Muhammad, The Character of

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MUHAMMAD, The Character of. (1) Sir William Muir (Life of Mohamet, new ed. p. 587 et seqq.), has carefully collated from the traditions embodied by the secretary of al-Waqidi an account of the person and character of Muhammad. “This account,” as Sir William Muir remarks, ” illustrates generally the style and contents of the Muslim biographies of their Prophet.”
“When ‘Ayesha was questioned about Mahomet she used to say: ‘He was a. man just such as yourselves; he, laughed often and smiled much.’ ‘But how would he occupy himself at home?’ ‘Even as any of you occupy yourselves. He would mend his clothes, and cobble his shoes. He used to help me in my household duties; but whit he did oftenest was to sew. If he had the choice between two matters, he would choose the easiest, so as that no sin accrued therefrom. He never took revenge excepting where the honour of God was concerned.
When angry with any person, he would say, “What hath taken such a one that he’ should soil his forehead in the mud!”
“His humility was shown by his riding upon asses, by his accepting the invitation even of slaves, and when mounted, by his taking another behind him. He would say ‘I sit at meals as a servant doeth, and I eat like a servant: for I really am a servant’ and he would sit so one that was always ready to rise. He discouraged (supererogatory) fasting, and works of mortification. When seated with his followers, he would remain long silent at a time. In the mosque at Medina they used to repeat pieces of poetry, and tell stories regarding the incidents that occurred in the ‘days of ignorance,’ and laugh; and Mahomet listening to them, would smile at what they said.
“Mahomet hated nothing more than lying; and whenever he knew that any of his followers had erred in this respect, he would hold himself aloof from them until he was assured of their repentance.
His Speech.
“He did not speak rapidly, running his words into one another, but enunciated each
syllable distinctly, so that what he said was imprinted in the memory of every one who heard him. When at public prayers, it might be known froth a distance that he was reading by the motion of his beard. He never read in a singing or chanting style; but he would draw out his voice, resting at certain places. Thus, in the prefatory words of a Sura he would pause after bismillahi, after al Rahman, and again after al Rahim.
“He used to walk so rapidly that the people half ran behind him, and could hardly keep up with him.
Habits in Eating.
“He never ate reclining, for Gabriel had told him that such was the manner of kings; nor had he ever two men to walk behind him. He used to eat with his thumb and his two forefingers; and when he had done, he would lick them, beginning with the middle one. When offered by Gabriel the valley of Mecca full of gold, he preferred to forego it: saying that when he was hungry he would come before the Lord lowly, and when full with praise.
“A servant-maid being once long in returning from an errand, Mahomet was annoyed, and said; ‘If it were not for the law of retaliation, I should have punished you with this tooth-pick’ (i.e. with an inappreciably light punishment).
“Customs at Prayer.
“He used to stand for such a length of time at prayer that his legs would swell. When remonstrated with, he said: What! shall I not behave as a thankful servant should? He never yawned at prayer. When he sneezed, ho did so with a subdued voice, covering his face. At funerals he never rode: he would remain silent on such occasions, as if conversing with himself, so that the people used to think he was holding communication with the dead.
“Refusal to make Personal Use of Tithes.
“While he accepted presents he refused to use anything that had been offered as alms; neither would he allow anyone in his family to use what had been brought as alms; ‘For,’ said he,’ alms are the impurity ‘of mankind’ (i.e. that which cleanses their impurity). His scruples on this point were so strong that he would not eat even a date picked up on the road, lest perchance it might have dropped from a tithe load.
“Food Relished.
‘”Mahomet had a special liking for sweet-meats and honey. He was also fond of cucumbers and of undried dates. When a lamb or a kid was being cooked, Mahomet would go to the pot, take out the shoulder, and eat it. He used to eat moist dates and cooked food together. What he most relished was a mess of bread cooked with meat, and a dish of dates dressed with butter and milk. “Mahomet used to have sweet (rain) water kept for his use.
