The Secrets of the Success of Early Muslims


Imam Murtada Gusau

Imam Murtada Gusau

By Murtadha Gusau

In The Name Of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful

All thanks and praises are due to Allah, we seek His help and forgiveness. We seek refuge in Allah from the evil within ourselves and the consequences of our evil deeds. Whoever Allah guides will never be led astray, and whoever Allah leads astray will never find guidance. I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, He is alone without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger.

“O you who have believed, fear Allah as He should be feared and do not die except as Muslims in submission to Him.” [Quran, 3:102]

“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah, through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Verily, Allah is ever watching over you.” [Quran, 4:1]

“O you who have believed, fear Allah and speak words of appropriate justice. He will then amend for you your deeds and forgive your sins, and whoever obeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly attained a great attainment.” [Quran, 33:70-71]

Verily, the most truthful speech is the Book of Allah, the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad, and the worst affairs are newly invented matters (in the religion of Allah). Every newly invented matter is a religious innovation, and every religious innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.

Allah the Almighty said:

“Indeed, Allah conferred a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammad) from among themselves, reciting to them His verses (the Qur’an), and purifying them (from sins by their following him), and instructing them (in) the Book (the Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah (the wisdom and the Sunnah of the Prophet Peace be upon him), while before that they had been in manifest error.” [Qur’an, 3:164]


Respected Brothers and Sisters! One of the most important aspects of our faith Islam is to understand, deeply love and most closely emulate the character of the Prophet MUHAMMAD. This aspect of our faith is manifested when we pronounce the Kalimah Shahadah – It consists of two inseparable parts. That Allah is one and that Prophet Muhammad is His last Prophet and Messenger.

Unfortunately, because of the heat of major challenges facing the Muslims we find that emulating the Prophet (Peace be upon him) stops at trying to copy his image; i.e. the way he looked without focusing on the way he behaved as he applied the Quran to his character and his way of living. Many of us, especially those proclaimed Islamic leaders and Imams of the Muslims forget to teach the average Muslim to express his/her love of the Prophet by emulating his character.

Allah the Most High said:

“Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.” [Qur’an, 33: 21]

Dr. Michael Hart, a recognised author who was raised in a Christian family documented a research on the most influential 100 persons in history and chose the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) as the MOST INFLUENTIAL MAN in the history of mankind. He wrote and I quote:

“Prophet Muhammad was the ONLY man in history who was supremely successful on both religious and secular levels.”

Respected Servants of Allah! Today, I want to share with you what I call the Ten Golden Character Traits of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) that contributed to the astounding success of his mission as the LAST guide, Messenger and Prophet to mankind. In doing so, I hope and pray that we all will listen carefully and apply these traits to our way of living and that I will be the first to do so Inshaa Allah.

Before I do this, I want to define a term that is usually used by many of us; SUCCESS. Many of us think that success is being rich, is being famous and the like. I define success as:


– FIRST, one has to define a worthy ideal or a worthy goal,

– THEN, go about realising it in steps and in a progressive way.

Shaykh Wahidduddin Khan, one of the prominent Indian scholars of Islam, wrote a wonderful biography of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) outlining these Ten Golden rules of his character. I shall cover as many as I can today and continue on with the rest in a future sermon, Inshaa Allah:

(1) – START WITH A HUMBLE BEGINNING: Commence from The Possible to Achieve What Seems to Be Impossible

Many of us develop dreams of doing and accomplishing things be it in community development, business or career. However, many of us also fail. From my observations of human nature, especially those who are intimidated by the success of others I found that the main reason is that people want to grow fast and become big in the shortest period of time. In fact this defies the laws of Allah. It takes time to grow a tree, it takes time to raise a child and it takes time to build things. There is no other way. Yes, we can expedite our progress but we cannot violate the fact that one has to develop experience and learn by starting small. This is exactly the example that was set by the behaviour of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him).

So, he started his Da’awah with what was possible and available to him at the time he was commissioned. He started, as revealed in the Qur’an with his most immediate family members and the members of his tribe and slowly worked his way out to the rest of Arabia and the world. Remember, that had Allah willed, he would have done it in no time. But because he was the example for people to emulate, it took him twenty three years of dedication, patience, perseverance and hard work without asking for recognition, gratification or a word of thanks.

This is exactly how many of the Muslim strangers to Europe built what is today a sprawling and effective network of Masajid, Islamic centres and other institutions. They all started small and slowly became large.

