When Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) loves someone, He honours them both in this life and in the Hereafter. As such, we find in the Qur’an that Allah (swt) always lovingly addresses His Messengers and Prophets in the way that a mentor addresses his student. The Prophets and Messengers are essentially the students of Allah (swt) – He is the one guiding them and mentoring them through the task they have been honoured with by means of wahi (revelation). There is a certain level of love that Allah (swt) shows His Prophets and Messengers in the Qur’an – and this is portrayed by the manner in which Allah (swt) speaks about them in the Qur’an. As an example, He (swt) mentions many Prophets in Surah as-Safaat (Qur’an 37) and after mentioning them, He concludes their individual stories by sending His Salaam (peace, greetings) upon them. This is already an incredibly high honour and display of love and indication of His satisfaction towards them. Yet, when we take a look at how Allah (swt) addresses our Messenger, Muhammad SAW, we find an even higher level of love, adab (mannerism), ihtiraam (respect) and `izza(honour) towards him SAW.
Using Honoured Titles When Addressing Him
Through reading the Qur’an, we will instantly realize that when addressing His Prophets and Messengers, Allah (swt) calls upon them directly by name. For example, He says ‘”O Noah, indeed he is not of your family…” [Qur’an 11: 46] and He says, “O Moses, I have chosen you over the people with My messages and My words [to you]…” [Qur’an 7:144] When we address someone, it is a sign of respect that we take their name when calling upon them as opposed to saying something like, “Hey man.” However, when we want to address someone with an even higher level of respect and mannerism, we don’t address them by their name, we address them by their respected title. For example, we say, “Mr. President” or “Mr. Senator” indicative of the respect given to them because of their high position. Likewise, Allah (swt) when He addresses the Messenger ﷺ, does not address him directly by name – rather He addresses the Messenger with the honourific title and position that he SAW holds, “O Messenger” and “O Prophet”.
In this is a lesson to the believers of the mannerism of speaking to (and by extension about) the Messenger SAW. Indeed, elsewhere in the Qur’an, Allah (swt) rebukes some of the Bedouins that came to the Messenger ﷺ and called out to him from behind his apartments, “O Muhammad, come out to us,” by saying that ‘most of them have no intelligence’. Allah (swt) is teaching the believers a lesson about the level of manner and respect required when addressing the Prophet SAW and by extension his sunnah (traditions) and ahadeeth (narrations) which are what are with us today. If Allah (swt) does not address His Messenger directly out of respect, but chooses to address him SAW with honour, the believers need to pay attention and take a lesson from this and adopt a similar level of respect towards him SAW.
Sometimes, in our haste to quote the Messenger SAW, we tend to forget the level of respect that is imperative. There are multiple instances in the Qur’an where Allah (swt) has commanded the believers to watch how they speak to the Messenger SAW and, specifically, to lower their voices when addressing him SAW. For example, Allah (swt) says in Surat an-Nur, “Do not make the calling of the Messenger between yourselves as the call of one you to another…” [Qur’an 24:63] and in Surat al-Hujurat , “O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not.”[Qur’an 49:2]. This does not mean that we don’t mention his hadeeth or anything like that; rather, it is teaching us the mannerism that ought to be present when doing so.
The early Muslims when deciding to take ahadeeth from an individual would look, in addition to everything else, the mannerism that he would show when narrating the hadeeth towards the Prophet SAW. It is known that Imam Malik (rahimahu allah, may God be pleased with him) would not narrate hadeeth to his students until he had bathed, dressed himself in his best clothes and perfumed himself out of respect and honour towards the Messenger ﷺ. As such, we should aim to instill this adab in our hearts as well.
Do not put yourselves before Allah and His Messenger
Allah (swt) addresses the believers in Surah al Hujurat saying,
[O you who believe, do not put yourselves forth before Allah (swt) and His Messenger…] [Qur’an 49:1]
In this ayah, Allah (swt) is giving the believers a command that they do not place themselves, either by their speech or actions, ahead of Allah (swt) and His Messenger ﷺ. This is a warning to the believers to understand their position in relation to Allah (swt) and His Messenger SAW, that they do not hastily lead themselves to saying something or doing something before Allah (swt) has commanded it or against what has been commanded. However, if we reflect upon this ayah, it leads to the question that, how can an individual place himself before Allah (swt) at all? After all, Allah (swt) is the Lord of the heavens and the Earth, and therefore it is inconceivable that an individual would be able to do anything that Allah (swt) is unaware of. If anything, it is conceivable that an individual can put himself before the Messenger SAW, intentionally or unintentionally – so why mention Allah (swt)? The scholars of tafseer (exegesis) explain this beautiful point by saying that the reason Allah (swt) is mentioning Himself first is to honour the Messenger SAW by placing his name SAW alongside Allah’s name. Meaning that, just as you would not put yourself before Allah (swt), likewise you are not to put yourself before the Messenger SAW. By mentioning Himself with the Messenger ﷺ, Allah (swt) is elevating the status of the Messenger ﷺ and equating disobedience to him SAW as disobedience to Allah, as Allah (swt) says elsewhere in the Qur’an, [whoever obeys the Messenger, has obeyed Allah]. [Qur’an 4:80]
“Your Lord has not forsaken you nor is He displeased”
In the early part of the seerah (biography of the Prophet SAW), after the Messenger SAW received the first revelation, there was a period in which revelation completely ceased for a period of time. This time was difficult for the Messenger SAW as he was afraid that since nothing further had come down, Allah (swt) might be displeased with him SAW. This led him to worry for a period of time.
To console His Messenger SAW, Allah (swt) sent down Surah Duha and through it, He consoled the heart of the Messenger SAW. Out of the entire surah, the ayah that strikes the heart is the subtlety of the third one when Allah (swt) says, “Your Lord has not forsaken you nor is He displeased.” [Qur’an 93:3]. Allah (swt) here is informing His Messenger SAW to not worry because Allah (swt) has not forsaken him and that He has not left him alone. If we reflect on the second part of the ayah, Allah (swt) says, “nor is He displeased.” The obvious question would be, displeased with whom or displeased with what? The ‘who’ or ‘what’ has been left out and the scholars of tafseer give us the reason for it. The surah itself in its entirety is addressed to the Messenger ﷺ – yet in this particular part of the Surah, where Allah mentions His Displeasure, He (swt) leaves out addressing the Messenger ﷺ directly. This is out of respect and honour towards the Messenger SAW because Allah (swt) does not even want to mention the Messenger ﷺ close to mentioning His displeasure. So He simply says, “nor is He displeased” and leaves it at that because out of His immense love for the Messenger SAW, it is inconceivable that Allah (swt) will be anything but pleased with him SAW.
There are many, many other instances in the Qur’an where this love and respect to the Messenger SAW is shown and each is a lesson on its own. Allah (swt) has a truly special way of addressing His beloved Messenger in the Qur’an. What we should try to take away from this is implementing the adab and respect in our own lives towards the Messenger SAW whenever we speak about him ﷺ, mention his seerah, or quote ahadeeth. This is what we have from him SAW today and it is equivalent in the level of adab and respect it requires. Sometimes we might get carried away and start quoting hadeeth to each other back and forth to prove a certain point or refute someone – but when was the last time that we thought about the mannerism we are employing when quoting the statements of the Messenger SAW? If Allah (swt) Himself addresses His Messenger SAW with such respect, it is only imperative after all that we too show the same level of respect and honour when we mention him SAW.