1. The Prophet Muhammad was an Orphan
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was an orphan. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was only six years old. Arabia at the time was a very tribal society. Orphans were the lowest class in society because they lacked protection. This left him feeling vulnerable at such a young age. This left him completely dependent on God but also allowed him to feel a strong connection to the most destitute of people in society. The Qurʾān reminds the Prophet peace be upon him to never forget his past and always care for the less fortunate.
Did He not find you an orphan and give you refuge? And He found you lost and guided you. And He found you poor and made you self-sufficient. So as for the orphan, do not oppress him. And as for the petitioner, do not repel him. But as for the favor of your Lord, report it. (Qurʾān 93:6-11)
2. He was nicknamed “The Truthful One” before he became a Prophet
Muhammad peace be upon him became a Prophet at the age of forty. Prior to that he was living a normal life in society. He conducted business, married, attended social gatherings, and mingled with all types of people. He did not lie even when he told jokes and never cheated in business. He had one characteristic that quickly became apparent to all those who interacted with him; honesty. He was never known to have lied and even those who rejected his message referred to him as the truthful one.
3. The Prophet Muhammad was Unlettered
Despite the fact that the Qurʾān is the greatest Arabic literary work, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him did not know how to read or write. The 6th and 7th century were considered to be the golden age of Arabic. The Arabs mastered the language and recited poetry in their gatherings, religious festivals, love poems, and tribal wars. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was not a poet and known to have never recited poetry. When he became a Prophet at the age of forty, he presented the Qurʾān to the Arabs and they were in awe of its unmatched linguistic beauty. They knew that this could not be the word of a human, especially one who did not read or write. On several occasions, the Qurʾān challenges the Arabs to produce something even similar to the Qurʾān.
Were all mankind to come together and wish to produce the like of the Qur’an, they would never succeed, however much they aided each other (Qurʾān 17:88).
If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single chapter like it and enlist whatever supporters you have other than God- if you truly [think you can]. If you cannot do this- and you never will- then beware of the Fire prepared for the disbelievers, whose fuel is men and stones (Qurʾān 2:23-24).
4. He Helped With Household Chores
The Prophet Muhammad lived in a time when men considered themselves superior to women. Many men considered themselves to be too manly to do household chores. Aisha, the Prophet Muhammad’s wife, explains that he used to milk the goats, mend his sandals, and patch his own clothes. He was busy helping his wife and taking care of the home. Aisha was asked “What did the Prophet used to do in his house?” She replied, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it.” (Bukhari)
5. He did not Consider Himself Divine
Before his death the Prophet warned his followers that they should not worship or make idols of him like the followers of other Prophets did. He continuously educated them of his mortality and his being a man, except that he is the Messenger of God. The declaration of the Islamic faith highlights the fact that the Muhammad was not divine, but a messenger of God: I bear witness that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Muslims do not worship Muhammad and therefore should not be referred to as Muhammadans.
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him also said: “Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus), for I am only [Allah’s] slave. So, call me the slave of Allah and His messenger.” (Bukhari)
On another occasion the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him said: “O people, say what you have to say and do not allow Satan to deceive you. I am Muhammad, the slave of Allah and His Messenger. I do not like you to raise me above the status at which I have been placed by Allah, Noble and Majestic is He. (Ahmed)
Say (O Muhammad): ‘I am only a man like you. It has been inspired to me that your God is One God (Allah). So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord (Qurʾān 18:11).
And Muhammad is no more than a messenger; many messengers passed away before him; if then he dies or is killed will you turn back upon your heels? And whoever turns back upon his heels, he will by no means do harm to Allah in the least and Allah will reward the grateful (Qurʾān 3:144).
6. The Prophet Muhammad Forgave His Enemies
Since he became a Prophet many people tried to kill him. They successfully exiled him from Mecca, tortured and killed his followers, spread false rumors about him, and did their absolute best to end his life and message. As the message of Islam grew, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, and the large number of Muslims would later return to Mecca. The Meccans were the ones who tortured and killed many of the Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and the Muslims had the upper hand and one might imagine this to be a moment where they rightfully seek revenge. However, the Prophet peace be upon him entered Mecca with his head lowered in humbleness and forgave all of his enemies. He said to them: “Today I say to you as Joseph said to his brothers: ‘This day there is no blame on you.’ Go your way for you are free.” (Muslim)
7. He Established Rights for Women
In 7th century Arabia, women had very few rights. Even their right to life was questioned and the Arabs had a custom of burying their daughters alive. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him and the Qurʾān chastised the Arabs for such a practice. The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him introduced several revolutionary changes to the status of women in Arabia at the time. He allowed women to inherit, taught that they were equal to men in the sight of God, prohibited adultery and sexual abuse of women, elevated the status of mothers as being greater to that of the father and much more. In his farewell sermon he said: “I order you to be good to women.” (Tirmidhi). He also said “The best of you is the best to his wives.” (Tirmidhi).
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him consulted women and weighed their opinions seriously. Women prayed in mosques, sought knowledge, and were both teachers and students in the early period of Islamic history. The Prophet’s close Companion and second caliph Umar was corrected by a woman when he tried to limit the amount of dowry a woman can receive. He also appointed women in various governmental positions and officials in the markets of Medina.
8. He Established Rights of Animals
You can learn more about Islam’s detailed teachings on animal here. However, the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him prohibited animal abuse. He said that the one who kills an animal for sport is cursed. He also chastised people who overload their horses or camels and told them to “Fear Allah concerning these animals that cannot speak” (Abū Dawud).
He also taught that people can go to heaven because they cared for animals. The Prophet peace be upon him said, “A man felt very thirsty while he was on the way, where he came across a well. He went down the well, quenched his thirst and came out. Meanwhile, he saw a dog panting and licking mud because of excessive thirst. He said to himself, “This dog is suffering from thirst as I did.” So, he went down the well again and filled his shoe with water and watered it. Allah thanked him for that deed and forgave him. The people said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “Yes, there is a reward for serving any animate (living being)” (Bukhari).
9. He Had a Strong Presence
The Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him had a strong presence. His charismatic nature left a strong impact on all those who met him. A lady named Umm Maʿbad who met him on his way to Medina and described him as follows:
I saw a man, pure and clean, with a handsome face and a fine figure. He was not marred by a skinny body, nor was he overly small in the head and neck. He was graceful and elegant, with intensely black eyes and thick eyelashes. There was a huskiness in his voice, and his neck was long. His beard was thick, and his eyebrows were finely arched and joined together.
When silent, he was grave and dignified, and when he spoke, glory rose up and overcame him. He was from afar the most beautiful of men and the most glorious, and close up he was the sweetest and the loveliest. He was sweet of speech and articulate, but not petty or trifling. His speech was a string of cascading pearls, measured so that none despaired of its length, and no eye challenged him because of brevity. In company he is like a branch between two other branches, but he is the most flourishing of the three in appearance, and the loveliest in power. He has friends surrounding him, who listen to his words. If he commands, they obey implicitly, with eagerness and haste, without frown or complaint (Shama’il al-Tirmidhi).
10. The Prophet Muhammad is Buried in Medina
Unlike many previous Prophet’s, Muhammad’s place of death and burial is known. He has a marked grave in the city of Medina in modern day Saudi Arabia. His grave is in Islam’s second holiest site known as the Prophet’s mosque. Muslims from throughout the world visit this mosque every year and visit the Prophet’s grave. They do not pray to the grave, but rather they pray to God while facing the city of Mecca.