There are many important aspects of the Prophet’s Sunnah that we sorely need to revive when calling others to righteousness. One of these is Prophet’s example of patience, which stemmed from his certainty of faith. This can manifest itself when we emulate the gradual approach Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used in communicating the teachings of Islam to the people, since such an approach requires patience.
It is therefore no surprise that Allah describes all the prophets as having patience: “And We made from among them leaders guiding by Our command, because they were patient and they were certain of Our signs.” [Sūrah al-Sajdah: 24]
This verse indicates that leadership in matters of religion is achieved through patience and conviction.
When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) emigrated from Mecca to Madinah, he took his time building the community, and he showed tremendous foresight and planning. He was not impatient to make changes at a pace too fast for people to cope with. Some developments may have appeared like setbacks, but the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood why those steps were necessary.
A good example of this was the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, where the Prophet agreed not to make pilgrimage to Mecca during that year and agreed to very unbalanced terms of peace with Quraysh. Most of his Companions considered this to be a setback for the Muslims. However, the Prophet (peace be upon him) understood it to be a great achievement for Islam.
Indeed, the Qur’an declares it a “victory”. Allah says: “Indeed, We have given you (O Muhammad) a clear victory.” [Sūrah al-Fath: 1]
As a result of the treaty, the tribes of Arabia were free to peacefully enter into alliances with the Muslims and many of them embraced Islam during this time.
Likewise, we have the example of the Prophet’s reaction when the Muslims returned from the Mu’tah campaign in the north of Arabia, where they faced the Byzantine forces and returned after a protracted series of skirmishes without any decisive victory on either side. Many of the Muslims in Madinah saw this as a setback, since the Byzantines has been making threatening overtures to the Muslims and they had even killed a number of peaceful Muslims emissaries hoping to provoke a conflict and draw the Muslim forces up north in the first place, where a Roman army of 200,000 soldiers awaited them.
Some of the people of Madinah welcomed the returning army despairingly and berated them by covering their faces with dust and saying: “O fleeing ones, did you flee for the sake of Allah?”
The Prophet (peace be upon him) corrected them: “They are returning successfully, not fleeing.” The truth is, the very fact that the Muslims were able to face the massive Byzantine forces without being routed was actually a testament to the Muslims’ strength. It was all the better that further violence was avoided on both sides.
In both of these landmark historical events, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been able to look at the situation with a patient and thoughtful eye. He could see the progress that was being made, because he was able to look at the bigger picture and take the judicious steps needed to reach his goals.
Another aspect of the Prophet’s Sunnah that we need to inculcate into our lives is his consideration for the feelings and sensitivities of others. He knew how to relate to people and he treated everyone with kindness and respect.
Moreover, he was always willing to overlook past wrongs. In this way, he drew near to him many people who had originally been hostile to him. This is an aspect of the Prophet’s Sunnah that that many Islamic preachers today neglect. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preferred to build bridges to those who rejected his Message. He always left an opportunity open for positive relations with people, even with those who openly showed him enmity.
When people who had wronged him in the past approached him in a positive manner, he would not remind them of their former abuses, nor did he turn them away. Instead, he would behave in a manner that would help them to forget their former wrongs. The most striking example of this is during the conquest of Mecca, when he pardoned everyone.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, addressing the assembled people of Quraysh on that day, saying: “What do you think I shall do with you?”
They said: “What is good. You are a noble brother and the son of a noble brother.”
He then declared: “Go, for you are free.”
Likewise, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had forbidden Muslims from deriding the polytheists of the past or insulting the unbelievers who have died. This is partially out of respect for the feelings of those who are alive. He said: “Do not deride the dead, causing pain to the living.” [Sahīh al-Bukhārī (1393)]
The Prophets all understood that they were guides for the people. They were there to help the people and to remove the difficulties, wrongdoing, and strife that plagued them. They were not sent by Allah to stir up those problems and add fuel to the fire. They were not there to make it difficult for people to embrace the truth. They never asked the people for any compensation, but only sought to provide guidance.
Allah describes them, saying: “Those are the ones whom Allah has guided, so from their guidance take an example. Say: ‘I ask of you for this message no payment. It is but a reminder to all the creation’.” [Sūrah al-An`ām: 90]