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Prophet Muhammad – The Spiritual Leader

Prophet Muhammad is the best role model for every aspect of life. He represented Islam in the best way and established the religion in the soundest foundations.

He practiced what he preached in his personality and immediate family first. When he invited people to live spiritual life he presented it best through his actions.

Prophet Muhammad’s most noteworthy legacy is his leadership in transforming a society otherwise immersed in centuries of feudal conflicts and disarray.

Limited by time and means, he eradicated all kinds of barbarism and savagery in the Arabian Peninsula and then embedded praiseworthy virtues in their hearts.

He appeared in a time when some people lived in monasteries while others drowned in luxury. He invited people to the balanced life with the Quranic instruction:

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{Seek through that which God has given you the home of the Hereafter; and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as God has done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, God does not like corrupters.} (Quran 28:77)

Indeed Prophet Muhammad was sent to establish balance between the material and spiritual life, reason and soul, this world and the next.

The Prophet inculcated spirituality in the hearts of his companions so deeply that it could be seen in every aspect of their lives. For example, Abu Bakr was elected by Muslims as the first caliph of Islam after the Prophet passed away.

One day when Abu Bakr was offered a glass of cold water, he suddenly burst into tears due to remembering an incident which he witnessed when the Prophet (PBUH) was alive. He reported it as follows:

“Once I was with God’s Messenger. He acted as if he were pushing something with his hand. I asked him what he was doing, and he replied:

‘The world appeared to me in the most beautiful form with all its luxury. I pushed it away, saying:

‘Leave me. You can’t seduce me.’

It withdrew and said: “I can’t conquer you, but I swear by God I’ll captivate those who come after you.’”

After narrating this Tradition, Abu Bakr concluded:

“Just now, I thought that the world tempted me with a glass of cold water, and I wept.” (Abu Nu‘aym, Hilyat al-Awliya’ wa Tabaqat al-Asfiya’, 1:30-31.)

Abu Bakr and most companions lived a spiritual life, despite the fact that they had every chance to live in comfort.

God sent Prophet Muhammad to educate people and elevate them to real humanity:

{It is He who has sent among the unlettered a Messenger of their own, to recite to them His signs, to purify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest error.} (62:2)

The Messenger was one of these people but being chosen by God, he did not belong to the Age of Ignorance.

However, he was unlettered so that God would teach him what he needed to know and in turn he would educate all people.

He taught them about the meanings of the Quran and of creation in a gradual manner, and informed them how to become perfect human beings by striving for spiritual perfection.

Prophet Muhammad did not just purify people’s evil-commanding selves; rather, he raised human hearts, spirits, minds, and souls to their ideal level. His universal call encompasses all principles of economics, finance, administration, education, justice, military, politics, and science. But, in this article we will only focus on his spiritual aspect.

God chose Prophet Muhammad and Islam for all times and peoples, thus, Islam is the perfection of His universal favor upon His creation.

The Prophet Muhammad was a man but best of humanity, for he transformed illiterate people into blessed saints and praiseworthy founders of the most magnificent civilization in history.

He was sent in a time when people drank alcohol, gambled, indulged in adultery and committed many other evils. However, he eradicated all these evils in a short period of time and replaced them with such deep-rooted values and virtues. He transformed rocks, coal, and copper into gold and diamonds.

God’s Messenger (PBUH) represented and expressed what he wanted to teach through his actions. He showed them how to be in awe of God, how to be humble, how to prostrate with deep feelings, and how to cry to God at night in his personality.

As a result, whatever he preached was accepted immediately by his followers. His words penetrated their hearts for they witnessed the best spiritual leader guiding them through his actions.

Believers who seek purification, devotion to God, and desire to be close to Him should walk in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.

The companions would feel a sense of awe of God when looking at his face. Seeing his face was enough to remember God. He was trembling in his prayers with the fear of Hell and showing his followers how to pray in humility.

While he was praying, a sound, like a boiling pot, was heard. He always prayed in tears with a burning heart. His wife A’isha often found him in the prostrating trembling and weeping. (Nasa’i, Sunan, Ishrat al-Nisa’,” 4.)

His behavior inspired everyone around him, thus they presented the best form of Islam. He brought up his companions so perfectly and they became the role models for all humanity.

The evil-commanding self wants people to ignore their God-given abilities and wants them to obey their bodily desires. However, human nature and its evil-commanding self can be trained through worship to the level:

{O self at peace! Return unto your Master, well-pleased, well-pleasing} (89:27-8)

Believers who achieved this level of spirituality are the nearest servants to God. When people see them they remember God, for they are the best representatives of servanthood.

The companions are the best people among human beings because they followed the instructions of Prophet Muhammad and reached moral and spiritual perfection.

The Prophet (PBUH) was the best role model for them by becoming the beloved of their hearts, the teacher of their minds, the trainer of their souls, and the ruler of their spirits.

He was not a role model only to the people of his own time and place, rather he is the best example for all humanity in all times.

Many world-renowned individuals have been trained with the instructions of Prophet Muhammad and presented best spiritual lives.

For example, Tariq ibn Ziyad, an emancipated Berber slave, when he conquered Spain with 90,000 valiant warriors and went to king’s treasury in Palace he shed tears saying:

“Be careful, Tariq. Yesterday you were a slave with a chain around your neck. God emancipated you, and today you are a victorious commander. However, you will change tomorrow into flesh rotting under earth. Finally, a day will come when you will stand in the Presence of God.” (Fethullah Gulen, Messenger of God: Muhammad, p. 191)

One of the aspects of the Prophet’s spiritual life is his prayers and supplications. He always prayed to God in every parts of life. Because, prayer is a cornerstone of servanthood to God, and the Messenger is the best in this regard.

Due to his knowledge of God, Prophet Muhammed loved and feared God most. He was well conscious that everything depends on God for its existence and subsistence, thus the Prophet combined action with prayer and left the result to God with absolute confidence.

When we read the Prophet’s prayers and supplications we see profound belief, deep sincerity, absolute submission and complete confidence.

I will give two examples to elaborate the topic better. He was supplicating God with the following words before sleeping:

“O God, hoping for (Your Mercy) and fearing (Your wrath), I submit myself to You, refer my affairs to You, and take refuge in You. There is no refuge or source of safety from Your wrath except You. I believe in the Book You sent down, and the Prophet you raised. (Bukhari, Sahih, “Da‘awat,” 6)

Although God protected Prophet Muhammad from committing a sin even in his pre-Islamic life he was praying with these words:

“O God, put between me and errors a distance as great as that which you have put between East and West. O God, cleanse me of my errors as a white garment is cleansed of dirt.” (Bukhari, “Adhan,” 89)

Prophet Muhammad was extremely sensitive in practicing Islam. Although he was innocent, he spent more than half the night praying and crying, and sometimes fasted two or three successive days. However, he did not want to bring burden his community, he always guided them to the balanced life.

When people complained that an imam was prolonging the prayer, the Prophet mounted the pulpit and said:

“O people! You cause people to dread the prayer. When you lead a prayer, don’t prolong it, for there are people among you who are sick or old or in urgent need.” (Bukhari, “‘Ilm,” 28)

The Messenger regarded himself a traveler in this world. Once he said:

“What connection do I have with this world? I am like a traveler who takes shade under a tree and then continues on his way.” (Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 3)

Once ‘Umar saw him lying on a rough mat and wept. When the Messenger asked him why he was weeping, ‘Umar replied:

“O Messenger of God, while kings sleep in soft feather beds, you lie on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God, and as such deserve an easy life more than anyone else.”

He answered:

“Don’t you agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs, and that those of the Hereafter should be ours?” (Muslim, “Talaq,” 31)

Islam does not approve of monastic life. Although the Prophet presented the utmost spiritual life he warned his followers against extremism.

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn al As reports:

“It was conveyed to the Messenger of God that I observe fast successively and pray during the whole night. The Prophet said:

“It has been conveyed to me that you observe fast continuously and do not break it and pray during the whole night. Don’t do that for there is share for your eyes, share for your own self, share for your family; so observe fast and break it, pray and sleep and observe fast for one day during the ten days, and there is a reward for you (for other) nine days.” (Muslim, Sahih, Siyam, 35)

Humility is the measure of one’s greatness and spiritual life. The Prophet is the greatest of humanity, yet acted in great modesty. Although the companions respected the Prophet at utmost level, he never regarded himself greater than anybody. He lived and dressed like the poorest people. He would sit and eat with slaves and servants.

