The Prophetic Title “Best of Creation”

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by Dr. G. F. Haddad

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim

One of the names by which
the Prophet Muhammad is known – upon him blessings and peace – is Khayru-l-Khalq
or “Best of Creation.” Other similar names of his with identical
meaning are Khayru-l-Bariyya, Khayru Khalqillah, Khayru-l-`Alamina Turra,
Khayru-n-Nas, Khayru Hadhihi-l-Umma,
and Khîratullah. These titles
refers to his high status over all human Prophets and Messengers as well as
over the Jinn and angels – upon them peace. The Consensus of Muslims past and
present – i.e. Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama`a – over the matter was indicated
in Shaykh Ibrahim al-Laqqani’s (d. 1041) words, “steer clear of
dissent” in his famous poem Jawharat al-Tawhid (“The Gem of
Monotheism”):

    65. wa afdalu al-khalqi `ala al-itlâqi Nabiyyunâ fa mil `ani al-shiqâqi.

Meaning:
    And the best of creatures in absolute terms is our Prophet, so steer clear of dissent.

 Al-Bajuri (d. 1276), Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid (1971 ed. p. 290): “I.e. among jinn, humankind, and angels, in the world and the hereafter, in all the attributes of goodness.”

Al-Sawi (d. 1241), Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid (1999 ed. p. 295): “This assertion-of-superiority (tafdîl) is by Consensus (ijmâ`) of the Muslims, both Sunnis and Mu`tazila,
except al-Zamakhshari [in al-Kashshaf (4:712), Surat al-Takwir] who violated
the Consensus.”

`Abd al-Salam ibn Ibrahim al-Laqqani (d. 1078), Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid (1990 ed. p. 186):
“It is obligatory (wâjib) on every legally responsible person to believe that he (SAWS) is the best of all, and one who denies it commits a sin, is guilty of innovation, and deserves to be taught a lesson.”

   66. wal-anbiyâ yalûnahu fil-fadli wa ba`dahum malâ’ikah dhil-fadli

Meaning: 
    And the Prophets follow him in preferability and after them the noble angels, 

Al-Bajuri (p. 293):
“Al-Qadi Abu `Abd Allah al-Halimi [see on him the introduction to our
translation of al-Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat] together with others,
such as the Mu`tazila, considered that the angels are better than the Prophets
except our Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu `alayhi wa Alihi wa Sallam. Al-Sa`d
[al-Taftazani] said [in Sharh al-`Aqa’id al-Nasafiyya]: ‘There is
nothing decisive in these issues.’ Taj al-Din [ibn] al-Subki said [in Tabaqat
al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra
]: ‘Safety lies in refraining from speech on this
question and to enter it in detail without decisive evidence is to enter into
great peril, a ruling over something over which we are incapable of
ruling.'”

    67. hâdhâ wa qawmun fassalû idh faddalû wa ba`du kullin ba`dahu qad yafdulu

 Meaning:
    This said, some [i.e. the Maturidis] narrowed its terms
    in preferring some [of the angels and Prophets] respectively over others [of the angels        and Prophets] 

Al-Bajuri (p. 295):
“And this is surely the more correct position (wa hâdhihi hiya
al-tariqa al-râjiha
).” Note that he prefers the Maturidi position here
over that of the Jumhûr of the Ash`aris although he is Ash`ari, while
the author’s son, Shaykh `Abd al-Salam al-Laqqani, said all angels were
preferable to all human beings other than Prophets – may Allah have mercy on
them and on all Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jama`a.

Al-Laqqani (p. 186-187):
“It is obligatory to believe the preferability of the better (afdaliyyatu
al-afdal
) exactly according to whatever ruling was transmitted (`ala
tabqi mâ warada al-hukmu bihi
): if in detail then in detail, if in general
then in general (tafsîlan fil-tafsîli wa ijmâlan fil-ijmâli). And it is
not allowed to hasten to specific designation (al-hujûm `alâ al-ta`yîn)
of something which was not divinely ordained (lam yarid fîhi tawqîf)….
Qadi Taj al-Din ibn al-Subki said: ‘The preferability of human beings over the
angels is not among the matters one is obliged to believe nor harm those who
ignore them. If one meets Allah without the least idea about the matter in its
entirety, he would not have committed any sin. For people were not tasked to
know it. And safety lies in refraining from speech on this question,
etc.'””

