The Prophet Muhammad taught love, kindness and compassion to his people, and was seen to be the most loving, kind, and compassionate of all of them. The Quran mentions his kind and gentle behavior in these words: “O Messenger of Allah! It is a great Mercy of God that you are gentle and kind towards them; for, had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would all have broken away from you” (Quran 3:159).
There are many instances that show his kindness and gentleness, especially to the weak and the poor. Anas, who was his helper, said: “I served Allah’s Messenger for ten years and he never said to me, ‘Shame’ or ‘Why did you do such-and-such a thing?’ or ‘Why did you not do such-and-such a thing?'” (Bukhari, 2038).
Once he said to his wife: “O ‘A’ishah! Never turn away any needy man from your door empty-handed. O ‘A’ishah! Love the poor; bring them near to you and God will bring you near to Him on the Day of Resurrection”. He also went much further on to say: “Seek me among your weak ones, for you are given provision, or you are given help only by reason of the presence of your weak ones”. (Rahman, Encyclopedia of Seerah, VOL. VIII, p. 151) God Almighty is Kind, and the Prophet imitated Allah’s example in its perfection by showing kindness to his servants and all creatures without any regard for their beliefs, color or nationality. The Prophet said: “God is kind and likes kindness in all things” (Bukhari, 6601).
His heart ached within him at the corrupt state of his fellow-Meccans and their rejection of One God. The Holy Quran testifies to it in these words: “O Muhammad, you will, perhaps, consume yourself with grief because the people do not believe” (Quran 26:3). In Surah Kahf, we read: “Well, O Muhammad, it may be that you will kill yourself for their sake out of sorrow if they do not believe in this Message.” (Quran 18:6). And Surah Fatir says: “So let not your life be consumed in grief for their sake.” (Quran 35:8).
He took a great interest in the welfare of all people and had great compassion for people in trouble. The Prophet Muhammad imitated the attributes of God par excellence and translated them into practice in the highest form possible for man. Kindness is an attribute of Allah, which has no limits. It is extensive and encompasses all things and all beings without discrimination. Likewise was the kindness of the Prophet. He extended it to all beings, both animate and inanimate and benefited all without measure. The Quranic words for the Prophet’s kindness, ra’ufun rahirn (Quran 9:128) are very intensive and comprehensive in meaning and convey the true nature and extent of the Prophet’s kindness to people. The Prophet said: “One of the finest acts of kindness is for a man to treat his fathers’ friends in a kindly way after he has departed” (Abu dawud, 5123)
The issue of treating friends well was also extended to include relations: “He who wishes to have his provision enlarged and his term of life prolonged should treat his relatives well” (Bukhari, 5985). He emphasized on this matter because he deeply held the view that “Only kindness prolongs life, and a person is deprived of provisions for the faults he commits” (Ibn Majah). Bahz b. Hakim, on his father’s authority, said that his grandfather told him that he had asked Allah’s Messenger to whom he should show kindness and that the Prophet had replied: “Your mother.” He asked who came next and he replied: “Your mother.” He asked who came next and he replied for the third time: “Your mother.” He again asked who came next and he replied: “Your father, then your relatives in order of relationship” (Abu dawud, 5120). He dwelled on the issue of treating orphans humanely as he stated that “The best house among the Muslims is one which contains an orphan who is well treated, and the worst house among the Muslims is one which contains an orphan who is badly treated” (Ibn Majah, 3679). This means that the Prophet cautioned his followers against general maltreatment of anyone regardless of his status. By extending good treatment from friends to relatives and now to neighbors, Prophet Muhammad was intent in making all humans interdependent as he emphasized in the following words: “All creatures are Allah’s dependants, and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His dependants kindly” (Rahman, VOL VIII, p. 154). He emphasized the kind treatment of women again and again in his speeches:
Treat women kindly, since they are your helpers; . . . you have your rights upon your wives and they have their rights upon you. Your right is that they shall not allow anyone you dislike to enter your bed or your home, and their right is that you should treat them well. (from the Farewell Sermon of the Prophet)
Once a number of women complained to the Prophet’s wives about their ill-treatment by their husbands. On hearing of this, the Prophet said: “Such persons among you are not good persons.” (Abu Dawud, 1834). This condemnation by the Prophet himself was an indication that no one will be accepted before God who, while on earth, decided to be unkind to women. Another person said to the Prophet: “O Messenger of Allah! My relatives are such that although I cooperate with them, they cut me off; I am kind to them but they ill treat me.” The Prophet said this in reply: “So long as you continue as you are, God will always help you and He will protect you against their mischief” (Muslim, 4640). This was not only a way of bringing comfort to the mind of the worried person but one of the communicative techniques of the Prophet to assure who ever found himself in that situation to look up to God to be consoled and protected. So it was pointless to preach vengeance to this kind of people suffering from this similar fate. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad was nothing short of a competent counselor.
