How to express our Love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ?
A question that every Muslim ought to ask in this blessed month of Rabi’ al-Awwal is how to express his or her love for the Messenger of Mercy in a genuine way. This question begs for an answer that would satisfy the lessons of the scripture as well as common sense. In what follows, I will try to answer this question as succinctly as possible.
Before proceeding further, however, allow me to explain why this issue is relevant today. To me, there are two compelling reasons, if not more, for addressing this issue; firstly, Muslims today fall into two warring camps on the issue of expressing love for the Prophet (peace be upon him). One group seems to fall into extremes in indulging in excessive veneration to such an extent that they almost idolize him. Another group, on the contrary, goes into the other extreme of considering even any genuine expression of love for him, cherishing his memory, or commemorating his seerah and achievements as a form of bid’ah.
The second reason is even more compelling: Since Islamophobia is ever on the increase, every Muslim should be concerned about the effective strategy of countering it. As far as I can see, there can be no better way of fighting this problem than by emulating the Prophet’s examples. It is a truism that the Prophet (peace be upon him) within a short period of 23 years could transform his enemies into dear friends. He did so primarily through his own actions and practice of justice and mercy.
Now let me address the question, and thus turn the tables on the enemies of Islam; no Muslim can dispute the fact that our faith is not complete unless we love the Prophet and obey him and emulate his examples. This is the clear mandate of the Qur’an: “Say, O Muhammad to the faithful if you love Allah then follow me; Allah will love you and forgive for you your sins. Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.”(Qur’an: 3: 31)
We can never exaggerate the fact that our love of the Prophet requires us to embrace his mission, study his seerah and examples and emulate them. Furthermore, we ought to be willing to share the message he transmitted. As he is the final prophet, the duty of passing on the message now rests squarely on our shoulders. Thus, he addressed the throng of companions gathered around him in his farewell sermon: “Let those who are present here pass it on to those who are not present.”
However, we should go to a step further to consider the specific ways of expressing our love for the Prophet of mercy; our duties towards the Prophet vary according to the privilege we enjoy or stated differently, our precise station in life, for each person’s responsibilities vary according to his own station. Thus, a ruler has a greater responsibility than his subjects; a scholar has greater responsibility than a common man; a father or leader of the family has a greater responsibility than his wife or children, etc.
Let us review each of these responsibilities, respectively:
1. The responsibility of Muslim rulers and leaders is greater today than any other time in history. For, one of the main reasons for the negativity associated with Islam, is due to people’s perception of the state of Muslim societies; it is often said that the Muslim countries have an abysmal record when it comes to human rights, rule of law and implementation of justice. Anyone studying the Prophet’s life would attest that these were the fundamental principles of the Prophet’s mission, as the jahiliyyah society he came to reform was described as the one where the strong devoured the weak.
Thus, our rulers cannot render any better service to the cause of fighting islamophobia by changing their societies by following the examples of the Prophet. They should learn from his refusal in spending the wealth of the nation on his personal expenses or his own family, his preferred asceticism, and his steadfast adherence to the rule of law and justice as mandated by the Quran, ‘be just even if it is against your own interests or interests of your parents.”
2. Next to rulers comes the responsibility of scholars. There was a time when scholars acted as the moral conscience of the ummah. Sadly though, today we find our scholars vying with one another in getting the attention of rulers for their favors. Scholars have also fallen under the heavy influence of materialism and consumerism. I remember during my years of study in Madinah we were reminded of the Prophetic ideal of kafaf (tsu) as the ideal for a scholar to cherish. I also heard that one of the eminent scholars refused to take a brand-new car presented to him by the king preferring instead to drive his own old car. Today, our scholars have no qualms in going around in posh cars and rushing to self-justification. I am not in any way suggesting that we are allowed to prohibit what Allah has permitted; however, a scholar should ask himself how can he can justify such behavior when we see people all around us struggling for their bare subsistence, and he sees millions dying of starvation? The sages of the past were aware of the dangers of cozying up to the rulers when they said, “If one’s name is entered in the register of the king, his name will be dropped from the register of Allah!”
No wonder then if we find our scholars and preachers are not only tongue tied but also virtually blind to the rampant corruption and violations of justice that are taking place in their societies. However, they are never tired of citing fiqh principles to preach unconditional obedience to the rulers.
3. Rulers as well leaders of all shapes and strains may do well to emulate the Prophet as he used to consult people. This should not only apply to running a simple organization but also to governing cities or countries, for without transparency, there is no way of preventing corruption.
4. Men as fathers and husbands may do well to emulate the Prophet’s examples. By doing so, they will turn their families into model families for the world to see the beauty of Islam in real life.
Think of Prophet’s love for Fathimah; his love for his grandchildren Hasan and Husayn. Think of his mentoring of Aishah in such a way that soon after his death she would become one of the greatest scholars who taught hundreds of men and women. What an excellent example our scholars would be setting if they only allowed their own wives to actualize their potential to become scholars and teachers emulating the Prophet’s example!
5. Our preachers as well as everyone who cares about sharing the message of Islam can learn from the Prophet’s example of establishing credentials before assuming his mission. He was first an excellent human being; one whose message could be found credible and worthy of hearing. Hence his question to the people; “If I were to tell you that an army is advancing to invade you from behind this mountain, would you believe me?’; they shouted in one voice, “Certainly we will as you are the trustworthy one!”
This is the lesson for Muslims to learn: let us embody the message and emulate the Prophet’s examples. This is the genuine way of expressing our love for the Prophet; it is also the surest way of turning our enemies into friends.