It would be impossible to understand Islam without studying the life of the Prophet Muhammad (S). In it is the story of the Qur’aan because, while the Qur’aan is a text, the Seerah provides its context. Allaah revealed much of the Qur’aan in response to events in the lives of the Prophet (S) and his Companions or those in his community.
There are about fifty verses in the Qur’aan that command Muslims to follow the Prophet (S), to respect and obey him, to support him, to love him more than oneself, and to invoke Allaah’s peace and blessings upon him. One example is
إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَمَلَـئِكَـتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى النَّبِىِّ يأَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ صَلُّواْ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُواْ تَسْلِيماً
“Indeed, Allaah confers blessing upon the Prophet, and His angels (ask Him to do so). O you who have believed, ask (Allaah to confer) blessing upon him and salute him with a worthy salutation.”
Following the Prophet Muhammad (S) is a condition to earn Allaah’s love and His forgiveness. As the Qur’aan says to Muslims,
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللَّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Say (to mankind O Prophet), ‘If you love Allaah, then follow me. Allaah will love you and He will forgive for you your sins. And Allaah (is) Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’”
Once, the Prophet (S) told his Companions,
كُلُّ أُمَّتِي يَدْخُلُونَ الْجَنَّةَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَبَى قَالُوا يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَنْ يَأْبَى قَالَ مَنْ أَطَاعَنِي دَخَلَ الْجَنَّةَ وَمَنْ عَصَانِي فَقَدْ أَبَى
“Everyone from my nation will enter Paradise except those who refuse.” They said, “O Messenger of Allaah, who will refuse?” The Prophet (S) said, “Whoever obeys me enters Paradise and whoever disobeys me has refused.” This Hadith makes it clear that the way to Paradise is through following the Prophet Muhammad (S).
Allaah calls the Prophet (S) the best role model. Imagine the Creator praising a creation in such a manner! The praise cannot get any better. But a Muslim cannot emulate the Prophet’s (S) conduct without first knowing who he was and what he stood for. Allaah said,
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الاٌّخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيراً
“Indeed in the Messenger of Allaah you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in Allaah and the Last Day, and remembers Allaah much.”
An essential part of the Islamic belief is that Allaah accepts an act of worship only if it has been performed for His sake and according to the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (S). Therefore, it is important to know how the Prophet (S) worshiped Allaah.
Allaah mandates loving the Prophet (S) more than oneself in several places in the Qur’aan, and the wisdom behind it is quite evident. Without an abiding love (and allegiance) to the Prophet (S), believers would have defied his authority and, indirectly, Allaah’s. One should also love the Prophet (S) more because he was a mercy for us in this life and a source of salvation in the Hereafter with his intercession with Allaah on our behalf.
Allaah says in the Qur’aan,
النَّبِىُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنْفُسِهِمْ
“The Prophet is closer to the believers than themselves.”
The Prophet (S) himself said, “None of you will truly believe until I am more beloved to him than his father, his son and all of mankind.”
A Muslim’s life is intertwined with the Prophet’s (S) quite literally from the cradle to the grave. From early childhood, a Muslim hears, “I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah” in every Adhaan. A Muslim prayer is not complete without asking for Allaah’s blessings on the Prophet (S) and his family. When a dead Muslim is carried to the grave, people say, “Bismi Allaah wa Alaa Sunnati Rasul Allaah” (“In the name of Allaah and according to the way of the Messenger of Allaah”). Finally, when a deceased person is questioned in the grave soon after the burial, one of the questions he or she is asked is about who the Prophet Muhammad (S) is. Answering the question about the Prophet (S) seems to be the final validation of our faith in Islam as we leave this world, and a person may not pass this test unless he or she believed in him and acted upon his message.
On the Day of Judgment, we will experience something truly amazing about the Prophet (S): he will intercede for the sinners, which no other messenger or prophet will do. At that moment, all of humanity will praise him. On that scorching day, the believers will drink from Al-Kawthar, a river in Paradise that Allaah has given only to the Prophet Muhammad (S).
By studying the Prophet Muhammad’s noble life, Muslims can revive his Sunnah and defend him against smears. At a time when Islamophobes are insulting the Prophet (S), knowing him will give us the right tools to deal with hatemongers. Indeed, the Prophet (S) faced far more hatred in his own lifetime, and yet his noble character won over most of his archenemies.
A Muslim should study the Seerah to know the morals and manners of the Prophet (S), to discover how he acted in peace and war, with his family and friends, and with the masses and his adversaries. The Prophet (S) said that one of his greatest missions other than conveying Allaah’s message was to perfect the good manners of the people. He promised, “The most beloved and nearest to me on the Day of Judgment will be the one with the best character.”
Without knowing the Prophet (S) closely, a Muslim may not be able to worship Allaah properly. As we know, only in his Sunnah can we find the detailed instructions for our acts of worship. The Qur’aan generally provides a brief command, while the Prophet (S) expounds and explains.
It is important to note that the Prophet (S) was extremely concerned about his followers, even those whom he had not met. Allaah said,
لَقَدْ جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ عَلَيْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَءُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“Verily, there has come unto you a Messenger from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He is eager for you; for the believers he is kind, merciful, and full of pity.”
Once, the Prophet (S) said to his Sahaabah (Companions) that he wanted to meet with his brothers. Surprised, the Companions asked, “Aren’t we your brothers?”
“No,” he said, “my brothers are those who will come after me and believe in me without having seen me.” He would pray for his yet-to-come brothers and seek Allaah’s forgiveness for them.
Last but not least, we should study the Seerah of the Prophet Muhammad (S) so that we can learn how to convey his message to humanity. Obviously, the means of spreading the message in our time would be drastically different, with the social media playing an important part. The Prophet (S) said,
بَلِّغُوا عَنِّي وَلَوْ آيَةً
“Convey from me, even if it is a single verse.”