“I have made you apart of My Dhikr, whoever praises you he actually praises Me”
Allaahumma Salli ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammadi Wa Alihi Wa’itratihi be ‘Adadi Kulli Ma’ lumillaka Astaghfirulla Alladhi La ilaaha illa huwal Hayyul Qayyumu Wa Atubu ilaih. Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyum
Allah, bestow Your Choicest Blessings upon our Master Muhammad and upon his extended family and his progeny according to the number of all things known to You. I seek the forgiveness of the One but for whom there is no God, The Alive and The Self Sustained and I turn to Him with repentance. O The Alive O The Self Sustained
This short note wishes to suggest some of the keys of understanding the deepest meanings of the oration on the holy prophet, AS, and to remind some of his ritual uses in the shari’a and in the tariqa. The hope is to stimulate more advanced readers to further investigate its endless treasures.
The so-called “prayer on the Prophet” or As-salat an nabi or “Darud Sharif” is one of the more characterising and peculiar feature of the Islamic rituality. However aspect or form it takes it always contains the word “salli”, which is quite extraordinary because this is a request to the Almighty done using an “Imperative” form.
This practice is based directly on a Quranic injunction presents in the famous verse: “Truly, Allah and the Angel bestow blessings (Yasalluna) on the Prophet and you believers! Invoke blessings upon him and salute him in the best way”. This verse establishes that Allah Jallahu wa shanahu and the Angels shared “ the blessing upon the Prophet” and orders to the best part of the mankind (the believers) to joint Them in an Universal oration, which has not as focus the supreme Being the Almighty, but His Prophet. However to the man is commanded not only to bless but also to “salute him”, giving peace or salam; in fact Muslim scholars agree that the Darud Sharif must contains “salat” and “salam” to be complete.
The ayat leaves “undefined” the form, which can be used for the blessing and the salute, just saying “in the best way”. Implying that “the best way” will change its aspects accordingly the conditions and nature of the believers. The Quran does not fix any “Sighah” for the Darud Sharif. Each salat an nabi has “his best way” which it will give its special flavour and taste to the invocation, the “best way” will change from time to time from situation to situation, each salat an nabi will be the “best” in itself accordingly its nature and the “sirr” which contains. The different forms traditionally known of salat an nabi are numerousness, their sources are very differentiate, from the elaboration of Quranic verses, to Hadith, from the practices of the great Muslims scholars and saints to the dreams of the pious, the only portion of the prophecy which is not yet close to the present mankind.
Therefore there is a double conundrum in the nature of the “salat an-nabi”, it is an Universal practice, which joints Mankind, Angels and the Almighty Himself, which in the form commonly used by man consists in a “order-demand” direct to Who is Source of the all orders. In fact the “idea” beyond the invocation is that the common believer is not able to praise sufficiently the Holy Prophet (AS), he must demand to Allah Jallahu wa Shanahu to do it for him. And this odd “loop” is not the only one present within the salat an nabi. In fact the praise of the believers which “become” the Divine blessing is addressed to who is the Most deserving of praise (Hamid), The most praised one (Ahmed), the repeatedly praised one (Mohammed) but He (the Prophet, AS) is also who aspires to the Praised station (maqumu al mahmud) and to the banner of Praise (liwa al hamd) at the day of the Resurrection. To summarize the salat an nabi is request-order to the Praised who is the Praising one (Allah Jallahu wa shanahu) to bless the Praised who is the Praising one (The Prophet, AS) in order that mankind can praise Him appropriately.
Unfortunately the poor capability of the writer and the limitation of this short paper does not allow developing those considerations further, however analysing some of uses of the salat in the Islamic tradition can help to glance among the mist of such mystery.
Each practicing Muslim even without recalling reads Darud Sharif (in the form called “Ibrahimya”) at least 5 times daily at the end of his Namaz, he extends the blessing to the family of the Prophets, and “the best way” he uses in this condition is to ask for a blessing which is common for the Prophet Mohammed (SAS) and His Family and The Prophet Ibrahim (SAS) and His Family. He will also, probably, adds the readings of one of more Darud within his dua’ after the canonical prayer, obeying to the well known tradition to start and close any request with the blessing on the Prophet (SAS) to make the demand more easily accepted. A more observant devote will alternate the periodical recitation of the Holy Quran with the reading of salat an nabi in different forms, sometime using collections edited by great Scholar or Awlya such the worldwide spread Dara’il Khayrat from Shaych Jazuli (QS). Therefore the Darud only shares with the Quran both the aspects of the compulsory (Fard) and of the voluntary (Na’afila) rituality of each Muslims. Finally even a less observant Muslim will add a short blessing each time, he or she mentions or hears the name of the Prophet (SA) out a habit thought from childhood.
As Na’afila the recitation of Darud Sharif has probably the largest corpus of supportive oral traditions or Hadith, which details rewards, and in this world and the hereafter gained by such practices, as well best time of practices but still without holding a single specific form as canonical one. It is the very lacking of a canonical form that gave birth to an enormous corpus of different recitations.
It seems that the Salat An Nabi carries somehow the power of spiritual remedy of “Shifa belonging to the object of its praise the Prophet Muhammed (SAS), and it is the favourite way to address the intercession or “tawassul” coming from Him. Such Intercession and remedy are extend much farer than the only invoker, in fact accordingly Islamic tradition there is no best way for asking intercession on behalf of our keens and friends passed away that the recitation of Darud Sharif. A further special use is for theurgist healing, different Darud Sharif forms are transmitted for several aims with their own chain of transmission, generally as part of the teachings of initiatic orders or Turuq.