(2) – EASY DOES IT: Gradualism in Change and NOT Radicalism Produces More Lasting Changes

Many people think that changing the government through revolutions, terrorism, insurgency, military take over, and violence will help them reach power and hence will allow them to put in place the changes they want to implement. This approach was proven useless and futile by the approach of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) and by the lessons of history.

As narrated by Aisha and recorded in Sahih Bukhari, the first verses revealed in the Qur’an were those mentioning paradise and hell fire. It was not until fifteen years later, when people′s hearts had softened, that specific commands to desist from adultery and drinking were revealed in the Qur’an. Aisha makes the point that if these commands had been revealed in the beginning, the Arabs would have stoutly refused to give up either adultery or drinking.

This shows that the Islamic Shari’a jurisprudence was built on the principle of gradualism. People′s hearts had first to be touched then their willingness to conform had to become apparent and only then when the prohibitions were introduced.

Implementing the Shari’a does not mean using the whip, knife, cutlass, gun or the bomb. No good would ever come or has never come of such a practice particularly on an unprepared society.

(3) – THERE IS EASE IN DIFFICULTY: To See Advantage in Disadvantage

Allah the Almighty said:

“Verily, along with every hardship is relief.” [Qur’an, 94: 5]

Whenever one is faced with a problem he/she never despair. There is always a silver lining that presents itself to the true believers. When a calamity strikes “Musibah” the individual may proceed to follow one of two approaches:

1. The first and most followed approach is to feel down, stressed out, hopeless and completely helpless because they concentrate on the negative part of the difficult problem or dilemma or calamity one is facing. This is the approach of those who are not trained to resort to Allah and His infinite wisdom. They usually fail and are never noticed.

2. The second approach is that of those who believe in Allah, in the fact that there is always a silver lining to every test of difficulty presented by Allah.

This was the consistent approach of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). We in Nigeria faced the same kind of difficulty after Boko Haram terrorists strikes, but those who believe in Allah and have dedicated their life to serving Him have transformed this calamity into a great opportunity to teach people about the true faith of Islam and Alhamdulillah, it is producing results.

(4) – DO NOT DESPAIR: If All Efforts Fail to Produce Commensurate Results, Change Your Place of Action – EMIGRATE

In the early days of the Prophet′s mission in Makkah his activities created a lot of antagonism and prompted his enemies – the leaders of Makkah to eliminate him. At this time, the Prophet chose to avoid confrontation and decided to leave quietly to Madinah – the Hijrah that changed the course of history.

Hijrah was a strategy used by the Prophet to avoid confrontation and take a side step and a new route that will allow him and his Companions to build for the future of an Ummah that changed the world. Such a strategic maneuver guaranteed keeping their mission alive until Makkah was opened up and brought within the fold of Islam.

Many of us Muslims, as well as many non-Muslims, are taught that immigration represents simply an event that took place in the life of the Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The understanding that we Muslims have of Hijrah is that a number of the Companions migrated from Makkah to Madinah. The implication has the general sense in history of the movement of a primitive or semi-civilised people from one place to another, as a result of geographical or political factors.

But from the tone in which migration is discussed in the Qur’an, one comes to perceive that migration is a profound philosophical and social principle:

1. Immigration: Offers many opportunities and Vast Resources.

2. Immigration: Is one of the highest levels of Jihad and is rewarded accordingly.

Dear Servants of Allah! All the twenty seven civilisations we know of in history – from the most recent civilisation of America, to the most ancient that we know of, the civilisation of Sumer – came into being on the heels of a migration. In each case, a primitive people remained primitive as long as it stayed in its own land, and attained civilisation after undertaking a migration and establishing itself in a new land. All civilisations are, then, born of the migration of primitive peoples.

From this aspect of the character and experience of the Prophet we are urged never to allow ourselves to be enslaved on earth or reach the state of hopelessness. Immigrate.

(5) – TRUST HUMAN NATURE: Most People Are Basically Good, Challenge Yourself to Make A Friend out of An Enemy

The Prophet and his Companions were exposed to all sorts of attacks, insults, provocative language, abuse and torture. At that time the Qur’an enjoined upon them to return evil deeds with Good ones and adds. Allah said:

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel (the evil) with one which is better…” [Qur’an, 41: 34]

From this one can learn that no matter how hostile a person may appear, he/she has a Allah-given basic nature and instinct for goodness and for truth-loving. So, we believers in Allah and followers of Islam should discipline ourselves as if beneath the surface of this antagonism there lies – may be – a hidden friend. So, the challenge of a true Da’iyah, Propagator of Islam or submitter is to make a friend out of an enemy.

