One of the miracles of Islam and world history is the phenomenon of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). His life is among the most carefully catalogued, intricately described and beautifully detailed accounts of a human being, ever. Even to this day, hundreds of books are written about him each year.
In one sense, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is well known through the voluminous historical accounts, and some of the classic texts recount with an immensity of adoration, capturing what seem to be minutiae, so even fourteen centuries on, we can read about the number of grey hairs in his blessed beard. However, while the accumulation of ‘facts and figures’ give one account of his blessed life, in another sense, our knowledge of, and connection to, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is driven by something deeper.
Islam, and all preceding religions which share from the Adamic and Abrahamic fountain, call the human being toward Divine Unity; the fundamental premise of One God. In an ultimate sense, Islam is an invitation to know God through His Attributes; The Eternal, Uncreated Creator. By knowing God, through natural extension we begin to understand our own nature as finite, created beings. We also see around us other creatures like birds, animals, fish and flora and we quickly intuit that, while we share a physical semblance with the earth and many of the animals, we are, somehow, different. There is a secret in the human being that sets us apart; we are infused with an attribute that transcends our bodily physicality: God breathed into Adam of His Spirit (Holy Qur’an 15:29). All human beings share in this mystery of the Divine Breath.
The bridge between the finite, lower realm of our temporal existence and the unending, infinitely vast, Divine realm was traversed by the Angel Gabriel upon his visitation to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) at Mount Hira in 610 AD. This encounter heralded the first revelation of the Qur’an to the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and bestowed a ‘touch-point’ from the higher Divine realm, which could otherwise never be reached from the lower, earthly realm.
Only upon the broadest shoulders, can such a weight be placed
The blessed vessel that was created to carry the Divine Light of the Holy Qur’an, was the heart of our blessed and beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). It is through this understanding that we begin to truly appreciate who he really is, and that his entire existence is a revelation from the Divine; when asked about him, his beloved wife Sayyida A’isha (radhiAllahu ‘anha) replied that “the character of the Prophet of God was the Qur’an.” (Narrated in Sahih Muslim, 746). Correspondingly, the Holy Qur’an, perfectly preserved, is the ultimate account of the Prophet’s blessed sojourn through this world; it is, the greatest book of sirah that we have.
To connect with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), we instinctively turn to understand his essential nature and attributes, his character and his words and actions. As a starting point, we can garner this from various descriptions magnificently espoused in the Holy Qur’an itself.
The Prophetic mission: Mercy
God establishes the purpose of the Prophetic mission which goes to the core of the Prophet’s way (peace and blessings be upon him): “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds” (Holy Qur’an 21:107). The fundamental and underlying attribute of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) is mercy. The Prophet’s messengership (peace and blessings be upon him) is characterised by the Divine attributes of mercy, compassion and benevolence. God introduces Himself to us in His Glorious Book in all but one chapter as Ar-Rahman, Ar-Raheem (The All-Merciful, The All-Compassionate), and accordingly, it is impeccably befitting that His Blessed Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) partakes in a human manifestation of the attributes of mercy and compassion, as His Perfected Vicegerent on earth.
The books of sirah provide countless examples of how he lived the attributes of mercy and compassion in his dealings with everyone; his family and loved ones, his companions across the spectrum of wisdom and intelligence, his allies and the ones who wanted to harm him, his elders and the young, and to animals, birds, insects, trees, plants, stones, earth and water. By establishing his sunnah (peace and blessings be upon him), he provided us with an exemplary model to become beacons of mercy and compassion. His way, in a broad sense is a call to live a God-centric life characterised by devotion to God and mercy and compassion to all creation.
Further, we understand that his concern for humanity was palpable; the Holy Qur’an, in its typically timeless and infinite rhythm espouses: “[t]here has certainly come to you a Messenger from among yourselves. Grievous to him is what you suffer; [he is] concerned over you and to the believers is kind and merciful” (Holy Qur’an 9:128), which, if read expansively, points to the notion that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his mission of mercy extends to all the children of Adam (and all creation) for all time to come, including each one of us. This sincere concern for humanity is the benchmark for practical magnanimity.
We need to examine this life closely through the authentic sirah and seek to emulate it as closely as practicable in our times – it is through the rigour of doing as he did, that we begin to realize the timeless perfection of his walk and talk.
The Qur’an and the Prophet: the indivisible connection
For the believer, the Holy Qur’an is an inimitable, living revelation which impresses upon the heart and unveils itself to those with sincere intention and devotion, unlocking secrets that transform the individual, even through mere listening alone. The Qur’an is the Muslim’s bedrock and one’s relationship with the Qur’an is invariably correlated with aspects of spiritual ascension.
It is worthy of contemplation that the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) are profoundly and inextricably linked. The words of the Holy Qur’an were couched and inscribed upon the heart of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), from the source, such that he became the mouth-piece for the Holy Qur’an to humanity: “[That] indeed, the Qur’an is the word of a noble Messenger” (Holy Qur’an 81:19). So, it follows that establishing and nurturing one’s relationship with the Book of God goes hand-in-hand with establishing and nurturing one’s relationship with the carrier of the Book – this is illuminated in the mandated sunnah which complements the Book to provide an illustrative clarity in the praxis of observing the Divine Commandments.
How do I connect with Prophet (saw) in 2018?
It has been mentioned by our teachers that one certain method of connecting with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and cultivating and inculcating a love for him and his blessed way, is to follow the Qur’anic ordinance in Surah Al Ahzab: “Certainly, Allah and His Angels send blessings on the Prophet: O you who believe! Send your blessings on him and salute him with all respect” (Holy Qur’an 33:56). We understand this to be an order from God, and so we obey by saying “Oh Allah, send Your Salah and Salam on our Master Muhammad and his family”, with an unstated recognition and resignation that we are incapable of suitably discharging such a monumental and weighty ordinance in a manner befitting our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), so we humbly remit this up to God for its fulfilment.
A final reminder
As an aide-memoire (first and foremost for my own poor and needy self): we take this blessed month of Rabi-al-Awwal, the month of the birth of our blessed and beloved Messenger and Master Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), as a month to increase our salah and salam on him. Our humble hope is that our hearts edge closer to God by falling in love with the path of His Beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him), and through gaining deeper insights and unveilings into the glorious life of the most important human being in history.
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