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Muhammad the Beloved
By Mazen Attasi
Ummati, ummati. My nation, my nation. This will be the response of that great lofty being, of whose light consists of the initial essence of all creation, on that most-certain Day. He will step in and intercede for his brothers and sisters in a time where there is naught time, nor anyone to turn to; he is the one that will supplicate in a way that no other being has ever supplicated before. He will on that Day pray for you and your salvation. He will implore your pardon and your acceptance into the Garden. He will petition for his brothers out of the mercy and compassion that permeates the very principle of his soul. This man is Muhammad and he is a man most unlike other men. Salla Allahu alayhi wassalam.
The creation sighed a sigh of anxious relief at the hearing of his coming. Mountains trembled, clouds gathered, the trees swayed in their yearning. Beasts roared and birds soared, their shrills exponentially magnifying as the praises catalyzed more praise throughout the realms. The sun set and the moon rose in honor of Ahmad, the pure of the Adamic race. He was always a sight to see and a delight to hear, but it was the unfelt and unspoken truths one felt in his presence that drew near so many of his family, friend and foes’ hearts. All was captivated by his disposition. Medium build, wide shouldered, brawny. Not too tall nor too short. Wide hands and firm feet, a mouth full of pearls- physically and vocally. His speech perfected in humble strength, sweet and succinct. And his fragrance… oh his fragrance like that of the Garden. Always clean and always scented, as if freshly bathed in the finest musk. Always anointed in the best of oils and to feel him walk by was to whiff the scent of heavenly ambrosia.
Yet even in his beauty, lay an indescribable presence of majesty. Living the life of a warrior, his quarters reflected that reality of his message. The truth must be spread, the mission must be accomplished; thus his humble home decorated with the finest shields, swords, bows and arrows. Coming out of his house dressed for battle, he had the conviction of an emboldened falcon cruising comfortably, coolly and patiently planning for divine Providence to lead him and his saints across the threshold into the testing ground of hearts. Warrior monks was what he produced, manifesting alongside him ranks and ranks of men who would train by day and pray by night, head humbled low in the remembrance of the Most High.
There was a perfected balance about him and everyone who saw the Praised One could not help but join the melodious ode of the creation to him. ‘Ahhmmaaad’ was what the angels sang and the resonance of their tune engulfed the entire world, anyone joining the song during his blessed 63 years on Earth instantly transformed and illumined. This was the Ahmadi affect. This was the Muhammadan light. The frequency of love, reaching into the hardest and darkest crevices of souls and reorienting the mirrors therein so light became refracted in it ever so wholly; this was only a touch and a caring that one appointed by God as the ‘Mercy of the Worlds’ could muster. He would move killers, highway robbers and drunken fornicators to become worldly ascetics and otherworldly gnostics; transform baby-murderers to romantic desert wanderers, intoxicated in the knowledge of the Truth-this was what our Master did.
This is the Muhammadan reality. The light created before all lights; the very quintessential manifestation of the Names of the One, tying together all the highest attributes of the Almighty into a package that merged the very heavens and earth into his purified soul. Commander of the stars, patron of the hearts. Willing leader of the faithful. Salla Allahu alayhi wassalam.
This is our glory. This is the reality that is Ahmad which all souls call for and all lights derive from. Remember him now in all that he is, so that on that day when you journey through the firmament onto the platform of the Scale, you will know your intercessor. And he will know you. And you will love your intercessor. And he will love you. And God loves the love and so through him, He will accept you.
Love him as he deserves to be loved, surely the Loving loves the Beloved.
