Notes from Bukhari
Anas radi Allahu ‘anhu (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind.”
Several questions come to peoples’ minds when they come across this hadith (report of the words of the Prophet ﷺ). Does this mean that we are not believers unless we love the Prophet ﷺ more than anyone else? How do I achieve this level of love if I’ve never even met him ﷺ? How can I love him ﷺ more than my own father or mother?
The hadith is in the chapter of iman (faith) in Imam Bukhari’s Sahih. He cites two chains of narrators for this hadith, however the actual text of the hadith that he cites is the version narrated by Qatada from Anas. The text of the other narration through Abd al-Aziz has a slight variation where instead of ‘father and children’ it says ‘family and wealth.’
The hadith begins with the expression ‘none of you’ (ahadukum) which some people may assume refers only to the Sahaba (Companions) directly. But other narrations of the hadith have ‘none’ (ahadun) in one version and ‘person/man’ (al-rajul) in another version, making it definitely more encompassing and applicable to everyone at all times.
‘None of you will have faith’
Although the wording in the hadith ‘None of you will have faith’ seems to negate faith for the one who does not love the Prophet ﷺ more than everyone else, that is not actually the case. Imam ibn Hajar mentions that the negation of faith here refers to the negation of perfection or completion of faith. So it would mean ‘None of you will have perfect/complete faith…’
‘till he loves me’
What is intended by the word ‘love’ (hub) here? Al-Khattabi says that it is referring to voluntary love (hub al-ikhtiyar). There are two types of love, a natural love (hub al-tab’i) and a voluntary love (hub al-ikhtiyar). Natural love stems from our human nature or in other words the way we have been created. Most people love beauty, power, pleasures, wealth, etc. These instincts are ingrained within our nature as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) says,
Beautified for people is the love of that which they desire – of women and sons, heaped-up sums of gold and silver [wealth], fine branded horses, and cattle and tilled land. (Qur’an 3:14)
On the other hand, voluntary love is a result of choice, usually after reflection and understanding. You may meet a person towards whom you are initially indifferent. After spending some time with the person you may discover he or she has some really fine qualities or it may be that the person sacrifices for you or benefits you in some significant way that you grow to admire and love that person. This is voluntary love. You choose to love that person for a reason.
Therefore the hadith contains a subtle indication regarding the importance of using the intellect to reflect and ponder over matters. In other words to attain this level of love the first thing that is needed is reflection. For most people usually the object of love is either their own self or others. With regards to their own self, the most desirable state is to live eternally without defects or shortcomings.
Therefore when you reflect on how the Prophet ﷺ has benefitted you by conveying the message of Islam to the extent that today you are a Muslim, after Allah’s decree, due to the sacrifice of the Prophet ﷺ in the face of persecution, attacks, loss of wealth, homeland and risks to his own life. When you reflect on the fact that the benefit of religious guidance – which leads to eternal happiness and joy in Paradise and safety from eternal pain and despair in Hell – is the greatest favour and benefit to be desired. When you further reflect on the fact that on the day of judgement when no other creation of Allah (swt) can help you, the Prophet ﷺ will be in prostration to Allah (swt) pleading to save his ummah (community), a day in which your own mother will not give one of her good deeds to ransom you nor would you ransom her. When you reflect on the fact that when you send peace and salutations on the Prophet ﷺ Allah (swt) returns ten peace and salutations on you. Subhan’Allah (glory be to God)! When you reflect on his sublime character, impeccable manners, justice, mercy, and his devotion to Allah (swt), you can only arrive at the conclusion that the only person deserving your highest love is the beloved Prophet ﷺ because his benefit to you is the greatest and the most lasting.
Notice how Allah (swt) blessed the Prophet ﷺ with the best lineage, a beautiful physical appearance, the highest eloquence, and Prophethood through His (swt) mercy. In other words, Allah (swt) made it easy for people to love him by making him an object of natural love as well as voluntary love. His physical attributes make people love him naturally and his actions and character as a Prophet make people love him voluntarily, of their own choice.
However this love cannot be of mere words or appearances or even celebrations without action. It has to be a real love and yearning that emanates from the heart and results in actions. As Ibn Hajar says, if you were to be given the choice between attaining the most beloved thing in the world and seeing the Prophet ﷺ, you would choose the latter. Furthermore this love should manifest in your attachment to and defence of his sunnah (tradition) and shari’ah (law) and resisting all that contradicts them. This love should result in true following (ittiba’) of the Prophet ﷺ in what he deemed halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible) in all aspects of our lives. Obedience and emulation are the signs of true love.
‘More than his father, children, and all of mankind.’
Does this include ‘more than’ your mother? Yes, because often times in Arabic, mentioning one from a pair is like mentioning both, and also because of the next question.
Does this include loving the Prophet ﷺ more than loving yourself? Yes, as illustrated in another famous hadith in Bukhari in which Umar (ra) says to the Prophet ﷺ that the Prophet is more beloved to him than anything else, except for his own self. The Prophet ﷺsays ‘No, by the One in whose hands is my soul, not until I become more beloved to you than your own self.’ After Umar complies and confirms this, the Prophet ﷺ replies, ‘Now (you have attained it), O Umar.’
So as we can see our iman (faith) is incomplete unless we love the Prophet ﷺ above all else. This can be attained by serious reflection on who he was and how he benefitted us. But it must also manifest in action, obedience, and true emulation of the beloved Messenger ﷺ as Allah (swt) decreed – in other words through living by his teachings.