This is what psychology calls the principle of positive reinforcement. The example of the Prophet and how he handled Umar Ibn Al Khattab illustrates this aspect of his character. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) did not and he never did – ask Allah to destroy all Umar′s assets, take away his powers and make him invalid or to kill him. This is the approach of those who worship Allah as slaves – as Imam Ali said. The approach of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) was that of those who worship Allah as free dignified people who want to make a difference in the world. He used to make a Du’a to Allah:

“Ya Allah – the ONLY ONE who can change peoples hearts I ask you to change the heart of Umar and make him use your gifts of power, wealth, assets and connections for the benefit of Islam and the Muslims.”

I sincerely pray that each one of us and our offspring will follow the same example of wishing to build and never wishing to destroy.

BE WISE and USE THE THIRD OPTION. Do Not Throw Yourself and Your asset in Harms Way. The Misinterpreted Way of Life and Style of Living and Action of the Prophet.

(6) – PLAN AND PREPARE WHILE EXERCISING RESTRAINT: Never Act in Haste and Without Being Prepared with A Long Range Strategic Plan, specific goals, the resources to execute the plan, most important of which are the qualified and trained dedicated teams.

There is a commonly used saying (Hadith) of the Prophet, which was related by Tirmidhi, Nisa’i and Abu Dawud, and is used, I believe wrongly by some, to encourage Muslims to be violent and fight instead of planning ahead to develop their communities to prosperity in order to build their strength that will allow them to defend themselves. The Hadith says:

“One killed in defense of his property is a martyr, one killed in defence of his life is a martyr, and one killed in defense of his family is a martyr.”

If one reads the Hadith carefully one can see clearly that it talks about being killed and not fighting as such. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) did not mean that whenever there is a threat to one′s property, life, religion or family, one should immediately resort to arms, even if one is slain as a result! One, who takes the Hadith superficially, as some misinformed Muslims do these days, will say that is not true! Islam teaches one to stand up for one′s property and rights like a man; it urges one to fight in defense of one′s faith, one′s life and property, one’s family and relatives. If one is victorious, then one has achieved one′s end; and if one is defeated, then one is a martyr. Many Islamic movements applied this understanding and unfortunately the result was devastating: The 20th-21st Century has seen grand “Islamic” revolutionary movements, great “holy wars” in the Muslim world without any significant positive results. Here is a sample of the cost:

● 2.5 million dead in the Algerian War of Liberation and independence;

● 500,000 to 3 million martyrs in civil war to create Bangladesh;

● 10 million lives lost in the formation of the Muslim state of Pakistan;

● Millions of people who died and are dying for Islam in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Mali, Niger and various other countries.

But if one is a true believer in Allah, his Prophets, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and the hereafter, he/she will look at the situation analytically and with wisdom. With intense mind-searching he′ll ask himself: If it is really true that Muslims should jump and fight at the earliest confrontation, then one should also ask: If this were the case why then the Prophet (Peace be upon him) in the first fourteen years of Islam did not do that? He did not even respond to those who attacked him and the early Muslim Companions.

Here are Some Examples that indicate that losses must be endured for the sake of greater gains:

1. Suhaib Al-Rumi Immigration to Madinah: When Suhaib, who came from the Roman Empire, announced his intention to immigrate, the leaders of Makkah told him that you came to us with nothing and you became rich because you dealt with us. Do you think we will let you go with your wealth? Suhaib said: you can take my wealth and he left all behind. When the Prophet (Peace be upon him) heard of this incident he said Good for Suhaib, he made a real profitable deal. If the Hadith meant what others claim then the Prophet should have told him to fight for that wealth! The Prophet, who had a vision, a better future and a long-term plan, did not order Suhaib to fight back and become a Martyr.

2. Abu-Jandal in the Year six Hijrah: After the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, which stipulated that if a member of the idolater’s tribes accepts Islam he should be sent back to them, Abu-Jandal, a member of Quraysh accepted Islam and reached the camp of the Muslims in chains and in blood. He pleaded to the Muslims to not send him back to the pagan idolaters as the treaty stipulated. The Prophet (Peace be upon him) stood by the treaty and sent him back. He told Abu-Jandal: Be Patient. Allah will grant you, and those persecuted with you, release from your suffering.

3. One of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah promises was to honour Quraysh, the ruling family of the peninsula at that time, demand to restrict Muslims from visiting the Ka’abah, the first house ever built by man to worship Allah, to perform Umrah for two years. He acted on divine inspiration and accepted to return back with the expedition without performing Umrah. Others would have used this occasion to fight till death as people claim the Hadith meant.

