Practicing Prophetic ﷺ Respect
An Imam recently visited our local mosque and brought to the table a chronic illness that many Muslims have: Demanding Respect Disorder. The Imam wisely started by reflecting on Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ character — the type of character that millions admire and would love to emulate.
His reflection was simple: The Prophet ﷺ never demanded respect. The Prophet ﷺ earned respect.
Yet, we find many of us demanding respect. And indeed, we even demand it while referencing how the Prophet ﷺ was respected. Although many of us can recount a story or two of the Prophet ﷺ being disrespected, and his companions jumping to the scene to defend him, he would always tell them to stop to allow the person who showed disrespect to express his demand freely.
This high standard of moral practice seems to make good content for preaching, but it rarely reaches the realm of practice for some of us. As the Prophet’s ﷺ companions saw him deal with those who disrespected him, they appreciated his noble character and morals. Through his countless examples of dealing with all kinds of individuals, Muslim and not, the Prophet ﷺ earned the respect of those around him. It is for those reasons that his character continues to earn that respect today.
To clarify — this is not to say that the Prophet ﷺ was complacent or adaptive to disrespect, quite the opposite. Those who accepted Islam knew that the Prophet was a messenger from God and that in itself entailed a high level of respect, but many did not exemplify that respect. Some companions used to visit the Prophet’s home and loudly call him to come out (a behaviour that is certainly disrespectful to anyone).
Although, the Prophet ﷺ felt disrespected by this behaviour and it was entirely in his right to shun it, he shied away from doing so. Subsequently, God revealed the verse: “Oh you who believe do not raise your voices above the Prophet’s voice.” (49:2)
Our religion gives priority to certain people when it comes to respect — the elderly being one of them. The Prophet ﷺ told Muslims to “start with the elderly” when serving a drink or the like (Abu Ya’la; Authenticated by Al-Albani).
Teaching Islamic values and principles to our children can be one of the most difficult challenges we face, but it can be an enjoyable and mutually rewarding experience if we choose to emulate the example of our beloved Prophet ﷺ. We constantly encounter instances that test our tolerance and it is those precious encounters that will elevate us if we choose to embrace them correctly.