Alhamdulillahi rabbil aalameen. Was salaatu was salaamu ala ashraful mursaleen sayyidina Muhammadi wa ala aali sayyidina Muhammadi wa ashaabihi ajma’een.
All praise is due to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the entire universe. And the peace and blessings of Allah be upon Muhammad (saw) his family and his companions.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Quran: “Laqad kaana lakum fee Rasulillahi uswatun hasanatun li man kaana yarjullaha wal yawmal aakhira wa dhakarallaha katheeraa – You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much (33: 21).” The topic for today will insha Allah be about following the way of the Prophet (saw). In this ayah, Allah (swt) mentions to us that “fee Rasulillahi uswatun hasanatun – in the life of the Prophet (saw) we have an excellent example to follow”. He (saw) is our guide in this life and we should strive as much as possible to adopt his way of living and make it our own. There has never been any person who was more worthy of being emulated and imitated than Rasulullah (saw), and this is testified to in this ayah which has been quoted.
It has already been mentioned many times previously that the Quran contains the guidance for us as to how we should live our life. But Allah (swt) did not just send down the Quran as a book and leave it at that, in addition He (swt) sent to us His Prophet Muhammad (saw), the Last of all the Messengers, who is the embodiment of the Quran. The Prophet (saw) was a living example of what the Quran teaches. It is related from ‘A’ishah (ra) that once she was asked about the character of the Prophet (saw). In reply she did not give an extremely long and detailed answer to this question but simply said that “Kaana khuluquhu al-Qur’an – His character was the Quran (Sahih Muslim).” This is the dalil for what was just said, that the Prophet (saw) was a living Quran.
So firstly, before we can emulate the Prophet (saw) in our lifestyle and our habits, we need to know what his character was. And the first way we can get to know this, is by reading the Quran. All of those things which are mentioned in the Quran concerning morals, behaviour and ethics: all of them were practiced by the Prophet (saw) and was part of his character. Then after the Quran, we look to the Sunnah of the Prophet (saw) as recorded in the authentic compilations of hadith. And after that, another source for us to learn about the character of the Prophet (saw) is to read the books of Sirah, which document the history of the life of the Prophet (saw). Before we implement the lifestyle of the Prophet (saw) in our own lives, we need to have knowledge of what this is, and we attain this knowledge by reading the Quran, the hadith and the books of Sirah.
Another ayah mentioning the character of the Prophet (saw) is where Allah (swt) says: “Wa innaka la ‘alaa khuluqin ‘azeem – And verily you are on an exalted standard of character (68: 4).” This ayah describes to us his character and the description given of it is that it is “khuluqun ‘azeem.” The mufassirun differed as to the exact interpretation of this. According to ibn ‘Abbas (ra), it means that there is no way of life more beloved to Allah (swt) and more pleasing to Him than the lifestyle of the Prophet (saw). It is also said that it refers to his kindness and respect towards his Ummah. According to Qatadah, it’s meaning is that whatever Allah (swt) commanded him to do, he did it, and whatever Allah (swt) prohibited him from, he abstained from it. Junaid said that his character was described as ‘azeem because he had no other ambition or intention except Allah (swt). Yet another view is that he was described in this way because gathered within him were all of the most noble qualities that exist. But the most correct view is what was already mentioned previously from ‘A’ishah (ra), that his character was the Quran and this is why it was described as “khuluqun ‘azeem.”
Allah (swt) further states in the Glorious Qur’an: “Qul in kuntum tuhibboonallaha fattabi’oonee yuhbibkumullahu wa yaghfirlakum. Wallahu ghafoorun raheem – Say, ‘If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you for your wrong actions. Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful’ (3: 31).” As Muslims we should have love for Allah (swt), our Nourisher and Sustainer, the Most Merciful One who brought us into existence. But just claiming to love Allah (swt) is not enough – He says in this ayah that if we truly love Him, then we should follow the way of the Prophet (saw). And what this is, has already been mentioned before. The result of doing this is also mentioned in this ayah, which is that in turn Allah (swt) will love us and forgive us our sins as well. So this is the supreme reward which lies in following the Sunnah of Muhammah (saw).
And the result of Allah (swt) loving a person is that the inhabitants of the samaa’ would love him as well. It is mentioned in a hadith Qudsi that Allah (swt), when He loves a person, He then calls Jibreel (as) and commands him to love that person. Jibreel (as) then loves him and announces to the rest of the inhabitants of the heavens that Allah (swt) loves that particular person and they all then also love him (Sahih Muslim). So from these three ayat we learn three things: that the Prophet (saw) was on an exalted standard of character; that because of this he is the best role model for us to follow; and that if we love Allah (swt), then we should follow the Prophet (saw) for which Allah (swt) will love us and forgive us our sins.
