Prophet Muhammad: More Beloved than Our Own Souls | Part 1 of 3

May my father and mother be sacrificed for you!

They did not just say these words, they meant them. Those who knew him felt this way about him, and they couldn’t have said it better.

The love of Allah and His Final Messenger is the greatest asset for a Muslim. Allah sent him as a Mercy for all the worlds, the noblest of all humankind, the most loving and fearing of Allah among them and most knowledgeable about Him, the most merciful and compassionate towards Allah’s creation, the leader of all the Messengers, Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah. May I, my father and my mother be sacrificed for him!

Because this subject is very broad, the following presents a brief discussion and quick glimpses of it in light of Qur’anic verses and Prophetic hadiths.

Love the Prophet More than you Love Yourself!

To recognize the centrality and significance of the love of the Messenger of Allah in Islam, it should suffice us to know that one’s faith is not completed until and unless one loves him more than one’s own self. Allah says,

The Prophet is preferable for the believers even to their own selves… [Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:6]

The beloved and truthful Messenger of Allah said,

By Him in Whose Hands my soul lies, none of you will truly believe until I am more beloved to him than his father and son. (Bukhari)

In another narration, he said,

None of you believes until he loves me more than he loves himself. (Bukhari)

In a different narration,

None of you will truly believe until I am more beloved to him than his family, wealth and all the people. (Muslim)

The following hadith makes it even more clearer that the love of Allah and His Messenger is the main indicator of true and sound faith,

Three qualities are such that whoever possesses them has tasted the sweetness of faith: that Allah and His Messenger be more beloved to him than all else; that he loves his (Muslim) brother solely for Allah’s sake; and that he loathes to revert to disbelief just as much as he loathes to be thrown into the Fire. (Bukhari and Muslim)

‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab said to Allah’s Messenger, “O Messenger of Allah, you are more beloved to me than anything except my own self.” Allah’s Messenger told him, “No, by the One in Whose Hand is my soul, not until I am more beloved to you than your own soul.” Umar paused, and reflected. Then told him “By Allah, now you are more beloved to me than my own soul.” Allah’s Messenger then told him that now he had the complete faith. (Bukhari and Muslim)

Muslims who have tasted the sweetness of faith have always loved the Prophet so dearly and intensely that a mere mention of his blessed name brought tears to their eyes. Ja’far Al-Sadiq would turn pale whenever he heard his name. Out of his love and honor for the Prophet, Imam Malik would not mention a saying of the Prophet except in a state of ritual purity. ‘Abd Al-Rahman, the great grandson of Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, would turn red and stammer whenever he heard the Prophet mentioned. When a hadith of the Prophet was mentioned in their presence, they would lower their voices. Imam Malik said, “His sanctity (hurmah) after his death is no less now than during his life.”

To Know the Prophet is to Love him Dearly

Those who saw and knew the Messenger of Allah loved him instantly. His Companions preferred him above all else in the world.

Once, the Messenger of Allah was out for an expedition with his Companions. The chief of the Madinan hypocrites, ‘Abdullah ibn Ubayy, who had wanted to be the king of Madinah before the blessed advent of the Prophet, began plotting and said that when the Prophet comes back, the honorable one (referring to himself) will expel [from Madinah] the lowlier (meaning the Prophet). His young son, ‘Abdullah, was a true believer—and therefore a true lover of the Messenger of Allah. Even though he was known to love his father much, his priorities could not be clearer. The arch hypocrite then left Madinah and the Prophet came back in his absence, and heard what he had said. Hearing this blasphemy, ‘Abdullah intercepted his father on the outskirts of Madinah, and unsheathing his sword, said resolutely: “By Allah, you are the lowlier, and the Messenger of Allah is the honorable one—and you cannot as much as step into Madinah until he grants you permission!” The hypocrite was dumbfounded. The merciful Prophet then permitted the hypocrite to enter the city. (Ahmad and Tirmidhi)

Prior to accepting Islam, Abu Sufyan ibn Harb was an archenemy of the Prophet. His daughter, Umm Habibah, was a Muslim and the Prophet’s wife. Abu Sufyan once visited his daughter in Madinah. As he was about to sit down on a rug which belonged to the Prophet, she pulled it and rolled it up. Abu Sufyan was shocked: “O my daughter! I do not know if you think that the rug is too good for me or that I am too good for the rug!” She replied: “This rug belongs to the Prophet and you are an unclean polytheist!” (Tabari)

When Bilal, the Abyssinian Companion of the Prophet, was on his deathbed, his wife lamented his approaching death: “Oh, What a sorrow!” He said: “Nay, what a joy! Tomorrow I will meet the loved ones: Muhammad and his Companions.”

