What are the ethical characteristics of the Prophet?

The Details of the Question

- Can you tell me some hadiths about the ethical characteristics of the Prophet (pbuh) together with their sources?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was sent as a model to the people to come up to the Day of Judgment and as a guide to learn from his actions (al-Ahzab, 33/21), he was endowed with high ethics encompassing all aspects of life. (al-Qalam, 68/4)

He displayed high ethics in every field from the duty of head of the state to the duty of head of the family. He lived through all the difficulties of life like an ordinary person though he was under divine support and control and was helped by his Lord when necessary. This natural way of life, which embraced all aspects of life, strengthened his belief that his ethics could be taken as an example by different people in every era.

Hz. Aisha stated that the ethics of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) consisted of the Quran (Muslim, “Musafirin”, 139) The Prophet stated that he was educated in the best way by God Almighty. (Munawi, I, 429)

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) emphasized high ethics and said that he was sent to complete ethical virtues. (Muwatta, “Husnul-Khuluq”, 8; Musnad, II, 381) He prayed to Allah to make his character beautiful as He made his face beautiful. (Musnad, I, 403; VI, 68, 155) He stated that perfect belief could be achieved by having high ethics. (Abu Dawud, “Sunnah”, 15)

That he practiced throughout his life the ethical principles that he recommended to others (Bukhari, “Rikqaq”, 18) led to the adoption of those principles by people.

We can summarize some of those characteristics of the Prophet (pbuh) as follows:

- He valued everyone and never neglected to act kindly. He would greet anybody he saw without discrimination; he would shake hands with men, and would not let his hand go unless the other person let go of his hand. He would talk to the person facing him by turning to him with his whole body; the Messenger of Allah would not turn his face away unless the person facing him turned his face. (Tirmidhi, “Sifatul-Qiyama”, 46)

- He would say nice words to people, smile to them and say that it was thawab to behave like that. (Bukhari, “Sulh”, 11, “Adab”, 68; Tirmidhi, “Birr”, 36)

- When he was left free to do one of two things, he would choose the easier one. (Bukhari, “Manaqib”, 23; Muslim, “Fadail”, 77)

- When he was on a mount, he would feel uncomfortable if someone else travelled on foot next to him. (Abu Dawud, “Adab”, 127, 128)

- He would not offend those who invited him to their homes and he would pray supererogatory (nafilah) prayers there to please them. When he saw someone’s misbehavior or inappropriate clothing, he would not tell him about their mistake so as not to embarrass them; he would prefer others to warn them. (Abu Dawud, “Tarajjul”, 8)

- He would not utter any bad words; he said that a person with high ethics was a good person. (Bukhari, “Adab”, 38)

- He did not beat any woman or slave throughout his life, and he did not take revenge for the injustice done to him. (Muslim, “Fadail”, 79)

- He did not get angry with Anas b. Malik, who served him for ten years, even once, and he never scolded Anas for a mistake he made. (Muslim, “Fadail”, 51)

- He was very decent and would say that modesty is from belief. It is stated that when he did not like something, it could be understood only from his face, and that he found it difficult to answer the questions asked by women about their special states. (Bukhari, “Hayd”, 13, 14, “Salah”, 8, “Manaqib”, 23, “Adab”, 72, 77)

- He would not return evil for evil; he would forgive people and ignore their faults. (Tirmidhi, “Birr”, 69)

- He would only smile in the face of the rude actions of uncouth Bedouins. (Abu Dawud, “Adab”, 1; Nasai, “Qasama”, 23, 24)

- Although he got angry in the face of the disrespect of a person who said that he was not treated fairly when the booty was distributed, he showed patience by stating that the Prophet Musa (Moses) showed patience in the face of more severe insults. (Bukhari, “Fardul-Khums”, 19; “Maghazi”, 56) When the Bedouin Arabs wanted him to distribute the booty as soon as possible while returning from the Battle of Hunayn, he stated that he was not stingy and that even if he had too many goods to count, he would distribute them all. (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 24)

