Prophet Muhammad's Birthday

Jumat, 26 Februari 2010

Milad-un Nabi or Maulid (Mawlid) is the birthday celebration of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and is celebrated by Muslims as Eid-e Milad. Prophet Muhammad was born Arabia in the city of Mecca on the 12th day of Rabi-ul-Awwal, which was Monday the 20th day of April, 571 A.C. This falls on Saturday May 25, 2002 and fell on June 4th last year (2001). This is also his death anniversary. The occasion is celebrated by remembering the favors bestowed on the ummah (community), the first is the revelation of the Holy Quran with its instructions, the second, the institution of an Everliving Guide who would advise the mu'mins (believers) according to the needs of the time. This is why Ismailis are called Ibn'ul Waqt (children of the time) as they are guided by the Imam of the time, Noor Mowlana Shah Karim Al Hussayni Hazar Imam (salwaat), His Highness the Aga Khan. He is the 49th Imam descended from the Holy Prophet's daughter, Fatima and Hazrat Ali (a.s.). For Shia Muslims, this occasion is of even more import and full of symbolism as this was also his death anniversary and, therefore, it endorses the Hablillah (Rope of Imamat) wherein Prophet Muhammad had chosen Hazrat Ali as his successor at Gadhir-e Khumm. What I am trying to say is that, this more than a coincidence. Prophet Muhammad's birthday coincided with his physical passing as was ordained by God. Hazrat Ali took over the spiritual reins from him and this chain has continued to the present. In every jomma (period of Imamat) the previous Imam appoints the following Imam and even though the previous Imam passes away physically, which could be a day of mourning, the ummah rejoices at the installation of the new Imam as the Covenant (promise of the Light of Allah) continues.

Regarding this, Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) said in one of his sermons:

We (the Imams) change the physical bodies in the world but our Noor (Divine Light) is eternal and comes from the very beginning. You should therefore take it as one Noor. The Noor (Light of Allah) is ever present, only the names are different. The Throne of the Imamat of Mowlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) continues on and will remain till the Day of Judgment." (source: Ilm, Vol. 3, No. 2 - November 1977 pg 22)

The Eid-e Milad and Eid-e Gadhir are two very important celebrations for Shia Muslims. On this day every year, believers gather to recite special prayers for thanksgiving to Allah for sending Prophet Muhammad as a mercy to all nations, and speeches and lectures are made about the seerat (life) and instructions of the Holy Prophet. Poetry in the form of naats are recited and after the prayers, sweets are distributed and perfume is sprinkled or applied on everyone. The ladies and children gather for the mehndi (henna) application and everyone wears beautiful clothes for the occasion. Children get money or gifts and in East Africa we used to go to a fete, Eid Mela (fun fair) organized on this occasion by community members and we could ride on the swing merry-go round on which as children we had great fun.

In countries with Muslim concentration, the celebrations go on for the first twelve days of the month called Barah Wafah (twelve days before passing) and there are conferences and mehfils (gatherings) everyday.

Our beloved Prophet offers humanity a perfect example in all facets of life. The Holy Quran declares: "Verily, you have in the messenger of Allah, a most beautiful model (Uswa al-Hassanah)." Laqad kana lakum fee rasooli Allahi oswatun hasanatun Quran 33:21

Prophet Muhammad lived among his people and taught them about the belief in one God, ethics in everyday life and the importance of education in leading an exemplary life. In this regard, some of his famous sayings are "Seek knowledge even unto China", "acquire knowledge, for he who acquires it performs an act of piety; he who speaks of knowledge, praises God: he who seeks it, adores God." He also declared: "The ink of the scholar is more precious than the blood of the martyr."

Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah stressed this message of Prophet Muhammad and maintained that Islam by its very nature was dynamic and not rigid and spiritual faith should advance with along with material progress. In his Message to the World of Islam, he said:

"Formalism and verbal interpretation of the teachings of the Prophet are in absolute contradiction with his whole life history. We must accept his Divine Message as the channel of our union with the 'Absolute' and the 'Infinite' and once our spiritual faith is firmly established, fearlessly go forward by self sacrifice, by courage and by application to raise the scientific, the economic, the political and the social position of Muslims to a place of equality with Christian Europe and America.
"Our social customs, our daily work, our constant efforts, must be tuned up, must be brought into line with the highest form of possible civilization. At its greatest period Islam was at the head of science, was at the head of knowledge, was in the advance line of political, philosophical and literary thought."