© Mazen Attasi, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012
Rabi’ al-Awwal Reflections
By Jamilah Bashir
Allahumma salli ala Sayyiduna Muhammad wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wa sallam
I cannot remember when I first came across the burdah but it feels like it has been part of me for many years. Chapter one has always captured my heart even in English because of the yearning Imam Busairi has for his beloved. This love is not a material one, it is an unbreakable bond, a tie that as believers we all feel. For It is the love of the last and final Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alaihi wa sallam. It is the celebration of faith that is rooted deep in the hearts. It is the love that binds us, it is the love that heals, the love that gives us hope, the love that has shown us the way to live our lives and a love that we never knew existed until we heard his name ‘Muhammad’ sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
Sayyiduna Hassan Ibn Thabit (radi’Allahu an) one of the companions and poets who was honoured with the title ‘poet of the prophet’ sallallahu alaihi wa sallam due to him standing in defence of the prophet, the companions and the religion of Islam against the idolators summed it up in the following verses.
“A glorious Prophet has come to us, after years without hopes and prophets,
after years of worship on this world in idols.
He has come and illuminated us like a light
that guides us into the right path and shines all so bright.
Like the blazing, blinding glimmer of the sharp end of a sword,
against fire he warned, and he gave good news of Heaven….
A light that shines all so bright – for his face was more beautiful than the moon…..
He (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) has come to us, after years without hopes, after years wandering in the dark, aimlessly.
Do we think we can survive without this great mercy?
Do we think we are exempt from needing his love sallallahu alaihi wa sallam?
What door will we knock at if it is not his sallallahu alaihi wa sallam?
Ya Imam al- Rusli …..
O leader of all Prophets, o you my Support,
You are the door to Allah, the one on whom I rely.
In this my dunya and in my afterlife,
O Messenger of Allah, take me by my hand…..
And never let go ……
There was a time when the burdah would be recited in every house, echoing in the streets and written on the walls of the masjids throughout the world. It has been translated into over 90 different languages and Alhamdulillah is being revived once again in the hearts of the believers. Many given as gifts with the intention of shifaa and barakah, to remove hardships and to draw closer to the messenger of Allah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam.
It covered the walls in masjid nabawi but now only one line remains at the Rawdah of RasulAllah sallallahu alaihi wa sallam which say;
“He is the beloved whose intercession is hoped for, for every fear and distress that is going to come on the day of agony and fear.”
Are we ready for that day, that hour?
What have we prepared for it?
In Sahih al-Bukhari, there is a Hadith which states that a Bedouin asked the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) about the Hour. He said, “It will surely come to pass. What have you prepared for it?” The man said, “O Messenger of Allah, I have not prepared much in the way of prayer and good works, but I love Allah and His Messenger.” The Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam said, “You will be with those you love.” The Muslims had never rejoiced as much they did when they heard this Hadith.
So hold onto this love and hold onto the words of Imam Busairi – the weighty, beautiful, powerful words that will revive your heart and help you realise where you need to turn, for Imam Busairi lived by these words and was cured by these words. SUBHAN ALLAH… as he wrote:
‘Whenever time caused me any distress and I took refuge in him.
I received a shelter from him which was not misused.
I did not ask for the wealth of the two worlds from his hands.
But I received a great gift from the best hand that was ever kissed.’
We make salawaat and read these blessed poems not because he sallallahu alaihi wa sallam is in need of us, no, because we are in need of him sallallahu alai. He is our shelter and guide and we will receive more than we could ever deserve because of his mercy for us – The Ummah. No gratitude can ever suffice but we beseech Allah subhana wa ta’ala to be amongst those who remember the Messenger of Allah in abundance, to use these precious pieces of time and to strive with sincerity to follow his way as much as possible. Sallallahu alaihi wa alihi wa sahbihi wa sallam. Ameen
© Jamilah Bashir, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/February 2012
Meanings and Reflections of Salawat upon the Prophet
By: Yousaf Seyal
By the name of Allah the Gracious the Merciful
Praise be to Allah the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. Praise be to Him who created man from clot, and honored man from amongst His creation. O Allah send prayers and peace upon the most honored of creation. The one whom You have praised in the Quran and said : “And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character“(68:4); Our master Muhammad. And send prayers upon his household, his companions, and those who follow him until the day of gathering.
