How was the body language and speaking style of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
Submitted by on Thu, 10/01/2019 - 08:49
Dear Brother / Sister,
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet of Allah along with being a human. He had a mission: to convey the religion of Islam to people and to explain it. The skill of the Messenger of Allah, who is the best model in every field, related to communication with people is definitely important.
It is necessary to study thoroughly the personality of the Prophet (pbuh), who influenced tens of thousands of people in a very short period of time and made them obey him related to his cause, which he started to spread alone under the circumstances of fifteen centuries ago, in terms of his communication skills and use of body language.
That the Prophet used the body language, which is a very effective message in communication, as a messenger has become more importance for us today.
His walking style
According to the information given by the resources, the Prophet did not drag his feet as he walked; he would lift his foot firmly when he took a step. He would not swing as he walked; he would lean forward slightly as if walking on rough land. He would not stand upright by puffing his chest while walking. He would not walk very fast as if running but he would cover long distances in a short time as a grace of Allah.
His sitting style
The information that reached us about how the Prophet (pbuh) sat is found in the texts of hadiths as follows:
Sitting in the form of qurfasa: This style of sitting is as follows: his bottom on the ground, his arms round his legs and his knees drawn up. It can also be called supported sitting. There are narrations in the resources that the Prophet sat like this from time to time.
Sitting cross-legged: According to a narration by Abu Dawud, "After leading the morning prayer, the Prophet (pbuh) would sit cross-legged until the sun rose fully."
Crouching: It is seen that this sitting style, which is called “ihtifaz” or “i’qa” was used while eating.
Sitting by letting his legs hang down: There are narrations in hadith texts stating that the Prophet (pbuh) sat on the edge of a well and let his legs hang down.
Kneeling down: Unlike the other styles, there is no separate heading called kneeling down in the narrations in the resources that mention the sitting styles of the Prophet. However, it is possible to find between the lines in the hadith texts mentioning the reasons why the hadiths were uttered and in tabaqat books (biographies). Kneeling down is the usual sitting style of the Prophet. Therefore, if a Companion had said, "I saw the Prophet kneeling down" it would have meant mentioning what is known, which would not be interesting at all.
The other sitting styles that the Companions saw and mentioned are the styles that they sometimes or rarely saw the Messenger of Allah sitting. The Prophet sat in all of the sitting styles listed above in various stages of his life on various occasions; thus, he did not make only one style advisable for his ummah, who wanted to resemble him in all aspects.
The things he leaned on
The Prophet said,
"Three things are nor rejected: cushion, nice scent and milk." (Tabarani, Makarimul-Akhlaq, h. no 152)
When the Messenger of Allah had a religious talk and sat in the same place for a long time, he would place a cushion under his arms and lean on it.
We also know that the Prophet sat on a mattress that was a bit higher than the ground and that was made of date-palm leaves.
There is also information stating that the Prophet sat on a chair with iron or wooden legs.
The Prophet did not oppose to sitting on the things that he was offered if they were customary things and unless they were luxurious. As a matter of fact, when he went somewhere as a guest, he sat on a carpet, cushion made of felt, etc.; he sometimes sat on the wooden floor or ground by avoiding to sit on the cushion that he was offered.
One of the most distinguished characteristics of the Prophet (pbuh) was his beautiful and perfect speech. The Prophet said,
"I was sent with the characteristic of expressing many things with few words." (Bukhari, VIII, 76, 168; an-Nihaya, I, 295)
The environment in which he was brought up played an important role in his fluent speech.
The prophet spoke distinctly, clearly and in a way that everyone could understand. The listeners could count his words one by one. When it was necessary, he would repeat the important sentences three times during his speech.
The Prophet, who acted like a preacher, a mufti, a judge, a teacher, an instructor, a head of a family, a diplomat, a commander, a conqueror, as well as a man of community with a large circle of friends on various occasions, had relationships with all parts of the community whether they were friends or enemies, Muslim or non-Muslim, rich or poor, young or old male or female.
When the Prophet talked, he always acted like a humble brother, a compassionate teacher and a merciful father toward his Companions; and when he wanted to teach them some of the rules of etiquette (good manners), he addressed them with a soft style. He used different speaking styles when he addressed them: a playful style, a heartfelt style, gratifying, promising and encouraging styles, allegorical, metaphorical, stimulating and thought-provoking styles.
The tone and style of the Prophet (pbuh) when he addressed a congregation is also different. Words derived from "khutba" are used in the resources for such speeches. Only “the Farewell Sermon” is very long; the other speeches in the resources are not so long.
When he addressed people, his eyes would become red and his tone of voice would rise. When he made a speech, he would hold a stick (staff) called "mikhsara", which he used to lean on and to point to something.
