Who Do You Love?

On Love

When pen is put to paper and writes about love, it breaks in two. Love is truly a powerful, unique and irresistible force or feeling. When we try and express our love, we find it very hard to find the right words. The expressions we use do not fully represent what is burning deep down inside our hearts. This may explain why we associate love with actions and not just words. We embrace each other, buy our loved ones gifts, send our partners a bunch of flowers, or take them out for a romantic dinner. Love is not just an internal feeling; it is also a way of being, a way of behaving. The psychologist Erich Fromm aptly described love in the following way:

“Love is an activity, not a passive effect; it is a “standing in,” not a “falling for”. In the most general way, the active character of love can be described by stating that love is primarily giving, not receiving.”[1] 

There are many levels and types of love. Various thinkers, philosophers and psychologists have spoken about love. The terms they have used and the approaches they have taken differ, but we can generally understand the different types of love in the following way:

  • Natural Love: We all experience natural love. This type of love relates to loving our family. We love our families due to shared personal, private and familial experiences. This love is also built on a sense of identity and belonging.
  • Friendly Love: This love is the type of love we experience amongst friends. We fall in love with our friends due to our shared experiences, common interests, beliefs, passions and activities.
  • Passionate Love: Love between partners is considered a passionate type of love. This type of love can be found between husband and wife, and it is not to be confused with lust. This love sees the beloved as the source of their pleasure, comfort and security. Passionate lovers tend to see their pleasure and happiness in the pleasure and happiness of their beloved. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle referred to this type of love as two bodies and one soul.
  • Selfless Love: Another type of love is a love that is not based on circumstances and is freely given regardless of context. This type of love is associated with the love we receive from our mothers. Their love is not based on us loving them back or on the way we behave. Mothers simply love without being loved back. A mother’s love is selfless; she sacrifices many of her desires and needs for her children.

“We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Imagine a life without love or being loved. Is that a life worth living? Everything is barren if we don’t feel love or give love. Without love, our lives become like the dry, lifeless earth. With love, our lives are like a lush green garden enjoying growth, fruits and harmony.

Love gives us life, and a life without love is a not a life at all.

Loving Ourselves, Loving God

Another type of love includes self-love. This love occurs due to the desire to prolong our existence, feel pleasure and avoid pain, as well as the need to satisfy our human needs and motivations. We all have this natural love for ourselves because we want to be happy and content. The psychologist Erich Fromm argued that loving oneself is not a form of arrogance or egocentricity. Rather, self-love is about caring, taking responsibility and having respect for ourselves. This type of love is necessary in order to love others. If we cannot love ourselves, how then can we love other people? There is nothing closer to us than our own selves, if we cannot care for and respect ourselves, how then can we care for and respect others? Loving oneself is a form of self-empathy. We empathise and connect with our own feelings, thoughts and aspirations. If we cannot empathise and connect with our own selves, how then can we empathise and connect with others?

“The idea expressed in the biblical “Love thy neighbour you as love thy self!” implies that respect for one’s own integrity and uniqueness, love for an understanding of one’s own self, cannot be separated from respect and love and understanding for another individual.”[2] 

If a person’s love for himself is necessary, this should lead him to love the One who made him. Why? Because it is God who created the physical causes and means in order for human beings to achieve happiness, pleasure and to avoid pain. It is God who has freely given us every precious moment of our existence, yet we do not earn or own these moments.

Given that the English word for love encompasses a range of meanings, the best way to elaborate on the Islamic conception of God’s love is to explain His mercy (rahmah) and His special love (muwadda).

1. Mercy: It is said that another word for love is mercy. One of God’s names is The-Merciful; the Arabic word used is Ar-Rahman. The translation does not fully represent the depth and intensity that the meaning of this word carries. The name Ar-Rahman has three major connotations: the first is that God’s mercy is an intense mercy; the second is that His mercy is an immediate mercy; and the third is a mercy so powerful that nothing can stop it. God’s mercy encompasses all things and He wants people to be guided. In God’s book, the Qur’an, He says:

“…but My mercy encompasses all things…” The Qur’an, Chapter 7, Verse 156

“It is the Lord of Mercy who taught the Qur’an.” The Qur’an, Chapter 55, Verses 1-2

In the above verse, God says He is The-Merciful, which can be understood as the “Lord of Mercy”, and that He taught the Qur’an. This is a linguistic indication to highlight that the Qur’an was revealed as a manifestation of God’s mercy. In other words, the Qur’an is like one big love letter to humanity. Just like with true love, the lover wants good for the beloved, and warns them of pitfalls and obstacles, and shows them the way to happiness. The Qur’an is not different: it calls out to humanity, and it also warns and expresses glad tidings.

2. Special Love: According to the Qur’an, God is The-Loving. The Arabic name is Al-Wadud. This refers to a special love that is apparent. Hence it comes from the word wud, which means expressing love through the act of giving.

