Love for the Prophet
Relationship with the Prophet
The beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the central point and apex of religious and spiritual authority for Imam Ahmad Raza (may Allah be pleased with him), the goal to which devotion to Pir lead, and all such forms of devotion are undertaken ultimately to reach Almighty Allah. Imam Ahmad Raza said on one occasion, “Whoever seeks the help of the saints and prophets, and of the Chief of the prophets [Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)]…. is in reality seeking Almighty Allah.”
His writings on the beloved Prophet Muhammad are extensive: numerous fatawa deal with the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) attributes, as do his diwan (collection of poems) of na’at [poetry in praise of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace)] poetry and his Malfuzat.
Veneration (adoration, respect) of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) has a long history in Sufi and popular devotionalism and goes back to figures like Hazrat Shaikh Ibn al-Arabi (may Allah be pleased with him), Hazrat Maulana Rumi (may Allah be pleased with him), etc and Imam Ahmad’s Malfuzat indicate his familiarity with the lives and writings of Sufis like Hazrat Junaid Baghdadi (may Allah be pleased with him), the Egyptian poet Hazrat al-Busiri (d.1298) who wrote the Burda in praise of the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), etc. Given his sophistication, learning and scholarship, it is likely that his vision of the beloved Prophet and of the Prophet’s place in the life of the believer was shaped by this Sufi tradition. Annemarie Schimmel [Mystical Dimensions] points as well to the popularity of naat poetry in the subcontinent since the Mughal period, written first in Persian and later Urdu and its regional languages such as Sindhi.
The resemblance in the themes of devotional poetry of the Muslim world generally, and those of Imam Ahmad Raza’s writings indicate that he was, indeed, writing within the context of this larger Sufi tradition. Annemarie Schimmel describer’s the poets concerns as follows:
From earliest times, the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), the beloved Messenger of God, had been the ideal for the faithful Muslim. His behavior, his acts, and his words served as models for the pious, who tried to imitate him as closely as possible even in the smallest details of outward life…. All the noble qualities of his body and his blessed soul were described in terms of marked admiration and respect.
With the concept and formulation of ‘Nur-e Muhammadi’ concept that the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) was created from Almighty Allah’s light and preceded the creation of the world and of Adam (AS). Prof of this belief was cited from the hadis, “If thou hadst not been I would not have created the heavens”. In subsequent centuries the concept of ‘Nur-e Muhammadi’ [light of Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)] was further developed until the theory of fana fi-‘l-rasul ‘annihilation in the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace)’ emerged in later Sufism and the beloved Prophet had now definitely become an intermediary between man and Allah.
Imam Ahmad Raza (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu) as a mufti writing fatawa, as a Sufi Pir giving guidance to his followers in his Malfuzat, and as a poet expressing his personal longings and passions, held much the same views. One of the major areas of difference between Ahmad Raza and his followers and the Deobandis was this subject. In his Malfuzat, he says:
Only the Prophet can reach God without intermediaries. This is why, on the Day of Resurrection, all the prophets, walis, and ‘ulema’ will gather in the Prophet’s presence and beg him to intercede for them with God…The Prophet cannot have an intermediary because he is perfect [kamil]. Perfection is connected on [mutafara] existence [wujud]; and the existence of the world is dependant upon the existence of the Prophet [which in turn is dependant on the existence of God]. In short, faith in the pre-eminence of the Prophet leads one to believe that only Allah has existence, everything else is His shadow.
The hierarchy is extremely clear: Almighty Allah, the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), the other prophets, the saints, and so on. Within this framework of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) essentially dependent relationship to Almighty Allah, however there are absolutely no limits to the qualities that may be ascribed to the Prophet . Imam Ahmad Raza (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu) quotes Hazrat Shaikh Abdul Haqq Muhaddis Dehlawi (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu), and the Egyptian poet al-Busiri (may Allah be pleased with him), in support of his view that:
Setting aside the claim that Christians make [about Jesus (AS) being divine], you can say whatever you wish in praise of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for there was no limit to the Prophet’s qualities.
