From time to time God has chosen prophets and messengers among us to guide us in His path while some of us we followed them but most of us we did not follow them (57:26-27), and even those of us we followed them did not do it in a right way as commanded by God due to arrogance or misunderstanding of His commands. When God has ordered us to follow, support and respect His prophet who has delievered the Quran, the final edition of His scripture, but these orders have been misinterpreted without realizing the need at time as well as being unaware of the consequences.
How to respect God’s messenger
Let us examine English translations along with the Arabic text of the verses containing such orders for better understanding of the messages in the verses to protect us from falling into idol worshiping because of personality cult, which is an unforgiveable sin (4:48, 4:116) if maintained until death (39:53).
[3:31] Say: “If you love God, then you shall follow me (prophet); God will love you and He will forgive for you your sins.” And God is Forgiving, Merciful.
Note: There should not be any doubt that this order from God for the believers to follow the prophet for the scripture what has been sent down to him i.e., the Quran when he had a direct contact with the people as well as for the believers of the subsequent generations when he has not been among them. Hence, the order for us now to follow the message (Quran) what he left for us but none can find any logic to interpret it to be an order from God for the believers to follow his sayings or how he had led his family life.
[33:56] Indeed, God and His angels support the prophet. O you who have believed, you shall support him, and shall regard him as he should be regarded.
Note: This order is for the contemporary believers to support the prophet as well as to respect him as he should be respected at his lifetime. As we all know that the sole mission of the prophet was to deliver the message (3:20) and he had to face strong opposition to deliver the God’s message. Even he had to migrate from Mecca to Medina and had fought many battles in his lifetime. As such, both physical and financial support was required in spreading of God’s message and to practice God religion freely. History indicates that the role of many early Muslims including his first wife Khadija, Abu Bakr, Omar and Ali et al is mention worthy for the sake of Islam. We also know that Muhammad was a messenger of God as well as a prophet. If the relevant verses are clearly examined , it clearly indicates that the word “prophet” is used in reference to Muhammad in the Quran, which invariably refers to him during his life not after his death. Additional examples are found in 3:161, 9:73, 33:53, 33:59, 49:2 and 66:3. The order from God how to respect the prophet is found in 49:1, 49:2, 49:3, 49:4 as detailed out below. So the interpretation of the Arabic word, “Salloo” to “send blessings” for the prophet instead of “support” is obviously a misinterpretation. Hence, the order for us now is to follow the message (Quran) what he left for us.
[49:1] O you who have believed, you do not place ahead of God and His messenger. You shall shall fear God. Indeed, God is Hearer, Knower.
Note: Since the messenger delivered the God’s message and he strictly followed His commands, the believers should not have any opinion and plan other than God and His messenger.
[49:2] O you who have believed, you do not raise your voices above the voice of the prophet, nor do you be loud to him in speech like the loudness of one of you to other that it nullifies your deeds while you do not perceive.
[49:3] Indeed, those who lower their voices to a messenger of God, those of whom God has tested their hearts for the righteousness; for them there is forgiveness and a great reward.
Note: In 49:2-3 God has taught the contemporary believers how they should behave with the messenger during his lifetime. Obviously, they could not possibly raise their voices above the prophet’s voice. In addition, respecting the prophet helps outsiders and visitors in coming to God’s message.
[49:4] Indeed, those who call you (prophet) from behind the walls, most of them do not understand.
49:5] And if they had been patient until you came out to them, certainly, it would be better for them. And God is Forgiving, Merciful.
Note: It is also a God’s teaching for the contemporary believers to respect the messenger when he was alive. As the prophet was a fatherly figure among the believers, it was not befitting for them to call him from the other side of the wall.
The prophet was a leader and a commander-in-chief. He had dealt with war plans, captives and the distribution of war spoils as he had to fight many battles. As such, It was required for the contemporary believers to carry out his plans and commands to support the prophet to maintain discipline among the believers as well as to make success of his plans for establishing God’s message against strong opposition. What should be the answer of the question “Would it be the same manner to respect the prophet when he was alive and when he is no more among us?” The answer is “No” as God has clearly mentioned in the Quran how the contemporary believers should respect the prophet. Thus, some of the commands are not equally applicable to the believers of the later generations. Now he is dead and we can respect him just to follow the message what he left for us. So any order from God in the entire Quran to follow and obey the prophet or messenger is to follow the message (Quran) not prophet’s sayings or sunnah as claimed to make us idol worshippers (3:79) as he had no other mission beside to deliver and follow what was revealed to him from his Lord (3:20, 6:50, 7:203 &10:15).