Love for the Prophet
Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
LOVE FOR THE PROPHET IS
A CONDITION OF FAITH
Love for the Prophet
Muhammad is a measure of one's iman (faith and inner
conviction) and our iman is completed and perfected only when
our love for the Prophet exceeds our love for everything else in
this world, including our own lives. The Holy Qur`an says:
"The Prophet is
preferable for the believers even to their own selves..." (33:6)
This is a
definitional sentence which tells us what it takes to be a believer:
preferring the Prophet even to one's own life. In confirmation of
this the Prophet is reported in Hadith to have said:
"None of you becomes
a believer until I am dearer to him than his children, his parents
and all mankind." (as reported by Bukhari and Muslim) Some versions
add: "his life, his wealth and his family".
The best of
believers, the suhaba (companions of the Prophet), did show
such love for the Prophet, especially the noblest of them. Hadhrat
Ali, speaking on behalf of all the community of suhaba in
Medina, is reported to have said:
"The Holy Prophet is
dearer to us than our wealth, our children, our fathers, our
forefathers, our mothers and cool water at the time of severe
established principle in Islam that our iman is as good as
our love for the Prophet is fairly and accurately expressed by an
Urdu poet when he says:
"Without love for
the Prophet it is difficult to find God;
He who is not of
the Prophet's cannot be of God.
Without love for
Muhammad faith cannot be complete;
To be a Muslim it
is not enough to believe in God.
charity, fasting and hajj are fine;
But despite these I
cannot be among the faithful.
Unless I am ready
to be sacrificed for the honour of Muhammad;
God is witness - my
faith cannot attain perfection."
Love of the Prophet
breathes life into our practice of religion. Without it our religion
reduces to an empty adherence to a set of dead rules and rituals.
("Soul of iman,
essence of the Qur`an and life of religion - all these are love of
Muhammad, the Mercy to All Creation.")
THE MEANING OF THIS LOVE
FOR THE PROPHET
At one level it seems
clear why the faithful should love the Prophet: he is their teacher,
guide and leader and it is impossible for him to teach, guide and
lead them if they don't love him. But there is a deeper meaning in
the principle that love for the Prophet is essential for iman.
Love of the Prophet
is love of all the beauty and nobility of character, truthfulness,
justness, humility and inner strength of which man is capable and
which the Prophet as al-insan al-kamil (the Perfect
man) possessed in the utmost degree. Love for the Prophet means to
acknowledge, cherish and glorify all the potential of goodness and
greatness that God has created within Man.
It also means love of
humanity, not just in regard to its potential for perfection but
also despite its general inability to realize that potential and
despite all kind of imperfections and weaknesses from which it
suffers. For the Prophet is not only the Perfect Man but also the
Representative Man who on the day of judgment will represent mankind
and plead on their behalf for their imperfections and weaknesses
before the throne of God.
Thus love of the
Prophet, on the one hand puts us on the road to perfection by making
us cherish it dearly and on the other hand it helps us accept our
imperfect humanity and in this way to live in peace with ourselves
as repentant servants of God hopeful of His mercy. This is why love
for the Prophet is a condition of iman, for what is iman
if it is not to acknowledge and repent for one's imperfections and
weaknesses and to cherish and strive for - even as an unachievable
ideal - the perfection of which man is potentially capable?
There are two closely
interconnected sides of iman. One is divine and consists of
recognizing God and being at peace with Him. The other is
recognizing one's own self and being at peace with oneself. The two
sides are like two sides of a coin, none of which can exist without
the other. This is shown by numerous verses in the Qur`an and
ahadith of the Prophet. For example, the Prophet is reported to have
said that he who recognized his own self recognized his Lord.
Approaching the same principle from the other direction, the Qur`an
"that those who
forget God are made to forget their own selves" (59:19).
The word Islam means
being at peace with God and this is linked in the Qur`an with being
a self at peace with itself.
The love of the
Prophet represents the human side of faith. as man the Prophet
represents a believers own true self. His love for the Prophet means
that he has recognized his own true self and is at peace with
himself which in turn means that he has recognized his Lord and made
peace with Him by surrendering to Him.