When Zayd ibn Dathinah, a Companion of the Prophet, was being dragged out of Makkah to be beheaded by the Quraysh, Abu Sufyan—their leader—said to him “I ask you, by Allah, Zayd, do you not wish that you were with your family right now and it was Muhammad (whose teachings got you into this) who was captured by us and beheaded?” Zayd said “By God, I would rather that I (be slaughtered here and) not be with my family than that a thorn hurt Muhammad in his house.” Abu Sufyan exclaimed “I have not seen people love anyone as much as his Companions love Muhammad!”

Love of him was not confined to the saintly and the devout— the sinful believers also loved the Prophet. A certain man was much given to wine-drinking and would be frequently punished for it. One day when he was brought to the Prophet and he gave orders and had him punished, one of the Companions said, “God damn this man. How often he is brought!” The Prophet said, “Do not curse him. By Allah I know that he loves Allah and His Messenger.” (Bukhari)

Earning his Companionship in Paradise

The love of Prophet Muhammad was so deep in the heart of his noble Companions that they could never get enough of his company. Some were so worried they wouldn’t be able to see him in the Hereafter.

Anas ibn Malik narrated that a man asked the Prophet, “When will the Hour be?” The Prophet said, “What have you prepared for it?” The man said, “Not much, except that I love Allah and His Messenger.” The Prophet said, “You will be with those whom you love.” At this, the man rejoiced and said, “We had never been as glad as we were upon hearing this. I love the Prophet, and Abu Bakr and Umar, and I hope that I will be with them because of my love for them, although my deeds are not equal to theirs.” (Bukhari)

Another man came to the Prophet and said:

“O Messenger of Allah, I love you more than my family and my possessions. When I think of you I cannot wait until I can come and look at you. But then I remember that I will die and so will you, and that when you enter Paradise, you will be at a high rank with the Prophets. When I enter it, I will not see you.”

Those who truly love the Prophet can imagine the grief and apprehension of this man.

Allah, being the Most Merciful, did not disappoint His servants, and revealed,

Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are with those whom He has favored: the Prophets, the affirmers of truth, the Martyrs, and the Righteous. Ah! What an excellent company.  [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:69]

The Prophet called the man and recited the verse of this divine glad tiding to him. (Tabarani and Ibn Mardawayh)

Who Loves the Prophet Most?

Even though our actions do not always live up to the Prophet’s teachings, true believing Muslims even today love the Prophet as dearly as our predecessors. What would we not give to meet him only once? Indeed, for those who love him, what could be more precious than his witnessing and acknowledging our love?

The Prophet said,

Among those who love me most are those who will come after me; they would give away even their family and their wealth just in exchange for seeing me. (Muslim)

He spoke the truth—may my father and mother be sacrificed for him!

However, the kind of love his Companions had for him cannot be superseded by any other love of all the people who came after them, something words can never describe. Just to give us a clue of what their love meant, let us remember that incident when the Messenger became vulnerable and fell in a hole on the historic day of Uhud. Abu Dujanah completely covered the Prophet with his own body for fear that an arrow might hit him. It was said that his back appeared like a porcupine with the many arrows which fell on it.

Two Levels of Love for the Prophet

Scholars such as Ibn Rajab Al-Hanbali speak of two levels of love for the Messenger.

At the first level, love for the Prophet emanates essentially from one’s faith in Allah and acceptance of the Prophet as His Apostle. Anyone who believes in Allah must receive His Messenger and his teachings with love, respect and submission, and must reject everything that contradicts his authoritative teachings.

The Prophet said,

All my people will enter Paradise except those who refuse. When asked about those who refuse, he said, He who obeys me will enter Paradise, while he who disobeys me has refused. (Bukhari)

Allah says in no unclear terms that,

It is not for any believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decreed a matter, to have the choice in their affair. And whosoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger he has gone astray into manifest error. [Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:36]

A higher level of faith and love is achieved when one acquires an intimate knowledge of the teachings of the Prophet, both in spirit and in word, outwardly and inwardly, and when his or her love for the Prophet becomes a powerful drive to exemplify the Prophet’s virtues. Those blessed with this higher level of faith experience an intense love for the Prophet, their hearts quiver upon his mere mention, and their tongues feel the urge to seek Allah’s blessings on their beloved, so much so that they are constantly engaged in remembrance of Allah and in exemplifying the virtues of his Messenger.