Indeed it is a blessing from Allah that He has blessed us with the blessing of Islam, and that within itself is a sufficient blessing. It is a blessing that He has blessed us to be from the nation of His beloved, for it is reported that His beloved said,‘ I am your portion from the Prophets, and you are my portion from the nations’. And it is great blessing from Allah that we come together to remember Him and His beloved. May Allah make us true lovers and followers of Him and His Habib.
Throughout these blessed days we have been reminded and taught various ways of getting closer and building our connection with the Prophet. Some of these ways include reading his Seerah,reading the Prophetic sayings, singing praises of him, and following his sunnah. Today I want to focus on one of the very direct and core connections we have with him. Through which if one does, is promised many divine gifts and blessings. It is indeed sending salawat upon the Prophet.
Allah says in the Quran:
(إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِيِّ يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا)
Allah and His angles send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. (Surah Al-Ahzab;56)
The scholars hold various opinions pertaining the ruling on sending prayers on the Prophet.
Some of these opinions are:
1- It is necessary to send prayers upon the Prophet.This is in a more general sense without specifying an amount, though once in one’s lifetime suffices.
2- It is a recommended act. They understood the verse not to be a command, but merely a virtuous act.
3- It is obligatory to say it at least once in one’s lifetime. This is because the commandment is general without specification of a number ie: excludes repetition. This position has been said to be held by Imam Abu Hanifa,Malik,Thawri and Owza’
There are many different ways of sending prayers upon the Prophet. Here is one of the more famous forms known as Salatul Ibrahimiyyah. The following narration is from Imam Malik’s Muwatta.
وَحَدَّثَنِي عَنْ مَالِكٍ، عَنْ نُعَيْمِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ الْمُجْمِرِ، عَنْ مُحَمَّدِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ زَيْدٍ، أَنَّهُ أَخْبَرَهُ عَنْ أَبِي مَسْعُودٍ الأَنْصَارِيِّ، أَنَّهُ قَالَ أَتَانَا رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فِي مَجْلِسِ سَعْدِ بْنِ عُبَادَةَ فَقَالَ لَهُ بَشِيرُ بْنُ سَعْدٍ أَمَرَنَا اللَّهُ أَنْ نُصَلِّيَ عَلَيْكَ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ فَكَيْفَ نُصَلِّي عَلَيْكَ قَالَ فَسَكَتَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم حَتَّى تَمَنَّيْنَا أَنَّهُ لَمْ يَسْأَلْهُ ثُمَّ قَالَ ” قُولُوا اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا صَلَّيْتَ عَلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَبَارِكْ عَلَى مُحَمَّدٍ وَعَلَى آلِ مُحَمَّدٍ كَمَا بَارَكْتَ عَلَى آلِ إِبْرَاهِيمَ فِي الْعَالَمِينَ إِنَّكَ حَمِيدٌ مَجِيدٌ وَالسَّلاَمُ كَمَا قَدْ عَلِمْتُمْ” .
Abu Masud al-Ansari al-Badari says,‘The Messenger of Allah came to us and we were in the gathering of Sa’ad ibn Ubadah. Bashir ibn Sa’ad said to the Prophet,’Allah has commanded us to send prayers upon you O Messenger of Allah,so in what manner shall we do so?’ The Prophet then kept silence until we wished he had not asked. Then the Messenger of Allah said,’Say: O Allah send your prayers upon Muhammad,and the family of Muhammad, as you have sent prayers upon Ibrahim, and the family of Ibrahim. And send blessings upon Muhammad, and the family of Muhammad as you have sent blessings upon Ibrahim and the family of Ibrahim. In the worlds You are worth of praise and glory’ and send peace as you have learnt.
In this Hadith the Prophet teaches us how to send prayers upon him. Many of us have memorized these words and repeat them in our 5 daily prayers. But what do these words mean? What does it mean for Allah and His angels to send prayers upon the Messenger of Allah? This is what I would like to touch upon next.
