in category Seerah

Was the Prophet Muhammed a king or a slave?

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In a Nutshell: The ProphetMuhammed (saw) was offered a choice whether he wished to live like a majestic king or humble slave in his style of rule in Medinah - he opted to live as a humble slave.

The seerah of the Messenger (saw) is categoric, supported with narrations of previous messengers. From the outset the Messenger (saw) called the elites for bayah (pledge) to establish Islam over their qawm via khilafah and continued the same call with all of the tribes he approached. He achieved his mission by establishing khilafah in Medinah, the first dar al-Islam, implementing the shariah via power and jihad via military force.

The following hadith answers the above question. The Prophet(saw) was offered a choice of how he would prefer to live whilst ruling Medinah - Jibreel hinting he live as a humble slave:

Abu Huraira reported: The Angel Gabriel was with the Prophet (saw) and he looked towards the sky as an angel descended. Gabriel said, “Verily, this angel has not come down since the day he was created.” The angel said, “O Muhammad, your Lord has sent me to you with the offer that I make you a prophet-king or a servant-messenger.” Gabriel said, “Be humble before your Lord, O Muhammad.” The Prophet said, “Rather, I will be a servant-messenger.” (Ahmad 7120)

The Hanbali jurist ibn Rajab explained its meaning, whether the messenger wished to be like a majestic king or a humble servant, and preferring the latter. Both styles were permitted in the sharia, each with their advantages. It is interesting to note companions like Muawiyah (ra) preferred the former as being based in Syria, a majestic Prophet King exhibits strength, confidence and power, keeping enemies at bay. Ibn Rajab also cites the related hadith which explain the consequencesof the Prophet's (saw) decision:

A'ishah (ra) narrated the Prophet (saw) said: "An angel came to me and said: Allah sends blessings upon you and says: If you wish you may be a Prophet-Kin or a Slave-Messenger. So Jibreell indicated to me that I should humble myself: So I said: A Prophet-Slave." So A'ishah said: So after that day, the Prophet (saw) never ate whilst reclining, saying: "I eat like a slave eats and I sit like a slave sits." (Al-Baghawi, Sharh as-Sunnah 4683; Abu Shaykh, Akhlaq an-Nabi 213; Al-Haythami authenticated it in Al-Majma' 9/19)

Once, on the day of the conquest of Makkah, a man stood up (out of reverence) for the Prophet (saw) who, being shocked, said to him: "Do not trouble yourself! Indeed I am not a king. Rather I am merely the son of a Qurayshi woman who eats dry meat." (Ibn Sa'ad, At-Tabaqat 1/23; Ibn Majah 3312 and Al-Hakim 3/47)

The Prophet (saw) said: "Do not over praise me as the Christians over-praised Isa son of Maryam. Indeed, I am only a slave. So call me the Slave of Allah and His Messenger." (Bukhari 6/345)

The Prophet (saw) said: "I eat as a slave eats, and I sit as a slave sits. Since indeed I am a slave." (Ibn Sa'ad, At-Tabaqat 1/371)

The Prophet (saw) said: "My Lord - the Mighty and Majestic - gave me the choice that the valley of Makkah be filled with gold, but I said: No! O Lord. However, grant food to me one day, and hunger the day after. So when I am hungry I humble myself before You and remember You, and when I am full, I am grateful to You." (Ahmad 5/254; Tirmidhi)


The Prophet Muhammed (saw) was offered a choice by Jibreel as to whether he wished to live like a majestic king or humble slave in his style of rule in Medinah - he opted to live as a humble slave.

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