A young Muslim man named Khaled who was taking piloting lessons in a flying school in Florida had a conversation one day with a black American who was one of the staff working in the school. A little while later when the conversation deepened into the religious issues, Khaled realized that when the young black American heard the name ‘Muhammad’, he creased up his face, reflecting his disgust on hearing about the prophet. “That” said Khaled “upset me deeply”.
Generally the image of Islam and specifically the image of the Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace and blessings) have been badly damaged in the psyche of western people. While the historical military clashes between Muslim and Western armies laid the foundation for the tendency to think of the Prophet as ‘an evil man’, today two other factors contribute even more to the demonization of him. The first one is the simple ignorance and lack of understanding of Americans and Europeans about Islam and its prophet. According to a public survey, 59 percent of the Americans say that they either know nothing at all or little about Islam (Gallup World Poll 2007 and Muslim Americans: A National Portrait).
The other factor is the propaganda against his personality which has been conducted by some far right political circles, neo-conservative voices and Christian Zionists through their media outlets. In that propaganda, apart from the defamation and slanders against the Prophet, the events that he experienced are picked up and isolated from their historical and sociological context and the Prophet is judged and criticized anachronistically through the lens of 21st century Western values.
However, sixth century Arab society before Islam was remote from ‘civilized’ Roman and Persian states, and the living standards and the social conditions were more difficult than in other places. In that society, some nomadic norms and traditions, evil and savage customs and habits to which they were fanatically attached prevailed in the social life, and even if people were unwilling to do something, they were forced to commit it by social norms. The people were fierce fighters, obstinate in their ways and loyal to their nomadic identity. In that society, sometimes a tiny controversial issue could provoke civil wars which lasted for months between the tribes. For such a society what the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) brought was revolutionary. Imam Nursi invites the reader into the atmosphere in which the Prophet lived as follows:
“If you wish, come! Let us go to the Arabian Peninsula, to the Era of Bliss! In our imaginations, we shall see him at his duties and visit him. Look! We see a person distinguished by his fine character and beautiful form. In his hand is a miraculous Book and on his tongue, a truthful address; he is delivering a pre-eternal sermon to all mankind, indeed, to man, the jinn, the angels, and to all beings. He solves and expounds the strange riddle of the mystery of the world’s creation; he discovers and solves the abstruse talisman which is the mystery of the universe; and he provides convincing and satisfying answers to the three awesome and difficult questions that are asked of all beings and have always bewildered and occupied minds: “Where do you come from? What are you doing here? Where are you going?”
Thus, we will try to give a true picture and show the human aspect of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), as much as is possible in such a brief article.
A MODEST MAN
A man came into the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him) on the day Mecca was conquered. The man started shaking as he saw the spiritual and physical grandeur of the Prophet, (peace be upon him). When the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw him in that state, he said to the man with a soft voice:
“Relax, do not feel distressed! I am not a king. I am the son of a woman from the tribe of Quraysh who used to eat dried meat.” 
Jarir (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated the following: “One day, I was going to the mosque with the Prophet. The lace of his shoe broke on the way. I wanted to take it to repair it. The Messenger of Allah refused to give it to me and said: ‘This is preferential treatment (that is treating some people in a special way), I dislike preferential treatment.” 
HIS COURTESY, COMPASSION AND ALTRUISM
A rough Bedouin called the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) three times. Each time, the Prophet (peace be upon him) remained courteous to him despite his rudeness and responded to him by saying, ‘Please be welcome.’
Abdullah ibn Amr, (may Allah be pleased with him), narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never used the bad expressions commonly used in daily language. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “the little matters of courtesy that look easy to you, those which you take lightly, will be very important on the Day of Judgment”.
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) served his guests personally, out of courtesy. He did not violate the rules of courtesy even when he was a child. He was known for his compassion and closeness to the needy, the orphans, the widows and the people who had no relatives to assist them.
Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “I served the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for ten years. He never reprimanded me by asking, ‘Why did you do that?’ when I made mistakes.” His mercy reached even the captives of war. He ordered that they be treated well.
The mercy of the Prophet (peace be upon him) encompassed all creatures. When he saw a child, happiness showed in his face and he took the children of his companions in his arms and patted them. He never failed to greet the children, showed them affection and joking with them. Once he saw a group of children who were racing. He joined them and raced along with them. He took children on his camel when he came across them on the way and paid attention to them. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) described his conduct as follows: “I have not seen anyone who respected the rights of his family and children more than the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him).” 
