Simple Living and High Thinking
by Mirza Masud Beg
The Light (Pakistan), 24th February and 1st March 1976 Issue (Vol. 56, Nos. 8–9, pp. 20–21 and 22)
In these days of fashionable life and a dazzling splendour, we are getting away from the true spirit of Islam and the lofty ideals of our Religion. We shall endeavour, in these pages, to acquaint our youth with Islamic values and provide them a peep into the golden history of their ancestors.
In view of the forthcoming Birthday celebrations of the Holy Prophet [Muhammad (pbuh)] (Eid-i-Milad-un-Nabi) we begin with a glimpse into the daily life of our glorious Master, and hope our readers will benefit from these noble examples.
Simple living and high thinking were never so strikingly blended as in the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him). The simplicity of his manners and the plain, homely way of life added lustre to the innate beauty of his character. He disliked artificiality, and real greatness, according to him, consisted in the intrinsic worth of a person. Any form of borrowed feathers, with which to keep up appearances, were abhorred by him with the utmost aversion.
Whatever food was brought to him, he cheerfully partook of. Whatever coarse and rough clothes he got hold of, he would wear, but keep them neat and clean. Dates and barley with goat’s milk was his staple food. He always ate the bread made of unsifted flour. He never had his fill of wheat bread for any three consecutive days in his whole life. Many times he had to go without a meal. He would wear any garment that came to hand — now a small woollen turban, now a Yemen sheet, now a jute head-dress. He would mount whatever was available, whether horse, camel, mule or zebra; and sometimes he would walk barefoot without a cap, turban or sheet, and would go to the farther end of Medina to visit the sick.
The people regarded him as
“the best of them”
“noblest of them”.
And a person’s humility is put to a very severe test when he is surrounded by admirers and faithful followers who are ready to shed their blood for his sake. Notwithstanding his exalted position, the Holy Prophet was, above all others, meek and humble. He visited the sick and went with a funeral, and accepted a slave’s invitation, and mended his own shoes, and patched his own clothes, and when in his own house, he would join his wives to work for their needs. His Companions did not work for him, for they knew he disliked it. No work was too low for him. He worked like a labourer in the construction of the mosque, and again in digging a ditch round Medina.
Of all men, the Holy Prophet was the meekest, the bravest, the gentlest, the chastest and the most charitable. He never kept any money or coin overnight. If anything remained at all when darkness fell, he would not return home until he had bestowed it upon some poor man. Whatever God gave him, he took only what was barely necessary for his needs, and the rest he gave away in the way of Allah. Never was he asked for a thing which he did not give. The Holy Prophet Muhammad gave alms like a man who was not afraid of starvation. Once he said that if he had camels in number equal to the thorny bushes in the jungle, he would divide them among the Arabs. On another occasion when a large sum of money was received as tribute, the Prophet gave instructions that it should be placed in the courtyard of the mosque, and when he came he did not even glance at it. After the prayers were offered, he began to distribute it, and did not leave the place till everything was given away.
He welcomed and entertained all who came to him, although they might not be of his blood. He was eagerly solicitous for the personal comfort of everyone about him. He would stop in the streets listening to the sorrows of the humblest. He was particularly affectionate towards children. He would stop them in the streets and pat their cheek. He would give pet titles to them, and won their hearts in this manner. He was the last to be angry and the first to be pleased, and always wore a smile on his face.
Hazrat Ali [rta] was a brave and valiant soldier, but the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the bravest of them all. Ali says:
“We sought the shelter of the Prophet who was nearer to the enemy than we were, and was that day the hardest fighter of all. In the heat of the battle, when both the armies came to a hand to hand fight, we came behind the Prophet, and thus none was nearer or closer to the hostile force than he.”
Modesty, kindness, patience, self-denial and generosity pervaded his conduct, and simplicity and sincerity were the keynotes of his character. From an orphan boy, which is the extremity of helplessness, the Holy Prophet attains to temporal as well as spiritual kingship, which is the highest point of power, but there is no change whatsoever in his manner of living. His food, his dress, his lodging as a king, were just as simple as in the orphanhood, nay, even simpler. It is no doubt hard to exchange a kingly throne for a beggar’s hut. But it is harder by far that one should keep to the regal throne and yet lead an ascetic’s life, and while possessing hoards of riches should nevertheless spend little on his own person.