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Embracing the Prophet  ﷺ After Embracing Islam: A Converts Reflection

By Ibrahim J. Long

We were sitting together in a circle in the masjid and today’s talk was about the Prophet Muhammadﷺ. Young men and women, many of whom not born Muslim, moved to sit with us after performing the ‘asr prayer. We had come together to speak about the man whose life was dedicated to teaching us our religion.

One of the young men among us, Jacob, had only embraced Islam a few months earlier and had become immediately passionate about his new faith. As we all sat together Jacob revealed a secret: “I remember when I first embraced Islam,” he said, “I didn’t know that much at all about the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. And, I would see all these people around me just in love with him… I loved Islam… but I did not know why people were so obsessed with him?”

A few other attendees nodded their head in agreement, and a few others cracked a smile. “I know what you mean,” said Nancy, “at first I wondered the same thing.” Nancy, also a convert to Islam, had embraced the religion only a few months prior to Jacob. Having always been interested in religion, she had become interested in Islam after meeting some Muslims, and became open to learning more. Like Jacob she had found in Islam a religion that she could embrace. She liked the dignity that Islam afforded women, the emphasis upon prayer, and the direction that it gave her life; though, like Jacob, at the time of her conversion she knew very little about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

Although I was asked to lead them in the discussion, I was no different from them. When I embraced Islam it was due to the beauty and depth of the Qur’an, which nothing but a light placed in my heart had convinced me to firmly believe to have a divine origin. And, like Jacob and Nancy, I had only known initially that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the one to whom the Qur’an was revealed, and perhaps a few stories about his blessed life.

As we sat there together and continued to share our stories, I realized something I had not before: In each of our personal stories, including my own, the example of the Prophet ﷺ had increasingly taken on a more critical role in our daily lives and in the strength of our faith. Though we did not know that much about him initially, when we were going through a trial a Muslim friend would relate to us a story about Muhammad ﷺ going through a more difficult trial, and so we would try harder to be patient. When we were having difficulties with friends or family, someone would inform us about how the Prophet ﷺ treated other people and we would try harder to be like him. And, as we were learning how to properly worship God, we realized how perfectly the Prophet ﷺ worshiped Him.

Though we each had known little about the Messenger ﷺ when we first embraced Islam, by following Islam his example became increasingly important at each step along the way; and so did our love for him ﷺ. In fact, his life and example taught us, and still teaches us, how to follow the faith we had been moved by God to embrace. While we had known little about the Prophet ﷺ, by embracing Islam we had come to discover–through our striving to achieve (as close as possible) a resemblance to his exalted level of character–that he truly is the one worthy of praise and emulation.

May the peace and blessings of God be upon him and his folk.

© Ibrahim J. Long, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/January 2012

Unveiled

By:Mona Haydar

Lovers are veiled from the beauty of a full moon
until they have their beloved’s face and form to compare it to.
It comes to be that there is nothing more magical
nothing more Majestic
than the voice of the beloved
calling their name.

And when they sleep
they see him,
and by day they pray
he will visit them by night
to bless them with his presence-
with beautiful dreams of his radiant face
and his regal countenance-
and so their lives become devoted
to that which pleases him,
so that they may deserve his companionship in a later life,
because in this life
they came too late to be enchanted by his physical light.

Cycles of the moon separate them and yet they yearn for him.

The moon burns and blazes brightly like the beloved’s legacy.
His path, rightly guided with the brilliance of the moon-
like the brilliance of his blessed face
a shining light, gently guiding towards freedom.

Only upon true tawhid is there a chance.
The contingency of this tawhid is that of belief in beloved:
First stemming from a respectful reverence
into a full blown deeply seated love affair,
where the shape of his generously granted smile is memorized
and mesmerized
is all there is.

He is all this world could ever dream to be
and so he came to be
and was
and made way for us.

Made it clear that the path to tawhid
is only through he, the beloved.
Man who consumes waking thoughts
and the dream world too.

Like the moon
he testified to truth.
Found and gifted annihilation
in complete submission.

Like the way he lived
when king was a title within his reach-
instead he reached for hearts,
with his touch so real and deep
he reached into centuries and destinies
and is a hearts to keep.