Salah-Prayer linguistically means:
1) to Invoke-Allah says in the Quran:
( وَصَلِّ عَلَيْهِمْ إِنَّ صَلاتَكَ سَكَنٌ لَهُمْ)
“Of their goods, take alms, that so thou mightest purify and sanctify them; and pray on their behalf. Verily thy prayers are a source of security for them: And Allah is One Who heareth and knoweth.” (Surah At-Tawbah;103) The Prophet’s prayers were invocations on their behalf.
2) to Worship
A formal meaning of prayer in relevance to Salawat:
Imam Qurtubi says in his tafsir: Prayers from Allah are the descending of His mercy, and indication of His pleasure to the Prophet. From the Angles they are invocations and seeking forgiveness on his behalf. And from His nation invocations and honoring his command.
It is important to note that the Prophet is sinless. He is protected from Allah and does not sin. The angels seeking forgiveness for him is a raise in his rank and honor.
Another interpretation of Allah’s prayers upon his Prophet is His than’a -praise. Allah mentions His Prophet amongst the angels whilst the angels invoke for blessings upon him.
It has been said the prayer of the tongue is reverence. The 5 daily prayers are referred to as ‘Salah-Prayer’ for what it entails of bending ones back (Salaa in Arabic means the middle part of the back). A child when greeting an elderly person bends down in honoring him. Salah entails a person to bend his back in ruk’u and sujud in reverence and awe of Allah. Then the scholars of language expanded this meaning and referred to every Dua-invocation as prayer for what it entails of honoring the One being sought. As well as honoring the seeker for what he seeks from the virtues of Allah and His pleasure.
A few of the many virtues of sending Salawat upon the Prophet:
1) Abu Hurayrah says: The Prophet said: ‘Whomsoever sends prayers upon me will be granted in return ten prayers from Allah.’-Muslim
2) Ali says: The Messenger of Allah said: ‘Allah has angels whom roam the earth. They report to me the prayers of the one who prays on me’- Darqutni
The angles carry the invokers name to the Prophet wherever that person may be. It has also been reported the Prophet himself returns these salawat with prayers from him.
3) It is narrated the Prophet said,‘Send abundant prayers upon me on Friday and it’s night. For I will be a witness or interceder for him on the day of rising.’
Imam as-Shafi’i said,’I love sending prayers upon the Prophet abundantly in every moment, but I love to do so more increasingly on Friday and it’s night.’
One of the most beautiful things I witnessed in my days in Damascus was the constant remembrance of the Prophet in every moment. You would walk into the souk and hear shopkeepers as well as the layman shouting out,’Sallu alal Habib’’. When ending an argument between two people, the first thing said to calm a person was,‘Salli alan Nabi’. Mawlids are held constantly throughout the week in the masajid. And the streets are decorated with banners in praise of the Prophet throughout the month of Rabi al’Awwal. May Allah bring peace to it’s people. (Amin)
An essential advice my Shayukh and teachers would always point out and remind us with, was constantly sending prayers and peace upon the Prophet. For it does not only build ones connection, but leads to a relationship with him. Picture yourself right now, standing in front of the grave of the Prophet, with awe and serenity, saying,‘As salatu was salamu alayka Ya Rasulallah.’ but the picture is not yet completed until Allah,His Prophet and angels invoke for you. You are gifted ten good deeds and ten sins have been forgiven. Your rank has been risen by ten and the virtues of just one prayer upon him is endless. And Allah multiplies in reward as He wishes.
I ask Allah to bless the nation of His Habib. To make us true Lovers of His Habib. And to raise us on the Day of Rising with His Habib.
I would also like to thank Sr.Sidra Mushtaq for blessing me with the opportunity to write for her blog in such blessed days. May Allah accept her efforts and grant her better than what she seeks in this world and the hereafter.