Addressing the Seerat Conference, our beloved Mowlana Hazar Imam advised the Muslim World to make the Prophet's life the beacon light for achieving a truly modern and dynamic Islamic society. He said:

"The Holy Prophet's life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualize. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity, both of means and of time his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely, all these are foundations which correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic society in the years ahead."

His life and achievements are so wonderful and expansive that I cannot cover them in this short article and for this reason, I urge you to peruse the links at the bottom of this page for more material.

The following excerpts have been provided by my good friend, Courtney Kirshner, who encouraged me to get this article up even though I missed the birthday deadline this year. They are taken from Annemarie Schimmel's Mystical Dimensions of Islam:

"As early as the late eleventh century, and generally from the twelfth century on, the veneration of the Prophet assumed a visible form in the celebration of the maulid, his birthday, on 12 Rabi' ul-awwal, the third month of the Muslim lunar year. This day is still celebrated in the Muslim world. The number of poems written for this festive occasion in all Islamic languages is beyond reckoning. From the easter end of the Muslim world to the west the maulid is a wonderful occasion for the pious to show their warm love of the Prophet in songs, poems, and prayers." Page 216

The next material is from Schimmel's book "And Muhammad is His Messenger" it has a whole chapter devoted to this topic!

"It seems that the tendency to celebrate the memory of Muhammad's birthday on a larger and more festive scale emerged first in Egypt during the Fatimid Era (969-1171). This is logical, for the Fatimids claim to be the Prophet's decendants through his daughter Fatima. The Egyptian historian Maqrizi (d.1442) basing his account on Fatimid sources. It was apparently an occasion in which mainly scholars and the religious establishment participated. They listened to sermons, and sweets, particularly honey, the Prophet's favorite, were distributed; the poor received alms." page 145

The earliest Arabic sources, basing their claims on Koranic epithets like sirajun munir, a 'shining lamp,' tell that a light radiated from Amina's womb with the arrival of the newborn Proghet. Hassan ibn Thabit [poet, contemporary of Muhammad who joined him in Medina and eulogized important events in the Muslim community] sings in his dirge for Muhammad that his mother Amina of blessed memory had born him in a happy hour in which there went forth "a light which illuminated the world"

It is not surprising that this spiritual light was soon given material reality in the accounts of the Prophet's birth, as can be seen first in Ibn Sa'd's historical work in the ninth century. Yunus Emre [turkish sunni poet d.1321] sings like numerous poets in his succession in Turkey, Iran, and India:

"The world was all submersed in light
In the night of Muhammad's birth." page 149-150

"The first comprehensive work about the Prophet's birth, as far as one knows, was composed by the Andalusian author Ibn Dihya, who had participated in the festive maulid in Arbela in 1207. Written in prose with a concluding poetical economium , his work has the characteristic title Kitab at-tanwir fi maulid as-siraj al-munir (The Book of Illumination about the Birth of the Luminous Lamp), in which the light-mysticism associated with Muhammad is evident. Two Hanabilites, Ibn al-Jauzi and, a century and half later, Ibn Kathir, devoted treatises to the maulid. Poetical works about this important event were also composed relatively early." page 152

"Ibn al-Jauzi, without doubt a serious, critical theologian of Hanbalite persuasion and not a mystical poet - wrote in his maulid book, which is the first of this kind:

When Muhammad was born, angels proclaimed with high and low voices. Gabriel came with the good tidings, and the Throne trembled. The houris came out of their castles, and fragrance spread. Ridwan [the keeper of the gates of Paradise] was addressed: "Adorn the highest Paradise, remove the curtain from the Palace, send a flock of birds from the birds of Eden to Amina's dwelling place that they may drip a pearl each form their beaks," And when Muhammad was born, Amina saw a light, which illuminated the palaces of Bostra. The angels surrounded her and spread out their wings. The rows of angels, singing praise, descended and filled hill and dale." page 150

"It is also important to remember that Muhammad was born free from all bodily impurities." page 152

"The conviction that a maulud [song of the Prophet's birth] has a blessing power is not peculiar to Turkish Muslims. Its baraka is acknowledged everywhere in the Muslim world...From the Middle Ages onward it was believed that the recitation of the maulud would grant the listeners not only worldly but also heavenly reward." page 255-256

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