Loving the Messenger ﷺ (peace be upon him)


Notes from Bukhari

Anas radi Allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet said,

“None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind.”

(Bukhari)

Several questions come to peoples’ minds when they come across this hadith (report of the words of the Prophet ﷺ). Does this mean that we are not believers unless we love the Prophet ﷺ more than anyone else? How do I achieve this level of love if I’ve never even met him ﷺ? How can I love him ﷺ more than my own father or mother?

The hadith is in the chapter of iman (faith) in Imam Bukhari’s Sahih.  He cites two chains of narrators for this hadith, however the actual text of the hadith that he cites is the version narrated by Qatada from Anas. The text of the other narration through Abd al-Aziz has a slight variation where instead of ‘father and children’ it says ‘family and wealth.’

The hadith begins with the expression ‘none of you’ (ahadukum) which some people may assume refers only to the Sahaba (Companions) directly. But other narrations of the hadith have ‘none’ (ahadun) in one version and ‘person/man’ (al-rajul) in another version, making it definitely more encompassing and applicable to everyone at all times.

‘None of you will have faith’

Although the wording in the hadithNone of you will have faith’ seems to negate faith for the one who does not love the Prophet ﷺ more than everyone else, that is not actually the case. Imam ibn Hajar mentions that the negation of faith here refers to the negation of perfection or completion of faith. So it would mean ‘None of you will have perfect/complete faith…’

‘till he loves me’

What is intended by the word ‘love’ (hub) here? Al-Khattabi says that it is referring to voluntary love (hub al-ikhtiyar). There are two types of love, a natural love (hub al-tab’i) and a voluntary love (hub al-ikhtiyar).  Natural love stems from our human nature or in other words the way we have been created. Most people love beauty, power, pleasures, wealth, etc. These instincts are ingrained within our nature as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) says,

Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver [wealth], fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. (Qur’an 3:14)

On the other hand, voluntary love is a result of choice, usually after reflection and understanding. You may meet a person towards whom you are initially indifferent. After spending some time with the person you may discover he or she has some really fine qualities or it may be that the person sacrifices for you or benefits you in some significant way that you grow to admire and love that person. This is voluntary love. You choose to love that person for a reason.

Therefore the hadith contains a subtle indication regarding the importance of using the intellect to reflect and ponder over matters. In other words to attain this level of love the first thing that is needed is reflection. For most people usually the object of love is either their own self or others. With regards to their own self, the most desirable state is to live eternally without defects or shortcomings.

Therefore when you reflect on how the Prophet ﷺ has benefitted you by conveying the message of Islam to the extent that today you are a Muslim, after Allah’s decree, due to the sacrifice of the Prophet ﷺ in the face of persecution, attacks, loss of wealth, homeland and risks to his own life. When you reflect on the fact that the benefit of religious guidance – which leads to eternal happiness and joy in Paradise and safety from eternal pain and despair in Hell – is the greatest favour and benefit to be desired. When you further reflect on the fact that on the day of judgement when no other creation of Allah (swt) can help you, the Prophet ﷺ will be in prostration to Allah (swt)  pleading to save his ummah (community), a day in which your own mother will not give one of her good deeds to ransom you nor would you ransom her.  When you reflect on the fact that when you send peace and salutations on the Prophet ﷺ Allah (swt) returns ten peace and salutations on you. Subhan’Allah (glory be to God)!  When you reflect on his sublime character, impeccable manners, justice, mercy, and his devotion to Allah (swt), you can only arrive at the conclusion that the only person deserving your highest love is the beloved Prophet ﷺ because his benefit to you is the greatest and the most lasting.

Notice how Allah (swt) blessed the Prophet ﷺ with the best lineage, a beautiful physical appearance, the highest eloquence, and Prophethood through His (swt) mercy. In other words, Allah (swt) made it easy for people to love him by making him an object of natural love as well as voluntary love. His physical attributes make people love him naturally and his actions and character as a Prophet make people love him voluntarily, of their own choice.

