Loving the Prophet ﷺ is the essence of Islam

The Persian poet Saadi Shirazi sang a eulogy of the Prophet: “Thousand times was I to wash my mouth with rose water it would still be insolence to utter your beautiful name.”

The Quran describes the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) beautiful, loving, compassionate and caring character in these glowing words: “He is ever yearning for your welfare and very kind and caring towards the believers”. He loves us and Muslims in return love him too. Loving is this intense feeling of affection, fondness, delight and admiration for the most magnificent person who ever lived in human history. History has produced many great leaders who have left their marks on different walks of human life. There have been great philosophers, scholars, pious saints, conquerors, poets, musicians, inventors and doctors, all these great men and women have changed the course of human history for better one way or another.

However, the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is unique and has certain outstanding features, which set it apart from the rest of the leaders. William Draper in his book “history of the intellectual development of Europe” said, “four years after the death of Justinian A.D. 569, was born in Makka the man who of all men exercised the greatest influence upon the human race, Muhammad“. Similarly, la Martin in ‘Histoire de la Turquie’ says “philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, conqueror of ideas, the restorer of rational dogmas, 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 describes the messenger of God’s (peace be upon him) special role; “You have an excellent role model in the Messenger of Allah, particularly for anyone who longs for Allah” (Al Ahzab:21). Therefore the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is really a role model and exemplary person. We recognise the need for role models, children imitate their parents, students copy their teachers and those who yearn for perfection, he is a role model for all in beliefs, behaviour and lifestyle.

Love is an intense feeling of deep affection and fondness for someone. It’s a transitive verb, which requires an object, so you love something, you love someone, you delight in them, you admire them and cherish them. Muslim poets have expressed their love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) in various ways.

For a Muslim, the Prophet (peace be upon him) is really the centre of their life, of their attention and of their very being. So if you imagine Islam is the name of a body then Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the spirit of that body and if you imagine Islam as a tree then Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the leaves and the fruit of that tree, if Islam is a flower then Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the scent and that beautiful colour. In brief whatever image of Islam you can conjure and imagine, then Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the lifeblood of that.

Loving the Prophet (peace be upon him) is really the very essence of a believer’s life and the early Muslims displayed this deep affection and this intense love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) openly. Here is a description of their passion for the Prophet (peace be upon him): Urwa bin Masood Saqafi was the ambassador of the Quraish at the time of the treaty of Hudabiya, on his return to Makkah he said to them “I witnessed some amazing scenes, when Muhammad washes himself, his disciples do not let a drop of water fall to the ground, they take it in their hands, whatever he says, they obey him, I have visited the courts of the Roman and Persian emperors but nowhere have I seen such scenes of loyalty and dedication to their leader”.

Even the world of Kufr knows that in order to defeat and divert the Muslims from their religion. They have to weaken this link with the Prophet (peace be upon him). Allama Iqbal the great poet of Islam reveals this conspiracy of the non-Muslims in this couplet. He said, “this starving man who does not fear a bit, take away from him the spirit of Muhammad and give him Western ideals and it will be then it expelled and then you will be able to easily expel Islam from the Muslims”.

In another place, Iqbal attributes his own fondness and love of Islam and his deep understanding of the message and his deep love. He says “the dazzling Western intellect did not impress me at all since my eyes were filled with the dust of Medina and Najaf.” He believed that the love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was his powerful shield against the influences of the Western culture. He said “the Western culture corrupts the mind and heart because it is no longer chaste and pure and when the salt is no longer pure then it is impossible to have even a clean conscience, lofty ideals and good taste.”

So we see that the love of the messenger (peace be upon him) is the energy that drives the believers on the straight path, it is the shield, which protects them from the evil influences of society and the deceptions of your own ego and the snares of Satan. Let me give you another example of the disciple’s love for the messenger (peace be upon him). Aisha the mother of believers reported that one-day, Sauban a disciple came to the messenger (peace be upon him) and he looked quite sad and the messenger (peace be upon him) said ‘why are you gloomy and sorrowful?’ He replied I love you more than myself and my family and whenever I miss you, I visit you, but now my anxiety is increasing that in the hereafter when I die, you will be in a very lofty place near your Lord, but I don’t know where I will be, this worries me, the thought of being detached from you and not being able to visit you makes me miserable. The Prophet (peace be upon him) on hearing this was very moved and quiet for a while then this verse was revealed from Allah: “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” (Al Nisa:69).

Love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is a basic ingredient of Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) himself declared that “none of you can be a believer until I am more dear to you that your parents, children and the rest of humanity”. The love of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has to be more intense, deeper, stronger than love for anything else. In another hadith, it is reported that a man once came to the messenger (peace be upon him) and asked “when is the last day coming? The messenger (peace be upon him) asked him ‘what have you prepared for it?’ He said I haven’t prepared a lot but I do love Allah and his messenger and the Prophet (peace be upon him) replied well if that’s the case then remember a person will be with the one who he loves.” This is why Iqbal very poetically said: “the essence of the Quran, the spirit of faith and the secrets of religion all lie in the love of the mercy for the universe.”

Another poet eloquently makes this point when he says: “the love of Muhammad is the first requirement of religion, if this is lacking then everything is incomplete”. Love is the intense feeling of fondness for someone who has outstanding qualities, he has a force field of energy about him, which attract others. It is difficult to pin down what love is precisely. However, we can identify two reasons for loving someone; Their special quality of attractiveness due to their power or knowledge and secondly a favour that they have done to us making us indebted for the protection and security, whether it is financial assistance or anything else.

When we look at the life of Muhammad (peace be upon him), we see in him the most wonderful qualities of generosity, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Another immense favour he has done for mankind is delivering mankind from the darkness of ignorance to the light of deen.