” Women and Scents.
“A great array of traditions are produced to prove that the Prophet was fond of women and scents, and liked these of all things in the world the best, Ayesha used to say: ‘The Prophet loved three things—women, scents, and food; he had his heart’s desire of the two first, but not of the last.’
“Straitened means at Medina.
“Ayesha tells us that for months together Mahomet did not get a full meal. ‘Months used to pass,’ she says again,’ and no fire would be lighted in Mahomet’s house, either for baking bread or cooking meat.’ ‘How, then, did ye live? ‘By the “two black things ” (dates and water), and by what the citizens used to send unto us; the Lord requite them! Such of them as had much cattle would send us a little milk. The Prophet never enjoyed the luxury of two kinds of food the same day; if be had flesh there was nothing else; and so if he had dates; so likewise if he had bread.’
“‘We possessed no sieves, but used to bruise the grain and blow off the husks.’
“Appearance, Habits, &c.
“He used to wear two garments. His lair (under-garment) hung down three or four inches below his knees. His mantle was not wrapped round him so as to cover his body, but he would draw the end of it under his shoulder.
“He used to divide his time into three parts; one was given to God, the second allotted to his family, the third to himself. When public business began to press upon him, he gave up one half of the latter portion to the service of others.
“When he pointed he did so with his whole hand; and when be was astonished he turned his hand over (with the palm upwards). in speaking with another, he brought his hand near to the person addressed; and he would strike the palm of the left in the thumb of the tight hand. Angry, he would avert his face; joyful, he would look downwards. He often smiled, and, when be laughed, his teeth used to appear white as hailstones.
“In the interval allotted to others, he received all that came to him, listened to their representations, and occupied himself in disposing of their business and in hearing what they had to tell him. He would say on such occasions: ‘Let those that are here give information regarding that which passeth to them that are absent; and they that cannot themselves appear to make known their necessities, let others report them to me in their stead; the Lord will establish the feet of such in the Day of Judgment.’
“Seal of Prophecy.
“This, says one, was a protuberance on the Prophet’s back of the size and appearance of a pigeon’s egg. It is said to have been the divine seal which, according to the predictions of the Scriptures, marked Mahomet as the last of the Prophets. How far Mahomet himself encouraged this idea it is impossible to say. From the traditions it would seem to have been nothing more than a mole of unusual size; and the saying of Mahomet, that ‘God had placed it there,’ was probably the germ of supernatural associations which grew up concerning it.
“His hair used to be combed; it was neither curling nor smooth. He had, says one, four curled locks. His hair was ordinarily parted, but he did not care if it was not so. According to another tradition, ‘The Jews and Christians used to let their hair fall down, while the heathen parted it. Now Mahomet loved to follow the people of the Book in matters concerning which he had no express command. So, he used to let down the hair without parting it. Subsequently, however, he fell into the habit of parting it.’
“Mahomet used to clip his moustache, A Magian once came to him and said: ‘You ought to clip your beard and allow your moustaches to grow.’ Nay,’ said the Prophet, ‘for my Lord hath commanded me to clip the moustaches and allow the beard to grow.’
” Dress.
“Various traditions are quoted on the different colours he used to wear — white chiefly, but also red, yellow, and green. He sometimes put on woollen clothes. Ayesha, It is said exhibited a piece of woollen stuff in which she swore that Mahomet died. She adds that he once had a black woollen dress, and he still remembered, as she spoke, the contrast between the Prophet’s fair skin and the black cloth. ‘The odour of it, however, becoming unpleasant, he cast it off, for he loved sweet odours.’
“He entered Mecca on the taking of the city (some say) with a black turban, He had also a black standard. The end of his turban used to hang down between his shoulders. He once received the present of a scarf for a turban, which had a figured or spotted fringe; and this he cut off before wearing it. He was very fond of striped Yemen staffs. He used to wrap his turban many times round his head, and the lower edge of it used to appear like the soiled clothes of an oil-dealer.’
