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April 2006
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Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh)-The Best Role Model
By Adil Salahi

Muslims should develop awareness of God’s presence in every situation. Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) came as a Messenger of God to the entire mankind, and his behaviour provides a model for us to emulate.

The behaviour of the Prophet (peace be upon him) provides a model for us to emulate. He had a keen sense of his position and status, realising that his practice was observed and reported so that Muslims would follow his example in all situations. This is required in order to live an Islamic life that steers away from everything that is unacceptable to God or offensive to other people. He was keen to be always in the best sense of cleanliness, with a good smell. Since we may have a bad mouth smell in different situations, the Prophet was keen to brush his teeth often, and certainly after any situation that could give such a smell. Thus, Hudhayfah (RA), a companion of the Prophet, reports: “When the Prophet woke up at night to offer night worship, he would use his tooth stick to brush his teeth.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawood and many others.)

In another Hadith, Aishah (RA), the Prophet’s wife, was asked: “What did the Prophet do first when he entered his home?” She answered: “He brushed his teeth.” (Related by Muslim, Al-Nassaie, Ibn Majah and Ibn Khuzaymah.)

In the two Hadiths we see the Prophet making sure that his mouth would give a good smell, but in the first situation he was alone, getting ready for his voluntary night worship in which he would normally read long passages of the Qur’an. Since a person may lie in an uncomfortable position that causes his mouth to be dry or giving an unpleasant smell, the Prophet started by brushing his teeth and washing his mouth so that it would have a good smell when he read the Qur’an. In the second situation he wanted to make sure that his family would not smell anything unpleasant that might have affected him when he was out. Therefore he started with brushing his teeth. He wanted to have a good smell during worship and when meeting people.

Aishah also reports: “The Prophet always used his right hand for purification and eating, but he used his left hand in the toilet and to remove anything dirty.” (Related by Abu Dawood, while Al-Bukhari and Muslim relate a Hadith with similar meaning but in different wording). This observation shows that the Prophet’s sense of cleanliness was so sharp that he did not want to use the same hand for clean and unclean things. Indeed, he wanted to spare his right hand for all good things. Aishah reports: “The Prophet loved to start with his right side in all matters: Ablution, walking and wearing his shoes.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.)

However, the Prophet’s prayer reflected his keen sense of his position as a servant of God, believing in Him and recognising that the only thing that is acceptable of a human being is to submit to God and seek His acceptance. We need only to look at what the Prophet said in his prayer to appreciate how he felt his position in relation to God.

Ali ibn Abi Talib reports that when the Prophet stood up for prayer, he would start with saying Allah-u Akbar, which means God is Supreme. This is the phrase which indicates that one begins his prayer. He then said: “I have turned my face with pure and complete devotion to Him who brought the heavens and the earth into being. I am not one of those who associate partners with God. My prayers, my worship, my living and my dying are for God alone, the Lord of all worlds. He has no partner. Thus have I been commanded, and I shall be the first of those who surrender themselves to Him.” These statements are quoted from the Qur’an, as they occur in Verses 79, 162-3 of surah 6. They express total devotion to God and acknowledge His oneness. The Prophet then added the following glorification:

“My Lord! You are the King and there is no deity other than You. You are my Lord and I am Your servant. I have wronged myself and I acknowledge my sin. Please forgive me all my sins, for no one forgives sins other than You. Guide me to the best of manners and morality, for no one guides to them except You. Keep me away from the worst of these, for none other than You steers anyone away from them. I respond to You and submit to Your will, for every good thing rests with You. My life is from You and goes back to You. Glorified and exalted are You. I seek Your forgiveness and I repent of my sins.” All this supplication which expresses total submission to God in all situations, acknowledgement of one’s sins and seeking God’s forgiveness, the Prophet said immediately after the opening which quotes the above three Qur’anic verses.

The Hadith does not mention what the Prophet read or said in his normal prayer, which at this point included the opening surah of the Qur’an and some other verses. It goes on to report what he did in his next position, when he bowed, i.e. ruku: “My Lord! I have bowed to You and in You I believe and to You I submit myself. Hearkening to You are my senses of hearing and sight, as well as my brains, bones and nerves.” When he lifted himself and stood up, he said: “May God answer the prayer of whoever praises Him. Our Lord! All praise belongs to You, filling the heavens and the earth and filling everything You wish beyond them.” When the Prophet prostrated himself in his sujood, he said: “My Lord! I am prostrating myself to You, and in You I believe, and to You I submit. My face prostrates to the One who has created it and perfected its form, and placed in it its organs of sight and hearing. Blessed is God, the best of all creators.” When he finished his prayer, the Prophet said: “My Lord! Forgive me all that I had done in the past and what I may do in future, what I do in private and what I do in public, as well as whatever excesses I may commit. Forgive me also what You know better than me. You are the One who places people in their high or low positions. There is no deity other than You.”

As we realise when reading all this, the Prophet glorified God in the most comprehensive forms. Perhaps no one ever consistently praised God in such a way, reiterating God’s oneness in the clearest of terms, and acknowledging man’s need for His help and forgiveness. It is through such recognition that a Muslim develops his awareness of God’s presence in every situation. Thus he begins to watch God in all that he does. This is the essence of fearing God, which is the key to every good action.

A Pioneer Environmentalist

“There is none amongst the believers who plants a tree, or sows a seed, and then a bird, or a person, or an animal eats thereof, but it is regarded as having given a charitable gift.” (Al-Bukhari)

The idea of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as a pioneer of environ-mentalism will initially strike many as strange: indeed, the term “environment” and related concepts like “ecology”, “environmental awareness” and “sustainability”, are modern-day inventions, terms that were formulated in the face of the growing concerns about the contempo-rary state of the natural world around us.

And yet a closer reading of this hadith, reveals that he was a staunch advocate of environmental protect-ion. One could say he was an “environmentalist avant la lettre”, a pioneer in the domain of conservation, sustainable development and resource management, and one who constantly sought to maintain a harmonious balance between man and nature. From all accounts of his life and deeds, we read that the Prophet had a profound respect for fauna and flora, as well as an almost emotional connection to the four elements, earth, water, fire and air.

He was a strong proponent of the sustainable use and cultivation of land and water, proper treatment of animals, plants and birds and the equal rights of users.

(Source: “Prophet Muhammed: A Pioneer of the Environment” - Francesca De Chatel)