Muhammad (pbuh) was a very simple person and he followed simplicity during the whole of his life. He was very unceremonious and informal in his habits.He ate whatever he had in his possession, wore very thick and course cloth. Even when he was the ruler of a state and undisputed leader of the people, he sat on the floor, bare ground or a mat without any hesitation, alone or in the company of other people. He ate bread made from course flour and even spent days on mere dates. He wore simple clothes and did not like to display or show up. He was, by nature, simple and he liked simplicity in everything and hated luxurious living and luxurious furniture.
Ibn Umar (Ra) said that he saw Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) in the courtyard of Ka’bah sitting with his knees drawn up and supporting them with his hands. Abb’ad bin Tamim quoted his paternal uncle as saying that he had seen Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) laying on his back in that mosque, placing one foot over the other. Qaila, daughter of Makrama, said that she saw Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sitting in the mosque with his arms round his legs in a humble state and she trembled with fear. Abu Qatada (Ra) saw that when Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) alighted for rest during the night, he lay on his right side, but when he alighted for rest a little later, before morning, he put his elbow on the ground and laid his head in the palm of his hand. (Mishkat).
A member of the family of Umm Salma said that the bedding of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) was like what was put in his grave, and he slept with his head towards the mosque. Ibn Masud said that Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) slept on a reed mat and got up with the mark of it on his body. He said, “‘O Allah’s Messenger! I wish you would order us to spread something out for you and make something.’ The Prophet (pbuh) replied, ‘What have I to do with the world, I am like a rider who rests for a while under the shade of a tree, then goes off and leaves it.’” Abu Umama (Ra) reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying, “My Lord suggested turning the valley of Makkah into gold for me, but I replied, ‘No, my Lord! Let me have enough to eat and be hungry on alternate days. When I am hungry I shall make supplication to You and remember You, and when I have enough I shall praise and thank you.” Ubaid-Allah bin Mihsan reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying, “If anyone among you is secure in mind in the morning, healthy in body and has food for the day, it is as though the whole world has been brought into his possession.”
A’isha (Ra) said that Muhammad’s (pbuh) family did have barely enough bread to satisfy them for two consecutive days up to the time of his death. Umar (Ra) said, “I went to see Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) and found him lying on a reed mat with no sheet between him and the mat, and supporting himself on a leather cushion stuffed with palm fibres. I said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), pray to Allah to enrich your people, for He has enriched the Persians and the Byzantines, yet they do not worship Allah.’ He asked, ‘Is that how you feel? Those people have been given their good things in advance in the present world.’” Abu Hurairah (Ra) reported Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) as saying, “Look at those who are inferior to you and do not look at those who are superior to you, for that is more likely to keep you from despising. Be Allah’s favour on you.” Abu Talha (Ra) said, “When we complained to Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) of hunger and raised our clothes to show we were each carrying a stone over our belly, he raised clothes and showed that he had two stones on his belly.”
Muadh bin Jabal said that when Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) sent him to Yemen, he said, “Beware of living luxuriously.” Ali reported Allah’s Messenger as saying, “If anyone is satisfied with a small provision from Allah, Allah will be satisfied with a few good deeds from him.” Imran bin Husain quoted Muhammad (pbuh) as saying, “Allah loves His poor believing servant who abstains from begging and yet has children.” (Mishkat).
Muhammad (pbuh) liked simple living and wanted his family to lead a simple life and abstain from ostentatious living. Once he saw a gold necklace on the neck of his daughter, Fatima (Ra), and said, “Won’t you hate people saying that the daughter of Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) is wearing fire on her neck?” Once he saw gold bangles on the arms of A’isha (Ra) and said, “It will be much better if you take them off and wear bangles of brass dyed with saffron.” He always wore simple clothes but Umar (Ra) wanted him to wear clothes of splendour on Fridays or occasions of Eid or when receiving envoys of other countries. Once a silken cloth was on sale in a shop and Umar (Ra) asked the Prophet (pbuh) to buy and wear it on Fridays and when receiving foreign envoys. Muhammad (pbuh) said, “He should wear this who has no share in the Hereafter.” He often wore thick clothes. His bed was sometimes of a rough blanket, sometimes of skin filled with palm fibres and sometimes of ordinary coarse cloth. His wife, Hifsa, narrated that one night she spread a four-fold cloth on his bed to make it soft but next morning he showed his dislike for it. In the ninth year of Al-Hijrah, when the Islamic State had extended from Yemen to Syria, its ruler had only one bed and one dry water-bag of skin. A’isha (Ra) reported that when he died, there was nothing in the house to eat except some barley.
Once Umar (Ra) entered Muhammad’s (pbuh) house and noticed the state of the furniture in it. Muhammad (pbuh) had only a sheet of cloth around him to cover the lower part of his body. There was a simple bed with one pillow filled with nut fibre; on one side of the room there was some barley and in one corner near his feet was an animal skin. There were some leather-made water-bags hanging beside. Umar (Ra) said that on seeing these tears came into his eyes. Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked the reason for his tears. He replied, “O Allah’s Messenger! Why shouldn’t I cry! The strings of the bed have left marks on your body. This is a small room with all your furniture; I can see what there is. The Kaiser of Rome and Kisra of Persia enjoy luxurious living while you, Allah’s Messenger (pbuh), and the chosen one, live like this.” He said, “Ibn Khattab! Don’t you like that they choose this world and we choose the Hereafter?” (Mishkat).
In short, Muhammad (pbuh) lived and liked a simple life and enjoyed every minute of it. He taught his companions to lead a simple life and not to be ostentatious through examples in his personal life.
The Writer is former Director, Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh