Many Muslims claim to love Allah and His Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) yet our actions and appearances say otherwise. Yes, Allah does not look at your appearance but the nature of the deed and the heart and yes, Allah is the final judge… but would not the lover imitate their beloved? If you love someone, you want to speak about that person constantly and emulate your beloved and do do everything that your beloved likes because you LOVE that person. Love can not be very deep and sincere if it is mere words. To love a person you need to know much about them- their likes; dislikes; habits; etc.
Allah says in Qur-aan Kareem:
O Prophet! Indeed We have sent you as a witness, and a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. And as one who invites towards Allah by His command and as a lamp spreading light”. [Surah Ahzaab, v:45 & 46]
Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki explains why Seerah is important thus:
Definition of Seerah
The word Seerah has a linguistic meaning which means a path. Walking is called “Sair”, when you walk from one place to another it is called “Saara Fulaan” or a person is walking.
So it is a path which a person takes during his life time. The Hans-Wehr dictionary gives the translation of Seerah as conduct, comportment, demeanor, attitude, behavior, way of life, attitude, position, reaction, way of acting and biography. All of these are meanings of Seerah. Seerah could be the biography of any person, not just Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), however we have used the word so much with Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), that when we say Seerah, we almost all the time are referring to the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). However, we can say the seerah of Abu Bakr (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu), Seerah of ‘Umar (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) and so on. So Seerah is a biography of a person, their life.
In this situation we are studying the life of the greatest, Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).
What is the importance of studying Seerah?
No 1: History of Islam
The life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is the history of Islam. You are studying the concise history Islam. By studying the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). In his Seerah you would find situations and incidences that would help us in everything that we would need to know in our life of dawah. So we are not just studying the biography of a person, we are studying the history of our religion.
Muhammad ibn Sa’d ibn Waqqaas (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu), son of Sa’d ibn Waqqaas (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) who is one of the ‘Asharah Mubashsharah, (one of the ten who were given glad tidings of Paradise in this world)- would say “Our father would teach us the battles of Rasool Allah, he would teach us the seerah of Rasool Allah and he would tell us that these are the traditions of your fathers, so study them”. They used to refer to Seerah as “Maghazi”. Maghazi means battles. The latter part of life of Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) were spent in Maghazi. So they would use the word Maghazi to refer to the whole life of Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).
Ali bin Hussain ibn Ali bin Abi Talib (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhuma)- the grandson of Ali ibn Abi Talib (RadhiyAllahu ‘anhu) would say “We were taught the Seerah of Rasool Allah like we were taught Qur-aan”. That is how important Seerah was for them. They would study it like they studied Quran.
All of the lives of the Anbiyaa were recorded in the Qur-aan with the exception of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). So to study the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) we go to Seerah. When we want to learn about the Anbiyaa, we go to the Qur-aan. But when we want to learn about Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), we go to Seerah, even though there are some references about him in the Qur-aan.
No 2: Love
The second reason to study Seerah is to develop the proper love of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) in our hearts. Loving Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is ‘Ibaadah. It is part of our religion to love Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).
Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said: “None of you will attain true faith until you love me more than your parents, your children and the whole world” (Bukhari, Book of Belief, Hadith 14)
We don’t really become true believers until we love Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) more than any thing else. So it is part of Islam to love Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam).
‘Umar bin Khattab (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) he came to Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and said…. He was a very honest and a straight forward person. So went to Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and said O Rasool Allah I love more than everything except my self” I love you more than anyone except my self”.
Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) told him “until you love me”, meaning you don’t really attain the complete faith until you love me more than your own self. So ‘Umar bin Khattab (RadiyAllahu ‘anhu) came back and said” O Rasool Allah, Now I love you more than my own self”. Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) said “Al aan imaan ” Now you have attained the complete faith”.
The Ummah today loves Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). If you ask any Muslim “Do you love Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam)?”, they would say yes.
So even though the Ummah today with the shallow information that the masses of Muslims have about him, still love him, but we can not truly have deep love for Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) unless we (as Sahaabah did).
So we want to develop love for Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam), and the way we can do it is by studying his life (and the lives of the Sahaabah with Rasoolullah Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) , we will love him more, the more we study about him.
Allah tala saya “Say:If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives or your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Faasiqoon (the rebellious, disobedient to Allâh) (Surah Taubah: 24)
This ayah states that our love for Allah and his Messenger and striving in the cause of Allah and his Messenger should be paramount to everything else. Our fathers, our sons, our brothers, our mates, our kindred, our wealth- everything. To love our Messenger and Islam should be the dearest thing to every one of us.
