Muhammad, the son of Saad ibn Abi Waqqas radhiAllahu ‘anhu, said that their father used to teach them Seerah of Rasoolullah salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and say: Learn them for these are the traditions of your fathers.
The grandson of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radhiAllahu ‘anhu, ‘Ali ibn Hussain said, “We used to be taught Seerah as one is taught the Qur’an.” It was that important for them.
Every Muslim child starts studying the Qur’an as soon as they turn four or are able to speak clearly. But how many of us know the Seerah? What if we gave the Seerah the same importance as we give to the Qur’an? Had we studied the life of the person to whom the Qur’an was revealed our conduct would certainly have been better. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us to the best of ways, ameen.
So, why study the Seerah? It is for the following reasons:
1. Learning the History of Our Religion
Seerah is not only limited to biography, the scholars have commented that the life of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the history of Islam.
The Seerah is divided into three parts:
Forty years before Prophethood
Makkan period after Prophethood
By studying the different stages of his life, we can learn how Islam became one of the greatest religions of the world. We need to know how by starting with secret Da’wah, the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam strengthened his efforts with the help of the Sahabah radhiAllahu ‘anhum and stirred the entire nation. It is important to learn his strategies so that we can improve our own Da’wah skills. We also need to fight the notion that Islam was spread by the sword. Is that really true? Are the Muslims taught to kill anyone who does not believe in their religion? Is that what the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam teach the Companions? We cannot find out unless we read up on the life of the greatest leader.
2. Loving the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
Loving Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is not fanaticism but rather a duty upon the believers. We cannot love Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala without loving what was the most beloved to Him.
The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “None of you will attain true faith until you love me more than your parents, your children, and the entire world.” [Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Book of Belief, Hadeeth # 4]
‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab radhiAllahu ‘anhu known for his honesty and straight forwardness, once said to the Prophet, “O Rasoolullah! I love you more than anything except myself.” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam commented that his emaan [faith] was incomplete. He had to love the Prophet even more than his own self. ‘Umar radhiAllahu ‘anhu came back and said, “O Rasoolullah! Now I love you more than myself.” The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said, “Al aan emaan (meaning now you have attained the complete faith).”
The Ummah, today, claims to love the Messenger salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. But the truth is that you cannot love someone without knowing them. Love without any information about the person is shallow. You have to immerse yourself in the life of the beloved to truly love them. You have to learn what they like, what they despise, how they deal with other people, how they deal with their own family, etc. So our claims about our love for Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam are untrue.
The Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum truly loved him. They would not leave his side for as long as he lived. They loved sitting in his gatherings, being with him, asking him questions, abiding by his instructions and so on. They learned a lot about him just by being with him; their love for him was not a verbal declaration but real love. The Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum would not let the ablution water of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam to fall on the ground. They would rush to catch the droplets and rub them on their bodies.
Sohail ibn Amr, the negotiator of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah said: I have visited the Roman emperor. I have visited the Persian emperor, I have visited Negus – the king of Abyssinia, but I have never in my life seen a leader that is so loved and respected by his followers like Muhammad (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). I have seen nothing like that in the world. He said about the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum that they were the people who never gave up their leader. They would sacrifice their comfort and lives for him (salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). True love demands sacrifice and inconveniences and the Companions proved that.
In Surah at-Tawbah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,
“Say: 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 Allah and His Messenger and striving in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient.” (9: 24)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala tells us that our love for Him, His Messenger and striving in His cause should be of utmost importance to us. It should be given priority over everything else. Do our lives reflect such a commitment? More importantly, is our (so-called) love for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam a reflection of this? Do we follow the commands of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and the Sunnah of Rasoolullah, in all the matters of life or do we pick and choose?
3. Following the Best Example
We have already read the ayah where the Qur’an declares that in the life of Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is an excellent pattern: “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often,” [Al-Ahzab 33: 21]. He is a role model for us and the best example.
Ibn Hajar said: Whoever seeks the preeminence of the Hereafter, the wisdom of this life, just purpose, and the embodiment of morality and character, let him follow Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Prophet of Allah.
Muhammad salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the embodiment of perfect khuluq [character]. By studying his Seerah, we too can beautify our character, in sha Allah.
