بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
It is common to hear the phrase “Habeeb ullah” referring to the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم, however how accurate is this statement? Shaikh ibn ul-Uthaymeen رحمه الله responds:
“The prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is habeeb ullah [beloved of Allah] no doubt, for indeed he loves Allah and is beloved to Allah, however there is a description that is higher and better than this, and that is to say “Khaleel ullah”. For indeed the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is the khaleel of Allah as in the hadith, “Indeed Allah took me as a khaleel just as He took Ibrahim as a khaleel”.
Therefore, the one who describes the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم as “habeeb ullah” has actually lowered him صلى الله عليه و سلم from his status, because “khaleel” is greater and higher than “habeeb”, since all the believers can be said to be the “habeeb” of Allah, but the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is in a position higher than that, and that is the position of being the “khaleel” [which is a greater level of love than habeeb]”.
[Fataawa Arkaan il-Islaam p98/99 paraphrased]
Similarly Shaikh ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah mentioned, “The statement of some of the people that Mohammad صلى الله عليه و سلم is “habeeb ullah” and that Ibrahim عليه السلام is “khaleel ullah”, thinking that “habeeb” is a greater love than “khaleel” is a weak statement, rather the prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم is khaleel ullah”
[Majmoo’ ul Fataawa 10/24 paraphrased]