The character of the Prophet Muhammad is evident through the verses of the Qur’an as well as the hadith, or stories passed down depicting his experiences and lessons for his followers and their descendants. Among his resume of admirable accomplishments, the Prophet of humble beginnings became a successful merchant, a beloved husband to Khadija, a leader of one of the largest religions in history as well as a survivor, one who spread God’s message across Arabian even in the face of those who would deny his claims and wish violence upon him. Through various traditions and verses in the Qur’an available to all today, it is evident that the Prophet was characterized as honest, a skilled mediator and compassionate, the most perfect human possible among people-kind.
The Prophet’s humble background can be one factor in his budding reputation for being a wise and honorable man. Muhammad was orphaned at the very young age of 6 when he lost his mother, only having his grandfather left to care for him. Muhammad never learned to read or write, which left him without as much skill and education as other Meccans. However, as an adult he became a well known merchant and caught the eye of his future wife and one of the first converts to Islam, Khadija. Khadija even proposed to Muhammad, an act that is not very common even today (that is, a woman proposing to a man).
Muhammad was also known to be a successful and skilled negotiator. Of course, as a merchant Muhammad needed to be experienced at negotiating, but his skill can be seen through various hadiths. One in particular is when he asked God how many times a day Muslims ought to pray. Initially, God told him 50 times. Muhammad was okay with this but Moses suggested to him that this would be far too much for most humans to handle in a single day. The Prophet continued to return to God and ask him to consider lowering the number of prayers each day until God slowly brought the number down to a final 5 prayers each day. Muhammad made sure to keep bargaining and negotiating until he and God settled upon a number that was reasonable and would be feasible for Muhammad’s followers on Earth.
Another hadith that shows the Prophet’s reputation as a mediator was when he assisted the tribes in Mecca with putting the finishing touches on the Ka’ba. According to hadith, the Prophet was asked to settle a disagreement; all the tribes in Mecca wanted to be the one to raise the last piece of the Ka’ba and put it in place but no one could decide who deserved the honor. With the Prophet’s help, he cleverly instructed a representative from all the tribes to each grab a side of a cloth that they could all use to lift the remaining piece in place. With this method, all tribes had the honor of placing the stone in place on the Ka’ba, the holiest of mosques, and the Prophet kept the peace and allowed all tribes to achieve what they wished.
As well as the stories passed down about the Prophet’s character, it is also apparent in various Qur’anic verses that the Prophet was a kind and honorable man. The Prophet is not addressed by name often in the holy book but it is clear when God addresses his Prophet that it is with love and respect. In the simplest example, God says to Muhammad, “Truly thine shall be a reward unceasing. And truly thou art of an exalted character.” Another verse showing God’s trust in Muhammed as a model for humankind is as follows: “And We sent thee not, save as a mercy unto the worlds.” It is important to note that Muhammad is God’s mercy onto the world because he is meant to protect and save God’s creations from themselves and their potential sin, showing them the correct path to God’s love and protection.
South African Muslim scholar Farid Esack also takes time to reflect on the Prophet’s background and character early on in his book The Qur’an: A User’s Guide. Esack quotes Muhammad ibn Sa’d, an early Muslim historian, when he says, “He followed the faith of his people till he attained manhood and proved to be the most excellent of them, best in disposition, most respected in society, sweet of tongue, most forbearing and trustworthy, most truthful in speech…” The words speak for themselves! The Prophet was widely recognized as being an incredibly kind and honorable person amongst all of the tribespeople in Mecca, the holiest city. Muhammad had developed quite a reputation before he even became the leader of Muslims everywhere.
Karen Armstrong, a renowned scholar and writer of comparative religion, has written several books, including multiple books about Islam and Prophet Muhammad. One book in particular is called Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time, in which Armstrong says, “Muhammad literally sweated with the effort to bring peace to war-torn Arabia…His life was a tireless campaign against greed, injustice, and arrogance.” This continues to show Prophet Muhammad as an incredibly hardworking and persistent person in his pursuit of peace and justice on Earth in the name of God.
I think it is no mistake that God calls upon the Prophet to be mercy on mankind, specifically. At the beginning of each surah and in al-Fatihah, it states, “In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.” It is notable to me that this attribute of “mercy” is so important that it is stated in every single surah, and it is also a trait that God uses to directly describe the Prophet and his position amongst his followers. This further suggests that Prophet Muhammad was the most perfect and honorable human because he was characterized as being merciful, something so often associated with God, the Divine.
 Mahallati, 2-8-19 lecture
 McAuliffe, 24
 Mahallati, 2-8-18 lecture
 Q. 68: 3-4
 Q. 21: 107
 Esack, 38
 Armstrong, 19
Farid Esack. The Qur’an: A User’s Guide. Oneworld, 2005.
Armstrong, Karen, Muhammad: A Prophet For Our Time. HarperCollins, 2006.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. HarperOne, 2016.
Mahallati, Jafar. Class lecture. 2018.
McAuliffe, Jean Dammen. The Cambridge companion to Qurān. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.