Extreme Love, Respect & Praise of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him)

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By Osman Riaz

The Objection: It is claimed that it is wrong to excessively praise the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him). It is claimed that the ways and means of expressing ones extreme love and praise of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) leads to shirk (idolatry) as it means placing too much emphasis on his person. So the attitude of excessively praising the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) should be curtailed. This is done by saying it is 'over the top' and leads to shirk.

Answer: Praise is a natural expression of love. The lover praises the beloved. The two are identifiably linked. Expressions of love can vary; it is the sincerity which is pertinent. The one who aims to stop high praises reflects his own lack of sincerity towards the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him). To entertain The Objection it begs to be asked: Do the sources of Islamic Law command Muslims to have extreme love towards the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him)? Does Islam justify high praises and expressions of love for the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him)? How true are the allegations of The Objection? What has been the practice of the pious predecessors? The true Islamic perspective will be sought through Quran, Hadith, and sayings of religious authorities:

Allah destroys the allegation of shirk

"Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah" [Quran 4:80]

"O Believers! Put faith in Allah and His Messenger" [Quran 4:136]

"(O Beloved) Say: 'If you love Allah, follow me. Allah will then take you as (His) beloved" [Quran 3: 31]

"(O Beloved!) Indeed those who pledge allegiance to you in fact pledge allegiance to Allah alone. Allah's hand is over their hands (in the form of your hand)." [Quran 48:10]

Regarding this last verse (48:10) Imam Ibn Kathir writes: "The pledge mentioned here is the pledge of Ar-Ridwan which was pledged under a tree, a Samurah, in the area of al-Hudaybiyyah. The number of the companions who gave their pledge to Allah's Messenger (peace & blessings be upon Him) [emphasis added] at the time was 1,300, 1,400, or 1,500" [Tafsir Ibn Kathir]

Imam Ibn Taymiyya writes: "Allah in His commands and prohibitions and in the details expressing them has conferred on the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) His own status. Therefore, it is not permissible to discriminate between Allah and His Messenger about any one of these commands." [Al-Sarim al-Maslul, 41]

Allah teaches Muslims special adab (etiquette) towards the Prophet

"O Believers! Do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet and (also) do not speak to him so loud as you are loud when you speak to one another (lest) all your actions should come to nothing, and you are not even aware (that your faith and all pious works have been wrecked)". [Quran 49:2]

"(O Muslims!) Do not regard the calling of the Prophet among you like your calling of one another". [Quran 24:63]

"O Believers! Do not step ahead of Allah and His Messenger (in any matter) and keep fearing Allah". [Quran 49:1]

Every act is based on intention

"Sayyiduna Umar (may Allah be well pleased with Him) states: 'I heard the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) saying, indeed actions are (rewarded) according to intentions and everyone will be rewarded according to what he intended. So whoever migrated to attain the world (i.e. worldly benefits) or for a woman in order to marry her, then his migration is to that for which he migrated". [Sahih Bukhari vol. 1 pg. 3 # 1]

This hadith proves that the intention and sincerity of all actions is pertinent and this applies to expressions of love, respect & praise. Therefore, the one who intended to worship the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) commits shirk but note that this is never the case! So the allegation of shirk is futile in this respect; the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) is loved, respected and praised as the Esteemed Messenger and not God himself!

The importance of extreme love of the Prophet

"(O Esteemed Messenger!) Say: 'If your fathers (and forefathers) and your sons (and daughters) and your brothers (and sisters) and your wives and your (other) relatives and the riches that you have earned (so hard) and the trade that you fear may decline and the dwelling that you desire are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and struggles in His cause, then wait until Allah brings His command (of torment). And Allah does not guide the disobedient". [Quran 9:24]

"The (Esteemed) Prophet is closer to and has a greater claim on the believers than their own souls". [Quran 33:2]

Narrated Anas: A man asked the Prophet about the Hour (i.e. Day of Judgment) saying, "When will the Hour be?" The Prophet said, "What have you prepared for it?" The man said, "Nothing, except that I love Allah and His Apostle." The Prophet said, "You will be with those whom you love." We had never been so glad as we were on hearing that saying of the Prophet (i.e., "You will be with those whom you love.") Therefore, I love the Prophet, Abu Bakr and 'Umar, and I hope that I will be with them because of my love for them though my deeds are not similar to theirs. (Sahih Bukhari 5:37)

Narrated Umar bin Al Khattab: During the lifetime of the Prophet there was a man called 'Abdullah whose nickname was Donkey, and he used to make Allah's Apostle laugh. The Prophet lashed him because of drinking (alcohol). And one day he was brought to the Prophet on the same charge and was lashed. On that, a man among the people said, "O Allah, curse him! How frequently he has been brought (to the Prophet on such a charge)!" The Prophet said, "Do not curse him, for by Allah, I know for he loves Allah and His Apostle." (Sahih Bukhari 8:771)

"According to Anas (may Allah be well pleased with Him), the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'None of you truly believes, until I am more beloved to him than his parents, his children and the whole of mankind". [Sahih Bukhari vol. 1, pg. 14 # 15; Sahih Muslim vol.1, pg. 67 # 44; a similar narration also in: Musnad Ahmed vol. 5, pg. 162 # 21480; al-Bayhaqi in Shu'abu'l-Iman, vol. 2, pg. 129 # 1375; and others]

