Many of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) companions belonged to the poorest and weakest strata in society. In Makkah, some of them were slaves or individuals attaching themselves to tribes to which they did not belong. As such, they had no privileges. In Madinah, his companions included people of all social ranks, but the Muslim community was in the process of establishing its foundation in the midst of a very hostile environment. Armies were raised to crush it, and economic siege was imposed on it. Yet the Muslim community was a close-knit community, with a bond of brotherhood in faith uniting all its members. The Prophet was keen to nurture this bond and help it to replace old tribal and family loyalties.
The Prophet was fully aware that ideas should be translated into practical action, and ties based on faith should have practical manifestations. Hence, it is not enough for people to speak of the new bond of Islamic brotherhood without the practical manifestations that cement this bond so as it would be felt as a reality. Therefore, the new Muslim society must be exemplary in its manners and social values and traditions. None other than the Prophet could establish these. God states that the Prophet provided guidance in all matters. In matters of religion, his example must be followed. In the areas that pertain to ordinary human life, the Prophet’s practice is always good to follow.
The Prophet was exemplary in his politeness and social habits. At the time, people mostly sat on the ground. When he sat with his companions, or with others, in the mosque or anywhere else, he never put his legs forward. He turned with his full face towards anyone who spoke to him, so as to make the speaker feel that the Prophet was fully attentive to what he said. He was the first to greet anyone who met him on the road. If he passed by a group of boys playing in the street, he would greet them and may stop to speak to them.
We see in our world that despite all the refinements that human society has developed, when a leader or a ruler is with his people, his manner is that of the one who is always in command, always holding the initiative. If he is attending a function, he decides when he leaves, paying little attention to what might have been prepared or might have remained. If he is visiting others, he rises to signal the end of the visit. The Prophet never did this. He would not rise until he has taken leave of his host.
He took meticulous care of his cleanliness and hygiene, so as not to cause any offense. He never blew air over any food or drink. If it was too hot, he would wait a little until it has cooled down. If he needed to sneeze, he would cover his mouth. He always used perfume, and stated that the two things of the human world that he loved were perfume and women. This was in a society that had long abused women. By saying this, he stressed that women must be well treated by Muslims. He frequently used a toothbrush to keep his teeth clean and to ensure that his mouth smell was always pleasant. He recommended his companions to use a toothbrush after meals and on waking up. If he woke up during the night, the first thing he did was brush his teeth. Urging his companions to maintain cleanliness, he told them to have a bath at least once a week, preferably on Fridays before going to the mosque for their prayers. He said: “Take a bath on Friday, even if you have to buy the water at a dinar for a cup.”
– by Adil Salahi