Al-Sawi (p. 297-298),
al-Bajuri (p. 296): “Its conclusion being that our Prophet (SAWS) is the
best of creation in absolute terms, then Ibrahim, then Musa, then `Isa, then
Nuh – upon them peace – then the rest of the Messengers, then the non-Messenger
Prophets – some of them being superior to others, but Allah alone knows in what
detail, then Gibril, then Israfil, then Mika’il, then `Izra’il, then ‘common
human beings’ (`awamm al-bashar) such as Abu Bakr, `Umar,
`Uthman, and `Ali, then the mass of the angels.” 

Proofs of the Prophet’s Superiority to All Creation

A dear Muslim brother sent
the following query: “some brothers even question that the Messenger of Allah
was the Best of Creation. Do you have something handy that I can allude to as
‘evidence’ in this regard?”

“They swear by Allah to you (Muslims) to please you [all], but Allah, with His messenger, hath more right that they should please H/him if they are believers” (9:62).

Do they know any other Prophet or angel-brought-near with whom Allah Most High shared as many of His own Names in the Qur’an as He did with the Prophet (SAWS)? See the end of this post on this.

With respect to his foremost name – Muhammad – sallallahu `alayhi wa Alih wa Sallam, consider the poetic verse of Hassan ibn Thabit (RA):
wa shaqqa lahu min ismihi liyujillahu fa dhul-`arshi Mahmûdun wa hâdhâ Muhammadu

Meaning:
And He drew out for him [a name] from His own Name so as to dignify him greatly:
    The Owner of the Throne is the Glorious [Mahmûd], and this is the Praiseworthy             [Muhammad]! 

Do they know any other
Prophet or angel whom Allah addressed directly and by whose life He swore?
“By thy life (O Muhammad)!”
(15:72);

“And who is better in his discourse than he who calls unto
Allah and does good and says: I am one of the Muslims?”
(41:33) i.e. who is
better in speech than the Prophet (SAWS)?

“Lo! those who believe and do good works are the best of created beings” (98:7) i.e. the Prophet (SAWS) is the best of created beings;

“Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct” (49:13) i.e. the Prophet (SAWS) is the noblest of those to whom the Qur’an is addressed in the sight of Allah;

“And lo! thou (Muhammad) art [I swear] of a tremendous nature” (68:4). The reality of this compliment – khuluqin `azim – can be fathomed only by the Speaker Himself and whoever He wills;

“Of those messengers, some of whom We have caused to excel others, and of whom there are some unto whom Allah spake, while _some of them He exalted (above others) in degree_” (2:253) i.e. the Prophet (SAWS).

“And we preferred some of the Prophets above others” (17:55) then He said: “It may be that thy Lord will raise thee to a praised estate”
(17:79), a Station which the Prophet (SAWS) said none but he would receive. and
this is the Station of Intercession at the right of the Glorious Throne as we
described at length in the posting “The Seating of the Prophet (SAWS) on
the Throne.”

And [have We not] exalted thy fame?” (94:4) Mujahid said: “Meaning, every time I [Allah]
am mentioned, you [Muhammad] are mentioned.” Ibn Kathir mentioned it in
his Tafsir. Al-Shafi`i narrated the same explanation from Ibn Abi Najih and so
did Ibn `Ata’ as cited by al-Nabahani in al-Anwar al-Muhammadiyya min al-Mawahib
al-Laduniyya
(p. 379). Al-Baydawi said in his Tafsir: “And what
higher elevation than to have his name accompany His Name in the two phrases of
witnessing, and to have his obedience equal His obedience??”