“He once prayed in a silken dress, and then cast it aside with abhorrence, saying: Such stuff it doth not. become the pious to wear.’ On another occasion, as he prayed in a figured or spotted mantle, the spots attracted his notice; when be had ended, he said ‘Take away that mantle, for verily it hath distracted me in my prayers, and bring me a common one.’ His sleeve ended at the wrist. The robes in which he was in the habit of receiving embassies, and his fine Hadhramaut mantle, remained with the Caliphs; when worn or rent, these garments were mended with fresh cloth; and in after times, the Caliphs used to wear them at the festivals. When he put on new clothes (either an under-garment., a girdle, or a turban), the Prophet would offer up a prayer such as this: ‘Praise be to the Lord who hath clothed me with that which shall hide my nakedness and adorn me while I live. I pray Thee for the good that is in this, and the good that hath been made for it; and I seek refuge from the evil that is in the same, and from the evil that hath been made for it.’
“His servant, Anas, had charge of his shoes and of his water-pot. After his master’s death, Anas used to show his shoes. They were after the Hadhramaut pattern, with two thongs. In the year 100 or 110 A.H., one went to buy shoes at Mecca, and tells us that the shoemaker offered to make them exactly after the model of Mahomet’s, which he said he had seen in the possession of Fatima, granddaughter of Abbas. His shoes used to be cobbled. He was in the habit of praying with his shoes on. On one occasion, having taken them off at prayers, all the people did likewise, but Mahomet told them there was no necessity, for he had merely taken off his own because Gabriel had apprised him that there was some dirty substance attaching to them (cleanliness being required in alt the surroundings at prayer). The thongs of his shoes once broke, and they mended them for him by adding a new piece; after the service, Mahomet desired his shoes to be taken away anti the thongs restored as they were, ‘For,’ said he, ‘I was distracted at prayer thereby.’
” Tooth-picks.
“Ayesha tells us that Mahomet never lay down, by night or by day, but on waking he applied the tooth-pick to his teeth before he performed ablution. He used it so much as to wear away his gums. The tooth-pick was always placed conveniently for him at night, so that, when he got up in the night to pray, he might use it before his lustrations. One says that he saw him with the toothpick in his month, and that he kept saying aa, as if about to vomit. His tooth-picks were made of the green wood of the palm-tree. He never travelled without one.
” Articles of Toilet.
“He very frequently oiled his hair, poured water on his beard, and applied antimony to his eyes.
” Four sections are devoted to the devoted to the description of Mahomet’s armour,—his swords, coats of mail, shields, lances, and bows.
The Prophet used to snuff simsim (sesamum), and wash his hands in a decoction of the wild plum-tree. When he was afraid of forgetting anything, he would tie a thread on his finger or his ring.
“The first horse which Mahomet ever possessed was one he purchased of the Bani Fazara, for ten owckeas (ounces of silver); and he called its name sakb (running water), from the easiness of its paces. Mahomet was mounted on it at the battle of Ohod, when there was but one other horse from Medina on the field. He had also a horse called Sabaha (Shamjah?); he raced it and it won and he was greatly rejoiced thereat. He had a third horse, named Murtajis (neigher).
Riding Camel.
“Besides Al Caswa. (al-Qaswa), Mahomet had a camel called Adhba (al-‘Azba), which in speed outstripped all others. Yet one day, an Arab passed it when at its fleetest pace. The Moslems were chagrined at this; but Mahomet reproved them, ‘saying, ‘It is the property of the Lord, that whensoever men exalt anything, or seek to exalt it, then the lord putteth down the same.
“Milch Camel.
“Mahomet had twenty milch camels, the same that were plundered at Al Ghaba. Their milk was for the support of his family: every evening they gave two large skinsful. Omm Salmah relates: ‘Our chief food when we lived with Mahomet was milk. The camels used to be brought from Al Ghaba every evening. I had one called Aris, and Ayesha one called Al Samra. The herdman fed them at Al-Jusnia, and brought them to our homes in the evening. There was also one for Mahomet.