THE PROPHET ALSO LOVED
If the faithful love
the prophet, they are not the first to do so. The Prophet loved the
faithful first. The Qur`an testifies to this when it says:
"(The Prophet) is
greatly grieved at your loss and extremely anxious for your
good. For the believers he is full of kindness and rahmah
(mercy, love)." (9:128)
The Prophet's love
was not limited just to the believers. In a way he loved all of
God's creation. God says in the Qur`an:
"We have not sent
you (O Prophet) but as rahmah to all the worlds." (21:107)
It is true that the
Prophet had to battle those who were bent on doing zulm
(injustice) on their own selves and to remind them of the bitter
reality of hell. But this too was out of rahmah (mercy and
love), not out of enmity or hate. It is always an easy thing to do
to leave alone those of one's fellow human beings who choose the
path that leads to their destruction. In contrast, it takes a
tremendous amount of love and courage to try to help them, which is
exactly what the Prophet tried to do, successfully as it turned out
towards the end of his life. That the Prophet was motivated by
rahmah even for his opponents is shown by the ease with which he
forgave them all at the time of Makkan conquest.
HOW THE PROPHET
SUFFERED FOR MANKIND
Among the indications
of the Prophet's love for mankind is the untold sufferings he
endured at the hands of his opponents whom he forgave with such ease
after his victory.
When the Holy Prophet
started his work almost all the people of his city opposed him even
though they had known him for all of his life as a man of
exceptional integrity and intelligence. They at first subjected him
to verbal attacks, jeers and insults. But later they started to
combine verbal attacks with physical aggression. They would lay
thorns in his way and throw garbage and dust on him. On one occasion
he returned with dust still on his head. One of his daughters rose,
with tears in her eyes, to wipe it off. The Prophet was more hurt to
see tears in his daughter's eyes than the treatment he himself
received from his fellow citizens. He comforted her, saying: "My
daughter, weep not, for verily the Lord will be your father's
Once the city
populace tried to inflict a different type on injury on the Prophet.
When one day he went out for an errand, not one of the people in the
streets looked at him or spoke to him or jeered or insulted him.
This, their silent way of saying to the Prophet, "You are not one of
us because you speak against our traditional ways" hurt the Prophet
more than the jeers and insults he was used to hearing before.
When the Prophet felt
that he was not getting anywhere with the Makkans, he started to
turn more and more to outsiders who came to Makkah for pilgrimage.
But his efforts among the pilgrims were frustrated by men like Abu
Lahab who would follow the Prophet and cry aloud: "Believe him not,
he is a lying renegade". One day this especially grieved the
Prophet. But all he did was to look upward and say, "O Lord if You
will it would not be thus!".
In the year 620 C.E.,
the Prophet decided to travel outside Makkah, so that he could
preach his message without being followed by his Makkan enemies. The
city of Al-Tayf was the natural first choice. Situated about sixty
miles east of Makkah, it was the nearest city of importance.
Accompanied only by Zayd, the Prophet made a tiring journey through
barren rocky defiles. He spent ten days in Al-Tayf preaching to the
tribal chiefs as well as common people. But they all rejected him
saying they did not want to spoil relations with the Makkans for the
sake of a new religion. As the days passed, the people of Al-Tayf
became more and more hostile, until the tenth day they began to hoot
him through the streets and pelt him with stones. Even as he fled
the city, a relentless mob pursued him and did not desist until they
had chased him two or three miles across the sandy plain to the foot
of the surrounding hills. There, tired and with blood flowing from
both his legs, the Prophet took refuge in one of the orchards. Zayd
who had endeavored to shield the Prophet against the stones thrown
at him was wounded in the head.
After a couple of
years the Prophet managed to get sufficient support in one Arabian
city - Medina - and decided to move there. But his enemies in Makkah
plotted to murder him before he could emigrate to Medina, a plot
that came very close to being successful.
Even after his escape
from hostile Makkah to the relatively friendly Medina the suffering
of the Prophet continued. The Quraysh and other Arab tribes under
their influence frequently waged battles against him and his
followers. In Medina itself the Jews vexed and frustrated the
Prophet with their wily plots and at one time even tried to poison
him. The hypocrites, the secret enemies of the Prophet who pretended
to be Muslims, were also busy in intrigues and whisper campaigns
against the Prophet, a particularly nasty example of which is
provided by their accusations against the Prophet's wife Ayesha
which were as painful for the Prophet as for Ayesha herself.
