In addition to His innumerable blessings, Allah, glory unto Him has granted human beings a unique quality, an extremely precious and subtle quality at that. The Almighty mentions this fact in the Quran when He declares,“And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My soul …” (al-Hijr, 29)
In return, the Almighty wants His servants to sincerely love and worship Him, so that they receive a portion of the knowledge of from Him and thereby reach Him.
The Almighty has also given human beings certain special qualities in order to guide them to this direction. In addition to this general guidance, He also entrusted some of His servants, who were given even further special qualities, with the mission of prophethood.
This is an additional Divine favor to human beings. During the times when there shall no longer hail any Prophets from among them, the Lord has continued gracing ordinary human beings by designating some of His righteous servants, who are in fact heirs to the prophets, to guide them to the right path.
The institution of prophethood marks an incomparable blessing of the Divine to mankind. In order to render prophethood all-embracing for humankind entire, the Almighty inaugurated this celebrated institution with Adam -upon him peace-, the first human being and, at once, the first prophet.
After being articulated by more than a hundred-and twenty-four-thousand prophets, this sacred path of guidance underwent a process of gradual perfection, compliant with the social and intellectual progress of mankind. And it was with the prophethood of the last prophet, Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace-, that this chain of Divine guidance reached its ultimate perfection.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) possesses two distinctive characteristics that separate him from other prophets. Firstly, his light was created even before the creation of Adam -upon him peace-.
Secondly, in terms of his bodily manifestation, he was the final prophet to appear on Earth. Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace therefore represents the first as well as the last pages of the book of prophethood. To put it in another way, the institution of prophethood was launched with the Muhammadan Light (Nur-i Muhammadi), the very first entity to exist, and was ended with the Muhammadan Corporeality (Cisman-i Muhammadi); his appearance on the spatio-temporal conditions of the world.
These two unique characteristics make him the last prophet in the temporal sense, but also the first one in terms of his original creation.
Since the underlying motivation for the entire creation to come into existence is the Muhammadan Light itself, the Almighty created the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- with a unique quality, on the basis of which he has been designated as “the beloved” (habibi) of the Lord.
By subjecting his exceptional earthly existence to a close training, both inwardly and outwardly, the Almighty sent the Blessed Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- to humanity as a gift.
The exemplary character and personality of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) represent the unreachable apex of human characteristics, including those that are fathomable by ordinary human comprehension. The reason underlying this is the fact that the Almighty made him a quintessential example (uswa hasana), the most perfect model, for the entire human race.
Being an example for the human race entire, the Almighty therefore made the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) experience every aspect thinkable of human life, a life experience that included his birth as a vulnerable orphan, all the way to him later reaching the authoritative political and religious leadership of his community.
Therefore, every person, from different levels of society, can find a good example for himself in the life of the Prophet (pbuh), and learn lessons from it.
In the Quran, the Almighty declares that the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) represents the best example for the entire humankind, for every person, from the beginning of his prophethood to the Last Day:
“You have a good example in The Almighty’s Messenger for whosoever hopes for The Almighty and the Last Day, and remembers The Almighty often.” (al-Azhab, 21)
This means that all human beings stand in need of properly learning the characteristics of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) so that, through the blueprint set by his life and deeds, they can attain religious and moral perfection. In a broader sense, such perfection refers to the nature of the Sufi course of conduct. Every person should practice what he or she has learned in proportion to his or her capacity.
This process starts with a simple imitation (taqlid) and ends in realization (tahqiq), which ultimately occurs in accordance with and to the degree of the love and spiritual intimacy that a person feels for the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
Innumerable spiritual blessings and disclosures beckon in sharing the same feelings with the Prophet (pbuh). Being able to partake in some share of the physical, spiritual, and moral characteristics of the Prophet (pbuh) to the extent our capacities allow, is the highest kind of honor attainable in this world and the world to come.
Allah, glory unto Him, created the Blessed Prophet (pbuh) upon the best natural disposition (fitrah), both inwardly and outwardly, and trained him accordingly. The Prophet (pbuh) underlines this aspect of his personality, when he says,
“My Lord has educated me, and how superbly has He educated me!”1
The Blessed Messenger (pbuh) lived in a terribly violent and ignorant society for forty years before actually receiving prophethood. Still, he was under constant Divine protection and reared by Divine education. Never was he involved in any kind of blameworthy action for which the pre-Islamic society of Ignorance was known.
Furthermore, in order to prepare him better for the heavy responsibility of prophethood, he had his chest cleft and his heart was cleansed and filled with spiritual blessings and lights.
Even before his prophethood, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) led a highly respectable lifestyle and believed in the oneness of The Almighty. Especially right before his reception of prophethood, he had increased his complete devotion to the Almighty, by retreating into seclusion in a cave on the Mount of Hira for long periods of time, on a regular basis, in order to contemplate on the essential questions for humanity.
The outward reason behind his willful seclusion were his heartfelt sufferings from the wickedness, injustice and misery of the society in which he lived, taking their toll on his profoundly compassionate heart that exuded mercy towards all beings.
As for the inward and real reason behind his seclusion, it was a preparatory stage in order to receive the Divine Message, namely the Quran, from the Almighty into the pure heart of the Blessed Prophet (pbuh).
The disclosures and inspirations that his heart received during this momentous period of his lifetime guided his heart towards spiritual purification and made it a receptacle for Divine revelation. Becoming ready for revelation, his graceful heart then received spiritual signs and inspirations in the form of truthful visions for six months.
The curtains of veiling the secrets of the spiritual realm were thereby parted for the Prophet (pbuh). This process helped him improve his unique inborn capacity for receiving revelation enabling to bear a huge burden otherwise hopelessly beyond the capacity of ordinary people; similar in ways to how iron turns to steel by virtue of the inherent characteristics it possesses.
The Blessed Prophet (pbuh) combined the authorities and duties of all previous prophets in his personality and conduct. The nobility of lineage and conduct, the perfection of morals and disposition, reached their apex in his person. He established legal regulations.
He taught how to cleanse the heart and purify the soul, which incidentally is the essence of Sufism. He also taught the correct way to worship the Almighty and pray to Him with a pure heart. Through his exemplary lifestyle, he embodied and represented a perfect form of morality. His age of forty marked a significant turning point not only for himself but also for humankind entire.
1 Suyuti, Jamiu’s-Saghir, I, 12