He was always counseling people to be goodhearted regardless of their sex, age or gender. Once Asma bint Abu Bakr’s mother, who was still an unbeliever, came to see her in Madinah. She told this to the Prophet and said: “My mother has come to see me and she is expecting something from me. May I oblige her?” The Prophet said: “Yes, be kind to your mother” (Muslim, 2195). This attitude of the Prophet was equally extended to Zainab as-Saqafia, the wife of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and an Ansari woman. She went to see the Prophet and to inquire whether it would be a charity if they spent something on their husbands and on the orphans under their care. The Prophet said: “They will get a two-fold reward, one for kindness towards their relatives and the other for charity” (Bukhari, 1466).
There are many Ahadith concerning his kindness to animals, birds and insects: “God prescribed kindness towards everything; so when you slaughter any animal, slaughter it well; when you sacrifice, make your sacrifice good. And let everyone sharpen his weapon and make it easy for his sacrificed animal” (Muslim, 5055). He made this kind of statement to demonstrate his love for both humans and animals. In essence, Prophet Muhammad was equally showing his followers that he too is feels pain.
Prophet Muhammad, may God send His praises upon him, was an extraordinary husband, a perfect father, and a unique grandfather. He was unique in every way. He treated his children and grandchildren with great compassion and never neglected to direct them to the straight path and to good deeds. He loved them and treated them tenderly, but did not allow them to neglect matters related to the afterlife. He showed them how to lead a humane life and never allowed them to neglect their religious duties or to become spoiled.
His ultimate goal was to prepare them for the Hereafter. His perfect balance in such matters is another dimension of his divinely-inspired intellect. Anas Ibn Malik, the Messenger’s helper for 10 years, says:
“I have never seen a man who was more compassionate to his family members than Muhammad.”[Saheeh Muslim]
Muhammad was a human like us, but God inspired in him such an intimate affection for every living thing that he could establish a connection with all of them. As a result, he was full of extraordinary affection toward his family members and others.
All of the Prophet’s sons died. Ibrahim, his last son, died in infancy. The Prophet often visited his son before the latter’s death, although he was very busy. Ibrahim was looked after by a nurse. The Prophet would kiss and play with him before returning home.[Saheeh Muslim]
When Ibrahim took his last breaths, the eyes of the Prophet started shedding tears. Abdur-Rahman Ibn Awf said:
“O God’s Messenger, even you (weep)!” The Prophet said, “O Ibn Auf, this is mercy.”
Then he wept more and said:
“The eyes shed tears and the heart grieves, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord, O Ibrahim! Indeed we are grieved by your separation.”
The Messenger was completely balanced in the way he brought up his children. He loved his children and grandchildren very much, and instilled love in them. However, he never let his love for them be abused. None of them deliberately dared to do anything wrong. If they made an unintentional mistake, the Messenger’s protection prevented them from going even slightly astray. He did this by wrapping them in love and an aura of dignity. For example, once Hasan or Hussain wanted to eat a date meant for distribution among the poor as alms. The Messenger immediately took it from his hand, and said:
“Anything given as alms is forbidden to us.”[Saheeh Muslim]
In teaching them while they were young to be sensitive to forbidden acts, the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, established an important principle of education.
Whenever he returned to Medina, he would carry children on his mount. On such occasions, the Messenger embraced not only his grandchildren but also those in his house and those nearby. He conquered their hearts through his compassion. He loved all children.
He loved his granddaughter Umamah. He often went out with her on his shoulders, and even placed her on his shoulders while praying. When he prostrated, he put her down; when he had finished praying, he placed her on his back again.[Saheeh Muslim]
The Prophet showed this degree of love to Umamah to teach his male followers how to treat girls. This was a vital necessity; only a decade earlier, it had been the social norm to bury infant or young girls alive. Such public paternal affection for a granddaughter had never been seen before in Arabia.
The Messenger proclaimed that Islam allows no discrimination between son and daughter. How could there be? One is Muhammad, the other is Khadijah; one is Adam, the other is Eve; one is Ali, the other is Fatima. For every great man there is a great woman.
As soon as Fatimah, the daughter of the Messenger, entered the room where the Messenger was, he would stand, take her hands, and make her sit where he was sitting. He would ask about her health and family, show his paternal love for her and compliment her.
