It is a wonder how one softens the heart in a world that is full of hatred and cruelty. When divisiveness is the norm rather than the exception, it becomes necessary to reflect on our interactions and adopt a way of life that builds bridges and instils love. For Muslims, there is no better peacemaker to look to than the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This man called the likes of Umar Ibn al-Khattab and Ikrimah ibn Abi Jahl, staunch enemies of Islam, towards devote themselves to its prosperity. It was his ﷺ smile that made people embrace Islam purely because of the love he emanated. In a world torn apart by hate, a few Qarawiyyin Project writers reflect on what it means to love as Rasulallah ﷺ loved.
How the Beloved ﷺ made others feel loved
The best of all creation. The paragon of virtue. The most Beloved to Allah ﷻ. Our master and our guide, the Prophet ﷺ.
No praise would suffice in extolling the numerous virtues and exceptional beauty of the final messenger, Muhammad ﷺ. Upon reading the Seerah (life of the Prophet ﷺ) and the Shama’il (his persona and traits), one cannot help but be in utter awe of his ﷺ noble character and filled with deep reverence for him. Indeed, the beloved Rasul ﷺ himself said,
“I was sent to perfect good character”.
During these tumultuous times, when we are burdened with confusion and uncertainty underpins every action, we can find solace by looking to Rasulullah’s ﷺ example for guidance on navigating our existence in the dunya and striving to incorporate the goodness that he emanated into our lives.
Gentle and firm. Compassionate and resolute. Rasulullah ﷺ, with what can best be described as his exemplary emotional intelligence, demonstrated the most fitting traits as per his unique situations.
One remarkable quality that Rasulullah ﷺ possessed was his ability to make each person he conversed with feel valued and honoured, especially those who were from the most vulnerable populations of the Ummah. Whenever he ﷺ addressed someone, he would turn towards them and face them completely, giving them his full attention and time.
Sayyiduna Anas bin Malik, may Allah ﷻ be pleased with him, reports that the Prophet ﷺ used to visit his home often. On one of his visits, he ﷺ noticed that Anas’s younger brother, Abu ‘Umayr, was grief-stricken. He ﷺ asked those around him what had happened that had made Abu ‘Umayr feel emotionally distressed, and was told that his pet sparrow had died. The Prophet ﷺ then gently approached Abu ‘Umayr, asking him in a tender and consoling manner: “Oh Abu ‘Umayr, what did the nughayr (sparrow) do?”
In this beautiful narration, we see his mercy towards young children. Despite being the leader of the ummah, with a mountain of responsibilities and worries resting on his shoulders, Rasulullah ﷺ did not dismiss Abu ‘Umayr’s concerns as insignificant. He approached him with sincerity and attentiveness, and his ﷺ empathy was beautifully displayed through his dedication to taking the time to enquire about Abu ‘Umayr’s sparrow and addressing Abu ‘Umayr himself. Such was the humility and compassion of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, the one sent as a mercy for the worlds.
In another heart-warming incident, a woman came to the Prophet ﷺ with a need to ask of him. The Prophet ﷺ told her,
“Sit on any street of Madinah you wish, and I will come and sit with you.”
Once again, Rasulullah’s ﷺ incredible humility and consideration for those who were often disregarded by the rest of society was clearly evident. He ﷺ permitted the woman to find a spot of her choosing, ensuring her comfort, and sat with her until her needs were met. Rasulullah ﷺ was a beacon of hope and a source of healing for everyone he interacted with.
How often do we find ourselves preoccupied with our own lives? How often do we feel inconvenienced when someone who is neither friend nor family, and thus of little benefit to us, crosses our path and requests our time and energy? And when we do speak to such a person, do we give them our full attention? Do we actively listen to their concerns and demonstrate empathy? In an era of hyper-individualism, where we are often occupied with our own commitments and confine ourselves to our own needs and desires, we fall into the trap of overlooking the most vulnerable and downtrodden living among us, leaving them to fend for themselves. As we break down the pillars of community, and destroy the villages that it takes to raise a child, we become burdened and isolated, engulfed by an epidemic of loneliness, despite not always being alone.
To address this crisis, we must return back to the blessed Prophetic way and attempt to adopt the compassion, empathy and humility that Rasulullah ﷺ exemplified. We must turn our attention to those who are suffering, who are weeping in silence, who are in need of a kind word and gentle touch, and make them feel cherished and loved.
Read: Reflections on Rabi’ al-Awwal
Crisis of compassion
One of the most remarkable qualities of Rasulullah ﷺ was his gentleness; his way of dealing with others was so profoundly wise, so full of kindness, that it touched the hardest of hearts.
Among the countless who testified to his kindness was the Bedouin who urinated in his sacred mosque. As people rushed to berate him for his actions, the Prophet ﷺ asked them to leave him alone. Then he turned to him and said, with a gentleness exemplary of his character, ‘”The mosque is not suitable for urinating in: it was built for the remembrance of Allah and for prayer.” Then, the Prophet ﷺ asked for water to be poured over the soiled area.