"From Abdullah ibn Hisham (may Allah be well pleased with Him) who said: 'We were together with the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him), and he was holding Umar ibn al-Khattab by the hand. Umar said to him: O Messenger of Allah! You are surely dearer to me than everything except myself.' The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'No, by the One in whose hand is my soul, (you cannot be a true believer) until I am more beloved to you than yourself!' Umar then said to him: 'Now, by Allah, you are surely dearer to me than my own self!' The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: 'Now, O Umar! (You are a perfect believer)." [Sahih Bukhari vol. 6, pg. 2445 # 6257]

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) used to make the following supplication: "Oh Allah! I ask of your love and the love of the one who loves You, and the love of every act, which will bring me nearer to Your love". [Sunan Tirmidhi vol. 5, pg. 369 # 3235; Musnad Ahmed vol. 5, pg. 243; Imam Tabarani in al-Mu'jamu'l-Kabir vol. 20, pg. 109, # 216]

Loving those connected to the Prophet is loving the Prophet himself; love of the Prophet is love of Allah

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said: "A sign of faith is love for the Ansar (Medinian Helpers) and a sign of hypocrisy is hatred for the Ansar". [Sahih Bukhari vol. 1, pg. 15 # 17; Sahih Muslim vol. 1, pg. 85 # 74]

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) said about his two grandsons: "Whoever loves Hasan and Husayn has indeed loved me, and whoever hates them has indeed hated me". [Sunan Ibn Maja vol. 1, pg. 51 # 143; Imam Nasai in as-Sunnan al-Kubra vol. 5, pg. 49 # 8169; Musnad Ahmed vol. 2, pg. 288 # 7863]

"Zirr reported: 'Ali observed: By Him Who split up the seed and created something living, the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) gave me a promise that no one but a believer would love me, and none but a hypocrite would nurse a grudge against me" [Sahih Muslim vol. 1, chapter on Loving the Ansar & Ali..]

The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) used to make the supplication: "O Allah, I love them (Hasan and Husayn), You also love them and love those who love them". [Sunan Tirmidhi vol. 5, pg. 657 # 3772; Musnad Abu Ya'la vol. 5, pg. 274 # 4249]

The state of the Companions

"The Prophet did not come out for three days. The people stood for prayer and Abu Bakr went ahead to lead the prayer. (In the meantime) the Prophet caught hold of the curtain and lifted it. When the curtain lifted and his beautiful and bright face appeared, it was such an attractive and delightful scene that it had never been witnessed before" [Sahih Bukhari 1:94 # 649]

Regarding the same tradition Imam Muslim transmits the words of the companions: "Overwhelmed by the joy of his sight, we were completely dazed, that is, we were distracted from prayer" [Sahih Muslim 1:179]

"Urwah bin Mas'ud fixed his gaze at the companions of the Prophet. The narrator has reported that he kept looking at them. Whenever he (the Prophet) spat, the phlegm from his mouth somehow slithered into the hands of some companions which he rubbed on to his face or body. Whenever he asked them to do something, they acted it out instantly. When he performed ablution (wudu) the people scrambled to obtain the water used by him and tried to excel in wrestling the initiative from each other. Each one of them wanted to get the water for himself. When people talked with one another in his presence, they lowered their voices and avoided long eye-contact with him out of sheer respect for him. Then Urwah returned to his companions and said to them: 'O my nation! I swear on God! I have led delegations to the courts of kings I have attended the courts of Ceasar and Kaiser but I swear by God I have not come across a single king whose companions have such respect for him as the companions have for Muhammad, the saliva from his mouth falls on to the palm of some companions which he rubs on to his face and body. When he asks them to do something they act it out instantly. When he performs ablution, it seems that people are ready to die to obtain his used water. They lower their voices in his presence and avoid long eye-contact with him out of sheer respect for him." [Sahih Bukhari, ch. 15 (2:976#2581)]

"Anas reports: 'I saw with my own eyes that when the barber cut his hair, the companions used to surround him completely and did not let a single hair fall down except on their hands" [Sahih Bukhari ch. 32 (1:75#169); Sahih Muslim ch. 19, (4:1812#75)]

Abbas (may Allah be pleased with Him) read a poem to the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) to which the he (peace & blessings be upon Him) replied: 'May Allah bless your mouth'. A small part of the poem was: 'When you were born, the earth and the edge of the sky, all shone as they never did from your light. We are still travelling under the same guidance of that light'. [Ibn al-Qayyim in Zad-ul-Ma'ad vol. 3, pg 10; Tarikh Ibn Kathir end of chapter of Ghazwa Tabuk; Imam Asqalani in al-Asaba; Ashraf Ali Thanwi in Nashrut Teeb]

Ibn Kathir writes: 'Hasan bin Thabit (may Allah be pleased with Him) said: The Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) is that star from which even the moon of the fourteenth night obtains its light'. [Tarikh Ibn Kathir, chapter on Wilada]

The state of classical authorities

Masab bin Abdullah says: Whenever the Prophet was mentioned in the presence of Imam Malik, his colour changed, his entire body turned into a posture of respect and courtesy which deeply disturbed his friends. One day someone asked him about his peculiar state. He replied: 'If you see what I see, you will go through the same emotional experience'. [Ash Shifa, 2:597]

Ali Qari states: 'You will also pass through the same experience if you knew the worth of his (the Prophet's) status and the beauty of his distinction'. [Nasim-ur-Riyadh, 3:399]

Imam Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani quotes: "Imam Bukhari finalised the chapters of his compendium between the grave of the Prophet (peace & blessings be upon Him) and his pulpit." [Muqaddima Fath-ul-Bari, pg. 13]