Key Elements and Teachings in the Life of the Prophet (s) from the Viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

Key Elements and Teachings in the Life of the Prophet (s) from the Viewpoint of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi

These were hearts and minds which had been locked by the darkness of deviation and straying and it was the Prophet (s) who helped open them to guidance and salvation.‌

Today is the yearly date marking the passing of the Prophet of Islam (s) who was the seal and final messenger of all prophets and played a pivotal role in opening the hearts and minds of the people. These were hearts and minds which had been locked by the darkness of deviation and straying and it was the Prophet (s) who helped open them to guidance and salvation.  Due to this reason, we must look deep in to the life of this noble messenger and reflect upon the various elements and lessons which it has to offer.

By looking at the history of Islam, particularly the history of what took place in the cities of Medina and Mecca, we will be able to look at the life of the Prophet (s) and see how the Prophet (s), alongside with his wife Khadījah and his cousin Imam ‘Ali (ʿa), were able to stand against the enemies of Islam. Let us take a spiritual journey back in to this era and see how the Prophet (s), his wife, and Imam ‘Ali (ʿa) would offer their prayers purely for the sake of Allah (swt) while they were still living among the polytheists and the enemies of Islam. They offered their prayers under such circumstances while their hearts were sincerely filled with the contemplation of Allah (swt).

When we look back in to the history of Islam and how the religion spread so quickly during that time period, as well as during the periods which came after, it is truly a point of wonder as to how it was possible for the faith to have spread with such a rapid pace. This is particularly true when one considers the means of spreading information which were available during that time period.

There was no mass media then and information could only spread through word of mouth and personal contact. In spite of these limitations, the religion spread amongst millions of human beings and it became a force which absorbed entire civilizations and created its own unique civilization, changing human history forever.

In light of the reality that Allah (swt) chose the Prophet Muhammad (s) as the seal of his prophets, and as an example for all of mankind[1]: ‘Surely there was a good example for you in the Messenger of Allah,’ , it becomes critical for us to look in to the essential elements and teachings which can be found in the life of the Prophet (s). Let us delve in to these teachings through the valuable guidance and viewpoints of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi…

Love and the Role it plays in the Guidance of Human Beings

Guidance as a concept has quite a vast scope and it includes the issue of monotheism, as well as the other articles of faith. It also is interwoven with all moral principles, as well as the issues of moral training and self-purification.  Thus, in addition to its explanation of the lofty rank and grandeur of the Prophet of Islam (s), the holy Quran has also referred to his great desire to guide people and save them from straying. This is one of his characteristics, which constitutes a model for us to emulate and follow.

A verse in the Quran states[2]: ‘There has come to you a Messenger of Allah from among yourselves, who is distressed by the losses you sustain, who is ardently desirous of your welfare and is tender and merciful to those that believe.’[3]  A quick glance at this verse of the Quran reveals that Allah (swt) has enumerated five characteristics for the Prophet of Islam (s). These five characteristics include: ‘from among yourselves’, ‘who is distressed by your losses’, ‘who is ardently desirous for your welfare’, ‘tender’, and ‘merciful’. This verse is in reality explaining to us that the Prophet (s) is completely aware of all of the problems and difficulties which we are facing and desires the best for us.

This verse has also utilized the word ‘Ḥarīs’ which has been translated as being ‘ardently desirous’. This word shows us the depths of his desire to guide mankind to the path of the truth. In reality, this verse is showing us that the Prophet (s) is extremely kind and merciful towards the believers in his desire to guide them to the truth, yet at the same time, he is harsh towards the ruthless and hardhearted tyrants who seek to oppress other people.

 The Life of the Prophet (s): The Best Example of a Life based on Moral Principles

When we look at many of the problems which people face on an individual and social level, it is clear that many of them emanate from various moral and ethical weaknesses and deficiencies. Similarly, many of the problems caused by various heads of states are due to such individuals’ lack of adherence to moral principles. Sound ethics and morality are the base foundations of any healthy society. Similarly, morality is the best means of journeying towards Allah (swt).

Until the various moral issues of a society are resolved, none of the other problems which they face will be resolved. For this same reason, purifying one’s soul from the pull of the carnal desires, purifying one’s heart, and taking one’s level of morality and ethics to the highest levels constitute the primary purpose of the Divine Mission of the Prophet of Islam (s).

When we examine the life of the Prophet (s) and look in to the secret behind his success, we find that it was primarily his lofty character qualities, his humility, and his kindness towards the people that attracted them towards him and his religion.  The Prophet (s) lived his life in such a way and he was of such character that even in the pre Islamic era, he was well respected and trusted by the people of his society. This is something which was well recognized by the people of that era and no one disputed it later when he began to preach the new faith.

