility is the simplest of all heroic qualities to assume, and yet the least expressed.’ [6]

The Prophet Muhammad (sa) was the most excellent embodiment of humility despite the lofty spiritual status God Almighty had bestowed on him. His teachings and actions are replete with adopting humbleness; he would often pray, ‘O God! Keep me humble while I am alive and keep me humble when I die and let my resurrection on the Day of Judgment be with the humble.’ [7]

Commenting on the importance of humility, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) once stated, ‘To be righteous you must be humble. Humility should not only be expressed towards those who are senior in rank in worldly terms, rather humility should be adopted towards those who are weak and poor within society too.’ [8]

Whether it be a person of high standing in society or an ordinary hardworking farmer, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) extended his love and compassion indiscriminately. Adi bin Hatim Tai (ra) who initially opposed the Prophet (sa) but would later go on to embrace Islam mentions a beautiful incident that truly captures the humble disposition of the Prophet Muhammad (sa). Upon his sister’s counsel, Adi (ra) travelled to Madinah and introduced himself to the Prophet (sa). He narrates, ‘The Prophet (sa) was taking me to his house when an old woman met him and stopped him. He listened to this old lady for quite some time. In my heart, I thought that this person did not appear to be a king. When we reached his house, there was a cot, filled with date palm leaves on the floor. The Prophet (sa) spread it with his own blessed hands and told me to sit on it. I requested him to take a seat on the cot, but he insisted that I should sit on it, and he sat on the floor. Calling God as my witness I thought that these are not the manners of a king.’ [9]

Whereas other kings and monarchs desire to induce awe and fear into the hearts of men, it was always the Prophet’s (sa) love and humility that touched the hearts of even the fiercest of enemies. Once a man came to the Prophet (sa) and his voice trembled in awe as he spoke to him. The Prophet (sa) assured him, ‘Fear not, for I am not a despot king, I am only the son of a woman who ate dried meat.’ [10]

Thus, humility is part and parcel of those who soar high in the spiritual realm. As such, the Holy Prophet (sa) urged,

‘Allah has revealed to me that you should adopt humility to the extent that none of you feel pride over another.’ [11]

2) Forgiveness

‘To love means loving the unlovable.

To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.’ [12] – G.K. Chesterton

During the battle of Uhud as the Prophet (sa) wiped away the blood from his brow, he supplicated, ‘O Allah, forgive my people for they know not what they do.’ [13] Imagine the threshold of forgiveness one ought to possess to utter these words on the battlefield where the opposition thirsts for your life. Such virtue is extremely pertinent in the modern age yet difficult to carry out. As McRaven rightfully puts it, ‘The hardest thing any hero can do is to forgive.’ [14] It is for this reason, we can only marvel at the ability of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) to forgive those who hurt him most.

Undoubtedly, a child is the most precious and beloved gift for parents. We wince at the slightest pain our children endure. Imagine, however, the strength required to pardon one who martyrs your child. The mere thought of forgiving someone who causes such extreme pain is unfathomable.

Hazrat Zainab (ra) who was the eldest daughter of the Holy Prophet (sa) was migrating to Madinah while she was pregnant. On route, she was savagely attacked with a spear causing her to fall from her camel to the ground. As a result of this attack, she suffered a terrible wound deep inside her stomach. The same wound would, later on, be the cause of her death. Habbar bin Aswad, the main perpetrator, was sentenced to death for the wound he inflicted on Hazrat Zainab (ra). Astonishingly, however, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) pardoned the murderer of his beloved daughter when he asked for forgiveness at the time of the conquest of Makkah. [15]

Many want to harness their anger and outrage at being wronged only to use it as a missile to flatten their perpetrators. We believe that retribution, at all costs, will bring us peace. If this were the case, the Holy Prophet (sa) should have rightfully unleashed on his enemies thirteen years of pent-up pain and anger. From various assassination attempts to the brutal slaughter of his loved ones, his adversaries stopped at nothing to cause him torment. The response, however, of the Holy Prophet (sa) towards those who exiled him was the same merciful words uttered by Prophet Joseph (as) to his wicked brothers:

لَا تَثۡرِیۡبَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡیَوۡمَ

‘No blame shall lie on you this day’ [16]

These four words brought unexpected solace to the disbelievers who, in their eyes deemed themselves condemned to death owing to the atrocities wrought by their hands. Through these four words, the Holy Prophet (sa) conveyed to us that although forgiveness will never be easy and it takes a strong person to forgive. But the act of forgiving will strengthen our character immeasurably and it will rid us of the hatred that is the demise of so many good men and women.