Human Perfection, Not Divinity

He was the perfect human being and the best of all the Prophets, but he was only human. Allah says,

Say (O Muhammad): I am only a human like you: it is revealed to me that your God is One God. So, him who looks forward to the meeting with his Lord, let him do righteousness, and not associate anything in the worship of his Lord. [Surat Al-Kahf, 18:111]

The Prophet himself said,

Do not exaggerate in my praise as the Christians did to the son of Mary. I am Allah’s slave, so say, Allah’s slave and His Messenger. (Bukhari and Muslim)

The Qur’anic Bases for Loving Him

(A) Obey him; for obeying him is obeying Allah

No one can claim the love of the Messenger without showing complete surrender to his orders and judgments:

  1. Say (O Prophet):if you (Muslims) love Allah, obey me, Allah will love you, and forgive your errors. [Surah Al ‘Imran, 3:31]
  2. O you who believe, obey Allah and obey His Messenger… [Surat Al-Anfal, 8:20]
  3. Obey Allah and His Messenger … [Surah Al ‘Imran, 3:32; 3:132]
  4. And if you obey him, you will be guided … [Surat al-Nur, 24:54]
  5. Whosoever obeys the Messenger, indeed he obeys Allah. [ Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:80]
  6. Take what the Messenger gives you and desist from whatever he prohibits. [Surat Al-Hashr, 59:7]
  7. Whoever obeys Allah and the Messenger, they are with those whom He has favored: the Prophets, the affirmers of truth (siddiqun), the martyrs, and the righteous. Ah! What an excellent company. [ Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:69]
  8. No, by your Lord, they will not believe, until they make you (O Prophet) judge in whatever dispute occurs between them, and then find no hesitation in their hearts towards what you decided, and surrender in full submission. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:65]

(B) Follow his example; he is the best role-model

Not only did Allah send Prophet Muhammad with the final most complete and perfect message, He also sent a prophet who has lived this message to the fullest and become the most beautiful pattern for all humanity:

  1. Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah there is for you a good example, for anyone who hopes for Allah and the Last Day. And whosoever turns away, Allah is above all needs, Praiseworthy. [Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:6]
  2. And you (O Prophet) really do stand on an exalted standard of character. [Surat Al-Qalam, 68:4]

(C) Recognize and give due authority to his Sunnah

The Prophet’s job was not the mere delivery of Allah’s message. He also supplemented it with the clearest explanation and illustration. Several Qur’anic verses clearly emphasize this fact. Allah says:

  1. And We sent down the Book to you for the express purpose, that you (O Prophet) should make clear to them those things in which they differ, and that it should be a guide and a mercy to those who believe. [Surat Al-Nahl, 16:64]
  2. … We have sent among you a Messenger of your own, rehearsing to you Our Signs, and purifying you, and instructing you in Scripture and Wisdom, and in new knowledge. [Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:151]
  3. And we did not send any Prophet except to be obeyed ––by Allah’s permission. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:64]

How to Nurture his Love

  1. Obey him and follow his Sunnah in the right spirit. The most important right of the Prophet upon us—an  obligation—is to obey and follow his Sunnah. Provided, of course, that it is authentic and properly understood. Allah says,

Say (O Prophet): If you love Allah, follow me, and Allah will love you… [Surat Al ‘Imran, 3:31]

  The Prophet said:

Anyone who turns away from my Sunnah is not of me. (Bukhari and Muslim)

  2. Invoke Allah’s blessings on him. The tremendous reward attached to this action is well-known, and the one  who is miserly in praising, loving and invoking Allah’s blessings on the Prophet is truly deprived and, indeed  depraved. Allah says,

Allah and His angels are sending prayers upon the Prophet, so, O you who believe, invoke blessings on him, and peace in abundance. [Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:56]

  3. Learn about his life and his beautiful character. The more one knows about the Prophet, the     more one’s love  grows for him and for the beautiful message he brought from his Merciful Lord.
To this end, we have provided a  very brief collection of anecdotes shedding light on his life   later   in the article.

  4. Teach and talk about him. Make his beautiful morals and manners a real,living model for your day to day life—and when following his example, remind yourself and others of him. In other words, follow him consciously.

Some Muslim cultures have a practice of asking an angry person to “invoke blessings upon the Prophet” as a  way to calm him down—because no Muslim can possibly ignore this request. Even when angry, upset or agitated, no Muslim can forget how much the Prophet means to them. It really works.

 

… To be continued

Written By

Uwaymir Anjum is the Imam Khattab Chair of Islamic Studies at the Department of Philosophy, University of Toledo. He is also professor of Islamic Intellectual History at Qatar University. He studies the connections between theology, ethics, politics, and law in classical and medieval Islam, with a subfocus on its comparisons with western thought. Related fields of study include Islamic philosophy and Sufism. His dissertation, published in 2012 by Cambridge University Press, is entitled Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought: The Taymiyyan Moment. His translation of Ibn al-Qayyim's Madârij Al-Sâlikîn is forthcoming.

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