If a baby cried while its mother was praying, he permitted the mother to shorten her salat in order to prevent the child from crying until she returned. He prayed all night long, shedding tears for his community, the Ummah. He sacrificed all his life to save humanity from the hellfire  These are some indications of his deep mercy.
HIS CONDUCT WITH PEOPLE
Jabir ibn Abdullah narrated, “One day, people passed by carrying a corpse. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) stood up. We also did so. Later, we said: “O Messenger of Allah! It was the corpse of a Jew!” He responded: “Is he not also a human?”
One day, the companions, as a result of pressures put on them by non-Muslims, asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) to make a prayer condemning the enemies of Islam. In response, the Prophet said: “I did not come for condemnation; I came as a mercy.”
The prayer he made against his fiercest enemies was as follows: “O my Lord! They know not! Give them guidance!”
Abdullah Ibn Ubayy was the secret chief of the hypocrites in Medina. He betrayed the Prophet (peace be upon him) on a very critical day by leaving the Muslim army with his followers on the way to the battle of Uhud. Also, he betrayed the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the community of believers on many other occasions. As a result of hidden divine wisdom, Abdullah’s son, unlike his father, was a most sincere believer.
When Abdullah ibn Ubayy died, his son came to the Prophet and asked for his shirt to wrap his father’s corpse in, in the hope that he might receive some blessing from it. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not want to break the heart of his companion and gave him his shirt to be used in covering the corpse of a hypocrite, who had also been a protagonist in the incident of Ifk where the blessed wife of the Prophet, Aishah was slandered. 
Is it possible to find a parallel example of such humanity and kindness in the history of the world?
HIS COURTESY TOWARDS THE NEEDY
Ma’rur ibn Suwayd told the following story:
“I saw Abu Dharr with a new garment. His slave was also dressed the same way. I asked him the reason. He related that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said:
‘Slaves are your brothers entrusted by Allah to your service. If one of you has his brother in his service, let him feed his brother from his own food, and dress him as he dresses himself. Do not give him responsibility for things beyond his power. If you have to do so, help him.’ “
One day, the Messenger of Allah remembered a black slave and asked about him: “What has happened to that person? I have not seen him for a while.” “He died, O Messenger of Allah,” they responded. The Prophet (peace be upon him) reprimanded them: “Why didn’t you let me know?” The companions then told him what had happened to that slave. They had not considered the incident very important or thought it an unusual event. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: “Show me his grave!” Then he went to his grave and prayed the funeral prayer. 
The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) took a special pleasure in freeing slaves and elevating them to the level of other people. The best example of this was his relationship with Zayd ibn Haritha, who was a gift to him from our blessed mother, Khadija. He freed Zayd and gave him the right to choose between him and his parents. Zayd chose the Prophet (peace be upon him) even though it was a difficult time for him, as he was facing negative propaganda and torture from the Quraysh. Later, this companion reached such a high level among the companions that the Prophet (peace be upon him) assigned him to be the commander of the army in the Battle of Tabuk against the Byzantines. He reached the level of martyr in this war and bequeathed to the following generations a brilliant life, like a star  . Briefly put, his life was like the life of the Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) who was elevated from slavery to kingship.
The Messenger of Allah never agreed with the abuse of slaves. He said that: “Those who abuse their slaves cannot enter Paradise.” The mercy of the Prophet (peace be upon him) toward the slaves reached such a level that he refused to refer to them as “slave” or “maid”, instead he advised and commanded Muslims to refer to them as “my son” or “my daughter”. 
He himself used to go among the slaves and talk to them, visit those who were ill among them, accept their invitations, and attend their funeral services. Abu Dawud relates that the following were the last words of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “Pay great attention to salat! Fear Allah regarding the slaves you own!” (Abu Dawud, Adab, 124)
Slavery has been a human tragedy in the history of the world and it continued into modern times. The United Kingdom only abolished slavery in its lands in 1833 with the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 and France followed it fifteen years later, while the same thing happened in USA in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Considering these revolutionary reforms to abolish slavery in modern times, what the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) did and suggested fourteen centuries ago was a real revolution. Slavery was a de facto reality of the society and the Prophet changed it and amended it until it was a more humane institution. What was needed was to gradually abolish it completely from Islamic society, however later Muslims did not act in that way. This is a bit of self-criticism that we need to reflect on further.