“And My Mercy embraceth all
things, therefore I shall ordain It for those who ward off (evil) and pay the
poor due, and those who believe Our revelations”
(7:156); and He said “truly the Mercy of Allah is
near those who do good”: “Inna rahmat Allahi qaribun min al-muhsinin”
(7:56) without putting qaribun in the feminine (qaribatun)
although rahma is feminine, because in reality that rahma is the
Prophet (SAWS), as explicited in the verse: “wa ma arsalnaka illa rahmatan
lil-`alamin”:
And We did not send you (Muhammad) except as a Mercy to
the worlds
” (21:107);

Say: In the bounty of
Allah and in His mercy: therein [alone] let them rejoice. It is better than
what they hoard”
(10:58). Ibn `Abbas said: “The bounty of Allah is
Knowledge [of Tawhid], and His mercy is the Prophet (SAWS).” Abu al-Shaykh
narrated it as stated by al-Suyuti in al-Durr al-Manthur (4:367).
Al-Alusi in Ruh al-Ma`ani (10:141) and Abu al-Su`ud in his Tafsir
(4:156) said that the bounty is general while the mercy is specific and
therefore emphasized. Al-Razi in al-Tafsir al-Kabir (17:123) said the
command is emphatically restrictive, meaning that a human being should not
rejoice in anything else than the mercy.

“Truly, Allah and His
angels send praise and blessings [forever] upon the Prophet. O ye who believe!
Praise and bless the Prophet with utmost laud and blessing
” (33:56);

“That ye (mankind) may
believe in Allah and His messenger, and may honor h/Him, and may revere h/Him,
and may glorify h/Him at early dawn and at the close of day”
(48:9). Al-Nawawi said that the scholars of Qur’anic
commentary have given this verse two lines of explanation, one group giving the
three personal pronouns “HIM” a single referent, namely, either Allah
(“Him”) or the Prophet (“him”); the other group distinguishing
between two referents, namely, the Prophet (SAWS) for the first two
(“honor and revere him”), and Allah for the last (“glorify
Him”). Those of the first group that said the pronouns all refer to the
Prophet (SAWS) explained “glorify him” (tusabbihuhu) here to
mean: “declare him devoid of inappropriate attributes and pray for
him.”

“And Allah sufficeth as a
witness that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”
(48:28-29).

Every Quranic Verse Proof of the Prophet’s Status as ‘Best of Creation’

There are, in fact, 6,666
Qur’anic proofs that the Messenger of Allah – Sallallahu `alayhi wa Alihi wa
Sallam
– is (not “was”) without doubt the Best of creation,
namely, the verses of the Holy Qur’an, since it is the greatest of all revealed
Books and their Seal, the only Book that Allah guaranteed to preserve, and the
universal Revelation for all creation (including angels, cf. al-Haytami, Fatawa
Hadithiyya
p. 69, 151-154) as opposed to previous Revelations which were
only for the people among whom they were revealed. And this Book was revealed
to the heart of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS): “And lo! it is a revelation of
the Lord of the Worlds which the True Spirit hath brought down upon thy heart”

(26:192-194).

They might be confused by
the narrations forbidding the Companions from boasting the merits of one
Prophet over the others, or preferring him over Musa, or preferring him over
Yunus, Allah bless and greet our Prophet and them. However, these narrations
denote humbleness on the part of the Seal of Prophets (SAWS). That is what all
the Ulema said in reply to the superficial contradiction between the latter
narrations and the verses and narrations that firmly establish his superior
status.

Ibn `Abbas (RA) said:
“Allah has preferred (faddala) Muhammad over all Prophets and over
the dwellers of the heavens (= the angels).” They said: “O Ibn
`Abbas, how did He prefer him to the dwellers of the heavens?” He replied:
“Allah Most High said: ‘And one of them [the angels] who should say: Lo!
I am a God beside Him, that one We should repay with hell
” (21:29) but He
said: ‘Lo! We have given thee (O Muhammad) a signal victory That Allah may
forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come, and may
perfect His favor unto thee, and may guide thee on a right path’

(48:1-2).” They said: “And how did He prefer him over the
Prophets?” He replied: “Allah Most High says: ‘And We never sent a
messenger save with the language of his folk’
(14:4) but He said: ‘And We
have not sent thee (O Muhammad) save unto all mankind
’ (34:28).”[1]

