When I embraced Islam over eleven years ago, saying the two shahadas was part of the process. I bear witness that there is no god but God and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger.
Until today I am still in the process of trying to understand the extent and greatness of these two statements. Honestly, learning about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) was not the first point on my agenda after embracing Islam. This is something I would do differently today.
In retrospect, learning about our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah shower His blessings upon him) and building a personal connection with him from the very beginning would have made some things easier. Why do I say that?
The Prophet Said
As new Muslims, we are sometimes overwhelmed by all the new things, the teachings, the practices and also the diversity in the teachings. We read (often unstructured) in the internet or try to understand books that were given to us.
Today, I wished that somebody would have told me to work on my love for Prophet Muhammad. I wished that somebody would have taken me and told me about this amazing person our Prophet was. About all these heart-warming and heart-breaking real-life-stories. About his feelings and not just his words.
Instead, I read narrations from our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) and what he said. Although I tried to follow his words, I was not able to fully connect. He (peace be upon him) felt distant and I was unable to connect him to my present moment.
How to Build a Connection
The missing connection hurt me but I did not really know how to change it. I wondered how I could better follow and imitate Prophet Muhammad. Then Allah sent me my first spiritual guide. It was him who started connecting me with our Beloved (peace be upon him) because he had already forged a connection with him.
My teacher opened up the feelings behind the words of the Prophet Muhammad. For example, he explained that following our beloved Prophet in reciting a certain du’a is not enough. Our Prophet did not have a collection of supplications to read from but his supplications reflected the state of his heart.
Our beloved Prophet (may Allah shower him with peace and blessings) was in constant remembrance and communication with Allah.
When he said ‘alhamdulilah’ after eating it was a sincere and profound expression of the inner state of his self. He felt a deep gratitude inside his heart for what Allah had given him. This deep felt gratitude then made him express this feelings in words and utter it loudly by saying ‘alhamdulilah’.
Learning about Our Prophet
After hearing my teacher’s explanations, I knew that I wanted this connection with Prophet Muhammad. I wanted these feelings. But it was still difficult for me to get this personal connection with our beloved Prophet. Then I started reading about his life.
Now, there are quite a few books written about his life. One of my teachers recommended reading Martin Ling’s Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. It is written in an accessible way and aimed to connect the reader’s heart with our beloved Prophet.
I was especially impressed by the way our Prophet Muhammad treated people who did not treat him well. He showed mercy to those who did not show mercy to him.
Stories of Strength and Mercy
It were these stories of character, strength, and mercy that really touched my heart. And I started feeling a bond develop between my heart and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
For example, the story about a blind Jewish beggar whom the Prophet fed regularly despite the fact that he always spoke bad about him. And he did it in such a soft, gentle and merciful way like no other human being can do.
Our beloved Prophet fed him every morning with his own hand despite the fact that this beggar would always talk bad about him and curse him. And he never revealed who he was.
After our Prophet Muhammad passed away from this temporary world, his closest companion Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him) went to feed this beggar. He had heard from his daughter, the Prophet’s wife that that was one of the deeds of the Prophet.
Once Abu Bakr As-Siddiq started feeding him, the beggar immediately recognized that it was not the person that had fed him before.
The beggar then described that before he always held the hand of the person feeding him. And he would make the food fine before feeding it to the beggar. Abu Bakr then cried and informed the blind beggar that the Prophet was no more.
This story really moved my heart and it does until today. It shows the amazing strength and the profound mercy of our Prophet. He was sent as a mercy to all the worlds, including this Jewish beggar who always talked bad about him.
A Letter to the Beloved
There are so many of these stories that can help us build a stronger and deeper connection with this best human being that has ever walked the earth. Besides reading his life story, there are other ways we can strengthen our relationship with our Beloved (peace be upon him).
Earlier this year, Anse Tamara Gray encouraged us to write a letter to the Beloved, our Prophet Muhammad. This was an amazing experience. Because it gave our feelings, love and yearning for him a concrete form. It was a way to reflect what he really means to us. And what a tremendous, uncountable blessing Allah gave to us by sending our Prophet Muhammad to us.
Writing our own personal letter helped to remind us once again to continuously work on improving our connection with our beloved Prophet. You can read some of the letters here: https://letterstothebeloved.com
Praises on the Prophet
In this special month of the Prophet’s birth, let us try and increase to send shalawat, praises, on him. As conversion is a process, so is building our connection to our Beloved Prophet.
We can always go deeper. We can always understand more. And we can always try to see and feel more. Our Prophet Muhammad was sent as a mercy to all the worlds, including our small personal world.
Reading praises on him will also invite Allah’s mercy on us. InshaAllah.
May Allah forgive us for our sins and mistakes and unite us with those we love.
(From Discovering Islam’s archive.)