If a preacher desires his preaching to be effective on people, he should practise what he preaches. One who says what he does not do can hardly expect to succeed in his mission. Actions speak louder than words. The Qur’an is very explicit in this matter:
O you who believe! Why do you say that which you do not do? Most hateful it is in the sight of God that you say what you do not do (al-Saff, 61.2 -3).
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, was the living embodiment of his mission. He was the foremost in practicing Islam, in devotion to God, in servanthood to Him. It usually happened that one who saw him did not feel the need to see any other proofs to believe in his Prophethood. For example, ‘Adbullah ibn Salam, the renowned scholar of the Jewish community in Madina, believed in him at first sight of him, saying:
There can be no lie in this face; the one who has such a face can only be a Messenger of God.23
‘Adbullah ibn Rawaha, a famous poet of the time, expressed this fact in a couplet whose meaning is:
Even if he had not come with manifest signs,
A single look at him suffices to inspire belief in him.24
Those who believed in him in his time were not foolish or unreasonable people. Among them were men who, like the first four caliphs, namely Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, may God be pleased with them all, administered a very great state. They were also so profound in spirituality and so deep in belief that ‘Ali, for example, once said:
If the veil (between this material world and the immaterial world) were to be lifted up, my certainty (of the Unseen) would not increase.25
One of the reasons why the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is still loved deeply by hundreds of millions despite the concerted, hostile efforts of propaganda to remove him from the hearts of his people and why, by contrast, he gains each day thousands of new converts all over the world, is that he practiced what he advised others to do. For example, he invited people to worship God sincerely and he himself set the best example in this respect. He would spend more than half of the night standing in prayer before God in tears, and utmost humility, and when asked why he gave himself so great a trouble as it caused his feet to swell, and did so even though he was sinless, he would answer:
Should I not be a thankful slave of God?26
As narrated by ‘A’isha, his wife, one night he asked her permission to get up and pray – he was so sensitive to the rights of his wives as to request, while with them, their permission to perform supererogatory prayer. He prayed until daybreak and shed tears. He frequently recited the following verses,
In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of day and night, there are signs for men of understanding. Those that remember God standing, sitting, and lying down, and meditate upon the creation of the heavens and the earth. ‘Our Lord! You have not created this in vain. Glory be to You! Protect us from the punishment of the Fire. Our Lord! Those whom You will admit to the Fire, You have abased them; for wrong-doers there are no helpers. Our Lord! We have heard a caller calling to faith: “Believe you in your Lord”! So we believed. Our Lord! Therefore forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds, and take our souls in death in the company of the righteous! Our Lord! And grant us what You did promise to us through Your Messengers, and do not abase us on the Day of Resurrection. You never break the promise! (Al ‘Imran, 3.190–4)27
Again, ‘A’isha reports:
I woke up one night and I could not see God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, beside me. I was jealous lest he had gone to another of his wives. As I just got up from bed, my hand touched his feet. I noticed that he was prostrate, praying: O God! I seek refuge in Your pleasure from Your wrath, and in Your forgiveness from Your punishment; I also seek refuge in Yourself from You. I cannot praise You as You praise Yourself.28
His life was so simple that once ‘Umar, on seeing him, said:
O Messenger of God! While kings sleep in soft, feather beds, you are lying on a rough mat. You are the Messenger of God and thereby deserve more than any other people to live an easy life. God’s Messenger answered him: Do you not agree that the luxuries of the world should be theirs but those of the Hereafter ours?29
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, lived for others. Indeed, he desired his nation to live a comfortable life without, however, being deluded by its luxuries, but he himself lived a very simple life.
23. I. Hisham, Sira, 163–4.
24. Sa‘id al-Hawwa, al-Rasul, 1.9; For a different version, see, I. Hajar, al-Isaba, 2.307.
25. ‘Ali al-Qari, al-Asrar al-Marfu‘a, 286.
26. Bukhari, Tahajjud, 6; Muslim, Munafiqin, 81.
27. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir, 2.164.
28. Muslim, Salat, 221–2; Abu Dawud, Salat, 148; Witr, 5
29. Bukhari, Tafsir, 287; Muslim, Talaq, 31.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.