What Would Prophet Muhammad Do?

The Prophet’s Leniency: Stories and Lessons

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.

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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].

His Mercy

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 Some say the old methods are no longer applicable, others call for reform, and some resent the changes and cling tenuously to the old ways.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.

His Forgiveness

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]

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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.