There are many other more or
less direct textual proofs to that effect, among them the fact that Allah
ordered the angels to learn the names of things from Adam, but He ordered the
universes to learn about Allah Himself from the Prophet (SAWS): “The
Beneficent! Ask any one informed concerning Him”
(25:59); the fact that the
Prophet (SAWS) is to witness not only over his own Community but over all
others (2:143 and 4:41); the fact that the Prophet (SAWS) alone, of all
humankind, jinn, and angels, has been given the Maqam al-Mahmud (17:79)
i.e. the Glorious Station (of intercession with Allah Most High) and, in the
Sunna, the fact that Allah did not give His intimate friendship to any angel,
but He gave it to the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) as well as to Sayyidina Ibrahim
(AS), and He made the Messenger of Allah the Imam of all Prophets and
Messengers when he prayed among them in Masjid al-Aqsa, the intercessor for all
the Communities (in the hadith “People shall surge like waves…”),
and the Master of Humankind (Sayyidu al-Nas) together with the fact that
he was known in the Divine presence as a Prophet while Adam (AS) was still
being created, and that the latter sought his intercession because he saw his
name written on the Throne.

Adam (as) asks sought intercession and forgiveness with the Prophet’s name

 In the chapter concerning
the Prophet’s superiority over all other Prophets in his great book titled al-Wafa
bi Ahwal al-Mustafa’
, Ibn al-Jawzi states: “Part of the demonstration
of his superiority to other Prophets is the fact that Adam (AS) asked his Lord
through the sanctity (hurma) of Muhammad (SAWS) that He relent towards
him.” The most authentic chain for this report is not that of al-Hakim’s
narration from `Umar through `Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd ibn Aslam who is weak (da`îf),
but that of the Companion Maysarat al-Fajr who narrates it as follows:

I asked: “O Messenger
of Allah, when were you [first] a Prophet?” He replied: “When Allah
created the earth ‘Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven
heavens
’(2:29), and created the Throne, He wrote on the leg of the Throne:
“Muhammad the Messenger of Allah is the Seal of Prophets” (Muhammadun
Rasûlullâhi Khâtamu al-Anbiyâ’
). Then Allah created the Garden in which He
made Adam and Hawwa’ dwell, and He wrote my name on the gates, its tree-leaves,
its domes and tents, at a time when Adam was still between the spirit and the
body. When Allah Most High instilled life into him he looked at the Throne and
saw my name, whereupon Allah informed him that ‘He [Muhammad SAWS] is the
liege-lord of all your descendants.’ When Satan deceived them both, they
repented and sought intercession to Allah with my name.”[2]

Another great proof that the
Messenger of Allah is the Best of Creation is the Consensus of the Imams and
Ulema of Ahl al-Sunna, violating which are three scholars on record: the
Zahiri Ibn Hazm; the Mu`tazili al-Zamakhshari; and the Mujassim Ibn Abi al-`Izz
who was imprisoned for it as related by Ibn Hajar in his Inba’ al-Ghumr
(1:258-260). Shaykh `Abd Allah al-Talidi said in his Tahdhib al-Shifa’
(p. 162): “The dissent of Ibn Hazm and al-Zamakhshari carries no
weight.”

Sayyid Abu al-Fadl `Abd
Allah ibn Muhammad al-Siddiq al-Ghumari al-Hasani wrote a book titled, Dilalat
al-Qur’ani al-Mubin `ala anna al-Nabiyya Afdalu al-`Alamin
(“The
Indication of the Manifest Qur’an that the Prophet is the Best of the
Universes”), in which he listed the verses to that effect Sura by Sura and
in the introduction of which he mentioned the following story:

“Al-Sha`rani in Tabaqat
al-Awliya’
narrated from [his Shaykh] the Knower of Allah Abu al-Mawahib
al-Shadhili that the latter said: ‘A dispute took place between me and a
certain person in the Mosque of al-Azhar over the statement of the author of al-Burda
[Imam al-Busiri]:

   
Famablaghu al-`ilmi fîhi annahu basharun wa
annahu khayru khalqillâhi kullihimi

 Meaning:
     The apex of knowledge concerning him is that he is a human being
     and that he is the best of all the creation of Allah.

