The sublime kindness of the Prophet (ﷺ)
By: Ali Zohery
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) said to his wife: “0 ‘A’ishah! Never turn away any needy man from your door empty-handed. 0 ‘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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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: “0 Muhammad, you will, perhaps, consume yourself with grief because the people do not believe” (Quran 26:3). In Surah Kahf, we read: “Well, 0 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ). He extended it to all beings, both animate and inanimate and benefited all without measure. The Quranic words for the Prophet’s (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) was intent in making all humans interdependent as he emphasized in the following words: “All creatures are Allah’s dependents and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His dependents 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 – ﷺ)
Once a number of women complained to the Prophet’s (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) : “0 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) was nothing short of an insightful, 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 (ﷺ) said: “Yes, be kind to your mother” (Muslim, 2195). This counsel of the Prophet (ﷺ) was equally extended to Zainab as-Saqafia, the wife of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud and an Ansari woman. She went to see the Prophet (ﷺ) 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 (ﷺ) 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.