By Ibn al Rajab al Hanbali
It is related in the Sahihain of al-Bukhari and Muslim, rahimahumallaah, from Anas, radhiallahu `anhu, that the Prophet, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, said: “None of you truly believes until I am more beloved to him than his father, his child and all of mankind.”
And in the same sources we find that `Umar ibn al Khattab, radhiallahu `anhu, said to Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, “O Rasoolullah, you are more beloved to me than anything except my own self.” Allah’s Messenger, sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam, then told him, “No, by the One in Whose Hand is my soul, not until I am more beloved to you than your own soul.” `Umar then told him, “By Allah, now you are more beloved to me than my own soul.” Allah’s Messenger, sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam, then told him that now he had the complete and correct faith.
Ibn Rajab says about love of the Messenger sallallaahu `alayhi wa sallam:
Love for the Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam is at two levels.
The first level is obligatory. This is the love that requires one to accept whatever the Messenger sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam brought from Allah and to receive it with love, pleasure, esteem and submission, without seeking guidance from any other source whatsoever. This is then followed by excellent following of him in whatever he conveyed from his Lord and to affirm whatever he has reported of obligations, to remain away from anything he has prohibited of forbidden acts, to give support for his religion and to strive against those who oppose him according to one’s ability. All of this are necessary components that one must possess and a person’s Faith is not complete without them.
The second level is superior [and not an absolutely necessary component of Faith]. This type of love requires following his example in an excellent way and fulfilling the following of his Sunnah with respect to his behavior, manners, voluntary deeds, superogatory actions, eating, drinking, dressing, excellent behaviour with his wives and other aspects of his perfect manners and pure behavior. It also includes learning about his life and days. It also includes the heart trembling when mentioning him, saying prayers and blessings upon him often out of what resides in the heart of love for him, esteem for him and respect for him. It also includes loving to listen to his words and preferring them over the words of others of the creation. And one of the greatest aspects of this love is to follow him in his abstinence of this world, his being suffices with a little and his turning to and desiring of the everlasting Hereafter.