Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa), the Almighty, says:
إِنَّآ أَرۡسَلۡنَٰكَ شَٰهِدٗا وَمُبَشِّرٗا وَنَذِيرٗا (8) لِّتُؤۡمِنُواْ بِٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَتُعَزِّرُوهُ وَتُوَقِّرُوهُۚ وَتُسَبِّحُوهُ بُكۡرَةٗ وَأَصِيلًا (9)
“Indeed, We have sent you (O prophet!) as a witness and as a bearer of good news and as a warner, so that you (O people!) believe in Allah and His Messenger, and support him and revere him……” (al-Fath 48:8-9)
Our relationship with the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is part of our Imaan. By reciting the Shahaadah (Testimony of Faith) we acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) as Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger. As a Messenger, he brought and delivered Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s message to mankind.
There are two aspects of his Risaalah (Prophethood): First, he delivered the message to his contemporaries living in Arabia.
Second, his message was for the whole of mankind till the end of time as he was the last of the glorious chain of Prophets. After his departure from this mortal world, this responsibility of conveying the message was assigned to this Ummah.
He was sent as a witness unto mankind and this is exactly the task given to the Muslim Ummah. The Quraan explicitly mentions this in Soorat al-Hajj:
هُوَ سَمَّىٰكُمُ ٱلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَفِي هَٰذَا لِيَكُونَ ٱلرَّسُولُ شَهِيدًا عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَتَكُونُواْ شُهَدَآءَ عَلَى ٱلنَّاسِۚ(78)
“ He (Allah) named you as Muslims earlier and also in this (Quraan), so that the Messenger becomes a witness to you, and you become witnesses to (other) people.” (al-Hajj 22:78)
As a witness unto mankind, he brought the glad tidings to those who accepted him as Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and believed in him. They attained success in this life and Falaah (Success) in the Aakhirah (Hereafter).
For those who rejected his message and followed the path of disobedience there was a dire warning: they could enjoy and indulge in lustful pursuits in this world but in the end they would be the losers and earn eternal damnation.
Believing that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s messenger requires that we should obey him. Obedience to him is on a par with obedience to Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) as the Quraan commands:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓاْ أَطِيعُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُواْ ٱلرَّسُولَ (59)
“O you who believe, obey Allah and obey the Messenger…..” (an-Nisaa 4:59)
Obeying the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is in fact obedience of Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa). He is the one who delivers Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Message and we have no other means of knowing Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s commands. Thus, it is explicitly laid down in Quraan.
مَّن يُطِعِ ٱلرَّسُولَ فَقَدۡ أَطَاعَ ٱللَّهَۖ (80)
“Whoever obeys the Messenger obeys Allah” (an-Nisaa 4:80)
We should also take note that this obedience is without reservation. We should accept his commands willingly and not feel any hesitation or skepticism. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) emphasizes this point categorically in the following Aayaat (Verses):
فَلَا وَرَبِّكَ لَا يُؤۡمِنُونَ حَتَّىٰ يُحَكِّمُوكَ فِيمَا شَجَرَ بَيۡنَهُمۡ ثُمَّ لَا يَجِدُواْ فِيٓ أَنفُسِهِمۡ حَرَجٗا مِّمَّا قَضَيۡتَ وَيُسَلِّمُواْ تَسۡلِيمٗا (65)
“So, never by your Lord! Never shall they become believers, unless they make you the judge in the disputes that arise between them, then find no discomfort in their hearts against what you have decided, and surrender to it in total submission.” (an-Nisa’ 4: 65)
وَمَا كَانَ لِمُؤۡمِنٖ وَلَا مُؤۡمِنَةٍ إِذَا قَضَى ٱللَّهُ وَرَسُولُهُۥٓ أَمۡرًا أَن يَكُونَ لَهُمُ ٱلۡخِيَرَةُ مِنۡ أَمۡرِهِمۡۗ وَمَن يَعۡصِ ٱللَّهَ وَرَسُولَهُۥ فَقَدۡ ضَلَّ ضَلَٰلٗا مُّبِينٗا (36)
“It is not open for a believing man or a believing woman, once Allah and His messenger have decided a thing, that they should have a choice about their matter; and whoever disobeys Allah and His messenger, he indeed gets off the track, falling into an open error.” (al-Ahzaab 33:36)
وَمَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمُ ٱلرَّسُولُ فَخُذُوهُ وَمَا نَهَىٰكُمۡ عَنۡهُ فَٱنتَهُواْۚ (7)
“And whatever the Messenger gives you, take it, and whatever he forbids you from, abstain (from it).” (al-Hashr 59:7)
The same message is given in this Hadeeth: “What I have forbidden to you, avoid: what I have ordered you (to do) do as much as you can.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Unlike obedience of national laws in a country where one happens to reside and finding them repulsive but feeling compelled to obey, obedience of the Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) has to be with full faith and fervor and not half-hearted and perfunctory.