Fatimah, knowing how fond he was of her, loved him more than her own self. She always watched her father and how he called people to Islam. She wept profusely when the Messenger told her that he would die soon, but her tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy when he informed her that she would be the first of his family to follow him.[Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim]
This is the Prophet and his relation to children, A man respected by leaders, cherished and loved by children.
When we mention the religion of Islam, often the first word that comes to mind is peace. The word Islam is derived from the infinitive ‘sa-la’ma’ which also is the root for the word salam, which means peace. Islam is a way of life that promotes peace, dignity, respect, tolerance, justice and mercy and all of these qualities are tempered with serenity (calmness) that comes from submission to God. Perhaps the greatest of these qualities is mercy. It is one of the overriding themes throughout the Quran.
“Certainly, We have brought them a Book (the Quran) which We have explained in detail with knowledge, – guidance, and a mercy to a people who believe.” (Quran 7:52)
Mercy is that ethereal quality that embodies gentleness, piety, care, consideration, love, and forgiveness. When these qualities are observable in this world, they are a mere reflection of God’s mercy towards His creation. God said clearly that Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, was a mercy for all of creation, not just his family and friends or the Arab nation, or the people of the 7thcentury CE, and not for human beings alone.
“And We have sent you O Muhammad not but as a mercy for all of humankind, jinn, and all that exists.” (Quran 21:107)
Prophet Muhammad was the embodiment of mercy, he showed compassion to all those around him, family, orphans, friends, strangers and even enemies. He also treated the environment and animals with respect and mercy. He taught his followers that because animals were part of God’s creation they should be treated with dignity and due care.
The traditions of Prophet Muhammad remind us that humankind was put on this earth to be the custodian of God’s creation. Treating animals with kindness and mercy is just one of the responsibilities embedded in that custodianship. Prophet Muhammad’s words and behaviour make it clear that causing defenceless creatures pain and suffering is not only completely unacceptable, but we will also be answerable to God for such actions.
“If someone kills a sparrow for sport, the sparrow will cry out on the Day of Judgment, “O Lord! That person killed me in vain! He did not kill me for any useful purpose.”[Sunnan An Nasai]
The Prophet, may God praise him, said, “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.” The listeners asked, “O Messenger of God, what is a just cause?” He replied, “That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away.”[Ibid]
Islam expects humankind to treat all animals (all living creatures – birds, sea creatures, and insects) with respect and dignity. Prophet Muhammad continuously advised people to show kindness. He forbade the practice of cutting tails and manes of horses, of branding animals at any soft spot, and of keeping horses saddled unnecessarily. [Saheeh Muslim] If the Prophet saw, any animal over-burdened or ill fed he would speak mildly to the owner and say, “Fear God in your treatment of animals.”[Abu Dawood]
However, refraining from physical cruelty is not enough; abstaining from mental cruelty is equally as important. Even a bird’s emotional distress should be treated seriously. One of Prophet Muhammad’s companions narrates, “We were on a journey and during the Prophet’s absence, we saw a bird with its two chicks; we took them. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief. When Prophet Muhammad returned he said, “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its chicks? Return them to her.”[Saheeh Muslim]
In another narration, a Companion of the Prophet came to him carrying baby chicks in his clothing and mentioned that the mother bird had hovered over them. He was directed to return the chicks back to the same bush.[Abu Dawood]
In pre Islamic times, pagan superstitions and polytheistic practices included acts of torture and cruelty to animals. Islam condemned this and put a stop to all such practices. When Prophet Muhammad and his companions migrated to Medina, they noticed that people cut off camels’ humps and the fat tails of sheep for food. The Prophet forbade them from them from doing this and said, “Whatever is cut off an animal while it is still alive, is carrion and is unlawful to eat.”[At-Tirmidhi]
In Islam, the rules pertaining to slaughtering animals are very strict and fixed. Protecting animals from pain and undue suffering is paramount.
“God has ordained kindness (and excellence) in everything. If the killing (of animals) is to be done, do it in the best manner, and when you slaughter, do it in the best manner by first sharpening the knife, and putting the animal at ease.”[Saheeh Muslim]
When you set your dog (for the chase), mention the name of God if he catches the game, and you reach it while it is still alive, cut, its throat quickly (so it won’t suffer).”[Saheeh Bukhari & Muslim]
Humankind must strike a balance in their treatment of animals. All living creatures were put on this earth by God for our benefit. They are not at the same level as human beings but neither should they be treated cruelly. It is humankind’s responsibility to see that they have food, water, and shelter from the elements. Living creatures must not be overburdened, abused, or tortured and doing so will surely result in God’s just punishment. A true believer in God demonstrates his or her belief by respecting the entire creation, and Prophet Muhammad’s character and actions are a shining example of respect for all that exists.