3) Humour

‘Humour is mankind’s greatest blessing.’ [17] – Mark Twain

We don’t need someone to tell us the benefits of laughing and its calming effects on our nervous system. [18] It was exactly for this reason, that great leaders like President Abraham Lincoln constantly resorted to humour to combat fear and uncertainty.

As Admiral McRaven states, ‘In the midst of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was known for his sense of humor… He joked so often that he was criticized for not taking the battle losses seriously enough, but Lincoln understood the value of humor. He used humor to soften the blows of defeat, to assuage an angry constituent, to mollify feuding generals, and to bolster the morale of the Union.’ [19]

The Holy Prophet (sa) was seen as kind-hearted and affable amongst his peers. In fact, on occasion, the Holy Prophet (sa) would exchange tasteful jokes and pleasantries with his companions. [20] Likewise, Hazrat Aisha (ra) mentioned that the Holy Prophet (sa) had a sense of humour and was always smiling and cheerful in the house. [21]

In times of upheaval, crisis, and turmoil, humour can give hope like the sun shining through ominous clouds. As McRaven aptly puts it, ‘Great leaders turn to humour as a source of strength for themselves and those that they lead.’ [22]

Accordingly, Hazrat Safinah (ra) relates, ‘We were accompanying the Messenger of Allah (sa) on a journey. Whenever any fellow traveller got tired, he would give his sword, shield, or spear to me to carry and I ended up with a heavy load. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was watching this. He said, ‘You are truly a safinah (boat). You are carrying everyone’s load.’ [23]

Imagine the joy of Hazrat Safinah (ra) upon hearing the lighthearted remarks made to her by the Holy Prophet (sa). It must have rejuvenated her spirit and energy despite the tough circumstances. Like all great leaders, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) understood the power of humour and its efficacy.

These were just a few heroic qualities highlighted by Admiral McRaven. Indeed, the world is in dire need of people who manifest such virtuous qualities. Sadly, the world we live in today is gripped by anxiety, fear, and apprehension. Our inner turmoil and restlessness drive us further into a hopeless abyss. As much as we would wish and hope for Superman to rescue us from the clutches of despair. The hard truth is that Superman is not coming to save you and me. There is, however, a much more real saviour who possesses the power to cure the world of its angst. All we have to do is walk in his shadow and we will be shielded from the dangers that lurk.

وہ پیشوا ہمارا جس سے ہے نُور سارا

نام اُس کا ہے محمدؐ دلبر مرا یہی ہے

‘That guide of ours, with whom everything is illumined,

His name is Muhammad (sa) he is my beloved.’ [24]

About the Author: Qasim Choudhary is a graduate of the Ahmadiyya Institute of Languages and Theology in Canada, and serves as an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in the United States of America.


[1] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p. xiv-xv

[2] The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Person in History, Michael Hart, p.3, Carol Publishing Group, 1993

[3] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.16

[4] Matthew 23:12

[5] The Holy Qur’an, 25:64

[6] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.24

[7] Tirmidhi, Kitab Al-Zuhd & Life of Muhammad, p.223

[8] Friday Sermon, October 4, 2019

[9] Muhammad (sa) The Perfect Man, by Hafiz Muzaffar Ahmad, pg.398-400 (Eng. Translation)

[10] Ibn Majah, Kitab Al Atama

[11] Ibn Majah, Kitab Al Zuhd

[12] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.141

[13] Ibn Majah, Kitab Al-Fitn

[14] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.142

[15] Friday Sermon, September 23, 2016

[16] The Holy Qur’an, 12:93

[17] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.118

[18] Kuiper NA, Martin RA. Laughter and stress in daily life: relation to positive and negative affect. Motiv Emot. 1998;22:133-153.

[19] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.129-130

[20] Tirmidhi, Kitab-Al-Bir Wa-Silla

[21] Sharah Mawahibul Ludunya, vol.4, p.253

[22] McRaven, William H. The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, Grand Central Pub, 2021, p.131

[23] Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal, Vol. 5, p. 221

[24] Durre Sameen, p.49 [2002]