However this love cannot be of mere words or appearances or even celebrations without action. It has to be a real love and yearning that emanates from the heart and results in actions. As Ibn Hajar says, if you were to be given the choice between attaining the most beloved thing in the world and seeing the Prophet ﷺ, you would choose the latter. Furthermore this love should manifest in your attachment to and defence of his sunnah (tradition) and shari’ah (law) and resisting all that contradicts them. This love should result in true following (ittiba’) of the Prophet ﷺ in what he deemed halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible) in all aspects of our lives. Obedience and emulation are the signs of true love.

‘More than his father, children, and all of mankind.’

Does this include ‘more than’ your mother? Yes, because often times in Arabic, mentioning one from a pair is like mentioning both, and also because of the next question.

Does this include loving the Prophet ﷺ more than loving yourself? Yes, as illustrated in another famous hadith in Bukhari in which Umar (ra) says to the Prophet ﷺ that the Prophet is more beloved to him than anything else, except for his own self. The Prophet ﷺsays ‘No, by the One in whose hands is my soul, not until I become more beloved to you than your own self.’ After Umar complies and confirms this, the Prophet ﷺ replies, ‘Now (you have attained it), O Umar.’

So as we can see our iman (faith) is incomplete unless we love the Prophet ﷺ above all else. This can be attained by serious reflection on who he was and how he benefitted us. But it must also manifest in action, obedience, and true emulation of the beloved Messenger ﷺ as Allah (swt) decreed – in other words through living by his teachings.

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20 Comments

  1. Yasmin says:

    Jazakallah khair for rasining this very important issue in this very informative post!

  2. Farouq says:

    Jazakallah khair! If I may ask, are we not supposed to love Allah above everything else?

  3. Ibrahim says:

    Aselam wa’aleykum wr wb!
    My dear Jazak Allah Khair

  4. Mughal says:

    so would this love involve dressing like the prophet i.e. Wearing a thawb or qamees, kufi and turban?

  5. Shafiur Rahman says:

    @Mughal – if you did those things out of love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) then you will be rewarded for it inshAllah. These are, what some scholars called, from his customary or habitual sunnah and in that sense are not part any legal directives. However it is not obligatory on you to do so and neither is it a pre-condition of the type of love being referred to here. Allah swt knows best

  6. tawhida says:

    Asalmualakum
    Jazakallah khair for these eye openers. May Allah grant you the ultimate love of his beloved sallalahu allaihi wasalam and accept all your efforts.
    I just want to ask you ; can I use material from these write ups in the classes I take on seerah ?
    wasalaam

  7. Dustin says:

    Assallamu alaykum.

    As a non-Muslim, I am wondering where the other prophets fit in here. Are Muslims to love them more than their parents and more than themselves? If they are to love other prophets less than Muhammad, is there than a hierarchy so that you love Musa more than Yaqoub (for example) or Ibrahim more than Isa? How would one know?

    Do we belittle the message of the Tawrat given to Musa, the Zabur given to Daoud and the Injeel given to Isa if we love them less? If so, does that mean we devalue God’s previous revelation, which are in fact his word? And how can we possibly devalue the word of God?

    There are all real questions (not gotcha questions). I would be glad to hear more.

    Thank you.

    • AJ says:

      Dustin,

      These are all very advanced questions, which I think might be better answered by a local Imam, or if you were to send a direct message to the author of this article.

    • Valimohammed says:

      Walekum as Salaam wa Rehmatullahi wa Barkaatuhu.

      May Allah(swt) guide you, Dustin.

      I do not know much, being a seeker myself, but I post a few links to interpretations of the Quran, which will, InshaAllah, help you in your quest.
      http://quran.com/2/136
      http://quran.com/2/285
      http://quran.com/3/84
      http://quran.com/4/152

      In all of these is the common line “make no distinction between one and another of His messengers”.

    • Hussain says:

      I want to raise my opinion but this may or could jeopardise the scholar standing. May Allah A’zza Wajalla forgive me for raising this opinion with my little knowledge.

      As far as Islam is concerned, it’s the final Message/Religion and the last and final Prophet is The Muhammad Sallah-Allah-A’layhi Wassalam. The Prophet Sallah-Allah-A’layhi Wassalam was sent to entire Mankind (Ummathi Dawath and Ummathi Ijabath) and Jinn Kind. Therefore, being part of this Ummah it is our duty to love and respect the Prophet Sallah-Allah-A’layhi Wassalam. However, the other Prophets were sent to previous communities/nations with a particular message(s) and it is our duty to respect and believe in all the Prophets including Ibrahim, Lot, Moosa, I’sa, Yunus, I’sa,Yaqoob, Yusuf and remaining prophets (peace upon them). A Muslim never be a Muslim without believing those Messengers and therefore, the faith becomes void. Insha-Allah a scholar could add or correct m, if I have said anything wrong then know that it is either from the Shaitan or me and if I have said anything good, then know that it is from Allah. May Allah forgive me and all of you. Amen.

