Throughout the Islamic literature, two roles of The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) are continuously brought upfront and emphasized:
- His slavery and worship to God (ubudiyyah)
- His messengerhood (risale).
Indeed, even the shahada (declaration of faith) states these two roles. So what is the significance behind them?
Slavery and worship (ubudiyyah)
Nobody can reach the level of worship of The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). He worships God in a manner that leaves even the other prophets (عليهم السلام) behind. Indeed, we see this in the following hadith,
حَدَّثَنِي الْحَكَمُ بْنُ مُوسَى أَبُو صَالِحٍ، حَدَّثَنَا هِقْلٌ، – يَعْنِي ابْنَ زِيَادٍ – عَنِ الأَوْزَاعِيِّ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو عَمَّارٍ، حَدَّثَنِي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ فَرُّوخَ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم “ أَنَا سَيِّدُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَأَوَّلُ مَنْ يَنْشَقُّ عَنْهُ الْقَبْرُ وَأَوَّلُ شَافِعٍ وَأَوَّلُ مُشَفَّعٍ ” .
Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: I shall be pre-eminent amongst the descendants of Adam on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first intercessor and the first whose intercession will be accepted (by Allah).
Sahih Muslim 2278
Chapter 2: The Superiority Of Our Prophet (SAW) Over All Of Creation, Book 43: The Book of Virtues
He is the best example among other prophets (عليهم السلام) and the rest of creation in terms of worship.
Furthermore, by the hadith
وعن أبي مسعود عقبة بن عمرو الأنصاري البدي رضي الله عنه قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: “من دل على خير فله مثل أجر فاعله” (رواه مسلم).
Abu Mas’ud ‘Uqbah bin ‘Amr Al-Ansari Al-Badri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “Whoever guides someone to virtue will be rewarded equivalent to him who practices that good action”. [Muslim].
Riyad as-Salihin 173
Chapter 20: Calling to right guidance and forbidding depravity, Book: The Book of Miscellany
The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) receives a reward for every single good deed carried out by every single Muslim since his time up until the day of judgment. In a sense, The Prophet’s (ﷺ) worship encompasses that of all Muslims.
So he is a model for the worship of his followers by encompassing their worship and a model for the worship of other prophets (عليهم السلام) (and thus their followers two) by serving as a role model. Essentially, he (ﷺ) is a model of the entire humankind and all of creation before God in regards to worship.
Furthermore, he acts as a representative of the creation by offering the worship of the entire creation to God in addition to his own. So he not only offers his own worship to Allah (ﷻ) but that of others as well. [see The Words, The Tenth Word, The Fifth Truth and The Words, The Eleventh Word]
To illustrate this, imagine that a poor man enters a palace to offer some gifts for the sultan. Upon entering, he sees gifts worth of millions of Liras offered by people far wealthier than himself.
Ashamed by his own, he tells the sultan “I offer you all the gifts here under my name, since you deserve them all. If I could I would offer them all to you.” Since the sultan is not in need of anything, he views this poor man’s gift with a value equal to that of his intention. [see The Words , The Twenty Fourth Word, Fifth Branch, Second Fruit ]
Similarly, we see in the incident of isra’ and mi’raj that The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) offers the prayers and goods deeds of all creation to Allah (ﷻ) when he states,
ٱلتَّحِيَّاتُ لِلَّٰهِ وَٱلصَّلَوَاتُ وَٱلطَّيِّبَاتُ
All greetings are for Allah and all prayers and all things good,
including the worship of others in addition to his own.
Not only did The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) reach the pinnacle of worship, he did so as a messenger of God and as a teacher to the humankind as well.
While there are other prophets and messengers (عليهم السلام) of God, The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) is the final and most outstanding one, thereby serving as the best model and representative of prophethood.
Furthermore his message, the The Noble Qur’an, is above all the other books and scripts sent to other prophets (عليهم السلام). It is the final revelation of God and is protected by Allah (ﷻ) from corruption.
To conclude, The Prophet serves two roles between Allah (ﷻ) and the humankind, and all of creation in general.
- He brings the worship of all humans (and generally of all creation) before God.
- He brings the message of God to the humankind.
The Risale-i Nur sometimes refers to these two roles as the two wings of The Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ), since these two roles are a means through which The Prophet (ﷺ) rises above all of creation. [see The Words, Tenth Word, Second Indication, and The Words, The Eleventh Word]
—Relevant Passage from The Tenth Word—
عَلَيْهِ صَلَوَاتُ الرَّحْمٰنِ مِلْءَ الدُّنْيَا وَ دَارِ الْجِنَانِ ٭ اَللّٰهُمَّ صَلِّ وَ سَلِّمْ عَلٰى عَبْدِكَ وَ رَسُولِكَ ذٰلِكَ الْحَب۪يبُ الَّذ۪ى هُوَ سَيِّدُ الْكَوْنَيْنِ وَ فَخْرُ الْعَالَمَيْنِ وَ حَيَاتُ الدَّارَيْنِ وَ وَس۪يلَةُ السَّعَادَتَيْنِ وَ ذُو الْجَنَاحَيْنِ وَ رَسُولُ الثَّقَلَيْنِ وَ عَلٰٓى اٰلِه۪ وَ صَحْبِه۪ اَجْمَعِينَ وَ عَلٰٓى اِخْوَانِهِ مِنَ النَّبِيّ۪ينَ وَ الْمُرْسَل۪ينَ اٰم۪ينَ
The peace of The Merciful One be upon him to the extent of all that this world and the abode of heavenscontain. O Allah send peace and blessings to your slave and messenger, that beloved one who is the master of both worlds and the pride of the worlds and the life of both abodes and the means to both the happiness here and in the hereafter and the one [who flies] with two wings and the messenger of the two huge armies [of jinn and humankind] and to all his family and companions and to his brothers of prophets and messengers. Amen.