History tells us that when the Prophet (s) decided to emigrate from Mecca to Medina, he en-charged Imam ‘Ali (ʿa) with the duty of returning all of the things which the people had given to him to safeguard.  It is interesting to note that these were the same people who had refused to believe in his message and many of them may have harbored great hate against him. It is also worthy to mention that the Prophet (s) was extraordinarily humble. He would greet everyone he would see, he would just sit in a gathering without seeking to be in the spotlight, and he would perform his share of work during the course of journeys. He would also refrain from allowing others to shoulder all of the work and responsibilities.

When we look at the actions of the Prophet (s) in times of war and peace, we are able to see his lofty levels of bravery, perseverance, and upright behavior. He was a man of great forgiveness and chivalry. This is particularly evident during his general pardon after the conquest of Mecca. Those who were granted pardon by the Prophet (s) were the same individuals who had hurt him and the Muslims so greatly. In spite of all the things the Meccans had done, he forgave them and gave history one of its finest lessons in forgiveness and the highest levels of ethics and upright behavior.

Another interesting point which should never be forgotten is that the Prophet (s) clearly showed us that the ends do not justify the means. If we wish to reach a holy goal, then we must be sure that the means which we use to reach that goal are also correct and holy themselves. The Prophet (s) would directly tell his companions [4]: ‘Enmity against any group should not prevent you from acting justly.’[5]

He would also command his followers in regards to the rules of engagement and he would tell them that they could not attack non-combatants, nor could they destroy agricultural fields or orchards. The Muslims were also prohibited from polluting or poisoning the drinking water of the enemy and they were also obligated to act with the utmost kindness towards their prisoners of war. These were just a few of the many commandments which the Prophet (s) had mentioned in regards to the rules of war.

In reality, if it had not been for these lofty levels of behavior and ethics, then that backwards and unruly people would have never accepted Islam. Just as the Quranic verse has mentioned, the Arabs would have ‘dispersed from around him’ [6] and continued to follow the customs of their forefathers if it had not been for the Prophet (s)’s kind behavior towards them. In light of this reality, we must strive to reengage with this level of Islamic behavior and ethics. Every Muslim must strive towards implementing this level of behavior in their day to day lives so that they too can become a reflection of the Prophet of Islam (s). [7]

Being Quran Centric: A Key Element in the Life of the Prophet (s)

All of the Islamic scholars believe that the Quran is the greatest miracle of the Prophet of Islam (s). It is furthermore an intellectual miracle which affects the thinking and spiritual life of the people; in light of this, it is a miracle which is eternal in nature.  In order for us to better understand this issue, we must first look at the society which the Quran was sent down to from an intellectual and cultural perspective. The Ḥijāz region has been considered as one of the least developed regions of the world of that time according to virtually all historians. The people who lived there were even considered to be a primitive or semi primitive class of people.

From an ideological perspective, these people were diehard idol worshippers who spent their time worshipping idols made of wood or stones which had been carved in to various shapes and forms. Monotheism was completely alien to them and their lives were completely overshadowed by the various aspects of idol worship. The pre Islamic Arabs also lived their lives according to the tribal societal structure and oftentimes, severe conflict would erupt amongst them in a way where wars would continue for many long years over a small issue.
It was in the midst of such a people that a prophet rose up who had never been formally educated in a school. This prophet brought them a book which was so filled with wisdom and knowledge that the scholars have not yet been able to fully expound the various facets it contains, even though fourteen long centuries have passed from its initial revelation. In fact, these scholars are still busy finding new facets of knowledge even to this day!

In light of the reality of the pre Islamic society of the Arabs, it is clear that their society was not one which could be reformed overnight. It was a reformation process which would take a lengthy period of time and which would be formulated gradually. Thus, the Quran was revealed gradually in order that it could be implemented properly, that its teachings would not be taken lightly, and that the society would gradually acquire the capacity to absorb and embrace its teachings.  It is important to note that the Quran was the base foundation of the Prophet (s)’s teachings.  It formed the basis of the knowledge which he spread, including the laws and morals which he taught to his people.

As a holy text filled with great levels of wisdom and knowledge, the Quran was filled with such a power of attraction that its enemies called it a type of magic and sorcery. They would say: Do not go close to Muhammad for his words will cause you to become bewitched and you will gravitate towards his religion! This indicates that the enemies of Islam during that time period understood the power of the Quran quite well and they saw it as a miraculous work. They saw how powerfully the people were attracted to it and influenced by its words and teachings.