“And He is the Forgiving, The Loving.” The Qur’an, Chapter 85, Verse 14

God’s love transcends any of the types of love mentioned previously. His love is greater than all worldly and human forms of love – even motherly love. God is an independent being who is self-sufficient and perfect. He doesn’t need or require anything. A mother’s love, although selfless, is based on her internal need to love her child. It completes her and through her sacrifices she feels whole and fulfilled. However, God’s love is not based on a need or want; it is therefore the purest form of love, because He gains absolutely nothing from loving.

In this light, how can we not love the One who is more loving than anything we can imagine? The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said,

“God is more affectionate to His servants than a mother to her young ones.”[3]

If God is the most loving, and His love is greater than the greatest worldly love we have experienced, this should instil in us a deeper and further love for God. Significantly, this should make us want to love Him by being one of His servants. The eleventh century theologian, Al-Ghazali, aptly said,

“For those endowed with insight, there is in reality no object of love but God, nor does anyone but He deserve love.”[4]

From a spiritual perspective, God’s love is the greatest blessing anyone can ever achieve, as it is a source of internal tranquillity, serenity, and eternal bliss in the hereafter. Not loving God is not only a form of ingratitude, but the greatest form of hate. Not loving the One who created love and is the source of love itself is a rejection of that which enables love to occur and fill our hearts.

God cannot force His special love on us. Although, via His mercy, He lovingly gives us every moment of our lives, to fully embrace God’s love and be recipients of His special love, one must enter into a relationship with Him. It is as if God’s love is waiting for us to embrace it. However, we have closed the door and put up the shutters. If God were to force His special love on us, love would lose all meaning. We have the choice; to follow the right path and thereby gain God’s special love, or reject His guidance and face the spiritual consequences.

The most loving Being wants to love you with His special love, but in order to fully embrace that love, and for it to be meaningful, you have to love Him and follow the path that leads to His love.

Loving God, Loving the Prophet

 How do we fully embrace and earn God’s special love? The Qur’an makes it very clear on how to love God. It is to follow and love the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ:

“Say to them: If you love God, follow me, and God will love you.” The Qur’an, Chapter 3 verse 31

Following and loving the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is necessary because embodied in his life, teachings and actions is the path to God. His life reveals the application of the Qur’an and its teachings, through which we attain God’s love.

Through the teachings and actions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, we are taught how to worship and have a relationship with God. He taught that worshipping God involves loving, knowing and obeying Him. Worshipping God includes praying five times a day, fasting, reading and pondering over the meanings of the Qur’an, remembering God, giving charity, taking care of others and loving for others what we love for ourselves. These acts of worship are categorised as obligatory and supererogatory. Essentially they are spiritual tools that facilitate closeness with God and Divine love. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that God said:

“My servant does not draw near to Me with anything more beloved to Me than the religious duties that I have imposed upon him; and My servant continues to draw closer to Me with supererogatory works so that I would love him.” [5]

God is telling us that to come close to Him and love Him we must worship Him. Understanding how to worship Him requires that we follow the Prophet ﷺ. Therefore, following the Prophet is a gateway to God’s special love.

The fourteenth century theologian Ibn al-Qayyim said:

“There is no doubt that perfect servitude to God is part of perfect love, and perfect love is connected to the perfection of the Beloved in and of Himself, for Allah, may He be glorified, is completely and absolutely perfect in all aspects, and could not possibly have any imperfections whatsoever. For one who is like this, nothing can be dearer to people’s hearts than Him; so long as their basic nature and reason are sound, it is inevitable that He will be the dearest of all things to their hearts. Undoubtedly love of Him leads to submission and obedience to Him, seeking His pleasure, doing one’s utmost in worship of Him and turning to Him. This is the best and strongest motive to do acts of worship.” [6]

Following God’s guidance by following the Prophet ﷺ is therefore a means to paradise, eternal bliss and Divine mercy. A man once asked the Prophet ﷺ about the Day of Judgment saying:

“When will the hour be?”

The Prophet ﷺ replied,

“What have you prepared for it?”

The man replied,

“Nothing, except that I love God and His Apostle.”

The Prophet ﷺ said,

“You will be with those whom you love.” [7]

Hence, faith cannot be complete without loving the Prophet ﷺ more than anything in this world:

“No, by Him in Whose Hand my soul is, (you will not have complete faith) till I am dearer to you than your own self.” [8]

How can we not love the man that is the means to Divine love and eternal happiness? Fundamentally, how can we not love a man that God loves?

To love God we have to love what He loves. 

A Mercy to Mankind

Muslims love all the Prophets because of who they were. They were the closest to God and a means to God’s mercy and love. They had the best of characters and sacrificed so much in order for us to be recipients of this spiritual and moral guidance. All of the prophets, including Jesus, Moses, Abraham and David, are loved, honoured and respected. However, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is specifically described by God as having an exalted character, being the best of examples, and a mercy to humanity.

