A Life of True Worship
One of the gaps in the classical works on Seerah, or the life-story of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, is the absence of a unified image of him as a dedicated worshipper. Instead, the works are mainly concerned with the political developments and the various struggles of early Muslims. Many aspects of the character of the Prophet ﷺ are found in the Quran, books of Hadith, and Shamael (which covers intricate details of the Prophet’s ﷺ appearance and manners). This article seeks to shed some light on the Prophet’s ﷺ dedication to worship through a few examples from the Quran and Hadith that will help us recognize the heart of Muhammad ﷺ.
(1) The Quran commands the Prophet ﷺ to dedicate his life to worship.
Allah ﷻ commands the Prophet ﷺ, “And worship your Lord until death comes to you” (Quran 15:99). In another verse, Allah ﷻ says, “O you who are enwrapped ‘in a mantle’ [out of fear and awe], arise to pray during the night, except for a little ‘of it’. Or ‘pray’ half of it, or lessen the same a little, or add thereto. And ‘therein’ recite the Quran perfectly. For we shall assuredly cast upon you a weighty Word [the Quran]. And, indeed, rising at night ‘for prayer’ makes for a stronger impression ‘on the soul,’ and is best for the recitation of God’s word.’ Indeed, during the daytime you shall have lengthy occupations ‘in calling to God.’ So remember with praise the name of your Lord. Thus shall you devote yourself with sincere devotion to Him alone—the Lord of the East and the West. There is no God but Him! So take him alone as a guardian” (Quran 73: 1-8). These commands highly illustrated in the life of the Prophet ﷺ; yet, they are absent in the books of Seerah.
(2) To the Prophet ﷺ , prayer was a source of comfort.
Abdullah ibn Ash-Shikheer is reported to have said: “I came to the Prophet ﷺ while he was praying, and his chest sounded like a boiling kettle.” Salah was the favorite resort for the Prophet ﷺ on many occasions. Whenever the Prophet ﷺ faced any difficulty, he sought prayer asking Bilal to call the athan saying: “Bring comfort to us by calling it.” The Prophet ﷺ loved prayer so much that he said about it: “Salah is the pleasure of my eye.” He loved to stand before Allah; praying for a long time. According to Imam al-Bukhari, Ibn Mas’ud said: “I prayed with the Prophet ﷺ one night, and his standing was so long that I thought of something bad!” He was asked: “What did you think of?” His reply: “To sit down and leave him [the Prophet] standing!”
There are many Hadith that explain how devoted the Prophet ﷺ was to prayer despite his sinless life. For instance, Imam Muslim reported on the authority of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her): “The Prophet ﷺ kept standing (in prayer) so long that the skin of his feet would crack. I asked him: “Why do you do this, while your past and coming sins are forgiven?” He said, “Should I not be a grateful servant of Allah?” Thus the Prophet’s ﷺ closeness to Allah ﷻ did not lead him to pride. On the contrary, it led him to more humility and worship as a proof of gratitude to Allah ﷻ. In another Hadith, Aisha, (may Allah be pleased with her), described the Prophet’s ﷺ Salah: “Indeed, the Prophet ﷺ used to pray eleven rak’as. This is how he used to pray [at night]. His Sujud would last as long as one of you takes to recite fifty ayat. Thereafter, he would pray two rakats before Fajr prayer; then, he would lie down on his right side untl the athan for Salah is called” (Reported by al-Bukhari).
(3) The Prophet ﷺ had frequent Munajah or intimate conversations with Allah ﷻ.
Ibn Abbas reported that the Prophet ﷺ used to say when waking up for voluntary night prayer: “O Allah, to you is all praise. You are the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and what is therein. To You is all praise. To You is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is therein. To You is all praise. You are the Light of the heaven and the earth and what is therein. To You is all praise. You are the King of the heavens and the earth. To You is all praise. You are the Truth, Your promise is the Truth, Your word is the truth, heaven is true, hell is true, prophets are true, and Muhammad is true. O Allah, to You I submit, in You I believe, on You I put my trust, to You I turn, with Your help I give arguments, and You do I take as a Judge. So forgive my sins past and future, secret and public for no one forgives sins but You.” (Reported by Imam Muslim).
(4) The Prophet ﷺ had a heartfelt relationship with the Quran.
The Prophet’s ﷺ heart was so soft that he would weep whenever he listened to the Quran, especially the verses that remind him of his prophetic tasks. Ibn Mas’ud said: “Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said to me, ‘Recite the Qur’an for me.’ I said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, shall I recite the Qur’an for you, whereas it has been revealed to you?’ He replied, ‘I love to hear from others.’ Upon this I started reciting Surat An-Nisa. When I reached the Ayah: ‘How [shall it be] then, when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you [O Muhammad] as a witness against these people?’ (Quran 4:41) He said, ‘That is enough.’ When I looked at him, his eyes were tearful” (Narrated by Imam al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim).