In addition to this, the Quran was of such a nature that it would influence the lives of the people and the enemies could quite clearly see how it was changing the very society around them. In a short period of time, it was the Quran which gave rise to a vast civilization which brought about amazing intellectual and scientific achievements in its wake.  During our own time period, it is important that the various societal organizations spend more time in spreading the teachings of the Quran throughout the society. This is particularly true of the Broadcasting Organization of Iran. They also need to do more in formulating their programming in line with the teachings of the Quran.

Being Law Centric: An Outcome of the Establishment of an Islamic Government

It is worth mentioning that the goals which the divine prophets (ʿa) had and the laws which they were encharged with their implementing could not be implemented without the formation of an actual government. Without the formation of such a government, only a very limited number of their teachings could be spread about and implemented in their societies. The goals of the prophets (ʿa) pertained to many various things, including: teaching and training the people, upholding equity, bringing about social justice, freeing people from the various forms of captivity, aiding the oppressed against their oppressors, training people in the finer aspects of spirituality, as well as fostering higher levels of ethics and morals.

None of these goals can be widely implemented without the existence of an Islamic government.  Due to this reason, one of the first things which the Prophet of Islam (s) did after his immigration to Medina was the formation of an Islamic government where the laws of the faith were codified.  In this way, all of the laws of Islam were given the opportunity to be implemented on a wider scale in the society and take root.  In addition, the good and righteous people of that society were given the opportunity to play an integral role in its functioning and this helped tremendously in strengthening the foundations of Islam.

A Rejection of Secular Islam: A Key Element in an Islamic Government

Without any doubt, it is not possible to implement social justice, or to give people freedom, or to save them from the carnal desires, or the oppression of the oppressors without the formation of an Islamic government.  In regards to this issue, we must ask ourselves whether a few sermons delivered in a mosque are sufficient for the implementation of justice and equity in a given society. Can social justice be fulfilled without a set of enforceable laws, as well as other lesser forms of persuasion? It is clear that the realization of societal justice will necessarily require a powerful government which can prevent the corrupt from having their way and which will guarantee the rights of the weaker members of society.

Now if a religion was comprised merely of prayers, fasting, and other simple acts of worship, then these simple practices could continue without the establishment of a religious government. When we look at Islam as a complete religion with all of its various social elements, it is clear that the complete implementation of this religion will require the establishment of a government. It was for this reason that when the Prophet (s) immigrated to Medina and had freed himself from the interference of his enemies in Mecca, his first steps were taken in the establishment of an Islamic government in order that he could properly implement the goals of Islam.

Thus, the only government which can be completely accepted by the people is a divinely established government. These are the governments established by the Prophet (s), the Imams (ʿa), as well as those who rule based on the principles established by the religion. Without any doubt, this world of ours will never see felicity and justice until it is established under the auspices of a divinely based government.  Therefore, those who push for the separation of religion from politics have neither understood the proper meaning of politics, nor have they understood the proper meaning of religion.

Fighting Ignorance and Encouraging the Acquisition of Knowledge

The history of human society during the time right before the rise of the Prophet of Islam (s), and particularly that pertaining to the pre Islamic Arabs, has clearly shown us the levels of ignorance and darkness which existed during that time.  When the conditions of a society deteriorate to such a low level and ignorance and corruption become so prevalent, then the role and responsibilities of the divine leaders became much more important. At the same time, the implementation of the goals of these men also becomes much harder. Similarly, when they succeed, their greatness manifests itself at a much greater level.

It is evident that the Prophet (s) rose up as the leader of an intellectual and social revolution with the goal of saving humanity from all types of idolatry and superstition. He strove hard towards helping human beings become free from the tentacles of ignorance and injustice.  Even though the religion of Islam rose up in the midst of a society which was steeped in ignorance from every perspective, it gave the most importance to knowledge and learning. This is in reality one of the miracles of the Prophet (s) since he grew up in that atmosphere of ignorance but ended up being the greatest defender and proponent of learning and knowledge.

When we examine the various Islamic traditions by the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa), we find certain traditions stating that looking at the face of a scholar is considered to be an act of worship or that a gathering of knowledge is a garden from the gardens of paradise. Yet another tradition states that a scholar is a thousand times more superior to a simple worshipper of Allah. All of these traditions emphasize the importance of knowledge in Islam. It is also interesting to note in this regard that one of the first verses of the Quran which was revealed to the heart of the Prophet (s) was one commanding him to read and study.