The fuqaha (the jurists) have divided the verdict on actions into various categories. So some things are haram, others are mustahab, some are haram and so on. And the same with the actions of the Prophet (saw). Some of them are compulsory for us to follow while some are recommended. This is good in one way, in that we can know those things which are compulsory for us to act on and which are not.
But it can also have a negative effect in that some people may begin to downplay the importance of the Sunnah. So if an act is not fard then they feel that it is OK to simply leave it out and not give any value to it. For example, nowadays many people in our societies don’t place much emphasis on growing the beard. Yet this is a Sunnah of the Prophet (saw). In addition to this, it was not only his practice to grow the beard but he also commanded and gave instruction to his followers that they should grow their beards, in order to differentiate themselves from the disbelievers. But because some of the jurists have not classified this act as being Fard, some people simply leave it out – for them it is “just” a Sunnah. This is the wrong attitude to have and we should be careful of not becoming like this: we shouldn’t have this attitude that if something is classified as Sunnah then it is something that we don’t have to worry about.
The Sahabah (ra) used to strive their best to emulate the Prophet (saw) in all of his deeds. It didn’t matter to them whether that act was Fard, or Sunnah or Nafl – if the Prophet (saw) did it then they would too. The Sahabi ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (ra) was most famous for this. It is related that once he saw the Prophet (saw)’s camel making two complete turns, before the Prophet (saw) dismounted and prayed two raka’ah Salah. It is probable that the camel did that inadvertently, and that it was not something which Rasulullah (saw) did on purpose, but yet when ibn ‘Umar (ra) was later in that same place, he also made his camel make two full turns before getting down and making two raka’ah Salah. So this shows the devotion which the Companions (ra) had to following the way of the Prophet (saw). Even for the smallest of things, they would follow him in that and they did not regard it as being something small or unnecessary. And if possible this is the attitude which we should try to have towards the Sunnah as well.
The Prophet (saw) said in a hadith: “Laa yu’minu ahadukum hattaa akoona ahabba ilaihi min waladihi wa waalidihi wa al-naasi ajma’een – None of you truly believes until he loves me more than he loves his children, his parents, and all of mankind (Sahih Muslim).” So this tells us that in addition to following the example of the Prophet (saw), we have to love him as well. And this love should be more than everything else – nothing of this dunyaa should be more beloved to us than Rasulullah (saw). Only once this is so, can one be said to have attained complete and perfect iman. And these two things, love of the Prophet (saw) and following him are related: we follow him because we love him and through following him, our love for him is increased.
The Prophet (saw) had all of the most noble and perfect qualities known to us. He was the most gentle, kind, loving, generous, sincere, trustworthy and so on – to count all of his attainments would not be possible. And if we study his life, we see many example of all of these. To narrate all of them would again not be possible, so I will only mention incident from his life, which will insha Allah give us some kind of insight into the sublime character of Rasulullah (saw). After the death of his wife Khadijah (ra) and his uncle Abu Talib (ra), the Prophet (saw) left the city of Makkah. Its inhabitants were persecuting him and reviling and he felt that he might get better support if he were to go to a different city. The death of his two family members had also had a great effect him – it was because of this that that year is known as the ‘Am al-Huzn – the year of sorrow.
So he went to Ta’if, to spread the message of Islam and to call people to the worship of Allah (swt). But the people did not accept him – in fact they did the opposite. They rejected him and reviled him, just as the people of Makkah had. They even set the children after him who pelted him with stones, so much so that his sandals became caked with blood. They drove him out and so he left the city and rested on the outskirts in a garden. It was then that Jibreel (as) appeared to him. He was told that if he gave the word, the entire city of Ta’if would be destroyed. So imagine what our response would be if we were in such a situation – if we had been mocked at, reviled, stoned until the blood flowed: how would we respond to such people? Yet look at the response of the Prophet (saw). He was given the choice to easily destroy all of these people but instead he chose to forgive them. He even went further than that and made dua for them that one day the people of Ta’if would become Muslim. From this incident we can see that the Prophet (saw) had the best character, he was the most forgiving and the most merciful of all people. He was sent as a mercy to all of mankind.
And we make dua that Allah (swt) should grant us the tawfiq to follow him, in all of his ways and to adopt the Sunnah in our lives.
Wa aakhiru da’waanaa ‘anil hamdu lillahi rabbil aalameen.