Notice the Prophet’s ﷺ choice of words. He didn’t single the man out with the second person — “you should not” — for fear of humiliating him. Many may overlook this or deem it insignificant, yet wisdom and empathy was present in every interaction of his, for even the smallest of actions may be a means of softening hearts. Later, the Bedouin recounted the incident in awe, exclaiming, “May my mother and father be sacrificed for him!”
His ﷺ method was uncompromising, always wise, firm when required, but never condescending. He said,
“Verily, kindness is not found in anything except that it beautifies it, and it is not removed from anything except that it disgraces it.”
But we seem to have forgotten. We are harsh when correcting people and preaching the faith. We forget to emulate the wisdom of the Prophet ﷺ and make sure we are not contributing to people drifting away. If only we were to revive the wisdom of the Messenger ﷺ. How he yearned to help those in need! Rasulullah ﷺ used the mistakes of other people as an opportunity to empower them, not break them. So why then do we so often resort to harshness and humiliation when someone errs?
Let’s ask ourselves: are we driven by compassion or a sense of superiority?
So quick to judge and condemn, we resort to instilling fear of the Hellfire before attempting to sow the seeds of love: the love of Allah, His Rasul ﷺ and His religion. And by doing so, we’ve stripped a beautiful way of life down to an amalgamation of threats, fearmongering and difficulty. We have tipped the scale of hope and fear until fear has reigned supreme.
This crisis of compassion can only be remedied by adopting the way of the Messenger ﷺ.
May my mother and father be sacrificed for you, Rasulullah ﷺ. Your kindness was absolute, your wisdom unmatched. Conqueror of hearts and minds, teacher to the greatest ummah, mercy to the worlds — Rasulullah ﷺ.
“Now hath come unto you a Messenger from amongst yourselves: it grieves him that ye should perish; ardently anxious is he over you; to the Believers is he most kind and merciful.”Al Qur’an 9:128
The love languages of the beloved
The five languages of love have become a popular way of analysing personality and the different ways people like to express and receive love. Each person tends to prefer certain love languages over others. Yet such a concept takes on new meaning when we apply it to the Prophet ﷺ — the most empathetic person ever created, a mercy to every individual human and to humanity as a whole. He embodied love, and taught us how to express love in various ways, with different people and in different contexts. Here are some examples of his advice, through both words and actions, that fit into each of the five categories:
1. Words of affirmation:
“When one of you loves his brother, let him know.”
Sweet and simple, he ﷺ told us to say “I love you” to each other. Sometimes we may show that we love each other through our actions, whether it’s spending time with someone or helping them out with a chore. But it’s important to also affirm our love for each other by directly acknowledging it, and by acknowledging the good qualities we see in each other.
2. Giving gifts:
“Give each other gifts and you will love each other.”
Of course, as Muslims, we value generosity. But the Prophet ﷺ took that a step further and showed us that generosity can be a means of increasing love in both the giver and receiver.
3. Acts of service: When ‘Aishah was asked what the Prophet ﷺ did at home, she replied, “He used to keep himself busy serving his family, and when it was the time for prayer he would go for it.”
The Prophet ﷺ spent his life in service to Allah, and this included serving others, for Allah’s sake, both outside and at home. Helping each other with daily tasks and mundane chores is a great way of showing love, respect, and appreciation for each other.
4. Quality time: The Prophet ﷺ would spend quality time with his wives; ‘Aishah (ra) narrates several instances of this, whom he ﷺ brought to watch performances on Eid and even raced alongside! He ﷺ knew that ‘Aishah (ra) loved these things, so he did them for her. For us, this means joining our loved ones in activities that they love, even if they aren’t things we would normally do ourselves. It could be anything from taking a scenic walk in nature to watching their favourite show together. Like the Prophet ﷺ, we may find that spending this quality time with our loved ones increases our mutual love for each other.
5. Physical touch: The Prophet ﷺ would rest his head on his wife’s lap. He would kiss his grandchildren. He indicated to men who had never kissed their children that they should do so, and that it was a sign of Allah’s mercy. Mercy and love are intertwined with each other, and physically expressing those qualities is in the sunnah of His Prophet ﷺ.
The Prophet ﷺ took a holistic approach, weaving love, wisdom and compassion into every word and deed. He did not just tell people he loved them without backing it up with an action. If he had something to give materially, he would give it, even if there was nothing left for himself. When he had nothing, he would give himself: his words, his attention, his prayers.
We can also see that he expressed love differently to different people; with children, he played with them and kissed them. With his family, he carried out daily chores. This speaks to his emotional intelligence, something that we should keep in mind when expressing our love, too. It is not just about what language we feel most comfortable to express our love; in order to fully follow the Prophet’s ﷺ sunnah in this, we should consider the “love languages” of our friends and families.
It’s important to note that expressing love for each other can be a means of worshipping Allah, both by implementing the sunnah of his Prophet ﷺ and showing gratitude by exercising the mercy Allah has put in our hearts. So do not just love in your heart — follow the footsteps and advice of the Prophet ﷺ, and become a means of goodness for all of mankind.
 Al-Muwattta’ 1614, Sahih according to Ibn Abdul Barr