By Joseph Lumbard
Assistant Professor of Classical Islam at Brandeis University and former advisor for interfaith affairs to the Royal Jordanian Court, is a general editor for The Study Quran. His other publications include Islam, Fundamentalism, and the Betrayal of Tradition and Submission, Faith and Beauty.
Joseph Lumbard, Love for the Prophet Muhammad: A Key to Countering Islamism and Islamophobia.
Tikkun 1 August 2015; 30 (3): 46–48 at Duke University Press
Non-muslims often struggle to understand Muslims because they fail to grasp the role that the Prophet Muhammad plays in our lives. Failing to realize the breadth of the Prophet’s teachings and the depth of love for the Prophet throughout the Islamic world, many non-Muslims are quick to believe ISIS, the Wahhabis, and other militant groups when they claim that it is they who adhere to the precepts set by the Prophet Muhammad and are thus the true followers of the “prophetic model.”
Yet the understanding of the prophetic model among militant Islamist groups falls far short of what is conveyed by the classical Islamic tradition. Far from being the literalists that some portray them to be, militant Islamists choose to ignore or explain away those teachings that expose their wanton violence for what it is.
When non-Muslims fail to recognize this, they succumb to severe miscalculations regarding both ISIS and the nature of Islam. It is thus of the utmost importance to consider what the prophetic model means to the majority of Muslims.
Several years ago, the song that topped the charts in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world was Sami Yusuf’s “Muallim” (Teacher), a song in praise of the Prophet Muhammad.
A few years later, Mesut Kurtis topped the charts with “The Burdah” (The Mantle), whose refrain is “Our Lord, bless and have peace, at all times and forever, upon the beloved who is the best of all creation.” The title and refrain of the latter come from the most widely read poem in the history of Islam, “The Mantle” (al-Burdah), written in thirteenth-century Egypt, and recited to this day by Muslims from Indonesia to Europe, from Senegal to South Africa to the United States and almost everywhere in between.
The Prophet as a source of Love and Hope
The enduring love of the Prophet Muhammad exhibited in this and thousands of other poems is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of Islam.