Praise of Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace)

Rejoice one and all, the season of the Mawlid is upon us . . .

“Love of the Prophet is like the blood in the veins of the Muslims”
– Muhammad Iqbal poet and philospher.

Considering that we are in the Blessed Month of Rabi al-Awwal, the month in which our Beloved Prophet Muhammad was born in, I would like to share with you an essay I wrote for the CD sleeve notes on Inayet Petker’s nasheed CD called “Salutations” which I have modified slightly for the purposes of my blog:

An essay on praising the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and his Noble Names

by Mas’ud Ahmed Khan

In the Name of God Most Gracious Most Merciful

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

All Praise is due to Allah, peace and blessing be upon the Chosen One, Muhammad al-Mustafa, upon his pure family and his righteous companions one and all.

Salawat al'anabi

Praising the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace)

Allah (ta’ala) says in the Glorious Qur’an (Surah 33:56):

“Surely Allah and His angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe call for (Divine) blessings on him and salute him with a (befitting) salutation.”

The very name “Muhammad” means “the one who is praised, often praised” and the name of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is also known as “Ahmad” meaning “the one deserving of praise”.

Imam Jalaludin as-Suyuti mentions:

His name is Muhammad and Ahmad; his people are the people of praise (hamd)- and his prayer rite and the prayer rite of his people is opened with praise (hamd). In the Preserved Tablet in God’s abode it was written that his Caliphs and his Companions in writing the Sacred Volume, should open it with praise (Surah 1:1). And in his hand on the Resurrection Day will be the banner of praise. And when he then prostrates himself before God in intercession in our behalf and it is accepted he will praise the Lord with a new song that shall then be revealed to him, for his is the Heavenly Station of Praise (al-maqam al-mahmud, Surah 17:79)-and when he rises up in that Station all the assembly shall praise him, Muslims and misbelievers alike, the first and the last, and all meanings and modes of thankful praise shall be gathered up and offered to him. [quoted from And Muhammad is His Messenger by Annemarie Schimmel p. 107]

There are those naysayers that may object on the grounds that too much praising will lapse Muslims into the major sin of shirk (associating partners and equals with God), to this Imam al-Busiri in his amazing Qasidah al-Burdah [Poem of the Mantle] says:

Leave what the Christians have said about their Prophet!

And then affirm what you will in praise, and do so with excellence.

It is clear that sending praise, blessings and salutations on the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is a general obligation on each and every Muslim as mentioned by Qadi Iyad in the Shifa, and if we keep Imam al-Busiri’s principle in mind then there is no danger of falling into the trap that the Christians have fallen into with Sayyidina Isa [Jesus] (AS).

Unfortunately, we live in an age where very few Muslims actually know their Prophet. He is the fountain-head of our guidance and the light by which we tread the straight path, and yet Muslims in general and Muslim children in particular, know more about their favourite pop star, footballer or film actor and yet our Prophet is as a stranger to them. How can this be? Why have we forgotten the one whom Allah has commanded us to send salutations and blessings upon? Again it comes down to the age in which we live; no more are there special chairs in our mosques where the Sirah [the Prophetic Biography] or the Shifa’ of Qadi Iyad or the Shama’il of Tirmidhi are read in perpetuity to the faithful as was once the practice throughout the Muslim world. The Mawlid-celebrations of the birth and life of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace)-are frowned upon by certain [minority] sections of the community. Our mosques are ill equipped to teach our children anything besides the reading of the Holy Qur’an and the very basics of the faith, which, while important, are insufficient to the long term spiritual and religious development of our community and especially our children who are our future. We have to look at ways in which we can help to nurture the love and familiarity that are missing. From hadith literature we know how important it is to love the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace): Bukhari and Muslim report- “None of you believes until he loves me more than he loves his children, his parents, and all people.” In another hadith in Bukhari the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said:

“None of you believes until he loves me more than he loves himself.”

The Names of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace)

The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) has many names and titles. Although it is common to list 99 of the most well known names and titles that people should be familiar with, the Holy Qur’an actually lists 77 explicitly and 121 in total if you include verbs. Hadith and other ancient literature take the count of names to 333. But the count doesn’t stop here since names and titles that are appropriate and do not go against the blessed and sacred person of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) can also apply. Imam al-Jazuli’s Da’ail al-Khayrat, for example, contains another 84 and Shaykh Barkat Ali Ludhianvi (RA) in his 5 volume masterpiece Asma al-Nabi al-Karim lists over 1400.

Names, titles and descriptions serve the outward purpose of familiarising and knowing the thing named and since Islam has never been a religion of iconic images, Muslims have by and large preserved the physical description and characteristics of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) in written form and in such detail that an artist could probably come up with a close approximation of him (Allah bless him and grant him peace) if it wasn’t forbidden (in the Shariah) to do so. Inwardly, however, the names and titles serve a different purpose. Countless powers of healing (shifa), benefit (faiz) and blessings (barakah) are associated with some of the names when contained in salawat or salutations. It is well know that if one forgets or looses something then reciting a specific salawat aids the memory, enabling the reciter to recall the thing forgotten or misplaced. Other salutations can bring about peace and tranquillity to a troubled heart and have curative properties as well. Therefore, we should try and acquaint ourselves with the names and titles of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and the various salawat in the hope that maybe a small portion of the love and familiarity can settle in our hearts too.

