The Prophet Muhammad

“Tafsir Surat al-Qalam Verse 4: The Prophets Character…not Just Morals”

“The Prophet’s Grand Level of Character:

Making Connections from surat al-Qalam Verse 4”


  • Allah (swt) vindicates and clearly states regarding the status and veracity of His beloved in surat al-Qalam: {and you [o Prophet] are on a khuluqin `azim}.
  • This verse in summarised meaning is given by Imam al-Tabari (d. 310/923) as follows:

يقول تعالى ذكره لنبيه محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم: وإنك يا محمد لعلى أدب عظيم، وذلك أدب القرن الذي أدّبه الله به، وهو الإسلام وشرائعه.

“And He Most High says to His Prophet (saw): ‘You are o Muhammad indeed on a great level of character (adab) and that is the character of the Qur’an with which you were taught by Allah’, i.e. Islam and its Laws’…”1

  • The term khuluq `azim that the Prophet is characterised with has different meanings such as:

(1)   A great religion like Islam (din al-Islam/din `azim).2

(2)   A generous nature (tab` karim).3

(3)   The character and etiquette of the Qur’an (adab al-qur’an).4

  • What exalted the Prophet’s status and rank is his khuluq which internalised, externalised and fully embodied the Qur’anic character paradigm as mentioned by Umm al-Mu’minin `A’ishah (ra): “[…] Sa`id ibn Hisham said: I went to `A’ishah – mother of the believers – (ra) and I asked her: tell me about the Messenger of Allah’s character. She replied: His character was the Qur’an. Have you not read {you are on a khuluq `azim}?”5

حدثنا عبيد بن آدم بن أبي إياس، قال : ثني أبي، قال : ثنا المبارك بن فضالة، عن الحسن، عن سعيد بن هشام، قالأتيت عائشة أم المؤمنين رضي الله عنها، فقلت : أخبريني عن خلق رسول الله، فقالت : كان خلقه القرآن، أما تقرأوإنك لعلى خلق عظيم 

  • al-Dahhak explains this verse in these terms: “…”6

حدثت عن الحسين، قال : سمعت أبا معاذ يقول: ثنا عبيد، قالسمعت الضحاك يقول، في قولهلعلى خلق عظيم يعني دينه، وأمره الذي كان عليه، مما أمره الله به، ووكله إليه .

“[…] and `Ubayd said I heard al-Dahhak say: ‘and regarding {you are on a khuluq `azim} meaning its religion as well as the commands he was issued with by Allah and was entrusted with carrying out’…”

  • The verse is in context of the Prophet’s da`wah (‘mission’) to his people who began now to directly ridicule and personally attack the Prophet which made Allah respond immediately. Thus Allah is making a divine declaration of his beloved’s commitment, accomplishment, veracity, truth and integrity. The Prophet is the temporal standard of all character because Allah made him so and none but His Lord knows his true reality (saw).
  • The Prophet upheld all commands and prohibitions issued by Allah whether it included conveying the message to the seniors of the Quraysh, rejecting any compromise with the them; disassociating from the disbelieving enemy tribal leaders, feeding the poor, honouring all agreements, being gentle and kind in character, being merciful, creating brotherhood, having patience and forbearance, etc. – all commands and laws of the religion.7 He thus exemplified the entire Qur’anic requirement of conduct, comportment, demeanor, character and morals; not one to the exclusion of another. Thus, this verse actually negates the idea that the Prophet was only a great moral figure or that Allah only attested to his great embodiment of personal virtuous conduct. In fact, Allah exalts the mention of His Prophet because he faithfully and unswervingly delivered the Message with utter devotion and he implemented all laws, rules and commands he was entrusted with implementing and because he internalised it completely himself.
  • The believer thus learns that this magnificent khuluq of the Prophet – the reality of which is only truly known by Allah – was given declaration by Allah for at least the following ways:

[1] His implementation of everything Allah commanded him, i.e. the laws of Islam;

[2] His fulfilment of all tasks Allah entrusted to him to carry out, e.g. conveying the message of Islam and

[3] His complete embodiment of the rules, codes and principles of the Qur’an, i.e. the perfect internalisation of and external practical manifestation of the Qur’anic principles of personal character attributes.

Peace and blessings be upon our beloved,

The Messenger of Allah,

Upon his companions, his family and all who follow him.




[1] See Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, al-Jami` al-Bayan, 23:529.

[2] Ibid., 23:529.

[3] Ibid., 23:529.

[4] Ibid., 23:529.

[5] Ibid., 23:530.

[6] Ibid., 23:530.

[7] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Karim, 8:186.

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