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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) 

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