Sayyidi Habib Umar bin Hafiz (may Allah protect him and benefit us by him) provides some valuable insights into bestowing prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ.
The Reality of Bestowing Prayers upon Him
Allah ordered us to bestow prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ but we are certain that we are unable to do anything of our own accord, so instead of attempting to do so we request that Allah Himself bestows prayers on the Prophet. He called this request of ours prayers from us and said: Bestow prayers and peace upon him in abundance. (Al-Ahzab, 33:56) In reality, however, these prayers are from Him as we are incapable of bestowing them ourselves. That is why if we wish to bestow prayers upon the Prophet we say ‘O Allah,’ or ‘O Lord, bestow prayers upon him.’
If all your good actions were placed on one side of the scales and one prayer from Allah was placed on the other, the prayer from Allah would outweigh them all. Your actions cannot be compared to the actions of the Lord of the Worlds. In fact were not only your actions, but all the good actions of the whole of creation from the time of Adam to the Day of Judgement placed on one side of the scales and one prayer from the Lord of the Worlds was placed on the other, the prayer from Allah would outweigh all those actions. This is one prayer so what about ten prayers that Allah bestows in exchange for one prayer upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ?
How to Bestow Prayers Upon Him and their Effect
Bestowing prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ strengthens your connection with Allah and His Messenger since in doing so you are remembering both Allah and His Messenger. This is especially true if you do it in a state of intense love, longing and veneration. You should be aware while doing so that the source of every blessing which Allah has bestowed upon you and the whole of creation is Muhammad and that his sublime light was the beginning point of creation. Also try to picture him in front of you while you bestow prayers upon him (especially if you have seen him previously) or picture your shaykh or his blessed Masjid or his Rawdah or his Shubbak (the screen in front of his blessed grave). Bestow prayers upon him as if you were there until the door is opened to you and the veil is lifted.
If you bestow prayers upon him in this state it will bring limitless benefits and will bear fruits that none of your actions could bring. It will be a means of purification and will assist you in your journey to Allah. If you do not have a shaykh, it will be a cause of you being united with him; if you already have a shaykh, it will strengthen your spiritual connection to him so that the door to the Prophet can be opened more swiftly.
The hadith of Ubbay bin Ka`b is sufficient evidence of the benefits of bestowing prayers upon the Prophet. He said to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ:
“I bestow prayers upon you and do so in abundance. How many of my prayers should I make for you?”
One meaning of this is ‘how much of my time should I spend bestowing prayers upon you?’
Another meaning, which is closer to the wording of the hadith, is ‘how much of the reward of the prayers should I donate to you?’
He asked: “How much of my prayers should I make for you? A quarter?”
The Messenger of Allah replied: “If you wish, and if you do more it is better for you.”
“If you wish, and if you do more it is better for you.”
“If you wish, and if you do more it is better for you.”
“In that case I will make all of my prayers for you.”
“If you do that, your worries will be removed and your sins will be forgiven.” (Narrated by Ahmad, al-Tirmidhi and al-Hakim)
If someone’s worries have been removed and his sins have been forgiven then he has attained felicity in this life and the next. May Allah remove our worries and forgive our sins through His Beloved, the healer of our hearts.
The Relationship between Bestowing Prayers upon the Prophet and Calling to Allah
We must allot a portion of time in which we bestow prayers on the Chosen One. No-one can be a caller to Allah if they do not spend some time bestowing prayers upon the one who first called to Allah and guided people to Him. In reality, no-one calls to Allah except as a representative and deputy of him.
When someone bestows prayers upon the Prophet ﷺ and then calls people to Allah, a light emanates from his mouth which reaches the people that are listening. The people are thus affected directly by the Prophet and by the light of the prayers, not by the speaker himself. Thus if someone bestows abundant prayers upon the Prophet and then calls people to Allah his words have a great effect on those he is calling.
