It is reported that the Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “None of you truly believe until I have become more beloved to him than his father, his children and all of humankind.” The Messenger of God (PBUH) also said, “Whoever possesses the following three qualities has tasted the sweetness of faith: the one for whom God and His Messenger are dearer than anything else, [one] who loves a person and he loves him solely for God’s sake, and [one] who hates to revert to a state of disbelief as he hates to be thrown into the fire.”
In another hadith it is narrated, “We were with the Prophet and he took the hand of ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab. ‘Umar said to Him, “O Messenger of God, you are dearer to me than everything except my own self.” The Prophet said, “No, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, (you will not have complete faith) until I am dearer to you than your own self.” Then ‘Umar said to him, “By God, it is now that you are dearer to me than my own self.” The Prophet said, “Now, O ‘Umar.”
As demonstrated in these hadiths and many others similar to it, loving the Messenger of God (PBUH) is a condition of faith (imān) and an indication of its genuineness. This love engenders sincerity in our efforts to follow his (PBUH) example, facilitates the application of his (PBUH) teachings in our daily lives, and enables us to remain steadfast in walking on his (PBUH) straight path (al-ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm), under the Prophetic banner.
Ḥasan al-Baṣrī relates that a group of individuals claimed to love God and so God tested their love by revealing the verses: “Say if you love God, then follow me and God will love you and forgive your sins [al-ʿImrān: 31].” Al-Junayd said, “No one has reached God except through God. And the path to reaching God is following the Chosen One (PBUH) (al-Muṣtafa).” “Reaching God” (al-wuṣūl ilā Allāh) means, attaining a state in which God is pleased (marḍātillāh) with one. It is based on this perspective that the Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “All of my community will enter Paradise except those who refuse.” It was asked, “O Messenger of God, who refuses?” He said, “Whoever obeys me will enter Heaven. Whoever disobeys me has refused.”
It is not possible for an individual to bring about a profound transformation of on an entire community as long as the members of that community do not feel a sense of love and respect for the one leading this change, as well as a willingness to accept his instructions and carry out his orders. No amount of wealth or power can persuade a community to posses this sort of love, respect, and loyalty. It is only a superior level of good character and refinement of the soul, as that possessed by our Prophet (PBUH), which can engender these emotions.
Indeed, the Prophet (PBUH) was not a wealthy or powerful figure who exercised his authority through force. In fact, he lacked the material means that would have enabled him to have such power over men. He used to tell his people in the words of the Qur’an, “Say, ‘I do not tell you I have the treasures of God, and I do not know the unseen. And I do not tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what has been revealed to me [al-Anʿām: 50].’” Despite this fact, his Companions followed his commands and emulated his model to an extent that was unprecedented in the history of humanity. The reason for this is clear and simple. It is that the Messenger of God g was the object of their intense love for the sake of God. History has not known a man who has overwhelmed hearts through his majesty and the nobility of his spirit as did the Messenger of God (PBUH). His Companions used to say to him, “We do not say to you what the people of Mūsā said to Mūsā: ‘Go, you and your Lord and fight. We are here leading [the way]. We fight on your right, on your left, in front of you, and behind you.” As later proven by events, these were not mere empty words. The Companions of the Prophet (PBUH) underwent the most excruciating difficulties and tests in which they demonstrated the sincerity of their commitment. They sacrificed their lives, wealth, and family bonds for the sake of their faith to an extent that was never seen again after their era.
Examples of the Love of the Companions for Messenger of God (PBUH) in the Sīra
It is reported that in the battle of Uḥud, when attacking the Prophet (PBUH) the enemy forced him to fall into a ditch and his life was then endangered. There was no way to save him from this situation except that a wall of human bodies was formed around the ditch. The Companions competed with each other to do this. They stood around the ditch and exposed themselves to the arrows of the enemy who sought to destroy this human fortress while another group extracted the Prophet (PBUH). As a result, they were unable to cause any further harm to the Prophet (PBUH). As the bodies of this human fortress would fall one after another, new men would rush to replace them. May God’s mercy be upon all of them who taught us the true essence of loyalty and love for the Messenger (PBUH) through their actions.
Similarly, it is reported that a woman from the Anṣār came out after hearing that her father, brother, and husband had been slain on the Day of Uḥud. She said, “What has happened to the Messenger of God?” They said, “[He is] well. Thanks be to God, he is as you would like him [to be].” She said, “Show him to me so that I may look at him.” After seeing him she said, “Every calamity after your [safety] is insignificant.”