“Milch Flocks.
“Mahomet had seven gears which Omm Ayman used to tend (this probably refers to an early period of his residence at Medina). His flocks grazed at Ohod and Himna alternately, and won brought back to the house of that wife whose turn it was for Mahomet to be in her abode. A favourite goat having died, the Prophet desired its skin to he tanned.
Mahomet attached a peculiar blessing to the possession of goats. ‘There is no house,’ he would my, ‘possessing a goat, but a blessing abideth thereon; and there is no house possessing three goats, but the angels pass the night there praying for its inmates until the morning.’
“Fourteen or fifteen persons are mentioned who served the Prophet at various times. His slaves he always freed.
“Abdallah ibn Yazid related that he saw the houses in which the wives of the Prophet dwelt, at the time when Omar ibn al-Aziz, Governor of Medina (ahout A.H. 100) demolished them. They were built of unburnt bricks, and had separate apartments made of palm-branches, daubed (or built-up) with mud; he counted nine houses, each having separate apartments, in the space extending from the house of Ayesha add the gate of Mahomet to the house of Asma, daughter of Hosein. Observing the dwelling-place of Omm Salma, he questioned her grandson concerning it, and he told him that when the Prophet was absent on the expedition to Duma, Omm Salma built up ad addition to her house with a wall of unburnt bricks. When Mahomet returned, he went in to her, and asked what new building this was. She replied: ‘I purposed, O Prophet, to shut out the glances of men thereby! Mahomet answered ‘O Omm Salma! verily the most unprofitable thing that eateth up the wealth of the Believer is building. A citizen of Medina present at the time, confirmed this account, and added that the curtains of the door were of black hair-cloth. He was present, he said, when the despatch of the Caliph Abd al Malik (A.H. 86—88) was read aloud, commanding that these houses should be brought within the area of the mosque, and he never witnessed sorer weeping than there was amongst the people that day. One exclaimed: ‘I wish, by the Lord! that they would leave these houses alone thus as they are; then would those that spring up hereafter in Medina, and strangers from the ends of the earth, come and see what kind of building sufficed for the Prophet’s own abode, and the sight thereof would deter men from extravagance and pride.’
“There were four houses of unbnrnt bricks, the apartments being of palm-branches; and live houses made of palm-branches built up with mud and without any separate apartments. Each was three Arabian yards in length. Some say they had leather curtains for the doors. One could reach the roof with the hand.
“The house of Haritha (Harisah) was next to that of Mahomet. Now whenever Mahomet took to himself a new wife, – he added another house to the row,’ and Haritha was obliged successively to remove his house, and to build on the space beyond. At last this was repeated so often, that the Prophet said to those about him: ‘Verily, it shameth me to turn Harithia over and over again out of his house.’
“There were seven gardens which Mukheirick the Jew left to Mahomet. Omar ibn Al Aziz, the Caliph, said that, when Governor of Medina, he ate of the fruit of these, and never tasted sweeter dates. Others say that these gardens formed a portion of the confiscated estates of the Bani Nadhir. They were afterwards dedicated perpetually to pious purposes.
Mahomot had three other properties :—
I. The confiscated lands of the Bani
Nadhir. The produce of these was appropriated to his own wants. One of the plots was called Mashruba Omm Ibrahim, the ‘summer garden of (Mary) the mother of Ibrahim,’ where the Prophet used to visit her.
“II. Fadak; the fruits of this were reserved as a fund for indigent travellers.
“III. The fifth share, and the lands received by capitulation, in Kheibar. This was divided into three parts. Two were devoted for the benefit of the Moslems generally (i.e. for State purposes) the proceeds of the third, Mahomet assigned for the support of his own fainily, and what remained over he added to the fund for the use of the Moslems.” (The Life of Mahomet, by William Muir, Esq, London, 1861, vol. iv., p. 326.)
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Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam

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