The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born on Rabiul Awwal 12 of the Hijrah calendar.
His birth, on a Monday, came 570 years after that of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). The Prophet was born in the city of Makkah to Abdullah, the son of Abdul Muttalib, the venerable sheikh of the Quraish, the ruling clan of Makkah.
The Prophet's life is a shining example for all to follow. He was the kindest of persons — a sense of compassion that was directed at Muslims and non-Muslims alike. His care for those around him and even for those who caused him harm provides shining examples of true nobility. His love for orphans was deep, and the kindness that he exhibited to the needy, the humble and the poor knew no bounds.
It is extremely difficult for the Muslims of today to imagine and much less to endure the hardships that the Prophet and his companions underwent. In the ninth year of his mission, the Prophet — having been persecuted and terrorized by his people in Makkah — headed for Taif, home to the Banu Thaqif tribe. There he went to preach his message but was treated rudely by the tribal elders, who told him to clear off and even sent street urchins after him to beat him and pelt him with stones. He bled profusely causing his entire body to be covered with blood and his sandals to become clogged to his feet.
He headed away from the town and took respite near a rock and made a heart-rending invocation to God Almighty beseeching mercy for the people who had persecuted him a few moments earlier.
It is said that the heavens were moved by the Prophet's prayer and the Archangel Gabriel came and said that God Almighty is aware of what has passed and that he has deputed an angel in charge of the mountains. The angel in charge of the mountains then came forward and offered to bring the mountains overlooking Taif to collide with each other to destroy the inhabitants. However, being a mountain of mercy himself and the mercy of the worlds, the Prophet refused. Note the conduct of our noble Prophet. Irritated by a little trouble or abuse from someone, we spend years scheming and devising ways to take revenge. How far removed are the Muslims of today from the Prophet who they consider their exemplar.
In spite of suffering so much at the hands of the Taif mob, the Prophet did not curse or seek revenge, even when the opportunity arose. Instead, he pleaded for mercy.
When there was a stop in a Makkan woman who would repeatedly throw garbage on him as he walked in the streets, the Prophet — being an icon of compassion — asked people about her and even humbly visited her after hearing she had fallen ill.
Over 14 centuries have gone by since he, the Last of the Messengers, left us, but his message — one that was earmarked by mercy for the entire creation — lives on. His examples live on to lead us from darkness to light. His life was one of mercy, compassion, care, consideration, kindness and tolerance for all. His sayings, known as Hadiths, bear testimony to this. One particular theme found in his sayings relate to the rights of women. It is without a doubt that Islam afforded women an honorable and respected position. However, it is sad to see people, many Muslims included, ignorant of this.
On one occasion, he said, "Fear Allah in respect of women." He also said, "The best of you are they who behave best to their wives." In another he said, "A Muslim must not hate his wife, and if he be displeased with one bad quality in her, let him be pleased with one that is good." In one more Hadith, he said, "The more civil and kind a Muslim is to his wife, the more perfect in faith he is."
It is no wonder then that the Prophet Muhammad's employer was none other than a woman, Sayyidatuna Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her). So impressed was she by his kindness, compassion, manners and trustworthiness that they married, a model marriage that is often cited by scholars as a perfect example for Muslims to follow. Unlike those jihadists who preach hatred and dislike for non-Muslims and even to those Muslims who don't subscribe to their views, the Prophet's own behavior stands contrary to the way they call to. Let them take heed to the fact that it was the Prophet who accepted Safiyyah and Mariya in his home as his wives — one being of Jewish and the second being of Christian heritage.
In an attitude that was revolutionary at that time, the Prophet taught his companions to remain in their mothers' service, saying that Paradise lies beneath their feet.
Today, as we stumble through a confused and turbulent world, as we grope in darkness and as we suffer from uncertainty and depression, we must look for — and grasp at — the teachings of the Holy Prophet so that they will act as a cure for many of the social ills that have befallen our world.
The world faces a host of seemingly insoluble problems. In the West, people speak of depression and decay in society. In the East, industrial and technological progress has created a vacuum in society. Many people are floundering in darkness. They cling to values that have nothing to do with life. They join cults. For role models they look to unworthy individuals who are moral vacuums.
For us the perfect role model is the Last Messenger of God. His life, his dealings with young and old and both friend and foe are an inspiration to all of us.
Let us teach ourselves and our children about the life of the Holy Prophet and use it in our daily lives so that we may improve our conduct and become better human beings. Let us be more tolerant, more forgiving and show compassion to all our brothers and sisters in humanity, irrespective of their race or religion.
Let us pray for a better world. Ameen