The life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is full of countless examples that show his status as a role model for Muslim societies and individuals. His life is one that was dominated by a superior morality, good habits, noble and gentle feelings and superior skills, all of which are characteristics that help prevent people from getting entangled in a web of sin. The rich and the prosperous, the poor and the needy, the ruler and the ruled, the weak and the lonely, the conqueror and the victorious commander, the teacher and the student, the preacher and the mentor, the merchant and the craftsman, the employer and the employee – in other words, every sort of person can find truths in Prophet Muhammad’s life that constitute an example for them to follow.
Prophet Muhammad’s status as a role model is an issue based on the Holy Quran and the sunnah. Islamic scholars, as with many other issues, have examined the status of the Prophet as a role model and leader not in a sectional framework, but from a unified perspective, and they have reached the conclusion that the best method is to examine the verses of the Holy Quran that determine and demonstrate the status of the Prophet as a whole. For this reason, when discussing the status of the Prophet as a role model, issues such as believing in the Prophet, obedience to the Prophet, following the Prophet, and disagreeing with the Prophet also come to the fore.
THE HOLY QURAN AND THE ROLE MODEL STATUS OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD
In the Holy Quran the only verse that refers literally to the status of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a role model is as follows: “Verily in the messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who looks unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.”
“Verily in the messenger of Allah you have a good example for him who looks unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.”
The Arabic word uswa (example) in the original verse means example or model that should be obeyed and followed. A person who follows another person’s lead imitates that person; they follow their attitude and style. That is to say, they identify themselves with that person. In terms of Islamic faith, usva, that is to say being an example or a role model, is an attribute that is found in those who possess goodness, beauty and righteousness. This verse shows the importance of Prophet Muhammad’s sunnah in the lives of Muslims. As a matter of fact, the Quran clearly states that Prophet Muhammad has a superior character and demonstrates an exemplary life style.
If one accepts that Islam is the final and perfect religion, then it would be inconsistent to not consider the life of Prophet Muhammad as an example for the Muslim community or to not accept his life as something that shapes and guides the daily lives of Muslims. For that reason, the life style and personality of Prophet Muhammad, demonstrated during his prophethood of 23 years, includes very significant provisions and principles for the religious, political, social and moral life of Muslim communities as a whole. The following hadith summarizes the statements found in the Quran:
“The best of speech is unquestionably the speech of Allah. That is the Book of Allah (the Quran). The best of guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. Of all matters, the most evil of things are those which are newly-invented (in religion), and every innovation is a deviation, and every deviation leads people to Hell”
THE SUNNAH AND PROPHET MUHAMMAD’S STATUS AS ROLE MODEL
Islamic scholars state that the terms sabil (road), sirat al-mustaqim (straight path) and Uswa al-Hasana (best of examples), which are mentioned in the Holy Quran, in the hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and in the words of his Companions, are words and terms that represent the concept of the Sunnah. All these terms indicate the path to be followed and the model to be taken as an example. The name of this road is the Sunnah, and it is collectively followed by the Companions of Prophet Muhammad and the believers.
Johann Fück, who mentions the great cultural unity that was accomplished by Islam, believes that the reason for this is the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, who serves as a role model (al-uswatu’l-hasana) for every Muslim; he concludes: “Sunnah forms the face of Islam and gives it the characteristic features that we see all around the Islamic world.” At this point, how the Quran introduces and describes Prophet Muhammad and the status of the Prophet according to the Quran is of great importance to us. As a matter of fact, all the characteristics of a person who is an example and a role model must be known and thus their life can be examined in detail. The information on this subject must be accurately passed on to the following generations. The life of the Prophet is unique when looked at from this perspective.
The Quran repeats many times that Prophet Muhammad is neither superhuman nor a deity, but that he is a human being. Prophet Muhammad verifies this truth over and over again. The conclusion of scholars on this subject, which is also of great importance for the role model status of Prophet Muhammad, is that every action of the Prophet is not necessarily related to necessity or good deed, and often only represents a routine action. This is because the Prophet practiced routine, good, or obligatory actions, but he never practiced sinful actions that are prohibited. All actions performed by Prophet Muhammad have been examined, and if the indications show that this was an action performed to become close to Allah, that action is followed, otherwise it is not necessary to follow it. If the action was a routine action, people may perform it or not. This status as a role model is not only present in issues that are considered compulsory, but also in fields that represent routine actions.
The exemplary and role model status of the Prophet have a quality that covers all types of Sunnah. Each type of Sunnah is right and there is no place for superstition in them. The role model status of the Prophet is not limited to merely worshipping or actions that are a compulsory part of the religion, a requirement, or examples of good morals. The Sunnah descriptions given by the hadith researchers are in line with the verses found in the Quran about his role model status and the orders and advice he gives in the Sunnah context; it is according to all these factors that general opinion is formed. “The Sunnah, whether it constitutes a base for a provision or not, are all the words, actions, teachings, characteristics, examples of the morality and personality of Prophet Muhammad.”