Khutba: Iman in the Prophets
25th June 1999
"Muhammad is not the father of any of your men,
but the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets.
Allah has knowledge of all things." (33:40)
"O Prophet! We have sent you as a witness,
and a bringer of good news and a warner,
and a caller to Allah by His permission
and a light-giving lamp." (33:45-46)
Last week I talked a little about tawhid but it is extremely important to remember that la ilaha illa'Llah does not stand alone but that it needs Muhammadun rasulu'Llah to complete it. The essential connection between the two can be seen immediately from the great formulation of tawhid, Surat al-Ikhlas itself. It starts: Qul huwa'Llahu ahad. 'Say: Allah is absolute Oneness.' The word 'say' is vital in this context and means that it is only through the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, that we have access to knowledge of Allah's unity. As we know the whole purpose of all human existence is to know and worship Allah. The sole means we have to accomplish this is the Messengership of Muhammad, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam. Were it not for the fact that he brought us the Message and showed us how to apply it to our lives we would be living in pitch darkness, wallowing about aimlessly in a mire of misguidance and confusion. As Shaykh ibn Mashish so eloqently put it: lawla'l-wasitatu ladhahaba kama qeela'l-mawsut. 'If it was not for the means, the end, as they say, would have escaped us.'
This means that iman in the Prophet has equal importance for us as iman in Allah Himself. Allah ta'ala says in Surat al-Fath:
"We have sent you bearing witness, bringing good news and giving warning
so that you might all have iman in Allah and His Messenger." (48:8-9)
The mufassirun and the scholars of language are agreed that the fact that Allah connects Himself to His Messenger using the conjunction wa, 'and', implies equality of importance in this and many similar ayats in the Qur'an.
But what exactly constitutes iman in the Messenger of Allah. We know that in His limitless knowledge Allah, 'azza wa jall, predetermined that a few among all the countless human being He would create would have the glorious destiny of being Prophets and Messengers of Allah. They would be responsible for delivering His Messages to mankind and showing to them the Straight Path which leads to human fulfilment and success in both the dunya and the akhira.
Our 'ulama have carefully defined what this iman involves: All the Messengers from Adam to Muhammad, may Allah bless all of them and grant them peace, are utterly truthful and trustworthy and they conveyed everything they were commanded to convey to creation. All human perfection is theirs by necessity and all human imperfections are impossible for them. Permitted for them are eating, drinking, marriage, trading, and any illness which does not lead to an imperfection.
If we reflect on these words and on the statements Allah makes about his Messengers in the Qur'an, we come to understand that, while they clearly are human beings and indeed it would not make any sense for human guidance to come via any other means they are, nevertheless, quite different from the ordinary run of humanity. They are very definitely special beings, set apart from the rest of mankind, protected from the faults to which all the rest of us are prone. As the last of them, as the 'seal of the Prophets', as their apogee and their culmination, sayyidina Muhammad has an extra special place as the khayri'l-khalqi ajma'in, the best of all creation. The great poet of the Companions, Hassan ibn Thabit, put the whole matter most beautifully and succinctly in a qasida he wrote in praise of the Prophet:
Muhammad is a human being but not like other human beings.
Rather he is a flawless diamond and every one else is simply stones.
It is vital for us to realise exactly what this implies in order that our iman should not be defective and consequently our whole deen threatened by misunderstanding the true nature of the Prophetic phenomenon. Certainly it is quite clear that the reason the adherents of the two previous deens, the Jews and the Christians, went so disastrously wrong was precisely their failure to grasp the true nature of Prophethood. The Jews belittled and undervalued their Prophets and Messengers. They made the mistake of diminishing their status and of considering them the same as themselves, saying, 'They are human beings, just the same as we are.' They did it with their own Prophets and again with the last Messenger in Madina. This led them to the worst possible human destiny, that of rejecting and even murdering, those sent by Allah to guide them.
"We will write down what they said and their killing of the Prophets without any right to do so and We will say, 'Taste the punishment of the Burning.'" (3:181)
The Christians, on the other hand, made exactly the opposite mistake. They falsely elevated their Messenger beyond the realms of human existence and by doing that made it impossible to follow him. They put between themselves and the man who had been sent to guide them a gulf which it was humanly impossible to cross. By overvaluing their Messenger the Christians, in fact, negated the very thing he had, in reality, been sent to do.
"Those who say that the Messiah, son of Maryam, is Allah are kafirun. The Messiah said, 'Tribe of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. If anyone associates anything with Allah, Allah has forbidden him the Garden and his refuge will be the Fire.' The wrongdoers will have no helpers." (5:72)
It is clear from the ayats that these misevaluations of the nature of Prophethood will have terrible consequences in the akhira, but its results also inevitably manifest themselves in the dunya. Misunderstanding the nature of the Messenger makes it impossible to implement his Message. So the Jews turned their deen into a rigid compilation of rules and regulations in which human compassion has no place. They created a nihilistic structure devoid of true spirituality which leads inevitably to injustice and self-destruction. Christianity became a kind of fuzzy, personal mysticism detached from day to day life leading step by step to moral chaos, economic injustice, social deprivation and secular rule.
