Connect with us

#Islam

On Praising the Highly Praised One ﷺ

Published

The Prophet of Islam ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is commonly known to have been given a unique Arabic name that was not given to any before him—Muhammad, “the oft-praised one.” The word ‘Muhammad’ is actually an intensive of the passive participle ‘Mahmud‘; whereas the latter means “the praised one,” Muhammad means to be praised more frequently, at a highly intense level. Such is the case with the most influential religious figure (some would say human being) in history. He ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) has been praised East and West on the tongue of practicing believers for over fourteen centuries. However, as a poet once wrote, none has praised him like God Himself has praised him. It is fascinating to reflect on the manner and extent to which God has praised His final Messenger in the Qur’an, essentially proving him to be worthy of the rank of the best of mankind.

Although the Qur’an mentions the name of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) only four times, it alludes to his lofty status and praiseworthy qualities in numerous verses. The believers, as well as the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself, are reminded by God of his exalted nature and of his being sent as a mercy and a light to humanity, among other descriptions.

Surah Qalam (The Pen), verse 4 states: وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ (Wa innaka la ‘ala khuluqin adheem; Verily, thou standest on an exalted standard of character). It is due to his exemplary character that Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is chosen by God to be a messenger, and thereby to be further polished through Revelation and rapport with the Divine. Given that he is the last of the prophets with the accounts of the previous prophets related to him, Muhammad  ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is able to learn from his predecessors and imbue himself with the best of their qualities. Thus, he is the Imam al-Mursaleen, the leader of the Messengers, the best of them and also in a sense, a product of them, as God would decree it. He is the “Seal of the Prophets” (Khatim an-Nabiyyin) and a culmination of them and is therefore sent to all humanity (al-alamin), whereas the others were sent to specific groups of people. The mystic Dirini described this sense of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being the culmination of all the prophets in the following poem:

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

He took the purity of Adam, the
lamentation of Noah. Part of his
teaching contains the knowledge of
Idris. Included in his ecstatic
experiences is the grief of Jacob. Within
the mystery of his ecstasy is the
endurance of Job. Enfolded in his
bosom is the weeping of David. A part
only of the riches of his soul exceeds the
wealth of Solomon. He gathered into
himself Abraham’s friendship with God.
He attained the converse of Moses,
God’s interlocutor, and was more
exalted than the highest kings. He excels
the prophets as the sun excels the moon,
the ocean the drop.

In Surah Al-Ahzab, verse 56, the Qur’an states emphatically that God and His angels praise and bless the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and commands that the believers do so as well:

إِنَّ ٱللَّـهَ وَمَلَـٰٓئِكَتَهُۥ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِىِّ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ صَلُّوا۟ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا۟ تَسْلِيمًا

Verily, Allah and His angels send
blessings on the Prophet: O ye that
believe! Send ye blessings on him, and
salute him with all respect. (33:56 ; Yusuf Ali)

Significantly, Islamic scholars have noted that praising the Blessed Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the only act that man participates in with God (See Muhammad Man of God, p. 78). Practicing Muslims are commanded to send blessings on the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) during the daily ritual prayers, and to do so outside of that is considered both a general obligation and a virtue. Ibn Abbas described that God’s prayers on the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) refers to His Mercy on him. Al-Qushayri mentioned that sending prayers upon the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a mercy from God for anyone who did so, while for the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) it is distinction from God and increased honor. Popular Islamic piety also holds that sending prayers upon the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) earns the believer forgiveness of sins as well as a raising in rank before God.
In Surah Inshirah, verse 4, the Qur’an indicates the extent to which God has praised the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through a question: وَرَفَعْنَا لَكَ ذِكْرَكَ (“Did we not exalt your fame?”) Qadi ‘Iyad in his biography of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Ash-Shifa, relates from a hadith that Gabriel came to the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) and explained that God had exalted the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) fame by mentioning him along with Himself. In the Shahadah, or testament of belief that all Muslims must state, the name of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is coupled with the Name of God: Lailaha illa Allah, Muhammad ar-Rasulullah (There is no god but God and Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the Messenger of God). Sufi mystics have alluded to the idea that the shahadah containing Muhammad’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) name is inscribed on the base of the Divine Throne, and that it is by these words that Adam sought forgiveness from the Lord after being expelled from Heaven. This would imply that even a prophet sought intercession through Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), before Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)even stepped foot on the earth.