Considering the practices of the elite of the Muslims which strife on the spiritual path or Tariqa, they give even greater emphasis to the invocation of the blessing upon the Prophet (AS), immediately on the side of the invocation of Allah Jallahu wa shanahu accordingly a large variety of methods and ways. There is no Tariqa, which does not prescribe in its daily practices (awrad) the recitation of the salawat, in whatever form. In some orders, such branches of the Shadhilya or Qadirya, the spiritual enlightenment gained through them is complementary to the sohabat of the shaych, in some cases it even constitutes a sort of substitution of the physically presence of the shaych. Often the forms of salat an nabi tough in some orders are considered to be the carrier for excellence of the spiritual taste of that path (as the Salat Mashyshya in several branches of the Shadhilya, Salat Ghautiya for the Qaderi and so on)
In those cases the virtue of “tawassul” of the blessing is used not to support a demand, as in the adab prescribed for the dua’ accordingly the Shari’ at, but to facilitate the spiritual progression. It is again a tool to have access to the function of helper and intercessor of the Prophet (SAS) and His heirs, the Pirs and the shuych of the Tariqa. In some cases the invocation of the blessing upon the Prophet becomes just a different form of the Rabita or Tawahjuj on the shaych sometime prescribed to the seekers, this time the orientation will be directly upon the very source of the spiritual chain, the Prophet Mustafa (AS).
Some turuq teach different forms of salat an nabi as different forms of adhkar or different Divine names along with the progressions on the spiritual path; the “best way” for calling the divine bless upon the Prophet will change then accordingly the inner changes of the caller (the spiritual seeker). The focus of the blessing will move from the outer aspects and names of the Prophet (as) such as Ahmed, Abd Allah, Nabi ullah, Al Ummi; to His qualities and attributes (“Man minhu ashaqati al asrar, or “fatih lima ughliqa”), then to His role and function (“Haqq al Haqiqati”, “Shamsi al Sama’ al Asrar”; etc) in the whole creation. This or that form will be sometime linked to some Divine names and or some category of angels, a correspondence generally implied in the above quoted verse from the Holy Quran. Extensively at each station of the spiritual path under the light of a given Divine Name there is a given form of Darud Sharif for blessing the correspondent aspect or function of the Prophet (AS).
If the murid will use the tawassul of the salat as tool to progress in his suluq, however in the case of Great awliya their whole heritage, which depends from their maqam and of course from their specific relation with Hadrat Mustafa (AS) who is the source of both can be preserved and transmitted in the form of a salat an nabi. The already mentioned Salat Mashyshya and Salat Al Ghautiyya are of this kind, as well the Jawrat al Kamal from Hadrat Ahmed At Tidjani (QS), or the so called Mutalsama, attributed to Hadrat Hussyen (as), less known is the short Salat Qarani, from Hadrat Uweis Qarani (QS).
All the above rituals indicate that the Darud Sharif is the keystone of the Islamic spirituality in all its aspects. Its puzzling linguistic structure points to the intimate relation between Allah Jalla wa shanahu and the Reality of the Prophet and how all the creation derive from this relations. The immense and universal power of such invocation is well explained through the very words reported in one of his version, in the Salat Mashyshya we can read:
O Allah shower Your blessings
‘ala man minhu-n-shaqqati-l-asrar
upon him from whom burst open the secrets,
from whom stream forth the lights,
and in whom rise up the realities,
wa tanazalat ‘ulum Adama fa-a‘jaza-l-khala’iq
and upon whom descended the sciences of Adam, by which all creatures are made powerless,
wa lahu tada’alati-l-fuhum
and blessings upon him before whom all understanding is diminished.
fa-lam yudrik-hu minna sabiqun wa la lahiqa
None of us totally comprehend him, whether in the past or the future
fa-riyadu-l-malakuti bi-zahri jamalihi muniqa
The gardens of the spiritual kingdom blossom ornately with the resplendence of his beauty,
wa hiyadu-l-jabaruti bi-faydi anwarihi mutadafiqah
and the reservoirs of the World of Dominion overflow with the outpouring of his light.
wa la shay’a illa wa huwa bihi manuta
There is nothing that is not connected to him,
idh lawla-l-wasitatu la-dhhaba kama qila mawsut
because if there were no intercessor, everything to be interceded for would vanish, as it is said.
salatan taliqu bika minka ilayhi kama huwa ahluhu
So bless him with a prayer that is worthy of You, from You, as befits his stature.
Allahumma innahu sirruka-l-jami‘u-d-dallu bika ‘alayk
O Allah indeed he is Your all-encompassing secret that leads through You to You
wa hijabuka-l-a‘azamu-l-qa’imu laka bayna yadayk
and he is Your Supreme Veil raised before You, between Your Hands.”
That is enough to point in the best way to their real nature of the relation between Allah Jallahu wa shanahu and His Prophet (AS), and how this relation is the source of all realities and therefore the very source of the spiritual realisation of each being. In fact the salat concluded describing how this mystery become itself the mystery of the wilaya for those who are destined to it.
“Allahumma-l-hijaba-l-a‘zama hayata ruhi
O Allah make the Supreme Veil the life of my spirit
wa ruhahu sirra haqiqati
and his soul the secret of my reality
wa haqiqatahu jami‘a ‘awalimi
and his reality the conflux of my worlds
through the realization of the First Truth”