The Prophet (pbuh) did not like unnecessary extreme deeds, excessive deeds that could harm Islam and the acts that would harm basic principles. When he was informed about such incidences, he would feel sad and angry; he would take a firm stand and try to prevent such incidents by warning people harshly.
The Prophet had an attitude that never changed: He never spoke in an offending, despising, insulting and excessive style, which is not regarded nice even among ordinary people.
When the gestures of the Prophet are examined, it will be seen that he used his hands and fingers more.
a. His hands: The Messenger of Allah used his gestures actively and attracted the attention of his listeners in his addresses especially related to education and training. As a matter of fact, he used his staff, which he generally had with him, to make gestures that would make his speech interesting. Once, when he was on the pulpit, he hit the pulpit with his staff and said,
"This is Tayba (Madinah). Listen carefully! I told you that Dajjal (Anti-Christ) would not be able to enter Makkah and Madinah."
The Prophet transformed abstract concepts into concrete forms to enable the listeners to imagine the issue. When he told them that he would be the first person to enter Paradise, he showed how he would knock on the door of Paradise by using gestures. Anas b. Malik, who witnessed it, said,
"When the Prophet said, 'I will be the first person to knock on the door of Paradise', he acted as if he was holding the doorknocker of a door; I can still imagine it."
When the Prophet told his Companions about qadar (destiny), he held his beard. The scholars who explain hadiths say this act indicated surrendering because holding one’s beard meant surrendering among Arabs of that time.
The Prophet used his hands perfectly while teaching. As a matter of fact, Abdullah b. Masud, who was among the notables of the Companions in terms of knowledge, said that the Prophet held his hand when he taught him at-Tahiyyatu. It is stated in another narration that he held his hair, instead of his hand.
The Prophet sometimes pointed to things that he regarded important. For instance, when a person from Ansar said to him, "O Messenger of Allah! I hear some words from you but I cannot memorize them", the Messenger of Allah said to him, "Get help from your right hand." When he said so, he acted as if he was writing.
The following incident reported by the Companion Abdullah b. Amr related to the Prophet’s pointing to something by his hand is a nice example. Abdullah narrates:
I wrote anything I heard from the Messenger of Allah. Some Qurayshis wanted to prevent me from doing it. They said,
"The Messenger of Allah is a human being. He speaks when he is angry and when he is happy. How can you write down anything he says?"
I told the Messenger of Allah about it. He showed his mouth and said,
"Write! I swear by Allah in whose hand my soul is that nothing but truth comes out of this."
Once, the Messenger of Allah was leading the night prayer to the congregation. However, he performed two rak'ahs instead of four rak'ahs and saluted. Then, he stood and leaned on something like a wooden mattress in the mosque. He looked as if he was angry. He put his right hand on his left hand and clasped his fingers together; he placed the back part of his left hand on his right cheek. The people who left the mosque after the prayer was over asked one another, "Was the prayer shortened?" Hz. Abu Bakr and Hz. Umar were among them. However, they avoided talking.
Somebody among the Companions called “Dhulyadayn” due to his long hands went to the Prophet and said, "O Messenger of Allah! Did you forget or was prayer shortened?" The Messenger of Allah said, "Neither did I forget nor was prayer shortened." He said to the people around, "Is what Dhulyadayn says true?" They said, "Yes." He got up completed his prayer and performed sajdah as-sahw (prostration of forgetfulness). Although the Prophet did not say that he was sad and worried, it was understood from his acts, that is, from his body language that he was sad.
b. Fingers: It is known that after delivering his sermon in Arafat to about one hundred thousand people, he asked them, "Have I conveyed it to you?" and that he pointed to the people with his index finger and said, "O Allah! Be witness!"
When he gave advice to Muadh b. Jabal, he held his tongue with his hand and said, "Control this." The Messenger of Allah could have said to Muadh b. Jabal, "Control your tongue" but he used the visual method, which is more effective.
According to what is reported from Abdullah b. Abi Awfa, during a journey, the Prophet said to the person who was serving him, "Give me something to drink, I will break fasting." The man said, "O Messenger of Allah It is still bright. Is it appropriate to break fasting now?" The Prophet asked something to drink again. The man said the same thing. When the Prophet asked something to drink for the third time, the man brought some drink. The Messenger of Allah broke his fasting and pointed to the east with his hand as if drawing a line and said, "Look! When it gets dark in this direction like that, one can break his fasting."
When the Prophet (pbuh) mentioned watching the crescent for Ramadan fasting and the number of the days in lunar months as twenty-nine and thirty, he said, "We are an illiterate community; we do not know how to write and how to calculate. The number of days in a lunar month is like this and that." He showed his both hands with his fingers three times, meaning thirty and by hiding the thumb in the last showing of his hands for the second time, meaning twenty-nine.
