From time to time, satirical cartoons of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are published by such people who either are ignorant of or ignore the real character of Prophet Muhammad. While the Muslim reactions to such abuse vary from one Muslim to another, I decided to avoid the direct defense of Prophet Muhammad or any endeavor to praise him simply because God promised him a good memory. In the Qur`an, we read the following verse:
And raised high for you your repute (Al-Inshirah 94:4)
We also read the following verse:
And indeed, you are of a great moral character. (Al-Qalam 68:4)
However, I elected to indicate how Prophet Muhammad reacted to personal abuse and how he behaved himself in such situations where he was personally insulted to let my dear readers judge by themselves if this man is praiseworthy or blameworthy.
Insult to Prophet Muhammad is not something new. Yet, this is a frequent occurrence which has similar precedents during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. This is the fate of all great men. They are subjected to a careful scrutiny, which sometimes proves unfair given the deliberate twist of facts and intentional distortion of the truth.
Let’s now review some of the uncountable situations where Prophet Muhammad reacted to personal abuse by many people so that we may come to know how great Prophet Muhammad was. If Prophet Muhammad had been a wicked person, his reaction to abuse would have been equally wicked. If he had been a great man, his reaction would have been equally great.
Suhayl ibn `Amr
Suhayl ibn `Amr was an eloquent Meccan elder who used to satirize Prophet Muhammad in Mecca. In the aftermath of Badr Battle, after Muslims’ victory, Suhayl ibn `Amr was captured by Muslims. `Umar ibn Al-Khattab suggested: “O Messenger of God, let me pull out the incisors of Suhayl ibn `Amr so that he will not preach sermons against you after today!” Prophet Muhammad replied: “I mustn’t mutilate anybody lest God should cause me to be mutilated though I am a prophet.” Then, Prophet Muhammad prophesied: “O `Umar, maybe, Suhayl will have such a stance which will please you tomorrow!”
In fact, Prophet Muhammad’s prophecy was fulfilled but many years after the release of Suhayl ibn `Amr, who continued to be a disbeliever until the conquest of Mecca. After Badr Battle, Suhayl fought Uhud Battle against Prophet Muhammad.
Again, Quraysh (the people of Mecca) dispatched Suhayl ibn `Amr to Prophet Muhammad as a negotiator. After reaching an agreement with Prophet Muhammad, when Prophet Muhammad dictated the following formula to Ali, “Write: ‘Those are the terms according to which Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, made peace with Suhayl ibn `Amr,’” Suhayl objected to this formula. Instead of it, he suggested: “Write: ‘Those are the terms according to which Muhammad ibn `Abdullah made peace with Suhayl ibn `Amr.’”
On the conquest of Mecca, after his victory, Prophet Muhammad wondered: “O people of Quraysh, what do you expect me to do to you?” Suhayl ibn `Amr replied: “We expect goodness. You are a good brother and the son of a good brother.” Then, Prophet Muhammad said: “You can go! You are free!”
Suhayl ibn `Amr himself relates: “Then, I shut myself off at home and closed the door. Then, I sent a message to my son `Abdullah ibn Suhayl (who was a Muslim) asking him to seek protection for me from Muhammad for I thought I was not safe from killing … there is nobody who had such influence which was worse than me. I said to Prophet Muhammad such words on the day of Hudaybiyah Peace Agreement which were not said by anybody else and I was the one who concluded the agreement with him … not to mention the fact that I fought Badr and Uhud battles against Muslims.” (Subul Al-Huda Wa Al-Rashad)
`Abdullah ibn Suhayl went to Prophet Muhammad and asked: “O Messenger of God, may you afford him protection?” Prophet Muhammad replied: “Yes, he will be safe under God’s protection. So let him get out.” Then Prophet Muhammad turned to the Companions who were around him and said: “He who meets Suhayl ibn `Amr should not keep looking at him. By my life, Suhayl has conscious mind and high honor. A man like Suhayl is not ignorant of Islam …”
Prophet Muhammad prohibited his Companions from keeping looking at Suhayl lest he should have thought that they were rejoicing at his misfortune.
When `Abdullah ibn Suhayl told his father about Prophet Muhammad’s words, he commented: “By God, he is dutiful when young and old!” Thereupon, Suhayl went to Prophet Muhammad and professed Islam.
Safwan ibn Umayyah
Safwan ibn Umayyah was such a stubborn disbeliever who fiercely resisted Islam and cherished bitter hatred against Prophet Muhammad and Muslims. He went out of his way to fight Prophet Muhammad and Islam. At Uhud Battle, under Khalid ibn Al-Walid’s command, Safwan took Muslims aback and took part in killing seventy Companions of Prophet Muhammad. He also took part in the Khandaq (Ditch) Battle and fighting prior to the conquest of Mecca.
