Humanness of Prophet (saws)
1. Rafi` b. Khadij says, “When the Prophet (asws) arrived at Madinah he found us pollinating the date-palm trees. He asked us what the practice was. When we told him that we had been practicing it since time immemorial, he said: ‘I believe it will be better if you didn’t do it.’ So we gave up. But that year the trees didn’t bear good number of fruits. When this was reported to him he said: ‘I am a man (like any of you). When I order you a thing that pertains to your religion then do it. But when I advise you in (worldly affairs) offering my personal opinion, then (you ought not to forget) that I am after all a man (like you)’.”(Muslim)
The hadith goes to prove that the Prophet enjoyed two-fold personality. On one plane he was a Prophet chosen to convey Allah’s message, and on the other, simply a man like any other man. Initially, his Companions could not differentiate between the two aspects of his personality. So that, when he advised them in an affair which did not fall within the scope of Allah’s guidance, they mistook it to be a part of it, and acted on his advice without further inquiry. But when it didn’t work well and the Prophet was told about it, he told them that they were not very right in acting according to his advice in such an affair. They should have checked the nature of the affair before accepting or rejecting his advice. If it happened to be a matter pertaining to religious affairs, such as worship, morals, social interaction, human rights, etc., in which spheres the Guidance has been given in detail, or matters such as trade, industry, war or politics, where only the principles have been laid down for men to work out the details, then the Muslims ought act upon them without hesitation. But if it pertains to a worldy affair then they are the best judges. For, a Prophet is sent to show how people should conduct themselves – in all walks of life, including trade, industry, agriculture, and the like – in order to achieve salvation. He is not sent to give lessons in science, agricultural methods, or astronomy.
2. ‘Abdullah ibn `Umar (ra) says the Prophet said: “Don’t cross the limits (in my reverence) as the Christians did with regard to Jesus (asws). I am a slave of Allah and His Prophet. So, say of me, ‘Allah’s slave and His Prophet’.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
[That is, I do not enjoy any divinity. I am a man whom Allah chose to convey the message through. I have remained a human being – although an extraordinay and exemplary human being – even after the choice fell on me. Therefore, do not attribute to me what are Allah’s own Attributes which no one shares with Him, such as, All-encompassing Knowledge, Omnipotence, Omnipresence etc. It was over-reverence of Jesus (asws) following some of his miracles (that were actually the works of Allah), that led them to the belief that he had a share in divinity.]
3. `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud says the Prophet prayed five raka`ah during a noon prayer. His followers asked him if the prayer had been changed to five raka`ah. He asked, “Why do you ask me that?” They said, “Because you did five.” Upon this he did two prostrations, although he had terminated the prayer with the customery salutations.
Another report has it that after doing the prostrations he said: “I am a human being like any of you. So if I forget something you must remind me. And if one of you is doubtful about what he has done in the Prayers, let him try to recall to the best of his ability what he did until then, and then complete the rest. After that let him terminate the prayer and offer two additional prostrations.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The above demonstrates the humanness of the Prophet (saws). He was so human as to forget even the number of raka`ah he had offered in a Prayer.
4. Umm Salama (ra) says the Prophet (asws) said: “I am but a human being. You dispute among yourselves and bring the case to me. Now, one of you may be better at arguing than others, and (influenced by his arguments) I may decide in his favour. But if I gave him anything from his brother’s right, let him not take it, for it is a piece of fire that I am giving him.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
The hadith tells us that the Prophet did not possess the knowledge of the unknown. He only knew what came to his knowledge through his senses which were as limited as any man’s, or when he was informed by Allah through revelation. If two people contended before him he did not know which of them was right. Therefore, if impressed by the argument of one of the contestants, he gave him anything that the man himself knew that it was not his right, then it was his responsibiliy to return it. Yes, if the Prophet professed to have the knowledge of the unknown then the man could have said that the Prophet gave him out of knowledge. But that not being the case the responsibility shifted to the man himself.
These ahadith also go to prove the greatness of our Prophet, on whom be Allah’s choicest of peace and blessing. On one side he took all care not to allow the people a loophole using which they could encroach upon the rights of others, and on the other he strove to remove misconceptions about himself. Indeed, in this he was acting by the commandment of the Qur’an which ordered him to announce: “Say, I do not have power over my own benefit or loss – except for what Allah will. Had I known the Unknown and the Unseen (ghayb), I would have hoarded lot of good (things for myself) and no evil would have ever touched me. I am but a warner and a harbinger of glad tidings: unto a people who believe.” (7: 188)
5. Mughira (ra) says the Prophet (asws) used to observe such long vigils in the nights (praying) that his feet got swollen. Someone told him: “Why do you do that when your past and future sins have been forgiven?” He replied: “Shall I not be a grateful servant then?”
Since Prophets were sent to guide the people and were models for the humanity at large, they did not commit sins. They were, at each step of their life, guided by Allah, in order that the people could not be in confusion about when to follow them and when not to. Again, they were sent to the people to demonstrate a sinless life. It was natural therefore that they were saved from committing sins. Nevertheless, they could make a mistake in choosing the right course or adopting the right attitude in a particular situation. When they did that, and such occurances were far and few in between, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala warned them and corrected them before they could have the time to act according to their judgement. This error in chosing a course in a particular situation has been termed by the Qur’an as a sin. It is true that since they had not acted following a deliberate “wrong choice,” it should not have been called a sin. But it has been done so because of the high rank the Prophets enjoy. In any case, all such “sins” of our Prophet (asws), both previous as well as those that could occur in future, had been waived away by Allah as forgiven beforehand.
With reference to the words, “Shall I not be a grateful servant then,” we might say that a Prophet is human in all sense. Although elevated above all people of his time, he does not become a superhuman. He remains a slave of Allah, which all of us are, with the difference that most people forget the fact of their being slaves of Allah, and act like masters. But the Prophet not only did not forget the fact of being a slave of Allah, but also practised it to give us an ideal example. One of the ways in which he demonstrated this was to stand for long hours before Allah, in the stillness of the nights, praying, seeking His mercy and forgiveness, and thanking Him for His favours, until his feet swelled.
6. Mutarraf b. Abdullah b. Shikhkhir reports from his father: “(Once) I visited the Prophet (asws) and found him praying. Noise was issuing from his belly like the noise from a boiling pot. He was weeping.” The words of another report are: “weeping with a noise issuing from his chest like the noise of a mill-stone.” (Ahmad, Nasai, Abu Daud).
The hadith should help us understand the depth of the Prophet’s knowledge of Allah’s Attributes: the knowledge that made him cry like that before Him.
7. Ibn `Umar (ra) says the Prophet (asws) said, “Do not cross the limits in revering me as did the Christians with regard to Jesus the son of Mary (asws). I am but Allah’s Messenger, and His slave. So call me a Messenger of Allah and His slave.” (Bukhari, Muslim)
Yet we notice that in large parts of the Muslim world, the Prophet (asws) is revered to such extent that he is almost given a share in the Divinity. One great harm, apart from the fact that this is damaging to faith on which hinge acceptance or rejection of all deeds, is that people do not think that the Prophet can be followed in all matters, since, according to them, the Prophet was a very special being, with special powers, which allowed him to lead the kind of life he led. And we, these misguided believe, cannot follow him in all respects since we lack those powers.