Walhamdu lillahi rabbil a’lameen
Rabia al-Awwal ,1433 H. (January 2012)
by Naosheen Pervez
We hear of Heaven’s first lady and fair maidens frequently,
Of faith’s first martyr and faithful mothers stories we retell,
This month, the first of Spring, in which we celebrate joyfully,
Let our thoughts on the blessed mother of God’s Last Prophet dwell.
Through a pure, noble lineage Prophetic light reached Abdullah,
For a wise lady among the Jews that light was plain to see,
What she desired and was denied passed on to Amina,
Allah chose Amina to give birth to the Prophet of Mercy.
Four doulas from another realm came on that momentous night,
Out went a flame of falsehood lit since a thousand years before,
And the palaces of Basra could be seen there was such light,
Amina’s newborn baby knelt in prostration on the floor.
Amina has honour that no other woman ever can,
The baby she gave birth to became the greatest man.
- Respect and admiration are given to people based on what they do and achieve, how they look, what they have, and what they know. Yet some people deserve them simply for being who they are.
- Destiny will bring you what is meant to be yours even without you foreseeing or pursuing it.
- In Sayyida Amina’s (as) birth story, she tells of four mothers of previous Prophets visiting her that night; one of them was Asiya (as) the wife of Pharoah. She did not give birth to Musa (as) but she was his mother. You don’t have to carry your baby in the womb and give birth to her in order to love her and be a mother.
- The Prophet, salallahu alayhi wasalam, was supported by miracles from before his birth.
- The Prophet’s, salallahu alayhi wasalam, first action upon entering the world was to worship Allah ta’ala; immediately demonstrating perfected ubudiyah.
- Remember the Prophet’s, salallahu alayhi wasalam, words when he was asked who deserves dutiful treatment more than any other: “Your mother… your mother… your mother.”
- What greater honour than a connection to the Prophet, salallahu alayhi wasalam?
© Naosheen Pervez, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/January 2012
Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous?
In the Qur’an, the Prophet is addressed directly, “Truly, you are of tremendous character.” [Qur’an, 68.4] This Qur’anic verse intrigued Muslim scholars, early and late, especially the Qur’anic exegetes and the masters of the spiritual path, especially as the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent to perfect noble character,” [Ahmad] and said, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character.” [Tirmidhi]
What is good character?
Good character, Ghazali explains in his Ihya’, is an inward disposition that causes one to incline towards praiseworthy inward traits and praiseworthy outward actions.
How is good character manifest?
Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali and others relate that the sum of Prophetic teachings is that good character is manifest in five matters:
(1) Fulfilling the rights of others
(2) Avoiding hurting or harming others
(3) Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealing with others
(4) Recognizing the good of others and reciprocating
(5) Responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good.
These five manifestations of good character don’t only summarize the Prophetic teachings on good character, but they also summarize the Prophet Muhammad’s own character and conduct.
First. As for fulfilling the rights of others, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) emphasized that, “Give everyone who has a right their due right,” [Bukhari] and he warned against non-fulfillment of others’ rights, “Injustice shall become manifold darkness on the Day of Judgment.” [Bukhari]
Second. Avoiding hurting or harming others is a corollary of fulfilling the rights of others. However, sometimes one can fulfill others’ rights in ways that hurt them; or we follow the follow the fulfillment of rights with hurtful reminders; or strive to fulfill rights, without considering how others feel or may consider our efforts.
Third. Being cheerful and positive in one’s dealings with others. The Prophet is described as always having been full of concern, yet he was always cheerful.
Fourth. Recognizing the good of others entails not only thanking and reciprocating those who do obvious acts of good to one, but to reflect, consider, and appreciate the less-obvious (but significant) good that countless people to for one–both directly and indirectly. We owe our very lives to our parents. When did we last thank them? Our teachers, whether at school or university, have taught us so much. When did we last thank them? The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) cautioned that, “Whoever is not thankful to people is not thankful to God.” [Ahmad, Tirmidhi, and Abu Dawud]
Fifth. The greatest test of character is responding to the wrong of others with nothing but the good. This tests one’s character because one’s personal urge would customarily be to reciprocate; and one’s negative urge would be to affirm oneself. However, the way of Prophets is to respond with nothing but the good.
