From the outset of His call to Islam, Muhammad (puce be upon him) was careful to explain the nature of the relationships between Allah Almighty, the Prophet, and the rest of humankind. Primarily, Allah, Exalted is He, is the only true deity for Whose sake all creatures dedicate their acts, and for Whose pleasure they perform the acts of worship. There is absolutely no other deity other than Him. He alone is the Creator, the Sustainer, the Giver of Life and the Bringer of Death. He is the One and Only Lord worthy of worship, the One Who possesses the attributes of perfection and to Whom belongs the Most Beautiful Names.
Secondly, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is that human being whom Allah has chosen to deliver a message to the people, teach them and explain how the laws that Allah has set for them are to be implemented. The Qur’an contains clear statements, which are in correspondence with the aforementioned explanation, such as, “Say, ‘I am only a man like you, to whom has been revealed that your god is one God: (Al-Kahf 18: 110) The verse clearly indicates a difference between a human messenger, the message imparted to him and the One God Who has no partner.
The human who was elevated to the status of a prophet was chosen by Allah’s knowledge as the most suitable human capable of carrying the responsibility of prophethood. Divine inspiration further makes him firm on the truth, teaches him and refines his human behavior. The prophet receives inspiration to call the people to worship Allah, other than Whom no one deserves to be worshipped, the One and Only rightfully worshipped deity.
Of all human beings, prophets are the most aware of the reality of godhood and of Allah’s exclusive worthiness to be worshipped. Accordingly, the distinction was clear to them between Allah’s rights and a prophet’s rights. A prophet was never seen calling people to anything other than not to associate partners with Allah and devote worship to only Him. The Qur’an categorically negates the possibility that any prophet had ever called people to worship him instead of Allah:
“It is not for a human (prophet) that Allah should give him the Scripture and authority and prophethood and then he would say to the people, ‘Be servants to me rather than Allah; but (instead, he would say),’Be pious scholars of the Lord because of what you have taught of the Scripture and because of what you have studied:” (Al-Imran 3: 79)
Allah gave preference to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over the other prophets and favored Him above all humans. Some aspects of Muhammad’s exalted status with His Lord are:
> The noble manners and excellent personal traits Allah has instilled in Him.
> Being the receiver of a divine revelation that contained the sublime words of Allah.
> Being commissioned by Allah, Exalted is He, with the task of messengership, conveying Allah’s words to the people and calling them to worship Him.
These superior traits led some people to go to extremes in praising the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) character. Some people kept an image of the Prophet that exceeded the limitations of human nature. But when the texts of the noble Qur’an and ponder over the way the prophets have all been depicted therein, particularly the Prophet Muhammad, we will see the special emphasis on their humanity.
Some examples from the Qur’an’ that stress the humanity of the Prophet (peace be upon him) are as follows:
> First, the idolaters expressed their objection that Allah should send a human messenger, and then demanded that an angel from the sky should descend upon them instead in order for them to believe. Allah replied by emphasizing and praising the humanity of His Messenger so much that, had He been an angel, He would have come to them in the form of a man:
“And they say, ‘Why was there not sent clown to him an angel?’ But if We had sent down an angel, the matter would have been decided; then they would not be reprieved. And if We had made him an angel, We would have made him (appear as) a man, and We would have covered them with that in which they cover themselves!” (Al-An’am 6: 8-9)
The messengers were ordered to deliver a message to the people, and that can only take its course through living with the people, communicating with them and being their example. Words alone are insufficient; the messengers must be interacting with the people to whom they were sent, and it cannot happen unless those messengers are humans just like them, mingling with them naturally and spontaneously.
