Inner meaning of salawat


Assalamu alaikum beloved Mawlana and e-shaykh team,

I wonder about this during awrad all the time: what is the TRUE meaning of sending salawat on Prophet (saws)? I have read about the benefits, expiation from sins, and that it is the order of Allah (swt), but I want to know the inner dimension of this practice. Why has Allah (swt) ordered us to do this? Somehow, I think there is more to this because it doesn’t quite “click” in my head even after I have meditated a lot on this. I have trouble keeping focus or continuing with sincerity when there is lack of understanding. It’s hard for me to do something because I’ve been asked to do it. Please please tell me. I REALLY want to know.


wa `alaykum salam,

{Verily God and his angels offer blessings on the Prophet. Oh you who believe, offer blessings on him and offer greetings of peace in submission.} (Surat al-Ahzab, Verse 56)

The Prophet (s) is the perfect human being – al-Insan al-Kamil – sent by God as a mercy to the worlds. While the aspects of the Prophet’s mercy are too numerous to count, one thing we may all acknowledge is that his presence in this world provided for us a perfect example to follow. Through the recitation of salawat, we are developing a relationship with the Prophet (s). Each time we praise our beloved Prophet (s), we become closer to him in our hearts. We find this same principle at play in ordinary, day-to-day situations. The more we think good thoughts about someone or speak in praise of someone, the more we find ourselves drawn towards this person. The more we are drawn towards them, the more we begin to think of them, because thoughts of that person create positive energy and positive vibes within us. Then, the more we begin thinking about this person, the more we begin to factor them into our lives: we begin to change our actions such that they conform to that person’s actions, and we try and live up to that person’s ideals. We notice how they sit, how they walk, how they eat, how they interact with others and we try in some small way to emulate these actions.

Think about the relationship between mother and child or father and child: a healthy child’s first attachment is to the parents, the parents are the source of comfort and love, and the child’s awareness is first and foremost of the parents. And so what does the child automatically begin doing? The child mimics the parents. Just as the child sees her mother putting her to bed and rocking her to sleep, she picks up her baby doll and rocks it to sleep. Just as a child sees her mother praying, she sits on the prayer mat and pretends to pray along with her. Just as she sees her mother reading a book, she pretends to read alongside her. Her thoughts are full of her mother and father, and she automatically strives to be like the ones she loves and thinks of all the time.

The path of spirituality rests on a key psychological insight, that awareness is the fundamental reality of human nature and that what we think is what we are. Mawlana Rumi (qs) writes in his Mathnavi:

You are your thought, brother
The rest of you is bones and fiber
If you think of roses, you are a rosegarden
If you think of thorns, you’re fuel for the furnace

(quoted in William Chittick, Sufism: A Short Introduction (Oneworld, 2000), p. 16)

The idea that we will become what we are aware of is one of the fundamental concepts behind the Path. We strive to fill our awareness with good thoughts of our beloved Prophet (s), the Rose of the Garden, so that insha-Allah we become a rosegarden. Takhalluq bi akhlaq rasul – clothing ourselves with the beautiful manners of the Prophet (saws)– is what our Path is about. The more we praise him, the more our actions slowly begin to change to mirror his beautiful actions. The more we become like the Prophet (saws), inshallah ta`ala the closer we come to God.

Homayra Ziad

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