“It was only as a mercy that We sent you to all people” The Qur’an, Chapter 21, Verse 107

“And you (stand) on an exalted standard of character.” The Qur’an, Chapter 68, Verse 4

“The messenger of God is an excellent model for those of you who put your hope in God and the Last Day and remember Him often.” The Qur’an, Chapter 33, Verse 21

When you consider the teachings and the qualities of the character of the Prophet Muhammad, ﷺ you would agree with why God described him in that way.

Here are some examples of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ:

Mercy & Compassion

“The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful (to others). So show mercy to whatever is on earth, then He who is in heaven will show mercy to you.”[9]

“God is compassionate and loves compassion.”[10]

“He is not of us who has no compassion for our little ones and does not honour our old ones.”[11]

“May God have mercy on a man who is kind when he buys, when he sells, and when he makes a demand.”[12] 

Contentment & Spirituality

“Richness is not having many possessions. Rather, true richness is the richness of the soul.”[13] 

“Indeed, God does not look towards your bodies nor towards your appearances. But, He looks towards your hearts.”[14]

“Do not talk too much without remembrance of God. Indeed excessive talking without remembrance of God hardens the heart. And indeed the furthest of people from God are the harsh-hearted.”[15] 

“Be mindful of God, you will find Him before you. Get to know God in prosperity and He will know you in adversity. Know that what has passed you by was not going to befall you; and that what has befallen you was not going to pass you by. And know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.”[16]

“Islam has been built on five [pillars]: testifying that there is no deity worthy of worship except God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God, establishing the prayer, paying the obligatory charity, making the pilgrimage to the House, and fasting in Ramadan.”[17] 

“God, the Exalted, has said: ‘O son of Adam, I forgive you as long as you pray to Me and hope for My forgiveness, whatever sins you have committed. O son of Adam, I do not care if your sins reach the height of the heaven, then you ask for my forgiveness, I would forgive you. O son of Adam, if you come to Me with an earth load of sins, and meet Me associating nothing to Me, I would match it with an earth load of forgiveness.’”[18]

“God said: ‘I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself. And if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”[19]

Love

“By the one who has my soul in His hand, you will not enter the Garden until you believe, and you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I point out to you something, which will make you love one another if you do it? Make the greeting of peace be widespread among you.”[20]

“The servant does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of goodness.”[21]

“Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer. Behave well with your neighbours and you will be a Muslim.”[22]

“There have come to you the diseases of the nations before you: envy and hatred, and hatred is the razor. It shaves the religion and it does not shave hair. By the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, you will not believe until you love one another. Shall I tell you something which, if you did, you would love each other? Spread peace between yourselves.”[23] 

“None of you has faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself.”[24]

“When a man loves his brother he should tell him that he loves him.”[25]

“Love for the people what you love for yourself.”[26]

Community & Peace

“What sort of deeds or traits of Islam are good?” The Messenger of God replied: “To feed others, and to greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”[27]

“He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.”[28]

“By God, he does not (truly) believe! By God, he does not (truly) believe! By God, he does not (truly) believe! Someone asked: ‘Who, o Messenger of God?’ He said: ‘He whose neighbour is not safe from his mischief.’”[29] 

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.”[30]

“The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbour is hungry.”[31]

Charity & Humanitarianism

“God said: “Spend (i.e. on charity), O son of Adam, and I shall spend on you.”[32]

“Charity does not diminish wealth.”[33]

“Visit the sick, feed the hungry and free the captives.”[34]

“Make things easy, and do not make them difficult, and give good tidings and do not make people run away.”[35]

“Give the labourer his wages before his sweat dries.”[36]

“Every act of goodness is charity.”[37]

Character & Manners

“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.”[38]

“(God) has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another.”[39]

“Neither nurse grudge nor sever (the ties of kinship), nor nurse enmity, and become as fellow brothers and servants of God.”[40]

“He who truly believes in God and the last Day, should speak good or keep silent.”[41]

“The best among you is he who has the best manners.”[42]

“Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tale.”[43]

“The strong man is not the one who is strong in wrestling, but the one who controls himself in anger.”[44]

Environment and Animals

“If the Hour (the day of Resurrection) is about to be established and one of you was holding a palm shoot, let him take advantage of even one second before the Hour is established to plant it.”[45] 

“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”[46] 

“Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity.”[47]

The companions asked the Prophet Muhammad , ‘O God’s Messenger! Is there a reward for us in serving the animals?” He replied: “There is a reward for serving any living being.”[48]

“Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.”[49]

“A prostitute saw a dog lolling around a well on a hot day and hanging his tongue from thirst. She drew some water for it in her shoe, so God forgave her.”[50]

Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-`Aas (may God be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet passed one day by Sa`d ibn Abi Waqas (may God be pleased with him) while he was performing wudu’ (ritual ablution). The prophet asked Sa’d, “Why is this wastage?” Sa’d replied “Is there wastage in wudu also?" The Prophet said, ‘Yes, even if you are at a flowing river.”[51]

Here are some examples of the qualities of the character of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ: 

Forbearance, Forgiveness and Compassion

It was related that when the Prophet had his tooth broken and his face cut during one of the battles when he was defending the Muslims and non-Muslims under his protection, his companions asked him to curse the aggressors. However he replied,

“I was not sent to curse, but I was sent as a summoner and as a mercy. O God, guide my people for they do not know.”[52]

Anas Ibn Malik said,

“I served the Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, for ten years and he never said ‘Uff!’ to me. He did not say about anything I had done, ‘Why did you do it?’ or about anything I had not done, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’”[53]

Anas said, 

“I was with the Prophet, may God bless him and grant him peace, when he was wearing a thick cloak. a bedouin pulled him so violently by his cloak that the edge of the cloak made a mark on the side of his neck. Then he said, ‘Muhammad! Let me load up these two camels of mine with the property of God you have in your possession! You will not let me load up from your property or your father’s property.’ The Prophet was silent and then he said, ‘Shall I take retaliation from you, bedouin, for what you have done to me?’ He repled, ‘No.’ The Prophet asked, ‘Why not?’ The bedouin replied, ‘Because you do not repay back a bad action with a bad action.’ The Prophet laughed and ordered that one camel be loaded up with barely and the other with camel dates.”[54] 

Once a man demanding repayment for a debt seized hold of the Prophet Muhammad and behaved very badly. The Prophet’s companion was present and chased him off and spoke harshly to him. However the Prophet said,

“He and I needed something else from you. Command me to repay well and command him to ask for his debt well.”

The Prophet repaid the loan and added more to it due to the fact that his companion alarmed him.

The man, known as Zayd Ibn Sa’na, later became a Muslim. Zayd explains,

“There were only two remaining signs of Prophethood which I had not yet recognised in Muhammad or notice: forbearance overcoming quick-temperedness and extreme ignorance only increasing him in forbearance. I tested him for these and I found him as described.”[55]

Anas Ibn Malik recalls the compassion of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ towards children:

“I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than God’s Messenger.” [56]

The Prophet’s companions were killed and tortured. He was boycotted, starved and abused. There were so many injustices and wrong committed against the Prophet and his followers. However when he peacefully took Mecca, known as the conquest of Mecca, he delivered a universal forgiveness and pardon. He described the day as a day of,

“...piety, faithfulness and loyalty.”[57]

Appearance and Approachability

The Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ companions narrate about his appearance:

Abdullah Ibn al-Harith said:

“I did not see anyone who smiled more than the Messenger of God.”[58]

Al-Baraa’ Ibn ‘Aazib narrated:

“The Messenger of God was the most handsome of all people, and had the best appearance.”[59] 

Jaabir Ibn Samurah narrated:

“I saw the Messenger of God on a brightly moonlit night wearing a red garment. Then I started looking at him and at the moon. And for me, he was more beautiful than the moon.”[60] 

‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib narrated:

“Those who saw him suddenly stood in awe of him and those who shared his acquaintanceship loved him. Those who described him said they had never seen anyone like him before or since. ”[61] 

‘Umm Ma’bad Al-Khuza’iyah described to her husband what the Prophet (peace be upon him looked like:

“He was innocently bright and had broad countenance. His manners were fine. Neither his belly bulging out nor was his head deprived of hair. He has black attractive eyes finely arched by continuous eyebrows. His hair glossy and black, inclined to curl, he wore long. His was extremely commanding. His head was large, well formed and set on a slender neck. His expression was pensive and contemplative, serene and sublime. The stranger was fascinated from the distance, but no sooner he became intimate with him than this fascinations was changed into attachment and respect. His expression was very sweet and distinct. His speech was well set and free from the use of superfluous words, as if it were a rosary of beads. His stature was neither too high nor too small to look repulsive…He was always surrounded by his Companions. Whenever he uttered something, the listeners would hear him with rapt attention and whenever he issued any command, they vied with each other in carrying it our. He was a master and commander. His utterances were marked by truth and sincerity, free from all kinds of falsehoods and lies.”[62]

Humility and Modesty

“Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary, for I am only a Slave. So, call me the Slave of God and His Apostle.”[63]

The Prophet’s ﷺ wife, Aishah (may God be pleased with her) was asked:

“What did God’s messenger do at home?”

