The Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam chose the station of al-'ubudiyyah (slavery and servitude) over and above the station of kingship. Once - on the day of the conquest of Makkah - a man stood-up (out of reverence) for the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, who, being shocked, said to him:"Do not trouble yourself! Indeed I am not a king. Rather I am merely the son of a Qurayshi woman who eats dry meat."
It has also been authentically reported from the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam that he said:"Do not over praise me as the Christians over-praised 'Isa son of Maryam. Indeed, I am only a slave. So call me the Slave of Allah and His Messenger."
Imam Ahmad - rahimahullahu ta'ala - reports from Muhammad ibn Fudayl, from 'Amarah, from Abu Zur'ah who said: I do not know this except from Abu Hurayrah - radhiallahu 'anhu - who said: Jibril was sitting with the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam looking towards the sky, when he saw an angel. So Jibril - 'alayhis-salam - said to him: Indeed, this angel has never descended before today. So when the angel had descended, he said: O Muhammad! I have been sent by your Lord (to inquire) whether He should make you a Prophet-King or a Slave-Messenger. [Related by Ahmad (2/321), Al-Bazzar (no. 4262) and Al-Haythami in Al-Majma' (9/18-19) where he said: "It has been narrated by Ahmad, Al-Bazzar and Abu Ya'la, and its initial narrators are all the narrators of As-Sahih."]
And in a mursal narration from Yahya ibn Kathir - rahimahullah that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said:
"I eat as a slave eats, and I sit as a slave sits. Since indeed I am a slave."
There is also a narration related by Abu Ma'dhr from Al-Maqburi from 'A'ishah - radhiallahu 'anha - that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "An angel came to me and said: Allah sends blessings upon you and says: If you wish you may be a Prophet-Kin or a Slave-Messenger. So Jibril - 'alayhis-salam - indicated to me that I should humble myself: So I said: A Prophet-Slave." So 'A'ishah said: So after that day, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam never ate whilst reclining, saying: "I eat like a slave eats and I sit like a slave sits." [Hasan: Related by Al-Baghawi in Sharh as-Sunnah (no. 4683) and Abu'sh-Shaykh in Akhlaq an-Nabi (no. 213), and Al-Haythami authenticated it in Al-Majma' (9/19)]
And from the mursal narrations of Az-Zuhri - rahimahullahu ta'ala - who said: We were informed that an angel came to the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, who had never come to him before. Accompanying him was Jibril - 'alayhis-salam. So the angel spoke, and Jibril - 'alayhis-salam - remained silent, so he said: Your Lord inquires whether you wish to be a king or a Prophet-Slave. So the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam looked towards Jibril - 'alayhis-salam - as if he was seeking his advice. So Jibril indicated that he should be humble. So Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said: "A Prophet-Slave." Az-Zuhri said: So it is said that from that day onwards, the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam never ate whilst reclining, until he departed from this world. [Although this is a mursal narration, it does however, have support from those narrations that have already preceded, and it has a further witness from the narration of Ibn 'Abbas - which is related by Al-Baghawi (no. 3684) and Abu'sh-Shaykh (nos. 213 & 214)]
And it is related in the Musnad, or in the Sunan of At-Tirmidhi, from Abu Hurayrah radhiallahu 'anhu, from the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam who said:
"My Lord - the Mighty and Majestic - gave me the choice that the valley of Makkah be filled with gold, but I said: No! O Lord. However, grant food to me one day, and hunger the day after. So when I am hungry I humble myself before You and remember You, and when I am full, I am grateful to You."
Some of the knowledgeable people have said: Whoever claims al-'ubudiyyah (slavery and servitude to Allah), but desires still remain with him, then he is lying in his claim. Indeed, al-'ubudiyyah will only be true for the one who annihilates his desires and establishes the will of his Master, where his name is what He called him (i.e. 'ibadu'r-rahman: the Slaves of the Most Merciful).
