The lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was remarkably simple and unpretentious. He did not possess any luxuries, and the gifts he used to receive were often distributed among others or given away in charity. Most Muslims in Madinah at the time were not wealthy; however, the Prophet ﷺ lived very humbly even by their standards. It is important to remember that Islam does not prohibit a person from possessing luxuries and the finery of this world, provided that one remains grateful to Allah, and helps the poor financially with one’s resources. However, it is desirable to adopt a modest lifestyle, and hope for Allah’s greater blessings in the hereafter, as was exemplified by the Prophet ﷺ.
Once, Ibn Masud saw the Prophet ﷺ sleeping on a straw mat which left marks on his body. Ibn Masud expressed his desire to spread soft bedding for the Prophet ﷺ, at which he replied, “What have I to do with the world? I am like a rider who had sat under a tree for its shade, then went away and left it.” (Tirmidhi) The Prophet ﷺ advised Abdullah bin Umar as follows, “Be in the world like a stranger or a wayfarer.” (Bukhari) Sahl bin Saad As-Saidi asked the Prophet ﷺ to inform him about an action which would make Allah, as well as the people, love him. The Prophet ﷺ replied, “Have no desire for this world, Allah will love you. And have no desire for what the people possess, and people will love you.” (Ibn Majah)
The eating habits of the Prophet ﷺ were exceedingly simple. Anas relates, “The Prophet ﷺ neither ate on a dining cloth, nor ate soft bread throughout his life.” (Bukhari) An-Nouman bin Bashir says, “I have seen your Prophet ﷺ when he did not find enough of even the inferior quality of dates to eat and fill his belly.” (Muslim) Once, Abu Hurayrah passed by some people eating a roast lamb. They invited him to join them, but he declined, saying, “The Messenger of Allah ﷺ left the world without having eaten his fill with barley bread.” (Bukhari) There is obviously nothing wrong with eating a roast lamb, but Abu Hurayrah personally preferred to imitate the simple lifestyle of the Prophet ﷺ.
The house of the Prophet ﷺ was comprised of only a few rooms joined to the mosque. There was hardly any furniture in his room. His mattress has been described by his companions as “a piece of tanned skin stuffed with palm fibres”. He sometimes wore unstitched clothes, and used to repair his clothes himself. Asma bint Yazid reports, “The sleeves of the shirt of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ reached his wrists.” (Tirmidhi) This, again, portrays his humility, as excessive clothing used to be considered a sign of pride. He would say to his companions, “Simplicity is a part of faith. Simplicity is a part of faith.” (Abu Dawud)
At the time of his demise, the Prophet ﷺ wore “a sheet and a thick lower garment.” Amr bin Al-Harith narrates, “[When he died] the Messenger of Allah ﷺ left neither a dinar nor a dirham, nor a male slave nor a female slave, nor anything else except his white riding mule, his weapons, and his land which he had given in charity to wayfarers.” (Bukhari) The Prophet ﷺ would borrow money to fulfil his needs and that of his family even towards the end of his life. Ayesha reports, “When the Messenger of Allah ﷺ died, his armour was mortgaged with a Jew for thirty Sa [measures] of barley.” (Bukhari)
The Prophet ﷺ strove for the welfare of others, especially the less fortunate. He would never turn away a beggar, nor refuse a gift to someone. He informed Abu Dharr, “If I had as much gold as the weight of [Mount] Uhad, it would not please me to have a single dinar out of it with me after the passage of three days, but I would hold back something for the repayment of a debt. I would distribute it among the slaves of Allah like this and like this and like this.” And he pointed in front of him, on his right side and on his left side. (Bukhari)
After the demise of the Prophet ﷺ – when Islam spread to distant lands and the Muslims became more advanced both technologically and militarily – wealth flowed into Madinah and other parts of the Muslim world. The Companions would then nostalgically remember the simple life led by the Prophet ﷺ. Some of them, such as Abu Saeed Al-Khudri, would weep at the affluence of the Muslims, fearing that Allah had given them all their reward in this life and left nothing for the hereafter. Umar and other companions who became caliphs or governors frequently reminded their people of the simple ways of the Prophet ﷺ, and the desirability of living humbly and without extravagance.
There is, hence, a great lesson of humility and gratitude in the lifestyle of the Prophet ﷺ. He accomplished his noble mission with a minimum of worldly possessions, indicating the insignificance of worldly riches. Besides, contentment of heart does not come from possessing more, but from being satisfied with what one possesses. We must, therefore, seek to make our lives simpler, and value all that we have, as the Prophet ﷺ said, “Whosoever begins the day feeling family security and good health, and possessing provision for his day, is as though he possessed the whole world.” (Tirmidhi)