When the pagans took Zayd b. Dathna (RA) out to execute him after he had been one of their prisoners, Abū Sufyān b. Ḥarb (he was still a pagan at this time) said, “I summon you by God O Zayd. Would you prefer that Muḥammad was in your place today so that we execute him [instead] while you are with your family, safe from getting killed?” Zayd h said to him, “By God, I would not wish for the Prophet to get pricked with a thorn in the place that he currently is [in exchange] for me to be sitting with my family.” Abū Sufyān said, “By God, I did not see anybody who loves another person the way the Companions of Muḥammad love Muḥammad.” Some reports state that this question was posed to Khubayb b. ʿAdī who replied, “I would not wish that a thorn prick his foot so that I may be saved.”
The intense devotion of the Companions to the commands of the Messenger of God (PBUH) is also depicted in the incident of the “three who remained behind” from the battle of Tabūk. When the Muslims were ordered not to speak to these three individuals, there was not a single person in the community who disobeyed, neither openly nor discretely. As they would later recollect in their own words, the city became a ghost town for them in which there was not a single soul who would acknowledge their presence or return their greetings.
The Companions for the Prophet (PBUH) represented a model example of individuals for whom the God and His Messenger had become dearer to them than anything in their world and they became the ultimate manifestation of the reality of this love. When ʿAlī (RA) was asked what their love for the Messenger (PBUH) was like he answered, “The Messenger of God (PBUH) was more beloved to us than our wealth, our children, our fathers and our mothers. He was more beloved to us than cold water during intense thirst.”
ʿUrwa b. Masʿūd al-Thaqafī said to the pagans after negotiating with Prophet (PBUH) during Ḥudaybiya, “O people, by God I have served as a representative to kings. I have been a representative to the Caesar, Kisra, and Najāshī. By God, I have absolutely never seen a king whose people venerate him the way the Companions of Muḥammad venerate Muḥammad. He does not spit except that it lands in the hand of one of them who rubs it on his face and his skin. If he commands them, they race to fulfill his command. If he makes ablutions, they fight with each other for the remains of its water. If they speak, they lower their voices in his presence. And they do not gaze at him intently out of reverence for him.”
The Companions also realized that the objective in loving the Messenger of God (PBUH) was not simply to experience delight in his presence or to possess an emotional bond with him, but rather this love had to be manifested in their actions through the practice of self-discipline, submission, and following his teachings. This is best illustrated in the words of Saʿd b. Muʿādh h in which he spoke on behalf of himself and the Anṣār to the Prophet (PBUH) before the Battle of Badr saying, “I speak on behalf of the Anṣār and answer on their behalf. Traverse wherever you please. Attach the ropes of whom you please and break the ropes of whom you please. Take from our properties whatever you please and give us whatever you please. It is dearer to us that you take from us than you give to us. You will not command us except that we will fulfill your command. By God, even if you set forth until you reached the far off corners of Yemen ( al-bark min al-ghimd) we will go with you. Even if you set off to the ocean to cross it, we will cross it with you. On the Day of Khandaq they were working while chanting:
نَحنُ الذِينَ بَايَعُوا مُحَمَّداً على الإسلاَمِ َمابقِينَا أَبَداً
We are those who pledged allegiance to the Muḥammad
We will forever remain on [the path of] Islam
Indeed, the Companions’ love for the Messenger of God (PBUH) expanded their horizons, enlivened their hearts, and enriched their souls. They were utterly transformed from mediocrity into men and women of distinction and nobility, the likes of which history had never witnessed before. They would be remembered as “lions in the daytime and monks at night,” in allusion to the firmness of their commitment to carrying the Prophetic message during their days coupled with their intense worship in the late hours of the night. They preferred God over themselves and were prepared to give up all of the delights of the world for His sake. One of them would leave the side of his bride to meet his death while fighting injustice for the sake of God, and do so without any discontent. Another would break ties with his family and tribe in a society deeply rooted in familial and tribal affiliations, for the sake upholding his religious beliefs. The transformation of heart these men and women underwent would empower them to exchange physical blood ties for the spiritual ties of faith.
The reality of the love of the Messenger of God (PBUH) is that it mobilizes its possessor to do what is pleasing to God. The greater the intensity of this love in its possessor’s heart, the greater is his ability to do good works and become close to God. This is why Abū Bakr al-Ṣiddīq (RA) as a result of the intensity of his love for the Prophet (PBUH) and his rigor in fulfilling his commands, became the most distinguished and highest ranking Companion of the Prophet (PBUH). The Messenger of God (PBUH) once said about him, “The most distinguished person in his companionship to me and his material [assistance] is Abū Bakr. If I were to take an intimate friend [khalīl] from my community it would be Abū Bakr.” Even ʿUmar b. al-Khaṭṭāb (RA) could not attain his rank. He used to strive in competing with him until he said one day, “By God, I cannot ever surpass him in anything.”
