By Mahmood Sanglay
Crying as an expression of emotion has a deep connection with love for the Quran and love for the Prophet Muhammad (saw).
Love for the Kalam of Allah
The Quran is a fulcrum of love and tears between the Prophet (saw) and his companions. The Words of Allah were revealed to the Prophet (saw), and his companions realized the significance of this phenomenon in their time. Their faith inspired in them awe of the recipient heart of divine revelation. The fact that the Prophet (saw) had received the revealed Word of Allah was no small matter to the companions. Neither is it a small irony that the Prophet (saw) should request any of them to recite this Word to him.
Such a momentous request befell the companion ’Abdullah ibn Masud who is widely regarded as among the highest authorities on the Quran chiefly because he was referred to as such by the Prophet (saw) himself. This companion, in earnest modesty, almost hesitated: “Shall I recite (the Quran) to you while it has been revealed to you?” The Prophet (saw) replied that he loved to hear the Quran recited by someone other than himself.
Weeping for Love of His Ummah
’Abdullah ibn Masud proceeded to recite, but the Prophet (saw) halted him at the following verse of sura An-Nisa: “How, then, [will the sinners fare on Judgment Day,] when We shall bring forward witnesses from within every community, and bring thee [O Prophet] as witness against them?” (4:41)
Tears streamed down the cheeks of the Prophet (saw). Again, the source of his sadness is his deep concern for his ummah. Allah will call on the Prophet (saw) as the witness among witnesses, as the one whose testimony will ultimately be upheld in the final judgment of all. And ultimately, many among his ummah shall fall. Thus wept Muhammad (saw) for love of his ummah. How weep we for love of Muhammad (saw)?
The Quran— the Greatest Stimulus
The greatest stimulus for our tears today remains the Quran. And the reason for this is not only that the Quran is an eminently available and accessible scripture; it is also a popular text recited by the most gifted reciters in the world and familiar to over a billion faithful.
The sound and meaning of the recitation is supported by the emotional state of the reciter. Shaikh Saud al-Shuraim, who seemingly always displays extraordinary control and stoicism in his recitation, breaks down at verses 9 and 10 of sura Naml and does not recover his composure until a minute later. In these verses Musa (as) is assured by Allah to have no fear after he throws down his staff and sees it move like a serpent. Similarly, in a taraweeh prayer in 2009 the shaikh is overcome in his entire recitation of the first 22 verses of sura Qasas, which also deals with the story of Musa (as).
A Bearer of Glad Tidings
The role of Muhammad (saw) is of the most eminent stimuli for tears in Quranic recitation. An example of such a recitation is the one of the Syrian Shaikh, Murtada Bakour, in April 2007 at the Zaytuna Institute, California, USA. The video of the recitation is on YouTube and it captures the sound of a youthful reciter whose exuberance is tempered with the sacred message of Allah’s love for His Prophet (saw).
And the message is that of sura Ahzab, verses 40-48 which addresses the momentous role of Muhammad (saw) as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner. The intensity of the emotion elevates the listeners to tears in their deepening love of the Beloved of Allah.
Hearts Softened by the Tears of the Faithful
Every Muslim can claim to love Muhammad (saw), and many are moved to tears by this love. The poignant episodes in his life, many of them referred to in the Quran, should stand out as the foremost sources of inspiration for emulating his model. They should lead to a deeper understanding of the love Allah has for His Beloved. Hearts softened by the tears of the faithful appreciate love of the Prophet (saw) more truly than hearts hardened by the drought of the doubtful.
A Fascinating Dynamic of Love
Love for the Prophet (saw) by the faithful cannot be isolated from the love of the Prophet (saw) for his ummah and the love of Allah for the Prophet (saw). This fascinating dynamic of love is illustrated in a dramatic grand narrative in a particularly poignant hadith reported by ’Amr ibn al ’As. It is recorded in Muslim that the Prophet (saw) wept when he recited the pleas of Prophets ’Isa and Ibrahim (as) as recorded in the Quran in 5:118 and 14:36 respectively.
Both Ibrahim and ’Isa (as) submitted to the authority of Allah Whose decree shall determine the fate of those among their people who refused to heed their warning. However, Muhammad (saw), upon contemplating the fate of his ummah, ventured further and made an earnest appeal to Allah when 5:118 and 14:36 were recited, weeping for the salvation of his ummah and appealing to Allah to forgive us all.
The drama in the hadith unfolds as Allah sends the Archangel Jibreel to enquire from the Prophet (saw) why he weeps. Why does Allah dispatch an angel to pose what seems a rhetorical question to His Most Beloved? The answer lies in the response of Allah to the report of Jibreel: “Verily, We will please you with regard to your ummah and will never displease you.”
What Tears Have We For His Love?
None of Allah’s messengers had been privileged and empowered to petition Allah with the state of the ummah as Muhammad (saw) was. The Most Beloved of Allah implored His mercy out of concern for the fate of his ummah. The tears of the Prophet (saw) was for love of his ummah. What love have we for him? What tears have we for his love? What tears have we for the kalam of Allah?
~Brother Mahmood Sanglay is a professional writer living in Capetown, South Africa.