By Mubashir Ahmad Kitaba
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) encouraged people to be just and kind. As the supreme judge and arbiter, as the leader of Muslims, as the general of a rising power, as a Reformer and apostle, the Prophet (SAW) had always to deal with people and their affairs. He (SAW) had often to deal with mutually inimical and warring tribes where justice to one carried the danger of antagonizing the other, but yet he never deviated from the path of justice. In administering justice, He (SAW) made no distinction between believers and non-believers, friends and foes, high and low, rich and poor.
From numerous instances reported in various traditions, a few can be noted and delineated. Sakhr, a chief of a tribe, had helped the Prophet (SAW) greatly in the siege of Taif, for which he was greatly obliged to him. Soon after, two charges were brought against Sakhr: one by Mugheerah of illegal confinement of his (Mugheerahs) aunt and the other by Banu Salim of forcible occupation of his spring by Sakhr. In both cases, the Prophet (SAW) decided against Sakhr and made him undo the wrong. (Abu Dawood)
Similarly, Abdullah Ibn Sahl , was deputed to collect rent from the Jewish community of the town of Khaybar. His cousin, Mahisah accompanied him but, on reaching Khayber, they separated. Abdullah was ambushed by some people and got killed. Mahisaf reported this tragedy to Prophet (SAW) but as there was no eye witness to identify the guilty, the Prophet (SAW) did not punish anybody and instead paid the blood money out of state revenues. (Al Bukhari)
Another instance worth noting is when a woman of the Makhzoom family, with good connections, was found guilty of theft. For the prestige of the Quraysh, some prominent people including Usaamah Ibn Zayd interceded to save her from punishment. The Prophet (SAW) refused to condone the crime and expressed displeasure saying, “ Many a community ruined itself in the past as they only punished the poor and ignored the offences of the exalted. By Allah, if Muhammad’s(SAW) daughter Fatimah would have committed theft, her hand would have been severed.”(Al Bukhari)
During the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) , the Jews, in spite of their hostility to the Prophet, were so impressed by his impartiality and sense of justice that they used to bring their cases to him. Once, while He (SAW) was distributing the spoils of war, people flocked around him and one man almost fell upon him. He pushed the man with a stick causing a slight abrasion. He was so sorry about this that he told the man that he could have his revenge, but the man said: “O Messenger of Allah, I forgive you.” (Abu Dawood)
In his fatal illness, the Prophet (SAW) proclaimed in a concourse assembled at his house that if he owed anything to anyone, the person concerned could claim it ;if he had ever hurt anyone’s person, honour or property, he could have his price while he was yet in this world. A hush fell on the crowed. One man came forward to claim a few Dirhams which were paid at once. (Ibn Hishaan)
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) asked people to shun notions of racial, family or any other form of superiority based on mundane things and said that righteousness alone was the criterion of one’s superiority over another. It shows us how He (SAW) dealt with everyone on equal terms; how He (SAW) ate with slaves, servants and the poorest on the same sheet and how He (SAW) refused all privileges and worked like any ordinary laborer.
An incident worth narrating here is when the Prophet (SAW) visited Saad Ibn Ubaadh. While returning, Saad sent his son Qays with him. The Prophet (SAW) asked Qays to mount his camel with him. Qays hesitated out of respect but the Prophet (SAW) insisted: “Either mount the camel or go back.” Qyas decided to go back. (Abu Dawood)
On another occasion , He (SAW) was travelling on his camel over a hilly terrain with a companion, Uqbah Ibn Aamir. After going some distance, he asked Uqbah to ride the camel, but Uqbah thought this would be showing disrespect to the Prophet(SAW). But, the Prophet (SAW) insisted and he had to comply. The Prophet (SAW) himself walked on foot as he did not want to put too much load on the animal. (An Nasa)
In another incident, during a halt on a journey, the companions apportioned work among themselves for preparing food. The Prophet (SAW) took upon himself the task of collecting firewood. His companions pleaded that they would do it and that he need not take the trouble, but He (SAW) replied: “It is true, but I do not like to attribute any distinction to myself. Allah does not like the man who considers himself superior to his companions.
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