Since we are re-starting our series of Khutab on the rights of Rasoolullahﷺ after a break of six weeks during and after Ramadan, let me quickly recap what those rights are. The reason rights are important is because it is obligatory to fulfill them, and we will be questioned about them. When those are the rights of Rasoolullahﷺ himself, then the matter is even more serious.
The rights of Rasoolullah on his Ummah are 7:
- Adab wa Ihtiraam: Our attitude of utmost respect and honor
- Ita’at: To obey Rasoolullahﷺ without question
- Ittiba: To follow and emulate him in every way
- Muhabbat: To love him above all things and everyone else
- Ahl-ul-Bayt: To honor and respect him and his family
- Nusrat: To help him in every way: To help his Deen and Message
- To accept his judgment in all matters without any resistance
By the Mercy of Allah we spoke about the first two rights. Let us look at the third right of Rasoolullahﷺ, that we should emulate him in excellence.
Ittiba: To follow and emulate (imitate) him in every way
When implementing quality standards in the corporate world, one of the most common and powerful ways is to choose a ‘Best Practice’ and follow it. The reason for this is obvious because the Best Practice is proof of concept and evidence that the method works. The one who is following a Best Practice is free from the risk of failure because he is following a method which has proved to be successful. All the follower must do is to ensure that he follows that method perfectly and his own success is assured. Who is more successful than the Messenger of Allah who Allah presented to us as the best example to be followed? Allah said:
لَقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Al-Ahzaab 33:21 There is surely a good example for you in the Messenger of Allah, for one who hopes (to meet) Allah and the Hereafter and remembers Allah abundantly.”
Allah told us that to follow Rasoolullahﷺ is the best way and that his entire life, in all its aspects, is the best example for anyone who looks forward to meeting Allah on the Day of Judgment and remembers Allah a great deal. That is the definition of a Muslim. In short, the answer to the question, “Who is a Muslim?” is, “The one whose life resembles the life of Muhammadﷺ.” The bonus of course is that the life of Rasoolullahﷺ is also the best way to live in this world because of which you would become the most beloved and influential person in your community. After all, show me anyone who is kind, compassionate, just, courageous, helpful, charitable, has the best manners, is generous and hospitable, cheerful, and friendly and I will show you someone who is the beloved of all those he encounters. That is the secret of influence. Allah showed us how to become influential.
Add to that, Allah told us about the real reward for emulating Rasoolullahﷺ and doing his Ittiba, which He didn’t define in transient worldly terms but said:
قُلْ إِن كُنتُمْ تُحِبُّونَ اللّهَ فَاتَّبِعُونِي يُحْبِبْكُمُ اللّهُ وَيَغْفِرْ لَكُمْ ذُنُوبَكُمْ وَاللّهُ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
Aal-Imraan 3:31 Say (O Muhammad to mankind): “If you (really) love Allah then emulate me (make my Ittiba), Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
Let’s reflect on this, that Allah didn’t say that the reward of doing the Ittiba of Rasoolullahﷺ is something that can be defined and measured, even if it is Jannah. Allah told us that the reward of Ittiba, which is the true sign of love, is that Allah will love the one does the Ittiba of the one He loves. Just stop for a while and reflect on this and ask yourself, “What does it mean that Allah will love me? What is the benefit of Allah loving me?” At the very least it means freedom from the Fire, because how can someone who Allah loves, go to Jahannam? The key is to emulate Rasoolullahﷺ and become the beloved of Allah.
There have been many movements in the world where people claimed to love Allah, but the only one where there is a guarantee of response from Allah is in emulating Rasoolullahﷺ. Think about how beautiful and comforting it is to know that our devotion will not be wasted and even more to know that the reward for loving Rasoolullahﷺ and demonstrating that love by emulating him, is that Allah will love us.
There is a very important difference between Ita’at (obedience) and Ittiba (emulation or imitation). Ita’at (obedience) needs an order to obey. In the absence of an order or instruction, no obedience can be demanded. But Ittiba (emulation or imitation) is a sign of love. No instruction or order is necessary. The one who loves, emulates the ways of his beloved. The one being emulated may not even be aware that he is being imitated. Emulation (Ittiba) is a sign of love. It is the surest sign of love because by emulation, the emulator wishes to be identified with the one he is emulating. He wishes to be known, not as himself but as a shadow of the one he is emulating. Those who love the original, also love to see the imitation because it reminds them of the original. Their love for the original spills over onto the emulator. They love the emulator, not for himself but for the one he is emulating. That is why the One (Allah) who loves Muhammadﷺ told him to tell his people to emulate him and said that if they did that, then the One who loves him, will love them too.
I remind myself and you that the love for Allah is unlike our love for anyone and anything else, just as Allah is unlike anyone or anything else. Our love for Allah is expressed through our obedience to Him. The first, most important and biggest sign of our love for Allah is Salah. Salah is the physical manifestation, the evidence of our belief in La ilaha illallah – There is nobody worthy of worship except Allah. We believe this in our hearts, we say it with our tongues, and we demonstrate our faith by establishing Salah. This is what differentiates us as Muslims – that we pray.