Upon Entering Mecca, Victorious
When the Prophet Muhamamad (peace and blessings be upon him) entered Mecca as a victor, people expected that he would seek revenge two decades of opposition, wrong, and injustice from his people. The Meccans were fearful, and some hastened to declare that, “Today is a day of slaughter.” The Prophet responded that, instead, “Today is a day of righteousness and loyalty,” and he forgave them in public address, saying, “I say to you today as Joseph said to his brothers,’There is no blame on you today. May God forgive you, and He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.’ [Qur’an, 12.92] Go! For you are free.” [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]
A bedouin once came to the Prophet, seeking some money. Without introduction or greetings, he said, “Muhammad! Give me, for you’re not giving me from your money or your father’s money.”
Despite the man’s rudeness, the Prophet gave him, and asked, “Have I pleased you?” The bedouin replied, “No, and you haven’t done me good.”
The Muslims who were standing around them were angered and surrounded the bedouin. The Prophet signaled for them to restrain, and he entered his house.
He asked for the bedouin to be invited in. When he entered, the Prophet gave him some money, and asked, “Are you pleased?” He replied, “No.” The Prophet gave him more, and asked, “Are you pleased?” The bedouin responded, “Yes, we are pleased.”
The Prophet told him, “You came to us and asked us. We gave you, and then you said what you said. As a result, there is something in the hearts of the Muslims regarding that. If you were to say in front of them what you said to me, that might remove those feelings from their hearts.” The man agreed, and mentioned the Prophet with praise and thanked him in front of the Prophet’s Companions. [Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa’l Rashad]
The Prophet was unaffected by the man’s words. His concern was for the good of the man himself and the feelings of his Companions. Why? This returns to the understanding why the Prophet character was described as being “tremendous” in the Qur’an.
Imam Junayd al-Baghdadi, one of the foremost authorities of Islamic spirituality (tasawwuf) and others have explained that, “The Prophet’s character was termed tremendous because his concern was for God alone.” [Qurtubi, Jami Ahkam al-Qur’an] What moved the Prophet was the pursuit of His Lord’s pleasure, both in acting and in responding.
This was manifest in small matters, too. Once a woman brought a baby for the Prophet to bless him. The Prophet placed him on his chest, and the child urinated. The mother reached out for the child, anxious. The Prophet signalled to let the child finish first. After that, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) calmly rinsed the area lightly. He didn’t want to alarm the child, nor make the mother feel bad.
It is also related that though he was the busiest of people, young girls in Medina would take the Prophet’s hand and would take him wherever they went–and he wouldn’t let go of their hand until they let go of his. [Bukhari, Sahih]
Lessons in Mercy
We see from this that the Prophetic example is nothing but a manifestation of mercy. And any understanding of religion lacking in mercy is lacking in true understanding. After all, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) having been, “sent only as a mercy to all creation.” [Qur'an, 21.107] The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself emphasized that, “I was only sent as a gift of Mercy.” [Bazzar and Tabarani]
The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) explained, too, that, “The merciful are shown mercy by the All-Merciful. Be merciful to those on earth and the Lord of the Heavens will be merciful to you.” [Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud, from Abd Allah ibn Amr; rigorously authentic] It is a sign of the way of traditional Islamic scholarship that this is the first Hadith (Prophetic teaching) traditionally conveyed by a scholar to their students.