Those calling to Allāh have received many openings after repeating the prayer which Sayyiduna Muhammad al-Bakri and others received from the Prophet ﷺ:
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وسَلِّمْ وبَارِكْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ الفَاتِحِ لِما أُغْلِقَ الخَاتِمِ لِما سَبَقَ نَاصِرِ الحَقِّ بِالخَقِّ و الهادِي إلى صِراطِكَ المُسْتَقِيمِ صلى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وعلى آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ حَقَّ قَدْرِهِ و مِقْدَارِهِ العَظِيم
O Allah, bestow Your prayers and peace upon our Master Muhammad, the one who opens that which is closed, the seal of those that came before, the defender of truth with truth and the guide to Your straight path (and upon his Family and Companions), in accordance with the greatness of his rank
Allah inspired in the Companions, those that came after them and the knowers of Allah, amazing prayers upon the Prophet which have a great effect upon and illuminate the one reading them. You should read a portion of these prayers regularly because they are prayers that emanated from those who are in his presence ﷺ. Those who composed them or received them have knowledge of him which cannot be described and which you cannot come close to. If you pray with the prayers that emanated from their hearts you will receive precious gifts from them. It will be a cause for you to be swiftly brought close and to reach lofty stations. O Allah, do not deprive us of all the goodness that You possess because of the evil that we possess!
To illustrate the point, Habib `Umar then read two of Habib `Ali al-Habashi’s prayers:
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ وَسَلِّمْ عَلَى سَيِّدِنَا مُحَمَّدٍ مِفْتَاحِ بَابِ رَحْمَةِ اللَّهِ، عَدَدَ مَا فِي عِلْمِ اللَّهِ، صَلاةً وَسَلامًا دائِمَيْنِ بِدَوَامِ مُلْكِ اللَّهِ، وَعَلَى آلِهِ وَصَحْبِهِ
O Allah, bestow Your prayers and peace upon our Master Muḥammad, the key to the door of the mercy of Allah, prayers and peace as numerous as that which the knowledge of Allah encompasses, remaining as long as the dominion of Allah remains, and upon his Family and Companions
اللَّهُمَّ صَلِّ و سَلِّمْ و بَارِكْ على سَيِّدِنا مُحَمَّدٍ أَوَّلِ مُتَلَقٍّ لِفَيْضِكَ الأَوَّل، وأَكْرَمِ حَبِيبٍ تَفَضَّلْتَ عَلَيْهِ فَتَفَضَّلَ وعلى آلِهِ و صَحْبِهِ و تَابِعِيهِ و حِزْبِهِ ما دَامَ تَلَقِّيِهِ مِنْكَ و تَرَقِّيِهِ إِلَيْكَ و إِقْبالُكَ عَلَيْهِ و إِقْبَالُهُ عَلَيْكَ و شُهُودُهُ لَكَ وانْطِراحُهُ لَدَيْكَ صَلاةً نَشْهَدُكَ بِها مِنْ مِرَآتِهِ و نَصِلُ بِها إلى حَضْرَتِكَ مِنْ حَضْرَةِ ذاتِهِ قائِمِينَ لَكَ و لَهُ بِالأَدَبِ الوَافِرِ مَغْمُورينَ مِنْكَ ومِنْهُ بِالمَدِدِ البَاطِنِ و الظَّاهِرِ
O Allah, bestow Your prayers, peace and blessings upon our Master Muhammad, the foremost receiver of your first outpouring, the noblest beloved, upon whom You have bestowed Your favour and he thus excelled; and upon his Family, Companions, his followers and those loyal to him, [prayers, peace and blessings] lasting as long as his receiving from You and his ascent towards You, and Your approach to him and his approach to You, and his witnessing of You and his humble prostration before You. By this prayer we shall witness You through his mirror and enter into Your presence through his presence, displaying to You and him the best etiquette, fully enveloped in inward and outward spiritual assistance from You and him
Shaykh Yusuf bin Isma`il al-Nabahani collected many of the prayers of the Knowers of Allah. They can be found in Afdal al-Salawat and Sa`adat al-Darayn.
May Allah benefit us by bestowing prayers upon His Beloved.
Extracts from a lesson during the Dawah Conference, Dar al-Mustafa, Muharram 1433 / December 2011.