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Prophet Muhammad: The Humble Leader

Humility: The Essence of Greatness

“Brother, don’t be afraid; I am not a great king. I am only a son of a lady who ate cured meat.”

Another wonderful example of the Prophet’s humility occurred at the signing of the treaty of Hudaibiyah between the Muslims and the leaders of Makkah at the time.

Making Compromises is a Tough Call

The Muslims, led by the Prophet, had journeyed toward Makkah in order to perform the pilgrimage at the Ka`bah, but the leaders of Makkah did not want this to happen.

To prevent the impending conflict, the Prophet agreed to a treaty with the leaders of Makkah that stipulated the Muslims to go back that year without entering Makkah; however, they would be given the right to enter Makkah for three days every year for the next 10 years.

This treaty, especially some of its other clauses, were seen as a step backward by many Muslims who felt that there was no need for them to compromise when they had both political strength and military prowess, but the Prophet wanted to avoid unnecessary violence and agreed to the treaty.

One incident that highlights the Prophet’s modesty occurred at the actual signing of this treaty: He was mentioned in the document as “Muhammad, the Messenger of God”, a fact that the leaders of Makkah took offence to, saying that if they had recognized the Prophet as the Messenger of God, there would have been no need for the treaty at all.

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Tempers flared in the Muslim camp, this was too much of an insult.

The Prophet, however, reacted calmly and wisely. He could neither read nor write and so asked a Companion to show him where his name was written. He then asked for the part “Messenger of God” to be removed and had his father’s name written instead. (This was a common way of referring to people at the time).

He was simply “Muhammad son of Abdullah” (Al-Mubarakfuri 1979).

Gentleness Sets the True Leader Apart

On another occasion, a man new to the Muslim gathering came to visit the Prophet.

The man was filled with awe that made him nervous and anxious; this was natural for the man as his belief told him he was visiting the Prophet of God and the leader of the powerful Muslim nation.

When the Prophet realized the man’s uneasiness, he comforted him saying:

“Brother, don’t be afraid; relax and be at ease.

I am not a great monarch or king.

I am only a son of a lady who ate cured meat.” (Ibn Majah).

So to me, this man epitomizes within himself unimaginable humility, yet he is one of the greatest leaders in history.

He preached the word of God and continued to conquer the hearts and souls of millions.

But even today he is remembered, by the same title he insisted be used when he was alive. This title is simply `Abd Allah (Arabic for the Slave of God).

What Gandhi Said

To end, it is apt to quote Mahatma Gandhi, another simple man and the father of the Indian nation.

What he said captures the essence of the Prophet’s character and his dedication to both his ideals and his people.

It captures the love of not just the 1.8 billion Muslims but also the respect that countless academics, philosophers, and thinkers have for the man called Muhammad.

Gandhi had this to say:

I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind….

I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life.

It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission.

These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle.

When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.


Bolman, Lee G. and Terrence E. Deal. Reframing Organizations. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1991.

“A Journalist’s Guide to Islam .” Council of American-Islamic Relations CANADA. 2003. Accessed 24 July 2007.

Al-Mubarakpuri, Saifur Rahman. Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (The Sealed Nectar): Memoirs of the Noble Prophet. Trans. Issam Diab. India: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 1979.

(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)

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