The Rights of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

Dr. `Abd al-Azîz b. Muhammad `Abd al-Latîf
Praise be to Allah. And may His peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad, his family, and Companions.
Speaking about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) strengthens people of faith and sets the righteous more firmly on the Straight Path. How could it be any other way? Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the most noble of Adam’s descendants and the final Prophet sent to humanity. He is closer to the believers than they are to themselves. Allah blessed him with the most noble of qualities, many of which were not shared by any other Prophet. He will be the first to cross the Bridge on the day of Resurrection. He will be the first to knock upon the gates of Paradise and the first to enter therein. He will have the place of honor and the banner of praise. He will be the first to intercede and the first whose intercession will be granted.

In these pages, I wish to present a few of the duties that we have towards our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) There should be no doubt that he has many rights over us. We must make sure that these rights are respected and our duties towards the Prophet (peace be upon him) are carried out.

A general statement about these rights is given by Sheikh Muhammad b. `Abd al-Wahhâb when he says: “Our testimony that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah means obeying him in what he commands us, believing him in what he tells us, shunning what he has prohibited, and worshipping Allah only in accordance with the way he has instructed us.”

The most important of these rights are as follows:
1. It is the Right of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that We Love him
One of the greatest rights the Prophet (peace be upon him) has over us is that we should love him. This love must be part of what we believe and it must be expressed in our words and our deeds. He should be dearer to us than ourselves and our families.

Allah says: “Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your spouses, or your kindred; the wealth that you have gained; the commerce in which you fear a decline: or the dwellings in which you delight - are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause, then wait until Allah brings about His decision; and Allah guides not the rebellious sinners.” [Sûrah al-Tawbah: 24]

Al-Qâdî `Iyâd makes the following observations about this verse:
This is sufficient proof that having love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) is both obligatory and compulsory. It is a very serious matter, especially since Allah rebukes those who love their wealth and family more than Allah and his Messenger and threatens them by saying “then wait until Allah brings about His decision”. Then He declares them rebellious sinners and says that they will not be guided.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, none of you believes until I become more beloved to him than his parents and children and all humanity.”

The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said: “There are three qualities that if someone possesses one of them, he will experience the sweetness of faith. The first of these is that Allah and His Messenger are more beloved to him than anything else.”

The Companions gave us the best example of how this love is to be expressed. `Umar b. al-Khattâb once said to al`Abbâs, the uncle of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “It is dearer to me that you accept Islam than that my own father al-Khattâb accepts it, because your acceptance of Islam is dearer to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).”

When `Ali b. Abî Tâlib was asked to describe the love he and his fellow Companions had for Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), he said: “Allah’s Messenger was more beloved to us than our wealth, our children, our fathers, and our mothers. He was dearer to us than cool water is to a man dying of thirst.”

The Companion `Amr b. al-`Âs said: “There was no one dearer to me than Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him). No one in my eyes was nobler than he. I could not look upon him directly because of the extreme respect that I had for him. If I were asked to describe his appearance, I would not be able to do so because I had been unable to look at him directly.”
There are certain signs that show just how much a person loves the Prophet (peace be upon him). One of these is that he makes mention of him often, since a person always likes to mention someone he loves. Another is that he has a longing to meet him.

Another sign is for a person to have love for those who loved the Prophet (peace be upon him) – namely the Companions – and to harbor enmity and hatred for his enemies and for those who hate him and slander him. It is natural for a person who loves something to love those who share those feelings. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said about his grandchildren al-Hasan and al-Husayn: “O Allah! I love them, so please love them.”

It follows that we must love the Qur’ân that he brought and the guidance found within it. We must emulate the teachings of the Qur’ân in our behavior. `Â’ishah said about her husband the Prophet (peace be upon him): “He was the living expression of the Qur’ân.” Our love of the Qur’ân is expressed through our reading it, understanding it, and acting upon it.

