The Qurān states, As for those who malign God’s Apostle – grievous suffering awaits them. (9:61) However, due to the now common ignorance regarding his status amongst Muslims many of us fall into the danger of being injurious to the Prophet, peace be upon him, without realizing it. This lack of respect is not merely bad manners toward the Prophet, peace be upon him, but as the ayah clearly states it is also recompensed with punishment. To avoid such a fate we must show due respect toward the Messenger of God, peace be upon him. To respect him we must know him. To know him we must know his attributes. Here we will show that the Prophet’s muḥammadiyya or praiseworthiness is not his own but is rather a reflection of God’s own value. Treating him like any other person, it will be shown below, causes one to fall into a trap that their own disrespect will not allow them to escape from. This ruse and its preliminaries will be explained in full detail below, God willing.
Muḥammadiyya or Praiseworthiness
The ‘Arabic suffix iyya indicates that which is of or relating to the word it is attached to. To relate is an act of telling or conveying. The name Muḥammad means, “he who is praised intensely.” Thus muḥammadiyya is the act of conveying one’s intense praise. This commendation may be self-generated or may come from another outside one’s self. It may also be self-received or given to another. In any account, praise is based upon one’s attributes. Attributes may be either temporary or permanent. Such laudation, then, may be either temporary or permanent, in turn.
As God has attributes, he also has a kind of muḥammadiyya. This state of the reception of praise when it comes to Him is pre-eternal as His qualities are pre-eternal. This is to say that there has never been a time when God failed to observe His own praiseworthiness. His self-respect, like His attributes, has no beginning and has no end. Therefore God’s self praise is a continual state. The English suffix ness denotes an action, quality, or state. In this sense one may refer to muhammadiyya as pre-eternal intensified praised-ness. For the sake of expediency we may refer to this activity as simply praiseworthiness in this article. I have chosen this term specifically as it’s the worthiness behind the One who is praised that explains both the existence and endurance of this quality.
When He created the creation He did so with this praise structure in place. Any creature that would come into being, then, would do so appearing within a context of a self-praising Lord. The fabric of the reality that this organism is woven into, then, is one built upon muḥammadiyya. For this reason praise is the natural inclination of all that dwells within time and space. To this end God states, The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein, glorify Him and there is not a thing but glorifies His Praise. But you understand not their glorification. Truly, He is Ever Forbearing, Oft-Forgiving. (17:44) God did not create in vain, as he says, who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire. (3:191) That which has an aim has an end or purpose. Therefore, the creation has a purpose.
This reasoning tends to imply that there would need to be something in the creation that fulfills its purpose. As the fabric of created existence is calibrated to harmonize with the reality of divine self-praise, it follows that there would be some created entity who meets the purpose of the universe that is engaged in the praise of the Lord in the most symphonic capacity. This is to say that there must be a creature that fulfills the nature of the creation, otherwise its objective would not be realized and therefore not meet out its purpose in full. Thus, there must be a creature that harmonizes with God’s self-laudation with full receptivity to save the universe from aimlessness. This individual is the Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him: ‘and we have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.” (21:107)
The Prophet Muḥammad, peace be upon him, as a Reflection of God’s Own Muḥammadiyya (Praiseworthiness)
When scholars treat the 99 Names of God, the Name al-Raḥmān precedes the rest. In this sense, it may be said that God’s Mercy is the basis of all His Names when the learned consider them. His Names are all virtuous. Thus His Mercy may be considered the basis of all God’s virtue, as we may understand it. That the Book itself states, My Mercy has enveloped everything,’ (7:156) tends to support this position.
Likewise, the Prophet, peace be upon him, is also valued primarily for his mercy. Sayyid ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, may Allāh have mercy upon him, stated from his book, The Muhammad the Perfect Man, in this regard
Allah says: ’And we have not sent you except as a mercy to the worlds’ [21:07]. He, peace be upon him, is the Messenger of
Mercy, whom Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He, sent as a mercy to all created beings: a mercy to the believers, and a mercy to the disbelievers, and a mercy to the hypocrites; a mercy to all humanity, men, women and children, and a mercy to the birds and the animals. He is an all-embracing mercy to all of Allah’s creation. As for his compassion, tenderness, and mercy for all of mankind, Allah says of him: ‘Grievous to him is your suffering; anxious is he over you, full of tenderness and mercy for the believers’ [9:128]. It has been said that it is a mark of the Prophet’s, peace be upon him, virtue that Allah gave two of His Names to him when He said ‘full of tenderness and mercy (ra’ūf raḥīm) for the believers. 