HIS CONDUCT WITH WOMEN
In the pre-Islamic era, women had been treated in such a way that their womanly pride was offended. Concubines were seen as instruments of amusement and were treated in a very degrading way. Fearing that they would grow up to become prostitutes, little girls were buried alive by their parents, without any mercy. With petrified hearts, even worse crimes were committed in order to protect them from calamity; all of this was the result of ignorance.
By the order of the Prophet Muhammad, women’s rights were established. Women became examples of modesty and virtue in society. The institution of motherhood gained honor. With the hadith that says “Paradise lies under the feet of the mothers,” mothers earned the status they deserved by the courtesy of the Prophet Muhammad.
The following example of the kindness extended by the Prophet to women is a beautiful one. “During a journey, a slave named Anjasha caused the camels to run by his singing. The Prophet Muhammad, thinking that the delicate bodies of the ladies on the camels might get hurt, said: O Anjasha! Mind the crystals! Mind the crystals!”
HIS CONDUCT WITH ANIMALS
The people of the pre-Islamic era treated animals without any pity or mercy. They used to cut off pieces of their flesh or their tails while they were still alive. They used to organize brutal animal fights. The Prophet (peace be upon him) put an end to these cruel practices. The traditions prevalent today of cockfights, camel fights or bull fights originated in the pre-Islamic era.
One day, the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw a donkey on the road whose face had been branded. He became very sorry and said, “May God’s punishment be upon the person who branded it!” He recommended that branding for the purpose of marking should be done in a place on an animal’s body where it would not hurt the animal too much.
Once he saw a camel that was just skin and bones. He said to the owner of that camel; “Fear Allah for these speechless animals! Do not let them remain hungry!”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained the difference between the states of the merciful and the states of merciless as follows:
“A sinful woman saw a dog in the desert which was licking the sand with its tongue out of thirst. She had pity on it and pulled some water from a well with her shoe and gave it to the dog. Allah forgave her sins because of that. Another woman did not care about her cat and kept it locked up and hungry for a long time. She did not even let the cat out to eat the bugs on the soil. Finally, the cat died of hunger. This woman became one of the people of the Hellfire because of her cruelty!”
HIS ADVICE ABOUT THE RIGHTS OF NEIGHBOURS
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) urged in his teachings to respect the rights of one’s neighbors. In a hadith he has said, “Gabriel repeatedly gave me advice about the rights of neighbors to such an extent that I wondered if they would take a share of my legacy when I died.”
Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, who was one of the poorer companions said, “The Prophet ordered me to put more water in my food so that I could offer some to my neighbor.”  Abu Dharr was among the needy ones of the companions. Since he did not have extra food, the only way he could increase his meal was by adding extra water to it. This hadith demonstrates that even poverty is not an excuse for not respecting the rights of neighbors.
HIS CONDUCT WITH CRIMINALS AND CAPTIVES OF WAR
In Islam, the cause of a crime is first sought and a great effort is made to reform the criminal’s personality. Punishment in Islamic law is like the punishment parents give to their children. The purpose of punishing the criminal is not to isolate him, but rather to assist him in returning to society.
A poor man called Abbad ibn Shurahbil stole some dates from a garden, putting some of them in his pocket. At that time, the owner of the garden caught him and beat him. Abbad, who was very much hurt by the incident, went to the Prophet to complain. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) called the owner of the garden and said to him; “Do not you know he is uneducated? He does not know what he is doing. Did you give him advice? Moreover, he was hungry; you should have fed him.” The owner of the garden became so upset about what he had done that he gave some more dates to Abbad along with two sacks of wheat.
These statements are not intended to protect robbers, but rather to cure the social problems that give rise to theft. The Prophet (peace be upon him) stated clearly that he would cut off the hand of his own daughter as a punishment if she were to commit theft.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was particularly compassionate with captives of war. He said to his companions: “They are your brothers, offer them what you eat and drink!”
Allah likes to forgive. He has promised to forgive the sins of humans if they sincerely repent. In the Qur’an, he has also asked his servants to be forgiving because He is oft-forgiving.
The condition for Allah’s forgiveness is that one feel remorse, obey the orders of Allah, and stay away from what He has prohibited.
The best examples of forgiveness are found in the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He forgave Hind, who bit into the liver of his uncle Hamza at the Battle of Uhud. During the conquering of Mecca after she became a Muslim, Hind came from behind the Prophet and asked, “O Messenger of Allah, do you recognize me?” The Prophet Muhammad, five years after Uhud, indicated that he still remembered her shout of joy after Hamza was martyred. “How can I forget that shout?” Yet, he forgave her for the sake of the Kalima-i Tawhid, which she uttered on entering Islam.