2. It is His Right that We Follow His Example
It is our duty to follow his example and emulate his manner of conduct. This is, in fact, another sign of our love for him. Al-Qâdî `Iyâd says:

Know that whoever loves something prefers it and prefers to bring himself into harmony with it. Otherwise, his love is not genuine, only pretended. Someone who truly loves the Prophet (peace be upon him) will show some visible signs of that love. At the forefront of the signs that a person will show is that he will emulate the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to follow his Sunnah. He will follow him in his words and deeds. He will exhibit the same manners as the Prophet (peace be upon him) in both ease and hardship and in matters that please him and those that displease him. The proof for this is that Allah says: “Say (O Muhammad): If you love Allah, then follow me. Allah will love you.” [Sûrah Âl `Imran: 31]

Ibn Rajab has the following to say in this regard:
Genuine love requires emulation. It requires loving what the beloved loves and detesting what the beloved hates. So, whoever harbors genuine love for Allah and His Messenger in his heart must necessarily love what Allah and His Messenger love and hate what they hate. He must be pleased with what pleases Allah and His Messenger and be displeased with what angers them. He must then put these feelings of love and hate into actual practice.

An important aspect of following the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to hold his Sunnah in high regard and to give preference to it over all other opinions and aspirations. Ibn `Abbâs made the following statement to some people who mentioned the opinions of others after hearing what the Prophet (peace be upon him) had said on a given matter:

I fear that stones from the heavens might descend upon you. I tell you what Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said, and you respond with what Abû Bakr and `Umar said!”

Ahmad b. Hanbal had the following to say:
I am startled by those people who after knowing the authenticity of a statement of the Prophet (peace be upon him) take instead the opinion of Sufyân. They do this, even though Allah says: “Let those beware who go against the Messenger’s command lest a trial afflict them or there befall them a painful chastisement.” Do they have any idea what that “trial” is? That trial is polytheism. It is possible that if someone rejects the command of the Prophet (peace be upon him), his heart will become deviated and he will meet with destruction.

It is necessary to adhere firmly to the Sunnah and avoid innovating matters in Allah’s religion. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever introduces into this matter of ours something that is not a part of it will have it rejected.”

Ibn Rajab makes the following comments on this hadîth:
This hadîth directly states that every action that is not explicitly sanctioned by the Law giver is rejected. It also implies that every action that is in accordance with His Law is not rejected. The “matter” being referred to in the hadîth is the religion of Allah. Therefore, the meaning of the hadîth is as follows: Whoever does an act outside of the parameters of Islamic Law and not in strict conformity with it will have it rejected.”

3. It is His Right that We Support Him and Honor Him
Ibn Taymiyah mentions that supporting the Prophet (peace be upon him) means that we come to his assistance and his defense. Honoring him means that we feel conviction in our defense to him and that we conduct ourselves with respect to him in a manner that is reverent and never dishonorable.

Ibn Taymiyah also says:
Defamation of the character of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) is a complete denial of Allah’s religion. Such defamation of character negates every semblance of respect and reverence. Therefore, the Message that he came with is equally compromised and the religion is negated. Praising, revering, and honoring the Prophet (peace be upon him) establishes the faith just as the opposite tears it down. Therefore, it is our duty to support the Prophet (peace be upon him) against those who defame his character.

Allah makes clear the consequence of hating and insulting the Prophet (peace be upon him). He says: “Truly, he who insults you is cut off from future hope.” [Sûrah al-Kawthar: 3]

Ibn Taymiyah says the following about this verse of the Qur’ân:
Allah deprives of all good the one who insults the Messenger. He will be deprived of his reputation and cut off from his wealth and family. He will be at loss in the Hereafter and he will not benefit from his life anything that could help him in the Eternal Abode. His heart will be cut off from all good. It will not be able to contain any goodness, neither recognizing it nor inclining towards it. It will not have any faith for the Messengers who bring the message of goodness. His works will be devoid of obedience. He will find no helpers. He will be unable to perform righteous deeds and find no pleasure in doing them. Even if he engages in such deeds superficially, he heart will not be in it.

