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..."
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 ofsuhaba in Medina, is reported to
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 thirst."
The firmly 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
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.
Daily prayers, 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 says:
"that those who forget God are made to forget their own
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
THE PROPHET ALSO LOVED US
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
(Mercy) 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
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 helper."
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..."
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 PROPHET'S SUFFERING
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 THE PROPHET
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 praising someone.
3) Blessing or favoring someone.
In the above verse all three meanings can be applied so that the verse can be
translated as follows:
"Undoubtedly, God 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 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 you..." (3:31)
God alone knows how else he loves the
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" (94:4)
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 and 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.
((Some fuqaha (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
durudeach 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?)
Salutations. 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 first."
Some Muslims hesitate to declare the Prophet as the greatest of all the
Prophets because the Qur'an says:
"(The believers) make no distinction between any of
His messengers." (2:285)
But the Holy Qur'an also says:
"Some of these messengers have We favoured more than
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:
"Love, glorify and bless him and salute him with all
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 obedience.
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.