This mercy, manifest in good character in one’s dealings with people, is the test and barometer of faith. After all, “The believers most perfect in faith are those best in character,” as the Prophet affirmed. [Tirmidhi]
It once happened that some non-Muslims greeted the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) with an insult. His wife, A’isha, insulted them back. But the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not. Rather, he simply replied, “And upon you,” which is the standard reply to the greeting of, “Peace be upon you.” Then, he said to his dear wife, “A’isha! Allah is gentle and loves gentleness in all matters.” [Bukhari, from Ai'sha] And he also taught that, “Gentleness is not found in anything except that it makes it beautiful; and gentleness is not taken out of anything except that is makes it ugly.” [Muslim and others, also from A'isha]
The Key to All Relations
The Prophet made clear that the key to all relationships is upholding good character and maintaining it, even when tested. He said, “Deal with people on the basis of good character,” [Tirmidhi] and affirmed that, “Forbearance is the very best of character.”
Forbearance is for one not to be moved by anger or negative emotion–but to make one’s response based on reason and (for a believer) Revelation. Forbearance is, ultimately, intelligence, as it is the capacity to respond in the best of ways to each situation.
This restraint and concern for excellence and the greater good that underly excellence of character–and that made the Prophet Muhammad’s character “tremendous”–are virtues each of us would do well to strive for in our own lives and relationships, both as individuals and communities.
*Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has contributed this beautiful article to the Light Reflections series on Healing Hearts. The article was originally published in Islamica Magazine.
The mawlid, or the birth of the blessed Prophet Muhammad, Allah bless him and grant him peace, is considered by Muslims to be the single greatest event in humankind’s history. Indeed, it was a momentous cosmic event. Ibn Kathir, the accomplished muhaddith (hadith master), muffasir (Qur’anic exegete), historian and qadi (judge), noted in his multi-volume work, al-Bidaya wa al-niyaha, that it was an occasion in which “Paradise and the skies were decorated and the angels moved about in continuous processions. The palace of Chosroes was shaken and the fire of 1000 years ceased to burn.” The Prophet himself often recounted to his companions the moment of his birth, describing how his blessed mother Amina marvelled at being able to see distant castles in Damascus by the light that emanated from her. The Prophet’s uncle, al-‘Abbas ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, Allah be well pleased with him, described the moment of the Prophet’s birth in prose, exclaiming: “[W]hen you were born, a light rose over the earth until it illuminated the horizon with its radiance. We are in that illumination and that original light and those paths of guidance — and thanks to them we pierce through.”
Muslim theologians and poets throughout history concluded that it is almost impossible to describe the qualities of the Prophet Muhammad or praise him as he should be praised. The poet’s inability to praise the Prophet stemmed from the fact that he is mentioned in the Qur’an with words of praise, and since the Creator and the Lord of all the worlds utters blessings upon him, humans must be wholly incapable of praising him as he so deserves. The Spanish author Lisan al-din pondered over this dilemma and frustratingly admitted that since “the verses of the Holy book have praised you/How could the poem of my eulogy possibly praise your greatness?” Imam Muhammad al-Busiri concludes in his Hamziyya that the inability of tongues to describe the Prophet is one of his true miracles.
The Prophet’s companion, Hassan ibn Thabit, often captured the Prophet’s magnanimity in his poems, once stating: “I witness with Allah’s permission that Muhammad is the Messenger who is higher than heaven.” Even after the Prophet’s earthly departure, Hassan ibn Thabit defiantly proclaimed: “I shall never cease to praise him. It may be for so doing I shall be forever in paradise.” It is this precedent of extolling praise of the Prophet that following generations of Muslims emulate. None other than the hadith master, the Shaykh al-Islam (“The Senior of Islam”) al-Hafiz Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, well-known and respected for his commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari, expressed these sentiments centuries later, when he lamented: “By the gate of your generosity stands a sinner, who is mad in love/Best of mankind […] Praise of you does not do you justice/ But perhaps, in eternity, its verses will be transformed into mansions. My praise of you shall continue for as long as I live, For I see nothing that could ever deflect me from your praise.”
