MODESTY OF GOD’S MESSENGER
life each man has a window called status through which he looks
out to see others and be seen. If the window is built higher
than his real stature, he tries, through vanity and giving
himself airs, to stretch himself up to be seen taller than he
really is. If the window is set lower than his real stature, he
must bow in humility in order to look out, to see and be seen.
Humility is the measure of a man’s greatness; just as vanity
or conceit is the measure of low character.1
Messenger had a stature as high as to touch the ‘roof of
heavens’, so he had no need to be seen. Whoever ‘travels’
in the ‘realm of virtues’, he sees him before every created
being, including angels. He is, in the words of Said Nursi, the
noble aide-de-camp of God, and he lowers himself to stay in the
world for a while so that people might find the way to God.
Since he is the greatest of mankind, he is the greatest in
modesty - the greater one is, the more modest he is.
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, never regarded
himself as greater than anybody else. No one could distinguish
him among his Companions except for his radiant face and
attractive person. He lived as the poorest of them, dressed like
them, sat among them and ate with them, as he did with slaves
and servants. Once, a woman saw him eating and remarked: ‘He
is eating as if he were a slave.’ God’s Messenger responded
to her, saying: Could there be a better slave than me? I am a
slave of God.2 He was once serving his friends,
when a Bedouin came in and shouted: ‘Who is the master of this
people?’ The answer of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace
and blessings, was such that, besides introducing himself, it
also expressed a substantial principle of Islamic leadership and
public administration: The master of the people is the one
who serves them. In the words of ‘Ali, ‘among people, he
was one of them’. When he reached Quba accompanied by Abu Bakr
during Hijra, some people of Madina who had not seen him before,
tried to kiss the hands of Abu Bakr because, outwardly, there
was no sign to distinguish the Prophet from Abu Bakr.3
construction of the Mosque in Madina after the Hijra, he carried
two sun-dried bricks while everybody else carried one.4
In the digging of the ditch around Madina to defend the city in
the Battle of the Ditch, the Companions bound a stone around
their bellies because of hunger, but God’s Messenger himself
bound two, because he was more hungry than anybody else.5
Once, a man saw him and, due to his awe-inspiring appearance,
began to tremble out of fear. The Messenger, upon him be peace
and blessings, calmed him, saying: ‘Brother, don’t be
afraid! I am a man, like you, whose mother used to eat dry
bread.’6 Again, a woman suffering from insanity
pulled him by the hand and said: ‘Come with me and do my
housework.’ God’s Messenger went with the woman and did the
work.7 As reported by ‘A’isha, mother of
believers, God’s Messenger patched his clothes, repaired his
shoes and helped his wives with the housework.8
his modesty elevated him to ‘the highest of the high’, he
regarded himself as an ordinary servant of God. Once he said: No
one can enter Paradise by his deeds. When asked whether he
could not either, he answered: I cannot either, but for the
Mercy of God.9
Companions attempted to do nothing without consulting him or
getting his permission or approval. Once, ‘Umar came to him
and asked his permission to go for minor pilgrimage. God’s
Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, gave him permission
and made this request: Brother, include me in your
supplications. ‘Umar rejoiced so much at that that one day he
was to say later: ‘If the worlds had been granted to me that
day, I would not have felt the same happiness.’10
addition to the other virtues of the Prophet, upon him be peace
and blessings, his humility was one of the greatest qualities.
As he attained a higher rank each and every day, he increased in
humility and servanthood to God. His servanthood is prior to his
Messengership, as we mention in the declaration of faith: I bear
witness that there is no god but God; I also bear witness that
Muhammad is His servant and Messenger. He preferred being a
Prophet-slave to being a Prophet-king.
once sitting with the Archangel Gabriel, and said to him: For
days, I haven’t eaten anything. No sooner had he uttered this
than an angel appeared and asked: ‘O Messenger of God, God
greets you and asks: “Do you wish to be a Prophet-king or a
Prophet-slave?” Gabriel advised him: ‘O Muhammad, be humble
towards your Lord!’ Humility was in fact indispensable to the
character of God’s Messenger, and he answered: I wish to be
praises his servanthood and mentions him as a servant in several
verses of the Qur’an:
the servant of God stood up in prayer to Him, they (the
jinn) were well nigh upon him in swarms (to watch his
prayer). (al-Jinn, 72.19)
challenging unbelievers to bring the like of only a single sura
of the Qur’an; God also mentions him as a servant:
if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent
down on Our servant, then bring a sura of the like
thereof, and call your witnesses beside God if you are
truthful. (al-Baqara, 2.23)
death of Khadija and Abu Talib, God’s Messenger, upon him be
peace and blessings, became convinced that he could no longer
stay in Makka with any hope of victory or security. Before
things became too critical, he went to Ta’if in search of a
new base for his faith, but he received there the worst kind of
welcome. At a time when he felt himself without support and
protection, God manifested His Mercy perfectly and honored him
with the Ascension, raising him to His Presence. While narrating
this incident in the Qur’an, God mentions him, again, as His
servant to show that God’s Messenger deserves Ascension
through his servanthood:
be to him, Who carried His servant by night from the Holy
Mosque to the Furthest Mosque, the precincts of which We
have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs. He
is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (al-Isra’, 17.1)
is the most important aspect of the servanthood of God’s
Messenger, who declared:
is humble, God exalts him, and whoever is haughty, God
describes the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings:
Messenger was the most generous of people in giving out
and the mildest and the foremost of them in patience and
perseverance. He was the most truthful of people in
speech, the most amiable and congenial in companionship
and the noblest of them in family. Whoever sees him first
is stricken by awe of him but whoever knows him closely is
attracted to him deeply, and whoever attempts to describe
him says: ‘I have, either before him or after him, never
seen the like of him, upon him be peace and blessings’.13
1. Said Nursi, Letters
2. Haythami, Majma‘, 9.21.
3. I. Hisham, 2.137.
4. Buhari, 1.111; Muslim, 2.65; Semhudi, Wafa’, 1.237;
I. Sa‘d, 1. 240.
5. Tirmidhi, “Zuhd,” 39.
6. I. Maja, “At‘ıma,” 30; Haythami, 9.20.
7. Qadi ‘Iyad, al-Shifa’, 1.131, 133.
8. Tirmidhi, Shama’il, 78; I. Hanbal, 6.256.
9. Bukhari, “Riqaq,” 18.
10. Ibn Ma’ja, “Manasik,” 5; Tirmidhi, “Da‘awat,”
109; Abu Dawud, “Witr,” 23.
11. I. Hanbal, 2.231; Haythami, 9.18.
12. Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 3.113; Haythami, 10.325.
13. Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 3880.