It is quite common to find showy displays of pomp and glory and exaggerated greatness in the life of kings and other rich people. And all this is considered a necessary part of maintaining their image and establishing their pride and greatness. The Holy Prophet was completely oblivious to these methods of display and fame seeking. Worldly display of greatness, achievement, glamour, and glitter were completely absent from the entire life of the Holy Prophet.
It is recorded in the Traditions of his life that once someone presented him with a gift of some silky garment. He accepted it, and offered a prayer wearing it. After the prayer he took it off in great disgust and dislike, and said: These clothes are not appropriate for the righteous. (Bokhari, Kitab-ul-Libaas, A book of Holy Prophet’s sayings).
The state of his humility and lowliness may be gauged from the following incident. The Holy Prophet was often visited by the representatives of states and leaders of other tribes. On the occasions of the two Eids (annual Muslim festivals), he used to wear some very simple clothes despite his elevated status and position. Once, Hazrat Umar, his beloved disciple, and his second successor, was walking with the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Umar noticed some silky clothes, as they passed by a shop. On finding a suitable moment, he respectfully requested that the Holy Prophet buy that piece of silk and wear it during the Friday Sermons, and on the occasion of the reception of visiting diplomats. The Holy Prophet replied: Only such a person should wear this who has no share in the life of the Hereafter (Bokhari, Vol. N, Egyptian Edition, p. 31). Till the very last, this remained his practice. The Prophet continued to wear clothes made of a heavy yarn.
It is recorded that once he was resting on a mat made of palm leaves. When he got up, the Companions could plainly see the marks of the mat on his body. The Companions submitted: O Messenger of Allah! Could we have a cushion of some sort made and present it to you? He replied: What do I care for the world? I desire only so much of the world as a traveler riding an animal. The traveler stops for a little while under the shade of a tree and then he leaves, and moves on. (Jami’a Tirmidhi, Kitab-uz-Zuhd, A book of the sayings of the Holy Prophet).
Once Hazrat Umar entered the living quarters of the Holy Prophet. Seeing the simplicity of the room of the Messenger of Allah, for the first time, Hazrat Umar was completely amazed. The meager contents of this small closet like room presented a strange scene. The blessed body of the Holy Prophet was clad in a single sheet of cloth. A worn out bed made of yarn was laid out. There was a pillow at the head of this bed. The pillow was filled with date skin. On one side, there was a handful of barley. In one corner of the room, there was an animal’s hide. Seeing the Holy Prophet, the Lord and Master of the Here and the Hereafter, in this state, Hazrat Umar, began to shed tears. Tears started flowing from his eyes and fell to the ground. The Holy Prophet asked: Umar, why are you crying so much? Hazrat Umar replied, O Messenger of Allah, “Why should I not cry? Your blessed body, has marks all over, from this bed that you lie on. The scarce contents of this small chamber seem to be all that you possess. The Chosroes and the Caesar should have their gardens and palaces to enjoy, and the Messenger of Allah should be in such circumstances. Alas! I cannot help crying.” The Holy Prophet replied, “O Umar Ibn-e-Khataab! Is it not pleasing to you that the Caesars should have this world and we should have the Hereafter?” (Muslim, Baab fit Eelaa wa e’tezaal-inNisaa, a book of the sayings of the Holy Prophet).
The pure and holy life of the Holy Prophet is full of hundreds of such incidents which bear testimony to his simplicity, his informality and his humility. Only a few incidents have been selected for presentation here. There is no comparison of all this to the lives and practices of the kings: the arrangements for their entertainment, excitement and their precious, showy glittering forms of dress. When we compare the Holy Prophet’s mode of living to that of the kings, do we find anything in the life of the Holy Prophet which comes even close? Can we find any king who could be compared in his behavior to the Holy Prophet? Do we find any example among them of the Holy Prophet’s humility and lowliness? On one hand, there are those possessing thousands of suits of clothing; and on the other, we have one possessing a single cloth for wearing. Even, that is full of patches!
The manner in which the kings address others, and in the manner in which they deal with them, are clear signs of self aggrandizement, arrogance, pride and conceit. The Holy Prophet used to deal with thousands every day, yet, no trait can be found, whatsoever, of any arrogance, conceit or self aggrandizement, in him. Indeed, in every situation, it is clear from his speech that he considered himself a simple man, and no more.
The Holy Prophet owed a Jew some money. There had been some delay in payment. The Jew came to ask for it and acted with disdain and ill manners. He said accusingly, you of Bani Hashim (Holy Prophet’s tribe), whenever you take something from someone, you never want to give it back. This happened in the Madinite period when the Holy Prophet had been acknowledged as the King. On noticing the disdain of the jew, Hazrat Umar became extremely agitated. He was about to strictly punish this person for his ill behavior towards the prophet. The Holy Prophet immediately stopped Hazrat Umar, and said: O Umar! You should have advised both of us, the lender that he should seek the return of his loan at a time of ease and in a goodly manner; and to me that I should return the loan in time. (Baehaqui).
A Bedouin (a nomad), came one day and asked the Holy Prophet for the return of a loan. He spoke harshly to the Holy Prophet. The Companions of the Holy Prophet became angered by the visitor’s insolent manners, and spoke to him in a tone of severe reprimand. They asked, Do you even know whom you are addressing? The Bedouin replied: I am seeking what is mine by right. The Holy Prophet said to his Companions: The lender has a right to demand the return of his loan from the debtor. Do not behave this way and do not reprimand. (Bokhari, Vol. 11, Baab Ada-ud-deyoon).
It is recorded in history that once the Holy Prophet was in a jungle together with his Companions. It became necessary to cook something. To each he assigned one task or the other and said that I shall go and bring some wood for the fire (Lurqani).
Despite his very elevated status, he never hesitated the least from doing the lowliest of tasks. Like the most ordinary of people, he executed many types of chores. He helped in the daily chores of the house. His wife Hazrat Ayesha is reported in Bokhari and the other books of Traditions, to have said that the Holy Prophet used to help us in the household chores. It never even occurred to him that he was a great and very elevated being. (Bokahri, Kitab-ul-Adab).
Once he came out of the house and the Companions stood up in respect. He said: Do not stand up to honor someone as is the practice of some of the unlearned people. (Abu Daud, Vol. II, p. 363).
It is recorded in the traditions that once a person came to meet the Holy Prophet. He began to shake and shiver in anticipation of meeting the Prophet of God. The Holy Prophet, seeing this condition of the man, assured him: Do not be afraid. I am not an angel. I am the son of a Quraish (His tribe) woman who used to cook dried meat to eat. (Shama’el Tirmidhi).
What type of King or Caesar was this who left Makkah and came to Madinah, and forsook his Prophetic role and adopted the ways of a king? Does one find even the least iota of proof, in support of Toynbee’s allegations, in the recorded events, in his appearances, habits, or customs? Do we see anywhere in the world, kings behaving in the manner, in which he did?
If the Holy Prophet had adopted the ways of a Caesar or the ways of a political leader, then his life would have some traits of arrogance and pride. It is written about Napoleon that in order to safeguard his own health, he desisted from doing even the slightest work and if an occasion arose, he would retort instantaneously, “Do you expect me to dig the earth?” But the King of Madinah, at the time of the Battle of the Ditch, was seen digging with his own blessed hands. He thus caused wonderment in the eyes of the world. He was seen breaking into pieces the hardest of the boulders and rocks. He too was a man. He too was in need of good health and strong body. But, for the sake of the defense of his people, and for the guidance of the people to come, it was destined, that he should leave behind a perfect example.