She said:

“He was like any other human being, cleaning and mending his garment, milking the goat, mending his shoes, serving himself, and be of service to his family, till he hears the call to prayer, then he goes out [to pray in the mosque].”[64]

“I am but a man like yourselves. I am prone to forget just as you are.”[65]

 When the Prophet ﷺ saw a man trembling with fear when he saw him, he said to him:

“Relax I am not a king, I am the son of a woman from Quraysh [an Arab people] who would eat dried/jerked meat.”[66]

The Prophet ﷺ would invoke his lord saying:

“O God, make me live humbly and make me die humbly, and gather me among the humble on the day of resurrection.”[67]

Abu Sa‘eed al-Khudri said,

“I saw the messenger of God prostrating in mud and water such that I saw the marks of mud on his forehead.”[68] 

Anas said,

“The Prophet would be invited to eat barley bread and rancid fat and he would accept it.”[69]

Aisha (may God be pleased with her) said,

“At our home (that is, the home of the Holy Prophet’s household), fire would not be kindled (sometimes) for a whole month; we subsisted merely on water and dates.”[70]

The Truth of His Message

What ties all of what has been mentioned so far is the truth of the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ message. If what he called for was based on a lie, then loving him and appreciating his character has no real basis. It just becomes another legend, fairy-tale or fiction. Conversely, if we can show that the Prophet’s message was a truthful one, then not only must we follow him, but we must love him too. Following him and loving him is a window to God’s love, and the one who has attained God’s love is the one whose heart reflects Divine mercy, guidance and tranquillity.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ claimed prophethood over 1400 years ago with the following simple yet profound message:

There is none worthy to be worshipped but God, and the Prophet Muhammad is the final messenger of God.

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ became a prophet at the age of 40 after spending some time meditating and reflecting in a cave outside of Mecca. The dawn of prophethood began with the revelation of the first verses of the Qur’an. The Qur’an’s message was simple: our ultimate purpose in life is to worship God. Worship is a comprehensive term in the Islamic spiritual tradition. It means to love, know and obey God.

“There is no one to worship and no one to love other than Him.”[71]

To test whether his claim to prophethood and his message was true, we must rationally investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet ﷺ. Once we do this, we will be in a position to come to a balanced conclusion in this regard.

Did He Lie?

His Trustworthiness

Early historical sources on the Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ life illustrate and emphasise the integrity of his character. He was not a liar and to assert as much is indefensible. The reasons for this abound, for instance he was known even by the enemies to his message as the “Trustworthy”[72].

The Prophet Muhammad’s message undermined and challenged the economic and power structures of society. Seventh century Meccan society was based on trade and commerce. The leaders of Meccan society would attract these traders with the 360 idols they had in the Ka’bah – the cube-shaped structure built by Abraham as a house of worship. The Prophet’s message was simple yet it powerfully challenged seventh century Arabian polytheism. The leaders of that society initially mocked him, thinking the Prophet ﷺ would not have an impact. However, as his message was gradually taking root with high profile conversions, the leadership started to abuse the Prophet, both emotionally and physically.

He was persecuted for his beliefs; boycotted and exiled from his beloved city – Mecca. He was starved of food and stoned by children to the point where blood drenched his legs. His wife passed away and his beloved companions were tortured and persecuted.[73] Further proof of the Prophet’s ﷺ reliability and credibility is enforced and substantiated by the fact that a liar usually lies for some worldly gain. Muhammad suffered tremendously for his message[74] and outrightly rejected the riches and power he was offered to stop promulgating his message. He was uncompromising in his call to God’s oneness.

Montgomery Watt, the late Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic Studies explores this in Muhammad at Mecca:

“His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves.”[75]

Was he deluded?

His Life Experiences

There were many experiences during the prophetic career of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that, if he were deluded, he would have used to support his delusion. One example is the passing away of the Prophet’s ﷺ son, Ibrahim. The young boy died at an early age and the day he died there was a solar eclipse. Many of the Arabs thought that it was God that had made the eclipse happen because His prophet’s son passed away. If the Prophet ﷺ was deluded, he would have used such an experience to reinforce his claim. However, he did not and rejected the people’s assertions. The Prophet replied to them in the following way:

“The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death of someone from the people but they are two signs amongst the signs of Allah. When you see them stand up and pray.”[76]

His Prophecies

If someone is deluded, they have a strong conviction in a belief despite there being evidence to the contrary. The teachings of Muhammad ﷺ are not that of someone who is deluded. Amongst many of his teachings, he taught how to perfect good character and be of service to others. Another way of looking at the issue of delusion is that when someone is deluded they speak falsehood whilst believing it to be true. To undermine this claim, the Prophet ﷺ foretold of many things that would occur to him and his community after him, pertaining to victory, and the removal of tyrannical kingdoms. These events occurred exactly as Muhammad ﷺ foretold, and this is not something that is congruent with a deluded individual. There were a number of instances when this occurred. For example:

His daughter Fatima (may God be pleased with her) would join him first of all after his death:

“Before his death, the Messenger called his daughter Fatima to his bedside and informed her that she would be the first among his family to join him after his death. Fatima joined her father, the pride of mankind, six months later.”[77]

The Mongol invasion:

“The Hour will not be established till you fight with the Khudh and the Kirman from among the non-Arabs. They will be of red faces, flat noses and small eyes; their faces will look like flat shields, and their shoes will be of hair.”[78] 

Competing in the constructing tall buildings:

“Now, tell me of the Last Hour,” asked the man.