Today, the most often recited and valued expression of praise of the Prophet is a poem entitled al-Burda (“the poem of the cloak”) written by Imam al-Busiri. He wrote this poem after suffering from a stroke. In anguish and in misery, he turned to the Prophet to compose a poem in his honour. The Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and grant him peace, appeared to Imam al-Busiri in his dream and cast his cloak (“burda”) over him, just as the Prophet had once done to Ka’b ibn Zuhair, after listening to his poem honouring the Messenger of Allah. Imam al-Busiri was healed by the touch of the Prophet’s cloak and in the morning discovered that he could move once again.
For the companions, it was not enough to recite honorific poetry in his name; they used to cherish anything that was associated with him. Indeed, we know from the authentic hadith collections that they used to collect the Prophet’s hair (often using it to cure ailments) and tying strands to their caps. They would also kiss the hands of other companions that had touched the Prophet. Imam al-Dhahabi, arguably the greatest of all hadith masters, summarised the manifestations of the companions love for the Messenger of Allah, explaining that
[…] they enjoyed his presence directly, kissed his very hand, nearly fought each other [for] the remnants of his ablution water, shared his purified hair on the day of the greater pilgrimage, and even if he spat, it would virtually not fall except in someone’s hand so that he could pass it over his face [...] Don’t you see the Companions in their intense love for the Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked him, “should we not prostrate to you?” and he replied “no,” and if he had allowed them, they would have prostrated to him as a mark of utter veneration and respect, not as a mark of worship, just as the Prophet Joseph’s brothers prostrated to Joseph, upon whom be peace.
His birth is a blessing for all those who rejoice and celebrate it. We know that Abu Lahab, the “father of the flame” rejoiced at his nephew’s birth and freed his slave with his fingers, only to gain reprieve from his punishment in the grave for this single act of happiness. We also know that a dead palm tree trunk moaned when the Prophet Muhammad moved a slight distance away from it to deliver his Friday sermon in his mosque. The blessed Prophet walked over to it and consoled it. If a dead tree cries when distanced from the Prophet, what about a human being?
In addition to reciting poetry in praise of the habib Allah (the Beloved of Allah), the mawlid should move us to ponder and reflect upon the ethical nature and moral message of the Prophet Muhammad. Described by Allah as a “mercy for all of mankind,” the mawlid reminds us of the qualities we should strive to implement on a daily basis. Summarising his readings of the traditions that describe the Prophet’s character, Thomas Cleary refers to him as someone who was “[B]rilliantly spiritual, stern in matters of right yet compassionate and clement, rich in dignity yet extremely modest and humble […] a manly and valorous warrior who was most kind and gentle with women and children.” In countless sayings, the Prophet reminded his followers to be gentle, compassionate, and above all, merciful. It was related that he said:
[Allah] is Compassionate and loves those who are compassionate. He is Gentle and loves those who are gentle to others. Whoever is merciful to creatures, to him is Allah merciful. Whoever does good for people, to him will Allah do good. Whoever is generous to them, to him will Allah be generous. Whoever benefits the people, Allah will benefit him.
Thus, the mawlid is an event whereby Muslims not only have an opportunity to come to know the Prophet, pause and reflect on their character and check themselves against the behaviour of the Prophet Muhammad, but it also gives us an opportunity to come to love him. After all, the Prophet told us: “None of you believes until he loves me more than he loves his children, his parents, and all people.” The blessed Prophet once told a Bedouin (who had said that he hadn’t prepared much for the Day of Judgement, but he loved the Prophet) that “You will be with those whom you love.” Muslims, scholars and lay people alike have celebrated the mawlid throughout the ages to instil this love in us and offer us the hope of intercession. In the words of Jalal al-din al-Suyuti, the polymath, mujtahid Imam and mujadid (Renewer) of the tenth Islamic century, the person who celebrates the mawlid is “rewarded because it involves venerating the status of the Prophet and expressing joy at his honourable birth.”
© Aftab A. Malik, January 2012