Praise be to Allah.
Loving the Prophet s.a.w is a natural feeling that flows within the heart of a believer. This love is considered a virtue and a condition for every believer, as mentioned in the Hadith:
لَا يُؤْمِنُ أَحَدُكُمْ حَتَّى أَكُونَ أَحَبَّ إِلَيْهِ مِنْ والِدِهِ وَوَلَدِهِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ
None of you have truly believe (complete sound faith) until I am more beloved to him than his father, his son and all of humankind.
(Narrated by Imam Bukhari and Imam Muslim)
A profound love brings the lover to venerate the beloved. It causes the lover to also love what is dear to beloved. This love occupies the mind and drives us to the direction of what we love. If we reflect on this, we would certainly be able to relate our love for the Prophet s.a.w. Loving the Prophet leads us to observing his beautiful teachings. In fact, the Prophet s.a.w have made this clear in a hadith:
وَمَنْ أَحْيَا سُنَّتِي فَقَدْ أَحَبَّنِي. وَمَنْ أَحَبَّنِي كَانَ مَعِي فِي الْجَنَّةِ
Whoever actively observes my Sunnah, then he has loved me. And whoever loves me, shall be with me in Paradise.
(Hadith by Imam Tirmizi)
Therefore, a sincere love will bear the fruition of emulation. Similarly, the other way around, following the footsteps of the Prophet s.a.w should be on the basis of love.
Here are 4 ways to help us express our love for Prophet Muhammad s.a.w:
It is part of human nature to emulate others in their behaviour, interest and moral values, especially with those we admire. Indeed, the Prophet’s excellent character is a form of beauty that captured the hearts of many. In addition to that, Allah s.w.t has declared to us in the Quran,
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example, for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.
(Surah Al-Ahzab, 33:21)
In this verse, Allah s.w.t specifically mentioned the Prophet s.a.w to be the believers’ best example. This includes all aspects of the Prophet’s life,from his sayings and actions to conditions. Other than his physical aspect, he is also the perfect example for spiritual excellence. Furthermore, we may also understand from this verse that the Prophet s.a.w showed us the best way of life, which means that it benefits the believers both in this world and in the hereafter.
As believers, how then can we emulate the beautiful conduct of Rasulullah s.a.w. and enliven His sunnah in our lives today?
Prophet Muhammad s.a.w was sent to perfect the moral values of humankind. In a hadith, the Prophet mentioned:
إِنَّمَا بُعِثْتُ لِأُتَمِّمَ صَالِحَ الأَخْلاقِ
I was sent to perfect good character.
(Narrated by Imam Bukhari)
This hadith emphasised to us the importance of moral values that are embedded as part of the pillars of this beautiful religion. Therefore, in following the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad s.a.w, moral values cannot be separated from the physical aspect of the Sunnah, such that both are completely integral with one another.
Anas bin Malik r.a reported a hadith where three men came to the Prophet’s wives inquiring of the Prophet’s acts of worship. When they were informed of it, they realised that they could do much more. The first of them said: “As for me, I will stand awake the whole night and pray throughout”. The second said: “I will fast for a year and will not break my fast”. The third then said: “I will isolate myself from women and will never go into marriage”.
The Prophet s.a.w then came and heard their comments. The Prophet said: “As for me, I am the most fearful of Allah and the most God-conscious among you. Yet, I fast and break my fast. I pray and I rest. I even get married. Whoever deviates from my Sunnah, is not with me.”
(Narrated by Imam Bukhari)
These three men were very passionate to do the physical acts of worship that they began to show signs of excessiveness and overzealousness. To approach life or to observe deeds in the most merciful and best manner, according to our respective circumstances, is also part of the Sunnah.
On the other hand, good social character and manners alone does not suffice too without the intention to follow the Prophet s.a.w. This is because we vary in our ranks of good character and the best of good character are the manners shown by our Prophet s.a.w.
