Prayer (Darood) for the Holy Prophet Muhammad and Abraham

Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 14 June 2024

“And when Abraham said: My Lord, make this city secure, and save me and my sons from worshipping idols. My Lord, surely they have led many people astray. So whoever follows me, he is surely of me; and whoever disobeys me, You surely are Forgiving, Merciful. Our Lord, I have settled a part of my offspring in a valley unproductive of fruit near Your Sacred House, our Lord, that they may keep up prayer; so make the hearts of some people yearn (or incline or lean) towards them, and provide them with fruits; perhaps they may be grateful.” — ch. 14, Ibrāhīm, v. 35–37.

وَ اِذۡ قَالَ اِبۡرٰہِیۡمُ رَبِّ اجۡعَلۡ ہٰذَا الۡبَلَدَ اٰمِنًا وَّ اجۡنُبۡنِیۡ وَ بَنِیَّ اَنۡ نَّعۡبُدَ الۡاَصۡنَامَ ﴿ؕ۳۵ رَبِّ اِنَّہُنَّ اَضۡلَلۡنَ کَثِیۡرًا مِّنَ النَّاسِ ۚ فَمَنۡ تَبِعَنِیۡ فَاِنَّہٗ مِنِّیۡ ۚ وَ مَنۡ عَصَانِیۡ فَاِنَّکَ غَفُوۡرٌ رَّحِیۡمٌ ﴿۳۶ رَبَّنَاۤ اِنِّیۡۤ اَسۡکَنۡتُ مِنۡ ذُرِّیَّتِیۡ بِوَادٍ غَیۡرِ ذِیۡ زَرۡعٍ عِنۡدَ بَیۡتِکَ الۡمُحَرَّمِ ۙ رَبَّنَا لِیُـقِیۡمُوا الصَّلٰوۃَ فَاجۡعَلۡ اَفۡئِدَۃً مِّنَ النَّاسِ تَہۡوِیۡۤ اِلَیۡہِمۡ وَارۡ زُقۡہُمۡ مِّنَ الثَّمَرٰتِ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَشۡکُرُوۡنَ ﴿۳۷

These verses relate to the time when Abraham was settling his infant son Ishmael along with his mother Hajira near the ruins of the Ka‘bah, in a complete wilderness, in obedience to God’s command. Abraham realised, through knowledge given to him by God, that he was laying the basis of a place which would be an abode of peace for people, providing them with both physical peace and safety, and spiritual peace and safety. It would be free of war and conflict, and also be free of false beliefs which attack the peace and safety of the human minds and hearts. Abraham’s prayers were not only his wishes about what he would like to see happening, but also indicate that they would come true and these things would actually happen.

Abraham prays for his descendants to be kept away from worshipping idols or other beings that are taken for gods. He also adds himself into the same prayer: “save me and my sons”. There was, of course, no danger that Abraham would himself start worshipping idols, but he still prays to be kept away from this. Even when a prophet is guaranteed something by God, he still prays to be granted it. This is because, firstly, he is not arrogant, thinking that as he is a prophet he can never go wrong. He still considers himself as a fallible human being, capable of making mistakes. Secondly, he does not become complacent, careless and lazy, believing that now that he has got God’s promise he does not need to pray for it or work for it.

After praying that his descendants be kept away from worshipping things other than God, he says that whoever follows him is one of his own, is from him. He is saying that if you are merely a physical descendant of mine, it does not mean that you are from me. Only your following me makes you to be from me. As to those who disobey him, he says about them to Allah: “You surely are Forgiving, Merciful”. So he does not reject or condemn those who disobey him, but hopes that Allah will show forgiveness and mercy towards them.

This came true at the hands of our Holy Prophet Muhammad when all the idol-worshippers of Makkah gave up idol-worship and became established on the belief that God is One. Some of them accepted his message before his conquest of Makkah. Those who had not accepted it were forgiven by the Holy Prophet and shown mercy at the conquest of Makkah, and in this way the attributes of Allah, that He is Forgiving and Merciful, were displayed through the Holy Prophet Muhammad. As a result of this forgiveness, all of the Arab idol-worshippers gradually became Muslims.

Abraham goes on to say in his prayer to Allah that he has settled a part of his offspring, in other words, Ishmael and those who would be his offspring later, in a valley whose land is devoid of producing any crops which is near Allah’s Sacred House, so that they may keep up prayer. That really means that this House may become a central point for prayers. He prays to Allah:

“so make the hearts of some people yearn (meaning lean or be inclined) towards them, and provide them with fruits”.

