A Messenger has come to you from among yourselves.
Your suffering is distressing to him,
he is deeply concerned for you,
and he is gentle and merciful to the believers.
(Surat at-Tawba: 128)
Our Prophet's (saas) Excellent Character
The prophet Muhammad (saas) is a blessed man and greatly honored in Allah's sight. Allah sent him to guide everyone to the right and made him great in the world; he had the kind of moral character that made him the most trustworthy of all human beings, and he was an example to others in his honesty. He was a messenger of Allah whose godliness, good moral character, and disposition were exemplary. His compassion, politeness, subtle understanding, trust in Allah, and patient determination make him a guide for all Muslims.
Ibrahim ibn Muhammad (ra), a grandson of Ali ibn Abu Talib (ra), relates the following information:
In his community, our Prophet (saas) was known as al-Amin (the Turstworthy). His face shed a noble light that convinced everyone who saw it of his honesty. Those who listened to their conscience while speaking with him understood that he was special; they saw many proofs that he was a prophet. He was intelligent and insightful and, due to his excellent character, even the hypocrites asked him to solve their disputes.
Ibn Sa`d gave the following account, which he received from Ibn Asakir (ra), concerning the virtues and goodness that the Companions continually saw in our Prophet (saas):
Ibn Sa`d related the following from ibn Hashim (ra):
Ya`qub ibn Sufyan (ra) and al-Bayhaqi (ra) received the following from Ibn Shihab (ra):
When the Quraysh rebuilt the Ka`bah, they began to argue who would lay the Black Stone (in its original position). Each tribe wished to lay it. Then they said: "Whoever comes from that road, let's appoint him to judge among us." The first to approach was Prophet Muhammad (saas), who was then still a young man. (According to reliable sources, he was thirty-five.) They appointed him arbiter. He said: "Bring a ground cloth." A ground cloth was brought. "Now put the stone on it together," he said. After the stone was placed on the cloth, he said: "Let the eldest man of each tribe come and hold one end of the cloth." They carried the stone to its place in that manner. He then went up and installed the stone he had taken from them. As he grew older, he attracted the love and respect of all. Because of the fame his honesty won him, he was known as al-Amin, the most trustworthy. This was before the revelation had descended upon him.15
Our Prophet (saas) spent his life guiding people to the right path, teaching his Companions and talking with the unbelievers in an attempt to direct them to the right way. As a result, simple Bedouins became good human beings shining with the light of faith. This was a great miracle. Besides his own moral goodness, our Prophet (saas) manifested many kinds of miraculous qualities that were witnessed not only by the Companions, but also by many unbelievers. His miracles were divine proofs to the believers and a means to faith and the right path.
Given that he worked for twenty-three years, fought many battles, dealt with wicked and angry people, and was always in the vanguard of the struggle, it is miraculous that nothing untoward happened to him and that he was not murdered. His extraordinary determination and heroism increased all of his Companions' enthusiasm. It is also miraculous that he was able to plant the roots of the fear of and respect for Allah in his enemies' hearts and to defeat the unbelievers every time. Allah helped him in battle with angels and unseen armies, and so he could scatter hostile armies that were far larger and more powerful than his own:
Yes indeed! But if you are steadfast and have taqwa and they come upon you suddenly, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand angels, clearly identified. Allah only did this for it to be good news for you and so that your hearts might be set at rest by it (help comes from no one but Allah, the Almighty, the All-Wise) (Surah Al 'Imran: 125-26)
Our Prophet (saas) proclaimed Islam very effectively and with determination. As a result, he endured great suffering. Even when he was offered a treasure to stop spreading Islam, he rejected this and many similar proposals. Always paramount in his mind was winning Allah's approval and working for the Muslims and Islam. He always hoped for Allah's help and believed that, with His help, he and the believers would eventually prevail. So, he was always under Allah's protection and never suffered any harm from the unbelievers:
You will have a wage that never fails. Indeed, you are truly vast in character. (Surat al-Qalam: 3-4)
Truly it is the speech of a noble Messenger, possessing great strength, securely placed with the Lord of the Throne, obeyed there, trustworthy. Your companion is not crazy. He [Muhammad] saw him on the clear horizon. Nor is he miserly with the Unseen. (Surat at-Takwir: 19-24)
The great Islamic scholar Imam al-Ghazzali gives an account of the Prophet's excellent moral character, based on the hadiths collected by al-Tirmidhi, al-Tabarani, Imam al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim, Imam Ahmad, Sunan Abu Dawud, and Ibn Majah:
The Prophet was the most patient of men, the bravest, the best judge, and one who pardoned most. He was the most charitable of men. He did not store up the provisions of his family members that Allah was pleased to give him for more than a year. What remained in excess, he used to give in sadaqah. He used to give away in sadaqah to those who begged anything of him, even out of his stored-up provisions.
