Think of the activities you perform on a day-to-day basis. No, really think. Perhaps you make time to watch that basketball game. Perhaps you sacrifice your weekends to get extra work done. Maybe you spend an hour on the phone with a loved one, or maybe you take the time to drive up to see them. Now think of the kind of things you prioritize over others; the places you go to; the people you spend time with; how much time, thought and energy you dedicate to whom; the things you put up with and those you don’t. Chances are most of these choices are based on emotional attachments, whether conscious or not. We love a number of things, and we make sacrifices—sometimes small, sometimes huge—for them. But the irony is that despite our busy lives full of people and things, on that rare occasion when Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, TV, XBox are off, we often find ourselves feeling empty, lost and confused. Is this normal?
Attachment to material things is normal. Exclusive and primary attachment to them is not. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in His boundless divine wisdom chose to compose human beings of two primary components: the material body, created from earth, and the divine breath of Allah. As humans occupy the earth, our material side seeks by default to attach itself to what it came from. In this process, the divine breath of Allah in us— the secret of our connection to our Creator— becomes overwhelmed and hidden. But it never disappears. Just as it is the material body’s nature to attach to the earth, it is the soul’s nature to seek out and attach to the source of this divine breath, its Creator. This spiritual search may go semi-fulfilled, or unfulfilled throughout a person’s lifetime. And yet, it does not matter how much we busy ourselves with material pursuits, or how hard we try to suppress our anxieties with entertainment and material pleasures, the cause of this state of anxiety is spiritual, and therefore it can only be solved at the level of the soul.
To reconnect humans to their Creator, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) in His infinite wisdom chose to send prophets and messengers to take on this duty. Each messenger He sent was particularly suited to the people he was sent to. Ibrahim (may God’s peace be upon him) was known as Khalil ul Allah (the close friend of Allah). Musa (may God’s peace be upon him) was known as Kalim ul Allah (the one who spoke directly to Allah). Jesus (may God’s peace be upon him) was known as Ruh ul Allah (the spirit of Allah). Each of these characteristics—close friendship, speech, ruh—helped these messengers with their own missions. It is therefore remarkable that although the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ possessed these qualities as well (he too is the close friend of Allah, he too is the one who spoke directly to Allah, and he too is the spirit of Allah) he had a unique title, habib-ul-Allah, the beloved of Allah. Why was this title—with the meaning of love it conveys—particularly chosen for our Prophet? What does love have to do with our connection to Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and the state of our spiritual lives?
Many Muslims have unfortunately grown up with an image of Islam as little more than a collection of rules and restrictions to be followed by fear of punishment. This lopsided image of Islam obscures the fact that love is much more central to our faith than it is usually given credit. A cursory read of the Qur’an and the Sunnah shows how prevalent the theme of Prophetic love is. It is not simply a love between two parties—unlike Khalil which means love and friendship between two parties, al-Habib not only encompasses two, but everyone else involved in this relationship of love. As the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent to all of mankind until the end of time, this Prophetic hubb (love) connects the followers of Muhammad with one another and connects the followers of Muhammad to him ﷺ, and ultimately to the Creator and Sustainer, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
In the Qur’an Allah tells us: "Say if you love Allah, follow me (the Prophet) and Allah will love you. " Similarly, in an authentic hadith, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ proclaims: "By Allah you will not believe until I am more beloved to you than yourself, your children, your parents, and all of people."
In the context of our multiple emotional attachments—to people, to comfort, to money, to basketball, to fashion, to an image of us we carefully craft, etc.—this commandment to love the Prophet more than we love ourselves may be perplexing. What does it mean to love the Prophet, and why is it so important? The lives of the Prophet’s companions show that love for the Prophet ﷺ means submission to Allah and His Messenger and that it is predicated upon a desire to sacrifice. Prophetic love means that a person places Allah and His Messenger before all else, and is willing to alter his/her life for Allah and His Messenger. This is not an alien meaning of love. As we mentioned above, our emotional attachments are constantly leading to multiple sacrifices. We just don’t notice them all the time, but love is there, and sacrifice is there.
The companions of the Prophet showed us what true love for the Prophet looked like. They did not stop loving when they embraced Islam. They redirected their love to what could actually nurture their souls and pave their way to jannah. In the early days of the Meccan period of revelation, Abu Sufyan, an ardent enemy of the Prophet and his followers, took a companion by the name of Zayd ibn Dukunnah to the outskirts and crucified him. As he hung in the middle of the burning desert, Abu Sufyan approached him and asked if he would prefer Muhammad to be in his place. Suddenly, Zayd awakened and said: ”By Allah I would not want the Prophet to be pricked in his foot with a thorn, and my family and I are safe from death.” Abu Sufyan then said: “By Allah I have not seen anyone love anybody like the companions love for Muhammad.”
Moreover, the Prophet loved us in return, and yearned for us in return:
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ خَادِمِ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، قَالَ : مَا فِي بَيْتِ عَائِشَةَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهَا إِلا أَنَا ، وَرَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ ، وَأَبُو بَكْرٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُ ، وَأَنَا يَوْمَئِذٍ ابْنُ خَمْسَ عَشْرَةَ سَنَةً ، فَقَالَ رَسُولُ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ : " يَا أَبَا بَكْرٍ ! لَيْتَ أَنِّي لَقِيتُ إِخْوَانِي ، لَيْتَ أَنِّي لَقِيتُ إِخْوَانِي ، فَإِنِّي أُحِبُّهُمْ " ، فَقَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ! نَحْنُ إِخْوَانُكَ ! . قَالَ : " أَنْتُمْ أَصْحَابِي ، إِخْوَانِي الَّذِينَ لَمْ يَرَوْنِي وَصَدَّقُونِي وَأَحَبُّونِي ، حَتَّى أَنِّي لأَحَبُّ إِلَى أَحَدِهِمْ مِنْ وَلَدِهِ وَوَالِدِهِ " . قَالُوا : يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ ! فَإِنَّا نَحْنُ إِخْوَانُكَ . قَالَ : " لا ، أَنْتُمْ أَصْحَابِي ، أَلا تُحِبُّ يَا أَبَا بَكْرٍ قَوْمًا أَحَبُّوكَ بِحُبِّي إِيَّاكَ ؟ " قَالَ : بَلَى ، فَأُحِبُّهُمْ مَا أَحَبُّوكَ بِحُبِّي إِيَّاكَ
Anas bin Malik (may God be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ said: “I wish that I could meet my brothers.” The Sahabah (companions of the Prophet ﷺ) asked: “Aren’t we your brothers?” He replied: “You are my Companions, but my brothers are those who will believe in me without having seen me.”
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) has taught us that the only way to have His love is to love His Prophet and to follow him. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we will always have emotional attachments. He knows that when we are not cultivating love for Allah and His Messenger, we are consciously or unconsciously cultivating love for material things. Our material selves call for them. But as spiritual beings, the search for the Divine can never be fully stripped from us. We can cage it and store it away from sight, but we will feel the effect of this lack of fulfillment on our lives. Or we can heed the call to our emotional and psychological well-being in this world and success in the afterlife.
May Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) grant us love for His Beloved, and grant us His love. Ameen.
By Yasir Fahmy , 18 Jun 2014