 Whereupon that person said:
He has no proof for this. I said to him: Consensus (ijma`) has formed
over this. He did not change his view. Later I saw the Prophet – Sallallahu
`alayhi wa Alihi wa Sallam – and with him were Abu Bakr and `Umar, Allah be
well-pleased with them, sitting at the pulpit of the Azhar Mosque. He said to
me: Marhaban bihabibi – Welcome to my dear beloved! Then he said to his
friends: Do you know what happened today? They said No, O Messenger of Allah.
He said: So-and-so the Wretch (Fulan al-Ta`is) believes that the angels
are better than me!… What is wrong with him, disbelieving in the
Consensus?'”

Following is a list of works containing proofs from the Qur’an and Sunna of the superiority of the Prophet (SAWS) over all creation:

1. Al-Qadi `Iyad, al-Shifa’
fi Ma`rifati Huquq al-Mustafa
(SAWS)
2. Abu Nu`aym, Dala’il
al-Nubuwwa

3. Al-Bayhaqi, Dala’il
al-Nubuwwa

4. Al-Faryabi, Dala’il
al-Nubuwwa

5. Ibn al-Jawzi, al-Wafa
bi Ahwal al-Mustafa
(SAWS)
6. Ibn `Abd al-Salam, Bidayat
al-Sul fi Tafdil al-Rasul

7. Ibn Dihya, al-Mustawfa
li Asma’ al-Mustafa
(SAWS)
8. Al-`Azafi, Sharh Asma’
al-Nabi
(SAWS)
9. Ibn al-`Arabi’s Chapter
on the Prophetic Names in `Aridat al-Ahwadhi
10. Al-Bayhaqi’s Chapter on
the Prophetic Names in Shu`ab al-Iman
11. Al-Busiri, al-Burda
12. Al-Busiri, al-Hamziyya
13. Al-Busiri, al-Muhammadiyya
14. Al-Suyuti, al-Khasa’is
al-Kubra

15. Al-Suyuti, al-Bahja
al-Bahiyya fil-Asma’ al-Nabawiyya

16. Al-Suyuti, al-Riyad
al-Aniqa fi Sharh Asma’ Khayr al-Khaliqa

17. Al-Jazuli, Dala’il
al-Khayrat

18. Al-Fasi, Sharh
Dala’il al-Khayrat

19. Al-Sakhawi, al-Qawl
al-Badi` fi al-Salat `ala al-Nabi al-Shafi
`
20. Al-Qastallani, al-Mawahib
al-Laduniyya

21. Al-Zurqani, Sharh
al-Mawahib

22. Al-Qari, Sharh
al-Shifa’

23. Al-Qari, Sharh
al-Shama’il al-Nabawiyya li al-Tirmidhi

24. Al-Munawi, Sharh
al-Shama’il al-Nabawiyya li al-Tirmidhi

25. Al-Baghawi, Sharh
al-Shama’il al-Nabawiyya li al-Tirmidhi

26. Al-Nabahani, al-Asma
fima li Sayyidina Muhammad min al-Asma

27. Al-Nabahani, Wasa’il
al-Wusul ila Shama’il al-Rasul

28. Al-Nabahani, Shawahid
al-Haqq

29. Al-Nabahani, Nujum
al-Muhtadin wa Rujum al-Mu`tadin

30. Al-Nabahani, Jawahir
al-Bihar fi Fada’il al-Nabi al-Mukhtar

31. Al-Lahji, Muntaha
al-Sul Sharh Wasa’il al-Wusul li al-Nabahani

32. Al-Jamal, Hashiyat
al-Hamziyya

33. Al-Haytami, Hashiyat
al-Hamziyya

34. Al-Dabbagh, al-Ibriz
min Kalam Sayyidi `Abd al-`Aziz

35. `Abd Allah al-Ghumari, Dilalat
al-Qur’ani al-Mubin `ala anna
al-Nabiyya Afdalu
al-`Alamin
36. Al-Maliki, Muhammad
(SAWS) al-Insanu al-Kamil (esp. p. 181-213, 4th ed.)
|37. Sirajuddin, Sayyiduna
Muhammad
(SAWS)