4. Ammar Ibn Yasir and his Parents were slaves working for the Banu Makhzum tribe. He accepted Islam. In an effort to force him to change his mind, they would torture him by taking him in the heat of the desert at noon time and make him lay down on the hot blazing sand and torture him. They even killed his mother to force him to reject Islam. Relating to this incident the Prophet′s reaction was different from what others may lead you to believe from the HadIth (as related by the Prophet′s biographer Ibn Hisham):

“When the Prophet passed by, from what I have heard, he would say to them: be patient, family of Yasir, heaven is your promised land.”

The consideration that should be uppermost in the believer’s mind is what served the interests of the Almighty Allah and Islam, not his own personal interests and settling one′s accounts by force. The preoccupation must be with the preaching of the message of Islam: If there is a clash between personal interests and the long range interests of preaching Islam, then preaching of the faith must come first.

The Prophet, who endured all kinds of personal losses in his life, knew that to insure the continuation of efforts to spread the faith and of serving Allah, knew that the Muslim’s success in this life and the next lay in their pressing on with the missionary work.

It is important to know that when one has a purpose in life, that purpose assumes overriding importance. With the absence of such purpose, one becomes pre-occupied with every trivial matter. On the other hand those, whose purpose is to propagate the faith, avoid clashing with others on any issue, for this would be detrimental to the ultimate purpose of our ultimate mission.

(7) – SEEK PEACE: The Power of Peace is By Far Stronger and Effective than the Turbulence of Violence

One of the most important lessons one can derive from the Prophet’s character is that he always wanted a peaceful environment because he believed that the power of peace enhances efforts to bring Allah in people’s lives and is stronger and more lasting than the havoc and turbulence of violence. When he signed the treaty of Hudaibiyah, he effectively started a new era of peace for the Muslims. The treaty allowed the Muslims to intermingle with the rest of the pagan idolaters of Makkans in peace instead of being looked upon by the Makkan idolaters as a threat. It is reported that the number of those who accepted Islam was ten times the number of the Muslims that came to fold in over nineteen years. After conquering Makkah he and the Muslims became the leaders of many of the same people who tortured them, killed their family members and Companions and confiscated their properties. These people were undeniably war criminals who expected to be put to death immediately. Yet the Prophet did not utter one word of blame. He said: “Go you are all set free.”

This superior civilized gesture demonstrated the superiority of peace over violence and the forgiving nature of those who love and serve Allah. The result was the immediate acceptance of Islam by those very people who attacked its followers. In the long-tern Islam captured the imagination of the world.

(8) – CAPITALISE ON THE POSITIVE: Turn Liabilities into Asset, See Advantage in Disadvantage, Making the Best out of One’s Enemy

After the battle of Badr, about seventy of the enemy were taken prisoners. All of them were highly educated Makkans. They represented a tremendous liability to the Muslims because of their lifestyle and the resources necessary to keep them. In an effort to turn this liability into great assets, the Prophet (Peace be upon him) announced that any of these war criminals who were willing to teach ten children of Madinah how to read and write would be freed. These services were taken instead of collecting ransom money. This was the first school in history of Islam in which all of the students were Muslims, and all of the teachers were from the ranks of the enemy.

(9) – BE REALISTIC: Pragmatism Instead of Idealism Leads to Success Slow Change, First Hajj after Conquering Makkah

In the time of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), Hajj (Pilgrimage) – was performed in the lunar month of Zul-Hijjah. Since the lunar year is eleven days shorter than a solar year, its months do not revolve with the seasons. This went against the commercial interests of Quraysh. They wanted hajj to fall in the summer each year, and for this purpose they adopted a method called Nasi’ah. This consisted of adding eleven days on to the lunar calendar every year. They kept the names of the lunar months but in fact they followed a solar calendar. That meant that Hajj would fall in the proper date once every thirty three years. In order to reset the Abrahamic traditions, the Prophet had to end this tradition. He could have issued a decree to change all that in the month of Ramadan, 8 AH when Makkah was opened up.

Instead, he bided his time. There were just two years left until the completion of the full thirty-three-year course of Nasi’ah. He waited for those two years. Although he was the leader who prevailed over the pagans, he did not perform Hajj in these two years. Only in the 3rd year (10 AH) did he participate in the pilgrimage. This was the farewell pilgrimage and the year the record was set straight as put by Abraham as he announced: – time has run its full course. – The Prophet entire policy was molded by the wisdom gifted to him by Allah. His every move was designed to be in accordance with the pattern set by Allah. IT WAS FOR THIS REASON THAT ALL HIS EFFORTS AND POLICIES PRODUCED HIGHLY FRUITFUL RESULTS.


