What is the first thought that comes into your mind when you think of Rasoolullahﷺ? For me it is someone to run to if I need anything. Someone who will intercede for me when I meet Allahﷻ. Someone who I love more than I can say and who I yearn to meet. May Allahﷻ grant that to us all, that we meet him at his Hauz and receive the water of Al-Kauthar from his blessed hand. May Allahﷻ grant that before that day, we see him in our dream and give him our salaam and he responds with his dua. My brothers and sisters, Allahﷻ gave us many blessings. Everything we have is a blessing of Allahﷻ, from our lives to our health, our families, wealth, above all Islam. But there is only one out of all His blessings that Allahﷻ emphasized and especially mentioned as His Neyma – His Blessing and that is Rasoolullahﷺ. Let us reflect on that.
لَقَدْ مَنَّ ٱللَّهُ عَلَى ٱلْمُؤْمِنِينَ إِذْ بَعَثَ فِيهِمْ رَسُولًا مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ يَتْلُوا۟ عَلَيْهِمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَيُزَكِّيهِمْ وَيُعَلِّمُهُمُ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلْحِكْمَةَ وَإِن كَانُوا۟ مِن قَبْلُ لَفِى ضَلَـٰلٍ مُّبِينٍ
A’al Imraan 3: 164 Indeed Allah conferred a great blessing on the Believers when He sent among them a Messenger (Muhammadﷺ) from among themselves, reciting unto them His Ayaat (Qur’an), and purifying them (Tazkiyya wa Tarbiyya), and instructing them (in) the Book (Qur’an) and Al-Hikmah [wisdom of his Sunnah] while before that they had been in manifest error.
If we think about the life of the people in Makkah, especially the Quraysh, they were highly successful businesspeople. They had wealth, they self-governed, they were not subservient to either of the two empires in their part of the world, they had every luxury and pleasure that money could buy. So why did they need Islam? I am asking this because this is a relevant question for us to ask ourselves today. Why do I need Islam?
I say to you, that angle influences the view. What you see depends on the angle you look at it from. Our job is to please Allahﷻ but we have been taught that it is to accumulate wealth. Our role models, almost exclusively, are those who accumulate wealth. But if you ask, ‘But did he please Allahﷻ?’, what’s the answer. So, what will happen to him if he reaches the Aakhira without having pleased Allahﷻ? Or worse still, having angered Allahﷻ and having accepted a declaration of war from Himﷻ. This was the case of the Quraysh and the choice they faced. Some chose to reject Allahﷻ and His Messengerﷺ and others chose to reject ways that run contrary to the Will of Allahﷻ and the Sunnah of His Messengerﷺ. Allahﷻ declared about the Sahaba which tells us about their Aakhira and that of their followers:
وَٱلسَّـٰبِقُونَ ٱلْأَوَّلُونَ مِنَ ٱلْمُهَـٰجِرِينَ وَٱلْأَنصَارِ وَٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّبَعُوهُم بِإِحْسَـٰنٍ رَّضِىَ ٱللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا۟ عَنْهُ وَأَعَدَّ لَهُمْ جَنَّـٰتٍ تَجْرِى تَحْتَهَا ٱلْأَنْهَـٰرُ خَـٰلِدِينَ فِيهَآ أَبَدًا ذَٰلِكَ ٱلْفَوْزُ ٱلْعَظِيمُ
Tawba 9: 100 And the first to embrace Islam of the Muhajirun (migrants) and the Ansar (helpers) and those who followed them exactly (in Faith). Allah is well-pleased with them as they are well-pleased with Him. He has prepared for them Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever. That is supreme success.
But let’s look at their Dunya? Did that suffer? Did they lose their wealth, influence, and power? Or did they, in one generation, change from being at best, a village of prosperous businessmen, to becoming the dominant global power having defeated both the Roman and Persian Empires. History is witness. What changed in their lives? The angle changed and so the view changed. That is why in this month of Rabi-ul Awwal, I present to you Muhammadur Rasoolullahﷺ, not only as the model we must follow if we want success in the Aakhira, but as the model we must follow if we want success in Dunya and Aakhira. Why is success in Dunya important? Because success in Dunya drives success in the Aakhira. Who are successful in Dunya? Those who please Allahﷻ. That means we must change our metrics, our standards of measuring success. Rasoolullahﷺ taught us how to do that.
Allahﷻ mentioned four things in the Ayah I quoted: recite, purify, teach the meaning, show its wisdom. Imagine a farmer. What does he do? He has the best seed. Does he simply throw it anywhere and expect to get a great harvest? He prepares the soil to receive the seed. Then he sows it properly in the way that is suited to that kind of seed. Then he waters and nurtures it. Try to short circuit this process or change its order and you will discover that even the best seed will wither and die and not yield even a fraction of what it was capable of yielding. Think of the beautiful story of Ibn Omar (R) who memorized Sura Al-Baqara in 12 years and gave a Walima to celebrate. They asked him why it had taken him so long to memorize one Sura. He said, “We used to go to Rasoolullahﷺ and take 10 Ayaat from him. Then we would memorize them, reflect on them, practice what those Ayaat mentioned, clarify any doubts and only when we were totally satisfied, we would go for the next 10. That is why when they finished memorizing, they were living that part of the Qur’an. Let us reflect on what we do with the Qur’an.