He used to speak the truth, even though it sometimes caused trouble both to himself and his Companions. He used to accept invitations to weddings, visit the sick and the diseased, and attend funerals. He was the most modest, without pride; his speech was most eloquent, without lengthiness. His constitution was the most beautiful.
He even used to go to distant places to visit the sick, ... sit with the poor and destitute, eat with them, honor those possessing nobility, and advise them to do good deeds and show kindness to relatives. He did not treat anyone harshly and accepted the excuses offered to him. He joked, but spoke the truth.
Our Prophet's (saas) Illiteracy
The Prophet Muhammad (saas) was the illiterate prophet whose coming was foretold in the Torah and the Gospel. When he began relaying the Qur'an to humanity, and until the end of his life, he could neither read nor write. This was one of the most important indications that he was a prophet.
Although they knew that our Prophet (saas) was illiterate, the unbelievers accused him of writing it himself. In response, Allah revealed:
Accordingly We have revealed to you a Spirit by Our command. You had no idea of what the Book was, nor faith. Nonetheless, We have made it a Light by which We guide those of Our servants whom We will. Truly, you are guiding to a Straight Path. (Surat as-Shura: 52)
Were it not for Allah's favor to you … Allah has sent down the Book and Wisdom to you and taught you what you did not know before. Allah's favor to you is indeed immense. (Surat al-Nisa': 113)
The Prophet relayed the Qur'an to humanity, always stating that it was "a revelation from Allah." He mentioned this fact constantly and reminded the people that they had known him for years before Allah blessed him with prophethood:
Say: "Had Allah so wished, I would not have recited it to you. Nor would He have made it known to you. I lived among you for many years before it came. Will you not use your intellect?" (Surah Yunus: 16)
Despite his illiteracy, our Prophet (saas) delivered his religious message very effectively. He knew what was contained in the Old and New Testaments, and Allah gave him knowledge from other holy books and of long-ago societies. During his life, our Prophet (saas) manifested many other wonders. Imam al-Ghazzali writes about the miraculous proofs in his illiteracy:
The character and conduct of the Prophet, his actions, his habits, management of affairs, his treatment of the different classes of people, his showing the straight path to them, his wonderful answers to different difficult and subtle questions, his untiring efforts for the good of people, his good guidance regarding the open laws of Shari'ah; all these matters lead one to the conclusion that these were beyond the power of a man without the help of an unseen hand. It is impossible on the part of a hypocrite or a liar. The people testified on seeing his constitution and qualifications that he was a great truthful man sent by Allah.
The People of the Book knew for certain that the messenger whose coming was predicted in the Old and New Testaments would be illiterate. But the unbelievers spread the lie that our Prophet (saas) wrote the Qur'an himself, regardless of the ensuing inconsistencies in their words. Conflicting dates and differences in how a story is told will certainly come to the surface. Our Prophet (saas), who spoke with eloquence and wisdom, was the most honest, moderate, knowledgeable, and well-mannered man in his community. His intelligence and insight won the admiration and trust of everyone.
Although he did not read the Old or the New Testament, he knew their contents and decrees, as well as the history of past societies, thanks to Allah's revelations. All of those who knew him were aware of this. Our Prophet (saas) had never gone to school to receive an education. Thus, the wisdom contained in the message he preached to his fellow Meccans and others is only one of the miraculous aspects of this blessed person:
You never recited any Book before it, nor did you write one down with your right hand. If you had, the purveyors of falsehood would have voiced their doubts. (Surat al-'Ankabut: 48)
The famous Islamic scholar Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti interprets this verse as follows:
You did not read a book before this, in other words before the Qur'an. You did not write it with your own hand. Had that been so, had you been literate, the adherents of superstitions would have harbored doubts about you and would have said: "The prophet described in the Torah could not read and write." 18
Although everything was so obvious, the unbelievers attacked him, told all sorts of lies about him, and said that he was a human being just like themselves:
Their hearts are distracted. Those who do wrong confer together secretly, asking: "Is this man anything but a human being like yourselves? Do you succumb to magic with your eyes wide open?" Say: "My Lord knows what is said in heaven and Earth. He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." Furthermore, they say: "A muddled jumble of dreams!" and "He has invented it!" and "He is a poet!" (Surat al-Anbiya': 3-5)
But our Prophet (saas) asked for Allah's help and forgiveness, followed His Way, and obeyed His commands:
When Our Clear Signs are recited to them, those who do not expect to meet Us say: "Bring a Qur'an other than this one, or change it." Say (O Muhammad]: "It is not for me to change it of my own accord. I follow nothing except what is revealed to me. I fear, were I to disobey my Lord, the punishment of a Dreadful Day." (Surah Yunus: 15)
The Encyclopedia of Seerah tells how the great knowledge that Allah gave to the Prophet Muhammad (saas) is proof that he was His messenger:
Some Jewish scholars recognize our Prophet (saas)
Jews and Christians, described in the Qur'an as "People of the Book," have some certain corruptions in their beliefs and practices. However, they still follow a religion sent down by Allah. Allah says that the Qur'an was sent down to confirm other holy books:
Believe in what I have sent down, confirming what is with you. Do not be the first to reject it, and do not sell My Signs for a paltry price. Have fear and consciousness of Me alone. (Surat al-Baqarah: 41)
Allah reveals in another verse that some Jewish scholars knew the Qur'an:
It is certainly in the scriptures of the previous peoples. Is it not, indeed, a Sign for them that the scholars of the tribe of Israel have knowledge of it? (Surat al-Shu'ara':196-97)
In his work Al-Asas fi al-Tafsir, the famous Qur'anic commentator Imam Said Hawa states:
It is certain that the Qur'an existed in earlier books. In other words, it is referred to in earlier scriptures, or the senses it contains were transmitted by the prophets of other communities and were present in their books in the manner revealed by Allah, as can be seen in Divine texts.
