One of the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Khubayb ibn Adiyy, fell a prisoner in the hands of some unbelievers as a result of a wicked trick. They took him to Makkah where they sold him to some of its chiefs who were still nursing their grief after having suffered a heavy defeat in the Battle of Badr, the first major military encounter between them and the Muslims. They wanted to kill Khubayb in revenge of the killing of some of their elders in that battle. When Khubayb was brought forward to be killed, Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Quraysh, asked him: "Do you wish that Muhammad were here in your place and we would kill him while you were safe among your people?" Khubayb answered: "I would not wish to be safe among my people and Muhammad (peace be upon him) having a thorn in his side." Abu Sufyan remarked: "I have never seen anything like the love Muhammad's companions feel for him."
Abu Sufyan was absolutely right: That love was unparalleled, unknown in human history. Moreover, millions and millions of people across the 14 centuries of the history of Islam have felt that Prophet Muhammad was always dearer to them than their own parents and children. They even loved him more than they loved themselves. This is the mark of true faith. There is, however, a great difference between love that is generated by faith and strengthened by a study of the character of God's messenger, and love born by personal experience of his character, and living through the great events that marked the history of the early years of Islam and witnessing the Prophet's reactions to these events.
When we study what the Prophet's companions experienced of his character we realize that they saw a unique sort of nobility of character. Some people may be noble, and they treat others with kindness and compassion. Still, they will have their own turf, which they would not allow others to encroach. Moreover, they will have their own circle of relatives and friends whom they treat differently from other people.
Prophet Muhammad's nobility of character was of an immeasurably higher level. It was part of his nature, issuing forth instinctively. When faced with a situation, he did not reflect on what would be the kinder, nobler or more compassionate behavior; it came to him naturally. In all his relations with people, particularly the weaker and more vulnerable elements in society, he was the epitome of kindness. He keenly felt for them, tried to console them when they encountered an adversity, and did his best to comfort them. He never intentionally hurt anyone. He inquired after all his companions, young and old. When he talked to anyone, regardless of that person's position in society, his interlocutor felt a warm relation with the Prophet. When the Prophet's companions talked to him, even the most humble of them used to feel that the Prophet placed him above all others. He let everyone talk to him as they wished, never interrupting them even if they took a long time.
When he learned that a companion of his was ill, the Prophet went to visit him at home and prayed for his recovery. He might pay social visits to his companions. He would join them, sitting in the last vacant place. If anyone came to see him at home or in the mosque, he would sit with his visitor until he left, never giving a sign or an expression of his being busy or having some important business. When anyone shook hands with him or held his hand, he would not let go until that person did so. In fact, it is reported that any maid could come to him and take him by the hand. He would go with her anywhere in the market place until he had done for her whatever she wanted. He would let her hold his hand until she was the one to let go.
He would answer an invitation, even by the poorest of his companions. Whatever food was served, even the most modest, he would eat and express thanks to God and to his host. Thus, no one felt distant from him at any time. He was the epitome of warm friendship with all his companions. ¬