The Prophet was attacked by Makkans after migrating to Madinah. He proceeded to prepare to establish defense forces but he did not focus only on the field of military action. His strategy called for:

i. Establishing the Muslim community as the standard of excellence in dealing, in societal relations, in justice and in finance to the extent that Muslims became – in a very short period of time – the most trusted merchants who ran free markets for the first time in Madinah.

ii. Becoming the trusted arbiters and peace makers amongst warring tribes.

iii. Becoming the trusted financiers and money managers of Madinah.

iv. Striving for a peace treaty with the Makkans in order to change the subject or the field of action.

Until the peace treaty of Hudaibiyah was signed, the only meeting ground between the Muslims and non-Muslims had been on the battlefield. Now, with the peace treaty, the area of conflict became that of ideological debate and behavioural contrast. Then, the one- time enemies began interacting with each other on a large scale. During this period of interaction, the ideological maturity and excellence of Islam and the Muslims asserted itself. As a result, large numbers of the former enemies of Islam became Muslims. In this way, the number of Muslims increased. Ultimately the Muslims started occupying high level positions of influence – solely on the strength of their education, character, respect in the community, sincerity in serving all and their large numbers.

In a very short period of time, Madinah became a producer of food and crops and the preferred stopping stations of the trading caravans. It simply became the model of the First Ummah in the history of mankind. That is why its name was changed from Yathrib to Madinah or the Civilised City.

The believers are repeatedly motivated to bring their missionary struggle to fruition by redeploying their efforts and resources in other fields where positive results may be expected.

Prophet Muhammad received the mission on approx. February 12th, 610 AD. He was the last and the seal of all Prophet [Qur’an, 33: 40]. His preaching mission extended over 23 years. Prophet Muhammad was entrusted with propagating Allah’s words and message to others. It was this role that brought him on a collision course with his fellow country men and women. All forms of adversity – from the pain of hunger to the trepidation of battle – were inflicted on him. Yet through the 23 years of his mission, he always remained just and circumspect in his actions. His conduct was governed by his fear of displeasing Allah. During this mission he changed the history of Arabia and laid the foundation for a permanent change in world history.

Within 100 years this revolution has caused the decline and then the vanquishing of the Persian Sassanian and the Byzantine Empires. Islam swept through From Iran and Iraq to Bukhara, Uzbekistan in the east, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and then North Africa to the West.

Respected Brothers and Sisters! We need to listen, read, study, reflect, apply and emulate these Ten Golden Character traits of our beloved Prophet Muhammad in order to start our journey – Yes, Long Journey – towards capturing the imagination of our children, our families, our communities, our nation and the world exactly as he Prophet (Peace be upon him) did.

Respected Brothers and Sisters! I ask Allah to assist us in living by the Quran and Sunnah. I pray He lets us recognise the truth for what it is and helps us to follow it, and that He lets us see falsehood for what it is and helps us to avoid it.

Oh Allah! Al-Aleem, the One Who knows what has been and what will be; Who ever has known, and ever will know, what has been and what will be; His knowledge comprehends all things, the covert and the overt, the small thereof and the great, the possible and the impossible, the lofty and lower spheres, etc. in the most complete manner. Nothing is concealed from Him in the earth or in the heavens.

O Allah! Guide us and protect us from the causes of ignorance and destruction! Save us from the defects of ourselves! Cause the last of our deeds to be the best and most righteous! And forgive all of us.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! Anything good I have said in my today’s Khutbah (Sermon) is from Allah the Almighty, and any mistakes are my own and we seek refuge in Allah from giving wrong advice and from all forms of calamities and fitnah. And I ask Allah’s forgiveness if I stepped beyond bounds in anything I said or I do.

May Allah be praised; and may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger Muhammad and upon his family and Companions.

With this I conclude my Khutbah (Sermon) and ask Allah, the Almighty and the Sublime, to forgive all of our sins. So seek his forgiveness, He is all forgiving and Most Merciful.

This Jumu’ah Khutbah (Friday Sermon) was prepared for delivery today, Friday, Jumadal-Ula 15th, 1439 AH (February 2nd, 2018), by Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, the Chief Imam of Nagazi-Uvete Jumu’ah and late Alhaji Abdurrahman Okene’s Mosques, Okene Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: [email protected] or +2348038289761.

Load more