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Can Prophet Muhammad be considered a role model in every aspect for a modern Muslim? If prophet practised X, is it safe to assume every Muslim should imitate him in that regard? If a certain action or habit was permitted to Muhammad, can we say that it should be allowed or encouraged to every Muslim?

In short, is Prophet Muhammad an absolute role model? Can a Muslim do everything Prophet Muhammad did?

  • Your question is considered as a really good basis question. Actually, in my opinion, each behaviour of Prophet Muhammad can be a good model for us to imitate as much as possible. – اللهم صل علی محمد و آل محمد Jun 23 '15 at 5:02
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Great question - as with many things, the answer is not a simple yes or no. In fact, there is a whole science behind answering this very question. It's one of the most important questions in the field of usul al-fiqh: what is sunnah? In other words, how do we derive, from the sayings and actions and approvals of the Prophet (saws), the rulings of certain actions for us? Is a certain action obligatory, or recommended, or permissible, or disliked, or prohibited?

The short answer is that many of these rulings are derived on a case by case basis. There are some actions that only the Prophet (saws) did and we are in fact not supposed to do so (for example, fasting all day and all night, or keeping more than 4 wives at a time). There are some things he never did that we need to do (e.g. study the sciences of hadith). There are some things that he did, that are merely recommended for us. There are statements that he made, then some of his actions showed us that the status of that statement was for recommendation and not obligation (or for an action being disliked and not prohibited). There may even be some things that he did in his lifetime (saws) that would no longer be applicable to us because the `illah (reason) is no longer valid.

There are some things he did because it was the custom of his people to do so, or it was a personal preference and not a religious injunction.

To take an action of the Prophet (saws) and derive the status of the ruling on it is a job for the knowledgeable scholar. It's not always easy to pinpoint the reason behind an action, and then deduce from it what it means for us.

  • so, based on your 2nd paragraph, the short answer would be NO, correct? – amphibient Jan 15 '15 at 19:00
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بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

In the name of Allah the merciful the compassionate

Muslims must obey the holy prophet of Islam (PBUH) through their actions, words, thinking and beliefs. Almighty Allah says in the noble Qur'an as such:

لَقَد كانَ لَكُم في رَسولِ اللَّهِ أُسوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِمَن كانَ يَرجُو اللَّهَ وَاليَومَ الآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثيرًا

There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often. [33:21]

(The phrase "excellent pattern" is also used for Ibrahim (PBUH) in another verse)

According to Sayyid Abbas Sadr-'ameli in his "An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy Qur'an":

Not only in this field but also in the whole life the best pattern of conduct for you is the Prophet of Islam (S). His excellent spiritual conditions, his patience and perseverance, his awareness, wit, sincerity and attention to Allah, his domination upon different events, and not being submitted when confronting hardships and difficulties, each can be a pattern and a lesson for all Muslims.

It does not mean that we are able to follow him completely or we are expected to reach his level, but of course we should do our best to respect him as an excellent pattern. Also it does not mean that we can extend his actions to all of the situations. We have to consider the different circumstances under which the prophet took different actions. In fact, we can't take actions merely because prophet of Islam did. We should check if we are located in very similar situations or not!

Further reading:

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Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was assigned as a prophet by God. Their duty, as a prophet, is to teach us His religion. Since prophets live among people, others matter outside the religion are also brought to him and he can say or take certain actions on this but it is his personal opinion.

Please consider the following incident, when after arriving in Medina, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) passed by some people who were fecundating some date palms, so he asked them what they were doing. When they told him, he said,

“I don’t think that will provide any benefit,”

or in another narration, “It would be better if you didn’t do that.”

So they refrained from doing it, and that year the crop was not as good. They mentioned it to him (peace and blessings be upon him), and he replied:

“I am only a human: if I command you to do something in your religion, then take it; but if I tell you to do something based on personal opinion, then [realize] that I am only human,” and in another narration, “Yet if I inform you of something from Allah, then do it, for indeed I will never convey an untruth on behalf of Allah Mighty and Majestic,” and in yet another narration, “You know better of your worldly affairs.”

Reference

So, in matters of religion, he is the best example and a muslim should follow him and he is the best role-model. In other matters, he may or may not choose to do what he did or say.

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