Sometimes even the believers unintentionally caused pain to the
Prophet. They would, for example, sometimes impolitely walk away
from him leaving him alone standing by himself, as is witnessed by
the following verse in the Qur`an:
"When they see some
(opportunity of) trade or some amusement they rush headlong towards
it and leave you standing alone..." (62:11)
These and many other
things did the Holy Prophet suffer over a period of many years. He
did not have to. Just before he started his mission he had
everything that men generally hope for: health, a prosperous
business, a loving wife, fine children, faithful relatives and
friends as well as the trust and respect of his fellow citizens. If
he wanted he could have led as comfortable a life as any in Makkah.
But he chose the road of suffering and hardship. He did so for the
love of the very people who ignorantly persecuted him and for the
welfare of the whole of mankind.
THE MEANING OF THE
Like all aspects of
the Prophet's life, his suffering has profound lessons for us. It
teaches us that this world is a battlefield between good and evil,
truth and falsehood, justice and oppression and that although God
has willed that in the long run goodness, truth and justice will
always be victorious. He has also willed that this victory will not
be made too easy.
The suffering of the
Prophet is also a vivid reminder for us that whereas man has
tremendous potential for goodness he also has an enormous potential
for evil. The Prophet represents the ultimate in human potential for
goodness while the opposition that his work inspired in his
countrymen and which he gradually conquered by his love and wisdom
represents the ultimate in human potential for evil. But we must not
condemn those who persecuted the Prophet. For the Prophet's
suffering was caused by that potential for ignorance and obstinacy
that is found in all of us. Who knows that some of us would not have
thrown garbage on the Prophet or persecuted him in some other way if
we had been living in Makkah of his time? After all, men far greater
than us, e.g. Hadhrat 'Umar and Hadhrat Khalid bin Walid at one time
persecuted the Prophet. No, the Prophet did not suffer in order that
we may condemn anyone. He suffered so that we may have hope and
humility. He suffered so that we may find out how much potential
there is within us for goodness and how much potential there is
within us for ignorance and obstinacy - the root causes of all evil.
We need to see both potentials within us. The first one gives us
hope in our destiny and in the destiny of man generally and the
second one gives us humility. And humility and hope is what we need
in order to prosper.
Thus the Prophet's
suffering should make us think of the potential of evil that we all
have within us and make us determined to overcome that evil. The
best way to overcome evil is to love the Prophet, for the more we
love the Prophet the more we will strengthen the element of goodness
in us and the more capable we will become to overcome evil.
GLORIFYING AND BLESSING
Our love for the
Prophet can be expressed by glorifying and blessing him. A verse in
the Holy Qur`an mentions the three aspects under the single term
salat `ala an-nabi.
The Arabic phrase
salat `ala has three meanings:
1) Turning to someone
with love and affection.
2) Glorifying or
3) Blessing or
In the above verse
all three meanings can be applied so that the verse can be
translated as follows:
and His angels love, glorify and bless the Prophet. O believers!
You (too) love, glorify and bless the Prophet and salute him
with all due respect." (33:56)
How do God and His
angels love, glorify and bless the Prophet and how can we do the
The least way in
which God loves the Prophet is that He makes His beloved anyone who
follows him, as it is said in the Qur`an:
"Say (to mankind
O Muhammad), If you love God, follow me (and) God will love
God alone knows how
else he loves the Prophet.
The way God glorifies
the Prophet is that He has given him the name Ahmad or Muhammad,
which means the Glorious, the Admirable, that He has been giving it
to mankind the good news of his coming through earlier prophets
(3:81, 7:157, 61:6) and that He raises his mention among those on
earth and those in heaven, as He says: "We have raised your mention"
God blesses the
Prophet by continually raising his station. The least of God's
blessing on the Prophet is that He has made him the leader and
representative of all mankind.
Angels love the
Prophet as the completely faithful servants of a king would love
those whom the king loves. They glorify the Prophet by singing his
praises in heaven and they bless him by asking God to bless him more
The least of the ways
the believers can love the Prophet is to love him the way all people
love their leaders. The best way they can love him is by being
willing to sacrifice all that they have for his name's sake.
The way the believers
can glorify the Prophet is to praise him through poetic and prose
expressions, in writings and in speeches, on radio and on television
[and now on the Internet], in the gatherings of Muslims and in the
gatherings of non-Muslims.
