What is the extent to which one should love the Messenger of God, what are the limits? Is it possible that one’s love for the Messenger of God can conflict with one’s love for God?
Love of the Messenger of God is a sign and indication for the love of God; whoever loves a king will love his messenger. The Messenger of God is the beloved of God, and he is the one who has brought all goodness to us and he has endured all hardship for the sake of our Islam and in hopes of us entering Paradise. He also taught us the extent to which we should love him as he said, “by the One in whose hands is my soul none of you believe until I become more beloved to him than his parents, his children, and all of humanity.”
Also on the authority of Zahra ibn Mabad on the authority of his grandfather who said, “we were with the Messenger of God and he was holding the hand of Umar ibn Khattab and he [‘Umar] said, ‘by God you are more beloved to me O Messenger of God than everything except my own self.’ the Messenger of God then said, ‘none of you believe until I become more beloved than his own self.’ Umar than responded, ‘then now you are more beloved to me than my own self.’ and the Messenger of God said, ‘now Umar.’”
Ibn Rajab the Hanbalite said, “love of the Messenger of God is from the basic tenants of faith, and it is equated to the love of God as God has equated it so. He has also given clear warnings for those who advance love of anything else from the things which are natural to love such as relatives, wealth, and homeland.”
One does not achieve true faith until their love of the Messenger of God has reached this level which he himself indicated to Umar, and this is the level of love that every Muslim should strive for. In this is no conflict with love of God as you love the Messenger of God because he was sent from God and the essence of your love to the Messenger of God is your love for God.
There is no human being in which the attributes of God of beauty and perfection have been so manifest as in the Messenger of God. So in essence you are in love with the Divine manifestations as they have been reflected in the person of the Messenger of God. This love, in essence, is all for God alone so there is no contradiction between them.
What has been mentioned in brief is the extent to which we should love the Messenger of God, may God bless us with this love and with following the Messenger of God and may we be near him on the final day. God is most high and all knowledgeable.