It is only Islam that asserts the fact that Allah, the Islamic deity, and his angels, are so thankful to the prophet of Islam that they prostrate and pray on/for him.
Arab Muslims in their everyday context of speech may use an expression like “Salle Ala Al Nabi”. Translated literally, this expression says “Pray on the prophet”. The meaning of this expression does not become clear until we hear the response of the second Muslim who heard the first Muslim utter that expression. The answer is something like “Allahumma Salle Wasallim Ala Sayyid Almurasaleen, Sayyidina Muhammad.” Translated, this expression says “Oh God, pray and greet with peace the lord of those who were sent, our Master Muhammad.” Such an expression within everyday talk context in the Middle East is a common occurrence.
In this article I try to follow Muhammad’s development as a “humble” prophet beginning with his Meccan style Qur’an until he reached the peak of glory, when he became the supreme ruler of Arabia, and demanded Allah and the angels to give him some credit
Muhammad claimed to be a continuation of the Jewish and Christian line of belief. Now, many prophets of the Old Testament, at certain times, sought their own glory. But none went as far as making God prostrate or pray to/for their person. In Christianity we find none. In fact, Jesus himself never sought an earthly power. In contrast, the prophet of Islam sought all worldly powers and went above everyone else when God, along with his angels, prayed to/on the prophet.
Early Islamic prophecy times
While in Mecca, Muhammad had a small number of followers. Politically, he was weak and had no leadership support or experience. He was only a “starter” prophet. His main claim was that he was a warner. He wanted people to follow him. But if they do not want to, then that is fine as everyone has a free choice of belief. An early Medinan Sura, “The Cow”, sums up Muhammad’s message in Mecca. Here are 2 verses from this Sura:
Verily, We have sent you (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) with the truth (Islam), a bringer of glad tidings (for those who believe in what you brought, that they will enter Paradise) and a warner (for those who disbelieve in what you brought, that they will enter the Hell-fire). And you will not be asked about the dwellers of the blazing Fire.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #119)
There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.
( سورة البقرة , Al-Baqara, Chapter #2, Verse #256)
The Meccan message was that Muhammad was a warner wanting to save his followers from Hell. There are no threats of violence, killing, assassination, etc. However, Muhammad in Medina had good luck in acquiring power through multiple venues. His Qur’anic tone grew stern and vicious, until he conquered Mecca.
Once in Mecca as the Supreme leader of Arabia, The Qur’an had no flexibility toward non-believers. Muhammad gave non-Muslims an ultimatum for conversion or not being allowed to come to the Ka’aba in Mecca:
Then when the Sacred months (the 1st, 7th, 11th, and 12th months of the Islamic calendar) have passed, then kill the Mushrikun (See V.2:105) wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in each and every ambush. But if they repent and perform As-Salat (Iqamat-as-Salat), and give Zakat, then leave their way free. Verily, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
( سورة التوبة , At-Taubah, Chapter #9, Verse #5)
The above verse is known as the verse of the sword. Muhammad was at a place of supreme power, so his Qur’an could afford such hostile verses. Muhammad’s will was that of a mighty controller of destinies of other mortals. It did not stop here though..
There are several Hadiths that show that Muhammad shared powers with Allah, the Islamic divinity. Expressions like “and obey Allah and obey the prophet” and “whoever loves Allah, loves Muhammad” are known Islamic expressions. Muhammad equated loving God with loving him. The evidence to this claim can be found in the Qur’an and the Hadith:
Indeed in the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) you have a good example to follow for him who hopes for (the Meeting with) Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah much.
( سورة الأحزاب , Al-Ahzab, Chapter #33, Verse #21)
Say (O Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم): "Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم)." But if they turn away, then Allah does not like the disbelievers .
( سورة آل عمران , Aal-e-Imran, Chapter #3, Verse #32)
Narrated Jarir: I have given a pledge of allegiance to Allah's Apostle for to testify that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah, and Muhammad is His Apostle, to offer prayers perfectly, to pay Zakat, to listen to and obey (Allah's and His Prophet's orders), and to give good advice to every Muslim. (Bukhari: Book #34, Hadith #366)
Narrated Anas bin Malik: For thirty days Allah's Apostle invoked Allah to curse those who had killed the companions of Bir-Mauna; he invoked evil upon the tribes of Ral, Dhakwan, and Usaiya who disobeyed Allah and His Apostle. There was reveled about those who were killed at Bir-Mauna a Quranic Verse we used to recite, but it was cancelled later on. The Verse was: "Inform our people that we have met our Lord. He is pleased with us and He has made us pleased" (Book #52, Hadith #69)
The above quotes are not exhaustive by any means. It is intended to show the reader that Muhammad established a relation of obedience to Allah and to him in the same context. This assured him “cultic” obedience, so to speak, from his followers. His obedience was that of God’s.
The progression of Muhammad’s status did not stop here. He became a partaker of the divine nature. Hadith ends up giving Muhammad the right to tell Allah who deserves Heaven or hell. It also grants Muhammad that all he did was correct and divine. This included all of Muhammad’s crimes attacking others, his rapes, his genocide of a whole nation (Bani Qurayza). All of his actions were divinely ordained and holy. One hadith sums it all:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: The Prophet said, "I have been given five things which were not given to any one else before me. 1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey. 2. The earth has been made for me (and for my followers) a place for praying and a thing to perform Tayammum, therefore anyone of my followers can pray wherever the time of a prayer is due. 3. The booty has been made Halal (lawful) for me yet it was not lawful for anyone else before me. 4. I have been given the right of intercession (on the Day of Resurrection). 5. Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to all mankind. (Bukhari: Book #7, Hadith #331)
Narrated Ibn Umar: On the Day of Resurrection the people will fall on their knees and every nation will follow their prophet and they will say, "O so-and-so! Intercede (for us with Allah), "till (the right) intercession is given to the Prophet (Muhammad) and that will be the day when Allah will raise him into a station of praise and glory (i.e. Al-Maqam -al-Mahmud). (Bukhari: Book #60, Hadith #242)
With this power of interceding on behalf of man to go to heaven, Muhammad gained a divine power to be part of the divine decision about lives of other mortals. No wonder it is, then, that Arabs , have that aforementioned expression in their everyday language asking Allah to pray to/on the prophet in a prayer-like manner. The brain of a Mu’min (Muslim believer) is so “normed” within the Islamic cult it never questions how can Allah pray to/for anyone when he is the creator of the whole universe and He is the one who demands prayer and worship from all mortals.