Purity and Cleanliness
One of the main characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was His concern for cleanliness and the care He took to remain in a constant state of tahara (ritual purity). He knew that Allah the Almighty had honored the human being and raised his rank over that of other creatures. In response, the human being must live up to that honor bestowed upon him by his Lord. The Prophet (peace be upon him) used to say that “The angels are offended by what is offensive to the sons of Adam.”
Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) continually instructed His companions to preserve their ablution and purification, as they are a sign of true faith and piety. Thawban, the companion of the Prophet, has heard Him say, “No one preserves their ablution except a believer.” And according to Abu Huraira, the Prophet said, “The adornment of the believer (in paradise) will reach the places where the water of ablution reaches (his body).”
For the Prophet (peace be upon him), the concept of cleanliness did not merely mean outer cleanliness and the use of water for washing off any stains that might be found on the body. It also signified inner cleanliness, the real cleanliness that motivates those who preserve it to preserve outer cleanliness as well.
The best evidence that serves to reveal the strong connection between the purity of the soul from sins and outer purity by the use of water is the following hadith, which the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught His companions, “When a believing servant makes his ablution and rinses his mouth, sins come out of it, and so do they come out of his nose when he rinses it. When he washes his face, sins drop from all of his face including from behind the edges of his eyelids. When he washes his hands, sins drop from all over his hands, including from under his fingernails. When he wipes his head, they drop from his head and from wider his ears. When he finally washes his feet, sins drop from them to the extent that they go out from under his toenails. Then his going to the mosque and his prayer will be treated as supererogatory acts of worship for him.”
In contrast with Islam’s care with purification and cleanliness, some religions turn their adherents away from purification and encourage them to keep an improper appearance, sometimes by urging them to keep their hair untrimmed, grow their nails long and avoid washing frequently.
A Beautiful Scent
What drew people’s attention most to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), whenever they met Him, was His remarkable love of perfumes and His great interest in them. He was sure to wear pleasant scents at all times, especially when He went out to speak with the people. The Prophet also used to tell His companions to wear perfume and smell good all the time. Anas, His servant (may Allah be pleased with him) confirmed that, “I have never smelled a scent or sweat better smelling than the Messenger of Allah’s scent or sweat.”
The companion Jabir ibn Sumrah, who was still a young boy at the time, narrated, He (the messenger) also patted my cheek and I experienced a coolness or a fragrance of his hand as if it had been brought out from the scent bag of a perfumer.” In another hadith narrated by Jabir ibn Abdillah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was described as follows, “He never walked on a road except that whoever walked on that road after Him knew that He (the messenger of Allah) had walked therein before from the traces of his scent.”
The good sweet smell is indicative of a good spirit, since the good spirit loves appealing smells, and the wicked spirit does not mind living amid evil smells. It has been witnessed, how sorcerers and swindlers smell badly and are notorious for being repulsive in this manner.
A Truthful Face
Whoever met the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never felt either mistrust toward Him or encountered any vestige of cunningness, deception or untruthfulness in His face. Rather, people always got an impression of total honesty, transparency and candidness when they looked at the Prophet’s face.
We could even go further, to cite the description that one of His long-time enemies, Abu Sufian ibn Harb, had credited Him with. He was called into the court of the Eastern Byzantine Emperor, Heraclius, along with a group of fellow Arab merchants, and was asked the following question by Heraclius, “Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a prophet)?”
Abu Sufian replied with a no.
Heraclius commented on this by saying, “I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah!”
Despite the evidence on the truthfulness of Muhammad (peace be upon him) we will cite yet another testimony to confirm the quality for which the Prophet was most well-known. Our witness is the then-Jewish Rabbi Abdullah bin Salam, who narrated, When the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came to Medina, the people raced to greet Him. I went in the crowd to see Him and when I saw His face, I knew that that face was not the face of a liar. The first thing He said when He spoke was, “O people, spread the salutations, feed the people and pray during the night, while the others sleep and you will enter paradise in peace.”