> Second, we learn from the Qur’an that the Makkans rejected the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) message because He was an ordinary human being who ate food and shopped at the markets:
“And they say, ‘What is this messenger that eats food and walks in the markets? Why was there not sent down to him an angel so he would be with him a warner? Or (why is not) a treasure presented to him (from heaven), or does he (not) have a garden from which he eats?’ And the wrongdoers say, ‘You follow not but a man affected by magic: Look how they strike for you comparisons; but they have strayed, so they cannot (find) a way.” (Al-Furqan 25: 7-9)
Later in the surah, Allah tells the people that this is His law regarding messengers: they all ate food and walked in markets:
“And We did not send before you, (0 Muhammad), any of the messengers except that they ate food and walked In the markets. And We have made some of you (people) as a trial for others—will you have patience? And ever is your Lord, seeing.” (Al-Furqan 25: 20)
> Thirdly, the previous nations that have passed away before, had also rejected the messages of their messengers because of their humanity, and regarded that as a sufficient reason for not listening to them and rejecting their call:
“No mention comes to them anew from their Lord except that they listen to it while they are at play with their hearts distracted. And those who do wrong conceal their private conversation, (saying),’Is this (Prophet) except a human being like you? So would you approach magic, while you are aware (of it)’?” (Al-Anbiya’21: 2-3)
Two surahs later, namely in surah Al-Mu’minun, some details about the prophets’ stories that have been mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an were brought up again. Reference was made to the attitude of Noah’s (peace be upon him) people who rejected his call because of his humanity:
“But the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, ‘This is not but a man like yourselves who wishes to take precedence over you; and if Allah had willed (to send a messenger), He would have sent down angels. We have not heard of this among our forefathers'”.(AI-Mu’minun 23: 24)
Also mentioned in the same surah is the reaction of the people of Ad to their prophet Hud’s call, which was no different from that of the others:
“And the eminent among his people who disbelieved and denied the meeting of the hereafter, while We had given them luxury in the worldly life said, ‘This is not but a man like yourselves. He eats of that from which you eat and drinks of what you drink. And if you should obey a man like yourselves, indeed, you would then be losers:” (Al-Mu’minun 23:33-34)
> Fourthly, the Qur’an informs us that the people of the Quraysh also rejected the Prophet’s (peace be upon bile) call at first and demanded certain things from Him:
“And they say, ‘We will not believe you until you break open for us from the ground a spring, or (until) you have a garden of palm trees and grapes and make rivers gush forth within them in force (and abundance), or you make the heaven fall upon us in fragments as you have claimed, or you bring Allah and the angels before (us), or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And (even then), we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read: Say, ‘Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger’?” (Al-Isra’ 17: 90-93)
Subsequently, Allah, Exalted is He, states that what the Prophet’s (peace be upon him), people had done was not exclusive to them; it was also the practice of the previous nations with their prophets:
“And what prevented the people from believing when guidance came to them except that they said, ‘Has Allah sent a human messenger?’ Say, ‘If there were upon the Earth, angels walking securely, We would have sent down to them from the heaven an angel (as a) messenger (Al-Isra’ 17:94-95)
> Fifthly, Allah, Exalted is He, commanded the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to confirm His humanity to the people and clearly deny what they may attribute to Him beyond the scope of His humanity:
“Say, ‘I am only a man like you, to whom it has been revealed that your god is one God. So whoever would hope for the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteous work and not associate in the worship of his Lord anyone'”. (Al-Kahf 18: 110)
In another verse, Allah says, “Say, O (Muhammad), ‘I am only a man like you to whom it has been revealed that your god is but one God; so take a straight course to Him and seek His forgiveness’. And woe to those who associate others with Allah.” (Fussilat 41:6)
In fact, the more we relate about the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life, whether it be the events and situations that happened to Him or the statements He spoke for Himself, the more we realize that He was only a man.
To illustrate, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) participated in the campaigns and battles side-by-side with His companions, and was injured like them in the Battle of Uhud. He was wounded in several places on His body; one of His teeth was broken, and the enemies spread rumors that He was murdered. Upon this, Qur’anic verses were revealed to bring to light His humanity, and emphasize the fact that death or murder could befall Him:
“Muhammad is not but a messenger. (Other) messengers have passed on before Him. So if He was to die or be killed, would you turn back on your heels (to unbelief)? And he who turns back on his heels will never harm Allah at all; but Allah will reward the grateful.”(Al-Imran 3: 144)
In addition to this evidence of His humanity, the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to lead His companions in prayer. The number of rak’as differ from one prayer to another; Fajr prayer is made up of two rak’as, Dhuhr, Asr and Isha’ are four rak’as and Maghrib prayer is three rak’as. One day when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was leading the companions in prayer, He forgot how many rak’as He had prayed. Ibn Mas’ud narrates, “The Prophet prayed Dhuhr with five rak’as, and it was said to Him, ‘Has something been added to the prayer?’
He said, ‘Why are you asking?’
They said, ‘You prayed five’.
So He bent his legs, turned towards the kiblah and prostrated twice, then He said, ‘If one of you has some doubts during his prayer, let him pray according to the amount that he is certain he has performed, and then make two prostrations'”.
We are told that the Prophet (peace be upon him) forgot again haw many rak’as He had prayed and performed the salutation after praying only two rak’as in a Dhuhr or Asr prayer.
Forgetfulness is not related to prayer only. The Muslim must perform purification before prayer, yet the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) forgot about His purification once. A prophet is a human being who forgets things like other human beings. Narrated Abu Huraira, “Once the iqama (call) for the prayer was announced and the rows were straightened. Allah’s Apostle came out; and when He stood up at his musalla (praying place), He remembered that He was junub (in a state of major ritual impurity). Then He ordered us to stay at our places and went to take a bath and then returned with water dropping from His head. He said, ‘Allahu-Akbar’, and we all offered the prayer with Him.”