No 3: To follow the Best Example
Ibn Hajar (rahimahullah) says who ever seeks the pre-eminence of the hereafter, the wisdom of this life, just purpose,and the embodiment of morality and character, let him follow Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) the Prophet of Allah. So Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) is the embodiment of “Khuluq”- The perfect character. And by studying his Seerah, we will be more able to follow his way.
No 4: Understanding Qur-aan
There are some aayaats (verses) in the Qur-aan that are independent of the circumstances of revelation. Like for example, the aayaat about the Aakhirah. These are independent of the circumstances. But then there are some aayaat that are dealing with events that were happening in the time of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). So you would have some aayaat revealed prior to an event, some aayaat revealed concurrent with an event and some aayaat revealed after an event.
Seerah gives us the explanation of these aayaat. Like for example Suratul Ahzaab. Manay aayaat of Surah Ahzaab were revealed regarding the battle of Al-Ahzaab (Khandaq). Many aayaat in Surah Aal-‘Imraan were revealed relating to an event that happened in the time of Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). So you have a major section of Surah Aal-‘Imraan, which was a dialogue between Muslims and Christians, based on the Christian delegation that came from Najran to visit Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). These ayaat were revealed to support Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) in his dialogue with the Christians. And the latter part of Aal-‘Imraan is dealing with Ghazwah (Battle) of Uhud. Now the details of the ghazwah are not mentioned in the Surah. So how can we understand these aayaat? By referring to Seerah.
No 5: His life (Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) illustrates the methodological steps of the Islamic movement.
Rasool Allah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) went through stages. He went through steps started by a secret da’wah. And then it became public. And then later on Jihaad. These stages are important for Islamic movement. And we believe that this methodological progression of the prophet’s life is divinely directed. For Allah has guided his prophet and all of his steps, and it was not a result of a reaction to an emerging circumstance. So these events that happened in the life of Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) were not haphazard. They were planned by Allah Subhana wa Ta’ala. So that they would be a guidance for us, in our attempts to establish Islam again. So it is very important for us to see the stages that Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) went through and the progression of his da’wah.
Rasheed Rida says that were it not for the education and training, verbal direction would not suffice. For the Seerah taught them how to be guided by the Qur-aan and trained them to be just and moderate in all matters. So, we have Qur-aan and Sunnah which are verbal teachings, but how do we apply these verbal teachings? By looking at the application of Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) and the Sahaabah (radiyAllahu ‘anhum). So they took this verbal teaching into action and that is something that only the Muslims have, I mean the followers of all other Anbiyaa (Prophets) have lost trace of the Seerah of their anbiyaa, but with us we know how the Qur-aan was being practiced, we know how the Sunnah of Rasoolullah (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) was being practiced and applied.
No 6: Studying Seerah is ‘Ibaadah
We are not doing this to entertain our selves. This is ‘ibaadah. There is ajr (reward) in studying this. We are worshipping Allah by coming together and studying the life of Muhammad (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam). Allah says “Say if you do love Allah then follow me (i.e. Muhammad Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”(Aal ‘Imraan 3: 31)
No 7: Developing a Muslim Identity
There is a global culture that is being forced down the throats of everyone on the face of the earth. This global culture is protected and promoted. Thomas Friedman, a famous writer in the US who writes for the New York Times says, “The hidden hand of the market can not survive without the hidden fist. Mc Donalds will never flourish without Mc Donald Douglas- the designer of F15s”.
In other words, we are not really dealing with a global culture that is benign or compassionate. This is a culture that gives you no choice. Either accept Mc Donalds, otherwise Mc Donald Douglas will send their F15s above your head. It is very intolerant culture, that can not co-exist with anything else. It uproots every other culture on the face of the earth. Just cuts the roots of it. And you have a quote here by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, famous Russian Historian and author writes “To destroy a people, you must sever their roots”. So it’s really a destruction of the people of the earth because every other culture is being demolished. So this is not a global culture that will co-exist with others, it will replace others. And the only ideology that is standing up to this global culture is ISLAM. But still, as Muslims and especially Muslims living in the west, we are suffering from a serious identity crisis. Our youth know more about pop-stars than they know about the Sahaabah (Companions) of Rasool (Sallallahu ‘Alayhi wa Sallam) . Infact even sometimes more than the Anbiyaa. How many of our youth know the names of all of the Anbiyaa of Allah or the Sahaabah (RadiyAllahu ‘anhum)? But ask the same person to name the soccer players on their favorite team or their best basketball players and they would go down the list. So there is a serious identity crisis that is going on among Muslims.
We will continue with steps to counter identity crisis and develop Muslim Identity as discussed by Shaykh Anwar al-Awlaki (rahimahullah).