Interpersonal Skills: How the Prophet dealt with Adversaries

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) would always be just with the disbelievers and even be ready to sacrifice his life in order to call them to Islam and rectify their affairs. He would bear their evils with patience and try to overlook their harms. Why would he not do so when Allah has said: “We have sent you as a mercy…”

To whom? To the believers only?

No; rather, “To the world.”

Think about the Jews who would insult him and instigate trouble, whilst he would continue to be gentle with them. ‘A’ishah – may Allah be pleased with her – said, “The Jews once passed by the Prophet’s house and said: ‘as-Saam ‘alaykum’ (i.e. death be upon you), and the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) replied: ‘And upon you, too!’’ ‘A’ishah couldn’t bear it, so when she heard it, she responded, ‘And death be upon you, too, and Allah’s curse and anger!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “Take it easy, O ‘A’ishah! You should be gentle. You shouldn’t curse or be harsh.”

She said, “Didn’t you hear what they said?”

He said, “Didn’t you hear what I said? I prayed against them and that prayer will be accepted, whereas their prayer against me will not be accepted.”

Yes, for there is no need to respond to insult with another insult. Allah has said, “Speak to people with kind words…”

One day the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) went out with his companions on an expedition. On their way back they stopped over in a valley full of trees. The companions dispersed under the various trees and fell asleep. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) hung his sword on a branch, spread out his cloak, and went to sleep. Meanwhile, a pagan who was following the Muslims noticed that Allah’s Messenger didn’t have his sword, so he approached him stealthily, took the sword off the branch and then shouted, “O Muhammad! Who is going to protect you from me now?”

The Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) woke up to find the man standing over him with a sword, ready to kill him. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) was alone and wearing only a lower garment. His companions had dispersed and were asleep. The man became conceited with his power and strength and kept repeating, “Who will save you from me?! Who will save you from me?!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) replied with full conviction, “Allah.”

The man was struck with terror and the sword fell from his hand. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then got hold of the sword and said, “Who will save you from me now?”

The man’s complexion changed. He became frightened and began to beg for mercy. He said, “No one will protect me now! Please treat me well!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “Do you accept Islam?”

He said, “No, I will not, but I shall not ally with anyone you are fighting against!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) forgave him and treated him well. The man was a leader among his people, so he went back and called them to Islam, and they all accepted.

Yes, be good to others, thereby capturing their hearts. In fact, even with his sworn enemies, he (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) would be of immaculate character, due to which he would win them over, guide their hearts and cleanse them of disbelief.

When the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) began to call the people to Islam publicly, Quraysh began to resist him even more severely. One of the things the Quraysh did was to discuss among themselves what to do about the Prophet’s call and the speed at which people were accepting his faith. They said, “Look for the most expert among you in magic, soothsaying and poetry, and let him approach the man who split our ranks, disunited us and insulted our religion. Let him converse with him and see what he says.”

They said, “We cannot think of anyone except ‘Utbah bin Rabi‘ah.”

They said to ‘Utbah, “You are the one, O Abu’l-Walid!”

‘Utbah was a very forbearing person. He said, “O Quraysh, do you want me to go and speak to him, and perhaps make him some offers he might accept?”

They said, “Yes, O Abul-Walid.”

‘Utbah got up and went to the Messenger of Allah (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam). He found him sitting tranquilly. ‘Utbah came up to him and said, “O Muhammad! Who is better, you or ‘Abdullah?”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) remained silent in honour of his father.

‘Utbah said, “Who is better, you or ‘Abd al-Muttalib?”

He (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) remained silent in respect for his grandfather.

‘Utbah said, “If you think that they were better than you, then how did they worship the gods you have insulted? And if you think that you are better than them, then speak so we may hear you say it.”

Before the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) could respond, ‘Utbah lashed out in rage, “By Allah, we have seen no other man who has brought such great a calamity to a nation as you have done. You have disunited us, split our ranks, insulted our religion, and brought disgrace to us as everyone is now saying that Quraysh have a magician! There is nothing left to wait for except the moment when we brandish our swords and begin to kill each other.”

‘Utbah was displaying his anger as the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) listened silently, sitting well composed.

‘Utbah then decided to bargain with the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), so he said, “If you are doing all this with a view to gaining wealth, then we will join together to give you greater riches than any person from Quraysh has possessed. If ambition moves you, we will make you our chief. If you desire kingship we will readily offer you that. If you are under the power of an evil spirit which seems to haunt and dominate you so that you cannot shake off its yoke, then we shall call in skilful physicians to cure you.”

‘Utbah continued to speak in this unworthy manner with the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), trying to bargain with him, whilst the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) remained silent and calm. After ‘Utbah had made the offer of leadership, wealth, women and even treatment for insanity, he fell silent, waiting for a response.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) raised his gaze to him and said, “Have you finished, O Abu al-Walid?”

‘Utbah was not surprised at the manners of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam), and simply replied, “Yes.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “Now listen to me.”

