Our sayyida Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), when asked about the character of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), described it as being that of the Qur’an.
There are many dimensions to understanding this statement.
For example, when we think of that hadith we might think of how the life of the Messenger of Allah (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) is a representation of how to live according to the Qur’an, and that it teaches us the spirit of the Message.
But here is another aspect: the proportion and arrangement of themes. For example, out of more than 6,000 verses, there are only 80 purely legal injunctions. The vast majority, on the other hand, are matters relating to the Afterlife, God’s Unity, sincerity, and how to be good in society, etc. This tells us that focusing on these matters is most important, and these are the things we need to be oriented towards the most.
There is also a very large portion dedicated to the stories of God’s messengers and prophets. This is also something that has a (potentially) very large effect on our personality and manners, and on shaping our ethos. As Shams Tabrizi explains,
“Without doubt, whenever you sit with someone and are with him, you will take on his disposition. On whom have you been gazing that tightness should have come into you? If you look at green herbs and flowers, freshness will come. The sitting companion pulls you into his own world. That is why reciting the Koran purifies the heart, for you remember the prophets and their states. The form of the prophets comes together in your spirit and becomes its sitting companion.”
Here is yet another way to understand the hadith: Think about the arrangement of the verses. Muslims have always realized the importance in the Qur’an of the placement of words within a verse. Thus when things are mentioned together, the arrangement usually has a significance and the things that come first are more important. Well here is something else that is important: the arrangement of the verses and their themes.
Let us look for example at Sura al-Baqarah. The verses from 220 to 237 are about marriage and divorce and related matters. But before concluding this lengthy treatment of this subject, the Qur’an suddenly jumps to speaking about Prayer and the remembrance of Allah at all times, even in times of fear and danger. Then, after that, it goes back to concluding the matters at hand relating to marriage, divorce and widows. For most people, this is a very odd placement of verses: There is a verse about prayer in the middle of a section about women and marriage. What is it doing there? Is it out of place?
Shaykh Ahmad ibn Idris explains,
The intervening sentence among these verses, and it is His saying (most high): “Guard strictly (the observance of) your prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before Allah in a devout (frame of mind)” approaching God (most high) with your entire being and with your hearts, not standing as specters while your hearts are occupied with other than Him, “But if you go in fear (of danger), then (say your prayers) on foot or on horseback”, meaning do not be unmindful of Allah (most high) and do not occupy yourselves with other than Him even when you are in a state of fear: “and when you are secure again, then remember Allah, as He has taught you what you did not know” and it is what He taught you with His Book and the Sunna of His Messenger, naught else. Then He went back to the ruling on the wives that will become widows in His saying: “In the case of those of you who are about to die and leave behind them wives,…” This was done for the sake of the wisdom in placing the sentence of prayer in the middle: meaning, do not be occupied with that which is other than Us and do not spend all your time on the injunctions relating to worldly affairs, but give them their necessary due then come back to Us, so that your character (sifa) will be like the character of the Qur’an’s arrangement, for We did not finish the injunction regarding the widow until We first called you unto Us, and then went back to finish it. So look at the wisdom in the arrangement. There is no god but Allah! How eloquent is His speech, and how Wise is He, most high and sublime!
Be like the Qur’an, and return to the remembrance of Allah at all times.