Sorry for the slacking off this weekend. The outdoors called and I answered.
At one level it seems clear why the faithful should love the Prophet: he is their teacher, guide and leader and it is impossible for him to teach, guide and lead them if they don’t love him. But there is a deeper meaning in the principle that love for the Prophet is essential for iman.
Love of the Prophet is love of all the beauty and nobility of character, truthfulness, justness, humility and inner strength of which man is capable and which the Prophet as al-insan al-kamil (the Perfect man) possessed in the utmost degree. Love for the Prophet means to acknowledge, cherish and glorify all the potential of goodness and greatness that God has created within Man.
It also means love of humanity,not just in regard to its potential for perfection but also despite its general inability to realize that potential and despite all kind of imperfections and weaknesses from which it suffers. For the Prophet is not only the Perfect Man but also the Representative Man who on the day of judgment will represent mankind and plead on their behalf for their imperfections and weaknesses before the throne of God.
Thus love of the Prophet, on the one hand puts us on the road to perfection by making us cherish it dearly and on the other hand it helps us accept our imperfect humanity and in this way to live in peace with ourselves as repentant servants of God hopeful of His mercy. This is why love for the Prophet is a condition of iman, for what is iman if it is not to acknowledge and repent for one’s imperfections and weaknesses and to cherish and strive for – even as an unachievable ideal – the perfection of which man is potentially capable?