(5) The Prophet ﷺ used to contemplate on the glory and creations of Allah ﷻ.
Imam al-Bukhari reported that Ibn Abbas said: “While I was staying with my aunt Maymounah, [I noticed that] the Prophet ﷺ spent some time conversing with his family, and then he slept. At the last third of the night, the Prophet ﷺ woke up and looked at the sky and recited: ‘Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alteration of night and day are signs for those who reflect. Those who remember Allah while standing, sitting and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: ‘Our Lord, You have not created this in vain. Holy be You. So save us from the torment of the hellfire’ (Quran 3:190-191).Thereafter, the Prophet ﷺ made wudu’ and then prayed eleven rak’as. Thereafter Bilal called the athan. Then the Prophet ﷺ prayed two rak’as and went out to offer the morning prayer [in congregation] with people.”
(6) The Prophet ﷺ frequently fasted.
Here is a list of his fasts:
a) The month of Ramadan.
b) The month of Sha’ban except for a few days.
c) Mondays and Thursdays of each week.
d) The 13th, 14th, and 15th of every Hijri month even if he was traveling.
e) The 9th of Muharram and the 9th of Dhul-Hijjah
f) Al-wisal fasting; that is, to fast successive days without breaking the fast at all. However, the Prophet ﷺ forbade his companions from this kind of fasting, saying: “It is my Lord Who feeds me!”
g) Sometimes, if he woke up and found no food for breakfast, he would intend fasting that day until sunset.
(7) The Prophet ﷺ was a generous giver.
Ibn Abbas reported: “The Messenger of Allah is the most generous of all people; and he is extremely generous during the month of Ramadan when Jibril met with him. In Ramadan, Jibril used to meet with the Prophet ﷺ every night reciting the Quran to him. During this period, the Prophet ﷺ was more generous than the free-blowing wind!”
(8) The Prophet ﷺ practiced I’tikaf (Seclusion in the Masjid for Worship) as a spiritual vacation.
Abu Hurairah reported: The Prophet ﷺ used to observe i’tikaf every year (during Ramadan) for ten days. However, in the year when he passed away, he observed i’tikaf for twenty days [Al-Bukhari].
(9) The Prophet ﷺ was a role model in seeking God’s forgiveness.
In his Sahih, Imam Muslim reported, on the authority of al-Aghar al-Muzni that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Sometimes I forget [thikr of Allah], and I would do istighfar [asking Allah for forgiveness] more than one hundred times a day.” It is noteworthy to mention that the Prophet ﷺ considers his ‘forgetfulness’ a sin! We all understand that any religious act missed out of ignorance or forgetfulness can be excused or made up. However, because of his higher level of faith, the Prophet ﷺ considered his forgetfulness a sin that requires repentance. Here is an example of the Prophet ﷺIstighfar, usually called Sayyid al-Istighfar (the best form of seeking God’s forgiveness) that shows the Prophet’s ﷺ humility and gratitude and complete reliance on Allah ﷻ: “O Allah! You are my Lord. No one deserves to be worshipped except You. You created me, and I am Your servant. I will constantly keep my covenant of obeying You and my expectation of getting rewarded by You as much as I can. I seek Your refuge from the evil I did. I acknowledge the blessings You bestowed on me, and I confess my sins to You; So, forgive me for no one forgives sins but You.”
(10) The Prophet ﷺ lived in the presence of Allah ﷻ.
The Prophet’s ﷺ love of Allah ﷻ was so overwhelming and genuine that anything that happened around him reminded him of Allah ﷻ. He was simply God-oriented. He had a prayer for every occasion during the day and night. He had a set of long prayers or du’as to be recited in the morning and the evening. His daily activities connected with prayers as he had sets of prayers to be recited before he slept, when he woke up, wore his clothes, wore new clothes, saw someone wearing new clothes, used the bathroom, left the bathroom …etc. Natural phenomenon around him was similarly a reminder of Allah ﷻ. For example, he had a prayer to be recited when it rained or when there was a change in the weather. It is highly recommended to check out Hisn-ul-Muslim or books of Athkar for all the daily du’as of the Prophet ﷺ to recognize his pure heart like never before.
To conclude, the more you recognize Allah ﷻ and His attributes, the more obedient to Him you will be. That is why the Prophet ﷺ was the perfect example of showing submission to Allah ﷻ, simply because he had the perfect understanding of Allah ﷻ and His glory.
By Sh. Ahmed Arafat