What made the Islamic Ummah so great throughout history was the example set by its leaders. We can look at the beautiful simplistic structure that Allah laid down for us, complete in form and flow, and see how he who exhibited the best qualities of mankind became the example and measure of what the Muslim leaders should aspire to be.
Knowing what the Muslims believe of Muhammad I think it is important for the Muslim Ummah to recognize that his character was flawless, and his greatness universal. He is not only an example for us but an example for all mankind. I have selected several examples of what non- Muslims have said of the Prophet Muhammad to help us understand his true greatness of person and example.
"...a mass of detail in the early sources shows that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were likewise honest and upright men." Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 12
"He must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness." The Genuine Islam, George Bernard Shaw Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936
"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls... his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two-fold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater then he?” Alphonse de Lamartine, Historire de la Turquie, Paris, 1854, Vol. II pp. 276-277
“I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind.... I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet's biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.” Mahatma Gandhi, 'Young India,' 1924
"one man single handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades." Thomas Calyle, 'Heroes and Heroworship'
"Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him" Diwan Chand Sharma, The Prophets of the East, Calcutta, 1935, pp. 12
"The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honor of the Prophet has never transgressed the measure of human virtues; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion." Edward Gibbon and Simon Ockley, History of the Saracen Empires, London, 1870, p. 54
"It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: 'God Alone is Great'... I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother." Sarojini Naidu, Ideals of Islam, vide Speeches & Writings, Madras, 1918, p. 169
"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels." Michael H. Hart, "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History", New York, 1978, p. 33
"The personality of Muhammad, it is most difficult to get into the whole truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dramatic succession of picturesque scenes. There is Muhammad the Prophet. There is Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Businessman; Muhammad the Statesman; Muhammad the Orator; Muhammad the Reformer; Muhammad the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad the Protector of Slaves; Muhammad the Emancipator of Women; Muhammad the Judge; Muhammad the Saint. All in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is alike a hero." K.S. Ramakrishna Rao, "Muhammad the Prophet of Islam"
If the rest of the world can see what a perfect example our beloved Prophet was is it not time for us, his Ummah to recognize and follow his example?
Muhammad was the best of all men, the most complete example of what mankind could be, spiritual and moral guide, social and political reformer, faithful friend and companion, devoted husband and loving father. All of his striving was for the sole purpose of uniting mankind for the worship of one God on the basis of moral excellence. Muhammad or his followers never at any time claimed that he was a son of God or the God-incarnate instead maintaining that he always was and is a Messenger chosen by God.
Fourteen centuries have past and his standards of excellence still stand as an example to all mankind. A guiding light, his message from Allah is preserved in Al-Quran, his traditions and saying preserved in his sunnah. Let us unite together, putting aside as he did, race and nationality, social or economic status, and become once again the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad following the way Allah has set before us.