4. Understanding the Qur’an
All the other Divine Books – the Torah and the Gospel – were revealed in the written form. The Qur’an, however, was revealed by speech according to the circumstances that the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the people faced. Some ayaat would be revealed before an event took place while others were revealed after an incident took place. For example, the first few ayaat of the Surah An-Nur were revealed to testify to the chastity of ‘A’ishah radhiAllahu ‘anha after the incident of slander. Similarly, the first few ayaat of Surah Aal-Imran were revealed after a Christian delegation from Najran visited the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. They argued about the divinity of Jesus, so Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed the ayaat of Surah Aal-Imran and said: “Allah! La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshiped but He), the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists,” (3: 2).
The Qur’an does not say anything about these incidences, in order to get the details we have to look at the Seerah and the sayings of the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
When one of the Companions heard the ayah, “…and eat and drink until the white thread (light) of dawn becomes distinct to you from the black thread [of night]…” [Al-Baqarah 2: 187] he placed a black thread under his pillow and would eat and drink, then take out that thread to see if it had turned white. The thread, of course, would not change its color. Confused, he went to the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and narrated the incident. The Prophet smiled and explained that the white thread means the emergence of light in the horizon and not a literal thread turning white. That is how the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam explained the ayaat of the Qur’an, and that is why it is essential for us to consult his Seerah while studying the Qur’an.
5. Studying the Seerah is An Ibaadah
Studying the Seerah is neither a pastime nor an entertainment. We are doing this for the pleasure of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, for learning more about our Prophet than the very basics, and for self-improvement. Therefore, when you study the Seerah know that you are being rewarded – what a beautiful way to earn the hasanaat [good].
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says, “Say [O Muhammad]: If you should love Allah, then follow me, [so] Allah will love you and forgive you your sins. And Allah is All-Forgiving and the most Merciful.” [Aal Imran 3: 31]
Following the Sunnah is a means for loving Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. When the slave loves Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala not only does Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala love him back but also forgives his sins. SubhanAllah! Then which of your Lord’s favors would you deny?
6. Developing a Muslim Identity
Aleksandr Solzhen, a Russian writer, said, “To destroy a people you must first sever their roots.”
Why Muslims are so far from the teachings of the Qur’an and Sunnah? Because we have adopted a foreign culture and forgotten our own history. In our schools, more emphasis is laid on the western customs and civilization than the Islamic traditions hence compelling us to separate religion from daily life. Only the destitute and incapable are sent to the Mosques so that they might earn a living for themselves.
As globalization overtakes our lives, the Muslim youth today stands confused; they have lost their identity. They bear close semblance to rock stars and soccer players than the Companions radhiAllahu ‘anhum. Ask them the names of the ten promised Paradise and they would not know. Ask them the name of the players and they will tell you. Today we see Nasheeds being sung with music and men and women together in videos. We see Hijabi sisters wearing skin-tight clothing, fashionable hijabs and fancy abayas [outer garment from head to toe]. We see people working in conventional banks and sending their children to Islamic schools. We will be conscious of mingling with non-Mahrams outside our homes, but it is considered perfectly acceptable to mingle with one’s cousins at home. Our lives have become contradictory.
We do our daily prayers, fast in Ramadan, go for Hajj but we have lost the “essence” of the teachings. Our practices have become mere rituals with no effect on our hearts. This is a serious crisis – and in order to return to our roots, we need to pick up the teachings that made Islam one of the greatest religions of the world.
Once again, before beginning the Seerah let us re-check our intentions and correct our goal: We are studying the Seerah to learn about the Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and become dear to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala as he was.
We should, however, remember that we cannot accomplish anything without heartfelt du’as. Therefore, before starting to study the Seerah let us ask Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala to lead us to that which pleases Him, give its understanding to us and enable us to do it. We cannot do anything if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala does not give us the tawfeeq [ability] to do it. Therefore, ask for both guidance and the ability to perform the act.
[Adapted from the talks of Dr. Farhat Hashmi on the book: Tajjaliyat e Nabuwat by Maulana Safi-ur-Rahman Mubarakpuri. Some work has also been cited from the talks of Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki and Imam Ibn Katheer’s book: The Life of Prophet Muhammad]