When he talked about believers’ helping one another and the relationship and sincerity among them, he said,
"Believers are like a building. They support one another and stand upright."
He clasped his fingers when he said it. With this act, he explained the importance of unity with a perfect style.
His facial gestures
The Messenger of Allah, who was the best man in terms of good manners, was a very gentle and kind person. His vast feelings of compassion and mercy reflected his inner feelings at once; his thoughts were visible on his face.
a. His facial expression: The speech of the Messenger of Allah attained a different value with his facial gestures. His addressees could see the signs of the words that the Messenger of Allah would utter on his face. In the course of time, people started to guess how he would speak before he started to speak. When the Prophet got angry, the blood vessel in the middle of his forehead would swell and his eyes would become red. The Companions understood that the Prophet was angry when they saw him like that. Once, he saw somebody he did not know next to Hz. Aisha and expressed his anger with his facial expression. Hz. Aisha told him that he was her foster brother.
On the other hand, when Ka'b b. Malik narrated the acceptance of his repentance, he said that the Messenger of Allah had welcomed him with a face bright with joy and addressed him as follows:
"Be happy and rejoice for the best day ever since your mother gave birth to you."
b. His gestures of eyebrows and eyes: The Prophet never made signs with his eyebrows and eyes to revile others; he did not allow others to make signs with their eyebrows and eyes either.
Abdullah b. Sa'd b. Abis-Sarh, who had been condemned to death after the conquest of Makkah, entered into the presence of the Prophet, asked for forgiveness and held his hand to pay allegiance to him. The Messenger of Allah did not accept his allegiance but when Abdullah asked for the third time, he accepted it unwillingly. Then, the Prophet said to his Companions,
"Why did you not kill him though you saw my attitude?" The Companions said,
"O Messenger of Allah! If you had made a gesture with your eye, we would have killed him." Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) said,
"Treason does not fit the eyes of prophets."
When the phrase "the body language of the Prophet" is used, the first thing that comes to mind is definitely his posture. Even the silence of the Prophet is meaningful in terms of the religion; the image he forms with his posture is his real and most affective aspect; it also became manifest as his ethics.
His ethics represents the living Quran. Thus, his posture shows us the type of man the Quran envisages.
a. His clothing: The Prophet wore clothes with various colors and patterns. However, we know that he preferred white clothes to the others. He wore the same clothes as the other people in the community wore; he made sure that the clothes he wore were clean and were not torn. He wore wool, linen and cotton clothes, but he did not wear clothes made of silk. The Prophet always smelled nice and cared for his hair and beard.
b. Personal Distance: The prophet was very close to his wives, children and grandchildren; he adjusted his stance according to the degree of relation. That he kissed his daughter Fatima on the forehead, sat on her bed and that he embraced and kissed his grandsons Hasan and Husayn shows his use of physical contact and private relationship with his close relatives.
When he talked to someone, he would look at his face and if he held the hand of the person he was talking to, he would not let hold of his hand unless he withdrew his hand; he would not turn his face away unless his addressee turned his face away. If someone whispered something in the ear of the Messenger of Allah, he would not move his head away unless the man moved his head away.
The Prophet advised the Muslims to smile to each other and he himself always smiled. The Messenger of Allah listened calmly even to his enemies who wronged him, and began to speak when it was his turn to speak.
Once, he was talking to Utba b. Rabia. He said, "O Abul-Walid! Speak! I am listening to you." When Utba finished his speech and stopped, he asked, "O Abul-Walid! Have you finished speaking?" When he said, "Yes", the Prophet started to speak by saying, "Then, listen to me now!"
When the Prophet walked, he would not walk like lazy people; he would walk with firm steps. Those who walked after him could hardly catch up with him. He would walk by bending slightly toward the front; when he was called from behind, he would turn with his whole body; he would not turn his neck only.
It was seen that the Messenger of Allah, who did not speak when it was not necessary, sometimes kept silent for a long time. It is stated that his silence was due to his attribute of lenience, his willingness to make people avoid what they were doing, his consent or contemplation.
c. Body Contact: The Prophet used body contact very well when it was necessary. It is known that he embraced, sometimes kissed and hugged the people whom he loved when they came from distant places and his close relatives. As a matter of fact, when Jafar b. Abi Talib returned to Madinah from Abyssinia, the Prophet (pbuh) had just returned from the conquest of Khaybar. When Jafar entered into the presence of the Prophet after thirteen years, the Prophet embraced Jafar and kissed him between his two eyes; then, he said,
"I do not know for what I became happier, the conquest of Khaybar or the return of Jafar."