Abû Bakr b. `Ayyâsh says:
When the followers of the Sunnah die, their memory lives on. When the followers of innovations die, their memory dies with them. This is because the followers of the Sunnah kept alive what the Messenger came with. For this, they share in Allah’s promise: “And we exalted your fame.” [Sûrah al-Inshirâh: 4]

The followers of innovations insult what the Messenger (peace be upon him) brought, so they share in Allah’s threat: “Truly, he who insults you is cut off from future hope.” [Sûrah al-Kawthar: 3]

People have been punished by Allah for their hatred of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and for the lies, calumnies, and snide remarks that they have brought forth.

The Companion Anas b. Mâlik narrates the following:
A Christian man accepted Islam. He read the chapters of the Qur’ân entitled “al-Baqarah” and “Âl `Imrân” and became a scribe of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He subsequently returned to Christianity and began to say: “Muhammad knew nothing save what I told him.” Allah caused this man to die and his people buried him. The next morning, they saw that the Earth had thrown him out. They said: “This is the doing of Muhammad and his followers.” So they dug as deeply as they could and buried him again. The next morning, they found that the Earth had thrown him out again and realized that no people were involved in the matter. Therefore, they cast his body onto the ground.

Ibn Taymiyah mentions the following:
We have what a good number of trustworthy and knowledgeable Muslims have mentioned about their experiences while laying siege to cities and fortifications along the Syrian coast. When the Muslims besieged the area known today as Banû al-Asfar, they had the following to say: “We would besiege a fort or a city for a month or more to no avail. We would almost be at the point of despair. Then, when their inhabitants would slander Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and defame his character, we would know that victory was close. The situation would become very easy for us. It would only be another day or two before we would subdue the area amidst great bloodshed.” They said: ‘We would feel happy that victory for us was near when we heard them speaking ill of him, though we would be angry in our hearts about what they said about him.”

We also have an incident mentioned by al-Nawawî:
We have many reports authenticated by the judicial authorities about a man who lived in the year 66 AH who had an evil opinion of righteous people. He even took a tooth stick and stuck it in his anus to show his disrespect for it and for the Sunnah as a whole. After a period of time, a fish-like organism came out of his anus. He killed it. Soon thereafter the man died. May Allah save us from his affliction and grant us success in keeping the Sunnah pure and in giving it our full respect.
In our present time, we have the following incident mentioned by Sheikh Ahmad al-Shâkir about a sermon-giver in Egypt:
He was a very eloquent and able speaker. This sermon-giver wanted to praise one of Egypt’s governors for honoring the Taha Hussein (who was blind and also quite deviant), so he said: “The blind man came unto him, but he did not frown and turn away.” Sheikh Muhammad Shâkir stood up after prayer and declared to the congregation that their prayers were invalid and had to be repeated because they had been led in prayer by a man who, by insulting Allah’s Messenger, had become an unbeliever.

Yet, Allah did not postpone this man’s punishment for the Hereafter and leave his crime unpunished in this world. I saw him with my own eyes a few years later. Now, I remembered him as having been high-handed, proud, and smug in the company of prominent and powerful people. But when I saw him, he was a pitiful wretch, a servant at the door of a mosque in Cairo who would take the shoes of the worshippers from them for safekeeping. He was so pitiful and humiliated that I felt embarrassed to have him see me, since we knew each other from before. I did not feel sorry for him, since he did not deserve my pity, nor was I happy with his plight, for a respectable person never feels joy on the occasion of another’s misfortune. However, I took it as an example and a lesson to be learned.

