Tuesday 19 October (12th Rabi al Awwal) will mark the birthday of our beloved Messenger ﷺ, our teacher, our guide par excellence and the final Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Muslims have rejoiced at the coming of this great human being. Here I relish the chance to sing the praises of this amazing person.
The Persian poet Saadi Shirazi felt shy and inadequate to praise the Prophet ﷺ, “Thousand times were I to wash my mouth with rose water, still disrespectful it would be to say your beautiful name.” The Punjabi Saint Pir Meher Ali Shah also faced a similar dilemma when he said; “How handsome, perfect and pretty you are, who is Meher Ali to praise you, where have these insolent eyes fallen on?”
The Majestic Quran describes Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ beautiful, caring and charming character in glowing words; “A noble Messenger has come to you from among yourselves. He’s grieved by your hardships and cares about your wellbeing, for the believers he is compassionate and kind” (Tawba: 128). He loves us, the Muslims, in turn, love him. Love is an intense feeling of affection and admiration, here it is for the most magnificent man who ever lived. Human history has produced many great leaders who left their marks on all walks of life: philosophers, scholars, pious saints, conquerors, poets, musicians, inventors and doctors. They changed the course of human history for the better.
The life of the Prophet ﷺ is unique, its outstanding features, which set him apart from the rest, William Draper in his book titled ‘History of intellectual development of Europe’ said: “four years after the death of Justinian AD 569, was born in Makkah the man who of all men exercised the greatest influence on the human race Muhammad”. Similarly, Lamartine in ‘Histoire de la Turquie’ said, “philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, conqueror of ideas, the restorer of rational dogmas of cult without images, the founder of 20 terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire that is Muhammad as regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured. We may well ask is there any man greater than him?”
The Quran described him, “You have an excellent role model in the Messenger of Allah, particularly for anyone who longs for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Him abundantly” (Al Ahzab: 21). So, he is the role model. We recognise the need for role models, children imitate their parents, students copy their teachers and those who yearn for perfection, he ﷺ is the role model for all.
Expressing love for the Prophet ﷺ
Love is an intense feeling of deep affection and fondness for someone. This transitive verb requires an object, So, you love someone, you delight in them, you admire them and cherish them. Muslim poets have expressed their love for the Prophet ﷺ in many ways. Allama Muhammad Iqbal was a passionate lover of the Prophet ﷺ, he said: “The passionate gaze sees him as the first and the last, he is the Quran, the Furqan, Yaseen and Taha”.
For a Muslim, the Prophet ﷺ is the centre of life. So, if you imagine Islam as a body then Muhammad ﷺ is the spirit inside it, if you imagine Islam as a tree then Muhammad ﷺ is its leaves and the fruit, if you imagine Islam as a flower then Muhammad ﷺ is the fragrance; he ﷺ is the pink colour of the rose. In brief, whatever image of Islam you imagine then Muhammad ﷺ is the lifeblood of it. Loving the Prophet ﷺ is the heart of a believer’s life.
The early Muslims displayed this deep affection and intense love of the Prophet ﷺ openly, here is a description of their passion for the Prophet ﷺ. Urwa bin Masood Saqafi was the ambassador of the Quraysh at the treaty of Hudaibiya, on his return to Makkah, he said to them “I witnessed some amazing scenes when Muhammad washed, his disciples did not let a drop of water fall on the ground they collected it in their hands, whatever he said they eagerly obeyed. I have visited the courts of Roman and Persian emperors, but nowhere have I seen such scenes of loyalty and commitment to a leader”. Even the enemies knew that to turn the Muslims away from Islam, they must weaken this link with the Prophet ﷺ. Allama Iqbal the great poet of Islam reveals this conspiracy, he says “this starved man who does not fear a bit, take away from him the spirit of Muhammad, give him Western ideals then Islam will be expelled from the Muslims.”
Allama Iqbal attributed his love and understanding of Islam to this prophetic love. He said: “the dazzling Western world did not impress me at all, my eyes were filled with the dust of Madinah”. He believed that the love of the Prophet ﷺ was a powerful shield against the influence of capitalism, communism and materialism. The love of the Messenger ﷺ gives the energy that drives the believers on the straight path, it shields them from the evil influences of society, the deceptions of the ego, and snares of Satan.
A disciple’s love of the Messenger ﷺ
Aisha the mother of believers reported that one day Sauban, a disciple came to the Messenger ﷺ, he looked sad, the Messenger ﷺ asked him why he was sad? He replied “I love you more than myself and my family. Whenever I miss you, I visit you, but now my anxiety is increasing, in the hereafter, you will be in a lofty place near Allah, but I don’t know where I will be, this really worries me. The thought of being separated from you makes me unhappy”. The Prophet ﷺ was so touched and moved on hearing this but said nothing, then a verse was revealed, where Allah says: “Anyone who obeys Allah and the Messenger shall be with those Allah favoured: the Prophets, the truthful, the martyrs and the righteous. What a wonderful fellowship” (An Nisa: 69).
Love of the Prophet ﷺ is a basic ingredient of Islam, the Prophet ﷺ himself declared: “None of you can be a believer until I am more dearer to you than your parents, children and the rest of humanity” (Bukhari). The love of the Prophet ﷺ must be more intense, deeper and stronger than love for anything else. Anas reported a man came to the Messenger ﷺ and asked “when is the last day coming? The Messenger ﷺ asked him, what have you prepared for it? He said I haven’t prepared much for it, but I do love God and his Messenger. He ﷺ replied, well if that’s the case then remember, a person will be with the one who he loves”. Allama Iqbal rephrased this poetically when he said: “the essence of Quran, the spirit of faith and the secrets of religion all lie in the love of the one who is the Kindness to all the people.” Another poet eloquently makes this point when he said: “love of Muhammad is the first requirement of religion, if this is lacking then everything is incomplete.” We are fortunate to have a guide like Muhammad ﷺ.