“Alright”, said ‘Utbah.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then recited the verses, “In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Ha-Meem. A revelation from Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. A Book whereof the verses are explained in detail; — a Quran in Arabic for people who know. Giving glad tidings and warning, but most of them turn away, so they listen not.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) continued to recite the verse as ‘Utbah listened. Suddenly, ‘Utbah sat on the ground and his body shook. He placed his hands behind him and rested on them as he listened to the verses. The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) continued to recite until he approached the verse, “If they turn away, then say to them: I warn you of a thunderbolt similar to that which struck ‘Aad and Thamud.”

‘Utbah was utterly terrified when he heard this warning and threat of punishment. He jumped up and placed his hand on the mouth of the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) to prevent him from reciting further. But the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) continued to recite until the verse of prostration, after which he prostrated. When he raised his head up from prostration, he gazed at ‘Utbah and said, “Did you hear that, O ‘Utbah?”

“Yes”, replied ‘Utbah.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “Now, it is up to you.”

‘Utbah left to go back to his companions as they impatiently waited for him. When he approached them they said to each other, “I swear by Allah, he has returned with a different complexion!”

When he sat with them they asked, “What happened, O Abu al-Walid?”

He said, “What happened is that I heard words the like of which I have never heard before. By Allah, they weren’t the words of poetry, magic or soothsaying. O people of Quraysh! I request you to heed my advice and grant the man full freedom to pursue his goals, in which case you could safely detach yourselves from him. I swear that his words will one day triumph. O people! I heard him say: ‘In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. Ha-Meem. A revelation from Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful – to his words – I warn you of a thunderbolt similar to that which struck ‘Aad and Thamud.’

As he said that, I placed my hand on his mouth, and begged him, in the name of our ties of kinship, to stop! You know very well that when Muhammad says something he doesn’t lie. I feared that punishment may descend upon you.”

Abu al-Walid then remained silent as he reflected, while his companions stared at him.

He then said, “By Allah, there is sweetness in what he says. There is beauty in what he says, as if its top is fruit and its bottom is water. It is overwhelming and cannot be subdued. It obliterates everything beneath it. No man can say this. No man can say this.”

They said, “This is just poetry, O Abu al-Walid! Just poetry!”

He said, “By Allah, no one is more knowledgeable than me concerning poetry! There is no one more knowledgeable about Rajaz (poetical rhyme) and poems than me! Or even the poetry of the Jinn! By Allah, what he says is not similar to any poetry!”

‘Utbah continued to discuss the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) with them. Although, ‘Utbah did not accept Islam, there is no doubt that his soul did incline towards it. Contemplate how the Prophet’s noble manners and his technique of listening to ‘Utbah attentively affected him, even though he was a sworn enemy of Islam.

On another occasion, the Quraysh decided to send Husayn bin al-Mundhir al-Khuza’i – the father of the Prophet’s companion, ‘Imran bin Husayn – to discuss with the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) and to persuade him to stop his mission.

‘Imran’s father visited the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) as he was sitting with his companions and said the usual words of complaint which the Quraysh would say to him, “You have disunited us, split our ranks…”, as the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) calmly listened until he finished.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) then said to him politely, “Have you finished, O Abu ‘Imran?”

“Yes”, he replied.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “Then answer my questions.”

“Ok, I am listening”, he said.

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “O Abu ‘Imran, how many gods do you worship?”

He replied, “Seven. Six on the earth and one in the heavens!”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, ‘Which of them do you love and fear?’

He said, “The one in the heavens.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said in all politeness, “O Husayn, if you were to accept Islam, I would teach you two words you could greatly benefit from.”

Husayn accepted Islam on the spot and said, “O Messenger of Allah, teach me the two words you promised you would teach me.”

The Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) said, “O Allah, inspire me with guidance and protect me from my own evil.”

How wonderful was the way in which the Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi wassallam) dealt with people! And how beautifully his character had a positive impact on them! This kind of attitude goes a long way in bringing non-Muslims closer to Islam.


A young man once travelled to Germany for studies and took up residence in a flat. There was a young German man living in the flat opposite him. They didn’t have any connection with each other except that they were neighbours.

Once, the German neighbour travelled unexpectedly. A paperboy would deliver a newspaper everyday and leave it at his doorstep. The young man noticed the newspapers piling up and asked one of the other neighbours to find out if the neighbour had travelled. He picked all the newspapers up and placed them in a secure place. He would collect a new newspaper everyday and add it to the collection.

When his neighbour returned after a couple of months, he greeted him and gave him all the newspapers. He said, “I thought that perhaps you were following a news story or participating in a competition and I didn’t want you to miss out on it.”

The neighbour was surprised at this and said, “Would you like to be paid for your services?”

He said, “No. Our religion orders us to be good to our neighbours and since you are my neighbour, I must benevolent you.” The person continued to be gracious to his neighbour until he finally embraced Islam.

This, by Allah, is the real joy of life, to feel that you worship Allah by every little thing you do, even the manners with which you deal with others. How often is it that people are turned away from Islam due to the bad treatment they receive at the hand of some Muslims; one oppresses his employee, another deceives his customer and another annoys his neighbour? Let us make a fresh start with them.

 The best preacher is the one who preaches with his actions before his words.


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