Sent by Br. Abdur Rahman Cemil

The life of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is full of countless examples that show his status as a role model for Muslim societies and individuals. His life is one that was dominated by a superior morality, good habits, noble and gentle feelings and superior skills, all of which are characteristics that help prevent people from getting entangled in a web of sin. The rich and the prosperous, the poor and the needy, the ruler and the ruled, the weak and the lonely, the conqueror and the victorious commander, the teacher and the student, the preacher and the mentor, the merchant and the craftsman, the employer and the employee — in other words, every sort of person can find truths in Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)’s life that constitute an example for them to follow.

Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)’s status as a role model is an issue based on the Holy Quraan and the Sunnah. Islamic scholars, as with many other issues, have examined the status of the Prophet as a role model and leader not in a sectional framework, but from a unified perspective, and they have reached the conclusion that the best method is to examine the Aayaat (Verses) of the Holy Quraan that determine and demonstrate the status of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as a whole. For this reason, when discussing the status of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as a role model, issues such as believing in the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), obedience to the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), following the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), and disagreeing with the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) also come to the fore.

The Holy Quraan and the Role Model Status
In the Holy Quraan the only Aayah (Verse) that refers literally to the status of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as a role model is as follows:

لَّقَدۡ كَانَ لَكُمۡ فِي رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٗ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرۡجُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلۡيَوۡمَ ٱلۡأٓخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرٗا (21)

“There is indeed a good model for you in the Messenger of Allah – for the one who has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah profusely.” (al-Ahzaab 33:21)

The Arabic word Uswah (Example) in the original Aayah (Verse) means example or model that should be obeyed and followed. A person who follows another person’s lead imitates that person; they follow their attitude and style. That is to say, they identify themselves with that person. In terms of Islamic faith, Uswah, that is to say being an example or a role model, is an attribute that is found in those who possess goodness, beauty and righteousness. This Aayah shows the importance of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)’s Sunnah in the lives of Muslims. As a matter of fact, the Quraan clearly states that Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) has a superior character and demonstrates an exemplary lifestyle.

If one accepts that Islam is the final and perfect religion, then it would be inconsistent to not consider the life of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as an example for the Muslim community or to not accept his life as something that shapes and guides the daily lives of Muslims. For that reason, the lifestyle and personality of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), demonstrated during his prophethood of 23 years, includes very significant provisions and principles for the religious, political, social, official, domestic and moral life of Muslim communities as a whole. The following Hadeeth summarizes the statements found in the Quraan: "The best of speech is unquestionably the speech of Allah. That is the Book of Allah (the Quran). The best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. Of all matters, the most evil of things are those which are Bid’ah i.e. innovation (newly-invented in religion), and every innovation is a deviation, and every deviation leads people to Hell-fire”

The Sunnah and Status as Role Model
Islamic scholars state that the terms Sabeel (Way), Siraat al-Mustaqeem (Straight Path) and Uswah al-Hasanah (Best of Examples), which are mentioned in the Holy Quraan, in the Hadeeths of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), and in the words of his Sahaabah (Companions), are words and terms that represent the concept of the Sunnah. All these terms indicate the path to be followed and the model to be taken as an example. The name of this way or path is the Sunnah, and it is collectively followed by the Sahaabah of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and the believers.

Johann Fück, who mentions the great cultural unity that was accomplished by Islam, believes that the reason for this is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), who serves as a role model (al-Uswah-al-Hasanah) for every Muslim; he concludes: "Sunnah forms the face of Islam and gives it the characteristic features that we see all around the Islamic world.” At this point, how the Quraan introduces and describes Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and the status of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is of great importance to us. As a matter of fact, all the characteristics of a person who is an example and a role model must be known and thus their life can be examined in detail. The information on this subject must be accurately passed on to the following generations. The life of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is unique when looked at from this perspective.

The Quraan repeats many times that Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is neither superhuman nor a deity, but that he is a human being. Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) verifies this truth over and over again. The conclusion of scholars on this subject, which is also of great importance for the role model status of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam), is that every action of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is not necessarily related to necessity or good deed, and often only represents a routine action. This is because the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) practiced routine, good, or obligatory actions, but he never practiced sinful actions that are prohibited. If in one or two cases during his whole life, Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) wanted him to choose a better way or deed, this was criticized by Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) himself , thus making all other actions valid as examples to be followed. All actions performed by Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) have been vetted, and if the indications show that this was an action performed to become closer to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), that action is followed, otherwise it is not compulsory to follow. If the action was a routine action, even than this will bring us closer to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) because of following Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). So the status as a role model is not only present in issues that are considered compulsory, but also in fields that represent routine actions.

The exemplary and role model status of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) have a quality that covers all types of Sunnah. Each type of Sunnah is right and desired and there is no place for criticism or improvement in them. The role model status of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is not limited to merely worshipping or actions that are a compulsory part of the religion, a requirement, or examples of good morals. The Sunnah descriptions given by the Hadeeth researchers are in line with the Aayaat found in the Quraan about his role model status and the orders and advice he gives in the Sunnah context; it is according to all these factors that general opinion is formed. "The Sunnah, whether it constitutes a base for a provision or not, are all the words, actions, teachings, characteristics, examples of the morality and personality of Prophet Muhammad.”