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Why Should We Study the Seerah?

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.”

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Who Is the Prophet Muhammad (S)?

It is difficult to aptly describe someone who was both an ordinary man and a Messenger of Allaah, who commanded spiritual and worldly authority like no one else ever did, and who is loved by 1.8 billion inhabitants of the earth.

The Prophet Muhammad (S) said that one of the biggest reasons for his coming was to “perfect the good character” of people, and he personified the best of it. Allaah said about him,

وَإِنَّكَ لَعَلَىٰ خُلُقٍ عَظِيمٍ

“And verily, you are on an exalted standard of character.”

In the holy Qur’aan, Allaah has highly praised the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) morals, manners, and message. That is the ultimate praise, and nothing else is needed after that. However, it would be appropriate to mention the sentiments of two notable non-Muslims about the Prophet (S).

The renowned French writer, poet, and politician Alphonse de Lamartine said of the Prophet Muhammad (S), “As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”

When American writer Michael Hart compiled a list of history’s most influential people, he put the Prophet Muhammad (S) at the top. In explaining his decision, Hart said, “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.”

One way to know the Prophet Muhammad (S) is by his names and titles, among them:

  • Muhammad and Ahmad—These are his proper names. Muhammad means the “praised one.” The Prophet Muhammad is constantly praised around the world by Muslims in their prayers. And in the Hereafter, he will be praised by the entirety of humanity when he is the only one who intercedes with Allaah on behalf of the people. Ahmad means the “one who is highly praised.” This name is mentioned in the Qur’aan from the tongue of Jesus.
  • He is Al-Maahi, someone who eradicates paganism. Within a short span of time, in his own lifetime, idol worship was wiped out from the Arabian Peninsula.
  • He is Al-Haashir, “the gatherer” around whom people will assemble on Judgment Day.
  • He is Al-Aaqib, the last of God’s messengers and prophets.
  • He is the Prophet of Mercy for all of humankind.

No doubt, we are living in a time of great political and religious turmoil, a time in which fringe groups of Muslims and non-Muslims are pushing for a clash of civilizations. It is therefore imperative that the life story of Muhammad, the Messenger of Allaah (S), be retold so that Muslims can be reminded about his noble legacy and non-Muslims informed thereof.

In our time, the voices of extremism on both sides of the divide are winning. Extremist groups among Muslims are bent on fighting the disbelievers, and those in the opposite camp are portraying Islam as evil. Neither side shows any interest in a sincere, honest, and respectful dialogue. If voices of reason remain silent, the extremists and hatemongers on both sides will set the course of interhuman relations, and the world will continue to suffer from unnecessary misunderstanding and senseless violence.

Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others can greatly benefit from understanding the wisdom behind Allaah creating us to be different. Had we not looked different, spoken different languages, and believed in different religions, how would we ever stand out? Out of their sincere convictions, people will continue to invite others into their own faiths, believing that theirs is the only true religion. And they should have the freedom to do so without coercing or compelling others. However, in the end, only Allaah will judge them and tell them if they hit the goal or missed the mark. The Qur’aan says,

لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنْكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَٰكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۖ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

To each of you We prescribed a law and a path. Had Allaah willed, He would have made you one nation (united in religion), but He intended to test you in what He has given you; so race to all that is good. You will all return to Allaah, Who will then inform you concerning that over which you differed.”

The Prophet Muhammad (S) categorically rejected converting people to Islam by force, as that would violate a direct command of Allaah, in which He said,


لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ قَد تَّبَيَّنَ الرُّشْدُ مِنَ الْغَيِّ

“There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the right path has become distinct from the wrong path.”

Allaah told the Prophet (S) how to convey the divine message to humanity:


ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ ۖ

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good preaching, and argue with them in a way that is best.”

Oftentimes, non-Muslims see the beauty of Islam through the beautiful actions of a Muslim. Research has shown that when non-Muslims know a Muslim, they are less likely to have a negative opinion of Islam.One of our main goals should be to convey the noble message of the Prophet Muhammad (S) through personal example to people who know him only through the negative stereotypes in the media or Islamophobic outlets.

However, in order to exemplify the Prophet’s (S) character, we first need to know what it was. The Prophet (S) said, “Let whosoever believes in Allaah and in the Last Day either speak good or be silent. Let whosoever believes in Allaah and the Last Day honor his neighbor. Let whosoever believes in Allaah and in the Last Day honor his guest.”

Long before Allaah conferred prophethood on him, Muhammad (S) joined a coalition to stand for the rights of the oppressed. He felt great empathy for the poor and orphans, of which he himself was one. He once said, “Charity is due upon every joint of the body for every day upon which the sun rises. Being just between two people is charity. Helping a man with his animal and lifting his luggage upon it is charity. A kind word is charity. Every step that you take towards the mosque is charity, and removing harmful things from the road is charity.

The Prophet (S) warned against heedlessness, greed, laziness, and recklessness toward life, saying, “A servant of Allaah will remain standing on the Day of Judgment till he is questioned about four things: his life on earth and how he spent it, his knowledge and how he used it, his wealth and how he acquired and spent it, and his body and how he wore it out.”

The questions that require serious reflection from Muslims are as follows: How much of the Prophet’s (S) legacy are today’s Muslims implementing in their lives? Why is it that a people who claim to follow the Qur’aan and Sunnah are mired in such backwardness, infighting, and corruption? One may say that the legacy of Muhammad the Messenger of Allaah (S) is too difficult to emulate because he set the bar too high. In that case, a Muslim might do well to look at the legacy of Muhammad the man, as described by Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, his first wife.

When the Prophet (S) came back from the Cave of Hira, shaken after the first encounter with the angel Jibreel, he said, “Cover me up, cover me up; I am afraid that something terrible is about to befall me.”

Khadijah replied, “Never! By Allaah, Allaah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your family, you help the poor and the destitute, you serve your guests generously, and you assist those afflicted by calamities.”

The Muslim youth should find a call to action in the Prophet’s (S) concern for his family, friends, and society. That the Prophet (S) acted this way before prophethood indicates these are universal values that we can implement in our lives if only we choose to do so.