His legacy burns in hearts,
passionately blazes and lights the way
for those desiring the path.
He shines brighter than the moon,
the moon, which rises and falls
in memory of lighting his noble face.

He had:
wheat colored skin
because he was wholesome.
Solid and secure,
he was fashioned to become
the elegance
that blessed man with etiquette.

A body that shined like silver,
broad and beautifully built.

A toothy pearly brilliant white smile
that his noble face was rarely seen without.

Fully fleshed fingers and feet
and eyes
black like night.

Jabir (r) said: “I once saw RasululLah on the night of a full moon. At
times I looked at the full moon and at times at RasululLah, I came to find that RasululLah was more beautiful and radiant than the full moon.”

Split the moon in two-
and was more beautiful
than two moons could ever be.

So you see,
lovers are veiled from the beauty of a glorious moon
until they have Muhammad’s face to compare it to.

May we be from his blessed lovers.
Peace salutations and blessings be upon him.

© Mona Haydar, Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433/January 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.’

To conclude:

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

Yousaf Seyal

Rabia al-Awwal ,1433 H. (January 2012) 

Light Rhymes

by Nausheen 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.

Light Reflections

  • 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

Reflections On My Beloved

By Abd-Allah Friedman

 

And once again I sit in a state of disillusionment from this world, this life, this sensual reality that defines my existence.  It seems that I am forever at a loss in my search for beauty.  I am imprisoned by the requirement to exist within the confines of time and space.  My search for beauty is not confined to this realm; it is no longer fixated on the superficial reality I once held so dear.  The fascination of a transient rose without the adoration of its creator seems insolence.  However, the absence of appreciation for this rose is equally ungrateful.

The physical exists only in so far as to testify to the eternal, and the eternal is intellectual and ethereal, unbound by a corporal reality.  An ephemeral existence is, by its very nature, contingent and cannot be an absolute reality. But an ephemeral existence can and does testify to a higher and absolute truth, one that is not contingent upon the existence of the physical. 

This is the primordial milieu that gives birth to my search; I aspire to arrive at a physical reality that testifies to the Eternal Truth.  The search exposes one truth: that the greatest manifestations of these realities, these ‘signs’, that navigate one to the Sublime are inextricably intertwined with beauty, and so as if by inspiration it dawns on me that ‘The Divine’ is merely a synonym for ‘The Beautiful’.

What subsequently ensues is an appreciation for the Artist who is by definition the creator of the ‘beautiful’.  The main aim of art has always been to conceal the artist while revealing the art and so my sight permeates the objects in my line of vision and settles on their Creator.  I drift through the physical realm attempting to translate His impressions, attempting to identify the signature of the Artist.

And this becomes my existence, blindly wondering through the cascade gazing at the diversity within the celestial spheres.  Each instance allows me to attain a brief glimpse of the Divine. However, each glimpse is veiled and so I am left longing for unity with the Creator.   What I desire most is a physical manifestation that facilitates this union by incinerating the veils.

And so in my helpless state I stumble upon my beloved, as if a gift from the realm of the spiritual; the masterpiece of the artist, without doubt His greatest creation.  At this instance the physical reality dissipates into insignificance, and all that remains is my beloved, carrying the signature of the Artist in every instance of his existence, al-Mustafa.

I am reminded of the moment of creation when the Divine breathed into man His own breath and thus endowed him with the potential to truly reflect Him.  And so my beloved exists, the actualisation of that potential, the crowning endorsement of the Divine’s command to the angels to prostrate to man. 

I am asked who this beloved is that I speak of, I pause and reflect.  My soul recollects the statement of the Divine addressing my beloved: “If not for you, I would neither have created the Heavens nor the Earth”.  And so I close my eyes and the perfume of my beloved immerses my soul, I am emancipated, transported to a transcendental reality.  I am in the presence of my beloved, a dust particle in his light, and he addresses me, “I am the messenger of God without boasting.  I shall bear the banner of praise on the Day of Resurrection.  I am the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be granted.  I am the first to move the knocker at the gate of Paradise.  It will be opened by the Divine and I will enter along with the poor among the faithful.  Thus, I am the most honoured among the leaders of the earlier and the later days.”