One cannot be a believer unless one surrenders oneself fully. It is narrated by Hadhrat `Abdullah ibne `Amr ibn al `Aas that Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa)’s Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “None of you (truly) believes until his inclination is in accordance with what I have brought.” (Kitaab al-Hujjah)
Obedience equates with formal adherence of laws and regulations to fulfill the legal requirements of the Shari`ah. However, believers are required to follow the Messenger (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) diligently. This is called Ittibaa` which means to follow in the footsteps of someone. The instruction given to the believers is:
قُلۡ إِن كُنتُمۡ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِي يُحۡبِبۡكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغۡفِرۡ لَكُمۡ ذُنُوبَكُمۡۚ (31)
“Say (O Prophet!): .If you really love Allah, then follow me, and Allah shall love you and forgive you your sins.” (Aale `Imraan 3:31)
The circle of Ittibaa` is wider than that of Itaa`ah (obedience). The latter covers obligatory and compulsory requirements whereas the former covers optional and supererogatory works. Obedience at times may be superficial and lacking sincerity whereas Ittibaa` can only be performed with love and devotion.
This is illustrated by the conduct of Sahaabah (Companions) of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). For example Hadhrat `Abdullah ibne `Umar was so strict in following the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) that he used to stop and offer (Nafl) Salaah where the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) happened to have done so. It is narrated that Shaikh Bayazid Bustami did not eat watermelon as he did not know whether the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) had eaten this fruit and if so how he had eaten it.
Yet a much higher stage of our relationship with the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is his love. Believers should have the utmost respect and love for the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam).
It is reported that the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said: “None of you (truly) believes until you love me more than his parents, children or any other person.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
This love manifested itself in the lives of the Sahaabah. They were utterly devoted to the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). When he performed Wudoo’ (Ablution) the Sahaabah usually collected the used water and sprinkled it on their faces. The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) once asked them why they were doing so and they replied because of their love for him. (Mishkaat)
The Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) once remarked: “Those who love my Sunnah (really) love me and those who love me will be in Jannah with me.” (At-Tirmizi)
Once a father and his son traveled from their village and visited the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and this was probably the only time they met him. They noticed that the top button of his shirt was undone. Thereafter, they always left their top buttons unfastened.
When Hadhrat Abu Mahzoorah embraced Islam, the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) touched his forehead and blessed him; from then on out of love for the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) he never clipped the hairs from his forehead. There are numerous such instances to be found in the lives of the Sahaabah. Love of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) is indeed part of one’s Imaan.
Manifestation of one’s love is not just an emotional outpouring but should also be reflected in strict obedience and following of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)’s path. As he emphasised in theHadeeth quoted above about following his Sunnah to those who used the water from his ablution: ”Those who are pleased to love Allah and His Messenger should always speak the truth and if anything is entrusted to them they should keep it safe and return it to their owners.”
“They should also treat their neighbors well.” (Mishkat)
Today the hearts of the Muslim Ummah, Al-Hamdulillah, are filled with love and respect for the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam). People are ready to sacrifice their lives for the sake of safeguarding his honor. Yet not much fervor is shown in obeying his commands and following his path. There are some people who are very particular about some of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam)’s minor Sunnah as regards dress and appearance, yet they neglect his first and foremost Sunnah which is Da`wah. Allah (Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aalaa) addressing the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) said:
يَٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِيُّ إِنَّآ أَرۡسَلۡنَٰكَ شَٰهِدٗا وَمُبَشِّرٗا وَنَذِيرٗا (45) وَدَاعِيًا إِلَى ٱللَّهِ بِإِذۡنِهِۦ وَسِرَاجٗا مُّنِيرٗا (46)
“O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness and as a bearer of good news and a warner, and as the one who calls (people) towards Allah with His permission, and as a luminous lamp.” (al-Ahzab 33:45-46).
His greatest Sunnah, which he carried out from the day of his messengership until his departure from this mortal world, was to invite people to Islam. His parting message on his last Hajj was: “Those who are here should convey this message to those who are not here.” He asked the assembled gathering on the plains of `Arafat three times: “Have I conveyed the message?”
The Sahaabah replied: “Yes you have”.
He raised his hand pointing towards the heavens and said: “May Allah be witness to this.”
This is the Sunnah of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) which we have to follow if we truly love him.
May Allah strengthen our bonds of love, affection and respect of the Prophet (SallAllaho Alaihe WaSallam) and guide us to follow his Sunnah to the best of our ability, Aameen!