On the other hand, the Prophet Muhammad said to the people of Mecca who were waiting with great anxiety after being conquered: “O, Community of Quraysh! What do you expect that I will do to you?” The people of Quraysh said, “We expect that you will forgive us. You are a brother filled with kindness and mercy. You are also the son of a brother who had kindness and mercy…” Thereupon, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I say to you what the Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) said to his brothers: This day, no reproach be cast on you. May Allah forgive you. You may go. You are free.” In another address, he said, “Today is the day of mercy. Today is the day Allah increased the power of Islam by the people of Quraysh.
One of the fiercest enemies of Islam in Mecca was Abu Jahl, which literally means “father of ignorance.” His son Ikrima was also a leading enemy of Islam. Ikrima escaped to Yemen when Mecca was conquered. His wife became a Muslim and later brought him to the presence of the Prophet (peace be upon him), who met him with pleasure and said to him: “O the running cavalry! Welcome!” He forgave him without even reminding him of his wrongdoings against Muslims. 
A man called Hamamah accepted Islam and cut his relations with the polytheist Meccans. The Meccans were shocked by his decision and approached the Prophet (peace be upon him) to ask the man to maintain his trade with them. The Prophet (peace be upon him) sent Hamamah a letter and asked him to continue his trade with the Quraysh. Although the polytheists had held the Muslims under siege for three years and had tortured them by letting them remain hungry, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) nevertheless forgave them. They all became Muslims when confronted with such endless forgiveness.
One day, a group of eighty people came to kill the Prophet (peace be upon him), but all of them were caught. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) forgave each of them as well.
After Khaybar was conquered, a woman offered some food that was poisoned to the Prophet (peace be upon him), who noticed the poison after the first bite. The Jewish woman confessed her plot, but the Prophet forgave her. 
One of the most beautiful characteristics of the Prophet was to refrain from denying someone who asked for something. If there were nothing to offer, he would smile in order to bring pleasure. The following incident is an excellent example:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) described himself only as an officer of distribution and he stressed that everything was provided by Allah. One day a man came to the Prophet (peace be upon him). When he saw the goats the Prophet (peace be upon him) had, he asked for a goat. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) gave him all his goats. When the man returned to his tribe he told them the following: “Muhammad is so generous that he is not afraid of poverty!”
Another person came to visit the Prophet (peace be upon him) and asked for something. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not have anything to give to him. He suggested that the man get a loan and promised him that he would pay the loan on the man’s behalf.
According to the description of his companions, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was more modest than a young girl who covered herself from unwanted eyes. He never spoke with a loud voice. When he passed by others, he used to do so slowly and with a smile on his face. When he heard displeasing talk, he never said anything in front of the people. Nevertheless, his face reflected his feelings and his thoughts. Thus, people around him were very careful about their conduct when they were near him. He never laughed loudly because of his modesty. The most he did was only to smile. In a hadith it is stated that,
“Modesty is from faith. Modest people will be in Paradise! Shamelessness arises from the hardness of heart. Those with hardened hearts will go to the Hellfire.”
We are aware that our limited words of description about this personality who represents the zenith of what it means to be a human are without doubt far from conveying the fullness of his being. We even feel embarrassed to claim we have introduced his real portrayal. Our words represent only our powerlessness before such a vast task. What we have humbly aimed for is nothing other than the honor of having made such an intention and of having made such an attempt. He is an infinite world that can be penetrated only to the extent of one’s love and one’s sincerity towards him. May Allah bless us by opening our wings in the skies of this spiritual world. Amin
- Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, Letters, Nineteenth Letter, First Addendum.
- Ibn Mâjah, At’imah 30; al-Hâkim, al-Mustadrak, II, 506; al-Tabarânî, al-Mujamu l-Awsat,II, 64.
