By Tamim Faruk
One of the flaws of modern (and from what I can tell, particularly Western) scholarship is their approach to describing the Prophet ﷺ. Unfortunately, in an attempt to humanize him, present him as palatable to our sentiments - to make him feel relatable to us, a lot of discourse - whether or not intentional, denigrates or derogates the reality of his status. This manner of speaking about him has become so normalized and has trickled down to laypeople like myself.
Yet the adab of the Sahaba, radi Allahu anhum, and even the classical scholars towards him was simply on a different level. There was an example from Sayyidina al-Abbas (as) that really struck me:
أبو رزين قال سىٔل العباس أنت أكبر أم النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم، فقال هو أكبر مني وأنا ولدت قبله
Abu Rizeen said he asked sayyidina al-Abbas: "Are you older, or is the Prophet ﷺ? So sayyidina al-Abbas answered: "He is akbar – greater, than me, but I was born before him."
Sayyidina al-Abbas answered in this way because he was so particular and cautious, through his deep love and reverence for the Prophet ﷺ, that he didn't want to diminish the reality of the status of the Prophet through using the wording in which the question was asked. So he rephrased it in his response. Similarly, any opening to a classical text that I've heard or seen lavishes the Prophet ﷺ with immense reverence in light of his great maqam – a testament to the deep love our scholars nurtured for him.
Allah ﷻ tells us in Surat an-Nur, ayah 63:
لَّا تَجْعَلُوا۟ دُعَآءَ ٱلرَّسُولِ بَيْنَكُمْ كَدُعَآءِ بَعْضِكُم بَعْضًۭا ۚ قَدْ يَعْلَمُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلَّذِينَ يَتَسَلَّلُونَ مِنكُمْ لِوَاذًۭا ۚ فَلْيَحْذَرِ ٱلَّذِينَ يُخَالِفُونَ عَنْ أَمْرِهِۦٓ أَن تُصِيبَهُمْ فِتْنَةٌ أَوْ يُصِيبَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
"Do not make the calling of the Messenger among yourselves like the calling to one another…"
In explanation of this verse, Qadi Iyad shares in Ash-Shifaa that "Abu Muhammad Makki explained, ‘Do not make the calling of the Messenger among yourselves like the calling to one another’ means that no one should either speak before him or coarsely to him. Also, that the Prophet ﷺ should be respected and held in high esteem and not called out to as one would call to each other, rather he should be called with the noblest titles such as Messenger of Allah or Prophet of Allah."
Sadly, we see even our teachers casually referring to him by his name when they wouldn't do so with their own parents. We see people trying to treat him almost like an "object" for academic analysis. We see people arrogant enough to make comparisons to themselves or their condition. We see people applying ideological labels to him anachronistically, and attribute their baggage to his character. We see people treat him as if he was just "some guy", maybe even a “great guy” – completely missing that he is the Best of Creation and the Beloved of God ﷺ. We see people speak about him so coarsely.
And all this makes me sad, because our relationship with the Prophet ﷺ isn't just any relationship, but really the one, that if we strive to nurture with love and sincerity, will save us on the day of Judgement - when not even our mothers or children will care for us. When no one else is able, it will be him who intercedes for us with Allah ﷻ on that day.
This may seem foreign and unfamiliar for a lot of people reading this, but in sha Allah, the more cautious we are, the more reverence we show, and love we strive for, the closer we will be to him on that day, and the closer we will be to him in gardens of Paradise. We must perpetually cultivate this love – through reading his seerah, the shama’il, and the stories about the profound ways in which he transformed all those around him. Through remembering that he yearns to meet us – that he called us his ‘brothers’.
As we continue to nurture this love more and more, we will find that we have attained the sweetness of faith – when our faith no longer feels like a burden on our backs, but instead becomes our wings that carry us blissfully into the pleasure of Allah ﷻ.
A reminder first and foremost to myself - one that I would not have even been aware of if a particular, special teacher - Sidi Mostafa Azzam didn't pour a share of his deep love and reverence in my heart. May Allah ﷻ bless his heart.