One might wonder how it is that God, to Whom belongs all praise as the opening verse of the Qur’an states, would exalt a mere human being and place his name alongside His Holy Name. Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) himself was very conscious of his servitude to God and warned against his followers raising him to the level of the Divine the way the Christians had with Jesus. He knew he was only a man to whom revelation had come: قُلْ إِنَّمَآ أَنَا۠ بَشَرٌ مِّثْلُكُمْ يُوحَىٰٓ إِلَىَّ أَنَّمَآ إِلَـٰهُكُمْ إِلَـٰهٌ وَٰحِدٌ فَٱسْتَقِيمُوٓا۟ إِلَيْهِ وَٱسْتَغْفِرُوهُ وَوَيْلٌ لِّلْمُشْرِكِينَ (Say thou: “I am only a mortal like you. It is revealed to me that your God is One God. So take a straight path to Him, and ask forgiveness of Him!” And woe to the idolaters); not an angel or superhuman.

He was not omniscient or omnipotent, but only knew that which God had taught him. However, God made following him and obeying him a means to reach God Himself. In Surah Ahzab, the Qur’an states:  لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّـهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ ٱللَّـهَ وَٱلْيَوْمَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّـهَ كَثِيرًا (“Ye have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in God and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of God”; 33:21). Likewise, in Surah Ali-Imran the Qur’an commands Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to say: قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّـهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحْبِبْكُمُ ٱللَّـهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَٱللَّـهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ (“If you love God, then follow me and God will love you” ;3:31). Thus to obey the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is to obey God and to know the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is to better know God. So it is that praising the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a method of praising God. Ja’far as-Sadiq related a Hadith Qudsi in which God states, “No one mentions you as the Messenger but that he mentions Me as the Lord.”

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) through his exalted character embodied the Divine Attributes to the fullest extent possible for a created being. This is the basis of the Haqiqa Muhammadiyya, the Muhammadan Reality: Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) represents the outward manifestation (Dhuhur) of the unseen Divine (Butun). The Qur’an describes Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) as possessing Divine qualities such as mercy (rahmah) as well as being rauf (kind) and rahim (merciful). Although he is not all-hearing, he is described as being a highly good listener: وَمِنْهُمُ ٱلَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ ٱلنَّبِىَّ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ أُذُنٌ قُلْ أُذُنُ خَيْرٍ لَّكُمْ يُؤْمِنُ بِٱللَّـهِ وَيُؤْمِنُ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مِنكُمْ وَٱلَّذِينَ يُؤْذُونَ رَسُولَ ٱللَّـهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ (“”And among them are those who hinder the Prophet, saying: “He is an ear.” Say thou: “An ear of good for you,” — he believes in God, and he believes the believers — “and a mercy for those among you who heed warning.” And those who hinder the messenger of God, for them is a painful punishment””; 9:61) Several mystics have alluded to the idea of Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) being referred to in the famous Light Verse of Surah An-Nur, wherein God is called the Light of the Heavens and the Earth and a parable is used to describe that Light. Al-Ghazali in his treatise Mishkat al-Anwar (The Niche for Lights) considers Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) to be the light upon light (nurun ‘ala nur) at the end of the verse; this would imply that Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is the ultimate metaphor for the Divine Light. Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is more explicitly referred to as a source of light in Surah al-Ahzab (33;45-46):

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّبِىُّ إِنَّآ أَرْسَلْنَـٰكَ شَـٰهِدًا وَمُبَشِّرًا وَنَذِيرًا

وَدَاعِيًا إِلَى ٱللَّـهِ بِإِذْنِهِۦ وَسِرَاجًا مُّنِيرًا

O Prophet! Truly We have sent thee
As a Witness, a Bearer of Glad
Tidings, and Warner,-
And as one who invites to Allah’s
(grace) by His leave, and as a lamp
spreading light. [Yusuf Ali]

After being called a “witness (shahid), a bearer of glad tidings (bashir), and a warner (nadheer),” Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is called an “illuminating lamp.” The word siraj used in this verse is also used to describe the sun in a later verse in Surah Nuh. In that verse, the moon is called nur whereas the sun is called siraj. Since the sun disseminates light whereas the moon only reflects it, some Qur’an exegetes have commented that the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is like the sun in the strength and power of his light. However, the verse makes clear that the light of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  is sourced from God, the Ultimate Reality,
and he spreads it only by God’s leave (bi ithnihi).

