Some Muslims in India think that we should not send salutation to Prophet Muhammad as a second person but only as a third person because he died. Is this true?
Muslims in India say if you are standing before the blessed grave of the Prophet, do not read salam on hadrat Mohammed (pbuh). For example, yanabi salaam alyka. Is this claim right or wrong? Please give evidence from Qur'an and sunnah.
The use of the expression “As-salam alayka ayuha an-Nabi [Peace be upon you O Prophet]” was unanimously reported through successive means from the Sahaba (Companions of the Prophet) and Tabi’in (those who had personally met and learned from one or more of the Companions but not the Prophet himself). This does not conflict with what Ibn ‘Umar and ‘A`isha (may Allah be pleased with them both) mention in their mawquf report (statement of a Companion that is not ascribed to the Prophet) on the subject of sending greetings of peace to the Prophet in other than the second person pronoun in the tashahud.
This is because it has also been reported that they narrated in an authentic mawquf report sending greetings of peace to the Prophet in the second person. This latter report from Ibn Umar and ‘A`isha agrees with their authentic marfu’ report (a hadith that has been specifically attributed to the Prophet); a marfu’ report prevails over what conflicts with it. And when a mawquf report conflicts with one that is marfu’, it does not contest, circumscribe, or abrogate it. This is because it is determined in the science of Usul that if a narrator understands other than what he narrates, then that which is consequential is what he has narrated and not what he has understood. The luminary al-Shawkani said in Irshad Al-Fuhul, “This is because we base our acts of worship on what we receive and not on what the narrator understands.”
On the other hand, an established rigorously authenticated mutawatur hadith that includes the expression “As-salam ‘alayka ayuha an-Nabi” applies to those who were present with the Prophet and who prayed behind him as well as those who were not. If the use of the second person pronoun was limited to the presence of the addressee, then the person who was not in the Prophet’s presence during his lifetime would have been demanded to forsake the second person pronoun for the third person. Based on this, those who prayed with the Prophet would have said “As-salam alayka ayuha an-Nabi” while those who prayed away from him would have said “As-salam ala an-Nabi” and this was neither transmitted from nor maintained by any scholar. Rather, scholars and jurists have maintained the apparent meaning of the hadith referred to above with regards to all situations without differentiating between the Prophet’s lifetime or death or between his presence or absence.
Specifying this generality and limiting it only to the Prophet’s lifetime is tantamount to making specification in the absence of a specifying parameter and is thereby invalid. The personal opinion of a narrator and his acting against his narration does not specify what is general as stated above.
Meaning and the wisdom of using the second person pronoun in the tashahud and elsewhere
The reason for resorting to using the second person pronoun instead of the third person by saying “as-salam alayka ayuha an-Nabi” when the context requires the use of the third person such as by saying was posited in a question mentioned in Fat-h Al-Bari as well as in Sharh Al-‘Aini such as by saying “as-salam ‘ala an-Nabi” thereby moving from greeting Allah to greeting the Prophet to greeting oneself and then to greeting the righteous. Al-Tibi answered by saying that we follow the exact wording of the Prophet’s teachings to his Companions. It is possible to explain the matter according to the manner of the interpretation of the pious friends of Allah who maintain that while praying, they seek to be admitted before Allah through the tahiyat. They were granted the permission and delighted by their confidential discourse with Allah. They were informed that this state was only due to the intercession of the Prophet of mercy and to the blessing of following him. They turned their heads only to see the beloved prophet in the presence of the Almighty. They rushed to his side crying, “As-salam alayka ayuha an-Nabi warahmat Allahu wabarakatuh”.
Evidence from the Qur`an
The Qur`an contains verses addressing the Prophet in the second person. These include:
O Prophet! Sufficient unto thee is Allah, --and unto those who follow thee among the believers. [Al-Anfal: 64)
O Prophet! Truly We have sent thee as a witness, a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner. [Al-Ahzab: 45)
O Messenger! Let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief. [Al-Ma`ida: 41]
O Messenger! Proclaim the (message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. [Al-Ma`ida: 67)
In the existence of such evidence, will those who claim that Muslims along the centuries, the Sahaba and Tabi’in, scholars and hadith scholars, had erred when they used the expression “as-salamalayka ayuha al-Nabi”, change the Qur`anic verses and change the pronouns from the second to the third person? Glory be to Allah, this is a great falsity. Just as we worship Allah based on the Qur`an that will be recited until the Day of Judgment and which addressed the Prophet using the second person—a matter that was not abrogated after his death—we likewise worship Him through addressing the Prophet in the second person in the tashahud which the Prophet taught people just as he taught them a chapter of the Qur`an.
We likewise worship Allah through sending greetings of peace and blessings upon the Prophet. He did not qualify any of this with his existence in this world nor did he teach the Sahaba to say otherwise after his death. If the ruling during his lifetime is different than that after his death, he would have surely explained this to his Companions. Ibn Hazm sharply criticized those who claimed that prophethood discontinues after a prophet’s death. He substantiated his opinion with the consensus on sending greetings of peace upon the Prophet in the second person. He said in Al-Fisal fi-l- Milal wa-l- Ahwa` wa-l- Nihal “It is as if they want to say that Mohammed was a Messenger of Allah.” For further evidence, he cites Qur`anic verses which include:
Of some messengers We have already told thee the story; of others We have not. [An-Nisaa`: 164)
On the day when Allah will gather the messenegrs together and ask: “What was the response you received (from men to your teaching]?” [Al-Ma`ida: 109)
The prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward. [Az-Zummar: 69)
In the above verses, Allah mentions the messengers and calls them as such even though they have died. He will also call them prophets and messengers on the Day of Judgment. He also mentions popular and textual evidence on the unanimity of saying “As-salam alayka ayuha an-Nabi warahmatu Allah wabarakatuh” in prayers, whether obligatory or non-obligatory. He concludes that if the Prophet’s soul were not existent among us, then sending greetings of peace to a non-existent entity is pointless.