The Prophet is the human norm in respect both of his individual and of his collective functions, or again in respect of his spiritual and earthly functions. Essentially he is equilibrium and extinction: equilibrium from the human point of view and extinction in relation to God. The Prophet is Islam; if Islam presents itself as a manifestation of truth, of beauty and of power- and it is indeed these three elements which inspire it and which, on various planes, it tends by its nature to actualize- the Prophet for his part incarnates serenity, generosity and strength. These virtues could also be enumerated in the inverse order, that is according to the ascending hierarchy of their values and by reference to the degrees of spiritual realization; strength is the affirmation – if need be combative – of Divine Truth both in the soul and in the world, and here lies the distinction drawn in Islam between the two kinds of holy warfare, the greater ( akbar) and the lesser ( asghar), or the inner and the outer; generosity compensates for the aggressive aspect of strength; it is charity and pardon. The two complementary virtues of strength and generosity culminate – or are in a sense extinguished – in a third virtue, serenity, which is detachment from the world and from the ego, extinction in face of God, knowledge of the Divine and union with It.
“Verily God and his angels bless the Prophet; Oh! Ye who believe, bless him and give him salutation” (Quran, XXXIII, 56). This verse forms the scriptural foundation of the “Prayer on the Prophet” – or more precisely the “Blessing of the Prophet” – a prayer which is in general use in Islam because both the Quran and the Sunna recommend it, though it takes on a special character in esoterism where it becomes a basic symbol. The esoteric meaning of this verse is as follows: God, Heaven and Earth – or, the Principle (which is unmanifest), supraformal manifestation (the angelic states) and formal manifestation (comprising both men and the jinn, in other words the two categories of corruptible beings, whence the need for an injunction) – confer (or transmit, as the case may be) vital graces on universal Manifestation, or, in another respect, on the center of that Manifestation, namely the cosmic Intellect. One who blesses the Prophet blesses by implication the world and the universal Spirit (Ar-Ruh), the Universe and the Intellect, both the Totality and the Center, so that the blessing, multiplied tenfold, comes back from each of these manifestations of the Principle21 on him who has truly put his heart into this prayer.
The initiatory intention of the Prayer on the Prophet is the aspiration of man towards his totality. Totality is that of which we are a part; and we are a part, not of God who is without parts, but of Creation, which- taken as a whole is the prototype and norm of our being, while its center, Ar-Ruh, is the root of our intelligence; this root is a vehicle for the Uncreated Intellect, increatus et increabile according to Meister Eckhart. The totality is perfection while the part as such is imperfect, for it manifests a rupture of the existential equilibrium and so of the totality. In the sight of God we are either nothing or everything, depending on the point of view, but we are never “a part”; we are, on the other hand, a part in relation to the Universe, which is the archetype, the norm, equilibrium, perfection; it is “Universal Man” (Al-Insiin al-Kamil) of which the human manifestation is the Prophet, the Logos, the Avatara. The Prophet – still envisaged in the esoteric and universal meaning of the term- is thus the totality of which we are a fragment. But this totality is also manifested in us, and in a direct manner: it is the intellectual center, the “Eye of the Heart,” seat of the Uncreated, the celestial or divine point in relation to which the ego is the microcosmic periphery, the we are peripheral in relation to the Intellect (Ar-Ruh) and a part in relation to Creation (Al-Khalq).
Excerpt from Understanding Islam by Frithjof Schuon