Islam and World Humanitarian Day: Prophet Muhammad As Role Model, By Murtadha Gusau

It is important for us Muslims and non-Muslims to remember this humanitarian spirit of Islam. We should be kind and generous towards all people. Because of the lack of understanding of the humanitarian nature of Islamic teachings and humanitarian example of Prophet Muhammad – (Peace be upon him) – many Muslims today think that our social work, relief work and humanitarian efforts should be only directed towards Muslims.

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.

The United Nation’s (UN) World Humanitarian Day is held on August 19 each year. The day honours all humanitarians who have worked in the promotion of the humanitarian cause, and those who have lost their lives in the cause of duty. It aims to increase public awareness about humanitarian assistance activities worldwide and the importance of international cooperation.

World Humanitarian Day is dedicated to humanitarians worldwide, as well as to increase public understanding of humanitarian assistance activities. The day aims to honour humanitarian workers who have lost their lives or injured themselves in the course of their work, and to acknowledge the ongoing work of humanitarian staff around the world. Many communities and organisations try to increase the importance of humanitarians by distributing publicity and information materials. Additionally, some try to speak to the press to help spread the key messages of World Humanitarian Day, while other groups organise public events worldwide that feature humanitarian work. From the year 2010, it has been anticipated that World Humanitarian Day will focus on particular humanitarian themes to help increase public awareness.




World Humanitarian Day is a global observance and not a public holiday.

Humanitarians provide life-saving assistance to millions of people worldwide. They place their own lives at risk to help others in conflict zones and areas of natural hazards. More than 700 humanitarian workers have died or experienced the most dangerous situations, while trying to help those in need. Humanitarians provide support for different world challenges such as hunger, gender-based violence, refugees and displaced people, help for children, as well as clean water and access to sanitation. World Humanitarian Day was established by the General Assembly of the UN in December 2008 and was first observed in August 2009. The date of August 19 is the anniversary date of the 2003 Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad where twenty-two people lost their lives, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello. The total number of people affected by natural disasters has risen over the past decade, and about 211 million people are directly affected each year. Women and children are especially affected because of their ongoing struggles with poverty, insecurity, hunger, poor health and environmental decline. There are new and difficult challenges that arise each year that will require more flexible funding and adaptable humanitarian work. The increasing economic crisis and global challenges such as poverty, global health problems, mounting prices and the rising number of people on the move, increases the need for humanitarians each year.

World Humanitarian Day does not have a logo because the day does not “belong” to the UN or any other agency or organisation. The media documents support the day by capturing images that show people helping others that are in need of assistance.

The 2018 World Humanitarian Day’s theme is “Not a target: Protection of Civilian.”

This year’s celebration marks the 15th anniversary of this day since 2003.


Concerning our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), Allah the Almighty said in the Noble Qur’an:

“We sent you not except as a mercy for the worlds.” [Surah Al-Anbiya, 21:107]

And He the Most High said:

“Have you seen someone who rejects religion? That is the person who pushes the orphan aside and does not promote feeding the needy. Woe to those who pray but who are unmindful of their prayer, whose aim is to be noticed, while they hold back the common courtesies.” [Surah Al-Ma’un, 107:1-7]

The word “humanitarian” is defined in Webster’s Dictionary as “a person devoted to promoting the welfare of humanity, especially through the elimination of pain and suffering.”

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the best example and the greatest leader who came to promote human welfare. Allah sent him as a “mercy to the worlds.” As a Prophet and Messenger of Allah, his mission was to guide human beings to the path of truth and salvation. He, however, did not limit his work to preaching faith and prayers alone; he also emphasised helping all human beings, regardless of their races, colours, tribes, regions or religions. He was good to all human beings.

The purpose of this article is to emphasise the humanitarian aspects of the Sirah (biography) of the Prophet – (Peace be upon him). I shall look at both the humanitarian teachings of the Prophet and his humanitarian example.

– Humanitarian Teachings Of the Prophet – (Peace Be Upon Him)


From the beginning of his mission until he left this world, Prophet Muhammad emphasised that all human beings are one family, descending from the one and same father and mother, Adam and Hauwa (Eve). He spoke against racial or colour discrimination. He spoke against tribalism and against all kinds of prejudices. There is not a single incident or a single statement in which he showed directly or indirectly any prejudice against any person of any race, colour or tribe. In the society in which he was born such discriminations were common; but he always spoke against them and reminded his followers to treat all people with respect.

He emphasised justice towards all people. He was just not only to Muslims, but also to non-Muslims. He was just not only to his friends but also to his enemies. Allah gave him the message of universal justice. Allah the Almighty said:

“O you who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to Piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that you do.” [Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:8]

Prophet Muhammad – (Peace be upon him) – preached this message and practiced it in the best way. Neither in the time of peace nor in the time of war he did injustice to his enemies. Actually, in many instances when he defeated his enemies in battles, he forgave them and let them go free.

