The most beloved one

Updated 09 September 2016
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The most beloved one

Muslims often talk about their love of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In their ordinary speech, many refer to him as ‘our beloved one’, rather than mention him by name. Others use different titles and adjectives, always indicating how greatly they value, respect and love him. When people of other religions realize this, they often express shock or surprise. They wonder why should we feel such love for someone who died some 1,400 years ago. We all remember how the publication of the Danish cartoons insulting the Prophet stirred a worldwide reaction among Muslims. This was extremely surprising to people in the West. Yet such love is to us the mark of true faith. We do not really believe in Islam unless we love the Prophet more than anyone else.
Such love is a requirement of the Islamic faith. It must be genuine love, not a merely verbal statement. The Prophet is quoted by Anas as saying:
“None of you is a true believer unless I am dearer to him than his parents, children and all others.” (Related by Ahmad, Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Al-Nassaie and Ibn Majah). Uttered by anyone other than Prophet Muhammad, such a statement may be ill considered or misunderstood. From him, however, it must be treated as part of the education he gave his followers. He was no seeker of any position in this world. He looked for nothing that people could give. He aspired to no status other than the one given to him by God. He was God’s Messenger, and his role was to deliver His message and educate people in how to accept it and conduct their lives on its basis. The statement quoted above should be viewed in this light. What it tells us is that when something is contrary to what the Prophet says or orders, we must never hesitate between the two; we must always take what the Prophet says abandoning anything that differs with it.
We clearly see this in the following Hadith, which associates loving the Prophet with loving God. It is again a highly authentic Hadith in which Anas quotes the Prophet as saying: “There are three qualities which are certain to give anyone the sweetness of faith: to love God and His Messenger more than anyone else, to love a person for no purpose other than for God’s sake, and to hate to relapse into disbelief after God has saved him from it as much as to hate to be cast in the fire.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and Al-Nassaie).
In this Hadith loving the Prophet is seen as part of loving God. This is not surprising because it was through the Prophet that we learned who God is, His attributes, our position in relation to Him, what concept to formulate of Him and what God wants from us. Thus, as God’s Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him) has given us everything we need to know about God, delivered His message and guided us through practical example along the way that is certain to earn for us God’s acceptance and to ensure that in the life to come we will be in ultimate bliss. He has taught us every good thing we need to know in our life.
When someone does us a good turn, we feel grateful. If the good turn is bound to spare us exposure to some detriment, we feel heartily touched. If it brings us some happy feeling, we are ever so excited. Muhammad (peace be upon him) did us the best turn anyone can ever have, presenting to us divine guidance at its purest and most complete. He has spared us the worst calamity that can ever befall anyone, which is incurring God’s anger and punishment. He has given us the faith that is bound to fill us with the happiest feelings mankind can experience in this life. If we realize all this, how can we fail to love him more than we love ourselves?
Abdullah ibn Hisham, a companion of the Prophet, reports: “We were with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and he held Umar ibn Al-Khattab’s hand. Umar said to him: ‘Messenger of God! I love you more than anyone and anything else, apart from myself.’ The Prophet said to him: ‘By Him who holds my soul in His hand, this will not do, unless you love me more than you love yourself.’ Umar said: ‘Well, now you are indeed dearer to me than my own self.’ The Prophet said: ‘Now, Umar, you have got it right.’” (Related by Al-Bukahri).
It is important to realize that Umar’s words were genuine. He did not say words simply to please his interlocutor, who in this case was the Prophet himself. He was expressing his feelings in a direct manner. At first, Umar thought that no one can ever love anyone else better than his own self. Hence, his first statement. The Prophet explained to him the fact that every Muslim should know. Nothing could take precedence ahead of the Prophet in any Muslim’s feelings, not even one’s person or interests. These should be sacrificed when set against what the Prophet requires.
Umar understood this perfectly. Hence, his rejoinder that the Prophet was now dearer to him than his own soul. This is not merely a word uttered. It is a question of balance. Umar was now aware that the Prophet’s orders took precedence over everything else and he accepted this. Hence, his statement that the Prophet was dearer to him than his own soul.
The love these Hadiths speak of is not a mere feeling. It must be supported by the right action. Otherwise, the Prophet would not have accepted Umar’s last statement until it was put to test.


The beauty of prayer in Islam

Updated 23 September 2016
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The beauty of prayer in Islam

GOING deeper into our spiritual state during prayers (salah) requires that we have a presence of heart and are mindful of the words being said during the prayers.
Our prayer will feel shorter, yet when we look at how much time we actually spent, we will think, “Did I just spend 10 minutes?” or even 15 and 20 minutes.
A person who began applying this said he wished the prayer would never end.
A feeling that Ibn Al-Qayyim describes as “what the competitors compete for… it is nourishment for the soul and the delight of the eyes,” and he also said, “If this feeling leaves the heart, it is as though it is a body with no soul.”