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَذَرُوا۟ مَا بَقِىَ مِنَ ٱلرِّبَوٰٓا۟ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
فَإِن لَّمْ تَفْعَلُوا۟ فَأْذَنُوا۟ بِحَرْبٍ مِّنَ ٱللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِۦ وَإِن تُبْتُمْ فَلَكُمْ رُءُوسُ أَمْوَٰلِكُمْ لَا تَظْلِمُونَ وَلَا تُظْلَمُونَ
Baqara 2: 278-9 O you who believe! Be afraid of Allah and give up what remains (due to you) from Riba (interest) (from now onward) if you are (really) believers. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allah and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums).
We know the Ayah. We recite it with perfect Tajweed. We listen to those who recite well and praise their recitation. And then what do we do?
In another place Allahﷻ said:
وَٱعْتَصِمُوا۟ بِحَبْلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا۟ وَٱذْكُرُوا۟ نِعْمَتَ ٱللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَآءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِۦٓ إِخْوَٰنًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ ٱلنَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
A’al Imraan 3: 103 And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (Qur’an), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah’s Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islam), and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus, Allah makes His Ayat (signs, revelations) clear to you, that you may be guided.
We recite it with perfect Tajweed. We talk about Ikraam ul Muslimeen. We emphasize Ummat-pana (One Ummah). And then what do we do? Allahﷻ said in another place:
يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوٓا۟ إِنَّمَا ٱلْخَمْرُ وَٱلْمَيْسِرُ وَٱلْأَنصَابُ وَٱلْأَزْلَـٰمُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ ٱلشَّيْطَـٰنِ فَٱجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
Ma’aida 5: 90 O you who believe! Intoxicants (alcohol, drugs, tobacco), gambling, Al-Ansab, and Al-Azlam (fortune telling) are an abomination of Shaytan’s handiwork. So, avoid (strictly) that (abomination) so that you may be successful.
Same story: we recite, we listen, we praise reciters and then? I can give you many more examples, but this will suffice. Let us ask ourselves what the Sahaba did. The study of the Seerah of Rasoolullahﷺ is so critical for this very reason because it is the blueprint for success. To study and act on it.
Take the issues in the three Ayaat I recited. Did the Sahaba face these issues? Of course, they did and that is why the Ayaat were revealed. Their society was based on interest-based banking. They had multibillion-dollar international business interests based on the same principles as practiced in their world in the Roman and Persian Empires and which are practiced to this day in our world. Did they have to deal with alcohol, gambling, addictions, and other vices? Did they fight amongst themselves and were they divided? But what happened? Allahﷻ revealed the Qur’an. And what did the Sahaba do? Did they hold annual Qur’an recitation competitions? Did they ask who had memorized more Ayaat? Or did they implement what Allahﷻ ordered in their lives? Dumb question. And what was the result? Did their businesses collapse? Did they all starve to death because they stopped dealing in interest or in prohibited things? Did they get weak and lose influence because they buried the hatchet and forgave each other and came together based on Islam? I know I am asking dumb questions, but please bear with me and let us ask ourselves what we are doing. To do the same thing and expect a different result is the height of stupidity. If we want a different result, we must do something different. We want wealth. We want power and influence. We want friends. We want moral authority. Allahﷻ told us how to get them. Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba showed it to us in practice. Then what are we waiting for?
Allahﷻ made it simple. He said, ‘Just do what my Messengerﷺ did.’
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلْيَوْمَ ٱلْـَٔاخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Ahzab 33: 21 Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammadﷺ) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes in (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much.
Walk like he walked. Talk like he talked. Deal like he dealt. Eat what he ate. Drink what he drank. In weakness, in strength, in grief and in joy, in health, in sickness, in plenty, in need, alone and among others, do what he did. Study the Seerah and practice it. His life is the template, the blueprint, the roadmap to success. But remember that the best roadmap can’t guide the one who doesn’t follow it. If you don’t follow the map, you will get lost while still holding the map in your hand. That is our situation today. We are lost, while holding the map in our hand. We kiss the map, we decorate it, we keep it safe. We do everything except following it. And we wonder why we are lost. Is that really a mystery?
Finally, our Rabb, Ar-Rahman ur Raheem, who sent His Khaleel, His Habeeb, the Last and Final, the Crown and Seal of all His Messengers after whom there is no other, Muhammadﷺ ordered him to announce to the world the reward of emulating him in every aspect of life. He said:
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ ٱللَّهَ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى يُحْبِبْكُمُ ٱللَّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَٱللَّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
A’al Imraan 3: 31 Say (O Muhammadﷺ): If you (really) love Allah then follow me (emulate me), Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
It is very important to understand the difference between Ita’at (obedience) and Ittiba (emulation). There are two critical differences. Ita’at requires an order to be obeyed. In the absence of an order there can be no obedience. And the reward of Ita’at (obedience) is specific. 1:10, 1: 700 and so on. Ittiba (emulation) on the other hand is a result of love. We emulate those we love. This is the whole philosophy of the so-called ‘Super Influencers’. People who are promoted as role models who sheep follow and walk, talk, eat, buy, wear and drive what they do, while the smart ones who run the game laugh all the way to the bank. Stop for a second reflect that to walk, talk, eat, buy, wear and drive, they get paid big money. While you pay to do all that. So, who is smart and who is dumb as a bar of soap? Then ask if your role model, the one you emulate even knows if you exist or cares a hoot about it. Yet you emulate them. Why? Because you think that it adds value to you. Then ask what value emulating Rasoolullahﷺ adds to you? Love of Rasoolullahﷺ is not about singing Anasheed and whatever else we do. Love of the Messengerﷺ is to live his message. The reward of that, apart from the worldly success it will give us, is the love of the one who loves the Messengerﷺ.
And that is the final difference between Ita’at and Ittiba. The reward for one is reward from Allahﷻ. The reward for the other is Allahﷻ Himself.