The Significance of Prayers Upon the Messenger [Peace and Blessings be Upon Him]
One of the indications of love for the Prophet (PBUH) is being abundant in sending prayers and blessings upon him, since this is a form of remembrance and the one who loves a person will remember him frequently. In fact, the Prophet (PBUH) reminded us of this and encouraged us to send prayers upon him (PBUH). Anas b. Mālik (RA) reports that the Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “Who sends prayers upon me once, God sends ten prayers upon him, erases from him ten sins, and increases him by ten degrees.” It has also been reported on the authority of Abū Ṭalḥā al-Anṣārī (RA) that “The Messenger of God (PBUH) came one day with a smile on his noble face. So we said, ‘O Messenger of God we see a smile on your face!’ He (PBUH) said, ‘An Angel approached me and told me, ‘O Muḥammad, will it please you [to know] that God says that nobody sends prayers upon you from your community except that I send ten prayers upon him? Neither does anybody from your community send blessings upon you except that I send ten blessing upon him.’” It is reported on the authority of Aws b. Aws (RA) saying that the Messenger of God (PBUH) said, “The most superior of your days are Fridays…so be abundant in sending prayers upon me for your prayers are presented to me.” It is also reported on the authority of Ibn ʿAbbās (RA), “Who forgets to send prayers upon me, will err in his path to Heaven.”
But what is the true meaning of prayers upon the Messenger (PBUH)? It is a renewal of our connection to him combined with praise and gratitude. In other words, through sending prayers upon him, the believers supplicate to God that He grant their Prophet the best state of affairs and the utmost of goodness, in return for all that he has made possible for us from the fruits of faith and has struggled for our well being.
God has commanded us in the Qur’an to send prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH) and has informed us that God the most Exalted, Himself and His angels send prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH). He has similarly informed us that He and His angels also send prayers upon the believers. So, what is meant by all of this?
Among the results of God sending prayers on the believers is that they receive divinely granted success (tawfīq) and blessings in their endeavors. It is also a source of support from God and removes one out of states of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety into a state of steadfastness, serenity, and light, all stemming from God’s mercy and his bounty. This is indicated in the elements of the following verses:
“God is the One who sends prayers upon you, as do the angels, to bring you out of darkness into the light for God is merciful to the believers. Their greeting on the day they meet God will be peace and God has arranged a generous reward for them, [al-Aḥzāb: 43-4].”
These bounties are multiplied for the people of steadfast belief (ahl al-īmān) when they are confronted with hardships and tests related to themselves and their wealth. Their certainty (yaqīn) is not shaken nor is their spiritual bond with God weakened. They turn in submission to God as mentioned in the verse:
“They are the ones upon whom are prayers from their Lord and mercy and they are the ones who are guided, [al-Baqara: 157].”
If the patient believer is granted all of this provision from God in times of difficulty, then how much more would a believer who is striving to instill the Prophetic teachings and has dedicated his life to this aspiration receive? How much greater would the divine support and protection be for the one whose greatest concern is to guide himself and others to the service of God and his greatest pleasure is derived through worshipping Him? This is the true meaning of the verse:
“God and His Angels send prayers upon the Prophet. O you who believe, invoke prayers upon him and greet him with a salutation of peace (al-Aḥzāb: 56).”
Thus prayers upon him are an affirmation of his message and the struggle to pass it on. In addition, these greetings of love and reverence both strengthen and reinforce our loyalty to the Prophet who brought this important message. One’s prayers upon the Messenger are in essence, the adhesive that bonds the shepherd to his flock thus guiding men and women to follow the path of God through the model of His Prophet (PBUH) and to remain steadfast on this road until one’s last days.
Finally, the repetition of ornate phrases or eloquent wording is not conditional for sending prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH). What has been transmitted to us from the clear and easy wordings of prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH) will suffice. What is important is the internal realization of the perfection of the Prophet (PBUH) and the recognition of the immensity of his struggle through which he obliterated the darkness of disbelief and established the belief in the One God on the earth.
Hence, this is the true meaning of sending prayers upon the Prophet and the wisdom behind the many Qur’anic injunctions and Prophetic traditions that urge us to do so; of which we have only mentioned a few.
Let us finish by recalling the following hadith on the authority of ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. Samura (RA) saying that the Messenger of God (PBUH) came out one day and said, “Yesterday I saw [something] astonishing …I saw a man from my community who was dragging himself on the ṣirāṭ [bridge over hellfire in the hereafter] one time and crawling another time, then the prayers he sent upon me took him by the hand and made him firm on the ṣirāṭ until he crossed it.” Also, Abū Hurayra (RA) reported saying, “The Messenge of God (PBUH) said: ‘Do not make your houses like graves and do not make my grave a place of celebration. And send prayers upon me for your prayers reach me wherever you are.”
Finally, it is reported that Abū Sulaymān al-Darānī said: “Whoever wishes to ask God for a need should be abundant in sending prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH). Then he should ask for his need and close with sending prayers upon the Prophet (PBUH). This is because God accepts the two prayers [upon the Prophet] and He is far too generous to ignore what is between them.”