PROPHETS PRACTICED WHAT THEY PREACHED
If a preacher desires his
preaching to be effective on people, he should practice what he preaches. One
who says what he does not do can hardly expect to succeed in his mission.
Actions speak louder than words. The Qur’an is very explicit in this matter:
O you who believe!
Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight
of God that you say what you do not do (al-Saff, 61.2 -3).
God’s Messenger, upon
him be peace and blessings, was the living embodiment of his mission. He was the
foremost in practising Islam, in devotion to God, in servanthood to Him. It
usually happened that one who saw him did not feel the need to see any other
proofs to believe in his Prophethood. For example, ‘Adbullah ibn Salam, the
renowned scholar of the Jewish community in Madina, believed in him at first
sight of him, saying:
There can be no lie
in this face; the one who has such a face can only be a Messenger of God.23
‘Adbullah ibn Rawaha,
a famous poet of the time, expressed this fact in a couplet whose meaning is:
Even if he had
not come with manifest signs,
A single look at
him suffices to inspire belief in him.24
Those who believed in
him in his time were not foolish or unreasonable people. Among them were men
who, like the first four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali,
may God be pleased with them all, administered a very great state. They were
also so profound in spirituality and so deep in belief that ‘Ali, for
example, once said:
If the veil
(between this material world and the immaterial world) were to be lifted
up, my certainty (of the Unseen) would not increase.25
One of the reasons why
the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is still loved deeply
by hundreds of millions despite the concerted, hostile efforts of propaganda
to remove him from the hearts of his people and why, by contrast, he gains
each day thousands of new converts all over the world, is that he practised
what he advised others to do. For example, he invited people to worship God
sincerely and he himself set the best example in this respect. He would spend
more than half of the night standing in prayer before God in tears, and utmost
humility, and when asked why he gave himself so great a trouble as it caused
his feet to swell, and did so even though he was sinless, he would answer:
Should I not be a
thankful slave of God?26
As narrated by ‘A’isha,
his wife, one night he asked her permission to get up and pray - he was so
sensitive to the rights of his wives as to request, while with them, their
permission to perform supererogatory prayer. He prayed until daybreak and shed
tears. He frequently recited the following verses,
In the creation
of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of day and night,
there are signs for men of understanding. Those that remember God
standing, sitting, and lying down, and meditate upon the creation of the
heavens and the earth. ‘Our Lord! You have not created this in vain.
Glory be to You! Protect us from the punishment of the Fire. Our Lord!
Those whom You will admit to the Fire, You have abased them; for
wrong-doers there are no helpers. Our Lord! We have heard a caller
calling to faith: “Believe you in your Lord”! So we believed. Our
Lord! Therefore forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds,
and take our souls in death in the company of the righteous! Our Lord!
And grant us what You did promise to us through Your Messengers, and do
not abase us on the Day of Resurrection. You never break the promise!
(Al ‘Imran, 3.190-4)27
I woke up one
night and I could not see God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and
blessings, beside me. I was jealous lest he had gone to another of his
wives. As I just got up from bed, my hand touched his feet. I noticed
that he was prostrate, praying: O God! I seek refuge in Your pleasure
from Your wrath, and in Your forgiveness from Your punishment; I also
seek refuge in Yourself from You. I cannot praise You as You praise
His life was so simple
that once ‘Umar, on seeing him, said:
O Messenger of
God! While kings sleep in soft, feather beds, you are lying on a rough
mat. You are the Messenger of God and thereby deserve more than any
other people to live an easy life. God’s Messenger answered him: Do
you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs but those
of the Hereafter ours?29
God’s Messenger, upon
him be peace and blessings, lived for others. Indeed, he desired his nation to
live a comfortable life without, however, being deluded by its luxuries, but
he himself lived a very simple life.
23. I. Hisham, Sira,
24. Sa’id al-Hawwa, al-Rasul,
1.9; For a different version, see, I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 2.307.
25. ‘Ali al-Qari, al-Asrar
Tahajjud, 6; Muslim, Munafiqin, 81.
27. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir,
Salat, 221-2; Abu Dawud, Salat, 148; Witr, 5
Tafsir, 287; Muslim, Talaq, 31.