The word attribute is both a verb and a noun. As a verb attribute means to “assign or bestow,” as its Latin root includes the term tribueure literally meaning to give something (tribute). The same word, in a nominal capacity or as a noun distinguished by its pronunciation, means a “quality ascribed to someone. So, when the Prophet, peace be upon him, was gifted with these names (ra’ūf raḥīm) and others (for example he is also known as Awwal and Ākhir [First and Last, respectively]) their ascriptions to him remained gifts. In other words, they are not essential to him, peace be upon him, though his fundamental task is to reflect the presence of God. This representation may be found in ayat like, Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is not but a revelation revealed (53:4)  Revelation is a disclosure of information to person by a divine or supernatural agency. The stem of revelation or revelare or is to “unveil, uncover, lay bare.” As the word reveal means to unveil revelation, being an act of divine agency is an act of self-disclosure. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is the recipient of this divine unveiling as he is exposed to the Attribute of God, or the Qurān whose content is then consequently reflected out into the universe, by him peace be upon him. In this sense, the Prophet, peace be upon him, is a mirror echoing the presence of the Lord for all to experience. As he, peace be upon him, is described by cĀisha, may Allah be pleased with her, as “the Qurān walking,” it may be understood that he is a mirror that reflects the attributes of the one who disclosed Himself through revelation upon his blessed heart, peace be upon him. This act was deeply impressed upon all the believers fortunate enough to be in his blessed presence, peace be upon him. Nonetheless, being a mirror, whatever they cherished from his presence amongst them was not from him anymore than what a mirror displays as an image is from itself. Hence it may be said that the Prophet’s praiseworthiness, like that of His Creator, Exalted is He, is a reflection of the structure that God has presented to us of His own praiseworthiness via His Self-Disclosure to the Perfect Mirror, peace be upon him.
God’s Own Value is Demeaned When the Prophet’s Praiseworthiness is Degraded
No one can describe a mirror because it doesn’t have an identity of its own. Rather, it only shows the face of the one who looks into it, even if only as a representation. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is a mirror of God’s attributes, as demonstrated above. If a person is impressed by the image found in a mirror their praise of the representation in the mirror would be better suited for the one it reflects. Likewise, if a person takes issue with a reflection in a mirror, naturally, their contempt is not towards the mirror, itself. Their issue is with the one who looks into it. For this same reason, if one were to degrade the merit of the Prophet, peace be upon him, the mirror of God’s own praiseworthiness, they would be demeaning the virtue of the one who bestowed the Names on him, peace be upon him, in the first place. Thus, God’s own value is demeaned when the Prophet, peace be upon him’s, praiseworthiness is degraded.
Degradation of The Prophet, peace be upon him, is the Muslim’s Self-Deception
There are some amongst us who consider the Prophet, peace be upon him, to be but a postal worker; he merely delivered the message and has no other merit to God nor His creation. I say that this is not only spiritual blindness but an attitude that exposes one to a theological disaster that he or she who holds this unfortunate position would not be able to rescue themselves from.
To explain, if a person where to ask any believing Muslim (as some may be Muslim but only in name) if the Qurān is the Word of God, they would respond with unshakable confidence that it is. If this person where to ask them if there are any contradictions in the Book, so as to indicate some flaw or other within it and thereby disproving its sanctity as revelation, the response from this same woman of faith would be a similar stalwart display of confidence in its divine status. If asked if all praise is due to God (al-hamdulillah), as it claims, she would reply with matching fervor that this is the case and the Book itself states this to be the case. If she were asked at this point if this praise is shared with any of God’s creatures she would reply that it is not as the word all indicates that praise is limited to God alone. If this interrogator were to then request an explanation for how the Prophet, peace be upon him, is named “Muhammad,” a name which literally means the one who is praised intensely and the word all does not include any other entity so therefore all praise is only due to God and hence why the obvious contradiction, she might hesitate to respond. The reason for her delay is that if she says that praise is not all for God and therefore some of it is due to the Prophet, peace be upon him, she belies the Quran. If she says that the Prophet, peace be upon him, does not actually deserve the name she has committed yet another act of disbelief.  Fortunately, this is only an issue for those who don’t know anything of the reality of the Prophet’s praise, peace be upon him. Unfortunately, this ignorance is the case for many people who even claim to be the bastions of orthodoxy. It also seems apparent that this degradation of The Prophet, peace be upon him, to the level of a mere mail operative, may God forgive us, is our own ideologically self induced subterfuge.
Knowing the Reality of the Praise of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as Protection from Disbelief
To disrespect the Prophet, peace be upon him, is an act of disbelief. Such acts result in commitment to the Fire. These factors can be determined in this tradition:
It is related that a Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, asking for something. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, gave him something, and said to him: ‘Have I been good to you? The Bedouin man said: ‘No, and you have not acted decently! Some of the Muslims became angry and made as if to stand up to him. The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, indicated that they should stand down. He, peace be upon him, then went home, and sent the man something else, and said to him: ‘Have I been good to you? ‘The Bedouin replied: ‘Yes, may Allah reward you with goodness of family and kinsfolk!’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘You said what you said, and this has provoked something in the souls of my companions; so if you like, say before them what you just said before me, so that their ill feelings towards you leave their hearts.’ He agreed to this.