The love of Allah
Some people’s relationship with Allah is limited to following orders and leaving prohibitions, so that one does not enter hell. Of course, we must follow orders and leave prohibitions, but it needs to be done out of more than fear and hope; it should also be done out of love for Allah. Allah says in the Qur’an: “… Allah will bring forth [in place of them] a people He will love and who will love Him.” (Qur’an, 5:54)
We often find that when a lover meets the beloved, hearts are stirred and there is warmth in that meeting. Yet when we meet Allah, there is not even an ounce of this same feeling. Allah says in the Qur’an: “And (yet) among the people are those who take other than Allah as equals (to Him). They love them as they (should) love Allah. But those who believe are stronger in love for Allah.” (Qur’an, 2:165)
And those who believe are stronger in love for Allah. There should be a feeling of longing, and when we raise our hands to start the prayer, warmth and love should fill our hearts because we are now meeting with Allah. A dua of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Allah, I ask You for the longing to meet You” (An-Nisa’i, Al-Hakim)
Ibn Al-Qayyim says in his book Tareeq Al-Hijratain that Allah loves His Messengers and His believing servants, and they love Him and nothing is more beloved to them than Him. The love of one’s parents has a certain type of sweetness, as does the love of one’s children, but the love of Allah far supersedes any of that. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Any person who combines these three qualities will experience the sweetness of faith: 1) that God and His messenger are dearer to him than anything else; 2) that his love of others is purely for God’s sake; and 3) that he hates to relapse into disbelief as much as he hates to be thrown in the fire.” (Bukhari)
Thus, the first thing he mentioned was: “… that God and His messenger are more beloved to him than anything else…”
Ibn Al-Qayyim says: “Since ‘there is nothing like unto Him’ (Qur’an, 42:11), there is nothing like experiencing love for Him.”
If you feel this love for Him, it will be a feeling so intense, so sweet, that you would wish the prayer would never ever end.
Do you truly want to feel this love? Then ask yourself: ‘why do you or should you love Allah?’
Know that you love people for one (or all, in varying degrees) of three reasons: For their beauty, because of their exalted character or/and because they have done good to you. And know that Allah combines all of these three to the utmost degree.

All-embracing beauty
We’ve all been touched by beauty. It is almost fitrah (natural disposition) to love what is beautiful. Ali ibn Abi Talib, may Allah be pleased with him, said about the Prophet, peace be upon him, that it was “as if the sun is shining from his face.” Jabir (may God be pleased with him) said: “The Messenger of Allah was more handsome, beautiful, and radiant than the full moon” (Tirmidhi)
Allah made all His Prophets have a certain beauty so that people would have a natural inclination toward them.
And beauty is more than what is in the face, because beauty is in all of creation and somehow has the ability to take our breath away and give us peace simultaneously. The glimmer of the crescent moon on a calm night, the intensity of a waterfall as the water drops for thousands of feet, the sunset by the sea … certain scenes of natural unspoiled beauty stirs something in us. As Allah is the One Who made it beautiful, so what of Allah’s beauty?
Ibn Al-Qayyim said: “And it is enough to realize Allah’s Beauty when we know that every internal and external beauty in this life and the next are created by Him, so what of the beauty of their Creator?”
This fitrah for loving what is beautiful is because Allah is beautiful. One of His Names is Al-Jameel (the Most Beautiful). Ibn Al-Qayyim states that the beauty of Allah is something that a person cannot imagine and only He knows it. There is nothing of it in creation save for glimpses.
Ibn Al-Qayyim says if all of creation were the most beautiful they could be (so let’s imagine, ever single human being looked as beautiful as Yusuf, peace be upon him, and the whole world was like Paradise), and all of them combined from the beginning of time until the Day of Judgment, they would not even be like a ray in comparison to the sun when compared to Allah. Allah’s beauty is so intense that we will not even be able to take it in this life. In the Qur’an, Allah describes Musa’s (peace be upon him) request: “And when Moses arrived at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show me (Yourself) that I may look at You.’ (Allah) said: ‘You will not see Me but look at the mountain; if it should remain in place, then you will see Me.’ But when his Lord appeared to the mountain He rendered it level, and Moses fell unconscious.” (Qur’an, 7:143)
Even the mountain could not bear the beauty of Allah and crumbled, and when Musa, peace be upon him, saw this (he did not even see Allah), he fell unconscious. This is why on the Day of Judgment it is Allah’s light that will shine on everything. We talk about breathtaking beauty, but we have yet to experience Allah’s beauty. While things in this world can be beautiful or majestic or if they combine both they are finite, true majesty and beauty are for Allah: “And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor.” (Qur’an, 55:27)
Keeping all of this in mind, the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: “Allah directs His Face toward the face of His servant who is praying, as long as he does not turn away” (Tirmidhi).
Remember this in your prayer, and ask Allah to allow you the joy of seeing Him in Paradise.