Furthermore, Safwan ibn Umayyah conspired to assassinate Prophet Muhammad. He promised `Umayr ibn Wahb, who was then a disbeliever, that he would support his children and repay his debts so that `Umayr would kill Prophet Muhammad.
However, `Umayr ibn Wahb embraced Islam in Medina after Prophet Muhammad had told him about the conversation which took place between him and Safwan in the lap of the Ka`bah.
On the conquest of Mecca, having no place in Mecca and knowing for a certainty that he would not be received anywhere in Arabia, Safwan decided to throw himself away in the sea. Being an old friend of Safwan ibn Umayyah before conversion to Islam, `Umayr caught up with him.
When `Umayr ibn Wahb saw that Safwan fled Mecca, he feared for him and wanted him to convert to Islam driven by their old friendship and the good memories they had together. So he sought protection for him from Prophet Muhammad. He said: “O Messenger of God, the master of my people ran away to throw himself in the sea fearing that you would not afford him protection. So afford him protection, I ransom you with my father and mother.” Prophet Muhammad said: “I afford him protection.”
Safwan thought that his old friend tracked him only to kill him after he had professed Islam and sided with Prophet Muhammad against him. Safwan wondered: “O `Umayr, are you not content with causing me to repay your debts and support your children? Now, you are coming to kill me!” `Umayr replied: “Aba Wahb, … I have come to you from the most dutiful and faithful man. The Messenger of God has afforded you protection.” Safwan replied: “No, by God, I will not come back with you until you bring me a sign which I know.” `Umayr then came back to Prophet Muhammad and told him about that. Thereupon, Prophet Muhammad offered: “Take my turban to him.”
Then, `Umayr took the turban and went back to Safwan and showed him the turban, saying: “O Aba Wahb, I have come to you from the best man, the most faithful man, the most dutiful man, and the most tolerant man, whose glory is yours, whose kingdom is yours! He is the son of your mother and father. Let me remind you of God for yourself.”
Safwan replied: “I fear that I should be killed.” `Umayr replied: “He (Prophet Muhammad) invites you to embrace Islam. You have the choice to embrace Islam or have a grace period of two months.”
Then, Safwan went back to Mecca with `Umayr and entered the holy sanctuary while Prophet Muhammad was leading people in the Afternoon Prayer. They waited until Prophet Muhammad finished prayer.
When Prophet Muhammad finished prayer, Safwan called out: “O Muhammad, `Umayr ibn Wahb brought me your turban and alleged that you have invited me to come to you. So I have the choice between accepting the matter (Islam) or having a grace period of two months!” Safwan addressed Prophet Muhammad from a distance so that he could have a chance to escape.
Prophet Muhammad replied: “Dismount, Aba Wahb!” Safwan replied: “No, by God, until you make clear that to me.” Prophet Muhammad said: “You will have a grace period of even four months.”
Thus, Safwan stayed in Mecca as a disbeliever. However, on the day of Hunayn Battle, when Prophet Muhammad decided to march on Hawazin to fight them, he was told that Safwan ibn Umayyah had armors and weapons. So he sent a person to him while being a disbeliever to say to him: “O Aba Wahb, lend us your weapons so that we will thereby fight our enemy tomorrow.”
Safwan replied: “Will you take them by force, O Muhammad?” Prophet Muhammad replied: “No, but as a guaranteed loan until we bring them back to you.” Then, he said: “No problem.” When some of them were destroyed, Prophet Muhammad offered: “If you like, I will forfeit their value.” He replied: “I want more than that from Islam.”
At the end of the battle, while Prophet Muhammad was distributing the spoils of Hunayn, he saw Safwan looking at a mountain pass which was filled with cattle, ewes and shepherds. Safwan kept looking at that pass, while Prophet Muhammad was watching him. Then, Prophet Muhammad said: “O Aba Wahb, do you admire this pass?” He said: “Yes.” Prophet Muhammad replied: “It and what is in it are yours.”
Thereupon, Safwan took what was in the pass and said: “A self cannot give up something like this quite willingly except if it is of a prophet. I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his servant and messenger.” Safwan professed Islam on the spot.
1- The Glorious Qur’an (Sahih International Translation)
2- Subul Al-Huda Wa Al-Rashad
3- As-Sirah An-Nabawiyah, by Ibn Ishaq