As it is also mentioned in the Quran, when the Prophet accepted the “allegiance” of the Muslims, he put his hands on their hands and accepted their allegiance.
The Messenger of Allah strengthened his sincerity by establishing body contact with people.
On the other hand, it is seen that the Prophet acted in a way that children could understand or like in order to communicate with them. He sometimes put them on his camel and gave them a ride; he sometimes gave them advice and caressed their hair; he also joked around with them. Once, he was making wudu and sprayed the water in his mouth on the face of the child next to him. This close contact of the Prophet and his natural acts attracted the attention of children and made it easy for them to love him.
His laughing style
According to what is unanimously written in the resources, the Messenger of Allah had a naturally smiling and cheerful face. He always smiled. Even when he was sad, he would not display his sadness; he did not depress the people around him. When he met the people he loved, he would smile so much that his face would be very bright.
Along with his natural smile, the Prophet sometimes laughed. There are many incidents in which the Prophet (pbuh) laughed in hadith resources. Hz. Aisha narrates how the Prophet (pbuh) laughed as follows:
"I have never seen the Messenger of Allah laugh so much as to show his epiglottis and in a way to lose himself. His laughing was in the form of smiling." (Bukhari, al-Jami'us-Sahih, VII, 94-95; al-Adabul-Mufrad, p. 97, no: 251)
When the Companions of the Prophet mentioned how the Prophet laughed on various occasions, they said, "...He laughed in a way to show his molar teeth." In this style of laughing, the teeth are seen but no sound is heard. That is the laughing style of the Prophet.
Anas b. Malik narrates:
"The Messenger of Allah was the person who made jokes the most with children." (Tabarani, al-Mujamus-Saghir, II, 39; Ibnul Athir, an-Nihaya, III, 466)
"The Prophet was the person who made jokes the most with his wives." (Ibnul Athir, an-Nihaya, III, 466; Ghazali, Ihya, III, 129)
The Prophet usually made jokes with children, his wives, the poor and those who expected love and care from the people around them. When he said,
"Do not argue with your friend; do not make jokes with him; when you make a promise to your fried, keep it,"
the people around him said,
"O Messenger of Allah! You also make jokes." He said,
"Yes, I also make jokes but I tell the truth even when I make a joke." (Bukhari, al-Adabul-Mufrad, s.102, no: 265; Tirmidhi, Sunan IV, 357, no: 1990)
Anas b. Malik narrates:
"The Prophet (pbuh) addressed me as 'the one with two ears'." (an-Nihaya, I, 34)
Tirmidhi’s teacher Mahmud b. Ghaylan said his teacher Abu Usama explained this as follows: "That is, the Prophet made a joke with Anas."
The feelings of the Prophet sometimes appeared as tears and sometimes as a blood vessel that swelled on his forehead. When he pointed to something, he would point to it with his whole hand. When he said that it was necessary to control one’s tongue, he showed his tongue by holding it with his hand; when he said the place of taqwa was in the heart, he pointed to his left chest with his hand. When he was surprised at something, he would turn his hand upwards toward the sky. As he spoke, he would put his palms together and hit his right hand on the inner part of his left thumb.
He did not act factitiously; he did not try to show off either; whatever he thought and felt was reflected on his face. When he got angry, he would turn his face away. When he was happy, he would lower his eyes. His laughing was usually in the form of smiling. When he laughed, his teeth looked like hailstones.
He was perfect in all aspects
- Peygamberimiz'in Şemaili, Prof. Dr. Ali Yardım, Damla Yayınları, Istanbul 2005.
- Hz. Peygamberin Şemâili, Prof. Dr. İbrahim Bayraktar, Istanbul 1990.
- Hz. Peygamberin Beden Dili, Doç. Dr. Mustafa Karataş, Nun Yayıncılık, 2008.
Questions on Islam
- Is it permissible to do stand-up and to earn money by doing stand-up? What is the criteria for humor and jokes in Islam?
- "By Allah! If you knew what I know, you would laugh little and you would cry much; you would not taste the pleasures of your women in the beds, and you would go out beseeching Allah." Will you explain this hadith?
- Dimad bin Tha'laba (r.a.)
- Can I get information about the high ethics of Hz. Muhammad (PBUH)?
- What was the relationship between the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions like? How did he treat them?
- Will you give information about the face and appearance of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)?
- Will you inform us about the vow of the Prophet related to Mariya? Did something like that take place?
- Abdullah bin Umm Maktum (r.a.)
- What does Islam say about humor and joking? Could you please give examples from the jokes of the Prophet of mercy and his smiling face?