What is the significance of knowing the life of the prophet for understanding and practicing Islam? Why must we learn the life of our prophet Hz Muhammed (phub)? What is the importance of the life of the prophet in Islam?
There are many different elements in forming one’s education and character. Since human beings form their personalities as well as language, religion and moral qualities in accordance with the living examples they see around themselves, who they deem as the most important living example around them is adopted as a guide or an exemplary personality. Bar a few exceptions, this is how human nature generally is. For example, every child learns how to speak first from the parents, and then goes on to learn even more languages; and if he does, it is only through imitating other examples.
The inclination to imitate is an important character-forming trait in every human being. Education mostly consists in setting examples for imitation, good or bad. One forms his personality in line with the influences impressed by the given environment, to the degree of the intensity of his imitation. Although language is acquired naturally, religious and spiritual characteristics cannot be acquired as easily.
The reason behind this difficulty is that along with the will power, man has also been given an ego (nafs) and Satan, as part of the great test. These two great obstacles prevent the practice of virtues, and urge man on the contrary to head in the opposite direction. There is therefore a vital need for Prophets and saints, people of delicate hearts who have perfected their spiritual lives, around which they have formed their personalities, having shackled their egos and repelled Satan. Man is otherwise unable to escape from heedlessness, misguidance and disobedience, which might cost him eternal salvation. It is also for this reason that human beings follow the footsteps of those who captivate them, good or bad, on whom they model themselves. It is tragic to see today the sinners and the morally ill, who defeated by their egos, let their evil guides lay waste to their lives. It is simply a case of having placed wrong people on the thrones of their hearts, whereby they have ended up deceiving only themselves.
Rumi explains the paradox of man’s condition in the following lines:
It is not amazing to see a lamb flee from a wolf, since the wolf is its enemy. But seeing a lamb fall in love with a wolf…that is cause for wonder!
Instead of leaving our hearts to the wolves during our fleeting stay on earth and thereby losing eternal bliss, we must submit it to the best of examples, the leader of the universe, the master of the Prophets, Muhammad Mustafa -upon him blessings and peace-, lovingly obey him and make him the only king of our hearts. Loving him was made an obligation by Allah the Almighty, as expressed in following ayah, and many others in the Holy Quran alike:
“The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves,…” (al-Ahzâb, 6)
In the words of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- narrated by Abu Hurayrah, loving him is a condition of iman.
“By Him in Whose Hands my life resides, none of you will have faith until he loves me more than his father and his children.” (Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 13)
According to another hadith narrated by Anas (Allah be well-pleased with him), the sweetness of faith is tasted only if Allah and His Prophet become dearer to the believer than anything else. (Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 2, Number 15)
The following, narrated by Abdullah ibn Hisham (Allah be well-pleased with him), highlights the level of love between us and the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace.
TO LOVE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD MORE THAN EVERYTHİNG
“One day Omar (Allah be well-pleased with him) went for a walk with the Prophet of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. At one point the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- took Omar’s hand, prompting Omar to exclaim:
“By Allah, I love you very much”.
“Even more than your children, Omar?” the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- then asked.
“More than your family, too?”
“Yes, Prophet of Allah.”
“More than your wealth?”
“Yes, Prophet of Allah, more than my wealth!”
“And even more than yourself?” then asked the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-.
“No, Messenger of Allah”, Omar (Allah be well-pleased with him) replied hesitantly.
“Your faith will never be complete, Omar, until you love me more than yourself.”
So Omar (Allah be well-pleased with him) went away and stayed alone and returned after a while. Standing in the middle of the mosque, he shouted at the top of his voice:
“Messenger of Allah, now I love you more than myself!”
“That is it, Omar; that is it!” the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- replied, meaning that only now was Omar’s faith complete. (Bukhari, Ayman, 3)
The prerequisites of love are persistent remembrance of the beloved and conforming with the beloved in all actions and thoughts. In order to obtain a heart filled with the love for the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, one needs to learn his Sunnah and imitate it with great care and respect. Without knowing his life and embellishing the heart with his love, Islam cannot be practiced in the ideal way. The road to gaining the love of Allah, glory unto Him, runs through the love of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-. But loving him requires knowing him; and without loving the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in the extreme, one cannot perfect his faith. It is owing to such reasons that the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- took delicate care in establishing such love, explaining to his followers the refined aspects of how to duly develop this necessary affection.
Being the peak of all Prophets, the life of the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- embodies and surpasses all the virtues of the past 124 thousand or so Prophets said to have come. Not only did he have the gift of guiding the people of his own time, he has also been blessed with guiding the following generations until the Final Hour, as the Khatamun Nabiyyîn, the Seal of All Prophets.
The Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- is the only Prophet, indeed the only man in history, every minute detail of whose life has been recorded. Only a portion of the exemplary conduct of other previous Prophets has reached us. The Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- remains the only one of that blessed chain whose life is thoroughly known, from the simplest daily actions to the most delicate social dealings. This knowledge, as a grace of Allah, glory unto Him, will be transmitted from one generation to another until the end of time.
Thus what grants superiority to Islamic morality and elevates it from pure theory to practice is the very fortunate fact that the exemplary actions of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- were recorded in their full details and preserved until today without any change.