I wish to conclude this article by mentioning that we can increase our love for Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and his Sunnah by taking account of ourselves and recognizing our mistakes and shortcomings. When we face our own faults, we will then find the cure for them in the guidance that the Prophet (peace be upon him) brought. For instance, one of us might be lax in performing voluntary acts of worship. It would behoove this person to reflect upon the fact that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) used to stand in prayer so long his feet would become swollen. He worshipped Allah in this manner despite the fact that all of his past and future sins were already forgiven.

A person who might sometimes be afflicted with cowardice should recall that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was the bravest of men. `Alî said: “When our courage failed us, we would take our resolve from Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him).”

If one of us becomes overly enamored of worldly gain, he should consider that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was among the most ascetic of people. `Â’ishah relates to us: “Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) never satiated his hunger for three days in a row – even on bread – up to the time of his death.”

If one of us is prone to ill-treating others, he should recall the words of Anas:
I was the servant of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) for ten years. He never once said to me a harsh word. No matter what I did, he never said: “Now why did you do that?” No matter what I failed to do, he never said: “Now, why didn’t you do that?”

Allah says: “It is from Allah’s mercy that you are gentle with them. Had you been severe or harsh-hearted, they would have dispersed from about you.” [Sûrah Âl `Imrân: 159]

If one of us becomes too self-centered and worries only about himself, he should remember the following words of the Prophet (peace be upon him): “None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Jarîr relates an incident that shows us just how loyal, merciful, and compassionate the Prophet (peace be upon him) was to the believers. He says:
We were with Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) at the early hours of the morning when a group of people came to him. They were barefoot and destitute and carrying their swords. Most of them – nay, all of them – were from Mudar. The expression of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) changed when he saw the extent of their poverty. He went inside and came out again and ordered Bilâl to make the call to prayer. Then he stood and led us in prayer. Then he addressed us, saying: “O humanity! Reverence your Lord, who created you from a single person, then created from it its mate, and from them both spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Reverence Allah, through whom – and through your ties of kinship – you demand your mutual rights. For Allah ever watches over you.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 1]
Then he recited: “O you who believe! Observe your duty to Allah. And let every soul look to that which it sends forth for tomorrow.” [Sûrah al-Hashr: 18]

The people began to vie with one another in giving charity. Some gave from their gold and silver coins, others from their clothing, others a quantity of grain or dates. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Give… even if only a half of a date.”

Then a person from among the Ansâr came with a money bag which his hands could scarcely lift. Nay, he could not lift it at all. Then the people followed continuously, until I saw two great heaps form, one of food and the other of clothing. I saw the face of the Messenger (peace be upon him) shine like gold.

Then Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “He who sets a good precedent in Islam will receive his reward and the reward of that also who acted according to his example without their reward being reduced in the least.”

I ask Allah to bless us to follow most perfectly the example of our Prophet (peace be upon him) and to gather us in his company on the Day of Resurrection. Allah is the giver of success.
1. Al-Qâdî `Iyâd: al-Shafâ (2/563).
2. Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim.
3. Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim.
4. Ibn Rajab, Jâmi` al-`Ulûm wa al-Hikam (2/397).
5. Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim.
6. Ibn Rajab, Jâmi` al-`Ulûm wa al-Hikam. (1/177).
7. Refer to Ibn Taymiyah, al-Sârim. p. 422.
8. Ibn Taymiyah, al-Sârim. P.211.
9. Sahîh al-Bukhârî.
10. Ibn Taymiyah, al-Sârim. p. 117.
11. Al-Nawawî, Bustân al-`Ârifîn. p. 51.
12. He was paraphrasing the following verse of the Qur’ân wherein Allah admonishes the Prophet (peace be upon him) for turning away from a blind man: “He frowned and turned away, when the blind man came unto him.” [Sûrah `Abasa: 1-2] The statement of the sermon-giver insinuated that the governor was more honorable than the Prophet (peace be upon him).
13. Sheikh Muhammad Shâkir was the author’s father.
14. Shâkir, Ahmad. Kalimah al-Haqq, pp. 176-177.
15. Sahîh Muslim.
16. Sahîh Muslim.
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