Prophet Muhammad’s ﷺ entire life was dedicated to the cause of God. He called on people to worship God alone, and insisted that they refer to him as merely a servant of God, telling his followers, “Do not exaggerate in praise of me as the Christians did with Jesus, son of Mary. I am only His servant, so say, ‘the servant of Allah and His messenger.’”
Considering strict monotheism of Islam, the question seems irrelevant and even absurd. But due to the fact that Muslims highly respect the Prophet ﷺ, some non-Muslims, especially in the West, mistakenly believe that Muslims worship him. Like all prophets he was a man, and despite his extraordinary accomplishments he never claimed divine status. Rather, he always maintained that he was human like everyone else, that he poke nothing of his own accord, and that the Quran was a message from God, revealed to him by God, to whom alone belongs all glory and praise. He never took personal credit for any success. All the principles he taught, the legislation he pronounced, and the great achievements for which he could have attained personal renown and advantage were attributed to the guidance and support of God alone.
Muslims strive to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Additionally, Islam teaches Muslims to respect all of God’s prophets and messengers. However, respecting and loving them does not mean worshipping them, for all forms of worship must be directed only to the Creator. Muhammad ﷺ was himself a devout worshipper of God.
A remarkable event that took place upon the Prophet’s ﷺ death is enough to address this issue. When the Prophet ﷺ passed away, his companions, especially those close to him were reluctant to believe the news. Umar, who was later to become the second Caliph, not only refused to accept the fact that the Prophet ﷺ had passed away, he even threatened to kill anyone who would spread this “rumour.” But the Prophet’s ﷺ and Umar’s friend, Abu Bakr, after verifying the earthly demise of the Prophet ﷺ stood up and declared:
“O people! If anyone of you worships Muhammad ﷺ, Muhammad ﷺ is dead. (But) if anyone of you worships God, God is Alive and Ever-Living.”
Abu Bakr then recited the verse that had been revealed to the Prophet ﷺ after the battle of Uhud, when many Muslims had come to believe the false rumor of his death:
“Muhammad is naught but a Messenger, Messengers had passed away before him. Why, if he should die or is slain, will you turn upon your heels?”
When Abu Bakr recited these verses, it made such an impact that it was as they were hearing the verse for the first time.
Before his death, the Prophet ﷺ cautioned his followers that they should not worship or make idols of him like the followers of other Prophets did. He educated them of his humanity and mortality, except that he is the Messenger of God ﷺ.
The Quran unequivocally states:
“Say (O Prophet ﷺ): ‘I am but a mortal man like all of you’”
The Quran repeats this point several times.
He prohibited building a place of worship on top of his grave. The Prophet ﷺ in fact was buried in his apartment, which was attached to the main mosque of Medina. It still remains attached to that same mosque, and while Muslims visit the mosque and pray in it, they only visit his grave and send benedictions upon him. They do not pray to him because doing so is strictly forbidden in Islam.
It is pertinent to note that not a single Islamic sect considers Prophet Muhammad ﷺ to be God or worships him.
The Quran in several places underscored the fact that Muhammad ﷺ was a human being with no special divinity attributed to him. In chapter 18, verse 110 it states:
‘Say (O Prophet ﷺ):
“I am but a mortal man like all of you. It has been revealed unto me that your God is the One and Only God. Hence, whoever looks forward [with hope and awe] to meeting his Sustainer [on Judgment Day], let him do righteous deeds, and let him not ascribe unto anyone or anything a share in the worship due to his Sustainer!”’