As human beings we ought to adopt many good moral characteristics, including trust in the Almighty, gratitude, contentedness with the Divine verdict, patience against afflictions, bravery, sacrifice for others, generosity, modesty, just to name a few. In addition, we have to maintain our balance against the ups and downs of life. The Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- is the gift of the Almighty to all humanity in setting the best standard in the adoption of these virtues for others.
The Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- virtually began his life as an orphan, the most feeble position in society, going through all kinds of difficult phases until ultimately reaching the peak of his mission as a Prophet, as well as a head of state. In all walks of life, these different stages set others the best of example to follow. Owing to his balanced stance in the face of strong tides in various situations, persons from different backgrounds can draw good lessons from his blessed life, not only in theory but also in practice.
WHY MUST WE LEARN THE LIFE OF THE OUR PROPHET HZ MUHAMMED (PBUH)
Therefore the fitting return for the boundless grace of Allah, glory unto Him, would be none other than learning the life of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- with a spiritually vibrant heart. Such learning must inevitably lead to practice and its teaching to others. But just as importantly, in doing so, we must also take good care in applying the correct method of approaching his life, as the actions of the Noble Messenger -upon him blessings and peace- reflect two different kinds of acts.
1- Acts applicable only to the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- himself; as when he would perform salat at night until his feet would swell, when he would fast continuously for days on end; when he would hand out all he had – even if it were as great as Mount Uhud, he would say- for charity without reserving anything for himself except for what he held back to pay off a debt, and the fact he did not leave any inheritance and forbade receiving charity not only for himself but also for his offsprings until the end of time.
Although the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- had stated he was a human being like any other (Bukhari, Salât 31, Ahkâm 20), he is also known to have dissuaded some Companions from following him in fasts without break, saying, “I am not like you, for I am provided with food and drink by Allah.” (Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 145)
The Believers simply do not have the power to imitate the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in such difficult matters. Such acts are therefore applicable only to him, with the followers not allowed to follow the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in like manner.
2- Acts that are to be emulated universally. The Prophet’s -upon him blessings and peace- Sunnah is for all human beings of all different social statuses and backgrounds to follow according to their capacities.
We are not obliged to emulate the virtues displayed by the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in the first section described above; virtues as high as the skies which we are incapable of following. But as for the second virtues, we are obliged to imitate them throughout our lives until we breathe our last, to the best of our capabilities. In full appreciation of the great importance of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- in one’s life, it has been common for Turks to dub each and every one of their children Mehmetcik, that is ‘little Muhammad’, wishing thereby to encourage them to become role models, to the best of their potentials, in putting to practice the great ways of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.
Understanding the life of the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- is also very important in understanding the wisdom and ethos of the Holy Quran.
As stated there:
“Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds: With it came down the Trustworthy Spirit upon your heart, that you may admonish in a clear Arabic tongue.” (al-Shuara, 193-195)
Effectively, his twenty-three year period of prophethood is an explanation of the Holy Quran, which makes it impossible to take even a step in comprehending the Sacred Book without any knowledge of his life.
To correctly understand Islamic culture and achieve spiritual completion, thus unavoidably requires one to receive inspiration from his splendid twenty-three year life. Spiritual life is perfected only through the positive energy that comes from the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace-. His chaste life is like a painting, in which all the beauties of Islam are fully exhibited.
Neither can those who call people to Islam nor can teachers do their work without knowing the blessed life of their Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, since he gives the most concrete examples in teaching as well as inviting people to Islam. Such knowledge will unite knowledge with the heart, establishing a balance between the two.
A young man wanting to be trustworthy person in his society, a head of state wishing to be just ruler among his people, a man seeking to be a compassionate father towards his wife and children, an army commander striving for success, and in short, all Muslims from all walks of life are bound to find their best example in the life of the Prophet (Siyar’un-Nabî).
Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications
 See at-Tawba, 24.
 See Bukhari, Iman, 9, 14; Muslim, Iman, 67.
 Unless verbal truths are illustrated by physical examples, one will inevitably fall into error in practice, for people always tend to comprehend abstract things in line with their own experiences and according to the level of their own understanding. Concrete examples bear out the shape in which a given abstract truth is supposed to be embodied, leaving no room for further argument. All opinions, therefore, propounded for the good of humanity have lead to various differences in practice, owing simply to their lack of physical and concrete criteria. Islamic thought, in this sense, contains a wealth and perfection incomparable to any other; and making this possible has solely been the fact of the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- rendering concrete the entire body of abstract truths through the behavior he exemplified throughout his life and their immediate recording, in their totality, by the Companions, which providentially have been passed onto us.
 “No single person can take a step beyond the principles of Muhammad. Despite all the success that has come the way of Europe, all the laws and principles decreed by Europe are insufficient in relation to Islamic culture. We, the nations of Europe, in spite of all the opportunities our civilization is impregnated with, are still only on the first step of the ladder on whose final step Muhammad stands. Doubtless, nobody shall beat him in this race. And this Book (the Quran), being exceptionally practical, shall never cease to wield influence for eternity and will gather other nations around itself.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)