By Amjad Tarsin (originally publishes at Medium)
In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, Most Merciful
Imam al-Ghazali said, “The heart is never devoid of the sweetness of love: either the love of the world, or the love of Allah…The two cannot coexist.”
When reflecting on Imam al-Ghazali’s statement, the question naturally arises: So how do we fill our hearts with love of Allah and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)? Scholars mention several motivators that produce love within the heart.
1. Outward Beauty
Whether it’s the intricacy of a delicate rose or a majestic sunrise, we are drawn to outward beauty. This comes from the fitra (our pure nature) that Allah placed within us, which encourages us toseek out the Creator and Possessor of Absolute Beauty (Glorious is His Majesty). As the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Truly, Allah is beautiful and loves beauty.” [Muslim]
Likewise, we admire physical beauty. Although this isn’t the truest measure of beauty, the way the heart inclines towards it is undeniable. But what separates believers from most people is that they are not consumed and veiled by outward beauty alone — as the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Truly, Allah does not look at your physical forms or your wealth, but He looks at your hearts and your actions.” [Ahmad, Muslim]
2. Inward Beauty
Weare drawn to people who have beautiful character. Accolades are given to accomplished people who are generous and give back to society. We honor people who put themselves in harm’s way in order to save others, exemplifying the virtue of courage. People are in awe of those who patiently endure difficulties that would break the average person.
In reality, beautiful character is far more significant than outward beauty. It requires the fortitude to get through the struggle of purifying the nafs, which is no small achievement. This beauty of character manifests in the Hereafter, adding to the beauty of the people of Paradise. Unfortunately, in today’s world — which is a sign of the End Times — people are intoxicated by the superficial love of the outward.
As Imam al-Shāfi‘ī (may Allah have mercy on him) said, “You are by soul, not body, a human.”
3. Being a Beneficiary of Beauty
When you directly experience the beauty of a person’s soul, your love for them grows. This is different from inward beauty, which we can appreciate from a distance; whereas in this case, we are the direct recipients of beautiful character.
Imagine that a friend of yours has recently returned from a trip overseas. They call you and say that they’ve missed you. That consideration moves our hearts (“It’s so kind of you to think of me!”) and strengthens the bond of love. Your friend then drops by to visit you and gives you a gift that he or she acquired during the trip (“You got this for me? Thank you!”).
Again, the love grows.
The Prophet’s Beauty صلى اللّه عليه وآله وصحبه وسلم
When reflecting on these three motivators for love, we see them exemplified in the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) who is the quintessence of virtue. Allah the Glorious and Exalted invites us to Him, and He chose His most beautiful servant—in the truest sense of beauty—to be His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Let’s look at the way these types of beauty are seen within the Adornment of Creation (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
Sayyida Rubayyi‘ bint Mu‘awwidh (may Allah be well pleased with her) said, when asked to describe the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him, his Family, and his Companions), “Had you seen him, you would have seen the sunrise.” [Bayhaqi, al-Darimi]
Multiple Companions said of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), “I never met anyone before or after him like him.”
Sayyiduna ‘Amr ibn al-‘Āṣ (may Allah be well pleased with him) said, “I could not bear to fully look at him, out of reverence of him. If I were asked to describe him, I would be unable to do so, for I never took my fill of looking at him.” [Muslim]
In Allah’s wisdom and mercy, He made the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) beautiful, so that people’s hearts would incline towards him and they would be open to hearing his Message.
2. His Inward Beauty صلى اللّه عليه وآله وصحبه وسلم
Regarding his virtues and beautiful character, there are far too many to mention. One could spend an entire lifetime trying to appreciate his character (Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), and even then, he would understand only a small fragment of what Allah the Exalted has given him.
His mercy to all of creation, his modesty, generosity, patience, fairness, courage, forgiveness, humility—books could be written about each of them (and they have been). For our purposes here, we will only mention some Quranic verses and Prophetic Hadiths; and you, respected reader, are encouraged to dive into the ocean of Prophetic virtues for yourself.
Allah the Exalted says, “And you [O Prophet], are truly upon a magnificent character.” [Quran 68:4]
Allah, Glorious is His Majesty, also says, “We have only sent you [O Prophet Muhammad] as a mercy to all of creation.” [Quran 21:107]
The Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, “Truly, I was only sent to perfect noble character.” [Muwatta of Imam Malik, Ahmad]
One of the greatest manifestations of this is during the Conquest of Mecca. The Meccan polytheists had fought the Prophet and oppressed his Companions for over twenty years; yet, when he conquered them and had the upper hand, in an act of miraculous mercy, he pardoned and forgave them all.
3. Benefactor of Beauty صلى اللّه عليه وآله وصحبه وسلم
You might ask yourself, “How do I witness this kind of beauty when I’ve never met the Prophet?” Although you haven’t met him, he (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) thought about you before you even came into this world.
Ibn Hibban narrates a sound (hasan) Hadith on the authority of our mother ‘Aisha (may Allah be well pleased with her) that she asked the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) to make duʿa for her. He then said, “O Allah, forgive ‘Aisha her previous and future sins, those that are private and those that are public.” Sayyida ‘Aisha smiled and she was so joyous that her head fell into her lap. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) then said to her, “Does my duʿa make you happy?” She replied with, “How could I not be happy with your duʿa?” He then said (peace and blessings be upon him), “By Allah, this is my duʿa for my Umma in every Prayer.”
And on the Day of Resurrection, when everyone will be saying, “Myself! Myself!” his calling upon Allah the Exalted will be, “My Umma! My Umma!” On that Day, when each of us will be so consumed with the magnitude of the Judgment that we abandon our own parents, children, and spouses—the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) won’t abandon us.
It takes time to think deeply about the Prophet’s mercy for you. The more you learn about his life and character (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) the stronger your direct connection to him becomes. With time, you begin to feel that sense of love and appreciation grow in your heart.
The month of Rabiʿ al-Awwal is an opportunity to invest in this love. It is common in many parts of the world to give even greater attention to studying his life (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and his character (Shama’il), along with sending more salawat upon the Prophet in this month.
Some things that you can do to learn more about the Prophet and strengthen your love for him (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him):
The Companions’ faith was founded on love and reverence. Their sacrifices, perseverance, and courage were only possible because they had tasted the sweetness of iman. They witnessed the Prophetic beauty first hand and their hearts were engulfed in love of Allah the Exalted and His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).
أيْنَ المُحِبُّونَ الّذينِ عَليْهِمُ * بَذْلُ النُّفُوسِ مَعَ النَّفَائِسِ هَانَا
Where are the lovers who find it easy,
To sacrifice their souls and every precious thing for the Beloved?
Without love, our iman is incomplete. By witnessing beauty in Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), we begin that journey. We must take the time to learn about the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) so that we can experience that beauty first-hand and taste the sweetness of love for ourselves.