What Would Prophet Muhammad Do?

Stories and Lessons from the Prophet’s Leniency

What can we learn about leniency from the words and actions of Prophet Muhammad?

I typed define lenient into Google and this is what I found; lenient – more merciful or tolerant than expected. I looked quickly back at my monitor wondering:

If I had typed Prophet Muhammad too, but no, just lenient and its definition had just described Prophet Muhammad. When you delve into the origin and history of words, they often reveal layers of meaning and this one continued to surprise me.

Merriam Webster went on the explain that “lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning ‘to soothe’ or ‘to soften’”. When the word lenient was first used, it referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress[1].

God said in the Quran that he had not sent Prophet Muhammad except as a mercy to humankind. (Quran 21:107)

He was lenient, merciful and tolerant and his words and actions did indeed relieve pain and stress. They continue to do so and Prophet Muhammad’s simple yet effective ways of dealing with life are inherently lenient.

God intended Prophet Muhammad’s example to be one of kindness and forgiveness.

{Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad)}, He said, {and enjoin kindness…} (Quran 7:199)

Gentleness, as we all know, entices people while hardheartedness pushes them away.

By the grace of God, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been harsh and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you. (Quran 3:159)

At this time in the world’s history, Muslims have multiple reasons to learn from the leniency of Prophet Muhammad. The world is changing quickly.

The unprecedented growth of technology and information has people scrabbling to keep up. Some say the old methods are no longer applicable, others call for reform, and some resent the changes and cling tenuously to the old ways.

However the thing with Islam is that it is a religion designed to keep up. It stands staunchly within the ebb and the flow of changing times. Its advice and guidance is applicable whether you are scratching on a rock with stone, dipping your quill into ink or typing deftly on a smart phone.

Prophet Muhammad and his companions faced problems that were comparable to our own. If we look behind the paraphernalia of the 7th Century CE and the LCD screens of the 21st century, we find human beings that are eerily similar.

When we come up against problems, when doors are slammed in our faces and our views are derided, we can look to the Quran and the Sunnah and find all the answers that we need.

One thing that we will come across over and over again is that Prophet Muhammad was lenient. He was merciful and tolerant, and he was also kind and compassionate; forgiving, charitable, benevolent, and gentle. And all of these words that we associate with Prophet Muhammad are synonyms of lenient.


Prophet Muhammad faced more than his fair share of personal abuse and attacks. He always reacted calmly and encouraged others to react similarly by saying:

You should not do evil to those who do evil to you, but you should deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.[2]

There are numerous instances in the Sunnah describing incidents in which Prophet Muhammad had ample opportunity to take revenge on those who wronged him; however he demonstrated enormous restraint and patience when he was insulted, belittled and beaten. As his beloved wife Aisha said:

“His character was a reflection of the Quran”[3]

And Quran decrees that we are lenient and forgiving even in the face of continued harassment.

On one occasion, Prophet Muhammad went to the city of Taif hoping to find people who would listen and support his message to humanity.

Instead of support, he found insults and injuries. He prayed to God for help. The response to his prayer was that the Angel of the Mountains offered to crumble the mountains surrounding Taif, and kill all of the city’s inhabitants.

Despite his pain and suffering, he replied:

No, for I hope that God will bring forth from their progeny people who will worship God Alone, and none besides Him.[4]

In a different saying, we learn that some companions requested that Prophet Muhammad call on God to punish the disbelievers but he replied:

I have not been sent as one to curse, but as a mercy.[5]


Gentleness is part of leniency. Prophet Muhammad’s wife, Aisha, reacted angrily after being insulted, however he advised her to be calm and gentle.

God likes gentleness in all affairs, he said.

Show gentleness. For when gentleness is in something, it beautifies it, and when it is taken out it makes it deficient.[6]

At this time, when we are being criticized and denigrated on an almost daily basis, as were the early Muslims, we must react with leniency, be kind and gentle and extract ourselves from arguments with as much grace and ease as possible.

While we are practicing being lenient with those who deride us, we must not forget to be lenient with ourselves and with those in our families and communities.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear people censured and condemned for behavior that would have been tolerated by Prophet Muhammad. We frequently hear the word haram bandied about, when kindness and forgiveness would have more effect.

When dispensing punishment, Prophet Muhammad was very cautious. He preferred to be forgiving.

At one time, a man who was guilty of a sin came to the Prophet begging to be punished but Prophet Muhammad kept silent and did not respond to his requests until after the afternoon prayer. When the man began again, Prophet Muhammad asked if he had prayed, the man responded ‘yes’ and was told that God had already forgiven him.

Leniency was a common thread in Prophet Muhammad’s dealings with people.

A man was guilty of having sexual intercourse with his wife during the daylight hours of Ramadan. He confessed this sin to Prophet Muhammad who replied that he should set a slave free to expiate his sin.

When the man replied that he could not do that he was told to fast for two months. The man replied that he was not strong enough to do that and Prophet Muhammad easily gave him the alternative of feeding 60 poor people.

The man responded that he did not have the means with which to feed so many. Rather than showing any anger or dismay Prophet Muhammad kept quiet.

Sometime later, Prophet Muhammad was given a basket of dates and he immediately called the sinful man to him offering him the dates and telling him to distribute them among the poor.

“Oh Messenger of God”, the man is reported to have said, “there is no one poorer than I am.”

It is said that Prophet Muhammad smiled widely and told the man to distribute the dates amongst his family.[7]

Prophet Muhammad pronounced judgment on a range of issues and he always did so with leniency and compassion.

He encouraged arbitration, amicable solutions and mutual understanding. He resolved disputes in ways that would not disfigure the social cohesion of the community. He was always merciful and encouraged others to follow his example by impressing upon them God’s love for the merciful.

Those who do not show mercy to others will not feel God’s mercy upon themselves.[8]

Prophet Muhammad’s leniency was an essential part of his excellent character. And in this brave new world where harshness and fault finding drive people away from God, we can all benefit from emulating this sublime character trait.


[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient

[2] Saheeh Bukhari

[3] Saheeh Muslim

[4] Saheeh Bukhari

[5] Saheeh Muslim

[6] Abu Dawood

[7] Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim.

[8] Saheeh Bukhari

About Aisha Stacey
Aisha Stacey is the mother of three adult children. She embraced Islam in 2002 and spent the next five years in Doha, Qatar studying Islam and working at the Fanar Cultural Centre. In 2006 Aisha returned to university for a second time and completed at Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Certificate in Writing. Aisha is also a published writer in both internet and print media and in 2009 -10 she was the Queensland editor at a national Australian Islamic newspaper ~ Crescent Times.