The next day, the man came back, and the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘This Bedouin said what he said, and then we gave him more, and he declared himself satisfied. Is that right? ‘The Bedouin said: ‘Yes, may Allah reward you with goodness of family and kinsfolk!’ The Prophet, peace be upon him, then said: ‘The likeness of myself and this Bedouin is as that of a man who had a camel that ran away, and the people gave chase but only succeeded it run further still. The owner of the camel said to them: ‘Get from between me and my camel, for I am gentler than you with it, and I know it better.’ He then went to it, and picked some grass for it, and called it, until it came to him and knelt. Then he secured to its saddle and mounted it. Had I left you when the man said what he said, and had you killed him, he would have gone to Hell.’ 
This man was not only dissatisfied with the Prophet’s generosity he told him that he was indecent. This was a grave error indeed as the Prophet, peace be upon him, explained to him and saved him from. This is the reason why the Prophet said, peace be upon him, ‘Had I left you when the man said what he said, and had you killed him, he would have gone to Hell.’  To disrespect is to fail to regard someone with deferential esteem. None of us would accept someone’s failure to treat us without due regard. God says about his beloved peace be upon him, The Prophet is more worthy of the believers than themselves… (33:6) In other words, the Prophet, peace be upon him, has more of a right to the natural respect we have for ourselves than we do. The Qurān is the word of God and God’s word deserves more reverence than any other speech. Thus if we claim to believe in revelation let us consider the fact that the natural reverence we have for ourselves, that doesn’t require a reason for us to justify doing so, belongs to him first, peace be upon him. The difference being, of course, that despite its not requiring a reason God has furnished it for us anyway.
We have attempted to explain part of this reason here so that our minds may not hinder our hearts from their own inclination, as creatures created in a structure of praise, to praise and be thankful. Part of this appreciativeness is due to the means who made things clear, peace be upon him. Indeed the tradition as reported by, “Abū Hurayra says: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “He has not thanked Allah who has not thanked people.”  If one hasn’t thanked Allah by thanking people what has one done with God when he hasn’t thanked the greatest of people, peace be upon him?
We have shown here that muḥammadiyya is praiseworthiness. Muḥammadiyya is a reflection of God’s own merit. We also demonstrated that God’s value is demeaned when the Prophet’s praiseworthiness is degraded. Degradation of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as has been shown, is a trap. The issue is clear; if we say that all praise is due to God, then how can He have named his messenger, peace be upon him, “Muhammad,” a name that means the one who is intensely praised? In doing so God appears to have shared His praise with one of His creatures, a problem that seems insurmountable if approached with the misunderstanding that most common Muslims have about the Prophet’s status, peace be upon him. Here, however, in an attempt to reframe this positioning into something far more appropriate for him, peace be upon him, we have shown that the Prophet’s muḥammadiyya or praiseworthiness is not his own but is rather a reflection of God’s praiseworthiness. Therefore, in the end, all praise is in fact due to Allah including the acknowledgement of His making Himself accessible to us via the reality of the Prophet’s praiseworthiness, peace be upon him. Knowing something of this reality, it appears, is the fortress of faith and hence an evident good.
 Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 133.
 In fact, there are many scholars who take the position that his entire life is revelation aiding and instructing us in some form or other.
 As God refers to him as Muhammad himself.
 Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 134.
 Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī al-Mālikī, Muḥammad the Perfect Man (n.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013), 134.
 Sunan Abu Dāwūd
al-Mālikī, Muḥammad ibn ‘Alawī. Muḥammad the Perfect Man. N.p.: Vision of Reality Books, 2013.
Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch converted to Islam at the age of 20 and has earned ijazas in Islamic Sciences including Quranic Sciences, Hadith, Maliki and Shafi’i Jurisprudence, Usul al-Fiqh, Seerah, Logic, and Arabic Grammar and Morphology under the tutelage of numerous scholars, including Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, Shaykh Salik bin Siddina, Imam Zaid Shakir, Shaykh Abdur Rahman Taahir, Qari Umar Bellahi, Shaykh Abdullah Ali, and Shaykh Yahya Rhodus.
Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch co-founded the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California where he served as the Imam till for 3 years until he resigned in 2012 to focus on his graduate studies. In addition, he was a teacher and a program developer for Deen Intensive Foundation, Seekers Guidance and has assisted Zaytuna College ‘s Summer Arabic Intensive program for three years in a row.
Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch has recently attained a Master’s degree in Philosophy at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, a member of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.
Many thanks to Imam Muhammad Abdul Latif Finch for contributing to this blog.
< About us