Jewish and Christian scholars therefore immediately recognized the Prophet Muhammad (saas) as the foretold illiterate prophet (no matter how much they did not want to accept this truth). Allah states in the Qur'an that the People of the Book will recognize our Prophet (saas) as they know their own children, but that some will rebel in spite of this and that those who do not believe in him will be disappointed:
Those We have given the Book recognize it as they recognize their own sons. Yet a group of them knowingly conceal the truth. (Surat al-Baqarah: 146)
Those to whom We have given the Book recognize it as they recognize their own children. As for those who have lost their own selves, they have no belief. (Surat al-An'am: 20)
Allah warns the Israelites in Surat al-Baqarah:
O tribe of Israel, remember the blessing I conferred on you. Honor My contract and I will honor your contract. Have fear and respect of Me alone. Have belief in what I have sent down, confirming what is with you. Do not be the first to reject it, and do not sell My Signs for a paltry price. Have fear and taqwa of Me alone. Do not mix up truth with falsehood and knowingly hide the truth. (Surat al-Baqarah: 40-42)
The only way that our Prophet (saas) could have known of these blessings and the vows they had made to Allah was if the Lord had told him. When the Prophet Muhammad (saas) recited these verses, the wise men of the Israelites recognized him as the messenger for whom they had been waiting. The People of the Book knew who he was and that he spoke the truth due to his way of life and moral character. Allah relates in the Qur'an:
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, commanding them to do right and forbidding them to do wrong, making good things lawful for them and bad things unlawful for them, relieving them of their heavy loads and the chains that were around them. Those who believe him, honor and help him, and follow the Light that has been sent down with him, they are the ones who are successful." (Surat al-A'raf: 157)
The famous Islamic scholar Omer Nasuhi Bilmen interprets this verse as follows:
As we can see, the fact that his coming and the qualities of this blessed person were foretold to the People of the Book is another of the miracles associated with him. Those Jews and Christians who, with faith and common sense, used their conscience to consider what they saw have confirmed this evident truth.
12. Al-Tirmidhi, Shama'il al-Tirmidhi, tr. Muhammad Bin Abdur Rahman Ebrahim (New Delhi: 2000), 12-13
13. As-Suyuti, Tahdhib al-Khasa'is, 237.
14.As-SuyutiTahdhib al-Khasa'is al-Nabawiyyah al-Kubra (The Awesome Characteristics of the Prophet [saas] (Istanbul: Iz Publications, 2003), p.238
15. Ibid., p. 237
16. Imam al-Ghazali, Ihya Ulum-ud-din (Revival of the Sciences of the Deen), tr. Sitki Gulle (Istanbul: Huzur Publishings, 1998), 795-96.
17. Imam al-Ghazali, Ihya', tr. Fazlul Karim, 2:252.
18. Tafsir of Jalalayn, tr. Ibrahim Serdar [Istanbul: Yusuf Sensoy Fatih Enes Publishings, 1997], vol. 3, p.1432-1433
19. Afzalur Rahman, Encyclopaedia of Seerah: Muhammad (saas) (Istanbul: Inkilap Publishing, 1996), 162.
20. Imam Sa'id Hawa, Al-Asas fi al-Tafsir (The Basics of Qur'anic Commentary) (Istanbul: Samil Yayinevi, 1991), 332.
21. Omer Nasuhi Bilmen, Ku'ran-i Kerim'in Turkçe Meali (Tafsir of the Qur'an) (Istanbul: Bilmen Basim ve Yayinevi), 2:1101-02.