The Prophet (s) lived for forty years amongst the people before he began his mission. During this time, his character showed no signs of any bad qualities. He was known as an honest and trustworthy individual. Afterwards, when the Prophet (s) delivered the message of God, the infidels could not deny the Prophet's (s) virtues, but rather they denied the Qur'anic verses. This matter has been mentioned in the Qur'an as well,
"…Yet it is not you that they deny, but it is Allah's signs that the wrongdoers impugn." (6:33)
Also, it has been quoted that Abu Jahl once said: "we do not deny you, but rather we deny these verses". When the Prophet (s) began to deliver the message of God to the Quraysh, he asked them, "Would you believe me if I told you that [enemy] troops are positioned behind this mountain?" The audience replied in the affirmative and said: "Yes, you have never lied to us". The Prophet (s) then said that he was sent by God to warn them.
In addition to his glorious past, being Arab, and his distinguished tribe and family played a crucial role in the Prophet's (s) status and success. The Quraysh was an important and famous tribe amongst the Arabs. This eminency caused many of the other tribes to acknowledge the Quraysh's superiority over thems, and would obey them in some cases. On the other hand, the ancestors of the Prophet (s) (Qusay b. Kalab, Hashim, and 'Abd al-Muttalib) were known as honorable and distinguished men amongst the Arabs. At the time, the Arab community had a limited cultural relationship with other regions. This caused them to have pride in their Arabism and they were prejudiced against others and would deny their words on the basis that they were not Arabs, ordering them to acknowledge only what was
"theirs'". This Qur'anic verse probably indicates this fact:
"Had We sent it down upon some non-Arab, and had he recited it to them, they would not have believed in it." (26:198-9)
Since Islam was first presented to the Arabs, being one of them was an advantage for the Prophet (s).
This issue has also been mentioned in the Qur'an.
The greatest quality of the Prophet (s) was his impeccable character and behaviour (akhlaq). The Qur'an says of him:
"and indeed you possess a great character". (68:4)
It is said that he was quiet and did not speak unless it was necessary. He always opened his mouth slightly and never more than half of it was open. He would smile and never laughed out loud. When he wanted face someone, he turned his entire body. He loved cleanliness and the smell of perfume. When he would pass somewhere, people would realize that it was him who had passed because of his fragrant smell. He was never arrogant. He lived a simple life, and would sit on the ground to eat food.. He never ate his full and remained hungry on many occasions, especially when he first arrived in Medina.
However, he never led a completely ascetic life in the way that many monks did. In fact, he has said that he benefited from the good of this world. His conduct towards Muslims and those of another faith was graceful and chivalrous. His conduct was so pleasant in the eyes of Muslims that they would speak of its details throughout generations. Today, it is the model of their lives and religion.
Imam 'Ali (a) describes the conduct of the Prophet (s) as follows, "Everyone who met him for the first time was in awe of him. Everyone who was in his company began to love him". "The Prophet (s) would look at his companions equally and never looked at one of them longer than the other". "When he shook hands with someone, he would never withdraw his hand first".
The Prophet (s) spoke with everyone according to their level of intellect and understanding. He was famous for his forgiveness of those who had wronged him; to the extent that he even forgave Wahshi who was the murderer of his uncle, and Abu Sufyan who had been the archenemy of Islam. He was amicable with everybody, and had the valuable quality of making everyone feel as though they were special to him.
The Prophet (s) lived with self-discipline. Throughout his entire life, he did designate a spot for himself (in a place of superiority whilst sitting with others). In fact, the simple clay rooms that were beside the mosque, belonged to his wives. Their roofs were made of palm wood and the screens that hung at their doors were made of goat or camel hair. He would use a pillow and a leather bed that was filled with palm leaves, over which he slept his entire life. His undershirt was made from a coarse fabric that itched the body and he wore a robe made of camel hair. This was besides the fact that after the battle of Hunayn, he gifted 4000 camels, more than 4000 sheep, and great amount of gold and silver to various people.
His food was simpler than his house, clothes and property. Months would pass by where no fire was lit in his house for the preparation food. His staple diet consisted of dates and barley bread. He never ate to his fill for two consecutive days, nor would he eat to his fill two times per day. There were many nights where he and his family slept while they were hungry. Once, Fatima (a) brought her father barley bread and said, "I baked bread and thought that I must bring you some." He ate that and said to her, "This is the only thing that your father has been eating for the past three days." Once, he wanted to eat dates in the date garden of one of the Ansar and said, "This is the fourth day that I haven't eaten anything."
Sometimes, he would tie a stone to his stomach due to the extremity of his hunger (so that his hunger would be temporarily relieved). Upon his demise, his armor was pledged with a Jew as a security for 30 cups of barley.
Organization and Tidiness
The Prophet (s) was very organized in his life. After the construction of the mosque, he named every column in the mosque and marked each of them for specific activities; e.g. the column of Wufud, which was the place for delegations and meetings, the column of Tahajjud which was the place for night prayers, and so on. He arranged the lines of the congregational prayer so straight that it was as if he was arranging wooden poles, and once he said, "O Servants of God! Arrange your lines, otherwise dissent will grow amongst you". He was very organized with regards to scheduling his time. He had divided his time into three parts: one for worshipping God, one for personal activities, and one for activities with the people.
He would always look in the mirror to arrange and comb his hair. In fact, he was always well-groomed, not only in front of his family, but also in front of his companions. He would take care of his appearance even while traveling and would always carry five things: a mirror, kohl, a comb, a brush and a pair of scissors.
The Qur'an describes the Prophet (s) as Ummi which was an attribute given to someone who did not know how to read or write. The Prophet (s) could not read or write. The Qur'an says:
"You did not use to recite any scripture before it, nor did you write it with your right hand…" (29:48)
which seems to imply that the Prophet (s) could neither read, nor write before revelation. The verse continues:
"…for then the impugners would have been skeptical." (29:48)