The Prophet replied, “The one asked knows no more of it than the one asking.”

“Then tell me about its signs,” said the man.

The Prophet replied, “That you see barefoot, unclothed bedouins competing in the construction of tall buildings.”[79]

Notice the detail in the prophecy, a specific people (the Arab bedouins of the region) were identified. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could have easily played it safe by using more general language such as “That you see competition in the construction of tall buildings…” which of course would be flexible enough to be applied to anyone in the world. Today we find in the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabs who used to be impoverished herders of camels and sheep are competing in building the tallest tower blocks. Today the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the world's tallest man-made structure at 828 metres.[80] A short time after it was finished, a rival family in Saudi Arabia already announced that they will build a taller one (1000 metres) the Kingdom Tower — currently estimated to be completed in 2019 and thus literally competing with each other over who can build the tallest building.[81] 

Now what’s remarkable is that up until only 50 or 60 years ago, the people of the region hardly had any houses at all. In fact, most of them were still Bedouins, living in tents. It was only the discovery of oil in the 20th century that led to the prosperity and transformation of the region. Were it not for oil, chances are the region would still be the barren desert that it was at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an. If this were mere guesswork on his part, the discovery of oil would represent a massive stroke of luck. Moreover, if Prophet Muhammad ﷺ were merely guessing, wouldn’t it have made more sense to relate this prophecy to the superpowers of his time – Rome and Persia – who (unlike the Arabs) already had a tendency to construct extravagant buildings and palaces?[82]

Was he both deluded and a liar?

It is not possible for an individual to be both deluded and a liar. Lying is something done with intent, whereas a delusion stems from an individual’s belief of an altered reality. The two are diametrically opposed phenomena. So it is logically impossible, as the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could not have been convinced that he was speaking the truth and yet it was based on falsehood, and at the same time pretend to be speaking the truth but yet it being based on a lie!

Was he speaking the truth?

Dr. William Draper in History of Intellectual Development of Europe wrote:

“Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D. 569, was born in Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race… To be the religious head of many empires, to guide the daily life of one-third of the human race, may perhaps justify the title of a Messenger of God.”[83]

In light of addressing the other options, it can be argued the quote above represents the most rational conclusion.

In Their Words

Thinkers, philosophers and commentators have studied the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and this is what they had to say:

Hans Kung (Swiss Christian philosopher and ecumenical Catholic theologian)

“We must affirm that he acted as a prophet and that he was a prophet. we must correct our attitude toward Islam.”[84]

Jules Masserman (psychoanalyst and professor of the Chicago University)

 “Perhaps the greatest leader of all times was Mohammad, who combined all the three functions . To a lesser degree Moses did the same.”[85]

Alphonse de Lamartine (French writer, poet and politician)

“If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislations, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls... the forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was twofold, the unit of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with words.”

“Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he?”[86]

John William Draper (American scientist, philosopher, and historian)

“Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D. 569, was born at Mecca, in Arabia the man who, of all men exercised the greatest influence upon the human race…Mohammed.”[87]

David George Hogarth (English archaeologist and author)

“Serious or trivial, his daily behaviour has instituted a canon which millions observe this day with conscious mimicry. No one regarded by any section of the human race as Perfect Man has been imitated so minutely. The conduct of the Founder of Christianity has not so governed the ordinary life of His followers. Moreover, no Founder of a religion has been left on so solitary an eminence as the Muslim Apostle.”[88]

Washington Irving (American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat)

“He was sober and abstemious in his diet, and a rigorous observer of fasts. He indulged in no magnificence of apparel, the ostentation of a petty mind; neither was his simplicity in dress affected, but the result of a real disregard to distinction from so trivial a source…In his private dealings he was just. He treated friends and strangers, the rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, with equity, and was beloved by the common people for the affability with which he received them, and listened to their complaints…His military triumphs awakened no pride nor vain glory, as they would have done had they been effected for selfish purposes. In the time of his greatest power he maintained the same simplicity of manners and appearance as in the days of his adversity. So far from affecting regal state, he was displeased if, on entering a room, any unusual testimonial of respect were shown to him.”[89]

Annie Besant (British theosophist and nationalist leader in India. President of the Indian National Congress in 1917)

“It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great Prophet of Arabia, who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher.”[90]

Bosworth Smith (Schoolmaster and author)

“He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope’s pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammed, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports.”[91]