Al-Hafidh Abu Nu'aym - rahimahullahu ta'ala - relates in the book, Asma' as-Sababah, by way of Shaykh Abu Sulayman Ad-Darani (d. 215H) - rahimahullahu ta'ala - who related from 'Alqamah ibn Al-Harith al-Azdi, from his father, from his grandfather who mentioned the saying of Luqman the wise when he said to his son:
"I have gathered my wisdom for you in six sentences: Work for this world in proportion to how long you shall remain in it, and work for the Hereafter in proportion to how long you shall remain in it. Commit acts of sin in proportion to how much you can endure it. Act for Allah in accordance to how much you are in need of Him. Commit acts of disobedience in accordance to how much you can endure the punishment. Do not ask except from the One who is in need of no one. And when you intend to commit a sin against Allah, then do it in a place where He cannot see you."
Ibrahim al-Khawwas - rahimahullahu ta'ala - said:
"The cure for the hearts is in five things: reciting the Qur'an with reflection and contemplation; emptying the stomach (i.e. frequent fasting); praying at night; humbling oneself in the early hours of the morning; and being in the company of the salihin (righteous)."
Ibrahim ibn Adham (d. 160H) - rahimahullahu ta'ala - said in an admonition, when he was asked (by some people) about the saying of Allah - the Most High: "Call upon Me and I will respond to you." [Al-Qur'an 40:60] (They said): We call upon Him, but He does not respond to us. So he said to them:
"You know Allah, yet you do not obey Him. You recite the Qur'an, but you do not act according to it. You know Shaytan, but still agree with him. You claim to love Allah's Messenger sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, yet you abandon his Sunnah. You claim to love Paradise, yet you do not work for it. You claim to fear the Fire, yet you do not stop sinning. You say: Indeed death is true, yet you have not prepared for it. You busy yourselves with the faults of others, but you do not look at your own faults. You eat the sustenance that Allah provides for you, yet you are not grateful to Him. You bury your dead, but you have not heeded its lesson."
We ask Allah to grant us the ability to please Him and to bestow upon us His mercy.
About the Author
He is the Imam, the hafidh, the zahid (abstainer from this world), the admonisher Abu'l-Faraj 'Abdur-Rahman ibn Ahmad Rajab as-Salami better known as Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali. Ibn Fahd said about him: "The Imam, the hafidh, the hujjah (proof), the knowledgeable Scholar, the dependable one. He was one of the Scholars who shunned the world, and one of the Imams and worshippers. He was an instructive Scholar from the Scholars of Hadith - and an admonisher of the Muslims." Ibn Fahd also said: "He - rahimahullahu ta'ala - was a pious Imam who shunned the world. Hearts inclined towards him with love, and the different sects accepted him. His sittings for advising the general people were of great benefit and used to open up the hearts." As-Suyuti said about him: "The Imam, the hafidh, the Scholar of Hadith, the admonisher 'Abdur-Rahman ... " He learnt from some of the major Scholars of his time, such as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, Al-Hafidh Al-'Iraqi, Ibn An-Naqib and others. He authored many books in the field of tafsir, hadith, biography and history, raqa'iq (heart-affecting matters) and also in fiqh. He is enumerated as one of the great scholars of Fiqh of the Hanbali madbhab - as is proven by his excellent book: Al-Qawa'id al-Kubra fi'l-Furu' - about which Ibn Muflih said: "It is a proof about his complete knowledge of the madhhab." And al-Hafidh Ibn Hajar also spoke with similar praises about the book. He - rahimahullah - died in the year 795H.
For a complete biography, refer to: Inba' al-Ghamr bi Anba'il-'Umar (3/175-176) and Ad-Daurur al-Kaminah (2/321-322) of Ibn Hajar, Dhayl Tabaqat al-Huffadh (p. 532) of As-Suyuti and Luhdh al-Labadh (pp. 180-182) of Ibn Fahd al-Makki. This article has been taken from the last chapter of his book: Al-Khushu' fi's-Salah (pp. 57-62).