One of the most difficult realities to accept is the ambiguity of life. We enter into a job, a marriage, a new city without knowing for sure if it was the right decision. We make plans for our future without thinking about the possibility of a health condition changing everything. Sudden changes in the course of our lives bring us to a state of despair and fear of the unknown. We naturally long for a guide that can foster a better spirit within us. There are various paths of guidance people can take. Some may seek counseling, a “How To…” book, a Ted Talk lecture to bring themselves back up, and while these methods are great from both a spiritual and secular perspective, there is a sad lack of motivation in the quest of something much greater: seeking guidance from the sunnah (the teachings of Prophet Muhammad).
The first command we have as Muslims from Allah is the shahada, to negate the belief in a lord other than Him alone and belief in His final prophet, Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Although a very simple statement to utter, the complete understanding and implementation of this command can take a whole lifetime. This is because it is more than just a mere belief in the existence of the One true God and His Prophet; it is belief in His guidance, His wisdom, and the greatness of the prophetic lifestyle and all that encompasses him (PBUH).
We truly do ourselves a cruel disservice when we bypass the greatest gifts given to us: the Quran and the sunnah. Allah mentions in the Quran “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” (21:107). This verse is heavy because it captures the essence of the Prophet’s purpose in this world in just a few words: a mercy to the worlds. Even before his prophecy, he was As-Sadiq (The Truthful) al-Ameen (The faithful) to the people of Mecca. He was named the most influential person in history in Michael Hart’s “From the 100,” and Hart describes him as being “the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” Along with that, in a beautiful excerpt by the prominent French philosopher Alphonso de Lemartine from the 19th century, he says “If the grandeur of the aim, the smallness of the means, the immensity of the results are the three measures of a man’s genius, who would dare humanly compare a great man of modern history with Muhammad?”
As the life of the Prophet is revered with endless praises from all sorts of people, I began to wonder why we have a hard time finding motivation to follow his footsteps on a daily basis. When our biggest task on this world is to implement his teachings, which have been called “the greatest of all,” shouldn’t we jump on the opportunity of learning to be more like the greatest of all? I don’t believe it is because we lack the desire of wanting to be like him, I think it is more because we don’t know how. Clearly, our life is not exactly like his life… but it doesn’t need to be. Prophet Muhammad once said “I was sent only to perfect noble character.” We can learn the nobility of his character by seeing the way he dealt with things such as losses of loved ones, being in isolation, having people against you, being a leader, an advocate for a cause, a friend, a spouse, a parent, etc. We are not expected to live his exact life, as he was the greatest man that has ever stepped on this world and will continue to be until the end of time. We are only expected to take initiative in becoming more like him (PBUH), and this only benefits us in both this life and the next.
It is hard to give justice to the life and importance of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and I do not have enough knowledge to do so at this point. But what I do know is that although he dedicated his life to helping the orphans in need, ending the inhumane practices done towards women and giving women honor and respect, ending oppression towards the poor, and spreading the message of Islam… in order to keep his sunnah alive, the first step is to emulate his character. The sources are all around us alhamdulilah, from hadith apps to duaas he used to say before eating, entering his house, etc. Through Islam we have much more than just a religion to call our own, but we also have an example to follow that will allow us to find light during our darkest days: the life of Prophet Muhammmad (صَلَّى اللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّم).
***To read the full description by Alphonso de Lemartine:***
Never has a man proposed for himself, voluntarily or involuntarily, a goal more sublime, since this goal was beyond measure: undermine the superstitions placed between the creature and the Creator, give back God to man and man to God, reinstate the rational and saintly idea of divinity in the midst of this prevailing chaos of material and disfigured gods of idolatry.
Never has a man accomplished in such a short time such an immense and long lasting revolution in the world, since less than two centuries after his predication, Islam, preaching and armed, ruled over three Arabias, and conquered to God’s unity Persia, the Khorasan, Transoxania, Western India, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and all the known continent of Southern Africa, many islands of the Mediterranean, Spain and part of Gaul.
If the grandeur of the aim, the smallness of the means, the immensity of the results are the three measures of a man’s genius, who would dare humanly compare a great man of modern history with Muhammad?
The most famous have only moved weapons, laws, empires; they founded, when they founded anything, only material powers, often crumbling before them. This man not only moved armies, legislation, empires, peoples, dynasties, millions of men over a third of the inhabited globe; but he also moved ideas, beliefs, souls. He founded upon a book, of which each letter has become a law, a spiritual nationality embracing people of all languages and races; and made an indelible imprint upon this Muslim nation, for the hatred of false gods and the passion for the God, One and Immaterial.
Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of a rational dogma for a cult without imagery, founder of twenty earthly empires and of one spiritual empire, this is Muhammad.
Of all the scales by which one measures human grandeur, which man has been greater…”
(Extract from Alphonse de Lamartine’s Histoire de la Turquie Paris, 1854, vol. II, pp. 276-277)