This belief in the practical limitless virtues and abilities of the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), given him by Allah of His own will, is the basis for Imam Ahmad Raza’s assertion that the beloved Prophet has knowledge of the unseen (ilm-e ghaib), a claim denied by the Deobandis. This knowledge was said by Ahmad Raza to include (though by no means to be limited to) the five things said in the Holy Quran to be known to Allah. In certain respects, however the Allah-Prophet relationship is not clear as the above quotations would suggest. In the following passage from the Malfuzat, Ahmad Raza made the point that the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) is not ‘other than God’ (ghair-e khuda):
[The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) had to teach his followers how to recite the Quran in the early days of Islam.] After listening to the recitation of a sahabi, Abu Musa Ashari, at night [from his own house], he praised his reading the next morning. The sahabi said, O Prophet, had I known that your were listening, I would have read with even greater fervor (aur zyada bana kar parhta)…. [Ahamd Raza comments] The sahabi himself said he would have recited more forcefully for the Prophet, and the Prophet did not object. This proves that reading for the Prophet was not comparable to reading for one other than God (ghair-e khuda.) The Prophet’s business (mu’amala) is Allah’s business.
Imam Ahmad Raza (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu) also gave other examples of the identification of the beloved Prophet and Almighty Allah, such as Aisha’s statement that she was repenting to Allah and the Prophet. Once Imam Ahmad Raza was asked if it was permissible to use lanterns and carpets (and similar decorative items) at a milad-un-nabi function. He responded that it was permissible so long as the purpose of the decoration was to honor the Prophet, rather than some selfish or worldly motive, and reported this story:
Imam Ghazali (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu) wrote in his Ihya’al Ulum, on the basis of writing by Sayyid Abu Ali Rudhbari (Radhiya Allah ta’ala anhu), that a believer had organized a zikr meeting [remembrance of the Prophet’s name]. He had installed a thousand lights in the meeting hall. A guest arrived, and seeing the lights, began to leave [in disapproval of the host’s extravagance]. The organizer of the function held him back, took him inside, and said, Any light that has been lit for one other than God should be put out. The man tried to do so, but none of the lights could be extinguished.
The apparent equation of the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) with Almighty Allah is at first astonishing, and we know from numerous clearly stated passages that Imam Ahmad Raza’s writings that he did not equate the Prophet with Allah, but implied rather the strong sense of Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) prophecy, and the uniquely close relationship with Allah. While all believing Muslims see the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) as unique among humans by virtue of his calling, Imam Ahmad Raza seems to have had a heightened awareness of Prophet Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) ‘genuinely prophetic function’, causing him to place the Prophet at the center of his own life as a believer and Pir.
As may be expected, these ideas are expressed particularly forcefully in his poetry and in the following verses, the subject is Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) close relationship with Allah:
The two worlds seek to please God
God seeks to please Muhammad
(khuda ki riza chahte hain do alam
khuda chahta hai riza-e Muhammad)
Muhammad is the threshold to Allah
Allah is the threshold to Muhammad
(Muhammad bara-e janab-e ilahi
janab-e ilahi bara-e Muhammad)
A vow was made for all time
To unite Khuda’s happiness with Muhammad’s
(baham ahd bandhe hain wasl-e abad ka
riza-e khuda aur riza-e Muhammad)
In the following verse the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is seen as Almighty Allah’s beloved, completely united with Him:
I will call you only ‘Lord’ you are the beloved of the Lord
There is no ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ between the beloved and the Lover
(main to malik hi kahunga kih ho malik ke habib
yani mahbub o muhibb men nahin mera tera)
On the Prophet Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) night ascension (miraj), he became God’s bridegroom:
You went as a bridegroom of light
On your head a chaplet of light,
Wedding clothes of light on your body
(kya bana nam-e khuda asra dulha nur ka
sar pe sihra nur ka , bar men shahana nur ka)
As for his own relationship with the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace), Imam Ahmad Raza made it a conscious object of his life to immerse himself in serving the Master, the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) in whatever capacity he could. Small details about his say this most eloquently: he used to sign himself as ‘Abd al-Mustafa [‘Servant of Mustafa’, this meaning ‘the Chosen’ or ‘the Elect’, being one of Muhammad’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) names] on all correspondences, fatawa, and other writings. When asked about this at one of his daily meetings, he replied the name was the sign of good judgment (husn-e zann) in a Muslim, and cited a hadis in which Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was reported to have said that he considered himself a follower (banda) and servant (khadim) of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace). On another occasion he told those gathered about him that if his heart were to be broken into two pieces, it would b found that one part was inscribed the first part of the kalima, “there is no God but Allah”, and on the other was written the second half, “And Muhammad is His Prophet”.
