Feeling those post-jumuʿah, post-Valentine’s Day blues? Let’s talk love.
On love for our Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ, more specifically, as is competes and grows alongside our love for worldly pleasures. Reflect on this story from seerah:
ربيعة بن كعب الأسلمي: كنت أبيت مع رسول الله ﷺ فأتيته بوضوئه وحاجته فقال لي: سل؟ فقلت: أسألك مرافقتك في الجنة، قال: أو غير ذلك. قلت: هو ذاك. قال: فأعني على نفسك بكثرة السجود.
Rabīʿah ibn Kaʿb al-`Aslamī [رضى الله عنه] says: I spent many days and nights serving Rasūlullah ﷺ, tending to his needs and bringing him wuḍū` water. He ﷺ once said to me, “Ask me for anything [to repay you].” I replied, “I ask only for your companionship in Jannah.” He insisted I ask for more, but I told him, “That is all.” So he ﷺ said, “Then aid me against your nafs by increasing your sujood.”
Notice this detail: when `Imām an-Nawawi compiled his book Riyāḍ uṣ-Ṣāliḥīn, he did not place this ḥadīth under the Book of Salawāt. Rather, he tucked it under the Book of Struggle [باب المجاهدة], alongside other narrations on battling the inner self. The question is, why?
Our scholars believe that human love branches into two parts: natural love [حب فطري] and selective love [حب إختياري]. And to love our Nabī is personal choice, not fiṭra. For unlike natural love [حب فطري], loving the Prophet ﷺ does not spring from impulse. It does not mature with age, sprawling over your heart with the tick-tock passing of time. It does not seduce your flesh and ego like love for intimacy, wealth and fame. In fact, no one is born sending ṣalawāt from a compulsion inside. Because of such, an-Nawawi believed that love of our Prophet ﷺ is by choice, acquired in tandem, secured by ligatures of effort and inner struggle. You must venture to love by exploring, learning, following his sunnah until your heart grows attached to that being, Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdillāh. That is how to love him ﷺ.
Juxtapose this to a verse from sūrat `Āli ʿImrān: “Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire-—of women and children, heaped-up sums of gold and silver [i.e. wealth], fine branded horses, cattle and tilled land [property and vehicles]. That is the enjoyment of worldly life, but Allah has with Him the best return.”
These two loves compete, and Allāh warns of a grave punishment were our innate desires to overpower our love for His Nabī: “Say, [O Muḥammad], ‘If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allāh and His Messenger and jihād in His cause, then wait until Allāh executes His command. And Allāh does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.’”
In light of all that, revisit the ḥadīth of Rabīʿah ibn Kaʿb [رضى الله عنه]. He was a minor ṣaḥābi, name hardly mentioned in the books of seerah, who lent himself to our Prophet’s service. Our Prophet gave him one wish-—one duʿāʾ from his ﷺ blessed lips, bound to come true-—and all Rabīʿah requested was our Prophet’s companionship in Jannah.
So which is it? Which innate desire has deterred us from exploring, learning, froom venturing to love our Prophet?
والذي نفسي بيده لا يؤمن أحدكم حتى أكون أحب إليه من نفسه وماله وولده والناس أجمعين.
❝By Allāh, none of you believes until I am more beloved to him than his own self, his wealth, his children and all mankind.❞ -—Rasūlullah ﷺ