On top of all this, His face beamed with light, and a true comfort and peace of mind overwhelmed people when they sat with Him. That overriding peace is not dependent upon one’s degree of handsomeness, nor is it one of its results. It is that in life, one sometimes meets others with unhandsome features, yet observes that their faces are radiant with light, and their company and speech bring great comfort. That ambiguous radiance and comfort is, beyond doubt, connected to how capable the heart is in leaving its mark on a person’s countenance. In a similar manner, a noticeably handsome face may be overshadowed by a cloud of gloom and heaviness by reason of the malice and corruption that the heart harbors.
Good-natured and cheerful with a welcoming attitude, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was someone who loved to be seen by others. He was held in high regard by foes, and of course, friends. The Prophet Muhammad was known for His welcoming, good-natured disposition toward whoever came to meet Him be they rich or poor, black or white. Even young children enjoyed His genial treatment and warm smile whenever He saw any of them.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had respect for all humans He met. He treated them with appreciation, and took great interest in delivering His ideas to them completely, while inviting them to His cause. Because of this, those who dealt with Him had the feeling that they were dealing with their closest ally.
A humorous situation occurred with the companion Amr ibn al-As. Due to the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) increasing friendliness with him, Amr desired to be the most loved person by the Prophet, He went to the Prophet and asked Him, “Who do you love most?”
He replied, “Aisha.”
And who do you love most among men?” Ibn al-As asked.
The Prophet said, “Her father.”
Then who?” He asked further.
The Prophet replied, “Then Omar.”
At that point, Amr ibn al-As asked no more questions, fearing that he may be last on the list.
In addition to the aforementioned qualities, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was extremely polite with others. He met them with a cheerful face, did not turn away from them and looked them in the eye while speaking to them, and then He shook hands with them at their parting. The Prophet used to say,” No two Muslims will meet, shake hands and praise Allah without having their sins forgiven before they separate.”
Furthermore, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) shook hands with someone, He did not withdraw His hand until the other person did so.
All the signs of good manners characterize the Prophet Muhammad’s behavior, from venerating the old to showing mercy to the young. He was heard saying, “He who has no compassion for our little ones, and does not acknowledge the honor due to our elders, is not one of us.”
Muhammad (peace be upon him) maintained proper manners in eating, drinking, speaking, moving and even standing still. More light will be shed on these manners later in the book, by Allah’s will.]
Spreading the Greeting of Peace
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to greet people with peace, and in fact, He loved greeting people and ordered His companions to do the same. About the virtue of saluting others He said, “The nearest of all people to Allah is he who gives greetings to others before they do.”
Not only this, He made sure to repeat His greeting if a tree, rock or wall stood between Him and others. In correspondence with this, Abu Huraira narrated, “If any of you meet his brother, let him greet him, and if a tree comes in between them or a wall or a stone then he meets him again, let him also greet him.”(3) With that strong sense of commitment to giving greetings, the Prophet (peace be upon him) even used to give the greeting of peace to the young children whom He met in the street.
In the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) opinion, giving the greetings of peace was a means of spreading love, affinity and peace. He said, “Shall I not tell you of that which will strengthen love among you? Spread (the greeting of) peace among yourselves.”
In that sense, Muhammad (peace be upon him) gave the greeting of peace to everyone He passed by, those whom He knew and those He did not. He spread this sublime virtue through His continuous practice, as well as by verbally instructing the companions to practice it. One example was when a person came asking the Prophet, “What is the best thing in Islam?”
He said, “Feeding others and giving the greeting of peace to those whom you know, and those whom you do riot know.”
Clearly the greeting of peace was a pivotal axis in the ideology and propagation of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) message, in that He instructed the Muslims to practice it and was eager to be the first to greet all those whom He met. For the Prophet, the greeting of peace represented a covenant of security and an expression of friendliness. It is an announcement of peacefulness and love for Allah’s sake. Furthermore, the Prophet always followed the greeting of peace with a supplication to Allah to bestow His mercy and blessings upon others, literally, “May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be with you.”