A description of the Beloved, Sal Allahu 'alayhi wa salam, from "The Sunnah as Primordiality" by Shaikh Abdal Hakim Murad
paraphrased by Mustafa Miroku Nemeth
Here is a condensed recollection, a kind of verbal icon, of that Prophetic beauty. It is paraphrased from a passage by Imam al-Ghazali, in Book 19 of his Revival of the Religious Sciences, Ihya Ulum al-Din.
‘The Messenger of God (s) was the mildest of men, but also the bravest and most just of men. He was the most restrained of people; never touching the hand of a woman over whom he did not have rights, or who was not his mahram. He was the most generous of men, so that never did a gold or silver coin spend the night in his house. If something remained at the end of the day, because he had not found someone to give it to, and night descended, he would go out, and not return home until he had given it to someone in need. From what Allah gave him [...] he would take only the simplest and easiest foods: dates and barley, giving anything else away in the path of Allah. Never did he refuse a gift for which he was asked. He used to mend his own sandals, and patch his own clothes, and serve his family, and help them to cut meat. He was the shyest of men, so that his gaze would never remain long in the face of anyone else. He would accept the invitation of a freeman or a slave, and accept a gift, even if it were no more than a gulp of milk, or the thigh of a rabbit, and offer something in return. He never consumed anything given in sadaqa. He was not too proud to reply to a slave-girl, or a pauper in rags. He would become angered for his Lord, never for himself; he would cause truth and justice to prevail even if this led to discomfort to himself or to his companions.
‘He used to bind a stone around his waist out of hunger. He would eat what was brought, and would not refuse any permissible food. If there was dates without bread, he would eat, if there was roast meat, he would eat; if there was rough barley bread, he would eat it; if there was honey or something sweet, he would eat it; if there was only yogurt without even bread, he would be quite satisfied with that.
‘He was not sated, even with barley-bread, for three consecutive days, until the day he met his Lord, not because of poverty, or avarice, but because he always preferred others over himself.
‘He would attend weddings, and visit the sick, and attend funerals, and would often walk among his enemies without a guard. He was the most humble of men, and the most serene, without arrogance. He was the most eloquent of men, without ever speaking for too long. He was the most cheerful of men. He was afraid of nothing in the dunya. He would wear a rough Yemeni cloak, or a woolen tunic; whatever was lawful and was to hand, that he would wear. He would ride whatever was to hand: sometimes a horse, sometimes a camel, sometimes a mule, sometimes a donkey. And at times he would walk barefoot, without an upper garment or a turban or a cap. He would visit the sick even if they were in the furthest part of Madina. He loved perfumes, and disliked foul smells.
‘He maintained affectionate and loyal ties with his relatives, but without preferring them to anyone who was superior to them. He never snubbed anyone. He accepted the excuse of anyone who made an excuse. He would joke, but would never say anything that was not true. He would laugh, but not uproarously. He would watch permissible games and sports, and would not criticise them. He ran races with his wives. Voices would be raised around him, and he would be patient. He kept a sheep, from which he would draw milk for his family. He would walk among the fields of his companions. He never despised any pauper for his poverty or illness; neither did he hold any king in awe simply because he was a king. He would call rich and poor to Allah, without distinction.
‘In him, Allah combined all noble traits of character; although he neither read nor wrote, having grown up in a land of ignorance and deserts in poverty, as a shepherd, and as an orphan with neither father nor mother. But Allah Himself taught him all the excellent qualities of character, and praiseworthy ways, and the stories of the early and the later prophets, and the way to salvation and triumph in the Akhira, and to joy and detachment in the dunya, and how to hold fast to duty, and to avoid the unnecessary. May Allah give us success in obeying him, and in following his sunna. Amin ya rabb al-alamin.‘
This moving portrait by Imam al-Ghazali depicts our role model, and simultaneously our ideal of humanity lived in the form of absolute beauty. His was a life lived in fullness. There was no aspect of human perfection that he did not know and manifest. And his perfection also indicates the nature of specifically masculine perfection. He was a great warrior; a sound hadith narrated by Imam al-Darimi tells us, on the authority of Ali, that
‘On the day of Badr I was present, and we sought refuge in the Prophet (s.w.s.),
who was the closest of us all to the enemy. On that day he was the most powerful
of all the combatants who fought.’One of the Companions described him riding his horse, wearing a red turban and holding his sword, and said later that never in his life had he seen a sight more beautiful.
In 23 years he became undisputed ruler of Arabia. Through his genius and charisma, and the attractive force of his personality, he united the Arabian tribes for the first time in their history. He took his people from the depths of idolatry into the purest form of monotheism. He gave them a law for the first time. He laid down, in his mosque in Madina, a system of worship, self-restraint and spiritual fruitfulness that provided the inspiration and the precedent for countless generations of later worshippers and saints. In affirming the Ka‘ba, he affirmed beauty; so that all else that he did was beautiful.
And in all this, he attributed his success only to Allah. He was, as Imam al-Ghazali records, the most humble of men. He was forbearing, polite, courteous, and mild. He paid no attention to people’s outward form, but assessed and responded to their spirits. He forgave constantly. He was indulgent with the simple Bedouin of Central Arabia, the roughest people on earth. When one of them. who wanted money, pulled his cloak so violently that it left a mark, he merely smiled, and ordered that the man be given what he wanted.'