Moreover, the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad teaches us not only to show good manners when interacting with others, but alsoto display good manners with the Creator. This is particularly why it is important for us to take care of our inner selves. Indeed, Allah s.w.t looks at the hearts of His servants.
Both our inner and outer states are linked to one another and can never be separated. In Ihya Ulumuddin (Revival of Islamic Sciences), Imam Al-Ghazali defined moral value or character as “a firmly entrenched form that resides in the soul, from which actions are expressed with ease”. This means that our actions are the apparent expressions of our soul. The clearer the soul, the more excellent one’s character is.
Love tends to pull us into frequently thinking of the beloved and to perpetually yearn to be reunited. Similarly, our love for the Prophet s.a.w leads us to constantly utter words of remembrance for the Prophet s.a.w. Sending peace and blessings (reciting the Selawat) will increase our love for the Prophet and at the same time increase the Prophet’s love for the reciter. This can be seen in the Hadith:
“The people who will be the nearest to me on the Day of Resurrection will be those who send their peace and blessings upon me more often.”
(Narrated by Imam Tirmizi)
If the path to follow his beautiful footsteps become more difficult,scholars have advised us to increase in sending our peace and blessings upon the Prophet. This action will relieve us of our hardships and guide us in the path to continue to pursue our love for the Prophet s.a.w.
The virtues of sending our peace and blessings upon the Prophet s.a.w are so many, that the Syrian Scholar, Sheikh Sirajuddin Al-Husayni listed around 31 merits and benefits in his book ‘Sending Prayer Upon The Prophet s.a.w; its rulings, virtues and benefits’.
Although love tends to transcend reason, as the Malay saying goes “Tak kenal maka tak cinta” (You cannot love what you do not know) . Which is why it is equally important to build our innate feelings of love based on sound knowledge rather than arbitrary emotions that may delude us or falter away. Here are some books that may help us in knowing the Prophet s.a.w
1. Ash-Shama’il al-Muhammadiyya; The Portrait of the Prophet (by Imam At-Tirmizi, trans. Muhtar Holland, Fons Vitae, USA)
2. Muhammad The Best of Creation s.a.w; A glimpse of his blessed life (Sayyid Muhammad ibn Alawi al-Maliki al-Hasani, trans. Amjad Mahmood)
3. Proofs of Prophethood (By Shaykh Abdel Haleem Mahmoud, trans. Aisha Bewly, Dar Al Taqwa Ltd, UK)
Although we have yet to meet the Prophet s.a.w, it is a normal phenomenon to love someone we have yet to physically meet in person. Anas bin Malik reported a hadith that the Prophet s.a.w said:
وددتُ أنِّي لقيتُ إخواني قالَ : فقالَ أصحابُ النَّبيِّ – صلَّى اللَّهُ عليهِ وعلى آلِهِ وسلَّمَ – أوليسَ نحنُ إخوانَكَ قالَ : بل أنتُم أصحابي ولكنْ إخواني الَّذينَ آمَنوا بي ولم يرَوني
“I wish I could meet my brothers.” The Companions said, “Are we not your brothers?” The Prophet said, “You are my companions, but my brothers are those who believe in me although they never saw me.”
(Narrated by Imam Ahmad)
Indeed, the Prophet s.a.w have yearned to meet us first, about 1400 years ago. As his followers, we are encouraged to send the selawat to him. For every peace and blessings we send to the Prophet s.a.w, he will respond to us. In a hadith, Rasulullah s.a.w. mentioned that,
مَا مِنْ أَحَدٍ يُسَلِّمُ عَلَيَّ إِلَّا رَدَّ اللَّهُ عَلَيَّ رُوحِي حَتَّى أَرُدَّ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَامَ
“None of you who send me their peace (salam), except that Allah returns my soul and I return him his greeting of peace.”
(Narrated by Imam Ahmad)
May Allah s.w.t grant us His love and the love of His Prophet s.a.w. May we be granted the best way of emulating the Prophet s.a.w both outwardly and inwardly under the care of Allah’s protection and assistance by His Mercy.
And Allah knows best.