Hassan ibn Thabit, the Poet of the Prophet, in one of his poems – as quoted by Qadi Iyad in his seminal al-Shifa – shows the direct relationship that exists between the Divine Names and the Names of the Prophet. For example, he shows the relationship between the Divine attribute mahmud and the name Muhammad:

[God] derived for him, in order to honour him, part of His name – Thus the Lord of the Throne is called mahmud, and this one muhammad

– [c.f. And Muhammad is His Messenger: Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety by Annmarie Schimmel p. 106]

Further evidence to suggest the relationship between The Divine Names and the Prophetic Names is the fact that the Shahada is incomplete without the testification “Muhammadan Rasul Allah” and that Allah has followed His Name with that of His beloved so that faith is incomplete without either component and it is worthy to note that wherever the Divine name is mentioned so to is the name of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), since it is the Prophet that is our link to the Divine.

So what can we do to bring the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) back in to our lives and into our hearts and minds? How can we get to the stage of the Sahabah who said “we hear and obey” and for whom the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was dearer to them than the world and all that it contained included their own selves?

In recent years there has been a trend to use songs and melody to educate and inform Muslims about their Prophet and these have been quite successful, alhamdulillah. Modern times are replete with music and singing. We are bombarded by it everywhere we go and 90% of the music that we are exposed to is highly questionable in form and content – often abhorrent to any decent mind let alone the Muslim one. An alternative is thus needed for a Muslim audience, particularly for those in the west.

New Book: Love in a Headscarf

Love in a Headscarf: Muslim woman seeks the One

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed

Love in a Headscarf: Muslim woman seeks the One

This is the highly entertaining and personal story about her quest to find ‘The One’. It gives you a further insight into being a young Muslim woman in Britain today.
Nicely written and very compelling, it is a?fun memoir from an often overlooked perspective – a very welcome change from writings from the ‘repressed Muslim woman’ and ‘Muslim rebel’ camps, which are rather too represented in contemporary writing.

Does a single Islamic Culture exist?

Over on Facebook someone copied and pasted the hadith (or at least a paraphrased version of it) “Whomsoever emulates a nation is one of them.” (Abu Dawud) on to their status.

I saw this and noticed that the person who posted this hadith has a picture of three Muslims in trainers (called sneakers in the USA), blue jeans and t-shirts and striking a pose that is culturally specific to Western culture but more specifically to American culture, the only thing that alerts you to the fact that they are Muslims are 1. the T-shirts have “Muslim” emblazoned across them and other Muslim slogans and 2. they are wearing kufis – Muslim skullcaps. Aside from these two tell tale signs, they are dressed in an overt and ostensible classic American style, one could say emulating the culture of the USA.

I posted a comment on the brother’s status:

Hadith like this need to be explained. I mean, is wearing jeans and T-shirts emulating?

You can see what I was getting at. I then get a wall-to-wall message from the brother:

salam akhi in responce…The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) has stated very clearly: “Whomsoever emulates a nation is one of them.” (Abu Dawud) From this Hadith we deduce that emulating the Kuffar is Haraam (totally prohibited) in regards to religious and social habits which are confined to them only.

It is unfortunate that we find many Muslims openly following many customs of the Kufaar ?following the celebration of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays and now even Valentine?s Day. In western countries, there is a growing social and religious integration between the Muslims and the non-Muslims. Muslims, today, are fusing their Islamic culture with that of the Kuffar. This absorbance of cultures has been achieved to such an extent that some Muslims have even abandoned their very own Islamic identity and Islamic culture. They are unable to differentiate between what is right and wrong. Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day

I then responded to this as follows:

Islam accepts (and indeed absorbs) the cultures and traditions of other societies on the condition that they do not violate the Shariah, I notice from your profile picture that you and the brothers in it have a culturally very American look, is that not imitating the kuffar? Also exactly what is “Islamic culture”, I do not believe that an identifiable “Islamic culture” actually exists, rather Muslims have their own culture based on where they are from (with the aforementioned caveat of not violating the Shariah), therefore we see Muslims from China exhibiting Chinese culture, so too the Indo-Paks have their own culture, the Turks very much have their own culture (and more distinctly so during the Ottoman period), various far-eastern Muslims and even the Arabs are culturally diverse too and display their own culture? I think it is far too simplistic to take a single hadith and apply it to all situations and conditions, when clearly there are certain criteria that apply.

As mentioned in my response, there is really no such thing as a specifically identifiable monolithic “Islamic culture” that the brother has alluded to above, when Islam embeds itself into a country, culture or society, the norms of that society are generally accepted with proviso that the practices do not violate a principle of the Shariah. Principially, the overwhelming things and actions in this world are HALAL (permissible) unless an evidence can be brought to the contrary. With this principle in mind we don’t just throw out culture wholesale, we evaluate, discard what is incorrect and accept what is good. We only have to look at the periods of Islamic conquests to realise that Islam, or rather Muslims (without objection from the ulama), took from the cultures they conquered and took what benefited and left that which did not, the culture then took on a new form specific to that time and place. Ottoman mosques resemble Byzantine basilicas, in many cases that’s what they once were, in other cases the Ottomans employed Byzantine artisans and craftsman. Chinese mosques look like Chinese temples, Indo-Pak mosques have borrowed from culturally “Hindu” (as opposed to religiously Hindu) art and craft, the influences are unmistakeable.

My last response on this thread was:

This hadith requires an exposition and needs the parameters defined, this is why we rely on rulings derived from hadith rather than an hadith on its own to establish a ruling. The wording of the hadith [in question] is general and on the face of it seems to suggest that *any* emulation/imitation makes you from that nation, additionally, as stated, it doesn’t suggest that it is a bad thing (being from the nation you emulate) since the Qur’an has stated “We have made you into nations so that you may know one another”, so immediately there is a problem of defining what is meant by the hadith.

The upshot here is that quoting a hadith and establishing it as a ruling is not correct, hadith are the raw materials which the jurists use to provide the rulings which we follow, essentially the fuqaha (jurists) operationalise the Sacred texts for us. May Allah make us of those who follow right guidance and understanding.