“Delusions of Love - When The Heart Tries To Go It Alone” - Abrar Qadir
Among the more telling hadith regarding the Muslim’s relationship with the Prophet
involves Umar ibn al-Khataab’s declaration to the Prophet, “O’ Messenger of God, you are
dearer to me than everything except myself!” The Prophet responded, “By the One in whose
hand is my life, your faith will not be complete until I am dearer to you than your own self.”
After this, Umar (r) then said, “However, now, by Allah, you are dearer to me than my own
self.” At this the Prophet said, “Now, Umar, your faith is complete.”
In my experience, relating of this hadith tends to lead to a chorus of “SubhanAllah”, and
yet I can’t help but feel that layman understanding has neglected major lessons from this story.
The ultimate directive of this hadith is spelled out clearly, but the process for achieving this love
dearer than love of self often goes uncommented on. It is important to remember for a
moment the immensity of Umar ibn al-Khataab – the man who would have been a prophet had
prophecy not ended with the Seal (s), the man who was beloved to God even while bowing to
idols. This man, even this man, did not instinctually love the Prophet in a manner indicating
complete faith. This is despite being one of the great men to ever walk the earth, and being one
of the Prophet’s closest companions. This should cause the rest of us, at this point especially
those around the world boasting and barking of their desire to kill a no-name “filmmaker”, to
reflect on the validity our claims regarding our love for the Messenger of God.
Unlike Umar ibn al-Khataab, Muslims today have never held the Messenger’s hand,
never broken bread with him, never been reassured by his smiling face. And yet it too is
incumbent upon us to love the Messenger as Umar (r) did, more than our selves. This tells us
something about this love. In practice then it would seem that to conceive of this love as pure
instinct would be extremely shortsighted. All those things which inspire love for another are
glaringly absent from our relationship with the Prophet, namely those having to do with
familiarity of presence, and the bond of shared experience. It is clear then that unlike say the
love one has for their mother, love of the Prophet has a heavy intellectual element, layers
which cannot be added without intense reflection, thought, even planning, and perhaps most
importantly in light of recent events, knowledge.
One has to be on guard to ensure that love for “my Prophet” is not actually love
for “my”, with “Prophet” an arbitrary addendum. God repeatedly remarks in the Quran,
through stories of opposition to the prophets, the human tendency to love that which has been
passed down to you simply because it belongs to your inherited identity, despite not having
reflected on the substance of the belief. In response to the absurd film, many Muslims have
remarked on their ability to “do anything out of love for the Prophet.” (Referring of course to
their juvenile intentions to bring death to the filmmaker). The irony of course being that the
Prophet forcefully spoke against hot-headedness, and against “ends justify the means”
behavior. The irony is lost on those who have been taught love of the Prophet as a purely
emotional mechanism, even if they have knowledge of the Prophet’s patient and gentle
character. Even more hopeless is the situation for those who actually have never been taught
the inspiring stories of forbearance, and make no mistake there are plenty of Muslims who
physically recoil at criticism of the Prophet even if they cannot recite any incident from the
Seerah to explain what it is about the Prophet that they love. This is not proof of the Prophet’s
greatness; this is proof of the human capacity for shallowness.
If there is a takeaway from the riotous and misdirected vengeful response to this
pathetic attempt at a film, it is not just the crisis of Islamic education, but the folly of our
confidence about our love of the Prophet. In particular those who seem to be trying to take the
easy way out of the laborious efforts required to establish and nourish this love for the
Prophet. If anything, this reeks of laziness, as causing a ruckus, starting a few fires and making
cardboard signs makes for a much easier display of love than devoting one’s life to
understanding the essence of a 7th century Arab Prophet. If it took Umar (r) 5 minutes to think
through his dearer-than-life devotion to the Prophet, then to expect the same process to take
less than 5 decades for the rest of us is basically absurd. This is not a love which can blossom
without careful thought, a thirst for knowledge of the Seerah, and hours of silent reflection.
When the aqal is not an active participant in the process, displays of this love will similarly be
devoid of sanity. Thus do we have a situation where the intellect did not warn protestors that a
poor quality film with minimal viewership will die a very quick death unless it becomes the basis
for mobbing embassies.
Going forward, let us be honest with ourselves, the way Umar ibn al-Khataab was. Let us
not pretend we’ve put in the necessary work to have developed a love of epic proportions for
the Prophet. The heart cannot make this journey alone – prepare the Ummah’s collective
intellect for the long, winding road to love.
Abrar Qadir is a recent graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, currently residing in
California’s Bay Area. His articles can be found on AltMuslimah.com, and he maintains a regular
blog at Punjabirefill.wordpress.com.