Montgomery Watt (Scottish historian, and Emeritus Professor in Arabic and Islamic studies)

“His readiness to undergo persecutions for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement – all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves. Moreover, none of the great figures of history is so poorly appreciated in the West as Muhammad.”[92]

George Bernard Shaw (Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics)

“He must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness.”[93]

Mahatma Gandhi (leader of Indian independence movement)

“I wanted to know the best of one who holds today’s undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind....I became more than convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the 2nd volume (of the Prophet’s biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of the great life.”[94]

Michael H. Hart (professor of astronomy, physics and the history of science)

“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.”[95]

Quotes on Love

“Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says ‘I need you because I love you.’” Erich Fromm

“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” Oscar Wilde

“Where there is love, there is life.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao Tzu

“Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.” Aristotle

“The first duty of love is to listen” Paul Tillich

“Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.” Bruce Lee

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” George Elliot

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” Lao Tzu

“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” Albert Einstein

“The course of true love never did run smooth.” William Shakespeare

“What force is more potent than love?” Igor Stravinsky

“Don’t forget to love yourself.” Soren Kierkegaard

“The basis of reasoning, after faith in God, is loving kindness toward the people.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ 

Appendices

Appendix 1: Some interesting facts about the Prophet Muhammad

He never wrote a biography, yet more has been written about him than any other person

The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could not read or write, and he did not author any piece of work, including a biography. However, there are more biographies about his life that any other person, living in the past or present.

He is the most praised and mentioned person in the world (and it will always be that way)

It is estimated that every micro-second someone is mentioning and praising the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. His name actually means the praised one.

Due to global time zones Muslim prayer times differ around the world. When the time for prayer comes in, the call to prayer is announced. The call to prayer mentions the Prophet’s ﷺ name:

God is great, God is great. God is great, God is great. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but God, I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship but God. I bear witness Muhammad is the messenger of God, I bear witness Muhammad is the messenger of God. Come to prayer, come to prayer. Come to success, come to success. God is great, God is great. There is no deity worthy of worship but God.

The call to prayer is always being called, and therefore the Prophet’s ﷺ name is always being mentioned.

In addition to this, Muslims around the world mention, pray for, and praise the Prophet ﷺ in their sermons, prayers, and supplications. It is estimated that someone is always mentioning his name in the above context.

He is indeed the most praised and remembered person in the world.

We have more biographies about the Prophet Muhammad’s companions than any other person’s

In Islamic history we have recorded biographies of around 10,000 companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ . These biographies are available for anyone to read, and they form part of Islamic historical criticism called ‘ilm ul-rijaal (the knowledge of people). This historical criticism was vital to ensure that what people attributed and said about the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was authentic.

He was described as the most influential person to have lived

Michael H. Hart a Professor of astronomy, physics and the history of science in his book The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons in History argues that the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ should top the list of the most influential people in the world:

“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.”[96] [The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History, New York, 1978, p. 33]

Appendix 2: If God Is The-Loving, Can He hate?

Before this question is answered we must understand that when we attribute anything to God, we have to remove any anthropomorphic connotations. God in the Islamic tradition is unique and transcendent. The Qur’an affirms:

“There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.” The Qur’an, Chapter 42, Verse 11

“Say: He is God, the Uniquely One.” The Qur’an, Chapter 12, Verse 1

Therefore, when we attribute things like hate or pleasure, it has to be understood in the context of His transcendence and uniqueness.

Addressing the question about whether God hates, the answer is explained in the following points:

  1. Logically speaking love necessitates hate. If one were to love everything, including that which denies love, and prevents love, and removes it, then that would not be love at all. In order to love you have to dislike that which prevents love.
  2. If one loves, can they love evil or capriciousness? What does it mean to love murder, arrogance, ingratitude or a rejection of the truth? Surely, loving those things is not love at all, but opposes love.
  3. God is The-Loving and therefore hating that which is a barrier to His love or that which contradicts His love is necessary. Otherwise it wouldn’t be love at all.

This however is not to be confused with God’s loving compassion for people. God via His mercy can love those who are malevolent. But God explains the traits of those who deserve His special love, some include:

“And God loves the patient.” The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 146

“For God loves those who are fair (and just).” The Qur’an, Chapter 49, Verse 9

“Certainly, God loves those who put their trust (in Him).” The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 159

“God loves kindness in all matters.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ 

“Truly, God loves those who turn unto him in repentance.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 222

“For God loves the righteous (the pious).” The Qur’an. Chapter 9, Verse 4

“Truly, God loves the good-doers.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 195

“God is All-Generous and He loves generosity in sale, purchase and judgment.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

“If two individuals love each other for the sake of God, the stronger in love to his brother will be more loved by God.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ

“The best loved deeds to God are the ones that are continuous even if they are not very many.” Prophet Muhammad ﷺ 

God also explains what takes someone away from His special love, some of these things include:

“God does not love those who overstep the limits.” The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 190

“God does not love evil doers.” The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 140

“He does not love the wasteful.” The Qur’an, Chapter 7, Verse 31

“God does not love arrogant or boastful people.” The Qur’an, Chapter 31, Verse 18

The key question we need to ask ourselves is, what do I need to be enveloped with God’s special love? The answer as aforementioned in this book is simple: love and follow the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ , and by doing so, you will attain the traits of those who God blesses with His special love.