Now, it is clear that, although this misunderstanding of the nature of Prophethood finds its most explicit expression among the Jews and Christians, there are also many Muslims who veer towards one or other of these two deviant positions. These two tendencies, that of either underrating or overrating the stature of the Messenger of Allah, are all too apparent among certain significant and well-known groups of Muslims in the world today and not only do these people espouse these erroneous positions but also, unfortunately, at the same time vehemently claim that they alone have a correct understanding of the nature of Prophethood. It is small wonder that with such people holding sway within the umma that we are as far away as ever from seeing the deen of the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and his Companions, radiya'Llahu 'anhum ajma'in, implemented once more in the world. Qadi 'Iyad, who was acutely aware of how the previous deens had been corrupted and could see how the same was happening to the Muslims, wrote his book, Ash-Shifa, precisely to give the Muslims a correct, traditional and balanced view of the nature of their Messenger. It is this true understanding which all of us must digest and make our own, if we truly wish to make our iman in our beloved Messenger completely sound and, therefore, have any real possibility of seeing Allah's deen implemented in our own lives and re-established in the world once more.
"Say, 'If you love Allah, then follow me and Allah will love you and forgive you
for your wrong actions. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'" (3:31)
"The Prophet is closer to the muminun than their own selves." (33:6)
It goes without saying that the Companions, radiya'Llahu 'anhum, made no mistake whatsoever regarding the true nature of the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, but this was not the mainspring of their relationship with him. What bound the Companions to the Prophet was their love for him; love was the binding force. Indeed the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, made iman dependent on it.
Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, 'None of you will have iman until I am more beloved to him than his children, his father and all other people.' And, taking it a stage further, when 'Umar ibn al-Khattab, radiya'Llahu 'anhu, said to the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, 'I love you more than anything except my self which is between my two sides,' he replied, 'None of you will believe until I am dearer to him than his own self.' 'Umar said, 'By the One who sent the Book down to you, I love you more than my self which is between my two sides!' The Prophet then said, ''Umar, now you have it.'
There are countless examples of the way this love expressed itself among the Companions but I will take just two exemplary illustrations. The father, brother and husband of one of the women of the Ansar was killed at the Battle of Uhud. She asked, 'What has happened to the Messenger of Allah?' They said, 'He is as well as you would wish him to be, al-hamdu lillah.' She said show him to me so I can look at him.' When she saw him, she said, 'Every affliction is as nothing now that you are safe.'
A Companion named Zayd ibn ad-Dathima was captured and taken to Makka to be killed. As he was about to be executed, he was asked, 'By Allah, Zayd, don't you wish that Muhammad was with us now to take your place, so that we could cut off his head and you could be back with your family?' Zayd replied, 'By Allah, I would not wish Muhammad to be in a place where even a thorn could prick him if that was the condition for my being with my family!' If you reflect at all on what was actually involved in both these instances you will see that the love that the followers of the Prophet had for him was almost beyond our ability to comprehend.
What it is vital to understand, though, is that this overwhelming love did not take the form of a mere emotional attachment, rather it was a galvanising, active principle. Love for Allah and His Messenger was the driving force that enabled the Companions to overcome the almost insuperable odds which confronted them and, in the face of them, to implement and establish Allah's deen and spread it around half the known world within the course of a single lifetime. So love for the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is not so much something you feel as something you do.
When speaking of this matter Qadi 'Iyad mentions several ways in which love of the Prophet inevitably shows itself in those who really do love him. Among them are: mentioning him often, yearning to meet him, showing immense respect for him, loving those who love him, hating those who hate him, loving the Qur'an which means reciting it and acting by it, having compassion for all the Muslims, and preferring poverty to wealth. But the first and most important of them is emulating him in every possible way, applying his Sunna, following his words and actions, obeying his commands and avoiding his prohibitions, and taking on his adab in ease and hardship, in joy and in despair. In other words the great sign of true love of the Messenger of Allah is to implement the guidance he brought for us to the full, inwardly and outwardly.
So we ask Allah, tabaraka wa ta'ala, particularly at this time in Rabi' al-Awwal when the birthday of the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is celebrated, to give us the great gift of love for Him and His Messenger and to fill the hearts of every one of us with it so that we may truly follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, salla'Llahu 'alayhi wa sallam, and his Companions, radiya'Llahu 'anhum ajma'in, and emulate them in the wonderful and majestic task of taking on Islam to the full and establishing it again in the world because certainly, since the time they were in the world, there has never been a greater need for it than there is here and now.
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