Character of Muhammad

Character of Muhammad (Sir William Muir) The following description of his person and character is taken from Sir William Muir (Life of Muhammad, pp. 510-13): His form, though little above mean height, was stately and commanding. The depth of feeling in his dark black eyes, and the winning expression of a face otherwise attractive, gained the confidence and love of strangers, even at first sight. His features often unbended into a smile full of grace and condescension. He was, says an admiring follower, the handsomest and bravest, the brightest-faced and most generous of men. It was as though the sunlight beamed in his countenance. His gait has been likened to that of one descending a hill rapidly. When he made haste, it was with difficulty that one kept pace with him. He never turned, even if his mantle caught in a thorny bush; so that his attendants talked and laughed freely behind him secure of being unobserved. Thorough and complete in all his actions, he took in hand no work without bringing it to a close. The same habit pervaded his manner in social intercourse. If he turned in a conversation towards a friend, he turned not partially, but with his full face and his whole body. In shaking hands, he was not the first to withdraw his own; nor was he the first to break off in converse with a stranger, nor to turn away his ear. A patriarchal simplicity pervaded his life. His custom was to do everything for himself. If he gave an alms he would place it with his own hands in that of the petitioner. He aided his wives in their household duties, mended his clothes, tied up the goats, and even cobbled his sandals. His ordinary dress was of plain white cotton stuff, made like his neighbours’. He never reclined at meals. Muhammad, with his wives, lived, as we have seen, in a row of low and homely cottages built of unbaked bricks, the apartments separated by walls of palm-branches rudely daubed with mud, while curtains of leather, or of black haircloth, supplied the place of doors and windows. He was to all of easy access — even as the river’s bank to him that draweth .water from it. Embassies and deputations were received with the utmost CHARACTER OF MUHAMMAD 31 courtesy and consideration. In the issue of rescripts bearing on their representations, or in other matters of state, Muhammad displayed all the qualifications of an able and experienced ruler. What renders this the more strange is that he was never known himself to write. A remarkable feature was the urbanity and consideration with which Muhammad treated even the most insignificant of his followers. Modesty and kindliness, patience, self-denial, and generosity, pervaded his conduct, and riveted the affections of all around him. He disliked to say No. If unable to answer a petitioner in the affirmative, he preferred silence. He was not known ever to refuse an invitation to the house even of the meanest, nor to decline a proffered present however small. He possessed the rare faculty of making each individual in a company think that he was the favoured guest. If he met anyone rejoicing at success he would seize him eagerly and cordially by the hand. With the bereaved and afflicted he sympathised tenderly. Gentle and unbending towards little children, he would not disdain to accost a group of them at play with the salutation of peace. He shared his food, even in times of scarcity, with others, and was sedulously solicitous for the personal comfort of everyone about him. A kindly and benevolent disposition pervaded all those illustrations of his character. Muhammad was a faithful friend. He loved Abu Bakr with the close affection of a brother; Ali, with the fond partiality of a father. Zaid, the freedman, was so strongly attached by the kindness of the Prophet, that he preferred to remain at Mecca rather than return home with his own father. “I will not leave thee,” he said, clinging to his patron, “for thou hast been a father and mother to me.” The friendship of Muhammad survived the death of Zaid, and his son Usama was treated by him with distinguished favour for the father’s sake. Uthman and Umar were also the objects of a special attachment; and the enthusiasm with which, at Hudaibiyya, the Prophet entered into the Pledge of the Tree and swore that he would defend his beleaguered son-in-law even to the death, was a signal proof of faithful friendship. Numerous other instances of Muhammad’s ardent and unwavering regard might be adduced. His affections werein no instance misplaced; they were ever reciprocated by a warm and serf-sacrificing love. In the exercise of a power absolutely dictatorial, Muhammad was just and temperate. Nor was he wanting in moderation towards his enemies, when once they had cheerfully submitted to his claims. The long and obstinate struggle against his pretentions maintained by the inhabitants of Mecca might have induced its conqueror to mark his indignation in indelible traces of fire and blood. But Muhammad, excepting a few criminals, granted a universal pardon; and, nobly casting into oblivion the memory of the past, with all its mockery, its affronts and persecution, 32 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS he treated even the foremost of his opponents with a gracious and even friendly consideration. Not less marked was the forbearance shown to Abdullah and the disaffected citizens of Medina, who for so many years persistently thwarted his designs and resisted his authority, nor the clemency with which he received submissive advances of tribes that before had been the most hostile, even in the hour of victory. Etiquette For Guests With regard to invitations to meals, at homes, etc., Islam teaches that persons who are invited to such functions should accept the invitation; for, participation in such functions promotes mutual goodwill and affection, and a refusal without any valid excuse may adversely affect the maintenance and promotion of friendly relations. But nobody must go to any such function uninvited. If a person who is invited should happen to be accompanied by one who is not invited, the former must obtain the permission of the host before asking his companion in. Guests should not arrive before time. In cases of invitations to meals particular regard must be paid to cleanliness, and everybody should wash their hands before sitting down to eat. Before commencing to eat the grace and blessings of God should be asked. Food must not be devoured in a greedy manner, and everybody must eat of that which is placed nearest to him. The quality of the food must not be criticized, nor must it be praised in a manner which savours of flattery or adulation. All must wash their hands and clean their mouths and pray after the conclusion of the meal, asking the blessings and grace of God for the host and his people, who have been put to trouble and expense in providing the meal. Unless the host requests them to stay on, the guests must not tarry long after the meal but should leave soon after it. (Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad)