I have now called Islam my religion and way of life for 10 years. During this decade, I have come to realize that the main obstacle to interfaith understanding and mutual respect between Muslims and non-Muslims is the shroud of mystique that still surrounds Islam, despite its spotlight media coverage since that fateful day in September 2001. Therefore, in order to really reach some sort of harmonious coexistence with our neighbors, I believe it is the duty of each Muslim individually to reach out and, in their own unique way, allow the world to understand the details and intricacies of our faith. Only when we open the doors to our homes, to our minds and to our hearts to those around us, can we expect them to comprehend our shared values and appreciate the subtle differences that distinguish us.
One of the most highly misunderstood and misconstrued aspects of our faith is our relationship with the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him, his family and companions). This misunderstanding is further compounded by the, pardon my bluntness, ridiculous, amateur and uneducated mud-slinging that has transpired over the course of history concerning this man. It is my firm belief that if non-Muslims knew the life story of the Prophet and grasped the depth of his character, their attitudes and feelings toward him and toward our religion as a whole would be much different.
Hence, I would like to embark on a humble project to shed some light on the characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad and how he embodied them during his lifetime. This project will have as its goal to just scratch the surface of this great man's personality and noble actions to allow those unfamiliar with his life and story to get a first glance and possibly learn an historical fact here or there that they were previously unaware of or did not understand.
This project will also be an effort for the benefit of myself and my Muslim brothers and sisters who read the articles to grow in their love and appreciation of this man who worked throughout his life to establish our religion and to embody the most noble of character traits in an effort to show us how to live our own lives more fully.
The first characteristic of the Prophet Muhammad that I will undertake to describe will be his unparalleled kindness. I've chosen to commence my project with this character trait because kindness is so lacking in our world right now. It is the drought of simple acts of kindness toward our families, friends and neighbors that is at the root of global strife. The absence of kindness has allowed greed, corruption and selfishness to creep into the hearts of man, and these qualities are now wreaking havoc in our world -- from widespread economic disparity to politically motivated mass murder and out-of-control consumerism. Despite the abundances that we have on this earth, we are, as a human race, rapidly becoming vacuous and devoid of our human spirit. We need reminders of the people in our past that established greatness through kindness. The Prophet Muhammad was one of these men.
In Sahih al-Bukhari, a collection of authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, it is reported that he said, "Allah (God) is kind and likes kindness in all things" (6601). It has been relayed through the Prophet's family and companions that, although the political, religious, economic and military leader of the Muslims during his lifetime, the Prophet Muhammad never was too busy to be kind. When he received visitors, he always had them to stay until they wanted to leave. When shaking hands, he would never be the first to let go his grip. During and even after the lives of his wives, the Prophet Muhammad was known to show kindness and generosity with his wives' friends and loved ones. Orphans, the elderly and infirm, children, women, animals -- countless stories have been narrated about the Prophet's attention to these members of his community and the emphasis he put on showing kindness toward all.
With all the kindness shown by the Prophet Muhammad, there was one particular group of people that received his particular devotion: mothers. The Prophet realized that mothers not only go through the hardships of pregnancy and labor -- they not only make lifelong sacrifices for the benefit of their children -- but they also are the people in a society who shape and mold the culture and the advancement of the community, as they are the main driving force behind their children's rearing. He saw this and he appreciated the impact of mothers and instilled great respect for mothers into his followers.
It has been narrated by Abu Huraira in Sahih Bukhari that a man came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked, "Oh Allah's Prophet, who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet replied, "Your mother." The man asked, "Who is next?" The Prophet replied, "Your mother." The man further inquired, "And who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for a fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet replied, "Your father." This intensity of feeling for mothers, the force behind humanity, showed unprecedented compassion and kindness. It is related that the Prophet Muhammad also stated that Paradise lies at the feet of our mothers, that they are the gateway to eternal bliss and that our bonds with our mothers are of the utmost importance to our humanity.
There are myriad examples of the Prophet's kindness toward every subset of humanity. This has been but a brief introduction. For the sake of this project, I will follow this posting, God willing, with three additional posts concerning the kindness of Prophet Muhammad, specifically focusing on his kindness toward children, toward animals and toward his opponents. Again, it is my hope and prayer through these writings that they will offer a brief glance into the life of the man who made it his life mission to help those around him find God and adopt noble character through prayer, reflection and good works. Perhaps by knowing more about the Prophet Muhammad, we will know more about one another.