Once a woman saw him eating and remarked:

“He eats like a slave.”

The Messenger replied:

“Could there be a better slave than me? I am a slave of God.” (Haythami, Majma‘, 9:21)

While the Muslims were building their mosque in Madinah, the Prophet carried two sun-dried bricks; everyone else carried one. (Ibn Sa‘d, Tabaqat, 1: 240.)

While digging the trench to defend Madinah, the companions bound a stone around their stomachs to quell their hunger; the Messenger bound two. (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, “Zuhd,” 39)

Another time, an insane woman pulled him by the hand and said:

“Come with me and do my housework.” He complied with her request. (Abu Dawud, “Manasik,” 56)

Aisha reported that the Messenger patched his clothes, repaired his shoes, and helped his wives with the housework. (At-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Shama’il, 78)

Although he has the highest rank at God’s side, he regarded himself as an ordinary servant of God.

One day, while sitting with Archangel Gabriel, the Prophet told that he had not eaten for several days. Right after this, God sent an angel and asked:

“O Messenger of God, God greets you and asks if you wish to be a Prophet–king or a Prophet–slave?”

The Messenger replied:

“I wish to be a Prophet–slave, who entreats God in hunger one day and thanks Him in satisfaction the next.” (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 2:231)

Aisha reported that sometimes no food was cooked for four successive days in their house. (Bukhari, Sahih, “Riqaq,” 17)

Abu Hurayra reports:

“Once I went into the Prophet’s room. He was praying while seated and groaning. I asked him if he was ill. He replied that he was too hungry to stand. I began to sob bitterly, but he stopped me, saying:

“Don’t cry, for one who endures hunger here will be safe from God’s torment in the next.” (Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 7:199)


All these examples show that Prophet Muhammad is exemplary role model for all humanity in all their affairs. He is the best example for spiritual perfection.

With the best examples in his personal life he taught humanity that by renouncing worldly pleasures and resisting carnal desires they can be real servants of God.

They can live a spiritual life by refraining from sin in fear of God despite the world’s carnal and material aspects by following the footsteps of the Prophet. He taught them that they should renounce this world’s temporary ease and comfort for the sake of eternal happiness in the Hereafter.

Spiritual person is always thankful to God as the Prophet was and refrains from hoarding money and wealth.

Spiritual life is presented by the Prophet as observing the rules of Islam even in moments of depression and living for others’ happiness and comfort.

Prophet Muhammad lived as the poorest of his people and set the most excellent example for his community.

In his spiritual leadership, the Prophet represented the best servanthood by showing his followers in his prayers how to be in awe of God, how to be humble, how to prostrate with deep feelings, and how to cry to God at night. He was trembling in his prayers with the fear of God. He spent more than half the night praying and crying.

I like to conclude this essay with the following verse:

{Assuredly you have in God’s Messenger an excellent example to follow for whoever looks forward to God and the Last Day, and remembers and mentions God much.} (33:21)

About Dr. Recep Dogan
Dr. Recep Dogan is a prominent Muslim scholar, prolific author and a respected community activist in Australia. Dr. Recep completed his PhD in the Islamic Studies Department, Philosophy of Religion at University of Ankara. He undertook private study of Islamic Sciences with the world renowned Muslim Scholar, M. Fethullah Gulen, who is the founder of 'Hizmet', a global peace and education movement. Dr. Recep was the Imam of the Tolerance Foundation in California USA from 2004 to 2011. He is also the Muslim Chaplain for Charles Sturt University; he gives lectures on the following topics Islamic Studies; Sīrah (the life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); Core Islamic Sciences; Usūl Tafsir (The Methodology of Qur'anic Exegeses); Usūl Hadith (The Methodology of Prophetic Traditions); Islamic Jurisprudence (from Hanafi Perspective); Usūl al-Fiqh (The Methodology of Islamic Law); Kalām (Islamic Theology).