In reflecting on the nature of the Prophet and God’s esteem for him in the Qur’an, some expounders of the Haqiqa Muhammadiyya have been led to believe that the entire universe was created for Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). There is nothing in the Qur’an, however, that would suggest this to be the case. One cannot deny after reading the Qur’an that Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is al-Mustafa, the chosen one, and Ahmad, the one of highest praise. One can easily comprehend him to be khayr al-khalq, the best of the creation, and indeed Habib Allah, the beloved of God. Yet the Qur’an states clearly and simply that God created mankind in order that He be known and worshipped: وَمَا خَلَقْتُ ٱلْجِنَّ وَٱلْإِنسَ إِلَّا لِيَعْبُدُونِ (“And I created the domini and the servi only that they should serve Me” ;51:56).

Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)  is so highly praised because he is the perfect worshipper, or servant, of God. His embodiment of exalted Divine Attributes does not lead him away from the humility and surrender due from him as a created being. As Ibn ‘Arabi explained, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had perfect passivity and servant-ness (‘ubudiyya) with God, and perfect activity and lordship (rububiyya) with people. One might say that Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) fulfilled the purpose of God’s creating him better than anyone else, and in that sense is the pride of the universe, the most perfect created being. However, to say that he was himself the very purpose of the creation is something very different and unsubstantiated. It behooves us as believers to hold the Highly Praised One as exemplar, celebrating his excellency as we attempt to reach our own potential as spiritual beings and vicegerents of God.

اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ عَلَىٰ سَیِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ

Allāhumma ṣalli ʿalā Sayyidinā Muḥammad

O Allah, send prayers upon Our Master Muhammad.

Works Cited:
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. Muhammad Man of God. Kazi Publications: Chicago, 1995.
Qadi ‘Iyad al-Yahsubi. Muhammad: Messenger of Allah. Ash-Shifa of Qadi ‘Iyad.
Translated by Aisha Bewley. Madinah Press: Scotland, 2006.
Schimmel, Annemarie. And Muhammad is His Messenger: The Veneration of the
Prophet in Islamic Piety. The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, 1985.

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Sanaa Mohiuddin is an educator and instructor of History and Arabic. She holds a BA in Classics, a Diploma in Classical Arabic, and an MA in Islamic Studies. She has been active in various masjid communities in the DMV area, and currently resides with her family in Northern Virginia.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Salma

    October 30, 2021 at 2:54 AM

    Assalamualeikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh

    What do you mean by this line? “Such is the case with the most influential religious figure (some would say human being) in history.”

  2. Man From The Dark Side 'The Undertaker'

    October 30, 2021 at 7:58 AM

    There was no one called Job, Jacob, Noah, Solomon, Moses, etc. Please use Prophets’ names – Ayyub (AS), Yaqub (AS), Nuh (AS), Sulaiman (AS), Musa (AS), etc.

  3. amm5511

    October 30, 2021 at 1:07 PM

    Please be learned before responding.

    The names used in the Quran and hadith are Arabic equivalents to the Prophetic names. Just as David, Noah, Job, etc were Biblical equivalents.

    It is not incorrect to use Job, Jacob, Noah, etc.

    Allah knows what the exact pronunciations were in the original languages of the respective prophets.

  4. Man From The Dark Side 'The Undertaker'

    October 30, 2021 at 2:31 PM

    Why would we use Biblical names? Do you talk about Prophets in your daily conversations using their Biblical names? Would you name your children using Prophets’ Biblical names?

  5. Good Man

    October 30, 2021 at 3:29 PM

    The pronunciation of names of the Prophets in the Holy Quran is in Arabic. These names are pronounced exactly as the angel Jibrael pronounced them when he recited verses to our Prophet. In that sense, the Arabic pronunciation is divine.

  6. Good Man

    October 31, 2021 at 1:52 PM

    One of the highly praised characteristics of Prophet Mohammad (SAW) was that he was called Sadiq (Truthful) and yet there is not a single article on this website condemning lies in false cases of rape, fake cases of domestic violence, fabricated allegations of dowry, made up stories of molestation, etc.

  7. Shifa

    November 4, 2021 at 1:52 PM

    May Allah SWT guide us all to better emulate the character (Akhlaaq) of the Prophet (SAWS) and the way of those promised Paradise. May He cure the diseases of our hearts and make our intentions pure in serving Him. Ameen

  8. Meena Malik

    November 15, 2021 at 7:18 PM

    Beautifully written, may Allah bless you for the reminder.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

..
..
..

Ramadan Video Series

MuslimMatters NewsLetter in Your Inbox

Sign up below to get started

Trending