3. al-Bazzâr, al-Musnad, IX, 263; Abû Dâwûd al-Tayâlisî, al-Musnad, I,156; al-Tabarânî, al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, III. 174; al-Bayhaqî, Shu’ab al-Îmân, III, 275
4. Tirmidhî, Zuhd 50; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, IV, 239; Nasâî, al-Sunan al-Kubrâ, VI, 344; al-San’ânî, al-Musannaf, I, 206
5. Tirmidhî, Birr 61; al-Bayhaqî, al-Sunan al-Kubrâ, X, 193; Ma’mar ibn Râshid, al-Jâmi’, XI, 146; al-Qudâî, Musnad al-Shihâb, I, 274
6. Bukhârî, Nafaqât 1; Muslim, Zuhd 41-42
7. Muslim, Fadâil 51; Abû Dâwûd, Adab 1; Dârimî, Muqaddimah 10
8. Muslim, Fadâil 63; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, III, 112; Ibn Hibbân, al-Sahîh, XV, 400; al-Bayhaqî, al-Sunan al-Kubrâ, II, 263
9. Bukhârî, Azan 65; Muslim, Salât 191; Abû Dâwûd, Salât 123; Tirmidhî, Salât 159; Nasâî, Imamah 35; Ibn Mâjah, Iqamah 49; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, III, 109
10.Muslim, Îmân 346; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, V, 127; Ibn Hibbân, al-Sahîh, XVI, 217
11.Bukhârî, Riqâq 26; Muslim, Fadâil 17
12.Bukhârî, Janâiz 50; Muslim, Janâiz 81
13.Muslim, Jihad 104; Abu Yaia, al-Musnad, XI, 35; al-Bayhaqi, al-Sunan al-Kubra, III, 352; al-Tabarani, al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, III, 223
14.Bukhârî, Anbiyâ 54; Muslim, Jihâd 104; Ibn Mâjah, Fitan 33; Ibn Hibban, al-Sahîh, III, 254
15.Bukhârî, Janâiz 23; Muslim, Munafiqun 4; Abû Dâwûd, Janâiz 1; Nasâî, Janâiz 40; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad II, 18
16.Bukhârî, Imân 22; Muslim, Aymân 40; Abû Dâwûd, Adab 124; Tirmidhî, Birr 29; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, V, 58, 161
17.Bukhârî, Salât 72; Muslim, Janâiz 71; Abû Dâwûd, Janâiz 57; Ibn Mâjah, Janâiz 32; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 353, 388
18.Ibn Hagar al-’Asqalâni, al-Îsâbah fi tamyîz al-sahâbah, II, 598-601; Ibn Abdilbarr, al-İstî’âb fî ma’rifatil-ashâb, II, 542-546
19.Tirmidhî, Birr 29; Ibn Mâjah, Adab 10; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, I, 7; al-Tabarânî, al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, IX, 124; Abû Ya’lâ, al-Musnad, I, 94
20.Bukhârî, Itk 17; Muslim, Alfaz 13,15; Abû Dâwûd, Adab 75; Ahmad b. Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 316, 423
21.Nasâî, Jihâd 6; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, III, 429; Ibn Mâjah, ]ihâd 12; al-Qudâî, Musnad alShihâb, 1,102; al-Daylami, al-Firdaws, II, 116
22.Camels like beautiful voices and singing. The herdsmen for the camels sing to race the camels
23.Bukhârî Adab 95; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, III, 117
24.Bukhârî, Zabâih 25
25.Abû Dâwûd, Jihâd 47; Ibn Khuzaymah, al-Sahîh, IV, 143
26.Bukhârî, Anbiyâ 54; Muslim, Salâm 151,154; Birr 133; Nasâî, Kusuf 14
27.Bukhari, Adah 28; Muslim, Birr 140; Abu Dawud, Adah 123; Ibn Majah, Adah 4; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 85,160, 259
28.Ibn Majah, At’imah 58 ; al-Tabarani, al-Mu’jam al-Awsat, IV, 54
29.Nasâî, Adab al-qadâ 21: Abû Dâwûd, Jihâd 85
30.Muslim, Aymân 36-38
31.Nasâî, al-Sunan al-Kubrâ, VI, 382; al-Bayhaqî, al-Sunan al-Kubrâ, IX, 118; al-Rabi’ ibn Habîb, Musnad al Rabi’, I, 170; Tahâwî, Shark Ma’ânî al-Âthâr, III, 325
32.Ibn Hagar al-’Asqalânî, al-Isâbah, IV, 538
33.Bukhârî, Tibb 55; Muslim, Selam 43; Abû Dâwûd, Diyat 6; Ibn Mâjah, Tibb 45; Dârimî, Muqaddimah 11; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 451
34.Muslim, Fadâil 57; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, III, 107, 259; Ibn Hibbân, al-Sahîh, X, 354; Ibn Khuzaymah, al-Sahîh, IV, 70
35.Bukhârî, Îmân 16; Muslim, Îmân 57-59; Abû Dâwûd, Sunnah 14; Tirmidhî, Îmân 7; Nasâî, Îmân 16; Ibn Mâjah, Zuhd 17; Muwatta, Husn al-Khuluq 10; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, al-Musnad, II, 56,147