(Excerpt from Al-Madina's upcoming book release, Prophetic Grace: The Qur'anic Merits of Prophet Muhammad, a selection of commentaries from al-Bahr al-Madid by Ibn Ajiba (1747-1809), translated by Abdul Aziz Suraqah)
Indeed, Allah and His angels send prayers upon the Prophet. O you who believe! Send prayers and abundant salutations upon him. (Surah Ahzab, 33:56)
You should realize that prayer upon the Prophet ﷺ is a ladder and means of [spiritual] ascent to arrive unto Allah. That is because sending prayers upon him ﷺ frequently engenders the Prophet’s love, and the Prophet’s love engenders Allah’s love, and Allah’s love for the servant attracts the servant to the Divine Presence—with or without an intermediary.
In addition, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ is the vizier brought nigh, and whoever seeks an audience with the King must serve the vizier and draw near to him so he can grant him an audience before the King. The Messenger of Allah, therefore, is Allah’s Supreme Sentinel [al-hijab al-a'zam] and noblest door. Whoever seeks to enter through a door other than his will be expelled and cast out. To that end, Ibn al-Wafa says:
You are the door of Allah; whoever attempts to enter [the Divine Presence]
From a door other than yours shall not enter it
Sheikh al-Jazuli in Dalail al-Khayrat says, “Sending prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ is of the utmost importance for the one who desires to draw close to the Lord of lords.” The commentator on Dalail al-Khayrat explains this:
There are several reasons why it is so important [to send prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ] ...One reason is that it contains a means of approach to Allah Most High through the station of His Beloved and Chosen One ﷺ. The Most High says, “And seek a means of approach unto Him.” There is no means of approach to Allah that is closer or greater than His noblest Messenger ﷺ.
Another reason is that Allah Most High, out of His honor, ennobling, and preference to the Prophet’s lofty stature ﷺ, has commanded and encouraged prayers upon him ﷺ, and promised a good return and bountiful reward for those who say them. It is one of the most favorable of deeds, heaviest of statements, purest of states, most prosperous of works that draw nigh, and most encompassing of blessings. Sending prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ is a means of arriving at the good-pleasure of the All-Merciful and attaining felicity and the greatest satisfaction [ridwan]. Through it, a person’s supplications are answered and he ascends to the highest spiritual degrees.
Allah Most High revealed to Musa (peace be upon him), “O Musa! Do you desire that I become closer to you than your words upon your tongue, your whispers upon your heart, your soul in your body, and the light of your vision in your eyes?” Musa replied, “Yes, O Lord!” Allah said, “Then send frequent prayers upon Muhammad ﷺ.”
Another reason is that the Prophet ﷺ is the Beloved of Allah Most High and he possesses an immense rank with Him. Both Allah and His angels send prayers upon him ﷺ, so it is incumbent to love the Beloved and draw close to Allah Most High through love of him, reverence of him, fulfillment of his rights, prayers upon him, and emulation of the prayers of Allah and the angels upon him ﷺ. This honoring is greater and more consummate than the honor conferred upon Adam (peace be upon him) when Allah ordered the angels to prostrate to him. That is because it is impermissible that Allah could have been with the angels in the conferring of honor to Adam, so the honoring that comes from both Allah and His angels is more intense than the honoring that came only from the angels.
Another reason relates to the virtues that are transmitted about the sending prayers upon him, as well as the promise of immense reward, high rank, and the promise that the one who sends prayers upon him will win unto Allah’s good-pleasure and have his worldly and after-worldly needs fulfilled.
Another reason is that the sending of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ entails showing gratitude to the one who is the intermediate [wasita] in Allah’s graces upon us and to whom we are ordered to be thankful. There is not a single grace of Allah upon us—whether it has passed or is to come, and whether it is the grace of existence [ijad] or the grace of sustenance [imdad], in this life or the next—save that the Prophet ﷺis the means for it reaching us and circulating among us. It is obligatory upon us to fulfill the rights he ﷺ has upon us, and when we show gratitude for his bounties we must not become fatigued from sending prayers upon him ﷺ at every inhalation and exhalation.
Another reason is that the sending of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ entails a fulfillment of slavehood by carrying out what is ostensibly negated by the very basis of slavehood itself. This is a stronger form of compliance and is the reason why the merits of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ are superior to other actions. That which is ostensibly negated by the basis of slavehood is for the servant to draw close to Allah by occupying himself with other than Him. When we say for example, “O Allah! Send prayers upon Muhammad,” we are occupying ourselves with the right of Muhammad ﷺ, whereas the basis for all acts of devotion is that we only seek nearness to Allah by carrying out His rights. However, since the sending of prayers upon Muhammad ﷺ comes from a permission from Allah Most High, it is a stronger form of compliance to the divine command. It may be likened to Allah’s command that the angels prostrate to Adam. The angels’ honor was in their compliance with Allah’s command, and Satan’s disgrace was in his contravention of Allah’s command.
Another reason lies in the tried and true effects of sending prayers upon him ﷺ and the benefits of their resultant mystical illuminations and elevations of spiritual resolve (himma). It is even said—according to what Sheikh al-SanusÏ, Sheikh [Ahmad] Zarruq, and others relate—that prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ suffice one in the absence of a sheikh in the spiritual path and they stand in his place.
Another reason lies in the fact that the sending of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ brings about equilibrium in the spiritual path: one that combines the servant’s perfections and completes him, for in the prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ there is mention of Allah and His Messenger, but this is not the case for other formulas of remembrance. This is why perseverance and constancy with the [other] formulas of remembrance can bring about a state of disequilibrium and luminosity that burns away the character traits, and give rise to incandescence and heat in the constitution. On the other hand, because it is like cool water, the sending of prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ removes this heat in the constitution and strengthens the souls...
By Abdul Aziz Suraqah , 20 Jan 2014