Throughout history there have been those who made greatest achievements, whose record is full of wonderful inventions, numerous victories, scientific theories, international influences, etc. Those figures may not be many though leaving massively influential works. In his list of the most influential persons in History, Michael H. Hart places the Prophet Muhammad on the top of his list saying, “My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world’s most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Of humble origins, Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world’s great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive.” Asserting the leadership of Muhammad by all means, R. Bosworth Smith wrote in his noted book Mohammed and Mohammedanism describing Prophet Muhammad, “He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope’s pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammed, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports. He cared not for the dressings of power. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.”
For Muslims, Prophet Muhammad is the ever best one. They believe that there no other person or creature excels Muhammad by any means whatsoever. He takes preference upon all Prophets, such as Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), `Isa (Jesus) and angels. He is the best of the best. He is ranking next to God (Allah), in terms of love, veneration, esteem and obedience. This is a unanimously agreed upon creedal fact in Islam, as proved in a hadith reported by Abu Sa`id that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “I am the master of the children of Adam on the Day of Judgment, and I am not boasting. The Banner of Praise will be in my hand, and I am not boasting. There will not be a Prophet on that day, neither Adam nor anyone other than him, except that he will be under my banner. And I am the first one for whom the earth will be opened for, and I am not bragging.” (At-Tirmidhi)
Glorifying him is, in fact, an Islamic religious duty and part and parcel of the Islamic creed. The Qur’an orders Muslims to hold the Prophet Muhammad in the highest esteem as God says,
Indeed, We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. That you [people] may believe in Allah and His Messenger, and honor him and respect the Prophet, and exalt Allah morning and afternoon. (Al-Fath 48:9-10)
In another verse, the Qur’an considers those who venerate the Prophet (peace be upon him) and follow his orders are the most successful ones. God says,
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful. (Al-A`raf 7:157)
In numerous Qur’anic verses, Muslims are ordered to always stick to respect of the Prophet, his statements and affairs and not to exceed the limits while dealing with him.
The following are some of the features of this reverence to Prophet Muhammad as indicated in the Qur’an:
Not to raise voice in his presence
O you who have believed, do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet or be loud to him in speech like the loudness of some of you to others, lest your deeds become worthless while you perceive not. Indeed, those who lower their voices before the Messenger of Allah – they are the ones whose hearts Allah has tested for righteousness. For them is forgiveness and great reward. (Al-Hujurat 49:2-3)
Not to surpass him in speak or action
O you who have believed, do not put [yourselves] before Allah and His Messenger but fear Allah . Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. (Al-Hujurat 49:1)
Not to conceal love to anyone or anything more than Prophet Muhammad
Say, [O Muhammad], “If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your relatives, wealth which you have obtained, commerce wherein you fear decline, and dwellings with which you are pleased are more beloved to you than Allah and His Messenger and jihad in His cause, then wait until Allah executes His command. And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.” (At-Tawbah 9:24)
Not to cause harm to him by any way
Indeed, those who abuse Allah and His Messenger – Allah has cursed them in this world and the Hereafter and prepared for them a humiliating punishment. And those who harm believing men and believing women for [something] other than what they have earned have certainly born upon themselves a slander and manifest sin. (Al-Ahzab 33:57-58)
Not to call Muhammad as they call each other
Do not make [your] calling of the Messenger among yourselves as the call of one of you to another. (An-Nur 24-63)
How the Companions esteemed Prophet Muhammad
The narrations from the Sunnah tell us how the earlier generations who accompanied the Prophet Muhammad showed full respect and veneration to him (peace be upon him) more than anyone else and more than how people glorify their rulers and the esteemed ones among them.
The below stories are authentic situations from the life of the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them).
- `Amr ibn Al-`Aas said, “No one was dearer to me than the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him), and none was more respectable than him in my eyes. So bright was his splendor that I could not gather enough courage to look at his face for any length of time. If I were asked to describe his feature, I would not be able to do so because I have never caught a full glimpse of his face.” (Muslim)
- Anas ibn Malik said, “We used to knock the doors of the Prophet with our fingernails.” (Al-Bayhaqi)
- `Urwah ibn Mas`ud said, “By Allah, I have been to the kings and to Caesar, Khosrau and An- Najashi, yet I have never seen any of them respected by his courtiers as much as Muhammad is respected by his companions. By Allah, if he spat, the spittle would fall in the hand of one of them (i.e. the Prophet’s companions) who would rub it on his face and skin; if he ordered them, they would carry out his order immediately; if he performed ablution, they would struggle to take the remaining water; and when they spoke, they would lower their voices and would not look at his face constantly out of respect.” (Al-Bukhari)
To be continued…
 Michael H. Hart, From the 100, a Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.
 R. Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism.