The Prophet (ﷺ) has forbidden exaggeration in praising him, and thus exaggeration in praising others with greater reason. This is because such an act may lead to associating others in worship with Allah. The Prophet (ﷺ) says:
“Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary,for I am only a slave. So, call me the slave of Allah and His Messenger.”
(Related by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Exaggerating in praise mentioned in the above-mentioned Hadith refers to exceeding the limits in praising the Prophet (ﷺ). Put differently, the Prophet (ﷺ) here instructs us not to exaggerate in praising him in the same way the Christians excessively praised Jesus (ﷺ), the son of Mary, to the extent that they claimed his godhood. The Prophet’s words, “..for I am only a slave. So. call me the slave of Allah and His Messenger.” mean, “Since I am Allah’s Servant and Messenger, you should not describe me with any other titles:’ So, we should call him Allah’s Servant and Messenger, as these are the titles given to him by Allah.
For instance, Allah says in the Qur’an:
(All praise is [due] to Allah, Who has sent down upon His Servant [Muhammad] the Book .” (Qur’an: Al-Kahf: 1).
Allah says also in the Qur’an, “O Messenger” (Qur’an: Al-Maidah: 67).
Moreover, He says, “O Prophet” (Qur’an: At -Talaq: 1).
However, those who have committed shirk through glorifying the graves have insisted on acting against the Prophet’s commands and committed the things he has prohibited, so they have gravely contradicted his commands by glorifying him in the way he has forbidden. In this way they have resembled the Christians in committing shirk through exaggeration in praise. In addition, some of them have exaggerated in praising the Prophet (ﷺ) in their poetry and prose in a way that shows obvious shirk. For example, Al-Busayri says in his poem (Qasidah) named Al-Burdah (The Garment):
I have none at the time of affliction
To seek refuge with except you
O you most honorable creature.
These poetic lines and the following ones involve directing supplication to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and seeking refuge with him as well as asking him to relieve one’s griefs when one is constrained and afflicted by disasters, thus forgetting Allah, exalted and Glorified be He.
Hence Satan has made pleasing to this poet and others their bad deeds, showing them that exaggeration in praising the Prophet (ﷺ) – however a grave shirk – a kind of showing glorification and love for him. Further, Satan has misled those people showing them that abiding by the Sunnah through not exaggerating in praising the Prophet (ﷺ) as a kind of hate and deprecation to him. On the contrary, committing the acts forbidden by the Prophet including excessiveness in praising him (ﷺ) and refraining from acting upon his sayings, deeds and dissatisfaction with his judgment are, in fact, a real deprecation to the Prophet (ﷺ). Therefore, glorifying the Prophet (ﷺ) and loving him are not attained except through following his footsteps and exerting the utmost effort to make his religion and Sunnah established and applied.
This ruling is further supported by the hadith narrated on the authority of Anas Ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) that reads:
”A group of men once said, ‘O Muhammad! You are our most righteous person, and the son of our most righteous person, our ‘sayyid’ (great Master) and the son of our ‘sayyid.’ The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) thereupon said, ‘O people! Say what you have to say, but do not allow Satan to deceive you. I am Muhammad Ibn ‘Abdullah, Allah’s Servant and Messenger. I do not like that you elevate me above the rank that Allah, Almighty and Ever-Majestic be He, has granted me.’ “
(Related by An-Nasa`i with a good chain of transmitters)
This hadith states that the Prophet (ﷺ) forbade Muslims to call him ‘our sayyid’ for fear that they might, in this way, praise him excessively.
Thus, the Prophet (ﷺ) blocked the way that might have led Muslims to fall into minor shirk (polytheism). He (ﷺ), instead, guided them to describe him with two attributes, Allah’s Servant and Messenger, which are considered the highest degrees of slavery to Allah.
Another Hadith which indicates a similar meaning found in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad:
“No one must call for my help, but it is Allah, Exalted be He, Whose help is to be asked for.”
[Summarised from the book: Guide to a Sound Creed – P. 49-53]
Summarised by Abu Sarah Imraan Mollagee, Student at the Islamic University of Madinah, Faculty of Shari’ah.