    • Wali says:

      Dustin,

      Well you’ve answered your own question to an extent when you said “how can we possibly devalue the word of God?”

      We are not instructed anywhere in the primary sources of Shari’ah, Quran and Sunnah, to belittle anyone let alone a previous message of God or to devalue the previous Prophets.

      In fact a muslim is not a muslim if he/she does not have firm belief in all previous Prophets. As to the question of love, once again we are not instructed or commanded to love them more then our fathers etc as we have been with the case of our Prophet (Saw).

      This is were logic and rationale will come in handy. Other Prophets are also chosen men of God, having directly received revelation from God and are Ma’sum (infallible). They are the first to enter Paradise before and we can keep going. SO at the very least, we are commanded to have firm belief in their Prophethood, in their status of being infallible and to uphold utmost respect when speaking about them.

  8. Shafiur Rahman says:

    Dustin
    Thank you for your questions.
    I do intend to answer your questions soon. Bear with me I’ve been a little busy lately.

    • kg6 says:

      If you could post the answers to his questions here I would be grateful because although I am muslims I would also like to know the answers to those questions, thanks. Jazaak Allah Khayran

      • Kirana says:

        me too – although i think it will probably be related to how each of the prophets will beseech God for their own nations, whereas ours is the nation of Prophet Muhammad (since he was sent for all mankind and was the last prophet). so that is why loving him is our salvation, as it is that love that will identify us to his nation on the Last Day. the other prophets, though we must honour them, have no ‘jurisdiction’ over us, so to speak.

  9. Kirana says:

    just recently on local radio an ustadz mentioned this very hadith, and in the Q&A someone asked this very question, wondering how he would be able to achieve this level of love – even over his wife and children. i felt the answer given was unsatisfactory, referring the caller vaguely to the seerah without any specifics, and then went on a lot about doing a lot of salawat on him (pbuh) and following his sunnah.

    i thought it did not answer the caller’s question. if you just recited salawat on the Prophet, i suppose it’s good but it won’t in itself create the love that is being spoken of here. it’s just another means of shutting the mind and training it to follow blindly yet another human, for no reason than because one’s community and elders said to. this article is much better as it provides reasons to follow up on, and highlights of what is it in the seerah and the mission of the Prophet that one should ponder on that becomes the drive which creates this love.

    when this subject is brought up in my nation, in the context of Muslims’ emulation, the sunnah examples that we usually cite are rarely things like his compassion to the boy whose pet bird died, or his thoughtfulness to his neighbours, but usually his beard or clothes and stuff like that, even though we know the other hadith too. yet it seems to me that he seems to have had a pretty diverse group of sahabah, diversely attired and of diverse appearance. they seem to have understood ‘emulating him’ to prioritise the beneficial, inspiring things he did, rather than whether he steps out with the right foot first. i mean, why do we not hear of all the sahabah deciding to dress exactly like him? surely the Prophet did not wear the fine clothes that Imam Malik tended to favour? on the other hand, they were generous as he was generous, helpful as he was helpful, humble in authority as he was humble, even when it required a change in their character. they loved him best. if following this example is hard for us, perhaps it means we do not yet love him as they did.

  10. Hussain says:

    I find the words in this article are void of love/emotion. Love comes from the heart not the brain. Trying to rationalize love is like rationalizing the irrational. True Love consumes a person until they lose themselves completely (fana) and pour themselves into their beloved. Ask Hazrat Awais Qarni (RA – the best of the Tabieen) if he was being rational when he broke all his teeth out of his mouth because he heard the news that Rasulullah SAWAWS lost a tooth. Ask Hazrat Abu Bakr As-Siddiq if he was being rational when he left his family and himself near naked and donated every last possession of his to Allah and his Rasul SAWAWS.

    Lovers act, where everyone else talks.

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