Written by Andreas Tzortzis

 

References

  1. Erich Fromm. The Art of Loving. Harper & Row, New York. 1956, p. 22
  2. Ibid, pp. 58-59.
  3. Narrated by Abu Dawud
  4. Al-Ghazali. Al-Ghazali on Love, Longing, Intimacy & Contentment. Islamic Texts Society Al-Ghazali Series.
  5. Narrated by Bukhari
  6. Miftaah Daar al-Sa‘aadah, 2/88-90
  7. Narrated by Bukhari
  8. Narrated by Bukhari
  9. Narrated by Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi
  10. Al-Adab Al-Mufrad
  11. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  12. Narrated by Bukhari
  13. Narrated by Bukhari
  14. Narrated by Muslim
  15. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  16. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  17. Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim
  18. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  19. Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah
  20. Narrated by Muslim
  21. Narrated by Ibn Hibban
  22. Narrated by Ibn Majah
  23. Narrated by Ahmad
  24. Narrated by Ahmad
  25. Narrated by Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi
  26. Narrated by Bukhari, Tareekh al-Akhbar
  27. Narrated by Bukhari
  28. Narrated by Bukhari
  29. Narrated by Ahmad and Tirmidhi
  30. Narrated by Bukhari
  31. Narrated by Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad
  32. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  33. Narrated by Bukhari
  34. Narrated by Muslim
  35. Narrated by Bukhari
  36. Narrated by Bukhari
  37. Narrated by Ibn Majah
  38. Narrated by Muslim
  39. Narrated by Muslim
  40. Narrated by Muslim
  41. Narrated by Muslim
  42. Narrated by Bukhari
  43. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  44. Narrated by Bukhari
  45. Narrated by Bukhari
  46. Narrated by Bukhari
  47. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  48. Narrated by Bukhari
  49. Narrated by An Nasai
  50. Narrated by Muslim
  51. Narrated by Ahmad
  52. Ash-Shifa of Qadi ‘Iyad
  53. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  54. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  55. Al-Bayhaqi, Ibn Hibban, At-Tabarani and Abu Nu’aym
  56. Narrated by Muslim
  57. Dr Muhammad Ali’ As-Sallabee. The Noble Life of the Prophet, p. 1707 & 1712
  58. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  59. Narrated Muslim
  60. Narrated Tirmidhi
  61. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  62. Zad al-Ma'ad 2/45
  63. Narrated Bukhari
  64. Narrated By Bukhari, Muslim & Ahmad
  65. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  66. Ibn maajah and al-Haakim
  67. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  68. Narrated by Bukhari and Muslim
  69. Narrated Tirmidhi
  70. Narrated by Tirmidhi
  71. Al-Ghazali. Al-Ghazali on Love, Longing, Intimacy & Contentment. Islamic Texts Society Al-Ghazali Series
  72. Martin Lings. Muhammad: his life based on the earliest sources. 2nd Revised Edition. The Islamic Texts Society. 1983, p. 34
  73. Ibid, p. 52
  74. Ibid, pp. 53 – 79
  75. W. Montgomery Watt. Muhammad at Mecca. Oxford. 1953, p. 52
  76. Narrated by Bukhari
  77. Narrated by Bukhari
  78. Narrated by Muslim
  79. Narrated by Muslim
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  81. http://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/17/world/meast/saudi-arabia-to-build-tallest-building-ever/
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  83. John William Draper, M.D., L.L.D., A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,London 1875, Vol. 1, pp. 329-330
  84. “Christianity and World Religions: Dialogue with Islam”, vol. 3. The Edwin Mellen Press,1992
  85. 'Who Were History’s Great Leaders?' in TIME Magazine, July 15, 1974
  86. Histoire de la Turquie, Paris 1854, Vol II, pp. 276-77
  87. A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe, London, 1875, vol.1, pp. 329-330
  88. Arabia, Oxford, 1922, p. 52
  89. Life of Mahomet, London, 1889, pp. 192-3, 199
  90. The Life And Teachings Of Muhammad, Madras, 1932, p. 4
  91. Mohammed and Mohammadanism, London 1874, p. 92
  92. W. Montgomery, Mohammad at Mecca, Oxford 1953, p. 52
  93. The Genuine Islam, Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936
  94. Young India, 1924
  95. The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History, New York, 1978, p. 33