 Al-Qadi `Iyad said in al-Shifa’,
in the section entitled: “On Allah honoring the Prophet (SAWS) with some
of His own Beautiful Names and describing him with some of His own sublime
qualities”:

Know that Allah has bestowed
a mark of honor on many of the Prophets by investing them with some of His
names, for instance, when He calls Ishaq and Isma`il “knowing” (`alim)
and “forbearing” (halim), Ibrahim “forbearing”, Nuh
“thankful” (shakur), `Isa and Yahya “devoted” (barr),
Musa “noble” (karim) and “strong” (qawi),
Yusuf “a knowing guardian” (hafiz, `alim), Ayyub
“patient” (sabur), and Isma`il “truthful to the
promise” (sadiq al-wa`d)… Yet He has preferred our Prophet
Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, since He has adorned him
with a wealth of His names in His Mighty Book and on the tongue of His
Prophets. We have gathered them together after reflecting on the subject and
putting our memory to work since we were unable to locate anyone who had
compiled more than two names nor anyone who had dealt with it to any great
extent before. We have recorded some of these names… There about thirty of
them. [He then proceeds to list and explain them. They are: Ahmad, al-Ra’uf,
al-Rahim, al-Haqq, al-Nur, al-Shahid, al-Karim, al-`Azim, al-Jabbar, al-Khabir,
al-Fattah, al-Shakur, al-`Alim, al-`Allam, al-Awwal, al-Akhir, al-Qawi,
al-Sadiq, al-Wali, al-Mawla, `Afw, al-Hadi, al-Mu’min, al-Quddus/Muqaddas,
al-`Aziz, al-Bashir, al-Nadhir, Ta Ha, Ya Seen.
]

May Allah send blessings and
peace on the Prophet, his Family, and all his Companions. Even the Christians
and Jews of old knew that the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) is the best of creation,
as evidenced by some of his names and attributes reportedly found in the Bible,
such as “Ikleel = Crown [of creation]” and “Parakletos
= Spirit of Holiness.”

 WAllahu a`lam. Wa
SallAllahu wa Sallam `ala Sayyidina Muhammad. Wal-Hamdu lillahi Rabbi
al-`Alamin.


NOTES

[1] Narrated from `Ikrima by al-Darimi in the Muqaddima
to his Musnad with a sound chain according to Shaykh `Abd Allah
al-Talidi (Tahdhib al-Shifa’ p. 167), al-Bayhaqi in Dala’il
al-Nubuwwa
, `Abd ibn Humayd in his Musnad, Abu Ya`la in his Musnad,
Ibn Abi Hatim in his Tafsir, al-Tabarani in al-Mu`jam al-Kabir
(11:240) with a chain of highly trustworthy narrators according to al-Haythami
in Majma` al-Zawa’id (8:254), al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (2:350 =
1990 ed. 2:381) where he declared it sahih and al-Dhahabi concurred, Ibn
Marduyah in his Tafsir, al-Qadi `Iyad in al-Shifa’ within the
“Sahih and Famous Reports on His Tremendous Status and Rank Before His
Lord” (Part I ch. 3), and Ibn Kathir in his Tafsir.

[2] Shaykh `Abd Allah al-Ghumari cited it in Murshid
al-Ha’ir li Bayan Wad` Hadith Jabir
and said, “its chain is good and
strong” while in al-Radd al-Muhkam al-Matin (p. 138-139) he adds:
“It is the strongest Companion-corroboration (shâhid) I saw for the
hadith of `Abd al-Rahman ibn Zayd” as quoted also by Shaykh Mahmud Mamduh
in Raf` al-Minara (p. 248).

From soufi.ca

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