When I first heard about a religion called Islam, I had never heard of a Prophet named Muhammad.
I had never even heard of any man named Muhammad for that matter.
It might have been due to the fact that growing up, I was pretty sheltered.
Or it could’ve had something to do with the fact that the first time I heard of Islam was in 1998. A time before mass anti-Muslim propaganda. A time before 9/11. And a time when most Americans didn’t even know what a Muslim was.
That has all changed. And in a post-9/11 world, there has been much written and speculated about the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the US and the Western world at large.
However, much of the information about the Prophet of Islam that has been written, spoken about and even drawn has been for the purpose of demonetization or illegitimizing him.
When I was first introduced to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it was in a religion class in college. I took the class specifically to learn about Islam, as it was the only class that even came close to it, monotheistic world religions. The class spent half the semester learning about Christianity, half about Judaism, and 1 week on Islam.
The theological lessons of the class portrayed Christianity and Judaism in unemotional and factual ways, but the weeklong discussion on Islam turned out to be a discussion on politics instead about the tenants of the faith. The Prophet was mentioned a few times, but only in passing.
I felt frustrated and deeply suspicious about why no one would or ever had discussed a major world religion with me.
My roommate took the class with me and felt the same disappointment and frustration I had. She was more proactive than I and set out to find out just what was going on with this religion called Islam. She did just that and shortly thereafter converted. As she learned about her new faith, she shared all the knowledge she was gathering with me.
Through her, I came to know that Muslims believe in all the same Prophets of Judaism and Christianity and one more – the last Prophet who came to all mankind with the same message as all the Prophets before him. This man was Muhammad.
He Was Honest
As I learned more about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), I learned that he was known as Al-Sadiq (the Truthful) and Al-Amin (the Faithful) among all that knew him—even his enemies.
When the Qaiser of Rome received a letter from Muhammad (peace be upon him) inviting the Qaiser to Islam, he asked Abu Sufyan about Muhammad. Abu Sufyan, who at the time was a staunch opponent of Muhammad’s message, said:
“Muhammad is nobly born; is honest and truthful, and has never broken a pledge. He enjoins his followers to worship none but One God and to pray to Him alone. He preaches kindness, piety and tolerance towards all and his followers are on the increase.”
Not only did his message (the message of all the Prophets) resonate with me, I was impressed with this man who was so honest that even his enemies called him the honest and the truthful.
He Was Protective
I learned that Muhammad (peace be upon him) lost his father before he was born and his mother at an early age, an experience that left a lasting impression on him. Having been vulnerable at an early age, he advocated for the good treatment of those who are vulnerable in society. He would attend to the needs of the indigent and the widowed, took care of the orphans, and recommend others to do the same.
The Prophet said:
“The one who looks after and works for a widow and for a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah’s cause.” (Al-Bukhari)
“The best house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is well treated, and the worst house among the Muslims is one where an orphan is badly treated.” (Ibn Majah)
In a time where many people only look out for themselves, reading about a man who was deeply concerned about those who were in need had a great affect on me.
He Was Just
The more I learned about the Prophet called Muhammad, the more I came to know what it was to be respectable.
Muhammad was an advocate for blind justice. He said:
“Assist your Muslim brother, whether he be an oppressor or oppressed.”
And when a companion of the Prophet asked:
“But how shall we do it when he is an oppressor?”
Prophet Muhammad replied:
“Assisting an oppressor by forbidding and withholding him from oppression.” (Al-Bukhari)
In a world where people take sides based on family, race, and or religion, regardless of what is right and wrong, here was a man who told people to be loyal to justice first. To me this was revolutionary – an answer to bigotry, racism, sectarianism and so much more.
He Was Honorable
I became attached to this man who treated women with dignity and told his followers to do the same.
I learned that he never lifted a hand against a woman. He never lost his temper with a woman. He sought advice from women and advocated for women’s rights and their good treatment.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told his followers:
“Accept my advice in the matter of doing good to women.” (Muslim)
In a society where most men think going to strip clubs is an acceptable pastime, where harassment and the use of vulgar language against women is par for the course, I was very taken aback by this man’s example and exhortation to his brethren to be kind and respectful to women.
He Was Patient
I started to want to be like Muhammad (peace be upon him) and be around those who wanted the same. His saying: “The strong person is not the good wrestler. Rather, the strong person is the one who controls himself when he is angry”, was an inspiration to me.
In a culture that glorifies violence in television, video games, and movies; and in a world where domestic violence is a blight of society, I had never heard of a man who claimed self-control is true strength.
I came to know and love this man I had never met. Through learning about the Prophet Muhammad’s behavior, teachings, compassion, strength, and mercy; I learned how amazing a human being could be. I learned what it means to love and respect someone I would never meet in this life.
Even many non-Muslims who truly study his life, cannot help but respect the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). One such non-Muslim, Annie Besant, a late 19th. and early 20th. century British women’s rights activist, writer, orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self-rule, wrote:
“It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great prophet of Arabia (meaning Prophet Muhammad), who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence for that mighty prophet, one of the great messengers of the supreme.
And although in what I put to you, I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher.”
All who truly research how he lived, taught, and lead; love him. And the more one knows about him, the more love and respect they have for the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (peace be upon him).
(This article is from Reading Islam’s archive and was originally published at an earlier date.)