The way the believers
can bless the Prophet is by reciting one of the several forms of
durud that are traditional and that pray to God to keep blessing
the Prophet more and more.
(Muslim jurists) say that the verse under consideration puts an
obligation on the Muslims which is dispensed with if one recites a
durud at least once in his lifetime. Others say that it
obliges Muslims to recite durud each time the name of
the Prophet is mentioned. But such dry legalistic interpretations do
not do justice to the spirit of the verse. If faith requires
preferring the Prophet over our own lives and loving him more than
our children, parents and all mankind, then what is the value of
uttering now and then a ritual formula as an obligation?)
The verse also tells the believer to salute the Prophet with all due
respect. We can salute the Prophet by reciting durud, since
all forms of durud contain salutations. This, however, is the
least of the ways of saluting the Prophet. The best of the ways is
to wholeheartedly accept him as our leader, teacher and guide and to
obey him in the spirit.
HOW FAR CAN WE GO IN
GLORIFYING THE PROPHET
All praises are fit
for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) if they do not raise
him beyond the level of a man and a creature of God. We can, for
example, declare him to be the greatest of all the prophets and
messengers of God and the crown of all creation. That this praise is
applicable to the Prophet is shown by the way the Holy Qur`an
presents him as a messenger and mercy of God to all mankind and for
all times to come, in contrast to other prophets and messengers
whose missions were limited to particular periods and regions. It is
also clear from the Islamic belief that the Prophet Muhammad (peace
be upon him) completed and perfected the work of earlier prophets
who brought partial revelations. Hadith also supports the position
that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the greatest of all
Prophets (and therefore the crown of all creation, since man is
God's best creation and the prophets are the best of men, so that
the best of the prophets is the best of God's creation). Thus in
almost all books of hadith we find the tradition that when during
mi'raj the Prophet was taken from the mosque in Makkah to the
mosque in Jerusalem he met all the earlier prophets and led them in
prayer as their imam. Also, in Sahih Muslim, one chapter in
entitled: "The Superiority of the Prophet over all creation" and
contains the following hadith:
Abu Hurayra reported
the Prophet as saying: "I will be the leader of all the children of
Adam on the day of judgment. My grave will be the first to open. I
will be the first to intercede and my intercession will be accepted
Some Muslims hesitate
to declare the Prophet as the greatest of all the Prophets because
the Qur`an says:
believers) make no distinction between any of His messengers."
But the Holy Qur`an
"Some of these
messengers have We favoured more than others..." (2:253)
If we do not
concentrate on the first verse in disregard of the other, then it
becomes clear that the Holy Qur`an is making a distinction between
the nature of the prophets and their stature. The first verse is
telling us that in nature there is no distinction between the
various prophets: they were all sent by the same true God, they were
all serving one and the same plan of God and they were all human
beings and part of a single brotherhood of righteous servants of
God. The second verse is telling us that in stature or rank some
prophets were superior to others.
Let the Muslims
therefore have not the slightest hesitation in declaring the Prophet
Muhammad to be the greatest of all prophets and thus the noblest of
men and the crown and pride of the whole of God's creation.
Some Muslims try to
dampen love and admiration for the Prophet in other Muslims and in
themselves on two other grounds. First, they fear that "too much"
expression of love and admiration for the Prophet can lead to his
deification and therefore to shirk. Second, they fear that
expressing love and admiration for the Prophet somehow means
ignoring his message and commandments of God.
The second fear is
without any basis. For one thing expressing love and admiration for
the Prophet is itself a commandment of God, as God says:
and bless him and salute him with all due respect."
For another, love and
admiration for the Prophet and their expression cannot by themselves
lead to disobedience. Indeed, as we have seen earlier, they are
necessary for iman, which in turn is necessary for true
The first fear does
have some basis. In fact, the Prophet himself cautioned us against
following the footsteps of the adherents of other religions who
exaggerated in praise of their prophets, raising them to the level
of God and thus falling into shirk, the most deadly sin of all. But
it would be a mistake to fight shirk by putting cold water on the
fire of our love and admiration for the Prophet. For that would be
like destroying shirk by destroying iman, which is clearly a
very unwise strategy.
On 'id milad an-nabi
(birthdate of the Prophet) and other occasions let us therefore
wholeheartedly and generously and without any bukhl
(misery, what miser people do) express all the love and admiration
for the Prophet that can be expressed for someone other than God.