This is exactly what happened after Abraham, even before the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. People from other parts of Arabia were coming to Makkah to perform the Hajj through an attraction that they felt towards it. The main features of Hajj, such as going round the Ka‘bah, going between the Safa and the Marwah, staying in the plain of Arafat, and going to Muzdalifah to spend a night there, already existed before the Holy Prophet’s time, although corruption and distortion had been introduced into them through idol-worship. After Islam, this yearning of the hearts to visit the Ka‘bah became more widespread, and in modern times it pulls people to go there from very long distances. Abraham’s prayer that Allah may “provide them with fruits” in this unproductive valley has been more than fulfilled in that food and provisions and all kinds of amenities are easily available to all in Makkah.

In connection with Abraham, every Muslim is aware of the prayer known in Urdu and Persian as the Darood, and in Arabic as Salat-un-Nabi, in which Abraham is mentioned. It is as follows:

“O Allah, exalt Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad as You exalted Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, You are the Praised, the Magnified. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad as You blessed Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, You are the Praised, the Magnified.”

The words of this prayer in Arabic are recited by Muslims, both within the set daily prayers and at other times, and are believed to be a source of blessings. But unfortunately, Muslims generally are either unaware of what the Arabic words of the prayer mean, or if they do know the meaning they are unaware of what is the “exaltation” and “blessing” that they are asking to be bestowed upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his followers, which were also granted to Abraham and his followers.

The Bible mentions the promises of exaltation and blessing given by God to Abraham and his descendants as follows. God said to Abraham:

“I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you … and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves.” — Genesis, 12:2–3.

“You shall be the father of a multitude of nations … I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.” — Genesis, 17:4, 6.

“I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore … and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves.” — Genesis, 22:17–18.

The earlier followers of Abraham before Islam, namely, the Jews and the Christians, both of them after a period of time deviated from Abraham’s path, and in fact, they went contrary to it, but they still considered themselves to be the blessed nations springing from him. How they went against his teachings, I covered in my last Khutba. They had gone far away from his teaching that God is One, and had taken as gods, or given God’s attributes to, their priests and religious leaders, or to a prophet like Jesus. The Holy Quran made clear in the words of Abraham that I read above, “So whoever follows me, he is surely of me”, that only those are his descendants who follow his path and teachings. The significance of the Darood prayer, or Salat-un-nabi, is that we pray that the promise of the blessings of God coming to Abraham and his followers be granted through the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his followers. But we must beware that merely by copying Abraham’s example of sacrifice in a physical way, or by just going to the Hajj to the place that Abraham is associated with and performing the outward rites, we do not become his heirs and heirs to the promised blessings. To be Abraham’s real heirs, so as to be worthy of inheriting the promised blessings, we have to make sacrifices of our own desires, just as Abraham did, and this needs to be done in order to reach closer to God.

This is why our Darood is couched in the form of a prayer: “O Allah, exalt … O Allah, bless …”, so that we realize that it is a goal for which we have to work and pray. Muslims are not taught to refer to these blessings as something which is guaranteed to them by God, regardless of their behaviour, even though it is true that the followers of the Prophet Muhammad have been destined to inherit those blessings.

Also, since we pray in the Darood for the Holy Prophet Muhammad to be exalted and blessed, it means that we must also work towards this goal. For the Holy Prophet to be exalted in the world it is absolutely essential to strive hard to present a true picture of his noble life and character, particu­larly to counteract the false image found in Western writings of the critics of Islam as well as in certain Muslim books written by foolish friends. Only then will the image of the Holy Prophet, and along with him that of his followers, be raised high or exalted in the world. Only then will people realize what a great blessing for the world he was, and they will send their blessings on him. Just repeating the Darood in words, without any action to bring about the exaltation and blessing which is being prayed for, cannot achieve anything.

There are also three unique points of the Darood as a prayer of a religion. Firstly, Muslims pray for the Prophet Muhammad, whereas usually in religions the followers pray to the founders of their faith or in their name. Secondly, we say the same prayer for ourselves as for the Holy Prophet, that may Allah exalt and bless “Muhammad and the followers of Muhammad”. And that is a tremendous privilege, that the Holy Prophet asked us to pray for ourselves in the same words as for him. Thirdly, we ask for the same exaltation and blessings as already promised to Abraham’s followers and descendants. Despite Islam teaching us great new truths and principles unknown to earlier religions, we do not brag and boast, but we ask for the same success and blessings which had been promised by God to Abraham’s earlier followers on condition that they remain true to Abraham’s teachings.

So may Allah accept our prayer in the Darood and bring for us those blessings which were first promised through Abraham and which were then to be granted to the followers of the Holy Prophet Muhammad — Ameen.