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Understanding The Prophet's Life

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From Issue: 986 [Read full issue]

Exaggerated Status

Humility was an obvious characteristic of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Perhaps nothing shows his humility better than the choice he was given by God at an early stage of his prophethood. Abu Hurayrah reports that:

The Prophet was sitting with the angel Gabriel when he looked up into the sky and saw another angel descending. Gabriel said to the Prophet: "This is the first time this angel has ever come down since he was created." The angel said: "Muhammad, your Lord has sent me to give you a choice: shall He make you a king and a Prophet, or a servant of His and a Messenger?" Gabriel signalled him to be humble before his Lord. The Prophet said: "I prefer to be a servant of God and His Messenger." (Related by Ahmad.)

That signal by the angel Gabriel gave the Prophet more than a hint about his position with God. It gave him an indication that God loves those who are self-effacing. Therefore, it was a characteristic of the Prophet for the rest of his life. Umar ibn al-Khattab reports: "I heard the Prophet when he said to us: 'Do not exaggerate my position like the Christians did with Jesus, son of Mary. I am only God's servant. Say of me: Godís servant and Messenger.'" (Related by al-Bukhari.)

A similar hadith, reported by Anas ibn Malik, mentions that a man addressed the Prophet saying:

"Muhammad, you are our master and son of our master. You are the best among us and the son of the our best." The Prophet spoke to the people present saying: "Maintain the fear of God and do not give way to Satan. I am Muhammad, son of Abdullah. I am God's servant and Messenger. By God, I do not like that you elevate me above the status God has given me." (Related by Ahmad and Abu Dawud.)

Human nature enjoys receiving praise. The Prophet, however, was keenly aware that exaggerated praise would elevate him above his status and, in consequence, ruin the role he was meant to play in human life. This role was not limited to his own generation: it applied to all generations, as he was to provide the role model for all Muslims. Those who exaggerated his status would ultimately stop following his lead, as they would think themselves too inferior to be able to do so. Thus, the purpose for which his life had been so meticulously documented will be lost. He was fully aware of this, and therefore he was keen to instil in his Companions the fact that he was an ordinary human being, except for the Divine message he received and delivered. He was also required to provide an example, both in his private life and in public.

Compiled From:
"Muhammad: His Character and Conduct" - Adil Salahi

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