Yet, a key question here is how is it possible for some of the greatest manifestations of knowledge and learning to arise from an environment of complete and utter ignorance?  In order to become more familiar with various dimensions of the Prophet (s)’s character, one can refer to various Quranic verses. For instance, the Quran has described the Prophet (s) in Surah al-Jumuʿah (Friday) as a teacher and educator of morality and ethics. This was not a characteristic which would only benefit the Muslims, but rather, it was something which would benefit the entire humanity.

Similarly, the 157th verse of Surah al-Aʿrāf has described the Prophet (s) as someone whose teachings are proof and evidence of his truthfulness. The verse has then gone on to mention how the Prophet (s) removed the chains and strictures of ignorance, superstition, and the lack of security which existed at the time.  In addition, the first verse of Surah Ibrāhīm has also emphasized that the Prophet (s) brought people out of darkness and guided them toward the light. This darkness which the verse has mentioned was comprised of the superstitions, ignorance, poverty, and other issues which existed at that time (and which may exist in various forms today).

Other verses in the Quran have also pointed out the fact that the Prophet (s) was sent in order to show mankind the ‘straight path’ and to save them from the wrong pathways. This straight path is the path towards felicity and salvation, while the wrong pathways lead to hellfire and punishment. The Quran has also emphasized that the Prophet (s) was sent in order to bring the dead to life. When we look at the pre Islamic Arabs and how they lived their lives, it is clear that while they may have appeared to be physically alive, they were in fact dead from a spiritual perspective. They were steeped in ignorance, superstition, and a complete lack of security whereas the Final Prophet (s) saved them from this extreme level of misguidance and deviation.

The divinely sent prophets and messengers were in reality much like powerful beacons of light who cleaved asunder the darkness of ignorance and disbelief and who guided the people to the truth. In this same fashion, the Prophet of Islam (s) played an integral role in breaking the chains and strictures of ignorance and superstition and he guided the people to the straight path. Due to this reason, we must look at the Prophet of Islam (s) as one of the most brilliant lights of guidance sent by Allah (swt) to humanity.

A Final Word

When we look at the moral brilliance of the Prophet (s) and how this attracted the people towards him, as well as his humility, affection, forgiveness, forbearance, and raw courage we find that it was these characteristics which pulled the hearts of the people towards him and his message of mercy and guidance. It was his extraordinary struggles in guiding and reforming the people which attracted so many of them towards him and his message.   

Yet, in spite of all this, some historians have unfortunately described the Prophet (s) as completly miraculous and heavenly figure. This type of a des c r i p tion has caused some of the people to feel that no other human being can even come close to the spiritual qualities of someone like him since he was  such a mythical and extraordinary figure.  This is while the Prophet (s) was sent as a human example for us of what is possible for all of the people of this world. His religion is in essence a practical way of life which is designed to build human beings. This is a religion which can be utilized by all of the people of this earth and everyone can benefit from it.

The Prophet (s) was a complete model for all of the nations; it is a mistake to believe that he was only sent to a particular group of people.  Thus, the Prophet (s) can be seen as the best of examples for us to follow in every stage of life. His behavior, his perseverance, his forbearance, wisdom, intelligence, sincerity, complete focus upon Allah (swt), and his endurance against the various difficulties which he encountered in life are all something which can be emulated and become an example to be followed by all the Muslims.  It is interesting to see that when the Prophet (s) was faced with the most difficult of problems, he would not show the least amount of weakness; he would instead face these problems with the greatest of certainty, spiritual calm, and ease.

When we look at the Prophet (s) from this perspective, it becomes clear that the problems which the Muslims face all around the world are a result of their departure from the way of life of the Prophet of Islam (s). When we look at the problems which the Muslim world faces today, including the moral corruption which exists, the cultural issues, the wanton killings, and the destruction of the cities, we find that these are all caused by the far distance of the Muslims away from the teachings and life of the Prophet (s).

From this perspective, the Muslims must strive hard to walk upon the path of the Prophet (s) and to implement his teachings in their day to day lives.  This is truly the best of ways which we can choose to follow. Similarly, we must formulate our behavior and our actions with the pure behavior and actions of the Prophet (s) so that we can find the best levels of guidance and salvation possible for ourselves.  


Researched and edited at editorial deputy of his eminence office



[1]. لَقَدْ كانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ اللّه اسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ

[2]. لَقَدْ جَاءکُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِکُمْ عَزِیزٌ عَلَیْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِیصٌ عَلَیْکُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِینَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِیمٌ

[3]. Surah Al-Tawba, Verse 128.

[4]. ولا يجرمنكم شنآن قوم على الا تعدلوا

[5]. Surah Al-Mā’ida, Verse 8.

[6]. لَانْفَضُّوا مِنْ حَوْلِكَ

[7]. Surah Āl ʿImrān, Verse 159.