Through his character, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) inspired people to change their lives. Through his message, the Prophet (peace be upon him) empowered his followers to find purpose in their lives, and through his leadership, became motivated to work as a team to serve humankind.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) transformed his environment within 23-years, and his followers changed the world less than 50-years after his departure in 632 CE.
What was so unique in Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) character, message, and leadership?
Why did people respond to his message and continue to do so today?
Monotheism was not a new idea. Leadership was never absent in any community, and the philosophers and sages were always present to guide humans.
Yet the Prophet (peace be upon him) did what others could not in recorded human history of nearly 7,000 years.
Inviting to the Truth
A man who stood alone on a mountaintop, inviting a handful of people to realize the purpose of life, through consistency in their words and actions, initiated a shift in human thinking and actions.
Humans are far from perfect, and nations are still at odds with each other. Ending injustice is a distant dream, and equality is still an illusion. But freedom, justice, equality, and human rights are the goals that most nations hold as sacred.
The Quest for Dignity
Behind this monumental reconstruct, we see Prophet Muhammad, the apostle of God (peace be upon him) – as viewed by Muslims – who forbade his followers to preserve his facial features in any shape or form except in the description of his character.
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) character had one predominant feature, a quest for the dignity of every human being and living creature.
Dignity encompassed everything the Prophet (peace be upon him) stood and lived for throughout his lifetime. He understood that the purpose of divine creation was to empower every human to live a dignified life, regardless of birth status.
His concern was to liberate humans from the shackles of slavery and injustice, the chains of superstition, of human domination over the other based on class, creed, wealth, status, or even righteousness.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) knew that once human beings achieved dignity, they could conquer any obstacle, and he offered his life as an example of all that he preached.
His concept of dignity included his enemies, even those who planned to kill him.
Caring for All Humanity
In Mecca, between 620 CE and the summer of 622 CE, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) followers included Khadija, Ali (who became the husband of Fatima), and Abu Bakr; the remainder of the city’s inhabitants were bitter enemies seeking to kill him – this is when he fled to Madinah.
Yet, throughout that time and the period that followed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) strove to bring out the best in the behavior of his enemies, imploring them to show dignity to all humans and the physical universe.
By dignity, he meant that all humans have their origin in God and deserve an autonomous existence without being dependent on others for their lives.
It meant they have the right to acquire knowledge and choose a path based on their understanding. It meant freedom of expression. And it meant having the courage to speak the truth fearlessly. It meant having the courage to speak the truth fearlessly.
Above all, dignity meant to empathize with all fellow human beings.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Make things easy for the people, and do not make it difficult for them, and make them calm (with glad tidings) and do not repulse (them). (Al-Bukhari)
Restoring Confidence and Dignity
The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) quest to deliver the message of dignity led women to find equality, slaves to find freedom, people to have a place in the echelons of power, and the poor and needy to work harder for their higher mobility.
It also led people to demonstrate discipline and organization in their work.
Dignity is divine because only a higher authority can think for all without any biases. Elegance is the essence of human existence. Only people free from shackles can achieve their best, and self-respect is the motivational force that brings about change in human society.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) restored confidence to those around him in their ability and right to live a dignified life. In this context, Muslims understand the divine words preserved in the Quran:
And [thus, O Prophet,] We have sent thee as [an evidence of Our] grace towards all the worlds (21:107).
And as a guide towards the truth have We bestowed this [revelation] from on high; with this [very] truth has it come down [unto thee, O Prophet]: for We have sent thee but as a herald of glad tidings and a warner. (17:105)
Verily, in the Apostle of God you have a good example for everyone who looks forward [with hope and awe] to God and the Last Day, and remembers God unceasingly (33:21).