But alas, I am hesitantly drawn back from this state of primordial adoration to my material reality, and I respond with a whisper, ‘The Divine was a hidden treasure and desired to be known, and thus He created the light of my beloved. This lantern was lit from the flame of the Divine, nurun ala-nur, and predates The Preserved Tablet, The Pen, the Heavens and the Earth.  An understanding of his true stature is beyond the ability of mortals as his praise originates in the realm of the Divine and is bequeathed in the Divine Book.  He is the simorgh that elucidates the path to an audience with the Divine’.

Deliberating on his status delivers me once more to the realm of imagination, in which I exist merely as an unworthy visitor attempting to observe with the mind’s eye.  I stand, silently, engulfed in the mist of dawn in front of the lote tree. The point that demarcates the limit of even the angelic beings, where the intellect surrenders itself to the translucent heart, and I find my beloved beyond this limit.  He approaches the Divine, at a distance of ‘two bows’ length or even nearer’ and so I realise that this proximity leaves upon him the Divine ‘seal’, an imprint that allows him to crystallise the characteristics of the Divine.

And so the reality that my beloved was a prophet even when Adam was between water and Clay, no longer seems fanciful. He was present when Adam was brought down from the garden, and when Noah boarded his ark and when Abraham was thrown into Nimrod’s fire. Even before all this he was the most perfect and complete of creation.

My beloved is not merely the cup bearer who offered the world the wine of Divine wisdom, but is the vessel through which this wine was offered.  And so is it any wonder that to commemorate his entrance into this world, the skies were decorated and the angels moved about in continuous processions.  And upon his birth radiance illuminated the horizon so much so that the castles of Damascus were visible from as far as the Sacred Sanctuary.

The ‘shining light’ of my beloved is not in rejecting the transient world, but rather transcending it by the establishment of a harmony founded upon the quest of the Absolute.  The nucleus of this existence is the appreciation that ‘All that exists dissipates, save the face of The Lord’.  The culmination of his status rests not with his intimate discourse with the Absolute, but with his return to beautify the corporeal world.

Upon his return he is adorned with the greatest attribute of the Divine, His mercy.  It permeates into his very essence and becomes his defining characteristic. The Divine Himself bears testimony to this trait and designates him a “mercy to all of the worlds”.

This eternal flame which is the symbiosis of the light of the Divine refracted through my beloved has illuminated the world.  This light is encapsulated by his interaction with the corporeal world and penetrates his every moment.  His compassion and benevolence to the orphans and the poor becomes the validation of his mission, and so it is that he is adorned by humility. The trivial instances are more indicative of the authenticity of this reality that any grand gestures could ever pay homage to.  The enduring of a bitter taste so as not to the hurt the feelings of a poor man or accepting the criticism from a departing old lady while quietly carrying her bags.  Or maybe even refraining a father from collecting his children to avoid highlighting a father’s absence to the orphans present.  If all the oceans were made into ink and all the trees were made into pen, I could not do justice to the praise that is due to my beloved, the ‘perfect model’.  He is praised by the Divine Himself outside the realm of time.  And so I persist through time intoxicated with love, testifying that my beloved is indeed the ‘best of creation’.

Reflecting on any instant of his being attests to this mercy, the quality that penetrates to the core of his very existence.  This is the incandescent light that emanates from my beloved; the niche wherein is the lamp.  This lamp is the vessel that is able to contain the Divine, when the heavens and earth acquiesce.  His heart is the lamp that is encased in a glass, that which reflects the light of the Divine, as if it were a star shining like a pearl.  A radiant candle encircled by innumerable souls like spellbound moths.  I accompany these souls in the hope of tasting the ecstasy of annihilation, a moment of coalescing with the apex of creation, to be set ablaze, to finally be emancipated.

And so I now reside in this new reality that is ameliorated by his luminosity.  My solitude in this ephemeral existence no longer causes me any distress.  I view creation merely as a reflection, allowing me to transpose everything onto the creator.  I seemingly exist in a dream-like state which intermittently recollects remnants belonging to another dimension.  My beloved has become my soul’s sanctuary. So I struggle with the distractions that constitute my engagement with the corporeal reality.  Nothing equals a blissful moment engulfed in adoration of my beloved and I realise that my extensive agitation is merely the result of longing.  So I retrace my steps and once again begin circumambulating my beloved.  His fragrance envelops me and I return to my serene silence, my state of tranquility.  It begins to permeate my being and liberates my soul, and once more I am at peace.

