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The significance of Salat-un-Nabi or Darood

Id-ul-Adha Khutba, March 2000

From The Light & Islamic Review
March - April 2000

by the Editor, Dr. Zahid Aziz

“And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain commands he fulfilled them. He said: Surely I will make you a leader of mankind. Abraham said: And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the wrongdoers, said He.” — The Holy Quran, 2:124

“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, Thou surely art Forgiving, Merciful.” — The Holy Quran, 14:36

I will return shortly to an explanation of the verses quoted just now. Before that, let me read the well-known prayer taught to Muslims known in Urdu and Persian as the Darood and in Arabic as Salat-un-Nabi:

“O Allah, exalt Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad as Thou didst exalt Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, Thou art the Praised, the Magnified. O Allah, bless Muhammad and the true followers of Muhammad as Thou didst bless Abraham and the true followers of Abraham, Thou art 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 blessing. 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 from God to Abraham and his progeny 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.

Unfortunately the followers of the Bible, that is to say the Jews and the Christians — the first group being the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, and the second group having arisen out of the Jews — considered this promise to be unconditional. Their belief was that no matter how they behaved, well or badly, they would still be great and blessed nations because of being Abraham’s descendants. But the Holy Quran puts this promise in a different way, as in the verse quoted at the beginning of this khutba. When Abraham asked God about his progeny, God said: My promise does not include and extend to the wrongdoers.

Also according to another verse in the Holy Quran as quoted above, Abraham prayed to God as follows:

“So whoever follows me, he is surely of me; and whoever disobeys me, Thou surely art Forgiving, Merciful.” — The Holy Quran, 14:36

Two points are made here:

  1. It is whoever follows the path of Abraham who is “of him” or his progeny, offspring or issue. The same applies to any other spiritual leader. It is not by mere physical descent but by following in their path that you become their real descendants. This is a great and deep principle revealed by Islam, and if we bear it in mind it can save us from going wrong many a time.
  2. As to those who disobey or do not follow Abraham, he prays for their forgiveness. This teaches us to constantly pray to Allah to show forgiveness and mercy to the rejecters of truth by bringing them into the fold of truth.

After Abraham, in the long course of time, two main religions developed among the followers of the Bible: the Jewish and the Christian religions. But both deviated from, and in fact, went contrary to Abraham’s path, while considering themselves to be the blessed nations springing from him.

The Jewish religion became a religion of rites and rituals only, so that the priests and the masses stuck to the letter of the religious teachings but lost the true spirit. They lost the spirit of sacrifice of one’s desires that Abraham demonstrated, and indeed what he is famous for. So they became a morally corrupt people while sticking most rigidly to the letter of the religion.

The Christian religion invented wrong beliefs about God, making a mortal Jesus into a part of God, going against the Oneness of God which was so dear to Abraham and which he preached so fervently, and coining the doctrine that your sins are forgiven if you believe that Jesus died for your sins. Abraham’s belief was that to have your sins forgiven the only way is to lead a righteous life with belief in One God.

So how could these nations be the blessed heirs of Abraham when they go against his teachings?

That is why God then raised the Holy Prophet Muhammad, from the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, in order to revive the beliefs taught by Abraham. That is, belief in One God, sacrificing your lower desires in order to reach God, and leading a righteous life.

Apart from reviving Abraham’s beliefs, in the physical and material sense too Islam arose in a place, Makka, whose foundations were laid by Abraham, and Islam made as its religious centre the Ka‘ba which had been rebuilt by Abraham from a state of ruin. Further, Islam instituted a remembrance of the incident of Abraham’s act of sacrifice to be done at the Hajj, and by all Muslims throughout the world.

This shows that it is the Muslim nation which is the heir to Abraham, and it is through this nation that the promise of God given to Abraham is fulfilled that “I will make a great nation out of you and will bless those who bless you, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves”.

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 fulfilled through the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his followers.

But we must beware that merely by copying Abraham’s example of sacrifice in a symbolic 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. This is just like the fact that the Jewish and Christian religions, while arising among Abraham’s descendants, are not his spiritual heirs because they have gone against his teachings.

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, which needs to be done in order to attain a higher goal.

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.

Abraham was promised, in the words of the Holy Quran, that he would be made “a leader of mankind”. What does that mean? The word for “leader” is imam, which means one who sets an example. He was selected by God as an example because of his willingness to sacrifice what he loved most in the path of God. Similarly, if his heirs are to become leaders of all mankind, they have to set the same example of self-sacrifice. A leader, according to Islam, is not someone who just has power and gives orders. A leader is one who sets the greatest example himself of what he wants and requires others to do, and then people follow his example. That is the kind of leader that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was, one who has left behind his own actions and life as an example. That is the kind of leadership of the nations that Islam wants Muslims to have.

Also, the promise contains mention of making a “great” nation from Abraham. What is a great nation? According to the Quran, it is not one which rules over the most lands, has the biggest empire, possesses the most wealth and resources, or is the most powerful in weapons and armaments, but the greatest nation is the one which upholds truth, goodness and justice more than anyone else.

Note: The khutba ends above, but in this written version I deal with a question related to the Darood which was once asked by a friend. He asked: Since the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the greatest of all prophets in rank and status, why do we Muslims pray that Allah may bestow those blessings on him, and on his followers, which had already been bestowed upon Abraham and his followers? Are we saying that Abraham held a higher rank than the Holy Prophet Muhammad and we are praying for the Holy Prophet to reach that same rank and status?

The answer is that the words of the Darood, “as Thou didst exalt Abraham and the true followers of Abraham” and “as Thou didst bless Abraham and the true followers of Abraham”, do not refer to any exaltation or blessings that had actually been attained in full measure by Abraham and his followers prior to the time of the Holy Prophet, so that we could be said to be praying for the same now to be given to the Holy Prophet and his followers. Rather, this was a promise made by God to Abraham relating to the future. That promise had been fulfilled only very partially through the Israelite prophets and kings of the Bible who came after Abraham, and by the time the Holy Prophet Muhammad arose the followers of the Bible had lost all those blessings as a result of deviating completely from Abraham’s teachings. Therefore the promise to Abraham and to his followers was destined to come true through the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his followers: that there would be great nations in the whole of the world following Abraham’s message, blessing him, and through whom his name would be made great. So the Darood is the prayer to say that may the promises of God made with Abraham come to fulfilment in the fullest and most complete manner through the Holy Prophet Muhammad and his followers.

Darood and the propagation work of our Movement

On a second point, 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 hostile Western writings 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.