He emphasised the human rights of all people. Before Prophet Muhammad there was no concept of universal human rights; it was he who gave the world this idea that all human beings have some Allah-given and inalienable rights. He spoke about the rights of life, right of basic necessities of life, right of property, protection of honour, personal freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and conviction, equality before law, the right of consultation. It was he who taught that women must be treated with respect and honour. It was he who taught the dignity of workers and said that workers should be given fair wages and paid promptly. It was Prophet Muhammad – (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) – who taught the first time in history that leaders are responsible before their people and they can be removed by the people.

Prophet Muhammad – (Peace be upon him) taught kindness to family, love of children, respect of parents and elders and kindness to neighbours. He told us that even if our parents or other relatives reject Allah’s message and continue in their unbelief or idol worship, we should not mistreat them. We should not follow their wrong ways, but in worldly matters we should be good to them. He told us that we should treat all our neighbours with care and kindness. He told us that:

“He/she is not a believer who eats while his neighbour is hungry.”

He did not distinguish between a Muslim and non-Muslim in this humanitarian treatment of relatives and neighbours.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was not only kind to Muslims; he was also kind and respectful to non-Muslims. He listened to their arguments and answered them in the nicest manner. He criticised their misconceptions and gave them the message of Islam, but never forced them to accept Islam. Some of his own relatives did not accept Islam but the Prophet did not mistreat them, even when he had full powers to do that. He rather helped them whenever they were in need. He taught kindness to neighbours and to all relatives, whether Muslim or non-Muslim. Prophet Muhammad never allowed fighting any person or group unless they attacked first. He urged peaceful relations, agreement and treaties and he reminded his followers to observe all treaties and covenants as long as the enemies observe them.

– Humanitarian Example Of The Prophet – (Peace Be Upon Him)

Prophet Muhammad – (Peace be upon him) – also gave us a perfect example of a humanitarian leader.

In his early age, before Allah appointed him as His Prophet and Messenger, Prophet Muhammad was known as an honest, trustworthy and truthful person. He was called al-Sadiq and al-Amin. It was due to his loving and peaceful character that Quraish asked him to arbitrate in their dispute on who should place the Black Stone in the wall of the Ka’abah when they were repairing its building. It was due to his humanitarian spirit that he joined a group of noble people in Makkah who wanted to protect widows, orphans, the poor or strangers in the city. He joined the Hilf al-Fudul and even after he became the Prophet of Allah, he continued speaking highly of this group, its humanitarian efforts and indicated his willingness to respond to them whenever they would call.

When the leaders of various tribes in Makkah made life difficult for Prophet Muhammad; when they surrounded his house and came to kill him; the Prophet did not leave his home without making sure that anything that he had borrowed or kept as a trust with him must be returned to its rightful owners, although some of them turned against him and became his enemies because of his message of Islam. This is a most unique example of sincerity and honesty as well as of humanitarian spirit.

It is reported that after the Hijrah (migration), while the people of Makkah were still his enemies, it came to the attention of the Prophet that they were going through shortage of food due to some famine; the Prophet immediately sent some food for them from Madinah. This is another unique example of humanitarian spirit towards the enemies, even when they are at war. Prophet Muhammad never allowed the starvation of any person, even animals. He warned about Allah’s punishment of hellfire for a woman who kept a cat in some place, did not allow the cat to go out nor gave her food or water. The poor cat died of starvation. On the other hand, the Prophet praised a person who gave water to a very thirsty dog and thus received special blessings of Allah. There are many examples of his compassion and kindness towards the animals.

As the leader of the community, in Madinah, the Prophet used to receive charity (Sadaqah and Zakah), but he never used it on himself or his family. He was, however, very generous in helping the poor people. He used to give with such a generosity that people used to say that he gives like a person who does not fear poverty. Beside teaching and preaching the message of Allah, it was his mission to remove the suffering of all people.

It is important for us Muslims and non-Muslims to remember this humanitarian spirit of Islam. We should be kind and generous towards all people. Because of the lack of understanding of the humanitarian nature of Islamic teachings and humanitarian example of Prophet Muhammad – (Peace be upon him) – many Muslims today think that our social work, relief work and humanitarian efforts should be only directed towards Muslims.

We lag behind in supporting the humanitarian causes here in Nigeria and around the world. This is against the clear teachings and spirit of Islam. We should emphasise more and more humanitarian works. We should establish institutions for the assistance of all poor people and orphans, regardless of their religions. We should feed the hungry, provide clean water and clothes to those who are in need. We should establish medical clinics for free treatment of all those who are sick and need our help and assistance. We should take care of the citizens, orphans and widows to the best of our capacities. We should organise systematic relief programmes for those who are victims of natural or man-made disasters everywhere in the world. We should establish educational institutions not only for Muslims but also for others. Just as Da’awah is important; humanitarian work is also very important. Actually no successful Da’awah work can be done without sincere humanitarian work.

May the blessings and peace of Allah be upon Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and all his family and Companions.


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