Just as Shaikh Sayyiduna Abdul Qadir Jilani (may Allah be pleased with him) actively intervened on his behalf from time to time, so did Imam Ahmad Riza experience the beloved Prophet’s presence in a very personal way. When he was learning the art of divination (prediction) [ilm-e jafr), the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) appeared to him in a dream giving him permission (izn) to proceed with his study. On his second hajj in 1905-6, he spent a month at Medina, the Prophet’s birthplace, being present there during the Prophet’s birth anniversary celebrations on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal, and spent this entire period, he said, at the Prophet’s tomb, taking time off only once to visit the shrine of one Hazrat Maulana Daghastani (RA), and another time to go (ziyarat) the tomb of Hazrat Hamza (may Allah be pleased with him), the Prophet’s uncle. When he met the ‘ulema’ of Medina to engage in learned discussions, it was in the precincts of the Prophet’s (Allah bless him and give him peace) sacred tomb. This was for Imam Ahmad Raza the holiest place on earth; he was willing to go so far, indeed, as to say that Medina was better than Mecca, as in this verse:
O pilgrims! Come to the tomb of the kings of kings
You have seen the Kaaba, now see the Kaaba of the Kaaba
(hajiyo1 a’o shahenshah ka rauza dekho
ka’ba dekh chuke k’be ka ka’ba dekho
In Imam Ahmad Raza’s (may Allah be pleased with him) belief the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) is very much alive in his tomb, leading ‘a life of sense and feeling’, as do the other prophets. From his sacred grave the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) helps his ‘guests’, those who visit his tomb, in whatever capacity he sees fit.
It was particularly in the hope of being honored with a vision of the beloved Prophet at his tomb in Medina, Maulana Zafaruddin Bihari writes, that Imam Ahmad Raza had undertaken this second Hajj. While waiting for him to appear Ahmad Raza spent the first night composing a ghazal; the next night he presented the ghazal to the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and it was after this that ‘his qismat (fortune)’ awoke. His watchful vigilant eyes were blessed with the presence of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Unfortunately Imam Raza does not appear to have written about this experience. [His lengthy ghazal is in the Hada’iq-e Bakshish, and Dr. Usha Sanyal was unable to find any reference in it to his vision of the Prophet, though this is not surprising given Zafaruddin Bihari’s information that it was written before he had this experience.]
Imam Ahmad Raza’s personal devotion to the beloved Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) shines through in his poetry and some poems have become popular nationwide in Pakistan (and other parts of the world) and are recited particularly on the Prophet’s birth anniversary [Eid Milad un Nabi]. The simplicity, humility in the presence of the awesomeness of the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace), and grateful confidence in his forgiveness with which Imam Ahmad Raza addresses the Prophet, are apparent over and over again, as these verses from the extremely popular poem Karoron Durud:
I am tired you are my sanctuary
I am bound you are my refuge
My future is in your hands
Upon you be thousands of blessings
(khastah hum aur tum ma’az basta hun aur tum malaz
age jo shai ki riza, tum pe karoron durud)
My sins are limitless,
But you are forgiving and merciful
Forgive me my faults and offences
Upon you be thousands of blessings
(garche hain behad qasur, tum ho afu-e ghafur
bakhsh do jurm o khata tum karoron durud)
It was consistent with Imam Ahmad Raza’s (may Allah be pleased with him) personal piety and devotion to the beloved Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) that the Prophet’s birth anniversary on 12 Rabi-ul-Awwal, the Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi (or Maulud, both forms being derivatives of the Arabic root, walada, to give birth), was celebrated on a grand scale, as it was a time of rejoicing, eagerly anticipated by Imam Ahamd Raza Khan Qadiri (may Allah be pleased with him) and his followers.