The famous book on the Beauty, Grandeur and Honour of the Beloved Messenger ﷺ
Qadi Iyad Ibn Musa (1083-1149) was born in Spain and became the Judge of Granada, a prominent Muslim scholar of medieval Europe. Here I introduce you to his masterpiece “Al-Shifa Shareef.” A classic that is read and taught globally today even after nine hundred years. What makes this extraordinary book so popular?
Introduction to Al-Shifa of Qadi Iyad
Al-Shifa has achieved unparallel fame in the genre of Seerah, the biography of the beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) some claim that “nothing like this has been compiled in Islam”, what a glowing tribute! Others say, “the house in which there is a copy of Al-Shifa will be safe from evil.” It’s a book that nurtures the deep and enduring love of the beloved master. A book is considered good by scholars if it has three features:
- The content is of high quality and from authoritative reference books.
- It has a sound methodology for analysis and discussion of the conclusions.
- The presentation and the organisation of the content is logical.
Al-Shifa in my view meets all these features, therefore it is an excellent book, worthy of becoming a textbook. A textbook to teach the love of Allah’s favourite chosen Messenger. The book is a rich resource based on the Quran, Sunnah and classical traditions. So, it’s a unique book for serious students who want to learn and experience the beauty of the Prophet (peace be upon him). By knowing the remarkable status, sheer beauty and strong character of the beloved master you will experience Islam.
This study is text-centred however, student involvement is a significant feature as you are expected to read, reflect and ask questions. I will try to employ critical thinking skills to interpret and explain this historic and scholarly text.
Why did Qadi Iyad write this wonderful masterpiece?
In his introduction, he explained, “I was asked to compile all that is necessary to explain to the reader, the true stature of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his esteem, respect and the legal judgement regarding anyone who attempts to denigrate his supreme status.” He said, “So, I wrote this book for the faithful who answer his call and confirm his prophethood, this will deepen their love for him and increase devotional work – and strengthen their faith.”
Qadi Iyad proudly says I have not come across a book like this “if I had found a useful model for it in another book that would have been enough to quench my thirst”. His enthusiasm and commitment to the Messenger (peace be upon him) is expressed at the end of the book, he said “we had sleepless nights investigating the virtues of the Messenger and concentrated our thoughts on discovering his special qualities, hoping to protect ourselves from the burning fire by honouring him”. At the end he prays to Allah: “We praise Allah for how he guided us to a better understanding of the totality of the Prophet and for the way he has inspired us and opened up our inner-eye to perceive and understand the realities of what we have been sent down”.
The title of the book is Al-Shifa “the healing” and the strap line is “by understanding the rights of the chosen Messenger“. Below I will further elaborate on the title. The word Al-Shifa is used in the Quran to describe a holistic kind of healing; “People, a teaching from your Lord has come to you, healing for what is in your hearts and guidance and kindness for the believers” (Yunus: 57). Shifa here is used as a metaphor to mean becoming free from mistaken beliefs, to achieve one’s purpose, fulfil one’s needs, to become free from doubt. The healing also refers to getting rid of corrupt behaviour like anger, arrogance, greed and jealousy. Consequently, one is prepared to accept beautiful characters and virtues like kindness, patience, honesty and forgiveness. The healing may refer to the spiritual diseases of shirk, denial of God and excessive love of worldly things.
So, one can acquire values like faith, mindfulness, reliance, and sincerity. Finally, healing hints at the resolution of social problems, injustice and abuse of others’ rights. The love of the Messenger (peace be upon him), appreciation and understanding of his beautiful role model is the healing, the antidote to these sicknesses. Sicknesses that ultimately destroy the human soul. So, Muhammad (peace be upon him) saves us from death and destruction.
By compiling ‘Al-Shifa’ Qadi Iyad has arranged a gorgeous bunch of colourful, fragrant, fresh flowers. He has described the beautiful physical features of the Messenger (peace be upon him), his strong and remarkable character and other miraculous qualities that show his unique nature. His claim is that healing is achieved by recognising and appreciating this unique man (peace be upon him); doubts, fears, superstitions and false beliefs disintegrate by knowing this noble Messenger (peace be upon him).
Summary of the contents of Al-Shifa
Chapter 1, explains Allah’s praise of the Messenger, it includes his pure lineage, and how much Allah cares for him. The Quran takes oaths of his names and titles; the conference of all Prophets pledging to obey him. Qadi Iyad explains an extraordinary claim made by the Quran, “The messenger is nearer to the believers than themselves” (Al Ahzab: 23).
Chapter 2, discusses his physical beauty and strong character, his beauty and elegance; his character and moral virtues of forgiveness, generosity, courage, modesty, kindness, justice and gentleness. Finally, the spirituality of the Messenger (peace be upon him) is shown by his renunciation of the world, fear of Allah and absorption in worship.
Chapter 3, is a description of the best of Allah’s creation, the pre-eminent and most superior, one who is peerless. The evidence is the Ascension (Mi’raj); his privileged position on Judgement day like the first to be resurrected, intercession for the sinners, raised to the praiseworthy station, distributing water from the lake of Kawthar. Allah honours him (peace be upon him) with 33 of his names, no one has that honour. Qadi Iyad makes another amazing point here, the prophet’s praise cannot be exaggerated and overstated. He explains this with reference to the true meaning of Tawhid.
Chapter 4, counts some famous miracles of the Messenger (peace be upon him), the Quran with its inimitability; majestic style, and life-changing message. He mentions other miracles like; the splitting of the moon, water flowing from his blessed fingers; trees and stones testifying about him; bringing the dead to life, and his knowledge of the unseen.
In part two Qadi Iyad concludes, when the Messenger (peace be upon him) is so wonderful, amazing and praised by the Lord then we must love him. How? By doing these six things, he says the Messenger (peace be upon him) has six rights over us, they are:
- To love him
- To respect him
- To have faith and confidence in him
- To obey and follow his way
- To send blessings on him
- To help the religion of the Messenger
To help you truly appreciate this wonderful book, I will run a seminar in December where I will go through some of it with you, in order to motivate you further to study the Seerah enthusiastically and appreciate the Prophetic role model. Click HERE to book your place.