Ibn Umar (RA) narrates: Rasoolullahﷺ stated: “The place of Salah in religion is like the place of the head in the body.” (Tabarani)
Abu’d-Darda (R) stated: “My friend Muhammadﷺ gave me the following advice, “Even if you are chopped up and burnt, do not associate partners with Allah and do not miss your Fardh Salah deliberately. Allah will remove His protection from a person who misses his Fardh prayers deliberately.” (Ahmad, Ibn Majah, Bayhaqi)
Abdullah bin Qurt (R): Rasoolullahﷺ said, “On the Day of Judgment, a slave will be questioned about his prayers first. If his prayers are good, his other deeds will be good, too. If his prayers are bad, his other deeds will be bad, too.” (Tabarani)
Given that Salah is so critical, ask, how should we pray? Allah didn’t teach us how to pray in the Qur’an. He taught it to Rasoolullahﷺ who taught us.
Narrated Malik bin Huwairath (R) (مالك بن الحويرث): We came to Rasoolullahﷺ and stayed with him for twenty days and nights. We were all young and of about the same age. Rasoolullahﷺ was very kind and merciful. When he realized our longing for our families, he asked about our homes and the people there and we told him. Then he asked us to go back to our families and stay with them and teach them (the religion) and to order them to do good things. He also mentioned some other things which I have remembered or [??] forgotten. Rasoolullahﷺ then added, “Pray as you have seen me praying and when it is the time for Salah one of you should call the Adhan and the oldest of you should lead Salah.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
So, we believe in Allah and worship Him by emulating Rasoolullahﷺ in the way he worshipped Allah. This is the most powerful example of Ittiba. The one who does it, is standing in the presence of Allah, making Sujood before His Throne and speaking to His Rabb who is listening to him. If only we realize and understand the true magnificence of Salah and its power. Let us remember that no matter how much we claim to love Allah, there is only one way to worship Him and that is the way that Rasoolullahﷺ taught us. There is no other way. Anyone who seeks a way different from that of Rasoolullahﷺ will have it rejected. The one who emulates, makes Ittiba of Rasoolullahﷺ will be loved by Allah and the one who doesn’t is rejected.
I remind you and myself that the most important emulation of Rasoolullahﷺ is in his biggest Sunnah which was his mission in this world i.e., presenting Islam. While every Sunnah is important because it is part of the whole, i.e., his life, Allah introduced him by his mission and honored us by saying that to invite towards Allah is the mission of Rasoolullahﷺ and the mission of those who follow him.
قُلْ هَـذِهِ سَبِيلِي أَدْعُو إِلَى اللّهِ عَلَى بَصِيرَةٍ أَنَاْ وَمَنِ اتَّبَعَنِي وَسُبْحَانَ اللّهِ وَمَا أَنَاْ مِنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Al-Yusuf 12:108 Say (O Muhammad SAW): “This is my way; I invite unto Allah with sure knowledge, I and whosoever follows me. And Glorified and Exalted be Allah (above all that they associate as partners with Him). And I am not of the Mushrikûn.
What greater honor than to introduce people to their Creator and Sustainer and to invite them to thank Him and worship Him as it is His right to be worshipped and to live our lives with one purpose only, which is to please Allah?
Let us remember that the most powerful way in which Rasoolullahﷺ did Da’awa was through his manners and dealings. People came to Islam, not because of lectures, debates, or wars. They came to Islam because of the Akhlaaq (manners) of Rasoolullahﷺ and the Sahaba who did his Ittiba – emulated him. Imam Az-Zuhri (RA), the teacher of Iman Malik bin Anas (RA), said, “Islam spread the fastest after Fatah Makkah because for the first time people were able to see the lives of ordinary Muslims, up close.” Remember that he didn’t say that people were able to see Rasoolullahﷺ’s life up close. Naturally not many people had direct access to him. But it was the lives of those who emulated him; farmers, carpenters, shepherds, shopkeepers, traders, caravan leaders; those who were in the markets of Makkah and Madina. These were the people who introduced Islam to others in a way that inspired them to share that goodness. That is our task today. How can we live our lives so that they become an inspiration for others?
Ittiba of the Sunnah is Fardh: There is a great misconception that Ittiba of Sunnah is left to our discretion and fancy. It is not. Allah emphasized that not only is it Fardh but it is the only way to earn the love of Allah and His Forgiveness when we meet Him. Those who discount the Sunnah, especially those who are dismissive about it and decry it as being unimportant, only display their gross ignorance but depending on what they say, may end up committing Kufr and exiting Islam altogether. The Sunnah is the fabric of Islam. It is the tapestry into which is woven the entire template of Islamic culture and tradition. Our tradition is not the tradition of our ethnicity or nationality or family or tribe, but it is the tradition of Muhammadﷺ. That is why we need to know what that is and to live it in our lives as a sign of our allegiance to him and love for him.
Types of Sunnah are different because Rasoolullah emphasized some things and simply did others without emphasizing. [E.g., Beard vs Miswak] Ittiba is an expression of love. We display that which we are proud of and which we believe adds value to us. Ittiba differentiates us, defines us, gives a sense of belonging and associates us with the Asl (the original who is being emulated) and reminds others about the original. The imitator is delighted when people forget him and remember the one, he is imitating. That is the essence of love. To love to be mistaken for the one you love. Let our appearance, our manners, our lives, and our deaths, be like the one Allah loves so that Malaika will look at us and say, “There goes a Mohammadi.”