- When the Messenger of Allah and his friends took a break during a journey, a Bedouin took the sword of the Messenger of Allah hanging from the tree and asked, “Who will save you from me now?” He said, “Allah will save me.” The Bedouin dropped his sword due to that answer in astonishment. The Messenger of Allah asked, “And who will save you from me now?” Then, he released the Bedouin. (Bukhari, “Jihad”, 84; Muslim, “Musafirin”, 311)

- Even someone who had a bad reputation came to visit him, he would welcome him, smile and offer him a treat. (Bukhari, “Adab”, 38, 48)

- He was very merciful toward Muslims. When he saw that some of the nafilah deeds of worship he performed were performed by the Companions with enthusiasm, he thought that they could be rendered fard and Muslims would have difficulty; therefore, he would give up doing such deeds of worship.

- He showed endless affection to children; he would hug and kiss them. (Bukhari, “Janaiz”, 32)

- He did not care when the babies that were put on his lap so that he would pray for them urinated on him. (Bukhari, “Wudu”, 59) He would go to the mosque with his grandchildren on his shoulders, and even performed prayers while they were on his shoulders. (Bukhari, “Salah”, 106)

- He would lead the prayer quickly when he heard the voice of a child crying during prayer. (Bukhari, “Adhan”, 65)

- He was very generous. When something was asked from him, he would give it even if he needed it very much. Once, a Bedouin saw a sheep herd grazing on the hillside and wanted a few sheep; the Prophet gave the whole herd to him. (Bukhari, “Janaiz”, 28; “Adab”, 39)

- He did not want women to be hurt in any way. His fondness for believers, and his compassion and mercy to them are mentioned in the Quran; it is stated that the grief of Muslims upset him a lot. (at-Tawba 9/128)

- A woman had woven a fabric for him and he was wearing it; one of the Companions saw it and wanted it; the Prophet (pbuh) gave it to him as a gift. (Bukhari, “Libas”, 18)

- He was more generous than the “rain-bearing wind”, especially during Ramadan. (Bukhari, “Badul-Wahy”, 5)

- He would help anyone in need of help, encourage people to take care of orphans, and say that those who helped widows and the poor would gain thawabs as if they had fought in the way of Allah. Expressing that the slaves were entrusted to them, he said that the slave owners should feed them with the same food as they ate and clothe them with the same garments as they wore, and he wanted the slave owners not to force the slaves to do things that they could not do. (Bukhari, “Iman”, 22, “Buyu’”, 34, “Nafaqat”, 1, “Adab”, 24; Muslim, “Zuhd”, 41)

- With the intention of relieving him of some of the concerns he had during the first divine revelation, Hz. Khadija addressed him as follows: “You protect and take care of your relatives; you tell the truth when you speak; you help those who are too weak to do their tasks; you help the poor; you entertain guests and support those who are wronged.” (Muslim, “Iman”, 252)

- Even his enemies would have to praise his superior personality. When Abu Sufyan answered the questions of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius about the Prophet (pbuh) when he was in Syria, where he had been to for trade, he said that the Prophet’s most distinctive characteristics were truthfulness, chastity, keeping his promise and trustworthiness. (Bukhari, “Badul-Wahy”, 7)

- Since he was known for his honesty, as it is also stated in the Quran, the opponents of Islam could not deny him and tried to deny the verses of Allah. (al-An’am 6/33) He would not forgive anyone who was guilty related to the rights of the society; he would not accept anyone’s mediation regarding the issue and he would say that he would punish the criminal even if he/she was his own child. (Bukhari, “Fadailu Ashabin-Nabi”, 18)

- When he hurt someone unintentionally, he would give him the right to retaliate. (Abu Dawud, “Diyat”, 14)

- He had borrowed a camel from a Bedouin; when the Bedouin wanted his camel back in a rude manner, the Companions took action to show him his place, but the Prophet calmed them down by saying, “The creditor has the right to speak,”; then, he told his Companions to give the Bedouin a better camel. (Bukhari, “Wakalah”, 5, 6; Muslim, “Musaqah”, 120)

- When those who had insulted Islam and the Messenger of Allah severely entered into his presence and became Muslims, their lives would be guaranteed. (Muwatta, “Marriage”, 20; Bukhari, “Maghazi”, 23; Muslim, “Jihad”, 98)

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