© Abd-Allah Friedman, January 2012

 

Muhammad, the Beloved (peace be upon you)

By Hosai Mojaddidi

Muhammad, the Beloved (peace be upon you)

Silently you came into this world and modestly you left.

Honoring the earth with each step you took and with every breath.

You humbled the sun and moon with the light emanating from your eyes.

You crumbled the mountains to grains of sand as they listened to your cries.

The stars were luminous until your smile captured their light.

The sky never felt such weakness until it saw your might.

The battlefield was intense with fear each time you rose your sword.

You were fearful of no one, but always in awe of your Lord.

You are worthy of praise, above any other creation indeed.

The door to success awaits us all and you are the only key.

No one has yet to cross this earth who can compare in any way.

You are the Beloved, Muhammad, peace be upon you, we pray.

© Hosai Mojaddidi, January 2012


Why Is the Prophet’s Character Described as Being Tremendous?

By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

 

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.

In Praise of the Beloved of Allah

by Aftab A. Malik

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


Daily reflections, reminders and stories about our beloved Prophet Muhammad sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam throughout the blessed month of Rabi’ al-Awwal 1433 on Healing Hearts.

Contributions by: Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Shaykh Walead Mosaad, Imam Tahir Anwar, Ibrahim Long, Idris Kamal, Aftab. A. Malik, Aaron Sellars, Mona Haydar, Umm NoorBilal Petersen,  Hosai Mojaddidi, Mas’ud Ahmed Khan, Mazen Atassi, Adil Hussain, Asma Gill, Naosheen Pervez, Zakia Khan, Ata’ul Khabir, Naadiyah Ali, Zahraa Kazee, Sarah Soliman, Yousaf Seyal, Zeshan Zafar, Farhat Khan, Jamilah Bashir, Mohammad Ghilan, Asme Fahmi, Tun Wildan, Taslim Rashid, Hatice Baltaci Colakoglu, Nayyar Ddin

May we all benefit from this special series, and may it be a source and means of increasing our understanding, love and connection to the beloved Prophet sallaAllahu ‘alayhi wasalam.

A big thank you to all the contributors! May Allah the Most Generous reward you all in abundance. (Please keep all the contributors and their families in your blessed prayers.) 

Thought for Thursday- 12/01/12

“There are times when you just want to break it all down and start over. That is the reality of this thing called tawba.”

~ Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif

 

Healing Hearts is humbled and honoured to introduce you to one of our beloved teachers Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif, who very kindly accepted a request to contribute to this blog. Imam Abdul Latif will be writing the “Thought for Thursday” every Thursday inshaAllah. May we all find comfort, succour, benefit and healing from his words and reflections. Please keep Imam Abdul Latif, his family, teachers and us all in your prayers.

———————–

Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch is the imam at the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland , California , and a teacher and program developer for Deen Intensive Foundation. He also works with SeekersGuidance and assists Zaytuna College ‘s annual Summer Arabic Intensive program in Berkeley , California . He is one of five students who comprised the first graduating class of the Zaytuna seminary program. Born in El Paso , Texas , and raised in the south, Abdul Latif embraced Islam in 1995 in Atlanta , Georgia , when he was 20 years old. He subsequently traveled throughout the Muslim world and, in 2002, relocated with his family to the San Francisco Bay Area to take advantage of the resources of knowledge and the community that had formed around Zaytuna Institute. There, he spent his initial year of studies under the tutelage of  Shaykh Salik bin Siddina. In 2004, he was accepted as the first of three initial students into Zaytuna’s pilot seminary program. He studied at Zaytuna with several teachers, including Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Taahir, Qari Umar Bellahi, Shaykh Abdullah Ali, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus, until he graduated in 2008 with an ijazah in the basic sciences of Islam. Since graduation, he has had the honor of tutelage under Dr. Umar Farooq Abdullah, Shaikh Mahi Cisse and Shaikh Abdulllah Ibrahim Niasse.

Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif website
Imam Abdul Latif Facebook Page

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